Friday, May 30, 2014

Review of Platina Data (movie)

After all that anticipation before the screening, it is extremely disappointing for me to say that this movie really does not match up to the excellent novel by Higashino Keigo. At the point when cast announcements were made, that set off the first warning bell for me because I saw some very significant and radical changes in the lineup and was wondering what the production crew was up to. I tried to brush off the nagging thought that the movie would be very different from the novel and these differences may result in the downfall of the film but never did I expect it to be till this extent. Although I watched this movie more than a year ago, it has taken me so long to post this because I kept stopping halfway and re-writing it. I don't want to appear as overly-critical but yet, I think this movie needs a good thrashing for spoiling the well-crafted source material.

From this point onward, there will be lots of spoilers so please skip this post immediately if you haven't watched this movie and do not wish to find out about the ending. In addition, this post will be rather long so in case you do not wish to read this lengthy post, please skip this. Last but not least, the usual disclaimer: this review is purely based on my own views so please do not get overly upset over this. You may not agree with my opinion but I hope that at least by reading this, it offers a different perspective on the film and I welcome all forms of constructive comments on the points raised.

If you've read my earlier post about Platina Data's novel, it is obvious that I was very impressed with it. On hindsight, this makes me wonder if it had been a bad move for me to read the novel ahead of watching this movie. Then again, after watching the movie, there were still question marks hanging around because the story had chose to skip some important facts or alter them which somehow did not make a lot of sense. As such, I think even if I had not read the novel first, it would not have helped or boost my liking for the film anyway. The only thing it would have done was to cover the illogical parts of the movie so that I wouldn't notice them.

To begin with, let me start with a brief synopsis of the movie. The story is set in an unspecified year in the near future where the development of a DNA investigation system helps to reduce the likelihood of false accusations to zero and the rate of arresting criminals raised to 100%. As the system captures the DNA information of everyone in the nation, there are concerns over privacy and abuse of the data but due to the amazing results it achieves, the system is seen as an absolute necessity rather than a potential evil. At the centre of this system is its developer Kagura Ryuhei (Ninomiya Kazunari) who has total faith in what he has achieved and is sure that it can do no wrong. On the other end of the spectrum stands police detective Asama Reiji (Toyokawa Etsushi) who is somewhat convinced that the system is indeed useful but also holds doubts towards its legitimacy and how it has affected the way police do their work i.e. being over-reliant on the system's results.

The film starts with Asama visiting the crime scene of where the body of a child was found where he is then called back to the police headquarters to attend a briefing by Kagura where he declares that the DNA investigation system had churned out the possible match of a man who was responsible for the serial murders of a number of children. During the briefing, it is also mentioned that this man is a relative of a woman named Yamashita Ikue. True to what Kagura had said, the police manage to nab the culprit whose characteristics match the DNA matching results. However, alarm bells ring in Asama's mind as Yamashita is not a criminal nor a victim of crime so there was no way Kagura could have obtained Yamashita's DNA to match with the criminal. And that is what leads to Asama finding out about the DNA investigation system and having concerns over the legitimacy of collecting people's DNA samples and using them for this purpose. However, Kagura has no qualms over doing this and says that even though the method of collecting the DNA samples is illegal now, there will be new legislation passed to make it legal soon. Kagura clearly is proud of his system and its usefulness and likens the information stored in this system as "platinum data".

Soon after, the Tateshina siblings i.e. Kosaku (Wada Soukou) and Saki (Mizuhara Kiko) are found dead at the hospital ward where Kagura has been receiving psychiatric treatment from his doctor Minakami Eriko (Suzuki Honami). The siblings had been staying there while Saki, an autistic mathematics genius, developed the DNA system together with Kagura. Just before they died, Kosaku had told Kagura that the DNA investigation system was flawed and they were developing this patch named "Mogul" to make the system complete. However, before they could tell Kagura more about Mogul or pass him the information, they were murdered. What's astonishing is that the DNA sample found on Saki's clothes match Kagura's which effectively pinpoints him as the most likely suspect of the murders!

Kagura cannot believe what the system has come up with and starts to wonder if it has anything to do with the other personality residing inside him. Years ago, after Kagura's father committed suicide, he started to have some periods of time where he would pass out and had no recollection of what happened during then. Later, after receiving treatment from Minakami, it was found that there was this other personality named Ryu residing inside Kagura and Ryu would come out from time to time thus rendering Kagura unaware of what he did. As Kagura is convinced that he did not kill the Tateshina brothers, the logical explanation was that Ryu could be responsible since his own DNA was found on Saki.

However, before he can actually attempt to prove his innocence, the police realise that Kagura's DNA matches what was found on Saki and launch a manhunt on him. With the help of Kagura's superior Shiga (Namase Katsuhisa) who launches a digital hunt on Kagura using the surveillance cameras everywhere, they manage to pinpoint Kagura's whereabouts so accurately but by a stroke of luck, Kagura manages to evade the police. Asama is not entirely convinced that Kagura is the killer but the DNA match is proving to be such a strong piece of evidence that it is difficult to prove otherwise. At the same time, Kagura's subordinate Shiratori Risa (An) renders some help to Kagura in the hope that he can retrieve the Mogul which the US government is also interested in. Having no choice, Kagura decides to go and look for the Mogul in a bid to prove that he's not guilty of the murders. However, before he can find anything, Shiratori is murdered by someone which leads Asama to conclude that someone else is the killer and wants to push the blame to Kagura instead.

Asama attempts to get in touch with Kagura who is sceptical about the offer of assistance but now that Shiratori is dead too, Kagura decides to enlist Asama's help in finding Mogul and the true killer. Little does he expect that the culprit is the person he trusted most i.e. Minakami who actually has the ambition to create humans without any genetic deficiencies or flaws in any way and that the "best" humans should be the ones living in this world from now on. The DNA system itself is flawed because it conceals the data of the rich and powerful thus resulting in NF matches. The Tateshina siblings came to realise the flaw and wanted to correct the mistake so that those in power would not be able to get away with anything so Minakami had to kill them in order to prevent the Mogul from being implemented into the system. At the same time, Asama finds the Mogul patch concealed by Saki in one of the paintings Ryu did and manages to put it into the DNA system thus churning out the matches against the previous NF samples. In the end, Kagura has no choice but to kill Minakami whose warped ideals even leads her to combine the DNA of Kagura and Saki (she stole a rib from Saki's body when the latter was murdered) to form a baby who she deems as the perfect human.

As I list down the key differences between the movie and the novel, I will explain why I think the omission or amendment to some of these developments or settings affected the movie:

Kagura and Asama's first meeting was under different circumstances as compared to what the movie had depicted. The novel describes the first meeting as Asama being at the crime scene of a woman found dead in a hotel room and this type of case where women were found to have used a device called "Dentori" which introduces a weak electrical wave through the body by putting its metal clips on the ears to give the user a "high" feeling different to that experienced when taking drugs. Although it was assumed that the victim had used Dentori prior to her death possibly to heighten sexual pleasure, there was no trace of semen from her body. Thankfully, the investigators found some strands of hair which Asama was told by his superior to bring to SARI (Special Analysis Research Institute) where Kagura and Shiga work at and that at this point in time, Asama knows nothing about the DNA investigation system yet. It is only two days later when he attended the briefing that he comes to know about the system.

The same process of nabbing the criminal happens in the novel but the case which this guy is responsible for has been changed in the movie. And in actual fact, the Dentori was never mentioned in the movie which I assume to be related to the gender change of Minakami's role. A woman would not have been able to have sexual intercourse with the female victims mentioned in the novel so that was why I didn't understand at first why Minakami's gender was changed. Due to the fact that the case used in the movie was different, that made the gender change reasonable but I still don't see why it was necessary in the first place. I would have preferred what the novel had as compared to the warped motive in this movie.

In the novel, the relationship between Asama and Kagura was depicted in such a way that when the latter grew to trust Asama in his moment of crisis and vice versa, it was believable and understandable why they would behave in this manner. Even though they held different stands towards the DNA investigation system, they did not have any ill will against each other and probably had developed respect for each other towards the end of the story. However, in the movie, there was no indication or evidence which led Asama to start believing in Kagura and for Kagura to trust Asama so it felt as if they suddenly decided that what they saw i.e. the DNA evidence was not the truth.

Shiratori Risa isn't Kagura's subordinate nor colleague as featured in the movie. In the novel, she is sent by the US government to Japan on the pretext of learning more about the DNA investigation system which explains why she wanted Kagura to find Mogul for the US government. However, the movie omits this part about her background thus making it bewildering why a Japanese civil servant like Shiratori who is working under Kagura should order him to find Mogul for a foreign country instead. As such, when she was able to avoid arousing any suspicion earlier on when helping Kagura escape from the authorities, it was stranger because an ordinary civil servant like her should not have been able to do that.

In the novel, there is this character Suzuran who is obviously missing from the movie. She is actually a very important character but the complexity of the subplot involving Suzuran, Kagura and Ryu would have meant that the movie needed to deviate a fair bit from the main storyline. Actually, Suzuran is not a brand new character but rather, she is a product of Kagura's imagination which was modelled on Saki. Given that the limited time in a single movie, this was probably why this essential subplot was taken out of the movie. Frankly speaking, I think it was a pity that this had to be done. There was really too little about Ryu in the movie and coupled with the elimination of Suzuran's presence, there were only random scenes like this meeting in the rain between Ryu and Saki which hinted at their emotional connection. I thought they were a rather cute couple especially in that scene where they did not kiss but were merely putting their faces close to each other and rubbing their noses.

One of the biggest flaws with this movie was how they handled the issue of Kagura's father's death. In actual fact, he didn't die just because his son had mistakenly thought that an imitation pottery work was his own creation. There was a far stronger reason which hurt his pride as a pottery artist but the film chose to gloss over the fact and simply brushed off the issue like this. This is actually no small matter considering that the dual personality problem in Kagura appeared after his father's suicide. You can argue either way that Ryu was the original childhood personality in Kagura while the latter was one born out of the necessity to survive against the harsh truth. In another way, Kagura could have been the dominant personality in the past but Ryu was born in a bid to hide from the truth. Either way, the suicide of his father was a big thing to him and the reason behind him was what led Kagura to believe so strongly in science or rather the DNA investigation system which has no grey areas and is supposed to be 100% accurate. If the time spent on that very long motorcycle chase scene could have been cut, it could have been used on more important developments in the story.

Last but not least, the ending of the movie left much to be desired as it made Kagura responsible for the killing of Minakami whereas the ending in the novel was much more realistic and acceptable, albeit a bit unsatisfying due to the fact that justice wasn't really upheld in the end. I also didn't like the fact that in the final scene, Kagura and Asama were dressed in black and white as they said their goodbyes as if to emphasize the message of good vs. evil or show the positions of these two men at opposite ends of the spectrum. If they had followed the exact storyline in the novel, it would have been a much better ending for both men. At least, that's how I feel about it.

As for the performance of the cast, I thought that Ninomiya and Toyokawa both fitted their roles' image and showed reasonably good acting. However, due to the poor script which was full of loopholes, I think it hampered the development of the characters to the extent that Kagura felt like someone who was arrogant and confident about his work for no apparent reason while Asama was stubborn about not believing the DNA system and suddenly believed Kagura's innocence. The truth is, there were various happenings in their background stories and thoughts which were not fully represented in the movie thus it made these characters feel one-dimensional and their actions incomprehensible at times. At the same time, I simply didn't think that changing Minakami's character to a woman helped the story in any way and honestly, I think that was the biggest reason why this movie flopped. Nothing against Suzuki Honami but if the change was logical and made the story better, I wouldn't mind it. However, looking at how things turned out, I must say that it was a change done in vain. Likewise for An's character Shiratori, she was a bit more interesting in the novel because of her identity as someone working for the US government. In the movie's setting, her status as a civil servant and Kagura's subordinate just made her actions seemed odd. There was very little An could do to change the situation. Mizuhara Kiko does leave quite a deep impression on me whenever I see her works but alas, her scenes as Saki were so limited that there was nothing much we came to know about this character except that she was a soulmate to Ryu and a great help to Kagura in the DNA investigation system project.

And my ratings for this movie...

Story: 2 out of 10 (The basic framework from the novel was there but the story's development itself was too messed up to convey the essence of the novel)

Acting: 6 out of 10 (The two leads were OK but could have been better if the script could give them the space to flex their acting muscles)

Theme song/BGM: 9 out of 10 (I like the theme song especially in the chorus part which resonates with Kagura's unhappy past and what lies ahead a path of pain)

Visual effects / Scenery: 6 out 10 (The DNA investigation set which was used in SARI and the computer system used in Saki's room looked very futuristic and impressive. Other than that, nothing else really caught my eye)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 3 out of 10 (It would have been better if the relationship between Kagura and Asama could be developed further so as to show how they started as people who didn't believe in each other to a relationship built upon trust and understanding.)

Total: 26 out of 50

Yamada Yu currently 6 months' pregnant; due to give birth in September

Oguri Shun and Yamada Yu are expecting their first child who will be due in September this year, as announced by the latter's agency on 29th May. Yamada is currently six months' pregnant.

The couple got married in March 2012 where Yamada had declared during their marriage press conference that she hopes to have at least three kids. She is also expected to announce her pregnancy officially on the TBS programme "Pittanko Kan Kan" showing on 30 May at 7.56pm and will start her maternity leave soon after her fashion book "FASHION ADDICT" is released on her 30th birthday i.e. 5 July.

Yamada had been reported to be pregnant back in April by a female magazine but did not confirm the rumours then when asked by the media. It was said that she wanted to wait for her condition to stabilise before announcing her pregnancy.

Source: Sanspo / Yomiuri Hochi

Monday, May 26, 2014

AKB48 members injured during handshaking event by man wielding saw; performances suspended for the time being

AKB48 which was holding a handshaking event in Takizawa City, Iwate Prefecture, on 25 May, got a rude shock when a man wielding a saw injured two of its members i.e. Kawaei Rina and Iriyama Anna and a male staff member. The man who is 24 years old and from Towada City, Aomori Prefecture, was arrested for alleged attempted murder.

According to the police, the man had queued up to enter a tent used for the handshaking event and had used the saw to hurt the two AKB48 members and the male staff member who rushed to stop him. The saw was a foldable type which was about 25cm long. The two members underwent surgery at a hospital in Morioka City and are scheduled to be discharged on 27 May.

In view of what happened, the performances at the AKB48 Theatre on 26 May will be cancelled and there will be further announcements if and when the performances will resume. Meanwhile, NMB48's 9th performance of the "NMB48 feat. Yoshimoto Shin Kigeki" and the handshaking event at Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, will also be postponed.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun /  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

SPEED's Uehara Takako returns to acting after marriage in FujiTV's Spring 2014 drama "Bitter Blood"

SPEED member Uehara Takako will be the guest star in the 7th episode of ongoing FujiTV Spring 2014 drama "Bitter Blood" which is showing at 9pm on Tuesdays. Ever since Uehara got married to hip-hop unit ET-KING's TENN in August 2012, this is her first appearance in a drama. She will be playing the woman who is on an arranged date with Tanaka Tetsushi's character and the father-and-son combination played by Sato Takeru and Watabe Atsuro suspect that she might be a marriage fraudster when they find out that she is a bar hostess.

Uehara commented that this is the first time she is playing a character with "two faces" and she's glad to work with Tanaka in the drama. As this is also her first time playing a hostess, she hopes that she will be able to show viewers different sides of her through this guest appearance.

Source: Sanspo

Top 10 Liked and Disliked Johnny's Jimusho artistes 2014 (Shukan Josei)

This is the second year which Shukan Josei has conducted this poll. In this year's poll, 1,500 female readers voted for the Johnny's Jimusho artiste they like and dislike the most. Note that the figures in brackets indicate their positions last year while the numbers right behind the names are the number of votes they got this year.

Top 10 Most Liked
1) Sakurai Sho - 107 (1)
2) Kimura Takuya - 88 (5)
3) Nakai Masahiro - 85 (9)
4) Matsumoto Jun - 76 (-)
5) Ohno Satoshi - 71 (3)
6) Okada Junichi - 63 (-)
7) Kamenashi Kazuya - 50 (10) / Aiba Masaki (2)
9) Inohara Yoshihiko - 49 (-)
10) Kusanagi Tsuyoshi - 47 (-) / Yamashita Tomohisa (7)

Top 10 Most Disliked
1) Kimura Takuya - 281 (2)
2) Akanishi Jin - 231 (1)
3) Nakai Masahiro - 114 (3)
4) Kondo Masahiko - 58 (4)
5) Kusanagi Tsuyoshi - 43 (7)
6) Morita Go - 32 (8)
7) Ninomiya Kazunari - 27 (-)
8) Nagase Tomoya - 25 (-) / Kamenashi Kazuya (5)
10) Inagaki Goro - 23 (-)

Most Liked and Disliked Actresses Ranking 2014 (Shukan Bunshun)

Numbers in brackets indicate the positions they held in 2013 while the numbers right behind their names indicate the votes they got this year:

Top 10 Most Liked Actresses
1) Ayase Haruka - 64 (1 - No.1 for 4 straight years)
2) Yoshinaga Sayuri - 47 (2)
3) Nounen Rena - 44 (4)
4) Mitsushima Hikari - 33 (3)
5) Ono Machiko - 32 (outside of top 10)
6) Miyazaki Aoi - 31 (6)
7) Amami Yuki - 30 (8) / Kanno Miho - 30 (5)
9) Yonekura Ryoko - 27 (outside of top 10)
10) Horikita Maki - 22 (7)

Top 10 Most Disliked Actresses
1) Izumi Pinko - 143 (1)
2) Ueto Aya - 63 (3)
3) Gouriki Ayame - 62 (2)
4) Maeda Atsuko - 34 (outside of top 10)
5) Yoshinaga Sayuri - 20 (11)
6) Sawajiri Erika - 19 (5)
7) Takei Emi - 14 (9) / Fujiwara Norika - 14 (7)
9) Hirosue Ryoko - 13 (6) / Kuroki Hitomi - 13 (7)

FRIDAY's report on why Kimura Takuya is No.1 in the most disliked actors' ranking

I don't usually read or buy FRIDAY unless they have a report or scoop which I'm very interested in. It seems like the local Kinokuniya has been selling a "cleaned-up version" of FRIDAY where the pornography or sexy shots are taken out so no wonder the price is somewhat lower than what I noticed in the past.

Anyway, what caught my attention was this small caption on the cover which was an analysis on why Kimura Takuya is disliked and what exactly about him irks people. Well, there's been a lot of analysis reports in the past about his waning popularity or the lower ratings registered by his dramas so I was wondering what kind of new insights FRIDAY had on this issue.

Before we begin, here is what spurred FRIDAY to write this report. There was a recent survey by Shukan Bunshun where they received 3,200 responses selecting the most liked and disliked actors and the following are the results with the number of votes in brackets:

Most Liked Actors
1) Sakai Masato (76)
2) Takakura Ken (59)
3) Abe Hiroshi (49)
4) Takenouchi Yutaka (29)
5) Okada Junichi (25)
6) Nishijima Hidetoshi (24)
7) Sato Koichi (22)
8) Nishida Toshiyuki / Mizutani Yutaka / Watanabe Ken / Kagawa Teruyuki (18)

Most Disliked Actors
1) Kimura Takuya (163)
2) Mizutani Yutaka (31)
3) Ayano Go / Sakai Masato (29)
5) Mukai Osamu (16)
6) Funakoshi Eiichiro (14)
7) Nakao Akira (11)
8) Nishida Toshiyuki / Takenaka Naoto / Ishida Junichi (10)

As you can see, Kimura was tops in the most disliked actors ranking with a big lead over No.2 Mizutani Yutaka. Many of the reasons given by those who chose him had to do with his acting which feels the same over the past 20 years and he's always putting on a cool front to maintain his aloof image. In relation to this, FRIDAY mentioned this incident in early May where Kimura was in Shibuya for the filming of "HERO 2" for 1.5 hour but did not acknowledge the presence of his fans who had gathered there nor even smiled at them. It was said that Kimura is never the type who is comfortable with the media's questions and would keep a distance from people. However, in the past, his aloofness might have been seen as being "cool" but of late, rankings such as the one above or another ranking from Josei Seven's double issue on 8th May placing him as the third most disliked man in Japan (1st was the Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and 2nd was TV host Minomonta), seems to suggest that this approach no longer works. Nonetheless, the report speculates that the reason why he has adopted this attitude all these years was due to his agency's president Kitagawa Johnny telling Kimura when he was a teenager that his charm was his coolness. As such, it was said that he kept this in mind to maintain his image despite being seen as being arrogant and aloof by many.

However, FRIDAY also highlighted the fact that Kimura is already 42 this year and needs to make some changes if he wants to survive in showbiz and not be regarded as an idol past his expiry date. A columnist Imai Mai puts it bluntly that Kimura is still pretending that his past fame as a young idol had never gone away and says that his acting had remained the same for the past 20 years. It was as if a former female idol who is already a middle-aged woman still wears the same frilly dress when she was a teenager. Moreover, times have changed because viewers no longer watch a drama just because Kimura is the lead actor. As such, Kimura must either bite the bullet and get over the uncomfortable thought of breaking his past image or face the consequences as a result of viewers seeking change in him.

Now, before Kimura's fans start to get defensive and angry over what FRIDAY had published, I think there is some truth in what they said although I admit that the tone of the article is quite harsh because it is meant as a wake-up call to Kimura. Maybe it wasn't Kimura's intention to put on a cool front all these years, it could really have been due to the advice of Kitagawa Johnny that he decided to adopt this approach. Especially when I've read so many interviews in the past where Kimura's co-stars would speak of him so fondly as a very nice and friendly person but his image in front of the media and fans seem to suggest otherwise. Of course, the coolness approach i.e. keeping people at a distance and being mysterious worked wonderfully in his 20s and early 30s so on hindsight, the advice was right on the spot. However, something well-intended turns out to be not so effective after a certain period of time and it takes someone wise enough to realise this and have the determination to make changes in order to adapt to the changing environment.

On the other hand, I think Kimura has tried to change by taking on roles which would previously not be associated with his usual style. However, the root of the problem doesn't seem to have been tackled at all. On the surface, it seems that he is changing but when you compare the roles in recent years, there were a lot of similarities in the way how they were played to the extent that viewers probably felt that they were just seeing Kimura in different roles with different professions. In a way, I think Kimura has yet to figure out what works best for him and he's still trying to find the best way to change without hurting his popularity. Then again, his popularity is already dented due to the bashing he suffered from his dramas' low ratings (even though it may not necessarily be his fault all the time). In this sense, I think I don't agree with FRIDAY's stand that he is in denial about the situation and will give him credit for being aware about the situation.

Conversely, he's also got to realise that the longer this drags on, people will keep thinking of him as the actor who acts the same for the past 20 years and whatever improvement or change he's made will be easily overlooked or written off. I feel that it's a pity for Kimura to be in this situation especially when I happened to watch a couple of episodes of "Asunaro Hakusho" recently and found myself impressed with his performance even though he wasn't the lead. The sensitivity he displayed then was a far cry to the recent comments you hear about him being too "shallow" in his acting that I wonder where the old Kimura had gone. He's capable of doing a good job but what will it take for him to prove to people that he can act? A tailored role? A strong script? A strong supporting cast? Or will things be better if he retreats to being a supporting role and gets some relief from the pressure of ratings so that he can concentrate on acting? However, the last option will probably be a very risky one because the media will probably have a field day talking about how he's relegated to doing supporting roles. Either way, Kimura will have a lot at stake and it's not a nice position to be in especially considering how he used to be the ratings king in the good old days.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Iura Arata, Inamori Izumi, Itaya Yuka & Matsuoka Masahiro star in TBS summer 2014 drama "Dousousei ~ Hito wa, sando, koi wo suru"

Iura Arata will be taking on his first leading role in a drama when he appears in the upcoming TBS summer 2014 drama "Dousousei ~ Hito wa, sando, koi wo suru" (Alumni ~ People fall in love three times) which begins its run from July in the Thursdays 9pm timeslot. The drama is based on the popular manga by Saimon Fumi published between 2011 and 2012 and also features Inamori Izumi, Itaya Yuka and TOKIO's Matsuoka Masahiro in a web of romantic relationships involving former schoolmates from junior high who meet again for the first time in 25 years.

Iura plays a divorcee Kenta who quit his job and is working in his family's laundry shop while Inamori plays Akehi, his former girlfriend from junior high who is a housewife but has an unhappy marriage. The two of them become drawn to each other again after the alumni reunion despite the circumstances they are in. On the other hand, Itaya plays Kaoruko who is beautiful and clever but has grown not to trust men due to a failed relationship and doesn't pay attention to her looks anymore. After the alumni reunion, she finds herself being involved with Ryosuke (Matsuoka) who is a playboy and never sticks to one woman for long.

Below are the character descriptions on the TBS official website:

Yanagi Kenta (Iura Arata): Worked at a major chemical manufacturer for many years but quit after his divorce. Currently managing his family's laundry shop. Since young, his character has been that he would not budge if he does not believe in or accept something

Kamakura Akehi (Inamori Izumi): A hairdresser with a cheerful character. Although she appears happy with three kids, her marriage with her husband who is a famous hairstylist has already broken down and her eldest son is actually her husband's child from a previous marriage. Whenever her husband is unhappy, he would take it out on her. As such, when she reunites with Kenta, she finds herself drawn to him again.

Hirono Kaoruko (Itaya Yuka): The top student and beauty during the junior high days and would protect Akehi who was bullied at school. She had even slapped Ryosuke in school for two-timing her friends. However, just because of one failed relationship, she lost faith in men and doesn't bother to pay attention to her looks anymore while working as a pharmacist.

Sakurai Ryosuke (Matsuoka Masahiro): The exact opposite of Kenta who was so popular at school that it was said that 80 percent of the girls liked him and he was tops in popularity votes. He went to a top-class university to study architecture, graduated as No.1 in his class, went to a major construction to work and got his architect licence on his first try. At work, he is on the way up to be an executive while he is known to be a good husband and father to his daughter. However, he also has a reputation for being a playboy.

Source: Sanspo / TBS

Friday, May 23, 2014

BPO decides not to launch inquiry into "Ashita Mama ga inai"

The Broadcasting Ethics and Program Improvement Organisation (BPO) decided on 23 May that it was not going to launch an inquiry into the NTV Winter 2014 drama "Ashita Mama ga inai" and commented that the broadcaster had the responsibility to be more mindful of the impact on society when producing dramas of this nature. BPO also said that although the broadcaster had the freedom to produce meaningful programmes which talk about the problems happening in modern society, they should have taken extra care at the preparation stage to prevent any possible violation against human rights. However, there was no evidence to prove that the drama had hurt the reputation of those related to children's welfare facilities as claimed by Jikei Hospital thus BPO decided against launching an inquiry.

Source: Sanspo

Kuroyanagi Tetsuko to be guest star in the 7th episode of "Shinigami-kun"

Kuroyanagi Tetsuko will be the guest star in the 7th episode of TV Asahi Spring 2014 drama "Shinigami-kun" which will be broadcast on 6 June at 11.15pm. This is Kuroyanagi's first drama appearance in three years since she last appeared in the 2011 NHK morning drama "Ohisama".

Kuroyanagi was invited to be the guest star by the lead Ohno Satoshi as they have become good friends since his appearance on her programme "Tetsuko no Heya" in 2009. Previously, she had also appeared in his 2009 drama "Uta no Oniisan" as a guest star at his request.

This time, Kuroyanagi will play herself in the episode where she bumps into Shinigami-kun along the corridor of the TV station. However, as she cannot see him, she ends up sitting on his lap even though she thinks that she is sitting on the sofa and even throws a bouquet of flowers at him.

Source: Sanspo

Utada Hikaru holds her wedding on 23 May at Polignano a Mare in Italy

Utada Hikaru and her Italian husband held their wedding at Santa Maria Assunta Church in Polignano a Mare, Italy on 23 May around noon where she was surrounded by 4 bodyguards who used umbrellas to block reporters from taking photographs of the bride.

When Utada made her marriage announcement on 10 Feb this year, the response to the news was so overwhelming that she asked for the media not to disturb her husband and his family and that their privacy be respected. She commented that her wedding ceremony is not a show and hoped that the media and fans would not focus too much on it. As such, even the guests invited to the wedding were not allowed to bring cameras into the church. After the ceremony, the newly-weds and the guests gathered for a party at the nearby Certosa di San Lorenzo.

Utada had met her husband last year when she was staying in London and he was working as a bartender at a hotel there. They began dating soon after and introduced each other to their parents during summer.

Utada previously married movie director cum photographer Kiriya Kazuaki in 2002 when she was just 19 and the couple divorced in March 2007.

Source: Sponichi Annex

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Preview of "Platonic" - Spring 2014

Title: Platonic
Official website: here
Official blog: here
O.A. Start Date: 25 May 2014
Timeslot: Sundays 10pm
Broadcast by: NHK
Cast: Nakayama Miho, Domoto Tsuyoshi, Yoshida Eisaku, Nagano Mei, Koizumi Kotaro, Nishihara Jun, Maeda Goki, Nomura Masumi, Aoyama Noriko, Omi Toshinori, Bito Isao, Kaga Mariko

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Preview of "Silent Poor" - Spring 2014

Title: Silent Poor
Official website: here
Official blog: here
Broadcast by: NHK
O.A. Start Date: 8 April 2014
Timeslot: Tuesdays 10pm
Number of episodes: 9
Theme song by: PERFUME
Cast: Fukada Kyoko, Kitamura Yukiya, Sakuraba Nanami, Sakai Maki, Kagawa Kyoko, Daichi Yasuo, Ichige Yoshie, Yonekura Masakane

Monday, May 19, 2014

Preview of "Kuuneru Futari Sumu Futari" - Spring 2014

Title: Kuuneru Futari Sumu Futari
Official website: here
O.A. Start Date: 6 May 2014
Timeslot: Tuesdays 11.15pm
Broadcast by: NHK
Cast: Konishi Manami, Kaneko Nobuaki, Maeda Ai, Kimoto Takehiro, Aizawa Rina, Kurokawa Mei, Miyazaki Yoshiko, Yamashita Yorie, Sano Shiro, Tayama Ryosei

Sunday, May 18, 2014

TOKIO's Joshima Shigeru to be the marathon runner for NTV's "24 Jikan Terebi 37 Ai wa chikyuu wo sukuu"

TOKIO's leader Joshima Shigeru was announced on 18 May during the broadcast of "Gyoretsu no dekiru houritsu soudanjo" as the marathon runner for NTV's annual charity programme "24 Jikan Terebi 37 Ai wa chikyuu wo sukuu" which will be shown on 30th and 31st August. This year's main host will be his junior group from the same agency i.e. Kanjani 8 which expressed shock when they heard the announcement. Joshima is the second person in TOKIO to run the marathon following Yamaguchi Tatsuya's attempt in 1997 when the latter was 25 years old.

Joshima revealed that when he was first approached by NTV to be the marathon runner, he was so shocked that he didn't know what to say. He then decided to go ahead with the idea without thinking too much about it.

Source: Oricon

Ichihara Hayato and Mukoyama Shiho reportedly getting married within this year

Ichihara Hayato and Mukoyama Shiho who have been dating for two years, are said to be getting married within this year, as reported on 17 May. It was said that the couple had informed their families and agencies about their plans in April but there are no concrete dates for the wedding yet.

Ichihara and Mukoyama met each other through mutual friends during the summer of 2011 and were first caught by the tabloids in April 2012. Both of them admitted to the reports on their respective blogs.

Source: Sanspo

Preview of "The Long Goodbye" - Spring 2014

Title: The Long Goodbye
Official website: here
Official blog: here
Broadcast by: NHK
O.A. Start Date: 19 April 2014
Number of episodes: 5
O.A. Timeslot: Saturdays 9pm
Cast: Asano Tadanobu, Ayano Go, Koyuki, Furuta Arata, Tominaga Ai, Ota Rina, Takito Kenichi, Horibe Keisuke, Fukushima Rira, Takahashi Tsutomu, Taguchi Tomoroo, Izumizawa Yuki, Ishida Eri, Endo Kenichi, Yoshida Kotaro, Emoto Akira

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Preview of "First Class" - Spring 2014

Title: First Class
Official website: here
Broadcast by: FujiTV
O.A. Start Date: 19 April 2014
Timeslot: Saturdays 11.10pm
Theme Song: Heroine by SOLIDEMO
Cast: Sawajiri Erika, Nakamaru Yuichi, Sasaki Nozomi, Nanao, Ishida Nicole, Tanaka Mirei, Yui Ryoko, Miura Rieko, Hirayama Hiroyuki, Tabata Tomoko, Itaya Yuka

The "excessive" smoking scenes in "MOZU"

"MOZU" has been attracting a fair bit of attention, not for its ratings, story nor cast but the number of scenes featuring the cast smoking. According to this article from News Post Seven, Nishijima Hidetoshi who plays an elite police officer from the Public Security Bureau, is seen with a cigarette in almost every other scene he appears in, no matter whether he's in the midst of a meal or moving around in a car. Incredibly, he's also seen with a lighted cigarette on the streets even though there are regulations banning people from doing so in the Tokyo Metropolitan area (depending on the location, the penalties will be different though). According to a TV station insider, in the first episode alone which lasted 2 hours, about 20 minutes featured the cast smoking which is clearly something not seen in recent years due to the conscious effort of not showing smoking scenes in dramas.

Other than "MOZU", another movie which also attracted attention for its smoking scenes was the Miyazaki Hayao anime "Kaze Tachinu" but the key difference was that the latter is primarily targeted at people from all ages including children while "MOZU" is a hardcore police detective thriller meant for adults.  As such, the Japan Society for Tobacco Control (JSTC) is observing the situation with "MOZU" for the time being while it had spoken out against "Kaze Tachinu" earlier on for its adverse effects on children (conveying the message that smoking is cool).

This article takes a supportive view towards the smoking scenes in "MOZU" by saying that any restrictions on the freedom to air smoking scenes would bring negative effects on the production of dramatic works and that "MOZU" should be excused because it is a drama about men fighting for survival. It goes further to say that in a detective drama like this, if the detectives don't smoke, it's as if you are banning the appearance of guns and shooting scenes and no bloody gore in police dramas which is totally unnatural.

Well, I beg to differ especially from what I observed during my recent Japan trip. I was in Yokohama and Tokyo and observed slightly different situations in both cities. Kanagawa Prefecture, where Yokohama is located in, has stricter rules on banning smoking in indoor places such as restaurants. For a non-smoker like me who cannot stand the cigarette smoke, that was like heaven to me because I didn't have to find restaurants which banned smoking because they all did not allow smoking indoors. Unless you are dining alfresco, I think you would not be bothered by the cigarette smoke from smokers near you.

The situation gets a bit trickier in Tokyo because different wards within the Tokyo Metropolitan area seem to have various rulings and punishments. I remember when there was once I entered a restaurant for lunch and was aghast to find out that it had a smoking area at one end and the non-smoking area at the other end. However, even though I was seated far from the smoking area, I could smell the smoke and it was terrible, having to hold my breath through my meal and I scrambled out of the restaurant as quickly as I could. Since then, I realised that there were various variations to this rule. Some restaurants ban smoking during lunch hours and allow it during dinner. Some impose a total ban on smoking regardless of the time you visit while some have a mixture of smoking and non-smoking areas. As such, I would ask or check for no-smoking signs before entering an eating place in Tokyo so as to spare myself from the agony of bearing with the passive smoke.

That is why when I first watched "MOZU", I couldn't fathom why Kuraki (Nishijima Hidetoshi) could puff away at a high-class restaurant while eating with Akeboshi (Maki Youko) nor the fact that he had a lighted cigarette in his mouth wherever he went, even on the streets of Ginza (where the explosion took place) because there should be a smoking ban in Ginza! No doubt dramas may not convey the real situation at times but this deviates too much from the truth.

Frankly speaking, it was quite an eyesore to see the plentiful smoking scenes in "MOZU", at least to me personally. Nonetheless, it hasn't got to the extent that I will drop the drama because of the smoking scenes but I think the comparison with having no guns and blood in a police drama is not fair. Even without cigarettes, a police detective drama can still function. Not every policeman smokes anyway and it will be best to pay a bit more attention to where they light up in the drama.

ASKA arrested for possession of stimulants; denies the accusation

ASKA of the popular singing duo CHAGE and ASKA was arrested on suspicion of possessing stimulants on 6 April but had denied the accusation, according to reports on 17 May. ASKA was first named in some weekly magazines during July last year for being suspected of using drugs but had denied those reports. In response to the scandal, his agency also announced in October last year that ASKA was taking a break from his musical activities out of his own will.

Meanwhile, CHAGE also released his statement on their official website on 17 May where he commented that he had been waiting for ASKA to return to work but feels regretful that things have come to this stage. As ASKA's arrest had come as a surprise, CHAGE said that he is confused and not sure how he should respond for now but he will be taking on the scheduled fan club events on his own for the time being and promises to do his best. He also apologised for the worry and inconveniences caused to fans and related parties.

As for the duo's agency, they also released an apology statement for the worry caused to everyone and indicated that they will decide on the appropriate action after finding out more about ASKA's case.

Source: Sanspo 1 / Sanspo 2

Screening event of new NHK drama "Platonic"

The screening event of new NHK drama "Platonic" was held on 16 May which was attended by the lead actress Nakayama Miho. The drama which will begin its run from 25 May at 10pm on Sundays, is written by Nojima Shinji and features Nakayama as a single mother who develops a relationship with a mysterious man played by KinKi Kids' Domoto Tsuyoshi. This is Nakayama's first drama in 12 years and she cut her hair by 20cm to fit the image of her character who has to take care of her daughter suffering from heart disease.

Filming started from last month and Nakayama is expected to return to Paris when filming wraps up in the middle of next month. When asked about the progress of her divorce negotiations with her husband Tsuji Hitonari, Nakayama did not give any details but was seen without her wedding ring during the event.

Source: Sanspo

Friday, May 16, 2014

Top 10 dramas which you would want to see a sequel for (Oricon)

This is a poll conducted by Oricon on 1,000 respondents as to which dramas they want to see a sequel for:

1) Hanzawa Naoki

2) Ama-chan

3) Kagi no kakatta heya

4) Strawberry Night

5) Kekkon Dekinai Otoko

6) Kaseifu no Mita

7) Haken no Hinkaku

8) Shitsuren Chocolatier

9) Lucky Seven

10) Odoru Daisousasen / Last Cinderella

Koizumi Kotaro to be back in sequel of "Namonaki Doku" this summer

Koizumi Kotaro will be acting in the TBS summer 2014 drama "Petero no Souretsu" which is the sequel to the original series "Namonaki Doku" which was shown last summer. The new drama which is also based on the same-titled novel by Miyabe Miyuki, will make its debut on 7 July at 7pm and will be shown at 8pm on Mondays subsequently. Koizumi will play the role of Sugimura Saburo again as he tries to solve a new case two years after the previous drama ended.

Filming will begin in the beginning of June.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

An and Higashide Masahiro caught on overnight date by Josei Seven

An and Higashide Masahiro were caught on an overnight date as reported in the 15th May issue of "Josei Seven". According to the report, the two of them who were recently seen as a married couple in the NHK morning drama "Gochisousan", went to a bar together and later spent the night at An's apartment.

An and Higashide were first romantically linked at the beginning of this year when they were reported to have gone on a shopping date. At that time, their agencies both denied that they were an item but this time, both sides said that this is their private matter and the agencies are not in a position to comment.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Hirosue Ryoko to star in new NHK drama "Seijo" as an evil woman

Hirosue Ryoko will be taking on her first leading role in a NHK drama when she plays a woman suspected of being a serial murderer and is also involved in an incestuous relationship with the lawyer who defends her in "Seijo" which begins its run from 19 August in the Tuesdays 10pm. As this is the first time she is playing an evil woman, Hirosue expressed her excitement about it and pledged to work hard to play this character.

Hirosue's character is an illustrations coordinator who has a mysterious past and is caught as a suspect for a serial murder case. Unexpectedly, she reunites with her former student (Nagayama Kento) who she taught during his high school days as a home tutor as he becomes her defence lawyer. As they used to have feelings for each other at that time, their reunion ignites the spark between them again as the evilness of Hirosue's character is exposed during the trial.

Co-stars include Renbutsu Misako who plays Nagayama's fiancee, EXILE's Aoyagi Sho who plays Nagayama's elder brother, Tabata Tomoko and Tanaka Yoji who play Nagayama's colleagues and fellow lawyers while Kishibe Ittoku plays his boss at the law firm.

Source: Sanspo

Completion press conference of new WOWOW drama "Mosaic Japan"

The completion press conference of new WOWOW drama "Mosaic Japan" was held at UDX Theatre at Akihabara, Tokyo, on 14 May which was attended by the cast Nagayama Kento, Takahashi Issei, Hamakawa Fumie, Mizuta Nobuo. The drama which will begin its run from 18 May at 11pm on Sundays, is set in the adult video industry. Nagayama commented that this drama is somewhat like an adventure for him but he was glad to have taken up the challenge. When asked to mention a memorable scene from the drama, Nagayama revealed that his hands had to be tied up and a cold tuna was placed on his tummy which caused him to have a stomachache at the end.

Source: Sanspo

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Preview trailer of "Kazokugari" (TBS summer 2014 drama)

Here is the two-minute preview trailer of upcoming TBS Summer 2014 drama starring Matsuyuki Yasuko. Looks very interesting but will its dark story attract the same level of criticism and attention which "Ashita, Mama ga inai" got? It depends on how far TBS is prepared to stay true to the original material, I guess.

Top 10 music artistes who you want as your boyfriend/girlfriend (CD & DL Data)

This is a poll conducted by music magazine "CD & DL Data" on respondents between the ages of 10s to 60s on which music artistes they wish to have as their boyfriend or girlfriend.

Top 10 male artistes (number of respondents - 1,685)
1) Fukuyama Masaharu
2) Sakurai Sho (Arashi)
3) Kimura Takuya (SMAP)
4) Inaba Koshi (B'z)
5) Sakurai Kazutoshi (Mr.Children)
6) Ohno Satoshi (Arashi)
7) Matsumoto Jun (Arashi)
8) Ninomiya Kazunari (Arashi)
9) Hirai Ken
10) Aiba Masaki (Arashi) / Kuwata Keisuke (Southern All Stars)

Top 10 female artistes (number of respondents - 1,482)
1) miwa
2) YUI
3) aiko
4) Amuro Namie
5) May J.
6) Oshima Yuko (AKB48)
7) Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
8) Nishino Kana
9) Yoshioka Kiyoe (Ikimonogakari)
10) Nakajima Miyuki

Preview of "Shi no Hassou" 死の発送 (Drama SP)

Title: Shi no Hassou 死の発送
Official website: here
O.A. Date: 30 May 2014, 9pm
Broadcast by: FujiTV
Cast: Mukai Osamu, Higa Manami, Terajima Susumu, Yamanaka Takashi, Osugi Ren and Terao Akira

Friday, May 09, 2014

Matsuyuki Yasuko to star in TBS Summer 2014 drama "Kazokugari"

Matsuyuki Yasuko will be taking on the lead role in the TBS Summer 2014 drama "Kazokugari" which will be shown from July in the Fridays 10pm timeslot. The drama which is based on the same-titled novel by Tendo Arata, is a suspense story which took 7 years of preparation before the plan to make it into a drama came through. The novel which won the Yamamoto Shugoro award in 1996, talks about various problems within the family e.g. domestic violence, rape, pregnancy and abuse.

Matsuyuki plays the role of a child psychology assessor Hizaki Yuko who has family problems of her own as she has a father suffering from dementia and her mother is exhausted from having to care for him. Through her work and interaction with characters such as Sudo Shunsuke (Ito Atsushi), a senior high school teacher, and police officer Mamihara Koki (Endo Kenichi), she comes across a family suicide case that leads her to explore the depths of human psychology by observing three families related to the case. This is Matsuyuki's first drama in four years and this time round, she has to play a difficult character who's frank but at the tipping point in her life due to her circumstances. As such, Matsuyuki thinks that this is a drama suited for everyone to watch as they will see traces of themselves in this drama.

Co-stars also include Kiss-My-Ft2's Kitayama Hiromitsu, Asada Miyoko, Zaizen Naomi and former AKB48 member Shinoda Mariko. The script will be written by Oishi Shizuka who is known for works such as "Second Virgin".

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Sato Takeru & Kamiki Ryunosuke to be co-leads in real-life adaptation movie of "Bakuman"

Sato Takeru and Kamiki Ryunosuke will be co-leads in the real-life adaptation movie of popular manga "Bakuman" which is due to be shown next year. The manga which consists of 20 volumes and has accumulated sales of 15 million copies to date, is by Oba Tsugumi and Obata Takeshi who are widely known for their hit work "Death Note". The story features two senior high school students Saikou (Sato) and Shuujin (Kamiki) who aspire to be manga artists and work together as a team where Saikou is in charge of the drawings and Shuujin comes up with the story. Both Sato and Kamiki will be doing the drawings featured in the movie themselves thus this will also mark their debut as manga artists.

Source: Sanspo

TOKIO's Nagase Tomoya reportedly dating a violinist?

TOKIO's Nagase Tomoya is reportedly dating a violinist who graduated from Tokyo University of Arts and is 6 years younger than him, according to the 8th May issue of "Josei Seven". The article mentioned that Nagase drove his girlfriend home on one night in early May which was still during the Golden Week holidays. They travelled for about an hour before reaching her family home in the suburbs of Tokyo and she carried her pet cat into the house with Nagase following behind. After a brief stay, Nagase drove back to the city alone where he met friends at a cafe.

Nagase and this lady were first caught by FRIDAY a year ago while on a yakiniku dinner date. However, her identity wasn't known at that time thus leading to speculation among fans over her. Nagase previously dated Hamasaki Ayumi and Aibu Saki but both relationships had since ended. When asked about this lady's relationship with Nagase, Johnny's Jimusho said that they are merely friends.

The article also mentioned that this lady is a violinist who met Nagase about a year ago when they both appeared in a TV music programme. She is said to come from a wealthy family where her father had retired from his managerial position in a big company while her mother is a musician.

Source: Sanspo

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Oguri Shun to star in FujiTV's autumn 2014 drama "Nobunaga Concerto"

Oguri Shun will be taking on the lead role in the FujiTV 55th anniversary project "Nobunaga Concerto" which will begin with an anime in July, the real-life drama in autumn 2014 and end with a movie. The drama which is based on the same-titled manga by Ishii Ayumi, features Oguri as Saburo, a senior high school student who is weak in his studies and knows nothing about history but goes back into time accidentally and ends up aiming to unite the country by posing as Oda Nobunaga who looks the same as him but is too sick to do so. Oguri commented that he has been dying to take on the role of Nobunaga thus he is very excited about the project. Filming will begin in August.

Oguri admitted that he is concerned that his age (31 years old) will be evident when he stands beside his teenage co-stars in the scenes at school so that's probably the most dangerous part of this role (i.e. not looking like a senior high school student).

Source: Sanspo

Monday, May 05, 2014

Odagiri Jo saying "No" to leading roles in primetime dramas?

Found this interesting article from Real Live which talks about Odagiri Jo apparently saying "No" to leading roles in primetime dramas as what he declared during a recent press conference of his Spring 2014 drama, "Reverse Edge ~ Okawabata Tanteisha". Although it sounded like he was joking then, it seems like there is some truth to that after all.

In a nutshell, here's what the article had to say about Odagiri's conscious choice to avoid taking on leading roles in primetime dramas:

Odagiri was initially scheduled to be co-leads with Ueno Juri in the TBS Spring 2014 drama "Arisu no Toge". However, he asked to be lowered to a supporting role. According to an entertainment agency's insider, his decision was largely due to the trauma he suffered in 2012 when his drama "Kazoku no Uta" registered very low ratings and had to be shortened by three episodes. Since then, Odagiri would only take on leading roles if they are in movies or late-night dramas.

In actual fact, "Arisu no Toge" got off to a pretty good start at 14.2%. Although it dropped to 11.9% for its second episode, that was actually a normal trend because most dramas would suffer a fall in ratings in the second episode and anything between two and three percent was acceptable. However, there is still a likelihood that the drama might head into single-digit territory if things do not pick up from the third episode onwards. As such, no matter what happens to this drama, Odagiri would not be blamed for the results so in this sense, his choice to turn down the leading role is a smart move.

Although Odagiri is not really the type of actor who shines in supporting roles, if the drama in which he plays a supporting role does well, he can earn some credit in having contributed to its success. On the other hand, if the drama becomes a flop, he won't be liable for it. In the current TV drama landscape where it's extremely difficult to get high ratings, Odagiri's choice would allow him to concentrate on his acting rather than be affected by the movement of the drama's ratings. In a way, the timing of his choice would be appropriate to prolong the length of his career.

I don't think there's anything wrong with Odagiri's strategy of avoiding leading roles in primetime dramas but somehow, this article gives off a slightly negative vibe as if he's doing it for the sake of not wanting to take responsibility for the ratings. Luckily, the last paragraph wraps up the story by offering an alternative view on this issue and I tend to believe this argument about Odagiri wanting to concentrate on his acting rather than be affected by the controversy over ratings which are affected by various factors, not just the cast. 

Of course, I think it also works commercially for him because ditching the label of an actor who can't bring in ratings is definitely better in the long run. Odagiri's name had been mentioned constantly over the past few years as a symbol of an actor who could only churn out low ratings whenever the media talked about "Kazoku no Uta" or to draw comparisons with this drama and the lowest-rated drama of a particular season and it was only until last autumn when Kawaguchi Haruna took over that position with "Otto no Kanojo" (against her own will, of course). Even for Odagiri who has been in the business for some time, there is no doubt he would have been affected by that constant teasing and reminders of that undesirable title so wanting to prove himself but not exposing himself to unnecessary risk is definitely a move he must take in order to ensure the continuation of his career. Like what I mentioned previously in the article about TV stations selecting the same few strong actors to act in their dramas, the advertisers want assured returns on their investments. They would surely be less willing to invest in a drama if the lead actor has been stuck with the label of being unable to pull in viewers. That's why it's absolutely crucial for Odagiri to get people to forget what happened and allow him to move further and upwards in this line of business..

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Kiritani Mirei takes on first leading role in NHK drama SP "Tsui no Sumika"

Kiritani Mirei will take on her first leading role in a NHK drama SP "Tsui no Sumika" which is due to be shown on 20th July and 27th July at 10pm. The drama which is based on the novel by Senkawa Tamaki, features Kiritani as a newbie journalist Asakura Tomoko who works in the society news department of a news company and holds a MBA from an American university. Despite her shining credentials, Tomoko finds that she is great at handling numbers but often cannot find the correct expressions to describe the people she interviews and has little interest to improve in this regard. Tomoko is so full of herself that she refuses to think that she is lacking as a reporter until her boss labels her as one. In order to erase this perception of her, Tomoko goes to interview people receiving in-house nursing care and their families which leads her to realise how tough their circumstances are. Just then, a series of strange deaths involving those receiving the nursing care at home leads Tomoko and her senior to try to find out the truth.

Kiritani recounted on the filming which had been completed that she never realised the situation of in-house nursing care in Japan and the issues faced by those giving and receiving such services. She was grateful that she has the experience of being a reporter for NTV's NEWS ZERO so she could utilise that when talking to the elderly she had to interview in the drama.

Co-stars include Okada Yoshinori, the care manager who draws up the nursing care plans and tells Tomoko about the issues faced in this line of work, Kato Toranosuke, Tomoko's senior at work and Hiraizumi Sei who plays the doctor giving Tomoko information about the nursing industry which she knows little about.

Source: Sanspo

Romaji lyrics of "GUTS!" by Arashi (Theme song of "Yowakutemo Katemasu ~ Aoshi-sensei to Heppoko Koukou Kyuuji no Yabou")

Title: GUTS!
Artist: Arashi
Lyrics: eltvo. s-TnK
Melody: SAKRA

memagurushiku mawaru mayoi kaki wakete
tashikana kotae nante mitsukaru hazu mo nakute

yume wo miru koto mo tayasuku ha nai sa
mimi wo sumashite mireba kokoro ga zawameite ita

hikari no nai koya wo hitori iza yuke
nigirishimeta te no naka ni wa kimi no kotoba
ame ni utare kaze ni fukare bokura wa sakebu

VIVA seishun mune wo hare
itsudemo kaerareru sa
ichi ni no san de saa mae wo muke
joushiki nante fuki tobase
VIVA seishun tachiagare kimi wa hitori janai sa
bokura dake no kakumei wo yume to kibou no parade
yorokobi e to kaji wo tore

kotae ga machigai demo sono yuuki ga areba
shinjitsu wa itsu datte hitotsu dake ja owaranai

kaze wo ukete tobitatsu kimi ni sachi are
hito wa dare mo yowai mono sa naiterun dayo
ame wa agari maku mo agari bokura wa chikau

VIVA seishun saki hokore subete wo kaerareru sa
ichi ni no san de saa hashiri dase yaritai you ni tsuki susume
VIVA seishun koe agero  mada mada akirameruna
donna chiisai kibou demo asu no tame no eeru
kokoro de gyutto dakishimete

arashi no naka tatakau tomo yo iza yuke
nigirishimeta te no naka ni wa kimi no kotoba
ame ni utare kaze ni fukare bokura wa mukau

VIVA seishun mune wo hare
itsudemo kaerareru sa
ichi ni no san de saa mae wo muke
joushiki nante fuki tobase
VIVA seishun tachiagare kimi wa hitori janai sa
bokura dake no kakumei wo yume to kibou no parade
yorokobi e to kaji wo tore

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Review of "Team Batista FINAL - Kerberos no Shouzou" (チーム・バチスタFINALケルベロスの肖像)

I wasn't sure about watching this movie at first because I had not followed faithfully through the Team Batista series of dramas and movies. I did watch the first drama back in 2008 but that was so long ago that I hardly remember the details now. Moreover, I had no time to catch up on the most recent drama "Raden Meikyuu" which was somewhat related to this movie because Kuriyama Chiaki also appeared in the film. I wondered if I would have problems following the story because of these reasons but since it was a rare opportunity and there might be a chance that I won't be able to see this in Singapore, I just went ahead with it in the end.

As a standalone film, I think people new to the Team Batista series can probably understand the story which is essentially about two cases going on at the same time. First of all, nine men were found dead under mysterious circumstances and one of them happens to be Shiratori Keisuke's (Nakamura Toru) superior at work. On the other hand, the Batista duo i.e. Shiratori and Taguchi Kohei (Ito Atsushi) are busy trying to ensure that the opening of Tojo University's Affiliated Hospital's new Ai centre will go on as planned despite an intimidation letter sent by an anonymous party threatening otherwise. As such, the two of them must race against time to get to the truth and catch the perpetrators.

Although the movie claims to be the toughest mystery in history, I don't really feel the same way. Somehow, when dramas and movies claim to have the most complicated mystery or the most touching love story etc, it somehow backfires because expectations of viewers are raised too high and the final product may not match up. I think this movie also suffers from the same problem because the cases aren't as complicated or mind-boggling as I expected them to be. It didn't take me too long to figure out who was the culprit behind the mass deaths case because through elimination, the unlikely candidates would have been eliminated very quickly. On the other hand, I didn't care too much about the Ai case because it was rather draggy and comparatively less interesting than the other case. As such, I felt that the story lacking in suspense to keep me engaged was probably the main reason why I had to fight off the urge to doze off several times while watching the movie.

On the other hand, as someone who has limited knowledge of the previous dramas and movies, I think that was also a reason why I did not enjoy this movie. There were characters who I knew appeared in previous works but I have no idea who they are or the nature of their relationships or what happened between them and the Batista duo in the past. As such, I felt that these supporting characters did not have a lot of significance or bring meaning to the movie or its developments. For example, Kuriyama Chiaki's role was someone who lost her father and elder sister due to Shiratori's doing but since I did not know exactly what Shiratori did or if her hatred was indeed warranted i.e. Shiratori doing her family wrong, I could not emphathise with her nor dislike her for what she did. In addition, her sudden change of mind at the end of the movie seemed rather out of the blue so I thought if I had knew more about her character through the recent drama series, I would be able to understand her motives and actions better.

As a result of the weak story, it also had a negative impact on the cast because there wasn't anyone in particular who shone. I thought it was a great pity, especially considering that this movie is the finale in the Batista series. It would have been better to have the series go out on a high note. On hindsight, would it have been better to focus on just one case so as to keep everything compact and the suspense factor high? Then again, was the problem due to poor execution of the original material which is common when doing drama and movie adaptations? I haven't read the novel yet so I can't tell. Perhaps if there's anyone who have read the novel, you can tell me the answer to that.

And my ratings for this movie...

Story: 3 out of 10 (Grossly dissatisfied with the giveaway story which claimed to be the biggest mystery)

Acting: 6 out of 10 (Nobody really shone but at the same time, nobody really did badly too.)

Theme song/BGM: 3 out of 10 (Didn't have a deep impression of the music used in this movie.)

Visual effects / Scenery: 3 out 10 (A lot of the shooting was indoors but I like the snowy scenery when Taguchi went to look for Sumire and the ending scene where there was the sunset sea background.)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 4 out of 10 (I didn't feel so much of the close relationship between the Batista duo this time because most of the action was spent on the cases and not so much about the bond they built up over the years. The final scene was rather corny, in my opinion, as if they want to reinforce the message that the two of them have a strong trust in each other.)

Total: 19 out of 50