Sunday, October 05, 2008

Gonzo: Densetsu no Keiji eps 8-10

When talking about mystery type jdoramas, the cream of the crop is probably One Million Stars, Sleeping Forest and Midnight Rain. One Million Stars gets the nod from me because of Sanma's old detective character. Usually for mystery shows, the script is about throwing red herrings and trying to have an exciting revelation per episode while the audience on their toes. Once you get to the end, there's not much point rewatching cause you already know the truth.

Gonzo is different. Its more than just a mystery cop dorama. It is a character driven dorama about a cop with mental scars so deep that he can never go back. It is about a career cop who can never run from his mentor's shadows. Its about an old cop on his last legs and a young one seeking redemption. Gonzo is unique in that it feels like the characters are telling the story yet it exists within the framework of a very well written mystery dorama. In many mystery shows, what characters say and do are in the service of deepening the mystery. In order words, characters are merely plot devices.

But not in Gonzo. I care for the characters and when they formed Team Gonzo, I wanted to see them in action and solve a crime before going back to the main one. The idea of a rogue investigation team is so appealing. Plus the fact that you got to know the character very well. Very rarely do I not want a dorama to end and very rarely do characters become so alive and real that the plot doesn't matter to me. Probably the only other show to achieve that this year is Muri na renai.

It is shocking how the average rating for Gonzo is only 10.7. When KDO had an average rating of 17, I was impressed. A real good show without a Johnny getting decent ratings? Maybe Japanese viewers weren't as shallow as I thought. Its like a friend of mine who judges movies not based on content but rather how the actors appealed to her. KDO's ratings brought hope. Alas, Gonzo's poor ratings is a complete travesty of natural justice! How can the steaming pile of excrement known as Code Blue rate higher? Not to mention poor excuse for jdoramas such as Taiyo to Umi, Shibatora and Yasuko to Kenji? Have the Japanese lost their freaking minds?

One of the most well written and acted jdoramas ever with a rating of 10.7? Do writing and acting mean nothing in the face of shoddy Johnny 'acting'? This to me sends a bad sign to the network stations. Save money on scripts and real actors and just get pretty faces to get better ratings. Gonzo's poor ratings should be a national outrage. They should be pimping the dvds and doing reruns. More people need to see this show! We need a goddamn sequel. Gonzo v Sakuma round 2 with interference from a new guy from main office. Rouge team Gonzo solving crimes and shaming official investigators! They just need to keep the scriptwriter and all will be well.

Lets not forget the story of Gonzo. Its so fucking beautiful not because all storylines linkstogether in the end but how the thematic stories come together. It is a given that there would be a monologue(s) at the end with flashbacks of all the episodes. Its like the unwritten rule of jdoramas. I just like how the writer kept the monologue short but linked it back to all the previous episodes. Its like all the episodes served as clues to the mystery and at the same time helps answer the burning question of the series, "kono sekai ni, ai wa aru no?" Its hard to imagine how the writer decided to write a cop show with all elements of the story based on the question.

The reveal of the villain is simple but it works because it makes sense. That's probably the best compliment I can give the writing. The twist doesn't need to be unforseen or to come from left field. The clues have to come together and fit. Like how the big clue of the guy with the limp shaking while holding the shotgun was so easily dismissed cause of Gonzo's metal instability. Or Gonzo rationalising his playing of russian roulette. Even the villain's inevitable tragic past didn't feel lame because it gave birth to the konno sekai question. I love how they didn't milk his betrayal by the one woman who shouldn't have betrayed him. The polish and effort of the little details that went into the script elevates it above so many pedestrian jdoramas. Truly the best jdorama of the season.


steve caturan said...

thanks for the great review! I couldn't agree more!

Gonzo is a classic.

the DVD box gets released on Dec. 26 - looking forwarding for my personal copy.

Jung said...

I just finished the last episode of Code Blue. Hahaha. I couldn't even finish it. The show started out ok, but the writers just gave up on the plot less than half way through, and decided to fill the series with helicopters and sick people.

As for Gonzo.... I think 10.7% is an expected rating for this drama because of its dark nature and near lack of humor. Also, as the series went on, the script focused way too much on Gonzo and not enough attention was given to other characters. So that narrowed down the show's appeal even further.

For me, I started losing interest around ep 6. And the whole "is there love?" Gonzo's misunderstanding business... I ultimately found it to be contriving. I mean, if there was a good reason to kill himself, that would've been it... the moment he found out about it the misunderstanding. He should've played Russian roulette right then. haha

I also found the identity of the killer, and the mystery behind the chain of events anticlimatic, because it utterly failed to balance out the weight and seriousness of Gonzo's torment. (And the torment viewers went through)

I kept thinking, "Where's the big payoff?" "Where the fuck is the Kaiser Sose moment?!?"

In the end, the show tried too hard. Too much Gonzo. Part of me wishes the show kept the storyline less cluttered and end the show with a ZOMG Kaiser Sose ending.

Haha I guess I'm representative of the dumb mainstream taste. LOL

Kazuya_ said...

Nice write up!

Gonzo was the easily the best drama of the season IMO.

Judging by the number of downloads for the sub files, only a relative handful of people gave this wonderful show a chance. That's a shame.

Oh well, as long as people like you enjoyed it, it was well worth the many hours of work to produce them.

sparqi said...

I definitely enjoyed started strong but weakened considerably by the end. Nevertheless it was head and shoulders above all the rest this season bar Maou, which was head and shoulders above Gonzo.

The Maou vs Gonzo debate needs to be had. :)

Im currently checking the Korean version of Maou, which seems so far to be not as impactful as the remake.

Jung said...

^ Maou was more entertaining to watch... though I can see many people, especially older folks, getting turned off by how far they stretched the reality. It's a bit of kiddy show to put it bluntly. lol oops did I say that out loud?

Korean version had older (and taller) actors for main characters who carried more screen presence, which helped to offset the bizarre plotline.

Anonymous said...

gonzo aside...
how can u complain about the audience?
they don't watch shows to write reviews...heck they could care less about the acting, as long as there's something in the show that pleases them.
hint- what made morning musume so damn lovable?

sparqi said...

"It's a bit of kiddy show to put it bluntly"

What! how dare you!!! heheheheheh

I get the nuclear get the peashooter...grrrrr!

Im a little further into the korean original...and its looking really promising...the Korean shiori chan also leaves a gaping bleeding chasm in my aw awoooooh! How can a man not be torn about doing righteous evil when angels make impassioned pleas and promise such delights...the very structure of reality aches tragedy and bliss...

Maou tends to the poetic requiring blazing feminine radiance...gonzo tends to grittiness requiring some craziness.

Akiramike said...

Jung: Why did you find the 'is there love' contrived? Gonzo continued with the russian roulette cause he still blames himself for her death. He was torn between his job and his love for her and forever regrets choosing his job.

The Kaiser Sorze moment is the revelation of the meaning behind 'is there love'. Granted it is not as cool as the reveals in Usual Suspect and Sixth Sense, but what is? I would say Gonzo is very similar to Unbreakable. Its not about how good the twist is but how well it fits with the rest of the show and the characters.

I think you have the same expectations as those who watched Unbreakable expecting to see Sixth Sense and instead got a show more about the plot served to explore the characters rather than the other way around.

Very tempted to watch the Korean Maou except they'll spend a lot of episodes on the love triangle with lots of crying and emo stuff.

And Morning Musume was about your girls next door becoming idols. It was such a guilty pleasure of mine. :)

Jung said...

Spari, haha I like both Shioris. My local library does seem to attract cute girls once in awhile... though I'm probably too old for them now. Hahaha *sigh*

Mike, Korean version doesn't have much love triango or emo stuff. But it does have hotter blind sister and 10x better actor for the dead friend who works at a publishing company. God, the Japanese actor was horrid.

As for Gonzo, I thought it was contrived because the entire show pretty much was written around that one misunderstanding, which would've beeen fine if it were a plausible one. And I'm not saying that it's not possible for guilt-ridden and distraught Gonzo to interprete it in the way he did. But I don't find it plausible that she would say something like that in the manner she did to give him clue about the killer's identity.

Also, I know the audience was gradually misled to believe that the killer was Gonzo's subordinate, so they would be caught off guard about the identity of the real killer. But somehow they managed to kill the element of suspense.

Anonymous said...

On Maou vs. Gonzo: Maou starts out weak and becomes stronger and stronger, Gonzo starts out strong and becomes weaker. Both shows are still good and the best in a while.

sparqi said...

The blemishes on the nippon Maou was the keiji johnny (it just wasnt plausible that his fellow detectives would have any respect for him let alone excessive respect) and maou's idiot neurotic hench man. Its looking like the korean version didnt suffer from is more detail and context. yeeeeeha!

Jung (my soon to be nuked enemy) describes Maous plot as 'bizarre' to some degree. This is like describing reality as bizarre because it doesnt include my hallucinations! (kidney jab! heheheh) Although to be less unfair, I suspect the hallucination is derived from the Japanese version's maybe inconsistent use of the supernatural element (or deliberate downplaying in service of yet another dilemma, aswell as the moral ones)...I hope the korean version corrects for this too. The sense is, is that Maou is either a brilliant strategist man, or a man with devil derived supernatural ability and foresight to manipulate events. For the plot to hold one must interpret it in the latter rather than the former (i.e. no-one is even near that brilliant without supernatural aid). The Japanese version overall somewhat suggests a lean to the former (i.e. faust references and monte cristo style plot, are just literary references rather than integral to the story), and the heavenly shiori-chan's psychometry is left as a somewhat out of place supernatural ability, perhaps diluting that she was an opposing intervening supernatural presence to save Maou's soul. On the other hand I liked that superficially it leaned to the former and only if the viewer thought about it and realised that the supernatural is all pervading does the plot make sense. Most of the other characters were unaware of a supernatural element going on, Shiori chans psychometry was meant to be a secret...

Maou's genre is that of a fantasy/mythic/morality tale playing out in a 'realish' world. I'd score its story 8 out of 10 within its genre. Im ignoring the acting!

Gonzo's genre is more psychological thriller detective story. His dead girl friend image was a projection from his own unconscious. It is a tale of him coming to terms with what he has denied and escaped from as played out in a non-supernatural world. This genre disallows plot twists to service too obviously audience emotion or to work out Gonzo's psychological kinks. I give Gonzo 6 out of 10 on this aspect whereas the majority of jdorama get 1 or 2 out of 10. The acting was much more consistently better in Gonzo (9!) than in nipponMaou (5!). If only Gonzo and Sakuma played the leads in Maou! that would have been awesome!!

Akiramike said...

Nice write up sparqi. Interesting notes on the Korean version. Maou having some powers would make more sense and make him more responsible for the deaths.

Yeah, Gonzo is definitely a story about people working out their psychological kinks. Almost everyone on the show are psychologically damaged in some way. That's why I love it even more.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see a second season of Gonzo. Not sure what they'd do, but I'd be on board.

To me, the phrase associaton is plausible, as his girlfriend was very unloved in life and could have been reflecting on those words in her final moments. Remember her parents did kill themselves, and Gonzo promised to come back and visit her - but never did.

I'm quite satisfied with the ending. Maybe it wasn't the "bang" people were looking for, but it suited well. Gonzo won't be happy in the blink of an eye. I do hope he picks up a case again, but who knows. Thanks to the subtitle team for their hard work... and thanks for the great reviews, I'm glad some others enjoy quality shows...

Anonymous said...

Maou vs Gonzo?

Maou will always be a remake while Gonzo is an original. Both has their weaknesses.

Gonzo acting and characters saves the show. It'll be like the vomit inducing Kurosagi if the cast are different and mainstream. Personally for me, the story was weak but the acting and characters was superb.

Maou suffers from the time constrain. It loses the "details and context" in its way to make it into the 11th episode. The unofficial dorama critiques netizens like to downplay the acting quality in Maou simply because of the leads are Johnny's but they can't deny Ohno Satoshi (and Ikuta Toma eventhough the character sucks) done a great job.

I say Maou wins against Gonzo in this battle.

Anonymous said...

Ryuusei no Kizuna, guys! I'm looking forward to it, how about you?

ryoko11 said...

I enjoyed both Gonzo and Maou immensely this summer. They both had their weaknesses, but are among the best jdramas of the year for me. They're up there with Ashita no Kita Yoshio for my favorites of 2008.

I suppose it's the standard character driven drama vs. plot driven drama comparison. Gonzo's strength is Maou's weakness and vice versa. I just can't pick a favorite between the two. It's a draw for me.

On the supernatural vs. genius front, I rather viewed it as a combination of Tomo having excellent observational skills and psychological understanding of his targets while his targets had karma working against them and eventually destroyed themselves. Especially, as Tomo's plan does fall apart in the end the nearly supernatural luck of his early vengence is pretty well negated. Maybe karma has caught up to him, as well.

Ryuusei no Kizuna has started out well for me too, anonymous. Now if only they'd announce another season of Tadano Hitoshi for this January, I'd be a totally happy woman. Takahashi Katsunori and Nagai Masaru... mmmmmm... yummy!

Anonymous said...

I have only recently discovered the genius of Ryota Kosowa, so I am coming to this discussion ten years late. But I really have to challenge Jung’s assertion above about Gonzo's ‘near lack of humour’. What I revere most about Gonzo is that, on top of being as well written as any of the best WOWOW scripts (and it’s an original story too, not based on a novel as many good WOWOW shows tend to be), it is also very funny. I love a good WOWOW drama as much as anyone else, but you’ve got to admit that most of them aren’t exactly a barrel of laughs. In fact I’d go as far as to say that they can be a bit po-faced. But Gonzo has many comic scenes that are so seamlessly integrated into the story and characters that one tends to forget how funny they are. Gonzo, as played by that giant ham Uchino, is of course the primary source of humour, but there are so many other great moments. Like the two Division 13 cops diving back into their toilet cubicles after realising that their comments about their boss have been overheard by Sakuma at the urinals. Or Hibino getting slammed against a cabinet by the playful female cops. Or that amazing brawl during the raid in episode 5, the acronym battle between Gonzo and 'Nicholas', or Gonzo and Okabayashi’s Combattler V theme song duet (complete with V signs at the end). I could go on.

Akiramike said...

@Anon : I have to agree that WOWOW shows aren't exactly known for being funny and that Gonzo balances great humour along with dark elements.