MOZU (Season 1) : Eps 1-2
Lately the jdrama scene has been inundated with tons of formulaic detective dramas that have no originality. Somehow each and every season comes out with more and more detective dramas, most of which depend on the cliched elements of the evilly cackling villain, plot holes, heroic detectives, clumsy sidekicks that are only there to make the main character look better, etc. All in all, the typical detective jdrama is something that makes me want to facepalm, especially since I know that there are better police jdramas out there!
There are, thankfully, some exceptions to the average sucky detective jdrama, and Mozu is one of them. Granted, Mozu is not the only exception to the recent trend in police jdramas, but it really feels like a godsend especially considering how much the previous winter jdrama season sucked. >_>” So far Mozu is hitting all the right notes and it shows what a detective jdrama can be when it’s done right. It’s dark, suspenseful, and gritty, with much deeper complexities than first meets the eye.
^Top left pic & bottom right pic: I think Nishijima Hidetoshi is mainly acting through his eyes.
The main character is Kuraki (Nishijima Hidetoshi), a Public Security officer who lost his wife in a bombing incident. He becomes the driving force of the investigation of the bombing case because he is determined to find the truth behind his wife’s death. Kuraki is often referred to as “a beast” because of this ruthless tactics and his ‘the ends justify the means’ philosophy. At first Kuraki seems like the usual rogue cop/vigilante kind of character, the kind who’s been wronged by the world and is willing to go against the system & use some unscrupulous methods to fight for justice. But Kuraki is actually not quite the kind of cop who is some shining beacon of justice and morality. He may be going to the extremes in the name of justice, but he’s actually walking a very fine line between going too far and doing just enough. What happens after he finds the criminals? Will he really hand them over to be prosecuted or will his investigation morph into a mission for revenge? It’s hard to tell whether we can really trust that he will remain in control of himself and not get too out of hand. It’s also difficult to gauge whether Kuraki’s judgment has been clouded (considering his conflict of interests since his wife was a victim) or whether he is really clear-minded enough to take on this case. To me, Kuraki is not the clear-cut hero of the story although he is the main character (not sure if he’s an anti-hero yet though). In fact I’m not quite sure if the story has any heroes, heh. But I actually really like this ambiguity in Kuraki’s role because it leaves it up to the viewer to figure out whether he’s ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ or if he’s still trustworthy even if he’s in between. He is kind of lingering in the grey area which makes his actions & motivations much more interesting!
I also know that there are probably a lot of Nishijima Hidetoshi fans watching this for him…so yes, I can confirm there are some fan service scenes such as when the camera shows a close-up of him intensely doing push-ups. 😛 At first though, I was left unimpressed by his acting. In ep1 it felt like Nishijima was attempting to do the whole stoic-vengeful-angsty expression but it sometimes came off as deadpan. It felt like (at least in my memory) his acting in Double Face was better than his acting in ep1. But by the end of episode 2 I realized that he must be doing a pretty good job because his portrayal of Kuraki has effectively convinced me that Kuraki is like a walking time bomb, and is very much the ‘beast’ that the other characters think he is. He seems to be very much in control of his situation and his emotions, but it also feels like he could self-destruct or erupt any minute. No, he hasn’t gone total rogue cop/batman mode where he beats his enemies to a pulp or anything like that. But there is some kind of tension in his aura that makes me think he could temporarily lose control at some point. As such, I think Kuraki really needs another character to keep him in check to make sure he doesn’t get out of control. *cough* Kagawa Teruyuki’s character. *cough*
But unfortunately for Kagawa Teruyuki fans, his character Osugi Ryota is kinda underrepresented in the first 2 episodes. Also there is no instant bromance between Ryota & Kuraki. >_< Ryota is a persistent and hot-headed cop who never gives up on pestering his suspects/colleagues for information. The poor guy is totally left out of the loop and has to resort to just tailing other detectives (such as Kuraki) to try to get in on their leads. In contrast to the other 2 main characters, he doesn’t have ulterior motives as he is more of a straight-forward guy who simply wants to nab his suspects. For now he is mainly the comic relief of the drama but I’m sure he will be playing a more major role once he and the other main characters start working together more.
The last main character is Akeboshi Miki, (Maki Yoko) who is also a Public Security officer. Prior to the bombing incident, she had been assigned on a top-secret mission to investigate Shingai Kazuhiko, a professional assassin. She had no intel on the bombing but she happened to be at the site of the accident because she was tailing Shingai there. Anyways because of her connection to the bombing case as well as Shingai, both Kuraki & Ryota end up convinced that she is a key person to solving the mystery. Miki is actually really fun to watch whenever she interacts with Ryota because she always gives him the cold shoulder and comes up with sassy replies to his attempts to get information out of her. She generally has a very cool and self-assured composure although she is also harboring many secrets due to the nature of her work.
The only thing I don’t get about her character though, is why she makes it so obvious whenever she is purposely feeding Kuraki information! She is supposed to be acting like she is being intimidated and manipulated into giving him information, not willingly cooperating with him right off the bat. But that’s just what happens–Kuraki simply intimidates her a little and she proceeds to tell him every single detail about Shingai. =_= Even Kuraki has gotten the hint that it is suspicious how she is willing to tell him so much when her mission is even top-secret among her superiors.
^top left pic: loveee the ending of ep2, it was so suspenseful!
Augh there is so much more to say about Mozu but I’ll just sum up some of my thoughts in a few brief points:
-Miki is my favorite character so far because she can hold her own against Kuraki & Ryota. Plus she gets to have frequent secret roof-top meetings with her boss, who just so happens to be played by KOHINATA FUMIYO. Omg, it was so epic when we saw him for the first time on the roof-top! We still don’t know his identity but I think he must be even more influential than Kuraki.
-I don’t get why Miki has to go undercover ALONE to meet Shingai. Her mission may be top-secret but shouldn’t she have some back-up!?!?!
– Ep1 was good but not something that left me wanting to instantly watch the next episode. On the other hand, the ending of ep2 is a total cliffhanger and it left me wanting to watch more!!
-The title “Mozu” refers to the ‘shrike,’ which is a kind of bird that is known for impaling its prey on thorns or sticks. I believe the narrator says that no one knows why the shrike does this, but according to the wiki, impaling the prey actually helps the shrikes tear them up into smaller pieces. It also lets the shrike save the food to eat later on. So the shrike’s hunting habits are not as mysterious as the intro makes it sound.
-Love the soundtrack and the cinematography! There are too many good shots for me to include in this post but the cinematography is gorgeous!
MOZU is a very ambitious drama, especially considering it is already scheduled for a second season! (I think it’s going to air in the summer season this year.) Eps 1-2 have lived up to all my expectations, especially considering how the drama has such a great cast and it’s another collaboration between TBS & WOWOW. However I’m not going to be so quick as to declare it my favorite or the #1 jdrama of the season just yet, as I think there are other great jdramas that are either on the same level of MOZU or perhaps even better. I do think Mozu sets the standard very high for other detective/mystery dramas this season though! 😉 If you want to read more detailed recaps of the episodes, you can read them over at the Jdrama Weblog.
Note: The names might get kinda confusing…I am referring to Kuraki by his last name since that’s how he’s usually called in the drama. Likewise, I’m calling Miki by her first name since she’s not really referred to as Akeboshi very often, etc.