Dias Police TV Series Review ディアスポリス
by Johannes Schonherr, June 2016
Tokyo in the very near future: the city looks terribly rundown, almost like a slum, and it is populated to a great part by illegal foreigners from all over the world though the majority originate from Asia. Japanese society has been pushed to the margins and the Japanese police have no clue what's going on but they are out to harass, arrest and deport refugees.
The illegal foreigners have built up their own underground government structures: an underworld governor named Kotetsu, who also acts as the boss of the underground bank, tries to keep a modicum of order amid all the perpetual gang wars, organ trafficking, contract killings and robberies.
His enforcer of underworld law is the Dias Police (shorthand for Diaspora Police) which consists of only one man, Saki Kubozuka, a rough man by necessity but deep inside, a man with a very gentle heart.
His nationality is unknown. He speaks many languages and rumors have it that he spent much time in Myanmar. His sidekick is Hirotaka Suzuki, a Japanese national and disgraced banker, very willing but rather foolish and incompetent. In the grim world of Dias Police, Suzuki provides a little comic relief.
Kubozuka prefers to solve his cases through negotiations with all parties concerned. He never carries arms and he is not a martial arts expert either. But when things get out of hand, and they often do, he will use anything at his disposal to defend himself and his charges. Like, say, quickly constructing a flamethrower from a canister of gasoline and a vacuum cleaner - and using it to devastating effect.
The manga: Dias Police - Real Tokyo Underworld
The above scenario was dreamed up in a manga series called Dias Police: Real Tokyo Underworld, published from 2006 to 2009 in the manga magazine Morning (Kodansha), written by Richard Woo, drawings by Shinichi Sugimura. Richard Woo sounds Chinese - did the manga actually originate from someone with real experience in the foreign (Chinese) Tokyo underworld?
The answer is no. Richard Woo is a pseudonym of Sendai-born Japanese manga writer Takashi Nakamura.
But Nakamura does have a skilled eye for social developments. In the Tokyo Shinjuku red light district of Kabukicho, Chinese and other international criminal gangs have been active for decades. Nakamura just spun those Kabukicho stories into a dystopian future where large parts of Tokyo have been taken over by more or less desperate foreigners who brought their criminal cultures with them.
The job of the Dias Police is to keep those criminal activities in check and to protect honest but illegal foreigners in Tokyo.
Though Japanese is the lingua franca among most characters, there are plenty of people featured in the manga who prefer to speak their native Chinese, Korean or Thai. The main characters, especially Kubozuka, are multilingual and ready to converse in a great number of languages.
Translations of non-Japanese dialogues are usually not provided in the manga though the circumstances make it clear what is being said. An especially hilarious minor character is a Japanese monk from the Tohoku region. His dialect, incomprehensible to most Japanese, is rendered entirely in katakana.
The TV drama: Dias Police - Ihou Keisatsu
The TV drama: Dias Police - Ihou Keisatsu
In mid-April 2016, TBS in Tokyo and MBS in Osaka began airing a TV drama version of Dias Police. Titled Dias Police - Ihou Keisatsu, the drama is just as dark, dirty and violent as the manga. Ihou Keisatsu translates here to "Underground Police", an alternative kanji spelling of ihou means "illegal". Both meanings are clearly intended.
Kotetsu, the underworld governor (played by Yoshio Kou), his right hand man Ah-san (Shingo Yanigasawa) and the Dias Police consisting of detective Saki Kubozuka (Shota Matsuda) and his sidekick Hirotaka Suzuki (Kenta Hamano) have their shared headquarters in a dingy loft - the scenes were actually filmed in an abandoned erotic club in Akabane in northern Tokyo.
Throughout the series, Tokyo looks like a dystopian nightmare city, taken over by illegal immigrants forming gangs fighting each other, running from the Japanese authorities and preyed upon by Japanese gangsters. Kubozuka and the others try to maintain a certain order and to protect the weak - though that's a tough call in the Tokyo of Dias Police.
Each crime story spans over two installments of the series. Episodes 1 and 2, named Heart of Darkness, for example focus on the arrival of Hirotaka Suzuki,the disgraced banker, finding refuge at the headquarters of the underground government and his subsequent joining of the Dias Police. In the same episodes, Kubozuka traces down a transvestite Japanese organ trafficker - who cuts the kidneys out of the naïve foreigners s/he seduces in back-alley love hotels.
Episodes 3 and 4, titled Long Black Arm, focus on a refugee family from Myanmar hunted by a vicious Japanese killer (Tatsuya Nakamura) and their rescue by the Dias Police.
Things get nasty and violent at times but don't expect refined martial arts scenes in the fights here. No gun fights either - this is Japan after all. Knife-fights in garbage strewn back alleys, baseball bats to the head, that's what violence looks like here.
It can get frighteningly real at times - but utterly hilarious at others. Like Kubozuka sending a bunch of international food delivery guys over to stop a murder in progress by interrupting the perpetrator with their Chicken Tikka Masala.
When Kubozuka needs a moment to relax, he goes to the roof top of his rundown building - where a group of Caucasian women seem to be perpetually exercising. People are trying to live life as usual in this version of neo Tokyo - but Kubozuka knows all too well what lies just below the surface of this city. A surface that's not exactly pretty to begin with. Still, Kubozuka and the others in the underground government try their best to keep the city a livable place for the illegal residents.
The movie: Dias Police - Dirty Yellow Boys
The TV series is helmed by four different directors. One of them, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, is currently finishing a movie version of Dias Police, titled Dias Police - Dirty Yellow Boys. The film is supposed to have its Japanese release in September 2016.
Kumakiri, a native of Hokkaido, studied film at the Osaka University of Arts in the late 1990's. His university graduation film Kichiku Dai Enkai (1997, internationally known as Kichiku) fictionalized a real, extremely violent incident in Japanese left-wing history: the murderous purges among a group of political radicals in a Gunma Prefecture mountain retreat in 1972.
Kichiku caused a big scandal at the Berlin Film Festival in 1998. On the other hand, it helped to start an exciting new scene of young film directors in Osaka centering around the Planet Studyo +1 theater in Osaka.
Kumakiri directed episodes 7 and 8 of the TV drama - perhaps the strongest of the entire series. His feature film version of Dias Police is certainly something to look forward to.
The Dias Police website with background information and show times of the TV drama at various Japanese channels www.dias-police.jp (in Japanese)
TV show times are always late at night - typically starting at about 1.45am.
A DVD box of the entire TV series is now available on Amazon Japan.
English fan-subbed episodes of Dias Police Police Ihou Keisatsu have already started to show up on You Tube. At the time of writing, subtitled episodes 1 - 4 can be found here.