Erika TodaYoshiyuki MorishitaTsuyoshi MuroMei Hata
Police in a Pod (2021 live-action TV series)
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2021: P
Also known as: Hakozume Tatakau! Kouban Joshi
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2021
Director: Sugawara Shintaro, Nagumo Seiichi
Writer: Nemoto Nonji
Original creator: Miko Yasu
Keywords: detective
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Asami Usuda, Atsushi Fukazawa, Ayaka Onishi, Eri Tokunaga, Erika Toda, Hitoshi Kitazawa, Mayuko Nishiyama, Mei Hata, Mei Nagano, Nanase Nishino, Seiji Chihara, Shohei Miura, Taro Suruga, Tsuyoshi Muro, Yoshiyuki Morishita, Yuki Yamada, Yusuke Hirayama, Yuto Fuchino, Yuto Ikeda
Format: 11 x 51 minutes (including two specials that are mostly recaps) plus a 16-minute "original story"
Website category: Japanese
Review date: 21 November 2023
Hakozume Tatakau Kouban Joshi
It's an entertaining TV show, with a good cast, chemistry and comic timing. Tsuyoshi Muro as the police box head is a completely new character and one of my favourite cast members. I enjoyed it... until it started getting silly later on. As an adaptation, though, it's uninspired and doesn't care about the point of the original work. Like bad Hollywood movies, it thinks it knows better and has ended up creating something thinner and less interesting.
Here's why Yasu Miko created the original manga, from a 2018 interview:
She was a police office for about 10 years but was alarmed by its work culture and felt guilty about the load placed upon colleagues. When she took childcare leave, the person who filled her role died of overwork. She wanted to demonstrate that police officers are just ordinary people doing their best, while also depicting her own experiences in an organisation that's often blind to women's issues.
The anime is sharp, focused and brilliant. It's dissecting the police as a work environment, especially for women.
The live-action TV drama is light and funny. It wants to avoid being too critical, though, so for instance it doesn't include that sexist policeman from the anime's ep.8. No one quits the force. You won't find the (very funny) joke about "you might hear complaints from the public about these men of bad character". This series is capable of saying interesting things (e.g. the gun discussion in ep.8, which makes the Japanese police seem almost British)... but they make it feel like an aside. It's not the focus of the scene. Ultimately, it's background in just another gun standoff in a (slightly offbeat) cop show.
It's still adapting Yasu Miko's manga, mind you. You'd have to be crazy to call this a bad show. It's well cast and it makes intelligent story editing choices when putting together an hour-long episode. It's also capable of portraying emotion more strongly than the anime. Real actors in front of a camera are good for tear-jerkers. The show does, though, like prioritising character comedy. "Female mountain gorilla" becomes a flipping catchphrase. I fast-forwarded through the romantic material in ep.5 that was guaranteed to go nowhere, e.g. the group dates, which I knew I'd find annoying as soon as Seiko ordered Kawai to conceal the fact that they were police officers. (The characters still downplayed the dangerous side of their jobs in the anime, but that I can live with.)
The specials make the show's priorities even more obvious. They're mostly recap episodes, with additional studio scenes filmed on the police station sets. (These don't star Seiko and Kawai, instead focusing on the mostly male supporting cast.) I fast-forwarded through all those. Characters do silly things for comedy. The show's not trying to say anything. It's just busking. Then, after that, the editors' selection of old scenes has focused on funny stuff and standard cop show stuff, not anything to make you sit up or challenge your assumptions.
The show's even capable of looking kiddified. (Or, to put it another way, "suitable for slightly timid TV broadcast", despite airing at 10pm.) "I thought Kawai might have died" will make you laugh, but not in a good way.
Then we have the season finale, which gives us a tragic ex-colleague of Seiko's who was run over by someone who's still on the loose, etc. (She's still alive, though.) Frankly, to me that just felt like yet another example of TV being TV. It's the season finale, so we need tragic backstory for the protagonist, etc.
There's still a lot of good in this show. I'd happily watch these actors in other things. The director isn't forcing them to take the piss, so they feel alive and find good chemistry with each other. Erika Toda could have found more underneath Seiko, but Mei Nagano is quite interesting as the wide-eyed Kawai, Shohei Miura's a scene-stealer as Minamoto, Yuki Yamada does a surprising amount with the underdog who shares his name and Tsuyoshi Muro on his own would have made the show worth watching as the police box head. The show can keep us happy just with scenes of our heroes hanging out together and drinking in Kawai's apartment.
But I'll be ditching these episodes, while keeping the anime. The show's very good at bringing pre-existing material to the screen, but its instincts for original creation are frankly a bit rubbish.