Friday, July 24, 2009

Ninkyo Helper eps 1+2

I had a smile on my face at the beginning of this show. It seemed like a yakuza series without the overacting that has plagued too many yakuza based doramas. There seemed to be an element of dark humour Tsubasa Hikoichi (Kusanagai Tsuyoshi) spoke up various elements of the underworld surviving into today's society. As he introduced various characters I thought we would see politics and alliances to be made only to be broken. As quickly as my hopes rose, they were shattered when the main story was revealed; 7 yakuza members have to work undercover in a old folk's home and the winner of the unspecified position will take over their boss's job.

21 year old girl who's yakuza head of her own faction? Yeah right...

That'll teach me for not reading the synopsis. Shiroi Haru turned out to be all right so there's hope for Ninkyo. The dorama is about aged care and the differing views between Hikoichi and Hatori (Natsukawa Yui) take over and streamline aged care practices in Japan. If this feud sounds familiar, its because Ninkyo Helper is basically Tomorrow with hospital care changed to aged care. Both sides making sound arguments on personal vs profit based aged care. Tomorrow fell apart when the 'evil' profit lady changed her opinion way too quickly thereby neutering the most interesting character in Tomorrow. Let's hope Ninkyo Helper doesn't make the same mistake.

Don't go to parks when you drink!

The certain lack of overacting is such a breath of fresh. Kusanagi Tsuyoshi is well suited to play the cynical, money grabbing Hikoichi. Its a shame that he will be a nice guy at the end of the show. I would prefer he continue being the anti-hero and just do good deeds for ulterior motives or accidentally. There's a reason why he hardly smiles when playing his usual underdog nice guy roles, he's got an evil smile. I'd watch anything with Natsukawa Yui in its a refreshing change to see her act as a cold character.

For eye candy, you have Kuroki Meisa (Kaze no Garden) and Naka Riisa (Hachi One). Still can't understand why Kuroki Meisa is in so many shows but she hasn't reached Fukada Kyoko status yet. Why they have two skinny kids as part of the yakuza group I don't know. I don't think that the job of casting director even exists in jdoramas. If you are casting for yakuza, cast people who look like they can kick ass, not boys who look like they can be easily snapped like a twig. What does it say when Kuroki Meisa actually looks physically stronger than them. Actually, come to think of it, if I were a casting director, I'd just give the role to whichever idol gave me the best service. :)

Love this show of Kuroki Meisa. This is the one time where she actually acts like a yakuza.

End of the day, the yakuza thing is just a plot device. The show is all about elderly care and surprisingly, the first two episodes are pretty decent thanks to very good directing. We are treated to movie quality camera work. Not your usual jdorama angles and really quick scenes. It doesn't feel like your typical studio set with everyone reading their lines or just two constant camera angles for a scene. The director put a lot of effort and it shows. It makes the kakoii scenes look so much better like outside yakuza headquarters scene followed by chase at the end of ep 1. It had a grittier look, various camera angles to build the suspense and the music played into it beautifully. Hats off to producer turned director Goto Hiroyuki. Hopefully he can sustain the effort throughout the series.

Why guys should go to Japan to retire.

The first two episodes of Ninkyo Helper are good but it will be difficult to sustain the momentum. Every episode there is a guest star to play a elderly person who lives at the home who the story revolves around so its going to be hit or miss. Each of the yakuza members will probably take their turns and perhaps do a bit of backstory. Turning Hikoichi face/good guy too soon is just going to spoil it. His scheming yakuza ways are an excellent time filler and entertaining to watch. The audience is not going to turn on him just because he continues to cheat the elderly from their money. Actually watching Ninkyo Helper, I kinda wished they had cast Abe as Hikoichi, not that Kusanagi is doing a bad job.

Why it may not be a good idea to retire in Japan.

I think Ninkyo Helper is definitely worth trying out. Think of it as GTO in an elderly home with the main character helping the elderly instead of students.

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