Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kiina eps 1-6

I wasn't interested in Kiina last season because I felt it was too soon for another Kanno Miho dorama after Hatarakiman. One look at the synopsis tells me its Hatarakiman as a cop. The chances of a Japanese cop shop turning out to be decent is pretty rare and I doubt they'll be able to produce the magic again so I kinda ignored it, until now.

Actually Kiina has more in common with Galileo than Hatarakiman. She is in charge of a two person unit called bepan and gets all the weird police cases. She's not extremely smart like Galileo but she possesses a photographic memory. She can walk into a crime scene and recall its details later.As she gets strange cases like ghosts, poltergeists, fortune telling and urban myths, she solves them by going to the library and reading 1 book every 20 seconds until she can absorb every information on a particular subject to solve it. With Kiina's great powers of memory she could be like the only person in the world with 20 different degrees but she's just a lowly cop.

Please arrest me!

Every episode starts the same; strange incident occurs and Kiina postulates a theory that the anomalies happened as claimed citing some historical examples. In the middle, she will do an almost complete explanation with leaving the last bit of revelation for the final act. Kiina, is not a mystery dorama. The list of suspects is always very short and the criminal usual evident from the get go. Like Galileo, its about explaining how the strange phenomenons occur which bring us to our main problem; its very inconsistent and if you know the science/reasoning then the episode becomes very boring.

Buta is starting to become the next Kita Yoshio....

Lastly, the final act has this tendency to be melodramatic which really just kills the mood. Its like some stupid producer mandated that they must try to pull at the audience's heartstrings at the end but ultimately it feels too coerced and fake. What's been keeping me watching is Kanno Miho and the slow building background story. Sawamura Ikki is criminally underused. His character needs a bigger role in the series to give the audience reason to care about the brooding Kazuma.

Someone give him a dorama to carry. After all the supporting roles, he deserves it.

Kiina is a barely watchable show that might be saved by its slow cooking background story and Kanno Miho's acting. Stand alone stories are very hard to get consistently good, let alone detective ones. Only watch if you have nothing else to see.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

5 thing I learned from Akai Ito

1) All-girls-schools in Japan have better uniforms.

2) Japanese girls will accept violence by their boyfriends.

3) All the moms of middle school girls in Japan are hot.

4) Japanese think all drugs are the same and equally addictive.

5) To high school girls, a relationship is about having a string of coincidences to fool themselves into thinking its destiny and nothing about the substance of the relationship. Just stalk a girl, run into her a few times and claim that you both have the same birthday and she'll think you're her destiny.

Finally got around to watching Akai Ito. Someone posted in the comments that it was not bad but I wasn't that eager for another middle/high school dorama. I'm just so sick of doramas for the sake of pushing talent who can't act and in Akai Ito's case whoring another best selling novel bought by schoolgirls. I did not approach this show with much expectations and was fearing another Tada Hittotsu no Koi.

Lets get the bad stuff out of the way. Akai Ito is about destiny. The lives of Mei and A-kun are bound together in many ways and this show basically throws everything including the kitchen sink at them until of course they find their way to each other. The good news is, this is not a Korean inspired impossible relationship due to illness/sibling complications. Akai Ito is about hatsukoi, which is the basis of most Japanese romance stories. Problem is, there is not much depth. It like your general teen dorama with a cocktail of drugs, car accidents, suicides, bullying and teenage pregnancy but handling the issues half-heartedly.

Best promo pic for Akai Ito IMHO. :)

Akai Ito is basically a delay dorama. We have the beginnings of how Mei and A-kun meet and we have the happy ending. The question is how to pad the story by delaying the inevitable. The sub characters get their own story threads but ultimately like many shoujo type stories, the characters become are generic and paper thin. Characters speak and do certain things all for the plot which is not a problem if the plot is structured well. In other words, the plot doesn't feel organic. Too much time wasting. I can imagine the editor telling the writer that they need more pages and just pad it up with useless scenes. This show would greatly benefit from a much tighter script and a reduction of 3 episodes.

Too be honest, Mami kept me watching through the boring bits.

Despite my complaints with the writing, I managed to finish the show because of two reasons not including perving at the girls. First reason is the acting is solid. I didn't recognise Hachi One as A-kun because he wasn't crying every five minutes. Minamisawa Nao is very good as Mei. She is 100 times the actress Aragaki Yui is. Its unfortunate that she's not as famous just because she doesn't have the look. Generally the acting is above most teen doramas. Maybe it has to do with the lack of Johnnys on this show? hhhmmm.

If I were their father....

The second reason is the directing. This show looks fucking great. I'm surprised that they managed to get in so many on location shoots and managed to make them look good. Maybe it because they incorporated the budget for the movie into the shoot but it looks as good as Sekachu jdorama. Actually I think its better than the Sekachu dorama on the whole. Compare the outdoor lighting on this show against Shiroi Haru's and you can tell that Shiroi Haru is basically operating on a shoestring budget. Maybe it has to do with the fact that the actors are not getting paid much. In short, Akai Ito has very good production values and admire their effort.

Mami has Kojiharu ears!

For a shoujo style adaptation of a novel, Akai Ito is probably nearly as good as it gets. Technically wise, Akai Ito is good; directing, acting & music. The negatives I described are what I consider features or staples of the shoujo genre; generic female lead and lots of obstacles but a relationship that barely even existed. The whole purpose of the story is not to tell an interesting story but for the young female viewer to imagine themselves as Mei. I'm not trying to bash shoujo stories but rather point out that the script does not rise above mediocrity.

The ultimate question is whether Akai Ito is worth watching? I had fun watching about half of it while the other half consisted of temptations to fast forward and wanting to bang my head against the wall when 16 year olds make stupid decisions. The whole running away from police, picking up the stuffed toys and walking into a drug den in the last episode was too stupid. 16 year old kids can't be that dumb, can they? At the very least its a watchable dorama and goes to show that last season wasn't just about Love Shuffle.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Yako no Kaidan ep 1

Yako no Kaidan is about Michio, (Fujiki Naohito) a man with a murky past who uses women to further his ambition of owning his own hair saloon and seems to have been involved with a murder five years ago. Michio is a man of two faces; a nice and meek person on the outside but ruthless in his decisions. Yako no Kaidan sounds like a winner; an thriller about power, alliances mixed with a murder mystery. Unfortunately ep 1 goes to prove that concept is useless without execution.

There is something very wrong with the narrative in ep 1 and I believe it is because it is too literally based on the novel. Of course I've not read the novel but ep 1 suffers from disjointed scenes and narrative. In a novel, it is easier to explain characters and situations with as many words as necessary. For doramas, it is a mixture of visual and audio clues that allow the viewer to understand what is happening in front of them. The frequent use of an invisible narrator to link seemingly unconnected scenes and characters is further proof of a too literal adaptation.

Its not that I don't understand what's going in. Its more of there isn't a flow in the narrative. I spend too much time thinking WTF is going on and end up not caring about anything in this show. The only reason for me to watch this is Natsukawa Yui but ep 1 to me was so bad that I don't think it can improve much. Avoid.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Shiroi Haru eps 4+5

Don't bother waiting for the subs. If you've got knowledge of basic Japanese, its very easy to understand the dialogue and Shiroi Haru is worth watching a second time anyway when the subs come out. Episodes 4 and 5 feature two of the most heart wrenching scenes you will ever see Abe Hiroshi in, and they are great. If this were a Kdrama or featured a Johnny as the main, they would have milked it to no end. However, Abe is the master of less is more.

Aren't you sorta relieved that Kita Yoshio's not in this show?

Simple is best. Cleaning up Mariko's grave, Haruo comes to accept that he may have made the wrong decision. That he is partly responsible for her death. I just love how episode 5 is structured. In the beginning, he learns that Sachi is his child and gets a renewed sense of purpose, a new lease in life. He goes back to the shop where he ate and ran to repay his debt and the smile on Haruo's face after his good deed is priceless. With Abe Hiroshi, you don't need monologues about how good he felt doing that. Haruo is trying to make peace or seek atonement for his misdeeds so he can look forward to the future.

Albeit Abe probably did this scene more than a few times. :)

He goes about his work as a janitor with gusto but alast his past catches up to him. He is clearly aware that his past can only harm Sachi and it kills him. Again, he has to make the same decision towards Sachi that he made towards Mariko. It is in their best interest for him to go away. This mental conflict and anguish is not expressed through the use of a second character for Haruo to voice his thoughts to but through Abe's acting.

Koji's story is kinda weird. I don't think he and Mariko were ever really involved as a couple. He seemed more like nice guy who's help that she accepted due to her situation. Kanoko and Koji have been living together for how many years and nothing's happened? Its like a purely platonic relationship based on Sachi's welfare. However, their personal lives seem non-existant. Their life seems to be the bakery and the family that's not really a family.

It looks like my guess that Shiori has a link to the main characters may turn out to be false. She's is more of plot device to connect Haruo to Sachi. She deserves a side story with some sort of resolution as nothing is happening between her and Haruo. The preview of ep 6 shows Haruo's new job which is very interesting.

Why does ojisan always wear the same clothes? Does he think he's Kazuma Kiryu?

The big elephant in the room is where did Mariko's money go? Its obviously been stolen by his friend and may play a big part in the ending. Question is, Haruo is trying to move on. He has something to live for now. Would he jeopardize that for vengeance? Can't wait for next episode!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shiroi Haru eps 2+3

Where's your hentai ojisan alarm?

The first episode had me keeping my expectations low. The second episode had me clamouring for the third. The third episode has me now getting the raw so I can see what happens next. The last show that had me watching it raw was KDO. Shiroi Haru is not on KDO's level, at least not on the technical side of the show. The visual problems that I complained about for ep 1 still persist but there are some elements that just make me smile.

Like the scenes of Koji, the baker dragging the heavy stuff back. The first time two schoolgirls giggle as they pass him, and the second time they lol and stomp their feet after passing him by. Its small attention to details like this that make me impressed and I'm pretty sure it due to the script. Its what separates Shiroi Haru from the rest of the crappy doramas whose sole reason of existence is to promote idols.

Sexy lips...

In his feud with Haruo, Koji has become a fleshed out character. He engages in a test of will partly because he feels guilt towards Haruo and oartly because he doesn't like conflict as evidenced in him using money to get Haruo away and his uneasiness in confronting the teacher over Sachi's bullying problems. Yet he is man, who has done the right thing and is always trying to do right by Sachi. He desperately wants to be the father that Sachi deserves but the truth is always haunting him.

Good thing Sachi doesn't look like Haruo.

Watching eps 2 and 3, it is clear that this is not a yakuza dorama. Its a ningen kankei show; a show about how different people relate to each other in different situations. I can't wait to see what the writer has in store for Kanako and Shiori. From the previews for episode 4, it seems like Shiori may have some ties to the main story after all.


Sachi is a delight to watch. Sometimes her smiles seem forced but as a character she has the audience's empathy like when she puts premium on her promises with Haruo. Sachi is Koji's reason for existence and Haruo is finding himself drawn to her as she is his only link to the happiest time in his life. Can't wait to watch episode 4 when the truth about Sachi is finally revealed!

Hhhmm, schoolgirls holding hands...

Ep 3 was subbed by SMP subs and there was an outcry over someone coming in and starting from ep 3 thereby undermining Timelessub's work. It is unfortunately a rule that has been in d-addicts for a long time now and I can understand why it is in place. Jdorama subbing is not as big as anime subbing and it is protect the subber from having their work 'hijacked'. As a leecher however, I was hoping that someone would do softsubs when I heard that Timelessub was doing Shiroi Haru. They take on a lot of jdoramas and Kaze no Garden is still stuck at ep 7. This is where the subs must start at ep 1 rule rears its ugly head as a group may lock up the subbing of a few doramas but not able to sub in a timely fashion.

The best solution would be dinosaurkun doing the rest of the series as a joint project with Timelessub so we can get our Shiroi Haru fix faster.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Love Shuffle 9+10

Good news is, my biggest fear of the Usa-tan and Kame story dragging down the ending did not happen. Kame was just a plot device to give Ai-ai some screen time. In the end, it was about Usa-tan shedding the remnants of his past life and forging ahead with his new one. The only question was whether Ai-ai would sort out her feelings and join him. If only Abe Hiroshi had a cameo as Usa-tan's campaign manager. Their relationship is the lynchpin of the series and I'm glad the ending was done well.

Bad news is the other endings are pretty lame. The Ojiro and Kairi ending was supposed to be sweet but the fact that he was going to a war zone was really fucking stupid. Who in their freaking right mind would drag Yoshitaka Yuriko to places of violence where the getting blown up is not the worst thing that could happen to her? This is worse than committing suicide together. I'd rather that ending than this. Sure Ojiro can risk his life all he wants but he must surely know the dangers that await Kairi.

Yukichi and Mei's ending is ok. Nothing special. They are the throw-away couple. No one cares even if they decided to go to a war zone. As for Kikuta, part of me is glad that they didn't go darker but part of me feels like his ending is a wrapped up a little too nicely in a bow. I don't hate it, its just indifference. Him holding hands with Reiko at the hospital symbolising their future of raising the child together just felt weird. In a way it is appropriate as the child gives Kikuta and Reiko something to live for. Unlike Usa-tan and Ai-ai who made a conscious decision about their future, Kikuta and Reiko's was more like making something out of the remnants of Rabusha.


Despite my indifference, I can't really think of a better way to end the show. That's because I've grown attached to the characters and the story is inconsequential as long as it is true to the characters. Best show of last season but lacking something in order to make it into my top 10. Still it is one of the most memorable and fun series in a long time. Definitely a must watch.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Rinjo ep 1

Kono sekai ai wa aru no?

Gonzo is back! I wish they'd do a second season of Gonzo but this is probably the next best thing. Uchino Masaaki plays Kuraishi Yoshio, a character similar to his half carefree/half serious Gonzo without the unforgettable past. Except this time, instead of being a cop, Kuraishi is the police in charge of investigating crime scenes. Yes, CSI Tokyo is here.

Am I going to be typecast as the carefree but cool police dude now?

Playing the role of Kuraishi's antagonist is Tachihara (Takashima Masanobu), the police investigator who dislikes Kuraishi meddling into his investigations. He believes that Kuraishi's job is to examine the crime scene and determine the cause of death but to leave the investigating to him. Takashima Masanobu always had a tendency to be very wooden in his acting. He is always playing nice boring characters and its good to see that he can act more naturally.

Kuraishi obviously liking what he's seeing.

Matsushita Yuki plays Kosaka Rumi, a subordinate who looks up to Kuraishi. She's his only ally in the police and will go to great lengths for him. Watanabe Ken's son plays he other subordinate who is placed in forensics by Tachihara. His acting doesn't stand out but lets see how he goes in this series before determining whether he got acting jobs cause of his dad or his talent. Added to the mix is the reporter Ai-chan who uses her feminine charms to get info from Kuraishi. Her presence as fanservice is very important and I hope her role will be expanded later.

You may not be as robotic as Sakuma but you're not as interesting.

Rinjo seems to be more of an episodic series instead of having an overarching story like Gonzo so the quality of the series will be judged based on how interesting the murder mysteries are. Having seen my fair share of Japanese cop shows, I'm not keeping my hopes up. As long as nothing is laughably bad like 100 police officers pointing their guns at one suspect, Kuraishi's antics will be enough to entertain me. A must watch for Gonzo fans and a decent show to to try out. Time will tell how good Rinjo is.