The Reel Review
This Netflix true crime documentary examines the fate of 21-year-old Lucie Blackman, a former British Airways flight attendant who disappeared in July 2000, less than a month after starting a job as a hostess at a high-end nightclub in Tokyo, Japan.
The documentary, which features interviews with Lucie’s father Tim, journalists (including Tokyo Vice creator Jake Adelstein) and Japanese investigators who worked on the case, highlights how cultural differences and a general disregard for foreign hostesses – many of whom are in Japan illegally and would be deported if they reported a crime – contributed to a shocking discovery. The Korean-Japanese billionaire eventually convicted of abducting Lucie and dismembering her body had video recordings of him drugging and raping up to 400 women over many years.
This is a dark, depressing documentary that frustratingly omits many key details and forensic evidence in the case, and only superficially skims over much of what transpired during the investigation. While the cultural differences angle is interesting, this film feels more like a passion project told mostly from Lucie’s father’s perspective – a disappointing misfire.
• Joji Obara, now 70, remains in prison, where he is serving an irreversible life sentence after the Japanese Supreme Court rejected his appeal in December 2010.
• Hostesses – modern-day Geishas who entertain, flirt and are encouraged to go on paid dates – but not have sex with clients, are common in Japan. There are also host clubs, where young men entertain women patrons.
• In 2006, Tim Blackman agreed to accept $578,000 in “condolence money” from an Obara associate in exchange for signing a document casting doubt on proof of Obara’s guilt, which was denounced by Lucie’s mother (Blackman’s ex-wife) and their two adult children. Condolence money is a common practice in Japan – sometimes used in exchange for a lighter sentence.