Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shinzanmono Review (2010)

Drama Rating: ****
Personal Rating: Loved it!

Shinzanmono tells of a transferred detective, Kaga Kyoichiro, newly arrived in the Ningyo-cho precinct of Tokyo to investigate the murder of another shinzanmono (newcomer-to-the-town), Mitsui Mineko. Detective Kaga has to weave through the numerous lies, mysteries and complex relationships between the residents of this town in order to find the true criminal.

*Spoiler warning*

This story has a most interesting setup for a mystery drama. Unlike regular mysteries, this drama introduces passing characters that, at first glance, appear to be related to the crime introduced in the first episode. However, it brilliantly takes the crime and weaves together a string of very touching human interest stories as part of the storytelling. This novel technique was masterfully used to take a highly insightful and incisive look at society, lies and human relationships. While tackling a multitude of secrets and stories, the drama also manages to inject a healthy dose of reality and some folksy charm into the mix. This is definitely an example of storytelling at its best!

Abe Hiroshi can always be relied upon to provide a top-notch performance and this drama was no different. His impeccable delivery of lines and mannerisms made his portrayal of Detective Kaga very human
Characters from all walks of life are portrayed throughout the drama and bring out a very authentic feel to the drama, something I've been seeing less and less of in jdramas of late. It was fun to see a guest appearance by Natsukawa Yui, who gave what felt like a lively continuation of her bantering with Abe Hiroshi in Kekkon Dekinai Otoko except as a different character and drama. Kuroki Meisa plays her role decently and as does the somewhat inexperienced-looking Mizobata Junpei although thankfully their appearances are kept to a minimum. Interestingly, most of the guest cast performed exceptionally well and it often felt like they had an outsized impact in the best possible way leaving an indelible impression on me.

At times lighthearted and at times apprehensive, the musical soundtrack never overwhelms the storytelling and complements it exceptionally well. It has a very folksy sort of charm, highly fitting for a small town setting such as this one and often giving the feeling that you've entered a very familiar, antique store. While it is certainly not bombastic or flashy, its charming feel leaves you feeling very at home with the pacing and the progress of the story.

Given the (IMHO) dearth of excellent jdramas lately, I had just randomly picked out this drama and wasn't expecting much given all the jdramas I've dropped partway recently. But once I started on this drama, it felt so real and so human, especially with insightful one-liners like these - 'A lie tastes good but goes stale quickly, the truth tastes bad but lasts forever'. Although this drama certainly didn't keep me on the edge of my seat wondering who the culprit was (think Sora Kara Furu), it felt more like a fine wine, getting better with age as the drama wore on. Its been a long time since any jdrama made it to my favorites list but I am delighted to be able to include this one.

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