Hot men + guns + action = watch the drama.
What can I say, I’m easy like that.
Actor combinations that I like don’t often come my way, so it was a treat to see Oguri Shun and Nishijima Hidetoshi pair up in CRISIS. Apparently the two had talked about being in a drama together since way back, so I’m glad it actually happened. I have newfound appreciation for Oguri after BORDER, and have always liked Nishijima since Strawberry Night – both can act and have taken on a variety of roles, so there’s no fear of being typecast.
Oguri plays Inami Akira, who is part of a secret team of five tackling critical issues that pose security risks for Japan and its leaders. The team is headed by Yoshinaga Mitsunari (Tanaka Tetsushi), with Tamaru Saburo (Nishijima), bomb expert Kashii Yuusuke (Nomaguchi Toru) and former hacker Oyama Rei (Araki Yuuko) being the other members. Despite their different backgrounds, they come together to solve cases that challenge their sense of justice.
CRISIS started off with a bang and some raising of eyebrows – of the what-the-fuck-is-this variety – when Inami jumped into the river with the terrorist and the bomb. Did he forget the bomb would explode in the water, or did he think the bomb would kill only the terrorist and not him? What happened to just throwing the bomb into the water? It was unrealistic that a former member of the Self-Defence Forces would do something like this, and it was at this point – quite early on in the episode – that I realised this wasn’t of the BORDER level of gravity. When other passengers weren’t even worried in the slightest at the sight of two people fighting right before their eyes, it just takes the viewer out of that moment. However, once I got past that hiccup, I was able to enjoy the drama for what it was and it was able to surprise me in little ways since I had gone into it only knowing about Oguri and Nishijima being in it.
I liked that doing their job didn’t stop the team – especially Inami – from questioning the morality and ethics involved, such as having to help the political bigwigs cover up their shady activities. There was no neat resolution of every incident and it got to a point where I wondered if each member was going to eventually become disillusioned enough by the injustice of it all to consider quitting the team, and it rather played out that way. What was interesting was how this special investigation team, newly formed, was also at risk of being disbanded (or perhaps having their heads offed) if they made a wrong move or failed to complete their missions satisfactorily – in that sense, there was a touch of unpredictability and the drama also took pains to fuel the vibe that the team was being moved around like a chess piece to suit the grand scheme of things. I also liked that the only girl of the team, Oyama, was more than capable and the guys often turned to her hacking skills to help them get things done. There was also the occasional humour and a peek into the characters’ lives outside of work – it was rather funny that none of them quite knew what to do with having free time, and Inami’s attempts at having a normal relationship struck me as a little wistful and sad.
Acting was generally solid throughout and the action scenes were enjoyable and pretty realistic, seeing as the cast had trained for a long time prior to filming. I really liked the chemistry between Oguri and Nishijima, and thought they made a smashing pair of crime-busters. There could definitely have been more bonding scenes for their characters, especially during and after Inami’s first undercover mission. I thought Oguri did well underlying Inami’s flirty behaviour with a hint of steel, and Nishijima being stoic was adorable (those rare smiles!). Tanaka Tetsushi was a steadying force as Yoshinaga, Nomaguchi Toru was solid as Kashii and Araki Yuuko was fine as Oyama, if a little stiff at times. I enjoyed their collective chemistry and thought they worked well as a group of misfits trying to make sense of it all. The theme song is ill-suited and screechy – belting out “I need your love” in an action drama is just silly.
The ending seems to be teasing a season 2, and I wouldn’t mind it if the same cast is retained. Just no more jumping into rivers with bombs and, for heaven’s sake, get rid of that silly theme song.
II. Bitter Blood
About-turns are satisfying sometimes when all the stars are in alignment, and this was the case for Bitter Blood. I’d never quite bothered with Sato Takeru’s works outside of Rurouni Kenshin despite liking him in the trilogy, but he was a lovely surprise in Kanojo wa uso wo aishisugiteru, and the big plus in his favour is that he is a big-time cat lover in real life. That gets me on his side faster than anything, and I was quite happy to try out Bitter Blood after seeing some funny clips of it on YouTube and realising Watabe Atsuro was also in it.
Basically, Sato plays rookie cop Sahara Natsuki, who is a sweet, caring soul and always tries to help people in distress. On his first day at work, he’s horrified to find that he’s been assigned a cop buddy in the form of his estranged father, Shimao Akimura (Watabe). Natsuki and Shimao-senpai (that is how he addresses his father at work) get into all sorts of scrapes while on duty and off it – through it all, they learn to work with each other and bond as father and son.
It’s always nice to take a break from the heavy-duty cop procedurals that seem to have become my default drama choices in this genre, so I was happy to be able to relax and soak in the fun and silly antics on display in Bitter Blood. I laughed a lot and looked forward to watching the next episode, which was always a good sign. The drama was really more about the relationship between Natsuki and Shimao-senpai, since their colleagues bordered on incompetent and the cases and main villain were nothing to write home about. Family drama isn’t my cup of tea, but Natsuki learning a different side of the father he thought had abandoned the family, and realising that Shimao-senpai had always cared for him and his sister Shinobu (Hirose Suzu), was nicely charted and believable. I love how the reveal of why Shimao-senpai left was done without histrionics, and there was no fanfare about Natsuki understanding and accepting that there was another side of the truth he hadn’t been privy to. I love it when Japanese dramas resolve so-called big family secrets with almost zero hoo-ha – not everything has to involve screeching, puddles of tears and fake group hugs.
There was a lot of rapid-fire bickering between father and son, and it left me in stitches most of the time because both of them were so stubborn but hilarious, and I loved all their scenes together. Shimao-senpai’s obsession with looking fashionable cracked me up, as did Natsuki’s clumsy self and struggles with waking up on time for work (I can empathise!). I loved what a clueless dork Natsuki was at times, but he had a sense of justice a mile long and a generous, helpful nature that ultimately stood him in good stead. Even as Natsuki learnt how to become a more astute cop, I liked that the show emphasised how much of a better cop he has become because of his kindness (even if that sometimes got him into trouble). I love how Shimao-senpai was just a softy at heart, wanting to bond with and teach Natsuki as much as possible – to the extent of giving him dating advice, ha! – even as he tried to mask that with a lot of hilarious snark. It was sweet seeing him happy if he caught Natsuki calling him dad or was able to spend time with Natsuki and Shinobu on Father’s Day – even if he then turned his nose up at the gift Natsuki gave him because it was too plain, ha.
Watabe Atsuro was a riot as Shimao-senpai, and I love his comedic timing to bits. He carried off the quirkiness and fashion-consciousness with aplomb, infusing the character with warmth – and a side of stiff upper lip where Natsuki was concerned – and making Shimao-senpai really lovable. He had fantastic chemistry with Sato Takeru, and their banter was the highlight of every episode, whether they were arguing about tacky jacket linings or working together to catch a dog (and Shimao-senpai freaking out over it). I’ve always liked Watabe’s acting and find him incredibly versatile, so it was a real pleasure watching him rock this offbeat role. I love how Watabe completely inhabited the role, and even when he was being hilarious or frazzled (episode 8 is great for this, when Shimao-senpai and Natsuki were stuck in an elevator and they both needed the gents), he always managed to give the character an underlying dignity that never veered into stupid no matter the situation. It’s a fine balance but Watabe pulled it off well and was charismatic to boot. Sato was also a natural as Natsuki and I loved how he brought out the character’s inner clueless dork, especially when he was trying to figure out the romance stuff with Hitomi. You could genuinely believe Natsuki was really yasashii deep down and that he walked the talk regardless of the circumstances. Bonus eye candy was that both Watabe and Sato looked really dapper in suits, which do not always maketh the man…
I haven’t seen Kutsuna Shiori in anything, but she was fine as fellow rookie cop Maeda Hitomi and had decent chemistry with Sato. Tanaka Tetsushi hammed it up as the marriage-minded Koga Hisashi, and it was hilarious seeing him go all out nutty after his serious turn in CRISIS. Despite the relative incompetence of the rest of the team, I grew to like them over the course of the drama, and loved that they always managed to come through together for the team member(s) in need of help. Each of them also had funny nicknames that suited them to a T, and their zany antics and (toilet) humour added much colour and personality. The theme song was the rather catchy Do You Ever Shine? by Mayday, a Taiwanese band, and I thought the mid-opening credits featuring contrasting scenes of Shimao-senpai and Natsuki were nicely done.
I thoroughly enjoyed Bitter Blood and all of its lovable wackiness, so if there is ever a whiff of season 2, make it happen!