Ishi no Mayu [Overall Impression]


Verdict:

MUST WATCH

Gripping Suspense, Brilliant Directing, Epic Music, Well Rounded Cast

Albeit the Predictable Criminal

Spoilers !!!

So if you haven’t watched it, don’t read any further!

Ishi no Mayu ep5.mp4_snapshot_15.04_[2015.09.16_14.38.09]

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.

Ishi No Mayu Ep04 (848x480 x264).mp4_snapshot_45.47_[2015.09.09_16.41.20]

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.

Ishi no Mayu ep02 (848x480 x264).mp4_snapshot_27.05_[2015.08.26_16.30.15]

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.

Ishi no Mayu ep5.mp4_snapshot_29.48_[2015.09.16_14.43.29]

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.

Ishi no Mayu ep1.mp4_snapshot_09.33_[2015.08.20_01.02.19]

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.

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4 thoughts on “Ishi no Mayu [Overall Impression]

  1. I enjoyed this series and agree with the reasons you give about what made it above average. My only complaint was the usual one I have in so many such series and that is that the brains seem to be sucked out of the characters at the end and that is disappointing since the whole series shows growth in their abilities. But not only was the explosion with little effect on the leads silly, the fact that her partner wouldn’t think after realizing the police were the target of the killer, that the lead could just go home safely was ridiculous, but most ridiculous of all was the lead coming home and seeing all of what was obviously strange as soon as she stepped in the door and just continuing in was past ridiculous.

    I still recommend it for all the reasons you’ve given, but why oh why do great scripts all too often fall apart at the end?

  2. I do think the final confrontation was slightly disappointing especially for those who wanted more dramatic or clever confrontation. The screenwriter is not to be blamed in this case because they’re following the novel itself quite closely except for some. From the author’s comments regarding ep2’s search scene, it wasn’t even an abandoned hospital, the drama version chose the hospital to give it a more suspenseful vibe, which I think was the correct decision since this drama sells on its suspense. If they also improved/changed the explosion scene and final confrontation, perhaps it’d be better like you mentioned. Though…if the police is too smart to figure out everything, then there won’t be any story left to show us? haha Lame excuse but you get what I mean.

    The police probably underestimated Toremi’s real intention, they thought he’d just target them as a whole, but didn’t think of Toko as a specific target, and yes, they should’ve considered that possibility since Toko’s father was basically the reason why the ransom exchange failed. In the end, I guess to craft a perfect crime drama without loophole is a huge challenge. Once in a blue moon, we get one which is amazing but often times, we get a lot of lousy ones with cheap thrills and sometimes, we get above average ones like this and still it won’t satisfy everyone. All things considered, I still want a sequel for this show because I want to see a more matured Toko and her partnership with Takano was a pleasure to watch. But of course, hopefully whichever series (the author has 5 sequels) they choose next I hope it will have a cleverer plot.

  3. I watched this drama after reading your recommendation! got hooked and finished it in a day.. I dont usually watch police drama as it could get very predictable and repetitive.. but this one was solid.. the acting, suspense, plots and thrills were just right.. I wasn’t that fond of furukawa yuki due to his rather flat acting in itazura na kiss but in this one his acting was improved and decent.. Looking fwd to watch Siren after this~

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