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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year 2008 in Retrospective: Hits and Misses

On the last day of 2008, here is my recap of my favourites and misses as well as a ranking of the dramas in terms of ratings.

Winter 2008 (Jan to Mar)
In this season, I watched the following:
1) Hachimitsu to Clover
2) Ashita no, Kita Yoshio
3) Lost Time Life

And I can't choose any one of them as my favourite because...

1) I loved Hachimitsu to Clover a lot...I mean the anime and manga versions. However, the real-life adaptation movie has disappointed me greatly. I was hoping for the drama to do better but then the producers were simply too ambitious and changed too much of the original setting. If they had ended the story at the juncture when Takemoto came back from his self-searching journey and left the rest in a sequel, it would have been better. Due to the need to fit so much material into one season, everything was a mess. The story structure was the biggest problem. Acting-wise, some of the cast members couldn't bring out the essence of the characters. The theme song was a redeeming point for the drama but still, I would have preferred Spitz or Sugashikao to do it since the title of the manga was inspired by their songs.

2) It started in a promising manner but when Yoshio knew about the fact his buddy was merely feigning his death and his marriage was a sham, he still wanted to die. That just made it a bit ridiculous. However, I like Kohinata Fumio's chemistry with Matsuda Ryuhei and the theme song by Yamazaki Masayoshi.

3) It was a series of hits and misses. Some of the stories were very good e.g. the ones which had Maki Youko, Ueno Juri, Eita and Tomochika. As such, on the whole, this series cannot be counted as a favourite for me.

Spring 2008 (April to June)
I watched the following:
1) CHANGE
2) Last Friends
3) Around 40

Only Last Friends can be considered as a favourite in this season.

1) I simply don't get the hype over KimuTaku at times. Enough said about him. The theme song by Madonna was merely a promotional gimmick and just wasn't appealing to me. The good points are getting to know more about the political system structure as well as the strong supporting cast e.g. Abe Hiroshi.

2) Only the corny last line really riled me up. Other than that, this drama is quite good. Keep a lookout for Ueno Juri and Eita's performances. That scene when Ryuka and Takeru hugged was simply touching!

3) Reminded me too much of past similar women at middle-age dramas especially Love Revolution. Very predictable story line.

Summer 2008 (July to September)
1) Maou
2) Tomorrow

1) I liked this a lot. As for the reasons, click on the Maou tab on the left and you can read the reviews.

2) Similarly, another favourite. The ending was a bit too idealistic but still the story was pretty engaging.

Autumn 2008 (October to December)
I finished watching the following:
1) Kaze no Garden
2) Ryuusei no Kizuna
3) Team Batista no Eikou
4) Innocent Love

1) Among the four dramas this season, this is my No.1 favourite. The quality of the story and acting was consistent from the start to the end. In addition, it didn't go overboard on the sentimental factor as emotions flowed smoothly instead of being potrayed as mere playacting. And to make it more memorable, this was Ogata Ken's last drama. What a pity that a great actor like him has passed on!

2) I like the climax scene very much. Full of intensity and great acting from Nino and Miura Tomokazu. However, the quality of the drama was inconsistent. Some episodes felt more interesting while some were boring. And I did not like some of the Kudo Kankuro-style jokes so this wasn't a big hit with me. I expected more from this drama. Detailed review coming up soon.

3) If Kaze no Garden was like a gentle stream and Ryuusei no Kizuna was like a river with varying degrees of speed at different points, this has got to be a waterfall. Tension built up really quickly and it was really tough to spot clues from the beginning. Detailed review coming up soon.

4) Boring. Horikita Maki tried too hard and I found her effort to smile while showing her teeth really hard to stomach. It was so fake. Maybe she tried too hard to change her image from a teenager to a mature woman. Kitagawa Yuujin, being a greenhorn at acting just seemed quite awkward at times. He has a warm smile though. Narimiya Hiroki looked good (much better than he was playing Morita in Hachimitsu to Clover) but his role didn't allow much room for development. Detailed review coming up soon.

As such, here is my Top 6 for the year 2008:

1) Kaze no Garden
2) Maou
3) Team Batista no Eikou
4) Ryuusei no Kizuna
5) Last Friends
6) Tomorrow


(I couldn't rank the remaining 6 dramas I watched because I don't think they are not quite deserving of a "Top" ranking.)

And here's the Top 20 drama ratings ranking for 2008 (in terms of average ratings):

1) Gokusen 22.81% - Spring (NTV)
2) CHANGE 22.08% - Spring (FujiTV)
3) Bara no Nai Hanaya 18.76% - Winter (FujiTV)
4) Last Friends 17.73% - Spring (FujiTV)
5) Ryuusei no Kizuna 16.59% - Autumn (TBS)
6) Code Blue 15.87% - Summer (FujiTV)
7) Kaze no Garden 15.81% - Autumn (FujiTV)
8) Saitou-san 15.61% - Winter (NTV)
9) ROOKIES 14.96% - Summer (TBS)
10) Taiyo to Umi no Kyoushitsu 14.79% - Summer (FujiTV)

11) Around 40 14.72% - Spring (TBS)
12) Innocent Love 13.60% - Autumn (FujiTV)
13) Koushonin 13.52% - Winter (TV Asahi)
14) Team Batista no Eikou 13.24% - Autumn (FujiTV)
15) Celeb to Binbou Tarou 13.16% - Autumn (FujiTV)
16) Zettai Kareshi 13.15% - Spring (FujiTV)
17) SCANDAL 13.12% - Autumn (TBS)
18) Yasuko to Kenji 13.07% - Summer (NTV)
19) Tomorrow 12.73% - Summer (TBS)
20) Shibatora 12.52% - Summer (FujiTV)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winter 2009 Drama Preview: Voice - Inochi Naki Mono no Koe

This is the first of a series of previews on the upcoming Winter 2009 dramas which I'm interested in. As such, this will not be an extensive coverage on the upcoming drama season. First up is the Gekku drama from FujiTV:

Title: Voice - Inochi Naki Mono no Koe (Voice - The Voice of Those Who Lost Their Lives)
Broadcast by: FujiTV
Timeslot: Mondays, 9pm
O.A. Start Date: 12 Jan 2009
Theme song: Title undecided by GReeeeN
Official website: here

Cast:

Kaji Daiki (Eita)
Ishimatsu Ryosuke (Ikuta Toma)
Kuboaki Kanako (Ishihara Satomi)
Kirihata Teppei (Endo Yuuya)
Hanei Akira (Sato Tomohito)
Hanei Takako (Hamada Mari)
Natsuikawa Reiko (Yada Akiko)
Sagawa Fumihiko (Tokito Saburo)

Reasons why I am interested in this:

1) Story premise is refreshing
This story is about 3 students in the pathology faculty and how they learn along the way. Well, I don't remember watching any drama which centres on this genre so this will be interesting. And the fact that this is an original story makes it stand out from a lot of adaptations in the Winter 09 lineup.

2) Eita & Ikuta Toma
This will be Eita's first leading role so I am waiting to see if he can do as well as he did in his supporting roles. His partnership with Ikuta is worth checking out. I don't really like Ishihara Satomi though.

3) Yada Akiko
Well, I've never been a fan of her but I'm curious to see if her long hiatus from the small screen has done her any good. Some actresses tend to improve their acting skills after going through marriage and childbirth. We'll see if Yada can do the same.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Top 10 movies ranking (28 Dec 08)

1) WALL.E

2) The Day The Earth Stood Still

3) K-20 Kaijin Nijuu Mensho. Den

4) Akai Ito

5) Gekijouban MAJOR Winning Shot

6) World Of Lies

7) 252 Seizonsha Ari

8) Eiga Tamagocchi Uchuu Ichi Happy Na Monogatari

9) Mirrors

10) Gekijouban BLEACH Fade to Black Kimi no na wo Yobu

Cat Street DVD Box

Title: Cat Street DVD Box
Price: 11,970 yen (inclusive of tax)
Date of release: 21 January 2009
Number of discs: 3
Produced by: VAP INC.
Total run time: 270 minutes
Number of episodes: 6

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The 21st Nikkansports Movie Award & Ishihara Yujiro Award

Best Movie: Okuribito

Best Director: Takida Youjirou (Okuribito)

Best Leading Actor: Nakai Masahiro (Watashi wa Kai ni Naritai)

Best Leading Actress: Ayase Haruka (ICHI / Boku no Kanojo wa Cyborg / Happy Flight)

Best Supporting Actor: Sakai Masato (Climber's High / After School)

Best Supporting Actress: Natsukawa Yui (Aruitemo Aruitemo)

Best Newcomer: Kaho (Utadamashi / Tokyo Shoujo)

Ishihara Yujiro Award (Movie): Climber's High

Ishihara Yujiro Award (Newcomer): Matsuda Shota (Ikigami / Hana Yori Dango Final)

Top 15 movies of 2008 with the highest box office receipts

As some of the following films are still shown in cinemas, some of the figures listed are estimates.

1) Kake no ue no Ponyo - 15.4 billion

2) Hana Yori Dango - 7.75 billion

3) Indiana Jones The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - 5.71 billion

4) Yogisha X no Kenshin - 5 billion

5) Red Cliff Part 1 - 4.8 to 5 billion

6) Pocket Monster Diamond Pearl Giradina to Koorizora no Hanabata Sheimi - 4.8 billion

7) Aibou Gekijouban - 4.44 billion

8) I am Legend - 4.31 billion

9) The Magic Hour - 3.92 billion

10) 20 Seiki Shounen - 3.9 billion

11) The Golden Compass - 3.75 billion

12) Doraemon Nobita to Midori no Kyoujin den - 3.37 billion

13) Mary to Koinu no Monogatari - 3.18 billion

14) L change the World / Hancock - 3.1 billion

Source: Variety Japan

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Top 10 most popular dramas on Yahoo! Japan 2008 Internet Ranking

1) ROOKIES (TBS)

2) Last Friends (FujiTV)

3) Atsuhime (NHK)

4) SP (FujiTV)

5) Maou (TBS)

6) Aibou (TV Asahi)

7) Gokusen (NTV)

8) Bara no nai Hanaya (FujiTV)

9) Chiritotechin (NHK)

10) Koizora (TBS)

Source: Yahoo! Japan

Friday, December 26, 2008

Autumn 2008 drama satisfaction ranking by Oricon (straight after the first O.A.)

This is a survey done by Oricon to find out the satisfaction level after watching the first episode of the drama.

1) Aibou season7 (TV Asahi) 79.9

2) Black Monday (TBS) 76.7

3) Ryuusei no Kizuna (TBS) 73.8

4) Kaze no Garden (FujiTV) 72.7

5) Room of King (FujiTV) 70.8

6) Team Batista no Eikou (FujiTV) 69.7

7) Shouni Kyuumei (TV Asahi) 69.6

8) Gira Gira (TV Asahi) 69.1%

9) Yume wo Kanaeru Zou (NTV) 69.0

10) SCANDAL (TBS) 67.4

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Autumn 2008 drama anticipation ranking (Oricon)

This is a survey done by Oricon to find out which dramas are highly anticipated by viewers prior to the start of the season.

1) Ryuusei no Kizuna (TBS) 59.6 points

2) Team Batista no Eikou (FujiTV) 58.8

3) Bloody Monday (TBS) 54.3

4) Aibou season7 (TV Asahi) 53.1

5) Innocent Love (FujiTV) 50.9

6) Celeb to Binbou Taro (FujiTV) 49.4

7) Yume wo Kanaeru Zou (NTV) 49.2

8) SCANDAL (TBS) 48.7

9) Room of King (FujiTV) 47.7

10) Shouni Kyuumei (TV Asahi) 47.3

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Top 20 dramas / SPs ranking for 2008

Please note that the following ranking includes both regular season dramas and SPs shown within the year and that the figures are based on ratings for that particular episode, NOT on an average calculation. Dates in brackets indicate the day the particular episode or SP was shown.

I will be posting the ranking based on average ratings for regular season dramas only at a later date.

1) Atsuhime (30 Nov 08) - 29.2%

2) CHANGE ~ Final episode (14 July 08) - 27.4%

3) Gokusen (19 April 08) - 26.4%

4) 24 Jikan TV SP Myuu no Anyo Papa ni Ageru (30 Aug 08) - 25.6%

5) Last Friends ~ Final episode (19 June 08) - 22.8%

6) Ryuusei no Kizuna ~ Final episode (19 Dec 08) - 22.6%

7) Bara no nai Hanaya (14 Jan 08) - 22.4%

8) SP Special Encore (5 Apr 08) - 21.5%

9) Code Blue (3 July 08) - 21.2%

10) Nodame Cantabile SP Part 2 (5 Jan 08) - 21.0%

11) Galileo Zero (4 Oct 08) - 20.8%

12) Aibou (12 Nov 08) - 20.7%

13) Aibou SP (3 May 08) - 20.6%

14) Taiyou to umi no Kyoushitsu (21 July 08) - 20.5%

15) Tokumei Kakaricho Tadano Jin '08 SP (2 Feb 08) - 20.2%

16) Kaze no Garden (9 Oct 08) - 20.1%

17) Saitou-san ~ Final Episode (19 Mar 08) / Kokuchi sezu (15 Nov 08) - 19.6%

19) ROOKIES ~ Final Episode (26 July 08) - 19.5%

20) SP ~ Final Episode (26 Jan 08) - 18.9%

Top 10 bestselling artistes for 2008 (Oricon)

Units in terms of million yen.

1) EXILE (19,582)

2) Hamasaki Ayumi (7,188)

3) B'z (7,156)

4) Amuro Namie (6,802)

5) Kobukuro (6,691)

You may wish to note that albums are prized much higher than singles. As such, even though ARASHI sold more than 1.5 million copies of their 4 singles this year, they are not in the top 5.

EXILE released a number of albums this year which did very well in the albums charts. Likewise for Hamasaki, even though her singles didn't get into the Top 25 of the singles chart, her complete hits compilation did much to push her up to the bestselling ranking.

It is also worth noting that these artistes in the top 5 released best hits albums instead of a brand new original album. It seems like the trend these days is that past hit songs will sell but new works won't.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Top 10 bestselling albums for 2008 (Oricon)

For the full list, please visit Oricon's website:

1) EXILE LOVE by EXILE (1,470,959)

2) BEST FICTION by Amuro Namie (1,447,149)

3) 5296 by Kobukuro (1,404,658)

4) EXILE CATCHY BEST by EXILE (1,222,339)

5) HEART STATION by Utada Hikaru (997,536)

6) EXILE BALLAD BEST by EXILE (943,901)

7) B'z The Best"ULTRA Pleasure" by B'z (940,333)

8) A COMPLETE ~ ALL SINGLES ~ by Hamasaki Ayumi (815,643)

9) AND I LOVE YOU by DREAMS COME TRUE (785,641)

10) Aah, Doomo Ohisashiburi desu by GReeeeN (778,578)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Top 10 movies ranking (21 Dec 08)

1) The Day The Earth Stood Still

2) WALL.E

3) K-20 Kaijin Nijuumensho.den

4) Akai Ito

5) World Of Lies

6) Gekijouban MAJOR Winning Shot

7) Gekijouban Gegege no Kitaro Nihon Bakuretsu

8) 252 Seizonsha Ari

9) Eiga! Tamagocchi Uchuu Ichi Happy Na Monogatari

10) Gekijouban BLEACH Fade to Black Kimi no Na wo Yobu

Top 25 bestselling singles of 2008 (Oricon)

Here are the results of the bestselling singles for the year 2008. Sales figures are indicated in brackets.

ARASHI has done very well this year with 3 singles in the top 10 and bagging the top 2 positions.

Among the top 25, only Jero is from the enka genre.

And Johnny's Jimusho groups snagged a total of 12 out of 25 positions but they are part of the newer generation. KinKi Kids who used to do very well is missing from the Top 25. SMAP is also nowhere to be seen.

Hamasaki Ayumi and Kouda Kumi are also missing from the Top 25 which seems to suggest that Avex cannot depend on them solely to make money.

For the full results of the Top 50, please visit Oricon's website.

1) truth / Kaze no Mukou e by ARASHI (618,229)

2) One Love by ARASHI (524,269)

3) I AM YOUR SINGER by Southern All Stars (520,289)

4) Kiseki by GReeeeN (493,259)

5) Shuuchishin by Shuuchishin (472,414)

6) HANABI by Mr.Children (468,971)

7) Soba ni iru ne by Aoyama Thelma feat. SoulJa (456,479)

8) DON'T U EVER STOP by KAT-TUN (447,229)

9) LIPS by KAT-TUN (421,902)

10) Beautiful days by ARASHI (421,876)

11) Musekinin Hero by Kanjani 8 (385,016)

12) Step and Go by ARASHI (374,449)

13) Goika by Sugimoto Masato (346,971)

14) Kake no ue no Ponyo by Fujioka Fujimaki & Oohashi Nozomi (346,217)

15) GIFT by Mr.Children (335,384)

16) Nakanaide by Shuuchishin (335,367)

17) The Birthday ~Ti Amo~ by EXILE (303,936)

18) 60s 70s 80s (NEW LOOK / ROCK STEADY / WHAT A FEELING) by Amuro Namie (293,097)

19) Taiyo no Namida by NEWS (291,447)

20) Hi wa Mata Noboru by Arajin (267,235)

21) Mayonaka no Shadow Boy by Hey!Say!JUMP (266,193)

22) Umiyuki by Jero (260,716)

23) SUMMER TIME by NEWS (258,820)

24) White X'mas by KAT-TUN (250,106)

25) Dreams come true by Hey!Say!JUMP (249,024)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The 33rd Hochi Film Awards

Best Film: Okuribito

Best Leading Actor: Tsutsumi Shinichi (Climber's High / Yogisha X no Kenshin)

Best Leading Actress: Koizumi Kyoko (Guu Guu Datte Neko de aru / Tokyo Sonata)

Best Supporting Actor: Sakai Masato (After School / Climber's High / Judge no Futari)

Best Supporting Actress: Kiki Kirin (Aruitemo aruitemo)

Best Newcomer: Nagabuchi Ayane (Mihongi Nougyou Koukou Bajutsubu)

Official website: here

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winners List for the 30th Yokohama Film Festival

The prize presentation ceremony for the year 2008 30th Yokohama Film Festival will be held on 1 February 2009 in Sekiuchi Hall.

Best Film: Okuribito

Best Director: Takida Yoji (Okuribito)

Best Script: Manda Tamami & Manda Kunitoshi (Seppun)

Best Leading Actor: Kobayashi Kaoru (Kyuuka / Kanki no Uta)

Best Leading Actress: Koike Eiko (Seppun)

Best Supporting Actor: Nishijima Hidetoshi (Kyuuka / Tounankaku Heiya Nikai no Onna / Oka wo koete)

Best Supporting Actress: Yo Kimiko (Okuribito / Maboroshi no Jamadai koku / Oka wo koete) & Hirosue Ryoko (Okuribito)

Best Newcomer: Tsukifuna Sarara & Nakazato Isa & Ishibashi Anna

Top 10 Japanese movies of the year:
1) Okuribito
2) Gururi no koto
3) Aruitemo aruitemo
4) Yami no kodomo tachi
5) Jitsuroku Rengo Akagun Asama Sansou e no Michidori
6) Seppun
7) Tokyo Sonata
8) Climber's High
9) Kimi no tomodachi
10) Kyuuka

Friday, December 19, 2008

Top 10 most wanted lovers (Oricon)

For the ladies...

1) Fukuyama Masaharu

2) Kimura Takuya

3) Tamaki Hiroshi

4) Sakurai Sho (Arashi)

5) Koike Teppei

6) Domoto Koichi (KinKi Kids)

7) Kamiji Yuusuke

8) Miura Haruma

9) Oguri Shun

10) Sato Ken
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For the guys...

1) Ueto Aya

2) Nagasawa Masami

3) Ayase Haruka

4) Aragaki Yui

5) Toda Erika

6) Aibu Saki

7) Horikita Maki

8) Miyazaki Aoi

9) Kitagawa Keiko

10) Ootsuka Ai

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The long wait to become the lead actress is getting shorter?

Here are a series of analysis reports on some of the trends in the Japanese entertainment world based on data from magazines. The first topic here is a discussion on whether it is becoming easier for actresses to land their first big role as compared to the past.

According to the report in Nikkei Entertainment's Nov 08 issue, they have made a list of actresses who landed their first big role at least 6 years after their debut. Here is the list they provided, in descending order, beginning with the actress who had waited longest for the lead role:

1) Takahata Atsuko
She waited 30 years from 1976 to 2006 for her first big role in "Tamashii Moe!".

2) Shinohara Ryoko
15 years, from 1989 to 2004 in "Hikaru to Tomo ni".

3) Terashima Shinobu
14 years, from 1991 to 2005 in "Otona no Natsu Yasumi".

4) Iijima Naoko
13 years, from 1991 to 2004 in "Nebaru Onna"

5) Mizuno Miki and Mizukawa Asami both tied at 11 years
Mizuno: 1990 to 2001 in "Joushiana"
Mizukawa: 1997 to 2008 in "Yume wo kanaeru zou"

7) Konishi Manami and Aoi Yu both tied at 9 years
Konishi: 1998 to 2007 in "Kira Kira Kenshuui"
Aoi: 1999 to 2008 in "Osen"

9) Nagasaku Hiromi
8 years, from 1991 to 1999 in "Shuumatsu-kon"

10) Karina
7 years, from 2001 to 2008 in "Daisuki"

11) Natsukawa Yui and Nakatani Miki both tied at 6 years
Natsukawa: 1992 to 1998 in "Kekkon Zenya"
Nakatani: 1993 to 1999 in "Keizoku"

And when you look at the ages of these actresses at the time they got the lead role, 8 of them only got it when they were older than 25 years old i.e. Natsukawa (30), Nagasaku (29), Mizuno (27), Iijima (36), Shinohara (31), Terashima (32), Takahata (52)and Konishi (29).

However, when you look at the current wave of under-23 years old category of actresses who are attracting lots of attention, you will notice that many of them are getting their first lead roles in a shorter time as compared to their predecessors. Does this mean that the young actresses don't have to wait too long to make a breakthrough in their career?

Here's a list of 22 of those who made it to the front line of the cast list in less than 5 years and mostly at before 20 years old (not in order). By the way, those highlighted in red are those whom I like and feel that they can do better in time to come (comments in purple):

Ayase Haruka: took 4 years, "Sekai no Chuushin de, Ai wo Sakebu" in 2004 at the age of 19 years old

Kato Rosa: took 2 years, "Simpsons" in 2006 at the age of 21 years old

Kato Natsuki: took 3 years, "Kamen Rider EPISODE FINAL" in 2002 at the age of 17 years old

Seki Megumi: took 1 year, "Koi wa Go Shichi Go" in 2005 at the age of 20 years old

Miyazaki Aoi: debut role in "EUREKA" at the age of 4 years old (now, this is a record which not many people can beat.)
Great acting and looks. However, if she does not get roles as prominent as what she did in NANA or Atsuhime, it may be a problem to sustain her growth since she's known to be very picky about the roles she takes. This restricts the types of roles she can take. And if anything goes wrong with her marriage which has not been viewed favourably, it may go against her.

Kanjiya Shihori: took 3 years, "Chiritotechin" in 2007 at the age of 22 years old

Sawajiri Erika: took 4 years, "Pacchigi" in 2005 at the age of 20 years old
She was good in Ichi Litoru no Namida BUT she killed her career prospects with the "betsu ni" furore. It will be difficult for her to regain the success she was riding on UNLESS someone actually dares to take the risk and use her in a movie or drama. The longer she takes to come back to the screen, the harder the climb upward will be.

Ueno Juri: took 3 years, "Swing Girls" in 2004 at the age of 18 years old
Versatile and looks which endear her to the viewers. She can do crazy roles like Nodame and yet be sensitive like Ruka in Last Friends. One of the best bets to do well barring unforseen circumstances.

Higa Manami: took 1 year, "Don Don Hare" in 2006 at the age of 20 years old

Motokariya Yuika: took 4 years, "Fight" in 2005 at the age of 18 years old

Murakawa Eri: took 2 years, "Road 88" in 2004 at the age of 17 years old

Tokunaga Eri: took 2 years, "Hougo Monogatari" in 2006 at the age of 18 years old

Toda Erika: took 3 years, "Death Note" in 2006 at the age of 18 years old
She's been very high-profile in recent years but I think she needs to work a bit harder on her acting or else she will be labelled as a mere pretty idol. I thought she made Misa more bearable in Death Note but she needs to work on her voice. It is too high-pitched at times. When she speaks during interviews, it doesn't sound that bad though.

Takabe Ai: took 2 years, "Mayonaka no Shoujo tachi" in 2006 at the age of 18 years old

Horikita Maki: took 1 year, "Keitai Keiji Zenigata Mai" in 2003 at the age of 15 years old
Her career is somewhat like a rollercoaster ride. Down when she acted in Teppan Shoujo Akane and up in Hanakimi. It depends on whether she can handle more mature roles now that she's already 20. I will probably come to a conclusion on that after I finish watching Innocent Love.

Tabe Mikako: debut movie "HINOKIO" in 2005 at the age of 16 years old

Kurokawa Tomoka: took 4 years, "Meitantei Conan" in 2006, at the age of 17 years old

Tanimura Mizuki: took 3 years, "Kanariya" in 2005, at the age of 15 years old
I started to like her more after Cat Street. She's got great acting skills but I fear that she may be stereotyped to play those dark roles all the time.

Kitano Kii: took 1 year, "LIFE" in 2007, at the age of 16 years old
She was good in LIFE but I've yet to watch her other recent works so I can't decide whether she will be one of my favourites.

Renbutsu Misako: took 2 years, "Battery" in 2007, at the age of 16 years old

Kaho: took 2 years, "Keitai Keiji Zenigata Rei" in 2004, at the age of 13 years old

Narumi Riko: took 5 years, "Ruri no Shima" in 2005, at the age of 13 years old
Good with lots of potential since she has youth on her side. However, the tendency for her to play more mature roles may restrict her chances of getting roles which focus on the vibrancy of teenagers.

Seeing all these instances, what do you think? Is it really easier to go to the top as a young actress now or is it because of the general trend in the industry where more productions are having the young actresses head the cast?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Review of Cat Street

Title: Cat Street
Number of episodes: 6
Original manga by: Kamio Yoko

Broadcasted by: NHK
Theme song: Planetarium by Ikimonogakari


The thing I like about NHK dramas are that the storylines are usually full of substance and that you will get very unique casting choices in the lineup. Regardless of whether the actors are popular, as long as they fit the roles, they will be chosen. I guess for NHK, being the national broadcaster means that they are not so concerned with achieving commercial success unlike the private broadcasters which need the ratings to pull in advertising revenue. Even if ratings for their dramas rarely reach the level to be called a hit, critical reviews of NHK productions are usually on the favourable side. And they do not have to stretch a drama too far so as to fulfil the timeslot for the 3-month regular season. When it's time to end the story, they will do it. As such, I find that NHK dramas are a refreshing change from the usual season dramas we get.

True to my expectation, Cat Street is yet another satisfying piece of work. On paper, the cast may not be that appealing or eye-catching. Tanimura Mizuki may be a good actress and has been featured in many big-name movies but she was untested yet in terms of being a lead actress in a drama. Likewise, Katsuji Ryo is also known for being a decent actor but always gets supporting roles. It was indeed daring for NHK to assemble a cast like this which I believe the private TV stations would think twice about.

Since the story is based on a manga by Kamio Yoko who is better known for her other hit manga, Hana Yori Dango, I did have hesitations as to whether this will be as cheesy as Hanadan. However, this story about Aoyama Keito, an ex-child actress who suffered great emotional damage at the age of 10 and has refused to go to school for at least 7 years, is different. There is a lot of description on her internal struggles as she tries to face life's challenges again.

Tanimura who is well-known for playing roles with emotional scars or has a mysterious past, manages to potray Keito very well. She didn't have to try too hard to look convincing. Likewise, her friends played by Katsuji, Kimura Ryo and Kurokawa Tomoka as well as the supporting cast like Namase Katsuhisa fit their roles perfectly. Katsuji was good as Mine Kouichi and I thought he and Tanimura looked pretty compatible together. I was particularly impressed with Kurokawa although her dresses didn't go down too well with me. In the past, I didn't really like her since she always played those hardworking student or goody-two-shoes roles and she struck me as nothing more than a sweet young thing. However, her performance as Momiji convinced me that she can handle emotional scenes quite well. I just hope that she can take on a variety of roles in future instead of being the good girl all the time.

Do give this drama a try if you like heartwarming stories and like the cast members. You will not be disappointed.

And my ratings for this drama...
Story: 8.5 out of 10 (Relatively well-constructed)
Acting: 8.5 out of 10 (Especially for Tanimura Mizuki
Theme song: 6 out of 10 (The song didn't leave a very strong impression on me.)
Visual effects / Scenery: 6 out of 10 (Mostly indoor shots but I liked the setting where Keito and Kouichi confessed their feelings for each other.)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 7 out of 10 (Generally good but I thought Takabe Ai's acting wasn't that strong to show the intensity of Nako's rivalry with Keito.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Top 10 bestselling Japanese movie DVDs on Amazon Japan for 2008

1) Hero (SP edition)

2) Megane

3) L change the World

4) Cross Zero

5) Aibou

6) ALWAYS 3 chome no Yuuhi (Sequel)

7) Sushi Ouji

8) Hito no Sex wo Warau na

9) After School

10) Koizora

Monday, December 15, 2008

Top 10 movies ranking (14 Dec 08)

1) WALL.E

2) Gekijouban MAJOR Winning Shot

3) Gekijouban BLEACH Fade to Black Kimi no na wo Yobu

4) 252 Seizonsha Ari

5) Red Cliff Part I

6) Watashi wa Kai ni Naritai

7) Tokumei Kakaricho Tadano Jin Saigo no Gekijouban

8) Happy Flight

9) Maboroshi no Jama Daikoku

10) Yes! Puri Kyua 5 GoGo! Okashi no kuni no Happy Birthday

Top 10 bestselling Japanese drama DVDs on Amazon Japan for 2008

1) Nodame Cantabile in Europe

2) Roookies (Normal press DVD box)

3) The Yukan Club (DVD box)

4) Chiritotechin (DVD box)

5) SP (DVD box)

6) 33pun Tantei (Part 1 DVD box)

7) Hanazakari no Kimi tachi e (DVD - Part 1)

8) Proposal Daisakusen SP

9) Galileo (DVD box)

10) Shikaotoko Aoniyoshi (DVD box - director's cut)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Top 10 most encouraging dramas (Nikkei Entertainment)

1) ROOKIES

2) 1 litre no namida

3) 3 nen B gumi Kinpachi sensei

4) CHANGE / Dr. Kotoo Shinryojou / Tomorrow / School Wars / Wataru Seiken Oni Bakari

9) Atsuhime

10) Hana Yori Dango

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Top 10 most encouraging artistes (Nikkei Entertainment)

1) Southern All Stars

2) Mr.Children

3) Kobukuro

4) ZARD

5) Oda Kazumasa

6) EXILE

7) GReeeeN / BUMP OF CHICKEN / Arashi

10) Hamasaki Ayumi

Friday, December 12, 2008

Top 10 movies' ranking (7 Dec 08)

1) WALL.E

2) 252 Seizonsha Ari

3) Red Cliff Part I

4) Watashi wa Kai ni Naritai

5) Tokumei Kakaricho Tadano Jin Saigo no Gekijouban

6) Happy Flight

7) Maboroshi no Jama Daikoku

8) Yes! Puri Kyua 5 GoGo! Okashi no Kuni no Happy Birthday

9) Yogisha X no Kenshin

10) Death Race

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Top 10 most encouraging movies (Nikkei Entertainment)

Nikkei Entertainment conducted a survey with 2200 people where they chose the most encouraging movies, books, music or artistes and the results were published in the November 08 issue. First up are the results of the top 10 most encouraging movies:

1) Umizaru

2) Rocky

3) Gone With the Wind

4) Titanic

5) Koizora

6) The Shawshank Redemption

7) Always 3 chome no Yuuhi

8) Indiana Jones

9) Kake no ue no Ponyo

10) Armageddon

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nodame Cantabile to be made into a 2-part movie!

Following the success of its full-length drama and drama SP adaptations, Nodame Cantabile will be back as a 2-part movie in late 2009 and early 2010. Filming will stretch over five months in Europe. The first part titled "Nodame Cantabile THE MOVIE I" (title to be confirmed) will be shown in Dec 2009 during the winter holidays while the sequel will be shown just three months later in spring 2010 to coincide with the spring holidays. This makes Nodame Cantabile the first film to be shown consecutively in such a short time on Japanese film history.

As the content in the Paris arc cannot be contained within a 2-hour film, the producers decided to make it into a 2-part movie. They are confident that once viewers see Part I, they will be very much interested in the sequel as well.

Filming starts in May 2009 at various European countries. There are arrangements made with well-known orchestras over there and recording of performances will be done at famous concert halls.

The story will continue from where the SP ended.

Source: Sanspo

New Year 2009 Special: Akuma no Temari Uta 悪魔の手毬唄

Title: 悪魔の手毬唄 (The Devil's Cotton Ball Song)
Broadcast by: FujiTV
Timeslot: 5 January 2009, Friday 9pm to 11.33pm
Cast: Inagaki Goro, Yamada Yu, Hiraoka Yuuta, Katase Rino, Shibata Sachi and Tanihara Shosuke
Official website: here

The 5th instalment in the Kindaichi Kosuke series is back!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Ohno Satoshi to star in "Uta no Oniisan" (Winter 09 drama)

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Ohno Satoshi from Arashi will star in TV Asahi's comedy drama for winter 09, "Uta no Oniisan" (The Brother of Songs) which will be broadcast from 16 Jan 09 on Fridays at 11.15pm. This is the 2nd time that he is starring in the lead role since "Maou" in summer 08.

Ohno plays the role of Kenta who will be quite different from the usual cheerful and children-loving uta no oniisan in a music programme for children. Kenta takes on the new job of being the singing brother in the programme after the band he belongs to is dismissed, his girlfriend dumps him and his family looks down on him as a good-for-nothing. He must now try to prove himself in his new role while interacting with children which is what he has not done before. Due to the nature of this role, Ohno will have to sing and dance in the drama.

Filming will begin on 18 Dec 08.

Top 10 most favourite TV police detectives (Oricon)

1) Oda Yuji as Aoshima Shunsaku (Odoru Daisousasen)

2) Mizutani Yutaka as Sugishita Ukyo (Aibou)

3) Tamura Masakazu as Furuhata Ninzaburo (Furuta Ninzaburo)

4) Shibata Kohei as Ooshita Yuji (Abunai Keiji)

5) Matsuda Yuusaku as Shibata Jun (Taiyo ni Hoero)

6) Shinohara Ryoko as Yukihara Natsumi (Unfair)

7) Fujita Makoto as Yasuura Kichinosuke (Hagure Keiji Junjou Ha)

8) Tachi Hiroshi as Takayama Toshiki (Abunai Keiji)

9) Odagiri Jo as Kiriyama Shuuichirou (Jikou Keisatsu)

10) Terawaki Yasufumi as Kameyama Kaoru (Aibou)

Source: Oricon

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Top 10 most memorable Japanese movies (Oricon)

Here's the top 10 most memorable Japanese movies as researched by Oricon:

*Figures in brackets indicate the year of release.

1) ALWAYS 3 chome no Yuuhi (2005)

2) Odoru Daisousasen THE MOVIE (1998)

3) Sekai no Chuushin de, Ai wo Sakebu (2004)

4) Yogisha X no Kenshin (2008)

5) Tonari no Totoro (1988)

6) Koizora (2007)

7) Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu (2004)

8) Yomigaeri (2003) / Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (2001)

10) Okuribito (2008) / Nankyoku Monogatari (1983)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Top 10 movies ranking (30 November 2008)

1) Red Cliff Part I

2) Watashi wa kai ni naritai

3) Happy Flight

4) Yes! Puri Kyua 5 GoGo! Okashi no kuni no Happy Birthday

5) Death Race

6) Yogisha X no Kenshin

7) Soul 5

8) Handsome Suit

9) Tropic Santa

10) Maboroshi no Jama Daikoku

Monday, December 01, 2008

20th Century Boys Part 1 DVD - Deluxe Version

Title: 20th Century Boys Part 1 DVD - Deluxe Version
Price: 5,775 yen (inclusive of tax)
Specifications: Dolby Digital Sound, Limited Edition & Subtitled
Region Code: 2
Number of discs: 1
Produced by: VAP, INC
Date of release: 30 January 2009
Total running time: 142 minutes

Special features:

1) Analog LP Double Jacket
2) Trailers for Part 1 and Part 2
3) Original Guitar Pick
4) A flag with the Tomodachi mark

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Romaji Lyrics of Ashita no Sora by SPEED (Theme song from OL Nippon)

Title: Ashita no Sora
Artiste: SPEED
Lyrics and melody: Ichiji Hiromasa


meguri aeta no wa kitto
unmei kamo shirenai
ame agari no hizashi no naka de
Fu.....Fu.....



mezameta machi wa kirameite
subete ga ugoki hajimeru
kaze no tsuyokatta ato hodo
atatakana hikari mabushii
anata ga kizukasete kureta
kumo no mukou no sora wo
kizutsuki naki waratte
ima no jibun ga iru koto wo

ashita wa yorokobi to tomo ni

meguri aeta no wa kitto
nani ka de musubareteta no
zutto matteta ki ga suru
mou ichido namida fuite
ayumi hajimeru no sa FUTURE
te wo nobaseba itsuka todoku

kore kara donna mirai
machi ukete iru toshitemo
sore wa ikiteiru akashi
anata ga iru dake de
sore dake de nani mo iranai
konnan mo nori koete ikeru
Fu... Fu...

tomaranai ame mo itsu no hi ka
sakura sakaseru mitai ni
kogoeteta kono jikan mo
yagate haru wo tsurete kuru yo

kibou wa kanau to shinjite

meguri aeta no wa kitto
unmei nano kamoshirenai
zutto onaji sora no shita de
namida wo fuite
ayumi dashite ikou FUTURE
yari naoseru itsu no toki mo

kore kara donna mirai
machi ukete iru toshitemo
sore wa ikiteru akashi
mitsume au tabi kokoro
hitotsu ni tokete iku yo
itsu made mo jikan wo eikyuu ni

chikai atta ashita no sora ni

meguri aeta no wa kitto
nani ka de musubareteta no
zutto matteta ki ga suru
mou ichido namida fuite
ayumi hajimeru no sa FUTURE
te wo nobaseba itsuka todoku

kore kara donna mirai
machi ukete iru toshitemo
sore wa ikiteiru akashi
anata ga iru dake de
sore dake de nani mo iranai
konnan mo nori koete ikeru

Love you, Love you
Love you, Love you

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Romaji lyrics of "Beautiful Days" by ARASHI (Theme song of Ryusei no Kizuna)

Title: Beautiful Days
Artiste: ARASHI
Lyrics and melody: Takuya Harada


sora ni kagayaku yo kirari
hoshi ga jiwari
nijindeku yo
kanashii hodo kirei da ne

hanashi wo kiite hoshii koto
are mo kore mo aru keredo
nigiri shimete dakishimete
shiwakucha no mama

hoshi ni negau to itsuka
kanau to iu keredo
yume no naka de shika bokura
towa ni mou aenai

sora ni kagayaku yo kirari
hoshi ga jiwari
nijindeku yo
kaeri michi namida ga tomaranai
boku wa zutto
sora ni omoide ga borori
namida horori koboreteku yo
kanashii hodo kirei da ne

kanashimi wo wake atte
namida no kazu herasu yori
yorokobi wo wakachi aenai hou ga tsurai ne

mabuta no oku ni utsuru
koboreru egao ga
ima demo yuuki kureru yo
mou ichido aitai

sora ni mukatte utau yo
sou utau yo koe no kagiri
fushigi dane hitori janainda
boku wa zutto
sora ni mukai te wo furu yo
kono te furu yo chikara komete
sore ga bokura no sain

tanoshiku temo kurushiku temo
mou bokura wa aenai donna ni negatte temo

sora ni kagayaku yo kirari
hoshi ga jiwari
nijindeku yo
kaeri michi namida ga tomaranai
boku wa zutto
sora ni omoide ga borori
namida horori koboreteku yo
kanashii hodo kirei da ne

sora ni mukatte utau yo
sou utau yo koe no kagiri
fushigi da ne hitori janain da
boku wa zutto
itsumademo wasurenai yo
wasurenai yo kimi to itsuka
sora ni egaita mirai

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Top 10 movies' ranking (23 Nov 08)

1) Red Cliff Part I

2) Watashi wa Kai ni Naritai

3) Happy Flight

4) Yes! Puri Kyua 5 GoGo! Okashi no kuni no Happy Birthday

5) Yogisha X no Kenshin

6) Tropic Santa

7) Blindness

8) Handsome Suit

9) Room 1408

10) Maboroshi no Jama Daikoku

Monday, November 24, 2008

Top 10 nicest couples chosen by females (Oricon)

1) Takahashi George & Mifune Mika

2) Sorimachi Takashi & Matsushima Nanako

3) Eguchi Yosuke & Moritaka Chisato

4) Karasawa Toshiaki & Yamaguchi Tomoko

5) Nakao Akira & Ikenami Shino

6) Fujii Takashi & Otoha

7) Sasaki Kensuke & Hokuto Akira

8) Shindo Haruichi & Hasegawa Kyoko

9) Kuwata Keisuke & Hara Yuko

10) Nakamura Tooru & Washio Isako

Saturday, November 22, 2008

PV of Beautiful Days by Arashi - Theme song of Ryusei no Kizuna

Here are some screenshots of the PV for Beautiful Days by Arashi. Basically, there isn't a central storyline in the PV. The members are in a room filled with light bulbs on the ceiling as some CG graphics play in the background.

Romaji lyrics of this song will follow soon.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Top 10 movies' ranking (16 Nov 08)

1) Red Cliff Part I

2) Happy Flight

3) Yes! Puri Kyua 5 GoGo! Okashi no kuni no Happy Birthday

4) Yogisha X no Kenshin

5) Handsome Suit

6) Maboroshi no Jama Daikoku

7) Centre of The Earth

8) Homeless Chuugakusei

9) X Files

10) P.S. I Love You

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mawang vs.Maou - Differences and Which is Better?

I know this has been long overdue but this took up more time than I expected. I wanted to make this as detailed as possible so I apologise if you have been waiting to read this all this while. That being said, I have tried my best to include every detail I can remember. If there are any mistakes, please let me know by writing your comments here. And since I don't know Korean, I have relied solely on the subs so I think the character names could be an area where I may make mistakes too.

I will first list the similarities and differences between both versions and end this review with my verdict of which is better. This is just my opinion so you are free to disagree with me.

Title: Mawang vs Maou
Well, they mean essentially the same thing literally: the Devil King. Mawang's English translation is The Devil.

Number of Episodes: 20 vs. 11
There were times where I hope Mawang would speed up because I know the story well after watching Maou. However, there were parts where the plot in Mawang was more intricate and fascinating. Maou was sometimes a bit fast if you look at it comparatively. On its own, Maou's pace is just right for me.

Average rating: 7.4% (TNS Media Korea) vs. 11.51% (Video Research)
Since both countries uses different systems, it's not really a meaningful comparison. One thing for sure, even though the ratings don't look impressive, the dramas have gained a rather strong following. Well, strong enough in Korea to warrant a remake in Japan.

Timeline: 12 years (or 15 years) vs. 11 years
In Mawang, there is a bit of confusion for me. In the beginning, they mentioned that the murder Oh Soo committed was 15 years ago but switched to 12 years somewhere towards the end. In Maou, it was always clearly mentioned that it was 11 years ago.

The Devil / Predator: Oh Seung Ha a.k.a Jung Tae Seung (Joo Ji Hoon) vs. Naruse Ryo a.k.a. Manaka Tomoo (Ohno Satoshi)
Both are lawyers known for helping those in need and may not be rich. However, the biggest difference between them is that Seung Ha's elder brother, Tae Hoon was killed while in Naruse's case, it was his younger brother, Hideo.

The "Victim" / Prey: Kang Oh Soo (Uhm Tae Woong) vs. Serizawa Naoto (Ikuta Toma)
Both are police detectives. The biggest difference separating them could lie in their feelings for the heroine. Oh Soo is obviously in love with Hae In and there are some scenes which seem to suggest that Hae In herself may have some feelings though not in the same sense as for Seung Ha. In Naoto's case, the only inkling that he felt something for Shiori was that he felt uncomfortable when seeing her with Naruse. Sparks were evidently missing between them.

The Queen / Angel: Seo Hae In (Shin Min Ah) vs. Sakita Shiori (Kobayashi Ryoko)
Both are working in the library. Four main differences between them:
1) Hae In has a stronger character and would speak her mind. She refused to help Oh Soo initially because he was rather rude and didn't seem to trust her. However, Shiori didn't react that strongly towards Naoto initially.
2) Hae In addresses Oh Soo by his surname i.e. Detective Kang while Shiori has called Naoto, "Mr. Detective" for most, if not throughout the whole drama. Seems like Shiori keeps Naoto at a further distance than what Hae In does to Oh Soo.
3) This is linked to the previous point. Hae In and Oh Soo did seem to have some feelings at the beginning but when it was obvious that Hae In loved Seung Ha, that spark with Oh Soo fizzled out. However, it wasn't even clear that Naoto had any feelings for Shiori and even if so, it was always one-way traffic. Shiori only had eyes for Naruse.
4) Hae In's psychometry power is not that "reliable" since there are times she cannot see anything from the object. Shiori seems to be able to see things every time she uses her power.

Extra help for Oh Soo:
1) Ban Chang Ho (the office manager in Seung Ha's law firm)
In Maou, there wasn't such a character at all. In Mawang, he helped Oh Soo indirectly because he also conducted some investigations on his own.
2) Sung Joon Pyo (the Japanese equivalent being Ikehata)
Actually, Sung wasn't on Oh Soo's side at all. However, the investigations he made on his own contributed in one way or another to Oh Soo putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

How Sung Joon Pyo / Ikehata died
Sung Joon Pyo was knocked down by a truck (deliberately...because the driver was manipulated by Seung Ha) while Ikehata fell to his death in a warehouse.

Hae In's mother vs. Shiori being an orphan
Hae In's mother is mute so there's a bit of sign language used in the drama. She's somewhat like a pillar of strength for Hae In when she is troubled and gives Seung Ha a bit of motherly warmth at times. However, Shiori is an orphan and has nobody in particular to pour out her woes except her friend.

Hae In's friend vs. Shiori's friend
Hae In's friend, Joo Hee owns a tarot card-themed cafe while Shiori's friend, Eri operates a cafe which also sells tarot cards. The main difference between both places is the atmosphere. Joo Hee's place is rather dark and the focus is obviously on tarot card reading rather than it being a cafe. On the other hand, Eri's cafe seems to put tarot cards on a secondary position and is brightly lit.

Sora vs. Sora
I don't know whether it is coincidental but the name of the child whose mother killed Oh Soo / Naoto's loanshark friend is Sora in both dramas. Seems like this name can be used in Korean and Japanese.

The symbol of the killed brother: Mint sweets vs. Harmonica
At the scene of the murder, Tae Hoon's bag had mint sweets which he meant to give to his mother as a birthday gift. (Why did he buy so much anyway?) In Hideo's case, he left behind a harmonica. The significance of the items is featured differently. Seung Ha eats mint sweets when he's carrying out his plan while Naruse just stares at the harmonica to reaffirm his resolve to take revenge.

The red room in Maou
Seung Ha doesn't have a red room full of photos of Oh Soo and the related parties unlike Naruse who crosses out his victims once by one whose photos are pasted in a huge collage on the wall.

The nameless mastermind vs. Amano Makoto
There were no names written on the packages sent to Oh Soo but in Naoto's case, Amano Makoto is a name which he's forced to remember from the start. And there is a greater meaning to the name than it seems.

The way the packages were sent and the contents
Both Oh Soo and Naoto had packages containing tarot cards but Oh Soo had something more. The mastermind would sometimes write letters (of course in collage form or computer-printed). Depending on how you look at it, these letters seemed to guide Oh Soo to find what he should discover earlier than the guesswork which Naoto had to go through.

Over the Rainbow
Both dramas use this song whenever Seung Ha and Naruse think of their families. However, Seung Ha even uses it as his mobile phone ringtone. I read in Nikkei Entertainment previously that the Japanese dramas don't use music for the mobile phone ringtones because they have to pay copyright fees for that. As such, all characters would usually have boring ringtones despite reality being otherwise. Naruse would have used this song if he could.

Seung Ha's mother vs. Naruse's mother
Well, both mothers died but in different circumstances. Seung Ha's mother was mentally affected by the death of her son and ended up being knocked down by a truck. Naruse's mother died of illness.

The real Oh Seung Ha vs. the real Naruse Ryo
Both died. The real Seung Ha died in a traffic accident (again!) while the real Naruse died in an accident at a construction site.

The man who provided clues to Seung Ha / Naruse's real identity
In Mawang's version, it was an old man who subsequently ended in hospital due to illness and could not tell Oh Soo what he knew. In Maou's version, the middle-aged man worked at the construction site and was blackmailed by Naruse thus did not reveal the truth.

What happened to Hee Soo (Oh Soo's elder brother) & Noriyoshi (Naoto's brother) Hee Soo was arrested while Noriyoshi committed suicide in the police station after he was caught.

How Seung Ha / Naruse sustained the stab wound
Well, Naruse was stabbed by Yamano, his accomplice in the whole incident. The latter was roped in to help as he had been guilt-stricken about not testifying that Naoto stabbed Hideo. Yamano sensed that Naruse wanted to stop the revenge and stabbed him.
On the other hand, Seung Ha was stabbed by a stranger. Of all days, why did that person who had a grudge against him want to stab Seung Ha on the day he was to have a showdown with Oh Soo?

How Seung Ha & Oh Soo / Naruse & Naoto got to the place where they had their showdown
Seung Ha and Oh Soo drove which was a "miracle" since Seung Ha was already injured. However, the Japanese version was even more amazing since Naruse and Naoto walked all the way to the place. Well, it was a miracle that Naruse did not bleed to death before he reached his destination.

How Hae In / Shiori got to the final destination
One took a taxi while the other ran all the way there.

The final death toll
Mawang: Seung Ha, Oh Soo, Soon Ki (the gangster friend who blackmails Suk Jin and Oh Soo's sister-in-law), Dae Shik (the loanshark friend who was killed by Sora's mother), Kim Dong Hyun (Oh Soo's father), Sung Joon Pyo, the real Oh Seung Ha, Tae Hoon and his mother (9)
Maou: Naruse, Naoto, Kasai, Souda, Ryosuke, Yamano, Hideo and his mother, Serizawa Eisaku, Noriyoshi, Kumada, the real Naruse Ryo and Ikehata. (13)
Most of the people involved in the case were dead in Maou while there were some survivors in Mawang.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My verdict in terms of various aspects:

1) Story: Maou
Mawang is very detailed since it stretches over 20 episodes and it featured some clever manipulation which were omitted in Maou. However, there were a few times when I hoped that the story would move faster. As I watched Maou first, the suspense was gone by the time I watched Mawang. Maou is more condensed and fast-paced but the ending wasn't handled too nicely. Both versions have its shortcomings but I still prefer Maou.

2) BGM: Mawang
I like the waltz-style theme and classical music mainly made by string instruments in Mawang. Maou's BGM isn't that bad but it is not as infectious as what I hear in Mawang. Honestly speaking, I can never come to terms as to why Korean dramas tend to play the central theme or theme song every now and then (Taiwanese dramas are doing the same too) and it really gets on my nerves most of the time. Japanese dramas usually play them at the climax towards the end of each episode. Much as I don't like the practice of repeating the themes so often, I like what I hear in Mawang.

3) Theme song: Mawang
Truth was OK but it gets really boring over repeated listenings. The main theme of Mawang 사랑하지 말아요 (Love Theme) - JK 김동욱 (don't ask me to translate since I don't know Korean at all) grew on me over time even though I don't know what is being sung. All I could catch was "sarangheyo" (i love you).

4) Acting: Mawang
I'm assessing this based on the 3 leads and will indicate who is the better one:
a) Joo Ji Hoon vs. Ohno Satoshi
Ohno Satoshi gets my vote here for showing the versatility in switching from bad to good seamlessly. Joo Ji Hoon is even colder and ruthless but his good self is displayed too subtly that the stronger impression I have of Seung Ha is just a cold-blooded mastermind. As such, the gap shown between both facades of the devil and how these sides affect each other is what makes Ohno a better choice.
b) Uhm Tae Woong vs. Ikuta Toma
Uhm Tae Woong is my choice here. It's not to say that Ikuta didn't do well. However, Uhm showed that he could shuttle between a passionate cop and guilt-stricken ex-murderer with much ease. I found Ikuta bit too heavy on the angst part that it got on my nerves. Ikuta's transition from angst to guilt and vice versa was awkward at times.
c) Shin Min Ah vs. Kobayashi Ryoko
Shin Min Ah, for sure. Hae In is definitely more likeable than Shiori who just keeps saying "Naruse-san" all the time. Hae In strikes me as brainy, gentle and with a character of her own. Maybe it's the way the role was developed or there is a gap between Shin and Kobayashi's acting experience. I do like Shin's potrayal of Hae In much better.

Overall verdict: Mawang provides a more complete package of good acting and nice music. The story may be a bit boring at some junctures but I think I would have enjoyed it better if I saw it first. Maou is good in its own ways but the number of episodes proved to be a double-edged sword. It pushed up the excitement index and tempo but glossed over some important and interesting happenings.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Review of Galileo Zero (Drama SP)

Title: Galileo Zero
Shown on: 4 Oct 2008, 9pm
Broadcaster: FujiTV
Cast: Fukuyama Masaharu, Miura Kazuma, Kitamura Kazuki, Nagasawa Masami, Watanabe Ikkei, Karina, Kanie Keizo, Maya Miki


Review:

This drama SP was shown on the same day the Galileo movie, "Yogisha X no Kenshin" was screened in the cinemas. As such, this was somewhat like a gimmick to boost interest in the movie and grab headlines since I believe this was the first time the drama SP was shown on the same day as the movie release. As such, you will see a live performance of the theme song for the movie, "Saiai" by Shibasaki Kou and Fukuyama Masaharu. I believe that was taken from the music programme, "Bokura no Ongaku". There was also a short trailer at the end but I think that was a bit too short and a tad boring as compared to the full version.

Anyway, coming to the SP, the timeline was 3 years before the Galileo drama started so you will not see Utsumi Kaoru (Shibasaki Kou). She only appears in scenes sporadically at the beginning and end when Kuribayashi (Watanabe) does a recap of what has happened.

Instead, Nagasawa Masami and Karina were added to the lineup for the sake of gender balance (eye candy for the guys?) since the cast is predominantly male and the limelight was definitely hogged by Fukuyama and Kitamura. That being said, Nagasawa was again playing a chirpy girl who is a student of Yukawa and I found myself being irritated by her again. On the other hand, although Karina was not as good as she was in Boku no Aruku Michi, she was still OK in this SP given that she has a small role.

As for Fukuyama and Kitamura, they were good in their own ways. Fukuyama maintained the same level of performance as Yukawa but I still cannot accept why he has to write those physics formulas everywhere just to solve the case. Anyway, he still manages to make Yukawa an interesting character. Kitamura was featured more prominently here in the SP as compared to the drama so it was good to see his interaction with Yukawa. And with two good-looking guys around, it only makes the watachable index go higher. :D

The biggest surprise here should be Miura Haruma. Although he didn't appear for a very long time, his resemblance to Fukuyama or should I say the adult version of Yukawa was so strong. I mean his appearance. His mannerisms are close to Yukawa but somehow, his style of acting is rather stiff, as if he's not at ease. I still feel that his acting skills need a bit more improvement but he has an advantage over his peers i.e. his looks and height. Frankly speaking, teenager actors like Kamiki Ryuunosuke are better in terms of acting but their appearances and images make it difficult for them to play slightly more mature roles. In this sense, Miura should be able to take on a wider variety of roles and in the process, improve his acting skills. Otherwise, he will soon be labelled as someone who looks good but cannot act.

With regards to the story of the SP itself, the highlight was of course solving the mystery. It is usually easy to guess who the culprit is but the rationale behind the unnatural happenings is what keeps people watching. Maybe it's due to the fact that the scriptwriter was overly ambitious in trying to include various subplots e.g. Yukawa helping Kusanagi for the first time thus leading to the tension for the main plot to be undermined. I hope that the movie version will turn up the tension since they have a lot of time just for one case. Since they have good actors like Tsutsumi Shinichi and Matsuyuki Yasuko in the lineup as well, it just wouldn't do for them to be confined in a lousy plot.

And my ratings for this drama SP...
Story: 7 out of 10 (A little lacking in focus and the tension factor)
Acting: 8 out of 10 (Kudos to the beach volleyball guys Fukuyama and Kitamura)
Theme song: 5 out of 10 (I don't think this SP has a theme song to its name so I decided to judge this category based on the drama's theme song)
Visual effects / Scenery: 7 out of 10 (The experiment scene was what deserved this. A bit of scenery here and there too. Oh, and for the guys, lots of bikini-clad girls at the beach too!)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 7 out of 10 (Yukawa + Kusanagi have good chemistry but I think Yukawa + Utsumi is a stronger pair. Kusanagi seems a bit too dependent on Yukawa at times and grumbles behind the latter at times while Utsumi dares to argue. The bickering in the drama was absent in the SP.)

Total score: 34 out of 50

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Review of Team Batista no Eikou Ep 1 - 謎 Nazo (Mystery)

O.A. Date: 14 Oct 08
Ratings: 15.2%


As this is a suspense thriller, I expected the first episode to be nothing more than introducing the background of the key characters. However, some of the cast members put up a rather compelling performance which should help to pull in more viewers as the action thickens. By that, I am referring to Nakamura Tooru and Ihara Tsuyoshi. The lead character Taguchi Kohei played by Ito Atsushi simply bored me to death. I just don't see why he gets to play this lead role and repeats his one-pattern acting time and again. Since he looks like a meek guy who gets bullied, shouldn't the casting director choose someone else to turn up the chemistry and tension between Taguchi and Shiratori? Compared to Nakamura or Ihara or even members of the Batista team who had much less airtime, Ito fails to impress, at least from what I've seen so far. I do hope that he will prove me wrong.

Given the fact that this drama adaptation comes after the movie adaptation, there will no doubt be comparisons. However, as I've not seen the movie nor read the novel, I can't judge which is better. Nonetheless, on paper, the movie version boasts of a stellar cast including Takeuchi Yuko, Abe Hiroshi, Kikkawa Kouji, Ikeuchi Hiroyuki, Tamayama Tetsuji, Igawa Haruka, Tanaka Naoki, Sano Shiro and Nogiwa Yoko etc. I guess the movie version had a bigger budget to begin with but I'm generally OK with the cast selection except for Ito. By the way, the movie made 1.56 billion yen at the box office when it was shown from Feb this year. Another interesting thing which I noticed was that the movie was produced by TBS but FujiTV is making the drama. Let's see who will do a better job at the end of the day.

Coming to the story, I'm OK with the pace so far but I hope the scriptwriter can turn up the speed a little and focus more on the development of the investigation instead of showing Taguchi weeping all the time. It does get on my nerves when I'm obviously watching this for the suspense. Like what I said, the first episode serves mainly to introduce the team members i.e. the suspects in this possible series of murders. It has yet to be established that the deaths during surgery were intentional but going from case 31, the operation looked flawless. As such, like what Shiratori said, this is likely to be a serial murder which could destroy the hospital too if it is really the case.

As for the theme song, it didn't leave a deep impression on me. I guess I need to listen to it a few more times to see if it will grow on me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Romaji lyrics of ORION by Nakashima Mika (Insert song of Ryusei no Kizuna)

Title: ORION
Artiste: Nakashima Mika
Lyrics and Melody: Momoda Rui
Release date: 12 November 2008


naita no wa boku datta
yowasa wo misenai koto ga sou
tsuyoi wake janaitte kimi ga
itte ita kara dayo
I believe


iki ga tsumetaku naru kaeri michi ni
tada hoshi ga yurete iru

tashikameta bakari no
awai nukumori sae
mou wasure sou

hito wo suki ni nareru koto ni
hajimete kizuita ima wa

naita no wa boku datta
tsunagatta fuyu no seiza
kono sora ni kiete kanai you ni
mitsumete itan dayo
I believe

kajikanda te no hira
hanarenu you ni itsu made mo furete itai

tsutaetai kotoba wo kuri kaesu no ni
mata koe ni naranai

tawai nai koto de waratte
yasashiku tsutsumu yo kimi wo

nagare boshi kazoeteta
kimi to deaeta kiseki ga
ima boku ni
ikite iru imi wo
oshiete kureta kara
I believe

naita no wa boku datta
yowasa wo misenai koto ga sou
tsuyoi wake janaitte kimi ga
itte ita kara da yo
I believe

itte ita kara da yo
I believe

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Top 10 movies ranking (9 Nov 08)

1) Red Cliff Part I

2) Yes! Puri Kyua 5 GoGo! Okashi no kuni no Happy Birthday

3) Yogisha X no Kenshin

4) Handsome Suit

5) Maboroshi no Jama Daikoku

6) The X-Files

7) Homeless Chuugakusei

8) Eagle Eye

9) Centre Of The Earth

10) P.S. I Love You

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lyrics of "Nocturne" by Hirahara Ayaka (Theme song for Kaze no Garden)

Title: Nocturne
Artiste: Hirahara Ayaka
Lyrics: Fumika
Melody: F.Chopin / Shiina Kunihito
Release date: 12 November 2008
Catalog number: MUCD-5142


Love, true love is to ask nothing in return
You are my destined soul mate
Your love, adoring eyes
We can see the light because we know the darkness
Everything has meaning, even campanula in the wind

Each one of us has pain and sorrow
Sheds a secret tear
But drops of your tears will fall to earth and
Welcome new life into the world again and again with love

Love, true love is to ask nothing in return
Fated love that is meant to last
My love, your gentle gaze
A drop of your soul within me that I adore
Everything has an end, but we'll be reunited

Monday, November 10, 2008

Last Friends - DVD box & OST release information

Title: Last Friends DVD Box Director's Cut
Price: 23,940 yen
Region code: 2
Number of discs: 7
Published by: Pony Canyon
Release date: 15 Oct 2008
Total run time: 505 minutes





Special features:

1) Director's Cut for Episodes 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10
2) Eri my Love (short drama cum spin-off movie starring Mizukawa Asami)
3) Cast interviews (Nagasawa Masami, Ueno Juri, Eita, Mizukawa Asami and Nishikido Ryo)
4) Crank Up Footage
5) Special Encore (broadcast on 26 June 08)

First press freebie: original choker and bracelet



Title: Last Friends OST
Price: 2500 yen (inclusive of tax)
Release date: 11 June 2008
Number of discs: 1
Label: EMI Music Japan
Total run time: 72 minutes

Track List:

1. ラスト・フレンズ::イーチ・リビング
2. ラスト・フレンズ::グッド・フェローズ
3. ラスト・フレンズ::エターナル・コース
4. ラスト・フレンズ::マインド・ベンダー
5. ラスト・フレンズ::スパイラル・ハート
6. ラスト・フレンズ::オン・オフ
7. ラスト・フレンズ::ディア・フレンズ
8. ラスト・フレンズ::インナー・サークル
9. ラスト・フレンズ::レイジー・デイズ
10. ラスト・フレンズ::リトル・シャイン
11. ラスト・フレンズ::ブラインド・リマインダー
12. ラスト・フレンズ::スナップ・ショット
13. ラスト・フレンズ::アイコール・ユアネーム
14. ラスト・フレンズ::メモリー・レイク
15. ラスト・フレンズ::コールド・ブレイン
16. ラスト・フレンズ::フレンド・シップ
17. ラスト・フレンズ::ドロップ・モーション
18. ラスト・フレンズ::シークレット・ポエッツ
19. ラスト・フレンズ::ブランニュー・シーズン
20. ラスト・フレンズ::レッド・ストリングス
21. ラスト・フレンズ::Prisoner Of Love (Inst.Ver.)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Pandora Collector's DVD Box

Title: Pandora Collector's Box
Price: 12,600 yen (inclusive of tax)
Region code: 2
Number of discs: 4
Produced by: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Release date: 3 December 2008
Total run time: 471 minutes

Friday, November 07, 2008

Tomorrow - DVD Box & OST release information

Title: Tomorrow DVD Box
Price: 19,950 yen
Release date: 17 December 2008
Number of discs: 5
Produced by: UNIVERSAL MUSIC K.K.
Total run time: 465 minutes (not inclusive of special footage)

First press premium: Special photobook

Special footage: Production press conference video and interviews of the cast

Title: Tomorrow OST
Price: 2500 yen (inclusive of tax)
Release date: 10 September 2008
Number of discs: 1
Produced by: Independent Label
Total run time: 62 minutes

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Kansahoujin DVD Box & OST release info

Title: Kansahoujin DVD Box
Price: 11,970 yen (inclusive of tax)
Region Code: 2
Number of discs: 3
Release date: 28 November 2008
Produced by: Amuze Software Entertainment
Total run time: 354 minutes








Title: Kansahoujin OST
Price: 2625 yen (inclusive of tax)
Release date: 24 Oct 2008
Number of discs: 1
Produced by: NHK Enterprises
Total run time: 61 minutes

Note that this OST does not include the theme song, Shinkaigyo by Yamazaki Masayoshi.



Track list:

1.監査法人のテーマ〔4分08秒〕
2.柱(ささえ)〔2分10秒〕
3.往査(おうさ)〔2分23秒〕
4.闇のその先〔2分38秒〕
5.うごめく影〔4分44秒〕
6.無常〔2分24秒〕
7.金融の奔流(きんゆうのほんりゅう)〔1分20秒〕
8.激震〔22秒〕
9.粉飾決算〔1分09秒〕
10.監査法人のテーマ~ピアノバージョン~〔2分41秒〕
11.巨頭会談〔1分57秒〕
12.実査(じっさ)〔1分03秒〕
13.エスペランサ〔2分25秒〕
14.内部監査〔1分30秒〕
15.健司と知香〔2分04秒〕
16.破綻懸念〔19秒〕
17.夢の代償〔1分58秒〕
18.厳格監査〔2分03秒〕
19.厳しい判断〔1分54秒〕
20.裏帳簿〔17秒〕
21.不良債権〔2分02秒〕
22.失意の中で〔2分20秒〕
23.水面下〔1分27秒〕
24.架空取引〔1分45秒〕
25.密告〔11秒〕
26.監査への誇り〔1分44秒〕
27.上場廃止〔1分37秒〕
28.セールストーク〔1分25秒〕
29.風評被害〔1分48秒〕
30.健司と知香~ピアノバージョン~〔1分57秒〕
31.監査法人のテーマ~Reprise~〔1分53秒〕

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Top 10 movies for week ending 2 Nov 08

1) Red Cliff Part 1

2) Yogisha X no Kenshin

3) Maboroshi no Jamadai Koku

4) Handsome Suit

5) Eagle Eye

6) Homeless Chuugakusei

7) P.S. I Love You

8) Centre of the Earth

9) ICHI

10) Okuribito

Monday, November 03, 2008

Ryusei no Kizuna Merchandise - Hayashi Rice & Beef Curry Packs

Title: Ryusei no Kizuna - Hayashi Rice & Beef Curry Packs
Price: Open (Determined by individual retail outlets)
Date of release: 14 Oct 08 (for a limited period only)
Available at: Supermarkets, convenience stores, TBS Store and TBS ishop

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Kaze no Garden ni Saku Hanabana - Furano Kara 風のガーデンに咲く花々~富良野から~

Title: Kaze no Garden ni Saku Hanabana - Furano Kara
Number of discs: 1
Total run time: 60 minutes
Release date: 28 November 2008
Price: 4,935 yen
Produced by: FujiTV Image Planning Department
Distributed by: Pony Canyon

This Blu-ray disc release features 41 types of flowers among the 365 species planted for the filming of Kaze no Garden. Shiratori Teizo's flower meanings will also be introduced. The producer of the garden, Ueno Sayuki will also be interviewed. As part of the special premium, there will be some wallpapers with the garden in the background.