Monday, January 25, 2010

Magerarenai Onna ep 1

Kanno Miho is back in another workplace 30+ woman dorama. This time she is Ogiwara Saki, a paralegal who has failed the lawyer's exam 9 times. Saki is pretty much a 32 year old Ayanami Rei with a touch of obsessive compulsive in regards to things being neatly arranged and people getting names right. After the tsundere Ohitorisama, we now have a cooldere OL dorama. For those unaware of who Ayanami Rei is, cooldere refers to silent type characters who show little emotion.

If I'm not mistaken, that's Karina's older sister. :)

Thank the jdorama gods for that as we no longer have those annoying voice overs ala Ohitorisama. Kanno Miho is a good enough actress that she can convery information and emotion from her (lack of) facial expressions. Saki has been going out with Masato (Tsukamoto Takashi) for 10 years and the pressure is getting on. This is truly an odd pairing because they have absolutely no chemistry together. Yes, worse than that foreman from Hatarakiman. Kanno Miho with younger guys just doesn't work on screen because her screen presence just eclipses theirs. Tsukamoto Takashi is just too fucking bland to ever act in such a seemingly important supporting role.

You would think after paying my dues for so many years I'd get the chance to be the lead actor?

One day Saki runs into Hasumi Riko (Nagasaku Hiromi), a high school classmate who tags along with her. As per all OL doramas, Riko is the opposite of Saki, talkative, married and proclaims that she has achieved happiness. We know that happiness won't last but its great to see Nagasaku Hiromi on screen. Luckily Mitsuteru (Tanihara Shosuke aka Kikuta) is here to save us from the boring Saki and Masato story. What his actual purpose in this dorama we've yet to see but hopefully it'll be funny.

A legal library, now we just need some cases.

Like every other OL dorama, this show is about what is women's happiness, blah blah blah. Is it kekkon and kodomo, shigoto etc etc. I don't recall any OL dorama that has managed to explore the issues in a fun way without hammering the arguments loudly. The chances of an OL dorama equivalent to KDO are slim as long as the writing and characters are too obvious and cliched. Magerarenai onna also lacks much needed humour to speed the pacing up and there isn't even a court case in ep 1. Just introducing the characters and giving some background information.

Its too early to judge but with three main actors in this dorama that I want to watch, I'm willing to give it a few episodes. We just need some exciting court cases and hopefully Magerarenai Onna will not be 80 OL problems and 20 person law.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Imouto Yo (1994)

Imouto yo was one of the earliest jdoramas that I started watching but unfortunately, I could only get my hands on a few episodes. This was back in the day when it was mostly streamload, mirc and jem was the biggest jdorama site around. Thanks to toyotaku for uploading the torrent of the whole series so I can finally watch it to completion!

Ah, girls were much more understanding in the 90s.

If you're watching Fumo Chitai, its fun to watch what is probably the first pairing of Karasawa Toshiaki (Kenji from 20th CB) and Wakui Emi. Imouto yo is your classic OL fantasy show. Yukiko (Wakui Emi) is your typical nice country girl working in Tokyo. She has a chance encounter with Masashi (Karasawa Toshiaki) while picking up her brother Kikuo (Kishitani Goro) from the train station. Instead of the poor girl meets her prince, we have poor country girl meets rich kid working for mega corporation.

Classic 90s beauty.

There's your typical class divide issues, arranged marriages and evil employees getting in the way of their relationship. Its interesting to compare this archetypal 90s love story with say Hana Yori Dango to see the difference between the 90s and 2K jdorama era. The nice, demure girl next door has been replaced by the tsundere. The ideal girl is not longer passive and fights all the time with the guy. In Hana Yori Dango, the girl has more suitors whereas in the 90s, that would be blasphemous! It would have been inconceivable to have a story about pure love and have a wishy washy heroine trying to choose between different guys.

Was the 90s really such an innocent time?

I guess the one big difference between the two eras of jdorams is that in the 90s its the girl getting the guy to choose her while in the 2K era its the girl making the choice herself. Personally, I miss the girl next door character. Sakai Noriko would not have been as successful had she started in the 2K era. The nice girl is a more difficult character to write compared to a tsundere but these type doramas are more story rather than character based anyway.

Hopefully he didn't mean this two?

To be honest, the relationship between Yukiko and Masashi isn't that good anyway. I find Karasawa Toshiaki's acting really lacking in this one. They've got chemistry but he is just too wooden and can't emote well with his eyes. The best part of the series is the relationship between Kikuo and Hitomi (Tsurata Mayu). Kishitani Goro is funny as the overbearing but earnest brother. I love watching Tsurata Mayu in Cheap Love and Satorare and here she plays the rich girl who abandons her life of luxury to live with some struggling musician. Obviously, her character is not totally sane.

Too bad Toyohara Kosuke is reduced to playing a one note baddie. His Sakurai-san in Densha is one of the best supporting roles ever.

For all its faults, IMHO Imouto yo is still better than most of the boy meets girl jdoramas today. Yes it is flawed and cliched but they kept it simple and very watchable. I'd rate it higher than Virgin Road but not as good as classics like Love Generation and 101 Proposals. If you've enjoyed the 90s classics, I'd recommend Imouto yo. If you haven't, there are a lot of better shows that you should check out first. For me, Imouto yo is straddling the line between watchable and good because of the ending. One could see it coming a mile away and it was a bad pay off for the best character in the show.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Winter 2010 Jdorama previews:

Since the upcoming season is being discussed quite a bit, lets have a look at what jdoramas I'm looking forward to and what I am going to avoid.

Code Blue season 2

No amount of airbrushing can save this show.

Why? The first season was horrible yet it managed 15% viewership. I don't care if Toda Erika is in it. The first season had horribly inept writing that made me want to bash my head into concrete. There is no way Aragaki Yui can convince me she is a doctor. Maybe the show would be better now that they won't have to act like high school kids but I've decided to be less masochistic this season.

Hancho season 2

Why would anyone want to continue this very run of the mill show? I suppose the fact that it is so average makes it easy to do a second season. The best thing I can saw about it is I'd rather watch Hancho 2 than Code Blue 2.

Massuga no Otoko

Sato Ryuta only knows how to overact one way and should be forever relegated to supporting roles.

The irritating guy from Konkatsu and Rookies with one of the most overpushed and untalented 'actresses' in jdorama. Serious guy meets self centred girl. Could be fun if it actually had a cast who could act.

Liar Game 2 (continues from last season)

The ratings haven't been as good but I'm still having fun with this show.

Naka nai to Kimeta Hi

OLs vs OLs? I'm excited!

Workplace bullying starring Eikura Nana! Lots of chicks in this one. If only it were a midnight dorama. Unfortunately no one is subbing it in English.

Magerarenai Onna

Kanno Miho in another OL dorama about 30 something life crisis for women. Its got Kukita from Love Shuffle and he's always fun to watch. My main reason for watching would be Nagasaku Hiromi. The subbing of Yotsu no Uso does not look like it will be completed and Last Present was only subbed one episode. So I've never seen her in a complete English subbed jdorama since.. Aoi Tori. Alas, no one is subbing this so I might get the HK subbed version. Most likely will be very generic but as long as it doesn't insult my intelligence, I'm happy.

Shinsengumi PEACE MAKER

I love Shinsengumi but gave up on the Peace Maker manga really quick. Can't remember why but it was probably way too cliched shounen for me. Will check out of curiosity but most likely it will suck.

Bloody Monday 2

In part 2, Falcon is going to use his magic laptop uncensor all JAV and cook breakfast!

Even with the combined chick factor of Kawashima Umika, Fujii Mina, Ashina Sei and Kichise Michiko, there's no way I'm going near this. The first season had me so pissed off with plot holes the size of the moon and characters with the IQ of 25. They should have cast eye candy like that in a generic show like Hancho and I would be so happy.

Tokujo Kabachi!!

I will never break my vow not to watch another Horikita Maki dorama again. The jdorama world would be so much better without her, Fukada Kyoko and most of the Johnnys.

Salaryman Kintaro season 2

I love Takahashi Katsunori as Kintaro but Nagai Masaru, his sidekick from Tadano Hitoshi as Kintaro? To be fair, I never saw the first season of the reboot but I'm so skeptical they can capture the magic of the original series which was so much fun.

Fumo Chitai

Love this series. Its kind of sad that the two must watch Winter 2010 jdoramas are continuations from last season. Actually, removing Fumo Chitai and Liar Game from the list would make this season probably the worst season ever. Having Code Blue and Bloody Monday has already dopped the average quality to depths so low, not even KDO can save this season.

Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge

I wouldn't watch this even if I were paid $1000. They probably made this dorama to torture terrorists.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Soratobu Taiya ep 1

I'm trying to break Kita Yoshio's record of number of doramas in a year!

One tragic morning a truck called Dreamer, manufactured by Hope Motors was going around a bend when suddenly one of its tires flew out and killed a young mother on the spot. The police suspect Akamatsu transportation of being negligent of maintaining the vehicle. There's lots of crying in the beginning with everyone pointing fingers while Akamatsu (Nakamura Toru) has to go around and apologise to everyone while trying to keep his business surviving. However, this wouldn't be a dorama without something fishy happening.

Hakamada Yoshihiko, the guy on the left has been in 7 doramas this year! Any would kill to have been in Fumo Chitai and Soratobu Taiya.

Sawada (Tanabe Seiichi) works in sales in Hope Motors but wants to go back to the design department. He suspects something is amiss with the quality assurance department regarding the flying tyre incident and investigates further. Hope Motors did their own investigation and declared the truck to be allright. Akamatsu's efforts to get the investigation report is met with stony silence. Things get even more interesting when reporter Enomoto (Mizuno Miki) finds out that there was been another flying tyre incident with the Dreamer.

What are the chances of Tobosha's subbing being completed in 2010?

Corporate cover up shows are always exciting to watch and Soratobu Taiya does not disappoint. The viewer knows the truth. The fun part is watching all the blood, sweat and tears that is needed for this small transportation company to fight the car manufacturer and clear their name. The directing is really solid and you can cut the tension with a knife.

Haven't seen Mimura in a good show since Saitou-san.

Soratobu Taiya is more than just an underdog story. There's an interesting human conflict as well. Akamatsu desperately needs to reveal the truth so that his company can survive and his 50 employees are not rendered unemployed. Sawada desires to change the corporate culture within Hope Motors and does not want to truth to be uncovered by an outsider. He wants the matter dealt with internally and a product recall made before someone else does it.

I'm starting to think that Shiroi Haru was the only dorama where he was a nice guy.

The scene between Sawada and Akamatsu is pure gold. Akamatsu pleads for Sawada to give him the reports but Sawada cannot. It would be betraying his company and what good is his dream of changing Hope Motors when their is no company left to reform. There are also addition side stories like the bank employee's conflict of interest challenges befalling the Akamatsu family because of the flying tyre incident.

Kimura Yoshino, Mimura and Honjo Manami. What other reasons do you need to watch this show?

If you want great acting and story, Soratobu Tyre is a must watch. There's no way I'm doing my hamsapsukebe awards for 2009 before the subbing of this show is finished. Its still early but this could be one of the best jdoramas of 2009. Only like a 100 people have gotten this show so I urge you to get it. I will help seed whenever I can but Soratobu Taiya is a must watch. A big thank you to jade_frost and Kazuya_ for subbing this.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Ningen no shoumei ep 7

Ningen no shoumei is a slow but well paced cooker. Every episode, a nice nugget of information or two is presented and the web begins to tighten around the characters. There's no stupid police procedures that don't make sense save for the whiny voice guy, Sato Jiro who plays the bad cop. His overacting is horrible and have never found him funny. How the hell did he get cast in a serious show like this? His character comes off as way too cartoony or in this case trying to hard to be funny.

The wheelchair dude and the adulterer have become one fun odd couple to watch. Forced to team up to investigate the death of Fumie. Its fun to watch wheelchair dude come to grips with his situation and realise what he can and needs to do in order to find Fumie. The formula of flawed characters needing each other to achieve a goal never fails. I'm intrigued to see what steps they will take in the coming episodes. It almost makes me wish Fumie were alive so we can see what happens between the three of them but knowing jdorama cliches, they'll all come to terms with their situation, tsuyoku naritai and go their separate ways.

Ogata Ken giving the finger to Yutaka?

The series really kicks into high gear when Munesue (Takenoichi Yutaka) goes to the U.S. to investigate Johnny Hayward's background. Ken Schufftan (Bo Svenson), the policeman who earlier in the series shot dead Johnny's friend Eddy is ordered to babysit Munusue and Ken is non too pleased. Ken seems to be a bit of a racists though I would say that his shooting of Eddy is entirely justified. Too bad Eddy's girlfriend is still in this show. Her acting is just atrocious. And we get this really big reveal at the end that just makes me want to watch the movie to see the ending. Yes, I managed to get my hands on the original 1977 movie with English subs. I think it'll do the dorama injustice if I watch the movie before HaroRangers finishes subbing. Props to the writer for managing to expand it to a 10 episode series without polluting it with meaningless filler stuff.

Thank god Horikita Maki's role in this show is limited.

The one thing jdorama fans want to know is whether Takenouchi Yutaka can speak English. His pronunciation isn't bad and I didn't have any trouble understanding him. However, he does not emote well in English. Its like he is reciting lines and there's emotion or meaning behind them. His English is better than the embarrassing crap we get in the usual doramas like Tokyo Dogs so I'm pretty happy with the scenes in America. Its fun to see a Japanese show deal with racism in America, albeit a bit clumsily.

I can't seem to quit Ohitorisama because of Matsushita Nao. Her character in that show is too funny.

I think solution to the mystery of Johnny Hayward's parents and his death is pretty obvious but the characters have been done very well that its more of a matter of how it is resolved and what the fallout will be. Its a shame that there aren't too many people watching Ningen no Shoumei. Really well done police investigation shows like this that deal with so many issues rare in Jdoramas. Sometimes it stumbles like Kunio with black paint on his face trying to pass as an African-American but the intentions are good and its obvious they've really put effort into this. Highly recommended and IMHO, a must watch show.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Jin eps 3-11

I really enjoyed some of the time travel conundrums in Jin. By introducing advanced medicine, Jin sensei has already altered the future. His mission throughout this series is to quicken the technical know how of medicine so that Miki could be cured in the future. However, saving all those people in Edo raises difficult questions. What effect would saving those who are suppose to die have? Or does it really matter as in the case of the MILF with the little kid?

Makes me want to rewatch Sakuran.

Jin's only way to measure the success of his actions is Miki's photo. Slowly she gets better in the picture. However Jin is soon faced with another moral question. Nokaze is Miki's ancestor and Jin can save her life but in the process alter her destiny and prevent Miki from ever existing. He made the decision to save any life that he can save but at the cost of Miki's existence? Maybe Jin is suppose to make babies with Nokaze and is the source of Miki's lineage.

Have we met before?

Jin doesn't really explore the sci fi concept of time travel but rather the moral arguments. If time travel only creates divergent time streams, then all of Jin's worries are for naught. The question here is if not helping the needy is evil, how does that balance out against the crime of altering the future or causing people to not exist. I love the answer that Kita Yoshio gave Sakamoto Ryoma. That there is no right answer and the easiest way is for someone to make the decision for Jin.

Its not your fault Mr Brain was absolutely crap!

The big hook for Jin was the mystery of the baby in the brain and the identity of the bandaged. Sad to say, the truth has not been revealed. They teased us with the fake answer that it was Sakamoto Ryoma but its still left hanging. Perhaps the truth has not been revealed in the manga. Perhaps the dorama writer could not think of a suitable answer. Or perhaps they are saving it for a second season? It was a bit of a let down that the baby thing wasn't explained but not as much of a letdown as Jin not doing the ecchi with Nokaze or Saki.

Jin is like the donkan hero of a erogame without the ero. Two absolutely stunning women happy to throw themselves at him. The super experienced Nokaze or the young and innocent Saki. I'm pretty sure Jin could have even gotten them into a threesome. Hhhmmm.