Monday, January 31, 2011

The Quiz Show Season 1

 No, not the horrible Johnny's The Quiz Show Golden but the first series. When I tried the second season many moons ago, any anonymous commenter said this:

Have you seen the original The Quiz Show? I have to say, that show was much, much, much better. In its original 30 minute time slot, they didnt waste ANY time. There's basically only 2 characters in the show and it focuses on their relationship much better. Plus, they can actually ACT unlike the johnnies you see on The Quiz Show 2

It intrigued me but I didn't make any effort to seek it out until I came across it while looking to fill in the gaps of my collection and I'm very happy to say that the commenter was absolutely right on the money. In brief The Quiz Show is about this mysterious tv show with a host who seems to have memory problems and a producer who has someone planned for the program. If someone manages to answer all the questions, the tv station will do whatever it can to fulfill their dream.The contestants of the show all are given easy questions at the start and then the questions get really personal and reveal some hidden secret from their past. So its not about whether the contestants know the answers but how difficult it is for them to admit their past.

Its as if somehow the producer knows everything about the contestants and there is a reason why each of them are summoned on the show. The episodes are a breezy 22-23 minutes each and the story is told so efficiently unlike the second season. This is one dorama that literally has no fat at all. The writers know the story that they want to tell and use the limited time available to them fully. The writing is tight, the revelations are fun and the climax is built up really well. I really love how you can see hints of the other contestants in the flashbacks as it makes it a more cohesive world. Most of the series takes place on the game show set but small details like the cover of a manga or a poster in someone's room help make a good dorama into a great one.

The acting is spot on. Katagiri Jin who I've only seen him in GS Wonderland and SP but he really carries the show as the blunt and straightforward host. I love how the takes the piss from the contestants. Yamamoto Koji is in the first episode as a one-hit-wonder singer. To say more would be to spoil the show. Thanks to the commenter for recommending this show and for Halo Productions for subbing this. The series is not available on d-addicts but can easily be found on megaupload. I can't seem to find Halo Productions' website and they are not listed on the fansub wiki groups. I wonder what other good jdoramas have never been put on d-addicts? Definitely a must watch and highly recommended.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jmovie review: Confessions/Kokuhaku

The Jmovie that I have been waiting for this year. Matsu Takako in a dark revenge flick sounds like a recipe for awesomeness. The dark revenge genre has always been a staple of Kmovies and I have seen quite a few. The words dark and edgy usually don't usually apply to Jmovies but with Matsu Takako's star power, hopefully the producers won't decide they have to tone it down to appeal to the masses.

Confessions starts off with Matsu Takako as a teacher, Moriguchi Yuko who is teaching in a noisy middle school class that is noisy and attentive. Moriguchi returns confiscated JAV back to a student who apparently has removed the mosaic. Note to self, look for mosaic removing software after this post. Moriguchi tells her class that this will be her last month as their teacher and the class celebrates.

Moriguchi then tells the class about her past with some pretty shocking revelations which slowly quietens the rowdy students. She talks about her recently deceased daughter and tells the class that she has found out that her daughter was murdered by two students of the class, A and B and at the end begins her plan of revenge. This half hour scene was absolutely gripping with simple guitar chords serving as a backdrop and I felt like the students getting more attentive throughout each revelation.

What follows is the aftereffects of her revenge on A and B as it causes havoc in the lives of both students and the class. Basically the bulk of the movie concentrates on the lives of A and B, their past including how they ended up as killers and how they deal with their crime. This is when I started getting bored with the movie because frankly, I don't care about A and B. I don't care about their past though it is important for Moriguchi's revenge because they spent too long on them.

Its as if the writer/director wants to give A and B and excuse or make them more rounded characters but I found it neither interesting and became bored with apathy. Even the twist about the crime was boring because I just want to see Moriguchi's revenge! Screw details about A and B's past and how fucked up they are. Aren't revenge flicks about arousing the audience's desire to see the villains get their comeuppance?

Confessions seemed to rely on the revelations and twists to carry the pacing of the movie after Matsu Takako's brilliant first 30 minutes but they are inconsequential and a bore. I guess the great twist of the movie as the audience thinking that Moriguchi's revenge was achieved after 30 minutes but that was only the beginning. Well its a bloody fucking obvious 'twist' that shouldn't even be called a revelation. Maybe its structured in a way that works better in the novels but in movie format, devoting most of the screen time to villains the audience just wants to kill defies convention.

If Zach Snyder ever directed a Japanese movie, it would look like Confessions. Lots of pretty images from a heightened reality, muted colours and lots and lots of slow motion with a music video set piece feel. It is a movie that is beautiful to look at and uses a variety of cinematic techniques that you rarely see in Jmovies. There is one scene in the climax of the film that involves time going backwards which is nice to look at but does absolutely fucking nothing for the emotional story.

Confessions is not a disaster but the first 30 minutes is so epic while the next hour and 15 minutes feel so hollow in comparison. Revenge flicks are suppose to be about emotions and desperation. Nothing wrong with twists but Confessions uses them too much as a crutch. One could look at the movie as more of a commentary on the fucked up kids of today but there's no purpose in it. I can't say don't watch the movie because the first 30 minutes is epic and the movie looks good but if you want a good revenge flick, you're better off watching Taiyo no Kizu or Park Chan Wook's revenge trilogy.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jdorama ramblings 23/1/11


The tale of the aquarium worker Kengo who, after his fiancee declined to the donor for decides that its time to kill to birds with one stone: save his sister and in the process get married to a young wife. He finds a prostitute Risa and pays her money for her to marry him and be his sister's donor. Kengo relies on the fact that Risa will feel sorry for his family's plight and pretends to be a nice guy by not bedding her. Any guy who pays a prostitute to be his wife would at least take the opportunity to sample her professional skills.

However, Kengo is smart because girls like having a relationship with guys who do not look at them without thinking about sex. I know it doesn't make sense but whoever said women did? Kengo's ingenious plan worked and finally at the end of ep 8, they hugged. Aaawwww. Along the way we have such exciting subplots such as Kengo's sister refusing the surgery because it would make the brother a criminal for deceiving the system and her crush in the same hospital who eventually dies. Doesn't it warm your heart? Throw in Risa's boring brother who keeps being a thorn in the side of our protagonists and we have an afternoon soap opera.

She looks so familiar but I can't recall what dorama I've seen her in. Is she the idol from Densha?

Sigh. I thought the synopsis said Kengo had a secret that that he would sacrifice everything to protect. I've been fast forwarding certain scenes in Nagareboshi but there is no way I could have missed a revelation so big. This is the first Ueto Aya role I like in ages but the whole dorama just gets bogged down in predictable over-sentimentality. I am so happy the sick boy died so that storyline is over. Strangely, I feel compelled to finish the show despite its flaws.


I couldn't bear even finishing the first episode. Its got Renbutsu Misako who I haven't seen since Nanase Futatabi but I'm better off rewatching Air Doll or Chobits if I feel a need for a generic guy meets robot girl story.


I'm pretty sure all Japanese women would love to look like Fujii Mina.

Face Maker is basically short stories about what happens when people change their face for one reason or another. In 3 episodes, its all about normal looking women changing their face to look like idorus. Its sort of fun to watch but I didn't like how much time they spent on the mysterious doctor with his posturing and cryptic talk. Having Hinata Chiho as the nurse helps but the doctor is just a mcguffin and the less time spent on the mcguffin the better.

Ueto Aya syndrome: casting someone who looks like a schoolgirl as a nurse. Maybe the doctor changed her face....


Housewife goes to rural area, loses memory and ends up staying with nice country dude who lives with his sick mom. Housewife is afraid of regaining memories because she is afraid of something in her past and we need no greater hint than a bird in a cage in her flashbacks. Most likely evil husband and loveless marriage. End of first episode, we find housewife is going to die. Yawn. Fuyu no Sakura screams by the numbers housewife fantasy. If you want housewife in countryside fantasy, you're better off watching Aoi Tori. This is Imai Miki's first dorama since Brand, which was 10 years ago.

CONTROL ep 1+2

Matsushita Nao as the annoying(uzai) iron lady detective Segawa Rio, a fact that the series keeps telling the audience in a ham fisted way during the course of the first episode that makes me wonder whether the writer knows the meaning of the word subtlety. Fujiki Naohito is the very straightforward uni psychologist  Nagumo Jun. Control is trying to the Trick formula of having two flawed characters who complement each other skill wise as protagonists but the chemistry isn't there because its Control is too.... unrefined. Its just a generic cop show with the usual Japanese cliche I hate of the other cops being incompetent loud mouths who take credit for the protagonists' work. I can never understand the stupid need for inept colleagues in cop shows to serve as antagonists when the crime and criminal(s) is enough. If its for comedy reasons I understand but most Japanese cop doramas straddle the world between ineffective comedy and pretentious seriousness with in adequate realism. Control is a watchable generic police dorama but I'd rather spend my time watching older doramas that I missed out on.


That over the top 'profiling simulation' scene in the beginning of episode 1 was so bad I don't where to start. I wonder how many years of profiling experience Kitagawa Keiko's character has had? Out of interest, I did a little research and this is what I found:

In order to get into the FBI Academy, one must be at least 23, a U.S. citizen or a citizen of the Northern Mariana Islands, four year degree, three years professional work experience, valid driver's license, available for assignment anywhere the FBI has jurisdiction. Must qualify in one of the following - Accounting, Law, Language, Computer Science/IT, Diversified.

Assuming Kitagawa Keiko got in through some US-Japan exchange program, how old must she be in order to have the qualifications to be sent to the US, representing japan to be trained in profiling? How old is Kitagawa Keiko again? It wasn't that long ago when I first saw her in Sailor Moon. This is the fucking Ueto Aya syndrome of miscasting a young actress in a role that should go to someone in their 30s. Would the audience care that Lady is saying Japan would send a fresh graduate with no experience for profiling training so that she can be one of the founding members of this profiling group? This whole trained by FBI thing in jdoramas is as cliched as Steven Seagle's cook/policeman who used to be in the navy seals/marines/power rangers storylines. If I were Prime Minister of Japan, the first bill I would pass would be to ban all tv stations except for Wowow to produce any more police shows.

GOLD ep 4

The subbing may be slow but Nojima Shinji's writing and Amami Yuki's acting makes it worth watching no matter how flawed the concept and in episode 4, we get a huge revelation which will threaten to tear the walls of the Saotome family down. Nojima Shinji is a writing god. Funny enough, his lists of credits in his dramawiki has Koinu no Waltz but the page has someone else as the writer.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


 During the course of filling up missing episodes in my jdorama collection, I have come across many shows that for some reason I have ignored, or not heard about and Aikurushii was one of them. I'm pretty sure I've seen the torrent at d-addicts before and the reason I didn't want to watch it was probably me not being interested in a dorama with the bald dude from Shall we Dance (Takenaka Naoto), Ayase Haruka and Saru Lock from the emo crying show Rookies.

 Actually I probably couldn't imagine Takenaka Naoto playing the father in a family dorama after watching him as the overacting comedy relief character in so many shows. His overacting has become an unfunny parody of itself in shows like Tsuki no Koibito and I didn't have the confidence that he could carry the role of a serious father.

Smart women like this are a rare breed...

I decided to give it go and Aikurushii starts off like your typical family in the countryside story. You have your noisy father and son fighting and about someone who took a big dump that couldn't flush. Ugh. Then it leads to a 3 minute lecture about feces and a misunderstanding joke. I was not laughing. For me, if a writer has to resort to such dirty jokes to get a laugh then its just pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Someone obviously forgot this was a dorama, not a photoshoot.

I decided to look up the wiki and the writer was Nojima Shinji! OMFG! I had to stick this dorama for at least a few episodes. The heart of this dorama is Horo (Kamiki Ryunosuke) the second youngest child who is unable to cry. I think it would a futile to try to do a synopsis of the show because there are many characters and it doesn't really break the mold of country family doramas.

A smile that can melt the hardest of hearts, before Japan found out what a diva she was.

However, just when I thought that things could not get more cliched or hokey, the characters would say some really awesome line to set up an amazing scene and I'd just think Nojima Shinji is awesome. The man can just write great dialogue that really brings the characters to life. Like Bara no nai Hanaya which had such a soap opera-ish concept and yet he managed to make it work, he does the same with Aikurushii.

The best side story of the series.

Aikurushii is a very busy dorama. There are a lot of storylines running concurrently like Horo's search for the his fellow 'rainbow warriors' which sounds very stupid but it actually becomes a unifying thread for all the stories. Because there are so many characters, he has to put in storylines that really feel tacked on just to give certain characters something to do. In other words its not as focused which is not a bad thing since Nojima Shinji manages to make the storylines work but to me it does affect the overall quality of the dorama.

The acting and casting is awesome. While Takenaka Naoto does not do dramatic scenes as well, he doesn't stink it up. Ayase Haruka is perfectly cast as the responsible older sister and Saru Lock fits as the hotheaded older brother with his shouting and screaming. Oguri Shun and Sawajiri Erika play minor supporting roles but they have the weakest storylines.
Sawajiri's attempted rape scene. WTF is she wearing a t-shirt underneath??!!!!

 Goddamit, I had forgotten how pleasing to the eye Sawajiri is. It is the reason why she continues to be hounded by the media despite not doing anything in ages and why I put up with boring soap opera-ish crap like Ichi Litre and Taiyo no Uta. Oh yes, A very young Ohgo Suzuka is in Aikurushii as well so more reasons to watch it.

Sexy voice!

I would classify Aikurushii as a must watch show. Its below Kita no kuni kara, Oyaji and Hitotsu Yane no Shita in the pantheon of family doramas but its better than everything else. It has lot of great moments but I'm not as enamoured with Aikurushii as the above shows because it tries to do too much. I think Nojima Shinji should have placed the 'rainbow warriors' story as the centerpiece and cut down on the side stories. Still, I had a great time watching it and I think you will too. The abundance of  eye candy doesn't hurt as well.

Yes, Sawajiri is holding a bra in this screencap.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Guilty Akuma to Keiyakushita Onna eps 3-11

I'm not going to bother writing a long rambling post about what is wrong with Guilty. Instead, lets look at one scene from this dorama which illustrates the inability of jdoramas to even do even a simple action scene.

In this scene in ep 10, Kanno Miho goes to meet evil police chief in a car park. Obviously Japanese cops need special training on how to hide in plain sight, maybe by playing Metal Gear Solid. Someone needs to tell Michiko that wearing a black leather jacket and standing next to a black car in broad daylight does not make one invisible. It would be forgivable if she were trying to get a shot at evil police chief but clearly her gun is not aimed at him.

Kichise Michiko is shot in her LEFT shoulder.

She appears on the other side of the car POINTING HER GUN which she is holding with her right hand DOWNWARDS....

.. and proceeds to shoot at the foot of evil police chief who just attempted to shoot her! Maybe I'm just an ignorant gaijin and maybe police procedures for Japanese police state that officers who have been threatened and shot at must disable the assailant by shooting their foot because putting a bullet in their foot somehow makes them incapable of firing another shot and killing the officer.

Michiko jumps out of her cover to shield Kanno Miho and enable her to escape. Notice Michiko and evil police chief's guns pointing at each other.

Evil police chief can't resist monologing and then proceeds to point his own gun at own head. I can hear the collective screams of all dorama addicts when they saw this scene.


Of course Michiko playing a character who doesn't even do any police work throughout the course of the series lets the villain get into his car and drive off without firing a single shot besides trying to take out the villain's toe. Here is an offer to TBS, Fuji Telebi and TV-Asahi; hire me so that scenes like this never have to pollute Japanese tv ever again. Wowow doesn't need me cause they make awesome doramas. I may not have experience in the dorama business but I'm pretty sure I have a brain.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Iryu 3 ep 7-10

Just when I thought Iryu 3 had finally found its legs, it stumbles yet again with the lame and utterly pointless Asada PTSD story. Fair enough if the writers wanted to do an Asada story but the whole link with the past incident that put the dragon on his back was so lame, even by Iryu standards. Not to mention the whole falling down scene was shot in such a way that it didn't look like it was possible for Asada to accidentally fall. It reminds me of the stabbing scene at the end of Shiroi Haru.

Somehow, jdorama cameramen/directors cannot utilise the camera properly to make an 'action' scene look plausible. Look at the above picture. Kid was standing on the ledge, slips down and somehow forces Asada on top the ledge only for him to let go of the kid's hand which would have kept him from falling. This fucking amateurishly done scene completely destroyed the awesome ending of episode 6. Didn't someone have the fucking balls to tell the director that hang on, that particular sequence of events does not look right? If they didn't have time to plan such a simple but important scene properly then the director should have just done quick close up shots without having to expose the stupidity of Asada pulling a kid down and jumping off the roof for no reason.

First rule of working in hospitals; always walk in a V formation. Bonus points if you can walk like you're going to a fight.

The fact that they went the amnesia and ptsd storyline tells me they had no idea what to do with Asada. The answer is simple. Asada is the constant of the show. He does not need 'depth'. This series has always been about people changing through their interaction with Asada. If the writers were so desperate as to use an amnesia story, why not write an episode for the nurse who no one cares about because the audience does not know anything about her?!

Its not all bad. The last episode features the most absurd multiple surgeries ever to be done in the series and I love it. One of the keys to Iryu is carefully pushing the envelope in regards to bullshit surgeries and have Asada perform miracles. Asada is the Superman of surgeons and thus he requires super-surgeries.  The awesome soundtrack will take care of the rest.

The writing in Iryu 3 is horribly all over the place. It jumps from one theme to another without any strong sense of build up. The end story of the series is about Kuroki and yet he is given a poor excuse of a back story and has not been given character development time. They want to make him the cool villain who turns out not to be the final boss and that should have been the focal point of the series. He's supposed to be Ashram to Asada's Parn for those who have seen Record of Lodoss War.

Actually come to think of it, I think I've realised what's been missing from Kuroki. Asada is Parn, the bland good guy protagonist but is supported by Miki, who is his Deedlit. Yes I know Miki is not in season 3 but bear with me. Asada is the constant and doesn't talk much but Miki was the connection between him and the team and his proxy by which his problems can be verbalised while he can still look cool. What Kuroki lacked was his own Pirotess.

Ashram was cool not just because he wore black but because he had his own Pirotess. Kuroki just needed some hot assistant who is very loyal to him to give him a stronger aura and make the audience realise that there is something more to this catheter dude than just being Noguchi's lackey. Kuroki's Pirotess would allow him to interact with the team while staying cool and mysterious in the shadows. Pirotess would be able to give hints about Kuroki's past without him having to do to exposition and the scene at the end with Asada holding Kuroki should have been hers. The writers introduced a nurse that they did nothing with who would have been served so much better as Kuroki's right hand woman. Then we can have her trying to seduce Ijyuiin to Kuroki's side while he runs away like a pansy.

Iryu 3 is a dorama that has a mishmash of ideas but clearly lacks focus. Maybe the writers didn't have enough time but clearly the script needs to be rewritten many times and refocused. If your main ending is Kuroki's redemption then the main priority is to set it up. If your secondary story is to show that Team Dragon can work without Asada, then do so without wasting people's time with and amnesia and revisiting his magical tattoo story. And probably devote an episode to each of the team members instead of making their stories a footnote. If you're a fan of Iryu, there's enough good parts to make it watchable but if someone asks me for a medical jdorama to watch, I'll pass the person Iryu 1& 2 and never mention 3.