Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hachimitsu to Clover's drama to be shown from Jan 08!

Narumi Riko (15) will star in the drama version of "Hachimitsu to Clover" which is to be shown via FujiTV from Jan 2008. The manga has accumulated sales of 8.13 million copies and depicts the lives of 5 art university students.

Narumi will play Hanamoto Hagumi, who's a freshman despite her being only a Year 3 junior high student in real life. As for the role of Takemoto Yuuta who is holding a torch for Hagumi, he will be played by Ikuta Toma (23).

"Hachimitsu to Clover" was serialised in the manga magazine, "Chorus" and its 10-volumes boast of a sales figure of 8.13 million copies. The manga was made into an anime and shown in the midnight slot during 2005 and 2006 while a movie starring Aoi Yu was made in July 06.

The manga's author, Umino Chika saw a poster of Narumi acting as a genius pianist in the movie, "Jindou", thus decided to get the latter to star in the drama version. Filming will begin at the end of this month.

As for the remaining three main roles i.e. Morita Shinobu, Yamada Ayumi and Mayama Takumi, FujiTV has mentioned that casting for these characters are still in progress.

After a long absence, I'm back with posting this piece of news about Hachikuro! This is only momentary because I'm very busy with work and studies so I can't post as frequently as I want.

Well, as a fan of the manga and anime, I have high hopes for the drama version. In addition, I like Narumi and Ikuta so I'm looking forward to see how they will perform. My only concern is that Narumi has always been cast in headstrong, stubborn and cool roles so how she shows Hagu's insecure, sensitive and pure character would be a big challenge to her acting skills. Likewise for Ikuta, he's been playing comical or happy-go-lucky roles most of the time so I wonder how he will pull off playing Takemoto.

However, my main concern is the casting for the rest of the roles especially Morita who's my No.1 favourite character. It's definitely not easy to play Morita who's hiding his true self under his eccentric and wild cover. Personally, I feel that Iseya Yuusuke wasn't that competent in showing the sentimental side of Morita although he had that artistic flair. Maybe it was his image in the movie which really got on my nerves. Likewise for Mayama and Yamada or even the important supporting characters like Hanamoto-sensei, Rika-san or even Miwako-san and Nomiya, I'm really worried about who they will choose. This could be crucial to the success of the series.

As for the scope of the drama, it is not mentioned in the article but I guess 11 episodes or so would not be sufficient to cover the 10 volumes. Maybe they will follow what Nodame Cantabile is doing i.e. follow-up with a drama SP at the end of the series? However, since Hachikuro is already done with its manga, they might just produce a full sequel unlike Nodame which is still in progress...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (20 May 2007)

1) Superman 3

2) Gegege no Kitaro

3) Ore wa kimi to tame ni koso shini iku

4) Bizan

5) Meitantei Conan

6) Babel

7) Pacchigi! LOVE&PEACE

8) Crayon Shinchan Arashi wo Yobu Ketsu dake Bakudan!

9) Tokyo Tower Okan to Boku to Tokidoki Oton

10) Stranger than fiction

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (13 May 2007)

1) Spiderman 3

2) Gegege no Kitaro

3) Ore wa kimi no tame ni koso shini iku

4) Bizan

5) Meitantei Conan

6) Babel

7) Crayon Shinchan Arashi wo Yobu Utau Ketsu Dake Bakudan!

8) Tokyo Tower

9) Hatsuyuki Virgin Snow

10) Hannibal Rising

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (6 May 2007)

1) Spiderman 3

2) Gegege no Kitaro

3) Meitantei Conan

4) Crayon Shinchan Arashi wo Yobu Utau Ketsu dake Bakudan!

5) Babel

6) Tokyo Tower Okan to Boku to Tokidoki Oton

7) Rocky The Final

8) Hannibal Rising

9) Blood Diamond

10) Love Song ga Dekirumade

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (29 April 2007)

1) Meitantei Conan

2) Gegege no Kitaro

3) Babel

4) Crayon Shinchan Arashi wo Yobu Utau Ketsu Dake Bakudan!

5) Tokyo Tower Okan to Boku to tokidoki Oton

6) Hannibal Rising

7) Rocky The Final

8) Blood Diamond

9) Love Song ga dekiru made

10) Shin Kyuuseishu Densetsu Hokuto no Ken Raou Den Gekitou no Sho

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (22 April 2007)

1) Meitantei Conan

2) Crayon Shin-chan Arashi wo Yobu Utau Ketsu dake Bakudan!

3) Tokyo Tower Okan to Boku to Tokidoki Oton

4) Rocky the Finale

5) Hannibal Rising

6) Night Museum

7) Blood Diamond

8) Love Song ga Dekirumade

9) Unfair the movie

10) Holiday

Monday, April 16, 2007

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (15 April 2007)

1) Tokyo Tower Okan to Boku to Tokidoki Oton

2) Night Museum

3) Blood Diamond

4) Doraemon Nobita no Shinmakai Daibouken Shichinin no Mahoutsukai

5) Unfair the movie

6) Holiday

7) Sunshine 2057

8) Happy Feet

9) Battery

10) Taitei no Ken

Monday, April 09, 2007

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (8 April 2007)

1) Night Museum

2) Doraemon Nobita no Shinmakai Daibouken Shichinin no Mahoutsukai

3) Blood Diamond

4) Unfair the movie

5) Holiday

6) Happy Feet

7) Battery

8) Taitei no Ken

9) Mushi King Super Battle Movie

10) Mushishi

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Joudan Ja Nai! (It's not a joke!) 冗談じゃない - Spring 2007 (Introduction)

Title: Joudan Ja Nai! 冗談じゃない!
TV Station: TBS
O.A. 15 April 2007, Sundays, 9pm


Takamura Keita - Oda Yuji
Takamura Eren - Ueno Juri
Tomoda Satoshi - Tanaka Kei
Hirose Karen - Naka Saisa
Hirose Seren - Kanno Rio
Hirose Miren - Morisago Ai
Yamada Akira - Arai Kentarou
Onishi-san - Umezawa Masayo
Yamada Motoo - Taguchi Hiromasa
Sugita Shuuzou - Takada Junji
Sasaki - Kobayashi Susumu
Hirose Souhei - Kusamame Masao
Nonomura Saeko - Iijima Naoko
Hirose Rie - Ootake Shinobu


Takamura Keita and his girlfriend Eren are in a French resort located in Nice, enjoying a romantic holiday. Eren is a 20-year-old university student who's exactly half of Keita's age and was born in France. Their holiday to France also includes a visit to Eren's family who are still living there.

On the eve of his meeting with his prospective in-laws, Keita happens to meet his ex-girlfriend, Rie on the streets of Nice. They had broken up during their university days and had not seen each other since then.

The next day, Keita goes to the winery owned by Eren's parents and meets her father and 3 younger sisters. He gets the shock of his life when he realises that Rie is Eren's mother! However, he tries to reassure himself that everything will be fine since Rie is staying in France while he will be living with Eren in Japan after the wedding.

When Keita returns to Japan with Eren, a series of happenings cause him to be in a fix i.e. the reduction of staff in his department and being one of those on the tentative retrenchment list. Unknown to him, something worse is going to take place in his life...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (1 April 2007)

1) Night Museum

2) Doraemon Nobita no Shinmakai Daibouken Shichinin no Mahou Tsukai

3) Unfair the movie

4) Happy Feet

5) Holiday

6) Battery

7) Deja Vu

8) One Piece Episode Of Arabasuta

9) Mushishi

10) Mush King Super Battle Movie

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Watashi tachi no Kyoukasho (Our Textbook) - わたしたちの教科書 - Spring 2007 (Introduction)

Title: Watashi tachi no Kyoukasho (Our Textbook) - わたしたちの教科書
O.A. 12 April 2007, Thursdays, 10pm
TV Station: FujiTV


Tsumiki Tamako (30) - Kanno Miho
Kaji Kohei (24) - Ito Atsushi
Oshiro Saki (27) - Maki Youko
Yoshikoshi Nozomi (25) - Sakai Wakana
Tosaka Atsuhiko (29) - Ookura Koji
Yahata Daisuke(25) - Mizushima Hiro
Kumazawa Shigeichi (45) - Sato Jiro
Amagi Otoya (20) - Igarashii Hayashi
Uda Masashi (30) - Maekawa Yasuyuki
Ookuwa Hisao (40) - Toda Masahiro
Hibino Keisuke - Koichi Mantarou
Seri Naoyuki (36) - Tanihara Shosuke
Aizawa Asuka (14) - Shida Mirai
Amagi Masumi (53) Fubuki Jun


In a junior high school classroom, an unexpected incident happens when a student falls off from a building. Shocked by the suddency of the matter, the teachers are in a frenzy, trying to establish the cause. To make things worse, the student belongs to a class which has a new temporary staff as their form teacher thus he is unaware of what he should do under such circumstanes. In the midst of the investigation, a female lawyer Tsumiki Tamako appears to challenge the school about this seemingly-simple accident...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Kaette kita Jikou Keisatsu 帰ってきた時効警察 - Spring 2007 (Introduction)

Title: Kaette kita Jikou Keisatsu 帰ってきた時効警察
O.A. 13 April 2007, Fridays, 11.15pm
Odagiri Jo, Asou Kumiko, Toyohara Kosuke, Fuse Eri, Eguchi Noriko, Koide Saori, Iwamatsu Ryo

Episode 1: 嘘は真実を食べる怪物だと言っても過言ではないのだ!(It is not exaggerating to say that lies are monsters which eat up the truth!)

Mikatsuki and the rest at the Jikou Kanri department (Legal time limit department) feel that it was a pity that Kiriyama gave up investigating of those "expired" cases due to lack of funds since a year ago. One day, Kiriyama comes across a murder case of a member of parliament Fukuhara Kenichi which has since expired and feels a strong interest to find out more on this especially after he gets a tidy sum of money by chance to finance his investigation. He brings Mikatsuki along to meet a newscaster Enoda Misako who was the first one to reach the crime scene and had interviewed Fukuhara's secretary Kendo Kiyohiko at that time. Kendo was wrongly accused of being the murderer but his innocence was proven by Enoda later. Kiriyama starts to wonder what Enoda is hiding especially after speaking to her on this case...

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sexy Voice and Robo セクシーボイスアンドロボ - Spring 2007 (Introduction)

Title: Sexy Voice & Robo セクシーボイスアンドロボ
Date of O.A.: 10 April 2007, Tuesdays, 10pm
TV Station: NTV


Sudou Iichiro (nickname: Robo) - Matsuyama Kenichi
Hayashi Niko (nickname: Niko) - Oogo Suzuka
Hayashi Kazumi - Murakawa Eri
Hayashi Takeo - Tsukamoto Shinya
Hayashi Yukie - Katagiri Hairi
Nanashi Hideyoshi - Okada Yoshihide
Makyouna Maki - Asaoka Ruriko
Episode 1 guest: Mikabouzu - Nakamura Shido

Episode 1 summary:

Niko is a junior high student who feels bored with her life and shuttles between school, home and the convenience store everyday. One day, she happens to witness a fighting incident between two men and gets so excited about it that she impersonates as an adult woman on the friendship hotline to get someone to revisit the crime scene with her.

Robo, an otaku who's very interested in women happens to be the guy who chatted with Niko through the friendship hotline and is shocked to see how young Niko is. Nevertheless, he accompanies her to the crime scene which has been cleaned up as if nothing has happened except for the overflowing rubbish bin. Niko wants to find out what is going on and lures Robo to help her by dangling a MAX Robot in exchange for his services.

During their investigation, the pair meet Mikabouzu who claims to have memories of what happened for the last 3 days only. They try to find out what is going wrong with him and are surprised to find out his real identity...

Reason for interest:

Matsuyama Kenichi. This being his first leading role in a drama, I feel the urge to support him. ^__^ However, given that the genre of this drama may not be appealing to the audience at large and that there aren't that many big names in the cast, I'm rather worried about the ratings. In addition, I have a tendency to feel bored with episodic stories so I'm not even sure whether I will continue with this drama till the end.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Romaji lyrics of "Flavor of Life" by Utada Hikaru

Title: Flavor of Life
Artiste: Utada Hikaru
Lyrics and melody by Utada Hikaru
Insert song of Hana Yori Dango 2 Returns

arigatou to kimi ni iwareru to
nandaka setsunai
sayounara no ato mo tokenu mahou
awaku horonigai
The flavour of life

tomodachi demo koibito demo nai chuukan chiten de
shuukaku no hi wo yumemiteru aoi furuutsu

ato ippo ga fumi dasenai sei de
jirettai no nannotte baby

arigatou to kimi ni iwareru to
nandaka setsunai
sayounara no ato mo tokenu mahou
awaku horonigai
The flavour of life

amai dake no sasoi mongu
ajikke no nai tooku
sonna mono ni kyoumi wo sosorarenai

omoi doori ni ikanai toki datte
jinsei suteta mon janaitte

doushita no? to kyuuni kikareru to
uun, nan demo nai
sayounara no ato ni kieru egao
watashi rashikunai

shinjitai to negaeba negau hodo
nandaka setsunai
aishiteru yo yori mo daisuki no hou ga
kimi rashiin janai?
The flavor of life

wasure kakete ita hito no kaori wo
totsuzen omoidasu koro
furitsumoru yuki no shirosa wo motto
sunao ni yorokobitai yo

daiyamondo yori mo yawarakakute
atatakana mirai te ni shitai yo
kagiri aru jikan wo kimi to sugoshitai

arigatou to kimi ni iwareru to
nandaka setsunai
sayounara no ato mo tokenu mahou
awaku horonigai
The flavour of life

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (25 March 2007)

1) Night Museum

2) Doraemon Nobita no Shinmaka Daibouken Shichinin no Mahou Tsukai

3) Unfair the movie

4) Holiday

5) Happy Feet

6) Battery

7) Deja Vu

8) Mushishi

9) Mushi King Super Battle Movie

10) One Piece Episode Of Arabasuta

Monday, March 26, 2007

Tsubasa no Oreta Tenshi Tachi 1 翼の折れた天使たち 1

Celeb (Ueto Aya)
Ratings: 14.9%
O.A. 27 Feb 06

The duration of these drama SPs are supposed to be relatively short as compared to the usual 2-hr SPs. In this case, the first instalment starring Ueto Aya lasts for around 37 minutes only.

Ueto plays Komine Nanako, an employee at a courier company who has no zest for life and work. However, she derives joy in shopping at a luxury boutique weekly so as to pretend that she's rich and buy these expensive clothing and accessories to justify the meaning of her existence. Based on her paltry pay, there is no way she can afford such a lifestyle. In actual fact, she sleeps with a number of men who give her money monthly which she uses to pay for her credit card bills. Despite the supposed satisfaction she should derive from the purchases, Nanako seems to be lost and doesn't quite understand why she is sleeping with those men for at times.

She meets a little girl by the name of Megumi who comes from a rich family and the latter laments that she's not happy. Nanako tells her off for being a spoilt brat and she should treasure her current circumstances since there are people who cannot afford good stuff just like herself since her family isn't well-off. Later, Nanako finds out that Megumi is not making a fuss over nothing because she preferred her past poor lifestyle over now because her mother had married a rich guy after Megumi's father passed away. Subsequently, Nanako realises that Megumi has been abused by her stepfather for constantly making him angry because of her pining for her late father and tries to help. However, she cannot do much and only starts to take a close look at herself when Megumi collapses from the injuries. As a result of knowing Megumi, Nanako starts to rethink her priorities and ditch her past lifestyle...

The final message for this SP reads as:

People tend to believe what they can see clearly but do not assess the value of such things...

The really important things are usually beside you and cannot be seen clearly just like air...

Well, first of all, the so-called bed scene wasn't that steamy as it was said to be. Maybe they still needed to preserve the cutey and innocent image of Ueto Aya so even the kissing was done by the guy and she was lying there without any reaction. So for those who are looking forward to some "adult" scenes, you will be disappointed.

However, seeing Ueto Aya change into various types of beautiful clothes is a feast for the eyes. Be it casual or the more expensive wear, she looks very good and I'm sure Ueto fans will be very satisfied with the numerous screenshots I've provided in the meantime. Check out the SP if you can.

As for the story, I thought that it was too short to have a proper structure and seemed rather clique when Nanako changed her mind so easily. Mind you, Nanako started to sleep with men for money since she was in senior high so the sudden change was a bit hard to accept. I would have thought that it is better to show more of her emotional struggle and display a gradual change but I guess the SP had too little time to go slow. That's a pity because Ueto could have shown more depth in her acting if given the chance to do so. It's high time she moved on from the cutey image since she's already 20 and should play more working adult roles in future. Let's hope that "Attention Please" will give her a chance to shine.

I wouldn't say that I'm very satisfied with the story though but for the visual effect i.e. Ueto Aya in many images as well as the song, RESISTANCE by Nakashima Mika which suits the mood of the SP, I'll give this a 6.5 out of 10.

Live Chat (Horikita Maki)
O.A. 28 Feb 06
Ratings: 11.9%

Apparently, on the night of the OA, there was a soccer match of the Japan team shown in the same timebelt which would have eroded part of the viewership base for this SP. As such, this should be a significant factor for the low ratings as compared to the first instalment.

The message of this SP is:

Humans have 2 faces. The ugly side of you is not everything.

The important thing is not to run away from this ugly side and face it head on.

Having the 2-sides to you is what makes you human.

Being able to face your flaws and mistakes is easier said than done most of the time. However, coming to terms is important because you can never move on if you get shackled by the past. Meaningful message but it's really tough to do that.

Personally, I like this instalment much better than the first. It's not really related to Horikita Maki because I view her and Ueto Aya rather neutrally and can't say that I like one of them better. I just find that the story is better structured, the developments flow smoothly and it seems more logical than the sudden twist in Celeb.

Horikita plays a 18-year-old girl by the name of Yuna who makes a living by appearing in an Internet chatroom where the customers get to see the girls through the webcam and engage in a live chat with them. However, being an introvert who coops herself indoors, her customers find her a bore most of the time and leave the chatroom quickly. As her income is determined by how long the customers stay in her chatroom, the boss tells Yuna to dress up and be more obliging when chatting so that she can make more money.

The only times when Yuna leaves her apartment is to buy food from the convenience store and meet her probation officer, Shinjou. Other than that, she is afraid to step out into the outside world and even covers herself from head to toe so that nobody can see her looks.

Yuna tries to take up her boss's suggestion but meets a pervert who tells her to strip and even hurls obscenities at her when she refuses to do so. As such, this scares Yuna and she feels like retracting back into her own world to seek comfort. Just at this time, she meets a guy named Taro who gradually becomes her soulmate and he encourages her to make changes to her routine so that she may return to the outside world one day. However, when Yuna meets an old acquaintance, she gets cold feet again despite making significant progress and seeks help from Taro again. Taro asks Yuna to relate what had happened in the past so that she will feel better.

2 years ago, Yuna was a normal senior high school girl who loved to have fun. She met an university student, Shingo at a CD shop and they started dating. At that time, Yuna thought that Shingo was the man of her life and believed that they would stay happy forever. However, she found out that he was cheating on her with her best friend and used a knife to stab him out of impulse.

As a result, Yuna was given a probationary sentence where her officer-in-charge was Shinjou. One day, Shinjou told Yuna that Shingo was so badly injured that he will have to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. When Yuna rushed to Shingo's house to apologise, his mother refused to let her in and shut the gate in her face. Thus, this was when Yuna felt that she had been shut out from the world by others because of what she did.

After hearing the story, Taro encourages Yuna to get over this matter since it was in the past. Yuna is worried about Taro looking down on her and wants to seek assurance in meeting him personally but he doesn't want to do so and even stays away from the chat room.

This makes Yuna feel as if she's abandoned again but as she looks at the news article of the incident again, she realises that Taro is actually Shingo because Taro was able to say that Shingo was confined to the wheelchair despite Yuna never having said that. Yuna goes to Shingo's place when he confirms that he accidentally saw her picture on the website and started chatting with her. Although Shingo did hate Yuna at first for causing him to rely on the wheelchair, he found out through the chat sessions about Yuna's misery over the incident and tried to help her get over the pain.

After going through all these events, Yuna and Shingo reconcile and become lovers again which marks a fresh beginning for the both of them...

Frankly speaking, I think Horikita should do roles which are more lively. The setting for Yuna is kind of similar to Nobuko in "Nobuta wo Produce" where both of them keep to themselves because of a psychological trauma. In order to ditch this dark, moody and eccentric image, it's time for her to try more cheerful roles and remind people that she's just a happy 17-year-old. Nevertheless, I still think that she did reasonably well in this SP and Horikita's really one strong upcoming new actress to look out for in future.

My rating for this SP would be 8.5 out of 10. This is still an imperfect piece of work but I think within a short time frame, the structure of the story is still sturdy enough to show a smooth flow of events. Besides, the acting of Horikita is pretty good and it's worth checking out to see why she is being billed as one of the best young actresses these days.

Actress (Yamada Yu)
O.A. 1 March 06
Ratings: 12.7%

Story-wise, this wasn't very exciting but I liked the underlying theme:

There is no textbook in life.
When you have made your own decision, you would think that it is correct.
However. the most important thing is to know when to turn back and have the courage to do so.
That's because humans can turn back many times in their lifetime.

Yamada Yu plays Yoshii Nao, an aspiring actress who left home to come to Tokyo against the objection of her parents who wanted her to inherit the family's Japanese doll-making business. Her grandfather was the only one who encouraged her to pursue her dreams. However, Nao soon discovered that Tokyo is not a place she had thought it would be and got cheated of 500,000 by a fake agent who promised her the chance to stardom. As a result, Nao has to work at a nightclub to repay her debts. The time came when she could no longer repay the debts with her pay and she became an AV actress for once. Although that was easy money and could solve her money problems, it made Nao wonder why she came to Tokyo in the first place and she wanted to get rid of the unhappy experience by cutting her long hair. At the salon, she met Riku who advised her not to cut her hair since it was too beautiful and since then, they started dating. Nonetheless, Nao could never confess to Riku about her shady past and still works in the nightclub as a hostess.

One day, Nao's grandfather comes to Tokyo to look for her but it seems like he has gone senile and keeps calling her by her mother's name. Nevertheless, he also helps Nao a number of times unwittingly during his stay.

Disaster strikes when Riku finds out about Nao's stint as an AV actress and breaks up with her. This makes Nao very despondent but her grandfather cheets her up by making a doll with a straw basket which Nao has to put into the river so that her troubles would flow away.

Soon after that, Nao's grandfather passes away and she decides to try her luck again in Tokyo instead of running away from the problems. She also gains her parents' approval this time round and sets out on her journey for the second time.

The interaction between Nao and her grandfather was the heartwarming part of this SP while the relationship between her and Riku felt rather superficial. True, it's hard to accept your girlfriend being an AV actress but then he should at least hear what she has to say. Even if he dumps her after hearing her explanation, I'm sure Nao would have felt better than to be thrown out of his apartment just like that. It just seemed as if Riku refused to let any flaws appear in their relationship and wanted out the moment he felt cheated by Nao hiding the matter from him.

As for Yamada Yu's performance, she looks pretty good but due to the short timeframe and restrictions on her role, it seemed like it was hard for her to show her acting skills. However, I think that this is a big step to breaking out of the bimbo tag she's always been stuck with as most of her roles in dramas are almost of the same type. Hopefully, this will open up more opportunities for her in future.

On the whole, I would rate this 7 out of 10.

Slot (Ueno Juri)
Ratings: 12.4%

This is the last instalment of the series featuring Ueno Juri.

So far, I have the impression that Ueno plays roles who are quite strong-headed and a bit tomboy-ish but gentle on the inside. This role is similar in a sense because of the lack of the feminine trait on the exterior front but a kind heart within. As such, I feel that there isn't much deviation from her past roles and to be frank, you won't get to see her looking pretty here. Maybe it's time for her to try something different for a change.

As for the story, Ueno plays a girl Ryoko who makes a living by playing the jackpot machine. She has a live-in boyfriend Kenji who works as a host and constantly brings other women back to her place. No doubt she may be unhappy over this situation, she is unable to break up with him because she desires to be loved.

One day, Ryoko wakes up to find a little boy, Kenta in her apartment. Apparently, Kenji has dumped this boy to Ryoko for at least a week. Although Ryoko is initially resistant to the idea of taking care of Kenta, she is unable to abandon him since she has tasted the bitterness of being dumped by others including her own mother. Later, Ryoko finds out that Kenji is just taking her for a ride and decides to take care of Kenta herself. However, as Kenta is not related to her, he has to be sent to an orphanage. For the sake of meeting Kenta, Ryoko gets a proper job because this is one of the prerequisites for her to support Kenta one day if she wants to adopt him.

Frankly speaking, I think that this story is quite plain and coupled with the fact that the acting doesn't offer much surprises, I didn't really enjoy this very much. Out of a score of 10, I would give this 6 out of 10.

*The review for the second series starring Ishihara Satomi, Toda Erika, Kato Rosa and Karina will be posted soon.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (18 March 2007)

1) Night Museum

2) Doraemon Nobita no Shinmakai Daibouken Shichinin no Mahou Tsukai

3) Unfair the movie

4) Happy Feet

5) Deja Vu

6) Battery

7) Chougekijouban Keroro Gunsou 2 Shinkai no Princess de Arimasu

8) Aoki Ookami

9) One Piece Episode of Arabasuta

10) Dreamgirls

Thursday, March 22, 2007

硫黄島からの手紙 Letters from Iwo Jima

I had watched this more than a month ago and could only find time now to post the review. I was surfing the cinema's website for new Japanese films and happened to see that this was coming to town during Chinese New Year so I took the trouble to travel to the city in the middle of night just to catch its preview. The main reason for wanting to see this was to assess whether it was worth the accolades given by critics and had nothing to do with its Oscar nomination. In addition, I wanted to see if Ninomiya Kazunari was able to shed his boyish image for his role in this movie which is considerably an emotionally-heavy film.

As I have not seen the US version, "Flags of our Fathers", I am unable to make any comparisions between both films. It has been said that you will get the full picture of what went on during the Iwojima war on both the US and Japan side after watching both films but my interest level in watching the US version is rather low at this point.

Until I watched this movie, I had no idea about Iwojima's existence and its meaning to both US and Japan during WWII. According to the Wikipedia Japan entry on the Iwojima battle, you would be able to see the position of Iwojima which is between Saipan and Tokyo. At that time, the US military wanted to carry out air strikes on Tokyo but would have to bear with the considerable risk of being shot down by the Japanese troops from Iwojima. As such, seizing control of the island would mean that the US troops could have a central point to refuel before heading towards Tokyo and avoid the attacks from Japan. To the Japanese however, maintaining control of the island was important as the loss would mean a turning point in the war which Japan could see that it was losing soon. Iwojima was somewhat like a fortress to prevent the attacks on Tokyo. Psychologically, if they lost Iwojima, this would feel like a big setback since this would be the first piece of Japanese land lost to the enemy. As such, despite the fact that Iwojima was just a small volcanic island covered by sulphuric deposits causing the inability of crops to grow, it became a point of contention for both sides during the war.

Due to the launch of the movies, this has renewed interest in Iwojima but you will be disappointed if you wish to go there as a tourist. This is because the island is closed to the general public and is used as a training air base for the Self Defence Forces. As such, there are no native inhabitants on this island except for the military personnel.

With regards to the story, I find that the battle was quite long and it seemed never-ending. Well, that's to be expected since the battle was only expected to be over in 5 days but took 36 days in the end. I can't imagine what it felt like to be one of the soldiers there where they knew they were going to die but they didn't know when.

To be frank, I didn't really understand the thinking of sacrificing for the Emperor and country in this manner and it was particularly disturbing to see some of the soldiers using grenades on themselves so that they would not be caught by the US military. To me, if they had really wanted to be patriotic towards their country, dying while fighting would be more worthwhile rather than seeking death like a coward just because they knew they were losing. As such, when they kept using the phrase "okuni no tame" (for the sake of the country), it really got on my nerves because their actions suggested otherwise.

As for the cast, Ninomiya really shines as Saigo, the cynical ex-baker who lost everything due to the war and scorns at the thinking of sacrificing everything for the country. He left his pregnant wife at home to come to Iwojima and his only wish is to return safely to see his newborn daughter and wife. As such, it is very evident that Saigo tries to keep a low profile in the troops by pretending to be a lousy shooter (if he put in his best effort, things could have been different) and keeps complaining about the war. Although it might seem that Saigo is a coward in the eyes of the patriotic type in the troops, I see that he's a very focused man. He knows exactly what his aim is and to achieve that, he doesn't care what happens. If not for his desire to return home, I doubt he would have survived in the end. Although Ninomiya's childish looks makes it hard to believe that he's a married man in the movie, I must say that this is a vast improvement from his past works. In fact, he seemed more like the leading man as compared to Watanabe Ken.

Talking about Watanabe, he plays the charismatic commander of the troops, Kuribayashi who was trained in the US before coming to Iwojima. Having understood the US way of fighting a war, he was deemed to be the right man for the job. However, he was constantly struggling internally at the same time because he knew that there was no hope of winning the battle, he didn't want to fight his old friends from the US although he was duty-bound to do so, he also wanted to return home to his family. Watanabe was good in bringing out these emotions of Kuribayashi and struck a strong screen presence but compared to Ninomiya who was slightly more impressive, I would say that Watanabe had only maintained his usual high standard thus resulting in why Ninomiya was the one who got more praise for his performance.

Ihara Takeshi's role as Nishi was considerably outstanding along with Ninomiya and Watanabe but it was a pity that he had to die in this manner. As for Nakamura Shido, I don't really like his character Itou who felt more like comical relief to me in this serious film. Besides, the cowardly nature of his character just seemed to remind me of his real life where he has a string of scandals and an almost non-existent marriage to talk of. Thus, it's really hard for me to feel anything positive towards him through this film although much of it has to be attributed to the character itself. Kase Ryo's role Shimizu felt like a pitiful comparision to Saigo where the former is the personification of patrioism but ended up being the scapegoat for Saigo when he tried to defect to the US side.

Overall, this film was quite enjoyable and matched up to my expectations on the whole. However, if you are not prepared to spend slightly over 2 hours on a war film without much colour in the background (the setting is dark, murky, dusty most of the time) and has no interest to see how this never-ending battle was fought, you could do without watching this after all.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (11 March 2007)

1) Doraemon Nobita no Shinmakai Daibouken Nananin no Mahou Tsukai

2) Battery

3) Aoki Ookami

4) One Piece Episode of Arabasuta

5) Dreamgirls

6) Ghost Rider

7) Perfume

8) Dororo

9) Sakuran

10) Shiawase no Chikara

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Top 10 movies weekly ranking (4 March 2007)

1) Aoki Ookami

2) One Piece Episode of Arabasuta

3) Dreamgirls

4) Ghost Rider

5) Perfume

6) Dororo

7) Sakuran

8) Shiawase no Chikara

9) Bubble e GO!! Time Machine wa Doramu shiki

10) Ryu ga gotoku Gekijouban

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Yaku 30 no Uso 約三十の嘘

Shikata Daisuke - Shiina Kiipei
Takarada Machiko - Nakatani Miki
Sasaki Kenji - Tsumabuki Satoshi
Kutsunai Mamoru - Tanabe Seiichi
Yokoyama Hiroki - Yajima Tomohito
Imai Yuko - Ban Juri

The story starts with Shikata, Takarada, Sasaki, Kutsunai and Yokoyama going on a trip to do some "big business". In actual fact, they are a group of tricksters who are going there to sell some fake merchandise and get profits of more than 100 million through the deal. 3 years ago, they last gathered for a deal but Imai cheated them and ran away with the money with another partner she brought along. During the journey, Imai returns to the team and claims that she was cheated by her partner then. Even though Takarada is sceptical about this, the rest of the team accepts Imai back to the team. However, these people each have their own plans and the item of contention is a box of cash as the capital for this mission...

The cast consists of a number of good actors like Shiina, Nakatani and Tsumabuki where it is interesting to see how these characters in the story try to outwit one another to get the money. Shiina plays the leader of the group, Shikata who is regarded as useless because of the incident three years ago and loses the respect of his team members. On the other hand, Takarada still believes in him and that's the primary reason she gets involved in this mission again. At the same time, Sasaki is in this mission because of Takarada and hopes to make her give up on Shikata. And Imai is the object of affection for Kutsunai and Yokoyama thus completing this complex web of relationships. Being professional tricksters, it is hard for them to see through each other's lies.

As Shikata puts it, telling a big lie would require telling another 30 small lies to cover up the tracks. Thus, throughout the story, it was hard trying to find out who is the biggest liar. It was a relatively short movie at about 1 hr 40 min but the pace was fast enough to allow lots of developments. As such, I do not have any grouses about the acting or the plot itself.

However, I think the focus on the individual characters leave much to be desired. Other than the fact that the characters are trying to outwit one another, there is little chance for the viewer to find out more on the individual characters e.g. their background and how they got into the trickery business. Thus, I thnk there is sufficient content to warrant a sequel of the movie.

The music used in the movie is from Crazy Ken Band and the entire movie is shot on a moving train. From what I knew, they made the set of the train cabin in the studio so it's not entirely shot on the train itself. The music from Crazy Ken Band suits the mood of the movie and is very relaxing even though the atmosphere of the movie is rather tense. There's no bloodshed or violence, just a battle of wits.

Out of 10, I'll give it about 8 points since more could be done on the development of the characters.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Always 三丁目の夕日

Now that I've watched this movie, I understand why it swept many titles through the numerous movie award ceremonies for 2005.

To be frank, the story isn't that outstanding if you are looking for drastic developments or tense moods. That's because the entire journey is somewhat melancholic, nostalgic and very heart-warming that 2 hours go by so quickly as you get emotionally drawn into the lives of the people living along that street. Being set in those days before Tokyo Tower was built, you can see many things that are no longer available these days and get a different viewpoint of the various points for consideration. For example, for us in this modern era where almost everyone has a TV set, those people in the olden days were like in a carnival mood whenever one household gets one. It's hard to imagine their joy but when you see it through this movie, it somehow brings across the message to you.

Another point which I remember was the purchase of the fridge by the Suzuki family and the ice vendor was looking so sad at the sight of the old fridge which cooled stuff by using ice-blocks. With the improvement in our lives, old things get thrown out and with that, emotions of the past and the reliance we had for them all goes out of the window.

Besides the story, another winning factor was the cast. Personally, I thought that Tsutsumi Shinichi, Yoshioka Hidetaka, Yakushimaru Hiroko and Horikita Maki were very outstanding and deserved to win the accolades they received for this film.

Tsutsumi - He's really mesmerising as this typical old-fashioned oyaji who can get really heated over little things. However, when he realises his mistake, he's not afraid to admit it and that's what makes him really likeable. In addition, his concern for his family and neighbours despite his sarcastic way of speaking just shows how kind this character is.

Yoshioka - Wow, although he looks like a goner with that image and an equally bad personality, he's really very good to others especially to Junnosuke who's not his son and yet he takes him in. He takes it out on others whenever he fails to win any writing contest and doesn't think twice about copying Junnosuke's ideas for his stories to the extent of trying to justify his actions. To balance the detestable and likeable sides of this character takes quite a bit of effort and of course, the acting skills to carry this off.

Yakushimaru - She practically has this motherly aura that captivates viewers. One of the most memorable scenes was her putting some cash and a note in her son's old sweater for emergency uses. Just like what a caring mother would do...

Horikita - This is the first time where I'm totally convinced that Horikita has what it takes to give Sawajiri Erika and other fellow young uprising female stars a run for their money. In Nobuta wo Produce, her reticent character didn't stand out that much while in Kurosagi, the lousy story made it hard for her to shine. However, her potrayal of the character Roku-chan is so brilliant that we can see various sides of her be it angry, sad, happy which gives entirety to her performance.

Before I forget, the young actors playing Ippei and Junnosuke put up very good performances too. Well, for Koyuki...I still find her acting quite awkward so that's why she sticks out like a sore thumb in the movie and the award ceremonies.

In conclusion, I would give this 9 marks out of 10 and recommend it to those who have not watched it yet.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Install インストール

Nozawa Asako (Ueto Aya)
Aoki Kazuyoshi (Kamiki Ryunosuke)
Koichi (Nakamura Shichinosuke)
Momoko-sensei (Kikukawa Rei)
Aoki Kayori (Kojima Ijiri)
Nozawa Komoe (Tanaka Yoshiko)

This movie is based on the bestselling novel by Wataya Risa who wrote this at the age of 17 and achieved sales of about 500,000 copies which is a feat for a senior high school student author making her debut.

Ueto Aya plays the lead character, Nozawa Asako who is doubting her existence and purpose of living as she finds that she is just going with the flow and doesn't know what she wants to do. Her best friend, Koichi who she has been holding a torch for, chides her for living without an aim and tells her to take a break from school if she needs time to find what she wants to do. At his suggestion, Asako goes home to clean up her stuff and dump everything in the rubbish collection stand. She is lying on the floor, moping over her life.

Although she's only 17 and should have lots of potential to achieve things in her life, she feels that she's already 17 and has no chance of improving her life. Thus, she is swinging between these two extreme emotions and confused about what to do next. Kazuyoshi who comes to the rubbish collection stand, meets Asako and brings home her old Macintosh since she dumped all her stuff. That computer was a gift from her grandpa when Asako's parents divorced but she never got to use it since her grandpa promised to send emails to her but he was bad with technology goods.

Ever since that day, Asako would wait until her mother goes to work before returning home to spend the rest of the day, lazing around. In actual fact, her mother never realised that Asako's belongings had been removed and her room was empty. She is also a teacher at the primary school which Kazuyoshi transferred to after moving to the vicinity with his father and stepmom.

Kazuyoshi comes to look for Asako one day and offers her a part time job. Actually, Kazuyoshi makes use of the Mac he got from Asako and poses as a 25-year-old housewife on the Net. He met a fellow housewife, Miyabi who was sleeping around for money and she asked for help to man the erotic chat room she is operating due to her busy schedule. Since Kazuyoshi has to go to school in the day, he asks Asako to come to his apartment and operate the chat room until 2pm every day since she doesn't go to school. Although Asako has her reservations since she has never had sex before and isn't good with computers, she finally decided to go ahead upon hearing Kazuyoshi's reason for asking her to take part.

Initially, Asako couldn't really handle the people who come to the chat room because of her limited knowledge in erotic and sexual matters but as she gained more experience, she became well-versed in things she had never experienced before. However, a virus attack on the Mac makes it impossible for Asako and Kazuyoshi to continue with the chatroom. In addition, Kazuyoshi's mother finds out about them. Asako realises that 6 months has passed in a flash since she got involved in this job and she was even unaware that Koichi died in an accident. This series of events made Asako realise that she has to return to the real world to live instead of living her fantasies in the cyberworld. As such, she and Kazuyoshi part ways...

Although the first 10 to 15 minutes was quite slow, I must say that the momentum picked up once Asako and Kazuyoshi met and it's truly a very interesting movie. I don't mean the erotic chat room, that's not very explicit in my opinion. I'll talk more about that later.

As mentioned in my review above, Asako is basically a senior high school girl who doesn't know what to do with her life. She knows that she has youth on her side but somehow, she doesn't know what she can do to change her life. She's bored but doesn't know what exactly is making this happen. As such, her actions would seem to be rather drastic and incomprehensible like dumping her entire belongings including her wardrobe, bed etc at the rubbish collection stand and lying on the floor. It's very rare to see Ueto Aya act like her in her roles. Very natural and it's easy to identify with her troubles as if she is really Asako herself. And when you see her having that sensual aroused look while engaging in cybersex, I guess fans of Ueto would probably go wild upon seeing that especially guys. I was quite amused but I think she was very convincing and undoubtedly attractive in that scene.

Another must-watch scene is that part when the Mac crashed due to the virus and Asako was quite flustered over returning to the real world now that she cannot operate that erotic chatroom. Then, she told Kazuyoshi that he can touch her breast even though she rejected his request before. Don't think that they are indulging in any hanky panky but the atmosphere is so intense that I really imagined something like this to come from the two leads. Imagine Kazuyoshi telling Asako how he feels about touching her and his hands...I can't go on anymore or the content would not be suitable for minors. However, rest assured that this is not some sex flick. I feel that the two have great chemistry in this movie to bring out that feel between Asako and Kazuyoshi. Their relationship is a bit ambiguous and yet simple. Kazuyoshi requires help to man the chatroom while Asako needs help to break out of her routine. Simple as that but the rest is up to your interpretation.

I would never have known that Kamiki can be so good because this is completely different from his usual goody, timid boy roles. He's quite harsh with his words as Kazuyoshi who is a kid but knows much more than a kid should. I think he's even more knowledgeable about sex than Asako. Anyway, looking at him in Install and comparing him to Aikurushii, I just cannot reconcile the two roles to be from the same actor. Kamiki is doing well and hopefully, he can continue to perform.

I can't say that the message behind this movie is evident. It's very much left to your own interpretation of the situation but I think everyone did have a period when they were lost about what to do. I guess I'm not that extreme as Asako but I can understand her grouses. However, the monologue sections were sometimes too repetitive so I didn't really like the beginning of the movie. Otherwise, it would have been better. I would give it 3.5 stars out of 5 for the entire movie and suggest that you can take a look for yourself to judge whether it deserves better or worse.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Yubi 指

Frankly speaking, it's been some time since I watched a 2-hr SP which gave me a strong sense of satisfaction. At least I feel that I've not wasted my time on this which exceeded my initial expectations. Of late, most of the SPs I've watched were either too sloppy in trying to wrap up everything within a short timeframe or too draggy because of over-emphasis on redundant or boring developments. However, it's probably because of the fact that Yubi is based on a bestselling novel by Matsumoto Seicho who's famous for his works like Suna no Utsuwa, Kurokawa no Teccho and the currently showing Kemonomichi, thus the story is condensed in such a manner that the pace doesn't go into overdrive or crawling mode.

Goto Maki did very well in this SP. Well, I've never really liked her as an artiste and I've only seen her act once in Yanpapa. However, she really showed off her versatality in this difficult role who engages in homosexual relationships. The bed scenes were extremely steamy and they are probably not suitable for the younger audience since there's also nudity. This drama SP should show that she's capable of adult roles in future.

Hoshino Mari was outshone by Goto here but she also did pretty well especially when she was struggling with herself as to whether she should oblige the bar owner's request just to find out more information on Yumiko. Somehow, Hoshino has been overtaken by a lot of upcoming actresses and it seems like she's having problems landing a role in a regular season drama. And she's supposed to be older than Goto but I just get the feel that based on appearance only, Goto can pass off as a mature lady as compared to Hoshino.

The title of this SP, Yubi, meaning finger has a special significance because the original novel's title wasn't this. It seems that in the lesbian relationship, they keep their fingernails short for a specific purpose. Watch this to find out because I don't think it's appropriate for me to write it here due to the presence of young members.

Out of a score of 10, I will rate this 9. If the BGM of this SP can be improved, it would have made the impact of the story much better.

Just a recap of the storyline here. If you don't want spoilers, skip this section now.

Fukue Yumiko was an aspiring actress 3 years ago and was barely making ends meet while taking supporting roles in a theatre group. She met Suzuki Kaori for the first time at a noodle shop when the latter helped her pay for the food because she had no money with her. However, this situation changed when she met a rich man's wife Tsuneko who frequented a lesbian bar she worked part-time at. This job was given to her at the recommendation of the leading actress in the theatre group, Miho and it turned out that Miho was also in love with Yumiko. Yumiko had no intention of getting involved with them as she already had a boyfriend.

One day, Yumiko returned home to find her boyfriend sleeping with another woman and she turned to Miho for refuge. As a form of exchange for providing shelter, Yumiko slept with Miho for the first time and learnt some tricks which she subsequently used on Tsuneko. Thus, Yumiko shuttled between Miho and Tsuneko while trying to achieve her goal. Tsuneko even tried to help Yumiko get jobs of CMs and dramas so as to build up her profile.

Disaster struck as Tsuneko and Miho got jealous of each other. Tsuneko wanted Yumiko to leave the theatre group but the latter tried to avoid the issue and see Miho on the sly. However, Tsuneko barged into Miho's place and slashed her face for revenge. As Yumiko wanted to send Miho to the hospital, Tsuneko took it as a sign that Yumiko didn't want her and committed suicide. Later, when Yumiko rushed to find Tsuneko, she was already close to dying but Miho dragged her away quickly so as not to get implicated.

In order to fulfil Yumiko's wish to be the lead actress, Miho used her injury as a reason to let Yumiko take over her role. This led to her being spotted by a film director and they even got engaged while shooting a movie. Yumiko told Miho that she wanted out of the relationship which the latter agreed to without much resistance. However, Miho came to pester Yumiko again so she killed Miho.

Yumiko and Kaori who has become a TV reporter, meet again 3 years later but Yumiko doesn't remember her at all. When Kaori is following up on a case about dogs' murders, she happens to catch Yumiko throwing away the corpse of her dog in the park and accuses her of being the culprit for the serial murders. However, Yumiko manages to prove that she's not which results in Kaori being relieved of her duties. Out of grudge and curiousity to find out about Yumiko's past, Kaori even sleeps with the owner of the lesbian bar to get more information. When Kaori gets to know the truth, she insists on exposing Yumiko who pleads with Kaori to kill her instead. In the end...that's up to you to find out.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Satomi Hakkenden 里見八犬伝

Some observations from this SP:

There's a lot of bloodshed.
Right from the beginning, people die one after another. I did a count based on the cast list from the official website and see at least 15 characters who had died. Mind you, they are not those unknown extras but are mostly big-names who turn up on screen for a while and get killed. And some of them died in the most exaggerated fashion with blood splashing out or slow-motion scenes.

Some of the actors can really act.
Really, you will be amazed at some of the actors' performances.

First of all, Oshio Manabu. I thought he did pretty well in Love Revolution no doubt he was outshone by Fujiki Naohito. However, his subsequent works failed to make a strong impression on me. I was amazed at how well he did in Satomi Hakkenden. Too bad this is going to be his last drama since he announced last year that he's not going to act anymore. And to think that critics were lamenting that it was a waste to see this side of him in his final production. Assuming he does not go back on his word, this will be the last you'll see of him.

And there's also Yamada Yu. All along, she's been known more for her looks rather than acting skills and it didn't help that her popularity was dented due to her scandal with Ito Hideaki last year. I've never really taken notice of her since she comes across as a bimbo to me most of the time. Well, to give her some credit, I'm sure she wouldn't have wanted to be stuck in such brainless roles if she had a choice. It was only till I saw the Vodafone CM when I found a vivacious, cool and youthful side of Yamada which I've never known before. And when I saw her make her debut as a voice actor in the anime, Paradise Kiss, I must say that I'm totally bowled over by her. She can act, even if we don't see her face as her voice does show the emotions of the character she played.

In this SP, she comes across as cool and beautiful at the same time. Her character has both male and female traits i.e. a male body but with feminine looks and mannerisms which should be hard to strike a balance. Until this, I was never really convinced that she can do so well in a drama. Maybe it's time for the producers to give her more challenging roles rather than play bimbos again.

Last but not least, there's Sato Ryuta. All along, he keeps playing fool roles but he goes through a change here. At least, there's one time when I see his character using his brains instead of being a rash fellow. However, due to his appearance, I think it's hard to take him seriously as an actor unlike Yamada Yu who enjoys a certain degree of versatality.

Somehow, most if not all of the actors look good in period costumes.
One grouse I have when it comes to such dramas is how some actors look horrid in period costumes. The strange thing, most if not all of the actors look OK in this SP. Of course, there were a number who looked exceptionally good like Nakama Yukie, Yamada Yu, Takizawa Hideaki and Kanno Miho.

Among the cast, I would have to give Kanno Miho the title of the best actress. She was so scary and detestable as Tamazuka and Myochin but in the end where her red contact lenses and the grotestque makeup was removed, you can see how she becomes a changed person based on her expressions, not just due to the change in her image.

On the other hand, Ayase Haruka was a bit irritating as Hamaji. It just gave me the impression that she was a follower who kept chanting "Shino-sama".

On the whole, I think this is a very high quality production and could be expanded to a longer series so as to give enough coverage for each of the 8 main characters. However, as seen from the fact that they went to China for filming and got so many big-names to play those minor roles, it will probably take up a lot of funds to make a full-length drama.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Ikitemo ii? ~ Himawari no Saku Ie ~ 生きてもいい? ~ ひまわりの咲く家~

O.A. 3 March 06
Ratings: 17.7%

This is truly worth watching because it offers a rare insight into the adoption scheme in Japan from the viewpoint of the child. Actually, there was a similar story previously which talked about the issue from the viewpoint of the foster parents which earned rave reviews thus leading to the production of this current SP. After watching the SP, it made me realise suddenly that adopting a child is not as simple as it is always made out to be.

Let me talk briefly about the story. Koono Maki was abandoned by her mother 2 months after she was born because she couldn't live with her alcoholic and abusive husband. Subsequently, her father put her into an orphanage and killed himself. As such, Maki had never really tasted the feeling of being in a family nor feel the need to have parents.

When Maki (Yamauchi Nana) was 8, a couple by the surname of Ichimura came to adopt her and she agreed to go home with them even though she was under the impression that she could stay together with her friends in the orphanage. One of them was Sei-chan (Narimiya Hiroki) who is 10 years older than her and he was placed in the orphanage because he almost got killed by his violent father.

Even though Maki enjoyed many things she had not tried before e.g. overseas holidays, she didn't feel that she fitted into the family and only called her foster parents Father and Mother because her foster mother Chikako (Matsushita Yuki) insisted on it. In addition, Maki didn't see sense in the things Chikako forced her to do like abide by her household rules and get punished for not doing certain things. However, she never felt the need to voice out her opinion because she somehow had the gut feel that this wasn't allowed.

When Maki (Fukuda Saki) became a teenager, she kept questioning why she had to obey Chikako's commands and felt that the latter was being too intrusive into her lifestyle. Thankfully, her foster father Takayuki (Shokuhutei Tsurube) helped her over this tough period but this wasn't enough for Maki who was bottling up her frustrations. The final straw came when Maki found out that Chikako was reading her diary without her permission and even threatened to kill herself. This sort of upset the balance in the family and the relationship between Maki and her foster parents got shaky.

Subsequently, when the adoption officer came to visit Maki, she revealed her wish to leave the Ichimura household and got him to lie to Chikako that she was going to live at the orphanage for 1 week where Sei-chan was working at. However, Maki's refusal to return home made Chikako so desperate that she went to the family court to contest Maki's one-sided initiative to nullify their foster parent-child ties. In the end, Chikako lost the case and confided in Maki that she regretted not letting Maki change her surname right from the start even though the latter asked about it when she was a child. At that time, Chikako was persuaded not to do so yet but this sort of formed the basis of why Maki did not feel at ease in the family. Despite Chikako leaving in tears, Maki was not prepared to return home with her.

At 20, Maki (Hirosue Ryoko) went to a make-up school and worked part-time. Just as she thought that life would be a bed of roses from now on, she succumbed to a serious illness which was life-threatening. During her long stay in the hospital, Chikako and Takayuki took good care of her and Chikako even managed to get Maki's biological mother to visit her. This prompted Maki to reconcile with her foster parents when she was discharged.

However, the happy days were short-lived as Chikako suddenly passed away due to an illness. Maki found out how much her foster parents loved her and decided to move back home so that she could take care of her foster father...

Frankly speaking, other than the narration part, you won't get to see much of Hirosue Ryoko since a lot of attention is focused on Maki's growing up days. As such, to those who are going to watch this for her sake, sorry to disappoint you. Anyway, she didn't get to do much for this role so I can't really judge if she acts well or not. Same goes for Narimiya Hiroki where he plays a brotherly figure to Maki and there's absolutely no romantic sparks between him and Hirosue. By the way, he just cannot pass off as a guy in his 30s so he should just stick to his current age group.

I must say that I am very impressed with Yamauchi Nana and Fukuda Saki's performances. Well, Yamauchi can be considered as a veteran child actor so it's not that much of a surprise if she can do well. The surprising thing was Fukuda Saki making her debut as an actress and she showed the rebellious and desperate sides of Maki completely. Appearance-wise, she may not stand out among the many young actresses of today but she does have potential to go far if she gets the right roles in future. That scene when she was holding the knife while screaming crudely at her foster parents was full of impact.

Another person worth mentioning is Matsushita Yuki. Her character is an university professor so she has a desire to keep things in proper order thus explaining why she was so strict with Maki. Although she may seem detestable when she thinks that she has done nothing wrong, her heartfelt confession to Maki and how she cried on the way home was very memorable. Matsushita may be doing a lot of these supporting roles these days but her performance usually steals the limelight from the leads though.

Out of a score of 10, I would give this 8.5 and recommend it to all those who are looking for meaningful and insightful tales in a family setting. And it provides valuable information on how the adoption system works in Japan which seems so complicated as compared to local standards.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Oboreru Hito 溺れる人

Starting from today onwards, I will post past reviews and synopses of Japanese dramas and movies written in the Dorama World forum via this blog. This exercise is meant to keep archives of my past works as well as allow new visitors to the blog to know about past productions which they may wish to consider viewing.

This is a 2-hour SP drama aired on NTV in March 2005 where it was adapted from a same-titled best-selling novel written by an ex-alcohol dependence patient. Starring Shinohara Ryoko as Mizusawa Mari, it depicts the struggle of how she overcame the addiction to alcohol and the impact this condition has on her family.

The story starts with Mari and her husband, Seiji (Nishijima Hidetoshi) on their wedding day where Mari starts to drink a lot of alcohol even though Seiji tries to stop her. She makes a fool of herself when she stumbles off the stage and Seiji had to support her in case she falls. Seiji seems unhappy over this but does not mention anything at this stage.

However, things do not improve as Mari would drink even in the day and this affects her relationship with Seiji. Mari refuses to acknowledge that her drinking is a problem and flares up at Seiji for stopping her from drinking. During one of her drunken outbursts, Mari crashes into the balcony glass door and injures herself. In order to hide the truth about Mari's alcoholism from her parents, Seiji lies that he beat Mari out of anger and her mother brings Mari home. Mari is guilty about making Seiji take the blame and confesses how she came to be very dependent on alcohol. After graduating from university, Mari went to Tokyo to work but wasn't doing too well. As such, she turned to alcohol to numb herself and get over the daily problems she faced. When she realized that it was turning into a problem, she decided to come back to her hometown, Matsumoto and happened to meet Seiji who is a bus driver. They used to be from the same school and hit it off after that meeting. During their courtship, Mari did not turn to alcohol for a while but when they got married, she could not control her urge to drink again. Seiji told Mari that he will help her get over her addiction and got down to work by removing all the alcohol in their home.

The situation starts to improve when Mari gets pregnant and gives birth to her daughter, Yuka. However, Mari starts to succumb to the urge to drink again and this makes Seiji very disappointed and disheartened. He brings Mari to a psychologist which is met by strong objection by Mari's mother who refuses to believe that her daughter has a problem. Things did start to look up for a while but Mari slipped back to her old ways one night when she was supposed to buy fever medicine for her daughter but ended up drinking herself silly on the streets. Struck with the fear of losing her family, Mari goes to a hospital to cure herself of the alcohol dependence where she has to undergo cold turkey treatment for close to 2 weeks. She refuses to let her doctor tell Seiji about this and wants to meet him after she has completely recovered. After 3 months, Mari finally gets rid of this illness and returns to her family...

This is a very informative and meaningful drama where the story is based on a true-life novel by the author. She was also an alcoholic and took a long time to recover. That's why she shared her experience in this book which was made into the drama SP. Great performance here by Shinohara Ryoko who is a very good actress and never to shy away from controversial roles.

Well, it seems like alcohol dependence cannot be completely cured as there is still a chance of the patient slipping back to his former ways. It takes a lot of willpower and support from the people around the patient in order to overcome the illness. I feel pity for Mari because she cannot control her behaviour but at the same time, I also feel sorry for her family members who are in anguish over her condition. The helplessness about being unable to do anything except wait for the patient to overcome the condition by willpower is so painful. It really takes a strong family bond to overcome this together but in reality, I don't think it's that easy especially if violence against family members come into the picture.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Busu no Hitomi ni Koishiteru SP

After the drama ended in June last year, FujiTV follows up with a Christmas SP, supposedly to depict life after the fairytale marriage for the unlikely couple, Osamu and Miyuki. However, if you are hoping for a saccharine-sweet scenario in this SP, you will be sorely disappointed. Frankly speaking, I never expected this SP to be more of a recap of the drama rather than an extension of the storyline so I was really bored at the replays of significant scenes involving the couple. For viewers who have not watched the drama beforehand, I surely don't think the recaps lend much insight into the original plot and spur interest in watching the series. As such, this SP seems to be going nowhere i.e. not satisfying the needs of viewers who want to know what happened after the drama's ending and not being able to interest first-timers to watch the drama for the sake of knowing how the couple got together.

It's been six months since Osamu and Miyuki got married and they are eagerly anticipating the thought of spending Christmas together for the first time as husband and wife. Well, Miyuki seems more hyped up though. However, she has never been fully convinced that Osamu married her because he loved her and she constantly feels insecure about the possibility that he will leave her one day. Miyuki starts to worry about Osamu patching up with Yumi and dumping her in the end when she realises that they are still in touch with each other. To make things worse, Osamu is delayed at work and only returns home much later than expected thus adding on to Miyuki's apprehension.

In the end, everything turns out to be nothing but a scare for Miyuki. There's obviously nothing going on between Osamu and Yumi and the misunderstanding stemmed from a series of coincidences which resulted in Miyuki getting the wrong idea. Of course, Osamu has to pacify Miyuki by saying something mushy to give the latter the much needed assurance. I guess this scene was meant to be on the touching side but when I saw it, I couldn't help shaking my head and marvel at how unnatural it sounds. It's not due to the fact that I don't believe there is love between the couple but somehow when you look at the two actors, it's so evident that Murakami Tomoko seems very engrossed in playing her role while Inagaki Goro feels rather detached and I'm not convinced by his potrayal of Osamu as someone who truly loves Miyuki. To date, I still have the nagging feel that Osamu likes Miyuki for her "interesting-ness" rather than love her for who she is.

In the drama series, there wasn't any kissing scene between Inagaki and Murakami. It was even rumoured at that time Murakami was quite unhappy about this because she had admired Inagaki and was waiting for this climax scene. Although they did exchange kisses in the wedding featured in the last episode, it became apparent through this SP that it was merely a camera trick and their lips didn't seem to touch at all. Well, Murakami gets her kiss through the SP but it's just a little peck on the cheek. I would have thought that there might be more intimate scenes between the two now that they have gotten married.

In conclusion, this drama SP failed to match up to my expectations. The main reason was over-emphasis on the scenes from the series and failing to describe the married life of the leads in greater detail. I'm sure this would have been what the viewers are looking for especially for those who have watched the drama. Secondly, the gap between Inagaki and Murakami's involvement in potraying their characters shows up sharply where one is obviously more engrossed than the other. Last but not least, the corny scene of Osamu telling Miyuki about his feelings outside the bathroom was more hillarious rather than touching and I felt that it could have been handled in a better way.

This drama SP is much shorter than usual 2-hr SPs so if you are interested in watching how the couple addresses each other as Mu-tan and Mi-tan and acting lovey-dovey (although I'm not convinced by this unnatural intimacy), this is worth giving a shot, provided you don't mind sitting through the recaps. Otherwise, there's little reason for you to spend one hour over this.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

虹を架ける王妃 Niji wo Kakeru Ouhi

This drama SP is on the love story between the last emperor of North Korea, Li Gin (he didn't ascend the throne in the story but was regarded as the emperor after his elder brother passed away) and a member of the Japanese royal family, Masako amidst a period of chaos and unrest between both countries. Being from two vastly different family backgrounds, the arranged marriage for Gin and Masako could be seen as a mere political union from the eyes of others since the couple did not choose to get married out of their own will. However, this drama SP tries to show that there was more to that between the couple by giving a perspective of the development of their relationship from the time they first met and how they had feelings for each other even before the wedding.

Okada Junichi and Kanno Miho play Gin and Masako respectively in the story. Personally, I felt that they did pretty well in their roles but somehow they didn't look that compatible in terms of looks. Maybe it's the fact that Okada has a babyface which just makes it appear that the age difference is large although they are only 3 years apart.

As Gin was sent to Japan at a tender age to attend millitary school, he had little hope about going back to his homeland so it appeared as if he was quite pessimistic about his future. It was obvious that he wasn't that keen on the marriage with Masako and regarded it as a move to manipulate him. However, after numerous meetings with Masako, they started to develop feelings for each other so Gin didn't feel that resistant to the marriage after all.

Likewise for Masako, she wasn't prepared for marriage to a man she didn't know well but was powerless to raise her objections. At an age when she had lots of dreams to fulfil, she realised that she could no longer do anything freely. In this sense, it can be said that both she and Gin didn't feel enthusiastic about the impending marriage. Luckily for them, a series of events changed their opinions of each other so that formed the basis of their budding relationship.

Initially, both of them were enjoying their married life despite their cultural and lifestyle differences. However, rising tensions between both nations put a lot of pressure on them and frictions were ocassional. To make things worse, the demise of their infant son caused a deep rift between them and Masako even found out that Gin regretted deep down in his heart for marrying her when the political situation went beyond control.

After some time, they gradually sorted out their differences and even had a second son. On the surface, everything seemed peaceful but with war approaching, Gin's wish to return to North Korea and his inability to do so caused him to be in a turmoil. Moreover, he had promised Masako before that he mustn't bring their son to North Korea again until the latter grows up (their first son died there due to unknown causes). Masako understood her husband's pain but was unable to do anything. When his countrymen came to ask Gin if he could return to North Korea, there was nothing he could do but cry alone about the circumstances beyond his control.

Finally, the time came when an official from North Korea came to ask Gin if he could forsake Masako for the sake of going home. Although Gin would have wanted to return to his hometown, he couldn't bear the thought of leaving the woman he loved. To spare him from the anguish of being made to choose, Masako wanted Gin to go back despite the fact that she couldn't bear to be separated from him. In the end, Gin chose to stick it out with Masako. Gin failed to return to his homeland after all as he passed away soon after the war. To fulfil his ambition of setting up schools in North Korea, Masako took it upon herself to set up a school for the disabled children.

On the whole, the story was quite engaging and the gradual development of feelings between Gin and Masako is convincing. However, I think the ending could have been elaborated to include life after Gin's decision to stick with Masako instead of using monologue during the credits to explain what happened afterwhich. I'm sure that would have been more interesting.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Top 3 favourite dramas of 2006

On the first day of 2007, here's a recap of my favourite dramas from 2006. It's a mere coincidence that the top 3 happen to be from FujiTV but there are some dramas which are ranked outside the top 3 from other TV stations.

No.1: Unfair (FujiTV, Winter)
I've always had a soft spot for suspense thrillers but many times, I have been disappointed with the sloppy conclusion when the series is rounded up. For example, Koori no Sekai was good until the end when someone who seemed totally unrelated to the whole string of happenings turn out to be the murderer. That is why I've always been apprehensive about suspense thrillers especially those original creations. However, Unfair proved to be a gem because it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the whole season as the numerous twists within the plot will catch the viewer off guard just as you think you are getting closer to the truth. The SP which added Eguchi Yosuke to the cast was also captivating and I can't wait to watch the movie which will be showing in Japan from March 2007.

No.2: Iryuu - Team Medical Dragon (FujiTV, Spring)
Although there have been countless medical-themed dramas over the years, what distinguishes it from the rest is its dedication to exploring a particular medical procedure i.e. the Batista operation. This allows it to be focused on giving the viewer a closer look into the conditions which requires this form of surgery and fosters deeper understanding into the problem. Coupled with the fact that there's a strong cast which keeps the viewer engaged from start till end, it was thrilling to see sparks flying between the actors. This is one of the few dramas from last year which has given me great satisfaction after viewing each episode.

No.3: Nodame Cantabile (FujiTV, Autumn)
This was a surprise hit for me because I had been very apprehensive about how the numerous classical music scenes are to be performed and how Ueno Juri and Tamaki Hiroshi perform as Noda Megumi and Chiaki Shinichi respectively. Being a fan of the manga, I was almost certain that I would be disappointed by this series. I'm glad to say that FujiTV has proven me wrong as I've enjoyed every single episode of the drama and can't wait for the anime to start next week where it will continue with the Paris arc. Ueno was fantastic as Nodame while Tamaki...well, I'm not too keen on guys like him but he has definitely shown significant improvement as the season progressed. One of the most memorable moments was Chiaki hugging Nodame from behind in the final episode (which also happens to be one of my favourite scenes from the manga) and I must say these two look quite good together as a couple. Great chemistry between these guys and strong support from Eita as Mine, Mizusawa Asami as Miki Kiyora, Koide Keisuke as Okuyama Masaumi etc who bore such striking resemblances to the original characters that I must give credit to the casting director for being able to assemble such a lineup which is one of the success factors for this series. The orchestra scenes were also done very nicely especially the S-Orchestra's rendition of "Rhapsody In Blue" which was a joy to watch.

Other favourites from 2006:
14 Sai no Haha (NTV, Autumn) / My Boss My Hero (NTV, Summer) / Bengoshi no Kuzu (TBS, Spring) / Kami wa Saikoro wo Furanai (NTV, Winter) / Byakuyakou (TBS, Winter) / Jikou Keisatsu (TV Asahi, Winter)