Netflix’s Mandarin-language Taiwanese series ‘Copycat Killer’ follows the meticulous efforts of Prosecutor Kuo Hsiao-chi, who sets out to capture the serial killer who targets independent young women. The serial killer not only kills the young women but also taunts their families viciously for pleasure. Kuo’s efforts to find him lead him into a group of young men, which includes the serial killer, who harms one of the prosecutor’s loved ones as well. The historical series progresses through the prosecutor’s detailed investigation that unravels the mystery of a condemnable human being who hides in their community. Since the crime series is set in the past and not-so-familiar geography, we are intrigued about its setting! SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Dark Alleys of Taipei
‘Copycat Killer’ is set in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. The series, directed by Chang Jung-chi and Henri Chang, is a television adaptation of Japanese genre fiction writer Miyuki Miyabe’s novel ‘Mohōhan,’ which translates to ‘The Copycat.’ Although Miyabe’s novel is set in Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, the co-directors placed the narrative in Taipei. In the series, Kuo Hsiao-chi works in the Songyan Prosecutor’s Office. Songyan is seemingly a fictional region in Taiwan. Several scenes of the show, especially ones that revolve around the storyline of Tian Cun-yi, are set in the outer regions of the city.
Placing the narrative of Miyabe’s novel in Taipei instead of Tokyo enhances the same in several ways. The city of Tokyo has witnessed several astounding crimes and criminals, including serial killers, for a long time. Noh, the serial killer, would only become one of the many serial killers that startled the city’s population, which affects the character’s significance. That isn’t the case when the narrative is placed in Taiwan. In the fictional universe of the series, Noh is the first serial killer in Taiwan and the murders he commits are first of a kind. Although the serial killer and the murders he commits are fictional, the particular detail is acceptable or believable since the country is not infamous for murderers and murders.
By unleashing the serial killer character in such a setting, Jung-chi and Chang succeed in exploring the shock of the residents of the city as they are forced to be careful of an unprecedented serial killer presence.
The End of a Millennium
‘Copycat Killer’ takes place in the 1990s. The period is an integral part of Taiwanese or Asian history for that matter, especially concerning the rise of pornography and its availability. Porn apparently became available throughout the continent in VHS tapes, which exposed the population to practices such as sadomasochism. Noh or Chen He-ping’s sadistic tendencies were revived after he started to do an investigative story about the rise of pornography in the country, which led him to a club named Sodom. At the place, He-ping tortured sex workers and he eventually started yearning to kill, which led him to the murder of Yu-ping.
Another significant aspect of the period is that the Taiwanese population wasn’t exposed to vicious murders in the 1990s. In the series, He-ping’s murders startle the residents of the city because of their lack of exposure, which justifies Jung-chi and Chang’s decision to place the narrative in the late 20th century. In addition, the period also witnessed the humongous growth of television news channels that played a part in twisting truth for sensationalism. He-ping takes advantage of such a stage to control the narrative concerning the serial killer as he manipulates news to safeguard himself. Since the internet didn’t become available extensively in Taiwan in the 1990s, the co-directors succeeded in depicting Kuo as a highly hard-working machine that completes his tasks without much technological support.