Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Rewatching Lady Joker eps 4-7 with English subs

I take back the one negative thing I had to say about Lady Joker now that incyphe has subbed the whole thing. Watching with English subs has opened my eyes to the story and I am no longer bored with the minimal action at the end. It became even more clear to me that this is a dorama not about Lady Joker but about society and the systems that regulate it and it does it in a non-preachy way.

First there is the company level, represented by the head of Hinode, Shiroyama. As I said previously, I'll take a nice guy character any day as long as he has to make difficult decisions and Shiroyama made them throughout the series. Shiroyama had to weigh his responsibilities to his company, colleagues, shareholders and family.

We can understand the decisions that he made and in the end, the common good trumps the right of the company. It is good to see a boss who would not let his subordinate fall on the sword by himself. It was Shiroyama's sacrifice that allowed the prosecutors to get some of the henchmen of the Okada Association but in the end the none of the bigwigs nor the powers behind Okada Association were prosecuted. Was the cost of his life and legacy worth it for something so futile?

The second system is of course the police. Hesitant to move against one of their own because fear of scandal. They end up applying pressure on the wrong person and the suicide of Lan Evo's superior made the police even more afraid of the truth. Goda, unable to do anything as a policeman can only hound and tail Lan Evo everyday.

Slowly Lan Evo cracked under the pressure. At first relieved that the police won't be coming after him, its even worst when he is overcome with guilt and realises that the police won't even catch him even if he confesses. Lan Evo hated the system so much that he wanted to humiliate the police and in the end he cannot even pay for his crimes the police always protects its face and its own.

The Lady Joker case made both Hinode Beer and the police look bad and only Hinode Beer was willing to come clean. The publicly traded company that has no obligation to law and order takes and extra step while the police cower and don't even offer protection to Shiroyama because he has violated the unwritten rules.

The third party is the mass media and prosecution. Charged with uncovering the truth, reporting against those in power will only result in physical harm and after the sacrifices throughout the series, the puppet masters do not flinch as order is restored to society.

Lady Joker is a bleak story with many players and watching with subs has made me realise their importance in their roles and how they have to soldier on, despite the unwritten rules of society. I'm glad Lady Joker was subbed cause now I think its a jdorama masterpiece. I'd put Lady Joker up there with the flawless classic jdoramas like Hagetaka and KDO. Well, except for the overacting dude police dude who furrows his eyebrows all the time like he's trying to turn into a super saiyan. Pimp this show to every jdorama fan you know cause it should have had a 40% rating.


Jung said...

Very thorough observation Mike. It made me reflect on the series more in depth. This is the only serious drama that made me want to re-watch it over and over. It's also one of those shows where if you're not paying attention, you miss a whole bag load.

A few points

- This show is less confusing if you know the basics of Japanese criminal justice system, and the power dynamics of media, prosecution, cops.

- So much superb nonverbal acting, it's worth a few re-watch.

(Spoiler Alerts)

- It was heartbreaking to find out that Shiroyama's sister was having an affair with VP Kurata, and her husband Sugihara had known about it for a long time. You're suddenly reminded of the scene where Sugihara walks towards the railroad track in total despair. His wife was cheating on him. His daughter resented him. And he felt responsible for death of two human beings, which is now wreaking havoc on the company, in his mind. So he has lost all will to live. Poor guy.

- Kurata breaking down when Shioryama acknowledged the personal sacrifice he made for the past 40 years, was a sad scene. You can imagine decades of lonely battle he must have fought.

- The Nunokawa storyline was heartbreaking. Over several episodes, you can see his situation worsen and when he finally walks away from his daughter, you're shocked, but not really surprised at the same time. And you end up sympathizing with both.

- The similarity in the naming of Handa and Goda was deliberate to draw parallel between them, and to contrast how the two men react under similar circumstances. Both were on the same team at one point. Both got thrown off the team. Both hold grudges to the police system. Yet, they deal with their problems in different manner.

- The irony of Handa's situation is that, it's his own "Kan" that ultimately did him in. The network of his close (but a bit delinquent) friends enabled him to put concoct a plan and put it into motion. Goda on the other hand, had different "Kan". He was married to woman who's brother is a prosecutor. Had the "kan" between Goda and Handa been flipped, perhaps the outcome would've been very different. After all, both are good men.

- You almost feel bad for the overacting cop at one point, because you know his end goal isn't all that much different than that of Goda. But because he is ranked higher, and beholden to more people, and isn't strong-willed enough to rock the boat, he can't do much. And he resents and envies Goda.

- In ep 7, 45:45, the death stare scene was powerful. It was a moment of exoneration for the gray-hair man, who gave a rather ambivalent response in 26:20. At 45:45, you knew that he did his best to try to warn his superior about danger to Shiroyama's life. (with or without Goda's suggestion)

- What a beautiful ending, starting with Goda realizing where the word "Lady" came from. One can imagine what must've went through Goda's mind. Maybe confirmation of his suspicion about the extent of the accomplice's involvement?

Akiramike said...

Jung, your observations are awesome. Didn't think about Handa and Goda as parallel characters. Good point, especially with their kans.

Kind of forgot Goda had is only ally except his ally doesn't give him much of advantage at work and instead invites more scorn.

Anonymous said...

Rootabega sez:
Lady Joker was an incredible viewing experience for me. I have so many things to say about this dorama, but I'm still processing what I've just seen. Your write-up does the program justice, imo. I am very grateful for the english translation, as well, and I'll be leaving a note of appreciation on D-A.
I kept thinking of Stanley Kubrick's "The Killing" and Akira Kurosawa's "The Bad Sleep Well" and "High and Low" while I was watching Lady Joker. And how everyone in movie and TV land these days seems to have lost their cojones long ago, along with the ability to entertain. But that's a rant for another post/day.

Jadefrosts said...

When I watched Lady Joker the first time, I thought WOWOW was way too ambitious to adapt this to screen. It was also a challenge following the dialogue closely. I take back what I said about it not being as thrilling as Marks no Yama. There's so much complexity and emotions it made me want to rewatch it again and again. And the music score too.

It will probably be a long time more before we see another drama like this but maybe with WOWOW we won't have to wait.

Akiramike said...

Yeah, thank the jdorama gods for incyphe subbing this classic, which begs the question what if there are other shows that I didn't fully appreciate because of lack of understanding of the story/dialogue?

bossu said...

Just finished this show recently, got some questions I had nowhere else to ask (SPOILER AHEAD);
what is Okada association and Heisei association? some kind of hang-out group of elites? what's the difference between them? do they have any connection with the group that control stock price?
and honestly the last suicide was lost on me... what did exactly pressure him so much?

Akiramike, I know it's been awhile since you finished this one, but anything helps, thank you~

Akiramike said...

I don't remember a Heisei Association. What did they do?

Okada Keiyuukai is basically a company that specialises in corporate blackmail and probably has ties to the yakuza.

The group that controls the stock price? I remember only one guy from the Lady Joker group profiting from stocks and the Okada Association people forcing him to continue.

Suicide guy's wife was cheating on him for a long time with his colleague. He felt responsible that a personal matter with his daughter's boyfriend affected his company and caused huge loses.