Sunday, September 30, 2012

Preview of "Going My Home" - Autumn 2012

Title: Going My Home
Official site: here
O.A. Start Date: 9 October 2012
Timeslot: Tuesdays, 9pm
Broadcast by: FujiTV / Kansai TV
Theme song: Yotsuba no Clover by Makihara Noriyuki
Cast: Abe Hiroshi, Yamaguchi Tomoko, Miyazaki Aoi, YOU, Yasuda Ken, Baka Rhythm, Arai Hirofumi, Abe Sadao, Ririi, Yoshiyuki Kazuko, Natsuyagi Isao, Nishida Toshiyuki

Review of Second Virgin (drama)

Before I watched this drama, I had already read the novel by Oishi Shizuka so I knew beforehand what the story was all about and its ending. Having heard a lot about this drama and the fact that it doubled its ratings by the time it ended its run, there must have been something which was so attractive about this drama that caused this to happen and a movie sequel to be made. Of course, the fact that the leads Suzuki Kyoka and Hasegawa Hiroki became an item after working on this drama was a pull factor as well because it will be interesting to see if there were any telltale clues of their blossoming relationship along the way. However, knowing the story is also a double-edged sword because it actually takes away the novelty of finding out through the drama how the story is going to develop. Nonetheless, it helps in comparing how the adaptation performs with respect to the original material. As such, while watching this drama, I tried my best to disregard the fact that I already know the developments and focused my attention on the acting and presentation of the material.

First of all, let me introduce the two key characters in this story. Nakamura Rui (Suzuki Kyoka), is a 45-year-old director at a publishing company Shinkaisha which she co-founded with her friend Mukai Hajime (Danta Yasunori) who is also now the president of Shinkaisha. Having given birth to a son Ryo (Ayano Go) when she was just 19, she later divorced her husband and focused her energies on work in order to succeed in life and support Ryo. As a result, things between Rui and Ryo are rather frosty and he would only show up when he needs money. Much as Rui wants to bridge the gap between them, the lack of time and concern spent on Ryo over the years has made this almost impossible. At work, Rui is a perfectionist who tries to get her staff to put in their best and demands the same of herself. She is great at socialising with people from different backgrounds and able to make use of these connections to her benefit.

At the other end of the equation, we have Suzuki Ko (Hasegawa Hiroki), a high-flying official who works at the Financial Services Agency. He has lots of ideals on how to restructure and revamp the Japanese financial system in order to make it as competitive as the rest of the world but owing to bureaucracy, his aspirations cannot be realised and he is increasingly frustrated with the state of things. He is married to Marie (Fukada Kyoko) who is the daughter of Misawa Vegetarian Noodles's president but feels pressurised by her incessant demands to have sex on specific days so that she can get pregnant. Apparently, Marie is so bored that she thinks that having a baby will be the answer to her problems while Ko is not so keen on the idea. Besides, Marie would always resort to emotional blackmail to make Ko do what she wants so it is no wonder that Ko is becoming less enthusiastic about the idea of having a child by following a strict regime. As Marie has been pampered so much by her parents to the extent that she knows little about the world, Ko also feels that the inability to communicate with Marie is putting more stress on their marriage. It is at such a juncture that Ko and Rui meet at a party hosted by Ko's boss and that marks the beginning of their whirlwind and very destructive romance.

The drama can actually be viewed as a story with three main arcs. The first is about how Rui and Ko get acquainted, start to feel attracted to each other and finally get together. Given the gap in their ages (Ko is about the same age as Ryo) and the fact that Ko is a married man, the scandalous nature of their relationship makes it rather difficult for Rui in particular to forgo her misgivings and fly straight into Ko's arms. However, Ko is more frank about his feelings and thus he tries repeatedly to get Rui to accept him despite her reservations about her age and body. If you are looking for a "sizzling" romance tale, the first 3 episodes should satisfy you as the two leads grapple with their feelings and try to overcome the moral boundaries stopping them from getting together. And of course, not to forget, the intimate scenes between Rui and Ko were also a talking point when the drama aired.

In the second arc, this is when it gets a bit messy yet exciting. Marie finds out about her husband's straying heart and to her horror, the person who Ko's in love with is someone she had trusted and gone to for advice when she was troubled over how to get Ko to be more proactive and show an interest in going for fertility treatment with her. Obviously, since his heart is already with someone else, there is no way that he will be keen on having a baby with Marie. Although Marie's way of taking revenge on the two of them can be seen as rather juvenile on one hand, I think the sting from the betrayal must have hurt and humiliated Marie a lot, given how proud she is. She is well aware that she may not appear to be clever and capable like Rui but that's also to do with her upbringing because she's never had to worry about money and surviving in the corporate world out there. By sneaking around behind her back, Marie would have regarded that Rui and Ko overestimated their intelligence which in a way also belittled her and that's an insult to her pride and intelligence (no matter you think whether she has that or not). When Marie realised that trying to tie Ko to herself wasn't going to work, that's when she changed her approach and decided to make circumstances impossible for Rui and Ko to be together. Actually, I think she was quite smart in certain ways by portraying herself as the victim when it comes to fanning public opinion about her husband's affair but nobody would have guessed that she was the one responsible for those retaliatory actions. Except for the harassment tactics she used on Rui, Marie pretty much made use of other people to do the job for her unwittingly.

Last but not least, the final arc seems to be conveying the message that no matter how true or intense this relationship may be, it cannot withstand the harsh reality and unforgiving circumstances surrounding it. In Ko's haste to make sure he can get a divorce successfully with a booming career as well, he resorts to doing something illegal despite knowing very well that it shouldn't be done. It's a no brainer that he eventually gets caught for that but the humiliation is greater for him because it was a very much publicised case and that the negative publicity from his affair with Rui made Ko feel small in front of the woman he loves. Even when Ko knows that Marie was the one who reported him to the police, he still harboured a fleeting thought of going back to her because he didn't have to put up a strong front as compared to when he was with Rui.

Now, the next development is what really made me think that the story should have ended at the part where Ko was punished for his crime. Apparently, Ko made use of funds from the underworld to fulfill his dream but now that he's caught, that money has effectively gone down the drain. There is no way he can repay the gang for the losses and he gets threatened to work for them in order to keep Rui safe. Now, this type of self-sacrificing plot in J-dramas is extremely common and overused. Besides, it's rather difficult to believe the credibility because it felt as if the writer simply threw in this to make sure Rui and Ko's relationship will come to a tragic end. Couldn't there have been another way of making sure the couple will not end up together. It was "hillarious" to say the least when I saw that gun shot scene in Singapore. I don't know if the producer or author of the novel did their homework but considering how strict our gun laws are, their idea of gangsters walking around with guns "openly" here is simply unthinkable. Oh well, I have to keep reminding myself that this is a drama but surely, we can do with a bit more of reality in it somehow.

I have to admit, I actually enjoyed the novel more than the drama especially in the first arc. I think the words used to describe the internal struggle of Rui when she was faced with an intense passion for Ko were very engaging and offered a lot of room for imagination. The drama did its best to convey the emotions felt by Rui and Ko but somehow, it was a tad stronger in the lust department rather than in the emotional side. As for the other two arcs, they were exact replicas of what the original material. I was hoping that the final arc might be more interesting on screen with some slight tweaks and improvement in the pacing since it was really boring towards the end in the novel but it was quite disappointing and I could really do without that self-sacrifice development.

No doubt I didn't really enjoy the story and found it hard to root for the lead characters (simply put, I didn't care whether they ended up together), there are two characters who spiced up the screen with their acting. First of all, it would be YOU who played Aiko, the much older girlfriend of Ryo and became a close friend of Rui later. I think the exchanges between her and Rui were extremely interesting since they were around the same age and could understand what each other had in mind. Aiko was also invaluable in the sense that she offered an avenue for Rui to be true to herself and speak her mind rather than having to keep up appearances all the time. It's difficult to find someone to pour out your troubles to so having Aiko around was a big blessing for Rui.

The other character who caught my eye would definitely be Fukada Kyoko. Marie may be an eyesore at first with her endless pestering but you've got to hand it to Fukada to show that irritating side of Marie and still make her likeable at times. She's really a perfect fit for the role and what really impressed was from the point Marie found out about the affair and later dumped Ko to become a career woman. Marie had to show the pitiful abandoned wife side in front of everyone else and yet was full of venom and spared no effort in destroying Ko. That said, she didn't harm his life or anything but rather took away what mattered most to him i.e. his pride, career and future in the financial industry. That would have been more than enough to deal a big blow to Ko for what he did to her. Till the end, Marie was still keeping up appearances by trying to take back Ko's remains in order to hold a grand funeral for all to see but she had no intentions of continuing to offer prayers for Ko in future. On one hand, you think that she's quite vengeful but on the other, there is still a cute side to her so Marie isn't a character who can be hated entirely for what she did.

With regard to Suzuki Kyoka and Hasegawa Hiroki, I applaud them for showing a good performance in conveying the emotions felt by Rui and Ko in this destructive romance tale. Hasegawa in particular was very eye-catching, considering that this was his first leading role in a mainstream drama. Being a stage actor for years, his way of articulating his lines felt rather different from a lot of actors who tend to mumble through their lines. Even without subtitles especially when talking about the difficult financial terms, it was still easy to catch what he was saying. Having said that, it was a refreshing experience to see someone like him in years. As for Suzuki, I'm glad that she was picked instead of some other actress where the signs of aging cannot be seen so clearly. It was good that there were some scenes which deliberately showed Rui/Suzuki as a woman in her mid-40s so as to emphasize the age gap between Rui and Ko. Although I think Suzuki was deliberately made to look old in some scenes, that actually made Rui's concerns seem more realistic. Imagine if you have an actress who still looks stunning without make-up and talks about aging faster than the younger lover, I doubt viewers wouldn't buy that.

Honestly speaking, now that Ko has died and the other characters seem to have moved on with their lives, I fail to understand why there was a need for the movie version and what it could have talked about. Anyway, that's something for the future, assuming I do watch it one day.

And my ratings for this drama...

Story: 5 out of 10 (The first 3 episodes on its own is quite interesting but the 2nd and 3rd arcs had some plot loopholes which I had issues with)

Acting: 7 out of 10 (Mainly for YOU, Fukada Kyoko and Hasegawa Hiroki)

Theme song: 3 out of 10 (It didn't leave too much of an impression on me on the whole)

Visual effects/Scenery: 4 out of 10 (Nothing spectacular or especially memorable)

Teamwork/Chemistry: 6 out of 10 (For the lead couple/ YOU and Suzuki Kyoka)

Total: 25 out of 50

Do As Infinity's vocalist Ban Tomiko announces her marriage

Do As Infinity's vocalist Ban Tomiko announced her marriage during an event for the band's fanclub held on 29 September. She revealed to 800 fans who were at the event that she had married a 29-year-old guy who is four years younger than her in the middle of September and was met with applause from the fans for more than 30 seconds. There are no plans yet for her wedding and she confirmed that she isn't pregnant. According to Ban, she had met her husband through work in summer last year and started dating since then.

Source: Nikkansports

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mr.Children to sing theme song for autumn drama "Osozaki no Himawari Boku no Jinsei Renewal"

Mr.Children will be singing the theme song for autumn 2012 drama "Osozaki no Himawari ~ Boku no Jinsei Renewal"  which is due to begin its run on 23rd October at 9pm. This will be the second consecutive season which the band is singing a drama theme song as they had also done the same for summer drama "Tokkan". The theme song titled "Joutouku" (Cliche) talks about the apprehension, dreams and troubles facing young people.

Source: Sanspo

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Production press conference of "Going My Home"

The production press conference of FujiTV autumn drama "Going My Home" was held on 27 September which was attended by cast members Yamaguchi Tomoko, Abe Hiroshi, Miyazaki Aoi, YOU, Nishida Toshiyuki and the director Koreeda Hirokazu. This drama which is due to begin its run on 9 October, also marks Yamaguchi's return to the drama scene for the first time in 16 years since her 1996 hit "Long Vacation". It is also the first time that she is working with all the actors in the cast lineup.

Abe Hiroshi plays the role of Tsuboi Ryota who is a 45-year-old salaryman while Yamaguchi plays his wife. When his father Eisuke collapses due to a sudden illness, Ryota then finds out about Eisuke's attempt to find a small-sized living being named Kuuna and decides to help his father fulfill his dream. In the process, he ends up dragging along other people into this including his wife, his father's childhood friend played by Nishida, his elder sister played by YOU and a mysterious young lady played by Miyazaki Aoi. Director Koreeda will also have a role within the story.

The first episode will be shown at 10pm on 9 October and will be a 2-hour SP.

Source: Mantan Web  

I'm not particularly excited about the storyline and am rather worried how the search for Kuuna will have an impact on the characters. I certainly hope that it's not going to be one comedy tale leading to nowhere but I guess I will still check it out for a couple of episodes for the sake of seeing these actors who all happen to be my favourites. And that title....definitely leaves much to be desired. I can't even tell whether it's a family drama, comedy or even romance tale!

Sakai Noriko to make a comeback in a stage play this Dec

Sakai Noriko will resume her showbiz activities this December with the lead role of Oichinokata in the period stage play "Aozora no Kyoushikyoku ~ Oichinokata Gaiten" (Rhapsody of Blue Sky ~ Oichinokata Side Story) following the end of her 3-year suspended prison sentence given out in 2009 for violating the Stimulants Control Act. The stage play which is to be held at Shibuya Ward Bunka Sougo Centre Owada Sakura Hall from 15 Dec to 24 Dec, is directed and written by actor Saito Ayumu.

.Source: Sanspo

Kobukuro to sing theme song for autumn drama "Kekkon Shinai"

Kobukuro will be back with a new single titled "Kami Hikouki" (Paper aeroplane) on 28 November which will also be the theme song for autumn drama "Kekkon Shinai" due to begin its run on 11 October at 10pm on Thursdays. This is the first song from Kobukuro in one and a half years and will be featured from the first episode onwards. Kobukuro explained that they had written the song using the analogy of folding a paper aeroplane where someone may try to fold the aeroplane with great care but it may not fly the way it is intended to be as a way of reflecting how a woman may have put in her best in a relationship but it may not work out in the end.

The new song will be available for download via the Chaku Uta service from 11.10pm on 11 October.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Takizawa Hideaki & Watari Tetsuya to work together in drama SP "Akutou"

Takizawa Hideaki and Watari Tetsuya will be working together in the FujiTV drama SP "Akutou" (Evil Gang) which is due to be shown on 30 November at 9pm. This is the third time they are working together since 2005's NHK Taiga drama "Yoshitsune" and TV Asahi's drama SP "Kokuchi Sezu".

In this drama SP which is based on Edogawa Ranpo Award winner Yakumaru Gaku's novel, Takizawa plays Saeki Shuichi, a former police officer who now works as a private detective in Watari's investigation agency which specialises in tracking down the criminals at the requests of victim families. Having suffered the same fate as these victims when his elder sister was raped and murdered while he was a junior high school student, he can empathise with the victims' families who want to track down the criminals who hurt their family members. On the other hand, Watari plays Kogure Masato who was acquainted with Saeki when the latter was still in the police force and was the one who asked Saeki to join his agency.

Co-stars include Toda Keiko who plays Someya Nobuko, Kogure's advisor at the agency, Kaname Jun as Saeki's investigation target after he was released from jail when he completed his sentence for murder during his teens, Osugi Ren as Saeki's father and Okuda Eiji as the lawyer who defended the killer of Saeki's sister in court.

Source: Sanspo

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Further cast announcements for autumn 2012 drama "PRICELESS"

Fujiki Naohito will be acting as the villian opposite Kimura Takuya in the upcoming autumn 2012 drama "PRICELESS ~ Aruwake needaro, nna mon~" which is due to begin its run in October at 9pm on Mondays. Kimura plays the lead character Kindaichi Fumio who is fired by his company due to something he was made a scapegoat for while Fujiki plays Oyashiki Toichiro, the vice president of the company who is out to make life difficult for Kindaichi. This will be the first time that the two of them are working together.

In addition, Issei Ogata will play the role of Zaizen Osamu, the managing director who is an ally of Toichiro and helps in the latter's ploy. The president of the company Oyashiki Iwao will be played by Nakamura Atsuo who last worked with Kimura in 2008's "CHANGE". Kis-My-Ft2's Fujigaya Taisuke will play Enomoto Kotaro, a junior at Kimura's colleague who looks up to him and this will also be Fujigaya's first role as a salaryman. The Marioka brothers who teach Kindaichi how to survive without money and a home will be played by child actors Maeda Oushiro and Tanaka Kanau. Natsuki Mari will play the brothers' grandmother while Masu Takeshi will be the master of the drinking place which Kindaichi frequents.

Source: Oricon

Hara Sachie reported to be married in latest issue of "Josei Jishin"

Hara Sachie is now married to a man in his 30s according to a report in the 25th Sep issue of "Josei Jishin". Hara reportedly knew her husband this spring and they were caught going on a date in end August before they registered their marriage in mid September. When asked about this, Hara's agency confirmed that she is indeed married but she will continue with her showbiz activities and she is not pregnant now. As the couple is still searching for a new apartment, they are currently living apart and there are no plans yet for a wedding.

Source: Sanspo

Final ratings ranking for Summer 2012

With the conclusion of all Summer 2012 dramas, here is the final standing:

1) GTO - 13.13% (FujiTV)
2) Iryu Sousa - 12.44% (TV Asahi)
3) Rich Man, Poor Woman - 12.36% (FujiTV)
4) Keishichou Sousa Ikka 9 Kakari - 11.79% (TV Asahi)
5) Ghost Mama Sousasen - 10.72% (NTV)
6) Tokkan - 10.43% (NTV)
7) Kyoto Chiken no Onna - 10.31% (TV Asahi)
8) Beautiful Rain - 10.01% (FujITV)

9) Summer Rescue - 9.92% (TBS)
10) Kuro no Onna Kyoushi - 9.86% (TBS)
11) Iki mo dekinai natsu - 9.73% (FujiTV)
12) Higashino Keigo Mysteries - 8.35% (FujiTV)
13) Beginners - 7.27% (TBS)
14) Boys On The Run - 5.83% (TV Asahi)
15) Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan - 5.61% (TBS)
16) Omo ni naitemasu - 5.25% (FujiTV)
17) VISION - 3.13% (NTV)
18) Sprout - 2.66% (NTV)
19) Soumatou Kabushikigaisha - 2.29% (TBS)

FujiTV has won the No.1 title again this season following Kagi no Kakatta Heya's success last season. However, when you take a closer look at the ranking, all is not well because although FujiTV did have dramas which did well but they also had dramas which were struggling below the 10% mark i.e. Iki mo dekinai natsu and Higashino Keigo Mysteries. Especially for the latter, it was expected to do relatively well with its strong cast line-up and supposedly sound stories from the highly popular novels but the execution and presentation of the story have been issues raised by viewers who did not like what they see. On the other hand, TV Asahi may not have grabbed the top spot but 3 out of its 4 summer offerings made it to the top 10 and scored an average rating of above 10%. That's pretty impressive considering the lacklustre ratings this season. NTV is in a pretty similar situation as FujiTV with some dramas doing relatively OK while some of its dramas were stuck in the bottom of the pack. However, I think the situation is not as bad as FujiTV's because VISION and Sprout are not primetime dramas so it's normal that they are getting single-digit ratings.

For TBS, the results they got this season is far from being satisfactory. ATARU got them the 2nd spot last season but there wasn't such a high-performing dramas this time. In fact, none of its dramas got past the 10% average mark which is rather surprising. Soumatou may have gotten the last spot but it's also not a primetime drama so it is more or less expected.

With the new season coming up in two weeks, this will hopefully bring about more dramas doing better than their summer counterparts. In the past, it used to be that dramas getting over 20% or 30% would only be considered as hits but nowadays, the benchmark has fallen so much that dramas which get about 15% are hits and those which get above 10% can thank their lucky stars for scrapping through. Ever since Kaseifu no Mita became a mega hit, there hasn't been any drama which can match up to those figures. I won't expect that there will be another drama that will get ratings as high as Mita but it would be nice to see another drama going above the 20% mark.

Preview of Resident ~ Gonin no Kenshuui レジデント ~ 5人の研修医 - Autumn 2012

Title: Resident ~ Gonin no Kenshuui
Official site: here
O.A. Start Date: 18 October 2012
Timeslot: Thursdays 9pm
Broadcast by: TBS
Theme song: Answer by flumpool
Cast: Naka Riisa, Hayashi Kento, Masuda Takahisa, Oomasa Aya, Ishibashi Anna, Sudo Risa, Arakawa Yoshiyoshi, Mitsuura Yasuko, Shiho, Terajima Susumu, Furuta Arata, Osawa Yukiyoshi

Monday, September 24, 2012

Yanagihara Kanako to play the fiancee of Yamashita Tomohisa in "MONSTERS"

Comedian Yanagihara Kanako will play the fiancee of Yamashita Tomohisa in the upcoming autumn 2012 drama "MONSTERS" which is due to begin its run from 21 October at 9pm on Sundays. Yamashita plays the role of Saionji, a rich man's son who becomes a police detective while Yanagihara plays his fiancee who he has been dating for the past four years after they had been introduced to each other by their parents. Saionji would always sneak out to meet her without letting his senior (Katori) find out. As for the reason why Yanagihara was selected, the producer explained that one of the key characteristics of Saionji was that he likes round things so he thinks that she fits the bill of being a cute and round girlfriend.

Source: Nikkansports

Fukuyama Masaharu to be back with new movie under Galileo series

Fukuyama Masaharu will be back to play the role of Yukawa Manabu in the latest instalment under the Galileo series with a new movie "Manatsu no Houteishiki" (The midsummer formula) which is due to be shown in cinemas next summer. This is the first time in five years since he is appearing as Yukawa as the last movie "Yogisha X no Kenshin" was released back in 2008.

The Galileo series is based on a series of novels from Higashino Keigo and features the lead character Yukawa, a genius physicist who solves difficult cases. The series had its first drama adaptation in autumn 2007 via FujiTV and followed up with a drama SP "Galielo Episode Zero" and the film "Yogisha X no Kenshin" in October 2008. "Manatsu no Houteishiki" is the 6th novel in the 7-part Galileo series which was just published in June last year and boasts of sales to date totalling 300,000 copies. Filming for the new movie began on 23 September in Shizuoka Prefecture.

In this latest movie, Yukawa is invited to a presentation of a project to extract underwater minerals from the seabed and chances upon the strange death of a man at the seaside town. Co-stars include his longtime partner Shibasaki Kou who plays the female detective Utsumi Kaoru and Kitamura Kazuki who plays Yukawa's ex-classmate Kusanagi who is also a police detective. Announcements of the cast line-up are expected to be revealed at a later date.

Source: Sanspo

Kuroki Meisa gives birth to daughter on 23 September

Kuroki Meisa and Akanishi Jin announced the birth of their first daughter through a joint fax statement on 23 September. According to the statement, Kuroki had given birth to the baby earlier that afternoon which was earlier than the original due date in mid October. Akanishi was also present during the birth of his daughter.

The couple have been staying in Kuroki's hometown in Nago City, Okinawa since Kuroki started her maternity break in summer and they are expected to be there at least until Kuroki has to return to Tokyo for the filming of NHK Taiga "Yae no Sakura" in February next year.

Source: Sanspo

Preview of Ooku ~ Tanjou - Arikoto Iemitsu Hen 大奥~誕生 [有功・家光篇] - Autumn 2012

Title: Ooku ~ Tanjou - Arikoto Iemitsu Hen
Official site: here
O.A. Start Date: 12 October 2012
Timeslot: Fridays 10pm
Broadcast by: TBS
Original by: Yoshinaga Fumi
Theme song: DEEPNESS by MISIA
Cast: Sakai Masato, Tabe Mikako, Tanaka Koki (KAT-TUN), Hirayama Hiroyuki, Minamisawa Nao, Omi Toshinori, Danta Yasunori, Naito Takashi, Asou Yumi

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Eric Tsang not starring in Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo SP after all

Hong Kong actor cum host Eric Tsang revealed that he will not be acting in the new Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo SP as reported by Ming Pao on 21 September. He was originally announced as part of a number of Asian stars to feature in this SP set in Hong Kong along with BIG BANG's Seungri and Taiwan's Wu Chun and Vivian Hsu. However, owing to recent conflicts between China and Japan over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, he didn't think that it was appropriate for him to appear in a Japanese production at this point in time and announced this when the media asked about it during his first grandchild's 100th-day celebration on 21 September. In addition, a travel programme which features Tsang and was supposed to go to Japan for location shooting has been cancelled. Last but not least, Tsang also rejected a certificate of thanks from the Japanese government for his support during the fund raising campaign for those affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crisis.

Source: Record China

Review of Soumatou Kabushikigaisha Ep 2

Tsutsumi Tomoki (Kashiwabara Shuji), a salaryman, has a beautiful wife Riho (Matsumoto Rio) who's about to give birth to their first child and leads a happy life. However, a slip-up after a company dinner causes his life to begin its downward spiral...

After the dinner with his colleagues, Tomoki is approached by Sayaka (Tejima Yu), a new part-time worker at his department, who tries to seduce him and go drinking with her. Giving in to temptation while in his slightly tipsy state, he ends up sleeping with her and mistakenly thinks that this is a one-night stand where he can just walk away without having to bear any responsibility. However, Sayaka has a different agenda on her mind and immediately pesters Tomoki to divorce Riho. Tomoki thinks that she is just joking but starts to feel that she means business becaus Sayaka threatens to do something drastic if he doesn't do her bidding.

When Tomoki gets home, he finds Riho still waiting for him and tries to conceal his uneasiness and what he had done earlier especially when Sayaka sends messages to remind Tomoki of what he has to do. The next day, Tomoki is aghast to find that his work email is flooded with harrassment emails from Sayaka and is on tenterhooks all day as to how to get himself out of his mess. He tries to avoid Sayaka but she keeps looking at him intently with a thoughtful expression.

That evening, Tomoki decides to go for a drink at a pub because he had been under so much stress during the day. However, he sees that the signage of the pub is changed and wonders what's wrong before he suddenly finds himself at the entrance of Soumatou Kabushikigaisha. Just as he is wondering what happened, Kaminuma invites him in and explains how the whole system works. Tomoki watches his life videos from the beginning without paying too much attention but he suddenly sits up and takes notice at something which happened when he was in senior high school.

Back then, he was constantly pestered by a female schoolmate by the name of Hasegawa Masami who didn't look too attractive but put in a lot of effort to convince Tomoki that she had true feelings for him. However, Tomoki regarded Hasegawa as a nuisance and would openly ridicule and reject her in front of others. He even mocked her for not thinking properly and he would never accept someone who looked like the way she did. Nonetheless, Hasegawa kept trying to convey her feelings to Tomoki and even declared openly that Tomoki and her were meant to be together despite his strong insistence that nothing would ever materialise between them. As a result of Hasegawa's actions, this made Tomoki freak out and he couldn't wait to get away from Hasegawa whenever he saw her, much to her disappointment.

Remembering this episode back in school, Tomoki is surprised to see that a signature gesture of Hasegawa seems to be the same as Sayaka i.e. tucking her hair behind her ears and wonders if they are the same person. He wonders if Sayaka had deliberately gone through plastic surgery and approached him deliberately as a way to get back at him for what he did during their high school days. As he has no way of stopping Sayaka's stalker tactics nor confirm Sayaka's true identity, Tomoki sets out to prove whether his theory holds true but unfortunately, he is not making a lot of headway. Out of desperation, he returns to Soumatou Kabushikigaisha and asks Kaminuma if he can watch the videos of Hasegawa's life. Given that Hasegawa was a part of Tomoki's life, Kaminuma agrees to the request readily.

Tomoki starts watching Hasegawa's videos from the age of 16 and sees from her viewpoint how badly he had treated her in the past and how determined she was to make Tomoki hers. However, it further freaks Tomoki out that she had been stalking him during their schooling years and she even took photos of him on the sly and watched him kiss his girlfriend at that time. When Hasegawa was 24, she actually went through plastic surgery so that sort of confirms Tomoki's theory that Hasegawa had gone through a transformation so that he wouldn't recognise her when she approached him. Tomoki braces himself for the moment when Hasegawa would use a mirror to see her new looks and is expecting Sayaka's face to appear but is horrified to see Riho's face instead! This makes him realise that Riho is actually the old Hasegawa and she changed her looks and figure in order to attract Tomoki and even got married to him. A wave of disgust and disbelief overwhelms Tomoki and he isn't sure what he should do next.

Tomoki heads to the hospital to visit Riho who had given birth to their daughter and reacts with little enthusiasm to the arrival of their bundle of joy. Riho fails to notice that Tomoki has found out the truth and even repeats her signature gesture and line that they are meant to be together. Tomoki manages a weak smile while the camera pans to the baby who has rather distorted features. Later on, while out in the hospital's lobby, Tomoki receives a message from Sayaka that she's pregnant and she even proclaims that they are fated to be together. Ironically, that is exactly the same thing which Riho has said and fate seems to have played a joke on Tomoki as the double whammy sinks in...

There is no gore nor violence nor any deaths in this episode which is a good thing because it can't be that someone will die each time whenever the life videos are shown. Fate plays an integral role in this story where the main character Tomoki finds himself being the victim of a huge joke which Fate has played on him. However, he can't shirk his responsbility for what has happened because his own decisions were a key factor why things have turned out this way. Although it's always been said that fate is something uncontrollable, there is a certain degree of human autonomy that makes something fated or destined to be in a certain way. I believe this concept is what this story is trying to say.

Hasegawa aka Riho is one persistent lady to go under the knife just to achieve her goal of being with Tomoki. You may see her as a weirdo or a persistent freak but you have also got to hand it to her for being so much in love with Tomoki to do all these things.She knew that her existing appearance would never attract Tomoki and make him fall in love with her so she had to resort to a way to get his attention first before making him fall for her as a person. Nonetheless, this is still rather extreme which not many people would go to this extent just for someone they like. In the ending credits, the viewer can see that Tomoki was the one who approached her (obviously he liked how she looked) so even if Riho had kept on appearing in front of Tomoki, things between them wouldn't have started if he didn't approach her. He can't really blame her because he had a part to play as well.

Likewise, for his one-night stand with Sayaka, Tomoki is also to blame for his moment of weakness. If he had said no to Sayaka, he would not have gotten himself into this mess. No doubt Sayaka is another persistent lady, if Tomoki had not bitten the bait, she wouldn't have been able to trap him.

The open-ended conclusion or rather the lack of it, actually gives the viewer a lot of room for imagination. Now that Tomoki has realised the truth, can he continue to pretend that he doesn't know and live with Riho? And now that Sayaka is pregnant, how will he handle her as well? I like that the story doesn't have a fixed ending and viewers are free to decide what they would prefer it to be. Well, I think the issue with Riho is going to be much more difficult to handle. From his interaction with Riho, it feels like Tomoki is genuinely in love with her but I wonder how he can stomach the fact that Riho used to be a woman he had rejected for her looks and everything about her now is a lie. That will be one tough choice to make as to whether to continue the marriage. I do wonder about the baby's looks at the end of the episode though...was it Tomoki's imagination now that he knows Riho was not attractive in the past or did the baby really turn out like that?

As for the part about Kaminuma giving Tomoki permission to watch Hasegawa's videos, I think it was clear that she knew that Hasegawa =Riho and Tomoki could be allowed to watch the videos of his wife. If it had been that the real Hasegawa was Sayaka, I would wonder if Kaminuma will give the permission since they were merely schoolmates in the past and colleagues in the present.

In all, this episode was rather entertaining and it was a joy to see familiar faces like Kashiwabara Shuji and Matsumoto Rio. I hope the momentum can be maintained and this drama will continue to dish out more interesting stories.

Preview of Tokyo Airport - Autumn 2012

Title: Tokyo Airport - Tokyo Kuukou Kansei Hoanbu (Tokyo Airport: Air Traffic Controller)
Official site: here
O.A. Start Date: unannounced yet
Timeslot: Sundays 9pm
Broadcast by: FujiTV
Scriptwriter: Uda Manabu
Cast: Fukada Kyoko, Sasaki Nozomi, Kaname Jun, Seto Koji, Sato Eriko, Yamaguchi Sayaka, Nonami Maho, Asaka Koudai, Hiraoka Yuuta, Seto Asaka, Bessho Tetsuya, Kajihara Zen and Tokito Saburo

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Preview of Koukou Nyuushi 高校入試 (Senior High School Entrance Exam) - Autumn 2012

Title: Koukou Nyuushi 高校入試
Official site: here
O.A. Start Date: 6 October 2012
Timeslot: Saturdays 11.10pm
Broadcast by: FujiTV
Scriptwriter: Minato Kanae
Cast: Nagasawa Masami, Minamisawa Nao, Nakao Akiyoshi, Tokuyama Hidenori, Shinoda Mitsuaki, Komatsu Toshimasa, Saiki Shigeru, Miyama Karen, Takahashi Hitomi, Yamamoto Kei etc.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Review of MW (movie)

Title: MW
Official website: here
Review of the preceeding SP: here
Original manga by: Tezuka Osamu
Movie's screening date: 4 July 2009
Total running time: 129 minutes

From the time I watched the SP way back in 2009 till now when I finally watched the movie, I can't believe that it took me 3 long years before I could lay my hands on this film. The film was originally marketed as one which was revealing some taboo topics rarely discussed in Japanese film so I have no idea if this affected the distribution of the film in any way. At that time, I mentioned in my review of the SP that there were lots of things which were unknown about Yuuki Michio (Tamaki Hiroshi) and MW which I hope would be answered in the movie. However, it was disappointing that the movie fell short of my expectations and didn't turn out to be as good as I thought. Nonetheless, there were still some bright spots about this film which I would still like to highlight.

However, before I begin, let me state that I've not read the manga before and the brief outline of the manga's story and what MW means are the results of the research I've done about the original material online.

Although the name MW actually refers to a biochemical weapon developed by a foreign military force (in the movie, this was represented by the US military forces), there were a number of different theories online as to what the letters stood for. One theory was that Yuuki was depicted as a guy who sometimes posed as a female and prostituted himself while committing his crimes thus it was said that MW meant "Man & Woman". On the movie's official website, there is another definition i.e. "Mad Weapon". In the novel version, Karai had defined MW as "Monster Way" in reference to how Yuuki had evolved after inhaling MW. Whatever it is, there seems to be no single answer as to what MW stands for.

In the manga, Yuuki Michio is an elite bank employee who was born in a distinguished family within the kabuki circle. However, behind his distinguished and refined image hides a criminal self who is responsible for a number of crimes involving those who were responsible for his plight. Whenever he commits a crime, he would seek solace in his longtime friend Karai Iwao who's a pastor at a church. Besides their friendship on the surface, the two men also maintain a sexual relationship and they usually sleep together when they meet.

Long ago, Yuuki had paid a visit to a southern island Okinomafune when he was a boy and had been kidnapped by a group of delinquents who had also visited the island at the same time. Karai was a member of the delinquent group and had raped Yuuki when the latter was abducted. Later on, the leakage of MW (a lethal biochemical weapon developed secretly) from the military base of a foreign country caused the deaths of the islanders and Yuuki had unfortunately inhaled MW as well but survived the ordeal. When they both grew up, the tables were overturned because Yuuki now calls the shots in his relationship with Karai. It also turns out that Yuuki and Karai are the sole survivors of the MW leak since the military had conspired with Japanese politicians to hide the matter and dispose of the bodies of those who died at Okinomafune.

With his heart, body and health badly affected by the Okinomafune incident, Yuuki vows to take revenge on all those who were responsible and kills them one by one. In the end, he lays his hands on MW and wants to bring the world along on his path to destruction but Karai tries to stop him in order to prevent further harm done and in a last-ditch attempt to save Yuuki...

Unfortunately, the movie failed to capitalise on such an intriguing storyline and felt like a half-baked attempt at conveying the controversial themes e.g. homosexuality, serial killing, violence and warped relationships. The first 30 minutes of the film felt like a really good and intense action thriller especially when the police detective Sawaki was chasing Yuuki along the streets in Bangkok as the latter was orchestrating a kidnap and ransom retrieval exercise. Of course, being so early on in the story, there was no way our villian would get caught so easily so that means Sawaki wasn't able to arrest him. However, when Yuuki reappeared in front of Sawaki using his elite salaryman persona, the latter could guess right away that there was something not quite right with Yuuki. To be frank, I was under the impression that if the film had started off so promisingly, surely it wouldn't fare too badly with a sound story structure from Tezuka Osamu?

However, the adaptation of the film was quite different from the manga in a number of ways (the following is based on what's written on Wikipedia) but I will only highlight the key differences:

1) Besides the focus on Yuuki and Karai, another key focus of the story was Sawaki's investigations of Yuuki.

2) Yuuki was depicted as a descendant of a kabuki family with an elder brother while Karai was a teenage gangster. However, this was not the case in the movie because they were described as childhood friends who were raised in Okinomafune instead of being merely outsiders who happened to come to the island.

3) Yuuki was described as someone with a sexual identity crisis and a spontaneous-type of criminal in the manga but owing to the fact that the movie does not mention anything about Yuuki prostituting himself, disguising as a woman nor his homosexual relationship with Karai, he became more like a terrorist-type of criminal who had a childhood trauma due to MW.

4) In the movie, it was said that Yuuki had accidentally inhaled MW while saving Karai thus the latter had viewed him as a saviour. However, this wasn't the case in the manga.

5) Karai was described as someone with feminine mannerisms and felt like a man with a womanly spirit within in the manga.

6) There were new inhabitants on Okinomafune after the MW incident as mentioned in the manga but in the movie, the island was deserted with no apparent monitoring by the authorities.

The biggest issue I find with the movie would be the lack of depth in describing Yuuki and Karai's relationship. Apparently, the reason which this key concept was left out was the controversial nature surrounding their homosexual behaviour which sponsors of the film had objected to. According to a special talk by the director and producer on 13 July 2009, they revealed that Tamaki Hiroshi and Yamada Takayuki had both agreed to act in the homosexual scenes but it was too bad that the film had to cut out such an important part of the story due to the objections.

I don't mean that including controversial themes is a must in all films although this is almost a sure way to attract attention. However, in this story, this actually plays an important part in explaining the dynamics of the lead characters' warped relationship. In the manga, it actually potrays Yuuki as a victim and Karai as an aggressor because the latter had raped Yuuki while they were both on the island. However, once the two of them were out of the island, the tables were turned with Yuuki calling the shots in the relationship and Karai being so submissive and passive. In the film, I simply couldn't comprehend why Karai had to listen to Yuuki because the only apparent reasons why Karai did his bidding was because of the kids in the orphanage (Yuuki might harm them) and the fact that Yuuki saved his life. I also didn't get why Karai seemed so concerned about Yuuki and yet was on the verge of killing him just to make sure he stopped killing people. If there had been the explanation about their relationship, it would have been easier to understand that Yuuki's traumatic experience on the island made him become someone with a twisted mentality and not that MW was mainly responsible for the change in his temperament. It would also have made Karai's anguish more believable because his angst-filled expressions did not seem to be supported by a strong reason. I think that's a pity because the film had the potential to do better in terms of depicting these characters but in the end, I don't think viewers can really understand why they behaved in certain ways.

As for the violence in the film, there were certain scenes which were really gory e.g. Sawaki's subordinate Tachibana was unwittingly killed by Karai because the latter had attempted to tell on Yuuki who then lured Tachibana into his trap of death. On the other hand, the scene where Makino Kyoko (Ishida Yuriko) was shot on Okinomafune was done in slow-motion and I have to admit, she died "beautifully". Essentially, since Yuuki is a serial killer, there are no lack of such murder scenes so you may need to brace yourself for them.

When it got to the climax of Yuuki finally revealing his intention of destroying the world before he dies from the after-effects of inhaling MW, that's when it got boring. The hostage drama at the military base fell flat and was lacking in the thrill factor especially when you compare how well the opening sequence was executed. In short, I couldn't care less whether Yuuki failed or succeeded because I wasn't invested in the film anymore by that time. It was obvious that Karai's ability to survive despite Yuuki trying to finish him off as he was being a hindrance, would have meant that Karai would be able to stop Yuuki this time round, whether or not Yuuki dies. True to what I expected, Karai jumped from the plane with MW into the sea to stop Yuuki from laying his hands on such a dangerous weapon but the latter obviously managed to survive the subsequent plane explosion because Sawaki received a call from this maniac after everything had apparently settled down. Maybe the ending was made this way so that the possibility of a sequel is not written off but honestly speaking, if the story wants to stay on safe ground and avoid challenging the taboo topics in the original material, it might be better not to do it at all.

Coming to the performance of the cast, Tamaki Hiroshi hogs the limelight and it's not just because he is the lead but rather his image and character's personality this time are very different from his usual demure and gentlemanly-type of image in his dramas. He obviously made an effort to train his body to fit the role (that will be a visual feast for his fans!) and he was rather believable as Yuuki who held a grudge with almost everyone and wouldn't bat an eyelid whenever he killed someone. A pity that the film chose to show a more ruthless side to Yuuki rather than potray Yuuki as someone who still had a humane side to him. Although Karai did explain before that Yuuki's personality was altered by MW (not sure how it was supposed to be), it was difficult to sympathise with Yuuki for what he had gone through given how cruel he had become.

On the other hand, Yamada Takayuki tried his best to show the dilemma which Karai faced especially when it comes to Yuuki. He showed a compassionate side of Karai most of the time and it was obvious that he was an unwilling party in Yuuki's scheme. However, Karai appeared too angelic with no apparent fault other than being unable to stand up to Yuuki so I think it was deliberately meant this way to show the contrast between Karai and Yuuki. Moreover, Karai's appearance time was much lesser than Yuuki so it felt like a lopsided attempt to show that these two characters were equally important in the story. In essence, Yuuki represented black and Karai was white i.e. evil vs. good. It might have been better to make the boundaries less clearer and show that there is grey rather than clearcut colours of black and white i.e. these two characters aren't as entirely good or bad. As for Ishida Yuriko, her appearance was largely limited and as soon as her purpose was fulfilled, she was killed off in the film so I think if she had more time to develop her role, Makino would have felt like someone more than a mere link to Yuuki's final goal i.e. locating MW.

And my ratings for this movie...

Story: 3 out of 10 (Too many unexplained questions, loopholes in the story and lack of character depth)

Acting: 7 out of 10 (The main cast members did quite well but they were not able to show a more complete representation of their characters)

Theme song: 4 out of 10 (Didn't make too much of an impression on me)

Visual effects / Scenery: 5 out of 10 (Nothing in particular impressed me but I think the opening action sequence i.e. Sawaki chasing Yuuki along the streets of Bangkok and the shooting scene at Okinomafune were handled quite well)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 5 out of 10 (There should have been more interaction between Yuuki and Karai but the film only showed a lopsided view to their relationship.)

Total: 24 out of 50

"Saigo kara Nibanme no Koi" back as SP this autumn

Koizumi Kyoko and Nakai Kiichi will be teaming up again in the sequel to their Winter 2012 drama "Saigo kara Nibanme no Koi" set in Kamakura which ended in March this year. Koizumi had played the character of Yoshino Chiaki, a 46-year-old single drama producer who met a 50-year-old single salaryman Nagakura Wappei (Nakai) working at the Kamakura City Office and the drama focused on how they gradually fell in love with each other. Koizumi had won three individual acting awards for her performance in this drama and the clothes she wore in the drama were selling out quickly. In addition, the Enoshima train which was widely featured in the drama became a hit with increased ridership numbers. As a result of the popularity of the drama and feedback from viewers that they wished to see a sequel, FujiTV then decided to produce a SP which continues from where the drama ended and is set at the end of summer.

Filming began in Kamakura on 10 September. Despite having not met for the past six months, Koizumi and Nakai displayed great chemistry and expressed joy in being able to reprise their roles.

Source: Sanspo

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Karasawa Toshiaki to star in NHK drama "Made In Japan"

Karasawa Toshiaki will be starring in the NHK drama "Made In Japan" which begins its run on 26 January at 9pm on Saturdays and consists of three episodes. The drama which is a memorial production to mark the 60th anniversary of TV broadcasting, is written by Inoue Yumiko who last worked with Karasawa in the hit drama "Shiroi Kyoto" 10 years ago. Filming will begin at the end of this month.

Karasawa plays Yasaku Atsushi, the sales director of an electronics manufacturer who forms a restructuring team with six others to prevent the collapse of his company. In addition, the team has to contend with competition from a Japanese skilled technician played by Takahashi Katsumi who is working for an up-and-coming Chinese company. Co-stars include Yoshioka Hidetaka, Kunimura Jun, Ootsuka Nene and Sakai Miki.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Update to the Summer 2012 Ratings Race - 17 Sep 12

With more dramas ending their run as of yesterday, here is how the average ratings ranking look like:

(Dramas in bold have already finished airing their final episodes)

1) GTO 13.13%
2) Iryu Sousa 12.44%
3) Rich Man, Poor Woman 12.36%
4) Keishicho Sousa Ikka 9 Kakari 11.79%
5) Ghost Mama Sousasen 10.72%
6) Tokkan 10.41%
7) Kyoto Chiken no Onna 10.31%
8) Kuro no Onna Kyoushi / Summer Rescue 10.07%
10) Beautiful Rain 10.01%

11) Iki mo dekinai natsu 9.84%
12) Higashino Keigo Mysteries 8.56%
13) Beginners 7.44%
14) Boys On The Run 5.83%
15) Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan 5.61%
16) Omo ni naitemasu 5.25%

17) VISION 3.13%
18) Sprout 2.66%
19) Soumatou Kabushikigaisha 2.29%

Looking at the fact that the Top 5 have already finished their OAs and the remaining dramas don't seem to possess the ratings necessary to go above the 10.5% mark, I think we might not see any significant changes in the final ranking, come next week.

It's rather difficult to analyse and tell which type of dramas were popular this summer. If you look at the top 5, Iryu Sousa and Keishicho Sousa Ikka 9 Kakari were detective/suspense stories which seemed to suggest that this genre was still a hit with viewers. However, if you look at dramas like Higashino Keigo Mysteries, it doesn't seem to be the case. Of course, in terms of story and production quality, these dramas wouldn't be entirely consistent or on the same level so there is really no basis of comparison. In addition, ratings this summer were fluctuating so much due to the summer holidays, Olympics and the annual 24 Jikan Terebi-type of events which ate into the momentum built up by some dramas. If spring 2012 was when viewers had a clear preference for the investigative/suspense dramas e.g. Kagi no Kakatta Heya, Mikeneko Holmes no Suiri, ATARU, it is almost impossible to do the same this summer because there isn't a clearcut winner after all.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Production press conference of movie "Nou Otoko"

The production press conference of movie "Nou Otoko" was held on 13 September which was attended by cast members Ikuta Toma, Matsuyuki Yasuko, Eguchi Yosuke and Nikaido Fumi. The movie is due to be shown in cinemas from 9 February 2013. Filming lasted for about 2 months since June. Ikuta reflected on an extremely tough fighting sequence between him and Eguchi which took 27 hours to shoot and he truly thought that he was about to die during the filming.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Katori Shingo and Yamashita Tomohisa to form limited-time-only unit "The MONSTERS"

SMAP's Katori Shingo and Yamashita Tomohisa will be forming a limited-time-only unit called "The MONSTERS" and sing the theme song of their upcoming autumn drama "MONSTERS". The song which has the same title as the drama and originated from SMAP's new album "GIFT of SMAP" released on 8 August, will be released in the form of a single on 14 November. This is the first time Katori and Yamashita are working together.

According to insiders, the two of them had met each other by chance during a Lady Gaga concert in May at Saitama and decided to write a song together. It so turned out that they were later chosen to act in the same drama and the song was also chosen as the theme song. In the single to be released in November, the two of them will also perform a cover version of Pink Lady's 1978 hit "Monster" as a coupling track.

Source: Sanspo

Ueto Aya and EXILE's leader HIRO get married

Ueto Aya and EXILE's leader HIRO announced that they got married on 14 September through a fax statement to the media via their respective agencies. The day of their marriage registration also happens to be Ueto's birthday. The couple revealed that they have been dating for two years but did not mention when their wedding is going to be. There are no plans for a press conference with regard to this matter. According to insiders, Ueto and HIRO got to know each other during the summer in 2010 and soon started dating. Ueto introduced HIRO to her mother who has been supportive of their relationship and was frequently seen going out for meals with the couple.

Source: Sponichi Annex

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review of Higashino Keigo Mysteries Ep 3 - Endless Night

Tamura Atsuko (Matsushita Nao) is sleeping along in a Tokyo apartment where she is woken up by the sound of her ringing phone. While half asleep, Atsuko answers the phone and is shocked to hear the Osaka police informing her about her husband Yoichi (Tanaka Kotaro) found dead at his company. She scrambles to get to Osaka and starts to recall what happened between her and Yoichi during the train ride...

Just six months into their marriage, Yoichi came home very excited over the prospect of being allowed to set up a new branch in Osaka by his father but was met with a cold response from Atsuko who objected to the idea of moving there. She gave all sorts of reasons which were easily dismissed by Yoichi and finally resorted to threatening to live apart if Yoichi insisted on going to Osaka. That was why the couple had to live apart in Tokyo and Osaka and Atsuko would not visit Yoichi there no matter how hard he tried to persuade her.

Atsuko reaches Osaka and meets Banba Juuzo (Osugi Ren), a police detective in charge of Yoichi's case. He brings her to the crime scene and asks Atsuko about when Yoichi last contacted her. According to her, Yoichi had called her the day before yesterday and tried to persuade her to come to Osaka for a holiday but she refused the suggestion again. Banba tries to probe further about a possible reason why Yoichi was killed but Atsuko can think of nothing.

After the crime scene inspection, Banba offers to drive Atsuko to a hotel so that she can take a rest but she indicates that she wants to go to Yoichi's apartment instead. It is there when she finally breaks down as the reality of her husband's death hits her although she had been pretty much emotionless ever since she got the call from the police.

That night, Atsuko is struggling to fall asleep when she hears noises in her apartment. She tries to check things out and is startled to see a man with a knife charging at her. Luckily, Atsuko manages to get out of the apartment quickly and gets someone to help her call the police. When Banba and his colleagues get to Yoichi's apartment, they find a visibly shaken Atsuko trying to describe what happened. Banba then suggests bringing Atsuko to a hotel to rest as she cannot stay in Yoichi's apartment anymore.

However, as the investigation progresses, it is becoming clearer that there is something more to Yoichi's death and Atsuko's strong dislike for Osaka actually stems from a bad experience during her childhood. Banba suspects Atsuko for being involved in the case and sets out to prove his theory...

Of all the episodes so far, this takes the cake for being the slowest in terms of pacing and the most boring. Although there was an attempt to show that Atsuko is merely the victim's wife, there were telltale signs that she wasn't as innocent as she seemed. From the time she answered the call, you can see that she wasn't really surprised by it although you can actually argue that she wasn't one to show her emotions freely except when she was trying to show her obvious dislike for Osaka. That's when she tended to get a bit hysterical. Of course, when you hear the story why she hates the city, it has got partly to do with what her mother instilled in her rather than her own direct feelings. And the subsequent appearances of that skinhead as if he really wanted to kill her really felt like it was a make-up story because he wouldn't have dared to show up in broad daylight or expose himself to danger after the first attempt on Atsuko's life failed.

Matsushita Nao's acting tends to be a bit erratic at times. There are occasions when she comes across as quite good but in this drama, her performance was simply bland, if not bordering on boring. Of course, it has to do with the fact that Atsuko showed mainly brooding and hysterical faces for most of the story but you just don't get the feeling that there is more to Atsuko than those two expressions. It was a pity though but somehow, I can understand that in 45 minutes, it's rather difficult to make an impression. On the other hand, Osugi Ren's acting was good as usual and he really made the screen light up even though he wasn't the lead. Actually, among all the three detectives portrayed so far, he actually comes off as rather mild-mannered compared to the first two who were a bit more forceful in their investigation tactics. Banba's strong observation skills served to help him notice the discrepancies in Atsuko's words and I like that he wasn't actively digging holes for her to fall into. If Atsuko had been a role with more meat, the interaction between Banba and her might become more interesting. The only saving grace was that, it was lucky for Atsuko that she could actually pour out her inner thoughts to him as if Banba was a fatherly figure so at least, it would have brought her some inner peace, no doubt she was still heading for prison.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Shibasaki Kou to sing theme song for autumn drama "Perfect Blue"

Shibasaki Kou will be singing the theme song "My Perfect Blue" for the autumn drama "Perfect Blue" starring Takimoto Miori. The song will be released in the form of a double A-side single on 31 October. This is Shibasaki's first drama theme song since five and a half years ago. She had also released a theme song "Saiai" under the name of KOH+ four years ago.

Source: My Navi News

Kawaguchi Haruna to be 4th generation Nanase Miyuki in new Kindaichi SP

Kawaguchi Haruna will be the new Nanase Miyuki in the latest drama SP of "Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo Hong Kong Kowloon Zaiho Satsujin Jiken" along with the new Kindaichi Hajime played by Yamada Ryosuke. She is the fourth actress to play this role after Tomosaka Rie, Suzuki An and Ueno Juri and will be going for her first overseas filming this autumn. In the drama SP, she will be a model for a fashion show in Hong Kong to replace another model Yang Lan who looks exactly like her but has disappeared mysteriously. Kawaguchi will also have to speak Chinese in the SP.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Mikami Hiroshi starring in NHK drama SP "Jikken Keiji Totori"

Mikami Hiroshi will be starring in the NHK drama SP "Jikken Keiji Totori" (Experimental Detective Totori) which will consist of 5 episodes and be shown from 3 November at 9pm on Saturdays. He plays a former researcher of animal science Totori who becomes a newbie police detective at the age of 43 and has to work with a superior Yasunaga played by Takahashi Mitsuomi who's much younger than him.

Filming will begin on 13 September and co-stars also include Sasano Takashi and Kuriyama Chiaki.

Source: Sanspo