I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Hattori Takayuki - Main Title Theme to 『半沢直樹』/"Hanzawa Naoki"

While American audiences were enjoying the final exploits of former meek Chemistry teacher turned ruthless Meth Drug Lord/Anti-Hero Walter White on AMC's landmark drama series "Breaking Bad", over in Japan, similar TV history was also being made when Japanese audiences made the final episode of TBS' recent Sunday Night Drama series  『半沢直樹』/"Hanzawa Naoki" one of the most watched drama series episodes in Japan ever, generating an unprecedented 42.2% audience viewership (only the final episode of 1983 TBS drama series "Tsumiki Kuzushi" with 45.3%, final episode of the 1972 TBS drama series "Mito Komon" with 43.7% and an episode from 1979 TBS drama series "Onnatachi no Chushingura" with 42.6% ranked higher).  

The story of an elite Banking Loan Manager with the prestigious Tokyo Chuo Bank and his quest to get revenge on the loan/banking officer responsible for causing the suicide of his father (cameo by popular TV personality and Osaka comedian 笑福亭鶴瓶/Shoufukutei Tsurube), a humble screw factory owner, resonated very much with Japanese audiences.  Perhaps it was the theatrical, over-the-top dramatic style of the series (compliments of series directors 福澤克雄/Fukukawa Katsuo, who helmed such past series as 『Mr. Brain』 (2009) and 『Monsters』 (2012) and 棚澤孝義/Tanazawa Takayoshi who helmed such series as 『恋愛ニート~忘れた恋のはじめ方』/" Renai Neet ~Wasureta Koi No Hajimekata" (2012) and  夜行観覧車/"Yakou Kanransya" (2013)), that proved such a hit as it resembled more TV movies than your typical TV episodic series.

The series was broken up into two parts which encompassed two different economic crisis which Hanzawa needed to resolve - Story Arc 1 was called the "Osaka Arc" and involved Hanzawa's attempts to recover an unsecured loan of 500 million yen (5 million 73 thousand dollars - U.S.) from bankrupt company Nishi Osaka Steel. Its owner Higashida Mitsuru had disappeared and had hidden away the money in various secret accounts including his club hostess mistress' bank account.  Hanzawa needs to find the money before agents of the Japanese Tax Bureau can recover the funds or face personal responsibility for the loss by his superiors.

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The second Story Arc is called the "Tokyo Arc" and finds Hanzawa at the Tokyo Chuo Bank's main branch headquarters overseeing the financial restructuring of the long-standing Iseshima Hotel which is money-strapped and trying to fend off corporate takeover. Hanzawa must not only contend with trying to prevent the hotel's takeover bid (masterminded by Tokyo Chuo Bank Executive Officer Ohwasa Akira) but must also face an internal audit which is being conducted at the same time and is being led by Hanzawa's persistent foe, Kurosaki Shunichi.  

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It came as no surprise to many the huge success of "Hanzawa Naoki". The TV series was itself adapted from novelist Ikeido Jun's first two volumes of his hugely popular and acclaimed series of Economic-themed thrillers collectively known as the "Ore Bubble Series"/「オレバブシリーズ」 which included オレたちバブル入行組/"Oretachi Bubble Nyukougumi" (published in December, 2004 by Bungeishunju Ltd.) and オレたち花のバブル組/"Oretachi Hana no Baburugumi" published in June, 2008 by Bungeishunju Ltd.  (the third volume is entitled ロスジェネの逆襲」/"Losgene No Gyakushu" and was published in June 2012).  The series also benefited from a marvelous and hugely talented ensemble cast of great character actors led by the wonderful 堺雅人/Sakai Masato

Ore Bubble Series - Image courtesy of

Hanzawa Naoki (Sakai Masato) and Hanzawa Hana (Ueto Aya) - Images courtesy of
Sakai's crusading, idealistic, boyish-faced hero couldn't be more of a departure from his devilishly cunning, cynical, pompous and money obsessed attorney character Komikado Kensuke in Fuji TV's outrageous legal comedy 『リーガル・ハイ』/"Legal High" (2012). Sakai's charsmatic persona and controlled acting was very impressive and his likable charm made Hanzawa a noble and yet unconventional hero that is until Hanzawa gets mad. Once his enemies cross him, then Hanzawa's persona takes on a darker aspect and he becomes a much more driven and vengeful hero. In fact, Sakai's character portrayal of Hanzawa is somewhat reminiscent of his Detective turned Vigilante character Date Kazuyoshi in Fuji TV's ジョーカー 許されざる捜査官』/"Joker Yurusarezaru Sosakan" (2010) who also showed a similar dual personality.

The other standout performance came from the always lovely and stunningly beautiful Ueto Aya/上戸彩 who portrayed Hanzawa's supportive and strong-willed wife Hana. I always enjoy watching Ueto in her various projects as she has a very natural acting style and is able to play a wide variety of characters in various genres from comedies to action thrillers. Ueto definitely holds her own surrounded by a primarily all-male cast of veteran actors and it was refreshing to see Ueto play a more subdued role compared to some of her more flamboyant roles in the past. She looks as eternally cute as always and I'm sure most of the male audience watching must have been insanely jealous of Sakai's Hanzawa character.

While former FNN Newscaster turned model 滝川クリステル/Christel Takigawa expounded the virtues of おもてなし/Omotenashi (Japanese Hospitality) as part of the successful 2020 Bid for the Tokyo Olympics, Sakai as Hanzawa also coined a popular buzz word of his own albeit with much more darker overtones.  In the drama series, the notion of 倍返し ("payback" or "revenge") played a big part in Hanzawa's goals and motivations.  Whenever his enemies would think they have Hanzawa in a bind or mistakenly assume he has been set a career-breaking blow, Hanzawa would look into the camera and exclaim with absolute determination - 「やられたら、やり返す...倍返しだ!」 ("An Eye for an Eye - I'll pay you back - big time").  For further emphasis he would also add levels of "payback" in his warnings as well (10倍/x10, 100倍/x100 etc.).  Part the fun of the series was seeing Hanzawa "stick it to" his pompous, arrogant and conniving "fatcat" opponents be they corrupt supervisors like Tokyo Chuo Bank Branch Manager Asano Testu (石丸幹二/Ishimaru Kanji), or shady and thugish Nishi Osaka Steel businessman-on-the-run Higashida Mitsuru (宇梶剛士/Ukaji Takashi) or the imperious, elitist and underhanded Bank Executive Ohwada Akira (the great 香川照之/Kagawa Teruyuki). To even the score, Hanzawa would also have them "submit humility" towards him as well by having his defeated opponents perform 土下座/Dogeza, the ultimate traditional apologetic form of humility and submission.  Audiences took great satisfaction when Hanzawa's proud and egotistical opponents are forced to perform this, as it was the supreme expression of comeuppance. 

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While Hanzawa faced off against a number of smug and arrogant villains during the course of the series, the two most memorable by far have to be 緋田康人/Hida Yasuhito's desk-slapping, bug-eyed Bank Executive Ogiso Tadao and the "ball-busting", fey and effeminate Tax Inspector turned Internal Audit Enforcement Financial Officer Kurosaki Shunichi portrayed by Kabuki actor 片岡 愛之助/Kataoka Ainosuke.  Their performances are deliciously hammy and excessive but are a joy to watch visually. Kataoka in particular really steals the show every time his Kurosaki character makes an appearance. While a bit stereotypical and flamboyantly evil, Kataoka's Kurosaki character is certainly destined to be one of the best J-Dorama villains ever.  

Bad Guys - Top Row - L-R - Asano (Ishimaru Kanji); Ogiso (Hida Yasuhito); Bottom Row - L-R - Kurosaki (Kataoka Ainosuke) and Ohwada (Kagawa Teruyuki)

Hanzawa Naoki Original Soundtrack Cover - Image courtesy of
Bucking the tend of using J-Pop music for its theme/title song, "Hanzawa Naoki" producers  伊與田英徳/Iyoda Hidenori and 飯田和孝/Ida Kazuyoshi wisely opted to go with a full orchestrial/instrumental heavy soundtrack which further gave the series a more cinematic quality. Famed composer 服部克久/Hattori Takayuki whose credits include the soundtracks for such anime projects like 『星界の戦旗』/"Banner of the Stars" (2000) and アルジェント ソーマ』/"Argento Soma", wrote most of the score for the series as well as its distinctive main theme. The them has a somewhat ominous and dark tone about it but is very dramatic and really gets one interested in the series.

His work on "Hanzawa Naoki" was a vindication for Hattori as it came 11 years after a Tokyo High Court in 2002 ordered Hattori to pay 9.4 million yen in damages, ruling that there was a strong similarity between his song, "Kinenju" and Asei Kobayashi's song "Dokomademo Iko".  

The "Hanzawa Naoki" boom inspired a number of tie-in and promotional products including everything from breakfast breads to candy goods. There were even handy guides that gave guidelines on how to dress smartly like the character Hanzawa.  

Surprisingly, the cable network TV Japan/NHK World cable network will be showing the "Hanzawa Naoki" series this weekend which is an extremely fast turnaround rate considering that "Hanzawa Naoki" only recently ended just a few weeks ago.  

The series ends with a bit of a shock and surprise ending that definitely screams sequel and I for one am eagerly awaiting the further adventures of Hanzawa as he battles a new set of corrupt and pompous bank executives.  I just hope we see Kataoka's flamboyant villain Kurosaki again in the sequel.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi, JTM.

    Looks like it was quite the night for Hanzawa last night. During my dinner with some friends, there was one point when everyone was gushing about Naoki Hanzawa and that 40% rating the show achieved. I don't think I've ever heard ratings like those for a drama. Then, when I got home last night, my parents were watching the very first episode. Looks like Japan has gotten a new hero!

    As for the title tune, it sounds a bit like "The Avengers" theme, which is rather appropriate considering.


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