Saturday, May 17, 2014

The "excessive" smoking scenes in "MOZU"

"MOZU" has been attracting a fair bit of attention, not for its ratings, story nor cast but the number of scenes featuring the cast smoking. According to this article from News Post Seven, Nishijima Hidetoshi who plays an elite police officer from the Public Security Bureau, is seen with a cigarette in almost every other scene he appears in, no matter whether he's in the midst of a meal or moving around in a car. Incredibly, he's also seen with a lighted cigarette on the streets even though there are regulations banning people from doing so in the Tokyo Metropolitan area (depending on the location, the penalties will be different though). According to a TV station insider, in the first episode alone which lasted 2 hours, about 20 minutes featured the cast smoking which is clearly something not seen in recent years due to the conscious effort of not showing smoking scenes in dramas.

Other than "MOZU", another movie which also attracted attention for its smoking scenes was the Miyazaki Hayao anime "Kaze Tachinu" but the key difference was that the latter is primarily targeted at people from all ages including children while "MOZU" is a hardcore police detective thriller meant for adults.  As such, the Japan Society for Tobacco Control (JSTC) is observing the situation with "MOZU" for the time being while it had spoken out against "Kaze Tachinu" earlier on for its adverse effects on children (conveying the message that smoking is cool).

This article takes a supportive view towards the smoking scenes in "MOZU" by saying that any restrictions on the freedom to air smoking scenes would bring negative effects on the production of dramatic works and that "MOZU" should be excused because it is a drama about men fighting for survival. It goes further to say that in a detective drama like this, if the detectives don't smoke, it's as if you are banning the appearance of guns and shooting scenes and no bloody gore in police dramas which is totally unnatural.

Well, I beg to differ especially from what I observed during my recent Japan trip. I was in Yokohama and Tokyo and observed slightly different situations in both cities. Kanagawa Prefecture, where Yokohama is located in, has stricter rules on banning smoking in indoor places such as restaurants. For a non-smoker like me who cannot stand the cigarette smoke, that was like heaven to me because I didn't have to find restaurants which banned smoking because they all did not allow smoking indoors. Unless you are dining alfresco, I think you would not be bothered by the cigarette smoke from smokers near you.

The situation gets a bit trickier in Tokyo because different wards within the Tokyo Metropolitan area seem to have various rulings and punishments. I remember when there was once I entered a restaurant for lunch and was aghast to find out that it had a smoking area at one end and the non-smoking area at the other end. However, even though I was seated far from the smoking area, I could smell the smoke and it was terrible, having to hold my breath through my meal and I scrambled out of the restaurant as quickly as I could. Since then, I realised that there were various variations to this rule. Some restaurants ban smoking during lunch hours and allow it during dinner. Some impose a total ban on smoking regardless of the time you visit while some have a mixture of smoking and non-smoking areas. As such, I would ask or check for no-smoking signs before entering an eating place in Tokyo so as to spare myself from the agony of bearing with the passive smoke.

That is why when I first watched "MOZU", I couldn't fathom why Kuraki (Nishijima Hidetoshi) could puff away at a high-class restaurant while eating with Akeboshi (Maki Youko) nor the fact that he had a lighted cigarette in his mouth wherever he went, even on the streets of Ginza (where the explosion took place) because there should be a smoking ban in Ginza! No doubt dramas may not convey the real situation at times but this deviates too much from the truth.

Frankly speaking, it was quite an eyesore to see the plentiful smoking scenes in "MOZU", at least to me personally. Nonetheless, it hasn't got to the extent that I will drop the drama because of the smoking scenes but I think the comparison with having no guns and blood in a police drama is not fair. Even without cigarettes, a police detective drama can still function. Not every policeman smokes anyway and it will be best to pay a bit more attention to where they light up in the drama.


chan said...

if my country.Must show warning message under screen.

Chiaki said...

I don't recall seeing any warning messages in Japanese dramas and movies except for disclaimers saying that this is fiction and has nothing to do with actual events or people. In programmes touching on things like extra-marital affairs, suicide, drug use, murders etc, I've seen warning messages at the side of the screen though. Maybe to the Japanese, smoking is not as serious as the other vices so the authorities don't really see a need to put up obvious warnings and think that the broadcasters know where to draw the line?

Anonymous said...

I was actually wondering more about "Alice no Toge" where Bandai Sensei (Koichi Iwaki) is the head of the hospital and every scene in his office shows him smoking. I would think doctors would know better.

Chiaki said...

I'm not sure about the rules about smoking in your personal space such as your office or apartment but I think the issue with MOZU lies in the fact that the smoking takes place in public places while for Bandai, it's within his own office. Anyway, doctors knowing more doesn't necessarily mean that they will abstain from the bad things that will harm their bodies. ^__^

Anonymous said...

Some people thinks better when they smoke. And it's true makes them look much cooler..hehe.

Anonymous said...

Rootabega sez:
The amount of smoking in MOZU is absolutely ridiculous. MOZU could have had 1/4 of the smoking scenes and still have been a very smoky dorama.
I found a lot of things pretty stupid in this dorama, but the sight of Kuroki smoking and drinking with gusto at the end of episode 10 after taking a beating and a bullet in the chest really took the cake.
Well, if you're going to make really ridiculous television, go big, I guess.

gaijin mark said...

Just watched episode 9. There's a scene near the beginning where Kuraki is standing on a roof in rain. Sure enough, he lights up a cigarette! Now THAT's addicted!!

fuschiaenchant said...

I'm so glad I found this thread because - man! - every time there's a close-up scene of Kuraki sucking in cigarette smoke it totally sickens me!

In MOZU the smoking goes waayy beyond what might arguably be part of the development of the characters, deep into territory that is just gross and detestable.