Gripping Suspense, Brilliant Directing, Epic Music, Well Rounded Cast
Albeit the Predictable Criminal
So if you haven’t watched it, don’t read any further!
Let’s get the drawbacks out of the way first. It might be slightly disappointing that the identity of Toremi was quite predictable. You probably could’ve guessed correctly by episode 2. Perhaps they shouldn’t have revealed too much on the physical and height of the criminal because by then, we’d be scanning through all the characters to find suitable suspects, more than likely, you’ll get it.
Secondly, the blast scene at the end of episode 4 and finale. Takano and Toko weren’t injured half as bad as some of the other cops, which I find quite unrealistic. It’s true in the novel, it was mentioned they only suffered minor injuries but if so, then they shouldn’t have made the explosion that huge. Probably a miscalculation by the production team. However, if you compare with MOZU’s ‘unrealistic events’, this is still in the acceptable range. Well, I’d have liked it better if they put more bruises or minor cuts on their faces you see. Details! Details!
Despite all that
Why this show is still worth your 5 hours
(1) Brilliant directing and suspense
If anything, watch it for the wonderful directing. Director Uchikata Akira is foreign to me but I think from now on, I’d pay more attention to his future works. The way he shot this drama just screams suspense to me, especially the search scenes for the victims. Really makes one’s heart pumping. At some point, I even felt like watching a horror movie. It doesn’t have much action but it compensates by providing us riveting cinematography. The lighting, even at darker places, which was quite abundant here, they don’t look dull at all. I like the shades they used. I realized they probably don’t have a lot of cameras like others do, but they select some of the most perfect angles for the few cameras they have. Pacing is essential here. I like that they don’t cut to different angles too quickly but instead, let the camera linger for a bit, as if to let the mood settle in before moving on.
(2) Awesome OST
Definitely one of the best I’ve heard this season. No doubt about it. I’m planning to purchase the OST when it’s released (hopefully they do). There’s just something very sinister in some of the tracks especially during Toremi’s phone calls. Love the usage of choir-like chants during unsettling events, beautiful orchestra for heart-warming yet bittersweet moments. Another track that stood out for me was the upbeat strings when things begin to escalate. The marvelous score really makes the experience of watching this show more fulfilling.
(3) Great Casting
The cast may not be very well-known but you do see familiar faces, namely Kimura Fumino, Aoki Munetaka, Koyanagi Yu, Watanabe Ikkei and even Nakamura Toru during the flashbacks. WOWOW has a habit of casting ‘not-so-popular’ actors/actresses in their shows if you realize. They do but rarely. Remarkably they’re still able to bring out some of the best from these actors who have been mostly serving ‘supporting roles’ and make us realize their potential. This is something I like about WOWOW.
As far as the acting goes, I’m really satisfied with what Kimura Fumino offered here. Her character wasn’t entirely easy to portray as she had to switch between being weak and strong in many instances, I think she did fine for the most part. She was convincing as a rookie cop and the gradual character growth towards the end was excellent. I think the most significant part of all is how different her acting is in this drama. It’s not like she has never been in serious shows before but this type of crime suspense is definitely her first and she nailed it. She continues to surprise and impress me every time in a new project. Her facial expressions especially in ep4 was almost flawless. Every single twitch and even the eye movements! (No, I’m not the only one thinking this, saw a Japanese tweeted about it too). While I still think Mother Game was where she shone the most so far, her performance here should not go unnoticed. If anything, she just proved to us again that she can be versatile given the chance. And by chance, I mean different role choices and genre. Starting from Mother Game, it’s as if the producers started to realize her capabilities and offer her ‘lead roles’ now (this being her 2nd). I’m already looking forward to see how different she’ll carry her next cop character in Siren drama next season.
Aoki Munetaka as her mentor and shunin was truly enjoyable. He just oozed with kakkoiiness during the search scenes. One of Aoki’s best drama roles imho. He was in BORDER but his character was kinda lame there, albeit for some comedic purposes. I have nothing bad to say at all about him here. The rest of the 1st Division Team was equally good too, despite their limited appearances, I had hoped for more Koyanagi Yu but considering the screentime he had, I’d say he actually did stand out on his own too.
Perhaps I should add an honorable mention for Yuki Furukawa as well because he was very convincing as the villain. The tone of his voice was excellent especially during the phone calls I couldn’t ask for more. I really liked how he portrayed Toremi (his lines were actually my favourite part to translate lol). His confrontation in the finale with Toko was brilliant.
(4) Character growth of an unconventional protagonist
Instead of a strong confident protagonist that we always see, we get a very, very normal female cop. Furthermore, she’s a rookie and that alone may turn people off initially. To be honest I was slightly annoyed by some of her reactions especially in ep2. However, one has to be reminded that she’s no Reiko Himekawa (Strawberry Night), Yukihira Natsumi (Unfair) or the ongoing Tantei no Tantei’s Sasaki Rena. Far from it. She’s not going to kick ass like those characters do. She’s a newbie with very little field experience and probably never had to pull out her gun before. She had also just recently transferred to 1st Division. The character may not really stand out in the beginning, but I did find Toko Kisaragi more and more likeable as the case progressed. She was still learning and thanks to this case, that learning process sort of sped up. To see the gradual growth of the character is something I enjoy, especially in ep4, we finally see a more matured and poised Toko. When compared to how she was back in ep2 abandoned hospital scene, she was sticking to Takano like a glue and a complete nervous wreck. In ep4, she suggested to Takano on her own to search separately because of time constraint. The Toko Kisaragi back in ep2 will never do that. Seeing that change in her was satisfying as someone who has been watching this rookie from ep1. Finally in ep5, her confrontation with Toremi was probably the part where she grew the most.
I REALLY WANT A SEQUEL
This show deserves one. I want the same team to return with another sequel, same director, same composer and basically, if they can get all of 1st Division members back together, that’d be awesome. In fact, rather than a MOZU sequel/spin-off, I truly prefer watching another one of this. MOZU was slightly too unrealistic for me to really appreciate. Most importantly, it has to be a WOWOW production because if it’s by the terrestrial channels, then I’d rather they not ruin it.
I feel there is some possibility in the future for another sequel of this show because the author has 5 other series after Ishi no Mayu, which is the first (this explains why Toko is such a rookie). I’ve seen quite a number of Japanese tweeting how much they wanted a sequel for this show. That does bring in some hope. If they do return with a sequel down the line, it’d be exciting to see what else they can offer and of course, we’ll be able to see a more matured Kisaragi Toko and her partner Takano.
This has been a great ride. Thanks WOWOW for bringing us this wonderful show. It wasn’t flawless but definitely one of the better offerings of the season. I thoroughly enjoyed this very much. It’s been a while since I watched something as thrilling and suspenseful as this. Kudos to the director, composer and Ishi no Mayu team.