Fully titled Hancho: Jinnansho Azumihan (Squad Leader: Jinnan Station Azumi Squad), this is a simple detective drama starring the charismatic Sasaki Kuranosuke (Giragira, Zettai Kareshi, Mamiya Brothers). The show’s first season aired during the middle of last year and the staff deserve an award for wasting no time, for Hancho just started its 3rd season this Monday. It is surprising that a show as plain could lead to a sequel, let alone 3 seasons within the span of a year.
The premise for Hancho is rather straight forward, Sasaki Kuranosuke is the leader of a team of detectives over at Jinnan station (between Shibuya and Harajuku). He plays a friendly and carefree “hancho” that is respected by his colleagues. But due to his personality, he is often taken advantage of. So despite the team’s effort in solving many crimes, the credit often goes to the main branch.
Among the team, we find the usual police stereotypes. There’s the suave and serious detective, the overly eager rookie, the one with an ever spot on intuition and the belle mistaken for “one of the guys”. It is easy to pass off Hancho as just another mystery detective drama.
Most interestingly, is the means by which Sasaki solves the crimes in the drama as detective Azumi. While most other shows rely on scientific genius or brilliant intuition, Sasaki manages to reach a resolution with nothing more than his adept EQ and PR ability.
Equipped with his interpersonal skills, he manages to coerce information from tight lipped witnesses and by being able to put himself in the shoes of the victim or suspect, he uncovers the real reasons for each crime. It is a refreshing idea when all other shows of the genre now compete for extravagance. I’m all for the Change, having grown tired of shows like Mr. Brain and CSI that presume of the ignorance of its audience, dramatizing the most basic procedures and explaining the already obvious.
Sasaki Kuranosuke fits the role like a glove. I’ve always enjoyed the additional quirkiness that he brings to the characters he play. He isn’t quite as eccentric as Abe Hiroshi but is still amusing to watch. As a police drama, the comedic moments in Hancho are obviously restricted to the start and end of each episode. But there is still a certain pleasantness to the character that is only possible with Sasaski.
The rest of the Hancho cast isn’t quite as impressive. Notable members include Nakamura Shunsuke and Kurotani Tomoka. Nakamura is the squad’s most capable detective known for his serious nature. Kurotani accompanies Sasaki in most of his investigations and is quick to jump to conclusions. Both of their no nonsense personalities serve as a contrast to Azumi’s laid back manner. Tsukaji Muga who acted alongside Sasaki in Mamiya Brothers, also appears in Hancho as one of Sasaki’ subordinates.
Obviously, the producers weren’t terribly ambitious when they made Hancho. But the show owes its success to its simplicity. Hancho sticks firmly to its theme and doesn’t complicate things by throwing in romance or suspense. A new crime is featured each week and there isn’t any overall progression to the plot. The crimes are simple but the scenarios are well written enough to have you guessing. It is rather interesting to watch how the mysteries are solved in such a basic but novel way. Fans of the genre will be pleased that the plot twists often come as a surprise. I would also praise Hancho for featuring realistic and believable crimes, instead of the usual far fetched situations.
Hancho isn’t quite as flashy as the other detective dramas out there. The story is simple and the budget small. The cast isn’t that fancy either and we aren’t treated to any notable cameos. Unexpectedly, the show manages to provide a light and enjoyable watch on account of its uniquely ordinary concept.