Lately the movie reviews posted here at JPFmovies have been western entertainment—something we typically take a dim view of given the current state of the (mainly) American entertainment industry. So, our dedicated reviewers embarked on a search for some Asian media worth taking a look at. We found an often overlooked Japanese T.V. series entitled The Golden Pig—intrigued by the show’s title we couldn’t resist taking a look.
First a quick discussion of the genre The Golden Pig and many other well-liked Japanese series embody. In Japan, many shows/movies are based on “manga.” For those who don’t know, a manga is a style of Japanese comic book or graphic novel, aimed at adults as well as children. Manga covers the entire spectrum of topics from super-heroes to business to adult themed sexuality. When a manga becomes popular enough it is often made into an animated series or a live T.V. show and maybe even a movie. One subset of the manga world is a variation of westerns and samurai ronin genre where the protagonist gets “transferred” into a corrupt environment and brings about change. This story-line is termed the “extended transfer student” genre and is a staple of J-drama which serves as a channel for social commentary and criticism while Japanese society stagnates through political corruption and social rigidness.
The Golden Pig is an “extended transfer student” Japanese drama series set in the government’s internal auditor agency (the equivalent of the U.S. Inspector General’s Office). The Board of Audit’s Special Investigations Division hunts down civil servants that cheat and waste the tax payer’s money. The Golden Pig’s main character, Shinko, is a former con artist that is hired by one of the Division’s maverick commissioners. When we say Shinko is a former con artist we mean it-she has spent several years in prison and the terms of her parole are quite strict. Hardened by her time in the joint, she is not intimidated by power or influence and mercilessly pursues corrupt officials. When she is brought into the agency’s fold, Shinko is paired up with an elite rookie who is a graduate of Tokyo University and comes from a distinguished family of government officials. Naturally, the friction between the savvy and street-smart Shinko and her blue-blooded colleague provides some great entertainment as Shinko is able to use her criminal experience to quickly sniff out scams while her partner’s head is often stuck in an ivory tower so to speak.
The series also examines the politics of power within the civil service itself. The episodes explore the rough waters that career civil servants must navigate in order to be promoted or else they can end up in a “window” position; that is, the unlucky civil servant is essentially stuck in a room looking out of the window with nothing to do. The potential for the career civil servants to be passed over for promotion can lead them to back-off or otherwise close their eyes to corruption if the investigation involves a very politically connected or powerful person. Again, this conflicts with Shinko’s scorched earth policy and her idealistic partner’s naivete with respect to the blow-back that happen when someone too powerful is provoked into taking action to save their own skin.
While the viewer may think that the formula for each episode is the same i.e. after some maneuvers by both the division investigators and the cheaters, the good guys win in the end you would be sorely mistaken. While each episode ends with exposition of the case, if you are paying attention, the penalties for embezzling millions of dollars’ worth of Japanese yen is quite lite. In truth, it is the government white washing the whole thing so it maybe a relief when the gang does not always go for the big shots involved with the central government which is actually mentioned in the series. This is usually when Shinko pulls out her trademark big shiny blinged out calculator to sum up the total amount of money embezzled.
In sum, “Ogon no Buta” is a great and fun series. It has great characters, interesting cases, and over the top villains that everyone loves to hate. But don’t take our word for it, JPFmovies reviewer at large SJ thinks:
JPFmovies: SJ so what is your overall opinion of The Golden Pig?
SJ: It is excellent!
JPFmovies: What do you think of the series main character being a convicted swindler?
SJ: It is cool to compare how a thief would do things versus fancy people in suits.
JPFmovies: Is this your favorite Japanese T.V. series?
SJ: Spaghetti squash (a character nick named by Shinko).
JPFmovies: Who is your favorite villain?
SJ: The scientist lady because she wasn’t actually a bad person but they had to punish her anyways because that is their job (Note a famous scientist who misuses government grant money).
JPFmovies: Does The Golden Pig remind you of any American T.V. series?
SJ: Yeah “Psyche” because they are both a “commoner” who has to work with officials to fight crime.
JPFmovies: Very interesting.
JPFmovies: Is there anything you would like to add?
SJ: Um . . . make sure you calculate the conversion rate from yen to dollars so you know how much was stolen.