“Mood Indigo” (2019) Series Review

“Most of all, I hate you because I think of you. Often. It’s disgusting, and I can’t stop”-Holly Black, The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)

These are the exact lines that came to my mind when I was watching Mood Indigo. Because protagonist Kido would very much agree with this statement by Prince Cardan of “The Folk of the Air” series. The only difference between the two characters is that despite being so antagonistic, Cardan would bet his entire existence for the one he loved. Kido on the other hand doesn’t have the guts to even accept his affections. His feelings keep oscillating between acceptance and denial. As such, his relationship with main lead Rio is tumultuous and highly sexual. This show has darker elements at play and is obviously targeted to attract the mature audiences with its exceedingly sexual content. Like the recently released sexual explosive Sei no Gekiyaku, the miniseries is certainly not for the light-hearted. If you are hoping for sweet characters that fall into line and make the watch easy, then this drama is certainly not the one for you.

Mood Indigo is the sequel to the hugely popular Japanese BL series “Pornographer”. While the prequel sets the stage for the unusual relationship that develops between well known porn novelist Kijima Rio/ Kijima Renjiro and his apprentice Kuzumi Haruhiko, we are left with several unanswered questions about Rio’s unemotional state. Mood Indigo delves into his past and gives us a better idea of why Rio is so skeptical of relationships or commitments. Diving into the hornet’s nest, this drama shows us a very different and kinder version of Rio who was exploited and then discarded by the one he truly loved. The emotional entanglements are stifling and yet you can’t escape their sensuality.

CHARACTERS

Kijima Rio

Takezai Terunosuke portrays the role of Kijima Rio. He was a celebrated novelist until his sales started dropping. On his school friend Kido’s suggestion, Rio decides to switch genre and start writing erotic novels instead. The course of his life entirely changes with this one decision.

Kido Shiro

Yoshida Munehiro plays the role of Kido Shiro. He works as an Editor of Erotic Fiction novels. His girlfriend’s parents have issues with the nature of his job and as such they break up. Under unavoidable circumstances, he starts living with Rio as a roommate and gradually their relationship turns sexual.

Kuzumi Haruhiko

Izuka Kenta plays the role of Kuzumi Haruhiko who is Rio’s current lover. Although they have a satisfactory relationship, he is highly insecure about Rio’s odd friendship with Kido.

Mood Indigo’s timeline precedes Pornographer and as such we get a glimpse into Rio and Kido’s highly sexual relationship. Rio is an awarded novelist while Kido works as Editor of Erotic Porn novels. The storyline focuses on how Rio and Kido meet by chance at a mutual friend’s funeral. Kido is suffering from a recent break up and is homeless. Rio on the other hand is having a difficult time maintaining his ideological perceptions and is facing a mental block while writing his novels. As an obvious solution to his financial difficulties, Rio suggests that they live together. Spurred by his jealousy at Rio’s writing talents, Kido suggests that he should try writing erotic novels as they are hugely popular. Although they are in direct contrast to his idealistic views, Kido insistent attempts to wear down Rio and he agrees. Thus begins their tumultuous journey of self discovery which ventures into unknown sexual territory and ends in utter devastation for both.

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS DRAMA

If you thought that the sexual deviancy in Sei no Gekiyaku was intolerable, then think again! Because Mood Indigo just takes in all major points for building up a romance that keeps you on the edge! While you try to understand the two main characters and empathize with them, the show takes you through a roller coaster of emotions that at times leaves you spellbound or entirely horrified. The innocence deception, hatred and lack of understanding makes you want to scream out your frustration. This Japanese BL certainly set the bar too high, because the actors are fantastic, direction is par excellence and the storyline is riveting. Kido is the narrator of this story and as he takes you on the ride, his self justifications sound horrendous as each time he tries to explain his immoral nature or lack of courage.

Did you ever think that a chance meeting at a funeral might change the course of your life?

You may not, but Rio certainly believes so, because he thinks that “Funerals are a genre which are a major turn on for him and Kido”. They seem to feed on the sexual deviancy from funerals. Both are school friends who are meeting after a long time and yet from the beginning its clear that Kido is enamored with Rio. So much that he picks up him and drives him home, despite the fact that Rio doesn’t remember him much. Clearly once there, things skyrocket into comfortable banter and they settle into an unlikely friendship as roommates. However Rio’s high-handed attitude grates at Kido’s nerves. As such Kido decides he needs to destroy his idealistic nature by making him write a novel about the same genre that Rio considers trash. The scene is so surreal and shows how much Kido wants to shake up Rio’s world.

While you are left wondering about Kido’s repulsive tendencies, he goes on to use Rio as a bargaining chip to earn a favor from his unruly boss, President Mizutani. The deal is to get the posthumous manuscript of popular erotic novelist, Gamoda Ikuo in turn for a job at their another publishing house. Gamoda is suffering from life-threatening ailment and as such Kido promises him an apprentice. Only the situation turns worst when Kido turns up with a Male apprentice- Rio instead. Gamoda is not someone to be trifled with and offers them his own deal- “I will take Rio as an apprentice if he gives Kido a blowjob”. Obviously Kido didn’t imagine that his plans will backfire. Rio’s acceptance is even more shocking. At this point it is clear that he has a liking to Kido and would do anything to help his friend. You feel gutted by his innocence because Rio doesn’t know that Kido is merely using him. The scene is appalling and arousing, yet it is the precedent to their relationship.

Watching Rio taking such risks for him softens Kido’s rough edges. It starts with a simple forehead kiss as he tries to reassure Rio but turns into full-blown explosive sex as the tables are turned. Kido’s dominant tendencies are satisfied with Rio’s subservient nature. The scene would have been lack luster if Yoshida Munehiro and Takezai Terunosuke didn’t portray the characters sensual sensibilities with a deliberate honesty. I’m yet to see a BL where the characters are so daring or passionate. I’m going to compare all future BL dramas with the intimacy displayed in this show, because the stakes are ranked too high. Takezai’s innocent facial expressions draw you in and Yoshida completes the act with his aggressiveness.

Jealousy is a powerful emotion and as such Kido’s delicate sensibilities are hurt when he figures out the growing strong connection between Rio and Gamoda. It’s contradictory because Kido is back with ex-girlfriend because he is moving to a new publishing house. And yet he has the audacity to question Rio and Gamoda’s relationship when clearly he is using Rio to climb up the ladder and feed his sexual deviancy. Their relationship only exists on the cards for Rio who trusts him implicitly and you actually feel bad for the poor guy. Because while Rio has preparing himself physically and mentally to go all the way with Kido, the latter has been cheating on him! The drama has such a strong sense of psychological debasement that you wonder why Rio would go to such extents for Kido.

As such, when Rio learns the truth, the devastation is unexplainable. He is truly horrified by Kido’s betrayal and although Kido tries hard to explain, Rio is inconsolable. How can you be when you have been discarded like white trash by the very man who owes you everything? The confrontation scene is by far my favorite. It is disturbing and yet the actors are brilliant in the portrayal of their accorded emotions. Takezai Terunosuke holds your attention with his expressionless eyes that betray his bruised ego and heartbreaking demeanor. I cannot envision a better understanding of this character’s grief, it is palpable and strikes you unlike anything. While you are left shockingly spellbound, Yoshida Munehiro takes the center stage by pulling on your heartstrings. Kido’s almost callous attitude is in direct contrast to his begging tones. It’s obvious that Kido treasures Rio but is afraid of challenging the societal norms. At this point, I was sort of confused with my own reactions to Kido. I feel sorry for him and yet there are instances when I want to smack some sense into his head.

That being said, the confrontation changes Kido’s point of view. Meanwhile, Gamoda is admitted to intensive care and his relationship with Rio suddenly turns into the father- son territory. I’m not sure why Gamoda set the chain of reactions on their first meeting. He is a pretty interesting and deviant character. On one hand you appreciate his dark honesty and on the other hand wonder about his possible intentions. I’m guessing that he saw the sparkle of interest in both Rio and Kido. His unusual offer was thus meant as a trigger. When Kido meets him in the hospital, Gamoda begs him to take care of Rio. At this point, Gamoda obviously knows about the sexual nature of their relationship. His request might seem odd, but that helps Kido makes some important decisions. He refuses the offer to join the other publishing house and breaks up with his girlfriend. I was pleasantly surprised with this sudden change of events, unlike Rio who refuses to trust him again. So obviously Kido’s decision to win back Rio is met with rebuttal. It’s pretty intense but Kido wins him over in the end. Rio is kind of hopeless when it comes to Kido. The glaring differences in their personality merge so beautifully, that they make a handsome pair.

Gamoda’s sudden death leaves Rio grief stricken but Kido stands by his side. The show should have pretty much ended with a happy ending after they get together on the night of the Gamoda’s memorial. But things don’t usually go as planned, atleast not in Rio’s case. Having earth-shattering sex with Rio rings alarm bells for Kido and he runs away like a scared cat. From there, their relationship slips into decline as Rio goes through a phase of utter heartbreak and confusion when Kido avoids him like the plague. Just when you had begun to appreciate Kido’s honesty, he sets you on the edge with his idiocracy. The show then leaps into the future where Kido is happily married. Years later, they meet up for a chance meeting again and Kido is left gutted with the sudden explosion of emotions that he feels for Rio. While Rio who is now in a relationship with lover Kuzumi maintains a stoic distance, Kido struggles with his forbidden attraction.

At the best, Mood Indigo is a test of basic emotions. Watching this show gives you a better understanding of the unemotional state that Rio persists in the current scenario. He was betrayed once and isn’t taking risks again. Although Kuzumi is very different from Kido, Rio’s skeptic tendencies don’t allow much room for romance. Kido burned the bridges for any future romantic entanglements and that’s why you hate this character. It’s like he took Rio’s fragile, innocent heart and broke it into a million pieces. While you feel empathy for both Rio and Kuzumi, you feel anger when faced with Kido’s idiocracy. He was given the Gift of Love and yet he callously threw it away. I’m trying to understand this character and yet I fail to do so. Because when he distances himself from Rio, his insecurities become more coherent. His need to shine as moral and responsible citizen of the society takes over. But when is with Rio, his true identity surfaces and he can’t hold back on his sexual desires. I’m guessing that’s why Kido says this to Rio during their confrontation scene “I hate myself when I’m with you”. Rio brings him out of the cage when he wishes to confine his true self behind forbidden walls.

The show ends on an ominous note where Kuzumi questions Rio about his odd friendship with Kido. Rio enjoys Kuzumi’s jealousy and laughs it out. But it’s clear that he is reminiscing his past encounters with Kido and that makes Kuzumi skeptical.

Is their relationship a farce or does Rio still has feelings for Kido? Will Kido finally stop running from the ghosts of his past and accept his true feelings for Rio? Will they ever get back together? What will happen to Kuzumi in that case?

Rating- 4 out of 5

(The show is streaming on popular web portal Viki and all episodes are available for free)

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