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