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I'm immortally interested in cultural/literary deconstructions, feminism, anti-racism, South Korea, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes, Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones, food (including but not limited to maple butter, tomatoes, and toast), fairy tales, parentheses, paper airplanes, films and books.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Plain Badassery That Is Keizoku 2: SPEC Part 2 (WARNING: MAJOR PIMPAGE AND SPOILERS)

Now where did I leave off? Oh, yes. SPEC as a complete powerhouse/game-changer in the Japanese drama industry.

OK, maybe that's stretching it a little but SPEC has now been ranked in my opinion higher than a lot of Western shows that I've watched in recent years. There were just so many metaphors and so much thought and plain will that was put into it that I think it'll now become much more difficult for me to find another drama that can keep my interest for so long. I like being surprised. I have this problem where I always and I mean always guess or figure out what's going on those cop/procedural shows. That pisses me off. That fact might sound strange in context but hear me out.

Imagine if you were reading a book and said book, you were expected it to be well written. Well written in my definition would mean fresh, original and definitely not predictable. Of course predictability matters on different levels with different genres. When I'm reading contemporary, for example, or a romance, there's a certain path that's laid out in the beginning that the author knows you know - that's expected, almost. It's a whole 'other universe when I'm reading fantasy or science fiction. Even though world building should have its set rules, the writer has more of a hand in what can happen. They can drop hints or none at all until the very last few pages and rock you off your feet with a plot twist you couldn't have seen coming. In PR and UF nowadays, I rely on that plot twist otherwise I don't even bother picking up the book because plots seem so convoluted with the smorgasboard of novels in that genre being vomited out of the publishing industry. (Well, that and characters but I'll get into that below.)

Now, imagine if in that book, you saw every single twist/loyalty turn/ending coming. Wouldn't that not only become tiresome after a while but also extremely - and I mean, extremely - annoying? Annoying enough to swear you off of any of those cop shows ever again? I remember picking up House about three years ago after watching a rerun and liking it because I had no idea what was happening. House was one of those rare shows where I actually learned and I even, dare I say it, told my father after a six hour marathon of pure Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard "This show almost makes me want to be a doctor!" Well, did I ever regret that. (What ensued was three months of being bought medical books, signed up for online courses and applying to universities that had a pre-med program.)

What I'm trying to say is that although House was predictable in its execution, it was never predictable in its formula and that's what made me watch every episode until the end of the sixth. (I never shipped Huddy. I actually liked Cuddy a lot more when she wasn't with a man.) Another show that still kept my interest was The Mentalist and that was because it kept me guessing until a certain point. I could follow along fairly well but at most points something or someone would direct my attention to another suspect away from the true murderer whom I had thought to be suspicious at first. It might seem like a cheap trick but to do it every single episode and succeed every time? Someone's gotta be doing something right there. (Although Simon Baker and his smile and his Australian charm might be just that distracting.)


SPEC was a show where despite my efforts I literally never got the criminal at first go. Of course, SPEC isn't a cop show all the way through; about half way it becomes this glorious conspiracy of fantastical abilities, strange loyalties and the best WTF revelations ever. The last two episodes had me pausing in the middle of scenes to digest what had just happened. It was simply that astounding. Once again speaking of LOST, everyone always go on about how it could have been great if the writers hadn't just shoved a bunch of BS (I attempt to be family friendly) during the last season in terms of explanation. From what I've seen of LOST in 3 minutes, I kind of feel like SPEC trumps over it and takes its cake away to eat it too. (The reason I probably keep comparing them is because I honestly don't know what else to compare it to, ever since I saw this picture of the LOST cast eating the Last Supper it's been on my mind. Also SPEC=LOST. Four letters. Get it? Get it?)

I spoke about the characters in the previous SPEC post. OK, so I raved about it but the fact is, I've never seen an actor be so into a character that they will act like the literally oddest person on Earth. This is not exaggeration. Toma Saya is the weirdest person I have ever seen, real life included. In an industry full of tough girls and quirky girls and plucky girls and TSTL girls, she's a breath of fresh air. She is not quirky; she is the kind of weird people would avoid in real life. The only problem with this is that it's hard to figure out if Saya is genuinely that weird or if it's all just an act. (SPOILER) In her high school years, yes, it was shown that she was just as weird but she radically changed when she went to college. But isn't it because of Chii (played by Shirota Yu) the ex-boyfriend? In fact, it was only after the incident and after she broke up with him that her style and personality reverted back to pre-college days. There are so many theories about that one but I'm thinking it wasn't an act. If you know what I'm talking about, I'm thinking that the whole prettified Saya was the real act, forced on by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. (END OF SPOILER)


Saya's not the only complex character in the show. Sebumi is a fascinating male lead, even compared to the likes of the God-complexed House and Jane. The last thing you would expect him to be when first meeting him is kind but he is, to an extent that I'd say was tinged with a savior complex. (MAJOR SPOILER) When Shimura, his coma-induced reason for losing his SIT job, is abducted and killed, it's Shimura's sister combined with his own guilt that makes him turn to the dark side. (END OF MAJOR SPOILER) Throughout the series, Shimura's sister, Misuzu, holds a grudge against Sebumi, understandable since everyone and anything that walks accused him of being responsible for the shooting of Shimura. Yet it's like Sebumi can't stay away from her, like he needs to be around her so she can remind him that he needs to know who did this to Shimura. Maybe the reason is that Sebumi wants to redeem himself. But then again, maybe he doesn't. Maybe he did it all because of Shimura and the fact that he was completely and utterly helpless when his subordinate was shot.


Then there's the phone call. The phone call. The one that validated the true OTP of the series. Sebumi calls Toma to tell her he's basically going on a revenge trip and that he wants Toma to take care of herself because she is "the last light". That might sound terrible on paper but the amount of emotion conveyed in their acting and the sparse melancholic music and the atmosphere just over the phone. I swear I thought he was about to die. It was the moment that most screenwriters use to say "Screw sadness, shock's a billion times more satisfying!" and kill off one of the main characters. (I'M NOT SAYING THIS HAPPENS ... OR DOESN'T HAPPEN.) In any case, the evolving relationship between Sebumi and Toma is another significant reason to tune into this show.

Ninomae. Someone with the most enviable name ever. The way he writes is freaking simple and conveys so much symbolism into his own character that it honestly frustrates me every time I think of him. Toma and Ninomae are probably the most complex characters in SPEC for spoilerish reasons I won't spoil. Throughout the series, the actor who plays Ninomae (Kamiki Ryunosuke) will drop a meaningful clue that you won't notice or even remember until the very end. The way his hand will move, the way his facial expressions will change, even his choice in emphasizing words. It was brilliant and made his character all the more so interesting.

Which brings us to the final reason to watch SPEC: symbolism.

Let me repeat that SYMBOLISM.

Out of all of the episodes, I have to say the finale is the most chockful of it. From the paper-ripping technique that Toma uses to piece all of the clues of her jigsaw puzzle together, to the explanation He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named gave of all and literally all the things that have transpired to the finale showdown in a chapel. Oh, that showdown was so intense and just mind-blowing that I had to stop every five seconds and let my brain cool down and absorb what had just happened. I want to go over it and analyze every single bit right down to the tooth (yes I meant the tooth) but I have a feeling some people might be tempted to go on and no, that will not to do. You have to enjoy the entirety of the show and that means the finale spoiler-free. Anyone who wants to talk about is welcome to do so in the comments.

This wraps up my two-part pimpage of a show that is my number 1. And I just found out THERE MIGHT BE A SECOND SEASON!!! I think my life will be complete and ruined if that happens, after seeing how 49 days gave me a below average mark in Philosophy last semester. I really should learn how to prioritize my time.

Happy Spring!


  1. Hi! I just finished watching this show and I must say, it's awesome!!! XD one thing that kept bugging me, is that, was it Toma who used the S*** when HE-WHO-MUST-NOT-BE-NAMED was s---? or Ninomae? or is it the Unit Zero guy? what's his name again? coz he suddenly vanished after eating at a gyoza stand. wait, but the guy-who must-not-be-named's real name is also the same name with that Zero guy, right? He said that, right? ah, I'm a bit confused. hmm... what do you think? @@,

  2. @kaz_kenshin Hello! Sorry this took so long to reply! I do believe that it was Toma who used the S*** on What's His Name. About the whole guy's real name, I figured that his name was attributed to his job. So whoever landed the job inherited his name, which is a cool way to be immortal.

    Confusion doesn't even begin to describe what I was thinking when I ended SPEC. I think that's what the writer was going for (can you believe it was all done by one person? Just the amount of threads she had to have kept up with make me dizzy). Here's a link to site that goes way more in depth with theories and everything: darkeyedwolf.livejournal.com/368132.html It was extremely helpful and I hope it'll be for you too!

    And yes, it is awesome.

    PS. THERE'S A MOVIE COMING OUT. Hopefully, they'll explain things without the need of theories there. ^^