Assistant Inspector Himekawa Reiko (Takeuchi Yuko) rose from the non-career track to become the only female section chief in the Tenth Homicide Section of the Metropolitan Police’s First Investigative Division. Director Hashizume (Watanabe Ikkei) has been keeping tabs on her because of her daring investigation methods. Team Himekawa is made up of dutiful subordinates Kikuta Kazuo (Nishijima Hidetoshi) and Ishikura Tatsumo (Ukaji Takashi), the diligent but withdrawn Hayama Noriyuki (Koide Keisuke) and newcomer Yuda Kohei (Maruyama Ryuhei). They proceed with investigations while fighting against Teams Kusaka (Endo Kenichi) and Katsumata (Takeda Tetsuya). Although Reiko has personal problems and past trauma, she does not bring this to the workplace. She tackles cases head-on and closes in on the truth with her sharp instincts.
Cast & Credits
This drama starts in the very middle of things. Unless you have watched the 2010 special - which I haven't yet - you won't see any introductions, neither of the characters, nor of the setting. You are thrust into the first crime and given brief flashes of the characters' past, pieces of a puzzle you'll only complete by the end, and not in full. It's realistic, harsh and frustrating, but it worms its way into the viewer's interest in a very subtle, gradual way, until you come to the end and wish there were another entire season to watch at once.
The cases brought me more than once to the brink of tears. They are desperate and intense, involving such human characters I couldn't remain detached even if I wanted to.
The cast is downright brilliant. My favourite Takeuchi did not disappoint me. Her character's very complex, with a perpetually seething anger as palpable and incomprehensible at the beginning as it is understandable once her past is slowly revealed. I have a weakness for characters who are incapable of expressing their feelings, because when they finally let the slightest glimpse of vulnerability surface it's so much more intense and heart wrenching.
Which inevitably leads me to her loyal subordinate Kikuta, portrayed by an impeccable Nishijima Hidetoshi. He reads her without fail, and I love that his evident attraction to her originates from his admiration for her skills rather than a simple man/woman dynamic.
Some of the characters are downright irritating. The police director - whose role is quite a mystery to me - is so obtuse the sole purpose of his existence seems to be to provoke his detectives' reaction. While it works on a dramatic level, I hope such individuals do not exist in real police departments, or I'd give up on the Japanese justice entirely, mostly if he's paired with the older corrupt detective whom I wanted to punch in the face.
Good or bad, none of these characters left me unmoved, proof of their outstanding job here.
I loved the music: well chosen, well used, well balanced.
Re-watch value is very high, because at first viewing I found some details hard to follow, mainly because of the fast delivered lines and the unusual way the crimes unfold. Most of all, though, I am experiencing withdrawal symptoms regarding the characters and am looking forward to a continuation. I'd vote for a second season in no time.
As I stated in my comment below, outstanding job by Takeuchi Yuko playing "Himekawa Reiko", but the team as a whole I liked as well. I loved the slight character development we see with the supporting roles, especially "Kukita","Nori" and the last episode's bad guy, showing that writing and directing put in a great deal of thought when fleshing out their cops, as well as the criminals to the ongoing cases.
Directing was very well done, unlike past Japan cop dramas which could get really wonky some times. Think Boss (more wacky than needed but still an entertaining show) and Jiu (the lack of common sense in that drama, coupled with bad music choices).
We actually had a very good balance of comedy and drama and didn't lose sight that this is a 'cop drama'. More often than not, some of them tend to loose sight of the occupational part of the drama and start focusing on character relationships, and not in a good way.
With Strawberry Night we get a good look at the psychological and moral sides of the cops in which the main character and the supporting characters alike are included. More than 'who dun it' dramas we are given 'why' and the varied procedures that lead to that why which makes this an interesting pick to watch.
So to conclude, it may not be 'on the edge of your seat' action, but it most definitely won't keep you bored.