There’s been a murder. Actually, no. Make that two murders because moments after we’re shown the first dead body of a man who was quite literally stabbed in the back, we’re transported to the other side of the world to witness someone else being killed in a restaurant.
When we tune into BBC Two’s tense new crime thriller Giri/Haji, things aren’t looking good. The first man was killed in London. It’s unclear why but I think it’s fair to make the assumption that he was mixed up with baddies. The second guy was all the way in Tokyo. He was poring over a photo of the first guy’s murder while eating dinner when a machine gun ripped through the restaurant, assassinating him and the other diners, too. It’s messy and both incidents must be connected. The killer question is, of course, how?
Thrust into the middle of it all is Detective Kenzo Mori (Takehiro Hira). He’s a police officer in Tokyo; a big-time family man who lives with his wife, parents (the dad is unwell) and rebellious teenage daughter who’s just been suspended from school for stabbing a guy in the leg with nail scissors after he made inappropriate advances towards her. Kenzo is a good guy but we soon learn that his younger brother Yuto is not, although a dark incident buried in the past bonds them. We’ve got a few stylised flashbacks to tell snippets of that side of the story, plus the knowledge that Giri/Haji translates from Japanese as Duty/Shame. Our guess is that each brother represents a word and though right now it'd make sense to give Kenzo 'duty' (a respectable family man, remember?) and Yuto 'shame' (you'll see why in a second), we have a feeling that this series is not going to be so cut and dried.
Kenzo is brought in to investigate the Tokyo murder and after a day or so, he gets a knock at the door in the middle of the night. It’s one of the city’s biggest gangsters – a member of the Yakuza – who Kenzo had originally thought was behind the first killing in London. This guy has rocked up to say he thinks that Kenzo’s brother Yuto is responsible. Impossible, Kenzo thinks, because Yuto has been assumed dead for a long time. His mother prays to a photograph of him on the wall in the Mori family kitchen. But the gangster insists it must be Yuto. And Yuto must be found.
Somehow Kenzo is sent to London by his boss, the chief commissioner in the Tokyo police department, on an off-the-books assignment to search for his estranged brother. I’m guessing that the police are somehow connected to the deep, dark criminal underground here, too. But let’s assume that this will be explained over the course of the show’s eight-episode run.
Kenzo’s cover story in London is a weird task-force exchange. While he attends a crime scene management course, there’s a British guy in his Japanese office. The course is run by Sarah (Kelly Macdonald), who seems to have a complicated back story of her own. All we know at this point is that she works in some sort of division of the police force; she’s connected to someone who’s just made parole and isn’t over the moon about it; and she's using dating apps to meet men, one of whom left a used condom on the floor by her bed after scuttling away in the night. We also know that she’s going to have a role to play in Kenzo’s undercover investigation and efforts to track down his brother.
We're teased about a link between all these dramatic events and that fateful evening when something happened between Kenzo and his wayward younger brother. "A stone was dropped in the water a long time ago, we're only seeing the ripples now," says the Yakuza. Imagine the butterfly effect, split between two continents. No, you won't know who to trust. Nor will you quite understand how other characters like Sarah, Rodney (Will Sharpe), the British-Japanese sex worker Kenzo meets in a pub, and the deceptive 'ally' tasked with looking after Kenzo in London, are connected to this twisty tale. But the hunt for Kenzo's back-from-the-dead, potentially dangerous, bad boy brother is on. And while the shady powers that be in both countries try to stop Kenzo finding him, you'll struggle to switch off until he (hopefully) does.
Giri/Haji airs on BBC Two on Thursday 17th October at 9pm and will be available on iPlayer after.