Odoru Daisousasen is a cop show. So maybe you'd imagine something like this... Enthusiastic young detective is assigned to his first case, and car chases, shoot-outs and fighting ensue. There is danger and possibly something shocking and gritty, but in the end, our hero saves the day and learns a lesson, right?
Wrong. Not with Odoru! Because for car chases, you need cars. And to get a patrol car, the young dective in question needs to fill in a form and get his supervisor's and his supervisor's supervisor's signature and seal, and if they're not in yet well - tough luck, because those are the rules. But - surely, in an emergency...? Well. If it's an emergency... Then he can fill in the emergency form, which is pink instead of white, and only needs the station captain's signature and seal. Easy, right?
Yeah. There aren't many car chases in Odoru. No shoot-outs either, for the most part, since the detectives aren't actually armed when they go about their daily business. There are a few fights, but as they involve things such as cornering someone with office chairs... they're probably not what you'd imagine for a cop show.
And that's pretty much Odoru Daisousasen in a nutshell. It's a cop show, but it's a Japanese cop show, and a dorama, and it goes about being a cop show in a very different way.
Every day, the main characters have to face something much more fearsome than a single puny criminal - they have to deal with the entire Japanese police bureaucracy, complete with ridiculously rigid hierarchy and choking masses of red tape. There's where the main conflict of the series lies - not with any major bad guy, but with the system itself. While this may sound to be about as exciting as going up against dust bunnies and carpet stains, the genius of Odoru is that it totally goes for the absurd humor in the situation. At the same time it manages to be intensely engaging, making you really feel for the characters, because of course those who are important to are story aren't simply content with surviving the system - they want to change it. And there's a challenge that makes any genius investigator, fast-talking, straight-shooting, car-chasing cop's exploits look like a piece of tasty strawberry cake in comparison!
Our introduction to the wonderful world of Japanese policeworks comes through the enthusiastic young detective. His name is Aoshima Shunsuke, and he's a bit of an oddity even to start with - he used to be a salesman for a computer company (and a good one too - top seller two years running!), when one day he got fed up of the selling people things they didn't even want, and enrolled in police school to be able to get a job where he could do something. Now he's finally become the detective of his dreams, and he's more than ready to rush to the crime scene with his sirens blaring and start investigating the murder that's just happened!
Of course, the "sirens blaring" doesn't really happen. Paperwork and all that. He still gets there - by foot. Unfortunately, investigating the murder doesn't really happen either, because despite taking place in the jurisdiction of Aoshima's Wangan Precinct, murders are high status crimes, and thus investigated by the elites from Headquarters. Grunts like Aoshima are allowed to make themselves useful by answering the phones and driving the important people where they need to go once the sprawling investigation group descends on Wangan Police Station, but they're to stay out of the crime solving.
This doesn't sit so well with Aoshima, but his more experienced collegues take it all in stride. They still have their own jobs to do - it may not be anything flashy or filled with excitment and adventure, but people in their jurisdiction still need their help, even away from the spotlight on Headquarter's top investigation group. Disillusioned by the fact that police life is really no different from the company bureaucracy he left behind, Aoshima still starts helping them out - but he can't quite give up on the murder case...
So his new job isn't what he thought it would be. It still manages to surprise him, and his eagerness to be part of solving the murder inadvertently draws the attention of superintendent Muroi - the top brass from Headquarter's investigation group. And - again, this is Japan. It's not the good kind of attention, because as the saying goes - "the nail that sticks out should be hammered in". Still - Muroi is a kind of odd nail out himself, though he's doing his damndest to hide it. Born and raised in the countryside, graduate of a university far away from the prestigous Tokyo Daigaku, he's not part of the old boys' network, and everyone around him seems to be eagerly anticipating the first misstep on his razor-sharp course to the top.
What forms between them is not a partnership, nor a straight-out alliance of any kind. Still, the two of them discover they have something in common - they're unhappy with the system. They're both caught in it, in different ways, but what's off limits for one of them might well be within reach of the other. And so, gradually, something grows out of that first, less-than-memorable meeting, and becomes one of the main points of the series.
xparrot has expressed their relationship much more eloquently than I ever could - what they have is something that appears to be the almost ideal Japanese superior-subordinate relationship. It's different from its western equivalent in that it's a question of respect and loyalty, where Muroi automatically has Aoshima's loyalty, but has to earn the detective's respect. And Aoshima in turn has to be loyal to Muroi even before he can respect him. It's absolutely fascinating to see their unsual relationship develop over time. The two have an incredible chemistry - it's almost as if they embody the tension that lies between their departments, between their status as superior and subordinate. They have remarkably few scenes together, but when they share the screen, it's impossible to miss it. They smolder. They're the kind of people who are immediately greater than the sum of their parts, if they only work for the same goal - and possibly even when they don't.
Aside from Aoshima and Muroi, Odoru also has fantastic female characters, a great (and very amusing) supporting cast, and some seriously neat character development, as well as h/c, worry and hospital scenes on top of all of the humor. Not bad for just eleven episodes! But then again, the series turned out to be one of the most successful doramas ever. The eleven episodes were followed by three specials, and then by two movies - the second of which I understand went on to be the highest grossing non-animated film in Japanese cinema history. Last year, two spin-off movies featuring only some of the original cast were released, and they're doing extremely well. (I wanted to watch them, but when I went looking for them at the video rental store they were still sitting on spots #1 and #2 respectively, and all rented out!)
The movies were actually released internationally, under the title of "Bayside Shakedown". The Japanese title 踊る大走査線 can literally be translated as "dancing great investigation line", but the fansubs probably say it better when they go for "The Spirited Investigation Line". On top of this, the Japanese fandom has decided it's actually called Rhythm and Police, after the title of the (quite awesome) soundtrack.
And that was the long of it. This is the short - and it has pictures!
This is Aoshima:
He's a puppy.
No, really. A puppy! (And with "puppy" I mean almost any dog - in this case, the big shaggy kind, that's all happy tail-wags and bouncing until one of his people are threatened, and then it's all growls and raised hackles and really big teeth that will bite you.)
He's usually a puppy in a fluffy green coat. Aoshima's hobbies include running, chasing after cars (on foot), and making people happy.
This is Muroi:
Muroi is most certainly not a puppy.
Muroi's hobbies include scowling, crushing things he happens to be holding in his fists, and making little girls cry (well - grown men too).
They don't exactly hit it off from the start, but they don't have to like each other to have an astonishing chemistry. Aoshima gets along much better with his fellow Wangan officers. Like Sumire. This is Sumire:
Sumire kicks ass. She's fifteen kinds of awesome, and despite being a tiny little thing, she tops Aoshima, and pretty much everyone else at the station.
This is Waku and Uozumi - they make up most of Aoshima's section. They don't have the same enthusiasm about the case that their new puppy does.
Aoshima's all excited about having a case. A case! Look, a case! A case for us! The others know better...
And Aoshima learns. And then there's rain, and then he's wet, and this is a completely gratuitous shot of pretty wet Aoshima with angst:
See how good I've been to not have gone on about how hot he is? He's hot. (Mostly he's just adorable, though. He's so cute it's scary. Men lighting cigarettes should not be cute!)
And if that's too long, this is the really, really short. It's the first four minutes of the ninth episode of Odoru. They're funny. It's how how I was introduced to the series by xparrot and gnine. There are no spoilers for anything, and it kind of explains what kind of police we're talking about. Sadly there's no Muroi in this, but you get Aoshima and Waku, and quite possibly the best way to talk down a jumper ever.
(If the video doesn't show up, click on one of the cuts, and it should be on the bottom of the page. There's some kind of problem with videos embedded in some of LJ's layouts. Or go straight to YouTube.)
Finally - the entire series can be downloaded from D-Addicts, with subtitles and all, so - go get it! It's just eleven episodes, it's cute and funny and good. And it's guaranteed to be different from your usual cop shows! Go, get.