Hanzawa Naoki finally ended and what an intense ride it was! The very high ratings for this drama series in Japan were very well deserved. Its final episode’s ratings were off the charts and it is now considered the highest any drama episode has ever received since 1989. It was definitely an awesome show; the plot, the characters and the acting – all were excellent. In fact, it is so good that other countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong are vying to show it within their shores!
The Gripping Plot
Hanzawa Naoki is basically a 10-episode story of a banker trying to walk the straight path in a bank that has become corrupt and where leaders have become slaves to money, power and pride. At the start of the show, we learn that Hanzawa works as the head of the loans division in the fictional Tokyo Chuo Bank, supposedly the largest bank in Japan. He was forced by his branch manager Asano to okay an unsecured loan (500 million yen) to a company that is in danger of bankruptcy called Nishi Osaka Steel. Asano promised that he’ll shoulder the responsibility if anything happens. But then Nishi Osaka Steel did go bankrupt and the money disappeared, meaning the bank has now incurred a huge loss. Worst, Asano turned back on his word and promptly shifted all the blame onto Hanzawa and aimed to get Hanzawa demoted or even fired.
Hanzawa then uses his cleverness and resourcefulness to prove everyone prosecuting him wrong, recover the lost 500 million yen, and secure his job. In the process, he discovers a more sinister web of corruption in the bank and it is now up to him to put things right. Plus, he has to deal with his sad past and the only way he can do that is climb from his current position in the bank and reach the top. What follows then is an intense roller coaster ride that will leave anybody shrieking for more at the end of every episode. I know I was hooked the moment I finished watching the pilot episode and every week I religiously waited for the show to get aired!
Hanzawa’s motto was “if you mess with me, I’ll give you double the payback!” and yes, he dished out payback left and right. No matter what obstacles the antagonists throw at him and no matter how much he gets pushed into a corner, he always finds a way to survive and overcome. All these gave the series so many on-the-edge-of-your-seat moments and you cannot help but root for this smart and brave banker.
Strong Performance by the Actors
Sakai Masato plays the titular Hanzawa Naoki and he really brought layers and layers of good performance into this role. He has no problem convincing the audience whether he is mad, conflicted, or in love with his wife Hana. He showcased some convincingly good kendo skills too. I’ve watched Masato’s two other dramas Legal High and Joker Yurusarezaru Sosakan and I’ve come to really admire him as an actor. He can convincingly play charming and funny one moment then switch to intense and even dark the next. He is very good at his craft and I will surely watch his future works.
As for his wife Hanzawa Hana, Ueto Aya plays that role and she has always been a well known good actress with already many popular dramas under her belt. In Hanzawa Naoki, she plays the not so typical Japanese wife in that she gets involved with her husband’s affairs and tries to help him as much as she can. Miss Ueto delivered a strong performance too and it surely doesn’t hurt that she’s managed to stay beautiful and elegant through the years.
Hanzawa Naoki was helped through his struggles by his two best friends Tomari and Kondo acted by Oikawa Mitsuhiro and Takito Kenichi respectively. These two characters are really good buddies to Hanzawa, Tomari being the confident and sometimes gossipy type while Kondo being the weak but still helpful type. Hanzawa would have been in even more difficult situations if these two weren’t there to help him.
The two major antagonists in the show were Branch Manager Asano (Ishimaru Kanji) and Director Ohwada (Kagawa Teruyuki). You will really come to hate these two characters, but at the same time you will come to admire just how they can be so cleverly evil. The plots they hatch and the lengths they go to in order to save their necks are really high level, which makes Hanzawa even more awesome when he gets to overcome various obstacles set by these two.
All in all, Hanzawa Naoki was a great show for me. Even more admirable are the brains behind this really good story. The way they handled character developments, the pacing and suspense, and the great “payback” moments were just so satisfying. And of course, I want more Hanzawa Naoki. The ending was sort of a cliff hanger so here’s fervently hoping that there will be a Season 2!
In the meantime, I’ll get my Sakai Masato fix through Legal High Season 2, for which I’m super glad about because the season 1 was great too. Oh, and I’ve heard news that there will be Doctor X Season 2 as well. Looks like good Japanese drama watching times are ahead!