I have to admit, J-drama which focuses on police investigation are abundant and they air at least one each season. I also have to admit, there aren’t many crime investigation dramas that I like because they go back to the basics and it’s repetitive. That’s why I find Galileo and Mr. BRAIN a more interesting and refreshing take on crime investigation. However, Strawberry Night brings basic back on the table. It’s nothing new, a lady boss leads her team into crime investigation, we get crimes committed, get the criminal arrested and it gets resolved at the end of the day. There aren’t even profiling or lab works or techie gadgets involved. Just plain cops chasing mobs and baddies. BUT. This. Is damn good.
Strawberry Night background theme, Sleeping Beauty. It’s a masterpiece for this noir detective series.
Starring Takeuchi Yuko as the amazing Himekawa Reiko, she has garnered the respect of her male subordinates and maybe some of her colleagues that are on par or at higher rank. However, as a female in the First Investigation Division, she does not get relieved from all the sexist remarks she receives. She takes all the bullets but instead of spitting them back towards those who steps on her, she delivers result. Her intuition as a detective and ability to understand a criminal’s thoughts lead her to solving case after case. Is she perfect? No. She is haunted by her own past, where she is victimised by an assailant and raped. As we later discover, (or maybe rather soon) she chose to be a policewoman following the footsteps of her role model (also a policewoman). Apparently, her role model was stabbed and killed while apprehending Himekawa’s rapist.
Although it is a full length drama, Strawberry Night initially aired an hour length SP(special episode) first. From there, we are pretty much exposed to Hime’s(That’s what she’s called at times, as in Japanese her name carries the same kanji for princess) past tragedy. We are also given the glimpse of how the task force works, Hime and her subordinates relationship, and her withstanding misogynistic men. She quickly makes it into my list of favourite heroines and another actress that can compete with her in this role would be Amami Yuki in BOSS. Hime is stern but she clearly has her own way of doing things as in, she does not pressure her underlings. Instead, she motivates them and gives them space they need to confront their own fears and ghosts. I’m quite sceptical how Hime earned respect of her subordinates given that she is a woman in a task force and she does not possess very strong fighting skills. In fact, her right hand man Kikuta(Nishijima Hidetoshi), protects her at crucial times and at many occasions as well. Why would a man, or a few of them hold such high respect for a woman that may need to be protected in a crime setting? Is it how she carries herself as a woman trying to hold her head high in a room filled by a sea of men that makes her shine? I think it’s more like how she carries her team mates and work in a team that garners her respect that she deserves. Hime respects every asset of her team. She isn’t ower-overpowering or bitchy either. She just gets things done her way and like it or not, she does ’em well. Suck it, male chauvinistic superiors!
I have to say the script, directing and tone of the drama is very well done. The directing is done by the same guy who directed Waterboys! For those in the dark, Waterboys is a super famous movie about a group of boys joining synchronised swimming. Back to Strawberry Night, it’s quite noir (low on comedy) but not depressingly so. The drama is actually based on a novel of the same name by Honda Tetsuya. In exchange for comedy, we get more sincere exchanges between colleagues and allies in their battlefield. AND, it makes room for Kikuta’s crush on Hime!! If every police investigation drama would ever hint on romance like this, we, J-drama viewers will all explode with joy. As a rule of thumb, it is solid to not have any expectation for a pairing or OTP or couple to blossom in a police investigation J-drama. Nothing will happen, not a hug, a kiss whatsoever. Brace yourselves into entering this completely alien world if you are adapted to Korean dramas. So, every smallest gesture are literally magnified by us, in tiny hopes that they will end up together in an alternate reality (We are plain desperate). Strawberry Night, has the most obvious kind of OTP hinting. Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration but Kikuta CLEARLY shows how he feels about Hime. Hime may not realize it but she does feel a little for Kikuta. It could be that they are relying on each other as lifelines or allies in war but whatever. A girl can dream. I melt everytime I see Kikuta pull off small nuances here and there for Hime. It’s just captured right there and here I sit screaming my head off over that almost tangible possibility.
Having Kusaka and Gantetsu as her rivals are somehow oil adding to her fire. Although Kusaka works in the same unit (as the other shunin, which means same post as Hime), Hime seems to despise him a lot. Or just want to win over him a lot which made her look like a kid a t times. Ganten is a character that you just really hate even from the first SP (or episode zero they call it) due to his ‘special’ methods of investigating. I think they represent good obstacles within the police for Hime. Who said the task force is a big happy family?
For the cases depicted here, they are quite good as they are straight out from the novel itself. All of them have accompanying sob story or motivation from behind. And Hime can relate to all of them both as a victim and criminal due her own past. I don’t understand how she ‘sees’ like a criminal but that ability helps her to read the criminal’s mind. Not to mention the amount of flashback we see of her assault, which becomes tiring at one point. Besides that, I don’t think the last case should have 3 episode.
Can I just rave again about the soundtracks here? It’s just so sad but like the ‘oh, it hits me now’ kind of depressing. It’s really suitable as it carries the feels of the drama well and I can’t help but feel a tiny bit of sorrow creeping out somewhere when I hear the theme song T.T
By the way, if you do happen to have watched Strawberry Night and need more goodness after you’ve sucked the drama dry, this blog would be good to reminisce on all the Kikuta-Himekawa moments. Totally applaud kiraning for all her amazing post that allows us to set eyes on Nishijima in his glory as Kikuta longer. It’s also a reason why I’m posting literally not much images in this post because you can go drool in her blog XD
I’ve actually watched the movie following the drama which is ‘After the Invisible Rain’. I’m trying my best to refrain from fangirling on this post about the movie because i’m going to release a separate post on it. So I’m going to head off to start on that post now!