Jdrama Photo Recap Disclaimer: Since this is both a recap and a review of the show, there will be spoilers here. I’m watching this without English subtitles and while I understand a lot of Japanese, I’m not fluent. There are occasionally parts where I don’t understand what’s going on. And lastly, the photo captions are just snarky jokes and not meant to convey actual dialogue. So if you’re cool with all this, read on and enjoy!
On January 9th, NTV aired a nice little drama special called Keiji Ballerino (translation: Detective Ballerino). It was both a hilarious and interesting story about a police detective and his partner investigating a series of murders and uncovering the the dark secret underneath. The catch? The main character, Usushima Kurumi, (portrayed by Nakajima Yuto) is obsessed with ballet and thinks he was a swan in his past life. Out of context, everything seemed really crazy but it was actually a very well-put together story. So let’s talk about it!
We begin, as most stories do, with a flashback to the main character as a child. Young Kurumi 12 years previously watches a swan fly away majestically.
It’s brief but this scene does show how important both ballet and swans are to young Kurumi. In the next scene, we can see just how much it has influenced his life. He dances around his empty house in full ballet gear just for fun as he prepares to go to work.
The case he’ll be investigating, as we see, is a prestigious doctor who gets stabbed in the back in an elevator.
The doctor’s name is Katakiri (portrayed briefly by Uchida Shinichiro). I was a bit unsure, but I think he and his two doctor colleagues were supposed to be getting some special recognition soon or something. Not sure. The important thing is that the suspect guy dashes out of the elevator and runs away.
Back at the police office, Kurumi introduces himself to the rest of the people working the case. Honestly, the whole introduction was so funny because Kurumi’s every moment is ballet-esque, from his hand motions to his straight posture. There was even twinkly music whenever he wiggled his eyebrows. (I’m sorry the screencaps don’t do it justice)
His partner is a senior detective, Washio (portrayed by Takashima Masahiro), and he’s not very impressed with Kurumi.
The team gets straight to work as they leave to catch the stabbing suspect dude at his apartment. He tries to escape on his motorcycle but Kurumi flies through the air (LOL) and distracts him so that the team can arrest him.
So after a successful day of work, Kurumi and Washio go eat dinner together. I really loved how this scene showed the contrast between the two characters. Kurumi is neat and precise and sits with excellent posture, while Washio is messy and slouches over the table as he eats.
The best part of this scene is that Kurumi gets a chance to explain himself to Washio, so we get to learn what’s shaped Kurumi’s life. As it turns out, Kurumi studied ballet from a young age with his dance teacher mother. He was the top of his class and even won a competition. He could leap so high into the air, he was like a swan.
But as Kurumi grew older, his mother had a different student to focus on, so he was sad. One day while he was walking, he came across the scene of a burning apartment building. He watched as a man leapt out of the top floor window (gracefully, like a swan) and rescued the child inside. Turns out that the rescuer was none other than Washio! And that moment was what inspired Kurumi to become a police detective.
Washio is not very impressed with this story.
The next scene gave us a brief introduction to Azusa (portrayed by Nagasaku Hiromi). She’s a bit strange since she does some sort of weird yelling chant thing to give people good luck. Her introduction scene was kinda pointless, but she’ll be more important later.
Next, Kurumi and Washio go ask questions to the lady in the elevator who witnessed the stabbing. Her name is Komori Kyoko (portrayed by Matsui Rena).
She doesn’t think that Katagiri knew the murderer because they saw each other in the elevator but there was no recognition. The only strange thing was that the suspect asked Katagiri “will you give me a toy?” before he did it.
Afterwards, the two of them are supposed to go interview the other doctors, Kinjo and Osaki (Ayata Toshiki and Owada Shinya). But actually Washio makes Kurumi do it by himself. They tell Kurumi about doing some children-related research, but honestly I don’t understand Japanese medical jargon at all, so I’m not clear on the details. (If anyone can clarify, please feel free to in the comments.) Kurumi asks them about the toy question, but they have no idea. After Kurumi leaves though, Kinjo and Osaki share a look that says they probably know more than they are telling.
Kurumi returns (doing strange ballet moves around the room all silly like, which is the best thing about his character) to find Washio teaching origami to kids just for fun. Suddenly, Kurumi has an epiphany about toys and the kids chase him around the room. It’s pretty cute how clueless he is.
Back at the police station, the other detectives interrogate the suspect dude. He denies knowing the guy and he doesn’t understand why he said anything about a toy. Later in the holding cell, a strange flashback makes him freak out.
Azusa meets with the police boss Ozone (Sugimoto Tetta) and they have dinner together. He gives her a purse for a birthday present and she gives good luck to the food by more yelling. I can see why they were in a private room because that’d be totally obnoxious in a restaurant, yeah? Anyway, again it was another sort of pointless scene that just sets up what Azusa does and her connection to the police department.
Meanwhile, sketchy doctor Kinjo is out with the ladies (which basically solidifies that he’s a creep) and one Russian lady joins in and asks him “will you give me a toy?” And then she stabs Kinjo dead. Oops.
The detectives get back to work, trying now to figure out the motives for not one but two murders. While Kurumi is interrogating Osaki again, Kyoko sits down and talks to Washio who’s still obsessed with playing his cellphone game. Turns out in a strange coincidence that Kyoko is the girl he saved from the burning building!?
Washio and Kurumi interrogate the lady suspect but, just like the male suspect, she says she’d never met the guy before too. And then for some reason, she also FREAKS OUT. Afterwards, Boss Ozone suggests that they take the suspect lady to visit Azusa for an interrogation via hyponosis. Azusa’s technique is supposed to help the person get in touch with who they were in a past life. The session, however, doesn’t turn up much info other than a name, a date in 1975, and that tomorrow is apparently her sister’s birthday.
Kurumi earnestly searches for the name and finds it in an old book.
Turns out the name was a young boy with a little sister in 1975. Washio is skeptical about the whole thing, which is another nice example of how different these two characters are.
In a moment that’s really unrelated to the case, Kurumi goes to talk to Azusa again and somehow agrees to try out the past-life hypnosis himself because Azusa doesn’t believe he’s a swan. His vision begins and he’s naked for fanservice reasons, but it’s brief and then suddenly the next part of his vision is in a car. As the vision continues, it becomes quite apparent that actually HE WAS A BULL.
Afterwards, Azusa looks up the running of the bulls in Spain for that year on Youtube to find him. It’s all hilariously absurd. But of course, this shatters all of Kurumi’s dreams, so he’s quite depressed about it. There’s also a great moment though when he realizes “oh, that’s why I couldn’t eat beef as a kid and I slept with my fingers in my nose like a ring and I cried when I drank milk.” The best discovery was that his name Kurumi backwards is actually miruku (milk).
Kurumi has dinner with Washio again, and he’s so depressed about his discovery that he gives Washio his resignation letter. His reasoning was basically “if I’m not a swan, I don’t have a reason to be a detective!!!” (not a direct translation of dialogue, of course) Washio gets mad and tells him “it’s not that easy to give up.” Then he storms out.
That night Kurumi calls Azusa for what equates to a pep talk, while Washio goes and stares at the apartment that he rescued Kyoko from. After the phone call, Kurumi pulls himself together and does some stretches while essentially yelling like a Super Saiyan. It helped him, but I feel sorry for his neighbors.
So the next day Kurumi prances back into the office like nothing was ever wrong, and we pick up the case again after this short character development detour. Azusa calls to tell them that she’s found info on the little sister of suspect lady’s past life. Turns out, the first male suspect was the younger sister in his past life. While under the hypnosis, he remembers being near the ocean, tomorrow is his (her?) birthday, and someone promised to give him a toy. This all matches with the information that suspect lady gave them earlier.
With some more information, Kurumi and Washio go investigate the shrine by the sea. (As a sidenote, I absolutely loved that the music in this scene sounded like a cow mooing as they went up the stairs) They hike through the woods and find what I think is some sort of abandoned medical school. They investigate the building and find the remnants of a bloody lab. They also find the room where the kids played.
Washio stares intently at the origami before they go outside to investigate an old well. Kurumi digs inside until he hits something. In a dark turn for such a funny drama, it turns out that the discovery is of some skeletons (the kids). Meanwhile, a crowd has gathered to watch the excavation and Washio stares at a lady staring back at him. The lady soon runs away. Washio tells Kurumi to go back without him.
Back at the office, Boss Ozone asks Kurumi questions about how they knew to look there. Thankfully, Kurumi gets to avoid the questions because the other detectives come in to announce that there had been 3 kids there. So Kurumi realizes Osaki is in danger of dying like the other two guys had. Kurumi suspects Washio might be the 3rd kid and Osaki is doing a presentation thing.
So he runs dramatically to the hospital. Once there, the knowledge of his past life starts to mess with his head. He sees a cow poster and freaks out.
He keeps running to find Washio but still runs into bull-related stuff like beef everywhere and a ton of red items. (Why is there even a red curtain hanging from the kitchen ceiling??) At this point, he pretty much becomes the bull.
He’s sorta gone crazy and grabs a lobster and runs straight into the event hall which is guarded by literally the most incompetent security guys ever. He can’t get to Washio because of all the people, so he shouts to stop the speech. He literally hallucinates the bull-running guys urging him to start running. And this is where is gets the most absurd because KURUMI BECOMES A FLYING COW and then kicks Osaki out of the way.
Maybe not Kurumi’s most well thought out idea, but it accomplished the goal. Washio seems a bit confused by the whole thing and leaves.
Kurumi apologizes to Boss Ozone afterwards.
And then Kurumi and Washio turn in their resignation letters. And then they fight over who gets to turn one in first. Ozone shouts STOP IT very loudly, and then there’s a hilariously dramatic cut to Kurumi quietly drinking tea or something while Washio smokes. They talk about the incident but Washio doesn’t know what he was gonna do. I like the separation in this scene, once again visually showing how much of a gap there is between these two characters. Kurumi tells Washio his theory and Washio calls him an idiot. The ages don’t match up because he would have been alive in 1975 when all that stuff happened.
It’s time for another trip to see Azusa, this time for Washio to learn more about his past. Under the hypnosis, he says he’s 6 years old and in the hospital with the other kids. The important reveal here is that there were FOUR children total, instead of the three they had learned about earlier. In the flashback, the evil doctors come in and ask about a surgery the kids don’t want. But then they promise toys for them, so the kids are happy. The nurse watching in the doorway doesn’t look happy though. That night, young Washio overhears the doctors plotting something bad (but again, I don’t know the specifics because of medical terms. Please clarify in the comments if you know!). The nurse lady takes Washio away while one of the kids silently waves goodbye.
In the present, Kurumi and Washio go search for the nurse and find that it was the staring lady from the crowd earlier. She tells them what happened and the name of the other girl: Norika (the one who waved goodbye). She feels terrible about leaving the other 3 kids behind even though she could only rescue one. But Kurumi tells her that the kid she saved is a detective now and is grateful.
Kurumi researches Norika-chan and Washio helps. They find a picture of young Washio, and then a picture of Noriko which includes her full name. Just like how Kurumi figured out that you could flip his name to “miruku,” he realizes that you could flip Noriko’s full name too. In a strange bit of coincidence, the flipped name matched the person Washio plays against on the cellphone game he’s addicted to. And that game player is actually KYOKO! She’s the reincarnation of Norika and the one who will go stab Osaki.
So now it’s time for DRAMATIC RUNNING TO THE HOSPITAL.
There’s lots of people around as Osaki is leaving the hospital. Kyoko is hiding in the shadows in a hoodie. The audience is shown a brief, heartbreaking flashback to what Norika did after the nurse escaped with Washio. Norika tried to get the other kids and run away. But sadly they get caught.
Back in the present, Kurumi’s trying desperately to reach Kyoko, but there are still so many people in the way. So Washio makes a rather poor decision and JUMPS THROUGH A WINDOW to get closer to Kyoko.
He sails elegantly through the air… and then plummets straight down. Ouchies!
Knowing that there’s not much time left, Kurumi remembers some ballet lesson from his mom and then he FLIES THROUGH THE AIR.
He stops the Kyoko’s blade with his shoe and Washio who can miraculously still walk holds Kyoko back (after he punched Osaki in the face). Both Osaki and Kyoko are arrested, and Kurumi and Washio lean on each other (and a statue) as they go get treatment for their injuries. It’s nice to see them really bonding over that moment of teamwork.
In the end, they wrap up things by talking to Azusa. And it’s a nice bittersweet moment which Kurumi ruins by falling asleep with his fingers in his nose like a bull ring. And that’s the end!
All in all, this was an excellent special drama. It had everything you need for a great story: interesting quirky main characters, a fascinating mystery, a good balance between hilarious and moving moments. The coincidence of Washio basically being connected to everything was quite cliched, but I can give it a pass because of how fun the whole story was. Personally, I was blown away by Nakajima Yuto’s performance as Kurumi (and I’m not just saying that as a fan.) He really committed to the absurdity of the role and brought the character to life with earnestness. Plus it was just really fun to watch him prance around in half the scenes.
Final Thoughts and Questions
- Was the kid playing young Kurumi the same one who played young Naoya in Suikyuu Yankees? Because I can’t find a full cast list anywhere to be sure, but they look similiar from what I remember. Either way, it was really good casting!
- I’m a big fan of physical humor, so one of my favorite moments was when Kurumi first walks into the police office to introduce himself and he’s so tall that he smacks his head against the door frame. The way he turns around and looks up at the ceiling in shock is just cute and funny.
- I absolutely loved the music in the special! It was really good at setting the tone, and like I mentioned before, the low strings that sounded like cows mooing was an excellent touch.
- If anyone can explain to me why Washio didn’t remember his childhood, I would be forever grateful.
- What was your favorite moment? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section!
Lastly, I will leave you with my favorite screencap of the entire show. Angsty Kurumi just casually shaving his legs in the dance studio because WHY NOT