The cause and effect of Giri/Haji

Have you ever dropped a stone in a pond and watched the tiny waves circle out until they crash at the edge? This is the ripple effect. Where one action over time has such a large impact on an entire community that the origin cannot be denied. Like our stone, which sank to the bottom, we cannot undo the initial action. But we can take action to prevent a repeating situation in the future. Since the most important metric is time, it sometimes is hard to find the root cause of the effects you are witnessing or experiencing.

When you’re negatively impacted by the effects, you are more likely to take a counter action versus the situation where the effects on your life are negligible. Today I’m looking at the British-Japanese co-production Giri/Haji. Where one man’s action leads to the disruption of multiple families and even the power balance of an entire city. 


In Giri/Haji we follow Tokyo police detective Kenzo Mori. He is sent to London to investigate the murder of a Yakuza member. The man in London was murdered with the sword of the biggest Yakuza boss of Tokyo, yet not by his hand or instruction. The sword was stolen from boss Fukuhara by Kenzo’s brother, Yuto. Yuto was part of Fukuhara’s gang. Fukuhara and Kenzo’s superior suspect that Yuto is the killer but there is one problem: Everybody thinks Yuto is dead…

Left without choice, Kenzo travels to London to search for his brother. He leaves his father, whose health is failing, and his disobedient daughter in the care of his wife. His goal is to find Yuto and prevent a war between the Yakuza families. The question is if Kenzo can fulfill his duty or if the shame of past events will catch up to him.

Spoilers ahead!

Ticking clocks

In the initial episodes of Giri/Haji we get the urgency of the matter. If Kenzo cannot resolve the situation soon there will be a Yakuza war in Tokyo. One that will lead to many victims, including Kenzo’s own family. The show plays with multiple story/plotlines to great effect. Especially in the initial episodes there is this feeling of a ticking clock which impacts the decisions that Kenzo makes. He is on edge because of the situation in his family and the fact that his brother still may be alive.

Thus Kenzo makes some choices that are not very smart. Yet they are understandable for a man in his situation. Alone in an unknown city and another culture. Where you cannot rely on things that you know. And where, over time, old shameful memories come back. 


I like how the show plays with consequences. Like Fukuhara says: “Someone threw a stone in a pond a long way away, and we’re only just feeling the ripples.”

While Fukuhara refers to the killing of the Yakuza in London with his stolen sword, there is a much earlier decision which set all this in motion. It is arguably Yuto’s decision to become a Yakuza, but given his nature that wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. I’m referring to the one very clear moment in Yuto’s storyline that set him on this path. Namely, the moment when Jiro commands Yuto to pick up Fukuhara’s daughter, Eiko. Jiro thinks he’s too important to be a mere bodyguard and chauffeur, while Yuto wants to prove himself by fulfilling this responsible task. The eager and charming Yuto is undoubtedly a breath of fresh air for Eiko and they fall in love. 

This single moment has such an impact on the other characters that it cannot be denied. While it initially doesn’t seem like much, it causes a disruption with all the other characters. In order to spend more time with Eiko Yuot becomes more invested in the Fukuhara Yakuza family. Which as a consequence marks him as the black sheep of the Mori family.

On the other side there is boss Fukuhara, who does not want his daughter to marry a Yakuza. His decision to remove Yuto from the picture leads to a dissatisfied daughter; a stolen family heirloom (the sword); and eventually his death and the fall of his family.

“Every tiny split second decision we make can potentially have a profound effect on everyone around us.” 

Sarah Weitzmann

Finding family

In Giri/Haji there is a straight followup between events which all relate to the themes of family and responsibility or duty to that family. There are many groups of people that call themselves a family. Some related by blood, others by a common cause. And there are families which are formed by a group of lonely people. 

Giri/Haji shows a clear distinction between types of family. While groups like the Yakuza are very good at adding lone wolves to their ranks, they always demand something in return. Something which is usually not in accordance with the law. 

A family related by blood can be comforting and suffocating at the same time. At some point two people found each other and started one. But living together and placing expectations on another can be suffocating. 

As an example I would give Taki, who doesn’t feel at home in Tokyo. She feels freed of the expectations placed upon her when she’s in a different country and culture on the other side of the planet. At home, she’s the daughter of a police detective. In London, she’s just a girl. A girl who, like her father, connects with a bunch of people during her stay. A connection of lonely people who all share a need of love, of family. One that has expectations, yet not so much that they become suffocating. A family that doesn’t demand any outrageous action from your part. In this family, you are allowed to make mistakes. You are after all a good person who did a bad thing. You only need to be honest and carry the consequences of your actions. As long as you do, this family will care for you.

The Glory: Obsession and pain

I’m a little obsessed with The Glory. This K-Drama released on Netflix in December 2022 caught some attention with the fans.1 A tightly written script, good acting and one of my personal favorite themes: Revenge.

What is The Glory

The Glory is about a woman who seeks revenge on the people who abused her when she was in High School. When she was young, Moon Dong-eun wanted to become an architect. But after the physical and mental abuse she quit school and started working on an elaborate plan to exact her vengeance on the five people that ruined her life.

At the time of writing, only part 1 of the show has aired. In the first 2-3 episodes we learn about the characters and the situation that caused Moon Dong-eun to mastermind a plan that will either ruin or end the lives of the people who abused her. The painful experience that still haunts her. The experience that initiated her change into who she has become. An unstoppable force obsessed with vengeance. There will be no Glory in your life, for I have none as well.

Revenge plots and revealing information

I find that revenge plots are very interesting to watch. Revenge is a powerful motivator for the protagonist. It binds the audience to their cause as equal as it reveals character. The audience should sympathize with the understanding that the only way forward is revenge. We have to see John Wick’s dog killed, Edmond Dantès rot in jail and Moon Dong-eun abused. No matter how distasteful it is to watch.

Like I mentioned above: it is important that we as the audience identify with the reasoning of the protagonist. Yet I do have a disconnect with the physical abuse on screen. Maybe because I only think of mental abuse when I talk about the act of bullying. Physical abuse was before this show not something I related to the word.2 So I needed a suspension of disbelief. Because the abuse is the inciting incident of the show and everything about it is very deliberate.

We are reminded on multiple occasions that the scars are there. They show discomfort with our protagonist in multiple situations. It reveals her emotional state without the need of spoken words. It also reveals the character of the other when it is the topic of conversation. Which makes the on point dialogue even more interesting. It gives a complete picture of the characters in this show without the need of emphasizing certain moods. Expression is used, but in a way that reveals even more of the character; how they feel about the situation and it gives an indication of the choice they are going to make.

The importance of Go

Go is a board game where the players put their pieces (“stones”) on the board. The goal is to claim as much territory of the board when no more moves can be made.
The game is very important in the show. Not only is it the way that one of the characters  (possibly) switches sides. It reveals the character of the player. Ha Do-yeong was told by his Go teacher that he was born with a black stone in his hand. Black is the starting player in Go. The one who has the upper hand because they can make the first move. And we’re being told that Ha Do-yeong was in an excellent position for his entire life. Always being the initiator. From his profession to his wife, this man was a winner. Until he started to play with Dong-eun. The girl whose parents were of a lower social class. Who was abused and horribly scarred; both physically and mentally. She plays aggressively and doesn’t give up. Her obsession and passion motivate her. She wants to take the world from her opponent and she will not stop until it is done thrice over. Victory is not enough. She will bury her opponent so deep no one will ever be able to find it.

Here lies the crux of The Glory. How far will Dong-eun go? If her playstyle with Go is an indication she will over extend herself and go down with the antagonist Park Yeon-jin. The question will be if Dong-eun will be able to prevent those in her care to remain free of the situation? Both her friends Joo Yeo-jeong and Kang Hyeon-nam are deeply entrenched with her. Will she dig their graves as well? Questions I hope to have answered when part 2 airs. If the first 8 episodes are any indication we will be surprised at the end. Part 2 airs on March 10 on Netflix.


  1. Currently scored with an 8.9 on MyDramaList. But since it’s so new and part 2 of the show hasn’t released yet we have to wait how it evens out over time.
  2. But it happens in real life. There are a number of known incidents in South-East Asia which involve mental and physical abuse in schools. That I’m not relating the word to physical abuse is a lack of knowledge about the subject from my part.