MOZU (Season 1) : Eps 1-2

Drama ReviewsJapanese Dramas

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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.

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^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*

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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.

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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.

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^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!

Overall

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.

heisui

I'm heisui, an Asian drama blogger and the creator of My Drama Tea. I love stories and writing, so I watch dramas and blog. I especially have a penchant for Japanese and Chinese dramas, and those hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. Oh, and I'm Legend of Zhen Huan-obsessed!
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  • I only watched Nishijima Hidetoshi before in his dorama with Kim Tae Hee, the 99 days with star or something like that but I didn’t finish that drama so I wasn’t able to fully appreciate his good looks. He’s SO delicious in MOZU, his eyes is so piercing, sooooo manly and sexy. I’m quite fond of Maki Yoko’s style of cool and collected characters, I’ve watched a few dramas of her and all of her characters so far have been the cool and calm girl so far, I think it suits her but I hope I can see her trying out different roles. Anyways, It’s rare to see a girl rocking such short haircut so well, I think her facial features really fit her hair.

    • Oh I didn’t even know he was the lead in that drama. O_O I saw him before in Double Face, Strawberry Night, etc.

      I agree about Maki Yoko, she is really good at playing the cool kind of character! She’s had her short haircut for a long time now, but it used to be in brown in her previous dramas. I think it looks even better in black now! :3

    • Do you girls really think her hairstyle is good? As a guy I can say that her hairstyle is tantamount to abuse. Takes her from a 9 down to the 3 range.

        • Wellllll that may be the female perspective, but from a male perspective I can say that it knocks her down a few pegs. I’m just sayin!

          • Not all men I might add in, I think that her hair looks fantastic as well. Sorry not all women want to submit to the beauty standards you and other misogynists set as ideal :((((( wahh wahh wah cries of abuse

  • Nice, I was looking for when you’d be doing a MOZU (i.e. Japanese Dirty Harry) dedicated post. I really like how you do those pictorial collages of the characters before getting into their descriptions and commentaries. Having those images in mind and at the ready really lets your reader connect your writing to the show. I can’t think of another site that does that as systematically as you.

    So the show, yeah. Wow. You made a really great observation about Nishijima, that he acts mostly with his eyes. When Bill Murray started to get into serious acting roles, especially when he did Lost in Translation, one of the most notable comments people made about his style was that he acted mainly with his eyes and that it was incredibly powerful. The same can definitely be said about Nishijima. The most striking example of this I find is when the show cuts between Kurai’s life before and after the loss of his family; Nishijima goes from one emotional pole to the other effortlessly and is really a breath of fresh air in the Japanese acting scene.

    I think that there’s this constant criticism aimed at Japanese actors as a whole which professes that they can only over act but this is completely untrue and I’ve said it for years. Finally Japanese actors are starting to display their true skills. I really feel this has been an issue with Japanese directors more than anything to do with the actors themselves as ultimately it’s the director that steers the direction of the performances.

    This post is long I know but I HAVE to mention the music! The power of music for mood creation is so important. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Legend” by Ridley Scott this is a perfect example. The film was released with an ethereal synth score by Tangerine Dream which, to this day, is in my top 5 movie scores of all time. Years later a director’s cut was released that replaced the Tangerine Dream score with a more traditional one by Jerry Goldsmith. This version is almost unwatchable and the best example of the power of a great musical score. When the music starts to come in during those key scenes in MOZU my heart beat doubles.

    As time goes on I think MOZU is going to get way more insane. We still have yet to see the corporate side really strike back against Kurai as he’s been allowed to just have free run for now. I think that it’s the calm before the storm and they are going to give him a beat-down of gargantuan proportions.

    There’s so much more to talk about, like who is it really (and why) appearing in peoples’ dreams, and how the police division rivalries will start to flesh out, but I’ll leave it with my picks for best and worst of MOZU so far.

    Best: Nishijima’s acting.
    This is the lynch-pin of MOZU as far as I’m concerned.

    Worst: Yoko’s hairstyle.
    Man, I cannot STAND this haircut. Makes her look so bad and is a waste of her beauty. She looks way better with shoulder length and a part closer to the middle of her head. She’s just so naturally gorgeous on every level that it almost makes me angry as a man that they would ruin this eye candy.

    • Aw thank you Colin! :3 I try to make the collages pretty as possible heh. As for overacting, I think it is a broad generalization about many Japanese actors because there are so many jdramas that have overexaggerated acting. Also the jdramas with overacting somehow tend to be more popular (such as the rom-coms). T_T”

      I just hope the supernatural stuff about the guy appearing in people’s dreams is not too far-fetched. I’m also curious about what will happen when someone gets their hands on the IC chip!

      • My prediction is that the IC chip has something to do with Dharma showing up in dreams, maybe something like the anime movie Paprika (which, if you haven’t seen, is one of the few anime’s in the past 10 years worth watching) where it’s actually the tech allowing for that.

  • Yikes, have I been away from jdramas for a long time! I haven’t watched any all the way through since Ando Lloyd and Hakuba no Ouji-sama! Though, I will admit to not being enamored with a lot of the synopses out there for the jdramas airing this season. This show, though, does look dark and promising. I kind of like dark jdramas like Karamazov no Kyoudai and … what was the other one that was on the tip of my tongue…oh well.

    I swear when I see the main actor in a show, he’s usually got a stoic or hangdog expression on his face. It’s rare to see him in a lighthearted or fun role. I’m sure he’s played them, but like I said, the dramas I’ve seen him in have similar expressions. I really like the screencaps you have of him because even though his face may be more expressionless, you are right about those eyes of his…intense!

    I think when this daily kdrama is over, I’m taking a daily drama break and concentrating on shorter dramas once more. Maybe I’ll do some jdrama marathoning if I can find something interesting. Always willing to hear heisui’s recommendations 🙂

    • Oh man (or woman, whatever the case) you are missing OUT this season! This is the year of the JDrama. In order of my own ratings;

      MOZU
      River’s Edge
      The Long Goodbye
      Nazo No Tenkousei

      All top notch shows though. I would even maybe put River’s Edge in a tie for first with MOZU bust because they are so stylistically different but equal in quality. River’s Edge is like polar opposite from MOZU so whether you like serious drama or something more off the wall you’re taken care of, and believe me, MOZU is badass. It’s like just a step or two below True Detective in its intensity so far and has the potential to really step it up which I for one and very much hoping for.

      As for KDrama… yeeeeaaahhhhhh about that. One of the many many MANY things that I believe put JDramas on a higher level than the Ks is that you know thhey are going to be about 10-12 episodes long so the writers have a definite story and direction in mind before they even start filming so you know that there is a point to everything that’s happening without the show being stretched for filler.

      It’s the year of the JDrama; get on board!

      • Definitely shall take a look into your recommendations. It’s not something that happens a lot with jdramas, but sometimes there does seem to be filler episodes in dramas that are already short enough, so they shouldn’t add something in that really isn’t integral the story line. Definitely happens more in Taiwanese and Korean dramas, but every so often it pops up in Japanese as well, but over all, jdramas have better pacing with shorter series.

        I do like jdramas have more finite stories and endings, but at the same time, there are still a lot of open-ended dramas that make you beg for a second season and alas, you don’t always get one or you get a second season that just cant’ live up to the first. Always exceptions, though.

        You may find it hard to believe, but I actually have completed more jdramas and recapped more jdramas than ay other genre. I start tons of kdramas, but never finish them as well as I do jdramas. And looking back at my recaps, jdramas win over all.

        • I *tried* to watch some KDrama once. The only one I managed to watch was actually Heirs, which I honestly ended up loving mostly for Park Shin Ye and Woo Bin. I think if Woo Bin hadn’t rocked out his performance in that show I wouldn’t have been able to stand it. Also, it would have been worlds better if it had ended around the 12 episode mark instead of just dragging on and on and ON. It got so far from it’s original direction and focus that it almost made no sense. Still, remains the only KDrama I could stand.

          • I couldn’t stand it. Oh, I watched lots of Woo Bin clips because he rocked the role, but I must say after 4 episodes, wasn’t feeling the drama and dropped it, but I’ve been a bit unenamored with TV shows all over of late. The whole all these channels and all these shows…and there’s nothing to watch, lol. And then you discover that one gem that makes it all ok again.

    • I see you’ve still been on your drama break with your focus on music hehe. That’s ok though, there are a lot of good jdramas this season if you ever want to pick one up. I can’t remember all the roles I’ve seen Nishijima play. But I guess the more stoic character tends to suit him? I don’t think he was like this in Strawberry Night though..

      • Well, I blame choosing one daily kdrama. It was crazy hard to keep up last year with…4…or 5 jdramas and one daily kdramas all at one time. So it’s kind of easier to focus on the one daily drama and music posts like The Forgotten or Song of the Week are a lot easier to get in vs. spending time watching another drama where I needs must concentrate hard to recap it to the best of my ability.

        Reading your synopsis of Gokuako Ganbo in the sidebar…it kind of sounds like a female version of Kurosagi…except, I thought this jdrama was supposed to be more of a comedy while Kurosagi was definitely a heavier drama series.

        There’s only like 15 episodes left of my daily kdrama. After that, I think it’s a healthy dose of jdramas coming my way 😀

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