Giri/Haji


BBC Two's eight-part series Giri/Haji is the best TV I've seen so far in 2019, and that includes this year's The Handmaid's Tale and Killing Eve (I have yet to see The Terror: Infamy and Chernobyl). For me Giri/Haji stood out because of its fusion of genres and its mix of languages, cultures and character types. While loads of TV for Western audiences is focused on the hard-boiled cop, this series is centered on a Japanese detective with a yakuza brother who's run off to London. The gay characters (a seemingly requisite "type" in TV and film these days) are a witty cokehead and a teenage Japanese girl. The white woman falls for the Asian man. The chic black woman is the assassin. Etc., etc. Diversify. Diversify. After all, we've seen it all before, why not switch things up? Parts are in Japanese, others in English, some of it shot in Tokyo and the countryside in Japan, some shot in and around London. The fantastic (and again diverse) soundtrack features everything from jazz and classical to J-pop and techno. The plot surprises too. Someone you think will make it to the end gets a bullet through the forehead. Another is forced to demonstrate atonement by slicing off a pinky, just when you think he's off the hook and can keep all his digits. Camera angles and shots are experimental. Lighting is unique and creates various nuanced moods. The dialogue is sharp. Acting is all right. Bits are shot in black and white, and there's some animation, and even a dance sequence believe it or not. Also the series is self-conscious about its shuffling around of and cutting into conventions and stereotypes, which makes it better entertainment—funnier, more dramatic, more suspenseful. Each episode is about an hour long, and that with the fairly rich narrative makes this not so suitable for binge-watching. All in all, fresh viewing and probably a sign of what's to come in the year's ahead.

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