Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Atami no Sousakan eps 4-8

 I was thinking about giving up on Atami no Sousakan midway but I just had to know the ending. The strangeness of the show kind of reminded me of Shikaotoko and that show did not take off until the sixth episode. Usually when a show is really weird, there's some sort of motive behind it and I wanted to see what the writer had in store for the end. I still don't know what to make of the ending.

The problem or basis of Atami no Sousakan (depends on how you look at it) is that the truth is implied at the end but nothing really is explained. Supposedly, Odagiri and the girl take the bus into the afterlife. The question becomes who are these people who seem to have access to it? It is implied that people who have died once or faced near death are drawn to the town.

Is Atami a methaphysical town where everyone is in a state of near death or is it a bridge between worlds where the dead and living dead so to speak mix? Was the researcher guy in a coma all along? Is Atami some sort of Matrix for the brain dead? Are Kuriyama Chiaki and the Chief real people? If it is like the matrix then the real people can't be real. The living dead would have to somehow manifest a corporeal body after after entering coma. What if the town merely attracts people who are have lived through dead. Perhaps people who were meant to die but didn't. Then what of the scene of the researcher waking up in this empty room with no police guards?  What is this balance that the characters always speak of? Do I actually care enough to watch it a second time and try to make sense of everything? Is there even a sign that I could possibly arrive at the truth?

No, because there are too many red herrings or questions that can never be answered in the show. Like plan 2 and the purpose of the whole religion thing. Why was the girl left in a coma after the incident? Was it by accident or design? What about the maths book and the role of the old man and vodoo mask? Actually I can't really think of too many questionable red herrings. Atami no Sousakan is not Inception where the whole story is like a puzzle and has multiple possibilities. There are a few possible truths but there is are no huge signs pointing in any direction and the details are all murky and hazy.

Its sort of like you're waiting to the build up where the revelations keeps coming climaxing in the truth except in this case, you're given a clue and have to piece together the pieces for yourself except the pieces are just scattered all over floor like a new jigsaw puzzle and you're wishing that they would at least give you a 75% completed puzzle after 8 episodes.

I do applaud the writing for trying something I've never seen before in jdoramas. I think its a brilliant idea though I feel they've erred to the side of making things too vague. I just can't shake this feeling of indifference to the show and the mystery. It doesn't help that the gunfight scene was so laughably shot. Its like the action sequence in Shiroi Haru at the end where they director just gets all the camera angles wrong and just makes contrived. There are so many things that the director could have done to capture the tension of two people with guns in a pitch black room. Or maybe someone in the editing decided to turn the gamma up 200% for fun and forgot to turn it down.

I can't condemn Atami no Sousakan for its ambition and neither can I recommend it because the series never got me excited and I didn't care for the characters. The Tsubasa no Hoshi part made me laugh though.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gaiji Keisatsu

 Never could I have imagined a terrorist jdorama like Gaiji Keisatsu. After watching laughable and inept attempts like Bloody Monday and Rondo, I was convinced that Japan lacked the writing and directing talent to do a good terrorist thriller and any attempts will be curtailed by stupid jdorama conventions like the whole team walking in formation in slow motion, villains who have to justify everything with long monologues and a hundred guys in suits following a suspect while pressing into their ears and talking into their wrists.

I did not dare to even hope that one day, someone could actually do a terrorism jdorama that dealt with lots of grey area issues regarding national security, was actually very exciting with lots of twists and turns and did not insult the viewer's intelligence. No inept police officers to serve as antagonists. Very well done scenes of police trailing and staking out suspects. High tension storylines involving police informants. No stupid sterile headquarters and camera work trying to make the show look cool. Everything is gritty and real and I love the use of surveillance camera point of views. Fuck, Gaiji Keisatsu just does everything so well that its a miracle.

Watabe Atsuro plays Sumimoto, head of his own unit of gaiji jeisatsu or foreign affairs police. Sumimoto has trust issues and is someone who will do anything for the cause. Ono Machiko plays Haruna who is the new transferee to the gaiji keisatsu department and she is the eyes from which the audience is introduced to the force. Watabe Atsuro is absolutely perfect in this role because the show is not afraid to go dark. Sumimoto is a character who will always make you question his actions and I love it.

 Gaiji Keisatsu show makes you unsure of Sumimoto motives and methods through Haruna and you can see all parties trying to manipulate each other for their own goals. It is not a dorama about who is right or wrong but what are the actual motives of the players and to what end will they try to achieve it? Gaiji keisatsu are police but because of the nature of their job and limits own their powers, they have to make difficult decisions. What is the maximum price to pay in regards to national security? Can one serve two masters at the same time and are they mutually exclusive? The music is also pretty good. Props to the judicious use of Bolero in the series. I couldn't help thinking of Love Exposure but Gaiji Keisatsu really made it its own.

I was dreading that the show would pull back from the abyss and make things black and white but Gaiji Ketsatsu dared to go places that all other bright and idiotically simple dorama fear to tread. If I have any complaints, it is the final scene after the credits which just felt too tacked on. Its like one of those moral/karma scenes at the end of a softcore film which usually involve a beach, knives and blood. Besides that, Gaiji Keisatsu is absolutely flawless.

A big thank you to jt_erectus for recommending this show. I hereby declare Gaiji Keisatsu my choice for best jdorama of 2009. Yes, better than Rabusha, Jin and Soratobu Taiya. Watabe Atsuro deserves to be best actor. It is a crime against humanity that Gaiji Keisatsu has an average rating of 5.1. I have no idea what the reception for this show was but it deserves to be hailed as the standard for Japanese police/terrorist shows. The makers of the show should be given titles, made national heroes and given charge of all future police jdoramas. Truly one of the best jdoramas I've ever seen. I've been having such a great run of good doramas all of which coincidentally do not feature idols. Hhhmm. Coincidence?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jmovie review: Liar Game - The Final Stage

So the time has finally come for me to say goodbye to Liar Game, the midnight dorama series that surprised everyone with its ratings and sparking a second season and movie. As much as Kanzaki Nao can get on my nerves, I will miss that character. She is the heart and soul of Liar Game, the baka shoujiki who continues in her blind faith to believe even people who are expert swindlers. Even after playing two seasons of Liar Game, she still has not progressed from her simple convictions.

The scenes where Nao tries to get everyone to cooperate only to of course get lied to gets old quickly after 2 seasons. Yet because of her simple mindedness, the writers have something to play off and Akiyama has someone he can rely. In other words, Kanzaki Nao is Liar Game's greatest strength and weakness.

There was never really any need to do the Final Stage as a movie except to milk the cow. They didn't really do anything that could not have been done on tv. Its just another warehouse dressed in lights and funny colours. The movie is basically a three episode stage put together. However, the one difference is that there are plenty of twists and turns in the movie and the writers did not need to worry about spacing them into 3 episodes.

The second season was fun to watch but the concept was getting a bit repetitive. Liar Game was all about the competitions and how Akiyama and Nao would manipulate the games. The main story of who was behind Liar Game was never really cooked well during the series so don't expect anything from the final revelation.

However, Nao and Akiyama have become two characters I have a great liking to after two seasons of trickery, deception and rule manipulation, however undeveloped they may be. That's because unlike the rest of the guest cast who overact all the time, Nao and Akiyama are two characters who complement each other and it is fitting that they be given a proper send off.

Do watch the end of the credits. There is a short scene that made me smile because it's what Kanzaki Nao is about. So sayonara to Liar Game and Fukunaga who always betrays Nao and Akiyama but always joins htme in the end. There better not be a third season.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hagetaka eps 1-2

I have a love-hate relationship with doramas.I love the eye candy, the anime humour and stories that you can't find from other countries. I hate that most doramas serve to promote idorus and are ineptly written and shot. When I watch shows like Chase, Soratobu Taiya and Hagetaka, its obvious Japan has the talent. Its just the question demand. I mean look at the ratings for the above shows. Not even reaching 10 percent. Is the average Japanese that shallow? Surely the above shows received enough critical acclaim for the public to notice.Or was KDO getting a 16.9 average a mere aberration? I guess the trend applies to d-addicts as well though Hagetaka has a lot more downloads for the subs than Soratobu Taiya.

Thank the dorama gods there is no slow mo walking in this show though I am eagerly anticipating that in Iryu 3.

Hagetaka refers to Washizu Masahiko, a former bank employee who now works for a foreign investment fund. He is sent back to Japan in order to buy under performing companies and sell them off to make profit. In the first episode, he crosses paths with Shibano, his former sempai who still works for Mitsuba bank. Mitsuba bank is facing its own financial problems and is desperate to sell off its debts.

Yes, that's the American from Nihonjin no shiranai Nihongo on the right!

To say more would be to spoil the show so suffice to say Hagetaka is about debts and the buying and selling of it. You've got Matsuda Ryuhei as the heir of a struggling ryokan and Kuriyama Chiaki as a financial reporter but they are the supporting characters. The interesting relationship is the one between Washizu and Shibano. Kouhai and sempai. Calculating fund manager looking to buy out companies vs this weathered old dude who tries to do the right thing as a mere salaryman of a bank.

Hhmm, what's going on here?

To me, there is no villain in this show. Its all shades of grey and Washizu and Shibano just happen to be on opposite sides. Hagetaka tries to show the suffering of people in debt but I have no sympathies for ignorant people who bury their heads in the sand in regards to the financial situations of their companies. Why should the audience care when idiots who cannot accept responsibility for their own actions and instead blame the creditors commit suicide? I am not really criticising Hagetaka for pushing this viewpoint but rather the reactions of the characters towards Washizu.

Someone give her more speaking lines!

The preview of episode 3 just leaves me salivating for more. No idea how I missed this show but do yourself a favour and watch it. Thanks to the person who recommended Hagetaka in the comments.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Soratobu Taiya eps 2-5

 Yataa!!!! The subbing of Soratobu Taiyo is finally finished! Hard to say whether it was the best dorama of 2K9 but its right up there with Love Shuffle and Jin. Soratobu Taiya is is the ultimate underdog story as we watch Akamatsu continue to struggle under the weight of the flying tyre accident and Hope Motos doing whatever it can to hide the truth. Everytime Akamatsu gets a glimmer of hope, you know its going to be dashed.

Nakamura Toru does a great job as Akamatsu, the David trying to fling whatever stones he can find at Goliath. He is the everyman who struggles with difficult choices like whether to accept money to keep his company afloat or continue the fight to prove his company's innocence. I just love how they don't get overly sentimental with his whole underdog status. His misfortune is more than enough to generate empathy from the audience to want to see Akamatsu transport finally slay Goliath.

The two most interesting characters in the show are Sawada from customer relations and the banker Isaki. Sawada is aware of the cover up but wants to change Hoper Motors from within. However, his efforts to uncover the truth are found out and he is offered his dream transfer to the design department in exchange for his silence. Sawada abandons his co-conspirators but of course finds out that his transfer is meaningless when when no one will accept his design proposals. He sold his soul to enter his achieve his dream only to find that it is a fake dream.

Isaki, who is engaged to Kaori, the niece of the head of Hope Motors is uneasy at the collusion between Hope Bank and Motors. He wants to do his job properly as a banker and yet the pressure from his private life to rubber stamp any deals with Hope Motors troubles him. Isaki knows that Hope Bank is not doing any due diligence in regards to assistance to Hope Motors yet his future and private life is tied to the deal going through. Personally, I would sell my soul to be married to Mimura.

However, like Isaki, I don't think I could stand being under the constant shadow of Kaori's uncle. Its like Isaki's working and private life are being controlled by Kaori's uncle and he is unable to make his own decisions about his life.  The characters of Sawada and Isaki are conflicted between doing the right thing and doing what's best for one's career. Kudos to the writers for not being preachy with the script and letting things speak for themselves.

A big arigatou gozaimasu and gokurosama deshita to jade_frost and Kazuya_ for subbing this show. Truly a must watch show. Its a shame only 200+ people form d-addicts watch this.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


OMFG. Harorangers and SOS actually finished subbing Toubousha!!!! May the jdorama gods be praised! I first say Toubousha, which was then subbed by Studio Oto way back in 2004. Yes, its been 6 years. 6 years taken to watch 11 episodes of Toubousha. I guess its better than a lot of doramas which will never be subbed finish. I didn't even think Harorangers were even going to finish Toubousha this year until they released a few episodes in a row.

Right now, I'm more in a state of euphoric shock at having just witnessed the end of the series rather than having a clear evaluation of the show. Every time an episode came out, I'd just watch it while trying to figure out what happened before because it was usually very long between releases. That's why at the end I decided to wait for the last four episodes and watch it in one go. If you want a general idea of the story, read my review of eps 1-3 here.

And what a ride the last four episodes Toubousha was. Plot twist after plot twist kept me eager for the next episode. One could say the show had too many red herrings and the final twist had too many unanswered questions but better than a slow mystery thriller aka Atami Sousakan or mystery show that has to fill out time with contrived sentimental stories like Tobo Bengoshi.


This show has Eguchi Yosuke, Abe Hiroshi, Mizuno Miki and Nagasawa Masami. If that does not scream must watch, I don't know what does. Actually Triangle had an awesome cast as well but ended up being a horribly written show. Rest assured that Toubousha is pretty well written despite some minor issues here and there that don't really detract from the overall story. Probably my main issue is why the megane assistant to the police head decide to have a change of heart in the end.

I'm pretty impressed with the main plot reveal. Its something that no one expects yet manages to tie in all the twists and turns together without being contrived. If you are after a mystery escape from the cops thriller, Toubousha is just what you need. On a side note, Tobo Bengoshi ep 9 was horrible. The sentimental storyline nice lawyer saviour just kill the suspense and makes it way too boring and predictable. Not to mention the reason why the two characters hate the bengoshi is laughably stupid/ I'll still watch it to the end to see the ending though.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Gold eps 2 + 3

 The incest theme continues in Gold with the revelation of GTO being the foster brother of the Saotome family. Not only that, Yuri's brother made GTO promise to always be at Yuri's side but never to confess his feelings for Yuri. Sure, all brothers want their sister to be a shoujo forever but that just screams 'if I can't have her, neither can you'. If this isn't the definition of a screwed up family, I don't know what is.

The climax of ep 3 is GTO dealing with his past, facing his subservience to Yuri's brother and the Saotome family. It was suppose to be moving yet at the same time, it was pitiful because he is still a slave to Yuri's whims. All that anguish just because of a lame promise to Yuri's dead brother? WTF? I think GTO is just a tsundere maniac and all tsundere maniacs are masochists. Actually, Yuri is more than just a tsundere whose feminine side only appears when she is with Rika-chan. She is a megalomaniac.

Actually, I should really be hating Saotome Yuri. She's one of those lame 'charisma' commentators on tv who spouts nonsense about society ills and how bad things things are nowadays compared to 30 years ago when she was a child. This is the same lame angle that politicians use to win elections or distract the public from real issues but people making a living off it just make me sick. Its as if the youths of yesteryear were actually well behaved and there were no crimes before the internet and gaming.

Yuri is like the leader of a religious cult, speaking nonsense and using terminology to convince idiots like Rika that she is right. probably the main reason I cannot hate Yuri is because of all the brainwashing she is doing to Rika. Rika is like a bimbo with no thoughts of her own, desperately seeking approval from Yuri and happy to believe everything she is told. For some reason, I really enjoy the systematic bullying and psychological manipulation that Yuri does on Rika. It does help that its always funny and Rika's trademark so na~~~ is so moe. I think Rika represents the drone-like Japanese public who rely on all these 'charisma' commentators on tv to tell them what to eat, wear and think. Whether or not this is intentional I don't know but I wouldn't put it past Nojima Shinji.

The Saotome family is an example of people being famous just by being famous. Sure Yuri is seemingly rich and runs her own gym but all she does is go on tv and spread her beautiful child bullcrap while idiots node in the background. Her only actual claim to fame is marrying a gold medalist and having a coach who went to the Olympics. Its been three episodes and we don't even see the kids training for or participating in competitions. I just can't help approaching Gold from a cynical viewpoint.

As I said in my review of ep 1, I think the concept of Gold is flawed and I just wished it were about some business and not sports. That being said, the execution of the dorama is pretty good and I had fun watching all the messed up characters deal with each other. I'm particularly interested in what Yuri's estranged husband did. From the sounds of it, it seems to be something more serious than just an affair. I would rate this series so far between watchable and must watch.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Tobo Bengoshi eps 1-8

Tobo Bengoshi is a dorama of two storylines. The first is fugitive lawyer Narita Makoto helping each person per episode. Mokoto will encounter someone in need of legal advice, fraudulently claim to still be a lawyer and dispense some legal advice. To stomach the fugitive lawyer with heart of gold part, one must accept that Makoto is able to be on the run for a whole year in Tokyo and not get caught.

Sure, Tokyo is freaking huge but he could have at least changed his hair and grew a beard. Mokoto is a wanted murder suspect with his face pasted all over. They tried to explain it by saying that the prosecutor is happy for Makoto to be on the run because he doesn't have enough evidence but Makoto escapes from the cops so easily and frequently that I'd be tempted to be a chikan in Japan.

One must accept that Makoto has not been struck off the professional list and is committing fraud by wearing the badge. That Japan does not have legal aid or community legal centers to help the public. One must accept that the person who Makoto is helping will find out he is a wanted suspect, threaten to expose him until they rationalise Makoto must not be a baddie because he is helping them. Makoto will then launch into some hypocritical tirade about how good the law is and how everyone except him should turn themselves in.I wish he'd just use his legal know how to in helping people indirectly instead of acting like a self righteous lawyer dispensing legal advice. Covertly helping people would have fit in so much better with the theme of a fugitive lawyer.

So why did I watch Tobo Bengoshi for 8 episodes so far? Two reasons. Firstly, the main story which is about who is responsible for framing Makoto is actually pretty exciting. Contrast this with Atami no Sousakan or Shinzanmono where the main mystery was sleep inducing without proper pacing. Tobo Bengoshi has actually structured the main story very well. You still get your red herrings but every episode leaves me wanting to watch the next one. Being able to skim the good samaritan fugitive lawyer bits does help as well.

Second reason is the casting. Isihara Satomi as the victim's daughter and Yada Akiko as the prosecutor's assistant. Their roles are pretty boring but they are very pretty to look at. Are Ishihara Satomi's lips getting fuller the more doramas she does. Not to mention the guest stars; Aibu Saki as a stalker hostess, Suenaga Haruka in ep 4 and Shiraishi Miho in ep 8! Sakurai san from Densha is in the dorama as well.

So the ultimate question is whether Tobo Bengoshi is worth watching. I wouldn't say it is but the main story and casting do make the the show tolerable and maybe even watchable. It all depends on what happens in the later episodes with the main story.