Friday, November 30, 2007

Iryu season 2 Eps 1-4

Iryu is definitely in my top 10 best doramas ever. I rewatched the 1st season some weeks ago and its still damn fun to watch. Its like a fantasy type story where heroes come together to defeat a great evil except its about medical professionals who join forces to perform a difficult surgery. The show had it all, excellent casting, story and most of all best jdorama soundtrack ever next to Long Vacation. In fact I would say that its the music that propels it from good dorama to classic.

Japanese must think all who use the inverted comma sign are evil! Oops, did I just spoil the surprise?

It was with great anticipation and trepidation that I waited for season 2. After all, the only dorama that was better than its first season is probably Salaryman Kintaro. Most sequels are just a retread of the 1st season. Not to mention the fact that the first season of Iryu had set the bar so freaking high. The first episode is a reintroduction to the members of Team Medical Dragon as they gather to do another super complicated surgery that defies logic. First thing I noticed was that they've kept the same music and added 2 new tunes to the soundtrack. 1st rule of sequels: don't fix what's not broken.

Best jdrama villain ever, besides Sakurai-san from Densha.

Ep 1 also serves to introduce Uchida Yuki as a journalist with a hidden agenda and bring back Noguchi sensei, the villain from the 1st season. Its so fucking good to see Uchida Yuki back on the screen and Noguchi is one of the true villains of jdoramas. None of the 'I've got a bad childhood/used to be good guy/system has corrupted me crap'. No freaking debating with the heroes on who's got better morales. Noguchi is a villain because he believes in his goal and he will do anything to achieve it except engage with a stupid debate with our heroes. I'm kinda disappointed he didn't bring back his 'entlassen' catchphrase though.

Unfortunately Arase and Miki are relegated to minor supporting characters, for the time being..

Ep 2 is where we finally see where this series is going. Basically Asada, Ijyuiin and Fujiyoshi get kicked out of Meishin to Hokuyou, a hospital that Noguchi plans to use to dump the undesirables from Meishin. Instead of retreading the 1st episode what we have now is a bigger challenge where Asada has to assemble a new team and try to save a doomed hospital. Immediately, this makes Asada & gang the super underdogs and gives the viewer more reason to cheer them on.

Hhhmm, Otsuka Nene....

I mentioned Salaryman Kintaro and its similar to season 2 where they get kicked out of their company and decide to set up their own to fight back. The writers for Hana Yori Dango 2 and Hotman 2 should take note. Move the story forward, not rehash the same stuff. Looks like there is hope for jdorama writing after all. Plus, there are 4 new characters who may join Team Medical Dragon so there's the underdog with hidden past and unrealised potential stories to do.

I'm glad Kitou sensei is back. Natsuki Mari is always entertaining to watch.

I'm so stoked that finally there's a freaking dorama for me to get real excited about. If you only watch one show this season, make it Iryu!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dream Again eps 4-6

Kabe Onna is young but Yama onna is sooooo irresistable......

I thought this show was full proof. Then I was told that the writer of Dream Again also wrote the Taiyo no Uta drama and Rondo. Watanabe Mutsuki's not bad looking so one can guess how she got her writing jobs. How can a show with so many storylines be barely watchable? Its when the story and dialogue looks like it was written by an amateur writer.

Sadly Kato Ai has been reduced to super boring and useless girlfriend character...

Ep 6 finally picks up when Sorimachi goes to jail and we have our corporate takeover shades of Koi ni Ochitara. It even has the same actor as the bad guy. It was then that I realised the number one thing this show is missing. An exciting challenge. Yes, Sorimachi is training Asahina's body to be an athlete and he has to run the company but the writer just makes everything so simple. As they say, the devil is in the details.

Dear gods of jdorama, please make Aota Noriko not wear a jacket for rest of series and turn up the air conditioning in the office. I can imagine the cameraman hoping she'd fuck up her lines during this take of her oppai jiggling down the corridor in the beginning of ep 5. :)

Its as if all that is required to be a baseball player is simple conditioning training. What about playing in an amateur league? Sure Sorimachi has he memory and knowledge from his previous body but what about building up muscle memory and stuff like that. Participation in games would allow Sorimachi to better show his struggles with Asahina's body.

WTF Kumada is angry at someone who just did his job? As I've said before, nothing kills empathy than idiotic good guys.

And the way that Sorimachi forgave Kumada and believe his dodgy explanation makes him look like a fucking idiot. Selling out your boss and providing forging documents just so his boss is acting out of sorts? And what's with that Asahina's stupid crap about doing evil things like simply firing people on the spot so they can do good deeds? I like the twist that he wasn't a bad guy but fark, his explanation sounds like a fucking primary school essay with lotsa plot holes. He wants to be fucking rich by screwing everyone over so that he can finally do charitable deeds when he's a trillionaire or something.

I wish I were Kumada here. Why can't I remember Aota Noriko from Salaryman Kintaro?

Not to mention Kato Ai so quickly becoming Sorimachi's ally. Where the fuck was the promising ending of ep 1? When she will try to dig out Asahina's past misdeeds and send his ass to jail? Can we actually have Kato Ai doing some actual lawyer stuff and Sorimachi actually trying to be a fund manager/stock trader. Even the way Sorimachi got out of jail. We need to see Kato Ai actually do some lawyer stuff besides just hitting the books. Hello, go to court and try to get him out on bail ffs. Try to get the evidence declared as illegal or something. FFS, have the characters do something exciting!

Seriously, Rondo was proof already that Watanabe Mitsuki has no talent for dialogue and themes. Its like she's putting multiple elements into the story as it goes along. After playing Assassin's Creed for past few days, someone needs to make sure she no longer spoils doramas with her shoddy writing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

KDO getting married!

Abe Hiroshi is finally getting hitched! No doubt due to the greatness that is KDO, Abe has graduated from comedy foil to super chick magnet. Apparently, the future Mrs Abe is not in showbiz and Abe did a press conference with a sketch of her face which is just too freaking weird. And wtf is it with the flowers? The fiance didn't want to show her face so what's the point of the sketch? To show that she's hot without the press ever seeing her face? Or maybe its just that Mrs Abe can't be photographed....

Anyways, kekkon omedetou to Abe Hiroshi! Now if only Nakazawa Yuko can get married. Since Abe did not offer much info on how they met, we can only speculate:

1) She's a doctor who did a proctology exam on him.

2) She's his next door neighbour who complained about him playing his Mahler symphony no 5 too loudly.

3) Aijin of his brother in law.

4) She's a poor magician and they solve mysteries together.

5) Teacher of tokubetsu class for gettingi into Todai.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hotaru no Hikari ep 10

Further proof that Ayase Haruka and Kuninaka Ryoko should have switched roles. Zen zen kawaiikunai!

I would never have thought I would enjoy the final ep. Maybe its because the story finally came to an end but looks like they managed to salvage the show in the end. I think the key was that Hotaru finally moved out and she could finally realise that Makoto is just a cardboard character who gets his fix from looking at Ikea catalog books. The lack of chemistry is apparent to everyone but Hotaru. As Bucho's friend said, she was just in love with the idea of falling in love.

Finally Bucho goes from plot device to interesting character but its a little too late..

Somehow I found Bucho and Hotaru's exchanges in the elavator funnier in the final episode. He's kinda become Kuwano from KDO; the only way he can communicate with her is by trading insults. Notice also that previously, they managed to keep their conversations at work professional, or rather when Hotaru was not wearing jerseys.

Stupid cardboard gets to sit next to Kuninaka Ryoko. :(

Actually I realise now, why this show has suddenly become watchable. Cause they finally got rid of the stupid jersey plotline. I mean 9 freaking episodes of stuff about jersey and the real story is Hotaru's infatuation with love. The writers could have easily put the jersey stuff in the background and perhaps used Hotaru's love of manga to illustrate her desire to fall in love with love. Its like the writers got too engrossed with the jersey thing that they forgot to build up to the actual climax.

The fact that the last episode was good doesn't change the fact that the previous 9 were crap. The supporting characters hardly get anything to do and the non-existent side-stories get wrapped up too easily. Kuninaka Ryoko is so misused, its a crime. If only Hotaru had moved out around ep 6 or 7 the show would have been so much better. Chalk it up to bad pacing.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hatachi no Koibito ep 1

Yes, they first meet when Sanma decides to flash the cleaning girl.....

My most anticipated show this season. I hope this show will turn out to be what Jodan ja nai! did not become a good older guy, younger girl show. The younger man, older woman show is one of the most used and weakest genres in jdorama. Out of so many shows I've watched the only one that did it well was the classic Long Vacation and Suekko Chounan Ane Sannin. Everything pales in comparison because of lack of chemistry and scripts usually pays way too much attention to the older woman.

No. 1 reason why I will finish this show...

I was really stoked to have Sanma and Nagasawa Masami in the same show. Then the realisation hit me in the first episode. The 30 year age gap is one freaking huge hurdle. Pairing her with a 40 year old would be hard enough but someone who is nearly old enough to be a grandfather? It almost feels dirty. Casting someone 25 would really help a lot, eg Takeuchi Yuko or Hirosue Ryoko. Its less for the age gap and more for the fact Nagasawa Masami just feels too freaking young.

We need a camera angle from the side! Goddamn furniture. Someone get a JAV cameraman!

Still I really want to see whether they can pull it off. There's an explanation to help Sanma and Masami get together. Long time ago, Sanma was in love but Masami's mum, played by the ageless Koizumi Kyoko who of course looks like her daughter. Then there's the mistaken identity part of Masami thinking that Sanma is this great author.

Hhhmm, her booty is better than her mom's...

The first episode is slow, which is not a bad thing. We're introduced to the main characters, shown what makes them tick and how they meet. Even then, nothing much happens which is smart. The audience has to want Masami to be Sanma's koibito. All these tell me that the writer has a plan. Its gonna be a slow burn but I would love to see them pull it off.

I've got too many ideas for a caption for this pic and all of them are dirty...

Plus, there's always Sanma for the humour. However, I must say his monologue in the first episode was kinda testing my patience. Right now as I'm writing this, I'm thinking of various storylines which will make it easier to justify the Sanma - Masami pairing. Eg, make Masami the damsel in distress/delinquent youth etc. and Sanma the good samaritan who keeps helping her out.

Ahhhh, Koizumi Kyoko. Makes me feel like digging out my copy of Mada Koi wa Hajimaranai...

Right now, its Sanma your happily married OL and Masami who's just entered the workforce. There needs to be something to be the basis of their relationship and the fact Masami is the daughter of Sanma's former gf just seems a tad incestuous. Ok, it worked in Aoi Tori but that show was a completely different animal. Dark and tragic shows have different rules from comedies. And if I were Sanma's character, I'd rather go for Koizumi Kyoko. On second thought ... :)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Dream Again eps 2-3

Stop coming between me and my secretary!

The show's kinda slowed down for me a lot. I'm not sure whether Shida Mirai is miscast as the daughter or they should not have given so much time to her story. Maybe Fukuda Mayuko would have done a better job portraying Hina's contempt for her father and yet at the same time seeking his approval. Is Shida Mirai incapable of playing anything other than the good natured girl?

Satsuki just comes across as a unsympathetic brat to me..

Or perhaps the father daughter story is the least interesting and urgent of the stories in the show. Should the writers have taken their time and allowed Sorimachi and Shida Mirai to develop more chemistry? Ultimately I think the answer is that Satsuki is a mere plot device to bring Sorimachi and Kato Ai together. Its just a shame that a plot device gets center stage.

Unfortunately Kato Ai has been relegated to supporting actress for eps 2+3 :(

They could have easily used the whole Kato Ai investigating his company plot with Sorimachi slowly discovering all the evil deeds that his host body has done with the conflict between righting wrongs and his responsibility to his company. I think Satsuki just does not come across as a sympathetic character and I wanted to see the further adventures of Sorimachi, not Shida Mirai.

Maybe the writers thought it was the weakest story and wanted to be done with it before concentrating on the baseball and business stories. I don't really buy that cause they could have put the father daughter story in the background and used it as comedy fodder. I guess they had to strengthen Kato Ai and Shida Mirai's relationship so that she can be a bridge between Kato Ai and Sorimachi.

I just hope they didn't write the series as concentrating on each story over a few episodes. What I mean is eps 2-3 on Satsuki, maybe 4-7 on funds and business and 8-11 on baseball and Kato Ai. Such a method would spoil the pacing as evident from eps 2+3. Better to juggle all stories simultaneously while spreading the climaxes over the last episodes. Fingers crossed that the pace of ep 4 picks up.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Hotaru no Hikari 1-9

Hotaru no Hikari is Ayase Haruka's chance to show that she can really act after the disaster that was Tatta Hitotsu no Koi. She was ok in Byakuyakou but she hasn't shown that x-factor that separates the Matsushima Nanakos from the Uchiyama Rinas. As Kanno Miho has shown in Watashitachi no Kyokasho, all a good actress needs is just a meaty role to show she is more than eye candy.

Someone please stop casting Fujiki Naohito in serious shows.

In Hotaru no Hikari, Haruka plays Hotaru, a himono onna, a woman who pretends to be ladylike outside but at home wears a t-shirt and sweatpants, drinks beer and lazes around. First problem is that the show treats it like its such a bad thing. Its as if its a bad thing to not to bound by society's dress code and rules of behaviour when at the comfort of one's home. I mean wtf is so uncultured about t-shirts and for sweatpants?

Not even Kuninaka Ryoko could save this show for me. They should have put Ken-chan in it. :)

Is Japanese society so image conscious that image is everything? If this rule only applies to women then I don't really care. Still , making such a stupid concept the main subject of this show makes everyone who cares about it look like idiots. I seriously doubt the show is a critique of society's obsession with image. Yes, they way one presents oneself is important but to the extent of looking down on girls wearing t-shirts and sweatpants? The way everyone throughout the course of the 9 episodes makes snide comments about women in t-shirts is just not funny.

I like how the script portrays Hotaru. She's probably the only 'real' character in the show. Everyone is just a 2d character. Fujiki Naohito's Takano-san is just a device for Hotaru to voice her emotions. As well written as Hotaru's personality is, there's just something about Ayase Haruka's acting that just doesn't impress me. I'd rather see Kuninaka Ryoko switch roles with her. She just doesn't have the talent for comedy and the show could really use a few laughs.

Maybe I'm just pissed off Kuninaka Ryoko hardly gets any screen time....

Part of me thinks I just can't get this show cause I'm a guy. The other part just feels that the acting is not good enough. I just can't help comparing this show to KDO. I would say this show is KDO for women. Unfortunately Ayase Haruka and Naohito Fujiki are not even in the same planet as Abe Hiroshi and Natsukawa Yui acting wise. They're not even fit to feed Ken-chan cucumbers. Can't fucking believe they and Kuninaka Ryoko won awards for their acting, especially Naohito Fujiki's stilted acting which only works in comedies. I like Kuninaka Ryoko as an actress but serious, she was just doing the stereotypical ojousan role. But then last season was a really crap one.

Acting has a lot to do with facial expressions and using that to express emotions to the audience. Hotaru no Hikari spells out every single emotion that the characters go through. Compare how Kuwano in KDO expresses his happiness with slight changes in his behaviour. Its subtle and entertaining. There is no freaking emotionally charged scene in the show. Even the scene in ep 9 where Hotaru's bf confronts her and Takano san in the house is so lame. You can't feel the tension. Compare with the scene in KDO where Kuwano and Hayasaka are arguing in Michiru's home. You could cut the freaking tension with the knife. You feel for Michiru cause she's angry that she's been blind all along. You feel for Hayasaka cause she realised too late that she has hurt Michiru and she is torn between what she wants and her sempai relationship to Michiru.

In Hotaru no Hikari, you don't feel the conflict Takano's conflict. You don't see Teshima's pain of betrayal not just by his girlfriend but by his boss. You don't see and feel that not just because the acting sucks but because they've not developed their relationships well in the story. Hotaru no Hikari tries to be a dorama where the characters write the story not where the story decides what the characters do. It doesn't work when the characters and relationships don't feel real.