Another week, another Asian drama series. This one harks back to 2006, and is an 11 episode Police Drama with a sprinkling of “24” about it. The results are…. unsatisfying. This is a bit different from my normal reviews as I had totally mixed feelings about it. So be warned – there is a little spoiler/rant section below…
“Unfair” revolves around unconventional Police Detective Natsumi Yukihara (Ryoko Shinohara). When I say unconventional – well she shoots to kill, has an obsession with justice, isn’t the most popular individual amongst her colleagues, nor with the media. She is divorced, somewhat estranged from her mute young daughter, and is now teamed up with a fresh faced new detective, Kazuyuki Ando (Eita). Oh and she drinks hard, and has an odd habit of reading the daily newspapers in the nude.
I came into the drama expecting maybe a more episodic approach, with different cases with each episode (and maybe some kind of over-reaching arc), but actually what we have here is one long storyline. Within it we get a couple of Serial Killers, and a child kidnapping, but they are all part of a continuing narrative. It wears its influences rather obviously – Yukihara is very much in the Jack Bauer mould – and the show does try and keep that high-tech concept of police work to the fore – put obviously does not have neither the budget, nor actually the writing skills to pull it off.
You see – things pretty much go the same every episode. Something bad happens. Yukihara breaks the rules. Yukihara fights with her colleagues. Yukihara fights with her ex-husband. Some part of the mystery is solved (usually after Yukihara has formed some kind of connection with the wrong do-er), but then in the cliff-hanger – some new bad guy is revealed. Yes, over 11 episodes, I can pretty much say only two of the main characters other than Yukihara are left untouched from either being bad people, or at least having large doubts cast over them. It’s actually quite exhausting. So when we get to the final reveal, its just all rather obvious.
It’s not all bad though. I really liked Ryoko Shinohara, and she plays the hardball, yet attractive, Cop well. It’s just a shame that the clever things done with her character (random nudity aside) are somewhat forgotten about as the show progresses. She becomes a bit of a hollow shell to be honest, the things that made her interesting are pretty much forgotten about, as the show decided to concentrate on the less interesting characters.
Everyone else though is a bit flat and one-dimensional. I am really surprised how any crimes ever get solved in this precinct. Not an awful lot of Police Work gets done, and frankly without the Coroner ever getting involved (and why is his input so unwelcome?), I am not sure how anything would have ever moved forward.
And the final episode is just odd. I doubt anyone would be that surprised by the final reveal, although frankly it does not make a huge amount of sense. What is worse is the way that some of the other characters seem to forget our master villain is an unashamed Serial Killer! So all the tears and remembrance of them as a good person really seems a little out of place!
Ok, maybe I am being a little unfair. It’s not actually that bad – it is certainly addictive enough, it’s just I expected a little more from it. I have little interest in seeing the TV special or either of the two Movies that have been spun out of it.
But then again.
Before posting this, I had a sudden change of mind. Whilst there was some stuff here to enjoy, I suddenly realised I was just being too nice. Whilst skirting around plot points, I had mentally ignored the fundamental truth about this – it just does not make any sense. Now that is often the nature of such dramas – the urge to hide the main protagonist, and to end each episode with a cliff-hanger means that the audience does have to let things go – suspend belief. But the more I thought about it, the less it all stacked up. So – I am going to end this review with a spoiler-laden rant. It is not something I am going to make a habit of, but if I am going to be bothered writing this stuff up, I should at least be honest. I’ll have a go at doing this in a way that you can only read if you highlight the text… but if that does not work, and I ruin it for you…. then I apologise in advance.
Right, So the central idea of the story is that Ando is actually the one behind it all. It is all actually rather obvious when you remember all the hints about Yukihara’s shooting of a young boy some 3 years ago, along with his obvious computer skills. Yet basically it all falls to bits. If I have it right – 3 years ago he set up a website, registering it under Yukihara’s husbands name. The idea was that people who felt wronged, that life was “unfair” could come and vent their rage. So we have to believe that he was able to gather 3 people that had links to Yukihara. A frustrated author, who just happened to know her best friend. A close work colleague, who had a penchant for complex kidnapping schemes (a scheme which still makes zero sense, and her actual motivations are totally muddy) and a woman who felt her families death was part of a police cover up. Somehow this last woman was able to become a housekeeper to Yukihara’s husband. And of course it all came together only when he was able to join the police force and become Yukihara’s partner.
Not only that – but in the first episode he is caught in her apartment, intent on murdering her. This was ham-fisted at best – but actually makes no sense whatsoever when you think of his labyrinthine plot.
And then – even though he seems to want revenge on our heroine, he goes on a late killing spree of people involved – even though they frankly mean nothing to his cause. And this is what really irks – he is a cold blooded murderer. Yet we see people feel sorry for him, and think way too kindly of him in the extended coda. It just does not stack up.