Murders, vigilante justice, sexy anti-heroes, Ouroboros has it all. Which is why I have been inspired to recap this must watch action Japanese drama. Come join me as we enter the dark world of cops and criminals in an effort to find true justice.
**** A few of you who have followed me for years (quick wave to long time readers) and might recognize this recap from my Crazy Ahjumma years. Yes, I did start recapping this way back when but never finished due to crazy real life issues. I rewatched it recently and was struck anew at how amazing this drama is and decided to complete what I had previously started. I will be releasing a recap a week and will complete the series this time. Hope you enjoy joining me for Ouroboros first time or possibly a second time. Either way this is a must watch drama for all action fans so I hope you enjoy.
For those of you who have not watched a Japanese drama before, then it will be a slight culture shock. They tend to be more into the extreme character development with the focus on groups as a whole. If they do pair off it is usually in a best friend type of way (like in this drama). It is much more rare that you will have a traditional romance, or romantic tropes, that make up the foundation of kdramas, so it can take a little getting used to. Some other differences are that in a Jdrama, everything that is said or done has a purpose in the story. There is rarely filler (especially in the crime dramas) and everything connects back to the larger storyline arc, even if it seems to stand alone. The Japanese have also mastered the art of telling a great crime story. In kdramas, crime tends to be very structured. There are rarely huge surprises, and while I can still enjoy a crime kdrama, they rarely, if ever, really shock me. The same can not be said with Jdramas. They tend to go deeply into the gray side of characters/plots, even sometimes to the extent of making their heroes, all out anti-heroes. Everything might not end with happy pink bows, but if you want a well done intricate story, then it is worth expanding your horizons.
For those of you reading my recaps for the first time, I am forewarning you that I tend to not be the type to discuss every little detail in chronological order. Sorry, it is just not my style. So if I by chance left something out, or you have a question on the plot, feel free to ask my in the comments, twitter (@amberkmuse) or on our FB page and I will be happy to reply ASAP. I instead like to usually focus on several main events and go from there. Or at least I do in kdramas, but this is a different style so who knows. Let’s just jump into the story/recap and find out how this is going to go. It will be an adventure for us all.
We start off with a flashback of two boys crying, looking out over the sea with a necklace dangling from a piece of driftwood in front of them. We then get another flashback of the two boys among many other children playing a game with a teacher who is wearing the same necklace. Yet another jump, and we see the teacher lying in the rain, killed dead, with the same two boys over her body. They are told to leave the situation to the police and to forget everything (by a man wearing a gold watch). The case is erased and forgotten by everyone but the two boys. They vow to make the four men who killed their mother figure, pay with their lives, die regardless of how long it takes. The two boys name themselves the two dragons, or Ouroboros, symbolized in the necklace. There is no beginning or ending to the figure, and it means eternity and infinity.
Jump forward 15 years and we see Ikuo and Tatsuya sitting back to back looking away from each other. The necklace grasped in Tatsuya’s hands -“We’ll take revenge, the two of us… No matter how many years have passed, we’ll find the criminal……You and me, the two of us”.
Ikuo ( Toma Ikuta – Hana Kimi)
On the surface, Ikuo comes across as a bumbling and awkward man. Often saying the wrong thing or becoming the joke of the moment, he has an affable grin and a harmless demeanor. Throughout the whole episode, fellow policeman wonders how this buffoon manages to have the #1 arrest record of the precinct and for the most part just shrug their shoulders and consider it luck. But we viewers are able to see the occasional break in his facade as an intensity enters his eyes when he perceives something to be an injustice. The more we watch episode one the more we are able to see the man (some would say killer) behind the smile.
Tatsuya (Shun Oguri – Border, Hana Kimi)
Have I mentioned before that I LOVE LOVE LOVE Shun Oguri? He is by far my Japanese actor bias, and his performance in Ouroboros is no exception. He plays Tatsuya Danno, the youngest lieutenant within the local yakuza (mafia), and is considered a rising star in the underworld. Tatsuya has a habit of declaring that everything he says is a lie, and it is confusing as to what he really feels regarding any given subject. He portrays a confident persona and rarely do his real feelings come across even to the point of one of the cops declaring that “You are transparent, you always look like you are lying.” I find it interesting that what Tatsuya is lying about might, in fact, be his feelings about justice and what is really right and wrong.
Mizuki Hibino (Juri Eonu – Nodame Cantabile)
Tatsuya’s partner on the police force, Mitsuki, is the daughter of a highly decorated commissioner. It is implied that she has a troubled love/hate relationship with her father and we also see that he could be a suspect in the murder of Tatsuya and Ikuo teacher. So far Mizuki seems to be an honest and hard working policewoman.
Murder or Suicide?
Now that we have our basic setup covered, let’s discuss the current mystery that Ikuo and his partner Mizuki Hibino, are attempting to solve. We have dead man #1, found smashed upon the ground in a supposed suicide. Ikuo and Hibino declare this a suicide, except that when Ikuo sees the photograph of the man’s family within his wallet, he expresses some doubt. A doubt that burst into a full blown flame of doubt once he talks to the dead man’s wife and daughter. His daughter cries that her father would not kill himself since it was almost her birthday and he had made promises. The little girl is emphatic that if the police won’t find the killers, then she will.
We see one of those rare moments that Ikuo’s rage breaks through his facade, as his eyes go hard at the little girl’s words. Unfortunately, the young girl and her mother were indeed able to meet her father’s killers. Worried that the man had told his family incriminating information, the killer ordered his underlings to drug and throw the mother and little girl into the ocean. The mother is killed, but the young girl miraculously survives, but becomes even more bitter.
Ikuo disappears from the hospital, much to the confusion of his partner, and we see him moodily walking in the night. Ikuo’s phone rings and with a serious expression on his face, he answers.
Flash to the murderer’s (of the girl’s parents) house, complete with an albino python roaming about (because nothing says drug kingpin like owning an albino python). The kingpin receives a phone call which lures him to a parking garage. Tatsuya then channels his bad ass side by beating up all of the killers underlings and threatening to go Lorena Bobbit on them if they don’t turn themselves into the police.
The Kingpin walks into the parking garage and is murdered by an unseen assailant (supposedly Tatsuya) while the underlings are chucked from a van, literally at Ikuo’s feet and beg to be arrested for their crimes.
Just when you think everything is wrapped up in a nice little bow (one that does not implicate Tatsuya) we discover that a witness to the original murder has been accused of murdering our killer. Something that we viewers know is impossible since Tatsuya had already admitted to taking out the bad guy. Not to mention, it is just common sense to never trust someone who looks like a villain out of a Bond movie, even if he is a cop. Turns out our Bondesque villain was in cahoots with the Python Killer (sorry I know there are just a crazy amount of killers this episode without names – mostly because I don’t really want to learn their names.) who assisted him in the original murder as well as the murder of the witnesses. Bond Cop admits to all of this, including his theft of drugs from police lock-up, to Ikuo. Ikuo, who just happened to have called Bond Cop, to a quiet unpopulated location.
An Unforeseen Twist
For any of you who have read the synopsis before watching the drama, you already know the plot twist. For those of you who are in the dark, or just reading this recap instead of watching the drama (if you are, stop reading right here and go watch the episode ASAP…..its worth it), it will be a surprise to learn that our talented cop Ikuo is not as bumbling as we were led to believe. In truth, it is all a brilliant guise to hide his need for revenge. A need for revenge that is shared with his BFF partner in crime, Tatsuya, who arrives just as Bond Cop attempts to shoot Ikuo. The duo swiftly subdues Bond Cop by shooting him in the arm.
Our duo questions Bond Cop about any police that possess solid gold watches from 15 years ago. Policemen that would have had the power to make a murder case disappear. Willing to squeal like a pig at market, Bond Cop tells the pair of a mysterious fraternity group. They are called the Kintokei Gumi, the supposed elite of the elite in Japan, and only a handful of the cops in the highest positions might be counted within their numbers. Armed with the information they sought, Tatsuya chucks a gun at Bond Cop and orders him to kill himself. Walking away, Bond Cop pulls the gun, shoots, and a little flag with the word “bang” pops out. Hahaha, I love Tatsuya’s sense of humor. Our two revenge seeking anti-heroes turn back around, and Tatsuya says “I’m obviously lying, telling you to kill yourself.” Then Ikuo chimes in “We will kill all of the men of Kintokei Gumi, beginning with you.”
The Eyes of a Criminal
Ikuo calls in the death of Bond Cop claiming that the bullets were from a hidden sniper, and he and Bond Cop had only been talking. Ikuo fakes devastation in order to leave the crime scene. His partner falls for his act, however, another cop nearby questions her inability to see what is going on. They both watch as Ikuo walks away. Suspicious cop claims, “Those are not the eyes of a cop, those are the eyes of a criminal.”
Later, we arrive full circle as we again witness the scene between Ikuo and Tatsuya, both sitting alone at their tables turned away from each other. Tatsuya states that he will rise in the Yakuza organization and feed Ikuo information that will help him get promoted (and vice versa). The two men will rise within the ranks on both sides of the law until they are powerful enough to take down those that had destroyed their childhoods. They will find them all, no matter how long it takes, since as we know revenge is a dish best served cold. I think we can all agree that after 15 years, this revenge is in the freezer.
I loved the unique dynamic between our two leads. They obviously share a deep, if slightly disturbing and dysfunctional, bond. They have a clear goal in mind and are methodical in accomplishing so said goal. They have created these fake lives to cover their actions and it is interesting to see that nothing about them is the truth. Our boys are so deep in gray territory that there is no light shining towards a better future, only one filled with death and eventual satisfaction that those who crossed them are taken down. Even when they choose to do the right thing, (i.e. stop python killer), the actions they use are almost as bad as those of the people they punish. The two men are killers, not good guys gone slightly astray, but cold blooded killers. Luckily they are killers who have a soft spot for family so we are able to root for their success despite their violent tendencies.
It is greatly appreciated that our anti-heroes are not only good at fooling the world but are also smart enough to not meet face to face where they can be seen. They hide in plain sight, near each other, but not with each other. The scene where they were on two different sides of a park wall/structure, was brilliantly done and makes me happy for some reason. In some messed up way I want them to be vigilantes together in an epic bromance, then go it alone. The fact that there are two of them provides this story with a fuller narrative than if it was the usual “one man against the world” concept. Because they work seamlessly together as a team, they are much more effective, a perfect example being the death and capture of python killer and his minions. I look forward to seeing more of this type of plot in the future.
Thanks for joining me into my first foray of Japanese drama recapping. It was fun, if slightly different experience and I look forward to discussing the rest of the drama with everyone.