Friday, April 25, 2008

Saito-san Eps 1+2

I remember someone saying that Saito-san was probably the best dorama from last season. A dorama about a mom who likes to speak her mind? If there were two genres I try to avoid, it would be mother-in-law and suburban mom shows. This probably led me to think that last season was pretty bad. I mean, how good could a show about a nagging mom be?

So far from two episodes, Saito-san is a very good show because its not really not a show about a mom who likes to speak her mind. Its a show about politics of power set in the suburbs with a kindergarten as the battlefield. Its a show about a single person's ability to take action versus a group mentality of accepting things as they are. Saito-san is about doing what's right versus pleasing everyone and fitting in.

Saito-san is like a force of nature. The other moms want to get rid of her but she just exists. Mizuki Arisa is perfectly casted as Saito-san. She's got this aura about her. But Saito-san would not be Saito san without Mimura as Mano-san. Mano-san is the opposite of Saito-san. She tries way too hard to fit in get everyone to accept her. She has such a huge fear of being rejected by the other moms that its sickening. She's like the weakest of the weak that I just despised her.

However, she's the only one of the moms who sees that Saito-san is right although her fear of the others prevents her from speaking up. This makes Saito-san an emphatic figure without making her a failure as the audience projects their frustrations on Mano-san. We see Saito-san through Mano-san's eyes, hating her cowardice but ultimately cheering her on.

I still can't believe how engrossing this show is. Maybe its just me wanting to see Saito-san lay the smackdown on those spoiled high school kids. Nothing pisses me off than kids who think the world owes them a living. If you have not watched this show, do so. I'm slowly catching up on my doramas (at the expense of my gaming) and this year seems to be a pretty good year for doramas.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Life/Raifu eps 3-11

I kinda left this show in the backburner for a long time despite the first two episodes being pretty. Finally decided to continue with the show and ended up watching the rest of the series in one night. Life/Raifu is a show about high school bullying.

Blow wind!

To me the star of this show is definitely Saki Fukada as Anzai Manami. Anzai is what a good villain should be. Relentlessly cruel, unforgiving, forever scheming and most importantly is the villain because she enjoys it. Her ability to make me hate her is astounding and kept me watching just to see her get her just deserts. She is the character that drives the story. Anzai is the villain that forces Shiiba Ayumu to become the heroine of the story.

Mop Girl? Oops, wrong dorama.

Actually she's not the only 'evil' character in the show. Katsumi is fun to watch as the manipulative sob who is abused by his father. The overacting does take away from the believability of the character but he's still fun to watch. Lets not forget the useless self serving teachers, especially Seto Asuka's Toda sensei. For me Anzai is the most hateful character and I wished I could teach her a lesson with my rod of justice. :)

Bitch fight!

The set up of the show is sorta like those old school melodramas where the formula is to stack the odds against the heroine. Except this time instead of bucket loads of tears and self pity, we see Shiiba Ayumu continue to struggle against seemingly impossible odds. I wouldn't have blamed her if she went into a mental breakdown. Its like everytime something nice happened you knew it was going to get worse.

Unfortunately, this isn't what it looks like.....

The pace of the show doesn't let up. And it actually manages to pull off the Watashitachi no Kyokasho ending pretty well and make it a pretty cool scene. Kyokasho milked this really long and overly dramatic school hostage situation while in Life, its handled really quickly and succinctly while ending story arches of two characters.

I wish Saki Fukuda would say that to me...

Huge kudos to the show for not getting too preachy with the ending. I couldn't believe it when I found myself feeling a bit sorry for Anzai. For all her manipulation and evil doing, at least she has the guts to face the other students when it was her turn while practically everyone else are actually cowards who seek refuge in bullying. Even those two megane girls really got into bullying. You can say that the message of the dorama is to hate the sin, not the sinner but to me, what it has shown is that people are weak.

The hardest thing to do is to stand up to the majority which is something only 4 people in the whole school did. Its sorta like saying don't judge people by what they do but how they react to adversity. Whether the face it head one or run away/sell out their friends for their own survival. I hate to say it but when they really showed that everyone else were really cowards, I'd almost understand why Anzai did what she did. Almost.

Sonoda's one lucky guy, except for the whole cigarette thing...
Plus the guy who was the catalyst to turning the class against Anzai when Ayumu was caught cheating. It was basically the turning point of Ayumu's battle against Anzai. For a character of such significance, its kinda weird that his character is not even developed a little. I suppose he represents the other classmates who finally decided to speak up after being silent for so long.

One thing you'll definitely learn from this show is 'dogeza'. :)

Its too late to redo my top 5 shows from last year but Life is certainly up there. It has certainly shown me that Japanese doramas can have great, efficient writing. Or maybe this just applies to manga adaptations? Highly recommended show.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Bara no nai Hanaya eps 9-11

If Bara no nai Hanaya showed one thing, it is that good acting can overcome gaps in logic and soap operatic plotlines. (such as where football and sticky ball thing in ep 11 came from. Did Eiji rob some poor kids or something?) As I have said, I am willing to turn off my brain if it is necessary for the story that the writer wants to tell. And what a nice story it is. Compare Eiji with Oguri Shun in Binbo Danshi. Both are selfless to a fault except that Binbo Danshi is a fucking idiot while the writer in Bara no nai Hanaya takes effort to explain Eiji's behaviour.

I must applaud this show for actually doing a well written idealistic character. Usually such characters cross the line of stupidity thus eliminating all empathy to the character. Their idealism and selflessness blinds them to reality and they continue to make stupid decisions. ( see also Enka no Joou or any idealistic teacher show or most current anime shows)

I'm gonna miss the supporting cast. A fun supporting cast is integral to any series.

With Eiji, the writer makes great pains to show his past. I like how Shun functions not just as a plot twist but as the opposite of Eiji. Both chose different ways to deal with their past and Shun's character and reasons however lame serve to reinforce Eiji's character. To me the big pay off of the show was when Eiji was overcome with happiness. To me, the whole series was built up for that scene. So that the audience can truly understand and empathise with a man who is afraid to be happy. For most of the series, I kinda thought that a lot of actors could have done Katagori Shingo's role but he really nailed that scene and showed that he owned the role. And there is a joke about Shingo's alter ego, Shingo-mama when he farewells Shun.

No way I could have abandoned a girl as hot as Motokariya Yuika.

Takeuchi Yuko is brilliant. The whole bring her to the operating room to scream at her dad thing was cheesy but her acting was so absorbing that I couldn't care less. I think she does the whole sadness mixed with happiness scenes better than any other actress I've seen. I highly recommend this sometimes flawed but riveting show. Oh yes, I'm surprised no accident happened at Eiji's workplace. The way the shots were framed was so ominous. :)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Koshonin eps 5-8

I can't believe I watched the whole series just to see how it was going to end to only experience one of the most pathetically written shows ever. This show started out ok, with some obvious flaws but it was watchable. The show had some interesting angles; the whole negotiator stuff plus mystery and conspiracy. However, what follows is the most obvious example of amateurish writing I've ever seen. Actually, I'm pretty sure lots of amateurs can write the show better.

I feel as if I'm wasting my time trying to talk about what a train wreck of a show this is. So many freaking holes in the story it actually makes Rondo look watchable. The Diet needs to pass a bill banning Jinnai Takanori from ever acting in serious shows. The only positive thing I got from this show is Hayashi Tantan, who plays Usagi's sister. Avoid! Now to delete this show forever.....