Genre: Thriller/Adventure Director: Yukihiko Tsutsumi Cast: Erika Toda, Ryo Kase, Chiaki Kuriyama, Atsushi Ito, Saki Fukuda, Chiaki Kuriyama, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Takahiro Miura, Kippei Shiina RunTime: 1 hr 59 mins Released By: Encore Films and Filmgarde Rating: PG13 (Some Violence) Official Website: http://www.encorefilms.com/spec Opening Day:2 August 2012
Synopsis: A cruiser yacht, with all aboard mummified, is discovered drifting out at sea. Toma and Sebumi suddenly face a series of spec-holders controlled by a mysterious ‘Ninomae’, who turns out to be Toma’s younger brother...except that he’s supposed to be dead. Ninomae tries to enlist Toma among the specs using whom he plans world domination, but she refuses, saying she wants to live a normal life. Cursing Toma for getting him into this, Sebumi nonetheless does his utmost to protect her. Toma’s left arm is in a cast: what is she hiding there? The case grows in scale, eventually involving the government. What is the ‘simple plan’ going on behind the scenes? And what is the course of the future traced out by the person who recorded ‘the Third Prophecy of Fatima’?
Japan has always been known for its detective fiction, and all those mystery solving stories. Their popularity is not only restricted to Japan, but they have also gained popularity in other parts of the world. Like Kindaichi Case Files, Death Note, 20th Century Boys; just to name a few. Over the recent years, the popularity of these detective fiction series has not gone down at all. SPEC, the TV drama series, is one of the most outstanding ones you can find these days. SPEC is an award winning TV drama series, bagging three awards that season for Best Actress (Toda Erika), Best Screenwriter and Best Director. Although the television viewership was not the best of the season, it has created a lot of conversation and reaction among viewers who follow this drama. Hence, the decision to make a drama special and the subsequent movie sequel was made.
To orientate viewers who are not familiar with SPEC, it is basically a crime solving series featuring criminals with special abilities, also known as SPEC holders. SPEC holders are a result of the evolution of men, and SPEC: Heaven focuses on the war between them and the police force. In all honesty, this set-up does seem unfamiliar at all. In fact, many mega blockbusters have worked their story based on the premise of rebel (in this case the mutant race) fighting against the bureaucracy, which seems to be conspiring something underneath the sheets. That being said, SPEC: Heaven still has its unique appeals.
Firstly, the two main leads of SPEC, namely Toda Erika (plays Toma Saya) and Kase Ryo (plays Sebumi Takeru), have awesome chemistry. Their chemistry has developed much further than the TV drama series, and both of them have shown powerful performance of their characters. Kase Ryo began his acting career in stage plays, and subsequently took on roles in movies, such as Shimuzu in Letters from Iwo Jima (award winning film directed by Clint Eastwood). On the other hand, Toda Erika has also proved that her acting matured over the years. She landed her first movie role of Misa Amane, from the popular manga adaption movie, Death Note. Henceforth, she was cast with similar character roles, with her classic pouting face. However, SPEC is a key turning point in her career. Even the actress herself has recognized that SPEC’s Toma has changed how she is as an actress. Thanks to the role as Toma, she is able to break off from the typecasting and bring forth a new Toda Erika, ‘never seen before’.
Another factor that sets this apart from similar movies of this genre is the fact that it is so uniquely Japanese; from the slapstick humor, to the tako attacks, to the play with yin and yang. At times it gets a little sadistic and masochistic, yet at other times, it does its part to deliver the poignant hard truths we tend to forget. For instance, how helpless the minority can be and how people are forsaken for the sake of progress. The strong characterizations of Toma and Sebumi value add this aspect as well, working an appeal that works not only in Japan.
However, the main storyline can be a little baffling, as it tries to fit itself into Catholic imagery and the revelation of a prophecy unnecessarily. But fret not, you need not try to painfully figure out the missing pieces; be assured that you will be equally entertained.
As much as this movie is trying to answer some unanswered parts in the drama, it gives rise to a whole series of questions all over again. It seems to be only riding the success of the TV drama series, and did not exactly out do it. It does require a lot more to win more viewers. That being said, the mind boggling mysteries and unorthodox charm are still worth a watch.
(The wacky Japanese are doing what they do best: crime solving mysteries with a space of ambiguity and imagination. Breathtaking and as wicked as it can get!)