Jiu – Special Investigation Team or Jiu: Keishichou Tokushuhan Sousakei or ジウ (2011)
Jiu – Special Investigation Team or Jiu: Keishichou Tokushuhan Sousakei or ジウ (2011) is a nine episode serial adapting the novel by Tetsuya Honda (as an aside, he also wrote the novel adapted as Strawberry Night or Sutoroberi Naito or ストロベリーナイト). This starts off as one of the better Japanese police procedurals, continuing the theme of women in roles potentially considered gender inappropriate by the majority of Japanese men. This time, we have a very different pair of women working in SIT, the Special Investigation Team, of the Tokyo Police Force. The Team has a fairly specific function in dealing with the response to armed crime, i.e. it blends both the negotiation and the SWAT-type responses. The story starts off with Hiroki Azuma (Yukiya Kitamura) who is caught up in a child kidnapping. Sadly, he’s easily outwitted by Jiu (“L” aka Kim Myung-Soo, a member of the boy band Infinite) who escapes with the money. This leaves Hiroki Azume obsessed by the need to capture the blond young man who outwitted him.
Our two heroines are Motoko Isaki (Meisa Kuroki) and Misaki Kadokura (Mikako Tabe). Motoko Isaki is a tough, no-nonsense woman who can and does beat all her male colleagues black and blue in the training rooms. She’s universally disliked within the force but, outside, she makes friends in a slightly unconventional way. Because she feels fighting in a training situation does not equip her to fight in the real world, she goes into clubs known to have gang connections which either deal in drugs or guns or both. She then provokes a fight but never seriously damages any of the gang members. She earns their respect and co-operation since she never turns them in. They become an informal intelligence network telling her what’s going on. As an aside, she’s estranged from her family. On the other hand, Misaki Kadokura is a stereotypical baby doll. She’s supposedly working her way up the promotion ladder, being second-in-command in the negotiating team, but this leaves her making tea for everyone and being the object of male sexual fantasies. In fact, she’s portrayed as intensely naive and not very competent. As we first see her, it’s inconceivable she would have any seniority in the department. She has loving parents who run a small food takeaway shop. She lies to them about the dangerous nature of her work so they will not worry. In fact, they should worry because, in a hostage situation, her senior officers send her into the building to deliver food to the villain. He strips her down to her underwear, ties her up and tries to use her as a human shield to escape. Motoko Isaki has no hesitation in shooting him — naturally, she only shoots to wound. This nicely defines the difference between the two woman. Motoko Isaki is more macho than any of her male colleagues and Misaki Kadokura gets to be humiliated with her photograph in the papers. Fortunately, her parents do not see it.
While the hostage situation is being resolved, Hiroki Azume sees the blond man as the television camera pans round the crowd watching the stand-off. He’s later able to confirm a financial link between the hostage taker and the original kidnapping gang, and requests Misaki Kadokura be transferred to help his overstretched department with the case. In fact, Hiroki Azume has estranged his team of detectives by his obsession with Jiu. They are deeply resentful that all other cases have been subordinated to this one case. Misaki Kadokura proves a bridge-maker and slowly persuades them all to rally round in tracking down this criminal. In Mandarin, Jiu’s name means dove and he routinely kills pigeons and doves, roasting them over fires in abandoned buildings where he seems to live. This gives the detectives something to track when they search buildings.
As a reward for showing up all the men in her unit, Motoko Isaki is transferred to the elite police commando unit, becoming their only female member. Here she formally meets Takashi Amamiya (Yuu Shirota). She knows she has seen him before but can’t immediately place him. As a flashback, we see him just after she has beaten up a group of gang members. As well as watching her work out in the police gym, he’s well aware of what she does in her spare time. It’s only after they have slept together that Misaki Kadokura uncovers evidence he was following Motoko Isaki before she joined the unit. To say this least, this restores Motoko Isaki’s lack of faith in men. The training is intensive and hard but Motoko Isaki shines. Her position is confirmed even though she seriously injures three unit members who were intent of raping her. When Jiu organises another kidnapping, everything comes together because the kidnappers bring the new victim to the building being staked out by Hiroki Azume and his team. This requires Motoko Isaki’s unit to do what we have seen them training to do, namely infiltrate a building, rescue the hostages and capture the bad guys. During the raid, Hiroki Azume and Misaki Kadokura are injured, two of the bad guys are killed and Motoko Isaki seriously damages the third. During the interview when the survivor is released from hospital, he talks about a cultish group bent on creating a New World Order. They want to throw aside trivial concerns like the sanctity of life, and reform the world by using the binary of life and death to get things done. Love is irrelevant. Social change is the aim.
After the second child hostage is released, Motoko Isaki is appointed team leader and later meets Atsushi Kihara (Mantaro Koichi). He’s a freelance journalist researching Jiu, who may have a powerful backer nicknamed M. There’s also some uncertainty what Jiu’s relationship is with the Yakuza. Taking time off from the unit, Motoko Isaki sets up a surveillance operation. In due course, this means she meets Jiu and everything boils up to a conclusion.
Set out like this, the serial probably sounds great and, to some extent, you would be right. Lurking in the midst of all this is a very strong story. Meisa Kuroki is impressive as Motoko Isaki. She’s violent and not a little sociopathic, but we’re able to watch a slow dawning of a more human side. I think she probably would have slept with Yuu Shirota as Takashi Amamiya. It would have been relatively meaningless to her and, when she discovers he was instructed to watch her, she’s naturally outraged at the senior management’s intrusion into her privacy. The real problem with the serial is the character adopted by Mikako Tabe to play Misaki Kadokura. Physically she looks completely wrong for a role in a specialised police unit which will routinely have to deal with violent criminals. Emotionally she comes over as childlike, an impression reinforced by her schoolgirl crush on the divorced and monomaniacal Hiroki Azuma played by Yukiya Kitamura. They strike me as embarrassingly mismatched. Overall, I think the story would have benefitted by losing an hour of its running time. There’s repetition in all the training scenarios the elite team have to practice and the exploration of this New World Order in the police interviews goes on too long. The political philosophy is all too obscure and ill-defined to be interesting even when NWO emerges from the shadows as a kind of terrorist organisation. But the real problem comes at the end where, in practical terms, the credibility of the story dies in almost all respects. This is not to say that elements in the final two episodes are not interesting, but there’s no coherence to most of what we see. I will not spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that although the first half of the serial is reasonably entertaining, I cannot seriously recommend you watch Jiu – Special Investigation Team or Jiu: Keishichou Tokushuhan Sousakei or ジウ to the end. The book may be better.