Sunday, August 27, 2006

Nodame Cantabile drama adaptation in autumn '06

Although I'm a fan of Nodame Cantabile, I wasn't particularly thrilled to hear news about the drama adaptation. The most worrying thing is the selection of Tamaki Hiroshi to play Chiaki Shinichi which I object to vehemently. Of course, my views mean nothing and the decision has been made. I have never been convinced that Tamaki can act well as he usually plays roles which seem so silly and never fail to make an impression on me. I am not confident of him playing Chiaki-sama at all.

On the other hand, we have Ueno Juri playing Nodame. Well, Ueno has been billed as one of the uprising young actresses these days but I've never really felt that she acts very well. As compared to Tamaki, I have slightly more faith in her that she can make Nodame a success but it's easy to go overboard and make a nuisance of herself.

If the rumours are true, Okada Junichi was the initial choice to play Chiaki-sama and the drama was supposed to be produced by TBS. However, due to some problems between Okada's agency i.e. Johnny's Jimusho and TBS, the plans were shelved and Hana Yori Dango was made at the last minute during autumn 2005.

Personally, I feel that Okada would fit Chiaki-sama's image closer in terms of his brooding looks and his strong acting skills. Coupled with the fact that Okada has some music background and knows how to play the piano (his mother is a piano teacher), I think he is more suitable to play Chiaki-sama. The only thing which he differs from Chiaki-sama would probably be his height. Okada is not short though but he has never been thought of as someone who's tall. And Ueno Juri looks quite tall on screen so I think by placing them together, it doesn't fit the impression we get from the manga since Chiaki-sama is 181cm tall while Nodame's height is 162cm.

Contrary to the lack of confidence in the leads, I think the selection of the supporting cast gives the impression that more thought has been put into this aspect. Takenaka Naoto is a good choice to play Stresseman a.k.a. Milch and I'm sure he would be a joy to watch.

Eita, Mizukawa Asami and Uehara Misa bear striking resemblances to their respective characters i.e. Mine, Kiyora and Saiko. However, Koike Keisuke to play Masumi was a surprise to me. It will be hard to imagine him with an afro and having the hots for Chiaki-sama but this could be a chance for Koike to seek a breakthrough in his career. Another issue which bugs me would be the change of setting for Kiyora who is one of the founders for Rising*Star Orchestra and wasn't in Momogaoka Music University nor the S-orchestra in the first place. I don't see the rationale for doing that but I guess they had to include her relationship with Mine so there was no way to delay her appearance if Rising*Star wasn't going to be mentioned in the drama.

FujiTV is putting a lot of effort in this production and even had an audition to find members to be part of the S-orchestra. That means the drama will probably cover up to the S-orchestra section although I was looking forward more to seeing Rising*Star Orchestra.

I will be watching this drama but I have a hunch that I might drop this well before the end of the season if the perfomances of the leads irk me to a major extent. Of course, I hope that there won't be any amendments to the storyline too. It's best to take the conservative approach of sticking to the manga instead of trying anything funny to incur the wrath of the manga lovers.

I'm more interested in the anime adaptation which will be shown in the Noitamina slot on FujiTV from January 2007. The issue of concern is whether the anime will carry on from where the drama ends or start from the scratch. I would prefer the latter though.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sapuri Ep 1

I had finished watching this first episode last week but didn't have any motivation to post a review. In fact, I'm dropping this immediately because I find this a waste of time. The pull factors are too weak to sustain my interest as there is an overwhelming number of push factors which are putting me off.

As many of you would have known, I wasn't very keen about the choice of the leads i.e. Ito Misaki and Kamenashi Kazuya. Both of them aren't exactly known for their acting skills and to do a story which has been rehashed in many formats over the years i.e. the older woman-younger man premise is tantamount to suicide. At least a more refreshing genre would have helped to take the attention from their lacklustre performances. Doing an old-fashioned story is not the worst thing which can happen to actors, the issue is how to make things appear interesting despite the age-old setting. And I do feel that these two can't make it. Sorry to fans of Ito and Kamenashi, I really don't think they are cut-out to be leading actor-actress material yet.

Just look at dramas like Anego. Nothing particularly new...a woman in her 30s, single and facing the ticking of her biological clock, meets a younger man but the chemistry between Shinohara Ryoko and Akanishi Jin is still something I remember fondly.

Let me talk more about the story first before going into details on what I found lacking in the leads' performances.

Originally, I was under the impression that the heroine in this drama, Fujii Minami is someone who really does enjoy work and regards love as something which spices up her life at times. However, the drama shows Fujii as someone who seems so overworked, tired and stressed where I don't really see much of her passion for work. For someone who is supposed to love work as much as her life, Fujii appears so haggard and exhausted instead of showing that shine and glow of people doing things which they enjoy.

After a lengthy first episode, I am still lost as to where the story seems to be heading. Are the scriptwriters going to focus more on Fujii's work life or the development of her relationship with Ishida Yuuya? If the storyline from the manga is to be strictly followed, the relationship should take a backseat. However, the impression I get from the promotional efforts and this episode would be that the relationship is placed at top priority. If the story is good, this would have covered the flaws of the cast but too bad, I didn't see any possibility of this materialising.

Ito Misaki's potrayal of Fujii is so one-dimensional. I can only see her looking tired out from work. Where is her drive and passion for a job which she loves to the extent of standing up her boyfriend many times? And spare me from her monologues which sound like she's reciting from a textbook. No tinge of emotion and involvement which gives the idea that Ito's just reading something from the script instead of speaking about her role's inner thoughts.

As for Kamenashi, one of the biggest issues I have would be the setting of his role. Ishida is such a irresponsible and immature brat who needs someone to teach him how society works instead of expecting others to treat him nicely and give him the freedom to do anything he likes. It is indeed amazing to imagine someone like Fujii liking him. And for heaven's sake, I feel like I'm seeing Shuuji from Nobuta wo Produce, fast-forward to a few years later. His mannerisms remain largely unchanged from the last drama I saw him in, which doesn't look good if he wants to develop as an actor in future. Of course, if Kamenashi had a stronger partner to guide him along instead of the equally bad Ito, he might have sizzled in this role. The reverse holds true too in my opinion so I view it as a case of the blind leading the blind. I think FujiTV is extremely daring to put them in charge of a gekku drama and shudder to think of what would happen to Nodame Cantabile next season since their leads aren't actually known to be good actors too, just like Ito and Kamenashi.

With regards to the supporting cast, Sato Koichi and Shiraishi Miho's combination seems quite interesting. That enjoy oyaji trait in Sato's role gets on my nerves too. Shida Mirai is in it too as Sato's daughter. Eita and Ryo may have something going on as the drama progresses. Although I'm interested in the supporting cast, this will not be a strong reason to keep me tuning in to the drama after all.

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (20 Aug 2006)

1) Superman Returns

2) Gedo Senki

3) Pirates of the Carribean Dead Man's Chest

4) Nihon Chinbotsu

5) Hanada Shonenshi Yuurei to Himitsu no Tunnel

6) Pocket Monster Advance Generation

7) Gekijouban Kamen Rider Kabuto GOD SPEED LOVE

8) Mori no Little Gang

9) United 93

10) M:i:III

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (13 Aug 2006)

1) Gedo Senki

2) Pirates of the Carribean

3) Nihon Chinbotsu

4) Pocket Monster Advance Generation Pokemon Ranger to Umi no Ouji Manafi

5) Gekijouban Kamen Rider Kabuto GOD SPEED LOVE

6) M:i:III

7) United 93

8) Mori no Little Gang

9) Gekijouban NARUTO Daikouhun! Mikazukijima no Animal Panic Dattebayo

10) Tokyo Friends The Movie

My Boss My Hero Ep 4

The focus of this episode is on Makio's first love experience as he slowly discovers his feelings for Hikari. Before this is discussed in detail, Makio has to face up to another trial as his younger brother Mikio is back for the summer holiday before entering university to study economics. Compared to him, Makio is having problems with his studies and boasts of a "colourful" results slip as what his father says. Given the gap in their academic abilities, this is causing a lot of uneasiness for Makio who really doubts that he can be the successor even if he does graduate from high school. Even though his father has confirmed his stand of sticking by his promise, the problem is that he still has to deal with discontent from others in the gang about choosing Makio over Mikio who has expressed nil interest in being the chief.

Things are also changing between Makio and Minami as a result of their one-on-one tuition week during the summer vacation. Makio still thinks of Minami as a deka-men (big-faced woman) who's out to make his life difficult by making him study but he starts to enjoy learning although he's not fully conscious of it yet. The funny thing is to see Minami misintepreting Makio's expression of fury as interest and starting to feel nervous in his presence. I just don't see how this expression can make anyone feel any tinge of romance. Anyway, it doesn't appear that things will work out well between them since Makio is interested in Hikari instead.

Makio likens his feelings to someone throwing hammers at his heart and it is manifested in the form as shown in the picture on the left. Somehow, this brings back memories of Super Mario Brothers whenever the visual is flashed on the screen. It was hillarious to see Makio clutching his chest as if he was in pain whenever he was with Hikari but he is unable to convey how he feels to others since he doesn't even know what is happening to himself. This just goes to show that he has never fallen for anyone before although he may be popular with women because of his status as a leading figure in the gang.

On the other hand, the story suggests that things between Sakurakoji and Hikari are not that simple as it seems. As we know it from the last episode, the two of them are childhood friends but Sakurakoji has been blowing hot and cold to Hikari which is making her bewildered. If Hikari doesn't like Sakurakoji, I doubt she would be that bothered by his attitude. At the same time, Sakurakoji senses that Makio feels something for Hikari and is also disturbed by this issue although he tries to hide it. Therefore, it should be a case of a love triangle between the trio. Unless Hikari has a change of heart, it looks like Makio will taste the feeling of falling out of love for the first time in his life.

During the test-of-guts game, Makio finally realises his feelings for Hikari but this is at the expense of leaving her behind at a dark shrine as he tries to release his pent-up emotions when he discovers the truth. As such, in the next episode's trailer, Hikari seems to be giving Makio the cold shoulder while he tries to gain her forgiveness. Another unexpected development looks set to take place as Kazuya wants to join Makio at school which could mean more laughter as they try to hide their identites. As to why Kazuya wants to go to St. Agnes, I guess it's partly due to the fact that he feels uneasy about Makio's changes and the other probably having something to do with his intention to protect Makio at school.

The theme song, Sorafune by TOKIO is also getting better the more I listen to it. This is the very first time where Nagase sings the entire song on his own without the other members chipping in for some parts. It just makes me feel rejuvenated with each listening and I can't wait for the single to be released.

Limit of Love Umizaru 2

I watched the movie, "Limit of Love Umizaru 2" in the cinema yesterday and must say that this really deserves its reputation as one of the best and most-watched movies in Japan for 2006 by far. One thing to note is that the title of the movie was amended to "Umizaru 2 Test of Trust" in Singapore so for local movie-goers, do keep this in mind when you are buying tickets. By the way, this is only shown exclusively at Cathay cinemas and I viewed this at its Cineleisure outlet.

Considering the fact that I'm not an avid movie-goer and the last time when I actually visited a cinema was more than 6 months ago, I wouldn't have paid a higher price to watch it on a weekend if not for Umizaru. Then again, I work till late at night on weekdays and wouldn't have been able to visit the cinema anyway. ^__^ Thank goodness that this film performed to my expectations or else I would have regretted spending that amount of money at the cinema. Coupled with the reason that this movie was just shown in Japan during May and we are able to see it in August, I thought that it was reasonable for me to watch it in the theatre rather than wait for the DVD release.

For a start, please note that the following contains spoilers, in fact a lot of them so if you do not wish to know the storyline, you may wish to stop reading this post. As for those who are interested to know more, please proceed.

The movie starts with a plane crash site at sea where Senzaki Daisuke (Ito Hideaki) and Yoshioka Tetsuya (Sato Ryuta) are hanging on to the debris of the plane in the midst of the storm. They are trying to get two of the survivors i.e. a man and a little boy to safety but due to the harsh weather conditions, the pilot can't even find a proper place to lower the helicopter and conduct the rescue operations. Just then, the little boy is slowly slipping from the almost detached door of the plane which he has been clinging onto and Senzaki manages to grab hold of him. However, this results in the man slipping from his grasp...

Months later, Isawa Kanna (Kato Ai) goes to Kagoshima to meet Senzaki who's now her fiance but it looks apparent that she's quite insecure about the state of their relationship. Kanna drove 20 hours from Yokohama to Kagoshima for the sake of showing Senzaki the wedding dress she made but is disappointed to hear that he wants some time to think about their marriage. Kanna doesn't get the reassurance she was hoping from Senzaki as he had never proposed to her and marriage plans are all carried out by herself to date. After hearing his words, it's no wonder that Kanna is calling the wedding off and wants to return to Yokohama.

Actually, the reason why Senzaki is getting cold feet has much to do with the rescue operation at sea where he failed to save the adult. This makes him doubt whether he can be responsible for Kanna's life and happiness since he was unable to save someone before his eyes. However, he doesn't think that Kanna should get involved in this process where he's trying to think about what he should do thus causing the misunderstanding between them.

From this point onwards, that's when the action begins. A passenger ferry by the name of Clover is rammed into by another ship and suffers a huge tear of about 30m. This causes water to seep into it and the rescue team is mobilized to evacuate the passengers before the ship sinks. In addition, there are more than 100 vehicles on board which increase the possibility of the ship blowing up since the fuel in these vehicles can be ignited easily.

Senzaki and Yoshioka are also part of this operation where Senzaki happens to see Kanna on the ship too. Apparently, she had gotten sick of driving back to Yokohama and decides to take the ferry back. However, the fact that she has to leave the ship means she would have to dump her wedding dress behind. Senzaki knows how much she treasures the dress but under such circumstances, he tells her to leave it behind despite her reluctance. Just before Senzaki leaves to attend to a pregnant staff of the ship Honma Megumi (Ootsuka Nene), he promises Kanna that he will meet her again and tells her to leave the ship as soon as possible.

Senzaki attends to Honma's injuries and follows her to get to the lifeboats since she's more familiar with the layout of the ship. They happen to meet Ebihara Shinichi (Fukikoshi Mitsuru) who's trying to smoke at the car garage. Senzaki tries to stop Ebihara from using his lighter as he smells gasoline. Just before they can do anything, the ship tilts and causes the cars to shift out of control with metal chains falling from the ceiling. This results in the friction causing sparks which lights the gasoline thus an explosion happens. In the process, Ebihara's leg is injured but Yoshioka manages to help Senzaki carry Ebihara and Honma to safety.

However, that doesn't mean they will be safe from now on. What happens is that they will go through a series of ordeals which also torments those waiting for their safety on shore. I won't go into details on what goes on during this section because that forms the bulk of the action scenes which will keep you on the edge of your seat. As for the ending, just keep in mind that the hero doesn't die so you should know where the story is heading.

The picture on the right is a poster pasted on the beam of the cinema. Due to the high human traffic there and I was using my mobile phone camera to take the shot, that is why I couldn't take a better picture at higher resolution and had to settle for this. This is rather different from the promotional flyer seen above and it's obvious that they are placing Kato Ai at top priority on the poster, most probably because she's quite well-known here. It just seems awkward to me because the lead is Ito Hideaki and yet he's not featured prominently on the poster. Anyway, I can't comprehend what the local movie distributors are thinking especially when it comes to changing of the original titles to nonsensical ones. In this case, I fail to understand why they had to change it to "Umizaru 2 Test of Trust" when there was nothing wrong with the original title.

According to Cathay's website, they are going to show "Waters" soon and guess what title they changed it to? "Gigolo Wannabe"! That's rather demeaning to the movie even though the occupation isn't that well-looked upon in Japan. I'm still undecided whether I want to watch "Waters" though.

Anyway, for those watching this movie, there is the promotion of receiving a free Umizaru notebook and water bottle if you buy 4 tickets. I didn't get it since there were only two of us. One thing I noticed was that a lot of the people were there on their own and I spotted a significant number of Japanese in the audience. Another thing I have an issue about is the seat which makes you sit at an awkward angle so I got a stiff back 2 hours later. Other than that, the viewing experience was quite good.

Coming back to the review of this movie, you can be sure of action, laughter and emotions rolled into one. I found myself shedding tears at some of the scenes especially that scene when the ship sank. It was so devastating to see that because there had been a glimmer of hope that Senzaki and Co. would be safe. Anyway, you have to watch it for yourself to know what I mean.

As for laughter, I think a lot has to do with the presence of good actors who set the tempo for the little jokes amidst the gloomy atmosphere. Sato Ryuta is always there to provide comical relief when he banters with Ito. Ootsuka Nene's potrayal of a cheerful and somewhat ditzy pregnant lady who speaks inappropriate things at times really cracked me up. For example, just when the four of them i.e. Senzaki, Yoshioka, Ebihara and Honma were thinking of how to get out from the enclosed engine room surrounded by water, Honma remarked that she suddenly remembered something. Honma was a member of a love research group in school so she was telling the men that there are two endings for a relationship i.e. marriage or breakup. Just then, she finally remembered the last ending i.e. death which seemed rather inauspicious to be said at that time since they were facing the prospect of death themselves. No doubt it was a grim situation they were in, these little jokes helped to make the movie enjoyable in another way.

With regards to the action, I must say that some of the scenes reminded me of the films Titanic and Armageddon. First of all, the sinking ship brought back memories of Titanic although there wasn't any romance on board. And the reference to Armageddon seemed quite apparent when Kanna was speaking to Senzaki on the phone where everyone heard his heartfelt proposal. That seemed to coincide with what Bruce Willis and Liv Tyler were doing back then in Armageddon. Anyway, one thing which bugged me was the fact that Kanna could gain access to the command HQ so easily despite the fact that she's not an authorised personnel. It was quite different in Armageddon since I remembered that Liv Tyler's role was at the HQ right from the start, apparently with permission to watch what was going on.

When the ending credits roll, do not leave the cinema yet (none of the audience left during my session yesterday) since you get to watch a recap of the Umizaru series from the first movie to the drama and then to the finale movie. After this, you will see scenes of the cast clowning around in front of the camera where Tokito Saburo was one of the more entertaining ones. Of course, with the nice theme song, "Precious" by Ito Yuna playing in the background, this rounds up the movie in a good way.

Whether you have watched the Umizaru series, I'm sure you will enjoy this at least for the tension and humour although I think knowing how the characters developed over time would have been better since you can understand how they feel. For those who have watched it, do post your comments here.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Fresh Start of Dorama World

For those who are new to Dorama World, welcome and thanks for visiting this space. For those who were members from the forum which is the predecessor of this blog, thank you for continuing to support me by reading and responding to what I will be posting here.

Reasons as to why I have to start afresh elsewhere are already provided in the email I have sent to all members. Please make your presence felt here by posting comments to this message under your existing nicknames from the forum.

This blog will be very personalised, which means two things.

First of all, I will post as and when I have the time because I'm so caught up with work and studies that I really do not have the luxury to post regular updates. It becomes a chore over time and it really makes me tired just trying to catch up on the backlog. This defeats the purpose of setting up the forum in the first place because I really enjoyed what I had been doing.

Secondly, I will post whatever I like i.e. the news/reviews I post would be those which I feel an interest about to report on. That's why you may not be seeing any updates of your favourite artistes/dramas/movies here because they happen to be those whom I'm not interested in.

Last but not least, thanks again for continuing to show your support for the blog.