Nusumareta Kao

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.


8 thoughts on “Nusumareta Kao

  1. Nice review. This sounds like a drama to get involved with, despite the ending.

    Takashi Miike often used Chinese and Taiwanese characters in his films so it will be interesting to see how they are portrayed in more mainstream dramas.


    • I think it is very watchable, but will admit I’m a little biased cuz it’s Tamaki Hiroshi, heh. Not seen enough Miike to judge, but the portrayal of the Chinese community and mafia here is probably milder than what can be done in film. There was blood spilled, and a nice touch of Osaka-ben though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for writing concise review for this drama. I agree that conclusion was least attractive part of this drama though it had intresting premise. Is there possiblity of having next season for this? Tamaki san has still has not declared his new work for this year but I wish him best and hope he soon becomes part of something even more memorable than Nodame C.
    He is at perfect age for trying deep and meaningful characters. I have a feeling that he will become father this year.


    • I think a second season is possible since the ending was a bit open, but otherwise I thought it ended okay. I also hope he gets a meaty role next and I do like that he keeps trying different things and not sticking to one image.


      • But it would be boring if Tamaki san repeats same character in another drama. Won’t it be?
        For me so many parts of this drama were predictable like I knew Chiharu was innocent, Sunami san was alive, one of TH’s aide had to die etc.
        I also like that Tamaki san prefers to experiment with different types of roles even though script may not be best. But memorable roles are not easy to come by and all of his dramas didn’t make best use of his potential. Still l hope for the best and wish him much success and happiness in future.


        • I wouldn’t say boring, but for sure the “I saw someone who’s supposed to be dead” shouldn’t be used again if there’s a second season. It’s true that after you have watched enough dramas, the plot points you pointed out are pretty obvious soon enough, so it is important the process of getting to these points should be interesting enough to keep people watching. So I think I’m okay without a second season, but would still like WOWOW to use him for another drama at least. One can hope!


        • I’m really not interested in future of Sunami san or Kawamoto and Shirato has resolved the issues of his personal life. 🙂
          Even with predictability I think it was far more superior than other recent outings of TH. Job of face recogniser itself is quiet dull but I think drama would’ve been more engaging if the writing was focused more on the psychological issues of Shirato. Still better than being useless husband, cheater and second fiddles while I think charismatic roles suit him better.
          I second your wish for another WOWOW role for him. But I also wish his upcoming dramas are more character oriented where he would be given enough room to express himself.


        • I agree, I wasn’t that keen on Sunami either and Shirato’s personal problems are done and dusted. So I don’t see the potential for a season 2, and anyway, WOWOW rarely does sequels. I skipped the drama of him as a useless/cheating husband, that was getting old. Let’s hope he gets tapped by some of the best screenwriters in the business and gets a role that will allow him to show his range.


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