She is a drama with potential to go further. The only thing preventing that is the length of the drama. Each episode is only about 20 minutes and 5 episodes in total. Upon finishing, I felt it was a bit of a waste to end the way it did. Before I rant more about the ending, let’s look at what the show is about.
Mayu Matsuoka plays the role of Ryoko whose classmate, Azu is missing. So the whole show centers around Ryoko and the other 5 friends with lots of flashbacks which are essential to figuring out why Azu is missing. Did something bad happen to her? Is she still alive? Did she run off on her own? What really happened to her? These questions plagued Ryoko and it shows from her demeanor right from the beginning that she takes Azu’s disappearance seriously, perhaps more so than her other friends.
Ryoko has a camcorder that she uses to record videos, something like a hobby of hers as she aims to be a journalist. So she sits in during her friends’ interviews to record and this also gives us viewers her point of view. She also tweets her thoughts frequently.
I think the show has just about the right ambiance and overall mood. While it doesn’t exude the kind of intensity we expect from a thriller, it is still slightly unsettling as they start revealing things about Azu and her fellow friends, including Ryoko herself. Turns out, everyone has their own little dirty secrets. I like how the twists come out one by one as we progress along the episodes. I think what surprises me a lot is Ryoko’s own secret. I really didn’t see that coming to be honest because I had this naïve impression that Ryoko is this good kid. Well, she isn’t evil or anything but her only mistake is the time she gave in and stole the examination papers, which was witnessed by Azu. So at that point, I realized we can’t trust anybody in this drama.
There’s also the usual boyfriend-girlfriend quarrel between Azu and Haru. Haru’s the typical handsome, smart and good in sports guy at school who’s popular. One of her rivals, a girl who likes Haru claims that Azu warns her not to pursue Haru as he’s out of her league.
So as the clues start spilling out, we also ask ourselves whether Azu is really the honor student everyone’s talking about. Is she really kind? Or she has another side of her that she doesn’t show others?
The awkward girl, Denpa-chan who is infatuated with communicating with spirits (or so her fellow friends think) and always has headphone on is played by Aoi Morikawa. Apparently, she finds hidden cameras around various strategic spots in the school which reveal the secrets of these people. Ryoko stealing the exam papers and a quarrel between Azu and another friend, Sayaka are among the crucial clues she found.
She also tells Ryoko that Azu is actually her childhood friend and they lost contact when they were 3 years old. This turns out to be a very important clue to Azu’s missing case later.
Ryoko hides her camera around the school trying to find out who is the one putting hidden cameras. Turns out Azu’s mother is the one and she seems to have some kind of mental breakdown too. So they deduce that Azu’s mother is over-protective and Azu might be running away from her instead of actually something happening to her. So the case seems to be closed as we reach that kind of conclusion, but Ryoko still feels something amiss. Upon investigating further, Denpa-chan’s recollection of her times with Azu fits with the news about a child kidnapping.
(As I’m watching this raw, I’m sorry if I didn’t get this correctly but this is what I understood)
Azu Origawa is not her real identity. Her real name is Fujii Reika. She was kidnapped when she was 3 years old by her present ‘mother’.
Ryoko is the only one who realized this and she keeps it to herself. She thinks Azu has escaped on her own after she saw the picture Denpa-chan showed her. Why? Because in the picture which is supposed to show Denpa-chan and her when they were 3 years old, showed another stranger instead of her. So the kid inside the photo is not Azu but another child.
So the ending basically is sort of an open-ending, which kind of irks me a little because I guess I wanted some sort of closure. For example, did Azu really realize that she’s been living a lie and somebody else’s life, under somebody else’s name and her mother isn’t really her mother but her kidnapper? What happened to the real Azu then? Did she die of something? Is that why her mother kidnapped Fujii Reika?
Because the whole kidnapping is really just Ryoko’s deduction, with proofs of course but not exactly conclusive. That left me slightly disappointed to see it end that way. It would probably be nicer if they add another episode just to show us what really happened years ago when Fujii was kidnapped because that part is still clouded and we didn’t get a clear idea.
Still, like I said, this show has potential to be something greater, it actually reminds me of Confession (the movie) a little. Perhaps the directing and atmosphere especially during the flashbacks. Oh I love the use of Alexandros’s song and background music too. That’s probably one of my favorite features of the show, for some reason, it really suits the ambiance.
As for acting, Mayu Matsuoka and Aoi Morikawa stole the show. I can’t help but feel this intensity between the two whenever they appear on-screen. Initially, Mayu’s expressions (especially first episode) was probably a bit too strong, her seriousness didn’t align well with the mood of the show. Perhaps because we still don’t know how dark or serious the matter is at hand (Azu’s disappearance) in the beginning of first episode so watching Ryoko being the only one with solemn face felt out of place. But over time, as dark secrets popped out, it got better and together with Aoi, they were excellent. I think I’m more impressed with Aoi’s character portrayal. The awkwardness, slight nerdy image, the stuttering and those hella cool headphones! They’re Audio Technica XD The rest of the cast is good too and they served what their roles needed.
Worth watching because I actually thought the intertwined twists/secrets of the cast are well-crafted with the right amount of suspense and pacing. Just disappointed with the ending being slightly anti-climax, even though I thought real twist is actually good.
I’m not sure whether subtitle is available.