By Aaron Rourke (Melbourne, Australia)
With TV shows attracting such huge attention in recent years, with big money and stars now connected to many of them, it is always a treat to come across a series that fires on all cylinders, and Detective Yugami is one such program.
Superstar Tadanobu Asano plays the title character, a seasoned investigator who wants to apprehend as many criminals as possible, but doesn’t feel bound to the rules officers have to follow to ensure a successful arrest. His motto seems to be ‘by any means necessary’, and it is an attitude that ruffles the feathers of fellow colleagues, including his precinct chief, Rika Kanno (Izumi Inamori).
A major personality clash occurs when he is teamed up with the up-and-coming Torao Hanyu (Ryunosuke Kamiki), an ambitious young man who has managed to make detective by the age of twenty-five. Hanyu takes his job very seriously, and is appalled by Yugami’s seemingly cavalier approach to law enforcement. To say this causes friction between the two is an understatement.
As each case comes their way, Yugami and Hanyu become two sides of the same coin, applying their individual abilities to bring various offenders to justice, while they attempt to get under each other’s skin. Helping the former is young, mute computer hacker Kazumi Hikawa (Mizuki Yamamoto).
Detective Yugami is brimming with energy and flavour, with two main characters that are tremendously well-written and perfectly cast, and it is a major factor that puts this cop show above so many that flood TV screens. On top of that, the supporting players are terrific, never relegated to being mere background decoration, and even the cases themselves are handled in a way that maintain viewer interest throughout.
Asano (Dear Etranger, Harmonium, My Man, Wandering Home, DumBeast) is a force of nature as Yugami, making a somewhat repellent character suitably likeable and accessible. His outward aversion to traditional procedures is explored skilfully, with a frequent change in societal behaviour mirroring the detective’s flexible, objective demeanour, and this particular examination proves utterly fascinating. It is so much better than just going for the superficial ‘maverick cop’ routine.
Kamiki (Install, The Great Yokai War, Into the Faraway Sky, Bakuman, Too Young to Die) is a perfect foil as Hanyu, and thanks to the strong writing, is able to take the career-obsessed but socially awkward role beyond potential cliche and stereotype. The chemistry between he and Asano is outstanding, with the combination of their characters working together while regularly undermining each other gelling wonderfully, and there are many laugh-out-loud moments.
Inamori (All About Lily Chou-Chou, Kaibutsu-kun: The Movie) impresses as Chief Kanno, as does Yamamoto (The Kirishima Thing, Jossy’s, Night’s Tightrope, Peach Girl) as the put-upon Kazumi, and there are a number of famous faces that appear in nicely inserted cameos.
The series flows brilliantly, never coming across as choppy or disjointed, and directors Hiroshi Nishitani (Star Reformer, Suspect X, A Midsummer’s Equation), Hiromasa Kato (The Locked Room Murders, A Restaurant With Many Problems), and Shogo Miyaki (A Swinging Single, Water Polo Yankees) deserve praise for making ten separate episodes feel like a seamless, singular narrative.
Adapting the 2016 manga by Hideo Iura, writers Yasuko Kuramitsu, Haruka Okita (A Girl & Three Sweethearts), Kiyomi Fujii (Rurouni Kenshin, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno), Jun’ya Ikegami (Beautiful World, Twisted Justice), and Yuichi Tokunaga (Nobunaga Concerto TV series, Princess Jellyfish TV series) give their talented cast members plenty to work with, and seem to be more interested in how people react to various forms of criminal behaviour rather than the mysteries themselves, which admittedly are pretty easy to work out. But by exploring society’s ever-changing moral compass, and how it affects each individual, no matter what side of the law they are on, makes the material so much more involving than just trying to come up with an amazing ‘twist’.
Detective Yugami is a TV series that deserves major global attention, and although its sensibilities are definitely Japanese, there are many aspects that will appeal to an international audience. With two top actors in exceptionally fine form, backed up by a strong supporting cast and excellent writing, this is a first-class series that is both intriguing and hilarious.