Staring: Mirei Sasaki, Kumi Sasaki, Kyoko Saito, Miho Watanabe
Director: Akira Uchikata, Yusuke Ishida, Yusuke Koroyasu
Writers: Yoshimiko Murooka, Hiroshi Tanaka, Daisuke Hosaka
Review by Sidney Morgan
Purchasing and developing foreign shows is one of Netflix’s strengths. And given its global reach, viewers are treated to some of those shows which otherwise would be impossible to see (Dark, A Very Secret Service, Mrs. Fisher’s Murder Mysteries). Always looking for something new and fresh, my curiosity was piqued by this new Japanese show, Re:Mind. With very little information to go on, I thought two episodes a day (13 episodes, running about 24 minutes each) and I’d get through it in a week. I selected the first episode and then, well the unexpected happens.
Re:Mind is about eleven girls who wake up in a room that looks like a cross between the library and the dining room in Clue. They’re seated around a table, wearing red cloth bags over their heads, with their feet shackled in some kind of box. It’s a simple set-up, right? Now, only five hours left to solve the who, the why and maybe the where.
So, I’m watching the first episode, and thinking, what the heck is this? The girls slowly wake up, but instead of trying to remove the bags from their heads, they hesitantly feel around the table in front of them. After figuring out there’s a table setting in front of them (yippee!), they finally remove the hoods. And yea, they came off without a hitch.
Later, rats show up. The cute kind, more like skinny guinea pigs, and of course, the girls scream. And scream. I mean, I get being shocked at seeing a rat, but this was a little much. And then there was the dialogue, which didn’t flow well at all (more on that later). Some of the girls paused at the oddest moment. It really felt as though this was a first run through, a rehearsal, but somehow, they were being filmed. I shook my head and checked my watch, glad I’d only have one more to watch today.
I put on the second episode, which is when I realized this was like And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (yep, do the math, eleven girls… thirteen episodes. Ok, so the math isn’t perfect, but you get the point.). Meanwhile, the acting wasn’t getting any better. But, I watched. And then there are 10. I put on the third episode, and, surprise, surprise, things didn’t change.
Instead of rats, this time it was frogs. Oh, and here’s a fun fact: when the girls speak under the table, it goes completely unnoticed by those still seated! And then there were 9 – except that this time, to change the predictability factor, the disappearance happened midway through the episode. I then put on the next episode… Do you see what’s happening here? Yep, I couldn’t believe it myself. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve never binge-watched a show, instead of forcing myself to take breaks and let the story sit and age. But, not with Re:Mind. I was HOOKED! Episode after episode, and after two sittings, I was done. Wow! So many things were going through my mind about the show, but where to start?
With very little action, the dialogue was key, essential, even critical! (And you will have to do a lot of reading as the show is subtitled.) However, its delivery was poor. The acting was amateurish, which made me wonder about the actors. Who were they? What was their experience? Curious, I dug deep into Googleland and found that these eleven girls aren’t actors, but are actually part of a J-Pop band called Hiragana Keyakizaka46. I guess you could argue they ‘acted’ during the shooting of their videos, but that wouldn’t be experience enough to comfortably jump into a dramatic performance such as Re:Mind.
And, it shows. But, you can’t fully blame them, as they would have performed based on direction. And, I shake my head at some of the direction these girls received. Let’s be honest, if you woke up with a bag over your head, wouldn’t the first thing you do be to try and remove it instead of feeling the cutlery in front of you? In the end, the result is a series of over-acted situations, and unfortunately, too many stereotypes and clichés.
Most disappointing was the reveal, not the person, but the motive. This was an elaborate set-up. The time and resources required were impressive. But for (spoiler free)?? Really? It felt like something Brain (Pinky and the Brain), or Dr. Evil (Austin Powers) would do, using an overly exaggerated elaborate plan that just doesn’t quite work out as intended. But, still, I was hooked.
The setting is great (which is a good thing as most of the show takes place in that room). It’s dark, claustrophobic, reflecting the panic and despair the girls’ feelings. It’s also filled with trinkets that all have a purpose, serving as clues to the mystery. But what really worked is that the show’s creators have laid out a compelling mystery, doling out clues and answers, slowly throughout each episode, which play out as chapters in a book. You can’t help but be drawn in and wonder who would go to such lengths to kidnap eleven girls and why they would do so.
The 13th episode was interesting and completely different from the other twelve. It was funny, tongue-in-cheek, highlighting the lives the girls lived before all the drama began, and included ‘pauses’ from the show during which the girls spoke to the audience (camera). I understand that the show deals with dark themes, but incorporating that bit of humour, or even some of those direct-to-viewer lines would have added an interesting dimension to the show. Overall though, the show worked.
Verdict: Give it a try. It had me hooked, and I have to admit, I liked it. Just stick with it. If you like to experiment and don’t mind the subtitles, it’s a fun show!