Sunday, June 26, 2011
Guilty Akuma to Keiyakushita Onna (J-Drama 2010)
Well hello again boys and girls, I've returned with a review for the Japanese drama series, Guilty Akuma to Keiyakushita Onna (ギルティ 悪魔と契約した女 ). It's dark, over-the-top at times, people are killed and hearts are broken. Wow, sounds like everything I'm looking for in a J-drama, yet it somehow still misses the mark. Sad face.
For the sake of this review, I'm going to proceed by referring to this drama as just Guilty because the title is too darn long. Airing on Fuji TV from Oct 2010 to Dec 2010, Guilty is 11 episodes of fairly engaging television. Nogami Meiko (Kanno Miho) is a dog groomer at an upscale pet-salon. Her life seems ordinary enough...hell, she seems ordinary enough, however reality is never as clear-cut as it appears to be. Meiko has a dark side in which she seeks revenge against those responsible for falsely imprisoning her when she was 19. She "allegedly" killed her brother-in-law and nephew with a poisoned chocolate cake, which in turn made her mother practically disown her. The chick is a total loner as a result. Now we also have Detective Mashima Takuro (Tamaki Hiroshi), who constantly walks around with a look on his face like, "I cannot be bothered". He's on the hunt for his boss, Miwa Shuhei (Moro Morooka), a man that Mashima looks up to, who has disappeared without a trace. His new boss, Ukita Hajime (Yoshida Kotaro), is pretty hard on Mashima and wants him to get his act together. Mashima also has a co-worker/ex-girlfriend, Kichise Michiko (Enomoto Mari), on his case about him returning to his former self. So why is Mashima so down? Well, turns out that his younger, inexperienced partner from years past was murdered by a madman named Mizuguchi (Kanai Yuta), while the two of them were hunting him down. He's never forgiven himself for letting his junior die while he stood by helplessly. Makes sense.
Throughout the series, Meiko plays Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by having her normal life at the pet salon and eating her revenge-seeking cake too. She contacts the guilty parties one-by-one and basically demands that they atone for their crimes with their lives. So technically she's not a murderer if they kill themselves right? Well, she finds a way in each case to make suicide seem like the best option for these unsavory individuals. Eventually, Mashima runs into a pattern with these suicides and deduces that Meiko seems like the most likely of suspects. He's assisted by this crazy, homeless, fallen-from-grace journalist Dojima (Karasawa Toshiaki). The guy may look like he's in need of a shower, but that's because he knows how to dig up some dirt. Yeah, that was clever. Sure, focusing on Meiko takes his attention away from the search for Miwa, but they have to stop this string of suicides. It's making the police look bad! Mashima buddies up, undercover-style with Meiko by leading her to believe he's a software engineer. The two of them eventually develop a nice friendship in which they start to feel as if they each, finally, have someone they can confide in. Meanwhile, chief Ukita is up to shenanigans and isn't exactly the upstanding officer we all thought he was. Could it be he knows more about Miwa's disappearance than he's leading on? Where the hell is Miwa anyway? Will Mashima discover the truth about Meiko and will it make a difference in how he feels for her? Can Meiko finally find peace after years of distrust and anger (rightfully so) and will she find out Mashima's true identity? Oh the questions!
Believe you me, you'll find out the answers to all of these questions. Are you going to like how everything plays out? Well, that depends on how picky you are. I personally had a few issues with the way things played out in Guilty. I'm a huge fan of Miho Kanno and she was my main motivation for watching this series. Not surprisingly, I found her performance to be as spot-on as she always is, but most importantly, I enjoyed seeing her play a darker role than I'm used to. Having her as a scorned, fragile woman seeking revenge was pretty sweet. Tamaki Hiroshi's Mashima character was alright I suppose, but he was really dramatic most of the time. I know that sounds strange, because this is a drama, but I mean this guy just seemed bothered by everything, and I do mean everything. After a while his constant brooding and inability to smile got on my nerves. The hobo-journalist Dojima, while being interesting to look at and amusing at times, seemed a bit out of place in the dark, serious world of the drama. Ukita is a solid villain and certainly has a face and personality that make you want to punch him. The real focal point throughout the series though is the relationship between Mashima and Meiko and watching how it develops as she continues on her quest for revenge and he tries to sort out his feelings. Sure, you want to find out who really set up Meiko all those years ago and figure out where Miwa is and why he disappeared in the first place. That's all interesting enough. However, by the time you get to the final episode you'll probably just want to see what's going to happen between Mishima and Meiko.
At this point you may be wondering, "well, did he like it"? My honest answer is, it was alright. There are some horrible musical choices, including this Eminem-style rap song that sounds completely out of place. Mashima is incredibly one-note as a character and his journey to overcome his sadness by confronting the man who killed his partner left me unsatisfied. Not surprisingly (as portrayed in many dramas), the cops seem incredibly incapable. God how I hope the portrayal of police in Japanese dramas is a major exaggeration. I'm sure it is, but there are times where you scratch your head and think, "really!?". The big reveal, in who was responsible for setting up Meiko starts veering into, "wait, who are these people?", territory, meaning they're introduced way too late in the series, but I let it slide because I had a feeling they'd be getting what was coming to them anyway and that was satisfying enough. I liked that Guilty was dark and wasn't afraid of getting gritty (content-wise), and the mysteries were engaging enough up till the end. So there you have it, a complete mixed bag. Miho Kanno, this was all for you. (Lee)