Monday, December 21, 2009

Jyouou Virgin eps 5-12

The adventures of Ando Mai (Hara Mikie) continues. After she wins the 1st round besting her good friend Tomo-chan and we are treated to the second round where once again she gets bullied by her new adversaries. Tomo-chan is the most fun character to watch. You can never be sure what side she is on. Plus the fact that Kurokawa Mei is the only real actress in this show.

Sora Aoi is smoking hot...

My vote goes to Hara Saori for best oppai in Jyouou Virgin.

Kadena Reon gets a lot more to do in the second half of the series and I must say that she shows promise. I think the best part of the whole series is the Hara Mikie-Sora Aoi scene at the beginning of ep 7. Everyone's seen Sora Aoi naked but sometimes softcore style stuff is better because it leaves more to your imagination.


The most absurd part of the dorama is towards the end where Ando Mai volunteers herself to be raped in place of Tomo-chan. I don't know about you but that scene was so touching. *sarcasm* And she had to follow it up with crap about how its not about achieving one's goal but rather the journey towards one's goal. Someone's been reading Phil Jackson's books. Come to think of it, its not that absurd within the context of the storyline with Ando Mai being your super nice girl to the point of stupidity.

Dunno why guys would find the koakuma style hot.

Forgot to mention the heisei vs showa hostesses in ep 10 which was pretty fun. Its basically hostesses born before 89 vs girls born on or after that year. Of course the younger ones cannot work together and end up sabotaging each other under Ando Mai of course gets them to work together. Still, it was fun to see the older hostesses and their little tricks especially the widow's which was especially funny. The ending is way to happy for everyone but that's not really important, is it?

The megane girl is called Shoko. I wonder if she's suppose to parody Shoko-tan?

I wonder what Hara Mikie's looking down at?

At the end of the series, Hara Mikie promotes the dvd of the series which was sexy scenes not shown on tv. Aaarrrrgghhh. My curiosity is peaked. The question is whether the HK English subbed dvd is ripped from tv or the Japanese dvd? I wouldn't mind rewatching with subs so I can enjoy all the eye candy without having to strain my ears trying to catch all the dialogue. In terms of fanservice in midnight doramas, Jyouou Virgin wins the quality and quantity stakes hands down. If fanservice makes you happy, I can't think of any reason not to watch this.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jmovie review: Nobody to watch over me/Dare mo mamotte kurenai

Nobody to watch over me starts of with an interesting introduction:

ln the event a minor commits a serious criminal offense, police authorities may seek to shield
the minor's family from excessive media scrutiny and public hostility. This protection is given to prevent members of the accused's family from taking their own lives in response to the trauma. Such suicides have occurred in the past. Authorities have not admitted to this practice.

Then we get a slow motion montage of Saori (Shida Mirai) playing happily in school while the police storm her house to arrest her brother for murder. News spreads like wildfire and very soon, a huge contingent of media is camp outside Saori's home. The police explain to Saori's family that for the rest of their lives, they will be hounded and be known as a killer's family. Officials from the ward office and family court arrive with divorce papers for Saori's parents to sign. They are administratively divorce and remarried under the wife's family name.

The family members are to be separated and Katsura (Sato Koichi) and Mishima (Matsuda Ryuhei) are in charge of protecting Saori. What follows is a decent car chase scene (by Japanese standards) as the press chase the car Saori is in through the streets. Up to this point, I'm really loving the police vs media procedural stuff. Its a different angle from your usual crime stories and I'm just happy to see a realistic Japanese police show. Things happen and and Katsura is forced to flee the city with Saori. It becomes more of a road movie, dwelling into an incident in Katsura's past that continues to haunt him.

The first half is pretty good. The second half, we get to the purpose of a movie which is a debate about the family of victims vs family of the accused. Aishiteru explored this subject as well, though from a slightly different slant. The concept of family being responsible for the actions of one family member is something that I can never understand. Collective responsibility, yes but not for criminal actions. It would be interesting to find out how the majority of Japanese view these matters but judging from doramas and movies, the public is happy to crucify the whole family for the sin of one. Dare mo mamotte kurenai also looks at the internet and its effect on a public that is always curious about murder cases and overly eager to condemn family members.

Very weird to see Muroi Shinji not in his usual dead serious, non smiling role.

There are a lot of themes explored in this movie including forgiveness and moving on but it does it with a subtlety of a sledgehammer. I think Dare mo mamotte kurenai tries to do way too much that it feels so uneven and unwieldy. There's too many angles driving this movie without one major thread to hold it all together. You got Saori's story competing against Katsura and the net angle and not to mention Giragira's waste of time role. Saori's story is supposed to be the main one and yet it feels so undeveloped. It has a great beginning but not enough substance to make the ending work.

Good thing she doesn't look as anorexic as she was in Uta no Onisan.

Its a shame that such a high budget movie with a great cast is let down in the end by the script that tries way too hard to be great. I think it sort of worth watching for the first half.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fumo Chitai eps 4-7

I can't believe Samejima is the baker from Shiroi Haru. One could say that is the sign of a good actor.

The ratings for Fumo Chitai haven't been good. After starting off with 14.4%, its currently hovering around 11% which is pretty much an average rating, comparable to Liar Game. While Jin is probably the top rated show this season, it is an outrage that Tokyo Dogs rates better than Fumo Chitai at about 15%.

I demand you show more skin to raise the ratings!

As Chuks, the subber for this show mentioned in the subs thread:

This drama isn't getting good ratings. Apparently, it's too difficult for even Japanese, especially for female viewers.
To gain better ratings, the Fuji TV aired a show in which a female comedian Mitsuura
and two female tv personalities discussed about how cool male casts are on the drama, to
appeal to female viewers.
I wish they didn't do that. It's so desperate lol
It's a shame that such a good drama isn't recognized well.

Can you believe that Boss had higher ratings?

WTF? Are Japanese girls that shallow as Real Clothes leads us to believe? Why not sell the dorama as a well acted show with a great story? Sigh. I can or rather have to accept the reality that doramas are all about idols, but how can it be devoid of recognition of good craftsmanship? Is critical acclaim not good enough to sell doramas? Is a well crafted story with suspense so hard to watch compared to a juvenile cop show that plays more like a sitcom?

In ep 4, Iki succeds in the Luckheed bidding but pays a very heavy personal price and finally his stoic expression finally breaks. Japanese politics is so much about not revealing one's true emotions and intentions that it was good to see Iki finally allow himself to show his anger towards Kaizuka. As much as we'd like to see him burn in hell, Kaizuka has profited from the Luckheed victory as well. Iki questions whether victory in business is really worth the sacrifice of his best friend and subordinate. Daimon sacho convinces Iki to stay on and not waste the loss of Kawamata and Koide.

If this were your generic black and white dorama, Kaizuka would have a traumatic childhood and Iki would talk him into repenting before Kaizuka sacrifices himself or something.

Iki is then put in charge of the Business Affairs Department which overseas the overall of strategy of Kinki shoji. This bring him into conflict with the vice president, Satoi Tatsuya and the heads of various departments. This is right before the six-day war between Arab world. Ikki requests information from an Israeli trader and the various departments have to bear the cost of such information.

Entlassen! Noguchi sensei will always be one of my favourite villains.

I really love stories set in eras before mobile phone and internet. When one had to wait for the morning to read about yesterday's news and accurate and up to date information was worth its weight in gold. It makes things much more exciting. I enjoy the conflict between Iki/Satoi. Satoi has a point; the employees would have not be motivated to seemingly follow useless orders from the Business Affairs Department. It means that they are not free to make decisions for themselves and Ikki's decisions were not beneficial to the individual departments.

She reminds me of Aibu Saki in Karei naru...

The only thing that casts Satoi as the villain in all this is that jealousy is part of the reason for his opposition to Iki. Even then, that is very understandable due to Iki's rapid rise and seeming gamble of the future of the company on information provided by a suspicious individual. From the six day war, we go to the Japanese car industry and I'm enjoying the history lesson. We all know Japan as a developed nation but its fun to see how they got there.

I remember having a tv like that back in the day...

My favourite part of the show so far is not all the history and politics stuff but the scene at the end of episode 7 when Iki's wife finally confronts him and bares her emotions. Saying that Iki has been ignoring his family and it is as if he has gone to Siberia. He has trapped himself inside this prison of work and it is as if he no longer lives in the house. As I said in my review of the earlier episodes, I really think sprinkling flashbacks to his Siberian labour camp throughout the series would be very good, especially when he faces difficulties in his work or has to keep his emotions in check.

Give Fumo Chitai a chance. There's an average of 400+ subs downloaded per episode compared with crap like Tokyo Dogs or boring shows like Ohitorisama. There are a lot of dorama addicts out there who are missing out.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Longest Night in Shanghai review

Anytime there's some international dual country dorama/movie, it always ends in disaster. See Faye Wong's Uso Koi or Rondo or Fukada Kyoko's Friends. Actually all Fukada Kyoko shows end in disaster but that's besides the point. Most of the time, the aim of the show is to promote or utilise a foreign star. Problem is, foreign star can't speak local language so you end up with a half hearted attempt by the two main characters to communicate with each other and some lame story to make sure that both parties visit each others countries.

The Longest Night in Shanghai is a China/Japan joint production starring Masahiro Motoki (Okuribito) as Mizushima, a charisma stylist who is in Shanghai to do an awards show. Mizushima has reached a turning point in his professional and private life and after what he has achieved, has no idea what he wants. He is bored with his career and his relationship with his girlfriend, who is also his personal assistant has stagnanted. Vicky Zhao (Shaolin Soccer) is Lin Xi, a brash taxi drive who has to take care of her useless brother and has a crush on her mechanic. One could say that the reason she drives so recklessly is so that she can get her taxi damaged.

For someone who's at most a supporting actor, Tsukamoto Takashi's been in some pretty good shows.

On that fateful night, Lin Xi knocks Mizushima down and as an apology, offers to give him a tour of shanghai. Unfortunately, Mizushima has no money, mobile or any idea where he was suppose to stay. At its core, The Longest Night in Shanghai is a fish out of water story. Mizushima is lost in a foreign land with Lin Xi as his reluctant tour guide. They are barely able to communicate; Mizushima knows some English but Lin Xi doesn't. She wants to get rid of him and does, but she comes back to his aid despite being preoccupied with her personal problems.

They encounter various adventures throughout the night and of course come to terms with their emotions and personal problems. I won't spoil what happens but its remarkable that a movie with two people speaking different languages and constantly misunderstanding each other can be so entertaining. Credit the actors and the script. There's some laugh out load moments, especially Takenaka Naoto's (Shall we Dance?) Bruce Lee scene. His imitation is uncanny. For a movie director by a Chinese, the Japanese parts are really good and don't feel fake like when Western movies have Japanese speaking parts and dialogue and characters don't feel authentic.

If there's one real weak link in this movie, its the side story of the megane dude in the bar. Its obvious they want to make it a story about love and relationships, blah blah blah and give everyone a story but megane dude and the American singer story is laugh out bad. First, his English is shit. Second, the dialogue is pathetically fake. Similar to my comment about Japanese in American shows, this is the result of an actor who can't speak English spouting words written by someone who has no idea how lame the dialogue is in English. Good thing its only a minor part of the movie but its so bad it sticks out like a sore thumb.

I highly recommend The Longest Night in Shanghai. Movies with a chinese director doing a half Japanese/Chinese romantic comedy which is different from the norm and using the language barrier has a tool for exploring a story don't come around very often.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Ohitorisama 1-5

Saito-san would never cry!

Not another older working woman with younger guy dorama! Not to mention that the younger guy Shinichi is played by Ijyuuin who looks like a twelve year old! There is no freaking way he can have any sort of chemistry with Mizuki Arisa. Ijyuuin is basically playing the female role here and his character displays a lot of stereotypical feminine characteristics. The only way their relationship would work is if they were an S&M couple but I'd rather not give it too much thought.

This begs the question, why have I lasted up till ep 5 so far? Obvious answer is of course Mizuki Arisa. There hasn't been any bad episodes so far though non of the episodes have been pretty good either. Its easier to stomach Ijyuuin since he was in Iryu. Being in one of my all time favourite doramas does wonders for an actor's watchability.

No jdorama about high school is complete without a rooftop scene.

Then there's my favourite part of the show, the battle between Sawai sensei (Matsushita Nao) and Saegusa over Ijyuiin. Sawai sensei, the seemingly pure and innocent teacher is always there to foil Saegusa's plans to snare Ijyuiin. Her strong knowledge of teacher entrapment techniques hint that she may not be as nice as she pretends to be. I just find it hilarious how Sawai sensei always appears out of nowhere.

I love how positively evil she looks. I wonder if it was intentional?

Ohitorisama is pretty much standard career woman dorama. Its also got one element I really find useless, the need for the main character to voice every goddamn thought she has. Mizuki Arisa is a decent actress and I'm pretty sure she can convey from the emotions with her acting without the need for a monologue everytime something happens. When Akiyama sensei has to spell out every goddamn thought, its sort of like she's imposing herself on the audience. When there is no thought monologue, the audience is able to read the character through his/her actions and facial expressions thus creating a relationship whereby the viewer is more of an observer who gets the know the character as the series progresses. KDO is the perfect example of this.

She hasn't been doing her kawaii voice in doramas anymore...

Ohitorisama is a watchable show more because it hasn't really done anything badly. Unless you're a Mizuki Arisa or Matsushita Nao fan, give it a skip. Compared to Jin, Liar Game and Fumi Chitai Ohitorisama is as pedestrian a jdorama as they come. If Ohitorisama came out during a bad season like the last one, I would be more positive about it but with 3 good shows this season, I can only say 'watch it if you've got nothing better to do'.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Jmovie review: Ikigami

In an alternate reality/not so distant future, Japan enacted the 'Maintenance of national prosperity law' whereby upon entering school all children are given a nano-capsule injection. Upon reaching the ages of 18-24, 1 in 1000 of the capsules will be activated randomly and they person will die. Matsuda Shota plays Fujimoto, an ikigami who is the bearer of death. The ikigami presents the sacrificial citizen with a card marking his/her death in 24 hours and the card allows the person free lodging and food. The family of the sacrifice is then granted a government pension and if the person commits a crime within the 24 hours, the pension is used as compensation.

Why such a law is enacted in Japan is never explained. However, because such a law exists, crime rate and suicide rates in Japan experienced a significant reduction. The belief is that such random killings force the public cherish their own lives. However, the government has a draconian attitude towards the preservation of the national prosperity law. Speaking out against the law is a thought crime and perpetrators are sent for reeducation. It can be assumed that Japan experienced a crime wave and suicide rates of such horrible proportions that such a law was forced to be enacted as a response.

The important thing is not why the 'Maintenance of national prosperity law' was enacted but what stories can be told from it. We have the main story Fujimoto going about his job as an ikigami and the effect it has on him and stories about 4 different people who are chosen to die; a former victim of school bullying, an up and coming singer, a hikikomori and a brother of a blind sister.

I would have loved to see an argument about the morality of such a drastic measure. If crime and suicide really reached epic levels, would the sacrifice of a few justify the saving of many? Of course the answer is that an innocent person should never suffer for the wrongs of others but it would have been a fun argument.

I've seen that nurse in doramas before...

Ikigami is more about exploring the value of life and the cost of a random death on family and friends. The singer story was really good, especially the song and performance. I really liked the ikigami boss' comment that maybe was the fact that the singer was about to die that aspired him to greatness. I love it when movie ask hard questions.

You interested in joining Crows Zero 3? You'll make a good nemesis for Oguri Shun.

The brother of the blind girl story is pretty melodramatic and its something we've seen before. Good thing this is not a Korean movie so they didn't milk it as much. Good to see Yamada Takayuki and Narumi Riko playing bit parts. I guess my cynical side is loathed to admit that the movie succeeded in doing what it is designed to do, move the audience in a story about the value of life. I really like how the ending is sort of open ended while hinting out how things will turn out. Its saying that the beginning and end doesn't matter as much as exploring the middle of the story.

Big thanks to 8thsin for subbing this movie. He always picks good movie and I wholeheartedly recommend this movie.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Liar Game season 2 Eps 1+2

Liar Game is back! The surprise midnight dorama from 2 years ago has finally returned except now its shown at 9pm. The first season is probably the greatest midnight dorama ever, at least from the few late night shows that I have seen. It was a story based dorama that didn't require good acting and just required simple sets that would last a few episodes. It is a made to be low budget. Most of all, I'm just glad to see Toda Erika in a watchable dorama.

Don't kill yourself because you're being forced to do crap like Code Blue 2!

Kanzaki Nao is back and she still retains her too good persona. Well, they gotta give her a reason to go back to Liar Game anyway. No one in their right mind would want to return unless they were greedy, in debt or in her case idealistically wishing to 'save' people. The important thing is that she is now smarter. At least they have shown that she has learned something from the previous season.

Kichise Michiko is always typecast as the hot chick from evil organisations. I don't think she looks evil at all. :)

Akiyama is of course back and they use another twist that the boss that they met at the end of the first season is not the real brains of the operation. All this story stuff doesn't really matter. I don't even remember the end of the first season. This series is all about pitting people against each other in a game of wits. I would even say its the equivalent of a mental battle version of Dragonball Z. Player A beats player B for a while and then player B starts laughing and reveals his/her true form/plan and starts winning etc.

I've only seen her in Babel so no comments about her for now.

Its all about the tactics and how the players use the rules to their advantage. Sometimes I'd wish that they'd just cut through the suspense build up and go straight to the reveal, sort of like watching the last episode of season one where they just summarised the whole season in half an hour. I don't really like the new remixed intro music though. Luckily they sprinkle the old intro tune throughout the episodes.

I hate to say this but I wish I were Fukunaga.

A better timeslot should mean a better budget but Liar Game season 2 just looks the same. Its cheap, cheesy with lots of lights. Actually I can't really think of anything they can do to improve the presentation. Its hard to review Liar Game because it is what it is; a dorama about a high stakes battle of wits. As long as non of the solutions to the games is stupid, its all good.

On a side note, the last episode of Liar Game season 2 is going to be a movie which is bad news for any of us not in Japan. Its going to take a few months for the dvd to be released so we're just going to be left with a cliffhanger for a very, very long time. It might be a good idea to wait for the dvd release and watch everything in one go. For me, nothing is going to keep me away from my weekly dose of Toda Erika. Besides, it gives me more reason to rewatch when the movie dvd is out.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Toda Erika Calender 2010

My Toda Erika finally arrived from yesasia. I was surprised when I saw it wasn't put in a tube but was folded. I can understand that the calender is smaller than usual size but that's no excuse to not put it in a tube. Now there's a freaking crease across the calender. Ggrrr. Calenders are not cheap and shouldn't be treated as such.

The good news is that this is better than her last one. Toda Erika's 2009 calender was shockingly bad and luckily I bought the desk version. That's the danger with calenders, you never know what you're going to get. At most you can preview two pictures but its pretty much up to luck. It doesn't matter how much you like an actress/idol because a bad picture is a bad picture.

Really like this one. Its the most 'artistic' looking one IMO.

This one makes me feel like some chikan.

I think her front view is her worst.

Hhhmm, Kanzaki Nao's legs.


The best one is the last one.