Mangan – The Mystery Suspense Series I’ve been Craving

Consider this part two of three of me talking about Summer Drama Specials. (Part 1 is here.)

Mangan is the drama-special/mini-series based off the novel ‘Mangan’ by  Yonezawa Honbu. The story takes place in three self-contained but related via the book, episodes. The first ‘Mandou’ being the story of a salaryman abroad, striving to do what it takes to get his company ahead. Even if the negotiations cross moral boundaries. The second episode ‘Yakai’ recounts a young officer who is killed in the line of duty, something that rarely happens in Japan. As his sempai recalls the details leading up to the incident, he starts to unravel what truly happened. At least but not least is the conclusion ‘Mangan’ with the story of a young lawyer, defending his former land lady in a seemingly senseless act of murder. Of course, not all is what it seems.

What I liked is obviously Jade’s post about the series helped me have the context clues needed to follow the story. One of my major problems with many mystery/thriller series is that I’m easily thrown off as to what’s going on, even in English. Having the background already laid out, helped me focus in on the dialogue Japanese which was my main goal following this story. Obviously since it’s so new there’s no subtitles!

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‘Mandou’ our protagonist~

The other part is that actually ‘Mandou’ features some dialogue in English, which encouraged me to keep going even if my Japanese wasn’t catching up. Between context, English dialogue and my own focus I was able to watch it all the way through and more or less understand the conclusion of the first story. Same with ‘Kakei’ and ‘Mangan’, although I ended up just watching ‘Mangan’ without sound the first time as I was on the phone with my mom. I tracked it down online afterwards to listen to the audio and mostly got the gist of it.

There’s a lot of great stuff about this series that I seriously hope it gets picked up for subs for others. The first is the mood was great. There was something subtlety off-putting about each episode that you really couldn’t say what it was until the end. Which added to the suspense and the thrilling aspects of the series.

Music was minimal which for this type of series was again, another positive. The focus was on dialogue, and the background noise, or lack there of. It’s very startling that the whole episode wasn’t filled with constant chatter or noise, so the truly turning-point-moments stood out.

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Kora Kengo from episode 3. It’s beautiful.

Of course, there were the actors. So many of them in each episode that it was pretty wild. I mostly knew Kora Kengo in ‘Mangan’ so it was nice to see him in a different light, and a familiar face in the crowd. His performance as the ‘closer’ of the series wasn’t as strong as I had hoped, but there’s always room to grow and change.

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Yasuda Ken in ‘Kakei’ aka episode 2.

Who really got me of all characters was Yasuda Ken in ‘Kakei’. You could genuinely feel the logical police side of his character’s brain working in overdrive to explain and realize everything. Especially when talking with his subordinates brother, and then having all the pieces click together at the end. He does a great job of being a hardened and logical character that still has a few traces of empathy for his fellow man at the end of the day.

Cinematographically, Japan has always done these types of shows right. And this is one where they hit the nail on the head. Atmosphere, lighting, styles of shots and accenting certain scenes without beating your head over it was excellent. I found when I wasn’t hype focused on picking up dialogue, that I loved the way it was executed.

Overall, this might end up being a brag piece more or less. It’s a drama special/mini series I was proud that I could follow although not everything, and one of the better pieces of Japanese dramas in the past few months. I’m hoping somewhere there’s a decent rip and someone with better Japanese will get the courage to sub it for others to enjoy.

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