Monday, August 30, 2010

Atami no Sousakan eps 1-3

 Atami no Sousakan is big mystery dorama set in a small town. 3 years ago, a bus carrying 4 schoolgirls went missing. One girl was found at a bus stop but was in a coma. The whereabouts of the 3 other girls were never found. Odagiri Joe and Kuriyama Chiaki are investigators from the Japanese equivalent of the FBI sent to try to solve this case.

The first thing that comes to mind is Atami no Sousakan's similarity to Shinzanmono though in this case, its more than just the question of who the culprit is but how the deed was done. Like Shinzanmono, everyone in the town acts suspiciously and has something to hide. Luckily there's no predictable story to uncover every episode with a feel good ending.

This isn't what it looks like or is it?

However, Atami no Sousakan suffers the same problem as Shinizanmono where most of the time, Odagiri and Kuriyama are investigating things which are unrelated to case and taking their sweet time to do things such as interviewing certain people. In Shinzanmono's case it was because every it was more about the stories behind the characters than the main mystery. In Atami no Sousakan, there is no excuse for the real slow pace of the investigation other than wanting to show the weird and wonderful people of the town.

Note to self; must visit ceramics club when next in Japan.

Atami no Sousakan has the Trick-like humour which I enjoy. Understated without a necessary punchline but what it really lacks is chemistry and characterisation of the two leads. Odagiri's character is a bit smug, likes to literally push Kuriyama from behind and has a rivalry with the female cop of the station. Kuriyama's character... well, there's nothing defining about her. There's no dynamic in their relationship to pull the viewers in and they're both very bland.

I really feel like dropping Atami no Sousakan though the show could pick up in the middle.The lack of progress in the case really is boring. Sure, two major developments in the case happen in 3 episodes but the show glaringly forgets to ask or explore the obvious questions that the developments bring. Some of my favourite shows took a long time to get interesting such as Shika Otoko but the three episodes were really boring and didn't seem like it was building up to anything. Its too early to pan Atami no Sousakan as a do not watch show but the sloppy pace and my hunch that its just going to be more stories about the characters in the town don't give me much confidence in the series.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

JOKER Yurusarezaru Sosakan eps 1-3

Warning: The following review of Joker is pretty spoiler heavy.

Sakai Masato (General Rouge) is Date, a policeman with a gentle personality but not respected by his peers.He is of course a very skilled detective especially compared to his inept colleagues but does not rail against the injustices and bureaucracy of the police organisation. On a side note, why most police officers other than the main characters be always so incompetent in Japanese doramas? Its as if the writers are always trying to make them a source of comedy but all they are are mindless antagonists who do nothing for the main character. 

The synopsis says that at night Date turns into a cruel punisher but its more that he decides to take matters into his own hands when the police are unable to catch people who are clearly guilty. Ep 1 features an overacting villain who belongs in a tokusatsu show who escapes being charged because he is the son of a police bigwig. The whole episode is a clumsy attempt at flaming the audience's anger towards the villain in order to justify what Date does to him later. Unfortunately, the lamely written scenes and overacting villain only serve to bore me because its too fake to arouse any sense of empathy from me. For a perfect example of how to do a revenge/ righteous comeuppance story, watch Takashi Miike's Taiyo no Kizu.

At that point I was almost ready to drop the show but we finally got the Date revenge bit which got me intrigued for the next episode. One aspect of Date's character that befuddles me is how he goes a bit Clark Kent during his job such as pissing himself or twisting his ankle during a simple chase. You don't want to risk screwing up when pursuing suspects just so that people won't suspect you of being this avenging angel of unresolved crimes?

Joker seemed like this pulp hero where every episode, you can tell who the villain is straight away, the clues will be too obvious so that Date can be sure he has the right suspect only for something to fuck it up and he will end up shooting them at the end. It was looking like Joker would be a B grade tv show akin to Walker Texas Ranger until the ending of episode 2 which I didn't expect until late in the series.

Camera is not low enough.

Of course, I had to watch episode 3 and there was something about Joker that made it sort of fun to watch despite the uber predictable bits. I mean usually cop shows are about twists and turns. Its was not until the end that I realised what Joker was. A super hero show. That music everytime he decides to take matters into his own hands is like his super hero theme song. He is like freaking Bruce Wayne, parents gunned down in front of him except that he himself is also a criminal. This one event is he one thing that fuels him in his quest for justice. The bar guy is his Alfred and Kudo is his Robin.

Dammit, I was just about to jump the table..

Date finally accepts Kudo into his confidence when he realises that Kudo has undergone an event similar to his and requires a way to channel his anger. Same with why Batman chose Dick Grayson to be Robin. The overacting villains and predictability all makes sense. Joker is about Batman doing a Clark Kent in the police force, getting his Robin and hopefully Robin will go to far in the end and Bats/Date will have to take him out. Hopefully Kudo is more Jason Todd than Grayson. Can't wait to see 'Arkham Asylum' in ep 4.

Lol, Osugi Ren as Alfred.

I wouldn't call Joker a must watch because the whole arousing the audience's anger bits in ep 1 and 2 completely falls flat on its face but the whole Batman and Robin bit just makes it all the more intriguing.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nihonjin no shiranai hihongo eps 1-4

 When I first heard about this series, I remembered this old British tv series called 'Mind your Language' about a class of foreign students trying to learn English. I remembered the Pakistani always fighting the Sikh and the Chinese girl always quoting from Chairman Mao. It was full of racial stereotypes but that was what made it extremely funny. You can find the episodes on youtube and its bloody hilarious.

Oh course, I didn't really notice that the name of series roughly translates to Japanese that the Japanese do not know. Basically its about things in the Japanese language that probably most Japanese do not realise. The students speak pretty good Japanese and ask the teacher Haruko played by Naka Riisa all sorts of difficult questions that she has to look up.Most of the time its difficult stuff and so my hope of the show teaching me 'practical' Japanese was dashed.

Besides talking about different facets of the Japanese language, the show concentrates on each student per episode and Haruko's attempts to help them solve their problems in Japan. It is interesting to see the show deal with the status of foreigners in Japan and the tight laws and rules that they have to abide by there. They have to be careful as someone making a complaint can cause a student to be deported.

Humour wise, its not as funny as I had hoped it would be. The Japanese stuff is hit and miss for me. I think people with stronger grasp of the language would probably enjoy it more. I don't mind the bad acting because its campy and its not easy to find decent foreign actors. Its still better acting than some people who can continue to star in jdoramas.

Overall, I still enjoyed watching it because its different. Its fun to see Harada Natsuki play the Ojousan Katori who is always pining for Shibuya after seeing her cold doctor in Othros no Inu. The constant fighting between Haruko and the head teacher is funny. Nihonjin no shiranai nihongo is definitely a watchable series but your mileage your vary depending on how good your Japanese is in order to grasp the difficult questions, most of which just went over my head..

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chase ep 1

 From Sakamoto Yuki the writer of Mother, Taiyo to Umi and Last Christmas comes Chase, a dorama about tax evasion/minimisation or whatever you want to call it. Despite my complaints about the last two episodes of Mother, Sakamoto Yuki definitely has writing skills. I've seen jdoramas about talking deers and Japanese cowboys but this is the first time I've ever seen a jdorama about tax.

 Everytime I question why I continue to watch jdoramas with all the horrible acting and storylines, its shows like this that make it all worthwhile. Its no surprise that the subber is Chuks, who has always gone after quality doramas. Without people like Chuks, the more mature doramas would never be subbed.

Eguchi Yosuke is Haruma, tax investigator with lovely wife and daughter and of course, he is very dedicated to his work blah blah blah. The main antagonist is Murakumo, played by Arata who is known as the Magician of the Caribbean because he is an expert at hiding people's money and reducing taxes. Murakumo is an interesting 'villain' not because he has an evil haircut and prosthetic left hand (when will the subbing of Tobousha be finished?) but because he is a well rounded character. He is not evil but rather is good at his job and he has history with the wife of a friend that he helps out in the first episode played by Aso Kumiko.

Arata has infused Murakumo with a mixture of coolness with a hint of humanity that almost makes him an anti-hero. His relationship with Aso Kumiko is going to be interesting to watch and their history as well as how he lost his left hand is going to be interesting. More importantly, Murakumo makes a perfect opponent for Haruma because a hero is only as good as the villain. Actually Haruma because a tragic hero at the end of episode 1 and I'm pretty sure Murakumo's story will be tragic as well.

Chase is just awesome, the ratings be damned. Its an education about how people and corporations hide their profits from the tax office and how much work is needed from tax investigators just to follow the paper trail. Definitely a must watch.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mioka eps 1-5

Mioka is another jdorama with the young beautiful girl who has same fatal and rare disease story. I blame Sekachu for making it a popular dorama for young and upcoming actresses though I wouldn't call Yoshitaka Yuriko upcoming with her extensive body of work. Actually the best thing about Sekachu was not the fatal disease part but rather high school and friendship part that they did real well. After Sekachu we had those two boring Erika-sama dorama, Ichi Litre and Taiyo no Uta.

Taichi and friend's reaction to Hebi ni Piasu.

To me the fatal disease story only work well with older characters because it would be about them reassessing their lives and doing things people don't normally do. With the dying school/college girl dorama its more look at how pitiful she is and how strong she is facing this rare disease. In fact, the rarer the disease the more pitiful. With Mioka they've decided to add in the losing memory sub genre so before long Mioka's rare brain disease will cause her to forget her friends and family. Oh, look how tragic she is. Zzzzzzzz.

No college jdorama is complete without a bitch-slap or two.

I think the main dude Taichi is one smart fella. He goes after Mioka because its a limited commitment relationship. He gets to have fun with her, she dies and he has one hell of a sob story to reel girls in. All Taichi has to do is to keep a photo of her on his phone/wallet/room and when a girl asks about it, reluctantly her about Mioka. He'll probably have a 100% success rate getting laid and could spice it up by calling out Mioka's name during sex.

Taichi has this ojousama called Mari played by the lovely Mizusawa Elena who he turns down for Mioka because he knows he can easily get her back. All he has to do is act angsty so that she suspect something is up and sooner of later Mari will find out about Mioka's disease. Mari will of course forgive Taichi because she'll think he did it out of pity. As I said, Taichi is one smart dude.

Is Mari in hand worth Mioka in the bush?

Two cute girls for the price of one. The worst case scenario for him is if Mioka doesn't die and somehow ends up brain dead. He'll have to waste his time going to the hospital everyday which isn't so bad when you consider the nurses that exist in jdorama world but he's going to have a hard time getting into Mari's panties since she's such a ojousama.

Japanese girl and their neko smile.

Cynicism aside, Mioka is better than the aforementioned Erika-sama jdoramas but not as good as the first 6 eps of Sekachu. The main actor is pretty decent and has chemistry with Yuriko.Tanihara Sousuke is freaking wasted as the boring doctor who could have been played by anyone. Mioka is what it is and I can't really criticize it for being what it is not. I'm only skimming through the dorama for Yoshitaka Yuriko and Mizusawa Elena though.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Moteki eps 1-3

Moriyama Mirai plays Fujimoto Yukio, a 29 year old temp worker who has never been popular with the ladies. However, one day he starts to experience moteki, a period when Yukio starts to get involved with 3 lovely ladies.The first girl being Aki, someone who he met during one of his temp assignments. The second girls is Itsuka, played by the lovely Mitsushima Hikari who is a still a shoujo and gets along very well with Yukio.

The third girl is Natsuki played by Matsumoto Rio, who was responsible for Yukio no longer being a dotei. It is interesting to note that Matsumoto Rio was Stand Up! which was another show about being a dotei. The fourth girl is played by Kikuchi Rinko but that will probably be in episode 4. Can't write too much about the girls because part of the fun is watching how Yukio got involved with them in the first place. :)

For a midnight dorama, Moteki is definitely not short on talent with Mitsushima Hikari and Kikuchi Rinko. It doesn't even look like a midnight dorama and doesn't have the sterile set look of many shows. The only indication of the budget is the running time but hats off to the makers of Moteki who have given it a movie like feel.

Moteki basically deals with Yukio fumbling around the women. The audience gets to hear Yukio's hilarious thoughts as he deals each of the women. Moriyama Mirai does an awesome job of playing Yukio. He doesn't overact too much and no matter how many stupid decisions Yukio makes, he manages to keeps my empathy because Yukio feels more like a rounded and flawed character rather than a faceless protagonist of your typical harem jdorama. There's lots of humour in Moteki such as Yukio time travelling to his previous selves and vice versa as well as two 'musical numbers' in eps 1 and 3 that just had me in stitches.

Speaking of music, they use a wide range of jpop music in this show to great effect. How the hell did they manage to pay off the licensing fees for these songs. Every episode has at least 4or 5 awesome songs while most jdoramas just have a theme song and maybe a 3 types of background music. Are the budget of midnight doramas increasing or have the producers found some way to blackmail the actors into accepting minimum wage so that more can be spent on the show? The musical number in ep 3 must have taken a long time to choreograph and practice.

This POV looks very familiar...

Could the best show this season possibly be a midnight dorama? I don't mean Moteki is good in the midnight dorama sense of having fanservice. There is only one oppai shot in 3 episodes so far. The script is funny and interesting and I can't wait for ep 4. First must watch dorama of the season and it does have a killer intro.

She's trying to say something.... maybe its too hot to use a dooner?

If only the karaoke part in ep 1 was subbed...

Need to look up that Iwai Shunji movie they were talking about.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

5 Reasons to watch Hammer Session ep 2

Reason no 1

That's Takayama Yuko from Futatsu no Spica. Don't really remember her from it cause Sakuraba Nanami just stole the show.

Reason no 2

She's got the Hirosue Ryoko facial expressions.

Reason no 3

What could she be doing?

Reason no 4

Why I want to teach high school in Japan when I grow up.

Reason no 5

Yup, that is Irie Sayaa next to Shida Mirai. As she gets older, she loses her uniqueness before becoming just another yama gravure idol.

Fanservice aside, Hammer Session is an attempt to update the GTO formula for the 2K10 era. Instead of of a former yankee, we have a robin hood conman, Hachisuka Goro played Hayami Mokomichi. Hachisuka is on the run from the cops and runs into Kita Yoshio who is the high school principal. Kita Yoshio then offers to hide Hachisuka if he will teach in the school and help with the problem students. Obviously the school must be very fucked up if Kita Yoshio can risk completely tarnishing his and the school's reputation except it doesn't seem so different from any school.

 I wonder what he might be looking at..

The name of the dorama refers to Hachisuka basically 'conning' his students into situations where they would have to face their problems head on.The problem with the concept is that its not so different from stuff in GTO and various other teacher/problem youth doramas. Its just a fancy name for something that we've seen before. The Hammer Sessions just aren't special enough in terms of ingenuity especially with Hachisuka being this world renown conman. 

I would get sick in this high school everyday...

Actually the main problem is Hayami Mokomichi. All his fake tan and hair gel does not buy him half the charisma of Sorimachi Takashi. GTO can make the lamest lines and simplest acts seem cool. Hayami just doesn't have the charisma to be a decent main actor, or rather he does not have the acting chops/screen presence the elevate the mediocre script.

Stupid rails blocking my view of her thighs..

Seriously, without the quality of the eye candy in Hammer Session, I would have not watched ep 2. There's a chance the Hammer Sessions would get better as the series goes on but its just going to be another high mediocre high school teacher solves one student's problem per episode until he has to leave the school at the end. I probably make the stories sound worse than they are because I just can't stop thinking about how good GTO is when I watch Hammer Session.

 Can't wait for K-on on PSP!

It certainly lacks the humour and Miyabi. Every high school jdorama needs an evil bitch. At the end of the day, I'd rather watch a by the numbers jdorama with lots of girls to look at than a big budget Johhnys dorama that is ruined by horrible acting and lack of chemistry. *cough* Natsu no Koi wa Nijiiro Kagayaku *cough*.