I really enjoyed the first episode (of eight) of Giri/Haji
(or Duty/Shame), and it was quite surprising to realise that there is potentially going to be three
major subplots with their own groups of characters going on (even four if we add in the chaos occurring back in Tokyo too and the yakuza boss threatening violence against Kenzo's family if he cannot have revenge on the brother) rather than just your standard border-crossing police investigation into a murder that provides the main thrust of the narrative (in fact rather than international co-operation this is apparently all having to be kept hush-hush from the UK police under the pretext of a cultural exchange programme so that the presumed killer can be spirited away back to face justice on home soil!). So whilst we have policeman Kenzo being pressurised into going to London to investigate a yakuza boss's relative's murder (carried out by his own presumed dead brother), we also get the gay half-Japanese rent boy who might be in an abusive relationship, and Kelly Macdonald's character of a slightly too upbeat crime technique lecturer with a dark past that seems to involve someone having been released from prison into the community and eventually sticking snakes through her letterbox!
That all plays into the Duty/Shame part of the title already, with the rent boy's coerced 'duty' to his lifestyle making him callous and unable to feel 'shame' for his cruel treatment of his latest jilted boyfriend. And Susan's duty to be responsible and professional undermined by her colleagues and this dark aspect of her past coming back into her life. Kenzo has the 'duty' of finding his brother and bringing him back to Tokyo to pay for his crimes, but also the shame of knowing what really
which gets revealed in the flashback that Kenzo himself actually finished the job and committed the murder that his younger brother has then gone on the run for years earlier, as a way of getting him out of the criminal lifestyle before he was too far in. Presumably Kenzo helped Yuto fake his own death too, which is probably why he seems less surprised when the yakuza boss and his Chief Inspector boss arrive at his apartment with the news that his brother is alive and to force him to go to London and bring him back, than concerned that both the police and the yakuza now know that Yuto is still out there somewhere! Maybe it is in Kenzo's interests to get to Yuto first and silence him without taking him back to Tokyo? So Kenzo has all that complicated, literal guilt hanging over him for a crime that he committed but his brother is taking responsibility for, and may have pushed his younger brother from being a gang member into an even darker hitman lifestyle.
And this is even more complicated by the fourth subplot of Kenzo's family back in Tokyo having their own troubles, most specifically the teenage daughter getting expelled for stabbing another student who groped her. Though she seems to have a very close bond with her father that still lets them bond even after that act, whilst the mother despairs and is more shut out of her daughter's life. And the daughter seems to be interested in Uncle Yuto as well, and perhaps idolises him for his criminal behaviour before he disappeared. Which of course we later learn in the flashback Kenzo committed the murder that defined the younger brother anyway! Either way, the daughter seems to be worryingly interested in going down the criminally violent path herself in this first episode.
It ends with her having disappeared off onto the streets of Tokyo without telling her mother where she was going to (which kind of reminded me slightly of the Julia Ormond teen daughter subplot in the Traffik mini-series!), but unfortunately the rather too long 'on the next episode' teaser spoiled the mystery of her disappearance too quickly by showing her turning up in London herself and interacting with the rent boy character! I have a couple of concerns that now that the daughter has joined Kenzo in London that the 'important' characters have been removed and now the wife and elderly parents left behind in Tokyo are potentially going to be easily expendable victims of the angry yakuza boss without much consequence (especially as that too long next episode teaser shows their apartment being shot up! Though if a stray bullet hits the granddad's oxygen tank and accidentally blows up the building that would be very blackly comic, especially after the potential foreshadowing of the grandmother stopping him from smoking whilst wearing his oxygen mask in the early scene in this episode!), all the better to push the tentative romance elements between Kenzo and Susan more, as a new surrogate family. I'm hoping that it does not quite go down that well worn path, but we'll see.
So a really interesting first episode, and I really liked the intercutting of all three characters facing their threats for the cliffhanger at the end (Susan the snake in the mailbox; Rodney the rent boy going up the ominous staircase (he's shown beaten up in the teaser for the second episode, which appears to be the event that brings all the subplots together almost immediately again), and Kenzo the sniper in the building opposite). I have my theories above about how all the characters are going to interact in the next episode, but will have to wait and see. There have also been some really great twists even in the first episode - this first episode is really all revolving around Kenzo's frustrated efforts to get the entry code to enter the building where the murder occurred and assess the crime scene for himself, and the revelation about just why it was so difficult to get the code for the door straight away (which ties into why Kenzo was not picked up at the airport when he arrived, and only gets revealed when the rent boy character amusingly helps Kenzo enter the 'member's club') is a really great moment. As well as showing that there is probably some key bit of evidence there that might further the case, or else he would not be being prevented from access in such an enthusiastic manner!
Plus Justin Long's in the second episode teaser, muttering something about 'the Albanian's being involved now', so his character is coming up too!