Crisis stars Shun Oguri and Hidetoshi Nishijima

Feature

"Crisis" treads new ground for Japanese storylines

Japanese drama story lines took something of a different turn in new series Crisis – Special Security Squad, integrating politically charged story lines inspired by real events and stepping carefully through issues previously considered too sensitive for mass television audiences.  

Attempting to navigate the intersection of crime and politics, the 10-episode action entertainment series is the story of a special squad formed to deal with crisis situations, many of which include some level of moral ambiguity. 

In episode one, for instance, a terror group attempts to blow up a train, and a distraught father tries to take revenge on his daughter’s rapist after the boy, the son of a local dignitary, walks free. The special squad, of course, foils both attempts, underscoring a dilemma that is one of the show’s core themes – saving lives and upholding the law regardless.     

Executive producer Takahiro Kasagi says the most difficult aspect of the production was treading carefully around very real political issues.

“It’s quite dark and you never know where the truth is... But we couldn’t push too far,” he says, adding that it is still difficult to portray certain situations in Japan. “We hope that the people who watch the drama feel that it is very close to reality,” he says.  

The Kansai TV/Fuji TV action series, part of MIP TV’s world premiere series in Cannes in early April, stars Shun Oguri and Hidetoshi Nishijima, who trained in the Philippines for the martial arts fight/action scenes.  The director is Kosuke Suzuki (Marks No Yama, Presumption of Guilt). 

Kasagi is particularly proud of the action scenes. “In Japan, we don’t have action entertainment of this nature in TV dramas... we wanted to show the world that Japanese can also do action,” he says.  

Sky PerfecTV’s regional Japanese entertainment channel, WakuWaku Japan, aired the series across Asia in April two hours after its domestic telecast in Japan. The decision to collapse the rights window and to offer language customised versions within two hours was a first for the regional channel. 

At home, Crisis is holding its own, hitting ratings of 13.9 in the week of its premiere and maintaining double-digit performance for four of the following five weeks, according to audience measurement agency Video Research Japan. 

It was a long-time coming. The concept and script was in development for almost five years by writer Kazuki Kaneshiro, but the stories were too close to reality and were considered too sensitive, Kasagi says. 

“At the time it was too difficult to speak about those things. But now in Japan people are really thinking about what they would do if faced with terror attacks, so people are starting to think about this and it is possible to speak about it more easily,” he says, adding: “We thought this was the right moment to do the drama”. 

Published on ContentAsia's eNewsletter, 30 May 2017