A co-production between the BBC and Netflix, Giri/Haji (roughly translating to Duty/Shame) is a border crossing cops and crime thriller, with the beauty we are used to from the streaming giant, and the grit we get with all good Beeb dramas. And like most crime shows worth their salt, it starts with a murder – and a violent, bloody one at that. These directors have clearly seen a Tarantino or two.
The killing takes place in Tokyo on Detective Kenzo Mori’s turf, and involves a Yakuza boss – Japan’s answer to gangster mobsters – which threatens to undo a truce that has been hanging on by a thread for the last few years. As if that weren’t already stressful enough for poor Mori, it turns out, the killing could have a personal connection to him – it looks like the murder may have been an act of revenge for a previous assassination that took place in London, by none other than Mori’s little brother, Yuto.
Until recently, Yuto was presumed dead, but there have been some rumours circulating of a sighting, and so Mori is sent to the British capital on the order of his boss – who may even be colluding with the Yakuza himself – to go undercover and find out what’s going on.
There are a lot of standard cop drama tropes going on – you’ve got the potentially bent coppers of Line of Duty, the stereotypically beat down detective experiencing a moral dilemma, and an organised crime group wreaking havoc. But despite this, Giri/Haji stands out as something entirely new.
For starters, you’ve got the addition of multiple locations, cultures and languages, and refreshingly, Tokyo isn’t shown as a city of neon lights and ridiculously busy pedestrian crossings – like London, it’s just a city where people live and work. And it’s stylistically gorgeous, exploiting Netflix’s ability to make TV cinematic, throwing in a good amount of flashbacks, slow-mo shots, split-screen moments and a soundtrack you’d happily bop to in your car.
The series is seriously ambitious, and if you ask us, we think it pays off. As does the Independent’s Gerard Gilbert, who calls it “the most underrated television drama of 2019,” even going so far as to say it’s “nigh-on faultless.” It seems The Telegraph’s Michael Hogan agrees, as he gives the series five stars and says “The multi-stranded, pan-global plotting and Tarantino-esque stylistic flourishes rewarded close attention… Most importantly, though, writer Joe Barton’s intriguing story immediately exerted its grip.” The Times’s Carol Midgley struggles to keep up with it, though admits, “generally I don’t find gangsters very interesting,” so maybe she’s not the best authority on the subject.
First shown October 2019. You can watch the trailer here: