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Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 10 and 11

Zettai_Reido

Episode 10 of Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) goes back only one year to 2009 where two academics entering a research lab find one of their colleagues dead and a man standing over the body with blood on his hands. This man flees and falls to his death down a flight of stairs. Even though no weapon was found at the scene, the case is assumed solved until the knife used as the murder weapon is found in the river thirty minutes drive from the university. Izumi Sakuragi (Aya Ueto) and Yuki Fukazawa (Tomomi Maruyama) set off to the university where they discover the victim was not the best liked individual (probably because he was stealing research from his colleagues). He also antagonised the alleged murderer who was working as a bartender. A search of the lab where they study genetic engineering shows the victim had surveillance equipment in place and so could spy on what everyone else was doing. This helped him discover one of the other workers was taking kickbacks from commercial organisations to monitor the work. He was also apparently blackmailing a female researcher who was sleeping with the professor in charge. This female researcher then admits to the murder. Izumi Sakuragi is convinced there’s something wrong and so begins her own investigation to find out who this woman is and why she might have been provoked into murder. What she finds pivots the case into a different direction. At one level, this then stops being a police procedural inquiring into a murder, and becomes a more meditative and sad story about relationships.

Sae Omori (Hiromi Kitagawa) and Sho Takebayashi (Ryo Kimura) investigate on the ground

Sae Omori (Hiromi Kitagawa) and Sho Takebayashi (Ryo Kimura) investigate on the ground

The eleventh and last case in this series is the murder of a police detective in 1998. A forensic analysis of the scene of the crime by Sae Omori (Hiromi Kitagawa) and Sho Takebayashi (Ryo Kimura), suggests there were at least two shooters although only one gun has been recovered. Naturally, while all the other detectives decide to chase around the city looking for people who might have had a grudge against the detective, Izumi Sakuragi prefers to think about the detective and his family. It seems the detective’s young son had a heart problem. Fortunately, after treatment, he’s able to follow his father’s interest in baseball. Takumi Kurata (Tetta Sugimoto) interviews the widow and gets an indication all was not entirely well in their relationship. Ryoko Takamine (Sayaka Yamaguchi) goes to interview the mother of the man who was suspected of the murder but never found. Because this is an older case, it gives more chance for Shintaro Shiraishi (Takeo Nakahara) to shine. In an ensemble piece like this, everyone has to be allowed a moment to show their acting range. This time, the relationship between the older detective and the homicide team where he used to work becomes significant. The mechanism in play here is obvious from an early point, but the episode stays just on the right side of sentimentality (again) as Izumi Sakuragi gets friendly with the detective’s son, now twelve, and Shintaro Shiraishi gets to chew over old times with his ex-partner. Adding grist to the mill, Keigo Tsukamoto (Hiroyuki Miyasako) has earned promotion to the homicide division and will be leaving the unit with the end of this case. So, no matter how things turn out, the unit as a family is going to be broken. This leads Hideo Nagashima (Kinya Kitaoji) to ask Izumi Sakuragi if she has decided what kind of detective she wants to be.

Shintaro Shiraishi (Takeo Nakahara)

Shintaro Shiraishi (Takeo Nakahara)

So when you put all this together, the series turns out rather different from the American Cold Case model. Despite their similarities in having both a female lead and flashback sequences to show what was going on in the past, this series is rather more focused on the psychological implications of each investigation, both on the detectives and those with whom they interact. This makes the show existentialist in spirit, whereas the US model is self-contained mysteries to be solved with minimal consideration of the consequences flowing from the investigations. On balance, I prefer the Japanese approach although I’m slightly less convinced by some of the characters in the team. Aya Ueto is never less than interesting as Izumi Sakuragi, but I’m not entirely sure she’s sufficiently worldly to have reached the rank of Sergeant in the unforgivingly sexist environment of the police force. She’s extraordinarily innocent. In one sense, I suppose, this explains why she’s successful. She concerns herself with the people, using her own empathetic sense to work out what they might have been thinking or doing in the past. But empathy is not much good unless you have been exposed to many different types of people, sometimes in stressful situations. Similarly, Hiroyuki Miyasako as Keigo Tsukamoto portrays a rather unsophisticated, sexist man who, despite being reasonably passionate about the work, never strikes me as having the intellectual ability to earn promotion. The others, however, make up for this with a general sense of competence prevailing. This makes Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) very watchable.

For a review of other episodes, see:
Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 1 and 2
Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 3 and 4
Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 5 and 6
Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 7 to 9.

Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 7 to 9

Zettai_Reido

Episode 7 of Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) has us back in 2006 with the death of the President of Future Steps, a corporation much disliked because of its aggressive acquisition strategies. In modern time, we start off with a man accused of the murder but, once in court, objecting to the way the investigation was handled by the Cold Case Unit. We therefore have evidence given, first by Takumi Kurata (Tetta Sugimoto), to explain how and why the case was reopened, with the relevant flashbacks to show everyone at work. The man on trial was a security guard at the building which housed the corporation. It seems the deceased’s secretary had later seen him wearing a watch perhaps taken from her boss. When his house is searched, he also has an antique knife which belonged to the boss. Naturally, at the trial, the defence alleges the confession was coerced and then produces a witness who claims the victim and the deceased often drank together at his bar. It’s therefore not surprising the accused should have received gifts from the deceased. There’s also no forensic evidence to show the knife found in the accused’s possession was the murder weapon, so the case is adjourned for a review. Hideo Nagashima (Kinya Kitaoji) formally reopens the case and gives Takumi Kurata the chance to get the right answer for the honour of the unit.

They call in the secretary who made the call. Izumi Sakuragi (Aya Ueto) and Yuki Fukazawa (Tomomi Maruyama) interview her and it’s obvious that this victim was not a man to have any friends, particularly those whom he believed were in a lower class. He was fixated on money and what it could buy, which included a company holding the intellectual property rights on a Hello Kitty lookalike. Ryoko Takamine (Sayaka Yamaguchi) and Keigo Tsukamoto (Hiroyuki Miyasako) discover the deceased had been diagnosed with leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. Having no relatives, he went in search of a donor. With long odds, a donor was found. With the successful treatment behind him, the victim had to decide what to do with the rest of his life. The episode then marginally fails to achieve an even balance between hard-nosed realism and sentimentality. For me, it shades too much into the latter but, given the point of the series, which is to show the extent to which people adapt and change under pressure of circumstances, I suppose this is defensible on the ground of consistency.

Hideo Nagashima (Kinya Kitaoji)

Hideo Nagashima (Kinya Kitaoji)

In episodes 8 and 9, we’re back to 2008 at the time of the Olympics where we have the “Suginami Case” which continues to haunt Ryoko Takamine and Hideo Nagashima, who failed to find the place where the kidnapped girl had been confined until it was too late to save her. She was in a form of coffin with a device attached which would extract the air after exactly 72 hours. The kidnapper initially demanded a ransom, but never pursued the demand. Now a man who’s seriously ill in prison has drawn the machine used to kill the girl. Although he also admits the killing, the voice of the kidnapper does not match. This sends Izumi Sakuragi and Ryoko Takamine to interview the man in prison using a polygraph. He uses the opportunity to taunt both Ryoko Takamine and Hideo Nagashima who also appears. He has details of the offence only a participant would have known and denies having anyone else involved.

When the parents of the murdered girl come into the Cold Case Unit, this puts more pressure on Hideo Nagashima who becomes even more determined to find out who committed this crime. But the death of this man prompts the Commissioner to order Hideo Nagashima to stop the investigation. If the press realise the case has been reopened, the embarrassment of the past failure will return to the whole police force. We then get the backstory of the investigation in which one of the people Ryoko Takamine profiled as a possible suspect committed suicide. The scene where this man’s mother confronts Ryoko Takamine is powerful and explains the depth of her pain with this case. This leads to other admissions, e.g. that Keigo Tsukamoto became a detective to catch the hit-and-run driver who killed his mother.

Takumi Kurata (Tetta Sugimoto)

Takumi Kurata (Tetta Sugimoto)

On her day off, Izumi Sakuragi decides to try and find the place the kidnapped girl photographed the day she was taken. Unfortunately, she meets a man at this location and suspects him of involvement. This coincidence leads to her being kidnapped. I do so hate it when people are abducted in broad daylight in a suburb and no-one notices but, for the purposes of the plot, let’s pass on by. Our second instalment sets off with Izumi Sakuragi tied up in a cellar while the rest of the team tries to find her. The solution to the original kidnapping depends on one of these long backstories which, when it finally plays out, has considerable emotional power. Although one element of it remains unanswered and there’s the inevitable coincidence as the trigger for the kidnapping itself, the sequence of events hangs together perfectly to show the motive for the kidnapping and to explain how the people involved came together. When you see it altogether, it has nice but-for causes and effects which means everyone thought they were acting in the best interests of those they loved, but the long-term effects are anger and guilt. The current kidnapping of Izumi Sakuragi is solved by the team as a whole. Ryoko Takamine gets her nerve back and offers crucial advice. Hideo Nagashima enters into an agreement with an important member of the press. And Sho Takebayashi (Ryo Kimura) provides critical analysis in the forensic department. The outcome sees Izumi Sakuragi arrest the kidnapper and a more general sense of family emerge in the Cold Case Unit (and perhaps she will hit a baseball pitch before the end of the series).

For a review of other episodes, see:
Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 1 and 2
Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 3 and 4
Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 5 and 6
Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 10 and 11.

Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 5 and 6

Zettai_Reido

Episodes 5 and 6 of Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) run together. We only go back to 2005 when there was an attack at a cultural festival. A man with a knife killed two adults and six children. He was arrested at the scene and convicted. Three years later, on the anniversary of this attack, a series of new attacks begins at local schools. On the anniversary attack, eight of the animals kept as pets by the children were killed. In subsequent attacks, different numbers of animals were killed. A detective who acted as mentor to Izumi Sakuragi (Aya Ueto) comes into the Cold Case Unit to ask Hideo Nagashima (Kinya Kitaoji) to take over the case. The justification for stepping outside their usual remit (which does not include damage to property, i.e. the animals) is that the killer can quickly escalate to human victims. Because of the link between Izumi Sakuragi and the detective who solicited the help of the unit, she is put in charge. This is somewhat controversial, but the others provisionally agree to go along with it.

She quickly collects evidence from all ten schools where attacks have occurred, and Sae Omori (Hiromi Kitagawa) and Sho Takebayashi (Ryo Kimura) get to work. Unfortunately, they are not much help apart from confirming the boot prints at each of the sites suggest a male attacker. Izumi Sakuragi and Keigo Tsukamoto (Hiroyuki Miyasako) go to the tenth and most recent school to be attacked. There’s the usual patronising behaviour from the man, aggravated by the fact Izumi Sakaragi has been put in charge. She endears herself to the children who are distressed at the death of their pets, which inspires Keigo Tsukamoto to return to the scene of the original attack. It turns out he was one of the officers first on the scene. While at the school, he admits he sees every cold case as a failure that should be put right. At this point, a middle school girl approaches the memorial and, when she realises they are police officers, suggests they do better and catch whoever committed the murder five years earlier. The point of this episode is to explore the different ways in which people respond to crime. No matter who they are, they are all affected and many carry some degree of pain as a result. This can be for the detectives who feel failure when their case is unsolved to those more directly involved, say as the parents, spouses or relatives of those killed. This particular investigation is triggered by a police officer who’s about to retire. He’s been trying to solve all the little cases no-one else cared about. He’s always taken the failure of other police officers personally. He thought he would go out in a blaze of glory by getting the answer to this pet-killing spree.

Yuki Fukazawa (Tomomi Maruyama)

Yuki Fukazawa (Tomomi Maruyama)

Then Sho Takebayashi comes up with the news that chat in a forum suggests another attack is about to take place. When Izumi Sakuragi and Keigo Tsukamoto go to the school, he’s wounded in a knife attack by the same school girl they had met earlier, but he decides not to record the attack in official records. This sets up a difficult emotional state for Izumi Sakuragi. Hideo Nagashima puts it this way. If she’s only reflecting on how she arrived at this situation, she can draw from the past and move forward. But if she’s caught up in regret for past mistakes, nothing will be settled. Izumi Sakuragi and Yuki Fukazawa (Tomomi Maruyama) then go round the other schools and find that this school girl has been seen at all the schools where the most recent attacks have occurred. But Yuki Fukazawa is not convinced this shows the girl is actually guilty of anything and, for the first time, becomes actively involved in trying to solve the case. The real problem is to decide the relationship between the original attack on humans and the new attacks on animals.

Izumi Sakuragi (Aya Ueto)  and Keigo Tsukamoto (Hiroyuki Miyasako)

Izumi Sakuragi (Aya Ueto) and Keigo Tsukamoto (Hiroyuki Miyasako)

They eventually track down the girl and recover the knife used to attack Keigo Tsukamoto. She also has a pair of shoes with her that shows evidence she’s been around animals recently. In the end, there is an overlap between the original murder spree and the later animal killings. But it’s the explanation for the girl’s initial allegation that the detectives should catch the one responsible for the killings that wins the prize. From the very first set-up scene where we see the young girl going into the school where the massacre is to occur, we’ve been wondering what she was doing there. She was not supposed to be in the school that day. The answer when it comes has a deep and satisfying plausibility. In a way, the explanation is all the more satisfying because, when Izumi Sakuragi first suspects what actually happened, she’s able to find direct evidence of it. That evidence and a little play-acting is the key to opening the girl’s emotional floodgates. She takes the first real step to resolving her feelings of guilt over what happened that day. This is the first time there’s been a real sense of a team effort and catching the animal killer just adds a little spice at the end. There’s also a nice moment as the retiring mentor passes on the baton to the rookie and hopes she’ll be a success. To some extent, this rebalances after Takumi Kurata (Tetta Sugimoto) has both Izumi Sakuragi and Yuki Fukazawa write formal letters of apology for breaching departmental rules. Discipline is strict in Japan. No matter what the stimulus, we’re watching Izumi Sakuragi grow up every minute this series ticks by.

For a review of other episodes, see:
Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 1 and 2
Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 3 and 4
Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 7 to 9
Absolute Zero – Special Investigation Unit or Zettai Reido – Mikaiketsu Jiken Tokumei Sousa or 絶対零度~未解決事件 (2010) Episodes 10 and 11.

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