Spring 2014 Part 1: Ghosts, Revenge, and Terrorists

BORDER Alice no toge MOZUDear Japanese TV executives,

Please evenly space out your good dramas over the year instead of cramming them all into one season.


A drama fan who can’t figure out what to watch.

So, there’s a lot to watch this season and I mean A LOT. It’s like all the planets aligned so that we could have good actors team up with good writers to produce more than one watchable drama just for the spring season. I doubt I can watch everything I want to, but if the summer and fall seasons suck, then at least I still have stuff to watch from this season.

Border vlcsnap-2014-04-12-21h46m57s14 Starring: Oguri Shun, Aoki Munetaka, Endo Kenichi, Haru

What it’s about: Oguri Shun plays Ishikawa Ryo, a workaholic police officer that gains the ability to see the dead after getting shot in the line of duty.

Thoughts: I didn’t have any expectations for BORDER, but I was pleasantly surprised by the first two episodes. I wasn’t expecting ghostly hijinks or anything, but the mood is darker than I thought it would be, though it’s not exactly depressing.

I thought Ishikawa would become the typical j-drama heroic justice lecturing cop since he became more appreciative of life after his accident, so it was interesting to see that he’s not above doing dirty work to solve cases. The first episode is very straightfoward (the victims tell Ishikawa who killed them, he catches them, yawn), but the second episode shook things up with Ishikawa trying to figure out the whereabouts of a girl from her deceased kidnapper.

While I don’t think Ishikawa is as smart as they’re trying to make him out to be (who doesn’t think to check a missing person’s list to find out the identity of a missing person?), Oguri’s performance is really carrying the show and if they got rid of his supporting cast, I wouldn’t even care. BORDER isn’t amazingly good, but I’m good if they can keep the cases interesting.

Alice no Toge (Alice’s Thorn) vlcsnap-2014-04-18-22h35m11s103 Starring: Ueno Juri, Odagiri Joe, Nakamura Aoi, Tanaka Naoki

What it’s about: Mizuno Asumi (Ueno Juri) seeks revenge against the hospital that killed her father.

Thoughts: While I don’t really care for the Alice in Wonderland theme, (a nurse that has a round head and is bald gets to be Humpty Dumpty, get it?)Alice no Toge is worth watching just for seeing what crazy shit Asumi’s going to do next.  So far, she has hung a nurse from a building, stunned, drugged, and tattooed one of the doctors, and fake kidnapped another doctor’s daughter. And this is only by the end of episode two.

Asumi isn’t quite a cold-hearted mastermind (two people have figured out what she’s doing already)  as much as she’s emotionally unhinged , but the only reason I can sympathize and am still kind of afraid of her is because Ueno’s playing her right. It’s different from other roles I’ve seen her in, but I think she’s nailing it so far, from the small glances to the little smirks she gives, she just owns it.

The villainous minions are a little too cartoonish and I was worried that we were just going to get Asumi inadvertently fixing the hospital (in her own twisted way) by eliminating incompetent doctors, but now that we know her dad was framed after he died and Professor Arima is onto what she’s doing, I’m hoping for a shake up. Also, I’m not expecting a lot on the romance front between Nishikado and Asumi, but Odagiri and Ueno have quite a bit of chemistry. It could go somewhere now that Nishikado has decided to help Asumi out, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

MOZU Season 1


Starring: Nishijima Hidetoshi, Maki Yoko, Kagawa Teruyuki, Sosuke Ikematsu, Hasegawa Hiroki

What it’s about: A bombing incident in downtown Tokyo ties together three individuals; Inspector Kuraki Naotake (Nishijima Hidetoshi) of the Public Security division who lost his wife during the incident, Assistant Inspector Osugi Ryota (Kagawa Teruyuki) of First Division who’s determined to get to the bottom of the bombing, and Public Security Officer Akeboshi Miki (Maki Yoko), who may know more about the incident than she lets on.

Thoughts: Probably the most anticipated drama of the season, MOZU’s sort of…odd. With several ongoing plotlines, it could easily become confusing since viewers aren’t fully aware of what’s going on, but the show manages to give you enough bits and pieces to understand everything while still hiding the big picture.  It’s addicting and exciting (the chase and fight scenes are great without ever feeling gratuitous), I’ll give it that, but I was expecting a straight police procedural so the supernatural/sci-fi stuff with the Daruma man, the elusive IC chip, and the amnesiac killer feels sort of out of place, though episode three is hinting that it ties into a big police conspiracy.

Of course, Nishijima, Maki, and Kagawa are all delivering, though Kuraki is the only character we really know anything about. His persona is cold in spite of the fact that he just lost his wife, though we do see cracks every now and then in his facade. Though the main reason he’s pursuing the case is to figure out the mystery behind his wife and daughter’s deaths, his emotions don’t influence his actions and it’s nice to know there’s at least one competent cop around. I’m a little disappointed with Kagawa’s character Osugi, who’s mostly there to give the audience infodumps and shout about how much he hates Public Security. *Sigh* Maybe he’ll get more development in season two.



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