Happy birthday, Tamaki Hiroshi! It’s the big 40 for him, and here’s wishing him many happy returns of the day! And while it’s taken me forever, I finally managed to complete Tamaki’s first WOWOW drama, so here’s a quick write-up.
Shirato Takamasa (Tamaki Hiroshi) is a detective at Tokyo Metropolitan Police’s Criminal Investigation Liaison Division. He is a “recogniser”, someone who memorises the faces of wanted criminals and spots them in the crowds. Along with his two subordinates Ando Kanae (Uchida Rio) and Tani Ryohei (Machida Keita), Shirato works hard to spot the criminals trying to escape detection. One day, he sees the unlikely face of his senior Sunami Toru (Shibukawa Kiyohiko), who died four years ago…
I was pretty excited when it was first announced that Tamaki Hiroshi would be starring in a WOWOW drama. I had always hoped that WOWOW would tap him for one, because it was like a sign that his talent had been recognised and he would be able to show what he was truly capable of in a production that was pretty much assured of quality from the get-go. I was also really glad that Tamaki’s first WOWOW drama would feature a division that almost never gets talked about – finally, a procedural was about to showcase something different.
There is apparently a real “recogniser” unit in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. According to HPriest, who subbed the drama: “It’s a real job and that division actually exists within the MPD. They’re a group of ten-odd people and they help in the arrest of ~100 people per year. They actually do look for people at crowded places such as Shinjuku Station in similar fashion as depicted in the drama.” People who have exceptional face recognition ability, also termed “super recognisers“, are also employed in the British intelligence community and have helped cracked difficult cases just from trawling through hours and hours of CCTV footage.
It is hours and hours of legwork in the case of recognisers who “work the streets”, so to speak, and there will be long periods where you just can’t spot anyone of note and questions are raised about your efficiency and the reason for even maintaining a unit like this. The drama did well to bring out the amount of effort and coordination it requires – and in the case of Tani, the frustration and helplessness that build up when things aren’t going well. As if that is not enough, Shirato attracts the attention of the Chinese mafia and the Public Security Division when he probes deeper into why Sunami has supposedly reappeared after four years of being presumed dead. It’s not often that dramas go deeper into what lies beneath the shiny exterior of the city, and the drama’s portrayal of the non-Japanese denizens – this time the Chinese community and some of its less than savoury characters – was pretty intriguing.
Too much of something isn’t always for the best. Shirato’s super memory takes a toll on him when he begins to suspect his girlfriend Chiharu (Ito Ayumi) is hiding something from him – he trails her on the streets if he thinks he has seen her, and looks her up online. I thought Tamaki Hiroshi did well to capture the various facets of Shirato – there was always a tense, tightly wound vibe about Shirato, who doesn’t seem to be able to relax even in the comfort of his own home. That said, Shirato tries his best not to let his moods affect his juniors, and I appreciated his mentoring role towards Ando and Tani especially. Tamaki had good chemistry with his co-stars, and I enjoyed their scenes as a team working to hunt down criminals by sight and memory. Machida Keita was fine as Tani, but I thought Uchida Rio was pretty solid as the kick-ass Ando and enjoyed her portrayal.
If there was one nitpick, it was that the finale lacked punch – it wasn’t so much that I was expecting some kind of spectacular showdown, but after all that intense build-up and heavy sense of unease pervading the drama, I had expected a more rewarding payoff in both plot and emotional terms. That does not detract from the overall quality of the drama, which was excellent, but a better-written finale would have helped end things off on a more solid high.
Still, I am glad to have had the pleasure of watching Tamaki’s first WOWOW drama (Shirato and Chiharu have a cat!), and hope this is the start of more solid roles to come – with luck, in WOWOW productions.