‘Karamazov No Kyodai’ Review: Rock ‘n’ Roll Meets Dostoyevsky In Japan’s Retelling Of The Grim Russian Tale

Karamazov No Kyodai tells a tale of three brothers who are suddenly summoned to their childhood home that holds nothing but painful memories. When their father is murdered in cold blood, the three of them fall under suspicion.

I hesitated before beginning this one because of one reason — I haven’t read the book it is based off of: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Because I haven’t read the book, I thought it likely that I would neither enjoy nor understand the drama. And while I’m sure readers of the novel are able to pick up on details the rest of us inevitably miss, I assure you I both understood and enjoyed the drama thoroughly. In fact, I binged this one. And contrary to what seems is the case with most drama-watchers, I don’t often actually binge dramas.

(Incidentally, from what I’ve read online, those who have read the book are saying the drama follows the heart of the story very accurately and is a well-done adaptation.)

the Kurosawa patriarch
the Kurosawa brothers

The titular three brothers have a deep bond forged from years of abuse at the hands of their cruel father, Kurosawa Bunzo (Kotaro Yoshida). Each brother has grown up and dealt with the oppression and various forms of abuse in different ways. And they are all incredibly layered characters. The drama explores the brothers’ psyches while steadily unravelling the mystery surrounding their father’s murder. If you relish character development (who doesn’t?), you must check out this masterpiece; you will not be disappointed.

Takumi Saitoh as Mitsuru

Eldest Mitsuru (Takumi Saitoh) is wasting his life away on women and alcohol while trying to evade money troubles. He knows this lifestyle is irresponsible, but has been told since birth that he’s stupid, useless, and will never amount to anything — something he sadly seems to believe. He is outspoken and is the least afraid of standing up to Dad, especially if it’s to protect those he loves. Despite his devil-may-care exterior, he does his best to be a good older brother to his younger siblings.

Hayato Ichihara as Isao

Middle brother Isao (Hayato Ichihara) channels all of his fierce intensity into his law career. He initially comes off as stoic, but that’s only because he guards his emotions with rigid self-control. Rather than acting out of his hurt and anger, Isao writes his suppressed, subconscious emotions down in the form of a violently graphic novel. He’s the hardest to figure out among the brothers — but then, years and years of built-up walls don’t crack so easily.

Kento Hayashi as Ryo

Youngest brother Ryo (Kento Hayashi) is pursuing his education in the field of psychology. He’s soft-spoken, kind-hearted, and a refreshing breath of truth and purity in a story full of evil, toxic words and actions. Regardless of his sweet persona, Ryo — just like his brothers — knows what it is to feel overwhelming anger at his father.

I’ll wrap this up with a nod to the excellent soundtrack. The likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones mixes superbly with the gloomy modern Japanese cinematography — a blend I didn’t know my life lacked until watching Karamazov No Kyodai.

*A fun little fact for fellow Russian-speakers: the drama’s opening sequence has the title written in its original Russian title (Братья Карамазовы).

As always, thank you for reading and happy viewing!

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