Keizoku [Unsolved Cases] (1999) [Drama Review]

Keizoku; or, Tales from the Dark Side
     If my father were alive, he’d say: Till your heart stops beating, dash for the truth. That’s what it means to be a detective. Those were his last words.
I found myself in a dire need to watch some mystery/detective series. I don’t know why, but perhaps, with the advent of fall, I felt in the mood for a serious and dark drama with a case-of-a-week structure. To my surprise, the glorious internet hinted at… Keizoku 2 SPEC! “But what is it?” I asked myself. I watched the first episode and, though I liked it, I quickly realised that there is some sort of a continuity about which I was uniformed. As a result, after doing some further research, I discovered that SPEC is actually a second entry in the series, which started back in 1999. Well, for the continuities sake, I put SPEC on hold in order to check out the original Keizoku series, and, oh boy, I don’t regret my decision. Here’s my review of Keizoku: Unsolved Cases (1999).
Release Info
Developed by: Yukihiko Tsutsumi Starrring: Miki Nakatani, Atsuro Watabe, Sarina Suzuki, Raita Ryu
Language: Japanese Original Title: ケイゾク No. of eps.: 12
 
Synopsis
Shibata Jun (Miki Nakatani) is a Tokyo University graduate sent down to Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department for internship. She is assigned to much-despised Section 2, which does not handle big cases, but instead focuses on solving “pending” ones, having accumulated stacks of unsolved mysteries over decades. Shibata, due to her unusually perceptive mind and outstanding deduction skills, begins solving cases one by one. Eventually, co-officers start helping her out. Nevertheless, one of them, Mayama (Atsuro Watabe) suffers from a dark and painful past. A hidden enemy, lurking in the shadows, is about to destroy Mayama. Shibata has to discover the villain’s true identity before it’s too late.
 
Keizoku is a very well thought-out crime thriller that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat. In spite of being gruesome and creepy, there are still some comedic elements in it. Initially, the show starts out very much in the style of a Monk (2002) format: there is a certain super difficult case, Section 2 does some wacky shenanigans along the way, and the culprit turns out to be the least suspected person in the room. However, with episode 8, the whole show takes a U-turn and enters the surreal realm, in which we are not sure what is true and what isn’t. Things go super-ultra dark as the characters are running amok through the curtains of psychotic visions while the body count keeps rising and rising...
 
Now a few words about the characters:
Sergeant Shibata Jun (Miki Nakatani): Main protagonist of the show. Her mind goes into a full Rain Man mode whenever she sees a case file. Her late father was a prominent and well-respected detective in the police force. Famous attributes: a neck scarf, longish coat, and greasy hair.
Detective Mayama Toru (Atsuro Watanabe): Disillusioned and complacent officer with a lot of experience. He was a prominent investigator back in the past, but a personal tragedy broke his psyche. Frequently goes out of control as he gets easily provoked by suspects. A badass with a gun. Does not believe in the institution of law.
Aya Kido (Sarina Suzuki): An officer demoted and transferred from Section 1. Used to be a top undercover agent, but now she is forced to carry case-files down to Section 2’s basement. Very often has to step into action in order to save entrapped Shibata.
Section Chief Nonomura (Raita Ryu): Head of Section 2. Treats Shibata very kindly, because he and her father used to be colleagues in the past. Now, he is nothing of a detective and spends time counting days to his retirement. He also plans on divorcing her wife, so he could marry a mysterious 17-year-old Miyabi.
Kondo Akio (Yuu Tokui) and Taniguchi Tsuyoshi (Hidekazu Nagae): The first one is a police officer who behaves more like a salaryman. He sits most of the time in front of a computer and a software tells him to call it a day at 5:15. Avid dancer. Taniguchi, on the other hand, is a muscle man who is required in heated situations.
 
With regard to the show itself, below are short descriptions and my thoughts on individual episodes (I tired to keep them spoiler free):
Ep. 1: Phone Call from the Dead Man- The show starts right off the bat with its mystery component as a guy receives a phone call from a friend who’s supposed to be dead. Shibata volunteers to investigate the case and plot twists start to happen. Very engaging first story.
 
Ep. 2: Punishment Table of Ice- A security guard walks into a storage and discovers a body, stabbed with a knife, lying on the altar. Awesome suspense story, which delivers laughs as well as a convincing “whodunit” explanation at the very end.
 
Ep. 3: The Wiretapped Murder- My least favourite episode of the whole show. Wife of a murdered boutique owner discovers that his former employee/lover participated in the murder. As a result, Section 2 wiretaps the lover’s apartment only to discover that she was murdered. The development of the mystery is interesting but the resolution is over-dramatised and full of plot holes. How the culprit actually managed to carry in and install a fake wall in a block of flats without raising the attention of its residents?
 
Ep. 4: The Room of Certain Death- This mystery is a huge improvement over the previous one. Shibata and Mayama are sent to investigate the allegedly “cursed” room in a traditional inn. Legend has it that people who intend to sleep there do not make it through the night and are found dead the next morning. Extremely hilarious episode with an Agatha Christie-feel to it.
 
Ep. 5: The Man Who Saw the Future- Section 2 makes a blunder when failing to find a missing person. Desperate wife of a man in question turns to television for help. In consequence, an ESP expert uses his powers to locate the husband. He travels with the camera crew to an office building where they find the murdered victim. Shibata arrives shortly after only to claim that ESP expert commited the murder. Yet, how was that possible if he was constantly being recorded by a camera? Interesting inverted detective story.
 
Ep. 6: The Wickedest Bombing-Demon- Things are about to get stirred as Mayama’s former superior, Lt. Tsubosaka, asks Section 2 for help on a case he has been working on for the last 15 years. Only Shibata signs up for it and starts the investigation. Unfortunately, this episode repeats the mistakes of the third one due to overcomplicated exposition and adding too much drama.
 
Ep. 7: Death Curse of the Oil Painting- By far, my top favourite episode. There is a cursed, hellish-like, painting and people die after witnessing that playing children actually moved on the canvas! In addition, there’s a great villain with an awesome killing motif! Mayuko Takata really had the potential to become a serious actress, but instead, she received the label of Iron Chef personality. 
 
Ep. 8: Farewell, Lovely Cutthroat- Shibata is invited by her friend Meiko to a party. Next morning, Shibata wakes up in a hotel next to a dead guy. Now, she has to act like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive (1993) in order to prove her innocence. At the very end, it turns out that there’s a hidden mastermind behind all this...
 
Ep. 9: Future Revenge of the Past- An episode which marks the character’s descend into the spiral of madness. Mayama’s back-story is finally revealed, people being to drop dead, and the premise of a showdown with the arch-nemesis is set up. This story is equally thrilling as well as heartbreakingly depressing. I had to give myself a two-day break after this episode.
 
Ep. 10: Your Own Two Eyes- Mayama leaves a blood trail which alarms the MPD officials. Shibata and Section 2 members set out on a search for Mayama, convinced of his innocence. In the meantime, it turns out that the arch-nemesis may not be the real arch-nemesis. Lots of twisted and bloody moments, definitely not for the fainthearted.
 
Ep. 11- The Kiss of Death’s Flavour- Emotionally-charged series’ finale as Shibata reunites with Mayama and the two stand to a battle they are sure to lose. I want to keep this review spoiler free, so I’ll limit myself to say that the episode has an action showdown, ends with a cliff-hanger, and then adds a plot twist on top of that. Great and unpredictable story.
 
Ep. 12- The Cursed Tree That Fulfils a Contract of Death (SP)- A 97-minute-long special episode which takes place a couple of months after the events from the previous one. Shibata has been promoted to a chief of a district station, but she chases after a case of a cursed tree. According to rumours, people die after their names are carved in the wood. In the meantime, Tohyama, a Kyoto University graduate, does his internship at Section 2. He proves to be the total opposite of Shibata, which provides lots of laughs. The overarching story is continued.
 
To sum up, if you like a dark police drama with intriguing mysteries and surreal intermissions, then Keizoku is a must-watch for you. In addition, the music score is brilliant (plus Nakatani's intro song "Chronic Love"). The only thing I disagree with, as far as the show’s criticism is concerned, is the claim that it’s too dated ‘cause it’s from the 90s. Sure, the show may not be perfect, but its time frames are not the issue. It may have a one cliff-hanger too far (a lead-in to a theatrical film) and the 4:3 aspect ratio can be bothersome, but only because the show’s camera work was too ambitious for that TV format. In my opinion, the 90s feel only reinforces the atmosphere of the grim world in which Keizoku is set. Being overshadowed by its successor, Keizoku 2 SPEC, this drama is not getting the attention it deserves. Personally, I’d love to see a modern follow-up to Shibata and Mayama’s story.
 
Overall score: 9/10

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much!!! I love this drama but I couldn't find the last 2 episodes and now I can watch it thanks to you!!! °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖°

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome :) It took me two weeks to track down the whole series, SP, and the movie. I'm glad to know that you enjoy the drama and that you're finally able to finish it.

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