Thursday, January 30, 2014

Update to the "Ashita, Mama ga inai" controversy - 30th January 2014

More news and developments in the controversy surrounding "Ashita, Mama ga inai".

- All 8 sponsors of the drama suspended their CMs as of 28 January and the change will take effect from the third episode onwards. However, it looks set that the sponsorship contracts are still in effect even though the CMs won't appear during the drama's broadcast. Most of the companies which made this decision cited reasons such as requests from customers to withdraw the CM deals and inappropriate environment or circumstances to air their CMs. The vacated CM slots were then filled up by programme trailers, CMs from other companies which are not sponsors of the drama and public service commercials from the Advertising Council Japan (commonly known as AC Japan). Despite the controversy and hoo-ha over the sponsors' reactions, Episode 3 bounced back strongly by 1.5% to hit 15%.
Source: Sanspo / Sponichi

- During the regular press conference held by NTV on 27 January, NTV's president Okubo Yoshio asked those who are protesting against the drama to watch it till the end in order to get the full picture of what they are trying to convey. As such, there are no plans to axe the drama which consists of 9 episodes.
Source: Sponichi

- The National Children's Welfare Facilities Association has filed a new complaint to NTV on 29 January after receiving new reports on the adverse effects brought about  by the drama. One girl was said to have inflicted an injury on herself after watching the drama and was treated at the hospital while another child who lives in a welfare home was teased by classmates. The Association is asking for an official written reply by NTV by 4 February.
Source: Sanspo

- Takasu Clinic bucks the trend by becoming a new sponsor of the drama. It was said that the director of the clinic, Takasu Katsuya said via Twitter on 29 January due to some unforeseen circumstances, their new CM featuring former figure-skating queen Ando Miki was not able to make it in time for the third episode's broadcast. However, he said that the CM should be aired from next week onwards.
Source: Sponichi

- NTV still doesn't lose out even if sponsors take flight? It appears as if the sponsors signed seasonal deals lasting from January to March so NTV still gets its CM income even if the CMs are not shown on TV. According to an advertising industry insider, the general market rate for a primetime CM slot is more than JPY 30m per company. Going by this calculation, NTV should have made between JPY 250m and JPY 300m per month from its 8 sponsors through this drama which then translates into a total income of JPY 750m to JPY 900m over the three-month period. In this situation where sponsors withdraw their CMs and replace it with public service ads from AC Japan, they are still liable to pay for their CM contracts.
Source: Sanspo

- Jikei Hospital refused to respond to accusations about it making use of the drama to boost awareness about itself, saying that for the sake of their operations, they thought that it was best not to comment. However, they've compiled a document stating their stand towards this drama on their website. As this document is extremely long, I will only highlight the key points made by the hospital:
Source: Sanspo

Why did they release this document? - Jikei felt that their stand was not fully explained and made clear in the limited press coverage surrounding the issue and it was best for them to express their views as clearly as possible through their official website.

Why are they protesting against this drama? - The point of focus here is not the children living in ordinary families but rather those who are living in welfare homes now and had been subjected to physical and verbal abuse previously and receiving treatment now. Jikei felt that the scenes depicting the bullying and being called names by their friends jokingly can bring back unwelcome memories for these emotionally-scarred children. Although they already had their reservations way back in December before the drama went on air, they found that the first episode was largely unchanged and there were reports of children adversely affected by the drama's OA. Although the second episode was toned down a little, the hospital took offence with the fact that children were being called discriminatory names and treated like animals in a pet shop.

What was so wrong with the first episode?  - First of all, the nicknames given to the 5 main child characters in the drama were inappropriate and could lead to teasing of those living in welfare homes by their schoolmates. For example, the nickname Post was in reference to the character being abandoned by her parents at the baby post box at Jikei Hospital while Locker was meant as a reference to the character being dumped at a coin locker. Jikei had deliberately avoided using the word "Akachan Post" when they set up the Kounotori no Yurikago service to take care of babies abandoned by their parents and felt that there was no need to use such nicknames for the children in the drama although the scriptwriter may have wanted to use them for maximum impact on the viewers.
Secondly, the words said by the director of the welfare home were harsh and hurting to the pride of the children by describing them as animals in the pet shop which should practice how to cry. Jikei feared that the children in welfare homes would be hurt by such untrue portrayals of where they are living in and that this would give people the wrong impression about welfare homes.

Since this is fiction, why be so serious about this? - Fiction can only be determined if someone is able to tell the difference between fact and fiction. For most people, dramas talking about the police, schools, hospitals can be easily classified as fiction because they have first-hand experience dealing with such entities and the people within. However, the same can't be said for welfare homes in general. In addition, it is more difficult for children to differentiate between fact and fiction.

The crew and scriptwriter should have conducted more in-depth research? - Jikei cited the example of a TBS drama shown in 2013 about the Akachan Post facility at the hospital where they had spent lots of time talking to the crew and scriptwriter about the concept and thought that the other party had fully understood it. However, it turned out that there were some conflicts between both parties at one time as they tried to sought commonground while ironing out their differences. The biggest issue was the fact that Yakushimaru Hiroko who played the matron in the drama, tracked down the mother who abandoned the baby. Jikei does not do this and feared that the fear about losing anonymity would become an issue to those who want to use the Kounotori no Yurikago facility which then puts more abandoned babies in danger. From this episode, Jikei felt that more care should have been taken in the preparation stages to ensure that the correct facts are conveyed through such drama productions.

The impact on children in welfare homes - In many welfare homes, there is an increasing number of children staying there due to reasons of domestic abuse. As such, the drama should have exercised more caution in depicting scenes of abuse in order to avoid hurting their feelings further. There have been reports of children being affected by the drama in ways such as being concerned about the views of people around them and feeling uneasy about others knowing where they live in. Most of the reports of affected children are those in primary school and Jikei hopes that the impact would not spread further.

Aren't you over-reacting by asking for the termination of the drama? - Jikei stated that they knew and understood how much effort was put into the drama but the untruths in this drama had already caused an impact to the children and it would be too late to "wait-and-see" as the story unfolds over another 9 to 10 weeks. Besides, they have no idea how the story would develop and would rather not take the risk so that explains why they are asking for the immediate cancellation of the drama. Although children in the welfare homes may form the minority, it does not mean that we should disregard their feelings and that they should be protected first.

No plans for a lawsuit now - The hospital has no plans at the moment to sue for damage to their reputation surrounding the depiction of the Kounotori no Yurikago but feels that NTV owes an apology to the staff and children in welfare homes for the adverse effects brought upon them.

Are you doing this as a publicity stunt? - For a small hospital like Jikei, there is a huge risk in what we are doing now. It would have been better for us to keep quiet rather than make demands to the TV station. Besides, the whole episode makes Jikei appear as an aggressive party which is negative to our image. Last but not least, the Kounotori no Yurikago facility is a huge financial burden on the hospital so we would have been better off if we did not raise this issue. However, for the sake of babies in our care and those children who have to overcome their traumatic past to live on, Jikei feels the need to stand up for them.

What do you hope for from now on? - On 16 Jan (the day following the first OA), Jikei was informed by the media that the drama will consist of 10 episodes and two days later, informed that filming had already been completed up to episode 7. Fearing the worst impact on the children, Jikei decided to take action by asking for the cancellation of the drama. However, NTV stated on 27 Jan that they will continue with the drama which consists of 9 episodes and that filming was done up to Episode 4 and the script was written up to Episode 5. This leaves Jikei with no choice but to observe how things go from now on but they still hope that NTV will take the necessary precautions to adjust the content and avoid causing more emotional pain for the children. However, they hope that as the drama highlights the negative aspects and problems faced by those in welfare homes and children being raised by foster parents, it will help society as a whole to understand the situation better and improve it in time.

Ichihara Hayato to play the role of Fighting Harada in FujiTV drama SP "Ougon no Bantam wo yabutta otoko ~ Fighting Harada Monogatari"

Ichihara Hayato will play the role of legendary boxer Fighting Harada who was the first Japanese to win in two boxing classes in the upcoming FujiTV drama SP "Ougon no Bantam wo yabutta otoko ~ Fighting Harada Monogatari" (The Man who broke the golden bantam ~ the story of Fighting Harada) which is due to be shown on 22 February. The drama SP is based on a non-fiction book by Hyakuta Naoki which talks about how Harada became a double champion in the fly and bantam classes during the 1960s.

This is the second time that Ichihara is playing a boxer and he was personally coached by Harada when preparing for the filming. He commented that after seeing Harada's life story, many people should be inspired to do more for themselves.

In addition, Murata Ryota, the gold medalist for the boxing middle class during the London Olympics, will be making his acting debut as a practice student at the gym which Harada went to. Murata jokingly said that this should be his first and last appearance as an actor and hopes to work on his acting skills if there are such opportunities in future.

Source: Sanspo

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Review of "47 RONIN"

Strictly speaking, this is not a Japanese movie. First of all, it is not produced by a Japanese film company and was done by Universal Studios in Hollywood. Secondly, despite the cast being largely Japanese and the theme of the story being a famous Japanese true story, the entire film's dialogue was in English. Under such circumstances, I would not have bothered writing a review for this movie here on the Dorama World blog. The most I would have done is to post this review on my other blog which covers a wider range of topics outside of J-ent. Then again, if you look at the second reason I cited, this is also why I decided to share my thoughts on this film which was the last I watched in 2013. It may not be a true-blue Japanese film but owing to the strong Japanese elements embedded within, I think it is worth featuring the film here after all.

I am no Japanese history expert but it will be useful to share some basic information about the 47 Ronin before I discuss the film further. Do correct me if I've cited anything wrongly.

On 14 December of the 15th year of the Genroku era (30 January 1703), a group of 47 masterless samurais headed to the house of Kira Kozukenosuke to take revenge against the latter for causing the demise of their master Asano Naganori of Akaho. However, after completing their mission, the 47 ronin were ordered by the shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi to commit suicide since taking revenge for their lords was banned at that time. Over the years, many drama and movie adaptations have been made based on this event and the word "Chushingura" has been used widely in such productions. However, there is talk that there were actually only 46 who participated in this mission to kill Kira and the missing person Terasaka Nobuyuki was said to have escaped before the shogun ordered the ronins to kill themselves. Another school of thought was that he was told to leave after getting permission from his peers or he was assigned to carry out some secret mission by the leader of the group Oishi Kuranosuke. That is why there is a difference in how people see the ronins as 46 (if they view Terasaka as a betrayer) or 47 (if they include Terasaka in the group even though he did not commit suicide in the end) and this difference was probably why the film showed one of the ronins getting away without having to kill himself.

Now, you may ask, where exactly does Keanu Reeves fit in? The thing is, 47 RONIN is based loosely on the actual 47 Ronin / Chushingura concept but it is not a perfect replication of the story. As such, you have newly-added characters like Keanu's lead character Kai who is of mixed blood i.e. a British father and Japanese mother and was shunned and despised for his non-Japanese looks. Having been abandoned by his mother in the forest, Kai was raised by the goblins for a while before he was taken home by Lord Asano who met him during a hunting trip. His training by the goblins and stint of living in the forest allowed Kai to see the supernatural  as well. None of the samurais in Lord Asano's household treated Kai like a human due to his background and weird powers except for his daughter Mika (Shibasaki Kou). By the way, the character Mika is also fictitious because in the actual 47 Ronin story, Lady Asano refers to Lord Asano's wife and there is no mention of him having a daughter. Inevitably, this arrangement of putting Kai and Mika at such proximity led to them developing feelings for each other even though the possibility of them being together is close to non-existent. It's not just the social class difference which is the problem but the fact that Kai took part in the revenge mission also meant that he had to commit suicide as punishment for violating the shogun's rules.

If not for the fact that Kai is included in this movie, I think Mizuki's (Kikuchi Rinko) existence would not have been justifiable as well. She's a fox spirit who changes form at will and knows sorcery which she uses to help Kira to achieve his aims. If there is no Mizuki, the 47 Ronin would have defeated Kira on their own abilities rather than depend on Kai to fight Mizuki. As such, if Kai never existed, this movie could have jolly well turned into one with an all-male cast since Mika and Mizuki could have little impact on the story line and would not been included into the lineup. I also found it weird that the movie failed to explain why Mizuki wanted to help Kira. Was it for love, the thirst for power or some personal agenda? I think the lack of explanation in this regard made Mizuki a rather one-dimensional character.

If Kai was fighting a battle against the supernatural, the 47 Ronin would have been fighting evil personified in the form of Kira. Having to lie low after their lord's death, the crushing humiliation of being unable to protect their lord and being forced to live a wandering life without a purpose added on to the tough circumstances facing these warriors. Luckily for them, Oishi decided to rally his men again to head for this foolhardy mission which certainly means "death" either at the hands of Kira should they fail or the shogun should they succeed. To many people living in the modern age, it would have been very difficult to understand why these warriors had to give up their lives for their master who had already died. However, I think in that era where pride and honour mattered a lot, a samurai who couldn't protect his lord was seen as someone who didn't deserve to live at all. Despite being able to live on, the shame and being ostracised by others could be why the ronins decided to take part in the revenge mission to regain their honour. Maybe to them, being able to commit a honour suicide after avenging their lord would bring greater glory to their families and descendants rather than having to live the rest of their lives in shame and being known as a ronin.

Before I get to my issues about this film, I would like to pick up some of the noteworthy points this film did well in. First of all, I thought that the visual aspect of the film was great. For example, the use of very elaborate styles and vibrant colours in Akaho at the beginning of the film showed the prosperous side of the area but in stark contrast, Kira's place was situated in a somewhat treacherous area with cliffs and dull colours as if to reflect the evilness of its master. In addition, I remember this scene quite well where the 47 ronins were riding down a mountain side with a giant Buddha statute in its background and the surround scenery was indeed breathtaking. In this sense, I think the visuals deserve a big thumbs up.

Secondly, there is always this problem when Japanese actors attempt to speak Japanese and end up being incomprehensible due to the way they pronounce certain words. That has a lot to do with how the Japanese pronounce foreign words and break it up in katakana so I won't go into details here because it will become a lengthy discussion. Surprisingly, all the actors in this movie speak perfect English and I could understand them even without looking at the subtitles. Honestly speaking, I only expected Sanada Hiroyuki and Kikuchi Rinko to speak better than the rest because they've had extensive experience working in Hollywood so hearing everyone speak so well was indeed a surprise. I read in an interview of Keanu Reeves that the cast were made to film an English version of the scenes first before they shot the same in Japanese and they had lots of language training for their lines which probably explains why this was possible.

However, the film also suffers from an identity crisis which makes it neither here nor there. Like what I pointed out, the Japanese cast speak so perfect English that it feels really awkward. I appreciate their hard work in sounding so natural but this also works against them in a way because this film feels very Japanese in many ways but when you hear your familiar Japanese actors say English instead of Japanese, the gap can indeed make some viewers feel rather uncomfortable. Would the viewers feel less weird if they did not know these Japanese actors? Would this become less of an issue outside of Asia? The fact that the movie performed so badly in Japan was said to be due to this reason because the Japanese audience felt uncomfortable about the Japanese actors speaking English rather than Japanese. Of course, there should be Japanese subtitles for the English version as in most cases for all foreign films in Japan but if what Keanu Reeves said was true, there should have been a Japanese version which was also made. Why didn't the director allow both versions to be screened in Japan and let the audience choose which one they prefer? Perhaps that might have helped to boost the box office takings?

In addition, the movie feels like somewhere in between a true-blue Japanese film and a Hollywood blockbuster. I appreciate the huge budget spent on the visuals, the costumes, special effects but at the core of this movie is the story. I have no idea if the aim was to base the movie loosely on the 47 Ronin historical facts or do an exact replication of what happened during that era. Like what I pointed out above, the black magic subplot could have been omitted to make the film become more like a Japanese samurai film about honour and pride. However, the concepts of discrimination against a half-breed and the black magic seemed to have backfired and diverted the attention from the essence of the story. As such, I think it is a pity that the focus was lost and thus made the film suffer in a sense because it felt like it was having an identity crisis, ironically mirroring what Kai was going through.

In conclusion, I think the movie is not something which should be shunned at all costs. However, be fully aware of the potential pitfalls before watching it so that you can manage your expectations and not be disappointed in the end.

2014 Next Break Actors & Actresses Ranking (Oricon)

This ranking lists the actors and actresses expected to make a breakthrough in their careers this year:

Top 10 Next Break Actors
1) Fukushi Souta

2) Saito Takumi

3) Higashide Masahiro

4) Miura Shohei

5) Kamiki Ryuunosuke

6) Koura Kengo

7) Muro Tsuyoshi

8) Kubota Masataka

9) Suda Masaki

10) Hamada Tatsuomi

Top 10 Next Break Actresses
1) Arimura Kasumi

2) Hashimoto Ai

3) Nikaidou Fumi

4) Kimura Fumino

5) Kiritani Mirei

6) Haru

7) Renbutsu Misako

8) Takahata Mitsuki

9) Ohara Sakurako

10) Yamamoto Mizuki

Source: Oricon

Ninomiya Kazunari to star in NTV's Spring 2014 drama "Yowakutemo Katemasu ~ Aoshi-sensei to Heppoko Koukou Kyuuji no Yabou"

Arashi's Ninomiya Kazunari will be the lead in the new NTV Spring 2014 drama "Yowakuttemo Katemasu ~ Aoshi-sensei to Heppoko Koukou Kyuuji no Yabou" (Even if we are weak, we will win ~ the aspirations of Teacher Seishi and the lousy senior high school baseball players) which begins its run from April in the Saturdays 9pm timeslot. This will be Ninomiya's first role as a teacher as he plays the character Tamo Aoshi, a biology researcher at University of Tokyo who is asked to become a temporary biology teacher by his alma mater and due to his status as an OB, Tamo has to take on the position of the school baseball team's coach. However, his alma mater being a school focused on increasing the percentage of students making it to university, gives little attention to the baseball team where students are only required to practise once a week since their attention should be focused more on their studies. As such, the team has never won a single match to date. To change the situation, Tamo decides to make use of his clever students and pit their wits together to find a way for the team to win against a strong team despite the challenging conditions facing them.

Ninomiya who had experience playing baseball since primary school and even won the MVP in the 2003 "Johnny's FAN Kanshasai" at Tokyo Dome, said that playing a teacher itself is tough for him and hopes that his performance will be well-received by the viewers. Last year, when he was watching the summer national high school championships (Koshien), he was surprised to see one of the coaches being at the same age as him. All along, he had been playing baseball but never considered the viewpoint of a coach so he will try to play his character just like a coach aiming to bring his team to Koshien.

The drama is said to be an original story based loosely on "Yowakutemo Katemasu - Kaisei Academy Yakyuubu no Theory" by non-fiction writer Takahashi Hidemine which talks about how Kaisei Academy (one of the top private boys' school in Japan) managed to transform its baseball team. As part of the preparations for his role, senior high schools nationwide can apply through NTV's website to get Ninomiya to visit their school so that he can learn more about their baseball team.

Source: Sanspo 1 / Sanspo 2

Winners of the 25th Jewellery Best Dresser Award

Special Award: Matsumoto Jun

Teens category: Kawaguchi Haruna

20s category: Yoshitaka Yuriko

30s category: Kichise Michiko

40s category: Suzuki Honami

50s category: Asano Atsuko

60s category: Takeshita Keiko

Male category: Ichihara Hayato

Source: International Jewellery Tokyo

An to play the heroine in NTV Spring 2014 drama "Hanasaki Mai ga damatte inai"

An will be playing the role of the heroine in the upcoming NTV Spring 2014 drama "Hanasaki Mai ga damatte inai" (Hanasaki Mai does not keep quiet) which begins its run from April 2014 in the Wednesdays 10pm timeslot. The drama is based on the novel by Ikeido Jun who is famous for his novels such as the Hanzawa Naoki series which made it big last year. The role of Hanasaki Mai is the only heroine among his many novels where she works as a bank employee who cannot keep quiet about the bad things happening in the bank she works for and doesn't care for power nor status. She works with a long-forgotten veteran employee Soma Ken to get justice for those being bullied and set the wrong things right.

An commented that this is not merely a drama about the banking industry but hopes that it can be an encouragement to the working class who may have many things they want to say but cannot do so at work. Through Hanasaki Mai's sense of justice, she hopes that it will give the viewers some inspiration and boost to strive on despite the daily challenges.

Source: Sponichi

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The controversy continues for "Ashita, Mama ga inai"

It doesn't look like the controversy will die down anytime soon as Jiei Hospital shows that they mean business when they said they want NTV to stop the drama "Ashita, Mama ga inai":

- The second episode of the drama dropped slightly by 0.5% to 13.5% which is considered quite good because most dramas tend to lose more than a few percentage points in the second broadcast compared to its debut. Perhaps the saga surrounding the drama made some people tune in to see what kind of a drama this is? Some people could also have stopped watching the drama if they found it too painful to sit through. Episode 2 featured the development of someone getting sent to a potential foster parent family for a trial stay and those who have to remain behind have to grapple with the emotions running through them as they see this. (Source: Sanspo)

- The National Children's Welfare Facilities Association held a press conference on 21 January, asking NTV not to hurt the children and staff in welfare homes further with its drama and called upon it to improve and be more aware of the sensitivity of the situation. It was revealed that the association received reports of children living in welfare facilities being teased in school and concerned parents calling to ask about the condition of such facilities. They even questioned what NTV is going to do if any of those affected are to commit suicide over the unnecessary attention towards them. The association's president stressed that it is already very tough for the staff and children to cope with the daily challenges and the drama has made the situation worse for them by portraying untruths such as staff members insulting the children verbally.
It was also revealed that the Association already had concerns about this drama back in December 2013 when the trailer was shown on TV. They had asked NTV for the script of the first episode and was in discussions with them to ask for improvements to the content. However, after seeing the first broadcast, they realised that none of the suggestions were taken into account. As such, the Association also rejected the request by NTV to write articles about the true situation in welfare facilities which were to be published on the drama's official website.
In response, NTV's PR department said that they have no intention of disrespecting the children and staff in welfare facilities and has taken into account all the comments and criticism of late which will remind them to exercise greater caution in handling this drama. (Source: Sponichi)

- Meanwhile, sponsors seem to be wary of being drawn into this saga with no sponsor credits shown after the opening clip in episode 2.  Three of the sponsors i.e. Ebara Foods, JX Nippon Oil & Energy Co, and Kewpie have adopted a wait-and-see attitude by suspending their CMs for the time being. As for the remaining 5 sponsors including Kao and Nisshin, the CMs still ran during the commercial breaks of episode 2 but their names were not featured in the sponsor credits section. (Source: Sanspo)

- Jiei Hospital has made good of its promise to complain to the Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization (BPO) on 22 January and asked for a quick assessment of the drama so as to limit the adverse effects on the children living in welfare homes. As they had received reports that there were some kids who were bullied after the first broadcast, the hospital decided that this was a serious matter that required immediate attention. (Source: Sponichi)

So where do things go from now? Some possible scenarios could be:

1) The social backlash gets so great that NTV has to stop the drama or end it earlier than it should be.
2) NTV presses on despite the controversy and finishes the drama on schedule with no changes.
3) NTV continues on but makes changes to appease those who are protesting against the drama's content.

I don't know if the BPO or if there's any authority which can really force NTV to stop an ongoing drama but even if the BPO speaks out against the drama or NTV, there is a likelihood that there will be social pressure which may or may not have a material effect on the outcome of this situation. Frankly speaking, too much is at stake here for NTV. If they bow to the pressure, it will dampen the spirits of the production crew and all those who are just doing their job to produce a great drama. NTV even told the Association that they aim to make this drama as good as "Ienakiko" which also talks about social bias, bullying and the plight of children in dysfunctional families. Given the controversial nature of the material, I don't think they are going into this blindly as what everyone else is claiming. Maybe there were some parts which were overly dramatised and not reflective of the true situation but what do you expect since this is a drama and not a documentary? Moreover, it will be a huge loss of face for NTV if they succumb too readily. Last but not least, if all controversial programmes are to be whacked and cancelled like this, what does this bode for the future of TV programming? That's why I think there is no easy way out for NTV than to press on and show the world what exactly are they trying to convey by the end of the season. It may or may not shut the critics up but at least, it's fairer to judge them only when the entire drama is over, not when the first episode was just shown.

I don't remember any drama being made to end earlier (other than for low ratings or problems with cast members) or had its broadcast suspended or postponed as a result of such social pressure other than once when a drama SP had to be postponed because a case similar to what was depicted in the SP happened days before the OA. If this drama really ends up being cancelled, I think this would be the first instance within the last 10-odd years.

Of course, from the viewpoints of those concerned about the children and staff in welfare facilities, they have a reason to be concerned. However, the bullying and taunts cited can't be exactly new and caused solely by this drama. In many past dramas, there were lots of descriptions about the discrimination and bias shown towards such children and how people view them differently because they don't belong to the "majority" who have complete families. So how can the blame be borne by just one drama when it's a social problem that people have been aware all along? I agree that the problem might have popped up once in a while and gone quiet for most of the time and that the appearance of this drama is just bringing a lot of unwanted attention to these kids again. However, if you are to view it from another perspective, isn't the drama also a good way of making the general public more aware of the problems faced by these children? Pretending that the issue isn't there and sweeping it under the carpet certainly isn't the way to go. Sometimes, the reality hurts so much that people must look at the truth in the eye and learn how to move on from there. And I certainly don't think the staff at the welfare home depicted in the drama are "evil" for no reason and the drama should be able to give us a sufficient reason why they had to treat the kids like that. Dramatisation may have been a bit overboard at the initial stages but I'm sure nobody has the intention of painting the welfare home staff as baddies.

This issue makes me wonder though: WOWOW has its fair share of controversial dramas especially in recent years but people don't seem to react so strongly against them. Could it be that WOWOW is paid-TV so people who don't want to watch their programming have an easy way of showing their preferences by not paying for their services? Conversely, if this controversy were to happen to a NHK drama, would it bow to social pressure more quickly than NTV which is a private network but more readily accessible than WOWOW? Some food for thought here...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Winners of the 56th Blue Ribbon Award

Best Movie: Yokomichi Yonosuke

Best Director: Omori Tatsushi (Sayonara Keikoku)

Best Leading Actor: Koura Kengo (Yokomichi Yonosuke)

Best Leading Actress: Kanjiya Shihori (Kuchizuke)

Best Supporting Actor: Pierre Taki (Kyoaku / Kuchizuke / Soshite Chichi ni naru)

Best Supporting Actress: Nikaidou Fumi (Jigoku de naze warui / Nou Otoko / 49-nichi no recipe)

Best Newcomer: Kuroki Haru (Fune wo Amu / Sougen no Isu / Shanidar no Hana)

Best Foreign Film: Zero Gravity

Special Award: Director Oshima Nagisa / Actor Mikuni Rentaro 

Source: Sponichi

Nagai Masaru confirms his impending marriage to Nakagoshi Noriko

Nagai Masaru appeared at an overseas wedding PR event for JTB on 19 January with model Kondo Shizuka where he was asked about recent reports on his upcoming marriage with actress Nakagoshi Noriko. Nagai admitted that they had been dating for four years and he's already at the age of 36 when he should be making plans for his future. As such, they both decided that this was the right time to get married and revealed that the ideal place to hold their wedding would be in Hawaii where it's nice and warm.

When asked about his girlfriend's good points, Nagai praised Nakagoshi for being serious about her work and said that he learned a lot just from watching her when they first worked together in 2010. Besides that, her cheerful nature brought him a lot of joy and laughter. He revealed that they have met each other's families and the atmosphere during the meeting with his parents was especially good since they hit it off well quickly given that they are all of blood type O. As for when the wedding will take place, Nagai said that a decision will be made after making some arrangements in their respective schedules.

The couple had been recently featured in some weekly magazines about having bought a robot vacuum cleaner at an electrical appliances store but Nagai said that they did visit the store but did not buy the robot vacuum cleaner as reported. However, if Nakagoshi wants to get it, he will buy it for her.

Source: Sponichi

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Top 10 most anticipated new adults of 2014 (Oricon)

This is a survey done by Oricon every year where respondents are asked who among the celebrities that have gone through the Coming-of-Age ceremony that year they expect to do well going forward. This year's survey had 1,000 respondents in various age groups from teens to 40s. Dates in brackets indicate the birth dates of these celebrities:

1) Nounen Rena (13 Jul 1993)

2) Kamiki Ryuunosuke (19 May 1993)

3) Fukushi Souta (30 May 1993)

4) Takei Emi (25 Dec 1993)

5) Shida Mirai (10 May 1993)

6) Kojima Ruriko (23 Dec 1993)

7) Yamamoto Sayaka / NMB48 (14 Jul 1993)

8) Watanabe Mayu / AKB48 (26 Mar 1993)

9) Nakajima Kento / Sexy Zone (13 Mar 1993)

10) Yamada Ryosuke / Hey!Say!Jump (9 May 1993)

Source: Oricon

Completion press conference of movie "Nishino Yukihiko no Koi to Bouken"

The completion press conference of movie "Nishino Yukihiko no Koi to Bouken" was held on 14 January which was attended by the cast Takenouchi Yutaka, Ono Machiko, Narumi Riko, Kimura Fumino, Honda Tsubasa, Asou Kumiko, Agawa Sawako, Nakamura Yurika and the director Iguchi Nami.

Takenouchi revealed that the first scene he had with Ono was a bed scene and they were told by Iguchi to behave 10 times more intimately than they did during the rehearsal which made them very embarrassed. Both of them were waiting for the director to shout "cut" but she kept rolling the camera and claimed that she was too engrossed and forgot to shout "cut". They had to do the same scene for 3 times and really thought that the director was sadistic for putting them through such "torture". With response to this, Iguchi said that she was glad that the cast exceeded her expectations and made the movie much better than it appeared on the script.

The female cast also praised Takenouchi in many ways where Ono said that he made her feel as if she was loved and accepted for who she was while Asou gushed about how charming and handsome he was and was easily swept off her feet when he looked at her in the eye. Honda also commented that she felt as if Takenouchi's eyes were sucking her into him and blushed at the mention of this. In response, Takenouchi called himself a typical Japanese guy who is probably not easy to understand so he regards people like Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen as the ideal men he tries to learn from in order to understand women better and become more popular with the ladies.

The movie "Nishino Yukihiko no Koi to Bouken" is based on the novel by Akutagawa Award winner Kawakami Hiromi and features Takenouchi as a seemingly-perfect man who has great looks, a high-flying career and is good in bed but always gets dumped by the women he dates after some time. The movie will begin its run in cinemas from 8 February.


Karasawa Toshiaki to star in the new movie "In The Hero"

Karasawa Toshiaki will be taking on the lead role in the movie "In The Hero" where he plays Honjo Wataru, the leading suit actor in the film industry who adores Bruce Lee. This is Karasawa's first leading role in a novel since the "20th Century Boys" trilogy 5 years ago. In order to prepare for the role, Karasawa started action training last September and filming will begin in February.

Although Karasawa started out in the entertainment industry as a member of the Toei Action Club, he was never in a Toei movie until now. As he turns 50 this year, he feels that it's an uncanny coincidence that he was approached for this movie which shows the lives of suit actors and how they give youths across the world dreams through the action heroes they play. Karasawa recounted that he was a suit actor for about 5 years since he was 16 and had suffered various injuries such as sprains and bone fractures before moving on to other positions such as extras, costumes and lighting. As such, being someone in a backstage role for so long, he feels that he can understand the feelings of the production staff and the suit actors. However, the training was so tough that he said that there were actions which he thought he could do but his body wouldn't do his bidding. As such, he "complained" that it would have been better if the role came at least 5 years earlier so that he would have an easier time doing the actions.

As for having to imitate Bruce Lee's actions, Karasawa said that it wouldn't be a problem since he already knew Lee's actions since he was in Primary 4. Moreover, he remembered all the English lines Lee had said after recording them and listening to the record repeatedly when he was a kid. Karasawa hopes to do all the action scenes himself without a stuntman but doesn't know if it will be dangerous at all though.

"In The Hero" will be shown in cinemas from this autumn.


Premiere screening of movie "Bilocation"

The premiere screening of movie "Bilocation" was held on 14 January in Tokyo which was attended by the cast members Mizukawa Asami, Takito Kenichi, Sakai Wakana, Asari Yosuke and the director Asato Mari. The movie which is based on the 17th Nippon Horror Novel Award winner novel by Hojo Haruka, talks about the concept of bilocation where a replicate of one's self with the same looks but opposite character hunts down the "original" in order to eliminate the latter.

Mizukawa commented that this is the first time that she had played two roles but they weren't exactly two different people and could be said to be one person in actual fact. As such, it was a complicated yet precious experience for her to play such a role. Sakai who plays a mother that loves her child too much, said that to a woman, love is probably everything to her thus she tried to convey this message rather than try to act like this woman needed to be feared. In the movie, Asari who plays Mizukawa's husband, is the only one who doesn't have a bilocate so he doesn't need to contribute to the horror factor in the film. As for Takito, he kept emphasizing that he is a loving father of three children and not the same as the violent character he plays in the movie.

In conjunction with the concept of opposites in the movie, the film has two versions i.e. front and back which will be shown from different dates. The front version began its run from 18th January while the back version will start showing from 1 February. Both versions will leave the viewers with different impressions of the bilocation concept.


Odagiri Jo to play a terrorist in the drama and movie versions of "S - Saigo no Keisatsukan"

Odagiri Jo will be taking on the role of an international terrorist for the first time in the ongoing TBS Winter 2014 drama "S - Saigo no Keisatsukan" and its upcoming movie version to be shown next year. His character Masaki Keigo is an intelligent but crazy terrorist who describes his occupation as a professional destroyer. He will make his appearance from the 3rd episode onwards (26 January) and be the biggest enemy facing the leads Kamikura and Soga played respectively by Mukai Osamu and Ayano Go.

Source: Sanspo

Nagasaku Hiromi & Eguchi Yosuke work together in WOWOW's new drama "Watashi to iu unmei ni tsuite"

Nagasaku Hiromi and Eguchi Yosuke will be working together in WOWOW's new drama "Watashi to iu unmei ni tsuite" (The destiny that's named me) which will begin its run from 23 March at 10pm on Sundays. The drama which consists of 5 episodes, is based on the novel by Naoki Award winner Shiraishi Kazufumi and the script is written by Okada Yoshikazu who was famous for his past dramas such as "Chura-san" and "Ohisama". Nagasaku plays a career woman Aki struggling to survive while living through the post-bubble economy era and experiencing various key happenings shaking the world e.g. the 911 terrorist attacks and 2004 Niigata earthquake. Her former boyfriend Yasushi who has an integral part to play in Aki's life, will be played by Eguchi. As for Aki's mother Sachiko, she will be played by Miyamoto Nobuko.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

First-day-screening of movie "Kuroshitsuji"

The first-day-screening of movie "Kuroshitsuji" was held at Shinjuku Picadilly on 18 January which was attended by the cast Mizushima Hiro,Gouriki Ayame, Yuka, Yamamoto Mizuki and the director Otani Kentaro. This film also marks the return of Mizushima as an actor since his last movie "BECK" in September 2010 and subsequent career switch to a writer. The cast were in tears because they were touched to be able to reach the day when the movie was finally released. Yamamoto was touched that her favourite comic had been made into a movie and she had been part of it while Mizushima was thankful at being given a chance to return to movies through this film. As for Gouriki, she expressed her apprehension at being Mizushima's co-star for such an important film in his career but was very glad to have met him and learnt the joys of acting through him. In contrast with her co-stars, Yuka proclaimed that she was not going to cry on a such happy day and even praised Mizushima for being a nice guy.

Source: Sanspo

"Ieji" nominated in the Panorama category of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival

The movie "Ieji" starring Matsuyama Kenichi has been nominated in the Panorama category of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival which is due to be held in Germany from 6 February. The movie which will be shown in Japan from 1 March, is directed by Kubota Nao and shot entirely on location in Fukushima Prefecture. This is the first time that Matsuyama has a film taking part in the Berlin International Film Festival which is regarded as one of the top 3 film festivals in the world and he commented that he was deeply honoured that the movie was selected and looks forward to seeing how the foreign audience will react to the film. Both Kubota and Matsuyama are expected to be in Berlin for the film festival.

"Ieji" is the story about the revival of a family after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crisis which hit in 2011 and is the first movie from Kubota who had won numerous awards in the past as a documentary director.

Source: Sanspo

Jiei Hospital asks for the termination of NTV Winter 2014 drama "Ashita Mama ga inai"

Jiei Hospital which is located in Kumamoto City and hosts the nation's only baby post box which takes in children abandoned by their parents on an anonymous basis, raised its objections regarding NTV's Winter 2014 drama "Ashita Mama ga inai" for its incorrect and prejudiced portrayal of the children and staff in children's welfare facilities and has asked for the termination of the drama as of 16 January. The hospital is also planning to file a motion against the drama with the Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization (BPO).

The drama which began its run on 15 January, talks about the plight of the children living in a welfare home as they are unable to live with their mothers for a variety of reasons. The hospital took offense with the fact that the key character played by Ashida Mana had the nickname "Post" which was in reference to the fact that she was dumped at the baby post box by her mother. It said that this was an added insult and blow to the children in welfare homes and that the emotional torture by the staff towards the children and invasion of human rights in the drama was definitely not the case in reality.

In response, NTV commented that the purpose of the drama is mainly to show the strength and innocence in the children as they cope with the tough circumstances and how they see love from their viewpoints. As such, there will be developments in the drama showing how people love these children. In view of this, NTV said that the broadcast of the drama will proceed as planned and hoped that the hospital will view the entire drama in order to understand the message it is trying to convey rather than jump to conclusions based on the first episode only.

Source: Sponichi

Comments: Actually, this isn't the first time NTV had complaints about its dramas. As far as I can remember, "Joou no Kyoshitsu" also had the same problem initially because Amami Yuki's character was a total devil towards the kids. "14-sai no Haha" also suffered some backlash because of its controversial theme. Whenever NTV does something which is socially-controversial, I think it's inevitable that people will react in vastly different ways. However, asking for the drama to be cancelled may be too much of a knee-jerk reaction since NTV just showed one episode. I understand where the hospital is coming from and its concerns but ultimately, this is a dramatic expression of a social issue. Of course, the majority of the people working in the industry are kind and don't treat children like how they do in the drama but I don't think people will discriminate against the staff just because of this drama. Like what NTV says, perhaps watching till the end will give a more well-rounded perspective of why they want to produce this drama and what kind of message it is trying to convey at the end.

Narumi Riko reportedly dating model Yamashita Shohei?

Narumi Riko is said to be dating model Yamashita Shohei who is two years older than her, according to the 17 Jan issue of FRIDAY. The two were caught on dates together and smoking outside a restaurant with two other friends. In addition, Yamashita was said to have spent the night at Narumi's apartment. However, when asked about the report, Narumi's agency said that the two of them are just good friends.

Yamashita became well-known in the fashion scene last year when he took part in the Paris Men's Collection.

Source: Sanspo

Hashimoto Ai to star in 2-part movie "Little Forest"

Hashimoto Ai will be starring in the two-part movie "Little Forest" where part 1 set during summer and autumn is due to be shown from 30 August and the sequel set during winter and spring to be screened from 14 February 2015. Filming is expected to take place over a year in Iwate Prefecture where the story is set in and had started in July last year The movie which is based on the comic by Igarashi Daisuke, features Hashimoto as the lead character Ichiko who finds it difficult to survive in the city and decides to return to her hometown in the mountain to live a self-sufficient life. As she has to play the role of a farmer in the movie, Hashimoto said that she realised how tough it was to have to wake up early to collect the ingredients needed for breakfast but also thought it was a good thing to be able to use in-season items for cooking. Co-stars include GMT47's leader Matsuoka Mayu who plays Ichiko's childhood friend as well as Miura Takahiro, Nukumizu Yoichi and Kirishima Karen.

Source: Sanspo 1 / Sanspo 2

"Furuhata Ninzaburo" to be released in Blu-ray format to mark its 20th anniversary

The hit TV drama series "Furuhata Ninzaburo" will be released as a Blu-ray DVD box set on 30 May to mark its 20th anniversary since its first broadcast in 1994. The box set titled "Furuhata Ninzaburo COMPLETE Blu-ray BOX will be sold at 53,200 yen each and contains the three drama series shown in 1994, 1996 and 1999 as well as 8 drama SPs shown after the series ended.

Source: Sanspo

Production press conference of Winter 2014 drama "Watashi no Kirai na Tantei"

The production press conference of TV Asahi's Winter 2014 drama "Watashi no Kirai na Tantei" was held on 14 January which was attended by its leads Gouriki Ayame and Tamaki Hiroshi. The drama began its run from 17 January at 11.15pm on Fridays. Gouriki plays a rich university student who is a mystery enthusiast and works with private detective Tamaki to solve cases. As the press conference happened to be held on Tamaki's birthday, Gouriki wished that she would become a famous and well-loved detective partners with her co-star and asked for his support. When asked if their characters might fall in love in the drama, Tamaki jokingly said that they would probably have this development in the story if he wished for it.

Source: Sponichi

Kitamura Yukiya to be the guest star in Episode 3 of "Fukuie Keibuho no Aisatsu"

Kitamura Yukiya will be taking on the guest star role of a murderer in the 3rd episode of FujiTV's Winter 2014 drama "Fukuie Keibuho no Aisatsu" to be shown on 28 January. He plays the character Arai who is the president of a figurine production company who accidentally killed a freelance sculpter Nishimura more than 10 years ago due to an imitation scandal. With regard to this role, Kitamura said that he has been playing police detectives a lot recently so it's been a long time since he played the criminal.

Source: Sponichi

Production press conference of NTV drama "Oie-san"

The production press conference of NHK's new drama "Oie-san" was held on 13 January which was attended by cast members such as Amami Yuki, Oguri Shun and Izumi Pinko. The broadcast of this drama is set to be within 2014 but the date hasn't been confirmed yet. Amami plays the lead role of the female boss of a sugar wholesaler in Kobe who grows the business to become a huge company. Although this is the first time Amami is working with Oguri, she praised him for being a passionate actor while Izumi was visibly excited and said that it was a joy to work with a fine man like Oguri.

Source: Sanspo

Takahashi Katsunori to star in NHK spring 2014 drama "Koohiya no Hitobito"

Takahashi Katsunori will be taking on the lead role in the NHK spring 2014 drama "Koohiya no Hitobito" (The people at the coffee house) which begins its run from 6 April at 10pm on Sundays via NHK BS. He plays the role of Kyosuke, the owner of a retro coffee house located in the suburbs of Tokyo and uses his coffee to bring happiness to the troubled who visit his shop. Unknown to many, he has a secret past where he killed someone before. Co-stars include Kimura Tae who plays the wife of the man Kyosuke killed as a well as the coffee house's customers such as Kurashina Kana, Yajima Norito, Watanabe Eri, Yoshiyuki Kazuko and Kobayashi Nenji.

Source: Sanspo

Nagai Masaru and Nakagoshi Noriko to get married soon?

Nagai Masaru and Nakagoshi Noriko are said to be getting married soon after a four-year courtship, as reported on 12 January. The couple are said to have informed their parents and respective agencies about their plans and they will be submitting their wedding application after selecting a suitable day which matches their schedules.

According to the report, Nagai and Nakagoshi started dating in the spring of 2010 after working together in TV Asahi's drama "Salaryman Kintaro 2" and decided to get married during winter last year after a minor squabble which led to Nagai proposing to Nakagoshi later. Soon after she accepted his proposal, Nagai introduced his fiancee to his parents and she also informed her parents after the New Year holidays. Both of them are living together.

It is expected that Nagai will give his comments about his impending marriage during a PR event for a tour agency to be held on 19 January.

Source: Sponichi

First-episode-screening event of Winter 2014 drama "Fukuie Keibuho no Aisatsu"

The first-episode-screening event of FujiTV's Winter 2014 drama "Fukuie Keibuho no Aisatsu" was held on 12 January which was attended by the cast Dan Rei, Inagaki Goro and Emoto Tokio. The drama began its run from 14 January at 9pm on Tuesdays. Dan plays an unconventional police detective who's not concerned about her image and always sports a messy hairstyle in contrast to her prim and proper superior played by Inagaki who is a strict follower of rules. Dan remarked that this was the first time she had taken on a role who doesn't even care whether her spectacles are crooked and she hopes to mess up Inagaki's character's image to which he welcomed her "challenge".

Source: Sponichi

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Top 10 highest single-episode ratings ranking for dramas in 2013 (Oricon)

1) Hanzawa Naoki Last Episode (TBS) - 42.2%

2) Gochisousan Ep 15 (NHK) - 27.3%

3) Ama-chan Ep 145 (NHK) - 27.0%

4) Doctor X ~ Gekkai Daimon Michiko ~ Last Episode (TV Asahi) - 26.9%

5) 24 Jikan Terebi SP - Kyou no hi wa sayounara (NTV)  - 23.4%

6) Galileo Ep 1 (FujiTV) - 22.6%

7) DOCTORS 2 Last Episode (TV Asahi) - 21.7%

8) Yae no Sakura Ep 1 (NHK) - 21.4%

9) Legal High Ep 1 (FujiTV) - 21.2%

10) Aibou Season 11 Last Episode (TV Asahi) - 20.7%

Source: Oricon

Sakaguchi Kenji to get married soon; to be a father this summer

Sakaguchi Kenji is said to be getting married soon to a restaurant owner 6 years younger than him as reported on 10 Jan. His fiancee whose hometown is in Kyoto, is reportedly 3 months' pregnant and due to give birth this summer. According to insiders, the couple had met last summer when Sakaguchi's buddy Ito Hideaki brought him to the restaurant operated by Sakaguchi's fiancee which resulted in them becoming friends. At that time, Sakaguchi had just ended a relationship with model Sakurai Yumi and was feeling rather low but thanks to his fiancee, he recovered quickly and started a relationship with her soon after. The couple had already met each other's families during the New Year holidays and are preparing to submit their marriage application soon. It was also believed that Sakaguchi had also made an announcement about his upcoming marriage and impending fatherhood to the cast and crew of his new drama "Iryu 4 ~ Team Medical Dragon".

Source: Sanspo

An and Higashide Masahiro rumoured to be dating?

An and Higashide Masahiro who are currently playing a married couple in the NHK morning drama "Gochisousan", are said to be dating in real life as well, according to the 6th Jan issue of "Josei Seven". According to the magazine, the two of them were said to have spent the New Year holidays at Higashide's hometown in Saitama Prefecture and photos of them buying stuff at a nearby home centre were also published in the article. An and Higashide had last appeared together on the NHK Kouhaku Utagassen on New Year's Eve while introducing Yuzu's theme song for their drama.

With regard to the report, An's agency said that they are merely co-stars who get on very well with each other.

Source: Sanspo

Production press conference of FujiTV Winter 2014 drama "Lost Days"

The production press conference of FujiTV Winter 2014 drama "Lost Days" was held on 10 January which was attended by the cast members Seto Koji, Ishibashi Anna, Triendl Reina, Yoshizawa Ryo, Kojima Fujiko, Miyoshi Ayaka and Kiriyama Ren. The drama features the cast as a group of university students on a graduation trip at a winter mountain mansion but a murder takes place there thus revealing that all is not well within this group of seemingly close friends.

As the theme of the drama is "everyone has a secret", the cast were asked to reveal their secrets. Seto said that he had been told by a fortune teller when he was 20 that he would get married by 25. However, it is only 4 months to his 26th birthday and asked if anyone wanted to marry him before his birthday in May. As for Ishibashi, she said that she was obsessed with waiting to see baseball players after their training sessions and would hang out at Fukuoka Dome frequently for this purpose when she was much younger. Triendl revealed that she has a habit of visiting the seafood section of a supermarket almost every day and feels that her stress is removed when she speaks to the staff and buys fresh seafood there.

Source: Sponichi

Production press conference of TBS Winter 2014 drama "Yoru no Sensei"

The production press conference of TBS Winter 2014 drama "Yoru no Sensei" was held on 9 January in Yokohama which was attended by cast members such as Mizuki Arisa, Yamamoto Koji, Yamamoto Maika and Orimoto Junkichi. The drama begins its run from 17 January at 10pm on Fridays and features Mizuki as a newbie teacher who used to be a mamasan of a snack bar and solves the problems of her students from a wide variety of age groups. The theme song of the drama "Anchor" will be sung by Miura Daichi.

Source: Sanspo

Kawaguchi Haruna & Fukushi Souta to work together in the summer movie "Sukitte Iinayo"

Kawaguchi Haruna and Fukushi Souta will be co-starring for the first time in the new movie "Sukitte Iinayo" (Say You Love Me) which is due to be released in cinemas this summer. The movie which is based on the bestselling manga by Hazuki Kanae that had sold more than 5.3 million copies to date, features Kawaguchi as Mei, a plain senior high school student who has been without a boyfriend for 16 years i.e. since she was born and she later becomes lovers with Yamato (Fukushi), the most popular guy in school after an accidental kiss. In order to prepare for this role, Kawaguchi cut her hair by 20cm. Although Kawaguchi and Fukushi are both from the same agency, they have never worked together in a movie until this film.

Source: Sanspo

Production press conference of FujiTV Winter 2014 drama "Shitsuren Chocolatier"

The production press conference of FujiTV Winter 2014 drama "Shitsuren Chocolatier" was held on 9 January which was attended by the cast Matsumoto Jun, Ishihara Satomi, Mizukawa Asami, Mizuhara Kiko, Mizobata Junpei and Arimura Kasumi. The drama which begins its run from 13 January at 9pm on Mondays, describes how Matsumoto's character Souta resolves to be a chocolatier for the sake of his former girlfriend Saeko played by Ishihara who dumped him before Valentine's Day and hopes to win her back despite her being married.

When asked about her Valentine's Day memories, Ishihara revealed that she used to make chocolate for four years from the first year of junior high for a senior two years older than her. However, she was shocked when that senior's buddy came to tell her that he hated chocolate. On the other hand, as there are many day-dreaming scenes by Souta where he imagines Saeko in various situations such as in a bathtub filled with chocolate, Ishihara said that it was tough having to act in those imagination scenes and said that viewers will be in for a visual treat because they will get to see the various strange facial expressions of Matsumoto.

Source: Sanspo

Production press conference of TBS Winter 2014 drama "Dr. DMAT"

The production press conference of TBS Winter 2014 drama "Dr. DMAT" was held on 7 January in Yokohama which was attended by the cast members Kanjani 8's Okura Tadayoshi, Kato Ai, Kunimura Jun, Aso Yumi, Ishiguro Ken, Takimoto Miori, Sato Jiro and Hey! Say! JUMP's Takaki Yuya. The drama describes the extreme conditions faced by the DMAT team when they provide medical treatment at disaster-struck areas.

Source: Sponichi

Production press conference of "S - Saigo no Keisatsukan"; movie sequel announcement also made

The production press conference and screening of TBS Winter 2014 drama "S - Saigo no Keisatsukan" was held in Tokyo which was attended by the cast Mukai Osamu, Ayano Go, Oomori Nao, Fukiishi Kazue and Ikeuchi Hiroyuki. The drama begins its run from 12 January at 9pm on Sundays. It was also announced during the event that there will be a movie sequel made and shown next year even though the drama hasn't even begun its run and this is the first attempt by TBS. Mukai revealed that in order to look the role of a special forces member, he has been going to the gym since September and even quit smoking. However, his co-star Ayano teased him that he is going to end his no-smoking period soon to which Mukai replied that maybe he can last till the filming of the drama ends.

Source: Sponichi

Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Iryu 4 ~ Team Medical Dragon" goes to India for location shooting of its intro video

The production crew of "Iryu 4 ~ Team Medical Dragon" went to India's Delhi and Doida for the shooting of its intro video which will be shown before each episode from Ep 2 onwards. Takahashi Katsunori who plays an international management consultant in the drama, went there for the filming and commented that it had been a culture shock for him since it was his first visit to India and he had to look the part as the consultant who has a sharp eye at spotting business opportunities.

Source: Sanspo

Production press conference of TV Asahi Winter 2014 drama "Kinkyuu Torishirabeshitsu"

The production press conference of TV Asahi's Winter 2014 drama "Kinkyuu Torishirabeshitsu" was held on 6 Jan which was attended by the lead cast members Amami Yuki, Tanaka Tetsushi, Hayami Mokomichi, Suzuki Kosuke, Sasai Eisuke, Kusakari Masao, Denden, Osugi Ren, Kohinata Fumio as well as the scriptwriter Inoue Yumiko. In order to pray for the success of the drama, there was also a rice-cake making session held during the event.

Amami cut her long hair by 20cm for the first time in 10 years in order to play the role of an interrogation expert within a team made up entirely by men. She commented that she wanted to look sharp for the role and was pleased with the fact that the short hairstyle also made it easier for her to manage. Amami also revealed that her male co-stars like Tanaka, Denden, Osugi and Kohinata would sometimes get too carried away with chit-chatting before the camera started rolling and she would have to remind them "loudly" that the filming is starting.

Source: Sponichi

Production press conference of FujiTV Winter 2014 drama "Team Batista 4 Raden Meikyuu"

The production press conference of FujiTV Winter 2014 drama "Team Batista 4 Raden Meikyuu" was held on 6 Jan which was attended by its cast members Ito Atsushi, Nakamura Toru, Kuriyama Chiaki, Mizuno Miki and Yanagiba Toshiro. Ito and Nakamura will take on the same roles of a psychology therapist and an official from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare who are going to investigate a case involving terminal care of dying patients involving a local hospital managed by Yanagiba's character. His daughters are played by Mizuno and Kuriyama.

This is the first doctor role for Kuriyama who expressed her nervousness but hopes to make it till the end with the support of her colleagues. There are many medical terms for her to memorise and the operation scenes were especially difficult for her as she plays a gynecologist. In addition, her character Sumire doesn't project the usual image people expect of doctors because she goes around wearing printed pants and can be said to have a weird fashion sense so Kuriyama was also worried if people would have problems accepting her image as a doctor.

As for Mizuno who plays the role of the elder sister Sayuri, a doctor specialising in palliative care and the assistant director of the hospital, she explained that due to a past incident, Sayuri had become somewhat willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of her father, family and the hospital. Sayuri will look very suspicious as the criminal especially in the first part of the story but Mizuno herself has no idea what will happen after that. She also expressed her joy in the operation scenes she had to film so far and said that they were interesting.

When asked about her 14-year age gap with Yanagiba and having to play his daughter despite the small gap, Mizuno said that she never dreamed that she would get to play his daughter and revealed that Yanagiba had already "complained" about this when they met for the first script-reading meeting. As such, she is trying her best to use makeup to let herself appear younger so that she looks convincing as his daughter.

Source: Sponichi

First episode of 2014 NHK Taiga "Gunshi Kanbee" gets 18.9% in Kanto region

The first episode of 2014 NHK Taiga drama "Gunshi Kanbee" shown on 5 January got a rating of 18.9% in the Kanto region and 23% in the Kansai region. This was lower than the premiere ratings of last year's Taiga "Yae no Sakura" starring Ayase Haruka and only slightly higher than 2012's "Taira no Kiyomori" which got 17.3% on its debut (the lowest premiere figure for the past 10 years). "Gunshi Kanbee" is the 53rd Taiga drama which describes the life of Kuroda Kanbee, the genius adviser to Toyotomi Hideyoshi during the warring era and features V6's Okada Junichi as Kuroda.

Source: Sponichi

Prayer ceremony for FujiTV Winter 2014 drama "Boku no Ita Jikan"

The cast of FujiTV's Winter 2014 drama "Boku no Ita Jikan" including Miura Haruma, Tabe Mikako, Saito Takumi and Yamamoto Mizuki attended a prayer ceremony for the success of their drama held at Hie Shrine in Akasaka, Tokyo, on 5 January. The actors were dressed in hakama while the actresses were wearing kimonos for this event.

Source: Sponichi

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Preview of "Watashi no Kirai na Tantei" - Winter 2014

Title: Watashi no Kirai na Tantei
Official website: here
O.A. Start Date: 17 January 2014
Timeslot: Fridays 11.15pm
Broadcast by: TV Asahi
Original novel by: Higashikawa Tokuya
Theme song: Anata no 100 no kirai na tokoro by Gouriki Ayame
Cast: Gouriki Ayame, Tamaki Hiroshi, Shiraishi Shunya, Naito Risa, Shikanuma Yuki, Yasuda Misako, Watanabe Ikkei

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Preview of "Ashita, Mama ga inai" - Winter 2014

Title: Ashita, Mama ga inai
Official website: here
Official Twitter page: here
O.A. Start Date: 15 January 2013
Timeslot: Wednesdays 10pm
Broadcast by: NTV
Cast: Ashida Mana, Suzuki Rio, Miura Shohei, Kimura Fumino, Shirota Yu, Suzuki Sawa, Mikami Hiroshi, Sakurada Hiyori, Watanabe Konomi, Nishimura Kazuhiko, Sakurada Atsuko, Sakai Miki

Monday, January 06, 2014

Preview of "Senryokugai Sousakan" - Winter 2014

Title: Senryokugai Sousakan
Official website: here
Official Twitter page: here
O.A. Start Date: 11 January 2014
Timeslot: Saturdays 9pm
Broadcast by: NTV
Original novel by: Nitadori Kei
Theme song: Love Story by EXILE TAKAHIRO
Cast: Takei Emi, TAKAHIRO, Yashima Norito, Tokushige Satoshi, Kinoshita Takayuki, Hamada Mari, Nomaguchi Toru, Shibuya Kento, Tezuka Toru, Mizusawa Erena, Koyabu Kazutoyo, Sano Shiro, Ibuki Goro, YOU, Emoto Akira, Sekine Tsutomu, Kitagawa Hiromi

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Top 10 bestselling movies of 2013 (Oricon)

Figures in brackets indicate the amount of estimated box office takings:

1) Kazetachinu (JPY 12 billion)

2) Monsters University (JPY 8.96 billion)

3) ONE PIECE FILM Z (JPY 6.85 billion)

4) Les Miserables (JPY 5.93 billion)

5) TED (JPY 4.2 billion)

6) Eiga Doraemon Nobita no Himitsu Douguu Museum (JPY 3.98 billion)

7) Meitantei Conan Private Eye (JPY 3.63 billion)

8) Manatsu no Houteishiki (JPY 3.31 billion)

9) Eiga Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de (JPY 3.25 billion)

10) Gekijouban Pocket Monster Best Wish Jinsoku no Genosekuto Myuutsuu Kakusei (JPY 3.17 billion)

Source: Oricon

Toda Naho announces her second pregnancy, due to give birth in late May

Toda Naho announced through a fax statement on 5 January that she is currently six months' pregnant with her second child and is due to give birth in late May. For the time being, she will continue with work assignments such as narration and depending on her condition after giving birth, decide on when to return to work fully.

Toda got married to a doctor of the same age as her in October 2010 and gave birth to their first daughter in December 2012. She comes from a family of dentists where her younger brother Toda Kohei used to be a singer and is a dentist now and her younger sister Maiko is also married to a doctor.

Source: Sponichi

Preview of "Isharyou Bengoshi" - Winter 2014

Title: Isharyou Bengoshi
Official website: here
O.A. Start Date: 9 January 2014
Timeslot: Thursdays 11.59pm
Broadcast by: NTV / Yomiuri TV
Theme song: Nakitai Bokura by fumika
Cast: Tanaka Naoki, Yada Akiko, Watanabe Naomi, Yamada Nana (NMB48), Takashima Kaho, Iwasaki Nami, Miho Jun

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Preview of "S - Saigo no Keisatsukan" - Winter 2014

Title: S - Saigo no Keisatsukan
Official website: here
Official Twitter page: here
O.A. Start Date: 12 January 2014
Timeslot: Sundays 8.54pm
Broadcast by: TBS
Original manga by: Komori Youichi and Toudou Yutaka
Theme song: Boku wa Pegasus Kimi wa Polaris by MISIA
Cast: Mukai Osamu, Ayano Go, Fukiishi Kazue, Ikeuchi Hiroyuki, Hirayama Hiroyuki, Takahashi Tsutomu, Hirayama Yusuke、Motomiya Yasukaze, Fuchikami Yasushi, Fuse Eri, Asakura Erika, Asaka Mayumi, Sugawara Daikichi, Kondo Masaomi, Omori Nao, Tsuchiya Anna

Friday, January 03, 2014

Preview of "Yoru no Sensei" - Winter 2014

Title: Yoru no Sensei
Official website: here
O.A. Start Date: 17 January 2014
Timeslot: Fridays 10pm
Broadcast by: TBS
Theme song: Anchor by Miura Daichi
Cast: Mizuki Arisa, Renbutsu Misako, Tanaka Kei, Omasa Aya, Takahashi Issei, Orimoto Junkichi, Mitsuishi Ken, Okura Koji, Horiuchi Keiko, Sasano Takashi, Yamamoto Koji