Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Keibuho Yabe Kenzo eps 1-3

 Spin offs are a rarity in jdoramas and jmovies. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is the Muroi Shinji movie from Odorou Daisousasen.When I head about Yabe Kenzo, I wasn't expecting much but I was happy to see something set in the world of Trick. Trick worked because of the pairing of Abe Hiroshi and Nakama Yukie investigating events of a supernatural bent. Yabe Kenzo was merely a plot device and comedic tool with his toupee. Could Yabe Kenzo actually carry a dorama series?

Nakamie Yukie doesn't even have half of your oppai!

Keibuho Yabe Kenzo basically does the reverse of Trick. The bumbling comedy relief guy is the main character while the actual case investigation is done by Katsura Miharu (Kanjiya Shihori) and Sakuragi Kenichiro (Suzuki Kosuke), who members of the general division of the police department. Miharu is eager to help out in any way she can while Kenichiro just wants to do his job and stay safe. They are no match for Abe+Nakama Yukie but their job is firstly move the story forward and allow Yabe Kenzo to do his funny stuff without slowing down the story.

How come I never got harassed by maids like this in Akiba?

Yabe Kenzo is like a comedy anti hero. Instead of being the main character because he is cool, the audience roots for Yabe Kenzo because he is brilliantly funny even when he is being an idiot and running away from danger. The enemy doesn't even need to be threatening.

Urano Kazumi from AKB48!

The most impressive thing about Keibuho Yabe Kenzo is the humour and the writing. It retains the sort of dry humour of Trick with lots of running jokes that put a smile on my face. No lame overacting attempts at slapstick humour cough*Pro Golfer Hana*cough. Its a much more intelligent humour that even when it falls flat doesn't insult the audience. You have things like Yabe Kenzo getting briefed by the police chief in a conference room and all parties using the microphone to speak although they are in the same room. The characters don't go winking at the camera go overacting. Its the characters acting seriously in absurd situations that make it funny.

Yabe Kenzo gets to have fun while we are just plot devices...

 The writing is awesome. I like how Yabe Kenzo may be an idiot and a coward, he's not actually useless and watching him fumble his way to saving the day is brilliant. Ep 1 is a parody of 24, ep 2 is a yakuza story with one of the funniest endings ever and Ashisa Sei is reason enough to watch ep 3.  Actually the best part of ep 3 for me was watching them walk around Akiba and being able to recognise all the streets and shops. Maybe I should give Akihabara@deep another go....

Now that is a maid worth ordering champagne for...

Its no longer spiritual and cult stories but this series proves that even cop stories can be funny as well. It remains to be seen whether the quality of the writing can be sustained throughout the series. It would have been better if there were a main story in the background to sustain the pacing when the stories get a bit slow but the first 3 episodes have been good.

You don't need to have seen Trick to enjoy Yabe Kenzo. There are a couple of cameos and nods to Trick in the first episode but it doesn't affect the story. If you are a Trick fan, Yabe Kenzo is a must watch. If you've never seen Trick, try it for at least 2 episodes.I'm pretty sure you'll get hooked.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pro Golfer Hana eps 1-2

In the tradition of Ace wo nerae and Attack No.1 comes another B grade sports dorama with CG balls except this time instead of a schoolgirl as the main character, its an out of work OL who was a former child golf prodigy. Kota Rosa aka biggest forehead in Jdorama is Hana, who stopped playing golf when her father hit by a truck when running to give her a new set of clubs. She buried the clubs and swore never to play the game again.

 So this is how you stalk girls in Japan....

One day, OL Hana is forced to play for the company in a golf get together with a client. She rediscovers her touch for golf and disregards orders from her boss to throw the game away. She is soon fired and her family is continually pressured to pay their debts by the lamest pair of yakuzas ever. However, Hana was spotted at the club by a mysterious instructor, Daigo Kazuma who either sees a lot of potential in her or just wants an underling.

Something is wrong with this picture......

Like Ace wo nerae and Attack No.1 the best thing about Pro Golfer Hana is the coach. Ishiguro Ken is definitely having fun playing a coach who doesn't act like one. He seems lazy, aloof and says random stuff that makes sense only to him. There seems to be a running joke where every episode Daigo Kazuma will use the plotline from a movie to give Hana some encouragement except he completely misses the point of the story.

Coach Daigo oblivious to the overacting in front of him.

The one thing killing Pro Golfer Hana is Katase Nana's overacting. It was ok in Uta no Onisan but her overacting is in the same level as Tomoya Nagase's in Mukodono 2003. Overacting to the point of overparody. Its as if she is trying to reach the level of an anime villainess not just by not having having any restraints in her acting but by pushing it past the point of absurd. Katase Nana is so not funny that she almost destroys Pro Golfer Hana.

Nothing much to say about Kota Rosa except why do all her characters have their hair tied back so she can show the world how big her forehead is? Pro Golfer Hana ultimately avoids the don't watch category because of its short running time. I'm going to continue watching just for Daigo Kazuma's antics and the golf part is just slowly getting into full swing. I just want to see absurd shots and super golf powers. Only watch if you have time to kill or partial to low budget doramas like me.

Monday, June 21, 2010

More pictures from Japan

Finally had time to sift through 8 gig of pictures from Rei so here are just a few.

 Some goth chicks in Harajuku.

3 dudes in awe of the chicks to guys ratio in Harajuku.

Rei working his practicing in stealth shot skills aka shooting literally from the hip.

Random black dude in Harajuku. Not sure what he was selling.

Stealth shot of random girl in cafe. Rei thought she was hot.

Pro golfer Hana ad. Note the big forehead.

Melonbooks in Akiba. If you see a lot of girls on the floor, you're probably in the yaoi section.

Love hotel in Roppongi.

Hhmm, is this where companies get their OLs?

Stalker POV.

Nice legs...

Stealth shot from Higashi Dori shotengai in Osaka.

Club Vivi where they didn't want to serve us gaijin. Ggrr. The OL uniforms were hot though.

More engrisu.

Awesome stealth shot of chicks in Fukuoka. The chicks in Fukuoka are hot hot hot.

Hello ladies...

Kabukicho, which I was too lazy to go to and now regret deeply. :(

Is this the hole to Wonderland?

A picture that just speaks a thousand words.

Cosplayers at Harajuku bridge on our last day while I was at a maid cafe.

Crazy crowd at Harajuku.

WTF is Rei focusing on the busu in the background?


The closest Rei ever got to doing a tousatsu.

Iino and Billy from that raw horse place.

WTF is waku waku mail?

Hello legs.

Rei took a lot of nice scenery photos I'm not much of a scenery guy. He's only put up a few photos on his flickr so maybe I'll do scenery post next time. Gah, I miss Japan........

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mother eps 2-6

Just when I thought Mother was getting sappy with the Nao's too much of a coincidence talk with her real mother in ep 3, there is this incident in ep 4 involving an eyepatch that just made me want to chant 'this is awesome!'. I love it when doramas dare to get a bit darker instead of simplifying and making this rosy like Aishiteru. I love that the reporter Shunsuke is not nice though his sob story past was boring. I have a dream, that someday some forward thinking jdorama writer will decide to ignore the stupid rule that every villain must have some stupid excuse for having ulterior motives. If only Shunsuke would say he was doing it because Nao's mom is filthy rich and it wouldn't put a dent in her savings account but will improve his life a great deal.

I had feared that Mother had used too many bullets early in the series and I'm happy to say my fears were not realised. The writer Sakamoto Yuji clearly has a strong plan for this series. Looks at his list of works; Taiyo to Umi Kyoushitsu, Last Christmas, Itoshi Kimi E, etc etc with Ryokiteki na kanojo being the only blemish. His idea for mother is not just about Nao playing mother to Tsugumi. He really wants to write the mother of all mother jdoramas.

We've got Nao's stepmother and her struggle to be a real mother to Nao.We have Nao's real mother who has to face the facts of her abandoning Nao and whether she has the right to intervene in Nao's life. You have Nao's sister who has to choose between being a mother or getting into a sham marriage. There is the issue of Tsugumi's abusive mom and finally the question of whether Nao is just play acting. Lots of mothers but so many different themes to explore like Nao always feeling indebted to her mother but it creates a distance between them she doesn't act like a spoiled brat.

 I like that Nao doesn't waste time arguing and justifying her actions. She knows she may have done the wrong thing and it will most likely end badly for her. But she accepts the fact that she made decision and it doesn't matter why she did it out what her intentions were. Nao has no plan but she has no choice but to keep moving on with Tsugumi. I just respect her character's inability to play the woe is me card and ability to make hard decisions. If there's one thing I hate its whiny characters.

Everytime I think the show is going to go slow, something interesting happens. I just have a strong feeling that Sakamoto Yuji has Mother mapped out and paced really well. I know mother doramas are dime a dozen but its never been done this well. Mother reminds me of this Korean movie called the Classic which tried to be the romance movie to end all romance movies except it turned out to be a lifeless tick-the-cliches-boxes and throw-in-the-kitchen-sink movie while Mother feels organised and fluid. Its not one of those doramas with older actresses each playing a different stereotype. It is a runaway movie exploring themes of motherhood but it is not visibly self-conscious of that fact. There's a chance it could all go downhill (please no bright and happy ending) but for now, this is the best jdorama this season and a must watch.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tsuki no koibito eps 1-3

 Kimutaku is finally back in a romance dorama after Karei naru ichizoku exposed his acting, the very bland Change and the very pretentious and inept Mr Brain. Can he recapture his old magic and have another 25% rating dorama or have Japanese audiences finally realised that while he has charisma he doesn't have the necessary acting chops to elevate the mediocre to great?

I think we can be pretty sure why Rensuke always acts like he has something stuck up his arse.

In tsuki no koibito, Kimutaku is Hazuki Rensuke, the president of Regolith, a furniture making company. He is in China to oversee the opening of a new store and to deal with the forced closing a factory. There, he meets factory worker Xiu Mei (Lin Chi Ling) and decides to sign her up as a model in order to placate the factory workers and promises that they will be rehired. Rensuke sets up this elaborate plan of using the local loan sharks to make Xiu Mei desperate enough to sign with Regolith.

What a waste of Nakamura Yuki. (Lalapipo and the milf in Saru Lock)

The other characters in Tsuki no koibito include Shinohara Ryoko as Maemi, an employee who has a long history with Rensuke, Matsuda Shota as Kazami, Rensuke's personal assistant who does nothing except try to look cool while tagging along and uses way too much hair gel and Kitagawa Keiko as the comedy relief Yuzuki who seems like a bimbo who has an unexplained crush on Rensuke despite it being entirely one sided.

OMG, there are Hobbits in Japan!

First problem with tsuki no koibito is that Rensuke is a seemingly cold hearted bastard because all he does is strut around telling people off and not really doing any work. Actually that's not really the problem. The problem is Kimutaku cannot do the Abe Hiroshi. He is unable to make a bastard character interesting. Sure there is allusion that he didn't used to be like this and all that but there is no depth to his acting. As a character, Rensuke just feels so flat.

I can see a Kitagawa Keiko tsundere dorama in the future...

2nd problem is casting of Lin Chi Ling. Sure she is a model and looks the part but did the producers ever do their due diligence and find out whether she could act? Did they seriously watch Red Cliff and Treasure Hunter and think 'we need to have her in a dorama'? Any idiot can see that she has zero acting ability. If you want a freaking Chinese speaking actress, at least get one who can act like Vicky Zhao. It should be pretty obvious that you basically need to pair Kimutaku with a good actress like Matsu Takako or Takeuchi Yuko. Average acting + no acting skills = chemistry disaster.

Why is Lin Chi Ling's head always lower than Kimutaku's everytime they're next to each other?

To be fair though, I thought Lin Chi Ling's Japanese was pretty decent. She spoke slowly and clearly and I could understand her without subs. Matsuda Shota's mandarin is a freaking disaster. There was no way any Mandarin speaker could understand him without subs. I would have been perfect for this role except for the drowning my hair in gel part. If there is going to be more multi-language jdoramas then I really need to move to Japan and get an agent. How hard can it be just to follow Kimutaku around and wear sunglasses indoors? At the very least with some white powder, I could have played Xiu Mei's father. Are Chinese speaking extras so hard to find in China? I was laughing when the dad was speaking mandarin to Xiu Mei. I know Japanese audiences don't know the difference between real and bad mandarin, after all they can't even get English grammar right despite memorising all the rules but realism and authenticity goes towards believability of characters.

Sorry I had to delete Buzzer Beater.

My lone bright spot in all this is Kitagawa Keiko. Yes, she is relegated to comic relief but there's a tiny beacon of light that maybe she might have an interesting story to explain her obsession with Rensuke. That Xiu Mei will die in an accident in ep 4 and the rest of the story will be about Shinohara Ryoko and Kitagawa Keiko. Maybe I'm just desperate to overwrite all my memories of her in Buzzer Beater.

In summary, what is wrong with Tsuki no Koibito is apathy. I am given no reason to care or even hate any of the characters in the show. Why should the audience care if Shogen has a spy in Regolith or that Xiu Mei's dad is a crook? I'm going to give it a few more episodes just because its a big name dorama and it doesn't stink as bad as Mr Brain or Bloody Monday.