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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Preview of "Guu Guu datte Neko de aru" - Autumn 2014

Title: Guu Guu datte Neko de aru
Official website: here
O.A. Start Date: 18 October 2014
Timeslot: Saturdays 10pm
Broadcast by: WOWOW
Original manga by: Oshima Yumiko
Director: Inudo Isshin
Cast: Miyazawa Rie, Nagatsuka Keishi, Kuroki Haru, Nakaoka Soichi, Ichikawa Miwako, Kikuchi Rinko, Iwamatsu Ryo, Tanaka Min

Ozawa Maju gives birth to baby girl

Ozawa Maju announced through her Facebook page on 29 August that she had given birth to her daughter a day earlier. In her statement, Ozawa mentioned that both her daughter and her are doing well and revealed that tears started to flow uncontrollably when she heard her daughter's cries for the first time. Ozawa also commented that it is a happy thing for her to be looking at her daughter's sleeping face and pledged to work hard at being a mother and continue working as an actress in future.

Ozawa got married to a dentist 8 years younger than her in February this year and this is the couple's first child.

Source: Sponichi

First-day-screening event of new movie "Lupin Sansei"

The first-day-screening event of new movie "Lupin Sansei" was held on 30 August in TOHO Cinemas Nichigeki 1 at Yurakucho which was attended by the cast Oguri Shun, Kuroki Meisa, Asano Tadanobu, Tamayama Tetsuji and Ayano Go as well as the director Kitamura Ryuhei. According to the movie company Toho, the movie has already broken the JPY 3 billion mark in box office takings which is higher than Oguri's previous movie "Crows ZERO II" in 2009.

Source: Sanspo

Hasegawa Kyoko to star in FujiTV drama SP "Natsu no Owari ni, Koi wo Shita"

Hasegawa Kyoko will be starring in the FujiTV drama SP "Natsu no Owari ni, Koi wo Shita" (Fell in love at the end of summer) which will be shown at 11pm on 26 September. This is the first drama which has a tie-up with luxury brand Tiffany and will be shot entirely in New York. The love comedy which is written by Kitagawa Eriko, will be Hasegawa's first drama in a leading role since TV Asahi's "Angel Bank" in 2010. Hasegawa's romantic interest in this SP will be played by Kudo Asuka. The two of them had appeared in the NHK Taiga "Yae no Sakura" as Yae's sister-in-law and Yae's younger brother so this will be the second time they are working together.

Hasegawa will play the role of Chikage, a woman who is around the age of 40 years old and gets dumped by Tomonori (Tanihara Shosuke), her boyfriend of 5 years, who is going to marry a younger woman Nanami (Nanao). When she hears that Tomonori and Nanami are heading to New York for their honeymoon, she tails them there and accidentally comes to know Shunpei (Kudo Asuka), a Japanese studying there. Chikage and Shunpei then end up falling in love but the day of her return to Japan is approaching soon...

Source: Sanspo

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Esumi Makiko exposed for allegedly instigating former manager to commit vandalism

According to the 28th August issue of "Shukan Bunshun", Esumi Makiko's former manager was reported to have exposed her for instigating him to commit vandalism at  former pro-baseball player Nagashima Kazushige's new house back in 2012 due to a feud with the latter's wife. The manager who was working with Esumi at that time before she left her agency Ken-On in March this year and is still currently being employed by Ken-On, admitted to using spray paint to write abusive words such as "fool", "idiot" and "stupid son" on the outside walls of Nagashima's newly-built house in late 2012 which were published in the magazine. The manager also admitted to receiving JPY 100,000 for buying the spray paint. Industry insiders speculated that this manager could have been misled into thinking that Esumi's daughter had been bullied in school and that he was merely helping Esumi and had no  personal grudge against the Nagashima family.

Apparently, the reason why this case came to light arose from the bullying controversy which Esumi had revealed recently on her blog. In her post one month ago, she had said that she was bullied by another group of mothers whose children are attending the same private school as her eldest daughter and that she had no idea why she was treated in this manner. However, soon after her post came to light, there was a report in Shukan Bunshun which had accused Esumi of being the bullying party rather than the victim and was said to have stirred up trouble among some of the mothers by telling untrue stories after receiving complaints from some of the members in the group said to be at odds with Esumi. At that time, the Nagashima family was not mentioned in such reports although it was hinted that one of the mothers in the rival group had celebrity connections. According to Shukan Bunshun's report, it was believed that Nagashima's wife is the leader of the group of mothers at odds with Esumi thus the vandalism act was said to be directed at her.

Ever since the report came to light, neither Esumi nor Nagashima have released any comments confirming or denying the story.

This is the second big crisis in Esumi's career ever since she was exposed for not paying the national pension insurance premium for 17 years despite being the image character of the campaign to promote prompt payment of the premiums. As a result, she had her CM deals withdrawn and had to take a break from acting until she bounced back into the limelight due to Ken-On's strong industry influence. However, it is believed that since she had already left Ken-On and that the agency would not want anything to do with this scandal, Esumi will find it more difficult to overcome this crisis especially if it is proven that the report is true.

Before this scandal, Esumi had declared widely that she is planning to retire from showbiz when she hits 50 years old i.e. three years later. However, due to this issue, she might have to retire sooner than expected if things get out of hand.

Source: Tokyo Sports Web / Real Live

Top 10 bands that fans wish to see again (Oricon)

The following is the list of top 10 bands that survey respondents wish to see again after they disbanded. Dates in brackets indicate when the bands were dissolved or stopped their group activities:

1) JUDY AND MARY (March 2001)

2) BOOWY (April 1988)

3) THE YELLOW MONKEY (July 2004)

4) THE CHECKERS (December 1992)

5) ZONE (April 2013)

6) Princess Princess (December 2012)

7) ELLEGARDEN (May 2008)

8) Off Course (February 1989)

9) THE BLUE HEARTS (1995)

10) FUNKY MONKEY BABYS (June 2013)

Source: Oricon

Oizumi Yo, Mitsushima Hikari & Toda Erika in new movie "Kakekomi Onna to Kakedashi Otoko"

Oizumi Yo, Mitsushima Hikari and Toda Erika will be starring in the new movie "Kakekomi Onna to Kakedashi Otoko" (The woman who wants to get in and the man who wants to get out) which is based on the last work of late writer Inoue Hisashi. The movie which will be set in cinemas in May 2015, is set in the latter part of the Edo era where women who wanted to get a divorce from their husbands would escape into a temple for protection (kakekomi).

Oizumi plays the role of an aspiring writer who is just starting out as a doctor and staying at a place near Tokeiji (a temple in Kamakura). Tokeiji was recognised then by the Edo government as an official institution providing aid and shelter to women who wanted to get divorced. Through his interaction with the women staying there, Oizumi's character uses unusual methods to help them achieve their aims and begin new lives. As Oizumi's character has to say long lines quickly, he was seen as the best candidate to take up this role. His co-stars Toda and Mitsushima play women who take shelter at Tokeiji and get Oizumi's help. This is Toda's first attempt at a period movie but she overcame her initial apprehension over this and was very happy by the time she completed filming for this movie.

Filming was done at Engyoji, a temple in Himeji, Hyogo, and places such as the Shochiku studio in Kyoto between February and April this year.

Source: Sponichi

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hey! Say! JUMP's Yamada Ryosuke to star in new movie "Ansatsu Kyoshitsu"

Hey! Say! JUMP's Yamada Ryosuke will be starring in his first leading role in a movie when he appears in the new movie "Ansatsu Kyoshitsu" (Assasination Classroom) which will be shown in cinemas from March 2015. The movie is based on the manga by Matsui Yusei which has released 10 volumes and accumulated sales of 10 million copies to date. The story is set in a famous junior high school where the worst class in the standard i.e. class 3E has a new form teacher who appears in a octopus-form, boasts of various special powers and declares that it will destroy the world in one year. The students in the class are tasked by the government to kill their form teacher and resort to various ways to do so including using guns. Among them, Yamada plays an ordinary student Shiota Nagisa who will have to play a part in eliminating their form teacher. Co-stars include Shiina Kippei who plays the class' assistant form teacher and Suda Masaki who also plays a student in class 3E.

Source: Sanspo

Osawa Takao to star in FujiTV drama SP "Tokyo ni Olympic wo Yonda Otoko"

Osawa Takao plays the lead character Fred Wada Isamu in the upcoming FujiTV drama SP "Tokyo ni Olympic wo Yonda Otoko" which will be shown at 9pm on 11 October. Fred was a Japanese-American who had contributed greatly in helping Tokyo secure the hosting rights of the 1964 Olympics and the drama SP will be based on the intensive research compiled by writer Takasugi Ryo on what Fred had done for the hosting bid.

Fred was a successful businessman who owned a supermarket business in Los Angeles and even offered his house as a hostel for Japanese swimmers who were in the US to take part in the National Swimming Championships there. As such, he was widely regarded as a great contributor to the sporting interaction between US and Japan in the modern era.

Filming began in mid July split between Tokyo and New Zealand where the cast and crew spent 10 days there. Co-stars include Tokiwa Takako who plays Fred's wife Masako, Katsuji Ryo and Nakao Akiyoshi who play swimmers taking part in the swimming championships and staying at Fred's place and Nishida Toshiyuki who plays Tabata Masaji, the chairman of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) that got Fred to help in the Olympic bid.

Source: Sanspo

20th Century reunites on stage for the musical "ON THE TOWN"

V6's sub-unit 20th Century i.e. Sakamoto Masayuki, Nagano Hiroshi and Inohara Yoshihiko will be acting in a musical together for the first time in 10 years when their new stage play "ON THE TOWN" begins its run at Aoyama Theatre between 28 September and 14 October. The trio will play sailors in the comedy-musical set in New York. Although it's been 10 years since they last worked together on stage, Inohara commented that they didn't feel the gap in time and pledged to work hard together. As Aoyama Theatre will be closed next March and was the place where the trio began their pre-debut career as backdancers for Shonentai, Sakamoto commented that they were grateful for what the existence of the theatre in their careers and will try their best to make the musical a success.

Source: Sanspo

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Filming wraps up for NHK morning drama "Hanako to Anne"

The filming for NHK morning drama "Hanako to Anne" finally ended on 26 August at a studio in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture, where the cast met the press to share their thoughts about the drama. Yoshitaka Yuriko who plays the heroine Muraoka Hanako reflected that she will look back upon the 10-month filming period lovingly and is so touched about completing the drama that she was at a loss for words. Co-star Nakama Yukie who plays Hanako's best friend Renko was also at the ceremony and commented that thanks to everyone's hard work, they managed to produce such a brilliant drama.

"Hanako to Anne" is a drama based on the life of Muraoka Hanako who translated "Anne of Green Gables". The drama has enjoyed high ratings throughout its run with its peak up till 25 August at 22.6% when Renko eloped with her lover. The last episode will be shown on 27 September and the next drama to be aired in the same timeslot will be "Massan".

Source: Sanspo

Production press conference of FujiTV afternoon drama "Hottokenai Majotachi"

The production press conference of new FujiTV afternoon drama "Hottokenai Majotachi" was held on 26 August which was attended by the cast members Asano Yuko, Muroi Shigeru, Matsumoto Akiko, Shaku Yumiko and V6's Miyake Ken. The drama will begin its run from 1 September at 1.30pm on weekdays and features the actresses as four sisters. Unlike past afternoon dramas which were tales about love and hatred, this drama will be a light human comedy where the sisters and Miyake's character i.e. a chef at the Italian restaurant owned by Asano solve happenings around them. Asano jokingly said that she's looking forward to developing a relationship with Miyake in the drama and praised him for being so cool and cute that she wants to bring him home. In response, Miyake commented that he has been treated well by the female cast and appreciates their affection for him.

The theme song of this drama "Sky's The Limit" will be sung by V6.

Source: Sanspo

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Takei Emi & Ayano Go to star in FujiTV Autumn 2014 drama "Subete ga F ni naru"

Takei Emi and Ayano Go will be working together in the FujiTV Autumn 2014 drama "Subete ga F ni naru" (Everything becomes F) which begins its run from October in the Tuesdays 9pm timeslot.  This is the first time in four years since they've appeared in the same drama after 2010's "GOLD". The drama is based on the same-titled novel series "S & M Mysteries" by Mori Hiroshi which has sold 3.5 million copies to date and each story will be completed in 2 episodes.

Ayano plays the role of Saikawa Sohei, an associate professor teaching architecture in university, who forms an unlikely partnership with his student Nishinozono Moe, a clever girl from a rich family and has great analytical powers. They become known as the S & M pair because of their initials and combine forces to solve various difficult cases.

Filming will begin next month.

Source: Sanspo

Ichihara Hayato & Mukoyama Shiho expecting their first child


Ichihara Hayato and Mukoyama Shiho who were reported in spring this year to be preparing for marriage but have yet to submit their marriage application, will be parents soon. According to Mukoyama's agency on 25 August, she is currently six months' pregnant and will be due to give birth between the end of this year and early next year. Mukoyama is said to have begun her maternity leave but as to when she will return to work after giving birth, that is yet to be undecided.

The couple got to know each other in the summer of 2011 and were first reported in May 2014 to be making marriage preparations.

Source: Sanspo

Monday, August 25, 2014

Kato Haruhiko gets married after a two-year courtship

Kato Haruhiko married his girlfriend of two years who's in her 30s in late July as reported on 24 August. Kato's wife is currently working at a TV station in Nagoya which is also his hometown. The couple were said to have known each other through a mutual acquaintance when Kato was commuting between Nagoya and Tokyo for work. The couple will still be based in Nagoya with Kato commuting to Tokyo for work when the need arises.

When interviewed, Kato confirmed the news and expressed his wish to have a child soon although his wife is not pregnant yet.

Source: Nikkansports

Friday, August 22, 2014

Nakama Yukie to star in TBS autumn 2014 drama "SAKURA ~ Jiken wo Kiku Onna ~"

Nakama Yukie will be starring in the TBS autumn 2014 drama "SAKURA ~ Jiken wo Kiku Onna ~" (SAKURA ~ The woman who listens to cases) which will begin its run from 20 October in the Mondays 8pm timeslot. The first episode which will be a 2-hour SP, will start from 7pm instead. This is the first time in 7 years that Nakama is playing a police detective since 2007's TBS drama "Joshideka!".

Nakama will play the role of an undercover police detective Mizusawa Sakura who works as a DJ at a radio station in the morning and as a customer service officer at the Komagome Chuo Police Station in the afternoon where she listens to the complaints of the residents. Through the collection of intelligence via these mediums and listening to the regulars at a restaurant she frequents, Sakura uses the information to solve cases together with her partner played by Sato Ryuta.

Filming will begin in early September after Nakama wraps up filming for the ongoing NHK morning drama "Hanako to Anne" at the end of this month.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Completion press conference of new movie "Kami no Tsuki"

The completion press conference of new movie "Kami no Tsuki" was held in Tokyo on 21 August which was attended by the cast Miyazawa Rie, Oshima Yuko and Kobayashi Satomi as well as the author of the original novel Kakuta Mitsuyo and the director Yoshida Daihachi. The movie will be shown in cinemas from 15 November.

Miyazawa plays the role of an ordinary OL working at a bank who has a extramarital affair with a man younger than her and ends up embezzling money from her employer. This is Miyazawa's first leading role in a movie in 7 years and she commented that she felt as if the energy built up during this period was all used up in the movie and expressed disbelief at seeing a different side of herself in the movie which she had not known before.

As for Oshima who plays Miyazawa's colleague, this is her first movie appearance since graduating from AKB48 and she commented that she was very honoured to be working with Miyazawa and Kobayashi who are great actresses.

Source: Sanspo / Nikkansports

Yonekura Ryoko to be back in TV Asahi Autumn 2014 drama "Doctor X ~ Gekai Daimon Michiko ~"

Yonekura Ryoko will be back in the third series of TV Asahi's "Doctor X ~ Gekai Daimon Michiko ~" which is due to begin its run from October in the Thursdays 9pm timeslot. She will play the same role of Daimon Michiko, a freelance surgeon who hates being restricted by power and rules and will be sent to work in the highest medical institution in Japan made up of two rival hospitals in East and West Japan where she will be caught in the power struggle between both sides.

Yonekura commented that she is doing this latest installment as if it is her last and jokingly said that the length of her skirts are getting shorter with each season.

Filming started on 20 August and co-stars include Endo Kenichi, Uchida Yuki, Katsumura Masanobu, Kishibe Ittoku, Ito Shiro, Furuya Ikko, Nishida Toshiyuki as well as new members Watanabe Ikkei, Nakao Akira, Ibu Masato, Takahata Atsuko and Kitaoji Kinya.

Source: Sanspo / Nikkansports

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Oikawa Mitsuhiro & Kuroki Meisa work together in new WOWOW drama "Akka"

Oikawa Mitsuhiro and Kuroki Meisa will be working together in the new WOWOW drama "Akka" (Evil Currency) which consists of 5 episodes and will be shown from November. The drama which is based on the finance suspense novel by Shimada Masahiko, features Oikawa as Nonomiya Fuyuhiko, a mysterious tycoon who tries to destroy the Japanese economy through the use of counterfeit currency and Kuroki as Miyazono Erika, a police detective who tries to stop his plan.

This is Oikawa's first leading role in a drama in 10 years since 2004's TV Asahi drama "Mystery Minzoku Gakusha Yagumo Itsuki". Although he plays good characters most of the time, Oikawa is happy about playing a dark hero this time which is a good form of stress relief. He also praised Kuroki who he is working for the first time, for being a very cheerful person who can switch to becoming a cool beauty quickly which is a trait he deeply admires. As for Kuroki, she commented that her character this time will be a tough one to play so she has to work extra hard on portraying the character.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi / Sponichi

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nakayama Miho reveals the truth behind her divorce

Nakayama Miho who got divorced from musician Tsuji Hitonari in July this year, revealed the truth behind their divorce in the October issue of female magazine "Bi ST" published on 19th August. In the interview, Nakayama revealed that she had already been thinking about divorce some years ago but was persuaded not to do so until her son grows up. However, the turning point came when Nakayama had to return to Japan temporarily for treatment as she was suffering from uterine myoma. At that time when her condition was rather serious, she met another man who went to great lengths to take care of her by looking up suitable treatment methods, finding a hospital for her operation and even taking care of her when she was recuperating. This led to her feeling that it was impossible for her to continue with her marriage.

As for what hurt her the most during the divorce proceedings, it was being labelled as someone who abandoned her child. However, Nakayama revealed that agreeing to give custody of her son to her ex-husband was a condition she had to agree to before she could go through the divorce so there was no way she could do anything about this. With regard to her future, Nakayama said that she had no intention of erasing what happened in the past because she had made the decision out of her own accord and would proceed with her new life from now on.

Source: Oricon

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Happy 8th anniversary and hoping for many more years to come!

It felt not so long ago that I put up the 7th anniversary post on the blog and before I realised it, today's already the 8th anniversary of Dorama World! Somehow, time seems to pass by so quickly especially when you are busy (which I think everyone living in this modern world would be too) but I have to admit that I almost forgot about today amid the daily rush.

Words can't really express how thankful I am for your continued support and for reading my lengthy reviews and news updates. I am glad for the fact that I've been able to post more drama and movie reviews in the past year compared to previously when I could only spare time to do news updates. I'm still trying to do more as I continue to catch up on my ever-expanding list of dramas-watched-but-not-yet-reviewed so please be patient with me in the meantime. I would also welcome recommendations on dramas you've watched and liked. I may or may not watch every recommended drama due to time constraints and personal preferences but I would still like to hear from you so that I can uncover gems which I missed somehow, unwittingly or purposely.

I confess, there were times when I had to stop writing a review halfway because it wasn't going the way I wanted. Maybe it was my mood or fatigue kicking in but it sometimes do take a sudden spark of inspiration or a good mood to write a proper review. Much as I am mindful of the pressure to keep up with updating the blog with new content, I keep reminding myself too that I have to enjoy what I am doing or else I might just take a hiatus again like what I did a few years ago when too many things were clamouring for attention at the same time. This blog is where I turn to for stress relief and reaching out to those who share the same interests in J-ent like I do. In order to keep this blog going for many more years to come, I'll have to strike a balance between being conscientious and not letting this feel like a burden.

Here's ending the anniversary post with a shot of one of the best cakes I've tasted recently. Too bad there wasn't a candle or this would have been a good birthday cake for the blog. ^__^ Once again, thank you for reading this blog and I hope to interact with more readers as we approach the 9th year mark!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Eikura Nana to star in TBS Autumn 2014 drama "N no tame ni"

Eikura Nana will be starring in the new TBS Autumn 2014 drama "N no tame ni" (For the sake of N) which is due to be shown from October in the Fridays 10pm timeslot. The drama which is based on the same-titled novel by popular writer Minato Kanae, is a pure love mystery that will span over 15 years. Eikura plays the role of Nozomi, one of the individuals with a name beginning with N, who happened to be at the crime scene of a murder involving a rich celebrity couple. Through the lives of these people initialed N spanning over 15 years, the truth behind the murders is also revealed.

Nozomi was 17 years old and in the second year of junior high when the murder took place and her life underwent an upheaval after that. She had been born and raised on an island in the Setouchi Inland Sea but was thrown out of her house with her mother after her father brought his lover back home. From a rich man's daughter, Nozomi was thrown into the depths of poverty and had to take care of her mother who became mentally unstable as a result of her husband's infidelity. Later, she moved to Tokyo and the drama will depict her life all the way up till she is 32 years old.

This is the first time that Eikura is participating in a drama based on Minato's works and she commented that she finished the original novel in just one day and was impressed by the complicated human relationships involving the characters. As such, she is thrilled to be able to take on the role of Nozomi and is eagerly awaiting the start of the filming at the end of this month.

Source: Sanspo

Kanjani 8's Maruyama Ryuhei to star in NTV Autumn 2014 drama "Jigoku Sensei Nube"

Kanjani 8 member Maruyama Ryuhei will be taking on his first leading role in a primetime drama when he appears in the NTV Autumn 2014 drama "Jigoku Sensei Nube" which begins its run from October in the Saturdays 9pm timeslot. The drama is based on the same titled manga by Makura Sho and Okano Takeshi that was serialised between 1993 and 1999. Maruyama will play the role of a senior high school teacher by the name of Nueno Meisuke who uses his supernatural powers to protect his students from evil spirits. Even though he is clumsy most of the time, he is well-liked by his students and his left hand is nicknamed "Oni no Te" for its power to ward off evil spirits. Co-stars include Kiritani Mirei, Hayami Mokomichi, Yamamoto Mizuki and Takahashi Hideki.

Source: Sanspo

Review of "Kami no Tsuki" (drama) - Winter 2014

To make it clear, this review is about the drama version of "Kami no Tsuki" (Paper Moon) starring Harada Tomoyo, not the movie version starring Miyazawa Rie which will be shown in cinemas from 15 November. I would assume that the storyline for both versions would be largely the same since they are based on the same novel by Kakuta Mitsuyo.

To begin with, here is a summary of the storyline. As usual, if you do not wish to know the developments nor ending of this drama, please skip this review.

Umezawa Rika (Harada Tomoyo), an ordinary housewife becomes the centre of media attention as she is the suspect in an embezzlement case involving a huge sum of JPY 100m and has skipped town before the police arrested her. The story shows Rika having escaped to a Southeast Asian country (location shooting in Chiangmai, Thailand) as details of what happened to her prior to her escape get disclosed through her reflections and the recollections of her best friends from senior high school i.e. Chujo Aki (Nishida Naomi) and Okazaki Yuko (Mizuno Maki).

Rika came from a very wealthy family and was studying in a private girls' high school when she met Aki and Yuko. Even at this young age, Rika had a strong opinion of her own and would not hesitate to make her point known e.g. object to the school imposing a limit on how much money the students could donate to charity but not on contributing money to the school's expansion. However, Rika's family underwent an upheaval later on, causing them to sell off their assets to pay off their debts. After graduating from college, Rika worked briefly at a credit card company before she met her husband Masafumi (Mitsuishi Ken) and became a housewife. At the suggestion of Aki, Rika later began working part-time at a bank.

On the surface, all seemed fine between Rika and Masafumi. However, Masafumi would from time to time ignore or hurt Rika's feelings by putting her down and emphasizing that her part-time job was nothing compared to his career or avoiding the issue of having children. As time went by, Rika realised that Masafumi would never change his ways and gave up on having children. She also decided to switch to full-time work at the bank since Masafumi had no objections nor supported her decision.

One day, while at a house visit to one of the bank's important customers named Hirabayashi Kozo, Rika meets his grandson Kota. The relationship between Kozo and Kota is far from rosy as Kozo thinks that his family members are just eyeing his fortune. This encounter turns out to be the turning point in Rika's life as she and Kota start to meet up and later develops a relationship. Kota misunderstands that Rika is a rich man's wife and starts to depend on her financially as well. In a bid to keep up appearances and continue supporting Kota's needs, Rika starts to embezzle money from her clients' accounts by forging deposit receipts and tricking them into buying fictitious financial investment products.

When Masafumi gets transferred to Shanghai for work, he automatically assumes that Rika will follow him there. However, Rika's reluctance to give up her job as well as her relationship with Kota makes her say no. By the time Masafumi returns to Japan after his Shanghai stint, he seems to have undergone a change and has become more understanding towards Rika. However, Rika's relationship with Kota has hit the rocks and she has sunk too deep into the financial trap she created for herself that the only way out for her is to go on the run. In a bid to spend time with Masafumi before she does that, Rika agrees to going on a short trip with him and later disappears under the pretext of heading overseas for a friend's wedding.

After Rika's escape, the media goes wild about her case especially how she embezzled money seemingly for the sake of Kota. Surprisingly, Masafumi expresses faith in his wife and even apologises to those affected by what Rika did. Meanwhile, Rika's buddies Aki and Yuko who are concerned about Rika's case and her whereabouts, have their own issues to contend with as well. Aki who appears to be a successful career woman on the surface, suffers from a shopping addiction which led to near bankruptcy for her ex-husband, the breakdown of their marriage and the loss of her daughter's custody to her ex-husband. Years later, Aki tries to reach out to her daughter again but ends up using money to buy the latter whatever she wants in a bid to compensate for the years of neglect and inability to stay with her daughter. However, Aki realises that she is merely repeating the same mistake as she did in the past by spending beyond her means to buy her daughter's love and decides to stop doing it which makes her daughter very angry. On the other hand, Yuko appears to be a happily-married housewife but her obsession with saving money for the family's future, alienates her from her husband and daughter who think that she is going overboard. This makes Yuko feel indignant that her efforts are not appreciated by the people who she is doing all these things for.

Rika is faced with the dilemma of having to extend her visa by crossing over to another country but she is scared of being nabbed if she is flagged as a wanted person at the customs. On the other hand, the toll of being on the run makes Rika toy with the idea of going to the customs anyway since she should be repatriated. At the end of the drama, Rika is shown walking towards the customs checkpoint but it is not stated specifically if she's caught by the authorities or allowed to cross the border without any problems.

Technically, this drama is all about Rika's downward spiral in life. Much of what we know about Rika actually comes from her own narrative and the missing bits and pieces are filled in by those who know her i.e. her husband, close friends and colleagues. To everyone who knows Rika, they cannot understand why she would embezzle so much money and what she had used it on. It may be easy to blame Kota entirely for what happened to Rika but the very first time that Rika used a client's money for her own benefit (although she did put the money back later) was when she bought a range of skincare products for herself. All along, Rika probably wasn't too concerned with her appearance and seemed to be content with being a good wife to Masafumi and wishing to be a mother one day. However, Masafumi's attitude towards her especially when he kept undermining her importance and value in life made her give up in the end and that's when Rika started to do things for her own sake. It's true that Rika subsequently had the need to keep up pretenses to play a rich man's wife in front of Kota and continue earning his respect and admiration and she needed to help him financially as well but I think the awakening of Rika's self-awareness thanks to Masafumi and the subsequent desire to be needed by someone i.e. Kota were the two key factors that led to Rika going out of control. Back then in school, Aki and Yuko already revealed the fact that Rika had the desire to be needed and be important to someone. That trait has never changed over the years thus Kota's appearance was the catalyst that led to this trait being resurrected.

Honestly speaking, I do not think that Rika really loves Kota. She probably wasn't attracted to his looks nor personality in the first place. However, Kota's need for her and her money was what Rika was drawn to. Since Masafumi didn't seem to think of her as being important to him, Rika found her desire to be needed in Kota. That's why she didn't seem overly upset when Kota was seeing another woman later. If she had been truly in love with him, she would have reacted more strongly instead of letting him go so easily.

What I found really surprising was Masafumi's attitude towards Rika after the case came to light and she had skipped town. Going by his obnoxious attitude towards her in the past, I would have expected him to express rage at his wife's affair with Kota and draw a clear line between him and her actions. However, seeing him apologise in public for what she did and him obviously being willing to wait for Rika to come back just seems to suggest that he still had some feelings for her and was ready to reconcile with her if she did come back. Perhaps the time they spent apart did good after all as it made Masafumi see how Rika mattered to him?

Harada Tomoyo who has this air of elegance and pure image all along, was clearly suited for the role of Rika. Just like Rika who was seen to be someone who would stand up for noble causes and didn't look like she had a lot of material desires, Harada had the same type of image. That is why when the case came out into the open, it took many people by surprise because they wouldn't have associated Rika as someone who could commit such an embezzlement case and used that money to support the guy she was having an affair with. She managed to show the fact that Rika probably was more obsessed with being needed rather than having a need for all that money so it did help to push up the sympathy factor for Rika's circumstances. Then again, Rika also needed to be blamed for her obsession in giving to others what they may or may not have wanted. Kota probably didn't expect right from the start that Rika would give him money or meet his needs. However, when that started, Kota got too used to taking while Rika was too hung up over giving until it reached the point of no return. On the other hand, I thought that her chemistry with Mitsushima Shinosuke was a bit lacking which I attributed partly due to the fact that she had to show that love was probably not a key factor in what led to Rika's actions. There was something obviously missing especially in the scene where they slept together for the first time which I think Miyazawa Rie and Ikematsu Sousuke might be able to do better in the movie version.

As for the supporting cast, due to the limited airtime given to them, it was hard for them to make a deep impression since the story is all about Rika. Nonetheless, I thought Aki's story was more interesting compared to Yuko's which was a bit too cliche.

If I am to judge this story solely as a narrative about Rika's downward spiral in life, I think it is quite complete and offers you slightly different perspectives about Rika. However, being too intensive on one person's development gives the impression that the rest of the characters are simply not important and it sort of upsets the balance in the story. For example, Masafumi's change of mind after returning from Shanghai may seem a bit abrupt while Aki and Yuko don't seem too emotionally involved in what happened to Rika and seem to be talking about it as if it was about someone unrelated to them. Before the drama started, it was said that what Rika did was supposed to affect them or change their mindset in a way or another but this was somewhat not so obvious. In this sense, I didn't enjoy this drama too much because it was too heavily skewed towards one person and neglected the developments of the supporting characters too much.

And my ratings for this drama...

Story: 6 out of 10 (There were times when I wished that the pacing would pick up and more attention given to Aki's and Yuko's character developments which would make the story more interesting.)

Acting: 6.5 out of 10 (Harada Tomoyo does a credible job as Rika but too bad the story didn't allow the other actors to have a chance to shine.)

Theme song/BGM: 5 out of 10 (The ending theme did not leave much of an impression on me.)

Visual effects / Scenery: 5 out 10 (Other than the scenes shot in Thailand, and some random outdoor scenes in Japan, there really wasn't much scenery to talk about.)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 5 out of 10 (I don't know if the lack of chemistry between Harada and Mitsushima was on purpose. In addition, due to Rika not having met her friends for most of this drama, there really wasn't much chemistry to speak of.)

Total: 27.5 out of 50

Romaji lyrics of "Tanin no Kankei" by Hitoto Yo feat. SOIL&"PIMP"SESSIONS (Theme song of "Hirugao ~ Heijutsu Gogo Sanji no Koibitotachi")

Title: Tanin no Kankei
Artist: Hitoto Yo feat. SOIL&"PIMP"SESSIONS
Lyrics: Arima Mieko
Melody: Kawaguchi Shin

au toki ni wa itsudemo tanin no futari
yuube wa yuube soshite konya wa konya
kusuguru you na yubi de
hokuro no kazu mo ichi kara kazoe naoshite
souyo hajimete no kao de otagai ni
mata mo moeru no

aishita ato otagai tanin no futari
anata wa anata soshite atashi wa atashi
otonadoushi no koi wa kotori no you ni
itsudemo jiyuu de itai wa
soshite aishiau toki ni nani mo kamo
ubai au no yo

au toki ni wa itsudemo tanin no futari
kimama to kimama soshite otona to otona
au tabi itsumo chigau kuchizuke wo shite
odoroki  au sono kibun
souyo hajimete no kao de otagai ni
mata mo moeru no

aishita ato otagai tanin no futari
otoko to onna soshite hitori to hitori
anata wa atashi no koto wasurete ii wa
mayotte kite mo ii no yo
watashi nando demo kitto hiki modosu
modoshite miseru

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Naka Riisa to star in NHK BS drama "Yube no Curry, Ashita no Pan"

Naka Riisa will be starring in her first leading role since she got married to Nakao Akiyoshi and became a mother in October last year when she appears in the NHK BS premium drama "Yube no Curry, Ashita no Pan" (Last Night's Curry, Tomorrow's Bread" which consists of 7 episodes and will be shown from October in the Sundays 10pm timeslot. She plays the role of Tetsuko who lost her husband to cancer and is living with her father-in-law played by Kaga Takeshi. While keeping the grief of their loss deep within themselves, they come to meet some people with various problems and this unwittingly helps them to get over the sorrow they have. Co-stars include Mizobata Junpei, Mimura and Katagiri Hairi.

The drama which is based on the same-titled novel by Kizara Izumi, was published in April this year and chosen as the No.2 novel in the "Honya Taisho". Kizawa is the joint pen-name of two scriptwriters who are married to each other and they had written scripts such as "Nobuta wo Produce" in the past. This novel is their debut work.

Source: Sponichi

Sawajiri Erika to be back in sequel of "First Class" this autumn

Sawajiri Erika's Spring 2014 drama "First Class" will be making its return in just three months since it ended in June with its sequel due to be shown in the Autumn 2014 drama. The FujiTV drama will also enjoy an elevation in status from late night on Saturday to primetime at 10pm on Wednesdays.

The sequel "First Class 2" will feature Yoshinari Chinami (Sawajiri) who has become a new designer at a fashion brand but the people who will attempt to stop her climb to the top will be changed. Nonetheless, cast members from the first series including Sasaki Nozomi, Nanao and Itaya Yuka will make appearances in the new drama although details have not been finalised. Sawajiri expressed her happiness at being able to work on this drama again and revealed that her character will also become an evil woman in order to overcome her enemies who will be even more malicious and powerful than those in the original series.

Source: Sanspo 1 / Sanspo 2

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ikuta Toma & Toda Erika to work together in new movie "Yokokuhan"

Ikuta Toma will be playing a cyber terrorist in the new movie "Yokokuhan" (Advance Warning Criminal) which is based on the same titled manga by Tsutsui Tetsuya and will be shown in cinemas next summer. Ikuta will be the lead character Gates who wears a mask made of newspapers whenever he appears in his advance warning videos to tell the world that he will be punishing criminals who cannot be dealt with by the law. As a result, Ikuta will not be showing his face in at least 30 percent of the movie's running time. Co-stars include Toda Erika who plays a chief inspector trying to catch Gates while Suzuki Ryohei, Hamada Gaku and Arakawa Yoshiyoshi will be Gates' accomplices.

Filming of the movie begins this autumn.

Source: Sponichi

Tsumabuki Satoshi reportedly dating actress Maiko since 2012

Tsumabuki Satoshi and Maiko are said to be dating as reported in various sources on 11 August. When asked about the report, both artistes' agencies did not deny this and said that they will leave things up to the artistes since this is a private matter. According to reports, Tsumabuki and Maiko got to know each other when they worked together in the 2012 FujiTV drama "Higashino Keigo Mysteries" and started dating soon after that.

Maiko has a American father and Japanese mother and was seen in dramas such as "Ryomaden", "Ohisama" and her latest movie is "Kuime". Tsumabuki's latest drama is the ongoing "Wakamonotachi 2014" showing on FujiTV.

Source: Sponichi

SEKAI NO OWARI's Fukase & Kyary Pamyu Pamyu confirmed to be dating for 2 years

4-member band SEKAI NO OWARI's vocalist Fukase admitted via his Twitter on 12 August that he has been dating singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu for the past two years. The two of them were first romantically linked by reports from weekly magazines in June 2013 but did not comment openly on this matter. Fukase who posted a tweet about him going to a beer garden recently, was asked by a fan as to whether he had gone there with Kyary and he admitted to it readily and even added that they have been together for two years. When asked about what he likes about her, Fukase commented that her gentleness towards the elderly and children was most attractive. Even though the exchange on Twitter took place late at night, his "admission tweet" was retweeted more than 13,000 times by 3am on the same day i.e. 12 August. On the other hand, Kyary also uploaded a picture of the beer garden visit on her own Twitter page.

Source: Sponichi

Monday, August 11, 2014

Top 10 celebrities with the most CM exposure in the first half of 2014 - Kanto region (Video Research)

The first number refers to the total number of seconds which the celebrity had appeared in TV CMs during the first half of 2014 (January to June) while the second number in brackets refer to their positions in the annual ranking last year:

1) Ueto Aya - 148,555 seconds (2)

2) Sakai Masato - 148,215 seconds (40)

3) Takei Emi - 104,745 seconds (5)

4) Oshima Miyuki / Kurosawa Kazuko - 103,545 seconds (800 - Oshima / 1,682 - Kurosawa)

6) Nishijima Hidetoshi - 99,280 seconds (59)

7) Abe Hiroshi - 94,625 seconds (15)

8) Horikita Maki - 85,185 seconds (26)

9) Aikawa Sho - 83,730 seconds (194)

10) Gouriki Ayame - 79,680 seconds (1)

Ueto Aya was tops in all three regions i.e. Kanto, Kansai and Nagoya for this ranking while Sakai Masato swept No.2 in the same way. As for No.3, it was Takei Emi for Kanto, Nishijima Hidetoshi for Kansai and Oshima Miyuki & Kurosawa Kazuko for Nagoya.

Source: Video Research

Top 10 male celebrities with the most desirable complexion 2014 (Oricon)

This is the ranking of top 10 male celebrities selected by 500 men for having the best complexion that they desire:

1) Mukai Osamu

2) Fukuyama Masaharu

3) Koike Teppei

4) GACKT

5) Kimura Takuya

6) Okada Masaki

7) Tamori

8) Tsumabuki Satoshi / Sakai Masato

Source: Oricon

Top 10 female celebrities with the most desirable complexion 2014 (Oricon)

This is the ranking of top 10 female celebrities selected by 500 women for having the best complexion that they desire:

1) Ayase Haruka

2) Aragaki Yui

3) Kitagawa Keiko

4) Koyuki

5) Yanagihara Kanako

6) Ishihara Satomi / Kanno Miho

8) Takeuchi Yuko / Horikita Maki

10) Momoi Kaori / Nakama Yukie

Source: Oricon

Oshima Miyuki wins Best Actress award for her "male" role in movie "Fukubukusou no Fuku-chan"

Comedian Oshima Miyuki won the best actress award for her performance in the new movie "Fukubukusou no Fuku-chan" in the 18th Fantasia International Movie Festival held at Montreal, Canada, on 9 August which makes her the first Japanese winner in 5 years since Mitsushima Hikari won it for her role in "Ai no Mukidashi" in 2009. The interesting thing is, Oshima shaved her head to play a man by the name of Fuku-chan who develops a phobia for women because of his first love (Mizukawa Asami) and later overcomes this condition when he reunites with her and falls for her again.

When interviewed about her win, Oshima commented that it was fascinating to win a best actress award even though she had acted as a man. She expressed her gratitude towards the director Fujita Yosuke for helping her to make the character Fuku-chan come alive. As for Fujita, he also praised Oshima for giving her all in playing this role and admitted that it was a gamble to get a woman to play a man but Oshima made the gamble pay off handsomely.

In response to Oshima's win, her husband Suzuki Osamu posted on his blog that he was very surprised to hear that his wife won the award by playing a middle-aged man which is something rarely heard of. Suzuki revealed that Fujita had brought the script to his wife some years ago before the March 11 tsunami crisis but there were many hiccups along the way before the movie was finally filmed. Suzuki expressed his joy at his wife's achievement and congratulated her for winning the best actress award.

Oshima is currently taking a break from work in order to prepare for motherhood.

The movie "Fukubukusou no Fuku-chan" will be shown nationwide in cinemas from 8 November.

Source: Sanspo / Sponichi

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cast lineup announcements for "Honto ni atta kowai hanashi 15th Anniversary Special"

The full cast lineup for the FujiTV horror drama SP "Honto ni atta kowai hanashi 15th Anniversary Special" which will be shown at 9pm on 16 August, was finally announced on 9 August. The horror drama SP series commonly known as "Honkowa", started in 1999 which consisted of stories about true supernatural happenings and unusual incidents which had happened in Japan. SMAP's Inagaki Goro is the navigator who watches the stories with Honkowa Club members (child actors) in the studio and creates an eerie atmosphere with them. In celebration of the series' 15th anniversary, there will be 7 stories in this SP which is the most in a single broadcast.

Here are the details of the cast lineup in each story:

1) Hannin wa dare da (Who is the criminal?) - Kusanagi Tsuyoshi (SMAP), Kitano Kii
2) Taxi Driver wa kataru (The taxi driver speaks) - Sakagami Shinobu
3) S Douzan no Onna (The woman of S copper mine) - Ishihara Satomi, Koike Teppei
4) Ude wo choudai (Give me your arm) - Kiritani Mirei, Nanao
5) Yami e no shikaku (The sight into darkness) - Kuroki Hitomi, Machida Keita (Gekidan EXILE)
6) Satoru-kun - Gouriki Ayame
7) Sasoi no mori (The forest of invitation) - Shimazaki Haruka (AKB48), Hirose Alice

Sources: Sanspo / Sponichi / FujiTV

Filming begins for 2015 Taiga drama "Hana Moyu"

Filming for NHK's 2015 Taiga "Hana Moyu" began at Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on 9 August where cast members Inoue Mao, Osawa Takao, Iseya Yusuke, Yuka, Harada Taizo and Higashide Masahiro gathered to meet the press. The drama which features the lifetime of Yoshida Shoin's younger sister Fumi (Inoue), was to have started its filming on 5 August but the progress was delayed due to bad weather and filming on the 9th itself had to be cancelled too due to the approaching typhoon No.11.  With response to this, Inoue said that it was a tough fight against the rain for the cast and crew but to look at it from a good perspective, they got the chance to try many delicious foods in Hagi so their situation wasn't that bad after all. As for Osawa who plays Fumi's husband Odamura Inosuke, he asked for the viewers' support for this drama when it goes on air next year.

Source: Sanspo

Ikuta Toma & Oguri Shun to team up again in TBS Winter 2015 drama "Ouroboros"

Ikuta Toma and Oguri Shun will work together again in the upcoming TBS Winter 2015 drama "Ouroboros" (timeslot undecided) which will be shown from January next year. The drama which is based on the manga by Kanzaki Yuya that had sold 1.2 million copies to date, is the first real-life adaptation production and the title means ancient symbols of a snake and dragon which bite their tails to form a circle that represents "death and rebirth" as well as "destroy & create". (Click here to see a picture of the ouroboros)

Ikuta and Oguri who are close friends and had last worked together in the 2007 FujiTV drama "Hanazakari no Kimitachi e ~ Ikemen Paradise", will be playing childhood friends Ryuzaki Ikuo and Danno Tatsuya respectively this time. Ikuo and Tatsuya who grew up together in an orphanage, chose entirely different paths in life where Ikuo is a clumsy and seemingly ordinary police detective who actually has the best arrest rate and is extremely fit. However, Tatsuya uses his good looks and cleverness to rise to the top of an yakuza organisation but secretly helps his buddy Ikuo to handle his cases. In addition, the two of them strive to find out the truth about the murder of their beloved Yuko-sensei who took good care of them at the orphanage 15 years ago. Back then, they had testified to the police that they saw the murderer but the case was written off by a police officer who they remembered was wearing a gold watch at that time. While trying to find the police officer concerned, they become unlikely allies who seek to punish evil when justice cannot be upheld by the law.

Filming is due to begin at the end of November.

Source: Sanspo

Mizobata Junpei denies being an item with Katase Nana

Mizobata Junpei released a statement via his official website on 6 August in response to recent reports about him being in a relationship with Katase Nana. The two of them had met through working in NTV's Spring 2013 drama "35-sai no Koukousei" and were first reported to have gone on a date at an izakaya in July the same year but the two of them had denied it then. Reports of their relationship resurfaced again in August this year.

Mizobata commented that Katase is a valued senior in his acting career and they are very close friends. However, he denied being an item with her and stressed that he would like to concentrate on his work for now. As such, the recent reports about them dating with marriage in mind etc were baseless and untrue. Mizobata also apologised for the worry and inconveniences caused as a result of these reports about his personal life.

Source: Sponichi

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Review of "BORDER" (ボーダー) - Spring 2014

Before the season began, I admit that I had no intention of checking this drama out because the premise didn't seem too appealing. A police officer gains the power to communicate with the dead after sustaining a serious injury? Meaning this is going to be an episodic drama with different cases each week? I have an aversion towards episodic dramas these days because they usually fail to keep me interested throughout the whole season. Besides, the hinting of a supernatural touch to this story just didn't seem too appealing. I won't call myself a fan of Oguri Shun but I think he can act pretty well when he first caught my eye in "Summer Snow". Then again, I don't like all his roles in recent years so the plot of the drama has a lot to do with how much I like his performance.

So what changed my mind in the end? It had to do with a lot of the positive media reports after the season started when BORDER started off losing to MOZU which felt like a classy movie but eventually overtaking its competition in terms of critical reviews and ratings. There was so much talk of how BORDER being on par, if not better than MOZU in terms of production quality but with a much more intense and engaging story compared to MOZU which was getting too complicated for its own good. Besides, Oguri's acting was much praised and said to be one of the factors leading to the drama's success. So if a drama gets praised to this extent, it aroused my curiosity so I ended up backtracking on my initial decision to give this a miss.

Before I begin my review of this drama, here's the usual disclaimer. If you do not wish to know the storyline or ending, please skip this review because there will be many spoilers ahead.

Ishikawa Ango (Oguri Shun) is a police officer of the Metropolitan Police Department's First Investigation Division who deliberately chose this occupation to get back at his father who he did not get along well with. During an investigation into a murder case where the victim was a former police officer, Ishikawa who had been walking in the vicinity of the crime scene to look for scenes, gets shot in the head by an unknown person which causes him to end up with serious injuries. Although he was saved from the brink of death, the bullet gets lodged in his brain which will involve a dangerous surgery before it can be removed. As the presence of the bullet doesn't really cause any problems to Ishikawa's health and daily life for the time being, he chooses to delay this operation for the time being and returns to work after he recovers.

However, Ishikawa finds that things are no longer the same when he gets back to work as he discovers that he now has the ability to see the dead and communicate with them. Although this ability doesn't seem to work all the time and has its limitations e.g. the spirit of the dead disappears without prior warning or when the body is cremated, Ishikawa makes use of this power to find out more information from the dead (can be the victim or perpetrator though) in order to solve his cases. Ishikawa also gets acquainted with a mysterious information vendor Akai (Furuta Arata) who further introduces him to experts such as hackers Garfunkel (Nomaguchi Toru) and Simon (Hamano Kenta) as well as multi-talented private investigator Suzuki (Takito Kenichi). Ishikawa's strange behaviour when talking to the dead and ability to get information from unexplainable sources do arouse suspicions of his colleague Tachibana Yuma (Aoki Munetaka) and superior Ichikura Takuji (Endo Kenichi) but they can't really place a finger on how Ishikawa manages to find the clues to solving the cases. Meanwhile, Ishikawa also gets acquainted with Higa Mika (Haru), a young female pathologist, who seems aloof on the surface initially but the two later become good working partners.

With each case Ishikawa solves, he gradually seems to be losing himself as he becomes more haggard and obsessed with exacting justice on those who go against the law. His colleagues also notice the changes in him and want him to consider going for the operation since they are worried about the bullet's long-term effect on Ishikawa if it continues to stay in his brain. However, Ishikawa is reluctant to do so not just because of the high risk involved in the operation. The other issue of concern to him could have been the likelihood that he would lose the power to communicate with the dead once the bullet is removed. Since Ishikawa has become so reliant on this power to solve his cases, that can probably explain why he can't go ahead with the operation.

Things however do not improve especially in episode 7 where he lost the fight against catching a hit-and-run driver after the latter manages to escape overseas with the help of a professional "problem-solver". Ishikawa seems to have lost his faith in the justice system being effective enough to catch and punish those who do wrong. By the time we get to episode 9, it is when Ishikawa finally loses control of himself as he crosses over the boundary between good and evil in order to uphold justice. It is as if he has become a devil in order to do what he thinks God should be doing.

To be perfectly honest, not every single episode in this drama was good. The first episode laid the basic groundwork for the drama so it wasn't that exciting on the whole. Episode 2 was good in the sense that it convinced the viewer that the communication with the dead is not always with the victim so the power that Ishikawa had could be utilised in a different manner after all. Episodes 3 and 4 were a tad boring for me because it was not too challenging to guess who the culprits were or what was the motive behind the crime. Surprisingly in Episode 5, the tone of the drama took a change (be it for the better or worse) with a relatively light-hearted touch since Kudo Kankuro was the guest star. It is only from Episode 6 onwards that the tempo started to pick up and the last three episodes i.e. Episode 7 to 9 were so gripping and exciting to watch. As such, the overall satisfaction I felt about this drama had much to do with the last three episodes but without the build-up in the first 6 episodes, there might not have been such a well-done climax. There were so many dramas in recent years which disappointed me with a great start but lousy ending but I'm glad BORDER was able to do the reverse. No doubt that there was no definitive ending in the last episode after Ishikawa became the devil himself, I think this is a sign that there will be a SP or movie picking up from this ending to explain what happens to Ishikawa in the aftermath. Full credit also goes to Kaneshiro Kazuki who did an amazing job with the scripting.

Especially worth mentioning is Omori Nao's guest star stint in the last episode. He really did such a great job as this extremely smart villain that his confrontation and showdown scenes with Oguri Shun were such a thrill to watch. When you get to the final scene where Omori's character successfully enticed Ishikawa to step over the edge, it was so chilling and yet gratifying at the same. Chilling because of how evil Omori's character  was in anticipating how his actions could tip Ishikawa over since the latter was already at breaking point and strangely gratifying at the same time even though the ending was so sudden because it was obvious to the viewers that Ishikawa had already lost control of himself during his pursuit for justice and it seemed believable that Ishikawa would go to that extent. I might not have liked the ending as much if it showed me that Ishikawa chose to do otherwise.

Oguri Shun finally showed me once again what he could be capable of. As I mentioned above, he first caught my eye in Summer Snow when he was still a teenager and a fresh actor. However, his subsequent roles either failed to leave a strong impression on me or did not impress me. That's not to say that I disliked him since then but it's hard for me to say that I still liked him as an actor when I struggle to come up with examples of which dramas or movies he starred in that I liked. However, BORDER has showed his depth in acting especially since there were only 9 episodes and there were a lot of emotional upheavals in his role towards the end. The last episode was especially impressive. Not only did he look the part of someone lost in his pursuit for justice (the haggard look, dark eye circles, eye bags, hollow expressions), he was able to show the sense of powerlessness in Ishikawa who gradually came to think that the justice system does not really do good for all victims and his increasingly-extreme mindset when it comes to what it means to bring criminals to justice. I hope that he can ride on this wave of success and come up with better performances in time to come. Usually, I don't really like sequels but in this case, I am really dying to know what happened to Ishikawa after the drama's ending.

Besides Oguri's great acting, I thought that his partnership with Haru in this drama was also a great selling point. The interaction between their characters was hardly romantic but it felt so good to see them talk to each other as if they are close friends who know everything about each other and are of the same frequency. Frankly speaking, Haru's role was pretty limited because she usually appeared at the crime scene or autopsy scene only but I thought she was pretty eye-catching in her acting as the aloof Higa who warmed up considerably towards Ishikawa over the course of the story to the extent of becoming a true friend who expressed concern about his health when he seemed to be obsessed with work and disregarding his health. Much as I don't think anything romantic will develop between Ishikawa and Higa, it will be nice to see them together on screen.

In conclusion, I think BORDER surprised me in a good way by performing above expectations and I'm glad that I chose to watch it after all despite my initial reluctance. As to whether this drama is indeed superior to MOZU 1, it depends on how you see it. In terms of production quality, both were pretty much on par. However, BORDER only stepped things up towards the end of the season so you compare episode by episode, MOZU 1 seems like a more polished piece of work. Then again, MOZU 1 couldn't have a satisfactory ending because that needed to be addressed by MOZU 2. In this sense, BORDER could have more room to produce a much more conclusive ending although I think it was deliberately left open-ended to increase the possibility of a sequel.

And my ratings for this drama...

Story: 8.5 out of 10 (The last episode alone deserved a perfect 10 but in the first half of the drama, the quality of the episodes was a bit uneven so the overall score would have to be lower.)

Acting: 8.5 out of 10 (Again, Oguri Shun x Omori Nao deserved a perfect 10. I also think that the supporting cast also did a great job.)

Theme song/BGM: 7 out of 10 (I have to admit that I don't like the theme song at all but the BGM was really good especially in intense scenes.)

Visual effects / Scenery: 7 out 10 (The last three episodes felt more like a movie to me in terms of its production quality and visual effects but in terms of scenery, there wasn't much which caught my eye.)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 8 out of 10 (Besides the fine chemistry displayed by Oguri x Omori and Oguri x Haru, I also think that Oguri and Endo did quite well together as superior and subordinate because of the trust in the relationship between their characters.)

Total: 39 out of 50