Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ryusei no Kizuna 流星の絆 - Autumn 2008

Title: 流星の絆 Ryusei no Kizuna
O.A. Start Date: 17 October 2008
Timeslot: Fridays, 10pm
Original novel written by: Higashino Keigo
Scriptwriter: Kudo Kankuro
Theme song: Beautiful Days by ARASHI
Insert song: ORION by Nakashima Mika
Broadcaster: TBS
Official website:


Ariake Kouichi - Ninomiya Kazunari
Ariake Taisuke - Nishikido Ryo
Ariake Shizuna - Toda Erika
Togami Yukinari - Kaname Jun
Hayashi George - Omi Toshinori
Hagimura Shinji - Shitara Osamu
Togami Masayuki - Emoto Akira
Ariake Touko - Ryou
Ariake Yukihiro - Terashima Susumu
Kashiwabara Yasutaka - Miura Tomokazu

Note that Nakashima Mika will also be acting in this drama. Details unknown as yet.

Theme song release info:

Title: Beautiful Days
Artist: ARASHI
Catalog No.: JACA-5122 (the limited edition with DVD)
Published by: J-STORM
Distributor: Sony Music Entertainment
Release Date: 5 November 2008
Price: 1680 yen

Insert song release info:

Title: ORION
Artiste: Nakashima Mika
Date of release: 12 November 2008
Price: 1223 yen
Published by: Sony Music Associated Records

Monday, September 29, 2008

Theme song of Innocent Love to be sung by Utada Hikaru

Utada Hikaru will be singing the theme song for FujiTV's autumn Gekku drama, Innocent Love. The song, "Eternally - Drama Mix" was featured on Utada's second album, "Distance" released in 2001 and has never been performed live at her concerts before. As the production crew for Innocent Love is the same as the one for Last Friends which had also used Utada's song as the theme, they made an offer to her which she readily accepted. To revamp the song, Utada did a remix of the song in London and changed it to a ballad instead of its original version which focused a lot on the bass and drum sounds. The mobile phone ringtone of this song will be released on the same day as the first O.A. of the drama.

Source: Sanspo

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kaze no Garden (The Garden of Wind) - Autumn 2008

Title: Kaze no Garden
O.A. Start Date: 9 October 2008
Timeslot: Thursdays 10pm
Broadcaster: FujiTV
Scriptwriter: Kuramoto Sou


Shiratori Sadami - Nakai Kiichi
Shiratori Rui - Kuroki Meisa
Shiratori Gaku - Kamiki Ryuunosuke
Nigami Kanae - Kuninaka Ryoko
Kodama Erika - Ishida Eri
Mizuki Saburo - Fuse Hiroshi
Ishiyama Takeru - Gattsu Ishimatsu
Himuro Akane - Hirahara Ayaka
Ishiyama Shuu - Hirano Yuuki
Uchiyama Taeko - Itou Ran
Nigami Tatsuya - Okuda Eiji
Shiratori Sadazo - Ogata Ken


- This is the final instalment under the Furano series. (Furano is a place in Hokkaido) The previous two instalments are "Kita no Kuni kara" and "Yasashii Jikan".
- This is a commemorative drama to mark the 50th anniversary of FujiTV.
- It took 2 years for the staff to grow 365 species of flowers in Furano which is where the story takes place.
- Filiming started in mid April this year.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Team Batista no Eikou (The Glory of Team Batista) - Autumn 2008

Title: Team Batista no Eikou (The Glory of Team Batista)
O.A. Start Date: 14 October 2008
Timeslot: Tuesdays 10pm
Broadcaster: FujiTV / KTV
Original Novel written by: Kaidou Takeru
Scriptwriter: Goto Noriko
Theme song: Mamoritai mono - Aoyama Thelma


Taguchi Kouhei - Itou Atsushi
Shiratori Keisuke - Nakamura Tooru
Kiryuu Kouichi - Ihara Takeshi
Ootomo Naomi - Shaku Yumiko
Himuro Kanichiro - Shirota Yuu
Kakiya Yuuji - Tsurumi Shingo
Narumi Ryo - Miyakawa Daisuke
Haba Takayuki - Toda Masahiro
Sakai Toshiki - Suzuki Yuuki


In Toujo University's affiliated hospital, there is a team which specializes in Batista surgeries and boasts of a 100% success rate. However, the occurence of 3 consecutive deaths during the Batista surgeries raises the question whether the cause is a medical malpractice or intentional murder. In comes Taguchi Kouhei, an internal medicine doctor of the hospital and Shiratori Keisuke, an officer from the Ministry of Health who come together to investigate the suspicious deaths.

*Note that there was a movie version made before this drama version. The movie starred Takeuchi Yuko in Taguchi's role (the novel set this role as a guy) and Abe Hiroshi in Shiratori's role.
*The ending for the drama will be different from the novel and movie.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Innocent Love - Autumn 2008

Title: Innocent Love
O.A. Start Date: 20 October 2008
Timeslot: Mondays, 9pm
Broadcaster: FujiTV
Scriptwriter: Asano Taeko
Theme song: undecided yet


Akiyama Kanon (19) - Horikita Maki
Nagasaki Junya (28) - Kitagawa Yuujin
Sakurai Mizuki (23) - Kashii Yui
Akiyama Youji (24) - Fukushi Seiji
Segawa Subaru (28) - Narimiya Hiroki
Father Yoshimichi (53) - Naitou Takashi
Toono Kiyoka (28) - Uchida Yuki
Ikeda Jirou (43) - Toyohara Kousuke


7 years ago, 13-year-old Kanon watched helplessly as her house went up into flames. This marked the end of her happy life to date as her parents ended up dead and her elder brother, Youji charged with the murders. As a result, Kanon had to live on her own.

At 20, Kanon is still regarded as the younger sister of a murderer and faces difficulties in getting a job. However, she believes in Youji's innocence and would try to encourage him whenever she goes to visit him. In order to move on with her life, Kanon moves away from their hometown without telling Youji and gets a job as a house cleaner in Yokohama. She happens to meet a pianist Nagasaki Junya which signals the beginning of their fated encounter...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Top 10 movies ranking (21 September 2008)

1) Wanted

2) Pako to Mahou no Ehon

3) 20 seiki shounen

4) Okuribito

5) Kake no ue no Ponyo

6) Daikessen! Chou Ultra Hachi Kyoudai

7) Hancock

8) Detroit Metal City

9) Jirou Chousan Kokushi

10) Sex and the City

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Review of Maou (Japanese Version)

Before I begin, let me reiterate this point again:

Do not read this post if you do not wish to know what happens in this story. There are lots of spoilers in this review. And that means the ending will be here for you to see as well. If you have not watched this drama, this may kill the suspense for you. And Maou, without the suspense, wouldn't be as exciting.

As I have yet to finish watching the Korean version of Maou (otherwise known as Mawang or The Devil), I will leave the comparison of both versions to another post. As such, this review is entirely on the Japanese version.

To put the story simply, this drama is about Naruse Ryo's (Ohno Satoshi) journey to seek revenge for his younger brother who died of a stabbing incident caused by Serizawa Naoto (Ikuma Toma) who was a delinquent back in his junior high days. Within the period of 11 years, Naruse has been watching Serizawa and tracking the movements of him, his family and those related to the incident in one way or another. As such, this is a revenge not only on Serizawa but also the people who caused the injustice suffered by Naruse, his late brother and mother.

This is a suspense story quite unlike what other dramas have been doing. In this case, the motive and the culprit are known beforehand whereas in most dramas, viewers are taken for a ride to guess the culprit. However, Maou doesn't disappoint, in the sense that it is not a senseless series of murders but it is a web of deceit and clever manipulations which ultimately achieves what Naruse wants. It means that Naruse doesn't have to do the dirty job himself and even if he's caught, he cannot be charged with anything. Of course, in some parts of the story, there are some coincidences which fall so nicely into place that you will doubt why Lady Luck is always on Naruse's side. More on that later.

What happened 11 years ago was a tragic accident but due to a couple of misjudgments or decisions along the way, everything went out of proportion. There are a lot of what ifs in this story. What if Serizawa Eisaku (Naoto's father) had chosen to let his son speak the truth instead of protecting him with the excuse of self-defence and letting Hideo (Naruse's brother) to take the blame? What if Serizawa had managed to apologize to Naruse 11 years ago? (He did go to look for Naruse at that time but couldn't find him.) What if Yamano (Hideo's friend) had spoken out against Serizawa since he had witnessed the incident? If any of the questions raised above went towards the other way, this might not have led to the current revenge attempt. As such, what comes around goes around. It is a matter of time before the dark past catches up with someone. In this case, Serizawa's unintentional mistake 11 years ago led to such serious repercussions today which he would never have dreamt of.

I wouldn't go into the details of the plot though but would like to raise some points which I thought are worth mentioning:

1) The most "coincidental" murder - Ikehata's falling to his death in a warehouse
Frankly speaking, this was the most unbelievable murder (or so-called accident) in the whole story. How was Naruse supposed to know that Ikehata would run to the second flour of the warehouse, step on a faulty flooring and fall to his death? I know he did something to "lure" Ikehata into the warehouse but surely he wouldn't have guessed how the latter was going to run away from the yakuza he hired? That's why I thought this will be No.1 among all the cases in the story when you are talking about Lady Luck being on Naruse's side.

2) Naruse being able to walk to the scrap disposal grounds despite being stabbed by Yamano in the last episode / Shiori running to the scrap disposal ground
Either Naruse has the best stamina to last throughout the journey or he has the strongest willpower to walk all the way to where his brother died. ^__^ I just don't get the meaning of running around or walking long distances when you could have easily hailed a cab or taken other modes of transport. Maybe it's because they wanted to intensify the atmosphere of the climax scene.

3) The biggest screw-up: saying the wrong character name
I can't remember which episode was it, but I remember clearly that Yoshinori (Gekidan Hitori) said Mai instead of Mari (his wife's name) while talking to Kasai (Tanaka Kei). I was a bit surprised to hear that and wonder how this mistake could have gone unnoticed. Well, if you have been reading the production blog of Maou, it seems that they were on a very tight schedule and this could have led to this blunder. Never mind about this, it's just a name. Thankfully, they didn't make a big mistake on the story.

The ending is definitely fitting for this dark story. It depends on how you view it. It can be a tragedy or a happy ending. I like how the tension built up over the episodes and when you come to the ending, all that pressure is released. I can't say whether I'm happy or sad to see this outcome but only one word comes to mind: peace. At least we won't see the saga between the two continuing. Most of the people involved are dead anyway.

Well, both Naruse and Serizawa died. I was sort-of expecting Serizawa to die first and Naruse would probably kill himself or something. However, the ending proved me half-correct. Indeed, Naruse killed Serizawa (but it was an accident and exactly in the same fashion as what happened between Serizawa and Hideo) but this time, it was with a gun. And Naruse's ultimate motive for taking revenge was for Serizawa to be filled with rage and kill him so that he can join his mother and Hideo in death. In conclusion, Naruse wanted to commit suicide in the first place but not without dragging Serizawa through living hell first. Although they both gained each other's forgiveness, it was too late since both of them achieved this consensus only through death. And it was such an anti-climax for Naruse to die from the stab wound afflicted by Yamano. Maybe suicide for Naruse might be a more "elaborate" and "dramatic" ending to this story.

I don't know if you feel the same way but the final scene of Shiori seeing something from Hideo's harmonica just gives the impression that TBS is trying to milk every single dollar out of its viewers. If you want to see what Shiori saw, buy the DVD box. I don't know how many people will actually buy the DVD for that scene but it just reeks of dirty marketing from the TV station. Maou is not exactly that bad in terms of ratings with an average of 11.51%, its theme song doing well on Oricon and critical reviews are pretty good. So why is the TV station so desperate to boost the sales of the DVD box by introducing such a teaser? I've never seen such a gimmick for dramas so it just makes me amazed at TBS being so daring to do such a thing.

With regards to the debate on whether Ohno Satoshi and Ikuta Toma is the better actor, I would choose Ohno. The gap between their performances lie in the nature of their characters. Ohno has the advantage of showing extremes which test a lot of his acting skills i.e. good vs. evil and remorseful vs. insistent on going the wrong path. Ohno and Ikuta have their strengths when it comes to acting but in this case, their roles cause a slight difference in the depth of their acting.

I just pity Ohno who has his first leading role in a drama and yet his character dies at the end. How inauspicious! ^__^ Hopefully, his performance in Maou will open up new roles for him in future. Someone has got to realise that this guy has more potential than he appears to have as he's always outshone by his fellow teammates. Thankfully, TBS made the right gamble this time to bring Ohno into the limelight. Likewise for Ikuta who has been doing a lot of comedian roles, this will show that he has what it takes to handle serious roles.

As for the female lead Shiori played by Kobayashi Ryoko, I get irritated when I see her being infatuated with Naruse and saying "Naruse-san" with such a sweet voice and expression. However, it is also a saving grace that she has a baby face or else her pairing with Ohno will seem odd if she appears too mature. I've never seen her acting before so I won't talk much about her performance since I don't have much of a basis for comparision. I guess her role irks me more than her appearance.

This drama is suitable if you:

1) are a fan of Ohno or Ikuta
2) like suspense dramas
3) have not watched the Korean version yet (chances are, you will be more critical of the Japanese version if you watched the Korean version first. Actually, I'm already starting to pick out flaws from this version while I'm watching the Korean version. These two versions are quite different in some areas.)
4) can accept tragic endings where almost everyone dies

And my ratings for this drama goes like this...
Story: 9 out of 10 (intriguing story, unexpected twists)
Acting: 8.5 out of 10 (great performance by the two leads and supporting characters)
Theme song: 7 out of 10 (truth was OK, not particularly outstanding though. the BGM is great.)
Visual effects / Scenery: 6 out of 10 (not much scenery, a lot of scenes take place at night, the general colour theme is quite dark, in my opinion)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 6.5 out of 10 (the two leads don't have that many showdown scenes, their interaction only increases in the later part, there isn't much romance going on too. the so-called love triangle isn't apparent too)

Total: 37 out of 50

Viewership ratings data as follows:
1) 14.0%
2) 12.6%
3) 9.2%
4) 10.1%
5) 10.9%
6) 7.6% *Opening Ceremony of Beijing Olympics
7) 12.1%
8) 11.5%
9) 11.5%
10) 12.3%
11) 14.1%

Average: 11.51%

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Maou Merchandise - One Oracle Tarot (Book)

Title: One Oracle Tarot ~ Tarot ga Tsugeru Anata e no kotae (The answer that Tarot is telling you)
Author: Stella Kaoruko
Price: 1,890 yen
Date of release: 12 September 2008 (Friday)
Published by: Take Publishing
Specifications: All-colour 176 pages (A5-size)

This book written by Stella Kaoruko, the Tarot card advisor for Maou's Japanese version allows you to do the One Oracle test when you are in need of guidance from the tarot cards. Simply flip to any page of the book where you will be presented with a card and its explanation.

Note that this is NOT the novelised version of the drama or the original novel.

*As a side-note for those who want to read my review of Maou, it will be up over the weekend (hopefully) because it is going to be a long post. I will also be posting a comparison between the Japanese and Korean versions subsequently.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Top 10 movies ranking (14 Sep 2008)

1) 20 seiki shounen

2) Pako to Mahou no Ehon

3) Kake no ue no Ponyo

4) Daikessen! Chou Ultra Hachi Kyoudai

5) Okuribito

6) Hancock

7) Detroit Metal City

8) Sex and the City

9) Shiawase no Ichi Peegi

10) Guu Guu Datte Neko de Aru

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Review of Tomorrow

This is the first summer 2008 drama which I've finished so here I am, writing the review just one day after completing it.

I have mixed feelings regarding this drama. In recent years, we have been hit with an influx of adaptations, be it from manga, anime, novels or even non-Japanese dramas. Since it is relatively safe (well, not really so in some cases) to do an adaptation which usually has a fan base, many TV stations have stuck to this genre so as to reduce a risk of low ratings. As such, it is indeed rare to see original stories which may go haywire easily in the absence of a proven-and-tested structure.

The theme of this drama revolves around problems in the medical circle such as lack of medical services in far-flung areas, shortage of medical staff and low salaries, rising medical costs and medical lawsuits. At the centre of the story is a local hospital funded by the city government which is on the verge of bankruptcy. External help comes in the form of Takenouchi Yutaka's role, Moriyama Kohei and Ogawa Tamaki's role, Endo Saya. Moriyama was a doctor who quit 8 years ago due to a medical mishap, became a city government staff and then reverted to become a doctor as he wanted to do something to save the debt-ridden hospital. Endo is a surgeon who was enlisted to handle the restructuring of the hospital and tends to adopt radical measures. Naturally, these two aren't exactly on the best terms. Kanno Miho's role as Tanaka Aiko is a rather hot-headed and passionate nurse who isn't willing to see the hospital go into history and becomes Moriyama's partner in this save-the-hospital mission. As for the rest of the story, watch the drama to find out for yourself.

From this point onwards, there will be spoilers so if you don't want to know the story, stop reading this post now.

The good points:

1) A structurally-sound storyline
Given that there's another medical drama in the summer lineup, it is inevitable to compare the two. Based on what I've seen in Code Blue, Tomorrow's tempo is slower but not to the point of boring me. Every episode develops the story systematically and provides little surprises along the way. If you are looking for a story which mirrors that of Iryuu or even Shiroi Kyoto which set a very high standard for medical dramas, you might be a bit disappointed. There won't be adrenaline-filled surgery scenes or a plot full of deceit and people trying to outsmart one another. All you get is a warm package of how people help one another in the midst of a crisis.

I like the idea that the scriptwriter did not try too hard to pair Moriyama and Tanaka together. In the end, you can see that something is going on but it's not like the producers shoved the outcome to your face and said, "they are together now". The subtle approach feels better, in my opinion.

2) Great theme song
Well, I've not really heard Hoshimura Mai's songs prior to this. The theme song, "Hikari" is easy to remember and the melody suitable for the mood of the story. Look out for Hoshimura's guest appearance in the last episode but she won't be performing the theme song though.

3) Good acting
It's been a while since Takenouchi Yutaka appeared in a full-length drama. I didn't get to finish his last drama, "Kazoku" so "Rondo" should be the last drama I've seen him in. I didn't really like Rondo though. That beard really got on my nerves. In this drama, he goes back to being the clean-shaven ikemen and exudes a mature charm which makes the womenfolk swoon especially me. ^__^ His acting skills have improved quite a bit in the sense that he can turn from being cool to scolding people the next minute. A smile here and there makes his character warmer than perceived.

There have been criticism on Kanno Miho for being very loud but her character is supposed to be hot-headed in the first place. I don't really like Tanaka Aiko but I'm OK with Kanno's performance generally.

Ogawa Tamaki and Edo Harumi should be the surprise packages here. Ogawa's role Endo doesn't enjoy that much airtime but her commanding presence on screen should give you a strong impression. Edo plays the serious and caring matron which is completely different from her usual comedian image. It is hard to reconcile the two extremes and this should give you a pleasant surprise.

Jinnai Takanori can be a bit overboard at times but he has delivered his usual level of performance. Kurokawa Tomoka isn't that annoying this time while Kishibe Ittoku's chemistry with Takenouchi as shougi partners was good.

The bad points:

1) Overly-unrealistic ending
The ending tried to give a happily-ever-after scenario which seemed too far from reality. They had been dealing with the issues throughout the whole season and yet in a matter of one year, the situation has improved. There should be a multi-approach way of handling the problem so everything seems to be overly simplified in an attempt to round up the story

2) Slow tempo
In some parts of the story, the tempo should have been tuned up. I was a bit bored but not to the extent of dropping the drama. More should have been done to manage the tempo better rather than having a lopsided story at times.

In conclusion, this is a must-see if you are:
a) a fan of Takenouchi Yutaka (he looks real good in this drama)
b) a fan of Kanno Miho (only if you can stand her not acting her age and being hotheaded most of the time. I preferred her last drama as Tsumiki in "Watashitachi no Kyoukasho")
c) a fan of medical dramas focusing more on relationships rather than surgery scenes

My ratings as follows...
Story: 7.5 out of 10
Acting: 8.5 out of 10
Theme song: 8.5 out of 10
Visual effects / Scenery: 6 out of 10 (most of the scenes are within the hospital. first few episodes had more outdoor scenes)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 7 out of 10

Total: 37.5 out of 50

Viewership ratings data as follows:
1) 16.8%
2) 13.9%
3) 13.5%
4) 10.8%
5) 10.3%
6) 10.5%
7) 12.9%
8) 13.0%
9) 10.4%

Monday, September 08, 2008

Top 10 movies ranking (7 September 2008)

1) 20 seiki shounen

2) Kake no ue no Ponyo

3) Hancock

4) Detroit Metal City

5) Sex and the City

6) Shiawase no ichi peeji

7) Hamunaputora 3

8) Guu Guu Datte Neko de Aru

9) Gekijouban Pocket Monster

10) The Dark Knight

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Romaji lyrics of "Okaeri" おかえり by ayaka 絢香 (Theme song of "Zettai Kareshi")

Title: Okaeri
Artiste: ayaka
Lyrics: ayaka
Melody: Nishio Yoshihiko & ayaka

okaeri sweet home
kaeru bassho ai wo arigatou

mata heiki na furi wo shite
kanashimi no iro wo nuri tsubushite
waratte shimaun desu
shinjiru koto no taisetsusa
wakatteru no ni
iza to iu toki
utagatte shimaun desu

karappo no karada nagareru toki ni
uite shimai sou ni naru kedo
anata no koto dakishimetai
kono kimochi ga tsuki ugokasu no

okaeri i'm home
hitogoto de mita sareru kokoro
okaeri sweet home
kaeru bassho ai wo arigatou
sweet home

jibun no koto bakari wo kaeru otona wa zuruin da to
omotte itan desu
demo hisshi de kaeru koto wo
sakenderu hito mo irun dato
yatto shittan desu

atari mae no shiawase nanka
kono sekai ni hitotsu mo nai
anata no tame sou omoeta
kono kimochi ga tsuki ugokasu no

okaeri i'm home
supiido ga kasoku shite mainichi
okaeri sweet home
kawaranai zutto aru keishiki
sweet home

sagashite nakushita
kokoro no kizu ga
tachi mukau tsuyosa ni kawareta no wa
[okaeri] ga atta kara

okaeri i'm home
hitogoto de mita sareru kokoro
okaeri sweet home
kaeru bassho ai wo arigatou
sweet home

okaeri i'm home
daijoubu anata ga iru kara
okaeri sweet home
matte tene mou sugu tsuku kara
sweet home

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Maou's DVD box set

Title: Maou
Price: 23,940 yen (inclusive of tax)
Number of discs: 7
Published by: TC Entertainment
Date of release: 9 January 2009
Runtime: 505 minutes
Produced by TBS

Cast: Ohno Satoshi, Ikuta Toma, Kobayashi Ryoko, Tanaka Kei, Oshinari Shugo, Gekidan Hitori, Waki Tomohiro, Uehara Misa, Yoshize Michiko, Miyake Yuji and Ishizaka Koji

Friday, September 05, 2008

Cat Street

Title: Cat Street
O.A. start date: 28 August 2008
Timeslot: Thursdays, 8pm
Total number of episodes: 6
Theme song: Planetarium by Ikimonogakari
Original comic by: Kamio Yoko
Showing on: NHK
Official site: here


Aoyama Keito (Tanimura Mizuki)
Mine Kouichi (Katsuji Ryo)
Noda Momiji (Kurokawa Tomoka)
Suzuki Kouta (Kimura Ryo)
Sonoda Nako (Takabe Ai)
Harasawa Taiyou (Ishiguro Hideo)
Aoyama Chika (Arai Moe)
Moriguchi Kentarou (Namase Katsuhisa)
Aoyama Ryuichi (Takahashi George)
Aoyama Rumiko (Kaku Chikako)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Maou's soundtrack to be released!

Maou's original soundtrack will be released on 10 September 2008 (Wednesday).

Produced by: Sawano Hiroyuki
Catalog number: NQCL-2013
Price: 2500 yen

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Top 10 movies ranking (31 August 2008)

1) Hancock

2) 20 seiki Shounen

3) Kake no ue no Ponyo

4) Detroit Metal City

5) Hamunaputora 3

6) Sex and the City

7) Gekijouban Pocket Monster

8) Hana Yori Dango Final

9) Gekijouban Kamen Rider Kiba

10) The Dark Knight

Monday, September 01, 2008

Review of Kansahoujin 監査法人

Title: Kansahoujin 監査法人
Broadcast by: NHK
Theme song: Shinkaigyo 深海魚 by Yamazaki Masayoshi 山崎まさよし

Wakasugi Kenji (Tsukamoto Takashi)
Yamanaka Akane (Matsushita Nao)
Onodera Naoto (Toyohara Kousuke)
Shinohara Yuzo (Hashizume Isamu)
Yoshino Yoshiharu (Katsumura Masanobu)
Master (Shimizu Shogo)
Inoue Ryo (Abe Sadao)

Episode Listing:

1) Are we destroying the company? (会社、つぶせますか)
Aired on 14 June 2008 - Ratings: 7.7%
2) The 80 billion underground books (800億円の裏帳簿)
Aired on 21 June 2008 - Ratings: 8.6%
3) A series of window-dressings (粉飾の連鎖)
Aired on 28 June 2008 - Ratings: 8.4%
4) The overture to collapse (崩壊の序曲)
Aired on 5 July 2008 - Ratings: 8.5%
5) The price for dreams (夢の代償)
Aired on 12 July 2008 - Ratings: 6.3%
6) Can we save the company? (会社、救えますか)
Aired on 19 July 2008 - Ratings: 8.2%

This has got to be one of the best dramas from NHK which I've seen. Well, this excludes the Taiga dramas since they are so long that I can't sit through them. By making this statement, I'm just referring to their Saturday dramas. Being a national broadcaster, it seems like NHK is not so concerned about the bottomline (that's why they don't stick to romance or comedies to pull in ratings) when it comes to their Saturday dramas and is prepared to go a little further when handling controversial themes like this. Mind you, this topic can be considered as a taboo in Japanese society because of some points it raised in the story. I'm surprised that NHK can put this out in the open and get viewers to think which side of the argument is better.

To give you a rough idea of what this drama is all about, here's a summary of the story. Be warned about spoilers so you may wish to skip this post until you've watched the drama or are OK with knowing the plot.

Wakasugi Kenji and Yamanaka Akane are auditors at a major auditing firm, "Japan Auditors" where they come under the charge of a superior, Onodera Naoto who lives by the principle of strict auditing. However, the general business climate fosters the unspoken understanding that auditors should turn a blind eye to a certain degree of window-dressings in the accounts. This is to preserve the business relationship between the auditing firm and the company being audited (since the latter pays them auditing fees) and the auditing firm generally has no intention to destroy a company by being "overly-strict" on them.

Being under the influence of Onodera who also happens to be their mentor when they first joined the company, Wakasugi and Yamanaka try to stick to their principles but are faced with the dilemma of whether this is indeed the right way to go.

At the beginning of the story, we are presented with Onodera's decision to issue an adverse auditor opinion on a supermarket chain's financial reports. This leads to the company going bust in no time and the CEO to commit suicide. As a result, Wakasugi and Yamanaka start to doubt whether they were being too harsh.

They are then met with the next challenge of whether to issue an adverse opinion on a construction company which inflated their sales by counting apartments which have not been built or sold yet. (The common practice for such companies is to count sales only when the apartment is sold and ownership handed over to the buyer.) Although they would very much like to have things their way, their superior on the audit site, Tashiro wants to preserve the relationship with the client and decides to issue an unqualified opinion at the insistence of the audit firm's boss.

Towards the end of the first arc, you will see the fall of Japan Auditors which will be dragged down when the fact that they did not expose the window-dressings of some major corporations comes out into the open. This is supposedly to show what happens when prudent audit practices are not upheld.

However, in the second arc, you are presented with the pitfalls of what strict auditing practices can bring about. It is not such an ideal world after all even when Onodera & Co. have their way and establish Esperanza Auditors which has a tie-up with a foreign auditing firm. The new firm is still in the state of expansion but there is little manpower to handle the workload. Auditors are overworked. The boss i.e. Onodera gradually loses focus on his initial goal as he tries to grow the business. Wakasugi and Yamanaka will then make decisions on how to survive in this environment and find their ways out from the messy state of events.

This is the second economic-themed drama from NHK after Hagetaka (i've not been able to get this drama yet) and focuses on one of the top 3 most difficult qualifications to attain in Japan i.e. national recognized accountants. In case you are wondering, the other two are doctors and lawyers. People in these professions are always addressed as "sensei" out of respect. I'm not an expert in accounting but I read Japanese financial reports every day at work so the things they discuss are not exactly that foreign to me. It might be a challenge for those who don't know accounting at all or are turned off by serious themes.

I've always wondered why the conflict of interests exist between auditors and the companies being audited. To preserve a neutral stand, auditors should not get remuneration directly from the firm concerned, ideally. In real life, this is definitely not the case. Companies pay auditing firms to check their accounts so there is no way to ensure that the auditor's opinion is partial and not influenced by the remuneration it gets. That is why at the beginning of the story, Japan Auditors is prepared to let the window-dressing go instead of issuing an adverse opinion.

I think in the past, Japanese companies had this thinking that they should not make things difficult for one another for the sake of survival. That is why the audit firms were probably not that keen to cause the downfall of companies by issuing adverse opinions. However, due to a series of corporate scandals in America as a result of such lax auditing processes, the world started to promote the importance of strict auditing practices. As a result, in countries like Japan where corporate relationships were the essence of prosperity and survival, such changes were met with resistance as shown by Onodera being taken off from the audit sites by the boss as he continued to promote strict accounting. To the audit firm, preserving relationships with clients was more important.

Personally, I've not seen an adverse opinion so far in my work. There are four types of auditor opinions i.e. unqualified, unqualified with explanation, qualified and adverse. As such, if companies do get an adverse opinion (this is extremely serious), this could lead to them being taken off the stock exchange and the company going down in no time. That's why companies which did window-dressing were so afraid of being exposed by the auditors during the checks. I pity those auditors in a way too...they were being regarded as the plague when they were just paid to do their jobs.

This drama will set you thinking: is the ideal of strict accounting practices feasible in the real world? Are we prepared for the repercussions that will come by? Although some parts of the story may be a little exaggerated i.e. covering up for the window-dressing when it had snowballed to an enormous figure or when it was already easily seen by everyone, you can take a good look at how the industry works.

As for the casting, I think Tsukamoto Takashi isn't that suitable to play this role. Well, I think he's an OK actor but then, his image doesn't fit the character. And when it came to some of the more emotional scenes, there wasn't much variation in his expressions. Another thing is, his red lips really got on my nerves. Is he like this naturally or the makeup staff put too much lipstick on him?

The supporting cast were generally good and the most outstanding, in my opinion was Toyohara Kousuke who played Onodera. As the role was developed throughout the drama, Toyohara had the chance of showing the contrast between the idealistic and realistic Onodera. Hashizume Isamu was good too but in the second part of the story, he didn't appear much since his character was behind bars. Matsushita Nao was fine in this drama and has shown improvement ever since I saw her in her debut drama.

The theme song, Shinkaigyo is good mainly because of Yamazaki Masayoshi's soulful rendition. What a pity that there are no plans to release this on CD yet!

On the whole, I would recommend this drama to those who:
- like occupation-dramas
- prefer serious-themed stories (there's no romance and only a bit of family-stuff)
- are fans of the two leads

This is definitely not for people who are looking for light-hearted entertainment so don't say I didn't warn you if you felt bored or fell asleep while watching this.