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Monday, March 28, 2011

Romaji lyrics of Ryuusei by Kobukuro 流星 - コブクロ (Theme song of Nagareboshi)

Title: Ryuusei (Shooting Star)
Artist: Kobukuro
Lyrics and Melody: Obuchi Kentaro
Theme song of FujiTV autumn 2010 drama, "Nagareboshi"

mafuyu no umibe ni utsutta
shiroku toumei na tsuki ga
kurage ni mieta fushigi na yoru deshita

nando hiki sakaretemo
toozagatte mo tsunagatta mama no
futari wo tsutsumu
mabuta no oku no uchuu

hoshikuzu no naka
chiribamerareta kokoro ga futatsu
ai no yami wo kake nuketeku
omoi ryuusei ni nari
nagarete yuku yo kimi no soba made kieru mae ni
bokutachi wa onaji seiza dato shinjite

kimi yori kirei na hito demo
kimi yori yasashii hito demo
kimi ni wa narenainda mou dare mo

tsukamenai maboroshi wo
dakishimeta mune wo sasu itami ga
inryoku no you ni futari hiki yoseau

mada kimi no naka tojikomerareta ikutsu mo no mayoi wa
boku no naka de moyashi tsukuseru
dakara mou kowagarazu ni
azukete hoshii

kimi no uso ni kizuku no wa
chiisana hitomi ga mihiraku kara
demo sunaosa ni mada kizukenai mama

hoshikuzu no naka chiribameta kokoro ga futatsu
ai no yami wo kakenuketeku omoi ryuusei ni nari
nagarete yuku yo kimi no soba made kieru mae ni
bokutachi wa onaji seiza dato shinjiteru kara

If you would like to view the PV, please go here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Romaji lyrics of Aishiteru by Hirai Ken アイシテル - 平井堅

Title: Aishiteru (I Love You)
Artist: Hirai Ken
Lyrics and Melody: Hirai Ken
Theme song of movie "Ghost - Mou Ichido Dakishimetai"

nee doko ni iru no?
kimi no koe wo kikasete yo
todokanai negai demo
boku wa sakebi tsuzukeru aishiteru

nee kikoeteru no
boku no koe ga boku no uta ga
koborenai namida demo
karada juu ga naiteru

deatta hi
boku no me ni utsuru kimi wa
ai no katachi wo shiteta

kono mune ga chigirete
kokoro eguri torare
soredemo ii dakishimetai
kami ni yubi ni hoho ni matsuge ni kuchibiru ni
mou ichido dake fureteitai
kono te wa kimi wo dakishimeru tame dake ni
kitto aru kara

nee tatoe kimi ga
iro nakushi yume ni natte mo
wasurenai kese wa shinai
karada juu ni kizanda

kasaneta hi
[aishiteru] to ugoita
kuchibiru wo oikakete

kono yume ga chigirete ai wo ubaitorare
sore demo ii dakishimetai
kowareta hohoemi wo sawarenu kuchibiru wo
torimodoshite atatametai
koboreru kimi wo uketomeru eien ni
kirei na mama de

[aishiteru] to itte [aishiteru] to itte
mou ichido dake dakishimetai
kami ni yubi ni hoho ni matsuge ni kuchibiru ni
mou ichido dake furete itai
kono te wa kimi wo dakishimeru tame dake ni
kitto aru kara

nee doko ni itemo
kimi no koe wa kikoeteru yo
todoku made kanau made boku wa sakebi tsuzukeru
aishiteru

For those who wish to watch the PV, please go here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review of Ghost - Mou Ichido Dakishimetai - ゴースト - もういちど抱きしめたい - (Ghost - Want to Hug You One More Time)

To be frank, I was undecided on whether to watch this movie. I'm not a fan of Song Seung Heon and a remake of Ghost didn't seem particularly exciting although I have not watched the original before. I only saw parodies of that famous hug-from-the-back scene in Japanese variety programmes. However, I went ahead with this despite lots of bad reviews and I guess not having expectations made it easier for me to enjoy this movie as a whole.

To summarise, the movie is about a woman entrepreneur Hoshino Nanami (Matsushima Nanako) and a potter Kim Juno (Song Seung Heon) who meet by chance and eventually get married. However, their happiness is short-lived as Nanami dies due to a freak accident. Nanami's spirit later finds out that her death was not an accident after all and tries to stop the murderer from trying to harm Juno with the help of a little girl spirit (Ashida Mana) and a medium (Kiki Kirin).

As you can see, the story is really simple and not much of a roller-coaster ride in terms of emotions. The so-called suspense is also a no-brainer because the clues were too obvious right from the start. Anyone who has watched enough J-thrillers or mystery stories would be able to catch it before Nanami died. Moreover, Matsushima and Song's onscreen chemistry is just passable so that could be why reviews were mostly negative. They seemed really uncomfortable with each other as if Song is in awe of Matsushima and there's an invisible line between them. Even the highlight of the movie i.e. the hug-from-the-back scene wasn't executed romantically enough to make the female audience squeal with delight. The film was trying its best not to be overly adventurous (maybe for the sake of those who had watched the original film) but in the end, it put people off because it was playing safe. It was too safe, in my opinion. Since they had planned to do a remake which is not entirely the same as the original story, there should be greater flexibility in trying out new stuff. By doing a little of everything i.e. romance, thriller and humour, the film loses focus and alienates viewers because we simply can't feel for the characters involved. Ther separation at the end was supposed to be a tearjerker but I felt like an emotionless bystander. Nonetheless, Ashida Mana and Kiki Kirin managed to make things more bearable with the heart-warming and humourous scenes or the movie would have been a total bore.

The biggest saving grace for me was the theme song Aishiteru by Hirai Ken. He's really a master when it comes to ballads and thankfully, that gave this lacking movie a little bit more punch. I can't say the same of Hirai's version of Unchained Melody because the problem doesn't lie with the song but rather when it appeared with that signature scene in the movie, the visuals made me cringe so I can't really bring myself to like the song. Unchained Melody will never sound the same to me again.

And my ratings for this movie...
Story: 2 out of 10 (It was like trying too hard to make things stick to the formula and backfiring because it was too conservative)
Acting: 3 out of 10 (The supporting characters were more eye-catching)
Theme song: 8 out of 10 (Hirai Ken's theme song was a great match)
Visual effects / Scenery: 4 out of 10 (The execution of the scenes were rather smooth but there's not much scenery or special effects except the exploding bulbs.)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 3 out of 10 (Especially lacking between the leads)

Total: 20 out of 50

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Final review of Umizaru

Review of Umizaru

Average ratings of 13.12% which is considered average at best. Given the amount of money spent on the scenes underwater and the rescue operations at sea, I don't think the ratings are acceptable. I see the amount of effort put in by the staff and cast but sadly, it didn't translate into something quantitative for them.

It's the first time that I get to see a cinematic budget for a drama. Just look at the helicopters, ships, capsized boats, diving equipment etc throughout the drama and we can only imagine how big the budget is as compared to other dramas. Even hiring a full cast of A-listers might not even cost that much. I'm very impressed with the action scenes at sea especially in Ep 6, 7 and 8 where there's the shooting of the intruder ship and the episode where Ikezawa was shot by the pirates. I felt that the buildup of the tension was very well-done and since both incidents were kind of related i.e. dealing with armed enemies, the impact was much greater and memorable. Most of the time, the action scenes make me very hyped up and excited.

Actually, due to the drama being the second instalment under the Umizaru series, you might need to watch the movie first before you can understand some of the references to the past events. And it seems like they have already started with the filming of Umizaru 2 the movie where there's a short trailer shown at the final episode with some footage from it. The movie will be the conclusion of this series so you can see that the drama didn't have a proper ending as to where Senzaki is posted to. According to what I've seen in that trailer, the setting of the movie is on a cruise where they are trying to evacuate the passengers. Kanna also happens to be there when she sees Senzaki and she is even wearing a wedding gown in one of the scenes. In the end, the cruise blows up in where I assume to be Tokyo Bay judging from the surrounding scenery but it's at night so I'm not too sure. Anyway, we'll find out about this when the movie is shown in cinemas from 6 May 2006.

As for the plot itself, I feel that the emotional scenes tend to pale in comparison as compared to the action parts. Somehow, you get the feeling that the description of the feelings are merely superficial where I just don't feel convinced by some of the messages they are trying to convey. Maybe that's why the drama could have done better in terms of ratings if the softer aspect of the plot had been presented in a more engaging way.

Talking about the cast, let me rave about my personal favourites. Top of the list would be Nakamura Toru as Ikezawa Masaki. Besides his great build, I guess his acting stands out among the cast as he was supposed to be a cool guy from the start but gradually showed his emotions towards the end. The transition due to opening up to Senzaki was very natural and he can manage being funny yet serious at the same time. Another person worth mentioning would be Tokito Saburo as Shimokawa and you get the feel that he's a natural leader with that charismatic touch. When seeing the softer side of him in the presence of his daughter, it's also natural enough to convince you that the two different traits belong to the same person.

As for the lead actor Ito Hideaki, I think he's fine but I tend to dislike overly-passionate type of characters especially guys in dramas. Somehow, I do get the feeling that he's over-acting in some scenes which get emotional and this makes the character feel unreal. Oh well, I know Senzaki is supposed to be some guy who's hyped up over things but the way he handles switching from happy to sad e.g. when Ikezawa died, gives me the feeling that everything is completed with a snap of the finger so I don't see the gradual change. Kato Ai is pretty good and I find that she's better than she was in the movie. I guess the drama gave her more room to develop her role as Kanna and she showed the apprehension and dilemma of the role clearly.

Last but not least, the theme song, Ocean by B'z is one of my favourites this season. Every time it plays in the background especially during emotional scenes, it fits the atmosphere perfectly. Quality performance from the duo and kudos to the producers for getting them to do the theme song.

Out of a score of 10, I would give it 8 points. The two points were deducted due to the emotional subplot which did not pack as much impact as the action scenes.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Review of Umizaru Ep 11

Ep 11: Kono te wo hanasanai (I won't let go of this hand)
O.A. 13 Sep 05
Ratings: 13.8%

Senzaki is given approval by Shimokawa to cut the bottom of the boat open so as to get Yui out. However, the boat starts to sink slowly with each movement and Senzaki finally manages to cut the boat open. Shimokawa cannot resist the urge to save his daughter and dives into the sea to enter the boat so as to push Yui out into the hands of Senzaki. This makes him trapped in the sinking boat and when he is saved, Shimokawa remains unconscious due to the lack of oxygen and stoppage of his heart.

Meanwhile, Rieko is informed that Yui has been saved but Shimokawa is still in the ICU where there's a danger of him being in a coma forever. However, Katsuta decides that it's not time to tell Rieko about this as Yui has yet to recover from this incident.

Senzaki calls Kanna to confirm his safety which also makes her mother relieved as she wonders how Kanna can withstand the feeling of worrying for him.

Katsuta tenders his resignation to Tsuda for not stopping Shimokawa from taking part in the rescue operation since he's related to the victim. However, Tsuda says that he's not to be blamed and that he will hold on to the resignation for the time being.

Senzaki stays by Shimokawa's side but his condition is not improving. Meanwhile, Yui is recovering from her injuries. Senzaki looks for Rieko to inform her about Shimokawa's condition and asks her to bring Yui to see Shimokawa for a chance that he might wake up.

Rieko brings Yui to Shimokawa's ward and the latter keeps asking him to wake up as she cries. Just as Yui prepares to leave, Shimokawa regain his consciousness and everyone is happy to know about this.

Tsuda informs Katsuta that the superiors have decided to retract Katsuta's appointment to a back-end management post as punishment for the incident. However, once Nagare is removed from their fleet, Katsuta will go to another ship to be the captain.

Senzaki apologises to Shimokawa for insisting on saving Yui first without waiting for the special team but the latter says that he should be the one at fault since he dived in to save Yui without thinking about the consequences. This is breaking the rule of divers where they would always have to return safely from each mission. As such, Shimokawa feels that he is no longer fit to be a diver and wants to transfer to a position where he doesn't have to go out to sea.

Senzaki goes to look for Kanna and her mother and explains that his buddies died before him in the past. However, he has no intention to quit and promises that once he feels that he cannot fulfil the promise of returning home safely to Kanna, he will not hesitate to quit. As such, Kanna's mother agrees to their relationship which the couple is very happy about.

Rieko calls Shimokawa and says that she will allow Yui to meet him as usual. Yabuki also gets Shimokawa to go diving with him again since the latter is going to quit from the frontline just when he's prepared to return to be a diver.

On the day when Nagare is to be removed from the fleet, everyone has their thoughts and memories there as they prepare to be transferred to various units.

Senzaki goes to Kanna after the ceremony and reveals that he's not sure where he will be posted to. They might end up in a long-distance relationship again but Kanna assures him that no matter where he goes, they will be fine...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Review of Umizaru Ep 10

Ep 10: Inochi wo Kaete (Change Your Fate)
O.A. 6 Sep 05
Ratings: 12.7%

After getting over the psychological trauma of Ikezawa's death, Senzaki returns to Nagare with his new buddy, Yoshioka and takes up the role of his trainer just like what Ikezawa used to do with him. Meanwhile, Fuyushiba praises Kanna for improving in her designs and apologises for criticising Senzaki previously for being a burden to her career.

Shimokawa's ex-wife, Rieko asks of him not to meet his daughter, Yui in future as she is remarrying and that it would not be good for them to continue like this. This is in view of Yui's interests but he thinks that Rieko should not decide on this without consulting Yui.

Senzaki prepares to spend the night at Kanna's place and is waiting for Kanna to be done with her shower after his turn. However, Kanna's mother comes to visit her and is shocked to see the both of them scantily clad. As such, Senzaki has to go back to Nagare hurriedly. When asked about Senzaki's occupation, Kanna reveals that he's a coast guard diver which her mother is not happy to hear about.

On the last meeting between Shimokawa and Yui, Rieko reveals the truth to Yui who is reluctant to accept this arrangement. Shimokawa can only watch helplessly as Rieko brings the crying Yui home.

Senzaki finds out from Kanna that her father died due to an accident at sea thus her mother is not happy to know that she is dating someone working at sea. This is because she is worried that Kanna will suffer the same fate as her if Senzaki meets with any mishap.

Kanna and her mother are having dinner at OCEAN's where Senzaki happens to come with Yoshioka. He tries to talk to Kanna's mother but she gives him the cold shoulder. Finally, she drops a bombshell by telling Senzaki to break up with Kanna if he really loves her. Kanna has no choice but to tell Senzaki to return to Nagare first and leave her to persuade her mother.

Senzaki happens to see Yui looking around from the gate and finds out that she's looking for Shimokawa who is engaged in a meeting. As such, Senzaki brings her to the building to wait for Shimokawa but Rieko appears there to bring Yui back. When Senzaki asks Shimokawa why he didn't stop Rieko from taking Yui away, the latter says that he cannot disregard Rieko's feelings just because of his desire to see Yui.

Kanna prepares to send her mother back ad Senzaki comes to look for them. He explains that he is serious about dating Kanna but cannot give a guarantee not to die in the sea. Before he could go on further to convince Kanna's mother, Senzaki is summoned back to work as a pressure boat has capsized. When asked by her mother as to what she will do if Senzaki meets with any mishap, Kanna says that she has been worried countless times to date but she is mentally prepared for any outcome that may happen.

Nagare goes on a rescue mission to find the 2 missing persons from the capsized pressure boat. After finding one of them who is a ballet teacher, the divers are shocked to find out that the sole missing person is Yui...

Shimokawa calls Rieko to inform her of this news and gets her to come to the HQ to wait for updates. Meanwhile, Katsuta asks Shimokawa if he can keep calm in this rescue operation and the latter confirms that he will focus on saving the victim regardless of her identity...

The boat is stuck on some rocks and it looks set to sink if it is moved. In addition, the conditions underwater make it impossible for divers to enter the boat to look for Yui. Although the special rescue team has been summoned, Senzaki feels that it's not possible to wait any longer and asks Shimokawa for permission to use an electric saw to cut the bottom of the boat so as to look for Yui...

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We are left with a cliffhanger at the end of the episode where the rescue operation for Yui is not completed yet. The rescue scene is quite impressive and makes you stay at the edge of your seat. And from the trailer, someone might get hurt again and I'm hoping that there will not be any casualties again. The scriptwriters kill at least one person in the movie and in this drama so I'm sick of seeing any funerals.

In addition, Senzaki's problem with Kanna's mother is unresolved but I guess she will give her blessings by the next and final episode. And I doubt the couple will get married by the end of the series. Maybe in the Umizaru 2 movie?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review of Umizaru Ep 9

Ep 9: Ushinawareta Natsu wo Motomete (Searching for the lost summer)
O.A. 30 Aug 05
Ratings: 12.6%

Due to Ikezawa being shot by the pirates, Senzaki refuses to take part in the rescue operation to save them and stays by Ikezawa's side. However, due to intense bleeding, Ikezawa finally breathes his last and this makes his teammates very upset. The usually cool Shimokawa gets so frustrated that he goes to beat up those pirates.

At the same time, Naoko has just given birth to her daughter and is eagerly awaiting Ikezawa's return when the Coast Guard officers come visiting. They inform her of Ikezawa's demise and she is so shocked that she cannot react at all.

Ikezawa's body is sent back to Yokohama and Senzaki goes to the hospital to see Naoko. He passes her the piece of paper which Ikezawa had written where he had decided to choose the name Mako (combination of Masaki and Naoko) despite agonising over many names. Senzaki and Kanna are very sad about this matter but Naoko shows her inner strength by being brave for her daughter and refuses to wallow in despair.

Senzaki loses the confidence to continue working as a diver as he lost his buddy and refused to take part in the rescue operation due to personal feelings. In view of his current condition, Katsuta sends Senzaki to the diver school in Hiroshima to be an assistant trainer.

Senzaki tells Kanna about him going back to Hiroshima for a while and Kanna tries to cheer him up by even offering to go back with him. However, Senzaki's nonchalant attitude doesn't change and this is seen by Fuyushiba who happens to be in the same restaurant.

Yoshioka is elated to see Senzaki but the latter puts on a troubled face especially when he is reminded of his ex-training buddy who had passed away. At the same time, Kanna is so worried about Senzaki that she makes mistakes at work. Fuyushiba tells her to buck up and end the relationship if it is causing her a lot of distractions.

Yabuki goes to Hiroshima for the diver test and meets Senzaki who finds out from Shimokawa that Yabuki used to be seriously injured but had worked hard over the past 6 years to return to diving. In fact, this meeting is not a coincidence since Katsuta knew that Yabuki was going there and he had hoped that Senzaki would be inspired by Yabuki's strong determination.

Senzaki asks Yabuki why he is trying so hard to return to diving but the latter says that he doesn't wish to answer Senzaki's question since he is running away from the problem of losing his buddy. In fact, Yabuki even says that Senzaki is an eyesore which makes him more shocked.

Kanna goes to Naoko's place as she is planning to move out and return to her hometown in Chiba. Naoko reveals that Ikezawa was having problems with his eyesight but decided to stay on for Senzaki's sake. As such, Kanna decides to go to Senzaki directly and tell him the truth.

Senzaki is shocked to see Kanna and hears about Ikezawa's expectations of him. On the test day, Senzaki is inspired by Yabuki and Yoshioka's desire to succeed and decides to snap out of his depression...

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This episode is lacking in action and honestly speaking, I don't like to see scenes like this where the lead character gets depressed over someone's death. It's kind of draggy especially when this was already done in the movie version.

Next episode will see action and this time round, Shimokawa's daughter is lost at sea because the boat has capsized. It might get emotional again...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Review of Umizaru Ep 8

Ep 8: Ikezawa Shisu (Ikezawa Dies)
O.A. 23 Aug 05
Ratings: 12.1%

Following the incident of the unidentified intruding ship, the Coast Guard decides to enforce a 2 week marine patrol where Nagare also has to take part in this mission. Senzaki finds time to have a meal with Kanna before he leaves. Kanna is worried about Naoko as it is nearing her delivery date and Ikezawa has to leave her at this time. However, she promises to take care of Naoko in the meantime so that Ikezawa can rest easy. Meanwhile, Naoko reminds Ikezawa to think of their child's name but he keeps saying that it is troublesome even though he is happy about this "task".

Shimokawa meets Yui and his ex-wife reveals that she might be remarrying soon and would probably have to stop Yui from meeting Shimokawa in future.

Nagare begins their 2-week patrol and things get rather boring since there's nothing happening. Senzaki goes to Ikezawa's room and sees him agonising over the perfect name for his child. As the gynae did not tell him the sex of the baby, Ikezawa is more troubled over finding a good name and Senzaki offers him some advice.

Meanwhile, Kanna rejects Fuyushiba and says that she has decided to stay with Senzaki. At the same time, she goes out strolling with Naoko and they serve as support for each other while their men are out at sea.

Ikezawa receives a phonecall from Naoko that she is having contractions and will go to the hospital with Kanna. Ikezawa gets flustered but still reminds Naoko to take the delivery safety amulet from th drawer. Naoko is touched by this act of concern even though Ikezawa rarely expresses his feelings to her.

Just at this time, reports of a floating man at sea come in and Nagare goes to save that man. It turns out that he's the crew of a Russian ship, Tristana who has been thrown overboard by some pirates who have taken over the ship. As such, Nagare goes to look for the ship concerned and all crew members have to wear bullet vests since the pirates are armed. Senzaki moans at having to deal with such a situation again just after the intruding ship incident.

Nagare finally finds the Tristana but the ship shows no signs of stopping. The captain of the ship jumps overboard so that he can escape from the pirates. Senzaki and Ikezawa go to save the captain and are relieved at achieving their goal. In the meantime, Naoko has given birth to a healthy girl.

However, disaster strucks at this time when the pirates fire shots at the rescue boat and Ikezawa is struck on his neck. He is bleeding profusely and slowly losing consciousness. Senzaki gets very worried and keeps encouraging Ikezawa not to give up. Meanwhile, a fire breaks out on the Tristana and the pirates pretend that they are part of the crew and jump overboard to ask for help. Shimokawa tells Senzaki to participate in the rescue but he refuses to do so since the pirates shot Ikezawa. Shimokawa knows that it is of no use trying to persuade Senzaki and leaves him with Ikezawa who is losing consciousness as time goes by...

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This is so sad... Why do they have to make Ikezawa die when he has jsut become a father? To increase the tragedy effect? It's probably going to affect my mood and motivation level to continue watching as watching Nakamura Tooru is one of the biggest draw factors for me. I just don't understand why they have to kill off the character in Ep 8.

Next episode is probably to be worse when the funeral scene repeats itself. Do they really have to make someone die in each instalment of the Umizaru series? In addition, Senzaki goes through his "loss of confidence" stage again...This is making the story turn out to be predictable and I hope that they can quickly make some changes before the season ends.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review of Umizaru Ep 7

Ep 7: Hito wo Koroshita (I killed people)
O.A. 16 Aug 05
Ratings: 12.9%

Nagare is given orders by the HQ to fire warning shots at the unidentified ship and Ikezawa and Senzaki have to follow the instructions to do so. They are also hoping that the ship's crew do not retalliate or they might have to shoot directly at the ship. Meanwhile, Naoko is hospitalised due to the danger of a premature delivery and Kanna is sitting in the lobby watching the news while waiting for treatment to be completed. Shimokawa's daughter, Yui happens to view the news from an electrical applicance shop as she is returning home and feels worried for her father's safety.

After Ikezawa and Senzaki are done with the warning shots, they await in silence as to how the unidentified ship will react. Suddenly, shots from the ship hit Nagare and even break windows and make dents on the vessel. In the name of self-defence, Katsuta gives orders to fire direct shots at the ship. Ikezawa and Senzaki have to follow the instructions. Halfway through it, Senzaki tells Ikezawa to stop but he cannot do so without orders. Out of a sudden, the unidentified ship explodes in flames but it is not clear whether it explodes on its own or was hit by the bullets from Nagare. The ship sinks in no time which makes Ikezawa and Senzaki heave a sigh of relief.

When dawn arrives, investigation work begins but nothing of importance which could identify the sunk ship can be found. Senzaki happens to see a plastic glove and this increases his sense of guilt since this proves that someone was killed as a result of the bullets they fired.

Nagare returns to Yokohama and Senzaki hears the voice mail from Kanna about Naoko being hospitalised. He rushes to see Naoko with Ikezawa immediately. Ikezawa is relieved that nothing has happened to Naoko and the baby. Kanna starts to question why Ikezawa is not with Naoko when she needed him most. Senzaki tries to explain to Kanna about their mission but she says that she just cannot accept seeing how helpless Naoko was without her husband. Meanwhile, Naoko wakes up and is very happy to see Ikezawa. However, he tries to evade her loving gaze and says that he will return later after completing his work as he cannot bear seeing Naoko after killing someone with the shots he fired.

Shimokawa receives a phonecall from his ex-wife asking him to cancel the monthly meeting with Yui so that their daughter will not be reminded of the shooting incident she saw on TV. However, Yui has gone to the harbour base in the hope of seeing Shimokawa but to no avail.

Senzaki, Ikezawa, Shimokawa and Katsuta are summoned to the coast guard HQ for a questioning with regards to the incident. Shimokawa is waiting in the lobby while the three of them enter the meeting room.

Shimokawa happens to meet Yabuki who asks whether Shimokawa is still intending to stay as a diver. He hides the real reason for rejecting the promotion and simply tells Yabuki that he likes being on the frontline.

After Ikezawa and Senzaki return to Nagare, Katsuta hears from his superior that Nagare would have to be scrapped since it's the oldest vessel in the fleet and that there were too many damages as a result of this shooting incident. Meanwhile, Yoshioka makes up his mind to go to diving school and promises to return to Nagare when training is completed.

Kanna and Fuyushiba go for dinner together and he brings up the subject of them dating seriously. However, Kanna asks for more time which he agrees to. After they leave the restaurant, Kanna happens to see the footage of the shooting incident from the outdoor TV screen and decides to reject Fuyushiba's suggestion to send her home.

Kanna returns home and is in a daze about what she should do to her relationship with Senzaki. Suddenly, the doorbell rings and Senzaki has come to look for her. However, Senzaki tells her not to open the door as he cannot face her after killing someone. He says that he cannot continue to be with her and leaves while crying. Kanna finally makes up her mind and chases after Senzaki. She promises that she will stick with him regardless what happens and they embrace in the rain...

Meanwhile, Naoko senses that Ikezawa is very affected by the shooting incident and reassures him that she will be with him and that nothing will change regardless what he does. Ikezawa is so touched that he can only hug Naoko while crying...

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As I expected, the shooting scene is very well-done and the atmosphere is so tense that it keeps your attention for at least 10 minutes right in the beginning. However, the gloomy atmosphere makes this episode rather emotionally heavy as we have Senzaki and Ikezawa moping over the use of weapons and killing someone in the act of self-defence and Nagare is about to be scrapped soon. And things are going to get worse from the next episode where someone dies...

Well, I guess Kanna finally knows that between fear for Senzaki's safety and fear of not being able to stay with him, she is unable to bear the latter. I think there should not be any of those breakup scenes between these two again since the drama is nearing its end.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Review of Umizaru Ep 6

Ep 6: Fushizen Hassha (Shooting the mysterious ship)
O.A. 9 Aug 05
Ratings: 10.7%

As usual, the diving team is undergoing training and Ikezawa puts in more effort to coach Senzaki as compared to the past. The rest of the team mates are happy that they are getting aong fine. Senzaki is very happy because he truly feels like he's being accepted by Ikezawa as a buddy. He even encourages his junior, Yoshioka to try his hand at aiming to be a diver.

In the meantime, Kanna who had witnessed the toughness and apprehension during the family day incident, loses her confidence at whether she can continue to be in a relationship with Senzaki. However, she is busy with the upcoming fashion exhibition and has to cast such worries aside.

One day, Kanna meets Ikezawa's wife, Naoko at the departmental store and asks how she copes with the constant worry over her husband's safety. Naoko says that Ikezawa was already a diver when they were dating and he talks very little about his work. However, he always assures Naoko that he will return home safely and as time goes by, Naoko has learnt to cope with the apprehension slowly. Nevertheless, this does not reduce Kanna's anxiety over whether she can be like Naoko if she continues to be with Senzaki.

Kanna's superior, Fuyushiba asks her about her relationship with Senzaki and even lends a listening ear to Kanna who is grateful about his concern.

Shimokawa happens to see his ex-buddy, Yabuki training alone in the pool. Yabuki had used to work with him 2 years ago until an accident resulted in him sustaining a major injury in his leg. As such, he has not been able to return to work as a diver but he is still trying to train on his own. At the same time, Shimokawa is invited to transfer to the HQ for a promotion but he keeps rejecting this offer because he hopes to wait for Yabuki to return to work as a diver.

Senzaki asks Kanna out for a date without knowing how she is feeling. Kanna says that she wants to have a normal relationship where she doesn't have to worry about her boyfriend's safety but Senzaki says that he will never quit his job. As the discussion is going nowhere, Kanna leaves without saying anything to return to work and Senzaki is helpless about this situation.

Nagare is assigned to chase after an unidentified ship and the HQ is tense over this situation.

In the meantime, Kanna has just finished her company's exhibition and during the celebration party, Fuyushiba tells her to consider dating him since he will never let her feel lonely. However, Kanna is unable to react to this and Fuyushiba tells her that he will be waiting for her answer. At this moment, Kanna receives a phonecall saying that Naoko is hospitalised and in danger of having a miscarriage or a premature delivery.

When Kanna reaches the hospital, she happens to see from the TV that Nagare has been sent to chase after the unidentified ship. She is worried about Senzaki but keeps this from Naoko who should not be burdened with more worries.

According to the analysis of images from the unidentified ship, Nagare receives news from the HQ that the ship carries some missile guns and everyone has to put on bullet vests. In addition, Senzaki and Ikezawa have to make preparations to shoot at the ship to warn it and protect themselves if the crew retalliates.

As Naoko is undergoing treatment, Kanna goes to the lobby and is closely following the news on this incident. When she sees the images of a similar incident 4 years back especially the shooting scene, she gets more worried for Senzaki's safety.

As Ikezawa and Senzaki are preparing to load the ammunition, the latter gets worried and asks Ikezawa if they are really going to shoot. It is the very first time when Senzaki feels fear since he has worked as a coast guard diver. As the unidentified ship shows no signs of stopping, the captain gives orders to fire wild shots to warn the crew...

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Wow, more action! And since this incident will be continued next episode, the real shooting will only begin then. However, chasing that ship and preparing to load the ammunition is enough to get me pretty hyped up but ratings do not seem to reflect interest. The buildup of the tense atmopshere seems to be promising. Maybe things will get better by the next episode.

As for Kanna and Senzaki, I know they are probably going to get at it again i.e. she feels unsecure, wants to break up and then patches up. The process just repeats itself over and over again but I know they won't really break up so easily. Their relationship should grow stronger especially as the drama is nearing its end. I don't think they will break up completely...maybe quarrels will recur though...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review of Umizaru Ep 5

Ep 5: Totsuzen no Wakare (A sudden farewell)
O.A. 2 Aug 05
Ratings: 12.0%

During training to save a drowning person, Senzaki uses a different method which Ikezawa asks why he did that. After listening to Senzaki's reasoning, Ikezawa praises him which makes him very happy. Shimokawa is glad that the relationship between them is improving.

One day, Bessho brings Senzaki and his buddy, Nagashima to a diving school to be the instructors for the day which make them very excited since there are lots of pretty girls around. At the same time, Ikezawa is at the hospital where he is told by the doctor that he has an eye-related ailment which will hamper his work as a diver.

Bessho, Nagashima and Senzaki go to Ocean's for drinks when Bessho suddenly announces that he is quiting to be a diving instructor instead. Nagashima gets agitated at this announcement. At this time, Kanna happens to come and meet Senzaki who explains to her about how their buddy system works and his relationship with Ikezawa.

Senzaki returns to Nagare and talks about Bessho's resignation with Ikezawa who also tells him that he's quiting. Senzaki thinks that Ikezawa has plans to return to the elite team but the latter says that he is transferring to another department.

Shimokawa goes to Bessho to ask about his reason for quiting and he says that he is losing confidence in his abilities. He doesn't want to wait till there are casualties before quiting thus Shimokawa is unable to persuade him to change his mind.

On the family day where Nagare is opened for visiting by the crew's family and friends, Kanna and Ikezawa's wife, Naoko also come to join in the fun. However, the sudden recall of Nagare to join in the rescue operation makes the family members worry. Kanna stays with Naoko at the harbour to wait for the return of Nagare. Naoko is very worried about her husband and keeps grabbing Kanna's hand for comfort.

At sea, the rescue operation experiences problems when the sunk ship overturns underwater thus trapping the divers. Bessho ends up injured as a result. When Nagare finally returns to the harbour, Naoko and Kanna heave a sigh of relief at seeing that Ikezawa and Senzaki are fine.

Senzaki comes to Bessho's ward and overhears his conversation with Nagashima. Bessho says that he has problems controlling his rashness during rescue operations and does not want to get Nagashima into trouble.

Ikezawa returns to Nagare and meets Katsuta who tells him to reconsider staying in Nagare instead of quiting.

Senzaki and Kanna are at Ocean's when Ikezawa comes and deliberately antagonises Senzaki. They end up having a competition doing pull-ups where Senzaki ends up losing. As such, Ikezawa promises to stay on in Nagare to teach Senzaki and tells Shimokawa that he will stay for about 6 months but will leave immediately if his condition gets worse.

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The feeling of waiting for your loved ones to return is not good at all. Seeing how Naoko and Kanna worry while waiting makes you realise how difficult it is to cope with such worries on a daily basis. And this is probably going to make Kanna lose confidence in herself as to whether she can withstand such stress and worries in future as seen in the next episode's trailer.

One thing which I cannot comprehend is that Ikezawa faces possible blindness if he continues to dive and yet he continues to put his eyesight at risk? I know it will be weird if they leave him out of the story at this stage but it just doesn't seem right for the millitary to allow someone with a health condition hampering his work to stay on in the current position.

That pull-up competition between Ikezawa and Senzaki is quite dramatic and too long but if you are in it for the visual aspect i.e. the muscles and nice bodies , it should be enjoyable to look at.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Review of Umizaru Ep 4

Ep 4: Umi ni Kieta Omoi wo Sagase! (Search for the missing memories in the sea)
O.A. 26 July 05
Ratings: 13.7%

The Nagare diving crew is searching for a missing captain, Tokunaga Sakae whose ship sank during the typhoon. However, after a few days of searching, they are unable to find his body and the search operation is thus called off.

Senzaki gets a day off and goes to look for Kanna who is unhappy with him standing her up on a number of dates due to work. He brings Kanna to a restaurant for dinner and is trying to humour her. Senzaki tells Kanna that his birthday is coming and asks for a birthday present from her when he notices someone staring at him furiously. It turns out that the son of Tokunaga, Masaya is working in the restaurant and is angry at Senzaki who is enjoying himself. Senzaki returns to Nagare and tells his colleagues about it. They tell him to forget about this matter so as to prevent this from affecting his mood.

A few days later, Tokunaga's body is found some distance away from the sunk ship due to underwater currents. However, his son Masaya wants the coast guards to search for something for which the request is rejected.

Senzaki is curious about what Masaya wants to find and sees him diving near the location of the sunk ship. He pays a visit to Tokunaga's place and Masaya's mother reveals that her son is looking for a watch which used to belong to his father and that he had planned to give the watch to Masaya.

Senzaki returns to Nagare and tells Shimokawa and Ikezawa about this but they tell Senzaki to keep out of this matter as they should not associate too much with the family members of the victim.

Senzaki goes to look for Masaya and tells him about the danger of diving non-stop to look for that watch. However, Masaya ignores him despite his mother also calling him to stop. On his off day, Senzaki comes to help Masaya look for the watch at the expense of cancelling his date with Kanna who gets angry at him again. However, he has no luck in finding that watch.

Senzaki is told off by Shimokawa that he should be stopping Masaya from diving instead of searching with him. Senzaki says that he is feeling uneasy because Masaya saw his happy look when he was with Kanna even though he had just finished the searching operation earlier on.

Kanna finds out about what happened from Yoshioka and feels embarrassed at getting angry without knowing the truth. She tries to cheer up Senzaki by sending a message to him for their next date.

Senzaki goes to look for Masaya again to stop him when the latter faints and falls into the sea. Senzaki manages to save Masaya from drowning but he does not want to stop searching and says that Senzaki has no right to stop him.

Senzaki calls Kanna to cancel their date on his birthday as there is training on that day. Shimokawa had suggested to Katsuta to search for the watch as their training programme which he agreed to. However, the crew cannot find the watch after a whole day at sea while Masaya and his mother look on from the beach.

Senzaki apologises to Masaya for being unable to find the watch which Masaya has come to terms with after seeing how hard he tried to find it. He asks for something from Senzaki as remembrance so he gives Masaya his old diver's watch.

Senzaki finally manages to meet Kanna who passes him the birthday present. He is very touched when he sees that Kanna has bought him a diver's watch...

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------This episode is kind of boring. There's not much action since they were only searching for a watch and it seems quite unrealistic to change the training plan and use a ship to find a watch. It felt kind of cliche to see this and this is the first time when I actually felt bored watching this drama so far.

The only development would probably be Kanna and Senzaki's relationship. Well, he has already warned her beforehand that he's going to stand her up and break promises often due to work. However, when it comes to experiencing it, Kanna gets angry everytime Senzaki calls up to cancel their date and yet doesn't know how to handle such frustration. She knows that it can't be helped but that doesn't reduce the unhappiness. At least we see that she's willing to compromise a little and think more for Senzaki but who knows how long her patience will run?

The next episode seems to be more interesting as Ikezawa prepares to quit due to his eyesight problem so that's probably going to cause more uneasiness in Senzaki now that his buddy is leaving.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Review of Umizaru Ep 3

Ep 3: Okizari no Ai (Left behind love)
O.A. 19 Jul 05
Ratings: 12.1%

Senzaki and Kanna are at a loss on how to handle their relationship. Although Senzaki has feelings for Kanna and wants to regard her as his girlfriend, Kanna is unsure of their relationship due to being apart for 1 year at different places. However, Kanna decides that it is best to talk things over with Senzaki and leaves a voice message on his handphone but he's not sure how to respond to her.

The divers team head for training in a 40m pool where they have to exchange equipment underwater with their buddy. Ikezawa tells Shimokawa that he intends to do something different to train Senzaki and the latter has a hunch that something might happen. When Ikezawa and Senzaki reach the bottom of the pool, Ikezawa deliberately removes the oxygen pump and and empties his oxygen tank. As Senzaki is only left with 20% of oxygen, he would have to share this with Ikezawa and take regular breaks along the 10m markers so as to make it safely up to the surface. However, he panicks and does an emergency surfacing which causes him and Ikezawa to be hospitalised due to lack of oxygen. In actual fact, if Senzaki had remained calm, the two of them would have managed to surface safely. If he had not pulled Ikezawa with him during the emergency surfacing, they would not have been hospitalised.

Kanna meets Senzaki's colleagues at Ocean and hears from them about Senzaki's injury. Yoshioka asks Kanna to visit Senzaki at the hospital.

As a result of this incident, the HQ thinks that if Ikezawa and Senzaki cause any more trouble in future, they would have to be taken off Nagare but Katsuta defends them and says that Ikezawa did nothing wrong to test Senzaki during training.

Ikezawa's wife, Naoko who is 8 months pregnant comes to visit him and calls him "Ma-kun" which makes him blush. Senzaki is stunned by this and tries to stiffle his giggles at the thought of Ikezawa's nickname. When returning to his ward after seeing the doctor, he sees Kanna who has come to visit him. Kanna says that they should start from as friends again. Although Senzaki is disappointed, he agrees to her suggestion and feels that it is better than Kanna avoiding him. Senzaki also happens to see Naoko crying outside the ward because she's worried for Ikezawa.

Ikezawa and Senzaki return to Nagare after a few days and Katsuta reminds them that he would not interfere in their training as long as there's no casualties. At night, the two meet in the bathroom and Ikezawa makes Senzaki swear not to tell the others about his nickname.

On the off day for the Nagare crew, Senzaki and Kanna go for a date at the aquarium while Shimokawa comes to his ex-wife's shop to pick up his daughter, Yui and plans to go to the amusement park with her. Ikezawa goes home to spend time with Naoko and suddenly feels that his eyesight is distorted but he does not tell Naoko.

However, the holiday is disrupted due to a urgent mission to save a ship which has hit the rocks. As such, the crew is recalled.

Shimokawa has no choice but to let Yui take the train home alone and can only look helplessly at her disappointed face. Ikezawa cannot eat lunch with Naoko and leaves her behind, looking very worried. While Senzaki and Kanna are kissing, his handphone rings and he has to return to Nagare.

Kanna is unable to accept his sudden departure and insists on finding out the reason. She even suspects that he is two-timing her but Senzaki tells her that he has to rush back for a mission. He says that this will happen very often if they are to continue seeing each other which makes Kanna thoughtful about whether she can bear this...

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The action scene for this episode is the training scene which can keep you at the edge of your seat. Well, although Ikezawa's action seemed like a prank initially, when you finally see why he is doing this, I have to applaud him for his thinking. Yes, there is a chance that you might have to share the oxygen supply with your buddy in case something happens to the oxygen tank. Being able to keep calm underwater is a prerequisite to keeping yourself alive despite the circumstances. It's clear that Senzaki still has a long way to go and he should be able to learn a lot from Ikezawa. However, seeing Ikezawa having some problems with his vision, this is a sign that something is wrong with his body and his career might be prematurely ended.

The highlight this episode is more on the emotional aspect as compared to the earlier episodes which focus more on action. Being left behind because your husband/father/boyfriend is recalled...I think I can see how upset their family members feel. However, it's a tough choice and extremely difficult to balance work with family so the anguish really gets to you.

Ratings-wise, this is going on a downhill ride but I guess it should stablise around the 12-14% mark by mid-season. However, the point now is to keep the plot engaging or else it might just fall below the 10% mark despite the massive budget for this drama. Personally, I think action works better for Umizaru so they can do more about that rather than focusing on the emotional aspect.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review of Umizaru Ep 2

Ep 2: Sensuishi Uagasezu (The diver who doesn't float to the surface)
O.A. 12 July 05
Ratings: 13.9%

Due to the failure of the rescue mission, the captain of Asian Trip, Uchida dies before the divers get to him again. Senzaki is unable to comprehend why Ikezawa decided to save the young crew first instead of the much older Uchida and feels that they should have saved the weaker Uchida first.

As a result of this incident, the HQ wonders if ths has to do with Senzaki but the captain, Katsuta gives an ambiguous answer saying that no newbie doesn't commit mistakes and doesn't commit as to whether the failure was due to Senzaki. The investigation officer goes to Shimokawa who tells him that if he wants to have a 100% successful rescue operation, he might as well use robots since human beings are prone to mistakes.

Shimokawa returns to Nagare and tells Ikezawa to be less aloof towards Senzaki since he is Ikezawa's new buddy. He retorts that Shimokawa should give him a more capable buddy instead of asking him to take charge of a newbie. Shimokawa sees through the reason why Ikezawa decided not to save the captain, Uchida first and Ikezawa had then deliberately gave Uchida ambiguous words to keep his motivation high. In fact, Ikezawa knew that Senzaki was inexperienced and did not want to risk saving Uchida first as this would be dangerous for a newbie to do so. As such, due to the higher chance of saving the younger crew member, Ikezawa made his decision accordingly. This conversation is accidentally overheard by Senzaki who realises how naive he had been when he questioned Ikezawa's decision.

During lunch, Senzaki goes to Ikezawa and reveals that he made some promises to Uchida which made the latter lose his determination to hang on. Ikezawa gets angry and almost thrashes Senzaki but leaves in a huff after being stopped by the others.

Chika calls Kanna and tells her that she has 2 tickets to a musical. Kanna agrees to go and Chika misunderstands that she's going to ask Senzaki to accompany her. However, Kanna does not intend to tell Senzaki and Chika reminds her to be frank with him soon as he is still under the impression that they are dating. Kanna asks her superior, Fuyushiba to go for the musical but he rejects her, saying that he is playing soccer with his friends.

Senzaki calls Kanna and intends to confide his problems to her but she's not too enthusiastic about speaking to him. He asks her out on Sunday but Kanna lies that she is busy with work.

That night, Senzaki and his colleagues go to Ocean to have dinner and bump into Kanna there. There is an uncomfortable silence between the two. Just then, Chika returns to the restaurant and misunderstands that Kanna has decided to ask Senzaki out for the musical after all. He realises that Kanna does not intend to go with him and returns the ticket to her before leaving Ocean.

There is a new mission for Nagare where they are to save a crew from a China-registered ship which is sinking due to cracks at the bottom. Senzaki is tense because of what happened previously. Shimokawa reassures him that he might have saved the captain first instead of what Ikezawa did and reminds Senzaki not to forget that he's not inferior to Ikezawa and is his buddy on equal standing.

After saving the crew members from the Chinese ship, Lai Feng, Senzaki senses that the crew seem to be uneasy about something which is also noticed by Ikezawa. As such, they decide to return to the sinking ship to search and Shimokawa gives them 3 mins to do so.

Senzaki and Ikezawa finds that there are 2 people being trapped in a compartment and they are illegal immigrants from China. However, as the door is locked, the two take a long time to break the lock while water is gushing into the ship. When they finally get to the illegal immigrants, Ikezawa tells Senzaki to bring one of them back to the surface and gets the other guy. However, the guy attacks Ikezawa in a state of panic and the latter almost loses consciousness but Senzaki returns with another diver to save them.

At the same time, Kanna feels bad about what happen in Ocean and calls Senzaki. She leaves a voice message for him, saying that they should meet up once to talk things over...
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To me, the highlight of this episode is the rescue scene where they were rushing against time to save those illegal immigrants while the ship was sinking. Looking at how realistic the rescue scenes looked for these past 2 episodes, I simply wonder how much money they have spent on this drama so far. And we are not even at the halfway mark of the season. However, I like the action scenes very much so I'm not really complaining.

On the relationship-side, I guess things between Senzaki and Ikezawa are going to improve now that he has saved Ikezawa once even though Ikezawa said before that there will be no chance of Senzaki having to save him. Maybe this episode will make him treat Senzaki with a better attitude.

As for Senzaki's relationship with Kanna, he finally realises that things are not what he has assumed all along since she lied to him that she was busy with work and yet could go to a musical on the same day. Maybe after talking things out next week, we might get an idea of where this is going...

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Review of Umizaru Ep 1

Ep 1: Unmei no Maku Hirake (The screen on life is lifted)
O.A. 5 July 05
Ratings: 17.8%

Senzaki Daisuke (Ito Hideaki) is a rescue diver at Fukuoka's Coast Guard for the past one year. He was previously a salesman from a health food company but made the switch to be a diver because he was bored with his life and wanted to rescue people. He is informed of his transfer to Yokohama's Coast Guard and calls his "girlfriend", Izawa Kanna who is flustered by his move while moving house to Yokohama. Her friend Mitsumori Chika who is helping her, notices Kanna's weird expression but she just says that her friend is moving to Yokohama and does not reveal her relationship with Senzaki.

Senzaki is assigned to work on board a patrol ship, Nagare which is a small and old vessel and he feels quite disappointed upon seeing the ship. He is brought around by Yoshioka Tetsuya (Sato Ryuta) but bullies him once he finds out that Yoshioka is younger than him.

Senzaki is introduced to the crew on Nagare by the captain, Katsuta and he finds out that his buddy is Ikezawa Masaki who is cool and gives him the cold shoulder. Actually, Katsuta and the head of the divers team, Shimokawa have their reservations about letting Senzaki join them but Katsuta wants to give Senzaki a chance before passing judgement.

(If you have watched the movie, you would have known that during the practical exam, Senzaki's partner was trapped underwater and he caused a bit of trouble because of his inability to save his buddy. Even though their instructors called for reinforcements to save them, his training mates did not wait for help and went ahead to save the duo even though they were not allowed to. That resulted in an inquiry of the instructors where Senzaki and his teammates defended them. As such, this incident earned that batch of trainees a bad reputation so people were wary about them causing trouble.)

During the welcome party at Ocean (a restaurant), Senzaki is having dinner with his diving teammates and Yoshioka while talking about Kanna. At the same time, Kanna is at the same restaurant (she lives upstairs) and talks about her relationship with Senzaki. She does not know how to categorise their relationship and doesn't regard him as her boyfriend since they only met once during this year.

Senzaki spots Kanna and drags her to his friends so as to introduce her as his girlfriend. Kanna is in a fluster and goes home to calm down since she did not expect to see Senzaki.

Senzaki returns to Nagare and sees Ikezawa doing some training. He tries to talk to him but Ikezawa remains cold towards him. Senzaki finds out from Yoshioka that Ikezawa used to be a special diver from the elite team.

That night, a ship named Asian Trip is submerged due to its clash against some rocks so Nagare is sent to save the crew of the ship. Ikezawa and Senzaki have to search for the survivors with their other teammates and find 2 of them in the cabin filled with water. Ikezawa makes the decision to save the younger man since they only have equipment to save one man at a time. Before Senzaki leaves, he promises the elderly captain that he will return. However, when Ikezawa returns to the cabin with his other teammates, the captain has disappeared...

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Firstly, for those who have not watched the movie, you might be lost about some of the developments in this debut episode e.g. how Senzaki and Kanna knew and fell in love, what is Mr Densha Otoko doing in this drama (his character died in the movie due to drowning while saving someone), what is Karina doing in the drama. However, there are some flashback scenes from the movie which should help you understand how the plot develops.

In my opinion, I found the first episode pretty entertaining and it throws up some issues to consider.

- What is it that is stopping Kanna from acknowledging Senzaki as her boyfriend? What kind of doubts and worries does she has towards their future?

From what I see, Kanna doesn't seem to feel secure with Senzaki even though they did fall in love last summer. However, due to the distance between them, she was in Tokyo and he in Fukuoka, this has made their relationship appear more platonic than what Senzaki sees it. Alternatively, I can say that Kanna's passion for Senzaki has sort of cooled down. Besides, the nature of his job seems to make Kanna wonder if she can live with the fear that he might die suddenly due to a mishap.

- Why does Ikezawa behave so coldly to people and what is he doing on Nagare even though he used to be a diver from the elite team?

Well, if I'm correct, something must have happened e.g. a buddy died or something which changed his character. And when you see him talking to someone on his mobile phone (most probably his wife), he was so gentle and caring thus I don't think he's aloof by nature.

- If Senzaki and Ikezawa had saved the elderly captain first, would it have resulted in the younger crew member being saved too since he should be able to hold out longer than the older man? Was there a mistake here when making the decision?

There is no definite answer. I do not know what is the basis of their decision and they really had to leave someone behind first since there was only one set of diving gear. As such, if they had considered that the captain could not be able to wait for the next team of divers, they may have taken him with them. Instead, Ikezawa chose to save the younger man first thus I'm guessing that this is due to the fact that he might have a higher chance of survival than the captain.

Last but not least, the theme song, Ocean by B'z is very good. Well, that's sort of expected from them but the ending credits was too short to hear it in full so when the single is released, I can get a clearer picture of the song's meaning. It's a ballad in rock style, try thinking of Konya Tsuki Mieru Okani (Beautiful Life) which is similar in terms of the tempo.

I'm most probably going to stay on. Well, the story attracts me but the main attraction in the cast is not Ito Hideaki but rather Nakamura Toru. I never knew that he was so well-built and when you see him perform push-ups topless, I doubt most female viewers can stop drooling...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Preview of Umizaru (drama series) - Summer 2005

Cast

Senzaki Daisuke - Ito Hideaki
Izawa Kanna - Kato Ai
Ikezawa Maki - Nakamura Toru
Yoshioka Tetsuya - Sato Ryuta
Komori Chika - Sato Hitomi
Fuyushiba Kosuke - Suzuki Kazuma
Katsuda Kotaro - Natsuyagi Isao

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Review of Kokuhaku (Confession)

I didn't watch Kokuhaku in a cinema but rather, it was on board a dimly-lit plane using a very small screen. As such, this may have affected the way I felt about the movie since the sound effects and scale of viewing were very different. However, I wouldn't go as far as saying that this had a radical impact on my thoughts about the film because I will be focusing more on the story and acting in this review.

True to the film's title, the movie starts off with a confession by a junior high school teacher Moriguchi Yuko. She announces her resignation and goes into details on what led to this. Initially, her class is rowdy and no one seems to be listening to her monologue. However, as more information is divulged and the students start to realise the seriousness of Moriguchi's tale, they gradually pay attention to what she's saying. No doubt Moriguchi sounds as if she's talking about someone else (her tone is calm and lacks emotion), you can hear the anger and pain in her subdued words as she describes her revenge against the two students who killed her daughter. The final revelation that she did something to the culprits makes them freak out and this marks the beginning of the journey of revenge Moriguchi has embarked on.

Moriguchi leaves the school and the students seem to have forgotten about what she said. However, the lingering impact on the culprits cause a lot of problems as one is constantly being bullied in school while the other refuses to go to school. Along the way, there is more information as to why these two teens resorted to murder. Just when you think that Moriguchi's revenge had ended when she resigned, her final step in completing the process just leaves you gasping at how detailed and comprehensive her revenge is. She doesn't have to kill the culprits directly. What she did was even more damaging than that.

The star of this movie is Matsu Takako. Sometimes, the lead actor/actress may not be the most eye-catching but Matsu really shines in this. She doesn't appear throughout the movie but just the first part of her confession to her class of junior high students is enough to win her lots of accolades. This is especially impressive because the limited amount of screen time makes it even more difficult for her to drive her message across. She doesn't need to resort to hysterics or exaggerated expressions with her subdued acting. This is the first time I've seen something from her and I'm convinced that she has come a long way since her Long Vacation/Love Generation days when she always played goody-two-shoes roles.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have Kimura Yoshino who has to deliver a very intense performance as the mother of one of the culprits. Her role is one who loves her son so much that she believes in him blindly and blames everyone else for her son's eccentric behaviour after Moriguchi's revelation. It really got on my nerves to see how Kimura's character was so obsessed with believing that her son is just an innocent boy victimised although I understood how much she loved her son. If Matsu's acting in this movie is like a stream flowing steadily, Kimura's version is more like rapids surging ahead. Kimura also did very well in this movie but I guess Matsu's confession scene is very hard to beat. Kimura also had some teething problems in the past when she was restricted to nice girls' roles but she's also had lots of exposure in recent years playing very different roles. It's nice to see these actresses moving on to try a variety of roles and open up even more opportunities along the way.

Okada Masaki started to appear in the middle of the movie as the new form teacher after Moriguchi's departure and he really got on my nerves as a passionate and hot blood teacher. I liked him when he was in HanaKimi but I've not really followed his progress since then. I think the hairstyle was what irked me as well. Anyway, you'll sympathise with him as the story goes along because he's always been fighting an uphill battle to get the culprits to blend in with the class. Not knowing what had happened was to his disadvantage after all.

I didn't expect the ending to be in this manner. I was thinking that it might be a conventional conclusion to a controversial story but I'm glad that there was this surprise waiting for me at the end. Nonetheless, I think the way Moriguchi concluded her journey of revenge was something the censors didn't want kids to learn from so that's why it was restricted to cinema-goers of a certain age. Sometimes, revenge doesn't have to be done in a violent manner but I think Moriguchi's method had a greater impact on her daughter's murderers because it totally destroyed them emotionally.

Although I was pretty impressed with the movie's beginning and ending, the central portion was quite slow and draggy. This sort of slowed down the pace and suspense built up by the crucial confession scene so I thought it was a pity. I wouldn't go as far to say that this movie is over-hyped but I must say that it could be better if the central part could move more quickly.

And my ratings for this movie...
Story: 7 out of 10 (The pace could have been adjusted to make things move more quickly but I like the beginning and ending)
Acting: 9 out of 10 (This is for Matsu Takako and Kimura Yoshino)
Theme song: 4 out of 10 (The BGM didn't really leave an impression on me)
Visual effects / Scenery: 6 out of 10 (This was for the final revenge scene on one of the culprits. Other than that, there aren't a lot of visual effects/scenery to speak of)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 3 out of 10 (Not much interaction among the characters so no chemistry to speak of)

Total: 29 out of 50

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Trivia of Koi ni Ochitara

Trivia of Koi no Ochitara

Here's some of the FAQ asked by viewers and answered by the staff of Koi ni Ochitara where you can find out more on the drama:

1) The theme song was written by Crystal Kay specially for the drama thus you will see that the lyrics are reflective of the plot.

2) Shimao's house is set at Chuo-ku where there's a street of nostalgic feel.

3) The master of Rioha (the bar where Frontier staff frequent), Mamoruko (Sato Eriko) provides free food or wine to whoever she feels like giving to without any special preference.

4) The staff in Frontier know about Kirino and Takayanagi being ex-lovers even though nobody brings this up. It is considered an open secret.

5) About who has more power, Kamiya is the director of the management office while Kirino is the chief of the management office. In terms of work affairs, Kirino has the authority to make decisions while Kamiya has more power since he's in the management board. However, the managing of the department is done by Kirino who's also a founding member of Frontier.

6) In Ep 4, the song sung at Roppongi Hills is Torandoto~Dare mo Netewa Naranu. The actor who plays Michele is Thomas Harper.

7) The original soundtrack of the drama was released on 25 May by EPIC Records Japan.

8) The shooting of the office scenes are done at two places. For the main office which looks like a maze, it is actually a real IT company, Aim Factory located in Roppongi Hills while the management office where most of the action takes place is a special set constructed by the staff.

9) The bar is named "Rioha" after a place located in northern Spain which is famous for producing wine.

10) Shimao and Ryuta have been neighbours and friends since kindergarten.

11) It took about 10 takes for the scene in the first episode where Shimao and Kaori fell into the swimming pool in Hawaii to be completed. This was because they were wearing suits and found it hard to float to the surface of the pool.

12) The name "Shimao" was given by his mother because she loved to go to the southern islands. That is why Shimao brought his mother to Hawaii to experience the similar atmosphere when he won the lucky spin.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Review of Koi ni Ochitara Ep 11

Ep 11: Hills ni Koishite (Falling In Love with the Hills)
O.A. 23 June 05
Ratings: 18.3%

Shimao, Takayanagi, Kaori, Kamiya, Kirino set up the new company, Suzuki Neji in order to make their comeback. They set up operations at Shimao's nail factory with Mariko and Ryuta helping them out on miscellaneous stuff. Shimao is hard at work to create a new portal site while the rest search for potential clients to use the site. In addition, Miyazawa also comes to join them after leaving Frontier.

Sakuraba is worried about Suzuki Neji posing a threat to him and tells the acting CEO, Tachibana to keep watching them. Fujii chips in with her view and is scolded by Tachibana which makes her furious.

Under the pressure of Sakuraba, nobody dares to sign any contracts with Suzuki Neji. However, a trading company, Miyakami Shoji expresses interest in the portal site but wishes to reduce the security level as it will be a burden to their server if they stick to the current format. Takayanagi expresses this to Shimao who refuses to compromise the security system for the sake of making the business deal. At the same time, Takayanagi receives a call from Sakuraba asking him to return to Frontier as the CEO.

Shimao finally finishes the creating of the portal site and celebrates with his colleagues. Mariko also proposes to Ryuta and he is delirious with joy.

The access statistics of Suzuki Neji's web portal are not encouraging but Shimao refuses to make any changes to the security for the sake of pleasing Miyakami Shoji. Takayanagi also confides in Kirino about Sakuraba's offer to go back to Frontier.

Out of a sudden, Shimao tells Takayanagi that he's willing to amend the portal site while Takayanagi is thoughtful about what he should do when he sees how engrossed Shimao is in the writing of programmes that he eats boiled eggs all the time and doesn't even realise that people are calling him.

Shimao and Takayanagi go to Miyakami Shoji to discuss the business deal. However, Takayanagi flares up at the person-in-charge who thinks that changing of programmes is so easy and blows the deal. However, Shimao is happy about Takayanagi's reaction even things are looking increasingly bleak for them.

Takayanagi goes to Sakuraba and rejects his offer to return to Frontier. As the staff mope over the operating figures, a phone call from major service provider, Bright Online proves to be their lifeline as Suzuki Neji makes its first deal from the portal it created. As a result, Suzuki Neji grows quickly and even takes over Frontier where Takayanagi returns to be the CEO. However, Shimao doesn't return to Frontier and restarts the family nail business while still carrying on with the IT business of Suzuki Neji with Kaori...

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This is the best finale I've seen this season so far from the dramas I'm watching. I watched three finales yesterday and the first two made me curse and swear at how illogical it was but this was really good. Of course, I had already guessed that Shimao and Takayanagi will become successful again but the way it was done did not seemed like a forceful twist of the plot. Besides, those two were so funny in this episode where Shimao teased Takayanagi for blowing up at their client. Although they did not show Shimao getting married to Kaori, by the looks of it, Kaori wearing casual clothes at his home seems to signify that they are already married at the end.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Review of Koi ni Ochitara Ep 10

Ep 10: Kokuhaku (Confession)
O.A. 16 June 05
Ratings: 16.6%

After being forced to give up his CEO position in Frontier, Shimao stays at home, moping through the day while waiting for time to pass. On the other hand, Takayanagi gets moral support from Kirino and goes around seeking financing and support for his new company. However, without the proven brand name, Frontier as his backing, Takayanagi discovers that he means nothing to those people and encounters lots of rejections. In addition, the enemies he had made so far take the chance to turn on him and subject him to further humiliation.

At Frontier, it is controlled by the puppet CEO, Tachibana who listens to what Sakuraba from Lloyd Brothers. As they force their way of doing things on the staff, Kamiya, Miyasawa, Kaori and Fujii lament that things were better when Takayanagi and Shimao were the CEO since they let their staff have independence in their work.

Mariko and Ryuta try to cheer Shimao up but he keeps wallowing in despair over the loss of Frontier to Sakuraba. Kaori comes to look for Shimao but he tells her not to come and look for him again. Shimao feels that everyone is pitying and mocking him for what has happened and continues to keep to himself. On the other hand, Takayanagi continues to be rejected by his prospective business partners and Kirino mentions Shimao to him.

Takayanagi comes to Shimao and says that if not for Shimao, he might not have undergone a change. However, Shimao does not appreciate his words and uses Takayanagi's past argument that money can buy anything to rebuke him. Takayangai does not get angry and simply says that he realises that money cannot buy everything. He also apologises to Shimao for causing unhappiness as a result of his visit.

Kaori comes to Shimao's home but he does not meet her. Kaori passes the metal robot to Mariko who had come home and leaves hurriedly. Shimao tells Mariko that he plans to operate the family nail and screw family business but she objects to it since Shimao is not really interested in this and just wants a place to escape to.

Kamiya quits from Frontier when Sakuraba and Tachibana tell him to follow orders just to do favours to some politicians instead of having the company's interests at heart.

Shimao goes out drinking with Ryuta who tells him that Mariko only wants Shimao to be happy when she objected to operating the family business again. Kirino also comes to Shimao and persuades him to help Takayanagi build a new business which Shimao agrees to after seeing how Takayanagi has swallowed his pride just to get help.

Shimao returns home and tells Mariko that he will join Takayanagi in setting up the new company. At the same time, Shimao sees the robot which Kaori brought for him and runs to apologise to her as well as confess his feelings for her...

Shimao and Takayanagi go to Roppongi Hills where Frontier is located in. They vow to regain what they've lost when Kamiya joins them and reveals that he has left Frontier.

The group sets up the new company in Shimao's place where the factory used to be. Kaori also quits from Frontier and joins Shimao and Takayanagi's new company...

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Again, the pace of this episode is so fast. I like it this way rather than dragging your feet over unnecessary things.

At the beginning, we see the contrasting behaviour between Takayangi and Shimao when it comes to handling failure. Actually, both of them have moral support in the form of Kirino and Kaori. However, Takayanagi welcomes his support with open arms while Shimao thinks that Kaori is just mocking him and turns her away. I really had the urge to thrash Shimao for behaving like a real make-inu (defeated dog i.e. people who wallow in despair after failure) and yet had the cheek to accuse Takayanagi of being one. There's nothing wrong with failure. Just look at Takayanagi. He's older than Shimao and yet has to start from scratch again. He also has to contend with criticism and sarcasm from the people he had treated badly in the past. Now who is having a more difficult time?

Luckily, this make-inu behaviour didn't carry on for long or else this episode would be so boring. When Takayanagi, Shimao and Kamiya stood at Roppongi Hills and looked up at the building, it was so cool! Next week would be the final episode and from the trailer, someone is getting married! They didn't show Shimao and Kaori in the audience so could it be them? It's definitely not Takayanagi and Kirino since they were in the audience.

Actually, I found that Kusanagi has done OK in this drama but what I don't like is the fact that he's so skinny and doesn't have the commanding presence when he was the CEO. I know this is something which cannot be changed but when he stands beside Matsushita Nao, the difference in their heights made the combination seem lop-sided and unnatural. I had never associated Kusanagi as being vertically challenged until I saw this drama. Does this combination look more awkward than the Kimura Takuya-Koyuki combination in Engine? I guess it's up to your own opinion...

My attention is on Tsutsumi Shinichi throughout the drama. He has performed so well that I think he deserves an award at the end of the season! Frankly speaking, he's the brightest spot in the cast and has a very good role as a CEO who was successful and arrogant to being reduced to nothing and starting from scratch. Seeing him looking so sad when he was being ridiculed by his past enemies made me feel for him.