Monday, September 28, 2009

Boku no Imoto eps 1-4

Yes, I can see that....

Finally the first four episodes of the long awaited Boku no Imoto from last season have been released by Timelesub. Odagiri Joe (Mei) and Nagasawa Masami (Saya) star as brother and sister in a mystery thriller. Mei is the sibling with brains and is a promising surgeon. Saya is smarter in making money and wordly things compared to her naive and awkward brother. Both have very different personalities Mei gets involved with Saya's personal life when he finds out that she is having an affair.

Best excuse ever....

At the same time, Mei finds himself drawn to Satoko (Tomosaka Rie) and sparks begin to fly. Satoko asks Mei to lend her 3 billion yen to bail out her father's business. Mei being the idiot that he is agrees and luckily Saya asks all the right questions. After Mei and Satoko's meeting at the top of a building, Satoko falls to her death and Mei becomes the main suspect.

Sigh, there's something about how Japanese girls say onii-chan....

For the first four episodes, Boku no Imoto seems more of a murder mystery. Was Satoko actually pushed to her death or did she commit suicide? The end of episode four reveals what actually happened and someone commented on my blog that the series goes downhill as there is no more mystery to pull the audience in.

There's still story of Satoko's boyfriend Kuki and unfortunately he's part is being handled pretty badly. The end of ep 3 sees him taking Mei down to the sewers to prove some point about how no one cares for him or his job. Well, duuuuuuhhh. I cannot see any point of that exercise in regards to Satoko's death. Why whinge to someone you believe killed your girlfriend about how miserable your life is? As Mei said, Kuki's an idiot for thinking he's the only one who has it hard. I'm thinking the writer wanted to establish some sort of background story for Kuki and get him some viewer empathy but it made him and Mei looked like idiots arguing over something meaningless.

Any scandal with Sasamoto Rena is worth having!

I'm guessing the rest of the series will be about how Kuki is going to make life hell for Mei and Saya. There better be a logical explanation for his misdirected hatred towards Mei and maybe a twist about what actually happened to Satoko. With Saya's affair being over, the only other story would be Mei's career in the hospital which hasn't been interesting except for Sasamoto Rena as the boss's daughter who has her eyes on Mei. Its surprising seeing the old dude from Golden Bowl in this show. He is freaking old and yet moves pretty well in this show and is able to do some gardening. Albeit sharing screentime with so many young actresses has probably given him more energy to live so long.

Is this going to turn out into Nada Sou Sou? Or the cliched they're not actually siblings cop out? What this show needs its more random sibling quarrels. I'm just gonna stick to this show for Masami. So far its been watchable and the preview of ep 5 sees Saya getting more involved with Kuki. I smell a revenge plot.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rinjo eps 2-10

I wanted to write about more aboutRinjo but kept putting it off because of the stand alone nature of the stories and and I felt that it was better to judge the series based on the overall standards of each of the episodes. First off, Rinjo does a good job on procedures. There's no skipping of steps like Boss and there are no major plotholes and wtf situations that make you want to throw your hands up in despair.

Showing the audience the steps in solving the crime is a simple thing that many Japanese cop shows can't even do properly. They are so intent on the twist that no attention is paid to secondary but equally as important details. That's why shows like Law & Order lasted so long. Its all about the procedures and every step the police take to investigate a crime. The absence of detail in so many Japanese shows only serves to make the audience question the big reveal/twist at the end. If the investigation is not solid, the twist no matter how great will come down like a house of card. Actually, red herrings and twists do not matter as much because its just fun watching people trying to solve a puzzle step by step.

Rinjo however isn't about twists and turns. Sometimes, the culprit is very obvious or the pool of suspects is very small. Its less about who did the crime and more about how the crime was commited and why. I love how they leave clues for the audience and Kuraishi's colleagues to figure it out. Kuraishi's lack of confiding in his colleagues only serves to make the audience try to keep up with him. The crime/mystery must be solvable by the audience.

The other interesting thing about Rinjo is that it tries to go for emotional impact. Most of the crimes in Rinjo involve matters which are prevalent in Japanese society today such as bullying and aged care. Yes, Japanese cop shows deal with social issues by default but unlike Hancho, Rinjodoesn't get preachy and doesn't water it down. The raw emotion is there for the audience to see and Rinjo does nor offer black and what answers. Rinjo doesn't milk it and turn it into melodrama. There are some episodes I wish they had but I think that it is the right thing to do in that it reflects the investigations. Crime solved, move on to next one. There is not time to dwell on every case.

Sometimes the emotional impact angle can be a hit or it can miss but I do tip my hat of to the makers of Rinjo for not shooting for mediocrity. For example episode 7 that deals with the burden of taking care of old people. I don't want to spoil that episode but this show dares to go to dark places and I love Rinjo for it. If only more jdorama had balls to do so instead of settling for diluted and family friendly conclusions. Or even episode 9 that deals with Kuraishi's boss. I was thinking why all this build up for his retirement? He hardly did anything in this series and his absence would not be felt by the audience. In the end it was an episode about family ties and the emotional bonds which can never be completely severed and the boss's retirement was just a plot devide to explore that angle.

I love ep 10. I already guessed the twist early but goddamn it was about the emotional cause which blurs the line between right and wrong. And it does to the heart of Kuraishi's motivation and character. The why and the great acting in this show really made it work. I'm just happy to watch a show where you can tell a lot of thought was put into the script. You have a crime, the steps to uncover it and a social issue that will personally affect one of the characters. Rinjo is not for everyone but I enjoyed it a lot. Just don't expect Gonzo, and you'll have fun watching this solid crime show. A big arigatou gozaimsu to jade_frost and Kazuya_ for subbing this show.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Manhattan Love Story

From the writer that brough us Tiger & Dragon and Zebraman, Manhattan Love Story is a brilliant jdorama about triangles and quadrangles in relationships. Matsuoka Masahiro aka the drummer from Tokio is the Tencho of a coffee shop known as Manhattan. He is very rigid in his thinking and his main love is his coffee. Tencho doesn't speak but we get to hear his thoughts as he observes his customers and their love affairs.

Yes, the F word is uttered 3 times in this series.

The Tencho voice over works perfectly as the viewers' guide to the complicated relationships and also as a constant source of humour. Matsuoka Masahiro's overacting suits this show and is nowhere as bad as he was in Yasuko to Kenji. At the top of this ensemble cast is the lovely Koizumi Kyoko who plays the taxi driver Akabane Nobuko. Manhattan Love Story would not have worked without her. While the Tencho is the focal storyteller, Nobuko is the heart of the dorama and any lesser actress would have made Manhattan Love Story collapse under its own weight.

Worth watching just to hear Koizumi Kyoko say it.

The first half of MLS is really fast paced and exciting. New characters keep appearing and there are always interesting revelations to keep you watching. The 2nd half got a bit slow for me. All the twists and turns in the relationships just felt unnecessary. Like it didn't matter what was happening or who was now cheating with who because it wasn't about taking the characters through a journey but rather surprise the audience for the sake of surprising. There's a feeling that it didn't matter who ended up with who. Nothing was of consequence and therefore nothing was 'real'.

That's why Nobuko is the heart of the show. She's not a plot device like what the other characters feel like. Her humour comes from the fact that she basically acts like a schoolgirl. Nobuko and the Tencho are the only ones that really matter in the story. Maybe I'm analysing the characters too much because this show is more about providing as many laughs as possible in a coffee shop environment and I was basically laughing my way throughout the series.

Sentai jokes never get old.

The humour in MLS is top notch, especially episode 8 which had me wishing for more Cosmo Ranger scenes. I can see where the writer got his idea to write the Zebraman script. There are a lot of running gags in this series like Tencho always making coffee bets that he always losses or going to buy wafers. At times, it seems like the characters are going to break the fourth wall but they stop short of announcing their knowledge. Its like everyone knowing who the Tencho is but pretending not to notice.

Damn you Kogure-sama!

I really love Nobuko's final revelation and would have preferred if more emphasis was place on it. It sort of got lost with the flurry of activity at the end of the series. If they had cut down on the characters and twists and spent more time on the Kogure-sama tv show, it would have made the impact so much better.

I have to thank SARS for subbing this excellent jdorama and to Maiku for recommending it to me. This season has been pretty lackluster and Manhattan Love Story has been a godsend. I'd highly recommend it. Think of it as a faster paced Love Shuffle with a lot of jokes that work most of the time. I'm putting my life, my experience and my soul into this. Manhattan Love Story is really good coffee.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ninkyo Helper ep 9

There's this reveal at the end of the episode involving photographs which is a bit head scratching. The lighting and quality of the pictures means that they were not taken from some hidden camera far from the action. Looking at the angles of the shots, the only conclusion is that the cameraman had to be in the midst of the action and I certainly didn't see any cameraman. When Kuroki Meisa smashed the bottle on the guy's head, I'm pretty sure there was no one else around to take the shot from her front.

This lack of attention to detail just shows laziness. Grainy zoomed security camera type shots would have made much more sense and I'm sure Haruna would have made out who the people were. This is not the same as leaving some explanations open for the viewer because the show is more concerned with the premise. This is a plot device that absolutely insults the intelligence of the viewers and this episode already had another mind boggling plot device, namely Kuroki Meisa and that scrawny son of the boss charging in blind so they can be hostages. That guy is so skinny that I don't think he can even hurt anyone.

That said, Ninkyo Helper is probably the best show this season, which is pretty sad. It started getting slow in the middle and has picked up the last two episodes when the yakuza element was more into play. I enjoy the interaction between Hikoichi and the little kid more than all the elderly care stories. The whole reluctant yakuza and persistent kid who looks up to him for guidance is fun. Now its all up the the reveal why the Hayabusa boss sent them there to make of break this series.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Call Center no Koibito eps 1-6

I was really looking forward to this. After the amateurish Zeni Geba, I was hoping to see Mimura in a good jdorama. Call Center no Koibito takes place in a call center for a daytime shopping show and is about the small group of people who handle customer complaints. Koizumi Kotaro is the generic selfish main character, Tokura who is demoted to this customer complaints department and his job is basically to take the views through the story. On a side note, I just noticed that he is the son of the ex-Japanese Prime Minister.

Mimura plays Aoyama Kyoko, an enigmatic worker who has some sort of history with the host of the shopping program, Nankyoku Aisu. She is sort of the GTO character. She's suppose to stand out and to be the opposite of Tokura. Unfortunately in 6 episodes, nothing has really happened to her character wise and she is getting stale. In fact, Tokura's I'll be selfish in the beginning and do the right thing at the end has been repeated too many times. In order words, there's been hardly any main story development. Its nice to see Mimura not play her usual nice but naive character but Aoyama Kyoko doesn't stand out much. The only difference between her and the others is that she sleeps there at night and is kind of obsessive about helping the callers.

It would be ok if the individual stories were good but they range from passable to plain boring. Someone calls the call center to complain, Tokura and co look up their buying history and solve something at the end. Its watchable but they are just playing too safe with the simple feel good stories. The other characters do get a bit of background story but they are never the emphasis and it just feels throwaway. Usually with job doramas, its the best way to go. Make the characters more rounded and the viewers will be more interested to see what happens to them.

The most interesting person in this show turn out to be the host, Nankyoku Aisu. At first she seems like this domineering diva who doesn't care but throughout the six episodes, she has shown glimpses that she isn't all that bad. Or maybe its just that the people around her are worse. I enjoy the power struggle between her and her colleagues. You get the idea that its a truly cutthroat industry and only the strong and ass-kissers survive. The politics of running a daytime shopping program are much more interesting than generic feel good customer complaints.

The first 6 episodes have been sort of watchable but very bland. The only reason I would continue watching is just to see how the ending comes to be because we see a glimpse of it in the beginning. Its a shame that there's been hardly any build up towards it.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Dandy Daddy? eps 1-3

Dandy Daddy? is another father daughter jdorama starring the dad from Papa no Musume Nanokakan. Good thing Aragaki Yui isn't in it too infect the dorama with her too moe but void of acting skills talent. The hook of this show is that the father Izaki Ryunosuke is a very successful romance writer with a reputation as a rolling stone. While he is considered a great author in the affairs of the heart, he is as conservative and overprotective as they come when it comes to his daughter Akari, played by Minamisawa Nao from Akai Ito.

I think that something in Japanese food is causing the girls to have big eyes....

The first three eps run the same way. Ryunosuke who is forever the hypocrite does something to piss Akari off, they fight and then make up again with some lame sappy scene at the end. On paper, its a nice concept. A romance writer who is two faced when it comes to his daughter. I was really getting sick of the repetition and the father's lack of a backbone by the third episode. That's why I wanted to wait until the subs for the 3rd episode came out before writing a review.

Hirayama Aya is still looking for that breakthrough role after Haruka 17.

We've seen this type of fatherly behaviour before in Oyaji and it was a hoot to watch. There is something missing in Dandy Daddy? and its not the acting. The one answer is the chemistry. Ryunosuke and Akari's relationship just doesn't have that family feel. The way they bicker is really boring. I'm just wondering through 3 episodes why she even bothers to put up with her shallow and selfish father?

Its hard to choose between three of them..

Actually the main reason maybe that we can hear Ryunosuke's thoughts whereas in Oyaji we don't. So we can't really say he is an asshole, but.... he loves his child in his own way. Ryunosuke has not principles. He acts like a child while Akari and Yuki act like adults. That's suppose to be why its funny but its not. The more I can hear RYunosuke's wishy washy and conceited thoughts, the more I get sick of his act.

but Hayashi Tantan does make a strong case....

However, this dorama can still be saved. Ep 3 plants the seeds for side stories for the supporting characters and Ryunosuke vs Yuki's dad should be fun. They need to stop with the fight -> reconcile formula or at least change it up. From the dramawiki it seems like Ryunosuke is going to meet someone who looks like his wife so that's something else to look forward to. There's a big chance Dany Daddy? is going to get better at the midway mark but I've been wrong too many times to be optimistic.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Teioh eps 1-6

Teioh - King of getting girls without doing anything.

Teioh is another midnight dorama set in the world of host/kyabakura so quality is not expected. One can't expect much from low budget shows with half an hour runtime. However, this show is bad, real bad. Its so bad that its makes Giragira look like KDO. Tsukamoto Takashi (KDO's assistant) is Sakaki Ryo, a directionless young man who we are told at the beginning will end up as the owner of multiple kyabakura clubs.

She looks so familiar yet I can't put a name to that face....

Maybe her very nice valley will jog my memory....

Ryo is an uneducated person working boring job in a factory until he realises that he doesn't want to end up wasting his life away and quits his job. Ryo's friend ends up fighting with a host, Renzo over the friend's ex-gf. Renzo challenges Ryo to face him in the world of hosts and Ryo uses vengeance as a motivation to decide his next step in life.

How I'd love to be a grumpy old man in jdoramas.

Women locker room business.

Like Giragira, Ryo is an uber idealistic character. The whole hosts should not fleece clients for money etc etc. Idealism is a necessary evil since no jdorama wants to make a more realistic exploration of such businesses. Not to mention that basically all host/kyabakura jdoramas are based on mangas anyway. The main problem with Ryo is that he has not other positive characteristics besides being a nice guy.

Love this shot of Nagasawa Nao.

It feels like Ryo is the okyakusan rather than the host.

Giragira at least showed some techniques on how to handle clients and how to engage them in conversation. We get to see his skills at work and to the audience, he is a skilled host and worthy of our support. In Teioh, we don't even see Ryo doing anything. He doesn't sing, he doesn't drink and he sits there like an idiot. We doin't even get to see his conversation skills. He is just... nice and the fact that he manages to get somewhere without doing anything or having any discernible skills at all defies all logic.

Tachibano Ayana & Nagasawa Nao.

Random girl in show.

Like his host battle with Renjo where Ryo wins because Renjo self-destructs. We do not see why any of the girls would want to spend money on Ryo. Especially Sayaka who acts like a good daughter but continues to spend money on Ryo despite her father being heavily in debt. Basically the plot in Teioh is full of holes the size of the moon and feels like a shounen manga written for primary school kids.

Hhmm, I see thighs.

If only being a host was this easy.

Things happen for no apparent reason. Fake nice guy dialogue that make me want to bash my head against the wall until I am numb with pain. It is just unfathomable that whoever wrote the script had a brain and the actors could keep a straight face while reciting the god-awful lines. Surely they can do a much better job ad-libbing their lines. Let's not mention the soft drink speech that Nagasawa Nao gives in ep 2.

I'd come to this bar everyday.

Why watch this show then? Well, the pictures speak for themselves. This is a pure eye candy series. Its like a candy where on the outside its better and puke inducing and on the inside, it tastes like heaven. The amount of beautiful looking actresses and idols on this show is staggering. Even the girls playing small parts look absolutely gorgeous. This show is the perfect way to update myself on some of the gravure idols.

Still can't figure out her name despite looking in the Japanese wiki.

More than happy to give her a hug.

Nagasawa Nao as Sayaka really evokes my memories of Abe Natsumi. She's like the perfect girl next door. Tachibana Ayano is pure win and somehow looks good with her two front teeth. There's Michi Saito, Noshinme May and Wakana Matsumoto. Teioh is fucking gravure idol heaven. And lets not forget Adachi Yumi who plays the hot single mom hostess Eri. Teioh is pure visual stimulation so stop your blood from flowing into your brain and you'll be fine.

The show finally gets better when Ryo finally decides to stop being a host. Now his nice guy attitude can be used to solve problems instead of making him look like an inept host who does not deserve all the chicks. I am convinced Tsukamoto Takashi did this show for the chicks. I would have paid money just to on screen with all those lovely idols.

Another random girl who has just a few minutes of screen time. This show has more girls than it knows what to do with.

In summation, if you are a gravure idol fan, Teioh is a must watch. As a jdorama, it is beyond bad. It is a disgrace. Whoever wrote the screenplay should not be called a professional. As a series of gravure videos, however it is pure gold. I bloody spent one hour just taking screencaps. Teioh is basically the embodiment of Ryo's favourite phrase; you have to go through the bad stuff in order to enjoy the good. I've mentioned this before but if you want a realistic peek at what the host business is actually all about, hunt for this documentary called 'The Great Happiness Space'. It is guaranteed to be an eye opening experience.