Hi there. How’s your pandemic going? I feel fortunate in that I can say mine is going fine, all things considered — thanks for asking (knock on wood). My best wishes for health and sanity to you, dear reader.
Over the past year or so, I’ve watched a lot of “Nordic noir” and plain-old European noir — Department Q, Fallet, Baptiste, Case, Bordertown, Deadwind, The Break, The Returned, The Valhalla Murders, Modus, La Mante, The Forest, The Frozen Dead, and Black Spot (and believe it or not, I know I’m forgetting something). What can I say? I’m a Europhile, and I love mysteries. However, nothing I’ve watched in recent years has been as unusual as Giri/Haji (Japanese for “Duty/Shame”), a British/Japanese crime thriller now on Netflix. This show is a doozy. Fresh Air critic John Powers wrote a terrific review, including this: “The show is in both English and subtitled Japanese that also cross-pollinates genres — mixing cop show, yakuza thriller, love story, anime, and hokey family melodrama, all spiked with bits of offbeat comedy. ‘Giri/Haji’ is unlike anything else on TV.”
The plot begins when Tokyo police detective Kenzo Mori (Takehiro Hira) is dispatched to London to bring back his brother Yuto (Yosuke Kubozuka), a yakuza gang member who has murdered a rival yakuza boss’s nephew in London. From there, the plot thickeners include a Scottish policewoman, a Cockney crime boss and his flunkies, a half-Japanese male prostitute, Kenzo’s rebellious teenage daughter, Kenzo’s neglected wife and difficult parents, and a gangster’s gorgeous daughter — just for starters. The show’s style zips blissfully along its own eclectic path, incorporating anime, flashbacks and flash-forwards, ghostly visitations, and even a poignant rooftop ballet.
Plot twists abound, and sometimes the turn of events will flatten you, as when a supporting character who wasn’t a great guy, but wasn’t horrible either, is suddenly and violently sent to meet his maker. The storyline is unpredictable, to say the least. Buckle in and enjoy.
And if you need a palate-cleanser afterward, as I did, check out the BBC’s W1A, if you haven’t yet. We’ve been re-watching it. It’s a merry little comedy on Netflix about Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville), newly appointed Head of Values at the BBC. We Americans don’t get all the jokes, as some of them reference celebrities only known to U.K. television audiences, but it’s hilarious nevertheless.