Is there a lifelong WOWOW subscription available and if so, where do I sign up? Once again, a WOWOW production leaves me impressed with the station’s reliability in churning out quality dramas, and I love that there are still networks that care about and put effort into ensuring a high standard of storytelling, acting and production values.
Kaji Hidekazu (Watabe Atsuro) and Muto Seiichi (Tokito Saburo) were journalists on the case of a newborn baby being kidnapped from the Yokosuka General Hospital in the summer of 1995. Unusually, the kidnappers demanded a ransom from the hospital director rather than the baby’s parents. The kidnappers fled with the ransom but were killed in a car accident. Twenty years later, the kidnapper’s daughter Hiroko applies for a job at the newspaper company where Kaji and Muto work, and as Muto struggles to protect Hiroko from the glare of the media scrutiny, Kaji is tasked to relook into the kidnapping incident…
Kageri Yuku Natsu is adapted from a novel of the same name by Akai Mihiro and initially its premise reminded me of 64 (Rokuyon), which also dealt with an old kidnapping case being reinvestigated. Beyond the surface similarities (which ended pretty quickly), it’s always intriguing to see just how interconnected the media industry and the various branches of law and order are, and how far their influence extends. As a journalist, you build and rely on a vast network of contacts in order to do your job effectively, and it is to these people Kaji turns when he begins his investigations. Most of those involved are willing to share their experiences and go through with Kaji what they might have missed, which is rather refreshing for the lack of police bureaucratic red tape or reluctance to talk.
The drama examines the choices people make and the consequences they have to live with as a result of those decisions. There’s a strong element of guilt coursing through the characters, but as far as possible, the drama offers a version of facts shaped by differing perspectives and does not really stand in judgment of those involved – there may be a hint of sympathy towards certain characters, but the audience is free to draw its own conclusions. This is ideally how a newspaper should function but does not always because people have their own agendas and viewpoints from which they approach things. The drama offers much food for thought on media ethics, with key issues such as the identity leak of the kidnapper’s daughter and how far one would go to preserve a scoop among the running themes. For those of the investigative bent, there are any number of clues on the kidnapping cleverly sprinkled throughout and one can figure most things out by episode 4. Pacing is solid and the finale packs a powerful punch.
I love a drama that portrays the nitty-gritty of a particular profession, so it made me happy seeing the old-school newsrooms of 20 years ago, and the upscale version – both have that buzz and energy that I’ve come to associate with those in journalism, and I love that the drama captured that perfectly. There was also a nugget that I found interesting – it is when one of the witnesses mentions she never told the police about an impression she’d formed of the kidnapper, knowing that impressions don’t cut it as evidence. But it is something Kaji seizes and works on as a clue, and I really enjoyed his calm, logical and meticulous approach to problem-solving – he’s also open-minded and alert enough to look at old clues with a fresh eye, despite having been in the thick of things back then. The drama utilised an interesting take on flashbacks, by having Kaji visualise things from the witnesses’ perspective as a way of retracing the ins and outs of the kidnapping incident; while I was hard put to believe that nothing much has changed in two decades, it was an upgrade on the usual flashback methods we often see in dramas.
It’s always a pleasure seeing Watabe Atsuro on my screen and I still remember him fondly from Gaiji Keisatsu, where he was stellar. He was equally solid as Kaji, bringing across the character’s passion for journalism and justice despite being jaded by previous experiences. It was a very grounded performance reminiscent of Asano Tadanobu’s in Long Goodbye, without the debonair manner and cynicism. Acting was generally solid across the board, as is expected with a number of veterans leading the cast, which made it easier for me to get invested in the characters’ arcs. I also liked seeing the dependable Tokito Saburo as Muto, one of a number of fatherly figures in the drama, which also examines in part the concept of parenthood and family. I appreciated that the drama showed a divorced couple (Kaji and his ex-wife) on amicable terms and able to still share parenting responsibilities of their teenage daughter, who does not seem torn between her parents, while single father Muto and his son have a warm relationship.
Overall, this has been a very solid, satisfying watch, and I heartily recommend the drama. There isn’t enough quality TV to go around, but Kageri Yuku Natsu keeps you on the edge of your seat and is worth every minute of your time.