Drama Review: Bloody Monday (TBS, 2008 & 2010)
Save the Data, Save the World!!!
by Ender’s Girl
Miura Haruma, Sato Takeru, Narimiya Hiroki, Kichise Michiko, Kawashima Umika, Matsushige Yutaka, Yoshizawa Hisashi
In a Nutshell:
Teen hacker saves Japan from eeeeevil biochemical/nuclear terrorists and incompetent counterterrorist government operatives! (Ohnoes!!!! Ohnoes!!!!!)
(SpoilLert: Uhhhh see above? All there, baby. Some sections in this review are more spoilery than others, but warning signs are provided.)
[Recommended companion track: “Hikari no Hashi” / “Over the Rain” by Flumpool]
“I’m underage hack– uh… uh… “hardware tester” Takagi Fujimaru, and THIS is the longest day of my life.” (*blip. blip. blip. blip-bip-bip-bip-bippp.*)
– Takagi Fujimaru
Bloody (JE) Munchkins Distracting Me from Miura Haruma!!!
There’s something about Miura Haruma that makes me want to break out singing “Younger than Springtime” from the musical South Pacific (aaand if you’re old enough to remember Rodgers & Hammerstein, then you’re old enough. doh!). But I DO wonder why I keep getting such an… overpowering urge to do so. Help me out here? Uh — I dunno… could it be our *considerable* age gap? Oh no no NO, that couldn’t possibly be it… *left eyelid twitches* (lol)
Well, I might as well say it here: Miura Haruma happens to be my newest… J-Boy discovery. (Why dint nobody tell me dat d’world wuz biggah den JE, huh? Huh? Doh-hoh-hoh) It turns out, while I was slumming it in Twinkieland through much of 2009, holding hands with my favorite rainbow-haired cake boys and singing “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka Johnny and the Chocolate Factory, while I was slogging through their scaaads of mind-numbing dramas about boys with shrinking brains and cosplaying swindlers with A!Dark!Past! and helicopter-riding “doctors” looking deader than their own expired patients… ALL THIS TIME, a young actor from the talent agency Amuse — already a veteran at nineteen — was quietly going about his business, amassing his CV of film, TV and modeling credits.
Oh, I was vaguely aware of Miura’s existence, but only through the random photos, stills and wallies that strayed into my orbit while I was feverishly digging in the mud for my fungus-coated, Johnny-shaped (and Johnny-flavored!!! *rich throaty laughter*) bonbons and fruit drops. On which occasion I’d look up at said photos/stills/wallies and say, “oooohhh pretty!” — and then promptly go back to my grubbing. Not to say that I was unhappy grubbing away, mind you — on the contrary, I was enjoying myself rather immensely. Because I didn’t quite know back then what I was missing.
So for a good part of my foray into Jdoramaland, Miura Haruma was nothing more than this Unidentified Kawaii Object, the lean, good-looking boy in the 2009 Shiseido Uno Fog Bar CMs letting his hair down (and up… and down… this was a hair grooming product after all) in Merrie Olde England with three of my favorite REAL J-Actors (heh heh) Tsumabuki Satoshi, Eita and Oguri Shun; the one whose face was splashed on the Bloody Monday posters beside Sato Takeru (whose Krusty-the-Klown hair and kreepy eyes promptly made me go “No thanks, drama PASS.”); and really just this “cute, but maybe next time old sport, eh?” young man whose fresh-yet-chiseled appeal somehow always got drowned out by the “riotous madness” of my numerous JE affaires de coeur. (Lol, I kinda like that term… it’s so… sordid. Now I’m getting flashes of… me, wearing a crimson silk robe with a lighted ciggy in one bejeweled hand and a martini in the other, leaning forward from my gilded 2nd-floor balcony while Mi Chicos Johnnissimos cavort shirtless by the pool…….. *rich, throaty laughter… blows smoke rings*………. OK STOP NOW.)
So 2010 rolled around, and one uneventful evening found me playing the DVD of Gokusen the Movie (obviously to watch Kamenashi in it, yesss *insane tittering*). Afterwards I dropped by jicks’ blog and left a rather incoherent comment that began this way: “One particular boy happened to catch my eye amid the profusion of homogeneous orange hair and prettified button faces… He’s cute. But manly! In their scenes together he made Kame look like a garden gnome, lolz. So I googled him…” And yes, it turns out Miura Haruma isn’t a Johnny, which makes absolutely perfect sense. Firstly there’s nothing sexually… repulsive about him (lol) — *ka-ching!* NOT A JOHNNY!… and he actually has normal hair (maybe barring the Super Saiyan peroxide-blond ‘do he sported in a couple of movies back in ‘07) — *ka-ching!* NOT A JOHNNY!… and his boy-next-door appeal makes him palatable to a broader demographic of viewers, being exactly the type of guy you can bring home to both teenage girls and their mommies (and, uh, even those aged *somewheeeeere* in between… *rich, throaty laughter… blows smoke rings*) — *ka-ching!* SO NOT A JOHNNY!!! hahahaha
Anyway. For the uninitiated: Miura started out young in this business, cutting his teeth in a steady stream of TV and movie work ranging from family dramas, to jidaigeki, to TragicYoungLove stories, to high school fare, to police procedurals. But 2008 was really his breakout year in television, in which he scored key spots on several high-profile dramas, as well as his first lead role in the manga-based techno-psy-thriller Bloody Monday. Here he plays the Hero Takagi Fujimaru (code name: Falcon), a regular high schooler with a most… irregular after-school pastime, and who finds himself in a deadly crossfire between the Japanese government and an underground terrorist organization threatening to unleash the supervirus Bloody X on the Tokyo megalopolis. Said pathogen was previously tested on an entire Russian village, resulting in symptoms akin to Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF). Why, that nasssty little bugger! We hatesss it, my precioussss!!! *shakes fist* <And this is the part where Bloody Monday fans kick their computer screens hissing, “We already KNOW this, E.G. Getton with that bloody review, you bloody eeejit.”>
Okay, so I admit it wasn’t entirely the manga’s fault.
The shounen manga Bloody Monday was the brainchild of prolific writer Agi Tadashi (credited as Ryumon Ryou), who also penned the manga Kami no Shizuku (later adapted into a 2009 drama starring… Kamenashi Kazuya *insane giggling starts up again* — uhhh I never read this wine-themed manga, but the drama was the dullest thing I’d ever seen, blerg). And it’s interesting how the shounen vs. shoujo genres play to two fundamentally disparate adolescent yearnings: shounen manga panders to every hormonal teenage boy’s most basic non-sexual fantasy, which is to be a Superhero (but — in disguise!!!), while shoujo manga puts a premium on an adolescent female protagonist realizing!her!relationships! — be they romantic or platonic.
Shounen manga is much more result-oriented, i.e. the teenage Hero with a small but loyal band of like-minded friends saves something or someone close to him, with the highest aspiration really being to SAVE THE WORLD. (And, uh, noooo Haruma-kun and Takeru-kun, it is NOT to “Save the Earth,” LOL. So you’re all, uh, environmentalists now? Grrrreat. Wanna clean up that BP oil spill and stitch together the ozone hole while you’re at it, hmmm? Hahahaha. I like the T-shirt design, though…) In shounen manga, character development takes a backseat to plot (and plot is really all about Accomplishing!the!Mission!), while in shoujo manga, character development supersedes plot action as the protagonist/s are more focused on working through their feelings and experiencing inner growth — and all that sappy SweetValleyHigh-ish stuff, lol.
So it goes without saying that if you approach the drama adaptation of Bloody Monday expecting exactly what you’d find in the original manga, you won’t be disappointed… much. All the staples of the quintessential shounen manga are here: a teenage Hero with “special abilities” (in this case, hacking and, uh, looking unbelievably good in hoodies); the Hero’s brainy best bud, who has his own “special-but-not-AS-special-as-the-Hero’s abilities” (in this case, archery skills and spouting random useless trivia — like when Christmas Day is really celebrated in Russia); their loyal friends (usually of the same age bracket — in this case, the Newspaper Club at school); the token Hot Chick on the side of the Baddies; a Mission that only the teenage Hero can accomplish (natch!); the techno-gadgetry and gizmo-geekery galore! galore!; and oodles of HardyBoy-esque action — chase sequences! messy explosions! and rooftop standoffs! (oh my!)
For the first few episodes of Bloody Monday Season 1, I was fully prepared to suspend my disbelief – nay, string it up for the crows to peck at — and just allow the implausible scenarios to roll over me like a giant pastry pin. I figured this drama wouldn’t be fundamentally so far removed from the equally impossible situations tackled in 24 or Alias, and if I could stomach Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) experiencing the loooongest day of his life for the 509,394th time, or if I could swallow how Sidney Bristow’s (Jennifer Garner) best friend Francie was murdered by SD-6 and replaced by a spy who was surgically!transfigured!to!look!exactly!like!her!!! – then by gum, I could just as well believe that a juvie cyberpunk could single-handedly stave off a massive bioterrorist attack on Japanese soil, armed only with a laptop that magically never ever discharged, and a neutrino-powered flash disk (emphatically reminding him to “Save the Data!!!” — because obviously hackers ‘n’ crackers never remember to do that, doh) that afforded him all these mind-boggling techie powers.
The first two episodes of Bloody Monday are entertaining all right, ably delivering a crackling, fast-paced expository first act that promises more thrills down the road. Even if you get the feeling you’re watching something cribbed from the 24/Alias cosmos, that’s fine because you expect all these spy-thriller-procedural references, anyway. Even the government outfit tasked to neutralize the terrorist threat in BM is all tricked out like your typical homeland-security HQ. Resembling 24’s CTU, THIRD-i is this elite (but fictive, duh) division under Japan’s Public Security Intelligence Agency (kind of an analog to MI5 and the post-9/11 U.S. National Counterterrorism Center) also with a stark dichotomy of functions: you have the tactical ground units (Agents Kano, Houshou and Minami) investigating leads with field support from the local police and SWAT teams…
…And then you have the crack teams of data analysts hammering away before their consoles and murmuring urgently into their headsets while encrypting data feeds and hacking into enemy systems and whatnot. (There’s even a data analyst in Bloody Monday who was clearly ripped from 24’s Chloe, i.e. the Mousy But Brilliant Normal-Looking Female Role Who Obviously Can’t Be a Baddie ‘Coz She’s Too Plain!!!) And manning the floor from a mezzanine office with an open glass wall (the better to see you with, m’dear!) is your Leader Dude (Agent Kirishima), who in a later plot twist will *probably* be sacked by Top Brass and replaced by another Leader Dude – who just so happens to be this smirky douche bag of a bureaucrat whose petty and legalistic management style inevitably stymies the whole operation… just like in — you guessed it — 24!!!
Bloody Maundering Plot!!! Bloody Monkeyshines!
So — yeah, as far as shounen manga-based techno-thrillers go, Bloody Monday stays true to form, but it was around Episode 4 of Season 1 that the implausibility started to take a toll on my, uh, goodwill and patience. At the same time I realized that I wasn’t entirely being fair to the drama if I ratcheted my expectations ALL the way down to the level of comic books that only 12-year-old boys read. I had to assess this drama as a stand-alone, and thus judge its merits as I would any other drama I had watched and reviewed. So when you look at Bloody Monday outside its kiddie manga firewall, then its shortcomings in story and character development become all the more glaring. The breakdown of logic, narrative incoherence, and sheer WTF-ery at many points throughout the drama will most probably leave you shaking your head and rolling your eyes all at once.
There are just too many instances that make you go — “Are they really the baddies? Oh yes they are! Oh no they aren’t! Oh someone else is! Oh — but they’re NOT the ultimate baddie after all! Oh so they’re actually — good-pretending-to-be-bad-pretending-to-be-good!!! Oh wow!!!” The thing is, I normally don’t mind a darn good mindscrew or two in a drama or film, but Bloody Monday tends to be so… slaphappy about laying on the twists and WTF moments real, real thick, that by the time the plot has run its course, you derive no real satisfaction because the resolution itself is equally slapdash, the much-anticipated explanation coming off as horribly illogical and unconvincing. When the rug is finally yanked from under you, you won’t be going “Whoa! Impressive! Like, way cool!” Instead you’ll be shaking your head and rolling your eyes even more vigorously than before.
Using mindscrews for a plot device is always dicey because after the smoke has cleared and all the puzzle pieces have been assembled, the story must stand up in the litmus test of hindsight (and instant replay, lol). Just like viewing a pointillist painting up close, it’s only when you’ve stepped back will the picture actually make sense and look like what it’s supposed to be. It doesn’t matter how many discombobulating twists and turns bestrew the story — so long as they all resolve themselves into a denouement that’s as intellectually satisfying as it is emotionally rewarding (take Brian Singer’s The Usual Suspects or David Fincher’s Fight Club, for instance). But the way the story plays out in Bloody Monday will make you wonder if a child had indeed written the manga. (Of the shounen, for the shounen, by the shounen! Lol)
Bloody Moronic Terrorists and Counterterrorists!!!
If only the THIRD-i operatives AND the terrorists had been written with a smidge more believability, I’m sure I would’ve found this drama far more enjoyable than it turned out to be. If the geniuses running THIRD-i weren’t such bloody imbeciles, then perhaps they could’ve actually defended their country without having to drag a minor and his kid sister (with kidney problems!!! don’t forget the kidney problems!!!) into the fray. I mean — take the scene where, after nabbing Maya the Hot Chick Baddie (Kichise Michiko) the THIRD-i dimwits actually accede to her demand to go off in a car with Fujimaru and two other agents (Kano and Houshou, one of whom happens to be, um, A MOLE, ohnoes!!!) but without any backup or Plan B, a setup which OF COURSE can only turn horribly wrong — and does. Then of course there’s the whole we-can’t-hack-for-sh*t-so-let’s-farm-the-job-out-to-this-17-year-old-kid brand of incompetence that premises the entire drama to begin with. Really, Government of Japan, really? Gaaaaaaaahhhhh.
And nobody at THIRD-i seems to CARE that Fujimaru’s tweener sister Haruka (Kawashima Umika) gets abducted TWICE by the Baddies, and is, um, CHAINED to a TICKING BOMB on one occasion, never mind the fact that the girl’s very existence is the FIRST THING the terrorists would want to use as leverage to get to BOTH Falcon AND his dad, who happens to be a THIRD-i agent too (oh wow)!!! The THIRD-i chumps never seem to grasp exactly HOW IMPORTANT the kid’s safety and well-being is to matters of NATIONAL SECURITY, because aside from setting a perfunctory one-man surveillance unit on the kid, they basically just throw her to the (terrorist) wolves, never mind the fact that the kid: (1) has no mom (is DEAD!); (2) never sees her otosan (is always working for THIRD-i and then goes on the lam after being implicated in murder!!! is later revealed to be ONE OF THE BADDIES!!); (3) never sees her beloved oniichan (is OFF HACKING FOR EITHER THIRD-i OR THE TERRORISTS!!!); (4) and suffers from RENAL FAILURE and requires DIALYSIS once a day or she will — oh I dunno, DIE? Maybe? (Must be!) Gaaaaaaahhhhhh.
The terrorists are no better in the acuity department, either. Okay so maybe they’re a tad less incompetent than our bumbling G-men, but they’re such facilely written cardboard villains with neither motivational complexity nor character depth and development to make them the least bit interesting. Maya the Token Hot Chick Baddie, for all her femme fatale allure and killah good looks, brings nothing new to one of the most stereotypical villain roles in print or on-screen. And Narimiya Hiroki as the green soda pop-slurping Team Leader Kanzaki Jun (code-named “J”) tries his best to bring nuance to a dimensionless role, but is simply fettered by the flimsiness of the material. But – okay, granted, so Narimiya Hiroki and Kichise Michiko make the most of their roles compared to the other members of the terrorist cell, whose idea of “moral turpitude” is to, um, narrow your eyes and talk in a singsong voice and mug “evilly” for the camera when the other characters aren’t looking (but the TV audience obviously is!!! doh). My LEAST fave terrorists here would have to be Butterfly Beatnik (I mean, gaaaahhhhh whattastupid terrorist, he’d easily stand out in a crowd of potential witnesses with those long flowing locks and that ridikkulus Madame Butterfly tattoo!!!!!!!!! stupidstupid), and… uh… Tweedledum and Tweedledee (whom I won’t even bother describing here, but you really can’t miss ‘em, blerg).
And I don’t know whose idea it was to give J the melon soda addiction, but at least I’ll have that mental image to latch on to whenever I remember his character down the road. But it also makes me think of a far MOAR!!! iconic drink associated with a far MOAR!!! memorable screen villain, none other than Daniel Plainview in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood: “I drink… your… milkshake! I drink it up!!!” *sluuuurrrrp* (lol) For me the best villains are those who still possess enough pathos amid their depravity to make them sympathetic – even tragic — figures (e.g. Daniel Plainview), or those who are so utterly normal and sane but whom you know are extremely capable of doing evil, terrifying things, and whose normalcy only makes their evilness all the more chilling (e.g. Hans Landa in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds – “That’s a bingo!” lulz). <This is the part where the readers go: “WTF I can’t believe she just compared Narimiya Hiroki to Oscar winners Daniel Day-Lewis and Cristoph Waltz!!!!!” Okay okay. Gomen now, all right? Jeez, testy crowd tonight… hahaha> I’m pretty sure Narimiya Hiroki was going for the second type, and he clearly wanted to inject a quirk into his character (ergo the soda pop) while keeping his portrayal as lucid and rational and polite — he’s a mathematician fer Pete’s sake!!! he can do higher algebra!!! — but… I dunno… the performance just wasn’t enough to get past the mediocre writing. Not enough to keep me hooked.
I can’t decide what I find more frustrating about the Baddies: that the writing has as much bite as a wet noodle, or that the portrayals clearly betray a lack of the actors’ understanding of their characters’ inner machinery beyond a few overused and misguided stereotypes of villainy. The terrorists are just these smug little sh*ts who do nothing but hole up in living rooms eating Cheetos while they hack into random government cyber-installations and prepare their viral ampules in a makeshift lab. They go about their terrorist duties — murdering people, smuggling explosives, uncorking the Bloody X virus in public places — but they’re too slickly confident, too giggly and smirky as if they were 5th-grade students conspiring to place earthworms in their teacher’s lunchbox instead of “well-trained” terrorists planning to nuke a whole city or reduce its residents to something straight out of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.”
There’s no cogent explanation for these crazies’ nefarious agenda – other than they, um want to be gods because they, um, really belong to this cult headed by the lugubrious-looking Kamishima Shimon (Shimada Kyusaku), who’s been languishing in a supermax facility for two years since his first Bloody X attack on Tokyo got thwarted by a 15-year-old schoolboy who stumbled across their apocalyptic game plan while he was, uh, busy at work on an extracurricular project called… uh, “remote testing of online security systems” lol. (And does Kamishima’s cell remind you of Takizawa Hideaki’s plushy prison digs in Orthros no Inu??? hahahahahaha *nosebleed at OnI memories* hahahahaha).
When the story of Bloody Monday 1 expands to expose the terrorists as religious nutters with a divine ax to grind (and who tap out such ominous online messages as: “Despair, drawing near… Before long, shadow will control light, won’t it?” hahahahahahahahahhahaha Yes Master Yoda, yesyesyes!!!! *dies laughing*), you expect to be led deeper into the psyche of the sect, especially Kamishima of the Funereal Frankensteiny Face, hoping to decrypt their ideology and corporate raison d’etre. But noo-oooo, because the cult leader is little more than a “scary… oooohhhh” plot fixture in the background who communicates with his minions through Morse-coded vibrations beamed through the stone walls and flooring (stupid THIRD-i, none of the evil plans would’ve been carried out had they forced Kamishima to wear his SHOES, lolz), and who later busts out of jail only to stay home meditating in his high-backed leather chair and intoning doleful prognostications such as “Minna-san… The Festival. Will. Begin. Tomorrow.” – And he’s referring, of course, to the so-called Blood Festival wherein his wonky disciples plan to stage concerted Bloody X attacks throughout Tokyo. But okay, Kamishima, whatever. *roll eyes* This guy neither scares nor interests you because you never get to know him, period.
If this plot riff sounds vaguely familiar, you may recall the Aum Shinrikyo (now Aleph) terrorist cult that perpetrated the well-documented sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995, killing 12 commuters and injuring hundreds. The Bloody Monday writer clearly drew his inspiration for the Baddies from this notorious sect, and perhaps the popularity of manga and drama may also be attributed to the fact that such acts of domestic terrorism are much closer to home than we’d like to think. Still, Bloody Monday presents a significantly bowdlerized version of Aum Shinrikyo, whose history of really weirdcrazyjuju sh*t – megalomaniac founder with a god complex! horrific internal purges! assassinations of government officials! shady connections to the Russian KGB! extortion and drug production! secret testing of sarin, cyanide, VX nerve gas and nuclear bombs! biological culture of anthrax and Ebola! – has earned them a prominent slot on international terror watch lists. So given that the real-life Baddies’ shenanigans are obviously no child’s play, you understand why the manga writer would want to dull the edge of their depravity by sketching up these cartoonized (read = shounen-friendly) versions.
And the best way to dumb down all the crazymonkeybaddies? Is to make the TRUE ringleader… well, just like our teenage Hero. No I mean, literally just like our teenage Hero. So in the end, the Uber-Villain is revealed to be not a 50-year-old barefoot mystic, or a twentysomething math genius, but… oh, just another kid. Wow. Didn’t see that coming. Didn’t see it coming because it’s… oh I dunno, the most idiotic, WTF-random monkeytwist in the WHOLE WORLD, perhaps? Gaaaaahhhhhh. It’s stupid as sh*t, but you kind of understand how it also reveals the true heart of a 12-year-old manga-wanking fanboy: by vicariously channeling the story’s Hero, he can ONLY save the world IF the villain is just like him – in age, stature and abilities. This really is the ultimate shounen-manga satisfaction: by leveling the playing field, the inherent absurdity of a hormonal teenager saving the world becomes much, much easier to stomach. Whoopeeee. Long live the 12-year-old fanboy, may his precious manga collection never get eaten by termites, may mummy never catch him – uh, doing funny sh*t inside his closet with a stash of ecchi comics, and may he never turn into a sociopathic whack job later in life, lol.
Bloody… M-uh… uh… okay, I can’t think of a word that begins with “M” and relates to the drama’s production values… And I was SO on a roll here. You win this time, Bloody Monday!!! You win!!! *shakes fist*
I must say that the main track of the OST is just bloody awesome, channeling the pulse-pounding beats of Mission: Impossible (uh, the Limp Bizkit version, lol) and the dramatic guitar riffs of the James Bond movie franchise. At least the music’s zingy appeal will give you something to focus on when the drama bogs down midway and loses itself in the meandering twists and WTF-random plot resolutions. (Save the music, save the world!!! lol) The theme song “After the Rain” by Flumpool is also a good counterpoint to the rest of the OST’s charged feel – catchy as a virus, I should say. Hyukhyuk. Now the second season’s theme song “Zanzo” also by Flumpool…? Urm, not so much. “After the Rain” – especially the intro strains, FTW! – had much more character and gravitas, IMO. This song just makes you feel… so… sad. *sniffle*
On a technical level, Bloody Monday as a production is most definitely up to snuff. I like how director Hirano Shunichi effectively employs jerky, handheld camera shots to create the appropriate mood throughout the drama — with its urgency, tension and spontaneity of danger so reminiscent of the Paul Greengrass School of Cinematography (United 93, The Bourne Ultimatum). But while not exactly original (I mean, even Paul Greengrass didn’t invent this technique, either), I enjoyed the direction because it kept me on edge – even though the plotting left much to be desired. I’ve actually admired director Hirano’s inspired style since watching Kurosagi — oh looky, another example of Good Direction Wasted on Crap Writing/Acting! lol – and hope to see him work on more projects where the material is on a par with the technical quality.
And the hacking stuff? Tremendously engaging. The stream of cyber-jargon flooding the THIRD-i consoles and Fujimaru’s laptop screen seemed believable enough (to my un-cybernetic eye, at least); the director certainly knew how to keep the atmosphere pumped up with the snappy editing, creatively placed camera angles, and the terrific use of CGI to help the viewer visualize the art act of hacking. I was riveted to the screen every time Falcon’s avatar took flight and infiltrated enemy systems, winging stealthily through the labyrinthine data corridors and figuring in epic (and bloody! ohhhyes) dogfights with that sissy-boy Bluebird while the gates clanged shut behind and before them. — Thrilling stuff! (As jicks said on her blog: “falcons PWN bluebirds.” — so true!!!) (Click to read what the REAL techies have to say about the hacking stuff in Bloody Monday.)
Bloody Miura Haruma — Where’ve You Been All My Life??? (uhhh… growing up apparently, lol)
My word, but I fairly lost it whenever Fujimaru cracked those knuckles right before going to battle, whenever those slender fingers flew across the keyboard (and omomomo such clean fingers, too!!! no dirt under the nails!!! *shqueeeesh*), whenever those unbelievably long-lashed eyes narrowed in concentration and that determined little furrow appeared between his brows, until he finally murmured his favorite expression with grim satisfaction: “Capture… complete.” Dayyyyyum. That boy can, uh… hack into MY hard drive anytime he wants to, lololol. (…………I cannot believe I just said that.)
Watching Bloody Monday reminded me of the 2006 YamaPi+Maki starrer Kurosagi. Though topically dissimilar (hacking+terrorism vs. cosplay+swindling) and featuring heroes on opposite sides of the law, these two dramas actually have quite a lot in common (uh, besides sharing a director): they’re essentially made of the same pulpy boy-adventure escapist stuff (and thus target the same viewer demographic – hence the “Don’t try this at home, kids!!! Hacking is illeeeeegal!!!” disclaimer tacked on at the end of each episode, lol). Both dramas also suffer from egregious lapses in logic and farcical portrayals of villains and law enforcers. So… all things being equal, why then was I far more emotionally invested in Bloody Monday (for all its flaws) than I was in Kurosagi? Why did I find Bloody Monday watchable at best, while Kurosagi (aka Yamashita Tomohisa’s Worst Drama Ever) only felt like a horrible dream where you keep waking up only to realize you’re forever trapped in the same recurring nightmare?
The key differential for me was — the protagonist (surprise, surprise). I can overlook cockamamie plot contrivances and subpar acting from the supporting cast so long as the main character is someone who not only sustains my interest writing-wise, but whom I can understand and genuinely care about. Ergo: Miura as Fujimaru? Totally PWND YamaPi as Kurosaki. Interestingly enough, Kurosaki is the meatier character of the two (‘coz it’s hard to compete with, um… the horrific childhood trauma! the grinding internal moral traction! the symbiosis of revenge and dependence shared with a baddish mentor!), but YamaPi’s performance is so… indescribably bad in that drama that not even the “ahahaha WTFisthat???” entertainment value of Kurosaki’s outlandish outfits can reel you back from the Great Torpor of I-Don’t-Give-a-Sh*t-ness in which you will inevitably find yourself mired before Episode 1 is even over.
By contrast, Miura Haruma’s performance is heartfelt and compelling no matter how farfetched the story’s premise. Even in such a thriller-procedural as Bloody Monday, where plot action and production gloss outbalance character development, Miura manages to make his Takagi Fujimaru a most appealing Hero: gutsy and determined, but also ingenious in outmaneuvering the enemy – in short, attributes I *obviously* failed to see in YamaPi’s Kurosaki. Plus, Miura is able to evoke an endangered emotion among Jdrama viewers, and that is empathy. jicks mentioned on her blog that “Miura Haruma has become one of my favourite boy criers.” Ohmygoodness, mine too, jicks!!!!! Mine too!!!!! (*remembers YamaPi’s Constipated Tears of Blood Scene from Buzzer Beat and laughs at the memory*) Dayyyum, but when Miura Haruma cries… the whole world cries with him!!! And when he smiles… ah well, Louis Armstrong said it best:
“When you’re smilin’….keep on smilin’
The whole world smiles with you
And when you’re laughin’….keep on laughin’
The sun comes shinin’ through
But when you’re cryin’…. you bring on the rain
So stop your frownin’….be happy again
Cause when you’re smilin’….keep on smilin’
The whole world smiles with you…”
*honks on rusty old trumpet… Louis Armstrong FTW!!!*
Save the Hacker, Save the World!!!
For the Hero of our drama is not one of those robotic killing machine types who grunt noisily no matter what they’re doing, and sleep with deadly beauties with holsters strapped to their thongs… but he’s really just an ordinary teenager placed under extraordinary circumstances (= a series of unfortunate events!). Takagi Fujimaru has the same genius!-but-emotionally-vulnerable! quality reminiscent of the Michael Scofield character (Wentworth Miller) from the Fox drama Prison Break, where the success of the whole operation (i.e. busting his death-row-inmate bro out of a supermax facility using a map tattooed all over his body!!!) hinges on Michael’s sheer brainpower and uncanny resourcefulness as he battles — oh, Fox River Penitentiary, T-Bag and the Other Baddies, and most of all the pure, undiluted incompetence of his STUPID GIANT MEATHEAD of a brother, Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) who NEVER does anything to advance the jailbreak game plan other than pester Michael every bleeping minute going “Uhhh… uhhh – Hey Mike, are we there yet? Are we getting out now? Are we there yet? Doh-ho-hoh.” And you can see every time Michael gets THIS CLOSE to losing it and starts rethinking the wisdom of getting his half-wit of a half-brother out of the pokey.
Back to regular programming: So when Takagi Fujimaru’s relatively quiet adolescent existence – affectionate oniichan to Haruka, angsty relationship with absentee father, normal high school social life – sustains some nasssssty shellacking from terrorists and THIRD-i alike, each loss and betrayal that he experiences in rapid succession will just melt. your. friggin.’ heart. Trust me, but you’ll want to HUG that boy every time you see those mini-meltdowns mirrored in his eyes whenever something goes horribly wrong – i.e. ohnoes they kidnapped Haruka (again)!!! ohnoes the antivirus arrived too late!!! ohnoes Maya got away (again)!!! – because there’s just something about him that unlocks all these protective instincts within you (and in the case of this blogger, her inner hentai as well… *rich, throaty laughter*). Whenever Miura’s face crumples after YET ANOTHER HEARTBREAKING/FRUSTRATING SNAFU, you’ll find yourself going, “Awww… don’t cry…come here and tell oneechan E.G. your hurts, yesss?” *pats lap* (…….OK STOP NOW.)
You feel protective of Fujimaru because you really do root for him as he tries to preserve what he holds dearest – which are not matters of national security or geopolitics, but his nuclear family and close friends. Again, we return to the beating heart of the adolescent fanboy to whom the Bloody Monday story directly speaks: the most important thing in the world a boy (that’s man-child to you!!! lol) can ever hope to do is to keep his loved ones safe from harm. Corollary to this aspiration is the chimeric fantasy that when the last stabilizing adult presence is wrenched away from him – dad is either on the lam (as a suspected terrorist) or incapacitated, mom is long dead, even his teacher turns out to be one of Them, and the authorities (be they fuzz or spooks or government bigwigs) cannot I repeat cannot be trusted – then it will be up to HIM, this teenage boy, to assume the mantle of familial responsibility and take up the cudgels for his helpless younger sister and his school chums. (And speaking of Fujimaru’s kid sister Haruka, I loved the sibling chemistry between Miura Haruma and Kawashima Umika – although that girl was totally flirting with Miura in their scenes together!!! Hahahahha not that I blame her – I know I totally would, lol.)
The Breakfast Newspaper Club: Don’t You… Forget About Me… *sob!*
Regarding Fujimaru’s school chums – Otoya the Cabinet Minister’s Fey-eyed Grandson (Sato Takeru), Hide the Nerdy-but-Nice-Like-Peter-Parker-But-Okay-Not-Really Photographer (Hisano Masahiro), Aoi the Spunky Go-getter (Fujii Mina), and Anzai the Wan Little Wallflower (Tokunaga Eri) – at first I was all, “Oh great, why are these kids running around helping Falcon, they’ll only get hurt from their meddling! Go on now, little children, go home and write your “Animal Farm” book reports or something.” *rich, throaty laughter… blows smoke rings* So I never expected the friends to later figure so… significantly in this drama’s grander scheme of things (well, because I obviously never read the manga, doh). But neither did I see myself becoming so bloody invested in those five teenagers. It was in Episode 8 of Season 1 that the realization floored me like a… floor: “Ahhh crap, I LIKE these kids already!!! Argh.” Yes, I liked the nerd boy and the Aoi girl — although I’m thankful the story doesn’t dwell on the “lovey-dovey” stuff between her and Fujimaru, as jicks put it (sankyouuu romance-expurgated shounen manga, sankyouuu!!!)… although… although… a perverse leeetle part of me kept shipping Fujimaru and… uh… Anzai (that biyatch, lol) for the first – oh, 10 episodes of Season 1 (heh heh). Why? Because he saved her from that yucky teacher and she was this fragile little wallflower and – he saved her he saved her!!! Well, I guess it just wasn’t meant to be (er, duhhh)… *sigh*
And this Sato Takeru… is an interesting case. His look isn’t button-cute, and you gotta admit there’s something decidedly creepy about those bulging, almond-shaped eyes and olive-tinged complexion — like those of an Egyptian sphinx, lol. And don’t get me started on the hair… if one can even call the brambly brown briar patch growing out of his skull that. Ugh. You can plant the boy in a hedgerow and he’ll look right at home with the shrubbery, lol. (YamaPi, you have — competition, old boy!!! Hahaha. <gomen, another Monty Python reference> “We want… a shrubbery!” lolz…) But at least Sato Takeru’s voice – low, with just a hint of gravel, oooh nice – holds a… danger that Miura Haruma’s boyish timbre lacks (because Miura is just so nice and puuuuure!!! lulz).
As for Sato Takeru’s acting, let’s just say that after his “LMAO. What” guest turn on Mr. Brain, where he was supposed to play a character with short-term memory loss but only came off acting zombified for a full episode and a half, I wasn’t exactly expecting acting fireworks from him here in Bloody Monday. But I grew to appreciate the dude because he doesn’t try to steal the show from Miura, and can most definitely do that Dramatic Intensity thing, but knows when to hit the brakes. Granted, at first he just walks through the role of the withdrawn, brainy boy who becomes Fujimaru’s confidante and wingman throughout the Bloody X ordeal. It’s only from Episode 8 of Season 1 onwards that his character Otoya really comes alive in the story, because now his background and motives are revealed to have a potentially bigger part to play in the Fujimaru+THIRD-i vs. GreenMelonSodaBrigade+ReligiousNutters saga. It was in this third act of Season 1 that I sat up and said, heyyy — this boy ain’t so bad after all. (And I kind of like how he spends more time with Haruka in Season 2 Ep. 1. Is it wrong of me to be shipping Otoya and Haruka? Is it is it????? She’ll be legal in a few more years, anyway. Lulz *gnaws fingernails*)
And this is totally random, but THANK HEAVENS the TBS powers that be didn’t cast any Johnnies in the roles of Fujimaru and Otoya. I mean, can you just imagine if it were Kame and Jin instead? Hahahahahhaa. Those two would’ve stuck the Bloody X ampules into each other’s bared chest, then held hands, then injected each other with the antidote while snarling and crying the whole time – and all before Episode 3 was over!!! Lolzzz. But seriously now, was it just me, or did the bromance between Miura and Sato feel different – diminished, perhaps? less sensational, perhaps? – precisely because they aren’t JE Boyz in real life? I’ll admit that good old Johnny-on-Johnny action has its own twisted cracky appeal, but it’s also quite refreshing to see male bonding that isn’t… well, male bondage, lol (er… Bandage? hehe). And it helps that the writing chooses to focus on Fujimaru’s relationship with his dad and sister for the first two acts of Season 1, and only brings him and Otoya together when things start to unravel in the third act.
Save the Sequel, Save the World!!!
[THIS IS WHERE IT GETS SPOILERY FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN SEASON 2. RUN AWAY!!! RUN AWAY!!!]
I watched Seasons 1 & 2 in one fell swoop — which ain’t a bad way to roll, considering their combined episodes are still fewer than your average K-drama’s, hah hah hah. Season 2 kicks off two years after the events of Season 1; Fujimaru now works at the neighborhood mom-and-pop and has not touched a computer in, well, two years – or so he’d like the rest of the world to think. Apparently he has no desire to enter university — which may or may not have anything to do with the fact that he has to — oh I don’t know, WORK to support himself and li’l sis Haruka BECAUSE THEY’RE LIKE, ALL ALONE NOW, REMEMBER, and the Japanese government NEVER bothered to drop a few yen their way — maybe as, oh I dunno, rightful compensation for SERVICES RENDERED THE COUNTRY??? That’s NOT even including the life insurance windfall the same government OWED them after THEIR DAD GOT HIMSELF ICED IN THE LINE OF DUTY, DOH.
It’s a different Fujimaru we’re seeing in Season 2. (Different how??? Like — how Jack Bauer is different from Jason Bourne??? Well, kinda. Lol) The Fujimaru in Bloody Monday 1 was just a boy — hacking into enemy servers and almost getting killed in 38478397 different ways, yes, but still — just a boy. In Season 2 he’s… um, I wouldn’t call him a man yet, but definitely getting there. The Fujimaru two years later likes to take his shirt off with far less inhibition than before seems to have settled into a typical happy-go-lucky 20-year-old slumming it in Bluecollarland, fully unconcerned with the dangers and sorrows of the Real World (the way most twentysomething working stiffs are). But when tragedy strikes anew, the REAL Fujimaru shows his mettle — and this time you realize he’s much cagier and more intense than the bright-eyed boy from Season 1 who was so quick to smile and quick to cry. (Fujimaru doesn’t smile as much in Season 2. Crap.) There’s a harder edge to him now, a mental toughness that wasn’t there before, but which will enable him to make some difficult decisions later in the story. That, and… he’s traded those adorable hoodies for… a parka. (The boy really has grown up! *sob*)
Meanwhile, Haruka has discovered the wonderful world of XY chromosomes and has taken a shine to a diffident tweener boy from school with a bullying problem (Takeuchi Toshi) — much to the chagrin of her oniichan, lol. I was looking forward to seeing Fujimaru’s relationship with Haruka and Otoya progress in the second season, but was bitterly disappointed that it doesn’t, because barring the first and last episodes, Fujimaru and Haruka NEVER share a scene together. WHYWHYWHY???????? She meant so much to him in Season 1, and now it’s like he never even seems to think about her or try to check up on her in between his missions. It’s as if the writer just spun Haruka’s arc off the main plot to give the kid “Something to Do,” i.e. her very own “Conflict,” which she must “Resolve” on her own. Bah.
I was so mehhhh about the whole bullied suicidal kids + anarchy-sowing terrorists in technicolor ponchos + gunrunning and political instability sub-arc, anyway. I know that school bullying is a real problem in ANY society and it has even driven youths to run amok with a black-market semiautomatic, but I felt nothing for Haruka’s Bullied Boy except mild annoyance at getting sidetracked from the main story. Stupid kid, so you want to get back at your bullies? Don’t you know that the BEST REVENGE on those thugs is to finish high school, go to college, get good grades, land a good job, work your way to the top, and then hunt down said bullies (who at which point will probably be potbellied forklift operators or something) and SHOW THEM your newly minted calling card that has “Vice President” affixed to your name, while sneering “Neeener neener neener, so who’s king of the jungle now, huh? So long, looooozerssss!!!” And then walk away in your snazzy Gucci suit, leaving them to repent of their wicked adolescent ways!!! Don’t you see, child, this is THE BEST REVENGE EVER!!!!!!! Hahahhahahaha
And how can I leave out that boy genius Otoya, who’s now in college impressing professors and classmates alike with his argyle sweaters, sleek new hairdo (2093437x better than in BM1, brahvoh Sato Takeru bravohhhhhh!!!) and inexhaustible knowledge of nuclear physics. In Episode 1 of Season 2 we’re led to infer that the old high school Newspaper Club (or what’s left of it *sob*) have not been seeing much of each other lately. But despite having had limited contact since high school graduation, the horrific loss of a common friend brings Fujimaru and Otoya into each other’s orbit once more, and causes their relationship to evolve into one that is more complex and psychologically textured — because now, trust issues threaten to drive a wedge into their bromance er, friendship. Fujimaru and Otoya’s charged mano-a-mano in Episode 4 is one of the best scenes in Season 2 for me, and I like how the space between them becomes this gray area, a wary alliance between equals. (*sings “The Space Between” by the Dave Matthews Band, lol*) It brings a good shift to their dynamic, made tauter by the real danger they both face. No pretty boy drama here.
So I honestly thought that from that terrific scene in Ep. 4 onwards, the story would be about these two young men impelled by righteous anger to battle the terrorists together. But why oh why is Otoya’s character shunted aside from Eps. 5-8, only to resurface in Ep. 9 when he finds himself in the THIRD-i HQ furnishing the authorities (including ojiisan dearest, who has since become — the Prime Minister of Japan, oh wow!!!) with his “scientific” advice re nuclear plants, never mind the scads of actual PhD-holding nuclear chemists and physicists at any of Japan’s government research facilities who could have been summoned instead. But noooo — because THIRD-i would much rather hear it from a college sophomore, jeez.
Most of the THIRD-i Delta Force Laser Squadron are back for Season 2, and this time I’ll admit that I did feel a twinge of fondness for Agent Kano the Dour (Matsushige Yutaka), Minami the Shampoo Model (Ashina Sei), Miki the Chloe-type Data Analyst (Anan Atsuko), Chief Sonoma Who Has to Deal With Cabinet-Level Idiots (Nakahara Takeo), and of course, Kirishima the Bereaved But Dutiful G-man (Yoshizawa Hisashi, whom I cannot believe was that fabulous cross-dressing geisha from JIN — Fo’ tha’ Win, baby!!!!! *flashes rocker sign*). So when one of these agents is revealed to be the Token Season 2 Mole, you’ll feel betrayed all right — but in a good way, because the motivation behind the breach of trust is hinted at in earlier episodes. And more importantly it feels believable from a human behavior angle, instead of being just another pulled-out-of-the-wazoo shocker. So the Season 2 mole — aptly codenamed Brutus — actually has a far more convincing backstory than the mole in Season 1. (“Et tu, Chloe?”)
But I was just mehhh towards the new operatives, namely Chloe’s Prettier Replacement (Akira Makoto) and Fabio aka Rinse, Lather & Repeat (Mikami Kensei), as well as the other “goodish” characters who come on board — namely The Professor (ooohhhh… how are you related to… The Keymaker from The Matrix Reloaded, o sensei? lulz) and that flighty, flirty-wurty girl from the convenience store where Fujimaru works – who was SO BLOODY ANNOYING at first and made me wish that if Fujimaru was gonna get himself a girlfriend, I’d be happier seeing him with — Agent Kano’s mother (lol) than with that ditz. But okay, so appearances can be deceiving, and maybe I misjudged her at first — which is what the drama wanted me to do IN THE FIRST PLACE, damn its bloody soul!!! *shakes fist*
Then there’s Doctor Doll, who gets placed in charge of a classified government medical monitoring project at age freakin’ twenty, a *minor* credibility hiccup that makes you wonder how the bloody hey she managed to squeeze in college and med school and residency and sub-specialization between puberty and age twenty!!! Gaaahhhh. Even Doogie frickin’ Howser M.D. was never given such a critical and sensitive (read: maters!of!national!security!) undertaking. But the most annoying bit players OF ALL were the smarmy new THIRD-i boss, and those HORRID, HAMMY CABINET MANDARINS (one’s a male prone to throwing hissy fits, and the other this vile virago, YOU KNOW whereof I speak) who were actually more capable of nuking their own country to kingdom come than the terrorists themselves. I felt for the Prime Minister (Ryu Raita, who rocked like faiah as a Yakuza don in Ninkyo Helper), because at every cabinet powwow he looked like he was regretting what he had signed up for (both as character and as actor, lulz).
But what about the Usual Suspects from Season 1, namely J, K and Maya? Let’s just say that… one of them goes crackers from the failed neutron bomb apocalypse two years prior, one seeks to atone for past sins (and in my book, actually does), and one… is still a step ahead of everyone else (as usual) — but appears to be dying of radiation sickness!!! (Didn’t mummy ever tell you not to go sticking your fingers into thermonuclear warheads, sweetie? tsk) And guess which one of the Season 1 triumvirate exchanges his beloved green melon soda for a platinum blond halo (because apparently he needed a new character quirk, yes?). <At this point I was like, heyyy why you wearin’ Miura’s Koizora hair, huh??? lulz>
Bloody Mondo WTF-ery
It’s clear that the makers of Season 2 (same director but sans the head scriptwriter from Season 1, Makita Mitsuharu) envisioned a more high-octane thriller by torquing up the threat level from virus+radiation in Season 1 to plane bomb+nerve gas+H-bomb in Season 2. (And from the blatant product placement of Macs and MacBooks in every nook and cranny of the bloody drama, you can see how… eager? gung-ho? desperate? the network was to upgradeupgradeupgrade!!!) And the terrorists use a different set of ploys in the two seasons. In S1, the Bloody X virus is just a smokescreen because the real bargaining chip of the terrorists is the antivirus (um… hell hath fury like a government scientist scorned, yesss?). And even that isn’t the Ultimate Big Stick, because Plan B happens to be a neutron bomb — which, being an enhanced radiation weapon (ERW), has a more destructive effect on biological material (= Tokyo residents!) than on city infrastructure. Bottom line: everyone in Tokyo still dies either way.
In Season 2, the new batch of terrorists (fare thee well, J and K and Maya, farting er, parting is such sweet sorrow!!! NOT) lead the Japanese authorities on a wild goose chase involving a real walkin’ talkin’ noookyulerrr warhead from Russia (THAT ONE DAY BOUGHT A PLANE TICKET FOR JAPAN, BOARDED A COMMERCIAL AIRLINER ALL BY ITSELF, FOUND ITS SEAT NUMBER, AND PROMPTLY STRAPPED ITSELF INTO PLACE FOR THE DURATION OF THE FLIGHT), VX nerve gas (again, remember the Aum Shinrikyo attacks!!! remember the Alamo!!!), a freight delivery of a particularly badass H-bomb affectionately named “The Third Emperor” (which to be honest, sounds like a deluxe underground nightclub for gay CEOs, lol), and an unused fast breeder reactor which, when ignited by The Third(-i) Emperor’s uranium core, will make Little Boy and Fat Man look like cherry bombs as it blows up the Great Land of Nihon into, uh, matcha powder.
I get the amped-up danger factor, really I do, but… sometimes I found myself missing Bloody X, hahaha. That nasssty little bugger had SO MUCH… character, lol. (I mean, nuclear bombs are about as predictable as making Russia the Token Evil Foreign Country That Aids and Abets the Domestic Terrorists… C’mon, dint nobody listen to Sting’s song? “Believe me when I say to you / I hope the Russians love their children too…” lol. (*stage whisper* Careful, careful, Bloody Monday writers/producers, or Papa Dobby might get maaaad.) But both seasons make a big deal of a Mysterious Box — first the Jewelry Box, then Pandora’s Box — that never gets opened (literally or, uh, figuratively? uh–uhhh) until the very end of each season. Wazzup with the “ooohhhh BOX” suspense buildup anyway? For half of each season I really did wonder, yeah terrorists, what’s in the box??? (Or as Brad Pitt’s character in David Fincher’s Se7en says it, “What’s in tha bawwwwxxxx???” lolz)
So the terrorists in Season 2 have indeed cranked it up. And the collective result? Overdone performances throwing you everything but the kitchen sink. Calling themselves Der Freischütz (or The Marksmen, named after an opera by Carl Maria von Weber about – you guessed it — a shooting contest!!! violencssssse!!!!), these Baddies 2.0 mean serious (monkey)business, for they aren’t the same old batty Cheeto-crunching cultists of yesteryear (*fond tear*), but an international strike force of anarchists, half of whom hail from A Country That Suspiciously Sounds Like North Korea But They’ll Never Say It ‘Coz Kim Jong-il Is Gonna Go… Ballistic, Hyukhyuk (or ACTSSLNKBTNSICKJIIGGBH for short), and who plan to set in motion their own version of Ragnarok (under the vague, euphemistic name of “The Japan Restructuring Program”) built on the rickety foundations of Googled quotes from such revolutionary heroes as Che Guevara and… Shakespeare! (lulz). This will basically spell all-out war between Nihon and, uh, the government of ACTSSLNKBTNSICKJIIGGBH — and you gotta admit that it sounds FAR NASTIER than the religious extremists’ “we gonna be gods, yip-yip-yipee” doomsday drivel from Season 1.
Now, a quick confession before I take it back: halfway through Season 2 not only was I missing Ye Olde ‘n’ Trusty Bloody X Virus, but the terrorists from the Krazy Kamishima Kult, as well — J and K and Maya and Bluebird and even those ridiculous clowns Butterfly Beatnik and Tweedledum&Tweedledee. (Ahhhh good times, good times…) Why? Because I didn’t like the Season 2 Baddies one bit, oh no no no. I mean, HOMGEEE, this arthropod-inclined Menagerie of Menace, Murder and Mayhem — Ladybird! (*roll eyes*) Hornet! (hatessss!!!!) Spider! (*double roll eyes*) Firefly! (poncho! olé olé!) Mosquito! (nerd. yawwwn) and the uber-generic… Beast! (lulz) — act more like shoot-‘em-up characters on a video game console than geopolitically subversive anarchists plotting to seize control of Government. (And dear me, what prosaic names they’ve chosen, too! No… Dog Tapeworm? Horny Toad? Yeti Crab? Haha)
For all their evil ways, J and Maya look like high school guidance counselors compared to these trigger-happy terrorists, especially that psycho-biyatch Ladybird and her red-jacketed, ringlety-maned sidekick Beast, clearly a loon who finds everything in the world so freakin’ hilarious, ugh. (Well, the joke’s on you, Beastie Boy. Terrorist FAIL.) The only Baddie who held my interest was Hacker-Boi Hornet, because the build-up to his inevitable unmasking is done quite well. In a strange, perverse way, I actually appreciated how some of the Baddies — an insect and an arachnid — get… personal with Falcon.
And I like how Takagi Fujimaru goes off into the deep end when this happens, spurred on by the galling awareness that he has indeed met his equal — even his potential better — when Hornet initially wins their cyber-skirmishes. When Hornet finally falls into Falcon’s outstretched talons, I couldn’t wait for Falcon to gouge out his stupid little wasp stinger and STICK IT into one of his compound eyes, hahahaha. Man, but I hated that twerp SO BAD. Do they execute child terrorists in Japan? Okay scratch that, lol. And really, that kid was just too easy to break, like hahahahahahaha: How do you make a 15-year-old hacker squeal? Tell him he’ll never go online again, and just watch his whole world explode into a mushroom cloud of zeroes and ones, hahahahaha.
But it turns out that the biggest defeat that Falcon ever suffered at the nimble hands of Hornet WASN’T from Hornet at all, but the Uber-Baddie, Spider. Nice twist, but when Spider is finally revealed in all her silky, cobwebby glory, it’ll make you utter one big giant “EHHHH??? NAAAANDEEEE???” as you mentally retrace your steps throughout the drama, looking for clues you may have missed — and finding NOTHING. Because all the motivation and backstory of this Spider gets piled on in heaps at the very end of the drama, and is just forced to RETROFIT the drama’s plot. (And… let’s just say the crazy gene… uh, runs in the family, yesss? hehe) None of Spider’s reasons for turning rogue are so much as hinted at. I hate retrofitted story treatments, they’re just SO LAZY.
Bloody Best Scenes (“Wake up, you idiot.” *sob!*)
In spite of the logical lapses and credibility crackups in both seasons of Bloody Monday, I still appreciate how, in certain pivotal moments, Bloody Monday hits all the heavy and dramatic notes dead-on. Two of my favorite scenes of both seasons are… death scenes: one at the end of Season 1 Ep. 8, and the other at the end of Season 2 Ep. 1. I love them not just because they’re turning points for both the main plot and Fujimaru’s maturing process, but because from an emotional standpoint, they HURT like hell. The reactions from the characters who witness these deaths — or the aftermath of a death — are enough to cut you up. (And ZOMG Miura Harumaaaaarghghhhhgrhgh) There are no hammy histrionics to mar the authenticity of the moment, only raw, unprocessed human anguish intensified by the knowledge that the tragedy could have been averted — or that one was partly to blame for it. The horrific death scene in Season 2 Ep. 1 hits you right between the eyes; and it’s darker, grimmer than the first scene, because here the grief and sense of loss felt by the bereaved are eclipsed by cold fury and a burning desire for retribution.
And I already mentioned the Fujimaru-Otoya standoff in Season 2 Ep. 4, didn’t I? Loved that one too. There’s another terrific scene in Season 1 Ep. 9 which is deceptively simple because it’s just Fujimaru and Agent Kirishima talking in the car in the THIRD-i parking lot, both having just experienced the gut-wrenching loss of a loved one while in the line duty. But you see the strange symmetry between them as they grapple with the blame game, the self-recrimination and bitter what-ifs, with Kirishima — being the more experienced one — trying to impart to Fujimaru what little comfort he still can. (Oh Kirishima. I wasn’t too crazy about your THIRD-i colleagues, but you’re a man of principle and I like you a lot.)
And the final sequences, oh wow. Both seasons of Bloody Monday finish on two very different emotional notes, but I could NOT have asked for a better way to end each story arc. Amazing. In the final shot of Season 1, the loss and pain are still very fresh, and OH BOY do you feel it — more so because this very spot on the hospital rooftop held much significance for Fujimaru and his dad. (I could’ve liked the character of the otosan A LOT more had the writing made the role meatier and more complex — and also, had the actor playing him been… better, I guess. Because the pop-‘n’-son chemistry between him and Miura? Wasn’t there. He just never felt like a dad to me.) And now, at the close of Season 1, there’s no doubt about what’s on Fujimaru’s mind as he leans against the railing and looks down on the cityscape. This last shot of a boy in a hoodie all alone with his thoughts, his back turned to the camera, is stark and bleak and heartbreakingly perfect in every way.
The mix of emotions in the concluding scene of Season 2 is different from Season 1, but still on the money. When Fujimaru walks into their home — for the first time in a looong while, it seems — and sees his sister Haruka asleep on the couch, you feel his mind-numbing exhaustion (bordering on battle fatigue, even) mingled with relief. The deep-seated sadness is there all right, but there’s an underlying sense of finality to the tragic events, as if Fujimaru has resolved in his heart to never let evil crazies and terrorists and overdependent government agencies disrupt their lives again and come between him and his sister. It is an ending as well as a new beginning, and when he later whips up dinner for Haruka, it feels great to see some normalcy — or a semblance thereof — restored to their quiet home.
But then you remember this is Bloody Monday, so whatever “normalcy” cannot last for long, can it? It’s an uneasy kind of peace, for we all know that the Bloody Monday universe requires a harebrained terrorist mega-plot at least once every two years. So it’s just a matter of time before the next bunch of efftards — er, terrorists, run amok with their nuclear toys and killer microbes. (You can almost hear the ominous rasp of Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine’s voice as he tells Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith: “It is finished then. You have restored peace and justice to the galaxy.” And when you hear that from Darth Sidious, it can only presage DOOM!!! DOOM!!! Lulz) If you’re still not convinced, how about the spliced-in scene at the end where J rings Fujimaru up from Terrorist Heaven so they can chat about how J suckered the Government of Japan YET AGAIN (with a few lame-ass allusions to Greek mythology thrown in). I suppose this would make J… the Archenemy Who Never Dies archetype, or what Professor Moriarty was to Sherlock Holmes and Murdoc was to “MacGaiiiiivaaaaahhhhhh!!!!” *ka-boom!* (uh, sorry, you’ll only get this if you watched MacGyver back in the ‘80s).
So anyway, whatever, I really won’t mind if another threat — bigger, better, hairier! lol– rears its ugly mug later down the line, and then everyone from THIRD-i to NATO to the United flippin’ Nations will have to call Falcon out of retirement to SAVE THE DATA!!! And SAVE THE WORLD!!! And believe me, when Falcon stretches those wings and takes flight, by gum, I’ll be right behind with my trusty old binoculars and National Audubon Society membership card, screaming, “Follow that bird!!!”
Falcon to E.G.’s kokoro: “Capture, complete!” Ahahahahahahahahaa *self-destructs*
Artistic & technical merit: B-
Entertainment value: B+
Now, excuuuuse me while I scrounge off in search of Miura Haruma’s other dramas and movies. (Gokusen Threeeee, heeeeere I come!!! lololol) I can definitely do this, oh yes sirreee because I’m a Bloody Completist, after all!!!
(But — but what about your other J-loves, E.G.?)
Ohriiiiiight, themmm. (lol)
Oh, I haven’t forgotten about ‘em — yet (*rich throaty laughter*). No but seriously, I think it’s pretty cool how my J-menagerie grows steadily each year. Do let’s take a look at my… collection, hmmm? *rubs hands evilly*
Miura Haruma – A Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), duhhh.
KimuTaku – A Mountain Lion (Puma concolor), for obvious reasons. (*rarrghghghg*)
YamaPi – A cross between an Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) and a Pink Fairy Armadillo (Chlamyphorus truncates)!!! Axolotl ‘coz that’s how he was born, remember? (I mean, didn’t you guys read my YamaPi fairy tale? Hahaha) And Pink Fairy Armadillo ‘coz “pink” and “fairy” were just too good to pass up, lulz
And the clincher:
Kame – An Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)!!! Hahahahhaa
Photo credits: alas-a-llama.livejournal.com, asianbeam.com, asianmediawiki.com, asianotaku.blogspot.com, aznongaku.blogspot.com, belissimoragazzo.blogspot.com, candypastel.com, crunchyroll.com, dorama-japan.blogspot.com, dramawiki.com, dylandragonheart @ photobucket.com, fflightningxiii.livejournal.com, furuanimepanikku.com, hamsapsukebe.blogspot.com, iurgnotmis.wordpress.com, jansnow @ photobucket.com, jovelshida @ photobucket.com, kuro570 @ photobucket.com, Kty90_s @ photobucket.com, lastingdreams8.livejournal.com, nickerz21.livejournal.com, theakiba.com, timelessub.org
Video credit: kamenridergackt @ Youtube.com