on J-drama

Jul. 28th, 2015 03:25 pm
xparrot: Chopper reading (books)
[personal profile] xparrot
So [livejournal.com profile] gnine and I just finished watching the Japanese dorama Ouroboros, which came out earlier this year.

In the end I can't honestly recommend it, though I really enjoyed a lot of it. The concept (adapted from a seinen manga I might have to look up) is compelling - two orphan boys witness the murder of their teacher/foster mother and vow to get revenge; twenty years later, one of the boys has become a police detective, the other is a rising yakuza lieutenant, and they're still working together towards their vengeance. The plot spirals out from there into government conspiracies, secret agendas, and conflicting loyalties; the story has more turns than a Boston street, constantly leaving you guessing who's on what side and what's really going on. The violently codependent bond between the two main guys, with the added identity porn of their shared secrets, is pure fan catnip and milked for all its worth as only a drama can - it's often campy and cheesy and always over the top, but man do they deliver on the angst and h/c. Also I've finally gained an appreciation for Oguri Shun - never quite got the appeal before but apparently all it took was putting him in a pair of cool glasses and three-piece yakuza suits (and then repeatedly shooting him and beating him bloody. Mmm yeah Japan knows fangirls.)

...Then there was the end. The series is ten episodes long, and as is true for a lot of J-drama it's a completed story. And from the first episode Gnine and I were wondering who, if anyone, would survive; the show has a high body count from the get go (there's like a dozen homicides-disguised-as-suicides, and the first eps ran four-for-four of wives/girlfriends murdered because of something related to their man) and the protagonists deal out homicidal vigilante justice, of the sort heroes have to pay for.

And everything leads up to a great climax, with unexpected reveals and the poignancy of Tatsuya (the yakuza) trying to distance himself from Ikuo (the cop), making that classic gambit of pretending that there was never anything between them and he was just using Ikuo, in a desperate attempt to get Ikuo to give up their quest and have chance at a life. Of course it fails, Ikuo figures it out and joins his partner in their final chance for vengeance, and if they'd both been killed it would've been tragic but fitting.

Instead, in the course of the last revelation, Tatsuya gets fatally shot, and Ikuo just...picks him up and runs off with him (after a dramatic goodbye to Ikuo's cop girlfriend and Tatsuya's loyal lackey, neither of whom try to arrest them or suggest going to a hospital) driving him hours to their old orphanage, where he drags his partner's body inside and then puts a gun to his own head. Upon which they're met by the vision of their beloved teacher, who gently scolds them and it looks like she's going to do the whole 'tell them it's not their time and send them back to life' bit...except nope, Tatsuya's really dead and Ikuo really shot himself and their spirits are now reverting to childhood to live happily(??!?) ever after with the ghost of their teacher in the abandoned orphanage, while the main villain goes off to jail, and Ikuo's girlfriend listens to their phantom whispers as she muses on justice, and everyone else they knew who's still alive sadly sits around and eats their favorite food in memorium, and Gnine and I loudly shriek WTFFFFFFFFFFF?!?!

(The suicide was the most shocking part to me - suicide comes up all the time in Japanese stories, but in kids' manga it's always treated as a negative, regretful act - suicide is a big enough social problem in Japan that I believe there's laws about its portrayal in family entertainment. To have the protagonist kill himself, and be rewarded by his teacher's acceptance - if that was actually meant to be a reward,and not the start of a ghost story? The image of them reverting back to children was so disturbing, all the more because it wasn't obviously intended as such, the atmosphere was all sweet and warm... There was a running theme throughout the series about the titular ouroboros being a symbol of cycles and rebirth, but it didn't look like they were being reincarnated, but reliving their past...until an onmyouji comes to exorcise them!)

So yeah, that's Ouroboros. I'll just be over here now, pretending the last five minutes of the series didn't happen, wondering how the manga will end (it's apparently in its final volume but not done yet) and contemplating the Sentinel AU (which is barely an AU as Ikuo actually appears to be a sentinel, he has super-hearing, sight, and smell...)
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