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Hiroshi Abe as M in a still from Because We Forget Everything, a 10-part Japanese mystery series on Disney+..

Disney+ drama Because We Forget Everything: Chara plays a bar owner and Hiroshi Abe a mystery writer in 10-part Japanese series

  • Hiroshi Abe plays M, a mystery writer who has had a row with his girlfriend, “F”. She vanishes from a bar (Chara plays the owner) and a real-life mystery begins
  • There are shades of Haruki Murakami in the character of M as he turns amateur sleuth and a woman claiming to be F’s sister demands money from him
A struggling mystery writer finds himself at the centre of a real-life conundrum after his girlfriend goes missing, in Because We Forget Everything, a 10-part Japanese drama series from Yukiko Sode, writer-director of Aristocrats and Mime-Mime.

Hiroshi Abe, Chara, and Miki Sakai headline the cast, with new episodes premiering weekly, exclusively on Disney+.

For most of the inaugural episode events unfold at Bar Lighthouse, a cosy, unassuming Tokyo watering hole run by the eccentric Kaoru (veteran pop icon Chara).

The show’s protagonist, a journeyman wordsmith known only as “M” (Abe), is a regular of the bar, where he spends his days procrastinating over his laptop. The other barflies refer to him respectfully as “Sensei” (teacher), but are equally willing to point out that M has yet to publish anything approaching a bestseller.

From its opening moments, Sode’s show sows the seeds of suspicion in the mind of the viewer. Its very title suggests that the truth may already be clouded by lapses in memory, and the recollections of various witnesses, including the show’s purported hero, may yet prove to be far from reliable.

M is introduced as a loner, more comfortable living a solitary existence than one dependent upon a significant other. Curiously, his internal monologue, which serves as the show’s narration, is also furnished with a female voice, adding to the uncertainty around him.

Chara as bar owner Kaoru in a still from Because We Forget Everything.

Through these recollections we learn that M recently had an argument with “F”, his girlfriend of five years. On Halloween night they were supposed to meet at Bar Lighthouse to celebrate, but after sending a cryptic text message, F appeared in the bar’s doorway wearing an elaborate Catwoman costume, only to leave immediately, never to be seen again.

Events come to a head a few weeks later, when a strange woman (Sakai) wearing an eye patch arrives at the bar looking for M. She claims to be F’s sister and also hasn’t seen or heard from her since receiving an identical text on Halloween night.

Apparently, F recently came into a large inheritance following the death of their grandmother – an inheritance her sister feels entitled to a share of. Not only does she deem F’s subsequent disappearance highly suspicious, but this one-eyed stranger claims that M, as her common-law partner, should compensate her financially.

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While only a single episode of Because We Forget Everything has aired thus far, the stage is set for an intriguing tale of amateur sleuthing.

The missing ex-lover is a classic narrative hook, while the mystery genre has a tradition of installing inquisitive laymen in the role of primary detective, rather than relying on conventional law enforcement.

From Angela Lansbury’s plucky novelist in the long-running television series Murder, She Wrote, to the recent success of Only Murders in the Building, in which budding podcasters Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selina Gomez snoop around a murder investigation under their very roof, nothing encourages an audience to get involved like hitching your narrative’s wagon to an unqualified enthusiast.

Kankuro Kudo as a bar employee in a still from Because We Forget Everything.

Abe’s laid-back, reclusive protagonist also evokes more than a passing comparison to the unwitting heroes of Haruki Murakami’s fiction. They tend to be similarly mild-mannered men of a certain age, whiling away their days in jazz bars and coffee shops until they are drawn into enigmatic mysteries, often surrounding missing women.

Initially, M presumed F’s silence to be little more than a lover’s tiff, and he was more than happy to get on with his life and let the issue resolve itself. Now he has been presented with a mystery infinitely more compelling than anything he could conceive in his own imagination, in which he is not only involved and financially liable, but is fast becoming a potential suspect.

Sode and company appear to be keeping the identity of the actress playing F a secret for the time being, although discerning viewers should have no difficulty in recognising Machiko Ono, even from the obscure angles used to shoot her thus far. The Disney+ platform also lists her as a primary cast member, even if the show itself has yet to do so.

A still from Because We Forget Everything.

The rest of the cast is peppered with an assortment of recognisable comedians and musicians, and even includes a live performance from the band Tendre, which certainly lightens the mood but leaves the overall tone of the series somewhat unclear at this early stage.

After just 30 minutes of screen time, Sode’s ultimate intentions for the show remain something of a mystery, but one suspects that’s entirely the point.

Because We Forget Everything is streaming on Disney+.