Hanzawa Naoki (半沢直樹) was the best-received drama of 2013, so it seems right to close out the year with a review of it. Drawing a striking 19.4% of Kanto viewers in its first episode, its ratings went nowhere but up – literally increasing episode-by-episode to its finale peak of 42.2%. Normally I wouldn’t bring up ratings in the course of an interview, but I’ve never seen a series do anything like this before (I’m sure it must have happened, but I’ve never seen it). So yeah, that got my eyebrows raised.

I viewed the entire series over the course of two days, and then took a few days to decide how to review it. Always encouraging readers to watch the drama for themselves, I never want to ruin anything or toss in unnecessary spoilers, but this series poses a peculiar problem because it is a suspense series with story lines stretched over the course of multiple episodes. So, the normal model of going through it one episode at a time totally not going to work, and I’m going to focus more on the characters than the story.

I will say upfront, though, that there are two major phases to the show – an Osaka arc and a Tokyo arc. It’s fair to reveal that since even a visit to DramaWiki would reveal the same, and it’s important because after the first episode, you might wonder whether they spend all ten episodes on the same story, which would be drawing it out a bit too much. So don’t worry – they don’t.

The series begins with Hanzawa Naoki (Sakai Masato) at a job interview for the Sangyo Chuo Bank. He says he wants to join this bank specifically because it helped save his parent’s factory after his father died.

Hanzawa Naoki 000

At the reception for new employees, we find out he’s ambitious, aiming for the top.

Jumping to the present day two decades after he joined the bank, we find him being shoved to the floor to apologize to this man:

Hanzawa Naoki 001

That’s Branch Manager Asano (Ishimaru Kanji) and all we know for now is that the issue is 500 million yen (around $5 million) have been lost and Hanzawa does not want to apologize to Asano. Instead, he aims to recover the money.

Moving back in time a little bit, we find Hanzawa at his regular work as loan department chief for the Osaka Nishi branch of the Tokyo Chuo bank (the product of a merger between the bank Hanzawa originally worked for and another – a fact vaguely important because of the internal politics). He has to assess whether a factory is credit-worthy for a loan.

Continue reading

Advertisements