Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hachi-One Diver eps 1-2

I love midnight doramas cause there is no expectation of decent writing or good acting. Its all about enjoying shows that are so bad that they're good. And of course the extra fan service that these shows always have since they do not need to cater to families. Hachi-One diver intrigued me cause its about Shogi. One of my favourite mangas ever is Hikaru no Go which is also about a board game. HikaGo showed that any competitive event can captivating. It just requires excellent writing.

I'd certainly like to do a few things if I were Kentaro.....

In Hachi-One, Kentaro is a Shogi player who failed his pro exams and currently gambles on Shogi for a living. One day, he challenges Akiba no Ukeshi (Naka Riisa)and is completely defeated. Dejected he goes home and calls a maid cleaning service only to find that Akiba no Ukeshi works as a maid as well. Basically, we have a student-mistress show where the mistress is also the maid of the student.


I kinda had high hopes for the show but quickly realised not every midnight dorama can be Liar Game. However, this show has one very good thing going for it: Naka Riisa as Akiba no Ukeshi/Miroko. OMFG, she is so fucking moe I cannot stand it. Everytime she is on screen my happiness index just goes through the roof. Technically, she's not super hot but OMFG, she can probably kill people with her moe-ness.

If there were maids like her in every country there would be no wars....

Its all about the eyes, the sort of blank look with slight nodding of head. Hachi-One has revealed to me the secret of heaven. Heaven is being able to call a bust and moe maid to clean your room.
Kentaro, (the main character) has no idea how lucky he is. My main problem with the show is how Ikari Shinji like Kentaro is: ie an emo and a wimp. Kinda lost count of how many times he's cried in two episodes.

Best view in the house....

On a side note, watched the new Eva movie last week and OMFG, I hate Shinji for what he's done to anime/manga main characters. What happened to the generic nice guy main characters?!!! Why must main characters be so pussified and sensitive? I'm not asking for Golgo 13 but Shinji has eliminated clear cut masculine/feminine roles. Sigh, if I can go back in time I'd try to at least force Gainax to let Shinji grow some balls and stop his whining in Eva.

I can only dream......

Back to Hachi-One. While still better than crap like First Kiss and Last Friends, Hachi-One would be unwatchable for me without Naka Riisa. Avoid unless you dream of maids.

Luckiest man in the world...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hataraki Man eps 1-5

When I first heard about Hataraki man, I was kinda turned off. Another dorama about a working woman? I've seen too many of them, from Brand to numerous Shinohara Ryoko shows. The problem is all of them are very pedestrian. By the numbers. Uninspiring. Its as if the writer has a list of issues working women face and just ticks them off. That is, until I saw Hataraki man.

So, this is what OLs talk about.

I like Kanno Miho. I enjoyed Iguana no Musume, Koi ga Shitai and Itoshi Kimi E. To me, she was a decent actress but not great. There are only two, maybe three jdorama actresses I consider great. Watashitachi no Kyokasho was the first time I thought Kanno Miho was pretty good. Perhaps she just needed a juicy role instead of her usual chick in distress roles. Sort of similar to Hataraki man, her role was a lawyer who had to choose between a bright future and the right thing. The depth she brough to that character was amazing.

The best thing about the Hataraki transformation is the reaction of the others.

Now in Hatarakiman, she plays Matsutaka Hiroko aka Hatarakiman an editor of a weekly magazine. When she gets into her work, she becomes a sort of OL superhero who gives 110% to work. I just love the way she runs during the intro song. The run is so rigid like yet looks cool. Its like a superhero who instead of going to vanquish evil is going to .... work. Yes, the concept of a superhero salarywoman sounds weird but for some reason it just freaking works. Whether it due to Kanno Miho, the great writing or Hatarakiman song, I don't know.

The writing for the show is very similar to Beauty or Beast, a very excellent Matsushima Nanako show. Have a huge supporting cast around the main actress and make every episode about one supporting character while slowly building up the main story. The key is to give every character a positive and negative trait and present them with a challenge which is not too cheesy or easy. Sounds simple but so many shows can't even get this right. It is the delicate balance of manipulating the audience's emotions into supporting the characters yet not making it too obvious. In other words, turning characters into underdogs we love to support without resorting to cliches which are too obvious.

My heart and other part throbs for Hirayama Aya.

If there is one flaw with Hatarakiman, it is a flaw that most salarywoman shows have, a very weak main (supporting) actor in Yoshizawa Hisashi, the dude Ace wo Nerae. He just doesn't look mature enough to be alongside Kanno Miho. I mean, he was just in a high school tennis dorama 4 years ago. I don't know whether its lack of chemistry or the fact that Kanno Miho looks so much better with the photographer or Sawamura Ikki. I feel absolute zero empathy for Yoshizawa Hisashi's character, Shinji. After watching Sawamura Ikki in Konshu tsuma and this show, I think its time he got a chance to play leading man. He's paid his dues doing boring nice guys. Who knows, he might be the next Abe Hiroshi.

IMO the Hataraki song pawns Haruhi's.

Chick factor is good. Its great to see Hirayama Aya still acting. I thought her acting career was over after Haruka 17. And of course Kichise Michiko, the dressed in black chick from Liar Game. I really, really want to see what she can do. Gotta love the air of mystery around her character. There better be an episode about her of I'm gonna be sorely disappointed.

OMG, its Sailor Venus!!!!!! (she has a small cameo in ep 3)

I'm racking my brain trying to 'sell' this dorama. Its kinda hard to describe why the show is so good in a concise manner because all I can think about is the Hatarakiman song that plays at the end of every episode. I think the producers look at Haruhi and realised that since an average anime can be so famous due a dance, then why not try it with a dorama? Still, the catchy song is just dressing on the cake.

Everytime I see his face, I just think about how not cool he is compared to the coach in Ace wo Nerae!

So, why are the first 5 episodes of Hatarakiman must watch? Its well acted, written blah blah blah. It could seriously be almost as good as Beauty or Beast/Bijo ka Yaju which is in my top 10 best dorama list. If you have never heard of it, go get it now before you watch Hatarakiman. As every episode is basically stand alone, its hard to guarantee that the quality of later episodes will be as good. I feel so freaking tempted to go buy the crappy HK English subbed version but I'm so scared the subs might ruin the show for me. Now to listen to the Hataraki Man Ondo song while I upload the pics. :)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Shikaotoko Aoniyoshi

Are you talking to me?

Someone recommended this show in the comments and gave a really good review. I was intrigued by his/her reasons for liking the show. Anyone can say why they think a show is good or not but the why is important. While a persons interests/expectations can make it subjective, I believe there is an element of objectivity in rating/judging doramas. Things like pacing, loose ends and storyline/character arcs.

The best character in the show is actually the one on the right.

Shikaotoko means deer man. Yes, Tamaki Hiroshi (Chiaki from Nodame) plays Ogawa Takanobu, a teacher who has a negative attitude towards life and is always stressed out. Ogawa is given an important task by a talking deer to save Japan from earthquakes. What follows is a mystery dorama where the viewers try to piece together the puzzle of Ogawa's mission.

Madonna, played Shibamoto Yuki. She made Ayase Haruka look so ordinary in this show, not that I really found her attractive anyway.

Its hard to talk about the show without spoiling the show so I'll just copy and paste the review from my comments section without permission:

"IMO the best drama of last season is Shikaotoko Ayoniyoshi by miles. It has elements of fantasy, mystery, suspense, and comedy, but is essentially a very well written mystery with Japanese mythology as backbone. If you thought Ashita no Kita Yoshio is a well written mystery, then this one will blow it away. It has one of the most full-proof and watertight plots I've seen, but if you pay attention, you should be able to figure out most pieces of the puzzle by the end of ep. 6."

Hotta, probably the most intriguing character in the show.

"Still, even when the mystery is resolved at the end, every single major/minor detail is accounted for, and there's no loose ends I can tell (and I've read/watch thousands of mystery novels/movies/dramas). This drama ranked higher than Bara no nai Hanaya in the Oricon end of season satisfaction rankings, just behind Daisuke. The first ep. is a bit slow; if you still haven't gotten hooked by the end of ep. 3 then you're either not paying attention or this is probably not your cup of tea."

Another shot of the lovely Madonna.

I'm not sure about the best dorama bit. Saito-san while slightly inferior has more memorable characters and Hatarakiman is pretty good. Shikaotoko started out really slow for me. My brother was questioning my wisdom in continuing to watch the show. It really paid of in episodes 5 and 6 with one of the best sports episodes I've ever seen.

I just love how everything comes together in the end and makes complete sense. And the final episode is sorta like the epilogue after the climax but it was so fun to watch. I kinda hate it when doramas end too quickly as you spend 10 episodes watching the same characters. Its kinda nice to have time to say goodbye. It doesn't feel overly long and it gives all the characters the spotlight to wrap up their character arcs.

I can never get sick of taking caps of Shibamoto Yuki. :)


There are some parts which are kinda stupid. Like Ogawa going back to school after finally getting the triangle. If I had something that important, I would not want to risk losing it. Nevertheless, it was necessary so that Richard could so some exposition and explain some things to the audience. Or like how Ogawa allows Richard to come along. But it just so fucking worth it for the my shika scene!

OMFG, the my shika scene was just too cool. I was kinda expecting them to be riding on the shikas when they finally found out where the triangle was but the earthquakes were causing traffic jams. Oh well, the budget for that would be too expensive. To me, the my shika scene is on par with the 'boku wa shinimasen' scene from 101 Proposals. That split second silhouette of Hotta and the chika just so perfectly sums up the show.


In short, get Shikaotoko! I am so happy took the risk of doing this weird show. Its the type of show that won't sell. How do you convince someone to watch a show about a talking deer trying to save Japan? The first episodes where slow in establishing the story and were very, very weird. But this show is so fucking worth it. Thanks to whoever posted the comment. I would not have watched this show otherwise I don't find Chiaki's acting interesting and I find Ayase Haruka overrated. This show entertained the hell out of me despite my prejudices.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Saito-san Eps 4-11

I'm going to miss this show a lot. Specifically, I'm going to miss Mimura's potryal of Wakaba Mano. She is one of the most entertaining characters jdoramas I've ever seen. When she was cast in the Ima Ai ni Yukimasu dorama, I was wondering what the producers ever saw in her. Her acting was so bland and could not compare with Takeuchi Yuko's. Still, it was a futile attempt to stretch a movie into 10 episodes.

Why I want  to be a kindergarden teacher when I grow up...

Saito-san proves that Mimura has the acting chops after all. Mano-san insecurities and need for acceptance and acknowledgement are a joy to watch. I enjoy the way she stammers when unsure of herself and throws tantrums like a schoolgirl over her own misunderstandings. In the middle of the series I was a bit disappointed when she did not become 'braver' but then I realised that it was her character flaws that created the interesting dichotomy between her and Saito-san.

Mano-chan totemo kawaii...

Her relationship with Saito-san is very much hero worship. Saito-san is the woman Mano-san wants to be. You could say that Saito-san is like the archetypal Ojousan in a shoujo manga who the students look up to and aspire to be. It is this hero worship that propels Mano-san to overcome her own ensecurities. It is her 'flaws' that make her decision to stand with Saito-san all the more impressive. The way that Mano-san celebrates every single step that she takes, from singing the 'seigi no mikata' song to being overly enthusiastic shows the purity or innocence of her hero worship.

I'm going to miss the schoolgirls on bikes....

The writers portay Saito-san as a bastion of goodness. Sorta like how Superman is the symbol for Truth, Justice etc, Saito-san is the perfect suburban housewife among a sea of housewives who don't have backbones and only play follow the leader. The writers refuse to reduce her a mere mortal except for a little bit in the end.

... especially Ayoko. :(

However this leads to another problem of convincing the audience that the Saito & Mano relationship really did progress from one of admiration to mutual friendship. To me, Saito-san is like the reluctant leader and Mano-san the follower. As Griffiths said in Berserk, to be friends, both parties must be of equal standing and Mano-san's worth and friendship to Saito-san is sorely understated.

I would have loved to see Saito-san run into deep trouble and Mano-san moving mountains to save her. However, I can see why the story went the way it did. Though the dorama is called Saito-san, its really about Mano-san who is like a sidekick to the superhero and breaking Saito-san down would mean that Mano-san would have to be elevated. In other words, Saito-san is like this force of nature that tore through Mano-san's life and humanising Saito-san too much would lessen the impact.

Gambarre Saitou team!

This show is definitely in my 'must watch again' list. Whoever knew that a dorama about housewives that did not involve sex and murder would be so much fun?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mop Girl

Mop Girl was a show I had heard good things about but when I skimmed through ep 1, I wasn't very impressed. Goes to show how one should never judge a jdorama at a quick glance. Kitagawa Keiko stars as Hasegawa Momoko, our main character who has the ability to travel back in time/see the future in order to save someone's life or help them do something before they die.

Basically the first half of every episode sets up how a character dies and the the second half is Momoko running around trying prevent the death from happening. The premise is brilliantly simple and fun. Who among us would not like to be able to redo our actions with the benefit of hindsight?

Everyday I give thanks to God for creating maid cafes. If only I were in Japan...

One show Mop Girl really reminds me of is Trick. Tanihara Shousuke (who's been in too many shows) is Ohtomo-san, Momoko's colleague and partner in her adventures. Similar to Ueda Jiro from Trick, he is a narcissistic person who always gets into fights with Momoko except its Momoko who is always asking for his help. His obsession with gaijin women is probably the best running gag of the series. Tanihara Shousuke is always playing the forgettable nice guys in doramas but I think this is the first role I've seen him in which he completely ownes. I just love watching people who've payed their dues get their chance to shine.

I always wanted to see Koide Saori after Densha. Never dreamt it would be in maid costume!

The crux of the series, like Trick is the chemistry between the two leads and its just a pleasure to watch them argue and Momoko try to manipulate Ohtomo. Can't believe that Kitagawa Keiko was in the Sailor Moon dorama. I've only seen two episodes of the show many years ago but she certainly has the goods to be a good actress. Kudos to whoever decided to cast her as Mop Girl.

The stories are decent with episode 4 being the stand out episode. In fact, I would say ep 4 is probably the best single episode I've seen in a long while, thought its partly due to Koide Saori. (the idol from Densha) Yes, the show has only been subbed up to episode 5 so I went out and bought the HK English subbed version which is pretty bad. (the subs)

Can't really tell whether its the bad subs or just that the stories started getting boring after ep 5. It still picks up at the end though but nothing matches the greatness of ep 4. I would recommend waiting for the fansubs and avoiding the HK DVD. Usually I can survive with English subs translated from Chinese but the subs for Mop Girl are that bad. Maybe it would have been better watching them raw. Highly recommended. Now to look for someone who has the Sailor Moon doramas. :)

Monday, May 05, 2008

4 Shimai Tantei eps 1-4

A detective show with Nakagoshi Noriko (Pride), Kato Natsuki (HYD2) and Ichikawa Yui (H2) certainly sounds like the perfect recipe for a fun dorama. As long as the mysteries don't have big plot holes, I'd be happy staring at them for 9 episodes.

Alas, just when I thought this show had potential, I quickly realised the show's first problem: its got the wrong title. Instead of 4 Shimai Tantei, it should be called Yuriko and her 3 idiotic/useless sisters. Yes, the three actresses who I had looked forward to watching have been reduced to supporting roles. Not only that, they have become irrelevant characters whose only purpose are to be comedy foils and to advance the plot. Sigh, I had so hoped to see what Nakagoshi Noriko can do after only seeing her in Pride.

But not liking the name isn't really the main problem. The main problem is the end of ep 1 when Yuriko caught the criminals in a scene straight out of Home Alone. That's when the realisation really hit me that this was a fucking kids show. FFS, shouldn't shows aimed at kids be screen earlier or something?

Suddenly the stupid characters and dialog made sense. In kids shows, its always the kids who are smart and everyone else is stupid. Smart characters get minimal screen time and only appear to advance the plot. Words cannot describe how pissed off I am at the makers for wasting 3 beautiful actresses to entertain kids watching doramas at 9pm. Avoid!