Monday, February 18, 2013

Jiu (J-Drama 2011)

I keep getting myself into trouble by watching dramas for no other reason than a actor or actress that I like is starring in it. Now to most, this doesn't sound like an abnormal thing right? However, it's this kind of blind bias that has me suffering for hours. This time, Mikako Tabe did me wrong. Jiu (ジウ) wasn't all that bad, but it simply mismanages what could have been fairly decent material in the right hands.

Motoko (Meisa Kuroki), and Misaki (Mikako Tabe), are both agents working for S.I.T. (Special Investigation Team) in Tokyo. Motoko is your hard-as-nails, super-cop with an ice-cold personality to match. Misaki, on the other hand, is a soft-spoken, more level-headed agent that seems more comfortable behind a desk than out in the field. A situation arises where both women get involved; Misaki acting as a negotiator and Motoko armed and ready to take the bad guy down. Things don't exactly go as planned and Misaki is taken by the bad guy. Motoko, going hard as usual, shoots the bad guy in order to free Misaki, thus creating a public affairs nightmare for the Tokyo police force. Pictures of Misaki being held captive hit the front page news and word of Motoko's, shoot-first, ask-questions-later policy has everyone in an uproar. The fallout ends up with Misaki being sent to join detective Hiroki's (Kitamura Yukiya), team in a different department, but Motoko's actions actually end up getting her promoted to a very exclusive position; as an S.A.T. (Special Assault Team) member. The S.A.T. are a group of well-trained men that are called in whenever situations go from bad to worse. Motoko finds herself being the first woman ever to be enlisted into this boy's club and they aren't exactly the most welcoming bunch. She does find a bit of friend in Yuu (Amamiya Takashi), a man who definitely isn't all he appears to be. Meanwhile, Misaki is finding her new placement somewhat satisfying, as Hiroki informs her that they're on the hunt for a man only known as Jiu, (L). Jiu is a mysterious Chinese man with blonde hair, dressed in white, and he's responsible for various crimes; kidnapping, murder, you name it. Misaki really starts to get involved in the case, all the while developing a crush on Hiroki. On the other side of the coin, Motoko is also getting close and comfy with Yuu. Eventually, the members of S.A.T. are needed to assist the detectives in the hunt for Jiu, but as more information comes to light, it seems he may not be the mastermind of all this criminal activity after all. Who is this mysterious Jiu character? Why is he committing all these crimes? And why is his hair blonde!?

Jiu is a nine-episode series that's based off the written work of novelist Tetsuya Honda. Obviously, I haven't read this story, so I can't say for sure how faithful the drama is to the novel, but I doubt Mr. Honda had Lady Gaga's, "Edge of Glory", in mind as the main musical piece to accompany his work come to life. No kidding, this song plays at the end of every episode. In true Japanese drama fashion, there's usual a popular song placed into a drama and it plays in every episode during the last five minutes or so. "Edge of Glory", could not feel more out of place than it does here, but let's not get hung up on the song choice. Jiu could've been much, "harder", than it was. By that, I mean gritty and in-my-face. I mean, it really acts like it wants to. The material certainly lends itself to a world where bad things happen and consequences are a fact of life, but here, which is all too often the case in dramas, things are played a little too safe. I like the story; a mysterious man starts wreaking havoc in the world of these detectives; they're all suddenly left grasping at straws but the one, or two, cops that know what's going on are the one's nobody believes in. A tried-and-true underdog story of sorts. Speaking of everyone involved, it really feels like they're all playing character types instead of doing real acting here. Is it intentional? I have no idea, but Jiu, as a character, for example, feels more like he's ripped out of the pages of a manga, as opposed to feeling like a plausible villain. Motoko is cold and callous to a fault, where I wound up just finding her an impossible-to-deal-with annoyance. Misaki, on the other hand, doesn't fare much better because she's so fluffy and cute that you tend to scratch your head in bewilderment as to why she's taken seriously as a detective. Maybe just a poor casting choice? I still love you Mikako san, and yes, your character does show some progression. In terms of action, there are moments of, "damn, where did that come from!?", hardness toward the end of the series, especially in regards to Yuu, but that's also the problem. These edgy moments feel out of the norm for the series and instead of thinking it's cool, you're mostly left feeling like it was out-of-place.

Jiu is a drama that want's to act tough but ends up being lightweight. The acting is passable, but again, the parties involved are playing character types to the point of eye-rolling annoyance. Many of the plot's pieces fit together a little too conveniently and as a whole, nothing comes across as authentic. These people are far too, "pretty", to be doing what they're doing. This is strictly for fans of the cast and those who love suspending disbelief and I mean, love it. (Lee)

Grade: C

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