Anata no Ban desu

Watching a crime drama is one thing. Watching a whodunnit while it is airing and waiting weeks for the conclusion is akin to torture.

Nana (Harada Tomoyo) and Shota (Tanaka Kei) are a newlywed couple and Nana is 15 years older than Shota. Despite the age difference, they are very much in love and both enjoy reading mystery novels. Nana and Shota move into a new apartment, and they soon get embroiled in a spate of murders that take place in the apartment complex…

I’m not one for currently airing dramas, but decided to give this a shot because of Tanaka Kei. I generally enjoy mystery and crime dramas, and watching Tanaka week in week out was no hardship, for sure. That said, imagine my surprise when I realised there was not only an SP, but also a second season. Towards the end, I even started discussing theories and possibilities with Chiaki of Doramaworld, and that upped the anticipation of the ultimate reveal. We both hoped the drama would tie up all the loose ends in a satisfactory way. Some spoilers after this point.

The drama featured a murder swap game, where residents would write down the names of the people they wanted dead and whoever who drew that piece of paper would have to kill the person whose name was written on it. What the drama did fairly well was in the build-up of suspense, and when residents kept dying one by one, seemingly in accordance with the game, I thought the drama was moving at a good pace, especially when Nana seemed to be making some headway in discovering the identity of the murderer. So I was not expecting a season 2, much less have Nana killed off. That rather surprised me, since Nana was a leading character, and the SP was sweet but a little hard to watch because her death absolutely wrecked Shota and it hurt to see Tanaka Kei crying.

The second season was all about Shota trying to find Nana’s murderer and doing so with the help of AI whizkid Nikaido Shinobu (Yokohama Ryusei). The drama also added a few new residents which ultimately did not really contribute to the story. Most of the reveals ended up being somewhat lame, innocuous and unbelievable, and the overall feeling was a bit of “what the fuck did I just sit through 20 episodes for?” Quite a few story threads were left hanging or had unsatisfactory endings, which is a sign the writer had not properly thought things through. Some of the story detours were a little dull, another sign that the drama should have been trimmed to keep the pacing brisk and storytelling compact. I suppose one could look at the drama as a black comedy of sorts, with almost all the residents behaving in some ludicrous fashion that couldn’t really be taken seriously. That said, Shota’s grief was too real and jarring, so the tonal whiplash somewhat unbalanced the drama, which didn’t quite know what it wanted to be.

Acting was generally decent, and Tanaka Kei really shone in the more serious bits, especially when Shota was trying to come to terms with Nana’s death. I had thought Shota was a rehash of Haruta from Ossan’s Love, because of how puppy dog he was being in the first season. But he really came into his own in the second season and Tanaka was excellent in the scene in episode 20 when Shota finally realises how Nana died. Tanaka had lovely chemistry with Harada Tomoyo and they made a cute couple despite their age difference. Their love story, shown mainly in the SP, was pretty adorable and sweet. Harada did well to bring out Nana’s gentleness and love for Shota, and I half hoped that she would somehow be miraculously revived at the end of the drama but it wasn’t to be. Yokohama Ryusei had a credible turn as the awkward man-child Nikaido, but Nishino Nanase was terrible as Kuroshima Sawa, who turned out to be the murderer. The plot didn’t serve her well, and her acting – if it could even be called that – only made the unbelievable even more incredulous, and not in a good way.

The ending hinted at more weird things to come, and that there might be another murderer out there other than Kuroshima, but I was so cheesed off by Nishino’s acting in the finale that I wasn’t interested to find out why she was the way she was (explained in the special on Hulu). I did like the bumbling cop Mizuki, played by Minagawa Sarutoki, whom I last saw in Bitter Blood. Mizuki was superstitious and a scaredy-cat, clearly there for the odd comedic moment amid the suspense, but in the end became someone Shota could sort of rely on in the search for the murderer. A special shoutout to Nao, who was excellent as the creepy Ono Mikiha, who had a penchant for married men and had no qualms about doing unsettling things while flashing her megawatt smile.

Lots of red herrings to help you while away 20 hours, should you be inclined to give yourself a little scare.

junny@2.22pm

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