Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Majisuka Gakuen 2


If you've ever wanted to know the answer to the following questions:

- What does it mean to be maji (serious).
- For what purpose were you born.
- Why yankee girls can graduate high school without studying.
- Why do sakura petals blossom.
- How good must Maeda Atsuko's bj skills be with her continually being the face of AKB48 despite no acting and singing skills.

She looks exactly how I feel when I see her in doramas.

Then Majisuka Gakuen 2 is not the place to look for the answers.If you enjoyed season 1 for what it was, as I did then its more of the same but worse in some parts and slightly better. First season was Maeda Atsuko being the transfer student who doesn't want to fight taking down everyone climbing to the top. Pretty simple and straightforward.


In season 2, she faces the same problem as Neo after the first Matrix. She has become so powerful that there is nothing for her to do storyline wise. She is a force of nature. In Dragonball Z, they had to make things even more over the top but this is a low budget dorama. The writers decided to put her in the background in this quest of beating up yakuza and eating a sakura petal everytime she finishes a fight. Suffice to say, the reason she's doing it makes no sense at all.


The Maeda part is excusable. She's the face of AKB48 blah blah blah. The main problem with season 2 of Majisuka Gakuen is Itano Tomomi's character of Shibuya. Shibuya in season 1 was one of four Queens of Rapapa except she didn't really do anything besides get defeated with one punch by Maeda. Clearly she's a weak character or the director realised that no amount of cutting and camera tricks can ever make Itano Tomomi not look embarrassing.


Since, Itano Tomomi is AKB48's biggest solo act (her EM ads were everywhere in Japan when I was there), they decided to give her the main role as the antagonist where all is required from her is pouting her lips and declaring she wants revenge on Maeda. One of the important rules of wrestling is that the heel (bad guy) has to be threatening to the babyface (good guy).

Still can't believe she is only 14. She's like the Goto Maki of AKB48.

Is Shibuya remotely a threat to Maeda based on season 1? Nope. Do the writers 'power her up' in season 2 to make her look like she might give Maeda a run for her money? Nope. Ok, not all villains have to be strong but does she even hatch some insidious plans to put Maeda in a bind. Nope. Then in wrestling terms, she is a heel with no heat. I don't want to boo/hate her character because she's not a threat. She simply sucks and is boring.

I once thought Kojiharu was cute until I found out she can't act or sing.

Worst part is that there is no payoff. The main story of Majisuka 2 which has been building up in the background is the showdown between Maeda and Shibuya. In the end, we don't even get a bloody epic battle between the two of them. Not only have the completely stuffed up building Shibuya as a credible villain, they do not engage in fisticuffs.

Don't know who she is but they wasted so much time on her useless character.

The saving grace for Majisuka 2 is the relationship between Nezumi (Watanabe Mayu) and (Matsui) Matsui Jurina. Nezumi is the same mouse from season 1, always trying to fan the flames and incite people to fight each other. Matsui is sort of like her minion who does Nezumi's dirty work. Matsui like Nezumi even though she knows that Nezumi is a lying bitch and will use everyone to her end.

Kisu! Kisu! Kisu!

I'm not ashamed to say it. I finished Majisuka Gakuen 2 because of this relationship filled with yuri undertones. The scheming rat and her loyal to a fault muscle. It doesn't hurt that Matsui looks legal but is actually jailbat. Speaking of Matsui, she has a lot more charisma than that blank look which is stuck on Maeda's face all the time and she can emote decently unlike most of the people in AKB48. Mayuyu's not too bad either. It unfortunate that the duo are given main story screen time but are treated as a side story in the end.


In the beginning of every episode, there is disclaimer asking the viewer not to judge the acting too harshly. Overall, the acting in Majisuka is on par with shows like Buzzer Beater, Boss and Orthros no Inu so I find the disclaimer laughable. Does whoever put in that disclaimer have no idea about the acting quality in jdoramas? I expect overacting and seeing people on screen because they have fanboys/girls. Soredemo ikite yuku acting is the exception rather than the norm. Sadly, the writing is on par with the above mentioned shows which nearly makes Majisuka unwatchable and the disclaimer should have read,


"We had certain characters push onto us by AKB48 management and have had a hard time putting so many girls in so don't expect any decent writing."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kurumi no Heya eps 1-4


Matsushita Nao starts as Momoko in a family drama set in the 80s. I really like the setting because its a different time and people have different views on things compared to today. It was a time one could find public phones on every street corner and people didn't have video cassette players. NHK doesn't have the budget to reinforce the 80s look but that's understandable.


If there is one word to describe Kurumi no Heya, its charming. Its not dark and dreary but it doesn't have the bright light artificiality of a prime time dorama like Freeter. Its a fun show without having to make everything happy. Momoko is the second oldest sister among 4 children and one day her father goes off to work and never returns home. Its turns out that he had been fired and is now living with a woman. This sets of a chain of events which exposes problems in the Mitamura household.


Matsushita Nao does a decent job as Momoko. Talent-wise, she's not really main actress material but for doramas where the main character is a nice, strong girl she does ok. She just doesn't have the ability to speak with her eyes like Mitsushima Hikari. 


You get your usual family drama plotlines of affairs, suffering housewives and money problems. Nothing we've not seen before but unlike Freeter, it knows what it wants to be and does it well. I've got no complaints about Kurumi no Heya. This season has been awesome. We've got a 3 pretty good shows and now with Kurumi no Heya, we've got two very watchable shows as well.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

IS ~Otoko demo Onna demo nai Sei~ eps 1-4


IS is one confusing dorama. I haven't been this confused since I found out Kayo Police was a dude. Anyway IS is a story about intersexuals, people who are born with both more and female traits like in the case of our main protagonist, Haru (Fukuda Saki) who was born with a vagina and an oversized clitoris/small dick. Haru was born with both ovaries and testicles but her testicles were removed when she was a child.


However Haru was raised as a boy and acts like a boy thanks to Fukuda Saki's acting which will prevent me from looking at her the same way again. To get into high school, Haru has to pretend to be a girl and he finds himself getting his period and dealing with all sorts of confusing questions.


IS starts of with a recap of the parents having Haru and them learning to deal with Haru being an intersexual. With the happy intro and perfect parents, it just looked like yet another Ichi Litre no Namida/Taiyo no Uta. I'm not saying IS is a disease but rather that it seemed to be following the formula of here is a rare condition, they're gonna have a perfect family and its going to be a bright melodrama with all the cliches.


IS finally got interesting for me when it was revealed that Miwako (Gouriki Ayame), Haru's friend is also an IS. Her male organs had been removed and she had been taking female hormones since young but her vagina is underdeveloped. Oh yeah, Gouriki Ayame is a picture of kawaiiness who needs to be put in a goth loli dress.  :)


I guess the whole point of IS is the journey of Haru, a person who's gender cannot be defined. It is an interesting topic but whether it will rise above the standard show and tell stories of Ichi Litre and Taiyo no Uta, I cannot say.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Freeter, Ie wo Kau eps 5-10


Freeter is a dorama with an identity crisis. It wants to be this character study, serious movie type story life as a temporary employee and dealing with an assortment of family problems including a mother battling depression. On the other hand, it is shot like your typical brightly lit prime time dorama with your usual jdorama cliches to help pad it out.


Yup, I'm still hung up over the lighting that makes it look like a daytime soap opera because Freeter has some interesting things to say about working life and depression. About how choosing who you work with can be more important than choosing where you work. About what the big deal is about being a temp worker rather than a permanent one.


Sure, there is no job security but what job has? The only major difference would be long service leave. Lots of I.T. jobs now are contract based. I kind of enjoyed watching Seiji gaining his confidence in himself one step at a time and his dysfunctional relationship with his father is fun to watch.


On the other hand, we have Karina's soap opera story which just feels like fluff especially the 'woe is me cause two accidents happened on my watch' self pity. Talk about trying to squeeze blood from a stone. If you followed all safety procedures or if someone was bloody reckless, then its not your fucking fault! Instead of calling out Karina's character for the idiot that she is, everyone just stands back and just says 'poor girl'.


Then we have Igawa Haruka's story where she plays this wife with mother in law trouble to an absent husband. I can see why they chose not have to the husband on screen but it does not validate her relationship with her rich husband. Sure, in the end she learns to stand up to her mother in law in the end but there is nothing to cheer for. There is no background story. It is a mere conflict because she had for a long time chosen to accept the mother in law's abuse. In the end when the husband supports her, it is not big deal cause we don't know who he is. He has been a character that existed by name throughout the series.


The less said about the OL relationship with the persistent guy the better. I enjoyed Asano Atsuko's portrayal as Seiji's mom. Maybe its because her face doesn't look as plastic as it was in Maria or maybe her relationship with Seiji's short tempered dad felt real. In summary, Freeter has a good main story and is brought down by cliched side soap opera stories. Its watchable but prepare for some scenes and storyline that would make you cringe. Perhaps I am concerned to much with what Freeter could be and not what it is, fluff with hints of substance.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Quartet

And I thought Halle Berry's wig in X-Men was bad...

Quartet is a crime/undercover dorama which unfortunately tends to veer towards the colourful anime side. When we first meet Shun (Fukuda Saki), she is cheering on her brother in some underground MMA fight. The fight goes on for way too long but there's blood and decent action and it looks gritty. Then we are introduced to this mysterious guy Takeru (Matsushita Yuya) who likes to beat druggies up for some reason.

If you want to hear Fukuda Saki say words like this, this dorama is for you.

Soon, Shun and Takeru are recruited by Kunichiwa (Kamikawa Takaya in a very fake grey/purple wig) to go undercover in this town called Midori, in order to find out information about this drug factory by the villain Tsukamoto. Midori is basically a town that does not exist on the map and is inhabited by illegal Chinese immigrants. In other words its an illegal chinatown where even the police dare not thread.

Quartet has got a more mature theme but some ports are so juvenile.

Midori is my favourite part of Quartet cause it reminds me very much of Little Asia in Ryu ga gotoku/Yakuza 4. Its also fun to hear so much Mandarin in a jdorama and to hear Fukuda Saki butcher it, lol. There they run into Kasumi (Watanabe Natsuna) who is the fourth member of the quartet and is undercover as Tsukamoto's lover. We get implied sex scenes but yes, she's fucking the villain for information.


I thought Watanabe Natsuna looked very familiar but I just could not put my finger on where I had seen her before. To my surprise, she was Kei from the Gantz movie. I didn't find her hot in Gantz but she looks pretty good here. Maybe its just that she never stood a chance to Kei from the manga.


For an undercover action dorama, there isn't much undercover stuff going on besides Kasumi's story. For Shun and Takeru its basically befriend the hostile locals and defeat the villain in the end. Utterly forgettable stuff and the one thing that gets on my nerves is the fact that they call this dorama Quartet when Kunichiwa doesn't really do anything besides issue orders. Its like saying Charlie is part of a quartet with his angels.


Speaking of Charlie's Angels, I've always thought that the formula for team stories was that each member was suppose to bring something to the team. Kasumi is the seductress/bombs girl and the only one who is doing real undercover work. Kunichiwa is the cop in charge of the group. Shun can fight, speak Mandarin and use her brain. Finally Takeru can fight and is an idiot. Hhmm, someone seems very expendable.

Truer words have never been spoken.

Actually there is one more thing that I really hated which was the Matsushita Yuya video during the credits and him doing some dance moves in the story. What a way to put a flashing neon sign saying the purpose of this dorama is to push this dude. I basically fast forwarded the last few episodes because there is nothing compelling about Quartet. Avoid.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Soredemo ikite yuku eps 3+4


How can there be any justice in this world when a dorama as good as Soredemo ikite yuku getting only ~10% viewership?! This dorama just makes me gleefully happy because it is nice to go through a season without getting pissed off with amateurish writing or wooden acting. I can't even remember a season when we had two must watch doramas and at least one pretty good one.


If Mitsushima Hikari doesn't win all the best actress awards this season, it will be proof that the winner is probably the best in the world at giving blowjobs. I just love her portrayal of Futaba. She's so headstrong in believing that something good will come out of her relationship with Hiroki, despite the fact that social rules dictate that her family will forever suffer and live in shame.


Instead of burying her head and living her life, she wants to confront the pain of Hiroki's family. Maybe want is too strong a word but she exposes herself to the pain of Hiroki's family. Perhaps as a form of penance on behalf of her brother or perhaps Futaba is sick of living in fear and silence. The dorama doesn't allude to anything but one thing we can be sure is that she is not afraid of getting hurt.


Her feelings for her brother have not really changed despite the revelation at the end of episode 2, which I find interesting because it leaves open the possibility for a Berserk ending. One of the big ongoing questions for the manga Berserk is whether the main female character, Casca will want to seek vengeance on the villain when she regains her memory because she has worshipped and adored him. I will probably have to wait 10 years before it is answered in the manga.


Its pretty safe to say that Fumiya is not exactly reformed will all the neon, flashing hints the writer has been giving us. There could be some twist but it would be way too convoluted and would bring the story down. At the moment of truth, will Futaba still help her brother? Just as all Berserk fans have been wondering for years whether Casca will seek revenge on Griffith or even save him in the end, I want to see whether Futaba will protect her brother, even from Hiroki.


The dinner table argument scene at the end of episode 4 had tension and high emotions so thick you could slice it with a knife. I was thinking would Futaba's dad risk breaking up his family because of something that he felt was his duty as a father? It looked like the family was going to break up and then unexpectedly Akari supported her dad! Is this going to turn out to be a high tension seemingly ok brother back in family but sister suspect something is amiss? This brings us to the huge awesome revelation that came out of the blue and just blew my mind. The way the truth was revealed was so beautiful because it was not through words but by the faces and reactions of the characters.


I certainly did not see it coming but it explained certain things, created more questions and creates a strong case for a potential Berserk ending. In two episodes, Sakomoto Yuji has also introduced a new girl to add some excitement into Futaba and Hiroki's relationship or perhaps she will be more than just a plot device. So many side stories to fill out the dorama and I expect something for Hiroki's brother as well. I'm so tempted to watch ep 5 raw but that would mean I would have to wait longer for episode 6. Unless I watch it again when the subs come out. Hhhhmm. Do not miss this dorama!

addendum: Decided to ditch Hanawake no yon shimai. I just cannot bloody stand the storylines for the other 3 sisters and the ending of episode 3 has not gotten me excited for anything.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Yuusha Yoshihiko to Maou no Shiro eps 1-4


Yuusha Yoshihiko is a low budget fantasy adventure story. However, it is not a sentai show with big name actors like Saiyuki was. Yuusha yoshihiko is brilliant parody/love letter to the DragonQuest series and JRPGs in general. The plotline is of course this village boy Yoshihiko (Yamada Takayuki) on his quest to save the world. Along for the ride is your chick fighter of the group played by Kinami Haruka who wants to avenge her father by killing Yoshihiko, and old fighter played by Shin Takuma and your compulsory wizard who can cast spells.

Hhhmm, this picture looks very familiar.

If there is one word to describe Yuusha Yoshihiko, it is FUN. This is the most fun to watch dorama to watch since... I can remember watching doramas. As the subber danburi says, you can really tell they are having great time making this dorama. We need a behind the scenes episode cause I can see them cracking up after most takes.


Fantasy comedy is something that we hardly see. There was a movie called Your Highness that had one of the funniest trailers ever but in the end the movie just relied on cursing and sex jokes without making use of the fantasy setting. Which is not to say, Yuusha Yoshihiko does not contain dick jokes and characters speaking in modern slang but rather at its heart, it is about taking fantasy/JRPG conventions and turning them upside down or asking some pertinent questions.

Abandoned set from 13 Assassins? Either that or Juji TV has an abandoned village set for anyone to use.

Yuusha Yoshihiko makes fun of those conventions but in a way that embraces them. I've watched a lot of B-grade Japanese movies and most of the time they're more throw stuff at the wall and hope everything sticks. Yuusha Yoshihiko has the feel of a carefully crafted story or rather the awesome gags just fit together in the spirit of JRPG conventions. I don't want to spoil the jokes cause they are all awesome but my favourite one so far has to be forging the soul sword.


They've really embraced the low budget setting and this has led to some decisions which I think turned out better than if they had the budget such as the magician Merebu's spells. Everytime he proclaims he has learned a new spell, you know you're going to be laughing. Or even using animation for a big monster fight which I think is a brilliant idea and just makes it all the more funnier.


I love how they've gotten rid of the wires on the Evil treasure chest by mosiacing (does this word even exist?) them.

Whoever the masterminds behind this dorama, my hats of to them and Takayuki Yamada for taking on this midnight dorama despite him being a major actor. I'm pretty sure he's not doing this for the money. One of the reasons why I continue watching jdoramas despite most of it being crap is that once in while, they come up with excellent shows like Yuusha Yoshihiko which you can't get anywhere else. Big thank you to danburi for his speedy subbing and I can't wait to watch the rest of series.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Don Quixote eps 1-3


When I first read about this dorama, I couldn't figure out why a body swapping dorama would have the name of a story about a delusional old man. I wasn't expecting much for this genre of doramas because I've seen enough of it in movies and dorama to know its a concept that is usually used to play safe and struggle to get to the finish line of both parties learn more about each other and come out at the end as better people.

Love this shot!

Interestingly enough, Don Quixote is more of a spiritual sequel to Ninkyo Helper and the body swap is more of a the mcguffin. Ninkyo Helper was basically about yakuzas working in a retirement home. The mcguffin was that it was part of some stupid test to determine who the next leader would be. The first rule of enjoying movies/dorama is of course never question the mcguffin because it is necessary to drive the story but everything that flows from it is fair game for criticism.

Poor girl gets like one line per episode and most of the time the camera has her ad side view.

So instead of doing another you have to work as a child care worker because it is somehow relevant to test your leadership qualities, its yakuza ends up in body of meek child care worker. The premise also presents its own interesting problems for our yakuza protagonist. As much as he likes to shout and act tough, he is in a weak body that can't fight, drink or smoke while the meek child care worker is in possession of a tough body that can fight but is afraid to do so.

I'd hate to see the bill after this kyabakura session.

Sounds a bit like the formula for Trick, which is the foundation for any odd couple pairings. Have a couple of flawed characters who make up for each other's weaknesses have to work together. This is also where Don Quixote made the right choice in terms of storyline.

Just read that she played young Yamada Naoko in Trick.

Most of the time, in body swapping stories one story is usually better than the other but they end up giving equal time to both or less time to the funnier story (Papa to musume nanokakan). Clearly in this one the yakuza being forced to saved kids is more interesting than a wuss who does not take advantage of being a yakuza boss. A sacred child worker in a yakuza's body trying to get out of fights is not really entertaining. So its basically the odd couple saving kids with the yakuza problems as a side story.


The three episodes so far of course have their Full House moments but nothing overly melodramatic. Don Quixote is pretty funny and this is a show where overacting helps. It doesn't reach Yasuko to Kenji's level of over-overacting until it becomes impossible to watch. I really enjoyed Uchida Yuki's 'anata' running joke with her yakuza husband. Kinda reminds me of her 'Sam' running joke in Akimahende which was one of the earliest jdoramas I watched. So far, I have a feeling the writers are aiming for more than just your generic body swap story and feel they have planned the story well. With Don Quixote and Soredemo Ikite Yuku, this season is turning out to be a good one.