13 tales of revelation, redemption, and reconciliation.
Clearly, Human Crossing is a better title for this show than Human Scramble. The closer features people crossing the street, and the last episode (#13) makes the symbolism explicit in a character's own dialogue, that the theme here is people changing direction in life. What we have here are people whose psyches are held prisoner by grudge, obsession, or some other counterproductive habit of thought, suddenly experiencing a "lightbulb moment" of enlightenment that makes them (mostly) much more compassionate; kind of like A Christmas Carol but without spirits (or Christmas.)
The show very much wants to be on the side of the angels- in fact, it might be trying a bit TOO hard. A common theme here is learning to put loved ones ahead of career ambitions (Ep. #'s 3, 5, 7,10), which is certainly a very different message than the one tacitly endorsed in the modern Japanese workplace. (The protagonist in #5 receives his revelation in a very unusual manner, though I found the end of the episode a bit ghoulish.) Sometimes this gets VERY naïve, in my opinion, but I'll get to that later. First I'll mention a couple of episodes I found particularly entertaining- and which give some of the flavor of the show.
#4 is called "Direction". It features a woman named Ryoko who obviously has anger issues. (This show is frequently NOT subtle in characterization.) We meet the ultimate cause of her rage- an individual who is now trying to make up for their lapses, though WAY too belatedly, and toward the wrong parties. It's an interesting comment on the perpetuation of neglect, from one generation to succeeding ones.
#9 is "The Smile", in which someone with an unusual connection to a man decides she wants to become part of his family. The theme here is that good intentions may be more important than blood. I kept thinking of the line from the Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever": " 'Let me help'...Someone will recommend those words over 'I love you'." This one was probably my favorite episode of the whole show.
But, as I said, the show seemed WAY too ingenuous for me at times. There’s a line between sentimentality and practical reality, and the show often veers across it. Here are some for-instances:
Ep. #2- I believe lawyers are NOT social workers, even in Japan. (Interesting critique of the U.S. here though: "That country is full of lawyers- everyone is suing everyone.")
Ep. #8- I don't know about Japanese penology (this is one of two episodes set in prisons), but CERTAINLY in the U.S. prison guards don't act as counselors for the inmates. Perhaps Japan has a different philosophy about this. In ANY case, I couldn't figure out where the launching point for those "aircraft" we see at the end could possibly be.
Ep. #11- Being proud of a parent regardless of whatever they do is hardly good protection from bullies, at least in the U.S., where bullies tend to be less concerned about your parents' social status than about shaking you down for your lunch money.
Ep. #12- Here our hero's "concern" morphs into obsession, and THAT into STALKING. The show portrays all this as well-intentioned, but it clearly crosses the line. (Even our hero's co-workers gently encourage him to back off.) To portray this in a positive light AT ALL seems kind of irresponsible, though in fairness he DOES suffer a bit for it.
Ep. #13- In most cases, it's better for the defendant in a murder case NOT to have "reasons" why they might kill someone, for pre-existing reasons = intent, and intent=premeditation, and premeditation may = death penalty in the U.S., and I'd guess that murder involving some conscious thought (rather than simply heat-of-the-moment) would be treated much more severely even in a society that doesn't normally use the death penalty. So I don't think the "character" witness here is really doing the defendant any great favors. Perhaps that's why this segment is also so evasive about the denouement.
This show dates from 2003 (the original manga ran 1981 to 1991), and the character art and animation are very "old school". The character designs seem a little "chubby"; it's undoubtedly sexist of me, but I noticed it more on the female characters. Both the opener and closer have lush ballads (the opening song's title seems kind of incongruent with its loveliness; it's titled "Revenge"), though I like the closer a little more. (Both opener and closer have digitized photographs, the closer of Tokyo. There's a very pretty shot up through Tokyo Tower.)
The Recs are a romantic comedy/drama of comparable vintage to this show's original manga (1980's), and a show involving the drama (and traumas) of growing up.
Rating is mainly for the show's good intentions; but I think its sentimentality frequently crosses into maudlin territory, and the stories often indulge in implausible naivete, and I say this even though I like to think that I'm as bleeding-heart as they come. Still, the authors tried to create some varied scenarios, and some unusual paths for the characters’ epiphanies, so I'll give them some credit for that too. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: The Blu-Ray rating is TV-MA. There's some violence and sexuality.
Version(s) Viewed: Blu-Ray Disc
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Human Crossing © 2003 A.C.G.T.
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