Archive for February, 2010

Koshonin (The Negotiator) – One strong woman making her name in the male dominated world of the police’s Special Investigation Team.

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Koshonin is an absolutely brilliant drama that is quite different from what I normally watch. I was drawn to it because I knew the very attractive and wonderful Shirota Yu was in it but I didn’t expect to enjoy this series so much. I’m not really into police dramas and I shy away from female lead drama’s because I never feel I can relate to the female characters or that they are too stereotyped for me. But Koshonin is different our female lead played wonderfully by Yonekura Ryoko as the female negotiator Usagi Reiko. Usagi is cold and determined not asking to be treated as a woman she wants to be treated equally and seen for how good an officer she is rather than her gender. The team don’t treat her with respect, she’s left out of decisions and missions, made a scapegoat and ignored and yet she soldiers on proving she has both the intelligence and durability for the job. Usagi also carry’s a secret past, her father (who was also a police officer) was killed and while the killer was jailed there are some facts that don’t math up and Usagi is determined to find the truth behind that fateful day. The killer himself was only 19 when the crime was committed and was part of a violent gang that went too far, called a child monster he was labelled a serial killer and placed in jail. Our killer is called Mariya Kyosuke and is played wonderfully by Shirota Yu. This shows us just how great an actor Shirota Yu is, his character is obviously suffering for some amount of mental instability, he is intelligent and calculating but at the same time unable to comprehend what he has done. Usagi visits him regularly trying to find what his motive for killing her father was but also they seem to have a bizarre relationship occurring. He offers insight into the mind of the criminals Usagi is trying to catch, he threatens to kill himself if she doesn’t visit and she says suicide would be too kind for him but at the same time seems to care about his safety. By the end of the series we learn so much about these two characters and their strange relationship, Mariya is a far more tragic character, he respects Usagi and Usagi understand this even sympathising with him.

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Usagi herself is an excellent negotiator, she was top of her class and aced all the tests and challenges placed in front of her to get to this position and she proves herself in the field. She uses her words and confidence to negotiate and understand the hidden tragedy behind why the criminals kidnap or hold hostages. She begins to cement herself better with the team as they begin to understand that she is as good on paper as well as in real life, she knows how to talk to criminals and she has a clever and calculating mind. In fact she understands the criminals more than she does her workmates and seems to have a much better relationship with a deranged imprisoned murderer than any other human. She doesn’t form bonds as easily and she too has to learn how to relate and get along with regular people. This makes for an interesting drama, she may be female but she lacks feminine charms, she is beautiful but in a stern and imposing way. She doesn’t connect emotionally, she is driven with the desire to understand and to reveal the truth and overcome her personal demons.

The show has some great set pieces, kidnapping, hostage situations and bombs, it also has its conspiracies and the fact there is something wrong going on in this police system. Something isn’t right; there is corruption, the police like to make an example out of Usagi rather than allow for their underhanded tactics to be exposed. Episodes end on cliff hangers making you desperate to know what’s going to happen next. You respect Usagi’s determination and fear for her and the situations she places herself in. You want to fully understand the relationship between her and Mariya, the connection and understanding that runs between them. The music is also very good building the tension of the scenes and the genuine sense of dread. It is not a flashy series again like many of the things I love it’s about the characters their drama and struggles amplified by the danger of their jobs. Most of the characters are not in complete control of their own lives, they have their own issues and problems unable to help them selves and yet some how being responsible for the lives of others. It seems easier to save a strangers life than it does to face your own life. Many characters are excellent at their jobs but their personal lives are far messier. I like the dualities in this drama, having a strong empowered women being the central character while you have other characters like the emotional and less empowered new male recruit. This drama plays not only with gender roles but roles within society and also who is more dangerous the criminal or the people that forced him into his crime. Do we trust a corrupted police system or a mad and abused boy? I love this series and am very much looking forward to seeing the second series and watching the mysteries, dualities and conspiracies play out.

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Yasha – A tale of friendship, companionship and evil ambition

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Based on a Shonen ai manga by Yoshida Akimi this J Drama is a beautiful and haunting tale of separation and companionship under the threat of ambition and jealousy and misunderstanding. It tells the tale of twin boys created in the lab to be perfection, strong and smart the ultimate humans. But this is also a story of how they are separated and the two very different paths they take. One of the brothers, Sei, grew up to be an elite bio-chemistry scientist in America. He was assigned to a project where he has to travel to a small island in Japan to investigate an unidentified virus that is spreading on the island. By a freak of nature, he found out that he has a twin brother, Rin, whose evil, dark personality is entirely opposite of him. But there is more to this tale Sei wasn’t always part of the bio-chemistry company no he was rescued at a young age by a women who was a scientist that developed a motherly bond for him and decided to take him away to raise him as her own. He grew up in a remote village and formed a bond with another local boy, the blind Moichi. The two were best friends, inseparable and even having their own secret codes to communicate with each other using a dog whistle. But happiness didn’t last long and the company found Sei, killing his mother, threatening Moichi and eventually bringing him back with them where he grew up to become an elite scientist for the company.

Years later Sei returns to Japan to help find a cure for a deadly virus that has been released into a small island. The entire Islands population has been killed and there is fear that this virus will spread to main land Japan. Sei comes to work on the virus; aloof and cold he is distant from the other scientists and acts with an air of superiority. Through a twist of fate he happens to be working at the same research facility that Moichi is helping with some tests on enhanced hearing in blind patients. Sei and Moichi are reunited and the obvious bond and friendship is still there between them. Sei shows real emotions only when concerned to Moichi and wishes nothing more to spend his life with him. Being based on a shonen ai manga (boys love) it is obvious that there’s more to this relationship than just friend ship, it implies a much deeper bond between them and you see real love between these boys. The care about each other and through out the series are willing to risk themselves for each other wishing nothing more than to live a normal life together. All this happiness and normality is ruined by the introduction of Sei’s long lost twin brother who doesn’t share Sei’s moral grounding and sanity. He is jealous of this friendship he wants his brother to join him and use their intellect for much bigger things. Rin seems nice enough to start with but he proves that he is far more calculating and manipulative than his brother; he plays mind games as well as toying with the feeling of those around him. He manipulates his girlfriend to carry out a lot of his dirty work and he has a sexual relationship behind her back with his bodyguard and childhood friend Takeru. Though this too in its own twisted way seems to have more to it, he does seem to have genuine feelings for his friend even though they share their bed with others as well.

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It soon becomes apparent that it was Rin that created this virus; the island was a test to see how well it worked before releasing it in Japan. His goal to destroy the population of Japan and then using his own anti virus choose who lives and dies rebuilding Japanese society as he sees fit. He is quite evil and shows very little compassion towards anyone other than his Friend/lover/bodyguard Takeru. There are twists and turns along they way, politics about the state of modern Japan, conspiracy’s between the government and the bio-tech firms, manipulation from powerful families with invested interests and these two brothers stuck in the middle of it. Their different up bringing having shaped the people they became and the decisions they made. There is also a fair amount of tragedy. From the tone of the story you know from the beginning that this is going to have a tragic ending it’s all very Shakespearian and I knew I was in for tears. Do watch this drama with a box of tissues nearby especially for episode 8. But saying that you know there isn’t going to be a happy ending, the ending itself is perfect for the story it’s the only logical way it could have played out. By the end the Brothers have taken away so much from each other yet have started to understand each other they know what they need and what they want from each other and maybe in death only then can they find the peace they never found in life. After all they have lost all they love and care for in life, they were never meant to have been in the first place, created by science for the ambition of men with power, no chance of a normal life and they’ve hurt each other to much too really forgive each other. There own genetic mutation is failing them its only a choice of who will live out who, which twin will see his final sunset, which twin will give the other what he wants while the other waits for his unavoidable fate. It tragic and sad but sometimes a sad ending is really the only good choice.

The series is filmed with a lot of soft lighting and sombre moods; it has a gentle tone until things become more dangerous and frantic. Also noth the parts of Rin and Sei are brilliantly acted by Ito Hideaki. A note of interest is the use of Stings Desert Rose as the opening theme as well as using an instrumental reprise version of the song through out the series. The heart of the series lies in the relationship between Sei and Moichi, the love and understanding they share and how they complete each other. Even Rin and Takeru share a relationship similar but too twisted by their more brutal upbringing they can not love and share on the same level their ideas of love and companionship have been poisoned. The series is quite stylised even with the obvious fact that the brothers have superpowers and are inhumanly strong, they can achieve great feats but this is understated and not over done. I for one as a slash fan enjoyed this series immensely but also because of its more subtle and delicate approach. It was as much about the relationships between the characters and the human drama as it was about looking cool and have superhuman fighting and playing cat and mouse games. I recommend this little gem of a drama, well worth a watch.

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