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A must read, if you don't already know ...








Written by Funn Lim




"So there you have it; to my total disbelief, Japan who comes out with original songs, melody and stories is capable of producing a 100% crappy series"





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SPOILERS ... SPOILERS ... SPOILERS


Released in
2009

No. of Episodes
10

Cast-Character
Surname first, first name last

Ikuta Toma as Yoshioka Toru
Kato Ai as Watabe Izumi
Higa Manami as Motomiya Kaori
Suzuki Ryohei as Kurokawa Ryuichi
Kutsuna Shiori as Kashiwagi Haruka
Suenaga Haruka as Okudera Rika
Nakamura Yasuhi as Tatokoro Hideo
Yamaya Hatsuo as Izutsu Hajime
Hirakata Genki as Soma Suguru
Nakamura Kaori as Nedzu Yoshiko
Matsumoto Jun as Utsumi Nobue
Watanabe Kohei as Shindo Ryosuke
Shishido Miwako as Osawa Yoko
Ishida Yuriko as Kashiwagi Kyoko
Takizawa Saori as Mizushima Makiko

Plot
Taken from Dramawiki

Toru is a young part-timer who has no interest in social issues. He gets called in as a juror in the trial of a woman labeled as a "witch", charged with a murder over an enormous inheritance. Though it appears that she is definitely guilty, one by one the jurors begin casting their votes for "not guilty." From the shadows, there is a mysterious organization buying control of the jury. At the same time, strange events start happening around Toru. When another juror is threatened, Toru is determined to save her. However, Toru's girlfriend, a newspaper reporter, seems suspicious of their relationship. And so, Toru begins his lonely fight for the truth.

Trivia
Also taken from Dramawiki

This is the first drama to tackle the issue of Japan's new "saiban-in" (lay judge) system. The series started about a month before the actual jury system went into effect.

The importance of this trivia is because I really have no idea what's the system and how it works. Basically there are 9 judges in a trial, 3 of whom are legally trained and career judges and 6 of whom are so called lay judges, meaning picked from the pool of names that I suppose are the electorates rolls. Additional 2 lay judges are picked who will not participate nor voice opinion in the discussions and eventual verdict and are back ups, in case any of the 6 lay judges may be dismissed, sick, etc that these backups can take over. The verdict is reached by majority, meaning at least 5 as against 4. All 9 judges will discuss and come to a decision. I thought the 6 are jury as they sit by the side of the court and the 3 judges I suppose in the middle, which is a typical court setting. But when come to discussion time, the 3 judges will offer advice but not influence the 6 who will come to an independent decision, votes taken and pooled with the 3 professional judges. So basically you can say the 6 are jury but since the 3 judges' votes also taken into account rather than just presiding over the matter, in effect there are 9 judges, the majority vote wins. This is the new system in Japan and I can say this; damn confusing and in the end what trial normally takes years to complete in Japan will be stretched even more. The system has flaws; who are we to say the professional judges won't influence the lay judges? And in this series one of the lay saiban (as in lay judge) is a law student. Wouldn't that defeat the very purpose of a lay judge? Not to be legally trained? And since majority wins, I suspect in normal trial the professional judges will be very forceful and if you have 2 divided judge, there goes the votes! This series isn't about these flaws but it does in its way highlight some flaws that exists in normal jury system.

Comments
I admit the reason I came to know of this series is because of Keshin, the themesong by Fukuyama Masaharu. With the excellent song attached to the series, I downloaded the series, all 10 episodes of it from Tomalicious Fansubs, the subtitles excellent beyond belief. The problem is the series sucks big time. I find myself having to labour past 3 episodes, in fact I was tempted to abandon the series from the 1st episode onwards. I didn't watch the remainder of about 7 episodes until some time later, bit by bit but it was a very laboured sort of watching. I don't need to explain why except I present to you the ratings figure taken from Dramawiki:-

Viewership rating: 7.3 (Kanto)

That is pretty low as compared to Galileo that has an average rating of 21. Again I also admit I thought this series would be good firstly, due to the themesong, secondly because of the intriguing and one of the best TV series' poster I have ever seen and most importantly, I was swayed by my deep and favourable impression left by Galileo, that I thought all recent Japanese series would be as stylish, as clever and as entertaing. Again I admit I was dead wrong.

The story is simple. Young Toru is an unemployed designer. He designs T-Shirts. He has a reporter girlfriend. One day his name was picked as one of the lay saiban and he really wanted the job, because steady income for a period of time. Moreover it is a pretty free and relaxed job and the case in point involves a high profile murder case of a very old and very rich man, supposedly murdered by his younger, beautiful wife whom everybody labelled as a witch due to her unfortunate ability to attract tragedy in her life. All believes she is guilty, except for the woman's teenaged daughter (not born from that marriage but an earlier marriage where the husband also dies mysteriously) and eventually Toru's girlfriend. Toru was picked and he befriended 7 other lay judges (2 of whom are backups). We see very little of the professional judges by the way. From day one strange things was happening. All lay judges believes the witch to be guilty. All lay judges came from diverse background; a teacher, a law student, a housewife, an auntie, a GRO, an old man and a mousy Office Lady (OL) and of course Toru, the designer. And slowly each of them seems to change their verdict from guilty to not guilty as Toru himself was given an offer he couldn't refuse. Toru began to realise someone is influencing the votes and he formed an unlikely alliance with the young housewife, Izumi who has a young daughter and a husband away for work. Their closeness caused a deep and serious jealousy in Toru's girlfriend, Kaori who didn't believe Toru who believed the witch as seriously guilty. In the end even Izumi betrays Toru and Torus is forced to fight against the unseen forces, spies and his conscience to find the truth of the matter; did the witch killed the old husband?

10 episodes sounds reasonable for such a mystery. Problem is 10 episodes is way too long for this longwinded and awfully directed and badly paced series.

For one, episode 1 was a headache to watch. Sometimes style is good, as seen in Galileo, with the right balance of music, humour, wit and creative camera angles. The problem with this series is it is too concerned with being stylish that it just forgot there is only so much style when viewers expect a bit of substance as well. From the start, the music is way way way too loud. Every action is accompanied by a ching or ping or gong sounds, every surprised moment with some bright colours or freeze frames or spinning camera or some flashing lights. It goes on every few minutes or so that after 15 minutes of that continues sound, light, spinning camera and freeze frames that the series just gets on with telling the story. But it goes on and on episode after episode. The relief would come for just a few short minutes and then again the whole effects fly right to your face and my patience was running thin. All I wanted was to watch to the story, know the lot, immerse myself in the characters but what I got is a loud and flashy show that overwhelms the story to the point the story become secondary to all those loud and flashy effects. For all 10 episodes, lesser as it went along.

And whilst the story is intriguing, since I expected a real witch so to speak with some paranormal stuff thrown in, the witch in the title actually refers to the extreme evil in someone and their ability to fool the world. Yes, I just gave away the ending but well, I save you the dreaded epilepsy and what nots so I am sure you will be happy that I have away the ending this soon. The witch in question is a metaphor, not for real and I was severely disappointed. How the juries were influenced were rather interesting, sinister but eventually so badly executed, it was like extremely over the top. Take for example the gay teacher; pictures of him kissing a man plastered all over a brightly lit but in a deserted long tunner, like hundreds and hundreds of those pictures. Isn't that too dramatic? Then the kidnapping of Izumi's daughter, and more of such. All very dramatic, very flashy and lacking in subtlety. Usually that's not Japanese dorama style. I know they do go over the top, over emotional and all but in continous fashion hours after hours is indeed a strange new concept and I hated it. The way the discussion after the trial like "Oh guilty" or "Oh not guilty" as easily as that was amateur writing of a complex procedure. Interesting the 3 professional judges played very little role in the discussion. I expect them to influence the saibans! Of course the unseen forces need not bribe the professional judges since they need only 5 saibans to say Not Guilty. Sometime midway suddenly they all freaked Toru out by saying Guilty! I mean what is this? Child's plaything?

We get to see the witch herself, always looking morose, not smiling, dead serious, eyes downcast even at the end. Boring. She has no personality and you will be forgiven to wonder what's the fuss about when the story isn't even interested to show us her humanity or her evil or have us question whether she did it or didn't because all these drowned out by that stupid flashy loud effects. The murder scene, first speculated then the actual one really had no difference and always slow mo and always very dark. After like the 3rd repeat, I didn't quite care to watch what was shown since it was the same.

The characters neither garner our sympathy or our hatred. Well maybe hatred not towards the characters but the inadequate writing and performances. Of all the performances, only the actor Ikuta Toma who plays Toru resembles what I call a commendable acting. He looks fantastic, great hair but I sat with total disbelief that as a saiban the dress code is casual? Is Japan that relaxed in dress code coming from a society that bows as an apology instead of saying just the word sorry? But his acting was this series' saving grace. I like the character Toru who seems lazy and not even ambitious at first. I would expect him to be the first to fall even if everybody has one dirty little secret in their skeleton closet for the unseen forces to play around. But instead, he rose to the occasion and vowed to beat that unseen forces so it was him against everybody else. But for 10 episodes you see how he struggle, how he was influenced and not influenced, trying to convince everybody in the interest of justice to ignore their fears and greed... gets very tiring. I just skipped episodes and scenes.

The rest are just pretty standard stiff breathy performances. Maybe I was so influenced and impressed with Shibasaki Kou in Galileo that I expected all Japanese actresses to be like her; no breathy whisper. Funny thing I read that Kou was accused of being stiff! Seriously? In this series, the girlfriend speaks with a breathy whisper which I find suffocating and annoying. Always wide eyed and never anything else. Crazy maybe but not convincingly insane. The housewife, Izumi was worse. Breathy whisper, always a pause between sentences, hair by her side and her head always slidely bowed and always so sulky looking, I look at her and I feel constipated. I couldn't stand these 2 and after 3 episodes I have had enough of this style acting. I watched Gokusen and guess what? Shibasaki Kou and those performances in Galileo is really an exception to the general rule. Luckily I don't see the dreaded apron... well actually I did see but all those flashy interchanging scenes really distracted me, for once a good thing.

But none more worse than the unseen forces himself, from episode 1 we see a silver tipped hair guy with dark glasses in a dark basement or container or some dark room. How dramatic, how unnecessary. Wearing loud rocker pants that even rockers would throw away. He is the unseen forces, assisted by a leather clad female assistant as he slowly threatens each saibans to change their votes. We don't know who he is, except he is a professional guy when it comes to fixing jury and such. Problem is the actor is such an over the top overacting type of actor. And plus all those sound effects to every little thing he does (like fixing a label on a jury's picture, even that got flashy effects) and him smiling quite unconvincingly in his own "Look at me I am sinister!" way (that Roger Kwok got it down perfect in The Last One Standing), simply irritated me. He was beyond awful. And that revelation of who he is at the end was insignificant to me because it was said and done in seconds, again all those flashy sound effects.

The story itself is repetetive. It tries to be clever; it tries to be suspenseful, it tries to be dramatic, it tries to be mysterious but in the end it fell with a huge loud thud. It was not suspenseful because by 5th episode I kinda guess the ending, it wasn't dramatic because it was overly too dramatic that it just isn't dramatic anymore, it isn't even mysterious because we know how the old man died from the beginning. And if it is a critique about the new saiban system, clearly it fails terribly to highlight the obvious potential problem. This series just doesn't really know where to focus on and so focussed on too many thing at the same time that it confuses, confounds and deeply offends me as a viewer; because the story in the first 5 minutes was intriguing but after that it was seriously annoyingly boring.

Which teaches me a lesson; just because Galileo was great doesn't make all Japanese series in recent times great. Strangely it will garner fans intrigued by the storyline and the whole swoosh and woosh effects and sounds. I for one am only ever remotely interested in each episode simply for the ending theme that is Keshin, a song that this series does not deserve.

Verdict
Watch this to know why I feel Shibasaki Kou is probably the most refreshing Japanese actress I have ever seen. I also have had enough with those suspenseful "I am opening the box, opening, opening, going to open, will open, should I open, pull the string, wait don't pull, pull, not pull ..." moments that just had me going "JUST OPEN THAT BLOODY DAMN BOX!!!!!". To be fair, Suspect X and Galileo have their fair share of such moments too. But I just lost my patience with Majo Saiban's version because it was done in slow mo. That is it. I will refuse to watch crap anymore. Do not be fooled by its style; it has too much style that it drowns the story and the story is too predictable and repetetive and long winded that it makes the characters one dimensional and most one dimensional characters probably could have been better if they were better acted but this series, as in the major characters are acted by those actors who either laugh too much or speaks in breathy tones but again an actor is always influenced by the vision and direction of the director and the writer and the problem with this series is, the story at its very core is simply badly written and in the end badly director. So there you have it; to my total disbelief, Japan who comes out with original songs, melody and stories is capable of producing a 100% crappy series.

4 words to save you 10 hours of watching this;

AVOID AT ALL COST

Interesting Links
Watch the series
If you're however having too much time and really want to waste 10 hours of them, at least find a worthy subtitled version to waste your precious time. Get the Tomalicious Fansubs at D-Addicts. Look for the ones prefixed with [TFS]. Excellent English subtitles even if the font is a bit too long, too fast and too small.

Themesong
Keshin by Fukuyama Masaharu. Click here to listen and view the translated lyrics

The Ending Revealed
I am not even gonna hide this since my theory was either her or the daughter and in the end I thought the witch herself having been the killer all along would be appropriate and indeed, yeah she did it. Poor Toru was played around. The ending was hims realising he was tricked. My interest was what comes after. None because the end. She would inherit the dead man's billions. I think the daughter knows because she played along as well. The mysterious unseen forces guy is actually Izumi's husband. She found out in the end when she saw a mystery letter and in it her husband's picture.








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