Friday, April 30, 2010

Review of Majo Saiban (The Witch Trial)

Once again, my usual disclaimer. If you have not watched this drama, please refrain from reading this review if you wouldn't want to see the story developments and ending beforehand. I try to avoid spoilers when it comes to reviews but for dramas like this with a suspense element, it is difficult to talk about it without referring to the story. I seek your understanding in this regard.

First of all, this is not a new drama after all (in fact it was from the spring 2009 season) so you may be wondering why I finished this drama only today. The main reason was a lack of interest. Don't doubt what you are reading now because I did think of dumping this drama into the trashcan. Majo Saiban was really boring, especially in the first five episodes. And that makes it half of the drama. Why do I say so?

Majo Saiban's storyline was basically about a woman labelled as Majo (literally translated as evil woman) by the media being on trial for the alleged murder of her elderly lover. From then on, it seems like the scriptwriter had no idea where to go. As such, it resulted in an overly ambitious attempt to cover multi facades of the issue about having a jury system. To think that this script was written by someone who came out with other good dramas like OUT, Ningen no Shomei, Hyouheki and Maou? Hmm...what could have gone wrong here?

Majo Saiban had the critical weakness of having lesser airtime as compared to the regular season dramas. Each episode was shorter by at least 15 minutes than most regular episodes and we are looking at a difference of 150 minutes for 10 episodes. Given the limitations, it would have been good if the story stuck to a key plot and put less importance on the sub plots. Unfortunately, the scriptwriter seemed to have problems deciding which was more important. As such, the first part of the drama dwelt too much on the problem of the jury being threatened while the second part dived straight into the suspense part of whether the accused was indeed guilty. The stark contrast was hard to ignore.

Frankly speaking, I wasn't too interested to see how the jury was being threatened. For stories about the jury, the threats and bribery are constant fixtures which usually offer little excitement other than the fact that you can know which character has what type of secrets. That could have been discussed in full within one or two episodes. Instead, it dragged on and on until I decided that I had enough. That was why I stopped halfway for close to one year before I continued watching. Thankfully, the second part of the drama had a faster tempo so it kept me interested enough to finish the drama. I was already expecting Majo to be acquitted but I was more interested to see whether she was really the culprit. I've never believed her to be innocent but the story offered a surprise and did score in terms of showing how manipulative Majo can be.

One thing which I was always puzzled about is how brazen the so-called jury consultants were with their fairly open threats. I mean things like pasting photos at a public place is enough to attract lots of attention. Surely someone would have reported this to the police before the character sees it? OK, logic doesn't work in drama-land but it's just ridiculous at times when you think of it. And another thing is, how can the jury go running around like a detective and even try to meet the accused? From what I've read in John Grisham's books in the past, the jury in the U.S. are barred from going home during the trial and cannot contact anyone. Comparatively, the jury in Japan are easily subjected to harrassment and can do whatever they like? I think the drama doesn't offer an accurate depiction of what's going on in Japan. My advice is, take whatever you see as mere fiction. The whole trial proceedings feel like a joke to me especially when you see all these illogical things happening.

Much as the story offered a little bit of surprise at the end, I think two big questions still remain. Maybe the TV station wants to try that antic of making a SP someday but I thought it would have been good if these were answered. Firstly, after Toru (Ikuta Toma) knew that he was manipulated, what happened? I think most people would have been interested to know the change in Toru after the trial. Secondly, the burning question of how Izumi (Kato Ai) would react to her husband's true identity was left hanging in the air. I would really want to know how it develops from there. Too bad the ending offers no clues to these questions.

With regards to the cast, I have to say that most of them offered little surprises. Ikuta Toma's role wasn't that eyecatching while Kato Ai's character was too goody-two-shoes to make an impact. In my opinion, there are three actresses who were quite good despite the circumstances namely Ishida Yuriko, Kutsuna Shiori and Higa Manami.

1) Although the trial was centered on Majo, Ishida Yuriko did not have a lot of airtime. Nonetheless, she attracted attention each time she appeared. One moment, she could look gentle but she could change to a cold expression within seconds. It was obvious that she went without makeup for this role but she could still look relatively good which I think it's remarkable for her age. During the climax, action speaks louder than words. Looking at her expression speaks volumes, literally.

2) I didn't know much about Kutsuna Shiori until I watched Sotsu-Uta's first part. Actually, young actresses with this innocent and sweet look are aplenty in showbiz. I did think that she didn't have a distinctive feature to catch my eye. However, the last episode showed me that she had the potential to take on a scheming or baddie role. Hopefully, she can try various types of roles in future to make an impact.

3) Higa Manami was relatively new to me although I did see her in Code Blue. Now that's another drama I did not finish YET because of a similar problem with Majo Saiban. More on that if I do finish Code Blue one day. Anyway, Higa was very convincing when she showed her possessive side in trying to stop Izumi (Kato Ai) and her boyfriend Toru (Ikuta) from getting closer. Of course, she was just being jealous for nothing because she had been manipulated by Majo. Nonetheless, I thought she was good in showing the different sides of her character.

With regards to the theme song, it felt like a mismatch at times. Such dramas would probably need a high tempo number to build up the tension. Unfortunately, I didn't like Kesshin and it didn't leave a deep impression as well.

And my ratings for this drama...
Story: 5 out of 10 (If not for the small twist at the very end, I would have given this drama a fail score in this aspect)
Acting: 5 out of 10 (Some sparks here and there but I had expected more)
Theme song: 4 out of 10 (A misfit...nothing much to talk about)
Visual effects / Scenery: 5 out of 10 (What can you expect when most of the action is in the courtroom? So I won't give a failing score because this is something which cannot be helped.)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 2 out of 10 (Nothing particularly gripping or fascinating. Each character seems to be doing their own thing.)

Total: 21 out of 50

Conclusion: Even for hardcore fans of Ikuta Toma, I have reservations as to whether they can finish this because the drama doesn't really project him as someone who will make viewers swoon. If you are thinking of Toma like when he was in HanaKimi, get that idea out of your mind now. His character here is not as appealing as then. Get started from the middle if you only want to see the mystery unravelling. Otherwise, I doubt most people would have the interest to sit through this.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Top 10 movies ranking (25 April 10)

1) Alice in Wonderland

2) Meitantei Conan Lost Ship

3) Nodame Cantabile Saishugakusho Gohen

4) Gekijouban Gintama

5) Clash of the Titans

6) Crayon Shin-chan Arashi wo Yobu Ora no Hanayome

7) Shutter Island

8) Tidakankan Umi to Sango to Chiisana Kiseki

9) District 9

10) Darling wa Gaikokujin

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Top 10 movies ranking (18 Apr 10)

1) Alice in Wonderland

2) Meitantei Conan Lost Ship

3) Nodame Cantabile Saishugakusho Gohen

4) Crayon Shin-chan Arashi wo Yobu Ora no Hanayome

5) Shutter Island

6) District 9

7) Darling wa Gaikokujin

8) Soranin

9) Puri Kyua All Stars DX2 Kibou no Hikari Rainbow Jewel wo Mamore!

10) Doraemon Nobita no Ningyo Daikaisen

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dorama World on Twitter

I have started a Twitter page for this blog to provide updates on new posts. Since I need some time to write a full review, I also wish to make use of Twitter to write down my thoughts after watching a movie or an episode of a drama. It will definitely help me to write a more comprehensive review rather having to rack my brains to remember what I watched weeks ago.

If you are interested in following my tweets, please access the link at the left of the blog.

As I'm relatively new to Twitter, please do give me your comments, suggestions or tips on how I may make full use of this service.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Top 10 movies ranking (11 Apr 10)

1) Shutter Island

2) District 9

3) Darling wa Gaikokujin

4) Doraemon Nobita no Ningyo Daikaisen

5) Sherlock Holmes

6) Avatar

7) Puri Kyua All Stars DX 2 Kibou no Hikari Rainbow Jewel wo Mamore

8) Nodame Cantabile Saishugakusho Zenpen

9) Soranin

10) Liar Game The Final Stage

Monday, April 05, 2010

Theme song of "Sunao ni Narenakute" to be sung by WEAVER

The theme song of FujiTV spring 2010 drama, "Sunao ni Narenakute" will be sung by piano rock band WEAVER. The band which consists of three members and made their debut last autumn, will be singing the theme song, "Hard to say I love you ~ Ii dasenakute ~" which is due to be released on 9 June. The fast tempo number will be produced by Tokyo Jihen's Kameda Seiji.

Source: Sports Hochi

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Preview of NHK Saturday 9pm drama: CHASE ~ Kokuzei Sasatsukan チェイス~国税査察官~

Title: CHASE ~ Kokuzei Sasatsukan ~ (CHASE ~ National Tax Investigation Officer)
O.A. Start Date: 17 April 2010
Timeslot: Saturdays 9pm
Number of episodes: 6
Broadcast by: NHK
Cast: Eguchi Yosuke, ARATA, Asou Kumiko, Kimura Tae, Saito Takumi, Tanaka Kei, Mizuno Erina, Kinoshita Houka, Machida Mari, Ishibashi Renji, Sato Jiro, Ishiguro Hideo, Iwamatsu Ryo, Hirata Mitsuru, Okuda Eiji, Masuoka Toru, Nakamura Katsuo
Official website: here

You have the right to hate the world あなたには、この世界を憎む権利がある

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Preview of Spring 2010 drama: Mother

Title: Mother
Broadcast by: NTV
O.A. Start Date: 14 April 2010
Timeslot: Wednesdays 10pm
Theme song: Nakigao Smile by hinaco
Music by: REMEDIOS
Scriptwriter: Sakamoto Yuji
Cast: Matsuyuki Yasuko, Yamamoto Koji, Sakai Wakana, Kurashina Kana, Ashida Mana (child actor), Ono Machiko, Ichikawa Miwako, Oto Takuma, Tanaka Minoru, Ayano Go, Kawamura Yosuke, Takahata Atsuko, Tanaka Yuko
Official website: here


Suzuhara Nao (Matsuyuki Yasuko), a woman in her mid-30s who has no boyfriend and is only concerned with her research on migratory birds. However, when her research laboratory in an Muroran university (Hokkaido) shuts down suddenly, she is forced to work as a science teacher in a primary school.

One day, Nao is appointed as the form teacher for a primary one class as their original form teacher has gone on maternity leave. She takes notice of Michiki Reina (Ashida Mana) who doesn't fit in with her classmates and seems to see through Nao's mind despite her young age. Although Nao feels helpless when dealing with Reina, the latter starts to admire her.

Nao starts to realise that Reina has been physically abused by her family members but chooses to adopt a wait-and-see attitude towards the matter. However, something happens which changes Nao's mind and she decides to abduct Reina. The two of them then flee to another place where they will live as mother and daughter...

Friday, April 02, 2010

Spring 2010 Drama Preview - Shinzanmono 新参者 (The Newcomer)

Title: Shinzanmono (The Newcomer)
O.A. Start Date: 18 April 2010
Timeslot: Sundays, 9pm
Broadcast by: TBS
Original novel by: Higashino Keigo
Theme song: Machi Monogatari (Story of the Street) by Yamashita Tatsuro
Cast: Abe Hiroshi, Kuroki Meisa, Mukai Osamu, Mizobata Junpei, Kimura Yuichi, Izumiya Shigeru, Sasano Takashi, Harada Mieko, Miura Tomokazu, Kagawa Teruyuki, Ichihara Etsuko, Kobayashi Takashi, An
Official website: here


Shinzanmono ~ a newcomer to an organisation or neighbourhood

Kaga Kyoichiro (Abe Hiroshi) is a police detective who has just been transferred from the Nerima Police Station to Nihonbashi Police Station. He has solved numerous difficult cases and has a keen eye on detail. In order to know the Ningyo-cho neighbourhood well, he walks around the area while attracting attention as a newcomer.

At the start of his stint, a murder occurs. Mitsui Mineko (Harada Mieko) was also a newcomer to the Nihonbashi area as she had just moved in alone to an apartment. However, there is something mysterious about her death as she had shifted house with a hidden agenda...

The police discovers a namecard of Takura Shinichi (Kagawa Teruyuki), a salesman, who's known for being a nice and hardworking person. However, he has no alibi to prove his innocence during the 30 minutes when Mineko was supposedly killed. In addition, a family selling senbei in the neighbourhood shopping street becomes the key to solving the mystery surrounding Mineko's murder.