The premise of this one is centered, like the description says, on scientific and medical cases, mostly based on parasites, illnesses, viruses, etc. Still, I'd say this is a blend of a medical drama with a detective drama, in which every case is, most often than not, a single-episode development, but with different threads setting throughout it to expand on character development, motives and an ultimate case. You know, like detective dramas.
However, the tone is very well balanced between comedy, drama, action and suspense. There is always a hint of humor that breathes life into the storyline and gives it a less heavy tone than you'd expect from the premise. The three lead characters are, in essence, imperfect and complex.
Yamapi's Himokura is a socially incompetent parasite-otaku who happens to be extremely talented in his field but is also incredibly reckless. Hamada Gaku's Takaie is a confused and heartfelt assistant who is trying to do his best. Nanao's Makino is a strong-willed lady from the Cabinet Secretariat who doesn't take no for an answer.
At the same time, Himokura has a past marked with grief and with the motives that led to the loss of his hand, which is developed throughout the series. Takaie is a doctor who is willing to put himself in risk to save lives. Makino is a single mother working to fight for credibility and respect in a male-dominated area.
There are different layers in the characters and in the drama itself, which I feel are balanced really well and create an entertaining story that keeps you wanting to see what will happen next. It happens often, in these kinds of dramas with the "one case at a time" format, that they lose humor or emotional impact at some point, or tend to focus on one more than the other, but this series does it well.
You get cartoon drawings explaining how a virus works when inside the human body (which is great to soften the subject matter for those who may find that aspect hard to watch) and then minutes later you're faced with a philosophical debate on the value of human life or the moral repercussions of revenge. And the cast is able to keep up with that.
My pleasant surprise on this one was Matsushita Yuya, I feel like I hadn't seen him in a while and I don't get why, he's SO good. He had such good chemistry with Yamapi and they worked super well together in the episodes where they shared the screen.
Also, the production level on this, that was unexpectedly good. Lots of adorable animals in it, which is always a plus for me.
I recommend this one to people who enjoy detective dramas and medical dramas but are looking for something that takes it with humor and fun, without leaving out complex storylines and philosophical debates.
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In Hand is a drama that shouldn't work. After all, one can't just mix cartoonish setting, serious topics, adventure/case-of-the-week structure, and gags about feces and expect it to work. Shockingly, the drama does exactly that and provides its viewer with lots of entertainment (if not much food for thought).
The incongruous premise includes one millionaire parasitologist (you read that right), one driven government official, and one conscientious doctor who combine their forces to investigate suspicious incidents related to parasites/epidemics etc.
The quasi-procedural structure surprises at first (after all, how common can a murder through deliberate parasite contamination be?!) but soon it becomes clear that the trio investigates not just murders but all of the cases of negligence and corruption in the medicine and wellness field. This also explains why the viewer is supposed to care about shenanigans in some smaller branch of government (that stands for a precinct in usual procedural).
While the cases are solved through the fakest of fake science and the touching moments at the end of each episode are arguably quite 'meh', the show has many strong points.
Firstly, the cartoonish setting is actually quite fun. It is very out there and takes a while to get used to, but it is also very coherent. Every small detail is there for a reason (like the parasitologist's need for an international passport gets tied to his past and is never forgotten throughout), every trapping is exploited (like how different types of animal screeches are used to underscore an awkward atmosphere or to add a sinister aura) and so on.
Secondly, the writing is quite tight which leads to a fast-paced story. While the parasitologist's flashback for example is hinted through ridiculously looking montage, when it is told it's quite logical and nicely ties into the overall story.
The running jokes and catchphrases are hilarious and charming. The banter between various characters is fun and entertaining while the dramatic moments have emotional believability (if not overall believability).
Finally, the characters deserve a special mention. A lot of the similar shows struggle because their leads turn out to be too arrogant and unpleasant while their side-kicks end up unsympathetic. In Hand doesn't have this problem.
During the first few episodes Hamada Gaku hard-carries many scenes as an instantly likeable short-tempered doctor. Yamashita Tomohisa's parasitologist takes a while to warm up to but the actor's contented aura helps a lot in selling the self-assured but not actually arrogant or unreasonable genius. Yamashita's deadpan delivery of phrases like 'feces is a diary of life' or 'there is nothing impossible for a genius' greatly contributes to the humour of the show.
The duo's dynamic brings to mind good old Conan Doyle and, actually, the friendship between the two is a main focus of the show. As if this is not enough, there are several episodic bromances thrown in. Episode 6, in particular, had high ratings due to appearance of extremely handsome Kiyohara Sho (other notable guest stars include Isomura Hayato and Kaname Jun).
Nanao's government official is also a funny character with a nice development. Her fierce determination allows for many hilarious office hijinks (considering that yelling at the boss is unheard of in Japan).
The drama boasts high budget so it's easy on the eyes and has a decent ost and sound design (not to mention, many big names in the cast). The drama itself is fun and unique and should not be taken at the face value or you'll end up with some really bizarre misconceptions (like believing that genetic doping exists).
The viewer should also beware the gross stuff. While there is nothing graphic, dangerous viruses and parasites are a lot more scary than the usual murderer-of-the-week and it's really easy to get grossed out by the concept alone.
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