Rec of the Week: ATARU

Now this is a special I can understand! It was announced late last week that Spring ratings topper ATARU, will get it’s own “special” in 2013. Unlike other “special” announcements, this one actually makes sense, for the ratings are a big guarantee that audiences want to see this cast again. And, thankfully, the entire wacky crew will be back together.

To be honest, I would definitely appreciate an entire new season, but I suppose one has to make do with what she’s given.

Synopsis: Ataru, who suffers from “savant syndrome,” has the power to discover, observe, see through, and deduct microscopic evidence of unsolved cases. One day, he mysteriously appears on the streets of Tokyo, and an explosion occurs at a chemical factory, leaving one person dead. The investigation team concludes that it is merely an accident, but Ebina Maiko has her doubts. When she goes to the site again, she finds a man who introduces himself as “Chokozai.” After blurting out a series of words that Maiko cannot understand, he suddenly falls asleep. Maiko decides to look up the meaning of these words. She is taken aback when she discovers that when put together, these words provide the key to solving the case.

Cast: Nakai Masahiro, Kitamura Kazuki, Kuriyama Chiaki

Thoughts: ATARU isn’t the run of the mill type of crime drama, but it also isn’t anything to rave about— well not in the crime department. Moreover, this drama has a bit of mystery concerning “Chokozai’s” origin (who and why he was “created” as a crime solver) and his overall use to these unknown(named) individuals. But the draw is mostly how readily he’s embraced by the other characters in the drama. He doesn’t communicate other than to solve puzzles or when he’s hungry and he’s not completely clueless or dependent on them and yet, they envelop him into their world and respect his abilities and skills, without abusing their power.

This drama is something special because somehow “Chokozai” worms his way into your heart. He’s given a personality and a genuine compassion for others, without the drama ogling his “condition.” He’s just another lovable quirky character that is admired for who he is, accepting that his diagnosis is a fact that makes him such.

Admittedly, I peeked at ATARU solely for Nakai, for I adore his variety/idol persona and have had little exposure to his acting. The last drama of his I saw, I didn’t appreciate and truly wanted to see how he would tackle this role. And I’m glad I did. I still don’t believe he’s the most natural or best actor in SMAP but with every project I see or hear about, he improves. He’s a man that takes his roles seriously and puts enormous effort in generating a good outcome. Kitamura is the strongest actor in the bunch and whether I see him in comedic or dramatic roles, I’m drawn to him. Here he’s definitely less dramatic and steered more towards the laugh, but even with that Kitamura, layers Detective Sawa in a way that makes him unlikely to forget. He and Maiko make for an adorable odd couple, with her department spokesmodel-turned serious cop and his fumbling seasoned experience. The three work together undeniably well in their own skeptically cautious yet respectful way.

Special: The ATARU special will air on New Year’s day and plans to revolve around a case where Chokozai’s brother is found to be the chief suspect in a series of murders. The team will reassemble to clear his name. News concerning special guests or other key players has yet to be revealed.

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