The Queen of Asian Drama is Back with more Irreverent Reviews and Snarky Commentary.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Zeni Geba

Money Crazy, 銭ゲバ

2009, nine-episode NTV JDorama that starred Matsuyama Kenichi as Gamagori Futaro, a child of the system who grows up to avenge in a sociopath's style.

If you haven't seen this yet, or if you chose not to watch it because of the synopsis, you've made a big mistake.

Yes, it's dark and even hideous in nature, but well worth the nine episodes it took to tell the tale. And, the synopsis wasn't written well or accurate, either.

First off, I love Kenichi-kun and am working my way through everything he's starred in, and this is actually the third time I've watched Zeni Geba, too.

It's a psychological thriller of sorts but at a slower pace than the typical dramas of this nature. We are walked through Futaro's mixed-up life start to finish, made to see every aspect of that twisted existence, and then shown the decisions he made one after the other all in the name of money.


Gamagori Futaro arrived into a normal life, but it wasn't long before that life took a major turn for the worst. His father became a shiftless nuisance and his mother ended up with a terminal illness. He lived impoverished up until her death, and then he was forced to have to survive on his own from age ten onward.

Yes, at the start he believed money was the answer to all his woes, and yes, his father was to blame for a majority of what ended up being instilled inside his twisted mind. Still, the writer (Original manga by George Akiyama) seemed not to choose sides or even let us pick one over the other - in a sense, brilliant and yet not.

However, the last episode turned out to be something unexpected, and yet it also switched gears - giving us another side of the equation to think about - and in a way that made me start to believe the writer DID have a side to take.

As manga writing goes, they seem to take a 'now' topic and expound on it, twist and turn it into something fantasy, or delve deeper into a specific aspect of that issue. This time, though, the writer chose to take all sides before suddenly forming an opinion at the very end.

This particular topic being Money and how it influences people.

Before I continue, let me suggest you not let the weird camera angles have any effect on your judgment about this drama ...


It doesn't occur often, but a bit more toward the end than usual, yet it has its purpose. You'll find that out later on, but then again, it isn't difficult to figure out why the director chose to add these distortions into the show.

A twisted mind has a twisted view of the world. A warped sense of perspective, and therefore things like this become necessary.

The problem I had with the synopsis was that it made the story sound too simple and point-blank when it isn't. This isn't about Futaro's desire to obtain money through devious means. His victims were chosen with purpose, and by now his distorted view of money has changed drastically as well.

Those who seemed to think they knew it all, could survive despite their circumstances, or who tried to make themselves appear better than the rest were the ones who were targeted ... and for that reason alone.

This is more about the damage done to a child's vulnerable and impressionable mind at an early age, the heavy weight of responsibility a parent has toward their offspring, and about society's lack of compassion or true understanding of the absolute value of human life.

Can or should we take Futaro's side based on everything we know about him and his past? Is it the responsibility of those who have to reach out and help those who have not? Is it wrong for me to want to root for Futaro because of what I already know about him?

I did, actually, right up to the very end. It didn't bother me much to see the things he did as an adult, and I understood his reason for doing them, too.

Does this make me a sociopath, too?

Throughout this drama, Futaro was told a few phrases to live by - like money can't buy happiness, etc. - and the more he heard, the more that he experienced, the less inclined he was to believe anything or anyone. This is logical, especially to one who has hit the bottom and been forced to scratch and claw his way back to daylight at the least; the height of power at the most.

We're led to believe that money is the root of all evil and that those silly sayings are created by people who are on the brink of insanity and need them in order not to succumb.

Ganbatte.

The have's and the have-not's merge in this drama, and the ganbatte phrases meant to help lift up a weary soul are uttered from time to time, but the bottom line in all this is that it is bullshit. You either have it or you don't. You're either pretty or not, rich or not, successful or not, and capable or not.

Black and white with no grey area to consider.

Futaro's eventual goal became to prove the have-not's are as wrong and useless as the have's. And, yes, he targeted the wealthy Mikuni clan on purpose, but I had to wonder if it was more about what occurred between him and Midori as children than it did about obtaining all that wealth only to toss it all away at the end.

As for that ending ... well ... it was a roller-coaster ride for me, and as it slowly came to a close, I was disappointed. It became another cliche about evil needing punishment regardless of the extenuating circumstances.

All Futaro really needed was help. Help that wasn't available, and this is the real problem with society, not money. Why are little ones made to wander around Japan without adult help?

Thanks to Reagan-omics, the U.S. is suffering due to lack of proper mental care and social programs in this country. We're experiencing the effects of that stupidity with mass-murder events occurring at least once or twice a year, too.

We're all responsible for one another, and it's got zero to do with money, wealth, or power. Although until everyone gets on board, the brunt of that responsibility falls on their shoulders. It's their fault, though, for creating such a situation in the first place.
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