Monday, August 01, 2022

Game of Spy, from Japan, on Prime

If agents of the Public Security Intelligence Agency’s secret Global Operations Service (GOS) fail, they will be disavowed. If that sounds familiar, wait till you hear the theme music. However, their impossible mission unfolds in a much more sophisticated and realistic geopolitical context. Yes, the main terrorist group hoping to destroy Tokyo is entirely fictional, but guess who is trying to exploit the situation for their own gain? Why that would be our friends in the CCP. Therefore, the scruffy band of GOS agents must always watch their backs in the first season of the Japanese series Game of Spy, which premieres today on Prime.

Takeru Hashiba is a bit absent-minded, but he fights like a bulldog. Masaharu Katsuki is the conservative family man, who is getting too old for this kind of service. They have both transferred from the general PSIA, but glamorous Rei Hiyama is a freelancer attached to their team. They meet in the secret basement of Shigenobu Kugayama’s fancy-dress costume store, where ex-hacker Atsuhiko Natsume provides the online support for their mission. They thought they had just finished their most recent assignment by foiling an attack on the Tokyo Skytree. Unfortunately, it was just a feint in a larger terrorist operation dubbed “Deus Gate.”

Technically, the attack will be carried out by Mundo, a radical terror cult headed by the messianic “Vince.” In two days, the plan to release a kaiju-sized strain of smallpox that would devastate Tokyo. However, the Chinese might have some relevant intel. They would be happy to trade it to the dirtbag Prime Minister, in exchange for all he knows about American embassy personnel in Japan and the scheduled movements of our Naval vessels. Yet, everything they dangle in front of the politicians, the GOS team can sleuth out on its own. Acting on it will be a different question, because of suspected betrayals from within.

Initially, the conflicting personalities of Hashiba and Katsuki make
GOS look like it will be much more comedic than it turns out to be. They might grouse at each other, but their fights with the terrorists get decidedly brutal and bloody. Also, the portrayals of the politicians and senior government bureaucrats are cuttingly cynical. In addition to the sleazy PM, viewers will have reason at various times to question the loyalties of some top security personnel.

There are a lot of twists in each highly bingeably 20-some minute episodes and always a lot of fighting. Noriyuki Higashiyama steadily grows on viewers as sad hound dog-like, cement-headed Hashiba. Yukiyoshi Ozawa slowly humanizes the uptight Katsuki, by showing his sympathetic family man side. Yet, Lauren Tsai will be the fan-favorite, elegantly kicking butt as the somewhat mysterious Hiyama, in her Emma Peel wardrobe. Plus, the great Denden supplies comic relief and pathos portraying Kugayama, who claims to be descended from ninjas, but agreed to assist GOS in response to the terrorism-related death of his granddaughter.

Why can’t we have nice shows like
Game of Spy here in the United States? Perversely, we have to import series that position terrorist and the Mainland Chinese Communists as the bad guys. At least we have it available now. The action sequences can hang with anything seen in recent films, while the intrigue is shrewdly sharp. It has a lot of machinations going on, but it always makes it clear how dangerous the world is (and how the CCP contributes to the hazards and oppression). Consider it smart dumb fun. Highly recommended, Game of Spy starts streaming today (8/1) on Prime Video.