This has to have been one of the best crime series on TV in years – probably (in my less-than-humble-opinion) since the first series of Broadchurch. It had everything. Great storyline, intriguing cross-cultural stuff, warm and believable characters, excitement (sometimes almost too much so!), lots of noir touches, and, for once, a decent ending.
It centred around the two Japanese Mori brothers: Kenzo, a cop, and Yuto, who’d got sucked into the thuggish world of the Yakuza. The interplay between the two, as Yuto descended ever deeper into his world of crime and Kenzo battled to protect him, felt incredibly real – a great insight into family tensions under dramatic circumstances. And I loved that the family name, while probably quite common in Japan, is also the Latin for death… Not a coincidence, I’d imagine, given the subject matter.
I loved pretty much all the characters, even the ones who were supposed to be baddies. All of them were basically nice people underneath – sometimes even the baddies – but all them were flawed – including the goodies. In other words, they felt like real people. Particular stars were the Mori brothers, Kenzo’s rebellious daughter Taki, his doughty mother (who came into her own later on in the series), British police officer Sarah (Kenzo’s love interest but also so much more), and the wonderful Rodney, a gay Anglo-Japanese drug addict who affected the storyline in many different ways. But really, every single character played their part and it’s hard to imagine the series without any of them.
There was obviously a lot of violence, some of it pretty extreme (the gun battle in Soho felt a tad overdone) but there was also some nice humour: dry wit from the Japanese characters; flamboyant comedy from Rodney.
The ending was remarkably solid, tying up almost all of the loose ends (apart from the fate of Taki’s girlfriend Annie). Personally I wasn’t keen on the sudden rooftop contemporary ballet scene, which went on for too long and seemed to have little to do with the storyline, but I’ve been told it may have been a nod to Japanese art/culture, in which case I’ll do my best to forgive it. Other nods included the lovely ‘previously on’ segment that preceded the opening titles each week, done in a deliberately Japanese style. I don’t know enough about Japanese art to identify what it was, but it looked and sounded beautiful and suited the mood of the series really well.
I haven’t heard if there are going to be any sequels. The ending was left just open enough to allow for another series involving Kenzo and Sarah… and apparently fans are also calling for a Rodney spin-off. He was such an engaging character that if it was done well, it could be terrific. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.