Posted by: cis | September 30, 2008

Drama Recaps: Maou Episode Two

This recapping business really is a lengthy one. Just in case you’d forgotten, or don’t really care all that much, Maou is a (just-ended!) drama starring Arashi’s OHNO Satoshi and free-floating JE idol IKUTA Toma (is he still a Junior now he’s in his twenties?), as a kindly lawyer with a secret evil identity and a young fast-running detective with a delinquent past, respectively. It is competent! It is a police procedural with mystic elements! It is based on a Korean drama! I’m enjoying it, myself.

The Story So Far:
Naruse (angel lawyer~) stabs a photograph of Serizawa (rebel detective);
one Amano Makoto has sent a tarot card to Serizawa, who doesn’t even know what Tarot is because he has absolutely no knowledge of popular culture whatsoever;
the lawyer Kumada is killed having been sent the same tarot card;
Naruse brings along one Hayashi to confess to the crime;
Serizawa has anger control issues and a talent for unwitting irony;
Hideo (Naruse’s little brother) got stabbed and it was schoolboy Serizawa what did it;
Serizawa has recently been reminded of this fact and is just a tad disturbed.

Serizawa is wearing a suit! It took a funeral to get him into one. Dramas have taught me a lot about Japanese funeral ceremonies, like how it’s good to know rich people so they can give your family money when you die, and maybe even officiate the wake part. Kumada’s apparent son (that’s Ninomiya Kazunari, JE-sponsored mild boy’s love fans) is, strangely, nowhere to seen. It’s almost as if they only cameo’d him in the first episode to make sure they started out with good ratings.

Serizawa fingers his tarot card and tells his brother’s secretary (the one with the Yon-sama glasses) that Hayashi wasn’t the real murderer, it was whoever sent the card. Because it’s totally appropriate to keep blurting out case details like this. Naruse’s come along as well, probably for the sake of seeing Serizawa in a suit for once. He demonstrates his amazing skill at platitudes by expressing concern for Serizawa’s health; Serizawa is having very little of it. Amano Makoto’s still pulling the strings: he can’t let the case be over. You sort of suspect Naruse of thinking ‘i’ll decide when the case is over, sonny boy’. Naruse is introduced to the family: Serizawa’s father, of the shoddy dye job, is flattering. “The Angel Lawyer, wasn’t it?”

“Oh”, Naruse says, “in some cases, I can be the devil too.” what wit! gruff chuckles all round. Serizawa looks a little sour; he must be looking sourer now, as his father starts to manoeuvre the conversation toward asking Naruse to replace Kumada. He’s a defending attorney! He fights against Japan’s insanely high conviction rate to get non-guilty pleas where none were thought possible! How is he supposed to have all the know-how to be a consultant lawyer for a firm who so far seem to specialise in luxury hotel architecture? Clearly Bad Dye Job Dad thinks an idealistic barely-thirty lawyer is someone he could manipulate– but wouldn’t it be patently obvious to anyone they did business with? And there’s another fade into the devil face just in case we’d forgotten that Naruse was eeeeeevil.

In the fancy funeral hall, at some temple perhaps, well-stocked with mourners in nice suits, Naruse has a flashback to his brother’s funeral. There are only two people there, because poor people don’t have friends when they die. Oh, and Kumada, who as the Serizawa’s lawyer is there to give them a funeral-expenses donation — or, well, blood money. Naruse’s mum rejects the money: Kumada leaves. Naruse’s mother then… faints from grief? No, no, she DIES OF GRIEF. I’m sorry, I know the strings want me to be sad but it’s just too ridiculous.

Naruse’s fist tightens on his prayer beads.

Serizawa’s in a bar, smoking, still in his shirt and tie. Maybe he doesn’t wear suits because they just suit him ~*too well*~. Also: cigarette in the hand but no inhaling. Because, you know, the problem isn’t ‘idols making smoking look cool by playing characters who smoke’, it’s ‘idols actually being seen with a cigarette in their mouth’. Wifebeater is out of jail! Big Lad from Gokusen, Yon-sama Glasses, and the gang are all out to celebrate. I guess the gang all went to middle school together?

Anyway, Wife-beater’s all happy that the Angel Lawyer came along to get his straggly-haired girlfriend-punching arse a lenient sentence: Serizawa’s a bit annoyed, but mostly because Woman-beater Soda’s not acknowledging that Yon-sama Glasses was the one who got Naruse on the case.

Soda has a picture of the gang from middle-school! It would be nostalgic except it’s given Serizawa a flashback to how they were actually a gang of little bullies, p.s. ilttle Hideo is dead cos of them. And now Naruse has come to join the gang! How nice.

Naruse is envious that the gang have all stayed friends! I’m not. Frankly, Japanese popular media’s obsession with nakama nakama nakama creeps me the fuck out. I would not stay friends with Soda for any longer than I strictly had to. Today, however, he is the exposition fairy: they were pretty delinquent when young, but he’s the only one who still doesn’t have a proper job (being a loan shark is a proper job, which I did not know); Serizawa did something bad when young but got out of it cos he had a rich dad; etc etc etc. This is news to precisely no-one around this table! irony, eh. Loan Shark wants him to shut up but naturally it becomes a bar fight. How have I never seen a bar fight in Japan? It’s entirely clear from dramas that people get drunk and pick fights all the time!

Kasai (Yon-sama secretary) is understandably embarrassed, and apologises to Naruse, but oh he was just leaving anyway. He platitudes to Serizawa a bit about how precious memories are. I suppose it’s like quoting an in-joke only you know. Except vengeful.

Naruse keeps two matching teddybears in the red red darkroom of doom! That’s so cute! But he’s not here to hug his teddies, he’s here to stare menacingly at that photo of Serizawa again.

And… the library. Naruse’s tachiyomi’ing with intent to catch the eye of everyone’s favourite orphaned psychic librarian. Today’s oversize smock thing is pink. She’s carrying a vase of white lilies because that’s exactly what you want in a library. The book Naruse’s been reading is Faust. I suppose it’s like an in-joke only you know. Except everyone knows that one.

He tells Shiori that his mother loved lilies too, picks up a stem and smells it with the most curiously inappropriate face. “They smell like summer~”, says he. Aren’t they sort of overly death-connected? Is that just me?

Head office is cutting back the team on Serizawa’s case because, having a confession and a verdict of innocent due to justified self defence, they don’t care about the Amano part.

Aha, the teddy bear: it is in Nasure’s hands, and he is giving it to an adorable little girl digging unsupervised in a sandpit. No, little child! Don’t take teddybears from strangers! And certainly don’t take teddybears from the darkroom of Naruse’s evil plottings! A young woman comes along to pick up the child and is a little perturbed about this unfamiliar soft-toy-dispensing big brother. Who is back in the darkroom, with the teddy bear’s twin, leather-gloved and picking up this week’s tarot card.

OPENING CREDITS! The Arashi song is kind of… heavy? The way the piano and the vocal melody follow the same tune, the speed, the way the beat keeps falling. It’s way too busy.

University Graduate would like Serizawa to do some of that unglamorous office work where you look in databases for information on the person you’re investigating. Serizawa wants something to run after. He’s in luck! Here comes a box. The camera goes mad wobbly to suggest everyone’s wild panic. It’s from Amano: Serizawa doesn’t bother putting on gloves, just opens it right away with no care for fingerprints. Okay okay we know that Naruse was wearing gloves but stll|! this is elementary stuff, dudes.

This week’s Tarot card: the Moon. Anything else in the envelope? A piece of paper, which says:


“what does that mean?” someone asks. I have no idea. Nor does Serizawa but he needs to run somewhere, so he goes and shakes Hayashi about like that’s going to have any result. The Chief takes him up onto the roof to cool off and is shocked – shocked! – to hear of Serizawa’s suspicion that the tarot card is like an announcement that another murder’s going to happen to someone in Serizawa’s circle. But why Serizawa? He doesn’t know~

The Chief applies something akin to logic: don’t panic, he says, if you panic then the terrorists have won you’re playing into his hands. Who’s likely to be next? Someone who’s likely to have people resenting him. But let’s face it, all of Serizawa’s friends and family that we’ve seen so far are kind of hateful, it could be any of them. Serizawa looks inside his heart: who is the worst? It’s his dad!

Guess who’s off running. Go on, guess.

Naruse is grave-visiting, with white lillies. Because white lillies are for dead people. The dead person in question is his mother: a moment, please, for sentiment. Her stone is little and low amid the extravagant memorials of richer folk.

On his dead sprint through his dad’s building, Serizawa bashes into a… cleaner? It’s the mother of the little girl from before.

Bad Dye Job thinks Serizawa’s joking. Loads of people hate him, he’s a ruthless capitalist, it’s in the job description. Oh, and he’s in the Diet. Even more people must hate him. Seriously, that heady combination of ‘luxury construction industry’ and ‘government member’? Mmm, delicious barrels of pork. Anyway– if he’s going to die, he’ll die. Run away and play, little boy. Serizawa asks big brother and Kasai to keep an eye out, look out for suspicious parcels, people,phone calls– and there goes Kasai’s phone. Timing! “It’s a friend,” he says.

It’s his boss’ wife, more like. The husband’s going on a work trip~ she’ll be waiting in Kasai’s room~ cut to a silver-framed photo of Big Brother and Wife on the desk.

Psychic Librarian is going about her duties in white gloves, oversized white shirt, and… jeans? tsk. The lilies make her think of her dreamy lawyer friend, so she goes over and touches them and– snap crackle pop here’s a psychic memory trace. More lilies, Naruse’s dead mother. I bet she feels bad for peeking now. And, speak of the devil — well, psychically snoop on the memories of the devil — here comes the man himself. He’s all “what’s wrong” and she’s all big-eyed “uh um nuthin’ just busying along tum ti tum how about them yomiuri giants”.

So he walks her home! And she starts talking about lilies, I imagine in that way where you’re trying so hard not to talk about something that all conversations seem inexorably to lead to that point. She leads into something about rubbish summer holidays, in order to emphasise that she is an orphan and has dead parents and therefore if he would like to talk about dead parents she will totally understand; and then when she looks at him she won’t keep thinking ‘i know his mum died but he doesn’t know i know this is soooo awkward’.

He obliges. He faces his sad memories without looking away. No shit: he looks straight at them like he’s trying to stare down the sun.

Shiori thinks that maybe when she thought she’d met him before it was just that she’d recognised a ~*kindred spirit*~. Oh, that’s so sweet, Shiori-san! But hopefully not true. She musters up the courage to shift her genkiness and her pitch up, and invite him to come to her friend’s cafe, where she sometimes works. Aw! She’s making all the moves here and it’s going to wind up such a bad idea.

Big Brother’s Wife, looking happy in the kitchen,going to answer the door. Is she expecting the Yon-sama Tertium Quid? She is! The close-up makes their kiss look really weird, like they’re just sort of rubbing their faces together, eskimo kisses with lips instead of noses. And the door-bell again, and it’s woman-beating Soda! Who just waltzes right in, because he – in case you missed this delicate and nuanced piece of characterisation – is an asshole. Poor Oshinari Shugo, I don’t think I”ve ever seen him play a likeable character.

blah blah Soda barges in, is going to stay, who is this pretty woman, dude, you’ve got a girlfriend? No no, Kasai says, she’s my cousin. Soda comes over and stands way too close, which, really, when people tell you about how Japanese people are really respectful of personal space– clearly they have never had the thing where Japanese guys stand wayyy too close while they’re talking to you as if it’s attractive. Kasai gets Soda to come out for a drink, so Adulterous Wife can escape: Soda’s fairly sure Kasai and The Wife are sleeping together. There’s an umbrella’d figure watching them: Naruse?

Loan Shark is on the phone. Someone’d better pay up, or he’ll go after them at the hotel– or he’ll go after her daughter. Her daughter? Yeah, it’s the cleaning lady whose little girl got given the teddy bear. Serizawa wanders up and gets Loan Shark to cut off his call. He’s making loan shark calls in front of the police station: that’s really not classy. Also, he’s not well. Serizawa would like Loan Shark to quit his awful job; Loan Shark would like that too.

Cleaning lady – Ms Shinitani – begs her supervisor at the hotel to give her an advance on her salary, but no dice. “If you asked the director–” he says. Then a package arrives for her. Three guesses who it’s from and the first two don’t count.

The Loan Shark, Yosuke by name, wants to quit his job and start up an izakaya! It’s what he’s always wanted! He’ll give Soda a job, too! Everyone can be a productive member of society, it’ll be great. But he needs something from Serizawa. He needs– well, he needs to get money from this cleaner, who works at Serizawa’s dad’s hotel. And here she is, working, picking up a coat, from which a wallet drops. It’s got quite a bit of money in it. Crisis of conscience!!

She picks up the coat, and the wallet– and there’s Bad Dye Job Dad, telling her she shouldn’t be in there. And spotting the wallet. Is he going to jump to the wrong conclusion? What do you think? …yup, she’s fired.

Can Serizawa ask his dad to give the cleaner an advance on her salary, so she can pay off the money? No, no, he can’t. But he’ll borrow some money from big brother to sort it out with. It’s not as if they don’t have it. Soon-to-no-longer-be-a-Loan Shark is overjoyed! He makes to hug Serizawa! It’s awkward!

Naruse’s reading a magazine called “Close-up LEADER”, which surely cannot exist with such an awful name. Even in Japan. Apparently Serizawa Senior is some kind of new leader in the world of politics. No strategy can beat his sincerity? Naruse knows one that can.

Ms Shinitani walks down the hotel corridor, aflame with anger.

The quote above is from Goethe’s Faust! From the… volume called “Hell”? Which… doesn’t exist in any edition I know? Although, to be fair, I have lost my copy of part two (and yet seem to have three copies of elective affinities. three! a household barely needs one. I suspect transmutation). Anyway, a quick glance at my lovely penguin edition suggests that the quote might be what is rendered by Randall Jarrell as:
How all things weave themselves into the whole,
Each living and working in the others!

(and, later, “harmoniously, the all rings through the all”, so there’s your 響き. This would be easier if i had it in German. Or the Japanese in context) Faust says it early on, poring over the sign of the Macrocosm, seized with intellectual delight and perhaps a little hubris. It’s quite a cheery quote, all told.

Detective Takazuka explains that Faust is about someone who sold his soul to the devil, for the benefit of those of us who didn’t have a university education, naming no names, Serizawa. She doesn’t explain that Faust manages to weasel out of his deal in the end (it’s not spoilers when it’s two hundred years old). Serizawa looks worried, anyway. I suppose if you’re looking for people who make pacts with devils, politicians and zaibatsu-type capitalists are high on your list. As are young police detectives with covered-up pasts and shady friends, for that matter.

They’re at the shop the latest parcel was sent from: do they remember Amano Makoto? No. Serizawa’s worried about his dad, and lopes off along the street like a roman-nosed gazelle.

The Psychic Librarian is being a Psychic Waitress, this evening, and here comes a new customer: slow-walkin’ Naruse. Shiori is so pleased he has come that her voice goes up a good octave. They speak so politely to one another! It is so cute I almost cannot bear it, except by thinking about how this is going to end awfully for poor Shiori, whose current oversized peasant blouse has little embroidered flowers on the front bib part. I’m really not making this sound as cute as it is. Shiori’s neatly-dressed friend, the café owner, wants to know alllll about Shiori’s handsome gentleman caller, but is persuaded to just make some coffee. Apparently he finds it delicious. No doubt they’d have more of a conversation, but just as Shiori is about to resume her campaign of relentless super-polite super-cheery chatting-up, Serizawa bops in at his usual high speed. Shiori’s surprised to see Serizawa. Serizawa’s surprised to see Naruse. Naruse’s face is as blank as a polite fiction.

Naruse’s asked why he’s here, and he actually looks quite miffed for a second. He came to drink coffee! Maybe be flirted with by the pretty librarian! For once he wasn’t conspiring to appear everywhere Serizawa goes, and instead Serizawa took it upon himself to appear where Naruse was! That’s so aggravating. Also, Serizawa’s brought the red Amano envelope to Shiori, in plain sight. Even if Naruse were completely innocent of its contents he’d still know, from last episode’s events, that red envelopes pertain to recent police investigations. What I’m basically saying is: poor form, Serizawa. Now Naruse’s going to have to leave and then Shiori will be sad.

“Your father’s wonderful,” says Naruse to Serizawa on the way out, “how well the word “sincerity” suits him.” It’s like he’s continuing a conversation that the two of them have never had. How is Serizawa to know you’ve been reading close-up LEADER? Why would you assume that rebel-son Serizawa’s read it? Is your strategy just to confuse Serizawa into submission?

Serizawa stops grimacing in bafflement at Naruse’s back long enough to show Shiori the new card. Outside, Naruse’s funaeral pace slows to a stop, and he turns to look at the shuttered café windows.

The The Moon card means “waiting”, apparently. Something enigmatic and perplexing may happen, which makes one lose one’s way. Surely that describes the whole announcement-by-tarot system?

I love these long shots of Naruse’s three-quarter profile. It’s like when you write a word so many times that it start to lose its meaning: you stare at Ohno Satoshi until you forget that it’s a face you’re looking at.

Shiori takes a look at the psychic afterimage whateverthewhat doodads associated with this card. A teddy bear! A skyscraper! (GG logo: Serizawa’s dad’s hotel?) A lobby! A sculpture of a headless armless angel! A hand holding a gun! Crikey. She reports all this to Serizawa: that is his dad’s hotel, the Grand Galileo (okay, is thst a ref to the Fuji TV drama?). The target must indeed be his da! He jumps in a police car, informs the chief, notifies his big brother, usw usf.

Big Brother gets off the phone and stares at Ms “recently-fired” Shinitani, who’s walking down the hall towards and then past him. Then he gets on the blower to cancel the party. Dad ain’t happy about it, but Detective Serizawa’s sure that this is necessary. The criminal may have a gun! And Serizawa’s been given permission to carry one, too: funny that he doesn’t think ‘maybe the person holding the gun in Shiori’s psychic memory thingummybob isn’t the criminal.’ Bad Dye Job Dad wants to go home to his own bed: he’s not going to stay where he’s been put. Naoto’s worried about him? Naoto’s just worried about the police being thought a laughingstock when news of the death-foretold murders gets out. Yeah, Detective Serizawa says, you’re exactly right, dad, so do as you’re told and sit down. And, guess what: dad does.

“We keep meeting,” Naruse says, breezing in in slow motion. I can’t think why that would be. Naruse’s here to discuss being Bad Dye Job Dad’s improbably young consultant lawyer, but Serizawa’s not letting anyone in. Serizawa doesn’t look well, says a solicitous Naruse, is he all right? Just a bit tired. Ah, then he should take a rest every now and again, else his tiredness will lead to lapses in judgement. And off he walks, slow motion once more, smug as a bug in a… wait, that’s not right, is it.

The cleaner appears behind Serizawa, then hoves out of sight once more.

And… she’s outside! In the sunshine? I’m so confused, it was night-time a second ago. She’s concerned, debts to pay and all. Her little girl is playing with the teddybear, out of her sight, because when your child’s been approached once by a strange man, and her safety threatened by a loan shark, no mother would be moved to keep a closer eye on her. Slow footsteps approach. Little Sora-chan looks up, smiles. The mother watches a car blare past, turns: and Sora is gone.

Loan Shark’s in an office, cheerful: he goes to answer his phone. Ms Shinitani wants her daughter back! Loan Shark’s confused: he hasn’t got her. But he rings Serizawa to check about that loan question. His izakaya dream depends on it!! Also, he’s got a parcel. A parcel?! Who is it from?!

We don’t need to answer this question.

He’s told not to open it, but already has: inside, a teddy bear. A red envelope. A tarot card.

The police car is held up in traffic, so Serizawa has to run.

Naruse walks, slowly, contentedly, though a playground. And arrives– at the church bazaar. Shiori, today in a green checked pinafore dress and yellow oversized blouse, is delighted to see him, and utterly overjoyed to let him help. He’s such a catch, Shiori-san. No need to worry about his work, he finished everything last night. Everything related to this episode’s murder.

Serizawa runs, desperately, his nose cleaving the air like the prow of some great ship.

Soon-no-longer-to-be-a-Loan Shark looks over his blueprints, proudly. Maybe they’ll need another toilet? Ms Shinitani bursts in and demands her daughter back: not only does he know nothing, but he’ll knock her to the floor to prove it. She catches sight of the teddybear– surely, he’s the unknown man who gave its twin to her daughter! It’s him! And she… has a gun.

She points it at the loan shark (soon no longer to be); he’s surprised. Where is her daughter?

Serizawa and University Graduate leg it up the stairs and into Loan Shark’s office, and are assailed by some kind of smell — but Serizawa doesn’t care, because Yosuke’s down. He can’t die! He has a dream for the future! He’s going to own an izakaya! He’s one of the more likeable of Serizawa’s associates! Uni Graduate calls for an ambulance but those things move so slowly it’ll never get there in time. Yousuke’s not quite dead: gasping for breath. And then he twists to the side, and stops.

Naruse’s in the church, up by the altar, looking at the statue of the Virgin Mary. Shiori comes in behind him, and she appears to have already changed into a new outfit, or maybe just taken the pinafore dress off. Does she know the meaning of llies? Naruse would like to tell her: it’s purity. They’re the symbol of the Virgin Mary. I think you’ll find that’s usually only the traditional white lily, mate. I’m sure Shiori was about to tell him that – seriously, which of them was brought up next to a church? – but she’s interrupted by a child crying outside. It’s Sora-chan, avec teddybear. Shiori has a psychc-image flashback. Naruse hunkers down to talk the child into calmness. It’s like he’s showing how good he is with children, only super creepy. “You’ll be all right,” he says, and turns his head to the side.

His face is terrible.




  1. Shiritani Shibutani Kiritani, they’re all the same really, aren’t they? I actually laughed for a good 10 minutes at the description of Toma’s nose cleaving the air like a prow of a ship – it’s funny because it’s *true*.

    I never managed to get more than a few pages into Faust before – er – losing the book somewhere? OR THE DEVIL TAKE HIM. Perhaps I’ll start again, it’ll be easier if I image the protagnanist as close-up RIIDAH.

    I’ve done my first recap of 1PG, you will be shocked to hear that there are less opportunities for Faust quoting in that particular drama.

  2. oh CHRIST I knew that was going to happen the moment i heard her name. *edits* Where the sweet bejesus did I get ‘shibutani’ from? This is what happens when you feel awkward about just referring to a woman as ‘the cleaning lady’.

    look in your room for copies of elective affinities! that’ll be what’s happened to yr faust. I should have a penguin modern classics one (with a quite unbearable translation) as well and that appears gone forever. Actually you could borrow this jarrell trans if you like,I don’t know how correct it is but it’s lovely readable.

    1PG! i think that probably has better wtf catholicism though.

  3. Ha! By “lost it” I guess I mean “shoved on the shelf and immediately hidden in the double-stacking” – I just went and hunted in the newly clear shelves and I have found my edition – my translation will be FAR BETTER than yours because it is from the DENNIS WHEATLEY LIBRARY OF THE OCCULT.

  4. […] Previous recaps: episode one, episode two […]

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