Re: Mind

Eleven girls awaken in an elegant dining room, filled with an eclectic collection of seemingly unrelated items. The girls' legs are locked to the floor, preventing them from standing up, let alone leaving. And quality-wise, things basically go downhill from there.

Re: Mind, a J-drama available on Netflix, attempts to be a proud new entry in the "group of people trapped by a deranged mastermind" genre, but ends up being little more than an extended mediocre advertisement for an idol group. While there are some good points, Re: Mind has noticeable flaws in its plot, characters, and direction.

The main weakness in Re: Mind's plot is the lack of structure. Pretty much every "people trapped" story has some sort of established structure for what the victims are supposed to do to proceed, whether you're being forced to play Zero's Nonary Game or get through Jigsaw's traps. Re: Mind has no such structure. The girls talk with each other to try to figure out what's going on, who's behind everything, and how to escape, but there are no rules or structure for their ordeal. Things happen in the room (frogs jump out, goo falls from the ceiling, etc.) but the girls themselves never do anything but talk. There is a copy of "I Guess Everything Reminds You of Something," which prompts the girls to try to remember things. This reminiscence does appear to be what they're supposed to do, but it's still based on mere conjecture.

Consequently, Re: Mind consists of the girls just talking about whatever they blindly think will help them escape without any sort of basis for their discussions. Watching people sit around talking for hours is about as exciting as you'd expect. Every so often (usually after one of the girls has revealed something dramatic) the lights will momentarily go out and one of the girls will disappear without a trace. It's surprising the first time it happens, but not after that. There are a couple of times some other things do happen, but without a structure established at the beginning the story as a whole feels aimless and meandering, which is not the atmosphere you want for a tense psychological drama. As a result, the entire show is driven by whatever each girl happens to bring up when they bring it up. A lot of the drama and pacing comes from the girls withholding information way longer than they should, considering their situation, making it all feel pointlessly melodramatic.

A meandering path could perhaps be justified if it led us to a satisfying conclusion, but Re: Mind doesn't. We find out who the mastermind is and their motive and that's about it. Pretty much every other question goes unanswered. Plus, without structure or discrete clues, although there are some plot points that make a bit more sense with the mastermind's element revealed, the mastermind's identity still feels arbitrary. I understand what they were trying to do with the final twist, but the way it worked out felt contrived. The bottom line is, don't expect any sort of closure or clever resolution.

That being said, the narrative behind the events of the show is decent. The girls were all classmates who managed a twitter account known as "Perfect Justice." The girls would take 'revenge' on injustice they witnessed (usually by committing some sort of petty misdemeanor against the perpetrator) and tweet a photo of their handiwork, with each girl having access to the account and all of them swearing to never ask or tell who made which tweet. It provides a motive against the girls and a reason for them to keep silent, to a certain extent. It was a nice idea, but I also think they could have leveraged it more. So overall the backstory was fine, but without a structure the plot just lazily ambles along.

The characters don't feel particularly compelling, mostly because Re: Mind tries to throw too many similar characters at us at once. The girls already know each other since they're classmates and they've been thrust into this crazy situations, so they devote most of their conversation to getting out rather than introducing each other. Consequently, differentiating these eleven Japanese schoolgirls that have barely been introduced and are around the same age and wearing the same school's uniform is a bit of a challenge. In fact, when the mastermind was revealed, I couldn't even identify which girl it was! The girls that stay longer do get more development and personality, since they get more screentime both by being in more episodes and in getting a larger proportionate share of the spotlight in later episodes, but as a whole the characterization is lacking.

The mediocre plot and mediocre characters are tied together by mediocre direction. I understand that it can be difficult making a bunch of people just sitting around talking exciting, but Liar Game did it. Of course, Liar Game also had structure to help shape the plot, but I already discussed that. The acting can sometimes be compelling, but is also often clunky in predictable ways. For instance, the girls start off with bags over their heads and wake up one by one--and each girl's initial reaction upon waking up is to blindly grope out at her surroundings. This might have made sense for the first girl or two, but it felt bizarre to not have a single girl to silently remove her bag or call out verbally.

In the end, Re: Mind ends up mostly being an extended advertisement for the idol group all the actresses are a member of. (The characters all have the same names as their actresses!) It's a plot designed to have a bunch of girls spend a lot of time in a room together and not much more. The episodes are half an hour each so the series isn't that long. If you like the genre it's fine to kill some time with it, but don't set your expectations that high.

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