Review: Koshonin Season 1

What I love about crime J-Dramas is that while there are certainly some tried and true formulas, a la buddy cop comedies, many of the grittier crime dramas are able to become so much more. Koshonin is one of those shows that does much more.

The story centers around Usagi Reiko, a female officer trained in negotiation tactics who has just been transferred to Japanese Special Investigation Team, the equivalent of SWAT. Katsuragi immediately is met with hardened bureaucracy, female prejudices, and sexual harassment that might make any other woman want to flee the “boys club”. Katsuragi however will not run. Instead, due to her own professional dedication and a personal history hinted at early on, Usagi rises to the challenge, knowing that she’s not just fighting the criminals, she’s fighting the whole system.

Usually when I find new J-dramas it is simply because I’m going through a particular actor’s repertoire. Koshonin though sold me solely on the premise. Partly because J-dramas rarely cover the SWAT angle, and because Koshonin has a strong female lead in the mix, I knew this J-drama would be full of spunk. Even more then just the SWAT factor though, we’re talking lots of stand-offs, and that leads to some very tense TV!

Once I watched the show I found everything I was hoping for. There was plenty of great action as expected and, headed up by the striking Yonekura Ryoko who plays Usagi, great acting as well! Jinnai Takanori excels at playing the stern commander Kirisawa Keigo, while other actors such as Suzuki Kosuke, Kakei Toshio, and Sasano Takashi help round out the SIT. Even though many of the characters you love to hate, they are all portrayed by actors truly putting forth their best efforts. Many of the actors in this show I’ve since followed on other dramas, due largely in part to their performances on Koshonin.

One part of the show that caught my eye was the setting of the various scenes. Having never visited Japan, I’m not really picky about seeing the same Tokyo facets over and over in J-dramas; however, Koshonin seemed to go above and beyond the call to shoot at interesting locations. Now this doesn’t mean that they necessarily went all over Japan in the show, since after all SIT in the show is based in Tokyo. However, even keeping in Tokyo, being a show about SIT allows the director to film in conceivably any location where a crisis might occur, which can be many. My favorite scene is near the end of the show where the SIT has to setup in order to negotiate with a criminal inside a remote house in the snow. The scenes are beautiful even as the tension is ever present. Ultimately I understand not all crime shows can, or will, venture into a plethora of settings; however, Koshonin does, adding one more delight to an already enjoyable show.

To conclude, I will definitely say again that when I imagined Koshonin to be a thrill, both in the field and in the SIT unit itself, I was right. The male characters represent a very grim, but very real portrayal of the demise of the male dominated old guard. In contrast, Usagi, who is tough on the inside and not over-the-top attractive on the outside, represents change. Both sides excellently played by the shows cast. Additionally, as with many crime J-Dramas the action spoke for itself. Coupling together both the traditional good guy vs bad guy stories, and Usagi’s own challenges in SIT, Koshonin rises above standard criminal J-Drama fare wonderfully.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

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