This drama’s concept of Ship of Theseus does fall into place in the end, though not in a way that i thought it would go. I still can’t decide if that’s a good or bad thing, since the ending turns out more bittersweet than what i anticipated.
I initially thought it was related to Shin’s presence in the past, which looked like a makeshift family despite their real connection, or new present-time Sanos who might be ‘different’ from what pre-timetravel-Shin knew. Because never did i ever doubt that this drama wouldn’t end ‘happily’, in the sense of Sano’s acquittal and his long-awaited reunion with the rest of his family members. My predictions weren’t too far off the mark, though i didn’t think the journey to get there would be this exasperating and holey, despite what happened by midway point.
The father-son’s investigation skills were abysmal. I’m more disappointed in Sano given his cop status, but since he isn’t a detective per se, i can kinda give him a pass. Still, i believed they’d get better with time and learn to not fall into obvious traps over and over again. Or at least ask for a backup if there’s no other way. Yet, they continue to shake my head with their credulity and stupidity.
I thought the death of Sasaki Noriko, the only eyewitness of the case, would drive Shin to the dead end but it actually set the ball rolling. That should’ve covered the culprit for good, but Satsuki gets eliminated soon after, followed by the “petite and plump bespectacled guy” who’s supposed to be her killer. Despite all of that, Shin is eventually inching closer to the mastermind thanks to the latter’s generosity with clues and hints.
I don’t know why the villains are asking to be identified, though i can’t fathom Shin’s singlefighterness even when he surmises that he may be killed, ‘cuz doesn’t he need to stay alive to unearth the truth and bring it to court to free his dad? But he continues to be rash, foolish, and too trusting. Like, he doesn’t find it weird that the police doesn’t spot him dashing out of Satsuki’s ward in the CCTV or that Mikio is discovering the creepy things about his foster mother and sharing them with Shin instead of the police.
I did find it odd but didn’t dwell on it further since this show’s script hadn’t been really cohesive or coherent. That’s why i was shocked by the double reveal: that Mikio is the ultimate villain who fakes his disability. Ugh, i knew something was fishy about him surviving the incident! I didn’t expect him to go that far to play the victim, though. To his credit, he concocted a nearly perfect plan — aided unwittingly by utterly inept police and incredibly naive patsies — and could’ve gotten rid of the last bit of any incriminating traces by taking care of Shin yet for some weird reason leaves the scene without even trying to seize the voice recorder capturing his unsolicited confession.
And that’s certainly NOT the right timing to slip back in time. BUT! That’s also THE golden opportunity to set things right in 1989. With all of the knowledge and details, preventing the incident and apprehending the baddies should be easy… yes? Or so i thought.
I guess i had too high an expectation of the father-son duo, because these two grown-up men can’t even handle one primary school kid for three episodes. What can you say when they’re too busy looking for him in every nook and cranny to realize he’s standing on a higher ground — behind a tree notwithstanding — right in front of them? *facepalm* *rolls eye* I also can’t believe the amateurish way they’re resorting to cancel the event or confronting the grader about his grand scheme when they could’ve gone the official route by getting him and his accomplice(s) investigated for strangling Akane-chan or pushing Kanemaru-san off the hill, or their insistence to take matters into their own hands when they’re terrible detectives with awful deduction skills. Worse, they never learn to be more vigilant, discover any clues through their own efforts, or put two and two together that it’s no surprise the whodunit mystery is not cracked until the finale. When Shin already has all hints he needs by episode 6. Sigh.
Seriously, what’s the point of acquiring those evidence in the present if none gets followed up in the past? Why keep an eye on Satsuki-sensei but not on Sasaki or Tanaka Masashi? Do they seriously believe asking the boy directly will make him confess or drop his plan? It’s so ridiculous that even the kiddo scoffs at Shin to figure out the culprit himself since/if he wants to protect his dear father that much. Oh burn.
[Ending spoilers ahead]
That said, the heroes aren’t the only ones driving me bonkers. The police are too; whereas the villains are making questionable moves, such as Mikio letting Shin live after confessing his crimes, the perps abducting Kazuko and the two kids then releasing them unscathed, and doing the same to Sano. The most confusing of all is Mikio-kun spilling the beans down to the minute detail, recording the confession, then drinking the poison. The boy is too misguided to attempt suicide. His motive is quite messed-up too: to be Suzu’s hero. Like, how did that work out/make sense in the original timeline’s development? He ruined her life but did nothing to save her/it.
In this case, the accomplice/instigator’s is more reasonable: eye for an eye. Although i wonder if that’s considered a success if Sano never knows why he’s framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Or if he ends up dead. I wonder if the novel this series is based on is similarly lacking sense…
If anything, i’m glad Sano’s saintly character is preserved. The incident is indeed set up to get him for something he did, it wasn’t a misdeed even if the repercussions turned out ugly for the Tanakas. ‘Cuz while i could gloss over the fact that he’s a rather weak ally of justice, i don’t think i could overlook his imperfect track record or dented integrity. Because no matter how too-kind-to-the-point-of-foolishness the entire household is, it’s impossible not to root for them. Damn if this family doesn’t win your heart completely with their bond and sincerity; there’s miscommunication and fights, but there’s also trust and apologies. They’re easily my favorite fictional family in recent years.
And they kept making me cry in the ‘wrong’ scenes (partly owing to Uru’s Anata ga iru koto de started playing at the perfect timing to deepen the emotions). Like that time Yuki took over the stage and pleaded to the victims’ families, the first time Shin visited Sano in prison and asked if he could call him dad, the last chant Sano did with Ai, the scene where Shin drew the entire family tree including Yuki and Miku, and the epilogue where Sano suggested a name for the unborn baby and then secretly looked at the ring left behind by Shin in the time capsule with sad eyes. Ugh. Suzuki Ryohei was totally killing it in this role, especially the elder Sano. Kazuko was the best i’ve seen of Eikura Nana. The child actors also did a great job. There are some scenes that could’ve been acted better, but overall, Shibazaki Fuuga portrayed Mikio’s warpedness quite well. Unfortunately, Shin was far from Ryoma’s best work. His anguish felt forced and his chemistry with Ueno Juri was not palpable.
The wholesome family was also the best and probably the only positive thing about this drama, which was quite underwhelming for a fantasy mystery. The mystery was intriguing but the investigation part was meh at best. The script was draggy and full of plot holes, the writer made the leads so dumb and distracted it’s infuriating, there were too many red herrings, the climax was flat due to the previous points, and the ending was unnecessarily sad. We don’t know what happens to Tanaka Masashi yet Mikio is living a normal happy life in the present, despite the murders he committed in the past.
I’ve had a feeling that the culprit would be someone random, so i wasn’t upset about Masashi, but Show totally caught me off guard with Mikio-kun. Because the possibility of the crime orchestrated by a kid never crossed my mind. I probably underestimated kids’ monstrous potential, or their capability of staging such a large-scale incident and getting away with it almost perfectly. That was a twisted twist. I just wish Theseus didn’t spill it all in episode 6 and made us sit through another four episodes to reach the same conclusion.
In the end, the mechanism and rules of the time-slip were never explained they felt like a plot device instead. Throughout the series, i was thinking the time-slip was the chance for Shin to learn about his father’s true face, in addition to the warm side of his family he never experienced, and fix things in the present for a better future. While i was glad he could change the past for a happier present, his death was totally preventable yet wasn’t the case (as if) to serve the Ship of Theseus theory the drama was going for. They got the happy ending they deserved, and Shin was still alive in the third alternate universe, but despite having the same personality and character, can we say that he is the same guy as the one who traveled to the past?
The epilogue was hence more bittersweet than what it appeared to be. I was sad that the father and son didn’t manage to remember each other after everything they had been through, and that the camaraderie forged between them only lived in Sano’s memory.
Director: Ishii Yasuharu and Yamamuro Daisuke
Screenwriter: Takahashi Maki
Production: TBS, 2020
Cast: Takeuchi Ryoma, Suzuki Ryohei, Eikura Nana, Ueno Juri, Kanjiya Shihori, Shiratori Tamaki, Banka Tenta, Ando Masanobu, Asou Yumi, Shibazaki Fuuga
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Family J-dorama (10 Episodes)