Friday, February 27, 2009

Okusama wa Majo ep 1

Must have fell asleep watching Koshonin.

This season's been pretty lackluster so its up to old jdoramas to pull me away from gaming. Okusama wa Majo is basically the Japanese remake of bewitched, the tale of a witch who gets married to a normal dude and despite her desires to lead a human life, always ends up using her magic to solve problems. Never really watched the old tv series but I've probably seen an episode or two here and there. Basically I had no expectations had was in desperate need to be entertained.

The only negative expectation I have of the show is of Yonekura Ryoko who plays the witch Arisa. As I wrote in my review of Koshonin, she doesn't really act. Its more look at me, look at my nice figure. She is not there to act in service of the dorama. Its as if the dorama is to serve her image. (which is true of many shows)

Nice tights, I mean kitty!

But hey, she doesn't stink up Okusama wa Majo. All she did was act stupid and genki and fight with her mom. Speaking with her mom, casting Natsuki Mari (Iryu) as the mother witch is the most perfect casting decision ever! She looks the part, does comedy well and is great for Yonekura Ryoko to play against.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't guily of perving at Yonekura Ryoko...

Harada Taizo is the boring husband character. Its funny how although he is a comedian, he always gets those boring serious parts. Its probably the desire of all comedians to show the world that they can be good actors. Episode 1 is the set up and so far so good. Can't really complain. Its a mindless comedy show and as long as I'm laughing every episode, its all good.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Uta no onii-san eps 1-4

Yes, you don't deserve Shiori!!!!!

The lawyer from Maou stars in jdorama Yano Kenta, a student is about to graduate and reluctantly becomes involved with a children's program. When I first read about this show, I thought it was a great idea. Showing the inner workings of a children's program would be very interesting. After all, it is about adults singing songs and doing dances no one would even dare do when they are drunk all in the name of entertaining children. The contrast with the children exterior and the adult/serious inner business of children's entertainment would make a reverting show because its not something that the general public is privy to.

Ugh, super anorexic Kimura Yoshino. Someone buy her a char siu ramen with extra topping.

Of course, there was very little chance of Uta no onii-san being the dark jdorama I was hoping for. Its pretty much very light-hearted anime inspired fare with plenty of overacting which is still cool. There are everyday workplace issues like politics and kowtowing to management and seeing it in a children's show is still surreal. Unfortunately, Uta no onii-san hasn't really made me laugh. Dark humour would suit this show much better but unfortunately its a concept confined to Jmovies. I kinda enjoyed the some of the subtle homour in Uta no Onii-san but it doesn't work because so many parts of the show are too anime like that the subtlety is misplaced.

The other thing Uta no onii-san has shown is that Maou can't sing. Of course, this isn't eaxctly news. Johnny's is usually associated with no singing/acting talents pushed on looks. I'm not sold Ohno Satoshi's acting. He doesn't stink up the joint but neither does he show me anything interesting. All he had to do in Maou was to brood a lot and let Shiori divert all the attention. I just got no empathy for Kenta. He's like this whiny brat who only knows how to whinge before putting in the hard work.

Hottest chick in the show: Nagaike Natsuko deserves more screentime!

Of course, its part of the character development arc so that he can grow up during the course of the series but right now, there is no interesting character save for Himuro Oji, the narcissistic star of the show. He is the villain who talks too much who entertains but the audience wants to see him beaten and crawl back the next episode. He is the perfect antagonist, designed to make the hero look good. He fits the rediculous feel of the show and actually had the potential to be the most developed character.Too bad he was quickly removed from the show.

ZZZzzzzzzz. Who did she screw to get casted in the show?

My attitude to Uta no onii-san is one of indiference. I've managed to watch 4 episodes but I feel no compulsion to watch more and no concern for the characters. What this show really needs is a villain for Kenta to face. A goal or a seemingly insurmountable challenge because his only challenge really is himself and his attitude.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Triangle eps 2-5

Sometimes the best casting cannot save amateurish scripts and Triangle shows the writer's lack of competence in writing a mystery dorama. I looked through the writer's list of shows and nothing seems to indicate that she can write mystery. Maybe the fact that she is the wife of a director may shed some light on how Triangle is plagued with script problems.

Problem no. 1 is that Triangle has the subtlety of a 5 year old kid or rather the script is such that it seems the writer is writing for 5 year olds. This either indicates that Triangle is the best rated show for kids in Japan or the writer assumes that the majority audience do not know how to read between the lines. Case in point would be the major theme of Triangle about living other people's lives. It is an interesting theme that could be further explored if the writer did not possess the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

The dialogue is too rigid. When Goda Ryoji finally reveals why he became a doctor and quit, it seemed like a waste of an interesting reveal for the show to treat it so nonchalantly. If his motives were inferred through some interesting dialogue, Triangle would be infinitely better. Ditto for Kuroki & Sachi's dilemma of living another's life. When Goda talked to Kuroki & Sachi about it, it didn't seem natural. Its more like the writer going, "isn't this idea cool and I'm going to simplify these characters into a sentence so the audience does not have to think".

The potential for some character exploration like in Gonzo does not exist in Triangle. That would still be ok if the mystery was exciting. Unfortunately it is not. I was worried about there being too much stuff in ep 1 and I was right. Too many reveals and twists just for the sake of having one. Like the end of ep 4 when Sachi's mom 'confessed'. Did anyone actually get excited over that? If that was the best reveal the writer could come up with, she'd be better of just ending the episode normally.

Or the guy with scar on face. Boring and super obvious red herring. I don't mind red herrings. Its a necessary element of mystery shows but somehow I just can't get excited. The only cool part is when Kita Yoshio stood up Kuroki's dad but even the, imagine if there were a bit more character development. Bits of info about his life, rise up the ranks and run of the mill career. I just want Triangle to make me more invested into the chartacters but right now I don't even care if they all die.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hitotsu yane no shita season 2 eps 1+2

Koyuki and An-chan ready for another round of family troubles.

After the completion of the first season, I has in desperate need of the second. I needed more Sakai Noriko. I needed more episodes of an-chan making things worse by being reckless and then doing the right thing in the end. The chances of ever seeing season 2 in English are pretty low so hopefully having watched the first season and very limited Japanese would be able to see me through this series. Went looking for it at my local j/k/hk dorama shop but couldn't find a copy of it so finally bought it online from ebay. It came in 5 dvds with really bad cd quality rips of the show. Not sure how authentic they are since one could easily fit the whole series into 2 dvds.

Koume's blossomed into a bijin. Too bad she doesn't do doramas anymore.

The first thing that struck me about season two was the sense of familiarity. They're even using the same theme. The younger siblings are older and Koume looks hot but its still the same MO, lots of fighting laughing and crying. The relationship between Tatsuya and Koyuki is unresolved despite the rooftop ending in the first season. Tatsuya is still as donkan as ever but not yet to the point one would get sick of Koyuki waiting patiently. Masaga concedes to Tatsuya and leaves for the Netherlands or as he told Koyuki, he's only giving up because its Tatsuya.

Sakura ready for a shinkuu hadoken!!!!! Or if you play CVS2 a shoshoshoshosho....

They could have possibly put Tatsuya and Koyuki together to start the show but I guess they didn't want to change the character dynamics from the previous show. Sakai Noriko is best when she's playing a character seeking happiness. My only fear is a repeat of Hoshi no Kinka where she is so unhappy that her choices seem idiotic.

Sakura, Ryu would never fight for money!

The biggest addition to season two is Matsu Takako who plays Miki, a colleague of Kazuya's. Having her in season two truly makes this the all-star show of the 90s. She wasn't that big yet but she had just done Long Vacation the year before. If anything, I will forever remember season two for Matsu Takako's Sakura cosplay. Before the otaku boom, here we have Matsu Takako cosplaying as a street fighter character in one of the highest rated jdoramas ever! If any jdoramas want to reach 30% ratings again, they just need more cosplay!

Who's this? You'll have to watch to find out.

If there's one complaint is that in ep 2, they've added this wimpy dude and I cannot figure out what his purpose is to the story. The show is about the 6 members of the Kashiwagi family and new characters are just for them to interact with. Wimpy guy just makes things way too crowded but since he's not on the cover of the dvd, hopefully he'll disappear soon.

The problem with watching it raw is that I can't understand a thing when they're doing their comedy stuff at the dinner table cause they talk to fast. I'll put a positive spin on it and say not understanding Tatsuya's ramblings can be a good thing. Plot wise and everything else is easily understood. This is not a medical dorama. There are not technical terms to understand. Sadly, I'll miss out on most of the jokes since they're usually part of the rapid-fire dialogue exchange between the Kashiwagis.

A nice chun li cameo. I'll never get tired of posting cosplay pics!

Nothing more needs to be said. If you haven't seen season one, it is a must see and if you are crazy about it like me, the second season is worth it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Jmovie review: The Glorious Team Batista/ Team Batista no Eiko

There's a reason why I didn't even bother with the jdorama from last season besides the fact that Densha can't act to save his life. The movie is good enough that I can't see them doing the movie justice, not with the poor casting with overactors. Some of you may be sick of batista surgeries after Iryu 1 & 2. After all, Iryu probably has done every conceivable angle/emergency for that surgery. Nothing can match Iryu's cool factor and I didn't want to see a poor Iryu copycat.

I would check myself into hospital just to be in the same room as these two.

Good thing Team Batista no Eiko is not really about batista surgery and major complications that never happen in real life. Rather, its a mystery movie set in the surgical department of a hospital. Like Iryu, this movie is about a team which has been very successful with batista surgery despite it having a high failure rate. When the team encounters successive failures, an investigator is dispatched from the ministry of health to find out the cause and he seems to think the deaths were deliberately caused.

The biggest reason to watch Team Batista is the casting. Abe Hiroshi and Takeuchi Yuko! Do you even need any other reason? Two of the best actors in jdorama! Put those two in any crappy jdorama and they will at least make it watchable like Egao no Hosoku! That show had a drab boring script but they managed to keep me entertained to the end. Abe as usual plays the cocky health minister guy. He walks around the hospital like he owns the place and throws his ministry credentials around. Takeuchi Yuko plays a psych/counselor doc who is given the responsibility of investigating the batista deaths. She's this timid, soft spoken doctor who is given a task seemingly out of her league but Abe's antagonistic behaviour gives her the motivation to try to solve the mystery.

In the bastista team we got Kunio from GTO and Igawa Haruka and some other familiar jdorama faces. The tone of the movie is serious with Abe providing much of the understated humour. The film is shot with a grainy look which gives it a grittier feel without any crazy wide angle, slow mo shots and very limited music. This movie is all about the actors and the mystery.

You have your red herrings and your revelations. The most important part is there are clues about the reveal scattered in the movie. Its a competent mystery augmented by great acting. I can see how this movie could work as a jdorama but its a slow burn mystery. They can't do a big twist/revelation every episode so it really requires very good acting to keep the viewer's attention. I had a blast watching this movie and hopefully one day we'll get to see another Abe-Takeuchi Yuko dorama if Abe can stop doing NHK shows.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Jmovie review: 20th Century Boys

Easiest cosplay ever, except you probably can't see where you're going.

This is the first of my most anticipated movies of the year besides Watchmen. Actually, its very similar to Alan Moore's masterpiece because both movies are based on incredible comics which IMHO are classic literature. I remember reading the manga years ago and becoming so hooked on it and waiting every week for the next chapter. To me, 20th Century Boys is the greatest mystery manga I ever read. Its so good that it makes many other mangas pale in comparison. When the manga ended, there was a sense of relief that the mangaka did not milk it too much and sense of loss that I could never look forward to the next chapter again.


20th Century Boys is the tale of the everyman, Kenji and his childhood friends. Kenji & Co are characters that most people who grew up in the 20th century can relate to. Playing make believe games with friends during childhood. Having a secret base and having problems and adventures that seem trivial once you grow up, except in the case of 20th Century Boys, their childhood stories have huge repercussion in the future.

At long last, we get to hear Kenji's guitar!

20th Century Boys is a tale of childhood fantasies brought to life. Of the everyman who became a hero because he had to. Most of all, its a fucking well written mystery manga. I'll not spoil the plot since its more fun to watch it without knowing anything. I actually recommend watching the movie before reading the manga because there are a lot of details left out of the movie and make the manga more enjoyable. As to whether to finish reading the manga and spoil part two of the movie, I have to say I enjoyed the hell out of part 1 despite knowing everything.

Hhhmm, I wish I had a child hood friend who looked like Tokiwa Takako.

There's no way they could have screwed up the movie storyline wise. They rearranged a few bits, cut out small stuff but generally everything is word for word very similar to the manga. The casting is spot on. I wasn't sure about Karasawa Toshiaki (Love Complex) but he has made the important role of Kenji his own. Toyokawa Etsushi (Aoi Tori) is probably the perfect casting call as Shogun. There's lot of cameos from famous faces and good actors just playing bit parts but they really made a lot of effort to get it as close to the manga as possible instead of trying to 'interpret' it.

Hello nurse!

Its hard for me to judge the movie because I'm looking it from the perspective as a fan. All I want is that it is faithful to the source material because the source material should not be altered unless absolutely necessary. In the realm of comic book adaptations like LXG and V for Vendetta, it just pisses me off when they change stuff for no reason at all. Fingers crossed that Watchmen is the same as the comic. Happy to report that 20th Century Boys is exactly the same as the manga. The only downside is that the CG can be bad and the final sequence of events did not flow well. Its very forgivable to me because Japan can't afford to spend 100 million on a movie. It doesn't harm the story much or the emotions. Tomodachi is still scary as hell and I got goosebumps when Kenji & gang were going to face the villain.

Shogun! Too bad they had to leave out his back story.

If there's one major complaint about the movie, its the casting of older Kana. Its going to affect part two more since she's the major character there. Ever since I saw the picture of the actress Taira Airi, I was worried. Nothing about her looks like Kana except she's got two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth. Frankly, she looks like a brat especially in that running scene at the end of the movie and Kana is not a brat. She is a girl who has to shoulder a huge responsibility. Whoever plays her has to have an air of maturity. She has to have those sad eyes that look like she is always deep in thought.

Ready to face Tomodachi.

If Fukuda Mayuko (Jyoou no Kyoushitsu) were older, she'd be perfect for the role. She would be able to show the burden that Kana carries in her acting. In the manga, fans care more about Kenji than Kana and miscasting her in the movie will make it even worse. I have a feeling that I would not even care about her at all in part 2 but as long as Shogun's prominently in the story, my attention span will be fine. I'm looking forward to see how they're going to do Tomodachi-land.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Zeni Geba eps 1-2

Poor boy, Gomagori Futaro grows up in poor household with alcoholic father and gets a scar across his left eye. Mom dies and Futaro becomes obsessed with money. He lives in an unfurnished room and hides his money under the floor. They never really explain why he doesn't put his money in the bank where its so much safer. If a thief broke in and stole his money, it'll be over. Maybe Futaro just loves sleeping on a huge pile of money and he decided that losing it is worth the risk.

Futaro supposedly is money crazy but all he does is odd jobs at factories so one can surmise that he's not that money crazy. If he were, he would be cheating people with scams or risky jobs that can get him money quick. He's more like a miser who doesn't spend his money but hides it under his bed. He's killed twice for money but they were both stupid and unnecessary kills that did not profit him financially. He runs into the daughter of a rich shipbuilder, Midori and comes up with a plan to get close to the family through the younger daughter Akane who has some strange blueish colouring on her face. One would imagine that the Mikuni fortune would be able to afford a surgeon to get rid of that blue stuff on Akane's right cheek.

The tone of the jdorama is weird. Its suppose to be set in modern day Japan put parts of it feel more like a show set in ancient times with aristocratic society. Its got a vibe of a peasant infiltrating aristocratic society rather than poor dude trying to be a leecher. Like the scene with the rich dude proclaiming his love for his watch. It just felt so fake, even by usual jdorama standards. Actually its as bad as Hana Yori Dango except that show is a shoujo fantasy while Zeni Geba is supposed to be more edgy.

The poster and title screen tries to give the impression that it is a dark dorama but its not. Its like a weird amalgam of genres especially with the restaurant side story which plays like an unfunny comedy. Its like Futaro walked into a sketch show. Futaro's father will figure prominently into the story so Zeni Geba will be more of a thriller type show as he see how much he can get the Mikuni's to trust him while keeping his father at bay. I'm pretty sure some dark secrets from the Mikuni family will come to light later and Midori won't be as nice as she seems.

I really wanted to like Zeni Geba. A serious storey about obsession with money is just right up my alley except Zeni Geba isn't about money obsession. Its about two gullible ojousans who can't see the big elephant in the room. Money crazy is calling old people and impersonating their grandkids to get money. Money crazu is killing people for profit. Money crazy is doing whatever one can without regard to morals to make the most money possible. I'm looking forward to seeing how he's going to manipulate the Mikunis and to what end though. This show can definitely get better. We just need Futaro to be smarter and his adversaries not so dumb. We need high tension as all parties try to expose each other as frauds.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Koi No Chikara eps 8+9

Looks like Koi no Chikara is back on track! And the big difference between episodes 5-7 and 8+9? The advertising work is relegated to the background. In other words, it is a tool to tell stories about ningen kankei or human relationships. The problem with episodes 5-7 was that the advertising stuff was the forefront of stories and unfortunately, advertising challenges aren't very exciting. However, it can be used to tell stories that other salaryman shows can't.

Like how the media and perception of Nukui's abilities changed ever since he set out on his own. Issues of whether he really has talent or whether he was just lucky to be working for a big advertising firm. (My money's on the fact that he's a talentless hack based on his work so far) Nukui has completely lost his confidence. Exploring such themes is what makes this show interesting.

I had forgotten how good the beginning of this show was. How great Fukatsu Eri was. I've seen quite a few of her shows and this is the best I've ever seen her. Motomiya Toko is her ultimate role and she is the heart and soul of Koi no Chikara. The story got away from her character for a while but now, everything is good.

Motomiya Toko is such a fun character. Neurotic and uncertaintain but brave enough to go with her gut feelings. More understanding of Nukui than anyone can ever be. She's such an old school character that I can't believe that this show is only 7 years old. Yada Akiko can't even threaten to steal her spotlight. Two more episodes to go and I can't wait for the end.