Sunday, December 21, 2008


I did not take any interest in Medaka when the subs came out. I had seen Mimura in the Ima Ai ni Yukimasu dorama and she did not catch my attention. It was definitely the dorama's fault though, trying to stretch a movie into a 10 episode dorama, especially when the movie was more about the twist than character exploration. Then of course, she blew me away as Mano-san in Saitou-san. Her performance as the timid suburban housewife who idolised Saitou-san was something I couldn't picture any other actress doing. She had this ability to play the nice, naive girl without making her look stupid.

My chance came when Medaka was chosen as jdorama of the week and I could not miss the opportunity. Medaka however sat in my HD for a long time, until today when I was desperately searching for something enjoyable to watch to cleanse the bitter taste of Bloody Monday. I needed a show to restore my faith in jdoramas and unfortunately the subs for OL Nippon seemed to have stopped.

Pretty sure I've seen fencing girl before but can't remember which dorama...

Mimura plays the title character, Medaka who teaches at a night school, ie a high school where classes are held at night for people who are unable to go to regular schools for one reason or another. Basically its very similar to Kinpachi sensei with Medaka helping her students with their various problems except that her students are underdogs of society. I think I didn't want to watch the show in the beginning cause I thought nothing could top Jyoou no Kyoushitsu and had no desire to see another teacher dorama.

Medaka wouldn't be as fun without these two..

Because the students are not your typical bunch, ie a hostess, salaryman, florist, socially inept kid etc, this automatically makes them more interesting than a bunch of kids with too much chemiclas in their hair pretending to be cool. Plus, we don't get any stunt casting ie people who cannot act with the sole exception of Kuroki Meisa. OMFG is she bad. I didn't really notice it in One Pound gospel with Kame stinking up the whole show and I was too pissed off their screwed up another Takahashi Rumiko adaptation but her acting is rigid, emotionless and unnatural. They should have given the three girls a chance to show what they can do. Not even Kuroki Meisa's constant showing of her long legs can distract me from the abomination that is her acting. I'm just happy that she was only majorly featured in only one episode.

There's something about Mimura's smile that makes her characters endearing.

Medaka is pretty similar to Mano-san in that she wears her heart on her sleeves. She is very driven but is not too preachy unlike many jdorama teachers. She always second guesses herself and thinks she's to blame for everything but is not afraid to try. Most importantly, she is a joy to watch. Mimura has the 'it' factor. The screen presence and ability to play a goody character without making her look stupid. It is because the emotions that Medaka experiences seem real and connect with the audience.

Sakai Wakana and the drunk ojisan from Densha. Come to think of it, he's always playing alcoholics in jdoramas.

The supporting cast is superb. Even though I'm sick to death of Kita Yoshio, once again he played his part well. Watching Medaka, I realised why Kinpachi sensei is always better than crap like Gokusen. Its because kids aren't idols so they cast according to talent while high school shows are just a stupid excuse to feature Johnnys. Medaka's stories are nothing that we have not seen before but the execution is excellent.

The episodes are mostly stand alone stories with some side stories weaved throughout the series. Medaka starts of slow but picks up around the 3rd episode. The middle episodes are superbly heart warming and fun to watch until we get to the Kuroki Meisa story in episode 8. She certainly does not dress like a teenager whose parents are in serious debt. Her fake smiles really poisoned that episode. I know she's supposed to be a model but ffs couldn't they have dressed her down for her role? Why did she have to wear diamond earrings and shit. If you're playing a poor character, look poor. And not do a half hearted job at it like the guy from Celeb to Binbo.

Episode 8 is also bad because the big reveal about Shiina's past is super lame. I think they must have run out of scenerios for teachers with a dark past. The reason for his brooding and mental anguish is just too laughably bad. The only silver lining is that luckily it was in Kuroki Meisai's episode so that out of 11 episodes, only one is unwatchable. The last two episodes weren't as exciting as I had hoped but by then, I had become so enamoured with the characters that I just wanted to watch them complete their journey. I really enjoyed the side story between Sudo Riso's hostess and Oyamada, the part timer. Side stories are great for filling up space for pacing, comedy and the little payoffs make jdoramas more watchable.

Sato Megumi in a small cameo in the end. I want Medaka 2 as long as she's in it!

So how good is Medaka? I wouldn't say its must watch. Kuroki Meisa obviously did a lot of damage. Its definitely close to must watch, especially for the acting but some parts that were a bit slow do take some points away, especially at the end. Probably the most succinct comment I can give Medaka is this; if you like Mimura in Saito-san, Medaka is must watch.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bloody Monday ep 5

WARNING: The following review contains a lot of cursing and swearing. Apologies for not being able to express my disgust eloquently.

Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrggggghhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!! This show just makes me want to scream in frustration. With Giragira, though there were frustrating bits, there were enjoyable parts as well. With Bloody Monday, it just gets worse and worse. Take for example the terrorists bringing Fujimaru to the cafe. For what purpose? They think he's going to willingly join them? A whole elaborate set up in a diner for the boss to show his face to Fujimaru? What sort of idiotic terrorist is J? Don't you have lots of things to do before Bloody Monday?

Fujimaru the hostage boy and his sister and Fujii Mina are hostage girls. Who hasn't been held hostage yet?

I can accept J's revelation is sort of necessary for the plot but it was an absolutely time wasting scene. Even worse is the infiltration/stand off. Where the fuck are the fucking snipers? FFS if you have cameras zooming in on J, you can have fucking snipers. Ready to shoot down terrorists who are planning to launch a viral bomb on Japan. If I were Goro's boss, I'd fire his fucking ass for his fucking incompetance. Please excuse my language as I'm just getting more pissed off as I type this.

At least we have a cute terrorist.

We're not just talking some stupid organisation who just declares they want to terrorise on a whim. They've done stuff before and proved they are a huge threat. This is suppose to be super serious, national emergency type stuff. If they didn't want to kill J just wound him. Shoot his fucking legs from across the building FFS. And the stand off. OMFG. Just shoot them already. FFS the innocent bystanders are separated from the terrorists so just shoot them to hell. WTF cares about Fujimaru's life in the compared to the threat? Or even when they pushed Fujimaru to the floor? Shoot to kill. Sort bodies later. Or when the lone terrorist shoots back and there's no Third-I to shoot back. Aren't they supposed to have their guns aimed at the terrorists.

The whole event of taking Fujimaru hostage, walking to entrance, pushing him down and solo guy firing with Third-I agents hiding doesn't make sense. Someone deserves to be shot more than J and that is whoever wrote or shot the fucking sequence of events. Third-I was standing near the entrance and all of a sudden they're hiding in the other end of the cafe. Lets not talk about the van and butterfly guy firing random shots. Third-I is the most fucking incompetant anti-terrorist squad in the world. Goro is a fuckwit and all he knows to do is to scream in everyone's earpiece.

I don't know about Ashina Sei but if I were going to a shoot out, I would at least make sure my hair doesn't get in the way of my vision.

And wtf is up with the I can't even spare 10 minutes to see my fiancee bullshit? Its not like he has got a fucking lead and even second counts. Are we suppose to fell sorry for his fucking fake I don't have time cause I'm having meetings and wallowing in self pity bullshit? WTF put Goro in charge of Third-I anyway? He has shown no leadership skills and has done nothing of note except being able to see the code in Fujimaru's sms. Even then, he failed to act in ep 4 which I grumbled about in ep 4.

Its almost as bad as Fujimaru's stupid 'why didn't you try to negotiate with terrorist' bullshit. The lame ass answer by Ikuma is worse. 'Cause Goro is fighting with himself'???!!!!!! WTF wrote that piece of shit line????? The writers need to go back to school. I was screaming at the screen. "Cause you DO NOT negotiate with fucking lying terrorists you fucking imbecile of a hacker! Cause the country's safety comes first. You want to fucking trust terrorists who want to kill everyone? Are you insane?" I just want to beat Fujimaru's stupid idiotic face up. And seriously why did Fujii Mina have to tell Fujimaru's friends about the terrorist thing? Shouldn't there be an information lockdown to prevent mass panic?

Not even Ashina Sei is special enough to save Bloody Monday.

Every good guy on this show is an idiot. If the terrorists weren't so lame with all the posturing, I would root for them. Writing about Bloody Monday is bad for my blood pressure. I can turn a blind eye to the flaws in Giragira because its a lower budget show and only had 8 episodes. But not for a big production like Bloody Monday. Someone should seriously tie the writers up and force them to watch 24, the Negotiator, Bourne and other shows with competent cops/FBI/CIA etc and see how they are suppose to act. I can't believe that one of the writers actually wrote the whole Trick series (one of my favs ever). Bloody Monday could actually end up being worse than Rondo and that's saying a lot. The more crappy cop/terrorist/action shows that Japane churns out, the higher I place Gonzo on a pedestal. SIgh, if only Harorangers continued subbing Runaway.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Giragira eps 5-8

If only I had better writers....

Giragira can be a frustrating series to watch. Like in ep 5 when Hideyoshi falls hard like a cement block in water for Yuna. Can't really blame him but for someone who's suppose to have real life experience and hates liars, Hideyoshi's ignorance towards Yuna's motives is just unbearable. Not to mention that there was no build up and all of a sudden Hideyoshi is getting himself in all sorts of trouble for Yuna. It would have worked if during the course of the series, he is the only one who notices that Yuna may not be that happy with Taisei, ie he catches glimpses of when she lets her wall down. Even then, he would still need to be cautious towards her.

Angel at the doorway to heaven...

It is basically creating a relationship out of thin air in the middle of the series just to advance the plot. There should be more foreshadowing of the Hideyoshi-Yuna thing, not to mention Hideyoshi only came into the series after the first few episodes. I can accept Kohei running around as our idealistic super host but when even he was wary of Yuna, that makes Hideyoshi an idiot who's unbearable to watch.

Hello thighs!

There are parts of Giragira that I love besides Ashina Sei. The whole family man by day, super host by night is fun. Watching him use his host skills to reassure his wife is funny.The whole idea of host battles just remind me of Yakuza/Ryuuga gotoku. Only Japanese shows can overdramatised any profession and make exciting. It would have been better if the show had shades of grey instead of black and white ideas of right and wrong but it would have been workable if they had put more thought and planning into the plot.

Looks like Umemiya Masako's career is really going nowhere. At least she was in the most memorable scene in Golden Bowl.

It is bloody unfortunate Ashina Sei is not in the last two episodes. They should have spread her story over the series and made in part of the climax. Instead we get some crappy actor playing Taisei's kid who acts like a girl. Like the part where he shouts at his dad and runs of. Its so laughably bad. And Kohei's decision at the end on what to do with the evidence was pushing the realms of logic. I just wish it were a calculated risk on Kohei's part to force Taisei to become enemies with the yakuza guy prevent Rink from becoming a target of retribution.

Nakanaide Ashina Sei!

My biggest dissappointment is probably the climax being a whimper instead of a bang. Momoko finding about Kohei's job through her brother was so anti-climatic. We need a scene where she catches him in a comprimising position with a client! The cue running away, Kohei not being able to abandone client, she turns around and his not there, blah blah blah, to be continued. Instead we get a boring table conversation. Without the eye candy, Giragira is a failure. But with Hara Mikie and lots of Ashina Sei until ep 6 and not to mention cameos from Umemiya Masako and Mitsuya Yoko, I'll have to cautiously recommend this show just for the girls.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Scandal ep 1-6

The show starts getting fun when the dots start connecting...

I was hesitant to watch Scandal. Many housewife doramas are there just to make up the numbers every season. Many are run-of-the-mill in-law shows. The same old stuff about suburban mums. Once in a while you get something inspired like Saito-san which takes a different spin on the typical suburban housewife stories. The main reason I decided to give Scandal a chance is Suzuki Kyoka. Her acting in Karei naru Ichizoku was great. In terms of acting, that dorama was magnificent with the sole exception of KimuTaku but Suzuki Kyoka's performance put her in my books as a great actress.

Scandal is pretty much the Japanese version of desperate housewives, which is a bad and good thing. The bad thing is you have four women with very fake personalities. Suzuki Kyoka is the proper 40 year old mom who cares about appearances. Hasegawa Kyoko (Dragon Zakura) is the dreamy mom of a struggling household who has a fantasy blog and cries all the time. Fukiishi Kazue is a former 3rd rate model married to a plastic surgeon 20 years her senior who treats her like a caged bird and lastly, Momoi Kaori is the old one of the group who is cynical and stressed out by her jobless husband and hikkikomori son.

If she can look as good as her mom at that age, she'd be a good catch. :)

The beginning of the show was hard to watch because all these characters are so super fucking flawed that I was grasping at straws to find any reason to cheer them. They are pretentious, useless and talk way too much without doing anything. Hhhm, sounds like some people at my workplace. Flaws usually equals depth. It is necessary to stereotype the characters first before adding layers to their personalities. Usually watching people who don't mean what they say can be interesting because of subtle verbal jousting but these four women are so flawed to the point of caricature that the world would be a better place without them.

Pillow fight!

Luckily, Sawamura Ikki is there to keep it interesting. He has been the supporting act in so many jdoramas and he is always a hoot to watch. His chemistry with Suzuki Kyoka is excellent and their interaction funny as. It is clear that the writer was aiming for a subtler, dark comedy feel with the flawed characters but it only worked with Kyoka and Ikki IMO. I was kinda bored to see Kita Yoshio in this show as a cop. Every time I see a middle aged character in a show, I expect it to be him. The Japanese Diet needs to pass a law to allow him to act in maximum of one jdorama per season. He is putting all the old dudes out of work. Nevertheless, his acting in Scandal works although it is merely a toned down Negative Yoshio. Maybe its just that he is antagonistic to the four women that made me support his character.

I have to admit, the Bara hime no mori bits are pretty funny.

I know it sounds kinda bad but its much easier to critisize than to praise. What makes Scandal work is the story. Every single character has a past and things to reveal. The revelations are simple but the important thing is how and when things are revealed. This is the strength of Scandal. The writer plants questions and ends every episode with a cliffhanger. Answers are revealed in the next episode which leads to more questions. Just when you think you've got it figured out, something new brings doubt to your mind.

Its unfortunately Fukiishi Kazue doesn't have much of an arse to shake. That's probably why she's a 3rd rate model.

Yes, Scandal is a mystery dorama and a bloody well written one at that. It is when the story shifts into high gear by the 3rd episode that the show becomes engrossing. When the characters act in certain ways to progress the story, then it is good. Maybe the writer wanted to start slow or maybe the writer realised that dialogue relating to character development does not work. Its hard to do a mystery and character dorama with so many characters and luckily it shifted into story mode early. I'd rather doramas have a crappy beginning and good end thana good beginning that quickly fizzles away.

Do check Scandal out and watch at least four episodes. If you're not screaming for the fifth episode by then, this show's not four you. I'm so tempted to watch ep 7 raw but it may be better for my blood pressure to wait for all the subs and watching it in one go.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Bloody Monday ep 4

Spoilers ahead! Don't read unless you've watched ep 4 or Kichise Michoko will shoot you!

So far so good. I feared that they had done too much in the first episode that they little left for the rest of the series. Hacking issues aside, its been a pretty good 4 episodes. The UN needs to issue a wordwide ban on unrealistic hacking movies/dorama. When was the last decent hacking show? Hackers starring Angelina Jolie came out when the internet was young and the audience was more ready to swallow the fact of faster typing = better hacking. Trying to convince the audience that someone could hack into super government computers in 5 minutes without having a stealth trojan type software in it is pushing it.

Hhmm, Fujii Mina. Doing Shikaotoko and Bloody Monday is a good way to start her career.

The important part is that there is always something happening and every episode has an interesting revelation that keeps the audience coming back for the answer in the next episode. The thing I'm happiest with is that Bloody Monday has managed to avoid many cliches which ruin cop shows. So far, there's no scene of 500 hundred riot/police officers to capture one person. There's no long time wasting scenes of characters posturing around with dramatic music. There's no non-threatening villain who just laughs like an idiot and spends 15 minutes monologing... yet.

She kinda looks like Toda Erika.

They've given the ball to Kichise Michiko to carry the 4 episodes as the main villain and she's really running away with it. She's so good as the supremely confident Maya who at the same time exudes danger. I almost wish she'd just break away from the terrorist group and become a rougue character with her own intentions so I can cheer her on. Don't like how Takagi has been Shinjified that sometimes he's like the damsel in distress.

With this and Gira Gira, this season will be known as the Ashina Sei season!

May main problem with Bloody Monday is just the small nagging issues in logic which completely negated some scenes for me. Take the beginning of ep 4 when Maya shot Hosho. WTF did Hosho not shoot back? Wasn't it Hosho job to kill Maya? If she was scared of Maya, then shoot her when she was walking away! Kirishima was told that Hosho was in HQ and alarm bells did not ring? Even after she was suspected of being a spy and she had told him she was in pursuit of Maya? What sort of fucking anti-terrorist is Kirishima? And after Kirishima's fiancee found the viral bomb, why didn't he order her to disconnect it from the air vents and run? Why did they have to spend 10 seconds watching the video of Hosho setting it up? It completely ruined the suspense.

I think for the rest of her career, she'll be known as the super doctor girl from Iryu2.

Kirishima's fiancee's incident is a huge event in the series but its impact is negated by all this issues. If an air borne virus is released in a building, shouldn't it be evacuated? How long can the virus stay in the air and how far can it travel? Wouldn't the safety of the occupants be the first priority? If you catch a terrorist who who know is skilled in close combat, wouldn't you first ensure that the terrorist is secured before notifying the others? If you had a terrorist on the rooftop with a hostage, wouldn't your main priority be to secure the terrorist so that you can get information? Why couldn't anyone in Third-I shoot her when Hosho's back was to them? Don't tell me no one in Third-I can aim? Why didn't they shoot her when she commit suicide to stop her? This is not just cops cornering a criminal. This is an anti terrorist organisation surrounding a person who could provide them with a wealth of information to stop the terror attack.

As I've said before, many shows have gaps in logic and its when issues get complicated and the gaps become essential to events that it brings it down. I'm not saying Bloody Monday is unwatchable. I enjoy it a lot but I just have to point out the obvious flaws that left me cringing. I think all this logic problems would have minimal if the main character had been a Jack Bauer/Jason Bourne character instead of a Shinji Ikari. Then the audience would forgive Third-I for being so incompetent.

She almost makes me want to watch Kamen Rider Hibiki....