Unnatural: Is the Japanese Show Based on a True Story?

‘Unnatural’ is a miniseries centered around Misumi Mikoto and her team of forensic pathologists, including Kamikura Yasuo, Shoji Yuko, Kube Rokuro, and Nakado Kei. Together, they work under the Unnatural Death Investigation (UDI) agency, tasked with unraveling the mysteries behind various unnatural deaths. Each episode follows the team as they conduct autopsies and forensic examinations to uncover the truth behind the deaths they investigate. Alongside the intense procedural aspect, the series delves into the personal struggles and growth of the characters, offering insights into their individual stories and relationships.

The 2018 Japanese series, helmed by directors Tsukahara Ayuko, Kentaro Takemura, and Yoshiaki Murao, transcends the boundaries of a conventional crime procedural, elevating itself into a nuanced exploration of societal themes. While its core remains anchored in forensic investigation and medical examinations, the narrative unfolds to reveal poignant tales that resonate with broader issues prevalent in Japanese society. The authenticity and potential inspiration drawn from real-life organizations, individuals, or events add a layer of intrigue to the series, inviting audiences to ponder the blurred lines between fiction and reality.

Real Social Issues Form The Foundation For Unnatural

Written by Akiko Nogi, ‘Unnatural’ revolves around the fictitious Unnatural Death Investigation (UDI) agency, a creation not found within Japan’s reality. The characters within the series are born from the writer’s imagination, yet they navigate an environment that keenly mirrors Japanese society. The foundation for the existence of this fictional agency lies in a cultural norm prevalent in Japan, where deceased individuals are typically cremated rather than buried. This practice poses challenges for forensic studies and the collection of DNA evidence in solving crimes and unnatural deaths, thus necessitating the presence of an agency like UDI in the narrative landscape.

Another claim the series makes is the country’s low number of forensic doctors, which is also a reality. A shortage of forensic doctors exists in Japan, a situation attributed to various factors. Firstly, the limited number of medical schools offering forensic pathology programs contributes to a large inadequacy of professionals in this field. Additionally, the demanding nature of forensic work, characterized by long hours and emotionally taxing examinations, dissuades many medical practitioners from pursuing careers in forensic pathology.

Moreover, cultural attitudes towards death and the criminal justice system also play a role, with societal taboos surrounding death often deterring individuals from entering this specialized field. Furthermore, the lack of resources and funding allocated to forensic departments within medical institutions further exacerbates Japan’s shortage of forensic doctors. These combined challenges underscore the urgent need for increased investment and support in forensic training programs to address the shortfall of skilled professionals.

Each episode of “Unnatural” focuses on a single investigation, serving as a lens to examine broader societal issues within Japan. One such issue explored is the country’s notably high conviction rate in criminal cases. This phenomenon can be attributed to various factors, including the pressure placed on law enforcement to secure convictions, often leading to rushed investigations and reliance on confessions as primary evidence. Japan’s legal system also operates under the principle of “guilty until proven innocent,” placing a heavy burden on the accused to prove their innocence rather than on the prosecution to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

In other episodes, societal issues like sexism, catfishing, and suicides have also been touched upon. In Japanese society, traditional gender roles and expectations often perpetuate sexism, leading to disparities in employment opportunities, wage gaps, and limited representation of women in leadership positions. Furthermore, the anonymity of the internet and the prevalence of dating apps make individuals in the country susceptible to catfishing, where fake online identities are used to deceive others for personal gain or emotional manipulation.

‘Unnatural,’ though fictional, resonates with relevance within its societal context. Cleverly crafted, it serves as a mirror to society, posing tough questions that demand attention. By leveraging the power of fiction, the series ignites conversations that catalyze tangible change, showcasing the transformative potential of storytelling in addressing pressing social issues. The series underscores the importance of fiction in driving meaningful dialogue and inspiring action toward a better future.

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