Subete ga F ni Naru – 01-06 Review (Live-Action Version)
So, here’s the first part of the review of the live-action-adaptation of Subete ga F ni Naru. Two things I want to clarify right from the start: One, there will be spoilers. Even though I won’t directly talk about what happens in the Magata-arc which the anime will cover it shares some of the same themes the other two arcs of this live-action-version do. And two, well, to be honest this isn’t the best kind of Japanese mystery-show. It has its share of problems and I really hope that the anime will turn out better than this live-action-series.
It’s the usual fate of mystery-show-protagonists to get involved in murder-cases again and again…
I’ve mentioned in the review of the anime’s first episode how different this live-action-series’ approach is compared with the anime. From the looks of it the anime will try to cover the arc this series covered in the 5th and 6th episode. Now the good news is that these two episodes have been the highlight of the Live-Action-version so far. The whole Magata-arc has some of the best plottwists this series has delivered so far and the atmosphere is as tense as the setting for the murders is interesting. If the show could’ve consistently produced this sort of mystery I would certainly like it much better. The bad news are of course that seeing the whole arc covered in 90 minutes didn’t make me feel like the series needed more time to tell that story. So my fear is that the anime-version will have to deal with some pacing-issues if it indeed tries to span this arc over the course of an entire season. But that’s neither here nor there since I’m talking about the live-action-series here.
(Before I start I should probably say this that even though I won’t be talking about the Magata-arc in detail, I will talk about some general themes of this series which do indirectly spoil some elements from the Magata-arc. So if you want to experience the anime without any sort of spoilers then come back to this review after the anime has finished. Also, the anime clearly keeps some stuff a secret the live-action-version has been talking about since the first episode. Of course knowing what the live-action-series has done makes it interesting whether the anime’s different approach will pay off.)
The series occasionally tries to be smart with mathematical allegories like this one but overall the writing isn’t really challenging. Stuff like this is the exception to the rule and the eventual explanation is more mundane than philosophical in nature.
On the surface Subete ga F ni Naru doesn’t have its shit together. Japanese mystery-shows are very gimmicky and usually having good mysteries is as important as having a good gimmick. These shows usually want to have that extra punch of a quirky character or a zany theme for what kinds of mysteries are being solved in the show. The sense you get from Subete ga F ni Naru is that the series is far too concerned with the mysteries and forgets addressing the elephant in the room (which are the two main-characters Saikawa and Nishinosono). You would think that their relationship would be a goldmine for character-related humor and drama but it’s surprising how rarely the show actually goes to that well (I know, I’m mixing metaphors here but bear with me…). In a way this show does exactly that which I shortly talked about in my review of the anime: For an analytical detective-show the plot’s the most important thing and the plot is the mystery that needs to be resolved. It isn’t the kind of show that expects you to wonder what is “Sherlock” up to this week but instead you’re supposed to resolve the mystery alongside the protagonists and any sort of storytelling is derived from the nature of the mystery rather than from character-related tidbits of protagonist-drama.
The whole thing doesn’t quite work out for this series because there’s a romantic sub-plot involving Saikawa and Nishinosono. Instead of turning that into some sort of dynamic and a meta-plot for the series, it’s just this thing that occasionally gets mentioned or hinted at. You never get invested in how their relationship develops because the series doesn’t seem to care that much about it actually. There isn’t even enough stuff here to call it a “will they, won’t they”-spiel despite the fact that they officially aren’t dating while Nishinosono is clearly trying to get into Saikawa’s pants. It’s certainly a weakness of the series that the chemistry between Saikawa and Nishinosono in this series never seems as compelling as it should be (if the anime’s first episode is any indication it has similar problems but of a different nature). So, there’s character-stuff that certainly calls attention to the main-characters besides them being plot-devices for the solution of the mystery but all that extra stuff isn’t that great.
It’s also a good indication of how little the series cares about its two protagonists that after introducing their characters the show shows little interest in exploring them. If you look at a show like Elementary for example, you got a procedural-series whose primary interest is characterization and character-development. That show’s best moments result from a greater interest in what a certain mystery makes the protagonists feel rather than dropping them in some sort of labyrinthine big riddle which they had to solve. You would think that a show like this would go for something like this considering that there’s a somewhat complicated dynamic between Saiwaka and Nishinosono in theory.
It’s also important to note what sort of super-human abilities the two characters have. Of course, the whole point of a detective as an analytical mind is to dazzle the audience with deductions and observations and so forth. In this case Saikawa is usually the Sherlock-figure as he solves the mystery by entering some sort of trance which exhausts him but also enables him to think REALLY hard (like “making you sweat”-REALLY-HARD). Nishinosono meanwhile provides the contacts and resources to engage with the mystery in the first place and having access to necessary information but she’s also the one who pushes Saikawa to really give a shit about the mystery in the first place. There are other recurring characters but they mostly remain on the side-lines with their one-note character-dynamics.
The mysteries are kinda interesting on an intellectual level but seem kinda bland on an emotional level. It’s mostly the script’s fault for never seeming witty or having really good humor to release the tension created by the mystery. So the whole thing is usually an uber-serious affair. But the emotional drama behind the mystery isn’t very interesting in the first two arcs of this show as well which leaves the show with little else but the pure riddle of the mysteries. It’s easy to imagine the first two mysteries of this series as a riddle-box surrounded by a wasteland where nothing surprising happens and what does happen follows unimaginative character-related guidelines.
As for the themes of the mysteries I’m not sure how much of it has been incidental and how much the series is actually thinking about this stuff but two things seem to be a rule with this show: 1. Surprising deaths after the first murder as the protagonists get closer to the truth. 2. Suicide. Three mysteries and suicide has always been a part of it! I really hope this series will go somewhere with this because this is ridiculous. And the whole routine of someone turning up dead or injured who was previously on the suspect-list isn’t a really good plottwist. Also, there’s no way in hell I will ever believe Nishinosono when she claims to have solved a mystery. I mean, it’s even a slight joke that she simply jumps to conclusions in that regard.
But actually one of the most interesting elements of the show is the distinction between hypothesis and truth. The show constantly keeps talking about scientists being in pursuit of pure learning while matters like solving murder-mysteries pursue knowledge that will be hurtful to various involved parties. At the same time, there are always a couple moments where Saikawa and Nishinosono just ASSUME what the truth is. Instead of letting the plot provide them with the ultimate evidence, the explanation of the murders will always leave some gaps that the two protagonists try to fill with educated guesses. The implication is often that they are probably right but with a lack of evidence it might as well be a fairy-tale – as far as practical evidence is concerned. And this uncertainty stands in direct opposition with the calculated planning and self-confidence with which the murders are committed. But the murderers are also confronted with almost random problems they didn’t foresee facing which keeps their vile acts from being perfect murders. So you have the protagonists on one side who never quite take hold of the story of what really happened and the criminals on the other side who can’t quite enact the story they had originally written for themselves.
In regards to the first two mysteries of this series both don’t seem that compelling. It usually only gets interesting once you find out how complicated the actual series of events has been. But the banter between Saikawa and Nishinosono is trite at best and it’s only when you have someone like Ozawa Yukiyoshi in the first two episodes (as Kita Hokuto) who delivers a tad more outgoing performance that the dynamic between the two main-characters becomes more interesting. His lack of presence immediately renders the main-characters less interesting in the second mystery and the third mystery is the best part of the series because for once the mystery-plot is strong enough to stand on its own and there don’t need to be any character-related scenes to fill time.
There are some good ideas at work here but the series has a weak foundation in how it handles its two main-characters and it’s only in its third arc with the Magata-arc that the series genuinely becomes interesting. Before that the other two mysteries are written in a way where the ideas are all that count and you don’t get any of the flourishes that would be needed to sell these mysteries to the audience. With the third mystery the series has finally found its footing and has a strong mystery to serve as the main-attraction for the story as the two protagonists are flawed material for drama.
Episodes-Rating: 1st-4th Episode: 6.5/10 5th/6th Episode: 8.0/10
- I’m certainly more comfortable with Ayano Go (Saiwaka) and Taikei Emi (Nishinosono) having a romantic subplot than hearing Saiwaka voiced by Yasuyuki Kase whose performance makes me think that Saiwaka might as well be Nishinosono’s dad age-wise.
- They really quickly gave up on portraying Saikawa as a smoker in this series, didn’t they?
- At least, you get some perfunctory lampshading which acknowledges that Saikawa and Nishinosono find themselves at crime-scenes again and again…
- Maybe the anime will explain why Saikawa’s brain-acrobatics are as exhausting as real acrobatics. This guy looks like he just ran a marathon after each time he figures out what the hell is going on.
- The actual mystery-storytelling is actually kinda distracting here. In the first mystery the camera basically stares at all the necessary clues and later all that stuff gets put into context. And in the second mystery the series tries to distract by making everyone look like a shifty bastard when there’s actually only one crazy person among them. It’s only in the third Magata-arc where you get a decent mystery.
Posted on October 14, 2015, in J-Drama / J-Movie, Reviews, Subete ga F ni Naru and tagged Everything Becomes F: The Perfect Insider, j-drama, review, Subete ga F ni Naru. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.