Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Shiroi Haru ep 1

My most anticipated jdorama of the season. Anything with Abe Hiroshi is a must watch for me. Not to mention a storyline which is sort of similar to ryuga gotoku? Knowing how jdoramas turn out, I'm keeping my expectations low for this one and would be happy if the show was watchable. Abe plays Haruo, a yakuza who went to jail for 9 years in order to pay the medical bills for his girlfriend. Sounds like one of those old hong kong gangster movies. Putting up with 9 years of jail time = instant empathy from audience.

Abe + Shinobu = win!

Haruo gets released and is shocked to discover that his ex girlfriend Mariko died and his 9 years were all for nothing. Everything that he did for her was for naught. He finds out that Mariko had a boyfriend, Murakami Koji before she died who is now a successful baker and Haruo suspects that he used her to get the money that Haruo went to jail for.

Whoever is responsible for this horrible shot should be banned from jdoramas or be forced to watch endless repeats of Tatta Hitotsu no Koi.

Its very obvious that the little girl in the series will be revealed to be Haruo's daughter. The other question marks would be Kanako's (Shiraishi Miho) past relationship with her sister Mariko and whether Koji did it for the money. Again, its pretty certain that Koji probably promised Mariko to use the money to raise Sachi. The sub story of the show is about Shiori (Yoshitaka Yuriko) who seems to be wandering through life and my bet is would have a past connection with Haruo.

The first thing that struck me about Shiroi Haru is that it has the look of a generic jdorama. Typical bar and bakery sets and usual boring camera shots. Don't expect a yakuza movie feel. The only scene that feels different is one flashback with Haruo bleeding all over. Some idiot decided that all Haruo's happy flashbacks would have brightness of 200% but all it did was make it look unreal, especially compared to the other flashbacks. Messing around with brightness and filters to convey emotion does not work in this show. It just feels disjointed, like a jdorama that wants to be everything. Instead of three directors directing three sets of episodes, it feels like 3 different people directing different parts of 1 episode.

Now, this is how a jdorama with a yakuza should look like.

This is only the first episode. Can't be too hasty. Plus Abe is great to watch, especially when he has his first beer in 9 years. Watching Haruo living day by day is interesting and the ending of ep 1 can only increase audience empathy for his character. When I finally go to Japan, I'm not getting within 3 meters of kids with stupid alarms. Can't believe that Shiraishi Miho is now playing a mom. I still remember when she debuted in Bijo ka Yajuu as the weatherwoman.

What happened to me Jinkama Misuzu????

Shiroi Haru is not the dark yakuza type story I was hoping for but I have faith in the writer of KDO and Tadano Hitoshi. While the revelations in Shiroi Haru are clear can write great dialogue and set up interesting situations as in KDO, we'll be in for a fun ride. If not, we can blame the shoddy directing and pathetic cinematography.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Boku to Kanojo to Kanojo no Ikiru Michi eps 1-4

Your mission today is to hook me a hot chick using the mum ran off sob story!

Boku to Kanoko to Kanojo no Ikiru Michi is the second in the Boku series. I reviewed the third one, Boku no Aruku Michi when it came out in 2006 here and here and it is certainly a must watch jdorama. I highly recommend you seek it out if you have not. SARS has kindly gotten their hands on BKKIM and are hardsubbing it. I love it when fansub groups seek out classic stuff and sub it for people to watch. There's probably a treasure trove of classic shows that have never been English subbed.

Kawaii kodomo + sympathetic dad = win!

Kusanagi Tsuyoshi plays Koyanagi Tetsura, a 29 year old salaryman who seemingly has it made. He has a house, nice family and good job with career prospects. He has achieved the ideal Japanese life until one day his wife packs her bags and just runs off leaving their daughter Rin behind. It is then that we begin to discover large cracks in Koyanagi's picture perfect life.

Kids are spoiled rotten cause crying now works on today's parents.

Koyanagi goes to work early and comes back late so he has had barely little contact with his daughter. He says and does what he thinks is the proper thing in front of people but does not know how to have real human interaction. He lives in his own personal universe and is not sensitive to others. Koyanagi puts himself first and other people are just a burden. Most like he just got married for his job.

Any night is okay!

Yes, Koyanagi is a fuckwit but Kusanagi Tsuyoshi makes him an interesting one. There is no doubt that he is the best actor in SMAP (which isn't saying much). Lesser actors would have failed to make Koyanagi an intriguing character. He is an adult but in terms of human relations he is but a child. We see him take baby steps in trying to establish a connection with his daughter, Rin and the show explores his relationship with his father and how it stunted his emotional growth. Boku no Aruku Michi was about how people grow through interacting with Kusanagi's character and BKKIM is about how Koyanagi grows through connecting with his daughter.

With such a kawaii musume, I am the ultimate chick magnet!

Koyuki is in the show as Rin's English tutor Yura who becomes a bridge between father and daughter. A cynical person could rename the dorama, 'how to pick up a hot tutor using your daughter'. Rin continuously calls Yura for all sorts of reasons and Yura has no contact for a day, she is continously thinking about Rin and her father. Plus appealing to her maternal instinct makes Koyanagi's quest to bed Yura (if he so desired) a sure thing.

Why does Kusanagi always acts with actresses who are taller than him?

As with Boku no Aruku Michi, BKKIM has a slow deliberate pace that is never boring. You get to see them do their routines day in day out but its the changes in the routine that makes it interesting. Honestly, the four episodes went by without me realising it. It is only with great acting and script that this show can achieve such an interesting tempo and make it work. There's so many little touches that make BKKIM great. Like how father and daughter were laughing while eating pizza and then there's this ackward silence when they realised that it was not normal behaviour in their relationship.

Boku to Kanojo to Kanojo no Ikiri Michi is definitely a must watch in my book. It is more than just a father daughter jdorama. It is about how people relate to each other and about how different goals and aims in life are always at odds with each other. A big thank you to SARS for subbing this show.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Osen eps 4-10

Osen is one of my favourite shows from last year. It was not in consideration when I did the 2K8 hamsapsukebe awards because Nya stopped subbing it at episode 6. I have only recently found out that another fansub group Eitokickass has actually finished the series! If you google the name, you will find that they are a livejournal community and you have to join to get the link. I got my download links from the jdrama livejournal community. Its unfortunate they do not torrent their hardsubbed shows at d-addicts as many people probably don't know about them.

There's nothing new to add to my previous review of eps 1-3. Its a show about food. Never watch it on an empty stomach. Actually its better to eat while watching and preferably Japanese food. Aoi Yu does a masterful job as the main character. She is an absolute delight to watch on screen. She's got the acting talent to separate herself from the other gravure/model actress wannabes. It is very hard in this day and age to have a dorama with main character that is too nice and not make that person seem like an idiot and Aoi Yu imbues Osen with a child-like innocense and wisdom beyond her years.

Osen is more than just the okami of Ishouan. She is the last defender of old school values and cooking. She is a symbol of what the world was before we had mobile phones and ready to microwave food everywhere. This show makes me nostalgic for seemingly simpler times not to mention a huge craving for Japanese food. This is the ultimate feel good dorama which is not a romantic comedy.I think most people who watched Osen experienced sudden craving for slow cooking but in the end, we will all go back to our microwaved and fast foods.

The ending was interesting yet at the same time too abrupt. It made Osen more of a message dorama than an actual story based show. The final story was a two parter but the implied non-ending kinda killed the storyline. The voice over at the end summed out the purpose of the show. In the end, I can't fault Osen. I had immense fun watching it and drooling at the food. Its just hard to compare it to other jdoramas because its not a story or character based show. Its more like an infotainment show dressed up as a jdorama. I still think its one of the must watch shows from last season and its definitely worth your time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Jmovie review: Yogisha X no kenshin/ Suspect X

I was never a fan of Galileo. It had an interesting concept of a physics professor solving mysteries but it was lacking in execution. A lot of episodes were very bland and the use of science very limited. I went into Suspect X with hardly any expectations. I had enjoyed the dorama special just because of Nagasawa Masami but I neither cared for the 2D characters or the uninspired mysteries that Galileo faces.

Imagine my surprise when Suspect X turned out to be one of the best jmovies I had ever seen despite being a Galileo movie. Rather, what makes it so good is that its not a Galileo movie. Its as if someone had a script for a brilliant mystery/thriller movie but couldn't get funding and decided to case Galileo and his boring sidekick Kaoru as supporting characters to get it made. Yes, despite the fact that Fukuyama Masaharu and Shibasaki Kou get top billing, they are only minor role players. In fact Shibasaki Kou's character is completely irrelevant. The only flaw about this movie is the 2 hours running time which would have been trimmed of excess Galileo useless stuff.

This movie belongs to Shinichi Tsutsumi (Yamato Nadeshiko) who plays Ishigami, an old friend of Galileo who tries to cover up the crime of Yasuko, played by Hanaoka Yasuko (Nani-sama). Unlike the standard Galileo format, we know who the killers are and there is no science involved. The only question is how the cover up was planned. This is a thriller about how Ishigami tries to stay one step ahead of Galileo in protecting Yasuko. This is less a show about how but why. A study of human motivations and emotions in the face of extreme pressure.

Tsutsumi Shinichidoes an incredible acting job as Ishigami. His character is probably the first and most well rounded character to ever appear in Galileo. In fact, he is almost a mirror of Galileo save that he is not an unchanging main character of a series. I love how the movie tries to mess with the audience's empathy by making the killers sympathetic. I was wishing someone would kill Shibasaki Kou not just because all her scenes are a waste of time and ruins the pacing or they could have written Galileo as a cop who was knew Ishigami from way back.

Tsutsumi Shinichi was always good in jdoramas but this is the type of performance that elevates the movie to another level. If there is any justice in this world, he should be one of the highest paid actors in Japan along with Abe Hiroshi. Yasuko Matsuyuki does a great job as well. I liked her since Nani-sama and Midnight Rain but sadly she hasn't been on many shows past few years. I'd recommend both shows if you can find them. Nani-sama was a generic boring show but she somehow transformed it to be a pretty fun jdorama.

Suspect X will keep you thinking and guessing until the end and damn, the end if fucking good. It is a crime that Tsutsumi Shinichi won awards as a supporting actor. Fukuyama Masaharu did jack in this movie. It was Tsutsumi Shinichi all the way. He was the heart and soul of the movie. Best Japanese movie from 2008? Fuck yeah. Better than Okuribito IMHO. This is must watch stuff. They should have deleted all the Shibasaki Kou scenes and renamed the movie Suspect X: Ishigami will make you wish Galileo loses. Get this movie now!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tokumei Kakarichou Tadano Hitoshi season 4

Takahashi Katsunori returns for another season of Tadano Hitoshi, the seemingly mild mannered salaryman in the general department of an ad company who is actually one cool dude who does special missions for the CEO. I have no idea why he dropped out/was removed from Salaryman Kintaro. Season 4 of Kintaro was getting stale but to me, he owns the roles of Kintaro and Tadano Hitoshi. Its funny how his sidekick in Tadano Hitoshi has taken over his role as Kintaro. I highly recommend the Kintaro series. Its just as fun salaryman fantasy stuff with lots of chicks.

She's supposed to have been in HItotsu Yane no Shita but I can't remember her in that show..

Unfortunately for Tadano Hitoshi, season 4 moves from the 11.15pm Friday timeslot to 9pm Thursday slot. Yes, they want more people to watch it but unfortunately a lot of what made the series fun has been toned down. Tadano Hitoshi is a dorama for guys. A lot of the cases he has to solve involve seedy parts of working life. There's always tons of fan service and hot looking chicks etc.

The fan service in season 4 is minimal. For season three, there's always a gravure idol guest starring in every episode for the audience to perv at. For season 4, there's no nudity and very little ecchi shots. Whereas Tadano Hitoshi would usually screw one guest starring idol every episode to get information, he hardly does it anymore. All the sex metaphores and jokes about his dick size are used sparingly and aren't as funny.

Unfortunately, that's probably as much cleavage as you'll see in season 4. :(

Even the stories are lacking a bit. In season 3, Tadano is given his mission and its always seemingly solved in the middle of the episode and there's always some twist about the real culprit. In season four, its only used two times I think, in episode 5 and 7. The storylines aren't as sleazy anymore. At times it just feels like a generic problem solving dorama. The earlier timeslot has really stripped the show of its identity.

Tadano playing it cool. He's probably just happy finally having a guest star worth drooling over.

The best episode is ep 5 and that's because its got a real hot guest star in Adachi Yumi and it has an interesting story with a nice twist to it. Unlike Kintaro, there is no overarching story so every episode stands on its own. Since they hardly did any fanservice shots, there wasn't any point having lots of gravure idols in season 4. Or rather the quality of fanservice is severely lacking in season 3.

Ebihara Yuri's character will never get her story advanced/addressed. She's only there for her looks and to go 'Tadano baka!'.

I bought season 4 as part of a set with the other three seasons for aud$55 despite already owning the 3rd season as the back of the case said English subs. Unfortunately, only seasons 3+4 have English subs. There's no sub for season 1 and season 2 has chinese subs. I'm going to watch the first two seasons when I have time. Season 1 opens with Sora Aoi showering. Everyone's seen her naked and all that but watching her naked as part of a jdorama is a different matter altogether.

If you can find the 4 seasons set for a decent price, I'd recommend it or else just get season 3. That is if you've into fanservice and more mature/sleazy storylines. If you have seen the previous 3 seasons, there's not much point watching this emasculated season, expect for ep 5. In the name of all that is holy, if they make a season 5, it needs to be on 11. There's no point getting more people to watch when they're not going to enjoy that much.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Love Shuffle eps 3-8

The heart and soul of RabuSha.

Thank the jdorama gods for RabuSha! Nojima Shinji proves that there is at least one jdorama writer in Japan who knows pacing, characterisation and good dialogue. This is the perfect show to cure my depression from watching another horribly written episode of Triangle. When I was reviewing the first 2 episodes of RabuSha, I expressed my concern that the show needed to do two episodes for every round of love shuffling in order to pace itself.

I did not consider the possibility of having two seasons of love shuffling. The first season two introduce the characters and the second to peel back the layers and and get to the heart of the characters. I love how it switches gears halfway through the show and becomes more a mystery dorama. Nojima Shinji knows how to keep the viewers in suspense but give enough information to keep things interesting. The producers of Triangle should have fired that hack of a writer and gotten him to save the show.

Yoshitaka Yuriko is absolutely perfect as Kairi, the spaced out suicidal. I knew it was a matter of time before she had to do more than just act disinterested. She has the ability to do more with less. I still don't like Mei's acting. There's something about her that seems.... wooden but as long as she's a supporting character, I don't care. She's there to support the main characters anyway.

A smile that can light up anyone's world.

Ai Ai and Usa-tan are the main reason to watch this show. However, I really hate the appearance of Kame. Its the typical sudden introduction of a nice guy foil for Usa-tan to compete against. A necessary evil and staple of so many doramas but I feel it is completely unnecessary in case of Love Shuffle. This series has already has so many storylines, twists and turns and interesting characters.

A hard day's work for our photographer.

For every episode I watch I just wonder where Nojima Shinji gets his cool ideas from and marvel at how he manages to fit all those storylines and character together. Maybe he will do something different with Kame but it just feels like Kame's existence is just for the purpose of adding one more episode to the series.

Definitely the must watch series of the season. Girls will like one giant revelation at the end of ep7. For guys, Karina + Yoshitaka Yuriko = heaven. And I caught a glimpse of one of my fav supporting actresses Umemiya Masako in ep 7 so hopefully she'll have a role later.