Thanks to suggestions from Dramas With a Side of Kimchi reader Junny, I have been watching some classic older Japanese dramas lately. Today I am talking about Hero, which aired in 2001 and was so popular it spawned a special, a second season, and two movies. It stars Takuya Kimura and Takako Matsu, who had already been together in two dramas (including Long Vacation) and had an established chemistry. It is a humorous view of a young prosecutor who had been a high school delinquent, and his unorthodox way of investigating cases. Let’s look at it and see why people loved it so much!
Our Lead Characters
Humor is often in juxtaposing two things that are slightly jarring. We get that a lot in this show. Kimura’s character, Prosecutor Kuryo, takes his cases seriously in a non-serious way, by which I mean he thinks deeply and works hard but is irreverent and doesn’t dress or behave the way you’d expect of a prosecutor. Would you expect an orange down jacket? No? Matsu plays Paralegal Amamiya, who is the opposite. It is all routine for her, but she works hard and follows protocol and tries for promotion. Why would she have an opinion? Is anyone going to listen? Her only opinion is sticking to glasses in preference to contacts. (Which brings us to the question: how many times do her glasses get broken?)
We meet them within a minute and a half of the beginning of the drama. She is involved in a huge operation by prosecutors and police to arrest a Congressman and a wealthy businessman, and he is in the process of moving into a small narrow apartment. Panoramic scenes of cars and buses blocking off streets and hordes of investigators in black suits alternate with close-ups of a wooden floor as someone pushes a broom and movers bring in furniture.
Minor Spoilers for Episode 1
Just to give you an idea of how things roll in this show let me give you some scenes from Episode 1. That will involve some MINOR SPOILERS, but I won’t tell you the punchline. Amamiya sits in the police car with the Congressman and two prosecutors. They look forbidding and impressive until the female prosecutor remarks that the Congressman is lucky to sit between two beauties, and starts to bicker with the Chief. The Chief tries to placate her while the Congressman looks a little stunned. We then cut to Kuryo’s foot pushing the mattress against the wall. Since he has come from a region famous for its apple orchards, he gives the movers a basket of beautiful big apples.
When the staff arrives at the office the next morning they find what looks like a repairman working on the television set. They gossip about the new prosecutor coming from a rural area and whether he will be a hick, and joke that he will bring apples. Quietly the “repairman” turns and offers them a basket of apples. It is Prosecutor Kuryo.
He is assigned a case concerning stolen women’s underwear and gives it as much effort as the others are giving to the problem of the Congressman’s alibi. He inspects the scene of the crime and the suspect’s house, where he impounds some videotapes. The police aren’t pleased and say, ” What’s wrong with you? This is our job. Go back to your office!” Then he interviews the suspect and embarrasses Amamiya by becoming chummy and joking about the underwear. She bursts into the Chief’s office demanding to be reassigned, and he pleads with her to stay a little while or he will look bad. She returns to help Kuryo interview the victims and is floored when he tries on the underwear over his clothes and gets off topic talking about online shopping. Suddenly, he releases the suspect and runs out of the office. She follows him to visit the policeman at the crime scene and snoop around a yacht at a nearby marina.
End Episode 1 Spoilers
From all this seemingly unfocused behavior, Prosecutor Kuryo pulls out clues and deduces solutions, not only to his own case but the one about the alibi, much to the surprise of Amamiya. Moreover, he does it quietly, without fanfare or demanding credit. This is his pattern over the course of the drama: being flippant and rambling and getting people off guard, and then picking up on something important no one else noticed. Takuya Kimura shines at this kind of Beta male scenario. Common threads through the episodes are the pub they all visit and the taciturn cook who can produce any dish you ask for; and the online shopping that Kuryo indulges in. (Another question: how many exercise machines does one person need?) Most of this series has a light feel to it, although there is at least one case that will get you in the heart.
Thanks for revisiting Hero with me! Have we picked up any more Takuya Kimura fans? I have been watching these older shows on YouTube, but there are new ones now showing up on Netflix and Viki which I would like to talk about next. If you have favorites or a good place to watch them, please share!
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi
7 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Prosecutor: Hero (2001)”
I loved Hero! Everyone trailing in and out of their offices, all the slamming doors and one-liners were so funny. I especially loved the quirks with the home-shopping and bartender slash wonder cook who says 1 word for everything, yet everyone knows what he means. I think I binged on the full first season and movies within a few days, and then got super excited when they brought him back in 2014 not long after. I’d love to see one more series.
Yes! You explain it exactly! Everyone wandering in and out like lemmings and all the crazy bickering. And Kuryo going from vague to piercingly brilliant in a second.
I rewatch every seasons (there are 3) and when the movie aired in my country I went to watch again and again.
It made me want to watch all of them for sure!
Glad you enjoyed Hero! It’s one of my favourite J-dramas, and one of Kimura’s best works (sadly, he doesn’t have many). I loved his chemistry with Matsu Takako. Kimura does better with the beta male/awkward hero kind of roles, so this was a great fit for him. I also really enjoyed the supporting cast, especially Abe Hiroshi and Otsuka Nene. They were wonderful as an ensemble.
Yes. I wondered about the name order. I know in Japan they put the family name first and then the given name, but Asian Wiki does it American style; even though they do family name first for Koreans. I am guessing these Japanese actors came along before everyone got educated about the name order thing, and the Korean actors are more recent.
Yes, the Japanese name order is always family name first. The Western naming order was adopted as part of the Meiji era of adoption of western aspects, and names were reversed for ease of foreign consumption. But I think most Japanese people are flexible on either, depending on who they are dealing with – name cards often have both naming orders. There are sites and blogs using the Japanese naming order though – DramaWiki, for example, uses the Japanese naming order. I stick to that convention unless the person himself writes his name in the Western order. I guess it just sounds right and more natural for me to say “Kimura Takuya”, rather than “Takuya Kimura” – my brain has to do an extra flip for the latter.