Friday, 14 February 2020

TV review: Giri/Haji, BBC (2019)

Japanese TV drama is not watched in the West but this British production, which is in both English and Japanese, gives Westerners a clear view of some of the themes that you can see on TV if you live in Tokyo or somewhere else in the archipelago.

It is an excellent eight-episode miniseries that uses some unusual techniques: animated sections and an interpretive dance routine. I wasn’t the only person recommending the series (see tweet below).

The action centres on the career of a yakuza (Japanese mafia) member named Yuto Mori (Yosuke Kubozuka) whose brother Kenzo (Takehiro Hira) is a detective with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. There’s a murder in London that the cops in Tokyo think Yuto carried out and they send Kenzo there to find his brother and bring him back home. In London, Kenzo meets a half-Japanese Brit gay man named Rodney (the very talented Will Sharpe) and Kenzo’s daughter Taki (Aoi Okuyama, who is excellent) steals her mother’s credit card and catches a plane to the British capital as well. 

So it’s a complex story – one that is suitable for a streamed miniseries because of the extra space made available for character development and for subplots. Kenzo’s married to Rei (Yuko Nakamura’s performance is strong) but he develops feelings for Sarah (Kelly Macdonald, who is Scottish), a London policewoman with a problematic relationship with her ex-boyfriend. On balance though the most interesting relationship is probably the one between Kenzo and Taki.

I was completely drawn in by this wonderful production, one which might be a bit hard for some people to navigate because a good deal of it is conveyed with English subtitles. The following tweet was seen on 10 February but the number of tweets on TweetDeck for this drama was far less than, for example, were appearing for ‘The Stranger’, another a Netflix series I watched. 

The translations for ‘Giri/Haji’ are not bad, but some could have been better, although it’s difficult to communicate the subtleties of a foreign language in such cases, where the source culture is so different from the destination culture. How do you translate “otoo-san” (father) when it is used in place of the personal pronoun “you”? This kind of puzzle exists in Japanese-English translation and here the filmmakers made do with what sounded demotic in English.

But I give this show a solid five stars. I watched it on Netflix over two days, which can probably be classed as bingeing.

No comments: