Sunday, June 28, 2009

Shiroi Haru ep 11

I wanted to write about the finale of Shiroi Haru straight after watching but I couldn't. I had many different thoughts about it but I couldn't form a solid opinion on how I felt about the ending. If you take Shiroi Haru as a yakuza dorama, then its really a fitting ending. The stereotypical story about the bad guy with nice heart who wants to quit/change, finds some happiness only for his past to catch up with him in the end. I've seen it way too many times.

Except Shiroi Haru is not a yakuza dorama and Haruo wasn't really a bad guy or at least the viewers were not shown the bad things that he did in the past. Sure he killed a top ranking guy but he was under orders to do so and he did it for Mariko. He seemed more like a small time punk rather than yakuza who has down all sorts of evil that warrant denying him a happy ending. Even the way Haruo did the murder was so lame and amateurish making him look like more of a wannabe. And if the son really wanted revenge, he would paid to take Haruo out in prison or waited for him on his day of release.

If there's one major complaint I have about episode 11 its how the knife scene was staged. If you look at the baker's position and Haruo's, Haruo could have rushed the attacker from the side. To get stabbed he had to go around the freaking table which is a lot slower than say grabbing the assailant from behind or jumping across the table and knocking him against the wall. Its such a pivotal scene and the director can't even get the simple logistics of it right. Its not as bad as the cafe scene in Bloody Monday but no scene can even approach that in terms of gaps in logic. The audience doesn't want Haruo to die so can it be so hard for the director to ensure that it looked like using himself as a shield was the only to save the baker? Are jdorama directors so incompetent that they can't even direct an action sequence that makes sense?

When the knife weilding dude appeared, I was overjoyed. The perfect ending flashed through my mind. The show was been about Haruo's past but what about Koji the baker? What if he had a shady past that caught up to him? Now that would be a good way to get him out of the picture cause deep down, we all want a Haruo Sa-chan ending. Koji may be the better choice plus the 9 years he spent taking care of her but Haruo's a more sympathetic character. The audience would be crying crocodile tears while clapping in joy.

Maybe Haruo would make a move on Kanako. How could Koji or anyone live in a house with Shiraishi Miho and not make a freaking move on her? What Shiroi Haru lacked was more emphasis on his relationship with Kanako. Surely there must be some attraction there. Mixed emotions and reluctance to go further for fear of damaging their pseudo family life. Why not spend an extra episode exploring their relationship? I don't think Koji even banged Mariko. If Koji couldn't get the girl he liked, he should get her sister. They are like a married couple sticking together for the child except the skipped the whole romance part.

To me, the high point of the episode was Sa-chan's visit to Haruo. That scene where she asks him the question was brilliant. No need for music. Just raw emotion and close up of Haruo's face. Abe Hiroshi deserves all accolades for his work here. Contrast the supposed high point which was the hospital bedside scene. They had to use music and flashback to support Sa-chan's not so good acting. She can look kawaii but Ohashi Nozomi can't carry that scene. I think Fukuda Mayuko 5 years ago would be the perfect casting for Sa-chan. Its supposed to be the scene where Haruo is finally happy but I just can't feel that way for him. It reminds me of the ending of Utahime. Its an ending that makes sense but you'd rather see it go another way. Its not that it prevents Shiroi Haru from being a good show, it just does not give the audience emotional closure.

Usually when a character is going to die, they usually give the character an episode to be happy. When something good finally happens to a character but its a bit too early, you know something is going to happen. The art competition was suppose to be that for Haruo and Sa-chan but I would have loved to see them bond more. It would have been fun to see them hang out for a day or Haruo doing a conversation saying that if he were hypothetically her father, he would want Sa-chan to do this or that.

Some people have remarked that the ending is too short. When the emotional core of the show is finished, namely the Haruo Sa-chan relationship there is nothing else to do. There is no perfect. There is no perfect ending this show that will please everyone. I think my idea of Koji's past catching up to him instead of Haruo is the best cop out but if they had made it pretty obvious that Haruo had to take the knife instead of beating the shit out of that scared assailant I would have felt better about the ending. Its more the fact that he just did not fucking fight back. Its the pussy way where he sorted accepted it was punishment for his 'crime'. Didn't he come from the yakuza world where right makes right? Its not like beating the assailant would endanger Sa-chan. Its funny how I was complaining that it didn't seem like a yakuza show in the beginning and now they do a yakuza ending.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Shiroi Haru ep 10 and economy of characters

Love the subtle humour in this show. Better than stupid slapstick anyday.

I was rewatching Shiroi Haru ep 10 and this whole freaking article just popped into my mind. Its easy to have ideas swimming in your head and its another thing to articulate it properly in an article. Gotta write this down before I lose my ideas. What really struck me in ep 10 of Shiroi Haru was how well written Yoshitaka Yuriko's character Shiori was. Specifically how she fulfilled so many roles in the show and also managed to be a full fledged character.

If this doesn't melt your heart, nothing will...

In the beginning of the show, I just couldn't see Shiori's role in the series and thought that she needed to have a history with one of the characters to be interesting. So far she has turned out to be an alternate voice for Sachi. Shiori grew up without knowing a father's love and she is the voices that urges Haruo to build on his relationship with Sachi. The conflict in Shiroi Haru is between Sachi and the baker Murakami Koji continuing their father-daughter relationship versus Haruo revealing he is the father and thus disrupting the current status quo.

Shiroi Haru is fun because there is no right answer though one can say that the baker family is sort of incomplete. Koji and Kanako (Shiraishi Miho) play the father and mother roles and yet there are not Sachi's real parents. Koji and Kanako have a mere platonic relationship. Kanako wants desperately to be Sachi's mother and yet she cannot be more than an aunt. Both are always concerned that they are trying to fit into their unnatural roles and always second guessing themselves. Because of that, they put a lot of effort to make it work and they are probably happier than most families. It would explain why Koji and Kanako are too nice to each other and don't fight over trivial stuff that real couples do. They need each other to build their 'fake' family and don't want to see it crashing down.

Shiori is the voice that says that Sachi would want to know Haruo. She is the voice that says it is all right to damn the consequences of Sachi knowing who her real father. That it is all right if Sachi's relationship with Koji will never be the same again. That it is all right eventhough Haruo will never be able to provide Sachi with a life as good as what Koji can give her. That it is all right to take away Koji's reason for living the past 9 years. Shiori is the voice that tries to convince Haruo and the viewers that Sachi would regret not knowing Haruo and her past of not having a father gives her right to claim this. However, Haruo cannot bring himself to destroy Sachi's family. 9 years of living together is a greater bond than blood relations. Characters who make hard decisions = instant empathy.

Before this, Shiori was pretty much a plot device. A way for Haruo to reconnect with the world and at the same time mirror his search for a new beginning. That sort of explains Shiori's rooftop shouting rant in ep 1. That scene has always bothered me and now I finally see what Ozaki Masaya was doing. Shiori was voicing out Haruo's and her desire to find their own place in the world and forget their past. In ep 10, Shiori finally makes peace with her past and is finally able to movie forward. Pretty good for a character that seemed to have been created just to give Haruo some interaction and be a plot device. Its no surprise given that Ozaki Masaya wrote KDO as well.

I was skimming through and episode of Hancho before and fuck, the characters were boring as hell and after watching Shiroi Haru 10, I realised why; the writers of Hancho do not follow two very important rules. Firstly, every character must have a distinct voice or purpose. Secondly, be economical with your characters. The number of character should not be more than what is necessary to facilitate the story. Why have six characters when everything they do is interchangeable? Its is better to be efficient and not waste characters. I think writers who cannot even follow such a simple rule should not be allowed to write. It is a huge problem for jdoramas as seen from the excess characters in Hancho and Mr Brain. We've all heard of efficient storytelling but someone needs to tell Japanese writers about efficient character usage.

Shiori as a character accomplishes so much. All the things Hancho's 6 subordinates did in the series could have been done by two characters. Nevermind the fact they are all boring and interchangeable. The other advantage in not having excess characters is that the writer then can flesh out the character more. Slowly build the supporting character up instead of doing a simple one episode backstory and then relegate the character to plot device status. Jdorama writers need to put as much effort as Ozaki Masaya does to his scripts and it clearly shows on the screen.

Aishiteru eps 1-3

Getting cross-eyed at a funeral...

When a jdorama gets subbed late in the season it usually means one thing; it probably is a good show and the subbers want to share it with everyone. Aishiteru pretty much went under the radar for this season. Jdoramas need housewife shows like people in the north pole need refrigerators. Yet, it is the housewife genre that continues to surprise me with shows like Saito-san, Scandal and now Aishiteru.

One thing I love about housewife/family doramas are the milfs.

If Scandal proved one thing, its that murder + housewives can make an interesting combi. Aishiteru is the tale of two families; the Ozawa family, who's son, Kiyotaka is murdered in the first episode and the Noguchi family, where the only child Tomoya is accused of the murder. Yes, Aishiteru is look at a child murder by another child. It pulls no punches and doesn't take sides. Both families are presented as real people and there is no good/evil. Just two families caught up in an unfortunate circumstance that they must face.

I don't think that's a natural double eye lid....

The only character who sort of plays a villain role is Tomoya's father. He is presented as a more selfish individual who puts his interests first but I'd rather see him as a realist. He is more concerned with the repercussions of Tomoya's actions on his family than Tomoya's situation. After all, Tomoya's fate is out of his hands now. The Noguchi family has only a bleak future to look towards. Luckily, he shows a bit of a conscience throughout the show and I hope that he is not relegated to typical selfish husband role and he gets a chance to shine. It doesn't help that Tomoya's father has an unsympathetic face and there just doesn't seem to be any chemistry between him and Tomoya's mom.

The roles of the mothers are the type of roles that I think any actress over 30 would kill for. One as the mother of a murdered child and one as the mother of the child murderer. These are roles that run the whole gamut of emotions and the series hinges on the audience sympathizing with both parents. Kiyotaka's mom goes into shock for two episodes and hopefully it doesn't last too much longer. The next stage would be anger and it would be interesting to see emotions of the Ozawa family come to boil.

Iryu 2 reunion!!!!

The tagline of this dorama is forgiveness and I think this show will be about the families getting to know each other and the Ozawas realising that the family that they hate are real people just like them. It would be easier for their hate to continue to burn if the child murderer came from a broken family of drug addicts. What I love about this show is that it is realistic. The trend this season is cop shows and it just make me pissed of that the Japanese can't do realism in cop shows with the exception of Rinjo. There is also the issue of what really happened and how Kiyotaka was actually killed.

There's something about japanese women in mourning clothes.... :)

I hope their is not twist where the death was just an accident or Tomoya didn't do it. I really want to see all the raw emotions between two families come to head instead of an easy answer where Tomoya wasn't really responsible. I'm hooked on this show because there is no easy answer and there shouldn't be one. I really hope that the show doesn't try to simplify such a conflict. I want to see burning desire for revenge and a mom wanting to protect her son at whatever the cost. I want to see a tragedy bring two families to breaking point. I want to see shouting, screaming and crying over irreconcilable emotions.

Kawashima Umika will always be the little girl in Iryu 2 who yelled out 'super doctor'!

After all, conflict is what makes a good story and Aishiteru is full of it. Big thanks to Chuks for subbing this show. Looks like this is turning into a decent season with Shiroi Haru, Rinjo and Aishiteru. Definitely a must watch.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Shiroi Haru softsubs!

It has come to my attention that SMP Subs, who did the hardsub for ep 3 of Shiroi Haru and whose torrent was subsequently deleted from d-addicts for not starting from ep 1 has released softsubs for episode 4 onwards. The one person subbing operation is currently up to date unlike a not to be mentioned subbing group. I have a feeling we'll not see Boku no Imouto harsubbed and I'll end up having to buy the crappy HK subs. You can get the SMP softsubs from here. I'm having fun rewatching the series and understanding bits of dialogue that I missed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mr Brain eps 1+2

If there's one thing Iryu taught us, its that standing in formation is only cool if you have an important purpose in the freaking show.

If you like Hero, Mr Brain is the jdorama for you. Big name stars and huge budget held together by irrelevant plot. There's no need to read on if you enjoyed Hero and Change. KimuTaku is one of the greatest jdorama stars. There is no denying he has been in some of the greatest jdoramas ever; Long Vacation, Love Generation, Pride etc etc. KimuTaku is no actor. Karei naru ichizoku was a good show despite focusing way too much on him and showed that he is not fit for serious shows. Love and honour showed that he cannot hold a candle to Hiroyuki Sanada. His best shows are when his star power is focused and ultilised as the generic nice guy in a strong narrative.

This is what the viewers who gave the first two episodes 20+% look and act like.

Watching Mr Brain made me appreciate Kiina more despite the fact that the solutions to Kiina's problems are easily solved in the first 10 minutes. Maybe it has something to do with Mr Brain's crazy budget and the stupid ways the use it. Not in the service of the story but just to show people that its a big budget show. Like the super unrealistic police science lab thingie filled with 100 peons whose purpose is just to show that they can afford 100 extras.

So if the Japanese police want to catch two criminals, they'll send twice the number?

Or the table touch pcs which can read people's minds, know which programs to pull out and scan and convert a 2D image into a 3D holographic model! Or maybe its the customary 100 armed police in SWAT gear rush a deserted building to capture someone. In samurai movies, its cool for the hero to go in alone to meet the enemy. In modern cop shows, hiding behind 100 other 100 other riot/SWAT cops is cooler. If they ever to do a cop show starring all members of SMAP, I think 1000 police officers with grenade launchers and laser beams would not to sufficient to fulfill it cool quotient!

I'm just going to bag the shit out of this show because its a prime example of how Japanese cannot do a proper big budget cop/action show. *cough* Bloody Monday *cough* Maybe its not that they can't. Maybe its the jdorama system. Maybe its the necessity to fill it up with 50 irrelevant characters that bring nothing to the show when concentrating on a smaller core of characters like most normal budgeted shows do. Maybe its all those stupid facts and unfunny jokes about brain stuff that makes me want to put a nail through the wall with my forehead.

Waste of talent :(

I know it was suppose to be a big deal to have Gackt in ep 2 but ffs since when are guys in Japanese prison allowed to wear make up? I'm pretty sure 99% of women's prison do not even allow. Shows like this make me want to swear off Japanese dorama forever. Thank god for Shiroi Haru. I'd rather watch season 2 of Galileo than Mr Brain. At least its not too bloated with its own self importance.

Don't get too excited, she only has a cameo in ep 1.

I can't believe that the writer who wrote the Trick series also wrote this and Bloody Monday!!!!! It just does not make any fucking sense?!!!! Can someone please explain it to me? How can someone write something as good as Trick churn out Bloody Monday? If this were a hollywood production, they'd be plenty of whispers of studio interference. Mr Brain isn't a bad show, if you can somehow ignore how unnecessarily bloated the show is. Gonzo was a sign of how they can make good jdorama cop shows = good acting + tight script. Mr Brain is anything but. If you watch only 1 cop show this season, make it Rinjo. The saddest thing this season is not the abundance of crap cop shows, its that Shiroi Haru has a 12% average rating while trash like Mr Brain rate in the 20s. If the Japanese don't vote for quality with their remotes, then the stations will keep feeding them the same junk every season.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Boku to Kanojo to Kanojo no Ikiru Michi eps 5-12

Somewhere in the middle of the series, Boku to Kano started to get a bit slow for me. Coincidentally, it was about the same time that Shiroi Haru started coming out. Both were shows about fathers discovering their relationship with their daughters, though in very different circumstances. At first, I thought it was because of the shallow reason that Sachi was more kawaii than Rin. Somehow Rin wasn't as fun or interesting to watch. Then I realised that it was because Rin was a more realistic character.

Rin is the typical child caught up in a divorce. She cannot choose between both parents and is confused as to the sudden change in her family situation. Sachi in Shiroi Haru is seemingly smarter than your average girl or at least she for some reason has an affinity for Abe's character Haruo. This is good for the audience as it is something that we want to see and kids in doramas need to exhibit some sort of mental sophistication in order to draw the audience sympathy. They shouldn't be too smart like the girl in Man on Fire or she'll seem too scary.

Yes, my enthusiasm for Boku to Kano waned because Rin was not smart enough. Actually that's not the main reason. The main reason is that character development for Tetsuro had finished. He had finally become Rin's father and the only thing left was for the court to decide child custody orders. Seeing that Tetsuro and to a certain extant, his father are the only well developed characters that provoke audience understanding, there wasn't anything to look forward to.

The Tetsuro and Yura sensei relationship had gotten stale and was in a holding pattern. Too much beating around the bush with no interesting problems to solve. As for Kanako, she's the default villain and yet is not portrayed as one. Wrapping up the series in one neat little bow tie at the end just seemed too...... simple. Stories are built on conflict and the Tetsuro-Kanako conflict just failed to grab my attention. Maybe its because I work for the Family Court that I just cannot accept a divorce dorama where there are barely any shouting matches between husband and wife. Where are the abusive languages and allegations of alcoholism, child porn, drug addiction and other vices? Boku to kano has taken out all the fun out of divorce shows.

Its still a watchable show but IMO inferior to Boku no Aruku Michi. In summary, father-daughter parts are fun, divorce parts are boring and Shiroi Haru pawns every show this season.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Konkatsu! eps 1-3

Gah, what's Rin's mom doing here?! Give Rin back to Tetsuro!

Unemployed man Amamiya Kuniyuki (Masahiro Nakai) finds a job but tells a lie that he is getting married as it is a prerequisite for getting the job. The premise for the show is that he has to find a bride by the wedding date or he will lose his job. The first problem is that his best friend and colleague are idiots who can't even protect a simple secret so most people except his boss finds out by ep 2.

Not even the combined beauty of Ueto Aya and Shaku Yumiko can save this show. Ueto Aya should go back to doing cheesy shoujo doramas.

I guess Japanese find people who have a loose tongue and talk openly about an important secret funny because I don't. Even Kuniyuki's colleague who harbours the same secret has the IQ of 50 in realising the danger of talking about their marriage hunting. The show makes the mistake (in my book) of making Kunuyuki's best friend and colleague look like full retards thereby destroying any hope of empathy I have for their situations. Characters who have zero intelligence are neither funny nor interesting to watch.

Another supporting actress who deserves a chance to main.

I basically skimmed through episode 2. Nothing really funny, only cringe worthy stuff. Lo and behold, Yamaguchi Sayaka appears in ep 3! She's one of my favourite supporting actresses and her guest appearance in Konshu Tsuma was show stealing. Yamaguchi Sayaka always plays the supporting girl that I would have chosen if I were the main dude. In Konkatsu, she is exactly the answer to Kuniyuki's problems and he just ruins everything. I mean WTF! How am I suppose to root for him when he rejects the ultimate solution which falls on his lap? He is short on time and his worried that they're only on their 2nd date???? She's hot and he's gotta get married to save his job! Is this suppose to be funny? Where's the fucking sense of urgency or realisation that he just blew his one chance to get out of his bind?

hhhm, tsundere secretary...

Ueto Aya is suppose to be the main chick but I get zero chemistry vibes from her and Nakai. The cast is decent. Tanihara Shosuke is once again criminally underused. If there's someone who can bring humour to this show, its him. Konkatsu! has an interesting concept but the execution is so by the numbers. There's nothing to make me look forward to the next episode. Nothing that makes me laugh. There's nothing really bad about it, I'm pretty much indifferent to the show. And let's not forget the evil developer plot.

Will you please stop doing boring doramas like Hotelier, Abarenbo Mama, Hokaben and Celeb to Bimbo?

In summary, potentially good concept but cliched and pedestrian execution. If you have better shows to watch, avoid Konkatsu. If you have time to waste, give it a go and don't expect much. And word of warning, it will make you hunger for tonkatsu except I have no idea where to find shops which will serve you a whole basket of tonkatsus on sticks outside of Japan.