Nuffnang

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Top 10 most anticipated Autumn 08 dramas ranking - Yahoo Japan

The following survey was conducted by Yahoo Japan. I will only list the top 10 choices here. For the full ranking and results, please visit the website.

1) Ryusei no Kizuna (TBS) 4160 votes

2) Aibou season 7 (TV Asahi) 3498 votes

3) Kaze no Garden (FujiTV) 3219 votes

4) Bloody Monday (TBS) 3023 votes

5) Team Batista no Eikou (FujiTV) 1644 votes

6) Celeb to Binbou Taro (FujiTV) 1298 votes

7) Innocent Love (FujiTV) 1215 votes

8) Yume no Kanaeru Zou (NTV) 865 votes

9) Mito Kimon - Part 39 (TBS) 811 votes

10) SCANDAL (TBS) 469 votes

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Top 10 movies ranking for week ending 26 Oct 08

1) Yogisha X no Kenshin

2) Eagle Eye

3) Homeless Chuugakusei

4) Tsuri Baka Nishi 19 Youkoso! Suzuki Kensetsu Go Ikkou Sama

5) P.S. I love you

6) ICHI

7) Centre of The Earth

8) Gekijouban Saraba Kamen Rider Denou Final Countdown

9) Okuribito

10) Pako to Mahou no Ehon

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

わるいやつら Warui Yatsura (The bad people)

Title: わるいやつら Warui Yatsura
Official website:
here
Broadcasted by: TV Asahi
Original novel by: Matsumoto Seicho
Theme song: Luna by Arashiro Beni




Cast:

Terajima Toyomi (Yonekura Ryoko)
Toya Shinichi (Kamikawa Takaya)
Shimomizawa Sakuo (Kitamura Kazuki)
Makimura Takako (Fueki Yuko)
Yokotate Tatsuko (Kojima Ijiri)
Fujishima Chise (Yo Kimiko)
Hayama Kouta (Hirayama Hiroyuki)
Numada (Asaka Mayumi)
Kashiwaya (Ibu Masato)
Kaji Sadakazu (Kaneko Noboru)

Review:

As compared to past Matsumoto Seicho's novels adaptations, I was quite disappointed with Warui Yatsura's storyline. I don't know how closely the drama stuck to the novel but there were many junctures where I felt so bored that I wanted to give up watching it. This is actually the second time which I attempted to watch it and it should be a miracle that I managed to finish watching this after all.

As what the title of this drama suggests, the characters in this story are all bad people, in one way or another. Terijima Toyomi is a nurse who committed murder for the sake of her love, Toya Shinichi. Meanwhile, Toya is a womaniser and dates multiple women at one go. His friend Shimomizawa teamed up with Makimura Takako, the woman whom Toya wants to marry, so as to cheat Toya of his entire fortune. This is quite similar to past Matsumoto Seicho adaptations but the main problem is that the tension in the story took too long to heat up. It was only after the point when Toyomi survived as Toya tried to strangle her to death that things became more interesting.

Well, Yonekura Ryoko is very good at potraying characters who possess charisma and character but her role Toyomi showed off too much vulnerability which took the shine off Yonekura's performance. After the near-death encounter when Toyomi underwent a transformation, that is when I think Yonekura was back to her usual self. She did very well in past Matsumoto Seicho adaptations e.g. Kurokawa no Teccho and Kemonomichi because she was stunning from start to finish. It's a pity that this drama took too long for her to show what she's capable of.

Kamikawa Takaya lacked a bit of shine and chemistry when interacting with Yonekura. Somehow, I am not convinced at all about his ability to womanize. Other the fact that he could sweet-talk them, there wasn't anything I thought would make him really appealing to women.

I liked the ending of the story. It's not because it is a happily-ever-after conclusion but it sends a bloodcurdling chill down the spine. Although Toya was charged with murder and the intended murder of Toyomi, she changed her testimony to allow Toya to get away with a short jail term. Her intention was unknown until the end when it was revealed that she had done that just to keep Toya for herself. By brushing away her rivals and ruining Toya's career as a doctor, she had hoped that Toya would have no one to turn to except her. You can't help but marvel at how calculating she was and how strong her love and desire to possess Toya was. This type of ending is definitely better than just showing Toya getting his just desserts.

And my ratings for this drama...
Story: 5.5 out of 10 (8 episodes may be too short for the story to develop properly but Kurokawa no Teccho and Kemonomichi were also relatively short yet did pretty well.)
Acting: 6.5 out of 10 (I prefer seeing Yonekura in a feisty role rather than the Toyomi she played in the first half of the drama. The rest of the cast were not particularly outstanding either.
Theme song: 4 out of 10 (It didn't leave an impression on me at all. I just skipped through it from Ep 2 onwards.)
Visual effects / Scenery: 5 out of 10 (Most of the scenes were indoors so there wasn't really much to see. However, seeing the pretty girls in this drama should be a visual treat for guys)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 4 out of 10 (Seriously lacking...Maybe it's got to do with the way the plot is structured.)

Total score: 25 out of 50

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Review of Kaze no Garden Episode 1

Being the last drama which Ogata Ken appeared in, it is natural for viewers to pay more attention to him. And the first impression I had upon seeing him in the first scene was how thin he had become. His cheeks had become rather sunken and his frame seemed much smaller than before. However, it was hard to see that he was unwell all this while since he didn't appear pale at all. Maybe it was the makeup, I guess. He still appeared as the kind old man like many of his previous dramas so it's still hard to accept that he will no longer appear in any drama or movie.

Coming to the story, as per previous Kuramoto Sou's stories (I've watched Yasashii Jikan and Haikei, Chichiue-sama), nostalgia and warmth rule the day. The story is set in Furano which unlike big cities, have a strong nostalgic feel. It's as if everyone knows everyone and they are familiar with one another like family members. The warmth conveyed is usually absent from other dramas. This is probably why Kuramoto's dramas are a hit because the enviroment depicted is the exact opposite of the real world where people tend to keep their distance from others but still yearn for the feeling of warmth when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

It appears that something happened 6 years ago which led to Sadami (Nakai Kiichi) leaving Furano and promising his father Sadazo (Ogata Ken) that he will never set foot on his hometown again. However, Sadami may appear disinterested in the family he left behind but it seems that he does yearn to see them especially when he looks at Rui's (Kuroki Meisa) picture in the magazine. Now that he is down with cancer, his longing to be with his family will spur him to go back to Furano again as shown in the 2nd episode.

On the other hand, Rui may seem indifferent to the absence of her father in her life but the fact that she is dating a married man seems to suggest that this relationship is partly due to Sadami's departure. When this relationship comes out into the open, this will be a big issue of contention between her and Sadami. For Gaku, due to the fact that he has the intellect level of 8 years old, I doubt he even remembered much of Sadami. It is not even clear whether he is aware of the fact that he has a father. As for Sadazo, he may be hoping to see his son again despite the fact that he says otherwise.

I have a feeling that Sadazo's relationship with Sadami is quite similar to that shown in Yasashii Jikan. In the latter drama, the son doesn't dare to see the father because he indirectly caused his mother's death while the father is not sure how to interact with his son. It could be similar in the sense that Sadami's wife's death (i.e. Saeko) was the trigger of this breakdown in their relationship and why Sadami had to leave Furano. We will only know this answer in time to come.

For this debut episode, the production quality is pretty high considering the fact that they went to the trouble of creating a garden 2 years back and took close to 6 months for the filming. The pace wasn't as slow as in Yasashii Jikan and should keep viewers interested for some time. We'll see if interest is sustained in the 2nd episode's rating.

My only grouse is the theme song. The melody suits the "tinge of sadness" feel of the drama BUT I can hardly make out what Hirahara Ayaka is singing. I think she's singing English yet somehow they don't really mean anything. I've got to check out the lyrics first before deciding whether this is really a goner. Her PV for this song is bland too...it could have been better if scenes from Kaze no Garden were included. Her debut performance as an actress was OK though.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Innocent Love's press conference report

The production press conference of "Innocent Love" was held on 2 Oct 08. Cast members Horikita Maki, Kitagawa Yuujin, Kashii Yui, Fukushi Seiji, Narimiya Hiroki, Uchida Yuki, Toyohara Kousuke as well as the scriptwriter Asano Taeko, producer Nakano Toshiyuki and director Katou Hiromasa attended the event. Kitagawa played the song "Itsu kushimi fukaki" with a children's choir before the press conference. The actors wore black for the event while the ladies were all dressed in red so as to resonate with the theme of the drama.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kaze no Garden's completion press conference

The completion press conference for Kaze no Garden was held on 30 September 08. In actual fact, most dramas' would hold production press conferences but in this case, Kaze no Garden's filming started in April this year and ended just 2 days earlier thus the press conference was termed as a completion press conference. The following are the comments of the cast (only the 4 main cast members) and scriptwriter during the event:

Scriptwriter Kuramoto Sou: 2 years ago, the garden was created and the script was finished last year. It was only until this year that I was able to complete this drama with a brilliant cast lineup and staff team. I believe that this drama is a mature production and I count upon your support.

Nakai Kiichi: I have been working with Director Miyamoto for a long time and she was known as a woman of steel who never shows her tears. We, the cast and staff almost brought her to tears with this production which we had shown close teamwork. It was a very intensive 5 months. Recent drama production press conferences usually feature young actors but this drama is rare to have such a high percentage of middle-aged and elderly actors in the lineup. As such, this is a drama which will be enjoyed by adults and would also attract children. Please enjoy this with your family!

Kuroki Meisa: We conducted our filming in Furano for a long time. If this drama was shot in Tokyo, I believe we wouldn't have spent so much time together. Everyone would stick together even after filming had finished for the day. I feel very comfortable and relieved on the set. Although I do not know how to use words to express my feelings, I think that this has been the best crew so far I have worked with and I feel very blessed to take part. The feeling of happiness will definitely be relayed to the viewers thus please enjoy this drama!

Kamiki Ryuunosuke: This is a very difficult role and I went through many discussions with the director and Kuramoto-sensei before deciding how to potray this role. In addition, I have to memorise many names of flowers and their meanings even though I have never heard or seen them before. With the constant changes in temperature and weather, there would be adjustments to the lines constantly. However, thanks to everyone, I have put in my best effort to play Shiratori Gaku. I have learned many things and enjoyed my time in Furano while being surrounded by flowers. Please watch this drama!

Ogata Ken: Yesterday, I finished filming the last scene with Nakai-san. His acting was compelling and I think this drama will be his signature work. I am very happy to have two brilliant grandchildren (Kuroki Meisa and Kamiki Ryuunosuke) acting with me. This is an excellent piece of work and I hope that you will enjoy it. With regards to the title's characters which were written by me, I didn't want to write that when Kuramoto-san asked me to do it. However, after writing this, it doesn't look that bad after all. (laughs)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ryusei no Kizuna and SCANDAL off to a good start! / Autumn 08 dramas' debut episodes ranking

Source: Mainichi Shinbun

Ryusei no Kizuna made its debut on 17th Oct 08 with the highest first episode rating of 21.2% among fellow Autumn 08 drama competitors. Meanwhile, SCANDAL which started on 19 Oct also achieved a relatively high rating of 16.9%.

With all Autumn 08 dramas having shown their first episode, this is the ranking so far on the basis of the debut episode's ratings:

1) Ryusei no Kizuna 21.2%

2) Kaze no Garden 20.1%

3) Celeb to Binbou Tarou 17.6%

4) Innocent Love / SCANDAL 16.9%

6) Team Batista no Eikou 15.2%

7) Salaryman Kintarou 13.8%

8) Scrap Teacher 12.6%

9) Gira Gira 12.2%

10) Bloody Monday 11.4%

11) Room of King 10.4%

12) Shouni Kyumei 9.6%

13) Oh! My Girl! / OL Nippon 8.3%

15) Yume wo Kanaeru Zou 7.1%

Innocent Love's first episode rating - 16.9%

Source: Mainichi Shinbun

The first episode of "Innocent Love" shown on 20 Oct 08 achieved a rating of 16.9%. Although this drama starred Horikita Maki whose popularity has reached a high due to her appearance in NHK's Taiga drama "Atsuhime", the debut episode rating was lower than expected. This result also makes "Innocent Love" the first Gekku drama in 1 year to obtain below 20% ratings for the debut episode. The past 4 Gekku dramas i.e. Galileo, Bara no nai Hanaya, CHANGE and Taiyo to Umi no Kyoushitsu all achieved above 20% for the first episode.

Top 10 movies ranking (19 October 08)

1) Yogisha X no Kenshin

2) Eagle Eye

3) P.S. I Love You

4) Okuribito

5) Gekijouban Kamen Rider Denou Final Countdown

6) Pako to Mahou no Ehon

7) Wanted

8) Kake no ue no Ponyo

9) Ikigami

10) Ironman

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ryusei no Kizuna's shooting stars earrings for pre-order

The shooting stars earrings will be worn by Toda Erika who plays Shizuna in the drama. The shooting stars are in three colours i.e. clear, sky blue and blue spinel which represents a pure heart, the brilliance of youth and the complicated lives of the three siblings. This product is now available for pre-order via TBS ishop at the price of 18,900 yen. Note that the product will only be made upon the receipt of orders so they will not keep stock of this item. In addition, there will be a time lapse before the item is delivered.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Review of Sore demo, boku wa yatte nai それでもボクはやってない (Even so, I did not do it)

Title: Sore demo boku wa yatte nai (Even so, I did not do it)
Official website: here
Official blog: here
Shown from: 20 January 2008

Cast:

Kaneko Teppei (Kase Ryo)
Sudo Riko (Seto Asaka)
Arakawa Masayoshi (Yakusho Koji)
Saito Tatsuo (Yamamoto Koji)
Kaneko Toyoko (Motai Masako)
Doi Yoko (Suzuki Ranran)
Sada Mitsuru (Mitsuishi Ken)
Aoki Tomio (Takenaka Naoto)
Shinzaki Kozo (Omi Toshinori)
Miyamoto Takashi (Kitami Toshiyuki)
Oomori Mitsuaki (Masana Bokuzou)
Muroyama Shogo (Kohinata Fumio)
Yamada Koji (Oomori Nao)

Review:

This movie had won many awards and was said to be of extremely high quality. However, the problem with such accolades is that they increase the expectation of the viewer and when it gets too high for the movie's good, disappointment arises.

In this case, I feel that if I had not heard so much about this movie, I may have enjoyed this a bit more. Indeed, the quality of the movie was relatively good but the ending was an anti-climax.

For those who are unaware of the storyline, here's a brief synopsis:

Kaneko Teppei is on his way to a job interview and boards a crowded train. However, disaster strikes when he is accused of being a groper by the victim who is a junior high school girl. This marks the start of his struggle in proving his innocence and he starts to realise that the laws may not be in the favour of the innocent...

The highlight of the story is the courtroom scenes so there would be long dialogues between the lawyers and the witnesses. As there are a lot of difficult terms, understanding the dialogue is of essence. Otherwise, not being able to grasp the meaning would reduce the level of satisfaction when watching the movie. For people who do not like hard-to-understand themes or are not interested in courtroom dramas, this movie might not suit your taste after all.

Now, why did I say that I would have liked this movie better if the ending was better? Well, the developments of the story did live up to its reputation. The story was closely-knitted and everything fell into place logically. However, the open-ended manner how the story finished just made it seem like the main character's fight for innocence was for nothing and everything was back to square one. In case you are hoping that Teppei will be let off the hook, you will be terribly disappointed. However, when you hear how the judge came to the conclusion, you will probably agree why the decision was made.

After watching this movie, it just set me thinking. For a case like groping or molest where there is no physical evidence, it only depends on circumstantial and eyewitnesses to determine who the culprit is. Although the stance of the legal system is to assume that the accused is innocent unless otherwise proven, the circumstances seem to suggest otherwise. In addition, those who profess their innocence seem to be at a bigger disadvantage than those who admit to their deeds and get off the hook with a fine only. That is indeed unfair. In the story, those who do not plead guilty get locked up and are coerced into making a confession. Is the legal system really like that in Japan?

For the victim, they have to bear the emotional impact of such a despicable act. However, there have been cases of people putting on an act and framing innocent people so as to blackmail them for money. On one hand, the law cannot discriminate the real victims who are the majority but on the other, there are indeed people who are indicted for crimes which they did not commit. It will be a never-ending discussion as to how the law is going to handle such cases.

As for the acting, Kase Ryo was rather competent for his role as Teppei but I thought Yakusho Koji was more eyecatching. No doubt the latter had lesser airtime, his onscreen presence and his way of potraying the character showed the difference in experience. In time to come, Kase might do even better but first of all, he's got to do something about his image. The gloomy face with a laid back image just doesn't open up new opportunities for him. I would say that he does suit the image of Teppei though. Another surprise package was Yamamoto Koji. I didn't recognize him at first until the time when he first took off his cap. The first judge during the lawsuit was also quite interesting until Kohinata Fumio took over. In fact, the actor, Masana Bokuzou won an acting award for this role!

And my ratings for this movie...
Story: 8 out of 10 (good but could have been better if the ending showed a future with more hope instead of giving the impression that everything is back to square one)
Acting: 7 out of 10 (good acting both from the lead and the supporting characters. it was a pleasant surprise to see many familiar faces as guests.)
Theme song: 3 out of 10 (BGM or a central theme song seriously lacking, a good song could relay the message of the film in a better way)
Visual effects / Scenery: 5 out of 10 (mostly courtroom drama and some scenes of the detention centre so not too appealing, visually)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 7 out of 10 (I like the interaction among the characters but it wasn't really to the extent of sparks flying between them. Can still be improved.)

Total score: 30 out of 50

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Review of Kurosagi クロサギ (Movie)

Title: Kurosagi (Black Trickster)
Official website: here
Original comic by: Kuromaru / Natsubara Takeshi
Scriptwriter: Shinozaki Eriko
Theme song: Taiyo no Namida by NEWS
DVD release date: 16 Sep 2008




Cast:

Kurosaki (Yamashita Tomohisa)
Yoshikawa Tsurara (Horikita Maki)
Kashina Masaru (Aikawa Sho)
Katsuragi Toshio (Yamazaki Tsutomu)
Shiraishi Yoichi (Kato Koji)
Mishima Yukari (Ichikawa Yui)
Momoyama Tetsuji (Tayama Ryosei)
Hayase Makiko (Onuki Kaoru)
Mikimoto (Kishibe Shiro)
Sakura (Daiji Mao)
Ishigaki Toru (Takenaka Naoto)
Okekawa Reiko (Iijima Naoko)
Watanuki (Shofukutei Tsurubei)

Review:

Regardless of whether you have watched the drama version previously, this movie should not make you feel lost. There is a bit of continuation from the drama (in terms of the relationships among characters) but the main case is a standalone event so it shouldn't be too difficult for first-timers to know what is going on. In fact, I found that the main case was too simple and didn't interest me much. It was easy to guess what was happening next especially if you had grasped the gist of the developments in the drama.

I don't remember much of the drama's storyline or the ending but I do have a vague idea on the relationships between the main characters. Kurosaki's father killed himself and the other family members after he plunged into financial difficulties due to a fraud case by a swindler. As a result, Kurosaki decides to take revenge on "white swindlers" i.e. those who cheat people of money. He goes to Katsuragi, a restaurant owner on the surface who has an unknown background, for info on these white swindlers. Makiko is Katsuragi's assistant. As for Tsurara, she rents a room in the apartment block which Kurosaki owns BUT there is little connection between the two in the movie as compared to the drama. More on that later.

If you look at the lineup, it is considered a lavish combination of big names. No doubt they may have small roles, their screen presence is so strong that it overshadows Yamapi completely. For example, Takenaka Naoto as the main villian Ishigaki, Kato Koji's re-appearance as the white swindler Shiraishi (he was so funny), Aikawa Sho and Yamazaki Tsutomu's performances are really worth checking out. In comparison, Yamapi turns in a lacklustre performance and doesn't impress me at all, AS USUAL.

And for those who are looking forward to a development of Tsurara's relationship with Kurosaki, you will be disappointed. In fact, Tsurara rarely appears in the movie and is usually shown bumping into Kurosaki along the corridor or within the apartment's compounds. Thus, there's nothing much going on between them.

I would say that the highlight of the story is how Kurosaki finds out the truth behind his father's death where he had thought all along that Katsuragi was the mastermind behind the fraud case. In actual fact, the truth is far from it. Check out the movie if you want to find the answer.

In conclusion, this movie is for:
1) fans of Yamapi
2) fans of the Kurosagi series who wish to see what happens after the drama

And my ratings for this movie...
Story: 4 out of 10 (nothing interesting, same pattern and predictable. if you have never watched the drama before, you may find it acceptable)
Acting: 6 out of 10 (the experienced actors deserve more marks but the lead is extremely disappointing)
Theme song: 4 out of 10 (doesn't suit the movie at all. Daite Senorita sounds better, comparatively although it is still far from the image of the series)
Visual effects / Scenery: 5 out of 10 (nothing impressive but for fans of Yamapi, you should enjoy seeing him in various costumes)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 5 out of 10 (since relationships are not of importance here, interaction among the characters is minimal. only Kurosaki and Katsuragi's relationship is more interesting to watch)

Total marks: 24 out of 50

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Top 10 movies ranking (12 Oct 08)

1) Yogisha X no Kenshin

2) Gekijouban Kamen Rider Denou Final Countdown

3) Okuribito

4) Pako to Mahou no Ehon

5) Wanted

6) Ironman

7) 20 Seiki Shounen

8) Ikigami

9) Kake no ue no Ponyo

10) Get Smart

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tokyo Shounen (Tokyo Boy) 東京少年

Title: Tokyo Boy
Shown from 2 February 2008
Official website: here
Official blog: here
Theme song: LOVE SONG by Hamada Mariko
Running time: 95 minutes





*Note that there is another movie by the name of Tokyo Shoujo (TOKYO GIRL) starring Kaho shown from 23 Feb 08.

Cast:

Fujiki Minato / Night (Horikita Maki)
Karasawa Shuu (Ishida Takuya)
Karasawa Youji (Hirata Mitsuru)
Fujiki Kikue (Kusamura Reiko)

Storyline:

Minato lost her parents when she was young and lives with her grandmother, Kikue now. To her, the only person to whom she can express her thoughts freely is her penpal, a boy by the name of Night who is of the same age. However, other than this piece of information, Minato knows nothing about Night.

One day, Minato meets a repeat student, Shuu at the convenience store where she works in. She falls in love with him and writes a letter to Night regarding this development.

On the day of Minato's first date with Shuu, he reveals his dream of being a photographer which cannot be realized as he has to study to become a doctor so as to take over his father's hospital. When Shuu tries to take a picture of Minato, she faints suddenly. After regaining her consciousness, Minato finds that Shuu has become cold to her for which she cannot understand why. Apparently, this is not the first time that Minato has lost consciousness without reason and she forgets some things as a result.

Shuu decides to break up with Minato which causes her to write a letter to Night and pour out her sorrows. In actual fact, Night was the one who caused things to sour between Minato and Shuu. When Minato finds out about it, she decides to thrash things out with Night.

However, when she visits the place where Night is supposed to be residing, she finds an old school building which has not been in use. To her horror, she finds the image of Night starring at her in the mirror and realizes that Night is a self-created personality which is also residing in her body...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Review of 20 Seiki Shounen (20th Century Boys) - Part 1

To begin with, here are a few points to take note:

1) As mentioned countless times, if you haven't watched this and do not wish to know the story, I suggest that you leave this till after watching the movie. Lots of spoilers around. Don't say I didn't remind you.

2) I have not read the manga. I do not know the storyline so there will be no comparison between the original and the movie.

3) If you are going to watch this movie soon, please stay till the end of the credits roll. I know the credits roll is terribly long (because of the number of people involved) BUT you will get to see something from Part 1 which gives an inkling of the focus in Part 2 AND the trailer for Part 2. Just stay in your seats till the end or you will never know what you are missing.

Storyline:

First of all, the story begins in 1969 which was the year when Man first landed on the moon and the year just before the Osaka Expo. A group of primary school students Kenji, Occho, Maruo, Yoshitsune, Mon-chan, Donkey, Yukiji and Fukube create a secret base to gather and writes the story, "Yogen no Sho (Book of Prophecy). The story is about an evil organization which plans to take over and destroy the world but 9 brave warriors combine forces to prevent that ambition.

1997, Kenji has now given up the idea of being a rock singer and operates a convenience store while looking after his missing elder sister, Kiriko's baby daughter, Kanna. However, the sudden disappearances of his regular customer's family and Donkey's death marks the end of his peaceful life so far. He comes to know that a secret organization led by a person by the name of "Tomodachi (Friend)" is behind this series of events and is even more shocked to find out that the events are exactly what he and his childhood friends had written in Yogen no Sho. Before he can do anything to stop Tomodachi, he is framed by the organization for being a terroist and has to be on the run. He also has to protect Kanna who is supposedly Tomodachi's daughter.

On 31 Dec 2000, Kenji and his friends get together to stop Tomodachi's plans to launch an attack on Tokyo and the world by using bio-weapons...

And my thoughts:

Well, in the beginning, I didn't understand why the story started in the prison with Kadota (Moriyama Mirai) who was arrested for publishing his manga on the Internet. Seems like the story he drew was similar to what was in Yogen no Sho. He was relating his plight to the prisoner locked up in the opposite cell who is Occho! This was only apparent during the final moments of this movie when the credits roll was over. As such, my guess is that Occho was nabbed by the police after Kenji succeeded in blowing up the robot which spread the virus but from the Part 2 trailer, the rest of the group were safe.

As the story kept jumping between 1997 and 1969, it was difficult to keep track of the characters since there were so many of them. Other than the very obvious ones like Kenji, Yukiji and Donkey, I couldn't remember most of their childhood faces. I just found it amazing that they managed to make the young Donkey and the adult Donkey look almost the same! Thus, for people who have never read the manga, it can be hard trying to link the childhood faces to the adult versions and remembering all those who are involved in one way or another.

Nevertheless, I liked the idea of seeing so many good actors gathered together. It was especially refreshing to see Tokiwa Takako again since she has not been acting in dramas for a long time. Toyokawa Etsushi took too long to appear but the moment he was shown on screen, that aura is definitely unmistakable. I was just thinking, doesn't Occho feel hot wearing that long coat in Bangkok?! ^__^ Karasawa Toshiaki was also funny at times and brought much relief to the fast-moving storyline. And Sano Shiro playing the twin bullies...kudos to the casting director who managed to find such spitting images of the childhood version.

With regards to the storyline, it is definitely very fast-paced. For people who have not read the manga, I think it can be rather difficult to follow the story as it zips through different periods back and fro. I've never been too keen on science fiction stories so that was a main reason why I did not buy the manga although I had become keen on Urasawa Naoki's works after watching Monster. Then again, based on what I've read in Monster, Urasawa is very detailed when it comes to every development. I wonder if the movie did rush through things because it appears as if they covered a lot of material in just 142 minutes.

There is a suspense element to this story i.e. the biggest mystery being who is Tomodachi. Pertaining to this, I think the hairstyle is somewhat a give-away clue. I don't know how the manga handled this but from the way it seems, Fukube is a suspicious character. Something about his eyes during the classmate reunion session and his hairstyle resembling Tomodachi's behind a mask just makes him a likely choice. And the way he "died" just gives more room for imagination. However, I am doubting that Urasawa will give away the answer so easily so that hairstyle could be a trick after all. From the way how Kenji looked at the face of Tomodachi at the end of the story, I am guessing that Tomodachi is either someone who has supposedly died or someone who is from his team. I hope that the final answer is logical i.e. don't give us a character who has not even been featured because there is no way anyone could have arrived at the answer.

One thing which I couldn't really understand is why Kenji seems to have clean-forgotten about Yogen no Sho right in the beginning. From the flashbacks, it seemed like Kenji was the one who wrote and drew the pictures in Yogen no Sho. It is puzzling as to why he had no impression of what he did.

Another big mystery is the fact that Kenji and Co. wrote in Yogen no Sho that there were 9 warriors. However, after eliminating Donkey who is supposedly dead, there are only 7 of them. I remember Yoshitsune saying that there was a guy who always wanted to join their gang but that guy always wore a mask and seemed to be particularly interested in Kenji. Could he have felt left-out by the group and hatched this plan to take revenge?

I'm somewhat glad that I have not read the manga yet because this doesn't kill the excitement like what happened during Death Note when I was very concerned about the differences between the original and the adaptation. Maybe the manga fans would have a different take on the storyline. It's just quite painful to wait for the second series since there's a big cliffhanger at the end of Part 1. Assuming that it takes 2months for the movie to come to Singapore, the earliest we can see this would be in March 09!

The focus on Part 2 seems to be shifting to Kanna who is now grown-up. It still remains to be seen why Kanna is the chosen one and her mother Kiriko should provide more answers. As of 2015, a new Yogen no Sho will be at work. Thus, the gang will probably have no prior knowledge of what's going to happen since they did not even finish Yogen no Sho in the first place.

And my ratings for this movie...
Story: 9 out of 10 (too fast at times but it is an engaging piece of work)
Acting: 9 out of 10 (too many characters around, some of the actors don't get enough airtime so there is limited understanding of the characters. however, the standard of acting is good)
Theme song: 6 out of 10 (the intro is catchy BUT i don't really like the song as a whole)
Visual effects / Scenery: 8 out of 10 (CG prowess at work, the final explosion scene was magnificent. I think besides the pay for the huge army of actors and extras, most of the money spent on this movie must have been for CG.)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 7 out of 10 (the core group blended pretty well together but they could have got together much earlier to show the strong friendship they had)

Total: 39 out of 50

Introduction to 20 世紀少年 (20th Century Boys) Part 1

Title: 20th Century Boys Part 1
Official site:
here
Original manga / Scriptwriter: Urasawa Naoki
Director: Tsutsumi Yukihiko
Theme song: 20th Century Boy by T.REX






Introduction:

"20 seiki shounen" (20th Century Boys) was serialized from 1999 to 2007 by Urasawa Naoki who had also created other popular titles like YAWARA and MONSTER. To date, it has sold more than 20 million copies. Besides Japan, this manga is also published in 12 countries in translated format i.e. the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand. It has also won the Enclare International Manga Festival's Best Serialized Manga award which was held in France.

As this story involves scenes from around the world and spans about 50 years, the movie adaptation will be split into three instalments. It had been said that this manga cannot be made into a live adaptation due to the scale of production but this has become the first-ever Japanese movie which has 3 parts. The total production expenses come up to about 6 billion yen and location shooting was done in New York, London, Paris, Beijing and Bangkok. The first instalment is shown from summer 2008 while the second and third are anticipated to be screened in 2009 New Year and 2009 Autumn.

Due to the fact that there are many characters in this story, the movie series will boast of a star-studded cast comprising of at least 300 actors and actresses. At the moment, the 7 main characters are Karasawa Toshiaki (Kenji), Toyokawa Etsushi (Occho), Tokiwa Takako (Yukiji), Kagawa Teruyuki (Yoshitsune), Ishizuka Hidehiko(Maruo), Sasaki Kuranosuke (Fukube) and Ukaji Takashi (Mon-chan). As for the rest of the lineup especially for the 2nd and 3rd instalment, announcements will be made gradually.

As you can see from the cast relation chart, this is a huge and complicated web of relationships. Just to name some of those who will also be appearing in the 1st instalment: Miyasago Hiroyuki, Namase Katsuhisa, Kohinata Fumio, Ishibashi Renji, Kuroki Hitomi, Fujii Takashi, Yamada Hanako, ARATA, Katase Nana, Ikewaki Chizuru, Fujii Fumiya, Oriental Radio, Oikawa Mitsuhiro, Takenaka Naoto, Moriyama Mirai, Sano Shiro, Mine Ryuta etc. This movie looks as if it is going to get almost everyone in the industry involved by the time it finishes its trilogy. It will be good news for the movie-goers since there's a lot of stars to see at one go but as to whether hardcore fans will like the match-up, that's a different story. I for one, have not read the manga yet (the Kinokuniya in Singapore seems to be out of stock) so I may just read the manga after the trilogy ends. It appears as if the movie will have a slightly different ending from the manga.

I will be watching the preview of this movie tomorrow (or should I say today afternoon since it's past midnight now). Hopefully, I can get the review up after that, assuming that I'm not tired out by the movie. Mind you, this is 142 minutes long so be prepared for it. This movie will be screened officially in Singapore next Thursday i.e. 16 Oct.

By the way, I have inserted the blog part provided by the official website just below the stats counter. After clicking on it, something will happen on this blog. Do try it for yourself!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Kaze no Garden achieves a rating of 20.1% for the first episode!


Kaze no Garden's first episode was shown on 9 Oct 08 and achieved a high rating of 20.1% for the Kantou area. This drama became the final drama of Ogata Ken who passed away suddenly. He plays the father of the main character (Nakai Kiichi) who lives in Furano with his grandchildren played by Kuroki Meisa and Kamiki Ryuunosuke. This drama initially attracted lots of attention as it is written by Kuramoto Sou who is well-known for "Kita no Kuni kara" and Ogata's sudden demise also played a part in the high rating achieved.

Haikei, Chichiue sama (Dear Father) 拝啓、父上様

Title: Haikei, Chichiue Sama
O.A. period: 11 Jan 07 - 22 Mar 07 (Winter 07 season)
Broadcasted by: FujiTV
Theme songs: 1) Papie 2) Te (both by Moriyama Yoko)
Scriptwriter: Kuramoto Sou
Narration: Ninomiya Kazunari







Cast:

Tawara Ippei (Ninomiya Kazunari)
Tawara Yukino (Takashima Reiko)
Nakagawa Tokio (Yokoyama Yu)
Karasawa Naomi (Kuroki Meisa)
Sakashita Eri (Fukuda Saki)
Komiya Ryuji (Umemiya Tatsuo)
Ukiha (Kimura Tae)
Hanjiro a.k.a. Shakuhan (Matsushige Yutaka)
Kotoe (Ikeritsu Shoko)
Kumazawa Seijirou (Kobayashi Keiju)
Sanada Kosei (Ono Takehiko)
Fortune teller (Yo Kimiko)
Sayoko (Kaga Mariko)
Mrs. Kumazawa (Mori Mitsuko)
Tsuyama Fuyuhiko (Okuda Eiji)
Sakashita Tamotsu (Takahashi Katsumi)
Sakashita Ritsuko (Kishimoto Kayoko)
Sakashita Yumeko (Hachigusa Kaoru)

Ratings:

1) 12.9%
2) 14.1%
3) 12.4%
4) 13.2%
5) 14.1%
6) 12.8%
7) 12.1%
8) 12.3%
9) 12.4%
10) 14.3%
11) 14.5%
Average: 13.19%

Trivia:

1) This story is somewhat like the sequel of the two-instalment 1975 hit drama "Zenryaku Ofukuro-sama" (Dear Mother) written by Kuramoto Sou. Both Umemiya Tatsuo and Hachigusa Kaoru got to reprise their roles as the chef and lady owner of the restaurant respectively.

2) The script was written with the image of Ninomiya in the lead role of Ippei. Just like Ippei, Ninomiya is also left-handed.

3) After the drama was shown, Kagurazaka became a hot spot. Posters of the drama were pasted around the streets and the theme song played in many of the shops within the area.

4) In the story, Ippei is supposed to be older than Tokio but in actual fact, Yokoyama Yu who plays Tokio, is older than Ninomiya.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Yo ni mo Kimyou na Monogatari Autumn 08 SP (世にも奇妙な物語 秋の特別編)

Title: Yo ni mo Kimyou na Monogatari 08 SP
O.A. 23 Sep 2008 2100 - 2318
Broadcast station: FujiTV







Story 1 - Body Rental 『ボディレンタル』
Original comic: Body Rental by Toda Seiji
Scriptwriter: Kanasugi Hiroko
Starring: Uchida Yuki

Story 2 - Do tsuki do tsukarete ikiru no sa 『どつきどつかれて生きるのさ』
Original novel: Do tsuki do tsukarete ikiru no sa by Umezawa Shun
Scriptwriter: Hamada Hideya
Starring: Yokoyama Yu (Kanjani 8)

Story 3: Shigokon 『死後婚』 (Marriage after death)
Scriptwriter: Nakamura Kinori
Starring: Fukada Kyoko

Story 4: Gyoretsu no dekiru keiji 『行列のできる刑事』 (The police detective who has a queue behind him)
Original movie: Gyoretsu no dekiru Keiji by Koizumi Tokuhiro
Scriptwriter: Koizumi Tokuhiro
Starring: Hiraoka Yuuta

Story 5: Suiri Takushii 『推理タクシー』 (The detective taxi)
Original novel: Ie ni tsuku made by Imamura Aya
Scriptwriter: Furuya Kazunao
Starring: Tanihara Shosuke

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Ogata Ken passed away on 5 Oct 08 due to liver cancer

Ogata Ken, a famous veteran actor, died at the age of 71 on 5 Oct 08 due to bleeding from a ruptured liver as a result of liver cancer. Apparently, he had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver 8 years ago which developed into cancer about 5 years back. However, he chose to take medicine instead of receiving surgery and even told his sons, fellow actors Kanta and Naoto not to reveal his condition to others.

Ogata was last seen in public at the completion press conference of "Kaze no Garden" on 30 Sept which will be O.A. from this Thursday via FujiTV. This drama was completed in late Sep and becomes the final drama which Ogata appeared in.

Ogata was admitted to hospital on 4 Oct and was said to be recovering well after his surgery. However, things took a turn for the worst on the next day. At his deathbed, his family members including his sons, wife and grandchildren as well as his buddy, actor Tsugawa Masahiko were there with him.

During the private funeral held today, his family members, Tsugawa, scriptwriter Kuramoto Sou (the writer for Kaze no Garden) and actor Takenouchi Yutaka were present.

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

This is indeed very shocking. I've seen Ogata-san in quite a number of dramas and remember him fondly especially in Ruri no Shima. It is so sad to hear about this news since this has happened without any warning. Since he still appeared to be fine on 30 Sep, it is especially difficult to accept that he is gone in a matter of 5 days.

And now that Kaze no Garden becomes his final drama appearance, it must be painful for his family, friends and fans to watch him try to do his best onscreen despite the cancer causing great discomfort. Since the drama also deals with death due to cancer (Ogata plays the father of Nakai Kiichi whose role is struck with terminal stage cancer), the uncanny coincidence, timing of the news and impact of this announcement would probably spur many people to watch this drama. I just hope that it will do well enough since this is also the earnest wish of Ogata-san as seen from his blog.

ご冥福を祈ります.

Top 10 movies ranking (5 October 2008)

1) Yogisha X no Kenshin

2) Gekijouban Saraba Kamen Rider Denou Final Countdown

3) Wanted

4) Pako to Mahou no Ehon

5) Okuribito

6) Ironman

7) 20 seiki shounen

8) Ikigami

9) Kake no ue no Ponyo

10) Daikessen! Chou Ultra Hachi Kyoudai

Monday, October 06, 2008

Summer 2008 Drama Ratings Ranking

The summer drama season has finally ended so here are the results of the ratings ranking!

As you can see from the first picture, taking the top spot is Code Blue from FujiTV. It has an average rating of 15.87% which is 1.08% higher than the second-placed drama. Despite the presence of another medical drama this season i.e. Tomorrow, both have different themes and were shown on different days thus there wasn't a direct heads-on clash. Of the top 3 dramas, this is the only title which I'm watching. As I have yet to finish this drama, I can't say whether I like this drama but the tempo of the plot is pretty engaging to keep viewers hooked. Tomorrow is better in terms of the emotional factor, at least based on my comparison of what I've seen so far from Code Blue. However, the sight of Yamashita Tomohisa still irks me and I wish he can stop this act-cool style of acting which seems very similar to what Kimura Takuya has been doing. I guess I will have a proper review of this drama once I finish watching it so I will reserve my comments (be it good or bad) for the time being.

No.2 is yet another FujiTV drama i.e. Taiyo to Umi no Kyoshitsu which stars Oda Yuji, Kitagawa Keiko and a bunch of young actors. The average rating of this drama is 14.79%. Well, the main reason why I did not even touch this drama is largely because of my lack of tolerance for more passionate-teacher themed dramas. Over the years, starting with GTO, we've had countless of similar theme dramas so unless there's really something unique about the teacher e.g. the demonic teacher Akutsu played by Amami Yuki (Joou no Kyoshitsu), I stay clear of passionate teacher dramas. And from the trailers I've seen, the passionate index is much higher than before so it's a big pain to see Oda Yuji acting like that. Moreover, in the student lineup, only Tanimura Mizuki and Kitano Kii interests me so my interest in the drama is extremely low.

And rounding up the Top 3, we have Yasuko to Kenji from NTV with an average rating of 13.07% which is 1.72% lower than the No.2 drama. As you can see, the difference between the Top 3 is more than 1% which seems to suggest that competition at the top is not as stiff. The differences among lower-ranked dramas are much closer. Anyway, this is another drama which I doubt I'll ever watch. I like Matsuoka Masahiro BUT I have no interest in his character who seems to be potrayed as a sister-con (someone with a sister complex). Likewise, I don't feel like watching Hirosue Ryoko behaving like a ditzy woman so there is little possibility of me watching this to see why it has a relatively high rating in this season's lineup.

Like I've said before, dramas with high ratings are not always good ones to watch. And it's a pity that a lot of times, the good ones are like gems waiting to be discovered but most people simply miss them. I've had enough of many dramas packaged as idol-promotion vehicles where some of them are seriously lacking in the acting skills department and yet keep getting leading roles. I hope things will look up in the next season where quality matters more rather than popularity and the good dramas will get their due recognition.

And here goes the rest of the lineup where I've indicated my recommended selection...

4) Tomorrow 12.73% - Recommended
5) Shibatora 12.52% - No comments / Didn't watch at all
5) Monster Parent 12.20% - Dropped halfway during Ep 1
6) Maou 11.51% - Recommended
7) Gonzo 10.74% - No comments / Didn't watch at all
8) Seigi no Mikata 10.34% - No comments / Didn't watch at all
9) Yottsu no Uso 9.42% - In progress / Just finished Ep 3
10) 33 pun Tantei 9.19% - Dropped halfway after Ep 2
11) Ando Natsu 9.18% - No comments / Didn't watch at all
12) Dageki Tenshi Ruri 7.23% - No comments / Didn't watch at all
13) Loto 6 de 3 oku 2 sen man ateta otoko 6.64% - No comments / Didn't watch at all
14) Gakkou ja oshierarenai 6.51% - No comments / Didn't watch at all
15) Koizora 6.40% - No comments / Didn't watch at all

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Review of Around 40

Title: Around 40
Broadcaster: TBS
Timeslot: Fridays, 10pm
O.A. season: Spring 2008
Theme song: Shiawase no Monosashi by Takeuchi Mariya






Cast:

Ogata Satoko (39) - Amami Yuki
Okamura Keitaro (33) - Fujiki Naohito
Morimura Nao (35) - Ootsuka Nene
Oohashi Sadao (39) a.k.a. Ma-kun - Tsutsui Michitaka
Takeuchi Mizue (39) - Matsushita Yuki
Ogata Tatsuya (28) - AKIRA (EXILE)
Ogata Maki (24) - Sakura
Ogata Tomoyasu (69) - Hayashi Ryuuzo
Ogata Haruko (61) - Kaga Mariko

Review:

Well, I wasn't in the mood to watch this when it was O.A. in Japan but somewhere managed to have some time recently to watch this...out of boredom. As such, you can see that I wasn't too keen on this drama in the first place.

There have been so many dramas on women hitting the big 30 and what happens after that but this drama is targeting those approaching 40. As such, I felt that the premise was largely similar to those 30s women dramas. The main problem facing both groups is still whether to enter marriage. The only difference is the issue of having kids coming into the picture. As women age, childbearing becomes tougher so rushing into marriage seems to be for the sake of having children in some cases.

Basically, this story is about 3 women i.e. Satoko, Mizue and Nao who are facing crucial decisions in life. Satoko was originally OK with staying single until she succumbed to the idea of getting married as she approached 40. Mizue is sick of her family life as a housewife and wants to work so as to prove her worth. Nao, (strictly speaking not an ara-4 i.e. around 40) is undecided about whether she should get married or continue to strive for career success. It's a simple story and very easy to follow.

The biggest problem I found with this drama was the story. As I said just now, there have been so many dramas on this type of genre over the years. To differentiate oneself from the precedessors, this drama fails in terms of its plot. And there are some developments which brings to mind past examples e.g. Love Revolution. In addition, it doesn't take a genius for you to guess what's going to happen next. This drama pales in comparison to very successful examples like Anego.

Why do I say it reminds me too much of Love Revolution? That's largely due to the presence of Fujiki Naohito. Although he doesn't play the field like his role in Love Revolution and his character is vastly different, just the combination of him and an older woman in a similar setting brings to mind the similarities. And the ending is almost an exact copy of the former. I liked his interaction with Esumi Makiko at that time and the story helped a lot BUT this time round, I couldn't help but cringe when I see him and Amami Yuki being paired up.

The biggest saving grace is the excellent acting from the ladies especially Matsushita Yuki. One moment, she can be a grouchy housewife and the next, she becomes a woman who behaves as if she has just fallen in love for the first time (she has a short crush on Fujiki's character). Amami Yuki, in contrast, seems at ease playing a career woman but when it comes to scenes which try to show the softer and cuter side of her character Satoko, it just feels terribly awkward. Ootsuka Nene is pretty good too but the developments around her character are too predictable to give her room to perform.

Viewership ratings:

1) 11 April 08 - 15.7%
2) 18 April 08 - 14.2%
3) 25 April 08 - 13.9%
4) 2 May 08 - 15.1%
5) 9 May 08 - 15.2%
6) 16 May 08 - 15.4%
7) 23 May 08 - 14.9%
8) 30 May 08 - 14.5%
9) 6 June 08 - 13.3%
10) 13 June 08 - 15.6%
11) 20 June 08 - 15.1%

And my ratings for this drama...
Story: 5 out of 10
Acting: 7 out of 10
Theme song: 6 out of 10 (catchy initially but it gets boring after repeated listenings)
Visual effects / Scenery: 5 out of 10 (nothing impressive, a lot of indoor scenes)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 7 out of 10 (for the womenfolk ONLY)

Total: 30 out of 50

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Scandal - Autumn 2008

Title: Scandal
O.A. Start Date: 19 October 2008
Timeslot: Sundays, 9pm
Broadcaster: TBS
Scriptwriter: Inoue Yumiko









Cast:

Takayanagi Takako - Suzuki Kyoka
Kawai Hitomi - Hasegawa Kyoko
Samejima Mayuko - Fubuishi Kazue
Shindo Tamaki - Momoi Kaori
Takayanagi Hidenori - Sawamura Ikki
Kawai Yuichi - Mitsuishi Ken
Samejima Kenji - Endo Kenichi
Shindo Tetsuo - Ishihara Yoshizumi
Shiraishi Risako - Toda Naho
Hisaki Keisuke - Kato Toranosuke
Kawashima Reiji - Ueda Hiromi
Mizutani Hayato - Hosoda Yoshihiko
Katsunuma Ryuutarou - Kohinata Fumio

Story:

Takayanagi Takako is a 40-year-old housewife whose husband works in a major advertising agency and her daughter is a junior high student. However, she starts to feel unhappy when her daughter begins to display rebellious behaviour and her husband is showing signs of having an affair.

One day, Takako is invited to the wedding of her ex-colleague Shiraishi Risako and meets three other housewives i.e. Kawai Hitomi, 32, whose husband works in the Finance Ministry and has 2 young children, Samejima Mayuko, 25, who is a typical rich man's wife as her husband is the owner of a plastic surgery clinic and Shindo Tamaki, 52, a career woman who has a lawyer-husband 8 years her junior.

That night, Risako proposes a game where the women have to pick up men on the streets and bring them to a pub. The last one to reach the pub will have to pick up the tab for that evening's celebration. Despite Takako's objections, the women go ahead with this game which marks the start of a scandal for Takako...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Top 10 movies ranking (28 September 2008)

1) Ironman

2) Wanted

3) Pako to Mahou no Ehon

4) Okuribito

5) 20 seiki shounen

6) Ikigami

7) Kake no ue no ponyo

8) Saigo no Hatsukoi

9) Daikessen! Chou Ultra Hachi Kyoudai

10) Hancock