Japanese Drama: Heaven and Hell Soul Exchange

This new Japanese drama on Viki is a body swap story, but if you’ve seen “body swap” before and think you know what to expect – surprise! Heaven and Hell Soul Exchange has only a few hijinks, and the rest is a recipe for immediate disaster and is very unexpected.

The premise…

The synopsis tells us that a policewoman chases down a serial killer, and just as she is about to arrest him, they switch bodies. That is pretty bad timing! It happens in the first episode, along with a rather gross crime scene. All the extra shots of the full moon give us an idea that the moon has something to do with it.

Our policewoman has dreams of visiting a beach full of large round rocks, and when she stoops to pick one up, someone takes it away from her. This beach and the rock show up later in the story, and are clues to the mystery. Watch for talk about a legend involving the sun and moon.

We begin with…

Our policewoman is Ayako Mochizuki (Haruka Ayase), and her name is dirt just now at the police station, because she recently arrested the wrong person. When the call comes in about a new murder case, the police chief tries to find somebody else – anybody else – to go investigate. Lucky for her, everyone else is busy, so off she goes, promising to do a good job.

Her nemesis at work is Mitsuo Kawahara, who is very annoying because he is so dismissive of Ayako and keeps trying to take her best cases away from her. She nicknames him “Sexual Harasser” and he calls her “Hall Monitor.” He is not above doing things that are a teeny bit illegal to get the evidence he wants.

Evidence from the murder scene leads to Haruto Hidaka (Issey Takahashi), the CEO of a company that develops and manufactures chemicals and cleaners. The audience is led to suspect him right away from the way he tugs at his ear whenever he is thinking. Similarly, we notice that Ayako often taps her arm with her finger when she is mulling over something.

As the plot develops…

The story takes sudden jumps and shifts as we start to think we know where it’s going and it surprises us. Ayako and Hidaka vacillate on whether they are willing to help each other or not. Sometimes they have similar goals and make deals. Sometimes they keep secrets and make threats.

Ayako’s junior partner is Hideo Yamaki. He would rather take the easy way out, but follows orders when she tells him what to do. He’s one of several people in the drama who change their outlook as the plot winds on, as new evidence and people of interest crop up. He also starts noticing things about Ayako that don’t add up.

Ayako’s roommate is Riku Watanabe (Tasuku Emoto). At the start of the story he seems like a deadbeat who does odd jobs, and she complains he is a leech and tells him to move out. But let me tell you, he’s the cutest guy in the drama, and he grows on you. He too notices that Ayako is suddenly different, and helps her with her big murder case.

Should you watch?

I really enjoyed this show. The characters were well written and had good development. The plot was sometimes confusing, and there was some handwaving at the end, but I followed it and the internal logic was good. I thought that Issey Takahashi overdid it a little when playing the woman-in-a-man’s-body and acted more feminine than the policewoman ever did. However, that gave some people a few clues to the truth.

Will you be watching this body swap mystery? Let me know!


Dramas with a Side of Kimchi

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