N no Tame ni (2014)

Sugishita Nozomi (Eikura Nana), Naruse Shinji (Kubota Masataka), Ando Nozomi (Kaku Kento), and Nishizaki Masato (Koide Keisuke) are bound together by a high-profile murder case that happened on Christmas Even ten years ago. Nishizaki takes the blame for the deaths of a popular philanthropist and his wife, but a retired police officer named Takano (Miura Tomokazu) is not convinced that the confession that the police have accepted is true. This leads him to re-investigate a fifteen-year-old case that happened in a small island in the Seto Inland Sea, in which Sugishita and Naruse are both involved.

This show has beautiful and creative title cards.

For me, probably the main thing that any work has to get right before it gets distracted by anything else is its structure. Despite being a mystery – therefore, prone to plot twists that may get incoherent at some point – this show provides an easy sequence to follow. Unlike most Japanese mystery dramas it is not episodic, and it never veers too far away from its main storyline. That is one of its main strengths. It feeds the viewer bits of information in every episode: not too much so that one will keep guessing what will happen next, but enough for the cliffhangers to be non-irritating.

The best part about the cast of ‘N no Tame ni’ is that they are able to portray, quite clearly, the differences in their characters in the past and in the present. Eikura and Kubota shone – as ambitious teenagers, they were the epitome of optimism in the early episodes, but as the story progressed they became jaded professionals who lost their joie de vivre. Kaku is perfect for the role of a bold university student, but perhaps a little too fresh to be the ace employee he’s supposed to be in the latter episodes. Koide’s acting is dependable and inspired, but generally not varied enough to be truly exciting. The supporting actors play their parts properly, especially the actors playing Sugishita Nozomi’s family, but it’s really Eikura, Kubota, and Kaku who push the tension.

Sugishita Nozomi pre-trauma.
Sugishita Nozomi after everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.

Another strength of ‘N no Tame ni’ is that it’s supposed to be a mystery and suspense-thriller, but it’s also one of the most genuinely romantic Japanese dramas I’ve seen in recent years. Whereas most romance dramas over-infuse their episodes with over-the-top gestures and cheese, this one treads on that sparingly, but still delivers. The romantic moments happen in between scenes of daily life, and that is why they are effective – because they don’t seem artificial and manipulated. There are many definitions of ‘love’ explored in this show, and these are not necessarily shown in the ways they have been shown by popular dramas that have come before. Consequently, this makes one re-think what one’s personal definitions of ‘love’ and ‘loyalty’ really are.

You can be Team Ando.
You can be Team Naruse.
Or you can be Team I-just-wanted-all-of-them-to-be-happy.

This was ranked as the second-best 2014 drama on possibly my favorite Japanese movie and drama blog, psycho-drama.com, and I can see why. The main pull of this story is that it is relatable to people who may not even be fans of Japanese culture and entertainment. Struggle and hope, which feature prominently in this show, are things anyone from any culture can relate to. Despite this, ‘N no Tame ni’ remains rooted to its being Japanese – the sound, the colors, and even the interpersonal dynamic between the characters are wonderfully unique, vibrant, and original. Not to mention, there is a character in ‘N no Tame ni’ whose position you’ll be able to empathize with – single-minded Sugishita, sensitive Naruse, driven Ando, passionate Nishizaki.

But of course this had to happen.
You can also call this show: How Sugishita Nozomi’s Life Went Bonkers.

The story and the drama itself are both so good that when I think about the relatively low ratings of this show, I feel deprived on behalf of all the Japanese people who have not seen this yet. In terms of technical qualities, it is top-notch not only because it’s polished, but also because it has heart underneath that technique. In sum, this is a show one must watch, if only because it might truly reach one on a personal level.

This blog gives ‘N no Tame ni’ 5 out of 5 stars.

International Title: Anything for N; The Testimony of N.
Network: TBS.
Genre: Mystery; Suspense-Thriller; Romance.
Starring: Eikura Nana, Masataka Kubota, Kaku Kento, Koide Keisuke, Miura Tomokazu.
Written by: Minato Kanae (2010 novel), Okudera Satoko.
Directed by: Tsukahara Ayako, Yamamoto Takeyoshi.


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