Sunday, September 26, 2010

Review of Happy!

Umino Miyuki - Aibu Saki
Sakurada Junji - Miyasago Hiroyuki
Ootori Keiichiro - Taguchi Junnosuke
Ryugasaki Chouko - Kobayashi Mao
Kagami Kikuko - Natsukawa Jun
Yamaguchi Momotaro - Morishita Noyuki
Umino Ieyasu - Arakawa Ryoga
Samebuchi Kyohei - Aikawa Sho
Ryugasaki Hanae - Watanabe Eriko
Ootori Utako - Katahira Nagisa

On the whole, this was a pretty enjoyable drama SP to watch. Personally, I do like tennis so this was one of the main reasons why I have interest in this. Besides, given that the author is Urasawa Naoki, I was curious to see what type of story this would be so as to contrast this with his other hit series Monster which is on the dark and suspense side.

Happy! is entirely different because the atmosphere is relatively light despite the pressure on the heroine Miyuki to repay the debts of 250 million yen incurred by her elder brother. The tennis scenes are realistic unlike Ace wo Nerae which went a bit overboard on the CG side. At least I could see that Aibu Saki could manage a pretty powerful serve. Given how the SP had ended, it is highly likely that we can see a full series earliest by summer since the story is very much unfinished. Come to think of it, TBS has a tendency of testing the waters with a SP first before launching a full series. That's a pretty conservative measure but it can help to prevent wasting money. Yaou was an example of this method where the SP was shown in May last year and the full series launched in Jan this year.

As for the acting, Aibu has done quite well as Umino Miyuki and she does look quite compatible with Taguchi Junnosuke. The SP did not allow too much development between them but at least we know now that Taguchi's role, Ootori is obviously in love with Miyuki who is still oblivious to this. Taguchi still needs more practice to fit the role of the rich guy who's good at tennis because he appears more like an insecure little boy who can't do anything on his own.

The most irritating person should be Kobayashi Mao who plays Ryugasaki Chouko. Of course, I know that the character is supposed to be one obnoxious, pretentious, spoilt brat but then whenever I hear Kobayashi deliberately raising the tone of her voice, that freaks me out. The first time I saw her was in Slow Dance and sad to say, I still don't like her acting. Somehow, I have the feeling that her sweet girl image is too fake to be true and it doesn't help that her character this time round is not meant to put her into the good books of the viewers.

As for the rating of this drama, I would give it 7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Review of Sukoshi wa, Ongaeshi ga Dekitakana

Kitahara Kazunori - Ninomiya Kazunari
Sasaki Mio - Ikewaki Chizuru
Makimura Takumi - Katsuji Ryo
Principal Tanokura - Tani Kei
Kitahara Mikiko - Ootake Shinobu

To be frank, I have seen a considerable number of dramas/movies about people stricken with terminal illnesses of late so I found this SP to be quite similar in the sense that they try to bring out the message of living on with hope despite the harsh conditions. Not to discredit those who suffered because of the illness, the rush of making such dramas/movies will probably cause the loss of interest in this genre sooner or later especially if the cast doesn't stand out enough among the crowd. The most ironical or should I say saddest thing about this SP would be the fact that the lead character Kazunori made it to Todai and attended school for just 1 day before he passed away a few months later.

With regards to the case, Ninomiya Kazunari wasn't too outstanding at the beginning but he showed his potential in acting towards the end especially when Kazunori had to face the fact that his days were numbered. I like his interaction with Ootake Shinobu who is playing his mother the second time since they worked together in Yasashii Jikan last year and there were a few scenes which made me quite touched e.g. when the mother-and-son went to Todai to check the results and they were so happy to see his registration number on the board of successful candidates. As for the rest of the cast, there weren't many notable names except for Katsuji Ryo and even he failed to shine because the story restricted the airtime he had.

Overall, I would give this 6.5 out of 10 with most of the marks attributed to the fine acting by Ninomiya and Ootake.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Review of Yaou SP Episode 0

O.A. 11 May 05 (TBS)
Ratings: 12.4%

Cast: Matsuoka Masahiro, Kitamura Kazuki, Mannaka Hitomi, Kaname Jun, Ogura Koji, Sakai Toshiya, Naitou Takeshi, Katase Rino

This drama SP was adapted from a popular manga series of the same title where it depicts how a guy from Hokkaido came to Tokyo and became a popular host (in the nightclub).

Well, I must say that I wasn't expecting a lot from this so I wasn't very disappointed. Why wasn't I hopeful of this in the first place?

If you had watched another drama SP No.1, just by comparing the cast of these two similar themed drama SPs would show you why I wasn't too satisfied with Yaou.

No.1 has Kubozuka Yosuke, Yusuke Santa Maria, Sakaguchi Kenji, Kawamura Ryuichi, Sorimachi Takashi.
Yaou has Matsuoka Masahiro, Kitamura Kazuki and Kaname Jun.

See the difference? No.1 had so many A-list guys around while for Yaou, the cast is far too weak. Matsuoka can't possibly be the sole attraction for a drama based on hosts. Shouldn't there be more eye candy in the cast? Excuse me for saying this, getting Kitamura to play the No.1 host in the club is a terrible mistake. I hate to say this but he really looks like a werewolf to me with his blond hair and he looks bigger (not in the muscular and macho sense, OK? ) with those unflattering suits. Kaname looks better than in Magari Kado no Kanojo (in my opinion) but he appears too little and he's not my type.

I must say that No.1 is indeed number one for its choice of guys to play the hosts. Even the No.1 played by Kawamura Ryuichi is so convincing rather than Kitamura whom I won't believe is favoured by the female customers in that club. Is it a budget problem? Even the female guests are not A-list either except for Katase Rino.

Next, the story is making me sleep. Somehow, I don't like what I see in Yaou although its script has something to be based on and should be more focused. However, there is little insight into the world of hosts and how their system works. Of course, I can't be so hard on them since it's just a 2 hr SP and after deducting the CMs, the actual drama is only 1 hr 35 mins plus. However, considering the fact that No.1 is also a drama SP and that it has far more characters than Yaou, I can't help but feel that not enough effort has been put into Yaou.

On the whole, I won't say that Yaou is a terrible drama to watch but looking at the unfinished state of this SP, I won't be surprised if TBS suddenly announces that this is making a comeback as a full length drama. Moreoever, the manga is still being serialised so there should be more room for development. I might be interested to search for the manga to read though since it does seem more interesting than what's on TV. Out of 10, I'll just give 5 as a passing mark. Nothing more, nothing less.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review of TRICK SP (2005)

Ratings: 24.7%

TRICK is one of my favourite drama series which combines humour and suspense plus a very entertaining combination of Abe Hiroshi and Nakama Yukie. This can be said to be one of the most memorable roles for both of them as it was the very first time that I came to realise that they can take on comical characters and changed the impressions I had of them. Especially for Nakama who had been restricted to supporting roles before this, it made me look at her from a different light and see her as a capable actress.

Talking about this new SP which comes after 3 full length series and one movie, I can say that it maintains the usual standard of its predecessors. The chemistry between Ueda and Yamada is very much alive and the story is as engaging as ever. Basically, the SP starts with Yamada being an unpopular magician as ever while Ueda is on a TV programme to prove the authenticity of fortune-telling by a woman named Midorikawa Shoko. Someone dies as a result of her forecast which leads Ueda to bring Yamada along for a trip to Midorikawa's place with three other professors who appeared on the programme so as to expose Midorikawa's tricks. However, the professors die one after another according to her forecasts. And the usual drill is that the Ueda-Yamada duo will expose Midorikawa's tricks. I won't go into further details so as not to spoil the story for those who have not seen it.

The highlight of the story is still Ueda and Yamada as they keep bickering and Ueda tries to take the credit of Yamada's investigations for himself which makes her exasperated. Although Yabe, the police officer and Yamada's mother also appear in this SP, their airtime is especially limited so we can probably expect to see more of them in the upcoming movie. By the way, did I mention before that I disliked the partner of Yabe in Trick 3 who was boasting about himself being on the elite path? That guy really gets on my nerves and the new partner of Yabe in this SP did not get into my good books either. I still prefer the blonde guy who was constantly bullied by Yabe since they had much better chemistry as compared to the newcomers.

At the end of the SP, there is a small clip about the movie which will be shown in June next year. However, it is not clear yet whether the story will have any linkage to this SP. Well, I was hoping for more developments in Ueda and Yamada's relationship from the end of Trick 3 but I was disappointed to see none.

Oh, before I forget, it seems that this Trick SP is incomplete. What I mean by this is that at the very end of the SP, there is an advertisement showing some NG scenes plus comments that 41 minutes of the actual Trick SP was edited from the final broadcast we saw. As such, the missing portion will be included in the DVD entitled the REAL TRICK SP but they have not decided on the release date. This seems like a deliberate gimmick to attract the fans' attention and I admit that I have fallen prey to this. I might just buy the DVD if it is released but that could be more than 6 months later if they want to synchronise it with the movie's screening or DVD release. Otherwise, we should probably get to see it before the movie is shown in June.

If you are a Trick fan, this is a must-watch after the end of the third series 2 years ago. Even if you are not, this is probably good as an entry into the TRICK series since the story can be viewed on its own but you may wonder why the two even got to know each other in the first place.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Review of Women's Island - Kanojotachi no Sentaku

Ratings: 10.7%

Takase Yuki (31) - Shinohara Ryoko
Fujishima Rei (24) - Kuriyama Chiaki
Komori Hazuki (28) - Nakagoshi Noriko
Ishikawa Eriko (30) - Igawa Haruka
Sugishita Kazuya (32) - Nakamura Shunsuke
Shinoda Yosuke (33) - Yamazaki Kinori
Yuri - Ebihara Yuri
Fukasawa Yuto (33) - Tanihara Shosuke
Kagami Makoto - Kazama Tooru
Kuga Santaichi - Nishimura Masahiko

Well...I must say that this drama failed to impress me. The story did provide a new viewpoint about modern women issues i.e. when is the peak period of a woman's life but I felt that this was not discussed in depth. It was a waste of this seemingly interesting topic by going back to the old format of discussing problems where many dramas have done before so there's no new perspective to really speak of.

Besides that, the cast were relatively lacklustre in their performances because of the restraint in the script. Even Shinohara Ryoko failed to shine this time as her role didn't have the same amount of shine and confidence like what she had in anego. However, Kuriyama Chiaki has provided a new side to herself with her bubbly character Rei because she has been playing rather dark and cool characters in the past. My only grouse is that I don't really like her image and her fringe gets on my nerves. Given that this is part of her trademark, I doubt she will make any changes to that.

Out of a score of 10, I will only give this 5 points.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review of Kitchen Wars

Rating: 10.9%

Kosaka Makoto is a career woman who is the youngest female director for InterConnect Co while her husband, Tetsuya is taking care of the household. However, when her husband dies of a sudden traffic accident, Makoto has to take up the responsibility of doing household chores and cooking for her daughter Mayo who feels distant from her mother. As such, Makoto heads for a cooking class by Sugino Sakura where she learns from scratch how to cook despite having lots of knowledge about food due to work reasons. Besides trouble at work by her subordinate Izumi Yukio, Makoto also has to deal with a weird artist Rupan Yamada who keeps entering her house without permission as well as handle a crumbling relationship with her daughter. Just at this time, her mother-in-law Kosaka Haruko wants to bring Mayo to her place and raise her granddaughter instead of leaving her to Makoto...

Although the ratings were relatively low than my initial guess of around 14%, I must say that the quality of this drama SP is not as bad as the figure suggests. Maybe something happened on the date of OA or there was a more interesting programme over at other channels.

The story is rather straightforward and very easy to follow. Makoto (Amami Yuki) is a career woman who works for a trading firm which imports cooking utensils. No doubt she may have extensive knowledge about food and has a taste for the finest cuisine, she's actually lousy at cooking and has little chance to practice or learn since her husband Tetsuya (Sasaki Kuranosuke) takes care of the household and their only daughter Mayo. However, when Tetsuya dies due to a traffic accident, Makoto tries to face the future strongly and maintains a positive appearance in front of Mayo. From the eyes of Mayo though, it seems as if Makoto is not affected by Tetsuya's death and she resents the fact that Makoto brings her out for dinner every night despite her craving for homecooked food.

Tetsuya's mother complains about Makoto's incompetence as a mother due to her lack of cooking skills and having little time for Mayo. To prove her wrong, Makoto enrols in a cooking school where she meets the teacher Sugino Sakura. Although she is making progress, Mayo refuses to eat the fine cuisine she cooks which makes Makoto very discouraged. Instead, Mayo chooses to eat at Runba Yamada's place. Runba is a comic artist who lives in the vicinity and dishes out weird-looking (to Makoto at least) food for Mayo who likes it more than the exquisite dishes Makoto makes. Thus, this makes Makoto unable to comprehend why this is happening.

Sugino then arranges for Makoto to attend a children's class where she finds out the kids have very simple requirements when it comes to food. Makoto realises that she has been using her own views to determine what to make for Mayo instead of thinking about what she wants to eat. Makoto tries to regain Mayo's trust by promising to make something she likes but goes back on her word because of work again. Mayo decides to stay with her grandmother instead so Makoto makes a last-ditch attempt to reconcile with Mayo. In the end, mother-and-daughter patch up which can be considered a happily-ever-after ending.

To be frank, the plot isn't that novel but what's interesting is seeing Amami Yuki take on this role of a career woman who can't cook. It was hillarious to see her mess up in the kitchen. For example, she wanted to remove the skin of a fish and was using her bare hands to tear the skin off from the flesh. And she was cutting the red pepper such that it ended up in circular pieces instead of cutting it horizontally, removing the seeds before slicing. I'm not a cooking expert but at least there were some basic things which I know. Given the fact that Amami usually plays the strong career woman who's capable of everything, seeing this comical side of her was a new discovery and made the drama SP more enjoyable to watch. And picking up the konbu from the boiling pot by using her bare hands just gave the idea that she lacked common sense. Too bad the humour didn't last for long as she picked up the skills rather quickly. It would have been better for her to make more mistakes along the way to increase the comical effect.

Another point which I wish to bring up is about Takeda Shinji. I wonder why he's been playing eccentric or should I say rather unique characters of late. In Kami wa Saikoro wo Furanai, he plays a music university graduate who's lazing around and behaves weirdly and now, he plays a comic artiste who has an unusual way of cooking food. Thank goodness he wasn't wearing the woolen cap like in Saikoro or I would have found his appearance quite hard to accept.

Last but not least, Matsuzaka Keiko who has the look of a virtuous mother and housewife, seems to be "under-utilised" in this SP because her appearance time was limited and her main purpose seemed to be guiding Makoto towards the right way of winning over her daughter's heart. I thought her role could be developed a little more.

On the whole, I would give this drama SP a 7 out of 10. No doubt it isn't particularly impressive, it's still not bad and for the sake of seeing the ever-capable Amami Yuki make silly mistakes in the kitchen, I think it's still worth spending 1 hour and 35 minutes over.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review of Jooubachi (Queen Bee)

Rating: 17.1%

To be frank, I thought this SP wasn't as interesting as the previous I saw from the Kindaichi Kosuke series i.e. the Inugami family case. Although it was as mind-boggling as before, I simply felt that the story or rather should I saw the scriptwriter did not factor in much opportunities for the cast to show off their acting skills. For example, Inagaki Goro's potrayal of Kindaichi Kosuke here did not bring the character alive on screen and seemed to have lost much of the vitality he displayed in the Inugami SP. In additon, Kuriyama Chiaki was supposed to play mother-and-daughter but somehow, both characters appeared so similar that there wasn't much to distinguish between the two and made it seem like Kuriyama was not able to play two different characters at the same time. That was why I didn't enjoy it as much as before.

I won't go into the details of the case as it would definitely involve spoilers. All I can say is that the telltale signs leading to the identity of the culprit was so obvious that it doesn't require a genius to figure out what is going on.

Well, I must make special mention of my impression of Kuriyama Chiaki here. Hm...I don't know whether it is her hairstyle or the fringe that's getting on my nerves but I feel that I get the creeps whenever I look at her. Maybe her tough, cool, uncomprising look is her distinct trait but this may prevent her from taking roles which are softer in nature. In contrast, Shibasaki Kou can also be considered as someone who looks cold and unfriendly but it's not too extreme and you can still accept her playing characters who actually smile. When Kuriyama smiles...that really made me shiver.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Review of Hiroshima Showa 20 nen Hachigatsu Muika

This SP is part of the Nada Sousou series and based on the period before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. I won't go into things like how they chose to handle such an sensitive issue i.e. the viewpoint they adopt towards the bombing since this is not an history discussion session.

The story is on the Yajima family who were affected by the war in various ways but they were helpless to do anything to change the situation at times.

The eldest daughter Shinobu manages the family hotel and makes decisions with the interests of her younger siblings in mind despite them not agreeing with her at all times. Unknown to them, she had actually rejected the proposal of her boyfriend, Shigematsu who was sent to the frontline just because she wanted to live up to her father's expectations that she will take care of the family while he went to war. As such, she's prepared to sacrifice her own happiness and risk being misunderstood by others in the process.

The second daughter Nobuko is a primary school teacher but during wartime, no lessons are conducted and she has to lead her students to do things at the orders of the army e.g. tearing down houses and doing menial work. She questions the need for the war and brings the kids out to play instead of doing work which leads to her being suspended from work. She also has a boyfriend Oohara whom she's seeing secretly but she keeps putting off marriage as she doesn't want to be the only one in her family who's happy.

The youngest daughter Maki is a senior high student but in those days, these female students have to sew clothes in a factory for the army. As such, she has no choice but to give up her dream of being a ballerina. However, when she meets a North Korean student, Mika who is constantly bullied because of her race, their friendship rekindles the hope she has for the future instead of forcing herself to be content with the present.

The only son in the family, Toshiaki is a junior high student who loves plants and animals. As he's meek in nature, he cannot meet up to the expectations of the army officers in school and is forced to "volunteer" to join the junior air forces. However, this also proves to the reason why he lives to tell the tale of his sisters since he was away when Hiroshima was bombed.

The majority of the SP was talking about the circumstances of the Yajima family members so it was only till the end when I felt that the momentum of the story got going. Just when everything seemed to be going smoothly for everyone i.e. Shigematsu was coming home to meet Shinobu, Nobuko had got married and was expecting, Maki was preparing to practice ballet again, the bomb came and everything vanished into thin air. This section was quite sad so I guess that's why the SP fitted into the Nada Sousou SP since it's supposed to make you cry. However, I thought the build-up was too slow so I didn't feel that affected to shed tears.

No doubt the story might be too lengthy in the introduction of everyone's backgrounds, I thought this was quite nice to watch especially since the sisters are played by actresses whom I do like. Acting-wise, I thought everyone did OK but if the story had been fine-tuned to reduce the weightage on the recollections, I think this would have been better. As such, I give this 6.5 out of 10.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review of Shukumei

Title: Shukumei
O.A. 26 Dec 2004
Theme Song: Shukumei by Fujiki Naohito

Uryuu Akihiko (Fujiki Naohito)
Wagura Yuusaku (Kashiwabara Takashi)
Uryuu Misako (Honjo Manami)

The story is based on a suspense novel by Higashino Keigo thus to people who have read the book, there may be nothing new about the plot. As for me, I find it quite interesting as the usual standard of Higashino's works is maintained and there are a number of unexpected twists along the way. To avoid spoiling the drama for you, I'll not talk about the plot here and will focus more on the cast instead. All I can say is that the story seems very much unfinished and has an ending open to the viewer's imagination. Maybe 2 hours is simply too short to conclude the story?

Fujiki Naohito and Kashiwabara Takashi are the leads for this drama SP. Just looking at two good-looking guys together on screen is quite enjoyable especially if you are a fan of the two of them. The fact that they play rivals increase the tension on screen but I must say that Fujiki is better in his potrayal of his role. As such, the gap in their performance did not bring about the much required sparks to get the viewer more engrossed about the story.

Their characters are supposed to be childhood friends where Uryuu (Fujiki) always got No.1 in everything and Wakura (Kashiwabara) had to play second fiddle. Fujiki managed to show the elite and superior side of his role but Kashiwabara seemed to be quite uneasy about fitting into the role of Wakura. It seemed that Wakura wasn't affected by the presence of Uryuu at all when he could have shown a bit of the indignance about losing his No.1 spot to his rival every time. It was quite puzzling to see the final scenes when he started to cry and then snapped out of it almost immediately. That wasn't convincing in my opinion.

As for the female lead Honjou Manami, I think she must have been quite out of touch with acting in dramas ever since she got married and concentrated on publishing books. Thus, I thought that her emotional scenes were not too impressive even though her role can be considered to be a strong link between the two guys. One is her ex-lover while the other is her husband but she doesn't seem to show any sign of a struggle when she's caught between them. On the appearance front, she looked OK with both guys but chemistry-wise, this is quite lacking.

On the whole, I would rate it 7 out of 10 mainly because of the story and Fujiki's acting. Maybe if this was expanded beyond the 2-hr SP restriction, the development of the story might be better.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Review of Start Line

O.A. 17 Dec 05

Imai Shun (Yamada Takayuki), a runner who is supposed to be in the running to take part in the Olympics, suffers an injury after falling during the final selection race. Since then, he no longer takes part in any races.

Shun meets a blind senior high school girl, Mizujima Hitomi which is rather ironical as the name, Hitomi means eyes but she can't even see. After this meeting, Shun thinks that he will not see her again.

After he retires from athletics, Shun is approached by the Para-lympics committee to be a partner i.e. GUIDE for a blind runner. However, Shun is unable to accept this request as he used to be in the running to take part in the Olympics and he finds being a GUIDE as a disgrace.

A few months later, Shun accepts the request after he finds out that he is struck with an incurable illness and will not live for long...


Imai Shun (Yamada Takayuki)
He practised for 3 days only before filming the running scenes and said that he tried very hard to look as if he was running very quickly during the shooting.

This is his first role as a dying man and it was difficult trying to express the feelings of a person who knows that his days are numbered. In addition, this is the first time he has come into contact with the disabled and if he was in their situation, he feels that he might not have the courage to live on. Moreover, the disabled are still involved in sports actively and this gives him the motivation to work harder in future.

Mizujima Hitomi (Suzuki An)
She admits that she's not good at running and used spiked shoes which helped her to run slightly faster. This is the third time she has worked with Yamada so they have no problems while acting together. She says that the most difficult problem in potraying this character is how Hitomi feels about being blind.

As the filming was mainly conducted outdoors where the weather was very hot and sunny, the challenge was trying to act as if the sun rays has no effect on her eyes since Hitomi cannot see.

As Suzuki had acted as a girl who couldn't see, hear or speak in the past, she did feel sympathetic to the real-life character but she surprised Suzuki with her enthusiasm towards life. Taking on the role of a disabled person again, Suzuki feels that treating them as normal people is very important.

Kirino Ryuji (Tokito Saburo)
This is the first time he has played basketball on a wheelchair and it was tougher than expected. He learnt a lot of information on coping with the tough physical demands of the sport and was inspired at the cheerfulness of the disabled in trying to lead normal lives like everyone else.

Mizujima Kyoko (Tomosaka Rie)
She plays Hitomi's sister who works at the Para-lympics Committee and asks Shun to pair up with Hitomi for the race. She has a lot of explanation lines during the first half of the drama mainly with regards to the concept of Para-lympics. To the character Kyoko, the para-lympics is a very important event to her and her passion towards is not based on sympathy towards the disabled only.

Tohashi Nobuhiro (Suga Kenta)
He had initially felt that those who have artificial legs seem to walk easily but when he tried it for his role, he realised the pain and difficulty in it. As such, he had to practice for a long time before he could walk naturally during the filming.

Imai Michiyo (Ootake Shinobu)
She plays Shun's mother who is in deep anguish after knowing that her son is about to die. However, she tries to be brave and puts on a cheerful face while her son is still alive.

Ratings: 7.4%

To be frank, I didn't expect the ratings to go below the 10% mark. Maybe another TV station was showing something which was so attractive that it pulled the viewers away.

Well, I must say that I'm a bit disappointed. I expected more but the story felt somewhat corny to me towards the end. It seemed as if the scriptwriter was trying to squeeze everything within the 1 hr 40 mins so the flow of the developments was affected. If the story was at least 3 to 5 episodes long, the progression would have been better. Of course, dragging it along for 1 whole season might backfire too.

As for the cast, I thought they did reasonably OK considering how short this SP was. Even for Yamada who is the lead, he didn't have a chance to show the emotional struggle in Shun and just gave me the feeling that Shun 's emotions changed within a snap of the finger. One moment he detests anyone bringing up the topic of running and the next, he's ready to become a guide. Likewise for Suzuki An, I thought it would be a test of her abilities to play this blind girl but then she just seems out of place since the story did not give her enough time to show Hitomi's emotions.

To be frank, whether you watch ths or not doesn't make much of a difference. There are lots of room for improvement so I can only give it a score of 5 out of 10.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Review of Onna no Ichidaiki: Sugimura Haruko - An evil woman's life~An actress who married acting

I have two sides to my life - a woman and an actress.

Sugimura Haruka - the first and last actress of Japan's acting history. Unknown facts about her life will be shown in this drama. She had taken prominent roles in movies directed by famous directors like Kurosawa Akira and Ozu Yasujiro.

She did not dabble in alcohol or cigarettes but her life was channeled towards men and acting. The energy she derived from them gave her the power in her acting.

Sugimura Haruko - Yonekura Ryoko
Morimoto Kaoru - Yanagiba Toshiro
Nagahiro Kishiro - Yamaguchi Tatsuya
Ishiyama Tsunehiko - Narimiya Hiroki
Tagami Fuyuko - Sugita Kaoru
Ogawa Yasuo - Itao Souji
Oji Kiwako - Sonin

The final segment stars Yonekura Ryoko as the actress Sugimura Haruko. Throughout her life, she was in love with three men played by Yamaguchi Tatsuya, Yanagiba Toshiro and Narimiya Hiroki.

Yamaguchi's role was Nagahiro Kishiro who was Haruko's childhood sweetheart in Hiroshima. She left her hometown because she was ostracised by her friends when her teacher told everyone that she was an abandoned child of a geisha even though she was living in a rich family. Well, that teacher did it just to get back at Haruko who was very popular in school and everyone kept saying how good she was at singing and playing the piano to the extent that she was better than the teacher. Anyway, this changed Haruko's life and made her determined to become a swan instead of remaining as an ugly duckling. Thus, she insisted on going to Tokyo to enrol in an acting school but failed. She then joined a theatre group to gain experience. Kishiro came to look for her with Haruko's adopted mother so they found out about her living conditions. Subsequently, Kishiro came to live with her after his parents refused to accept Haruko and they got married without registering since he was still a research student while she wasn't making much money. Things between them were very sweet until Haruko aborted her child because she had the chance to be a lead actress. However, Kishiro did not blame her even though he was very upset. He knew how much she aspired to be an actress so he even kept her in the dark when he was going to die due to tuberculosis. That scene when Haruko couldn't make it in time to see Kishiro before he died was very sad.

The second man was Moriyama Kaoru (Yanagiba Toshiro) who was a married scriptwriter. He had an affair with her while his wife was away in her hometown during wartime and gave her the first hit stage play of her life. However, he too died of tuberculosis.

Last but not least, Ishiyama Tsunehiko (Narimiya Hiroki), a medical student younger than her went against all odds to marry her after they met when Haruko was suffering from a leg illness. They headed to a tragic end as Tsunehiko died of tuberculosis and he had asked Haruko to stay by his side to no avail since she wanted to act in a movie.

It's such an uncanny coincidence that the three men in her life all died of the same illness.

Anyway, the bulk of this segment was on the relationship front of Sugimura Haruko so the part on how she became a top actress was not explored in detail. Although it is like the first segment which chose to focus on the relationship aspect, I find that the potrayal here is much better since it does give the viewer an idea of how much she loved the men in her life. In the first part, I simply get the feel that the character was just desiring for company rather than being in love with those men.

Yonekura is fine in this role but seeing her act as a 19-year-old makes me cringe. Well, she looks so mature so acting young is really uncomfortable for me. Although she didn't impress me as much as Amami Yuki, I certainly think that she was better than Miyazawa Rie.

As for the guys, the first relationship was the one I liked most followed by the last one where Tsunehiko was practically begging Haruko to stay but he gave up in the end. The second one seemed to be the result of loneliness so I didn't get the feel that they loved each other very much.

Well, the ratings for this paled in comparision with the other two but I thought it was OK. Maybe more emphasis on her career might be better. I simply get the impression that this was just on her love life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Review of Onna no Ichidaiki: Koshiji Fubuki - Life of Love ~ I will sing till the end of my life

Life is shorter than what you think. That is why I don't want to live with regrets.

25 years after her death, the life of entertainer Koshiji Fubuki is replayed on screen.

Koshiji Fubuki who was famous for wearing branded stage costumes and boasting of a series of hits, can be considered a mega star of the Showa Era. Besides singing, she was also involved in movies and stage plays. She won many awards included the Record Daisho, Monbu Daisho and Golden Arrow. Audiences were mesmerised by the fantasy world she showed them through her performances.

The drama will replay her past hits and show the 30-year relationship between her and her manager, Iwatani Tokiko which also exposes the background details of showbiz.

Amami Yuki, like Koshiji was a top star during their Takarazuka days and this will be the first time that Amami shows her singing and dancing abilities on TV.

Koshiji Fubuki - Amami Yuki
Iwatani Tokiko - Matsushita Yuki
Naitou Houmi - Osawa Masaetsu
Yuko - Sudo Risa
Ota Kazuko - Uehara Misa
Koshiji Fubuki (teenage) - Aragaki Yui
Mayuzumi Toshiro - Tanihara Shosuke
Yamamoto Shiro - Tsurumi Shingo
Abe - Harada Taizo
Matsuoka Tatsuro - Tamura Ryo
Fujimoto Masumi - Kazama Norio

Amami Yuki excels as Koshiji Fubuki and brings out the aura of a natural performer. That stage presence and her vocals lend credibility to the potrayal of the role that you can feel the passion Koshiji has for singing. She actually glitters so much that you can't bear to take your eyes off her. In that era, I get the impression that she was an icon to the people who had lost their zest for life since WWII had ended. She took it upon herself to bring hope to them after she returned from a trip to Paris. It's almost as if you are seeing the real Koshiji Fubuki in this drama. If it was just the stage facade of her, it would have been too one-dimensional. However, the drama did show Koshiji's softer side when she was deliberating over whether to have an abortion and how she was fearful of contracting cancer since her parents and elder brother suffered from it. That gives a more complete picture of the character and I think Amami really showed her acting skills especially in the part when Koshiji was shivering in fear as she handled the funeral of her father who was the second in the family to die of cancer.

Likewise, her friendship with her manager Iwatani Tokiko is also one important point to note. The two of them had known each other since their Takarazuka days where Iwatani was a reporter and Koshiji was a student. Both of them influenced each other to bring about the success they enjoyed and it's easy to understand how their strong relationship developed. Credits to Matsushita Yuki who had such good chemistry with Amami and showed the independent and confidence of Iwatani.

As compared to Part 1 where the emphasis was on the romance factor, this segment was lacking in this area. In Koshiji's case, she had one man only i.e. her husband Naitou Tsunemi so this was not as "exciting" as what Setouchi Jakucho went through. However, I think more could have been done to explore how Koshiji and Naitou fell in love and subsequently got married. It was kind of strange for the story to show Koshiji telling Iwatani suddenly that she wants to get married to Naitou without explaining how they got together in the first place.

The story showed more of Koshiji's life as a performer and how she attained success but that journey wasn't smooth-sailing. However, I think the pace of the story was generally faster than the first instalment and there were times when more explanation should be available when introducing new characters. I get the feeling that they popped out from nowhere and it was hard to see the link between some of them especially those mahjong pals of Koshiji. Where and how did they come together? Surely there must be a reason for this?

On the whole, I am very satisfied with the acting of Amami and Matsushita. However, more could have been done to make the story succint and clearer to the viewer so that the developments do not seem to have a linkage. Nevertheless, this is clearly a notch higher than the first instalment so I will see if the final segment can overtake Part 2.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Review of Onna no Ichidaiki: Setouchi Jakucho ~ Being a nun is as good as dying while living

"The passion hidden in my heart has a terrifying power to destroy."

This drama talks about the days of passion during her youth till she achieved peace at heart after becoming a nun.

Setouchi Jakucho's teachings bring courage and purify the followers' hearts. Whenever she takes part in preachings, many people would come to listen to her. In addition, female fashion magazines visit her regularly for interviews. As an author, she has released many books and is still full of energy at 83 years old.

However, her life was not a smooth-sailing journey. She got married while she was a student, abandoned her husband and children to elope with a young man, got involved in affairs, broke up with the men in her life, started writing fervently before she became a nun at 51.

Setouchi Harumi (Jakucho) - Miyazawa Rie
Kosugi Shingo - Abe Hiroshi
Kinoshita Ryota - Nakamura Kantarou
Saeki Juuzo - Kano Shohei
Setouchi Koharu - Ichige Yoshie
Ima Tomitsu - Ibu Masato
Kusumoto - Sano Shiro
Setouchi Toyokichi - Oosugi Ren
Setouchi En - Saito Yuki
Kohita Kin - Izumi Pinko

Frankly speaking, amidst the hype over this series, the first instalment did not impress me too much. I have to admit that Miyazawa Rie is my least favourite among the three actresses in this series so you may feel that I may be picking on her. Somehow, she didn't convey the aura of the character Setouchi Jakucho strong enough and I think that she should have done more to show the writer side of Setouchi instead of focusing on the emotional side. I think that would be something worth exploring in depth since she actually got banned for writing a provocative novel where no publisher wanted to deal with her. No doubt I thought that she did OK for her scenes with Abe Hiroshi who acted as her married lover but sparks did not fly between her and the younger lover Ryota whom she abandoned her family for. A little bit lacking here and there is enough to make me feel that this is not as good as it seems on the surface. And Miyazawa is so thin that I can't help but worry that she might get blown away by the wind especially for the scene when her husband made her take off her belongings as she wanted to leave him.

The story itself was not very condensed and I felt that the links between each development was done in a hurried manner. One moment they were talking about this but the next, something else happens. And the final section about how Setouchi became a nun was quite vague. I thought that should be the climax of this story but I couldn't feel the weariness of the character with regards to her life at all.

On the whole, I'm quite disappointed with this segment so I hope the other two can impress me.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Review of Kurokawa no Teccho

Yonekura Ryoko is really suitable to play the role, Haraguchi Motoko. Or should I say that she's good at playing women who are confident about themselves and there is this evil charm which makes you unable to take your eyes off her. Coupled with her stylish look in this series, this has got to be one of her representative works.

Of course, given that she's the lead character, the attention will be on her only. As such, even though there were familiar faces in this SP like Nakamura Toru, it's as if they were making cameo appearances. I was hoping to see more of them but was quite disappointed at the limited airtime they enjoyed. Especially for Nakamura, a few scenes is simply insufficient for eye candy purposes. Besides, his character, Yasujima is the only person whom Motoko loved so there should be more sparks between them.

Well, given that the drama is only 2 hours long and there are new characters being introduced, there is the time factor which proves to be restrictive. However, extending it to a full series might be risky since there is no guarantee that it can do as well as the first instalment.

As for the story, I won't go into details because there is a mystery factor built into the plot. Although I wouldn't say that it is as mind-boggling like those Kindaichi cases since I guessed the culprit halfway, at least it didn't make me feel that the scriptwriter treated the viewers as morons who couldn't do any guesswork. In addition, the ending of the SP seems to hint that there is a possibility of further instalments under this series just like how the drama ended last year. Of course, if this series is profitable for the TV station, I wouldn't be surprised if they have a SP every now and then. By the way, there's also the stage version where Yonekura herself will act in so the continuation might take off from there instead of a TV SP.

The story is set in Kyoto because Motoko went there after she fled from Ginza. As such, her desire to return to Ginza and obtain what she had lost will probably keep the series going on. Out of a score of 10, this would get a 7.5 from me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Review of Hakusen Nagashi ~ Yume miru goro sugitemo

Title: Hakusen Nagashi ~ Yume miru goro sugitemo (Even when it's past the time to dream)
O.A. Date: 7 Oct 2005

Ookouchi Wataru - Nagase Tomoya
Nanakura Sonoko - Sakai Miki
Tomiyama Madoka - Kyono Kotomi
Hasebe Yusuke - Kashiwabara Takashi
Tachibana Fuyumi - Mabuchi Erika
Tomiyama Shinji - Nakamura Ryu
Shiota Kayano - Yui Ryoko
Yoshikawa Misato - Hara Sachie
Sugata Shiro - Nagai Masaru
Senjuu Yutaka - Koide Eisuke
Goto Kana - Nishihara Aki

It has been 8 years since Sonoko and her friends have graduated from senior high school.

Wataru has married Misato whom he met at the International Youth Welfare Team in Sri Lanka and they have been living in Gifu for 2 years as Wataru is helping out at Misato's uncle's factory. Misato is working as a kindergarten teacher and they are living happily together.

After breaking up with Wataru, Sonoko is now a teacher at her previous senior high school and feels nostalgic when she sees the couple, Yutaka and Kana who reminds her of how she was with Wataru in the past.

Madoka is juggling work as a nurse while taking care of her son, Shingo and she is continuing to argue with her husband, Shinji who works as a police officer.

Yusuke is doing well in Tokyo as a lawyer and Kayano continues to work as a stylist. Fuyumi is working as a waitress while writing scripts but she gets irritated at her live-in boyfriend, Shiro who is unemployed and yet does not go to find jobs.

One day, Wataru hears from Misato's aunt that she had gone to the gynae and suspects whether she is pregnant. However, Misato tells Wataru she had only gone for a check up.

At this time, the observatory where Wataru's father used to work in would be closed soon and Sonoko happens to read it from the papers. She feels helpless at not being able to do anything to save that place which means a lot to her and Wataru. Madoka suggests holding a gathering there for old classmates but only Sonoko and Yusuke turns up. Sonoko confides in Yusuke that even though she has become a teacher as she had wished, she finds that there is something missing in her life and she can't help but feel lonely. Yusuke confesses that he's still in love with Sonoko which makes her very surprised...

In addition, Sonoko is informed that her students, Yutaka and Kana are hospitalised because of a traffic accident. It appears that the accident happened while Shinji was chasing the two of them in the patrol car and they were riding a motorbike then...


Hakusen Nagashi is one of my favourite dramas which left a deep impression on me. Well, I watched the series when I was around the age of the characters barely after I left secondary school and went on to an institute of higher learning. That was why I could identify with the emotions and issues in the drama like being apprehensive about the future and what it may hold. As there were SPs at regular intervals of about 1-2 years, this gives viewers an update of what the characters were doing which enhances the nostalgic feel of the series. It's almost as if this has become a part of me and I'm rather sad to see that this is the final instalment.

I won't give a detailed synopsis of the series but will just give a brief summary.

Wataru - He moved to Gifu with Misato whom he married at the end of the last SP. However, that attracted lots of complaints from viewers who disliked the idea of breaking Wataru and Sonoko up. To be frank, I was so sad when I watched the last SP and didn't understand why they had to part. Maybe that's why the scriptwriter arranged for Misato to pass away due to an illness which is probably the only way that Wataru and Sonoko can be together. Although it wasn't explicitly stated, based on the ending, it can be assumed that the couple should be reunited. By the way, Wataru went back to work at the observatory where his father worked at.

Sonoko - She's a teacher at her senior high school where she teaches the graduating class. There's a couple in her class who get into some trouble and they had to part ways due to parental objection. This made Sonoko think about her past with Wataru and realise that she's not moving on with her life. At the same time, she is dating Yusuke and plans to get married with him. However, after talking to Misato (she was hospitalised in Matsumoto's hospital), Sonoko realises that she is still pining for Wataru and backs out of the marriage. In the end, she reunites with Wataru after Misato passes away.

Yusuke - He's a lawyer at a big law firm but he doesn't like what he's doing as it differs from his initial aim of helping those in need. As such, he is harbouring thoughts of leaving and setting up his own firm one day. In addition, he still loves Sonoko and suggests that they start dating. Even though they are going to be married, Sonoko breaks up with him but he still forgives her.

Madoka - She has a son, Shingo and is working as a nurse. However, due to the demands of bringing up her child, work, household chores, the stress is getting to her and she flares up easily. She also takes to drinking when she's at home. The situation gets resolved when Shinji quits his job as a policeman and lightens her burden so she resumes her cheerful self. By the end of the series, she is pregnant with her second child.

Shinji - He's working as a policeman as usual but things between him and Madoka get tense because of her temper due to stress. After an accident of chasing after the wrong person which results in Sonoko's students sustaining injuries, he starts to rethink his priorities and feels that he must protect his family first before talking about protecting others. As such, he quits from his job and takes over the shrine so as to spend more time with his family.

Fuyumi - She's working in Tokyo as a hotel staff of the banquet section while writing scripts for competitions and lives with her boyfriend whom she knew in the last SP. However, he is unemployed and lives off her which makes Fuyumi very frustrated. The last straw for her is seeing that her boyfriend managed to write a much better script than her and she chased him out of her apartment. At a time, she has lost faith in continuing to chase her dreams but she decides to continue taking part in contests.

Kayano - She's a stylist who has just turned independent. However, problems crop up when an artiste who agreed to use her services goes back on her word. This results in some money problems but she continues to perservere.

This SP seems to be focused on showing how the characters had to compromise in various ways due to the problems in daily life but despite being at an age where it is said that you should not chase dreams anymore, they continue their quest in whatever way possible. This brings out the sub title of "yume miru goro sugitemo" where you are still entitled to chasing your dreams no matter how old you may be. That is why Wataru has finally achieved his aim of working in the observatory, Fuyumi continues to write scripts in order to realise her dream of being a scriptwriter, Kayano braves through the tough demands of an independent stylist while Yusuke leaves the big law firm for his first step of doing what he wants.

Although I'm happy with the fact that Wataru and Sonoko are finally together, I feel sorry for Hara Sachie whose character Misato had to be killed off so as to make way for the couple. The last SP shouldn't have introduced her as a rival of Sonoko in the first place.

And I can't help but think that Yusuke has a right to get angry at Sonoko for getting cold feet before the marriage but knowing his character and how much he loves her, there is no way he can hold it against her. Actually, I thought that he and Kayano were a nice couple in the first 2 SPs but it is unlikely that they can get together again since he's still pining for Sonoko while she knows that they are not compatible.

Fuyumi must be the most unlucky character among them where she doesn't have a decent relationship or achieved anything concrete during all these years. On the career side, she was aiming to be an actress but later changed her goal to a scriptwriter. At one time, she was even suffering from depression due to her inability to achieve her dream and she couldn't go home to take over the onsen ryokan since her elder sister was managing it. In love, she used to be holding a torch for Shinji but he married Madoka. The second boyfriend she had looked promising in the last SP but who would have expected things to turn sour in this SP?

Personally, this is not the best SP among the five in this series with regards to the story. I liked the third SP (Tabidachi no Uta) the most where Wataru left for Sri Lanka to be a volunteer and that scene where he and Sonoko parted ways after kissing left a deep impression on me. That SP comprised of sad and happy events at the same time too i.e. Sonoko's father's funeral and Madoka & Shinji's wedding. It just felt that this final SP was in a hurry to wrap up the entire story and I was hoping for a clearer ending on Wataru and Sonoko's relationship instead of leaving viewers to assume things.