Monday, September 29, 2014

Risou no Joushi


Risou no Joushi, as the title suggests, is about Nagatsuka Kyozo (Petero no Souretsu) who plays the perfect middle management boss, Sakamoto in a travel agency. Sakamoto has just been transferred back from Thailand and he has been given the unenviable task of firing three of his subordinates played by Matsuyuki Yasuko (Kazouku Gari), Ishida Yuriko (Gaiji Keisatsu) and Kimura Yoshino (Hatsukoi). Sakamoto of course doesn't want to fire them and has to battle upper management to keep the three ladies.


I've said this before and I'll say it until it becomes a golden rule in jdoramas, Mr Nice Guy main character only work when they are between a rock and a hard place and there are no easy answers and Risou no Joushi does this well. As middle management, Sakamoto is beholden to his boss yet he tries to do right by his subordinates.


I am so happy Sakomoto is not some idealistic idiot screaming his impractical views while miracles happen so that the main character's unrealistic view is justified like some shows I have been watching lately. We know how things are going to turn out but its fun to watch him struggle with the demands of his job.


The other fun thing is of course watching all the talent that I like when they were young including playing supporting roles including Black President himself as Sakamoto's former underling with a grudge. Ok, Black President's part of the story is kind of lame but I can accept the need to create an antagonist in this case. A fun, feel-good watchable show about the perfect middle management boss.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Gokuaku Ganbo



I started watching this a long time ago and have only recently completed the series. Ono Machiko gets into debt trouble because of her deadbeat boyfriend and ends up owing Koshimizu Management Consultants, a bunch of fixers a lot of money. She somehow joins the group in order to work and pay off her debt. In short Gukuaku Ganbo is a show about Ono Machiko learning to survive in a world where people try to scam each other all the time.


WHAT I LIKED

- Ono Machiko!

- The main attraction for me is just learning about the scams. Its part of why I enjoy Ryu ga Gotoku, most of the side missions are just Kiryuu uncovering scams.

 
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE

- As a dorama, Gokuaku Ganbo not really funny nor is it very exciting. I don't really care about anyone, and no one is really in danger.

- The 'good guys' always win and Ono Machiko never scams any innocent person to their detriment throughout the series.

- Even when someone 'wins', there is a whole other question of enforcement like the stock certificate episode. A bit hard to believe this Koshimizu Agency running scams without any muscle.


SUMMARY

Its not a memorable show except learning the often repeated phrase kata ni hameru which has no application in real life. Meh from me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jmovie review: The Snow White Murder Case / Shiroyukihime Satsujin Jiken



Wow. It is not often that jmovies come up with a gem like this; a tight murder mystery movie with social commentary and great acting. This girl from a cosmetics company is killed and is dubbed Snow White. Ayano Gou plays the audience's POV character and he works for a television station and is very active on twitter talking about ramen.


Ayano Gou gets a phone call from his old university friend Renbutso Misako who also works at the same company with information on Snow White. Ayano Gou grabs his camera and starts interviewing people connected to the case as he gets closer to the truth.


I like how The Snow White Murder Case takes a look at mass media in Japan. I remember there was a murder case while I was in Japan and every freaking day and seemingly all the time, they would talk endlessly about the case to the point of reporting about trivial things and I'm not talking about your 6 o'clock news.


To me, it went pass news reporting to padding content to television and The Snow White Murder Case looks at the power of media and how it can be abused. Why not report on just the confirmed facts and let the police to their job? Its partly due to the 24 hour news cycle and the need for people consume new information every hour.


Its very similar to sports reporting. Even mundane information becomes news and false reporting is forgotten because there is a new batch of news/rumours/speculation to look forward to. The truth does not matter as much as content creation.


Connected to the power of media is twitter. Ayano Gou's character uses twitter throughout the movie, not just as a way to voice his thoughts to the audience but also to disseminate and receive intel. I love how The Snow White Murder Case looks at the power and danger of social media without being preachy. I thought about giving up at the beginning of the movie cause trying to listen to the dialogue and reading the twitter comments at the same time was so difficult that's only in the beginning.


Lastly the movie also uses the tried and true everyone's got their own version of the story to tell and its up to the audience and Ayano Gou's character to try and piece everything together before the end.


Must watch movie. I haven't seen a Japanese movie this good in quite some time.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why Petero no Souretsu is a must watch jdorama


1. Its a mystery dorama that's more concerned with making sense than creating too many swerves.

2. Very even keel in terms of pacing. Every episode leaves me wanting the see what happens next and I never felt they stretched the story too far. I never felt the urge to fast forward and was hanging on every word.


3. Its a mystery story where the more they find out about their busjacker, the more the discover about themselves. People reveal their true nature when faced with difficulties or in this case, a boatload of free money.

4. Sugimura is a Mr Nice guy who is faced with difficult decisions and unlike most shows which are black and white, we get to see him struggle and think through his decisions which creates more empathy and made me think what I would have done in his place.


5. I like how the stories ties everything to a theme ala Kozokugari which in this case is the painting of Peter when he realises what he has done.

6. Not a happy tie, bow-tied ending.


7. The whole series is a slow build up to small but important character moments where the minimum is said but has a much stronger effect than most doramas where there would be a lot of preaching and explaining.

8. Makes me want to see the third dorama in this series.


RYU GA GOTOKU ZERO AT TGS

My body is ready for this game. Someone uploaded a 6 minute long 360p trailer but that's been taken down.

Bloody wish I were in Tokyo right now for this.

Can't wait for the game next year!!!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sword Art Online Season 1


I was happy to read that dgundam tried out LoGH and loved it. I was going to reply that in this age of Sword Art Online, epic non harem anime like LoGH can never be made. They tried with Guin Saga and it didn't get popular enough for a second season. Then I realised that I've had the review of SAO sitting in my head since I watched it long time ago and I'd better write it down.

So anyway, SAO starts off with an interesting premise. There is an online fantasy RPG where people wear a VR headset and somehow no one is allowed to leave the game on pain of death and the catch is that death in SOA will result in death in the real world. In other words, SOA is a fantasy anime with MMO rules. As I've said many times, I will accept any premise as long as it takes me somewhere interesting and the first half of SOA does that.

There is an awesome episode where a player is killed inside a town the mystery is how that happened cause in SOA, no one can be killed in a town. That episode is a perfect example of taking an unusual concept and running with it.

Unfortunately, the second half of SOA takes place in another MMO where death is no longer permanent, thereby getting rid of all the tension. MMOs are inherent a game of numbers when there are no stakes except for the rescuing this girl who's stuck in the game, there is no excitement.

Instead of making full use of the concept, SOA turns into a moe harem, main characters playing fake family in MMO story. SOA goes from clever story to pandering to the lowest common denominator otaku. I've seen this shit happen to so many anime and doramas that I always expect any show with an unusual setting to go down that path. Its as if the more high concept a show is, the more it will try to be normal to pander to the average viewer. The fact that Border had the balls to somewhere interesting is probably the biggest and most pleasant surprise this year.

SOA is a crappy anime with a good first half that has somehow continued to be popular and it has led to a second season. What this tells publishers and tv stations is that, execution of a story does not matter. A clever story with interesting characters. You just need a hook, throw in lots of moe and a harem and an anime will become popular.

Like jdoramas, there are probably good anime which most probably lack the viewership and ratings, I can't be stuffed cause anime are generally a lot longer than jdoramas and thus its harder to tell if something is worth watching. I don't have any screencaps cause I deleted the damn show for wasting my time. I guess the same rules apply to anime and jdoramas; avoid anything popular cause most of the time, its popular not because its good and good Japanese shows hardly get public recognition.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kazokugari Ep 10


Wow. Kazokugari has turned out to be the surprise good show of this season for me. There were moments in the middle where I thought it was trying to hard to be something else but it all comes together in Ep 8 and 9 to a furious finish in 10. Kazokugari gets so close to being a must watch dorama but it does so many things that well that whodunnit jdoramas tend to not get right. Anyone waiting for English subs, keep watching cause its worth it. If you can't wait, try it with Japanese subs. There's hardly any difficult investigation lingo and the story and dialogue are straightforward. There are no specific spoilers in my review, only general points on why Kazokugari rocks.


WHAT KAZOKUGARI DOES WELL

1. Its a whodunnit that aims to make sense rather than pull something from left field that makes you go huh or has too many twists that you just don't care.

2. All the stories are thematically linked kind of similar to Lady Joker.

3. The villain is the hero who's gone on a different path and I love that the writer spent time to show that our hero could have easily gone that route and makes our cop suspecting her less of a red herring.

4. The villain did not go into crazy overacting and laughing mode when revealed. So many jdoramas fall into this category including Mozu.

5. The villain actually believes he is right and based on what we've seen in this show, he's right in a twisted way.

6. The acting by everyone except Densha is good.

7.  You can count the number of doramas that are not afraid to go dark and realistic on one hand.


WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE BESIDES DENSHA

1. There's this fire scene at the beginning of Ep 10 where the villain is standing in front of someone and all of a sudden the villain has moved a couple of meters. Jdoramas always screw up their geography in 'action' scenes (Shiroi Haru) but this marred the last episode a bit for me.

2. A bit too much explanation for the audience in Ep 10. Not as bad as most doramas but no need to spell things out for the audince.


SUMMARY

I am pretty happy with Kazokugari. Its a dark murder mystery with brains and it makes me want to check out the novel. I can see why they wanted to adapt this story unlike Mozu. Kazokugari does most things right and while I can't call it a must watch, its one of the most memorable jdormas I've seen. If only they had replaced Densha with someone who can do decent serious scenes.

GUESS WHO'S IN RYU GA GOTOKU ZERO?


The only thing that's dampening my anticipation is the free grinding/mini game app for Vita, similar to Ishin. Besides the stupid Ishin ending, I hated the grindfest nature of the game. If I complete all the sub stories and complete all the hostess missions, I expect to have all or at least 99% of the moves and not feel like I'm playing a half baked character for most of the game.


I thought this was Hashimoto Ai and found out its going to be Sawashiro Miyuki. Zero is going to be the first game without Haruka. :(

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Seijo Eps 1+2


Seijo is a story where 10 years ago, a college student/home tutor, Ozawa Maria (Hirosue Ryoyo) statutorily rapes this lucky high school played by Mr Riichi from Mosaic Japan. High school kid falls head over hells for this tutor and studies like crazy. Ozawa Maria disappears from his life and the kid finds out that she is not who she says she was.


Fast forward to present day and the kid is now a lawyer and is engaged to Renbutso Misako. From Mosaic Japan to Seijo, this Nagayama Kento fella is on a lucky streak. Ozawa Maria is caught by the police and is accused of being a serial murderer with two of her lovers dead and one in a coma. Her case becomes a big headline and her former pupil's law firm gets involved in her defence.


Seijo looks like an 'is she an evil person' story with Hirosue Ryoko's character always dressed immaculately in white, always acting proper but having been proven as a serial liar.


I have no idea where this show is going besides our main character having a hikikomori brother who was accepted to Todai, Ozawa Maria probably having a sob story childhood which could be all lies and this ultimately being a choose between Renbutsu Misako and Hirosue Ryoko story.


Best case scenario, Seiko is a tight thriller where truths and half truths aren't clear until the end. Worst case scenario is the procedural elements of a legal investigative dorama are sacrificed for over-sentimentality. I like the cast and according to the dramawiki, Seijo is going to be 7 episodes which is a good length. Could be interesting. Watchable so far.