Maou is the Japanese remake of the popular Korean drama “The Devil”. It is a murder suspense drama that despite originating from Korea, manages to provide a pretty solid story that actually makes sense. This Japanese version was released a couple years ago. I was initially bored by the first episode so I couldn’t find any motivation to watch it till recently.
Maou stars Johnny’s Ikuta Toma, Arashi leader Ohno Satoshi and obscure actress Kobayashi Ryoko. The show pits its morally gray characters against one another and can be best described as a more character driven Death Note.
Ikuta Toma plays a righteous police detective, once a middle school bully responsible for the death of his classmate. Ohno Satoshi acts as the the victim’s older brother. He appears as a kind-hearted defense attorney but beneath his exterior lies a ruthless criminal mastermind bent on revenge.
Perhaps the strongest aspect of Maou is the relation of the characters to the overall scenario. Indirectly, all the characters in the show are responsible for the string of murders. But when viewed from their individual perspectives the actions they take are most often the correct ones. Because of this none of the characters in the show are truly villains either. It is interesting to watch how the other characters contribute to the ever worsening situation. The story is strong, lose ends are all tied up quickly and the overall plot progresses well, a rarity when it comes to suspense dramas these days.
Many of the actors perform their roles admirably. Ikuta fits the role perfectly and pulled off many of the show’s emotional scenes well. Ohno Satoshi too acted much better than I would ever expect from a boy band member.
It was my first time seeing Kobayashi Ryoko in action since she has hardly appeared in anything else but she seems like a really promising actresses. Her impish and somewhat ethereal appearance strikes me as a cross between Inoue Mao and Kato Koyuki.
Despite all their acting talent however, I felt that both Ohno Satoshi and Kobayashi Ryoko were ill cast in their roles. Ohno’s boyish looks depart from the serious and bitter nature of his character. He also shared little chemistry with Kobayashi who plays his love interest in the show (despite much effort on Kobayashi’s part). I would have loved to see more of their relationship play out and the resulting internal conflicts.
Kobayashi’s character too could have benefited more from a more mature actress. When the show was filmed Kobayashi was just 18 but the time-line of the show puts her character at around 26. A much smaller gripe is that she and her younger part (played by ex-AKB48 member Masuyama Kayano) look nothing alike.
The comedian Gekidan Hitori plays a supporting role as the brother of Ikuta. Out of all the others, I felt he was the best cast member. He really proved himself as a talented actor by creating what was the most believable character in the show. While not particularly outstanding, the rest of the supporting cast aren’t too bad, with the exception of Liar Game’s Kichise Michiko who is simply a terrible actress.
A few other issues prevented me from enjoying the show even more. Most noticeably were the show’s often unnecessarily scenes. Many of these lengthy clips often served no purpose, such as repeated flashbacks showing an already established point. With a show like Maou, one can be pretty sure of the possibilities in which the show could end. Even so, I was also incredibly disappointed at how rushed the conclusion was. It was a mistake on the producer’s part to introduce new story elements midway into the last episode with the show only concluding in the show’s last few minutes. They barely even managed to fit the credits in.
Overall, Maou is a respectable drama that is well represented by its 11.4 rating. It’s not too bad a watch, especially for Johnny’s fans. The theme song for Maou, Arashi’s Truth sold over 618,000 copies to become the single best selling song in Japan for 2008.