Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shiroi Kyoto eps 1-10

This being a very bad season of jdoramas, its time to dig into my stash of doramas to watch if only I had time. Shiroi Kyoto is a twenty two episode dorama that came out in 2003 and garnered good ratings and awards. Shiroi Kyoto is a hospital political dorama about two very different doctors Zaizen Goro (Karasawa Toshiaki aka Kenji from 20thCB) and Satomi Shuji (Eguchi Yosuke aka An-chan from Hitotsu Yane no Shita).

Zaizen sensei is an assistant professor in surgery and is a very pragmatic person. He is aware of the politics and is bidding his time to become a professor. He is always in control, saying and doing the right things. Satomi sensei is of course, the idealistic internal medicine doctor. One would say too idealistic. It was hard in the beginning to emphatise with him because there are always reasons why certain policies are implemented in hospitals and Satomi sensei seems to see the world in too much black and white like when he put Zaizen sensei's career in jeopardy just because he didn't like secret surgeries.

How could the perfect actress at playing innocent girls end up with an idiot like Oshio Manabu?

Zaizen sensei is the more likable character. He is flawed but his pragmaticism makes him fun to watch and the audience can discern the motives behind his decisions unlike Iki in Fumo Chitai. I guess it is a necessary evil that they be slightly extreme opposites of each other to contrast their personalities.

For the first ten episodes, who have two story threads, Zaizen sensei's fight to become the professor of the first surgical department and Satomi sensei's idealism in the workplace. The hospital politics part is fun to watch. Its even better than Fumo Chitai. Everyone's sending messages by saying not what they want to say, money is thrown around and alliances are made and broken. There's no good or bad guy. Its all grey area characters though Azuma sensei is default villain I guess for not being able to admit that he has no rational reason for hating Zaisen sensei.

I want to remember Kuroki Hitomi for roles like this instead of boring stuff like Real Clothes.

Zaizen's bid for presidency is supported by his very entertaining father in law Matachi who throws his power and money behind the politically inexperienced Goro and helps him recruit allies to their camp. The first two episodes of Shiroi Kyoto is basically and election dorama and the price that must be paid in order to win. Democracy may give everyone a voice but there is a huge cost involved in getting enough votes to win. Its like a promotion is something that must be bought instead of earned.

Do you honestly need any more reasons to watch Shiroi Kyoto?

Satomi sensei's story isn't that exciting since he's Mr Nice Guy except his got two bijin ladies in his perfect wife Michiyo (the lovely Mizuno Maki) and Azuma sensei's daughter Saeko (Yada Akiko) who may have a thing for Satomi. Here's hoping something happens with Saeko later because it would be such a freaking waste. I'm not referring to Yada Akiko's loveliness but rather the time spent on her character. She's like this innocent ojousan who has no idea what the outside world is like. I liked what Kikukawa said to her about her being old fashioned in that she is too dependent on her parents.

Lucky bastard.

Actually, all the characters in the show have no life outside of hospital politics. Even Satomi's wife Michiyo doesn't seem to have any friends and the less said about the professors' wives club the better. A bunch of middle aged women having fake conversations and associating with other all in the name of protecting their husbands' positions. Its even scarier than suburban housewife politics and really made me cringe. I just don't see this professor wives thing as work but rather women leeching on their husband's success.

Come to think of it, the two main characters have two girls in their respective lives.

His role is to serve a reminder of what Zaizen sensei was or could have been since they were once close friends. Though they can never see eye to eye, Satomi sensei respects Zaizen sensei and Satomi sensei is Zaizen sensei's real friend. After all, every relationship and act that Zaizen sensei has, has been all for the purpose of becoming a professor. The mamasan Keiko (Kuroki Hitomi) is his only other real relationship except he only uses her to escape from his reality and rarely shows her his true face.

I wonder who'll be the first one to get them to do a menage toi?

So far, Shiroi Kyoto has been awesome and helps eases the pain of only having two shows to watch this season. Definitely a must watch show.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fumo Chitai eps 11-13

I'm still waiting for Iki to make his move Satoi. Talk about false and misleading advertising at the end of ep 10. Iki's still passive as always. I know he's from the army where chain of command is important and so he must follow orders from his superiors but he knows that Satoi is freaking idiot who's hatred of Iki has blinded him to the obvious. To be fair, it was going to be hard for Fork and Chiyoda to come into an agreement with the merger and Satoi's suggestion of a joint company seemed like a better idea. Maybe that's why Iki didn't make any moves. I wish there were some hint of that to prevent Iki from looking like a passive observer.

Fork's positive response to Satoi's plan made him too confident and non receptive Iki's pleas. You could say Satoi has been the main character for the last few episodes. Except it isn't a downfall story and more of an idiot letting his hatred rob him of any common sense. It makes the whole Iki getting promoted thing seem lame. To be honest it is getting boring because in the conflict between Iki and Satoi, there has not really been a battle. There is the battle between Samejima and Satoi but they are not enemies and Satoi has been blind to Samejima's moves.

Storyline wise, Iki does not deserve to face his original nemesis Samejima because he has yet to vanquish Satoi. You can't face the last boss because defeating the sub boss. Its like a mid carder getting a title shot without beating the no.1 contender. Or is the final boss going to be Daimon? Iki needs to fight so we can cheer him on. Iki really needs a supporting character he can confide in so that he can explain his inaction when he knew that Satoi was going to screw up the deal with Fork. Iki's no idiot. He knew exactly why the Prime Minister to be guy wanted to talk with Daimon. The fact that nothing came of that meeting seems like hanging plot line.

Koyuki just freaking sucks in her acting. I don't care about her character or Iki's son storming out when he saw the glass. Thank the jdorama gods Beniko will be back next episode. Here's hoping that the Iran oil story will be much more exciting as the Fork one. I've bought the book that Fumo Chitai is based on. Its called The Barren Zone and it is English but I'll wait for the series to end before I start reading it. Hopefully it will make more sense of Iki's inactions.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Kimi no te ga sasayaite iru eps 1-3


Disability stories are to 90s jdoramas what cancer/leukemia are to Korean movies. It is such a useful tool because you get instant audience empathy and writers can easily set up challenges for the main character without need of a villain. Kimi no te is a five episode dorama special that aired annually from 1997 to 2001. Kanno Miho plays Takeda Mieko, a deaf girl who is starts her job in but finds difficulty in being productive at work. She was hired to comply with regulations requiring firms to hire disabled people.

Everyone at work treats her bad except for Nobe who starts learning sign language in order to communicate with Mieko. Realistically, there's no way a deaf girl who looks like Kanno Miho will end up bullied/ignored at work. With 1 1/2 hours per episode, the story moves at a pretty fast pace. Episode 1 deals with Nobe and Mieko meeting and ends with them getting married. Episode 2 is about Mieko's prenancy and episode 3 about Mieko raising her daughter.

There's not much time to get into character stuff and Kimi no te is basically about the challenges that Mieko faces because of her disability which I find interesting like being able to be productive in an office environment or being unsure whether she will be able to raise a child properly. Its fun to watch and its a 'nice' dorama in that all the characters are unrealistically nice people and there's never any sense of danger or excitement. I wouldn't say Kimi no te is flat but I sort of watch it as a pseudo documentary fiction on a hot chick living with her deafness.

Kimi no te hasn't exactly blown me away but every episode so far has done a good job of building up to an emotional climax. The fact that there's nothing really worth watching this season besides Fumo Chitai and Magerarenai Onna means there's no excuse not to check it out.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Magerarenai Onna eps 2-4

Looks like Magerarenai Onna is not a shigoto dorama like Hatarakiman and Kiina but rather a character study of the three eccentric characters of the show. Ogiwara Saki gets put through the wringer when she loses her job and her mother passes away. Her mother was her main motivation for sitting the legal exam 9 times and suddenly she is rudderless. Her single minded pursuit of following in her father's footsteps and making her mom proud has been the driving force of her life. She has always been an empty shell and now her shell has cracked and she doesn't know how to put her life together.

Riko is attracted to Saki's misery because it makes her feel better about her life. She is a stranger in her own home and the scene where she confronts her husband about his affair is pure black comedy gold. Riko is looking for affirmation of her existence and she meddles in Saki's affairs because Riko believes Saki needs her and this gives her happiness. Riko has no direction in life, having discovered that married life is miserable. Yet, she continues to perpetuate the lie and hide her head in the sand.

As for Misuteru, the cop, his story seems to be too similar to Riko's but its still early. Magerarenai Onna has just started to get into the meat of Riko's problems and ep 5 will be fun to watch. I still don't give a fuck about Masato. Absolutely no chemistry between Tsukamoto Takashi and Kanno Miho. Saki and Misuteru however make an interesting pair. Too bad chances are, its probably gonna be another everyone grew stronger, lets go separate ways ending.

If I have one complaint its the idealised concept of being a lawyer put forward in the three episodes. Sure, Japan practices civil rather then common law, ie finding the truth rather than an adversarial system but saying that lawyers are responsible for his/her client's happiness? Lawyers act on the instructions of the client and if they want more effort, they need to sign a bigger cheque. Riko's family story is like a dark comedy and yet the lawyering part is like your typical idealistic bullshit jdorama.

I don't really mind it cause I enjoy watching the three characters interact. Someone mentioned that the writer of Magerarenai Onna wrote Jyoou no Kyoushitsu so no wonder the seemingly cliched characters have turned out to be fun to watch. As long as it doesn't turn into Enka no Jyoou with it monotonous dark but unfunny comedy Magerarenai Onna will be ok.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Fumo Chitai eps 8-10

Yoshiko finally gets some happiness after pouring her heart out to Iki as he brings her to a company function. Even the politics and tension at parties is cutthroat. The tension is so thick with all the sucking up and trying to look good in front of others. Yoshiko suspects something happening between Iki and Chisato and they get into an argument. Alas the WTF moment comes when Yoshiko dies in a car accident.

Finally, I see where all the build up with Chisato is heading. Iki gets the easy way out and doesn't have to cheat on Yoshiko. After all he is Mr. Tadashi (right). I feel a sense of betrayal in that Yoshiko could have been utilised even better. As can be seen from the company function, she is well aware of office politics although Iki does not talk to her about work. I really wanted to see what she can do for Iki in terms of his work. Killing off the perfect housewife for the boring potter girl feels so cheap. There's the feeling of not being able to accept Chisato as Yoshiko's replacement. Its just way too convenient.

Never trust a woman who would sleep with her husband's killer.

Maybe its just my bias against Koyuki. I've never liked her acting and she just doesn't give me the vibe of being a woman from that era. She just looks way too 'modern'. I must admit though, they took their time to get Iki and Chisato together and the whole vase scene was written pretty good. If they had just cast someone else as Chisato it would have been pure awesome. I think they really needed an actress from the 90s like Sakurai Sachiko or Tsurata Mayu or Hirosue Ryoko who can play a 'pure' character. The only actress from the 2K era who can pull of such a character would be Aibu Saki.

Hopefully we get to see more of Beniko next season.

Now if Iki's next woman were Beniko (Amami Yuki), it would be a different story. Beniko, despite her limited screen time is probably the most developed female character in the show. She's the miserable mistress of a rich Indonesian who is never content. She is drawn to Iki because he is what her husband is not. He doesn't want to compromise despite the harsh realities that faces him and somehow she is compelled to aid him. I think deep down, she sort of hates him and wants to see him corrupted and be miserable together with her. Now that is a relationship worth exploring compared to 2D boring potter girl.

OMG, its Hans from Call Center no Koibito!

My favourite bit of Fumo Chitai is while Iki is the good guy, he's not the dumb idealistic good guy that is used in way too many doramas. He is way too stoic but his actions give hints to his thinking and emotions. He knows who his enemies are and the factions in Kinki Trading Co. He gives Satoi a peace offering and pledges his support. Satoi however, being the villain that he is has bigger plans and sabotages Iki's plans not just to get credit but also gain control of the company.

Villains united.

I salute Kishibe Ittoku as the master of playing villains. His portrayal of Noguchi sensei in Iryu is one of the most memorable villains that I've seen. He really made me hate Satoi and when the narrator said Iki realised that he would have to do things against his nature in order make his plan succeed, it was the equivalent of Aragorn saying 'lets hunt some Orcs' at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring. Its the ultimate battle cry. Iki has so far been playing it safe and not hungry for power. Now he realises that there is no way he can coexist with Satoi and steps must be taken.

I think Tabe Mikako would have made a better Kanna in 20th Century Boys.

I really hope that Iki, being the military strategist that he is, has forseen the possibility of Satoi disregarding the rules of the peace offering and has made preparations for his removal. It is time for Iki to get his hands dirty and I cannot wait to see what happens in the final two episodes of this first season.