29 May 2011 | sillyman-2
A Japanese 'Twin Peaks'
Three years ago, four schoolgirls disappear along with their bus. After one of them turns up in a coma, two Wide-Area Investigators are sent to the small town to assist the local police. They are played by Joe Odagiri (the crazy guy in white from 'Azumi') and Chiaki Kuriyama.
The 8x50-minute episodes are very 'Twin Peaks' in style, with frequent shifts in mood, eccentric characters who may or may not be significant to the investigation, and supernatural elements. Indeed, the whole thing may be sci-fi as there are occasional hints of trouble in Tokyo suggest it is set in the future and, as far as I know, there currently is no Japanese equivalent of the FBI. An obvious homage in a scene when the police discuss the case while sitting around a table upon which is a giant fish: similar to a scene in 'Twin Peaks' with a moose's head. Other surreal elements are the Pottery Club: a red-light area club where lascivious men pay to watch schoolgirls spinning pottery.
The actors appear equally mystified as to the tone of the show with some acting as if they are in a moody drama, others as if it is a slapstick comedy. A big problem with the realism is that all the school-kid actors are identical in size and appearance in the flashback scenes from three years ago.
I enjoyed the series a lot and there was considerable tension in the penultimate episode involving a shoot-out in a pitch black room. It was great to see Chiaki Kuriyama in such a big, leading role and, unusually for he, playing an authority figure.
Unfortunately for me, the subtitling went to pieces for the last two episodes. This was a particular shame as it had been so good for the first six, with puns explained and regional accents identifies. The last two episodes appeared to have been translated first into Chinese, then retranslated badly into English. (Can anyone enlighten me as to why this happens so frequently with the final episodes of Japanes TV series?) As a result, I am in a total state of confusion as to what happened at the end; the plot-lines appeared to be resolving themselves but in a way that made no sense to me at all! What was all the business with the schoolgirl starting a new religion; why were gangsters trying to blackmail the mayor; why did one of the only two schoolboys in a school full of girls pose nude for life drawing sessions by the soon-to-be-disappeared-girls in the flashback scenes; what on earth happened at the end? (As the programme seemed so well plotted until the last episode, I am wondering if it got cancelled before its time resulting in a rapid tie-up of plot-lines.)