It's a Takashi Miike TV mini-series based on a manga by Eiji Otsuka and Shou Tajima. The lead character is played by Naoki Hosaka and he has multiple personalities, one of which is a detective and another is a body-hopping serial killer who's escaped from Hosaka's body and is now being hunted down by the others. After that it gets complicated.
Overall, interesting but kind of awkward and indigestible. Anything by Takashi Miike requires attention and there's lots of good stuff here, but it's also not bothering with a coherent story, a satisfying ending and fundamental dimensions to its protagonists' characters.
Firstly, the story. It's easy to believe that it's based on a manga. As a TV experience it's off-balance, disorientating and going out of its way to keep the audience confused and in the dark. My notes for episode one include "I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT'S HAPPENING". It also won't have helped that Miike only had the manga's early chapters to adapt and thereafter had to find his own direction. The manga started in 1997 and is still running today, whereas this is a 2000 mini-series. Whoops. Don't expect Lucy Monostone or the Gakuso company to make much sense. It just about passes muster as backstory, but it's the kind of thing you squint at for a while and then decide to take on trust.
The show's lead characters are also a bit off-putting. The best of them is that old workhorse Ren Osugi. He's the stolid police detective at the centre of the investigation who happens to have a sister on Death Row and two households in each of which he keeps a different wife. He might also have been having sex with his own daughter since she was eleven, but I'm unsure about that one. Anyway, Osugi gives surreal presentations to his police chief superiors, along with a charming geek assistant who makes worryingly detailed models of murder victims. This probably sounds like one hell of a character... but he's not. The bigamy is treated as a mere background detail, while his sister appears in one scene throughout the mini-series. For the most part, he's just a cop. He does cop things. His personal life has no bearing on his work and most of the time we don't even remember it. The only thing bringing Osugi's character to life is Osugi himself, but fortunately that's saying a lot.
Naoki Hosaka is a null, though. You wouldn't think anyone could be forgettable as the lead of this show, but he manages it. He's not differentiating between his personalities and his only character note appears to be "indecisive person who runs away from trauma by forgetting about it". Both he and Osugi have bad things happen to people who are close to them and in neither case does it seem to make much impact on the show.
Those are all big flaws, or at least peculiarities. However the show's in no way a write-off.
Firstly, it's ambitious. Most body-swap stories have that as the big reveal. Here, it's just a premise. There are entire strata of complexity on top of that, including bar codes in your left eye, DNA rewriting, an anime girl who can appear on computer monitors, tech interfaces and the options opened up by multiple simultaneous hosts. It's also doing the same thing we saw in Another Heaven
, in which the body-swapper isn't overwriting his host body's personality, but infecting it. He's not in complete control. They've merged. The host body will still act on its original personality's desires, but ramped up to eleven and realised by Takashi Miike. You can thus have relatively self-contained episodes about the latest scary youth trends, be it Midwich Cuckoo schoolboy armies who at one point collectively give a Nazi salute (part 3), testosterone-crazed hooligans (part 4) or quiet otaku with no social skills (part 5).
Then you've got Takashi Miike. It's extreme. It's probably going nearly as far as TV can go, if not occasionally further. They've had to put digital mosaics on a few scenes and part 3 is at least five minutes shorter than all the other episodes, so maybe things got a bit much there. Admittedly it's not full-bore Miike, but it's still working hard to be twisted and disconcerting. I'd say it's Miike who's making this watchable despite the weaknesses of the overall story, simply through what he's doing with the insanities and atrocities.
There are some interesting nuggets in the performances. Chiaki Kuriyama (Battle Royale) has a cameo in episode 3, but what a cameo. I also liked the hateful swaggering thug in episode 4.
In summary, a bit of a mess. I'd guess that it's a poor adaptation even without having read the original manga, just judging by Hosaka's non-entity of a performance and the weak ending. You could make it ten times more satisfying by making its final episode less of a wet dishrag. However at the same time you'll find here a lot of strangeness, sickness and unusual ideas, making it considerably richer than usual for the body-swap genre. It's memorable. Wait until you see the flower-arranging in episode two, for instance. It's just that there's a lot of it and it contains some debatable storytelling decisions. Best might be to imagine it as six hour-long improvisations on the themes of Eiji Otsuka and Shou Tajima's manga, courtesy of one of Japan's most unique directors.
I'll say this for it, though. It doesn't feel like TV.