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)