Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pandora III

How do you do a story involving a proverbial Pandora's Box with a cast of characters which include The Cabinet Secretary of Japan, a neurologist who left Japan, a cop, a stewardess, a reporter, a homeless girl, a former political prisoner and a member of the SDF? You'll have to watch Pandora 3 to find out. Yes I've watched the whole thing. The ending of the first episode is so good that I could not wait for the subs. Jdrama Weblog has done a pretty detailed recap of all the episodes to clear up any things I could not understand which helped a lot.

I'm pretty sure if you're familiar with Wowow doramas, the greatest fear is that it does the usual petering off at the end. The answer is, parts of it does because there are a few story threads running through it. Everything is connected of course but some storylines are better than others. There are slight pacing issues but I can't discuss that without going into spoiler territory but suffice to say, I think its a very watchable but flawed dorama.

I'm very impressed with the directing. The scale of story is huge and they've managed to give things a sense of scale with their limited budget. Wowow have really gone all out on this one. Its certainly a lot better than the first two Pandoras which suffered from the fact that parables don't make good tv. Parables are stories to convey a lesson but they don't contain interesting characters. There's a lot of great things about Pandora but its just frustrating how its almost great. Don't expect too much and you're viewing experience will be fine.


The first two pandoras can be summed up as guy who play God/opens the box vs people who want to use it for their personal gain. In the end nothing really happens and its just a parable in how the road to hell can be paved with good intentions. Pandora attempts to fix this by making the story much bigger than the pandora's box of eliminating suicidal tendencies. In fact, the idea of how it will affect free will is hardly touched upon. Pandora III is about society and the blame game. It is about nationhood and finding meaning in one's life. It is about what people will sacrifice for their goals. Actually there are two pandora boxes in this story. Always beware of politicians justifying their actions by saying it is for the country or religion.

The main problem with Pandora III is that there is nothing much for Suzuki (Eguchi Yusuke) to do after the middle. He administers the chip and there's the part about him and his son. I love the scene where Kazumichi (Uchino Masaaki) straight up tells his son the truth. Its such an awesome illustration to show that Kazumichi is now a different person. After that, Suzuki is just a bystander. Sure he wants to remove the chip but he's not actively planning anything. Suzuki is only necessary for the ending but because he has a deeper connection to Kazumichi they give him more screentime. The whole thing of him getting captured, beat up only for Kazumichi to let him go has absolutely zero tension.

What kept Pandora III interesting is Detective Kanbayashi chasing after the person who killed his ex-wife and the reporter Tachikawa slowly uncovering the truth. To me, they are the main characters of this series along with Kazumichi while Suzuki is just needed to open and end the story. The cop and stewardess story is fun is a source of humour and tension. I liked how the cause of the murder ended up being the punchline of the series. The guest star in the final episode was unnecessary though.

Homeless girl and old man are in it too much thanks in part to the Suzuki kidnap story. They are just side characters representing two different generations who are railing against society. There's not much more to their characters and even if there were, it wouldn't serve the story or its pacing.

Oh yes, there is one other thing I felt was bad. Kazumichi's father's death scene was awesome. The wife dying was unnecessary. The SDF going straight choking her to death was extreme. I mean he killed the wife of the Cabinet Secretary who went hysterical but not the woman who knew he was a murderer? Surely SDF guy could have choked her until she fainted and then use restraints on her. I couldn't believe she was dead from that 10 second forearm to the throat.

If I could redo Pandora III, Suzuki goes back to Boston after meeting his son and comes back for the ending. We replace long debates and Suzuki's kidnapping with Kazumichi doing some nice political moves and him rationalising his thoughts to himself in the mirror ala Gollum. Not as disappointing as the middle episodes of Shokuzai but I am so sick of shows starting strong and stuttering to the finish. I have yet to watch the final 2 episodes of Tsumi to Batsu and hopefully it doesn't suffer the same fate. I probably sound too negative about Pandora III. Its pretty good but I want so much for it to be great.

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