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[personal profile] mountain_laurel
OK, you asked for it. I'm rusty, so this probably won't be as entertaining as one might hope.

So. I watch a lot of dorama, which is what the Japanese call TV dramas. It's not actually exclusively Japanese -- I also watch Korean and Taiwanese dramas. (I'd watch others but it's nearly impossible to find them with English subtitles.) Asian dramas don't usually run from season to season like ours do. They last for a certain number of episodes, and the storyline is wrapped up at the end. If the show is especially popular there may be a second or even third season, but they don't leave you with evil cliffhangers like American TV, which is one of the thing I appreciate about them. Japanese dramas are the shortest, usually lasting from 10-12 episodes, whereas Korean and Taiwanese ones often go as many as 17 episodes.

Most recently I watched a j-drama called Galileo, which is about an eccentric genius physicist who helps the police investigate mysterious crimes. Think Numbers meets X-Files. The crimes he helps investigate always involve what appears to be a supernatural phenomenon; that's the only aspect he cares about, but somehow he always ends up solving the case in the process anyway.

They jump the shark three minutes into the first episode. We open on a man trying to read aloud into a tape recorder; he's interrupted by a gang of teenagers outside who roar up on their motorcycles and start setting off fireworks and shouting. He goes to the window and looks out at them with a cellphone in his hand. We see him dial something, presumably the police. Then, one of the teenagers' heads suddenly bursts into flames and he falls over dead.

Next we meet our cop, Utsumi Kaoru, a junior detective. One of the senior detectives, known as "the mystery hunter", is leaving for another police station. Before he goes, he tells her he solved those mysterious cases with the help of Yukawa Manabu, a physics professor at a nearby university, and that she should contact him if she runs into anything strange. The professor is nicknamed Tantei Galileo, which is particularly amusing because no one on the show can actually pronounce it.

Naturally, Utsumi and her partner catch the flaming head case, so she goes to see the professor. He's fascinated by the possibility that this is a case of spontaneous human combustion, so goes to the crime scene with her to look around. There are a lot of small burn marks all over the place, which look like places the teenagers put out their cigarettes.

While they're there, they run into a little girl who's looking up into the sky. Yukawa asks Utsumi to find out what she's looking for. (He refuses to speak to the girl himself because he hates children.) Utsumi happens to have run into the girl the night before when she first went to the crime scene, and tells him she's looking for a red thread floating in the sky.

In Japanese mythology, a "red thread" is said to connect two people who are linked by fate, so obviously this is what we're meant to be thinking of, but it catches Yukawa's interest. He asks her to find out what kind of red thread the girl saw. The girl says "a straight one." She says she also saw it a couple of weeks before during a neighborhood festival.

At this point you should all be able to figure out the solution, but I'll continue nonetheless.

Immediately, Yukawa picks up a rock and starts scribbling meaningless equations on the pavement, accompanied by awesome Hawaii Five-O type surf music. Then he starts running around looking at the burned spots on nearby objects, and a hole burned through a road sign. Nearby, he finds a metal shop, which he drags Utsumi into so they can ask questions.

Utsumi realizes that Yukawa has figured it out, but he refuses to tell her until he has proved his hypothesis. She goes to the beautiful female medical examiner for help (yes, she's actually introduced as "the beautiful medical examiner"). The ME tells her that tears always work on men, so she goes back and tells Yukawa a made-up story about how her family was killed in front of her when she was a child and she swore to become a detective. Bizarrely (since Yukawa is no sentimentalist), this actually works, so he takes her out to a quarry where he's got, duh, a laser set up. He demonstrates how a visible laser (the "red thread") was used for targeting, and a CO2 laser was used to actually kill the teenager. (This demonstration takes all night, because they keep having to adjust the mirrors to get the trajectory right.)

Utsumi and her partner end up picking up the man who was recording the book in the first scene, who turns out to be a laser operator in the nearby metal shop. The man claims it was an accident, that he was just trying to scare the teenagers away, and at first Utsumi believes him. But when she goes to see Yukawa to tell him the result, he points out to her how long it took them to get it right, and reminds her of all the burned spots they saw and how the little girl had seen the "red thread" two weeks before as well. The culprit had obviously been trying for a long time, night after night, until he finally managed to nail one of the kids.

She goes back and accuses the criminal, much to the horror of her partner, who thinks she's lost her mind, but as in all good Japanese crime dramas, the criminal confesses.

In a couple of episodes, Yukawa brings the mystery to Utsumi, but for the most part they follow the same formula: there's a mysterious crime, Utsumi talks Yukawa into investigating, Yukawa scrawls meaningless equations all over the nearest surface while accompanied by surf music, Utsumi pesters Yukawa to explain the solution, Yukawa is seen doing a sport of some kind (I forget which one it was in the first episode, but it's a different one in every episode except the last, in which he cooks in the lab), finally Yukawa explains the solution, and they catch the criminal.

I especially liked the episode where a victim was stabbed to death by one person, who then had a second person try to cover up the crime by stabbing her corpse 205 more times. For extra amusement value, in the final episode, they jump a shark with a frickin' laser on its head in a classic James Bond scenario. I laughed my ass off.

I rate dorama in three areas, using a scale of 1 to 10. My verdict on Galileo:

Quality: 5
Weirdness: 5
Entertainment: 6
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June 2010

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