Monday, September 24, 2007

LIFE eps 1+2

Finally, a dorama worth watching this season. I avoided this dorama cause Watashitachi no Kyoukasho despite the crap ending was a pretty good show on bullying in school and I didn't see how any show could do it better. I wouldn't say its better but this is the first show this season I didn't reach to fast forward.

Manami getting touchy feely with Ayumu......

First thing I gotta say is, the pacing is great. So many things happen in the 1st two episodes that I couldn't it. It goes against the grain of so many shows to drag things out that I was almost wishing they could have fit the 1st episode in two. Almost.

Turn around you idiot! The wind is your friend!

Kitano Kita plays Ayumu who is best friends with Yuko in junior high. Yuko, who is the smarter of the two wants to get into Nishi high school and Ayumu wants to follow so they study together for the exams. However in the end, Ayumu ends up doing better than Yuko and gets into Nishi koukou while Yuko does not. Yuko then blames Ayumu for spoiling her dream and attempts suicide. And the above happened in 36 minutes. I'm just fucking impressed at the efficiency of the story telling.

With 'friends' like these, who needs enemies?

Ayumu goes to Nishi koukou, meets Anzai Manami (played by Fukada Saki) and her life just gets worse. I won't spoil the rest of the story so far. Regardless to say, this show is dark, as is any story about bullying. There's abuse, violence, bondage and blackmail. People with multiple faces and dodgy agendas, which is par for course with such shows.

I was born the wrong country. Where's that pesky wind when you need it?

Ayumu is probably the only likable character here, and maybe the guy with cigarette burns on his arm. As I said in my review of Kono yo no Hate, with dark depressing shows, you need likable characters put in difficult situations and difficult choices which all lead to despair. So far Ayumu is a pretty bland character but that's ok as long as the story and pacing is fast and furious. Ayumu's lack for characterisation might be the show's downfall but I'm pretty sure she's going to be developed through the choices she makes rather than any idiosyncrasies.

Whether or not this becomes a great show depends on two things; the choices Ayumu makes when she goes to war and hopefully none of the villains apologising in the end and blaming it all on their childhood/parents etc. That's what killed Watashitachi no Kyoukasho. All that bloody talking and poor attempts at philosophy. As long as Katsumi doesn't spend 20 minutes crying and blaming everything on his abusive father, I'll be happy.

Lets not forget the hot teachers....

I can't believe this midnight dorama is better acted and infinitely better scripted and shot than Jotei. Thanks to those who recommended the show to me. Oh yeah, the eye candy is good too, but I guess its obvious from the screencaps.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ushi ni Negai wo: Love & Farm ep 6

3 reasons I'm still watching this train wreck...

Ding dong! The cow is dead! Never before have I been so happy that an animal has died on a jdorama! If there's one element of the story that is its achilles hell is Green's mom. How much of this show is about the characters fighting and crying over one single cow. Yes, its a freaking cow ffs. 1 out of how many hundreds in the farm and out of the hundreds of thousands in Hokkaido.

Why don't you ask Akiyama-san to save the cow by cheating the owner?

Green's mom can't produce milk anymore so she's going to made into beef burger. Big boohoo. If there's one thing I hate more than idealistic characters who can't even think logically, it a show featuring a bunch of them. Is the writer of the show some sort of cow lover who doesn't eat beef? Think about how much effort the characters in the show put towards Green's mom instead of running the farm. Albeit all the other cows were happy to see Green's mom taken to the promise land. She probably thought that she was a special cow or something.

I know the scripts sucks but one day, you'll be in a dorama with a SMAP!

The decision to turn Green's mom into food is simple logic. It costs money to feed and keep her and she's useless and if the characters can't see that, they're fucking idiots. They probably think that all the meat at the butchers and supermarkets come from some magical factory or something. If those idiots visit those farms where they rear chicken/pigs/cows for meat, they'll probably die from crying.

This show is some vegetarian conspiracy to discourage people from eating beef or something. Good thing it doesn't work or else no one would eat Hokkaido beef. I'm going to have some yakiniku-don tomorrow and imagine that its Green's mom. This show needs to get away from the lame farm animal stuff and concentrate on the Kazumi-Tohei-Ayaka-Takashi-Mihoko pentagon.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kono yo no Hate

Ah, good old jdoramas. We've got a young heroine who works as a hostess and is forever trying to pay for her past, her blind sister who is trying to find her own life, a pianist who has the power to leech money of women and is trying to escape his past and a scarred mechanic who can never escape his crime. Not one mention of some super rare disease. No trying to spread a concept too thin over 12 episodes, just twist and turns in the story to keep you watching.

Why don't you just use a Hallelujah Chance instead of moping around all day?

If you've seen the comments at d-addicts and the wiki, Kono yo no Hate is touted as the darkest jdorama ever. This show has attempted rape, suicide, drugs, blackmail and violence. Yup, plenty of stuff that jdoramas won't touch today. However, its no depressing or sad which is not to say its not entertaining either.

Everytime I see her face, I can't help hearing Bokutachi no Shippai in my head....

I love dark and depressing doramas. However, they only work when their empathy for the character and the best way is to take regular characters and put them in unfortunate situations and show them hopelessly try to escape. This only works when the characters are smart. They don't have to be streetwise but not as dumb as some pianist who has no idea about surviving in the real world.

Suzuki Honami's character probably chain smoked as much as KimuTaku in his old shows.

The crux of the show is Maria's (Suzuki Honami) sacrifices for Shiro (Mikami Hiroshi). Basically she's playing the Hoshi no Kinka tragic character. I like that she's trapped by her past but the things she does for Shiro just borders on stupid. I can't say its because Maria and Shiro are completely devoid of any chemistry but rather Shiro is too idealistically naive. The problem is the two main characters playing two 'female' type roles. The tragic girl looking for happiness and the prince(ss) who wants to escape his destiny. Watching Shiro fuck everything up is not tragic, its stupid. Contrast this with Byakuyakou where characters try their best to escape the circle of violence, the tragedy of Maria and Shiro just seems .... comical.

Love the camera work in this scene. Every cut, the camera gets closer to Nana's face.

Which is not to say this show isn't fun to watch. We've got Sakurai Sachiko as Nana, Maria's sister and Jun (Oura Ryuichi). Yeah, the blind girl and guy with scarred face story can be cheesy but at least the characters don't do things which leaves the viewer scratching their heads. In summary, the show's still very watchable. There's never a dull moment with the story moving at a brisk pace. However, one's enjoyment of the show depends on how tragic the viewer sees the main characters.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Suekko Chounan Ane Sannin

Since the above dorama is currently series of the week, I'd thought it opportune to write about probably the most underrated dorama ever. Mother in law doramas never work. They're boring, predictable and stale. Except for Suekko Chounan Ane Sannin. I remember 3 or 4 years ago, looking a show to watch with my brother and SCAS had been sitting on my HD for sometime. My expectations were very low and somehow this show is able to do the in law theme in an entertaining way.

Fukatsu Eri plays Haruko who meets Ichiro (Okada Junichi) on her 30th birthday. However, he believes that she is 25. Things happen and by the middle of the 1st episode, they're engage to be married and move in with Ichiro's mom. The arrangement was that they would occupy upstairs while the Ichiro's mom would live downstairs. All hell breaks loose when Ichiro's three older sisters return home for different reasons and destroying Haruko's dream.

You're probably thinking it sounds a bit different but its going to end up like all in-law shows. Everyone treats the bride like shit, she slowly helps them one by one and discovers that the in-laws are not to bad etc etc. Yes, some conventions can't be changed but there're reasons why this is the only good in-law show I've seen. (Mukodono doesn't count)

Usually, such shows concentrate on the fight between wife and in-law while we are wondering whatever possesed them to get married anyway! (See Erai Tokoro ni Totsuide Shimatta!) Here, you've got a cute story of how they got together, there's damn good chemistry and you gotta feel sorry for Ichiro growing up in a heyna's den. IMO, casting's probably the most important part. Too often, a strong actress is cast but the husband does not seem to be the wife's equal. (Usually a former prime time actress who's too old to run barefoot in the rain being chased by a Johnny)

Maybe this allows the housewife to project herself to this strong character, but from a storyline perspective if the viewer is unable to understand/feel the bonds that drive such a character to battle with the in-laws, then the battle is meaningless. It is as if fighting to preserve a non-existent marriage. (I seem to recall this other in-law dorama long time ago where the husband was overseas for the whole series and the twist was that he died in the end. Can't remember the name and I don't have it with me...)

The whole super strict mother-in-law bit is lame. Ichiro's mom is more... unconventional and I particularly like her obsession with Mas-san. Actually its more about the selfish sister-in-laws. Actually the show is closer in structure to Mukodono and your typical in-law show. With you average in-law show, the only story arc is between the wife and mother-in-law. With SCAS, you've got your newlywed story arc, and 4 stories for the 3 sisters and the mom. In other words, its good a damn good narrative.

And not to mention Koyuki and Harada Tomoyo. I love being surprised by jdoramas and this I've always remembered this show fondly. Highly recommended! Be sure to look up the meaning of the lyrics to Kanpaku Sengen after watching!

Monday, September 10, 2007

jmovie review: Sakuran

Beautiful movie about Oiran during the Edo period. Oiran are basically high class prostitutes which predates geisha. However there are many similarities with Geisha movies. Ann Tsuchiya plays Kiyoha, a rebellious young girl that gets sold to a brothel. Her stubbornness brings her into trouble with the Oiran, played by Kanno Miho.

Kanno Miho takes a liking to Kiyoha and teaches her the 'arts'. I love the scene where she intentionally scolds Kiyoha to toughen her resolve. Perhaps she saw something in Kiyoha that she used to have. There's only one way out of the brothel, and that is for the Oiran to be bought by a noble to be his mistress. Kanno Miho finally gains her freedom and we fast forward to when Kimura Yoshino is now the Oiran and Kiyoha is still as stubborn as the day she went in.

Yup, that's Kimura Yoshino. The guys hand was practically stuck to her oppai.

Sounds like a pretty ho-hum show, doesn't it. Suprisingly, this movies manages to take your average story about bitch-fighting and power in a brothel and turn it into a compelling movie. First off, this movie is beautiful. Lots of colours and elaborate costumes. The music ranges from pop to rock to broadway style and somehow it doesn't take away from the movie. It adds to the surrealness.

The best part of the movie is the acting. Anna Tsuchiya is completely mesmerizing as Kiyoha. The fun way she portrays Kiyoha's acts of defiance along with her constant search for a way out. It is as if rebellion is the only thing that is keeping her alive. Every time she's on the screen, she just exudes that charisma. Probably the best thing to say about her acting is that she makes Kiyoha seem real. I'm looking forward to see whether it was a one in a lifetime role for her of whether she is that damn good.

I must mention Natsuki Mari as the mama-san. She's brilliant in what little screen time she has and her chemistry with Anna Tsuchiya is superb. One of the best Japanese movies I've seen. Highly recommended.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Jotei Ep 1-5

" If you want to be a first-class woman, sleep with a first class man!"

The above quote from the first episode of Jotei illustrates what midnight doramas are all about. Crudely written dialogue that's hilariously bad yet somehow amusing as prime time doramas can never get away with it. What I enjoy about midnight doramas besides the eye candy is that I can expect the worse and will always be pleasantly surprised when they do something well. As ho-hum as Liar Game's ending was, the series as a whole was so much better most of the jdoramas. 2nd House and Shimokita Glory Days were both enjoyable just for the ladies and jokes.

I can't believe the director/make up artist didn't realise that her forehead was too big. Unless there's a new forehead fetish going on in Japan? Someone cast her as Martian Manhunter in the JLA movie...

In Jotei, Kota Rosa plays Tachibana Ayaka, whose aim is to be the empress (Jotei) of hostesses and gain revenge on those who have caused her mother all the hardships. One thing I really hate in doramas/anime is main characters who are always telling everyone 'I want to be the strongest/Jotei/king of the world etc'. Its fine in the beginning to establish a character's motivation but to do it over the course of 3 or 4 episodes? The funny thing is those characters who help her just because she proclaimed that she wants to be Jotei. They should be telling her to learn how to crawl first before telling everyone she wants to fly.

I'm glad I'm free of that baka Kanzaki Nao. I like my women with more brains...

My 2nd big gripe with the show is Kota Rosa's forehead. All she has to do is not tie her hair up. From her other pictures I've seen, she's decent looking with her hair down but her huge just doesn't look pleasing to the eyes. Perhaps she uses her forehead to hypnotise people into helping her.

If only they've cast Maeda Ai as the main Ayaka....

Matsuda Shota looks like he's sleepwalking through his role as the Yakuza guy who for no reason at all decides to help Ayaka. Can't blame him, especially after he did the excellent Liar Game. He's not menacing enough to play a yakuza though. Still, its not as lame as Fujiwara Tatsuya's lame potrayal of a yakuza in Moonlight Jellyfish.

Need any other reason to watch this show?

When watching this show, just be prepared for the very worst. Beer helps a lot. Get ready to cringe/laugh at some of the worst lines ever written. The eye candy sucks in the first 3 episodes. Ozaya Maju who plays Ayaka's 1st rival is so ugly. If they'd cast a decent looking gravure idol without a huge forehead, this show would be so much bearable. Maybe I'm just a sucker for punishment and putting myself through this series will make me appreciate the average jdorama more. Only for dorama-addicts.

hhmmmm :)
EDIT: Ooops, didn't realise that this was not a midnight dorama. It even says on the first pic that its a 9pm show. I think the horrible acting/writing led to assume that it was. That would explain why Kota Rosa was wearing a shirt instead of a bra when Matsuda Shota ripped her dress at the beach. It would also explain why I have not seen any full frontal nudity in 5 episodes. Thanks to whoever pointed out my stupid mistake!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Papa to Musume no Nanokakan ep7

Every dorama starts of as a great one. You get excited about the cast, the premise sounds interesting and one is filled with anticipation, thinking of the various ways that a show can go. The show started of strongly. It was a storyline I had never seen in a jdorama before and it was funny. Somewhere along the line, the show started to lose my attention. I think it had to do with the fact that while Koume was doing a great job taking over her father's role (duh, he works for a cosmetics company) the father was basically screwing up her marks and trying to keep her relationship with Kenta alive.

To me, Koume's dad not doing anything successful while in her body is a big wasted storyline opportunity. Going back to school and taking exams would be such a fresh air from the daily grind of working. It just makes Koume's dad look damn incompetent IMO. It was a huge mistake for the story to focus so much on Kenta.

Basically, the main problem is that the storyline is skewed for teenage girls. Teenage girl does better job than dad while worrying dad will ruin her life. This kinda prevents me from having any empathy towards Koume's dad. He is neither an admirable nor a sympathetic character besides the fact that he is stuck in her body.

I thought the Nishino storyline would spice up the show a bit but in the end she was revealed to be a psycho and then somehow her storyline was too neatly tied up into a nice bow. I'm not entirely sure that its the writers fault. Perhaps some TBS executive decided that the Kenta storyline would be good for ratings. The series is 7 episodes FFS. It should be about father and daughter, not daughter trying to keep infatuation alive while father plays supporting role. Or maybe Aragaki Yui's agent said no scenarios that will stretch her acting. I don't know. It seemed that the actor playing the dad is the star of the show while all the scenes involving Aragaki Yui are lame, inconsequential and unimaginative.

And I've gotta say a few words about the acting. I'm not sure whether some parts are bad for comedic effect or whether Aragaki Yui isn't good. I'm talking about the scene where she's crying in the hospital in the final episode.

Most doramas starts of with the potential to be a great one. My main gripe with Papa to Musume, as with most doramas is that it nowhere fulfilled it. Still, its better than that crap called most shows. *cough* First Kiss *cough* I guess since I was fairly entertained I'll have to say this was still a watchable show despite my gripes. Its just its one of those shows where the concept can only be done once in a long while and I was hoping it would be done well.