May 04, 2017

Kicking down the door

An entertaining way to do comparative analyses of contemporary cultures is to examine popular fiction genres in terms of the Venn diagrams. The areas of overlap point to stories that have a wide appeal, that can be lifted out of one culture and easily repurposed in another.

Such as The Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven. Or literally crossing time and space, The Hidden Fortress and Star Wars.

As in Great Britain, the murder rate in Japan is minuscule. But you'd never know it from the whodunits and police procedurals in books and on TV. Even though, on a per-capita basis, Japan has one-tenth as many lawyers as the U.S., lawyer shows abound on Japanese television too.

Galileo and Numbers, Mr. Brain and Bones, Columbo and Partners, Hero and Blue Bloods (the Erin Reagan arcs) compare pretty well.

Why dress up? Our heroic ADA makes one court appearance in this series.

What doesn't match up is revealing in interesting ways. To start with, far fewer lawyer shows in Japan are courtroom dramas. They are more likely to depict lawyers doing lawyerly things like interviewing suspects and negotiating for their clients (with greatly elevated stakes, of course).

Cops in Japan don't usually carry guns unless they have reason to believe that the bad guys are armed too. Which is rare. The bad guys most likely to be packing heat are the yakuza, and the yakuza are usually smart enough to get rid of the guns before the cops show up.

The yakuza are also smart enough to mostly shoot each other. A show with a heavily-armed cast like The Bow-wow Detective is telling the audience not to take it very seriously (if the the title doesn't do that already).

But here's a more subtle one: kicking down doors. Cops in Japan don't kick down doors. Or kick them open either.

The typical front door in Japan opens out. When entering a house or apartment, you step into the genkan and then step up to access the rest of the house. Space being at a premium, there'd be no place for everybody to stand while removing their shoes if the door swung in.

Kicking the door would simply force it tighter against the jam. And you see that door closer? Residential doors need them. They're that heavy.

Even if doors opened in, most wouldn't be kickable. The door to my pretty typical middle-class apartment in Port Town had a thick steel frame and was mounted in reinforced concrete. In other words, if the door doesn't have breakable glass panels (apartment doors don't), bring along a battering ram.

Or better yet, a gas-powered diamond-tipped circular saw--standard equipment in fire trucks.

So what do cops do? Have the superintendent unlock the door. And unless they're in hot pursuit, they'll leave their shoes in the genkan too.

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