Wednesday, February 01, 2023
The Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, Inc. holds an annual New Year press conference to share the key trends and highlights in the Japanese box office landscape of the previous year. This year's edition was held on 31 Jan 2023 and here are the highlights in 2022:
- Total box office takings increased by 31.6% to JPY 213.111 billion.
- Total cinema visits increased by 32.4% to 152.005 million.
- Prior to the pandemic in 2019, the total box office takings were at a record high in 20 years i.e. JPY 261.18 billion but 2020 saw a dip to only JPY 143.2 billion and 2021 saw a slight improvement to JPY 161.8 billion.
- There were 634 Japanese movies screened in 2022 with only 26 achieving box office takings of above JPY 1 billion and this was lower than the 32 movies that achieved the same in 2021. However, as compared to 2021 when there was only one movie that achieved total takings of above 10 billion, there were 3 movies which passed this milestone and all 3 of them were animation films - "ONE PIECE FILM RED" (JPY 19.7 billion), "Gekijouban Jujutsy Kaisen 0" (JPY 13.8 billion) and "Suzume no tojimari" (JPY 13.15 billion).
- As for foreign movies, there were 509 films screened in 2022 with 15 titles passing the JPY 1 billion mark. This was higher than 2021's 5 films which made the mark. In terms of box office takings, 2022 saw a high of JPY 66.532 billion which was almost double of 2021's total (98.3% increase). The No.1 foreign movie was "Top Gun Maverick" which was the overwhelming hit at JPY 13.57 billion followed by "Jurassic World Dominion" (JPY 6.32 billion) and "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" (JPY 4.6 billion).
Here are the Japanese films which achieved box office takings of above JPY 1 billion in 2022. Those which are marked with an asterisk are still showing in cinemas so the final box office figures will be higher than quoted below:
1) ONE PIECE FILM RED - JPY 19.7bn *
2) Gekijouban Jujutsu Kaisen 0 - JPY 13.8bn
3) Suzume no tojimari - JPY 13.15bn *
4) Meitantei Conan Halloween no hanayome - JPY 9.78bn
5) Kingdom 2 Harukanaru daichi 3 - JPY 5.16bn
6) Shin Ultraman - JPY 4.44bn
7) 99.9 Keiji senmon bengoshi THE MOVIE - JPY 3.01bn
8) Yomei 10 nen / Chinmoku no Parade - JPY 3.00bn
10) Confidence Man JP Eiyuuhan - JPY 2.89bn
11) Eiga Doraemon Nobita no uchuu shosensou 2021 - JPY 2.69bn
12) Dragon Ball Chou Super Hero - JPY 2.51bn
13) Eiga Gotoubun no hanayome - JPY 2.24bn
14) Crayon Shinchan Mononoke ninja chinpuuden - JPY 2.04bn
15) Anata no ban desu Gekijouban - JPY 2.00bn
16) Gekijouban Uta*Prince-sama Maji LOVE Stylish Tours - JPY 1.98bn *
17) Eiga Osomatsu-san - JPY 1.67bn
18) Konya, sekai kara kono koi ga kietemo - JPY 1.53bn
19) Gekijouban Tenseishitara suraimu datta Guren no kizuna hen - JPY 1.50bn*
20) Karadasagashi - JPY 1.18bn
21) Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night - JPY 1.16bn
22) HiGH&LOW THE WORST X - JPY 1.14bn
23) Shikei ni itaru yamai / Kido senshi Gundam Cucuruz Doan no shima - JPY 1.10bn
25) Eiga Yurukyan - JPY 1.08bn
26) Gekijouban Free! - the Final Stroke - Gohen - JPY 1.0bn*
Saturday, January 28, 2023
The reason why I'm writing about 2 episodes at one go is because I literally have nothing much to comment about them.
Just where does the problem lie with this drama? Although it looked pretty promising pre-season, this has turned out to be such a huge disappointment in more ways than one.
First of all, what genre would this story fall under in the first place? Medical drama? Then again, the medical conditions and treatment methods are supposedly fictitious and not in line with reality. And half of the surgical process is handled by the AI while seemingly complex surgeries are conducted by two people only. Isn't it amazing or ridiculous that one of them is a surgical nurse who is so skilled that she can transform into a surgeon at will in case the chief surgeon cannot handle two procedures at one go?
So is this a story about eliminating evil from the world? The issue is, the group isn't doing things for free and charge exorbitant fees to make the bad guys choose between their lives and ill-gotten fortune. Just what is their ultimate motive? By this stage, I have already lost interest and feel like I have one foot out of the door to literally walk out of this drama anytime.
And is this an obvious homage to or carbon copy of Tsutsumi Yukihiko's past successes like TRICK to blend in similar-styled comedic scenes amid a serious backdrop? Otherwise, why would there be terribly out-of-place scenes like the wacky fortune-teller who spins a seemingly smart Joker around her finger at will? Or how about that female police officer who keeps falling down every time she appears? What worked then in TRICK or SPEC may not work here and those scenes and developments made me so annoyed that I felt like skipping them. Humour when not delivered in the right way and at the right time just comes across as lame and falls flat. A drama which tries to do a bit of everything may end up to have nothing to show for.
Seeing what is happening to the story makes me feel bad for the cast. With such a good lineup, you could potentially create a much better drama than this. I was so looking forward to seeing Tsumabuki Satoshi & Fujiwara Tatsuya battle it out onscreen but most of their scenes so far were simply flat and lacked the sparks. Most, if not all of the time, Ace is shown bulldozing his way through everything with his tantrums and take-it-or-leave-it attitude regardless of Joker's logical reasoning and convincing. Maybe there is a proper reason to show why Joker puts up with this nonsense and why Ace can afford to disregard the views of his team and apply his arbitrary sense of justice. However, I don't know if I can still stick around to wait for that reveal.
And putting in more big names like Suzuki Ryohei now isn't going to salvage this drama unless the story improves dramatically. Having a star-studded cast is simply not the easy way out to draw in viewers. I also feel bad for the guest stars so far who played the patients - they did a fantastic job in showing the struggle to decide between their health and wealth and how each baddie evolved into who they were. The story is simply not doing them any justice and it's such a waste of talent when this kind of thing happens.
One other thing which bothers me is the cake creations designed for this drama. Surely they didn't get a famous patissier to come in and design all these beautiful cakes for nothing? Considering that they bothered to show Ace assembling the elements to form the cake and have close-up shots to introduce these cakes, I find it hard to think that all these efforts would be wasted on something which has no further meaning. However, the first and second cakes named "Molecule" and "Divine Comedy" don't seem to have anything in common while there was no cake shop scene at all in Ep 3. So what is happening now? Did they decide to suspend that cake shop subplot for now? And did I overthink the significance of these new creations and their titles when they could have meant nothing at all?
Frankly speaking, I tried to convince myself that there should be more than meets the eye and I should be a bit more patient to wait around for the big reveal. The issue is, if the filler episodes are not only boring but feel like a total waste of my time, should I still hold on to the feeble hope that this will improve? Although the next episode is hinting at a big reveal of Queen's background, I am not so hopeful about seeing anything that will change my opinion of this drama. 4 episodes is definitely more than enough time to judge whether this is to be continued or dropped for the rest of the reason so we'll see by then.
Friday, January 27, 2023
"Eiga Geijutsu" is a seasonal movie critics magazine with scriptwriter Arai Haruhiko as its chief editor. Every year, it releases its own best 10 and worst 10 Japanese movies ranking as selected by its panel of judges including movie critics, movie directors, scriptwriters, producers, cinema staff and the general public.
Perhaps due to the niche nature of this magazine and the composition of the judging panel, the annual results do raise eyebrows for various reasons. One trend that is quite hard to ignore is, commercial films and box-office hits tend to make up the worst 10 list while indie or arthouse films appear quite prominently in the best 10 list. And the winning films in other movie awards tend to appear in the worst 10 ranking. Even past blockbuster hits or those which did very well in overseas movie awards like "Okuribito" or "Manbiki Kazoku" had also won the dubious honour of No.1 in the worst 10 ranking for 2008 and 2018.
And the lack of consistency in the results also shows in instances in the past when a single film appeared in both rankings e.g. "Kishibe no Tabi" starring Asano Tadanobu, Fukatsu Eri & Aoi Yu which was No.9 in the best 10 list but No.8 in the worst 10 list. Ironically, this year's No.1 in the Best 10 ranking is also the No.8 in the Worst 10 ranking.
Apparently, the final scores for the best 10 ranking are said to be derived by deducting the votes for the worst 10 ranking from those received for the best 10 ranking. Technically speaking, if the votes for the best ranking exceeds the worst ranking (positive difference), the film then has a chance of getting into the top 10 best ranking. The worst 10 ranking is derived purely from the votes received in this category. As such, that is the reason why you can see the same film appear in both rankings. However, this system had been criticised before for being vulnerable to manipulation.
And ever since the animation film "Kono sekai no katasumi ni" won the Best One title in 2016, this annual ranking excluded animation films from their consideration starting from 2017 which was seen as a display of the magazine's and judging panel's hostile attitude towards animation. In response to the criticism, it was said that animation and real-life films are different types of cinematic art and shouldn't be judged together.
In case you want to see the rankings for the earlier years back to 2007, you can check it out here.
Personally, I don't think that the films in the worst 10 list are all bad and some of the selections do make me scratch my head over the reasons for their inclusion. As such, please don't take this ranking too personally or seriously as it is ultimately just a reflection of a judging panel's tastes like any other ranking or movie awards. And what you like may jolly well be different from what the critics have in mind anyway.
The ironic thing is, just days earlier when the Nippon Academy Awards' nominee list was released, 3 of their Best Film nominees are actually in the top 3 of this worst 10 ranking. Uncanny coincidence or a barely-concealed dig at these films or the Nippon Academy?
Best 10 of 2022
1) Keiko Me wo sumasete
2) Yoake made basutei de
3) Tenjou no hana
5) Yuugata no otomodachi
6) Kochira Amiko
7) My Small Land
8) Ai nanoni
9) Maki no iru sekai
10) Yodaka no kataomoi
Worst 10 of 2022
1) Rurou no tsuki
2) Shin Ultraman
3) Aru Otoko
4) Laageri yori ai wo komete
6) Shikei ni itaru yamai
7) LOVE LIFE
8) Keiko Me wo sumasete
9) Tokyo 2020 Olympic SIDE:B / Hyakka
Thursday, January 26, 2023
To begin with, each episode of this drama is shorter than the norm i.e. about 25 mins compared to the usual 45 mins for most dramas. With lesser time to spare, the drama gets down to business almost immediately without the usual fluff to set up the story so it felt as if a lot of stuff had been covered within a short period of time. The good side to this is, no time is wasted. However, if not handled properly, the drawback is that the characters can come across as very superficial and the viewers may not take to them or empathise with their feelings.
Prior to watching this, I had the impression that it was just a fantasy-cum-comedy about the Mochizuki family where father Kou returns in the form of a spirit 6 months after he died suddenly and supposedly can only seen by his son Seitaro. The younger man is still hung up over Kou's last word i.e. sorry and seems to be at a loss as to what to do now that he is left all alone. Nothing much has been said about Kou's wife i.e. Seitaro's mother in this episode although the official website does mention that the couple divorced 10 years after getting married despite overcoming objection from her parents. The contrast in Seitaro's living environment 6 months ago and now seems to be a reflection of his lack of desire and motivation in life. As such, Seitaro's childhood friend Yuuto is concerned about his well-being and even offers him a job opportunity so that Seitaro's mind can focus on something else.
The ironical thing is, much as you would think that Seitaro misses his father, his first reaction and of course, a natural one for anyone in the same situation is being freaked out at first by the appearance of Kou's spirit. However, it doesn't take him that long to come to terms with this new development although he's still curious about why Kou has returned and how he did that.
Another reason for Seitaro's loneliness and huge sense of loss has to do with their family business. The Mochizuki family has been in the business of fireworks for 5 generations but the COVID-19 pandemic nearly makes the company go bust as there is a lack of large scale events which requires fireworks displays. In most stories, the father would be the stubborn one who refuses to rejuvenate the business by trying new methods but here, Kou took the initiative to suggest promoting the idea of fireworks for individuals rather than corporations. However, Seitaro had been reluctant to consider this probably because of the hassle they had to go through to launch fireworks and the profit margin for individual assignments would most likely be not worth the effort.
Surprisingly, just when Seitaro has to grapple with the sudden appearance of Kou in spirit form, a woman named Mizumori Hikari comes knocking with a flyer promoting "fireworks for yourself only" i.e. you can arrange for a fireworks display on an individual rather than for corporates or large events. This is where another mystery pops up - how did Hikari get the flyer? When Kou floated the idea to Seitaro while he was alive, the latter was not supportive at all and it didn't look like Kou went ahead with this behind Seitaro's back. Then if Kou had done this after he died, how did he do it and for what reason? That's probably something which will be revealed in time to come.
Much as I don't expect the story to offer a lot of big surprises, I do like the underlying theme of bucking the trend illustrated in this episode. Kou's efforts in trying to seek a different market for their business which is dependent on large-scale outdoor events and Hikari paying for a fireworks display for her sake and using her own money can be seen as weird or unconventional behaviour. However, who has the right to say that they were wrong or shouldn't follow their hearts? Just because the majority doesn't do something doesn't make it unacceptable. Although it is still unknown why they did what they did, I actually like the notion of doing as you wish without being tied down by conventions but of course, this has to be done without hurting anyone in the process.
This drama is relatively simple and straightforward with just 3 characters and Seitaro's friend looking likely to pop up only from time to time. As such, to hold the interest of the viewers with such a plot and only 3 characters, this drama needs to have something magical that can hold interest through the entire season. For now, I think it's quite palatable and easy to watch and I am pleased to see the interactions between the cast members especially Takahashi Issei and Hashizume Isao. Surprisingly, Honda Tsubasa's acting in this drama has been passable so far but I guess this also has to do with the fact that her role hasn't required her to be extremely expressive at the moment. When Hikari shows more of her background and feelings, that's going to be the litmus test as to whether Honda can handle this character especially when faced with good actors who can either bring out the best in her or she will appear rather inadequate in contrast.
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
Conclusion: This felt like a modern remake of 1996's "Long Vacation".
The key settings and developments so far felt almost identical as per the points I outlined below:
1) Soramame (Hirose Suzu) was dumped by her fiancé who had a new girlfriend and only found out what happened after she came to Tokyo to finalise plans for their wedding just weeks ahead vs. Minami (Yamaguchi Tomoko) who probably had it worse because she was dumped on her wedding day and her fiancé took away all her money.
2) Oto (Nagase Ren) aspires to be a composer but is struggling because his works seem to lack the power to move people emotionally vs. Sena who failed to get into graduate school and could only make ends meet as a piano teacher,.
3) Soramame and Oto end up living under the same roof due to her having no money and cannot go back to her hometown to face her grandmother and family after breaking up with her fiance vs. Minami losing all her money to her fiance and Sena having no choice but to let her stay in the same apartment at her persistence
4) Sena was in an unrequited relationship with his junior Ryoko (Matsu Takako) while at present, what is known is that Oto seems unable to date or unwilling to date anyone due to some unknown reason.
5) The underlying theme of taking a "vacation" from life in the meantime before trying to do something or pursuing one's dreams seems to be the same in both dramas. Soramame and Oto look likely to be seeking comfort in each other's company while staying under the same roof. Likewise for Sena and Minami helped to heal each other's wounds while living together before they could take steps to realise what they wanted in life.
Well, given that both dramas are written by the same scriptwriter Kitagawa Eriko, I'm not so surprised but to have that many similarities, it felt as if she was copying chunks of successful elements from her past hit. And since "Long Vacation" was such a hit back then, it may be unfair to compare this drama with that. Then again, what was novel and refreshing back in 1996 doesn't feel quite the same in 2023.
Perhaps for those who haven't watched Kitagawa's past works or "Long Vacation" in particular, you may not be so bothered by these similarities. However, to see some really cliched settings and hear lines which you typically won't hear from young people these days, these just makes this drama feel really dated and old fashioned. I'm not sure if this is an indication of things to come but I cringe at the idea of having to sit through such a cliched story for another 2+ months.
Then again, I also feel that it might be a pity to give up so quickly especially since the cast turned out to be better than I thought.
It's my first time watching Nagase Ren in action and I was pleasantly surprised by his subdued acting as the unusually calm Oto who only shows a bit of his true self and feelings when he's with Soramame. As such, I'm intrigued by how his character will develop and what kind of painful past Oto might have which led him to behave as he is now. Likewise for Hirose Suzu, although it was a bit challenging to hear Soramame talk in a mix of 2 dialects (she did explain why she spoke like that), I liked her chemistry with Nagase and to be honest, they do look like a really cute and compatible couple. Even for the supporting characters shown so far - Makiko (Matsumoto Wakana), Kyoko (Natsuki Mari) i.e. their landlord and Sousuke (Kawakami Yohei) i.e. Kyoko's son, they all look pretty interesting to explore further. And Endo Kenichi hasn't even appeared yet.
The problem is, if the story proves too much to stomach, I probably cannot force myself to stay on watching this just for the cast. As such, the next 2 episodes or so will probably be the deciding factor for me as to whether this drama is for keeps or to be dropped.
The prize giving ceremony for the 46th Nippon Academy Awards will be held at Grand Prince Hotel Shin Takanawa International Convention Center Pamir on 10 Mar 2023. Hosts for the event will be Hattori Shinichi & Arimura Kasumi. Films shown in Tokyo between 1 January and 31 Dec 2022 for at least 3 times a day over a two-week period would qualify for selection.
Note that the nominees are referred to as winners of the Excellence Awards 優秀賞 rather than simply nominees in other movie awards. As such, the final winner of each category would then be given the Grand Prix Award 最優秀賞 during the prize giving ceremony.
In this edition of the awards, "Aru Otoko" has the most excellence award winners i.e. 13 in 12 categories while "Tsuki no michikake" takes the second spot with 11 winners in 10 categories.
For the full list of nominees, please refer to here.
And here are the nominees for the film, acting and newcomer awards in Japanese alphabetical order:
Best Japanese Movie
Tsuki no michikake
Rurou no tsuki
Best Animation Movie
Kagami no kojou
Suzume no tojimari
ONE PIECE FILM RED
THE FIRST SLAM DUNK
Ishikawa Kei - Aru Otoko
Koizumi Takashi - Toge Saigo no Samurai
Higuchi Shinji - Shin Ultraman
Hiroki Ryuichi - Tsuki no michikake
Yoshino Kohei - Haken Anime!
Koizumi Takashi - Toge Saigo no Samurai
Hashimoto Hiroshi - Tsuki no michikake
Hayakawa Chie - PLAN 75
Masaike Yosuke - Haken Anime!
Mukai Kosuke - Aru Otoko
Best Leading Actor
Abe Sadao - Shikei ni itaru byou
Ooizumi Yo - Tsuki no michikake
Tsumabuki Satoshi - Aru otoko
Ninomiya Kazunari - Laageri yori ai wo komete
Matsuzaka Toori - Rurou no tsuki
Best Leading Actress
Kishii Yukino - Keiko Me wo sumasete
Non - Sakana no ko
Baisho Chieko - PLAN 75
Hirose Suzu - Rurou no tsuki
Yoshioka Riho - Haken Anime!
Best Supporting Actor
Emoto Tasuku - Haken Anime!
Kubota Masataka - Aru Otoko
Sakaguchi Kentaro - HELL DOGS
Meguro Ren - Tsuki no michikake
Yokohama Ryuusei - Rurou no tsuki
Best Supporting Actress
Arimura Kasumi - Tsuki no michikake
Ando Sakura - Aru otoko
Ono Machiko - Haken Anime!
Seino Nana - Aru otoko / Kingdom 2 Harukanaru daichi e
Nagano Mei - Bousei
Matsumoto Honoka - "Sore" ga iru mori
Best Foreign Movie
Avatar: Way of Water
Spiderman: No Way Home
Top Gun Maverick
Ono Karin - Haken Anime!
Kikuchi Hinako - Tsuki no michikake
Fukumoto Riko - Konya, sekai kara kono koi ga kie
Nukumi Meru - Moekare wa orenji iro
Arioka Daiki - Shin Ultraman
Banka Ichiro - SABAKAN
Matsumura Hokuto - xxxHOLiC
Meguro Ren - Tsuki no michikake
Monday, January 23, 2023
Title: Brother Trap ブラザー・トラップ
Official TikTok: here
O.A. Start Date: 24 January 2023
Broadcast by: TBS
Official manga by: Hinata Kyo
Opening theme song: "Hitohira" by Misty Tone feat. Ishino Riko
Insert song: "Nukumori" by Misty Tone feat. Ishino Riko
Cast: Kumada Rinka, Yamanaka Juutaro, Kudo Haruka, Wakabayashi Jiei, Watanabe Miho, NANA (MAX) & Shiono Akihisa
Timeslot: Tuesdays at 12.58am
Sunday, January 22, 2023
Title: Suki suki wanwan! すきすきワンワン!
O.A. Start Date: 23 January 2023
Timeslot: Mondays at 12.59am
Broadcast by: NTV
Theme Song: "We are young" by King & Prince
Cast: Kishi Yuuta, Ukisho Hidaka, Ito Atsushi, Sakurada Hiyori & Oideyasu Oda
Saturday, January 21, 2023
This drama has turned out to be a surprise, a pleasant one luckily in more ways than one.
I was approaching this drama with a bit of trepidation because Sakurai is hardly known to have a sporty side to him that could allow him to take on an action/suspense drama like this. And to play a police officer who has to save the hostages against 10 intruders does seem like a tall order if physical combat is required. Surely you can't go around firing guns in a hospital and he's probably not supposed to be doing that considering that the character Musashi Saburo is traumatised by a shooting incident. Although Sakurai had revealed before in variety shows and interviews that he goes to the gym regularly and does winter sports like skiing (or was it snowboarding?) , he probably hasn't had that much "physical activity" nowadays as compared to when ARASHI was still going on their group activities and doing live concerts.
As such, you can just imagine my amazement that he seemed to be way more nimble and sleek in his movements than I thought. Of course, granted that he hasn't had a physical fight with the 10 demons yet, it still remains to be seen if his fight sequences will be up to standard. However, his ability or rather Saburo's ability to evade detection by the intruders so far until the end of this episode was still decent and believable enough for a police officer out of action for one year.
The episode begins by showing what happened to the lead character Saburo (Sakurai) a year ago that led to his suspension from work and having to seek therapy for the emotional trauma that causes his hands to shake uncontrollably. Frankly speaking, he did what he had to do during the hostage crisis at the gas station but it was just unfortunate that an accident led to the death of the criminal. Much as he knows that he has a psychological issue, he probably wasn't really doing enough to solve the problem and taking it out on his family. That's why I see his wife Yuko (Higa Manami) "walking out on him" as an extreme measure on her part to force him to seek treatment if he wants her and their daughter Emiri back home again. She is obviously very concerned about his condition and even arranged for him to see a psychologist at the hospital she works in but keeps him at a distance so that he can be kept on his toes to continue with the treatment.
Meanwhile, Yuko also has issues of her own at work because as a young and capable doctor like her who also happens to be a woman, she faces slights and discrimination from older and more experienced colleagues who probably feel threatened by her capability. Even before Saburo started having this emotional issue since a year ago, it already looks like Yuko was juggling work and family demands pretty much on her own and had to deal with the disappointment felt by Emiri and her whenever Saburo was uncontactable and broke his promises to them. And now that Saburo is not in the state to care for others, all the more that she cannot confide in him about her work problems. Perhaps through this hostage crisis at the hospital, Saburo will come to understand what he had done to and not done for his family.
Coming to the main theme of this drama i.e. the hostage crisis, here are my observations and hunches based on what was shown in Ep 1:
- The way Hyakki Yakou i.e. the group of 10 demons infiltrated the hospital reminds me of "Money Heist" - the Spanish original version where they hijacked a truck delivering the paper used for printing money. Here, it seemed like Hyakki Yakou had the ambulance at their disposal - did they buy or steal one for this purpose? So is this going to be the Japanese version of "Money Heist" set in a hospital? Then again, what's there to gain financially by taking over a hospital? Trying to make a political statement? Getting back at someone in power? Or trying to push forward some ideal or campaign against social injustice?
- As pictured above, there were only 8 demons who entered the hospital via this ambulance. For the other two "missing demons", it looks like the cleaning guy who planted the bombs in the hospital should be one of them, going by how he was limping in one leg. My guess for the remaining demon is Saburo's psychiatrist i.e. Hitachi who got shot by Blue Demon when he confronted Hyakki Yakou about their motive. His suspicious behaviour and the fact that he was never shown as dead just reeks of an act out to deceive everyone. Given that the group definitely needed "insiders" to facilitate this entire operation, it makes sense for the psychiatrist to be part of them and this leads me to my next point.
- Saburo's presence in the hospital during the hostage crisis would most likely not have been a coincidence. If the psychiatrist Hitachi was in cahoots with Hyakki Yakou, he would have been able to facilitate the infiltration by providing insider information. And I guess that Saburo is their target or one of their targets because of the case one year ago. Remember that the process of how Saburo shot the criminal before the fire happened was recorded on video by someone among the onlookers whose face we didn't get to see? Just based on that video alone, it could appear that Saburo caused the death of the criminal but the reason why the fire happened would most likely be missed by people who were not directly in front of the gas station's store. As such, if someone among the members of Hyakki Yakou was personally related to that criminal and wanted to take revenge, it would make sense for Saburo to be their target.
As such, if Hitachi was indeed an accomplice or a member of the group, he would be aware of when Saburo shows up for his appointments and could then have planned the operation to coincide with his visit and make sure that he would be trapped inside when the security system was triggered to shut down the hospital after the first explosion.
- The counter argument though would be that Saburo was a miscalculation for Hyakki Yakou. Under normal circumstances, you would expect a patient to leave the hospital soon after he/she is done with a medical appointment. The thing is, Saburo was lingering around because he wanted to meet Yuko who was doing a surgery in the same hospital. And when he failed to get in touch with her, he could have left then but he made the choice of heading into the washroom to take his medication when he chanced upon the ticking bomb in one of the cubicles. As such, you can think of his atypical choices as pure coincidence or that he's destined to be caught inside the hospital when the security system shut the whole place down like a defence fortress. Otherwise, it would not have made sense for them to have a police officer among the hostages which could jeopardise their operation if he contacted the authorities stationed outside.
For now, I am more inclined towards the theory that Saburo is a target of Hyakki Yakou.
- Hyakki Yakou's operation seems to be very well planned especially if you consider the likelihood that the Kanagawa governor Nagato is one of their targets. It would not be that difficult to hold the operation on the day Saburo comes for his appointment but to make sure that this coincides with Nagato's visit would probably be very challenging. As such, I think the people currently entrapped in the hospital are not exactly there by chance and there must be reasons as to why they were kept behind by the Blue Demon while the other patients and staff members got to leave at Yuko's plea. Maybe everyone in Hyakki Yakou has a bone to pick with one or more of the hostages which will be revealed in time to come?
Part of the fun about this drama will be guessing the identities of the cast members playing the 10 demons. In the ending credits of Ep 1, their names are indicated there in the respective colours but of course, the names have been covered in mosaic. Gradually, we should be able to see the names being revealed as the story progresses.
The whole world probably already knows who plays the Blue Demon.
I doubt that NTV would have wanted this to happen because being the leader of the group, his identity would probably be the last to be revealed. However, they either underestimated how distinctive Kikuchi Fuuma's looks are or how well Johnny's artists' fans can identify their favourites even with a mask or overestimated the demon mask's ability to cover up his face to the point of beyond recognition. Personally, I can't really guess the identities of the other 9 demons from the fleeting shots in Ep 1 but the numerous close-up shots for the Blue Demon certainly made it a lot easier for everyone.
So what's going to happen next? Are we going to pretend that Fuuma isn't the Blue Demon until Ep 9 or 10? Or will NTV be able to pull a reversal trick on everyone by showing that this person who looks so much like Fuuma actually isn't him after all?
Well, if it is Fuuma as the Blue Demon, I'm actually quite happy for him because he's a member of the Aniki-kai i.e. the juniors of Sakurai in his agency who look up to him and get together frequently. So if he's able to play such an important role with his respected senior, I can imagine his joy and think it will be fun to see their interactions on screen.
For now, I think this drama looks pretty promising, at least in the suspense department. I hope the action is of a certain standard though. Then again, I'm also quite wary of this becoming yet another entry in the list of "dramas which were brilliant until the lousy last episode". Especially if the motive of Hyakki Yakou turns out to be very anti-climatic or boring, it is very likely that this drama won't be able to live up to expectations. Fingers crossed that this won't happen!
Title: Giver Taker ギバーテイカー
O.A. Start Date: 22 January 2023
Timeslot: Sundays at 10pm
Broadcast by: WOWOW
Total number of episodes: 5
Original manga by: Suenobu Keiko
Cast: Nakatani Miki, Kikuchi Fuuma, Ikeuchi Hiroyuki, Saito Yuki, Fukagawa Mai, Baba Fumika, Yoshizawa Hisashi, Hakamada Yoshihiko, Toyama Toshiya, Hirayama Yusuke, Sakurada Hiyori, Yoshida Uronta & Ikeda Tetsuhiro
Friday, January 20, 2023
Japanese Movie - Grand Prix: Keiko Me wo sumasete
Japanese Movie - Excellence Award: Yoake made basutei de
Best Foreign Movie: Belfast
Best Leading Actor: Sawada Kenji - Tsuchi wo kurau juunikagetsu
Best Leading Actress: Kishii Yukino - Keiko Me wo sumasete
Best Supporting Actor: Kubota Masataka - Aru otoko
Best Supporting Actress: Ito Aoi - Sagasu
Sponichi Newcomer - Grand Prix (Male): Banka Ichiro - SABAKAN
Sponichi Newcomer - Grand Prix (Female): Arashi Rina - My Smallland)
Best Director: Miyake Sho - Keiko Me wo sumasete
Best Script: Hayakawa Chie - PLAN 75
Best Cinematography: Tsukinaga Yuta - Keiko Me wo sumasete
Best Art: Imamura Chikara & Nitta Takayuki - Shikei ni itaru byou
Best Music: Aoba Ichiko - Kochira Amiko
Best Sound Mixing: Kawai Takamitsu - Keiko Me wo sumasete
TSUTAYA DISCAS Movie Fans Award - Japanese Movie: CheriMaho THE MOVIE ~ 30-sai made doutei dato mahoutsukai ni narerurashii ~
TSUTAYA DISCAS Movie Fans Award - Foreign Movie: Top Gun Maverick
Tanaka Kinuyo Award: Terajima Shinobu
Special Award: Nakajima Sadao
Title: Liaison Kodomo no kokoro shinryoujo リエゾン こどものこころ診療所
O.A. Start Date: 20 January 2023
Timeslot: Fridays at 11.15pm
Broadcast by: TV Asahi
Original manga by: Yonchan & Takemura Yusaku
Theme Song: "Envelope" by Kobukuro
Insert Song: "Bouquet" by MOMO SANA MINA from TWICE
Cast: Yamazaki Ikusaburo, Matsumoto Honoka, Shida Mirai, Tozuka Junki, Korenaga Hitomi, Fubuki Jun & Kuriyama Chiaki
Thursday, January 19, 2023
As expected, this is a bittersweet drama which swings between the two extremes of happiness and sadness repeatedly. Nonetheless, I feel that the first episode was more inclined towards the happy side of things although it is apparent that the sadness factor will become more prominent in time to come.
I was sort of expecting the drama to start off with Torino Naoki (Sato Takeru) still being alive but too bad that he started off in "spirit form" from the get-go. His childhood friend (cum-girlfriend?) Souma Yui (Inoue Mao) doesn't know what happened to him as he suddenly went off the radar. Throw in a police officer who is able to see spirits i.e. Yuzuru (Matsuyama Kenichi) to "facilitate" the connection between the living and dead (or is it to complicate?) and that's essentially what the first episode is all about in a nutshell.
Before the drama began, the only description about Naoki and Yui's prior relationship which I read about was childhood friends. There is actually more than that because they didn't really meet as kids but rather as 14-year-old teenagers who had to leave their original homes for unknown reasons and stay together with their foster parents for a specific period of time. After they went back to their families, they gradually lost contact and only got reunited 20 years later at the restaurant where Naoki worked at. As such, I expect that the reasons why they had to leave their parents and what happened to them in the past 20 years (especially for Naoki) would be an important part of the story which should be explained in future.
The thing is, there is something really unusual about the nature of Naoki and Yui's relationship in the present day. No doubt you can see from their interactions and behaviour that they do have obvious feelings for each other, it doesn't look like they sought affirmation from each other or had the same understanding about the nature of their relationship. That is why when Yui went to the police to file a missing person's report, she was hesitating when asked about her relation to Naoki and wondered whether she was "qualified" to do so.
Apparently in Japan, you need to be related to the missing person in a certain way e.g. family members, spouses or lovers before you can file such a report at the police station. Given that she wasn't even sure if she is indeed Naoki's girlfriend, that could be why she couldn't rebut Yuzuru's deduction and suggestion that Naoki made a conscious choice to break off contact with Yui i.e. meaning he had the intention to dump her.
What set me thinking was, was Naoki having an issue with committing to a steady relationship with Yui for what happened to him in the past? Or did he have any current concerns or reasons preventing him from "confirming" their relationship as lovers? That is in stark contrast with Yui's open expression of affection although she never spelled out her feelings to Naoki. Regardless of what it was that caused this state of things, Naoki looked like he probably made up his mind to bring their relationship up to the next level because he actually planned to propose to Yui. Just that this was a case of bad timing. My guess is that there was something in the past that made Naoki stop contacting Yui and he was indeed apprehensive about something which prevented him from going steady with Yui. That's despite the fact that they already behaved like lovers.
Like what I mentioned above, this episode had a fair amount of sweet lovey-dovey scenes which I'll let you go and explore them for yourself instead of describing what happened. What's for sure is, the acting of Inoue and Sato was really on-point and you can see the affection their characters had for each other through their mannerisms and words spoken. In particular, whenever Naoki looked lovingly at Yui or did really romantic or touching things for her, this will probably send Sato's fans into a frenzy and squealing in excitement because that expression is definitely from a man in love. And Inoue's fans will probably marvel at how cute she looked whenever there were scenes of Yui and Naoki together - that looked so convincing for a woman in love.
As to why I wrote that Yuzuru's presence might become a complication, that stems from the scene when Naoki's spirit possessed Yuzuru's body so that he could make the Japanese Hamburg steak for Yui which was a memorable dish for both of them. The thing is, before watching this episode, I assumed that Yuzuru was just a communicator or connection between Yui and Naoki. If Naoki is going to keep taking over Yuzuru's body and doing the things which he used to do for Yui, I have a hunch that this may develop into a love triangle by the end as Yui gets more confused as to whether the man before her is Naoki or Yuzuru. And Yuzuru himself may also develop feelings for Yui especially after he helps Naoki to take care of her or do things for her.
Honestly speaking, Matsuyama looked so charming while he was cooking...OK, I may be a bit biased here since I must admit that he is the first reason and probably the main motivation for me to watch this drama. However, even if Yui cannot switch sides to Yuzuru immediately just because Naoki died, I think her feelings for Naoki may cause some ripples in her heart and sway her a little bit towards Yuzuru as another guy is doing the exact same things which used to move her. Much as I don't wish to see a messy and even more heartbreaking love triangle to complicate the current situation, it does seem logical to a certain extent that Yuzuru and Yui might develop something later if Naoki is indeed dead and can never be with Yui.
I actually have my doubts over whether Naoki is indeed dead though because of 2 reasons:
* Yuzuru's power to see spirits is supposedly weaker than the rest of his family who has been managing a temple for generations. Traditionally, everyone in their family should be able to see spirits but from the conversation between him and his sister, Yuzuru has never sighted one before until Naoki. Since there doesn't seem to be any trigger which "boosted" Yuzuru's ability to see spirits now, my guess is that Naoki could be a relatively weak spirit - perhaps he just died? - so someone at Yuzuru's level could see him. And that could also explain why the guy in the yellow coat was able to see Naoki's spirit so easily and repeatedly (meaning it wasn't a fluke or accidental) even before Yuzuru sighted Naoki.
* Naoki's body hasn't been found yet. From what it appears at the end of Ep 1 and Ep 2's trailer, Naoki appeared at the same apartment block as the woman found dead in the case which Yuzuru was investigating. As such, Naoki's whereabouts on that day before he was due to meet Yui will be a big question to be answered. Did he perhaps get embroiled in the case e.g. he saw the murderer in action? And since Naoki hadn't been found dead yet, he could have been in a state between life and death so his spirit might not be that strong or stable i.e. that's why Yuzuru could see him.
If Naoki is indeed not dead, this opens up the possibility that he may be able to have a happy ending with Yui. However, if it's not meant to be after all, Yui will probably end up on her own or may get to develop a budding relationship with Yuzuru. I personally hope that Yui will get her happiness (no matter what form it would take) since she seemed to have a difficult life back then with her own family and the situation with Naoki was really unfortunate. I actually think that Yuzuru would also benefit from having someone as positive and cute like Yui in his life. This poor chap doesn't even know why he was dumped by his last girlfriend in just one month and seemed quite awkward socially that he probably doesn't have many friends to begin with.
Of course, given the situation which Yui and Naoki find themselves in now, there would be scenes that bring out the helplessness and sadness they feel. You may want to keep some tissue handy especially towards the end when Yui finally realises and accepts that Naoki might just be dead and she won't be able to see nor hear him.
Just based on the first episode alone, the quality of the story and acting was pretty good and I'm quite impressed with what the three leads had to offer. I also liked the suspense element in the background where Yuzuru not only has to investigate the murder case but also Naoki's disappearance and possible murder. As such, barring any unforeseen circumstances, it looks likely that I will watch this to the end.
Title: Informa インフォーマ
O.A. Start Date: 19 January 2023
Timeslot: Thursdays at 12.25am
Broadcast by: Kansai TV
Original book by: Okita Garyou
Cast: Kiritani Kenta, Sano Reo, Kita Kana, Fuchikami Yasushi, Hamatsu Takayuki, Hannya, Ninomiya Ryutaro, Fujii Akito, Nishimura Motoki, Tajima Ryo, Ichinose Wataru, MEGUMI, Yamanaka Takashi, Takahashi Kazuya, Miyagawa Ichirota, Chiba Tetsuya, Ishibashi Renji & Morita Go
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
When news of this drama first came out, my gut feeling was, this sounds a lot like "Nodame Cantabile". Not to mention that the character settings of the leads were almost identical i.e. a talented musician who struggles in life or has some emotional trauma to overcome vs. a conductor who has a sharp tongue, is good-looking, annoyingly cocky with a weakness. As such, I was a bit worried about this drama being a straight rip-off from Nodame or that it will be compared down to the finest detail with such a successful classical music-themed series.
Upon closer scrutiny of the storyline and after watching the first episode, these two dramas are luckily not carbon copies of each other. To begin with, "Reversal Orchestra" doesn't have an original novel or manga like "Nodame" so it has a bit more freedom in terms of how the story's direction could go. However, you can't deny that the marriage of classical music with the evergreen theme of how underdogs rise against the odds to turn their lives around with passion, talent and hard work is similar.
Frankly speaking, I don't foresee this drama deviating too much from this ultimate outcome: the struggling orchestra will get better under the leadership of its new conductor and concert master and achieve the seemingly insurmountable goal of performing at the new classical music concert hall in a few months' time. As such, if you can adjust your expectations accordingly instead of hoping for big surprises in the plot, I think that this should still be an enjoyable drama to watch just based on the first episode.
For a music-themed drama, the highlight would definitely be the performing scenes. In order to show the contrast between having no competent concert master to lead the half-hearted Kodama Orchestra (Tamakyo) and the violin prodigy Tanioka Hatsune (Kadowaki Mugi) taking the lead so effortlessly with her excellent skills, you have to be prepared for the "terrible" playing in the "before" stage. It really doesn't take a music expert to hear the difference and I think it could actually be more challenging for the cast or the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra to play at that kind of level. Just like whar Tokiwa Asahi (Tanaka Kei) pointed out, if you listen to them play individually, it probably wouldn't sound that bad. However, when everything was jumbled together in such a disharmony, it was super jarring on the ears. And because of this very extremely bad level of playing for a so-called professional orchestra, the effect that Hatsune brought to Tamakyo almost immediately would have been very distinguishable for any viewer. Not only was the level of the performance greatly improved, I think what came across more strikingly for me was the joy noticeable from the music and the elated expressions on the cast members that it seemed like they were all having fun while immersed in making great music.
The thing is, it will probably take another few more episodes to get through the background stories of the key orchestra members before the main conflict takes centrestage. If everything can be settled by Ep 5, that should leave enough time for the rivalry between Tamakyo and the more established and cash-rich Takashina Philharmonic to develop. And since Takashina Philharmonic looks likely to be led by Mishima Shoichiro (Nagayama Kento) and that both he and Hatsune are violin players, it may turn out to be a one-on-one battle to see who is better as a violin soloist or can lead their orchestras better. I also wouldn't be surprised if a love triangle develops later between Hatsune, Asahi and Shoichiro towards the end especially since Shoichiro and Hatsune seemed to have something going on between them which ended some years ago. Hopefully, it wouldn't be too angsty or draggy or overly romantic. Keeping it light is probably the best way to go about it.
Coming to the characters and the casts' acting, some of them had clearly stood out a bit more due to the airtime they got. Kadowaki being a very versatile actress, went through a total change here from the chilling psycho killer last season to a somewhat socially awkward (she was very focused on her dream of becoming a top violinist and couldn't care about anything else) yet very endearing girl who loves her violin and music so much. Tanaka's character should have some background story explaining why he is so arrogant and abrasive at times towards other people but for now, I thought what was most memorable was his interaction with his father i.e. city mayor Tokiwa Shusuke (Namase Katsuhisa). It also made me chuckle when Shusuke's rival for the mayor race i.e. Motomiya Yuuichi was branded as a politician who is only good for his looks and nice-sounding voice - that being an obvious reference to Tsuda Kenjiro's characteristic low-toned voice. Tsunematsu Yuri was also pretty eye-catching as Hatsune's younger sister Kanna and their quarrel scene was cute and heartwarming to watch. If you've seen "Alice in Borderland 2" recently, it will probably be hard for you to reconcile the fact that Heiya and Kanna are played by the same person.
For now, I should be continuing to watch this drama for the foreseeable future with the performing scenes being the biggest draw at the moment. I just hope that the character development will be comprehensive enough to flesh out these roles properly so that they can entice the viewers to stay on even if the story can be predictable. As a feel-good drama to watch mid-week, I think this is a pretty decent choice.
Title: Shoumonai bokura no renairon しょうもない僕らの恋愛論
Official LINE: here
O.A. Start Date: 19 January 2023
Timeslot: Thursdays at 11.59pm
Broadcast by: YTV
Original manga by: Hara Hidenori
Theme Song: "We Good" by JO1
Cast: Mashima Hidekazu, Yada Akiko, Nakata Seina, Kimata Shoya, Hashimoto Jun, Shimada Kyusaku, Sugimoto Tetta & Tezuka Satomi
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
Title: Stand UP Start スタンドUPスタート
O.A. Start Date: 18 January 2023
Timeslot: Wednesdays at 10pm
Broadcast by: FujiTV
Original manga by: Fukuda Shu
Theme Song: "Bet On Me" by JUJU
Cast: Ryuusei Ryo, Koizumi Kotaro, Yoshino Hokuto, Kote Shinya, Yamashita Mizuki, Mizusawa Rintaro, Amamiya Sora (voice), Tsukaji Muga, Adachi Yumi, Totsugi Shigeyuki, Suzuki Kosuke, Takahashi Katsumi & Sorimachi Takashi
Monday, January 16, 2023
Frankly speaking, the reason why I wanted to give this a shot was to see if there was anything novel about the story despite having the unexplainable feeling pre-season that this was somewhat similar to the 2021 Korean drama "Law School".
Perhaps it is due to the setting of the story i.e. law schools in both dramas and that we have a lecturer/professor who gets sent to the law school to teach, not exactly out of their own will and there's a bunch of students who are trying to survive in the cutthroat competition there. And not to mention, the constant and never-ending discussion on ideals and reality in the legal world. In school, the students seem to be inculcated with the mentality that everything is black and white and everything will fall into place nicely as assumed in traditional stereotypes. However, in practice, it doesn't always happen like this and when confronted with the limitations that the law has, it no doubt brings about the self-questioning within the characters that the law still creates unfairness, injustice and pain to people despite the best of intentions.
However, there are some significant differences between the two as far as can be seen in Ep 1. For example, the law school in the Korean version i.e. Hankuk University Law School is a prestigious one so it's really the cream of the crop that makes the competition stiffer than elsewhere. On the other hand, Seinan Law School in this drama isn't really considered a top school so it's a different ball game all together but still competitive since there is only a limited number of candidates who do pass the postgraduate course and go on to qualify to take the bar exam. And of course, the Korean version has an underlying murder case running throughout the entire story while at the moment, this drama doesn't have anything similar yet but I wouldn't be surprised if there is some hidden past/case to be revealed later into the drama.
In my previous post about the bar exam system, I'm sure you would have understood the implications of not passing the postgraduate course in Seinan and the bar exam for the students involved. And that is why Hiiragi Shizuku's realistic approach of making sure the students know what they are getting themselves into is a huge contrast to Aoi Jin's approach of fulfilling the needs of the students. There is actually no right and wrong here since their purposes are different and Hiiragi was meant to be a lecturer teaching practical stuff rather than theory.
I was a bit worried that there would be a lot of preaching on the right approach when they clash but I'm glad that Hiiragi hasn't been nagging that much yet and would prompt her students to search for answers by asking them questions rather than feeding them hints. I thought that was pretty interesting but who knows if she might become more preachy later? As for Aoi, there's really nothing much to note about him for now because all he appears to be is a lecturer who ranks his students and seems to only want to spend time helping those who are likely to succeed. It will be interesting to see what kind of person he truly is and what happened in the past to make him behave this way.
From the way things go, the drama will most likely focus on one or two students from the main group every episode before moving on to the critical parts of the story. For now, the questions which need addressing are:
1) Was Hiiragi transferred to the law school solely because she was not efficient enough to clear the required number of cases in court? It does feel like she is the female version of Iruma Michio who wants to know everything about a case and have all the doubts cleared before passing judgement so it's no wonder that she was singled out by her boss for her "poor performance". However, the pre-existing relationship with her former teacher Morimiya Kiyomasa probably meant that this was a calculated move on his part. And like what Aoi pointed out, Hiiragi could actually refuse to take up this appointment so why didn't she do so?
2) Who is Aoi Jin?
3) Why did Hiiragi switch lines from an economics graduate to study law from scratch? And why did she choose to become a judge?
4) Why is a police officer i.e. Kazami Hayate visiting the dean of a law school often? Some cases to discuss or get an outside opinion on?
5) What are the reasons why the 5 students want to study law or join the legal profession?
As for the acting, Kitagawa's portrayal of Hiiragi is quite interesting with a fine balance of her cheerfulness, positivity, enthusiasm and seriousness. Yamada Yuuki's expressions can't be seen that easily because of his hairstyle and he's constantly in a grouchy or scowling mood. Oikawa Mitsuhiro excels at roles like this with a seemingly frivolous appearance but hiding something within while the rest of the key "adult" characters in the law school and outside haven't made much of an impression.
As for the students, I have only watched Maeda Oushiro's acting before so I'm not so familiar with the rest beyond knowing their faces and names. At this stage, the character who is most intriguing would be Manaka Shintaro played by Takahashi Fumiya because of how fake and pretentious his character is despite that smiling face and friendliness.
For now, I will keep watching this unless the story gets really boring or preachy. or predictable There have been so many law-themed or school-based dramas to date so this drama really needs to distinguish itself in more ways than one in order to hold the interest of the viewers. Ep 1 was decent but more needs to be done going forward.