Strawberry Night


Reviewed by: sukting

July 22, 2012

Rating: three

How long
11 episodes

Foreword
A non "elite" female detective who graduates from a female university and not police university, Reiko Himekawa,is stationed at the Metropolitan Police Department has risen fast through the ranks due to her hard work. Her team makes up of 5 dutiful male subordinates.

She becomes involved in a murder case named "Strawberry Night" and other cases. This drama is based on the best selling mystery novel by Honda Tetsuya which sold over 1.5 million copies.

Story

Case 1
Reiko checks a case on people who are murdered after attending a so-called gathering session. These people have fun seeing how people are tortured and murdered. The website is gruesome so they try finding all means to get in. A young inspector-in-training comes to work under her and nearly vomits upon seeing the dead bodies. Reiko's subordinate teams up with him but requests to work alone at times.
He gets some information from the hackeys and goes to an arcade on his own. By right, all are supposed to work in pairs. He ends up getting shot. Reiko is shattered and blurts her past to him of getting raped as she pays her last respects to him. She has never revealed this to anyone.

She sinks deeper into the case and discovers that it is the young inspector who is the mastermind. He has tricked her subordinate into getting killed by providing a gun to a gangster to shoot him in the head. The person who kills others is a woman of unsound mind. She has been tortured by her father when young and is now being taken care by her brother. Yet, she often escapes with the inspector's help to commit the crime.

The young inspector laughs haughtily on how lowly lives are. The supposedly vomit act is actually a gesture that he tries to hide his smile when seeing how others crack their heads. He ties Reiko up and wants the woman to kill but she ponders over her words and can't bring herself to do it. Reiko's men arrive on time to rescue her. The young inspector's father get so devastated that he kills himself.

Case 2
The team finds a drunk man being run over by a train. Reiko checks out that this murder case is connected to a tragedy that happens 10 years ago. This same man drives over the track and the train driver stops the train abruptly to avoid him. The train goes off track and many passengers are either killed or left paralysed. Recently, there are also killings of animals symmetrically. Why are all being cut into equal halves?

Reiko narrows down to a train victim, girl's father who is also killed in his home. He has two knives stuck on his chest symmetrically. She learns from a wheelchair bound victim on how the train accident happens. The passengers are already in a bad state when the train is on the verge of toppling. The train manager tries to pull the girl out and causes the whole train to collapse.

Reiko finds out that the train manager is in love with the girl whom he meets daily. He tries to save her but causes her death instead when the train falls on her. One side of her is completely flat. From then on, he becomes overly obsessed with symmetry. He designs the station poster before quitting as a start. He blames the train driver for this and experiments on the animals before killing him. The girl's father has thought of it as an accident and learns about it. He kills him when he is about to call the police.

Case 3
Five men die due to drug overdose and two teams check on the case. The drug comes as black and white capsules so they call it as zebra. Katsumata keeps similar drugs found on a dead gangster. He doesn't want Reiko to know about it as he wants the glory for himself. The gangster chief admits that it is rivalry between his and another gang. Reiko thinks of it as terrorist attacks and not gang rivalry. The five men talk to a same person Sid while playing online games.

Hashizume is dismayed when discovering that many cops play the same game too while feeling too bored during survilience on suspects. He then allows Reiko to check with the online company on the particulars of Sid. She narrows down to 5 suspects – 4 are high school pupils who are social escorts to get money from the men so she rules them out. Here comes the fifth one.

She discovers that a politician‘s secretary's credit card is being used and decides to bring the man in for questioning. The secretary is a doctor who is in charge of anti-drug campaigns. Thus. She feels that he must be responsible in warning others to stop by showing the side effects of drugs of these victims.

She visits the secretary and his daughter, Aiko opens the door. Aiko's mother claims that Aiko spends very little so she doesn't need a credit card. Imaizumi then tells Reiko that she is on the wrong track of investigation. The politician is out of the country when Sid contacts the rest and the website can only be activated locally so she has to change her thinking.

Katsumata arrests some gangsters and show the drugs, claiming victory but all despise him as he doesn't even attend his subordinate's funeral as he is killed in the attack. His confidence is shattered when Komine's assistant claim that the drugs content are different. The victims' drugs contain milk and poison while the gangsters' version contain poison. Reiko narrows down her search. One user claims to be able to produce counterfeit credit cards. Reiko tails a dead man's colleague who deliberately absents himself from work to avoid a urine test. The dead man has supplied drugs to this colleague. Namase injures his back while running after him.

Reiko learns that Sid likes to chat with girls too and seem to know a lot on fashion. Namase mumbles that everyone calls it zebra but it might be a cow instead. Her mind rings a bell – has someone stolen the politician's credit card – she also recalls that Aiko wears cow slippers at home. So the drug is not zebra but cow as the others state.

She arrests the man and shows him Aiko's photo. The other cops are shocked that she brings in Aiko for questioning. Yes, since her parents do not provide her a credit card, she has to sleep with different men for money – including this user for the card. The ‘cow' drugs are supplied by a medical student who claims to love her. She doesn't eat them but gives them to her clients as she despises them.

Reiko is put off by her attitude. She will then call her school, inform her parents and announce to everyone what she has done. See if this affects her future but it is unfortunate that the men die due to her. The case is closed. She regrets using her right fist to hit the wall to cause the bruise. She should have used her left hand.

Case 4
Three youngsters involving rape are killed upon release. It seems that someone is pissed off by the juvenile law that protects them. It turns out that Katsumata's ex-colleague. Hiroshi is responsible for this. He is bitter that his son kills his girlfriend. Thus, the girl's father comes to kill Hiroshi's wife, wanting revenge. He doesn't visit his son till now, not wanting to forgive him. Hiroshi resigns and is no longer a cop.

In fact, he reminds himself of this by killing the other three. Katsumata calls him as overly justice as he can't condone any mistake. He only believes that death is the only solution. Thus Reiko is sure that he will kill his son and is determined to protect him even on his release but to no avail. The young boy still hangs himself to death and Hiroshi doesn't stop him.

Reiko is enraged and blurts that the girl actually gets his son to stab her as she is raped by her father's boss's son who threatens to dismiss her father. Hiroshi regrets not listening to his son. Reiko tells him to stay alive as his stubborn nature has caused the tragedy. It is too easy to let him off if he dies.

Case 5
A young man is stabbed to death in the rain outside his home. He is his working clothes but wears slippers. At this time, Reiko is at the department store choosing a pair of broad heel shoes. The salesgirl drops the box on the ground in horror upon hearing her mentioning the word murder to Kazuo to inform him of the case. Reiko checks with his company and finds nothing. She then realizes that the target is actually his father, a businessman who causes some deaths due to the poisonous food he sells.

She narrows down her search and discovers that it might be connected to a victim's boyfriend. Why seek revenge 10 years later? He has thought that she might spread the disease to him and avoids her, causing her a lot of misery. He only learns of the side effect of the food through the website now. He regrets and wants to seek redress for her. It is too dark on the night so he aims on the wrong target.

Kohei reveals his past to Kazuo – he has seen how his high school tutor is being stabbed to death but is afraid of the killer seeking revenge so he doesn't provide details to the police. He regrets being timid and wants to be stronger so he joins the force immediately after high school and not going through university first. He requests to join on this case but retreats when seeing Reiko hurt by the attacker.

Reiko doesn't blame him and only wants him to work hard on his promotion exam. He is grateful for that – if she consoles him, he might have resigned instead. Kazuo tells him that Reiko is like that as he knows best. Reiko's shoe heel is detached again. She sighs – this is her third pair of shoes this month. Katsumata has always been sarcastic to say that she often buys cheap shoes and uses cheap shampoo. It is strange though, as she often carries a Hermes handbag with her.

Case 6
An underworld member is shot dead in an amusement park. Days later, a construction worker is found dead with a rope tied to his neck. Komine can't find out why the worker's body is warmer one side than the other since the temperature should be uniform in an air-con room. After that, another underworld member from a rival gang is also shot dead and floats in a river. Reiko checks on the ‘suicide' case while Kusaka checks on the men's murder cases. Reiko discovers that there are 13 pieces of wood in the worker's room.

Namase is here again but is dismayed to pair with Kusaka. He is astonished that he goes through every detail of the two men but admires his ability when he presents the facts during the meeting. He finds excuses to tie the lucky charm to Reiko's bag but to tie it to Kazuo's bag instead by mistake.

Kusaka discovers that although the men are from rival gangs, they meet lately for drinks in a bar. Thus, it will not be feasible to say that killers from both teams want to attack each other. Reiko has discovered that 13 men from both gangs have been murdered in the past 11 years when she unlocks the worker's safe box in a bank. It also contains his dance hostess girlfriend photo in a separate envelope. That includes the two men murdered recently. Are the two cases connected?

Namase tends to sit close to Reiko to hold her shoulder. Then she has an idea to cling to his arm. She solves the mystery. They find the woman in another town, working as a washer. That town is shown in the photo taken. She admits killing the men but Reiko knows that she is innocent. The worker is threatened by both parties to kill men from each sides.

He escapes to different provinces with different identities. He has wanted to turn over a new leaf but they keep hunting him down. He befriends her girlfriend and cohabits with her. Their happiness is short-lived but they are found again. He can't bear with the stress and kills himself.

She doesn't bear to leave him and hugs him for a night at his side. Later, she doesn't want his body to go undiscovered so she calls the police. She leaves as she wants to move to a new town to bring up their unborn child. Reiko is peeved when Kusaka tells her that the gangs destroy all evidence and will not harp on the killings. The case is closed. He reminds her he will check on them now and she should stay away.

Case 7
A construction company is under investigation when 7 workers fall to their deaths and their debts are covered by insurance. Reiko and Kusaka check on this case when a hand is found in a pool of blood. It belongs to a worker, Kenji as claimed by a younger construction worker, Osawa. Kenji has brought Osawa up and introduces him to this line when his colleague also falls to his death. He is one of the workers.

Upon seeing Reiko's eager expression, Kusaka shakes his head as she is behaving just like Katsumata now.

Kusaka questions Osawa while Reiko questions Osawa's girlfriend, Yuriko. Reiko finds Yuriko nervous and her father is one of the 7 workers. The person in charge of the policy is Takuma. He actually gets the men to kill themselves. He can also be despicable to harass others for debt collection to force them to sell their lands to the company.

He disappears on the second day when the hand is found. Many suspect that he might have gotten away after killing Kenji as someone sees them quarrelling a few days ago. Reiko's team keeps tabs on Yuriko and Osawa. Although they claim to be a couple, they do not find them close. They even think that Osawa is keeping tabs on Yuriko.

Reiko is puzzled that Kenji's insurance money goes to a stranger, Ami. Ami uses this money to support a nephew who is bedridden after a car accident that happens 15 years ago. Her sister-in-law dies on the spot and her brother, Ippei suffers from many chest injuries. He commits suicide a few days later and his insurance goes to his son. When showing Kenji's photo to Kenji's friend, he claims that he isn't the one although he has not seen him for many years.

Reiko suspects that Ippei is assuming Kenji's identity after Kenji hangs himself at home. Takuma helps to move the body to the company so that Ippei can claim the insurance under Kenji's name later if the first insurance's money runs out for his son's treatment. Somehow, the two fall out over something so one of them is killed. Kusaka tells Reiko to get her facts first instead of letting her imagination run wild as this is dangerous in their search. Reiko is peeved by this.

Reiko's mother is hospitalized after a heart attack. Reiko's father tries calling her through Reiko's mother's handphone but she chooses not to answer. As a last resort, he has to use a public phone to inform her as he doesn't have her number. After seeing her for a while, she leaves abruptly as Reiko's mother still feels guilty over Reiko's rape which might not have happened if she hasn't gone for her class reunion. She has even dreamed of Reiko killing someone.

Reiko can no longer be strong now after going out and burst into tears in front of Kazuo. Kazuo gives her a close hug but she doesn't tell him about her past. Kusaka's teenage son locks himself in his room and refuses to eat. Kusaka is concerned but tells his wife to hang on till his return. He tells Kazuo that there is a lot of preparation to be made in getting married.

Kusaka checks that Takuma is the illegitimate son of one of the secret society gang as in the previous case so he carries on. He isn't affected when Katsumata warns him not to get into his turf as he is no longer his subordinate. Haruo tells Reiko about their feud. Kusaka, in the past, has lots of imagination like Reiko. As a result, he catches the wrong suspect.

Katsumata, as his superior then, knows about this all along but doesn't tell him so that he can take the credit of arresting the correct criminal. He is also vary of Kusaka's talents. Kusaka can't get his first promotion due to this and from then on, he bases more on facts after getting his promotion. All his subordinates are actually feeling honoured to work with him. Haruo tells Reiko that Kusaka actually admires Reiko's ability and doesn't mind her challenging him. Reiko treats him better from then on.

A torso is found and Reiko is confirmed that it doesn't belong to Ippei. She is puzzled why the DNA here matches the hand. Ippei should have scars after the accident but this torso only has a gall operation mark. She goes to Komine. Komine analyse that the tissues taken from the hand itself might have absorbed the whole packet of blood to affect it but once the tissue is taken from other parts, the truth is revealed.

As for the torso, it is not eaten by fish but is sliced by tools. Reiko remembers how they find tools in the tools room where the torso is found. Now they must find the head. Kusaka goes to Takuma's lover and doctor. Both confirm that it is him after looking at the photo. Kusaka still wants to make sure by getting Takuma's comb and hair for DNA test. Reiko learns that Takuma has repeatedly raped Yuriko and consoles her. Osawa isn't her boyfriend as yet as she hasn't prepared to accept him yet after this happens.

Reiko shares her past of being stabbed and also raped when she is 17. She has once hated herself but tells herself that she has to fight. Yuriko blurts that her case is different as she takes off the clothes herself. Reiko hugs her to reassure her as Takuma can't bother her anymore. Osawa knows her when he comes to tell her that Takuma is responsible for her father's death. It is already too late as she has slept with him for a month nightly.

Osawa and Yuriko decide to tell the police everything. Takuma is still alive even though Osawa beats him upon the same night. He is angry over Takuma causing his father's death and forcing Yuriko to sleep with him to pay off her father's debts but it is still wrong to do this. Osawa and Ippei have been as close as father and son and thus he lies that the torso belongs to Ippei, misleading Kusaka.

Katsumata sees Yuda and Namase. He calls them no.3 and no.2 – with Kazuo around, they can't surpass him and he is sarcastic to say that they have to work under her forever. What shocks Yuda is Katsumata knows about his past on the dead tuition teacher who has the same name as Reiko. Yuda is uneasy when Katsumata sits beside him in the bar.

Kusaka tells Haruo that it is tiring to work with Reiko. He longs for a break after this and meets her less. Haruo doubts that Reiko dislikes working with Kusaka now but tells him that he must spend more time with his family. It is unfair to leave his wife to deal with their son alone.

Reiko asks Osawa where Ippei is. Osawa doesn't know it. Takuma keeps threatening to reveal Ippei's identity after knowing that he is in need of treating his son as the insurance money is going to use up soon. Enraged upon knowing how Takuma beats up Osawa and ruining Yuriko, Ippei kills Takuma. He also decides to chop off his hand to get another set of insurance.

Reiko knows that he hasn't seek treatment and hopes that they can still save him. She recalls seeing a tent nearby but doesn't go close to it. She blames herself for being careless. Ippei is in there all along. But alas, he is already dead when the three arrive and all are upset. Kusaka knows how fathers are as he is a father himself. They long to hug to show their love but can't do so. From here, Reiko also realises that she is too harsh to her parents and ponders over her mistake.

Reiko tells her father that she has tried letting her past go after seeing how he uses a knife to pretend to kill her rapist in the kitchen. It is the day when her mother is returning home. Reiko hugs her mother and tells her that she is strong now and she must remember that. Her parents are consoled that she has finally let go.

Reiko writes her report and Kusaka tells her to rewrite again as there are mistakes and she has not mentioned where they find Takuma's head. He has edited for her. He gets another call from his wife. This time, his son can't take it lying after getting bullied to hit his classmate. Thus, he has to hurry home to leave her now. As for his report, he will submit early the next day. Reiko is concerned and promises to keep this from their bosses. Kazuo is delighted when he finally gets a chance to date her.

Introduction on characters
1. Yuko Takeuchi - Reiko Himekawa
She is an Assistant Inspector who rises from the non-career track to become the only female section chief in the Tenth Homicide Section of the Metropolitan Police First Investigative Division at the age of 27. Her team fights against Teams Kusaka and Katsumata Although Reiko has personal problems and past trauma of getting raped, she does not bring this to the workplace. In fact, she knows the psychological states of criminals well and she solves many cases.

She tackles cases and checks the truth with her sharp instincts. But like what Kusaka says, she is too eager to prove herself and her ways can be too dangerous. Reiko's eyes shine brightly whenever she hears that cases are for her to compete with other teams.

She often pulls her hair when she is troubled – be surprised that she doesn't suffer from hair loss, though. Yuko is so brilliant with her acting as the overly enthusiastic and strong-willed Reiko showing her beauty in wisdom. It is a refreshing change from her usual demure roles. But some will wonder why she doesn't wear flat shoes to walk to make her work easier. I believe all will like her performance.

2. Azusa Okamoto - Reiko Himekawa (teen)

She suffers a lot after her rape but bravely stands up against the rapist in court as the policewoman dies due to her while trying to subdue the rapist. She is traumatic after the incident and her mother tries hard not to cry in front of her in order to give her support. Due to the policewoman's death, she also becomes harsh at times in her investigation style.

3. Hidetoshi Nishijima - Kazuo Kikuta
He is Reiko's capable assistant. Initially, he doesn't know how to get along with her and doesn't know he has to work under a woman too. He comes from a prestigious university and has not thought of marriage to only think of promotion at first. He is initially cold and questions her.

Soon, he admires her ability. Although he bases on instincts, he also bases on facts. He takes on the responsibility to guide the juniors to let them learn from their mistakes. Reiko also trusts him most. He knows her for too long and thus knows how to dodge from her when she throws her punches.

4. Kenta Kiritani - Shinji Otsuka
He loves to joke but his mind is often working. He is like a walking dictionary to all.

5. Takashi Ukaji - Tamotsu Ishikura
The oldest in the team so all respect him. He dislikes his daughter to become a policewoman in future as he fears for her safety. She quarrels with him and leaves home so he has to coax her. He wonders if Reiko's parents are also the same as him although she doesn't say this.

6. Koide Keisuke as Hayama Noriyuki
He is diligent but cheeky. He often likes to tease Kazuo and Reiko. Tamotsu often pairs up with him so he often asks him for advice. Tamotsu tells him the wear-out shoes show how much walking they have done to solve cases – that happens to Reiko who often has to change her shoes.

Noriyuki protests as he doesn't buy cheap ones and only looks for branded ones. He gets worried – will he be blacklisted? He doesn't give in to Katsumata's threats and goes to Reiko for instructions.

7. Maruyama Ryuhei as Yuda Kohei
He is a newcomer. He seems withdrawn when he wants to spend more time on his promotion exam. Reiko allows him to do that despite others' protest. Like Reiko, he also has a dark past and wants to be stronger.

8. Yoji Tanaka - Forensic Chief Komine
He is the first to call her as ‘Da Xiao Jie' – big sister. He loves snacks and often does the tests for her without being asked. He is serious when on the job. He doesn't like to see Kazuo with her but is pleased when he brings him nice food too.

9. Satomi Tezuka - Himekawa Rue
She is Reiko's mother. She feels remorseful towards her and tries to set up with marriage dates. Reiko evades the issue and often stays away from home. They quarrel almost every meal. Reiko even thinks of moving out. She also doesn't answer her calls and this makes her sad.

10. Kenichi Endo - Moru Kusaka
He is another assistant inspector from another team. Many have joked that he has a criminal face and should have gone undercover. He gets stern when Reiko wants to snatch cases from his team. He normally bases on evidence and doesn't like Reiko to base on her instincts mainly in solving cases. He is not against her but feels that her method is too risky. He doesn't understand why she is so against him. Their working relationship improves later.

11. Ikkei Watanabe - Shunsuke Hashizume
He is the director who looks down on women. He has been keeping tabs on her because of her daring investigation methods. He opposes to almost everything that she raises but you will laugh as he ends up giving in most of the time.

12. Masahiro Takashima - Haruo Imaizumi
He is their section leader. He gives Reiko all the help she needs. He also senses rivalry between the different teams and he irons them out.

13. Katsuhisa Namase
He belongs to another province but is often transferred over when it is shorthanded. He is interested in Reiko. He even gets lucky charms for her from a temple, hoping that she can get married soon to him. Reiko nearly tears her hair when he follows her understudy after getting his promotion to be of the same rank as her. Haruo likes to tease the two on this.

14. Tetsuya Takeda - Kensaku Katsumata
He is another old assistant inspector known as the terror as he often uses extreme methods in investigation. He likes to beat them in order to own up – this is the outdated way which he uses almost every time. To him, that is the best and fastest way although he has failed once. He is often against Reiko and you will smell gunpowder between them when they argue with each other. He often reminds her failure in Strawberry night case as she is nearly killed in it then due to her negligence.

15. Hijiri Sakura
He is the laboratory assistant. He will check on the evidence produced on the scene to go through plenty of tests before making conclusions. He is frightened of talking in front of a crowd as he is shy by nature. See how terrified he is when Katsumata shouts at him but he still plucks up his courage to tell the truth on the zebra drug case to alert him of his mistake.

Interesting facts
Based on Tetsuya Honda's detective novel "Strawberry Night" (first published by Kobunsha on February 25, 2006).The viewership rating is 14%. Normally, a drama will be shot quickly for a sequel if it is well received. The first segment on the cop story was well received but there was only a continuation in 2012 on other segments after the SP in 2010. A movie version is going to be out soon. Many hope that Kazuo and Reiko can be together.

Yuko Takeuchi is divorced and is 32 years old. However, this doesn't affect her career and she is like a rose among the grass in this drama. The actors pairing with her were often in a daze – even though she stared at them in many scenes. They found her very attractive and joked that her eyes were as big as coins. They lamented that Heaven was unfair as she was perfect in her looks – even the mole was in the right place.

Most favourite character
Kazuo, he seems cold but he isn't. He is very observant and knows who needs help to render assistance immediately. A close second is Kusaka. He may seem harsh on Reiko but this is for her own good as he doesn't want her to follow his footstep in committing mistakes.

Most hated character
Katsumata, he only wants to make credit himself and at others' expense. He will not share evidence with others. See how sneaky he is to bribe the forensic assistant to keep the evidence for himself to present to the bosses during their meetings later. He only wants evidence from the other teams – to tell his team members to sneak into the office to take a peek at their files.

Song
The theme song EUPHORIA is by Shibasaki Kou. It is a catchy song but I prefer the opening theme. Music but comes well with a dark background where Reiko tears the scenes like paper. It is like revealing all the gruesome cases one by one.

Conclusion
It is called strawberry night so it is related to murder for almost every case. Almost all are killed in cruel fashion. The drama is full of suspense. It also tells each character's concerns and sorrow, the troubles and tasks they must face. It takes a closer look at Reiko's mental state, the relationship between her and those surrounding her. She is their boss but also looks into their welfare. It talks about detective's sincerity towards one's profession.

It tells on how each team tries to compete with each other. They want to prove themselves by arresting important criminals. They do not want to be looked down by others. To make sure that they are winners, they do not release information to other teams easily although they sit at meetings together. Some even hide their evidence to show how selfish they are.

Unlike other dramas that have a light ending when cases are solved, you will find heart very burdened after watching. There is always a sad reason in committing crimes. Or some will just kill to satisfy their thirst for blood. I don't exactly fancy the last few episodes as they are too long. Can you imagine 3 hours for the final one? It could have been better if every episode ends with only a story. The first one is the best – the killer's identity is most unexpected.

Still, credit must be given to the strong performance by the cast. They present a very realistic working environment – which is unlike other sugary dramas which do not tell a true picture of how real professionals are like. Many things are not meant to be in real life.

Sukting's ratings :
On acting : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)
On story : *** (Scale of 5)
On song : *** (Scale of 5)


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