Psst, hey! Yeah, you. No, don’t turn around. I know what you’re looking for. You don’t want that mindless action, or no romcom. That’s kid stuff. Tame. You want something different. Something that’ll do your head in. You’re a connnoisseur. I can spot ’em a mile away. Come with me, nice and easy like, and I’ll satisfy your craving. I got the goods, me. Just you trust me, sunshine, and I’ll give you what you want.
MPD Psycho is another crazy offering from the Man With The Psychotic Brain, Miike Takashi. The series has been compared to Twin Peaks, which is fair enough, except that Miike doesn’t go in much for dwarves. And while David Lynch may have a reputation for being a trifle eccentric, Miike has a reputation for being completely barking mad.
There’s a feel strongly reminiscent of 70s psychedelia about this series. This is partly due to the music: two strangely hypnotic tunes that could have come out of early 70s San Francisco, from a supposed “failed rocker turned terrorist” Lucy Monostone. Lucy, it should be pointed out, is a bloke. He appears briefly towards the end of the series, but is present throughout: in the music, in posters on walls, in references to his followers.
Then there’s the visuals. Actual rain in some scenes is replaced by rain clearly added in post-production: it’s ‘raining’ between the camera and the character, but the character’s clothes and hair remain dry. In addition to this, we sometimes get sparkly rain. When it’s not raining (for example, indoors) there are odd moments in some scenes: a character disappears for a few seconds, then reappears, while other characters continue as if unaware.
The most rivetting aspect of this series for me was the sporadic flashes of absurdist humour. You wouldn’t expect a song-and-comedy routine in the middle of a police briefing, but that’s what you get. The stalwart Osugi, veteran of the Japanese film industry, segues from his slightly inept Sasayama-san to a festive Sasayama-san complete with yellow afro wig and guitar. He is accompanied in his unappreciated comedy routine by the enthusiastic young Officer Manabe. Manabe’s chief claim to fame is as the otaku detective who makes meticulous models of the various gruesome murders.
These two have a number of delightful scenes, including one in which Sasayama-san earnestly explains to a covey of frowning senior officials that “Manabe inhabits his own special world”. All this as young Manabe is excitedly demonstrating his latest scale murder model, involving a pregnant woman, a baby, and a mobile phone. Best you don’t ask.
Although Osugi is one of the joys of the series, the main character is Amamiya. Or rather, I should say that Amamiya is one facet of the main character. Perhaps one character of the main character. You see, Amamiya is one personality of the schitzophrenic Kobayashi, who quit the force (and his main personality) when his wife Chizuko was brutally murdered. Kobayashi subsequently resurfaced, married another Chizuko, and took to running a cafe.
Sasayama-san (no, he doesn’t seem to have a personal name) gets extra-curricular assistance from what in police parlance would be called a “source”. This source happens to be Toguchi (remember all these names: you’ll be tested on them later), a yellow-mac-clad maverick with an eyepatch who runs a snuff video business. We find out how he came by the eyepatch, and that’s a surprise that I won’t spoil for you. Needless to say that a man in his line of work could be expected to do some very strange things, and he fully lives up to this expectation.
If all this sounds to you as if I’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid, that’s precisely how MPD Psycho makes you feel. I finished the first episode with a drawn-out “Man, that was weird“. And it stays weird, for the whole series. Not recommended for persons of a sensitive disposition: although this screened on TV, and hence has all objectionable parts (like exposed brains) helpfully pixellated out, the objectionable parts were still clearly indicated. It’s hard to describe what a pixellated brain with a flower growing out of it looks like, but trust me when I say that you won’t forget it easily.
I could go on at length about Isono Machi, the main female character, and her oddly Spanish-looking seaside residence. I could suggest that one scene was a possible reference to Ryu Murakami’s novel Coin Locker Babies. I could wax lyrical over the quietly apocalyptic vision of a beach used as an iMac graveyard. But I won’t. I’ll simply say that this series will infect your head forever after. Don’t say you weren’t warned.