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Giri/Haji Preview: Takehiro Hira and Kelly Macdonald star in amazing ‘East Meets West’ production taking the best from Japanese and UK dramas to create something new

Cast of Giri/Haji pose in promotional poster
Takehiro Hira, Kelly Macdonald, and Yōsuke Kubozuka pose for a promotional picture for their crime series, Giri/Haji. Pic credit: BBC Two

Over the past decade, television dramas have evolved from series enjoyed domestically in their respective home countries to international alternatives for drama fans.

Fueled by the internet’s ability to connect people to different cultures without having to leave their homes, people are discovering new ethnic genres of comedies, romcoms, and melodramas.

Asian dramas, in general, have gained the most popularity from this “movement,” especially Korean dramas (K-dramas). As a matter of fact, dramas from Korea, China, and Japan make up a decent percentage of the viewing library on Netflix presently.

With the onset popularity of Asian dramas internationally, there was the amazing possibility of certain western drama markets, ones that have become lackluster, learning a thing or two from their Asian counterparts.

That seems to be the case in America as networks are remaking K-dramas (The Good Doctor) and K-variety shows (I Can See Your Voice, The Masked Singer) to improve their variety.

But what about a collaboration? That seems to be what the British Broadcasting Channel (BBC) did on BBC Two with Giri/Haji (Japanese for Duty/Shame). The series is amazing as its “East meets West” production mixes styles from both Japanese and UK dramas to create something new.

A race against time in London to prevent a Yakuza gang war

Giri/Haji is a Britsh television series that premiered on BBC Two in the United Kingdom last year in October. Despite the series technically being four months old, it just recently released to an international audience through Netflix in January 2020.

Starring Takehiro Hira and Kelly Macdonald, the series is about two detectives, Japanese detective Kenzo Mori (Hira) and London detective constable Sarah Weitzmann (Macdonald), as they search for the former’s younger brother, Yuto Mori (Yōsuke Kubozuka).

Yuto Mori was accused of murdering a nephew of a Yakuza member, which, as a result, threatens to start a gang war in Tokyo. Previously assumed to be dead, his whereabouts leads his brother, Kenzo Mori, to London.

Teaming up with Sarah Weitzmann, Kenzo navigates the unfamiliar territory of London while trying to keep his family together back home in Tokyo. However, his investigation brings him into contact with the dangerous underbelly of London’s corrupt criminal world.

East meets West

What many have found quite amazing about Giri/Haji is the mixing of drama elements from Japanese dramas and UK dramas to create something new. Ergo, something that is more like “East meets West.”

For starters, Giri/Haji takes place in both London, United Kingdom, and Tokyo, Japan. When the story switches from one location to the other, the direction somewhat changes too. The same goes for the language as English is prominently used in London, and Japanese prominently used in Tokyo.

Ultimately, it keeps things for Giri/Haji quite fresh as the conflicts in both cities are also “different.” London concentrates more on the crime while Tokyo, though the Yakuza exists, focuses on the Japanese view of family and honor.

That might also be the reason why the title of the series is Giri/Haji. Kenzo Mori risks his duty (giri) as a Tokyo detective traveling to London, searching for his long lost brother.

On the other hand, Kenzo risks bringing shame (haji) to his family by leaving them behind in Tokyo when they are suffering from internal conflicts.

The first season of Giri/Haji originally aired on BBC Two on October 17, 2019. Internationally, the series is available exclusively on Netflix. Please take note viewers will need a subscription to the streaming service to watch the series.

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War Omega is an entertainment news writer and painter that specializes in Asian entertainment. On Monsters & Critics, he writes about K-pop, K-dramas, and Chinese... read more
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