贖罪 (Shokuzai) – One of the best miniseries I have ever seen


The darkness of the heart following the murder of an elementary school student. It explores the question, “What is atonement?” and follows the four students that witness the murder, but cannot remember the face of the killer. The fear of the darkness within the heart is what makes this story so unique.

~ Tokyohive

I am glad I am a fan of Mirai Moriyama because without him, I might never see this amazing miniseries. I first saw the title at Jason’s Blog (Genkinahito’s Blog) but at that time I only remember that Mirai-kun was in it. I have forgotten about that post till I watched Shokuzai and asked whether Jason knew about this or not. According to him, this miniseries has been converted into a 270 minute movie and shown at many movie festivals. Mirai-kun is one of my favorite Japanese actors because he is not one of those who rely on good look, he can actually act. However, the reason I mentioned that Shokuzai is one of the best miniseries I have ever seen is not because Mirai-kun is in it…it’s because this is the most daring and different dorama I have ever seen.

Shokuzai feels more like movies rather than typical dorama (Japanese TV drama). Each episode is around 1 hour 14 minute whereas normal dorama is around 40-50 minute. Shokuzai is something I considered as SO JAPANESE because it has everything that defies Japanese cinematography, slow plot but very intriguing, depressing but you can’t help wondering what will happen next, and it shows a lot of how people in Japan behaves daily. The feeling of guilty, the reason for doing suicide, the way teacher-parents behave toward each other, the whole society in this miniseries is truly Japanese.

The story focus around the death of Adachi Emiri. Adachi Emiri (Kimura Hazuki) has just moved in to a new school, she soon becomes friend with Kikuchi Sae, Shinohara Maki, Takano Akiko and Ogawa Yuka. One late afternoon, they are still playing on the school’s yard, a man comes to them and asks one of them to help him with his work at school’s gym. He chooses Emiri to help him. Being children, despite the fact that they suspect something is wrong with the man they don’t follow him. When it is getting late, they think they should pick Emiri…but what they find is Emiri’s dead body.

Maki appoints his friends to do something. Sae stays with Emiri’s body, Maki tries to find the teachers, Akiko goes to Emiri’s house to tell her mother about Emiri, and Yuka goes to the police. Unfortunately, all four girls keep saying to the police that they don’t remember the killer’s face. The police can’t capture the killer because there aren’t enough evident. Adachi Asako (Koizumi Kyoko) tells the girls that she will never forgive the girls until they find the killer, she blames them for being so stupid by saying they can’t remember the killer’s face. They have to atone their sins.

Each episode in this miniseries focuses on one of the girls, 15 years later.

Ep 1
Episode 1

Episode 1: The French doll

This episode focuses on Kikuchi Sae (Aoi Yu). Sae grows up as a woman who is always afraid of men, especially one who tries to touch her. She refuses to grow up and that causes her as a woman who hasn’t yet had her period. Out of nowhere, a man named Otsuki Takahiro (Moriyama Mirai) proposes her through Omiai (an arrange marriage). She declines but he makes her understand the fact that both of them aren’t ‘normal’. Takahiro promises never to touch her, all he wants is for her to act like a French doll every night.

Episode 2
Episode 2

Episode 2: Extraordinary PTA general meeting

This episode focuses on Shinohara Maki (Koike Eiko). Maki-chan is the one who looked for the teachers when Emiri was murdered. She couldn’t find anyone at school because it was already late afternoon. That experience makes her wants to be a teacher. However, she has shaped her into a very strict teacher. She is being protested by parents for her strictness…but when someone attacks the kids in the pool, she calmly takes an iron pipe and beats the man. She iss praised for that but her quilt over Emiri’s death made her realizes the truth behind her action on the pool.

Episode 3
Episode 3

Episode 3: Bear siblings

This episode focuses on Takano Akiko (Ando Sakura), the one who ran into Emiri’s mother. She becomes very introvert and hardly ever leaves her home unless her mother asks her to buy something. One day, her brother returns home bringing wife and a girl, the wife’s daughter. The girl shows reluctance of being touched by her new father (Akiko’s brother). She soon sees what’s wrong with the whole scene. She is so sure that her brother touched Wakaba in a way not a father supposed to be. She does something to atone her sin.

From episode one to three I can’t help feeling hateful toward Asako-san. I really think she has no right to scare those little girls and make them grow up painfully with the feeling of guilty over a murder they couldn’t prevent. Yes they were wrong for unable to remember the killer’s face but they were after all frighten children. I feel sorry for the girls. Fortunately, the next episode shows a girl who fights back.

Episode 4
Episode 4

Episode 4: Nine months

This episode focuses on Ogawa Yuka (Ikewaki Chizuru), the only girl who doesn’t care about Asako-san’s threat. Yuka-chan has a very sad life even on the day Emiri’s dead, Yuka is always being neglected by her mother. Her sister is always sick and needs full attention, not only that the sister is also very manipulative, she wants to take everything from Yuka. Yuka is an empty body with no soul and that’s why she has no regret toward Emiri’s death. When Asako contacts here, she just brushes it away like nothing. As a grown up, Yuka’s sister still does things that can make Yuka jealous…but Yuka is no longer a small girl, she pays it back. All the pain her sister has caused her, she returns it back at her.

Yuka is certainly not the nicest girl in this miniseries, however I admire her strength. She can’t be broken easily. I like the way she handles Asako.

Episode 5
Episode 5

Episode 5: Atonement

The final episode belongs to Adachi Asako (Koizumi Kyoko) herself. She finally gets something that can lead her to the murderer. I can’t say much here because a spoiler will ruin this miniseries. Let’s just say that this is where all the mystery is finally unraveled little by little. It’s like connecting the dots where the past and the present are linked through Emiri’s death.

I try so hard not to write spoilers through this review because this miniseries (or the movie if you can get the 270 minute movie) should stay unspoiled for you to see it at its best. One thing I can say is that if you don’t like dark and depressing movie, you might want to skip this…however, if you want to see a great story despite its darkness then go find it watch it! This miniseries is almost perfect…but I am not blind because I still spot some plot holes, such as why does she die so easily or why is she there so early in the morning or why the miss the DNA, etc (sorry I have to keep this plot holes unclear to avoid spoilers). Despite those plot holes, this miniseries is still amazing.

This is one of those rare occasions where I really want to read the book after seeing the adaptation. Ah…I forgot to mention that Shokuzai is based on a novel written by Minato Kanae. I haven’t read her works yet but I am not deeply curious with her works. I bet when I read the book, the plot holes are explained in the book. The screenwriter and director of this miniseries is the famous Kurosawa Kiyoshi.

Miniseries Details:

Title: 贖罪 (Shokuzai) – Atonement or Penance
Kurosawa Kiyoshi
Screenwriter: Kurosawa Kiyoshi
Based on: Shokuzai by Minato Kanae
Staring: Koizumi Kyoko, Aoi Yu, Koike Eiko, Ando Sakura, Ikewaki Chizuru, Moriyama Mirai, Kase Ryo, Hasegawa Tomoharu, Arai Hirofumi, Tanaka Tetsushi, Ito Ayumi, Mizuhashi
Rating: 5 stars

This first trailer has no subtitle but it shows all five episodes (although I think it has spoiler, if you understand Japanese better to skip this trailer)

This trailer has English subtitle and free of spoiler, IMO.


  1. I like the idea of this story where each girl that witnessed the horror has different outcomes in their lives fifteen years on as a direct result, each with a unique perspective on how life evolves around them. I think this movie has excellent qualities, actually I wouldn’t mind watching it sometime 🙂

    Thank you for your in depth thoughts on this one Miss. Novia, I must admit that your postings are incredibly well thought out and written to perfection 🙂

    Have a lovely weekend my sweet and great friend 🙂

    Andro xxxx

    1. As you know I live the idea too (and it makes me want to read the book) It’s interesting how the writer came up with different situation for each girl and how it ends is just unexpectable.

      Aw thank you, Andro. You’re always so nice. Have a nice week, my friend

  2. Heh, I watched the entire first trailer without understanding it before realising you had posted one with English subs 😀
    This sounds quite fascinating actually! Does it have horror elements? The English subtitled trailer was made to look like it was a bit of a horror film towards the end, with the stringed instruments and all.. 🙂

    1. Haha…I wish that one has subtitle too but that one contains some spoiler.

      Aha…that’s the beauty of this series, it haa that horror tone but the story is only a mystery, who had killed Emiri and what had happened to the other girls. No ghost or monster involved, only people with monster in their hearts.

    1. I know it’ll be hard to find, but I think it’s worth it 😉
      I will try to find the book in the library once I get a chance to visit it

  3. 5/5? Whoa. I haven’t read the full review yet because I’ll be watching the series next week so I’ll come back and let you know what I think. I love Kiyoshi Kurosawas films, so I have to watch this. As for Kurosawa film recommendations you should try Cure: The Power of Suggestion and Tokyo Sonata. I’d like to hear what you think of those!

    1. Looking forward to read your thought on this series 🙂
      I gave it 5/5 because the story was great and the acting was brilliant, from all the cast. There are some plot holes but I can ignore it because of the whole story. I wonder what you will think about Mirai-kun…I really like his performance here. I really think he deserved more attention.

      Noted! I will try to find those recommended movies 🙂

  4. This one sounds really good… and I hadn’t heard about it, so reading your review was a great introduction to it. 😉
    I don’t get to watch all that many Japanese TV series here because they are so darn expensive. Every now and again I’ll find one on a Malay DVD, but the subtitles can be terrible on those and that always irritates me when I try to watch one. Still, this one sounds like it might be worth the risk to get…

    1. Oooo…this worth all the risk! I can assure you that, Miyuki 🙂
      This is one brilliant show. Everything (except for minor plot holes) is perfect. I like how they change the color tone to separate the past and the present, I love how each of them has different tragic life, I love the ending, I love the actors/tress, I love how Kurosama directed it….simply said I love it all 😉

      1. Wooo!! You do sound like it’s worth it. OK… OK… you’ve convinced me. Now I’ll just have to see if the Malay disc comes with subtitles…. 😉

        1. Horay \(^_^)/
          looking forward to read your review/thought on it 🙂

          By the way…let’s do our Harakiri review this month! I’ll email you soon 🙂

  5. salah satu dorama favoritku di tahun 2012 kemaren. dan pernah kureview juga di blogku dulu http://purisukareviews.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/dorama-shokuzai-2012/
    favoritku episode 1 dan 3. episode 1 itu creepy abis dan Moriyama Mirai serem banget. episode 3 episode yg paling aku suka dari segi cerita (plus karena ada Kase Ryo, hehe). oh iya, kalo mbak Novroz demen nonton dorama yg dark kayak gini, coba tonton Hitori Shizuka (2012) deh. Sama2 dark dan tayang di channel yg sama (WOWOW), dan cuma ada 6 episode 😀

    1. Ga heran kalo jadi favorite 🙂
      Kayaknya ini juga bakal jadi top-5 TV series saya…tapi masih ada setengah tahun lagi untuk melihata ada yg lebih bagus atau ga, tapi kemungkinan besar ini jadi salah satunya. Keren bgt soalnya.

      Yaiii \(^_^)/ seneng bgt liat Mirai-kun yang jadi creepy gitu…ga jahat sih tapi aneh bgt. Kalo cerita, sy hampir suka semua mungkin yg aga kurang cuma yang kedua, cerita si Maki aga kurang greget kl menurut sy.

      Noted 🙂 ntar coba dicari deh. Sekarang lg proses ‘ngumpulin’ Utsukushi Rinjin.

  6. It’s so hard writing spoiler free reviews. I struggle with that each time. I want to share enough about the story, but don’t want to ruin it. This sounds like another fascinating one. I thought of you the other day. The Wimbledon semi-final ran long and they cancelled a showing of Sherlock to cover the match. I wondered it that would anger you 🙂

    1. You know…your comment went to my spam box (0.o) I wonder why. Lucky I always check my spam before deleting them all.

      I know…especially when writing the one we really like, we want to share how good it is but we don’t want to spoil it either.

      Ah…I know about that, my twitter friend was furious. I already have the DVD…so I won’t be angry 😉 Anyway, I am used to something like that. Every time there’s a badminton match with Indonesian athletes, some programs will be delayed to next week.

  7. Wow, the premise sounds intriguing. I don’t know if I’ll be watching this but I could see why you think it’s such a great miniseries, Nov.

      1. Oh I don’t mind dark stories so long as it’s not extremely violent or gory. Btw you’re starting work this week right? Best of luck with that Nov, keep us updated on that ok?

        1. Shokuzai is free of gore, some murders but not gory at all.

          Actually…it’s tomorrow 🙂
          The students will start on 15, but teachers must start tomorrow…first day of Ramadan and I am off to work ;p

          Thank you Ruth 🙂 I will…imagine teaching chemistry in English for the first time *insert Macaulay Culkin’s face in home alone here*

          1. Ah I see, well then I might like this miniseries.

            Oooo, tomorrow is your first day!! How awesome, must be thrilling and nerve-wracking at the same time. But you’ll do great Nov, I know you will. You’re such a great teacher, your students will surely love you 😀

          2. That’s very nice of you 🙂
            I sure hope that will happen. The most thrilling part of new school is always meeting the students. It’s easy to handle the grown ups (read: other teachers), the students are the most challenging ones. Thank you for your support, Ruth. It means a lot 🙂

  8. I would love this. I’ve never heard of it. It reminds me of some of the Korean movies I’ve watched.
    It says in the trailer that it’s based on a novel. Do you know if it’s good?

    1. As I have written in my post, this is one of those rare ocassions…I like the series so much I really want to read the book. I bet the book is even better or at least equally great. The series has some plotholes and I want to find it out through the book.

      I will look it up in the library when I have time to go there.

Say something so I know you have read my post, THANK YOU for reading :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s