Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kazoku no uta eps 1-2

Kazoku no Uta is a mess of a dorama. Odagiri Joe plays a washed uprock musician Hayakawa Seigi who is pampered by his manager and has no redeemable qualities. Despite not making any money for his agency for many years, he has been able to live in a big house. Like a lot of stars, he had his groupies in his prime and one day fruits of heyday appear to haunt him.


- nothing.


- Odagiri Joe as overacting rocker is not a good idea. They needed someone who could make Seigi interesting and Odagiri is not the larger than life guy to do it.

- Not one, not two but three kids. WTF. Add in an old man. Why am I suppose to care about these many characters? If this were about an aging alcoholic rocker and just one kid with a more serious tone, I would buy into that. However, it would not be called kazoku no uta since it wants to be a huge pseudo-family with 3 kids, old dude and a bunch of supporting characters.

- I like light hearted big family shows with lots of fighting and redemption like Hitotsu Yane no Shita and Oyaji but Kazoku no Uta tries to hard to set it up that it feels forced.

- What a waste of good supporting actors in Santamaria Yusuke, Shihori Kanjiya and Otsuka Nene.


- This is suppose to be a light hearted, big family dorama about redemption but I just feel like its all over the place. Avoid.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Kagi no Kakatta Heiya eps 1-6

I had no expectations for this dorama since it was a johnny one but Kagi no Kakatta Heiya was been a pleasant surprise. Kind of reminds me of Furuhata Ninzaburo except the the hook this time is that they are all locked room mysteries and  you don't find out who the killer is until the end.

What is similar to Furuhata is that its mostly about the case and the main character Enomoto breaks the fourth wall at the beginning of the episode to give the viewer a hint to solving the crime. No waste of time characters. No lame attempts at doing 'touching' stories and some of the methods to produce a locked room are quite ingenious.

Besides watching to see what new ways to produce a locked room the writer can come up with (its apparently based on novels), the three main characters have great chemistry. You've got the expressionless Enomoto so the guy doesn't have to act. There's a Toda Erika as Aoto, who functions as Enomoto's sidekick and finally  there's Serizawa (Sato Koichi) Aoto's boss and a partner in a law firm that specialises in corporate law who somehow gets involved with in locked room crimes.

Serizawa is the comedy relief of the series and he does so without resorting to the usual overacting. He is petty, pretentious, reluctant to get involve unless there's a beautiful woman and is willing to take all the credit. The chemistry is great and all three characters play their role perfectly; the problem solver, the sidekick/audience view character and the comedy guy.

The best way to put it is that the characters don't overwhelm the mystery but rather enhance it. Really solid dorama and it was fun to watch, especially with the bevy of guest stars. On par with Furuhata Ninzaburo IMO.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Furuhata Ninzaburo season 1 eps 1-3

Furuhata Ninzaburo is a breath of fresh air for me. A detective series concentrating on the detective and how he uncovers the criminal. No oversized police team doing the jobs of 3 people. No inept colleagues wasting screen time. Not stupid trying to be cool by walking in a V formation scenes. Just basic detective work masterfully written by Mitani Koki. (Shinsengumi, Ai Kotoba wa Yuki, Osama no Restaurant)

The first three episodes have all started with a crime and it seems to be the formula of the series. You know who the murderer is and how he/she covers the crime out. The fun is watching how the idiosyncratic Furuhata Ninzaburo put the pieces together and proves the suspect is the murderer. This isn't a whodunit dorama but a who do you prove it.

There is an element of gentlemanly competition. The killers know they are being suspected but yet engage in a verbal duel with Furuhata, almost as if he must leave them alone if they can stop him from connecting all the dots and they confess willingly when Furuhata wins. At the beginning of every episode Furuhata does a small quote which has bearing on the how he will solve the crime at the end and he does break the fourth wall right before showing his hand to give the audience who may not have come up with the answer another hint.

Even when I had guessed the how, it was still fun. Its sort of like watching a play where the audience encouraged to participate and try to gather enough evidence to pinpoint the murderer before he does. So far so good. Let's see how well the rest of the episodes holds up. Thanks to Kazuya_ for subbing this gem. Looks like there are plenty of good oldies left to watch!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jmovie review: Peak: The Rescuers / Gakku


Mountain rescue movie with Oguri Shun, Nagasawa Masami, Watabe Atsuro and Gira gira. Oguri Shun is Sanpo, this super mountain rescuer who always has a stupid smile on his face. Masami is the newbie rescuer who does all the usual things that newbie characters do.


- Good casting

- Great mountain views and tracking helicopter shots


- Cramming a lot of stories into a 2 hour running time.

- Feels like a Japanese version of a Michael Bay movie where instead of an explosion every 15 minutes, it tries to create too many moving emotional moments with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The result is that the movie doesn't allow the characters and stories to breath and dulls the emotional impact.

- Horrible CG work that looks really, really fake. Its a mountain climbing movie ffs. They should have done a lot of scenes with far wideshots of stunt people at actual mountains and extreme close ups of the actors to hide the background. I know its not Hollywood big budget but if you don't have the money, spend it on when you really need it. Its a mountain rescue movie and obvious CG just takes me out of it.

Decent shot of Oguri Shun carrying dude on his back while climbing out of a crevice..

.. turns into fakest CG rope 1st person perspective ever.

Whoever did this composite image did a shoddy job.


Instantly forgettable bombardment of try hard tragic and touching scenes masquerading as an action movie.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Abusive workplace in jdoramas pt 2

Was reading this article titled 'Japanese Game Developer Apparently Harassed So Much, She Attempted Suicide' on Kotaku about this female employee who claims she was harassed and bullied while working at Capcom. What I want to talk about is not whether she was bullied or whether she was a useless employee that they tried to get rid of but the comments by Artic_Visionary which I will copy in paste here in italics.

Two things:
1) Most Japanese companies the size of Capcom hire new graduates straight out of college and train them to fit into the corporate culture there -- regardless of their major. If an employee is under-qualified, it is almost universally the company's fault because they haven't done enough to transition that person from education to employment.

2) Often times this kind of harassment stems from superiors who want to keep the status quo and can only eliminate troublesome (i.e. people with new ideas) employees by harassing them until they quit.

Capcom's HR people get applications from hundreds of soon-to-be-graduates of many major universities every January or so. If the applications come from students at lower universities, they are the first in the trash.

The applicants then go through hours of rigorous interviews to see how that person will fit into the Capcom *culture*. Experience is almost never necessary for new employees. They will get that experience at the company, and it's taken as a given that the company will train its employees -- i.e. mold them into good Capcom employees. This is the whole root of the lifetime-employment structure in Japan.

The big problem with this system is once you get into one of these big companies, you do whatever it takes to keep your job there. Often times that means working ridiculous amounts of overtime (see: karoushi - 'death by work'), or just keeping your mouth shut as you are abused by your supervisors.

You're not really applying for a company position, you're applying to enter a culture. And leaving that culture has severe implications on your ability to enter into other company cultures because you've already been trained to spec for somewhere else (i.e. you're not a pliable anymore).

I understand that you want people to stop being entitled, and that's more common even in Japan than it was before, but often times the choice comes down to sacrificing your future career opportunities and putting up with bullying. Only the sharpest people have any prospect of career mobility, and the Japanese university system rarely produces those kinds of individuals.

The thing about this article that sets off red flags for me is the term 'senior employee'. This is called Jyoushi in Japanese, and it's a hugely important term. This isn't her boss. This is someone with more seniority than her that is pulling rank to make her life hell. Bosses don't train their employees in the Japanese system. They rely on Jyoushi to supervise their underlings, even though Jyoushi don't have any authority, whatsoever. Jyoushi are supposed to be respected because they have seniority, but what that can also mean is that two people are theoretically doing the same job (programming) and the underling could have more working knowledge.

My thoughts

- A lot of interesting statements here, some of which I've read before. The first thing that came to me mind was the company induction in Freeter. Getting the employees to do weird exercises together.

- My pet hate is colleagues in doramas being dicks just for what I perceive to be useless challenge storywise for protagonists. Are such meaningless abuses by senior employees so common in Japan?

- If this is true this explains why the main character who always does his/her job well continues to get the irrational hate from colleagues.

- If quitting one's job is a death sentence then I can see why they put up with it. Would management not back up a less senior employee who is capable rather than an abusive jyoushi? Or is there a culture of no one must rock the boat and you have to put up with it until you get underlings to abuse yourself?

- Changing jobs is so common in Australia. Most of the people I work with now were not there when I started. Its more about what skill sets you have acquired in your job and how it can be applied to your new one.

- I still think characters like the boss from Strawberry Night in the above picture who just shouts for no reason every episode and does nothing useful. It does nothing for the story.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tsumi to Batsu: A Falsified Romance ep 2

I love this dorama despite the fact that I have no empathy for Miroku. He is an interesting character with a messed up view of reality. I'm guessing the book that he is passing of as his was written by his father and that is where he got his motto of murder is justified if its to punish evil. Is what is written in the book his father's thoughts or the inner voice of a character?

Miroku kind of reminds me of Rorschach from Watchmen except I don't think he has seen the kind of things Rorschach has seen in order to form an extreme viewpoint of the world. However, I am interested to see what events made him Miroku this way. The yakuza behind Baba Hikaru's operation tells Miroku to stay away and he is scared shitless and burns all his research material. At least he knows the difference in danger between investigating a prostitution ring and crossing yakuza.

However, Risa shows up at his door seeking his help to escape her predicament. She entraps him with the 'you're a nice guy, not like everyone else' shtick to entrap him and make him feel responsible for her. That's what you get for meddling in other people's business and telling them how to live their lives.

All fear of the yakuza gone, Miroku proceeds with his plan which is very obvious from the end of episode 1. Can't say I'm supporting him cause its not vengeance but then again, Hikaru is a bitch that is easy to hate. I love how the whole sequence from him procuring the weapon to him running to the apartment trying to avoid detection and going through with his plan is almost from a first person perspective. The viewer is right there with Miroku. You can see his sweat, feel the uncertainty in his breath and wonder whether he has the conviction to go through with it.

When Risa appears, there's this long moment of tension where I wondered what she was going to do and how Miroku would react. Would she cry over the best friend, Hikaru and exclaim 'I never wanted this!' or would she be Miroku's partner in crime. Risa starts dragging the body and I'm thinking she's gonna get more blood all over the floor.

Then Risa grabs a knife in order to chop Hikaru's body up. OMG. One aspect of Risa character that I had not considered appeared. Was she really forced into this slavery by Hikaru? Or is she someone with a masochistic side? Looking for someone to hang on and doing anything for that person? Risa knew Hikaru set up her rape and yet she still stuck with her. By killing Hikaru, Miroku was Risa's new master. Except Miroku was neither interested in Risa or taking advantage of the situation. He's just pissed off cause this is not according to plan. You can add super control freak to his list of character traits.

Risa's mom shows at the front door and there's this high tension, silent scene where you knew a phone was going to go off. I was thinking please don't turn this into a dark comedy with the mom getting offed. I love that look of horror and realisation on Risa's mom's face after the phone stops ringing and she slowly closes the door. Awesome acting. Not need for words to express the thought going through her head. Miroku manages to escape with detection. That was another very exciting sequence. You can feel his heart jumping out of his mouth as he calmly walks past an approaching police car.

Anon mentioned in comments that this is based on a manga which is based on the Russian novel crime and punishment. Yes, its good source material but what's important is the execution. If this were a TBS/TV Asahi dorama, it would be very bad. Looks like Furransu is not uploading the rest but at least we got the chinese subbed ones. Sadly, the subs are hardcoded. Beggers can't be choosers. If anyone knows where to get the Japanese softsubs, let me know. Just wanted to write about ep 2 before I start watching ep 3.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tsumi to Batsu: A Falsified Romance ep 1

qnuy asked Vulcan300 in the Suitei Yuuzai thread whether they were going to sub Tsumi to Batsu. Vulcan300 replied that it was too dark for their tastes and it pricked my ear. Did a PM and was sent the ep 1 subs. I am happy to say this is the type of Wowow dorama I want! Dark and unrelenting. None of that Sesame Street crap from Suitei Yuuzai. Feels very much like a Sono Sion movie. If you're a fan of Sono Sion, stop reading and PM Vulcan300 for the subs!

Marks from Marks no Yama plays the main character Miroku. Miroku is this socially detached guy from the country who moved to the city for uni. Except he doesn't go and locks himself in his room all day. Its clear something is wrong with this dude and we get a few reasons. His dad who I think is a writer passed away when he was young. My guess is suicide. Miroku's mom stubbornly believes in his dad and tells him to grow up and be a great man like his father. Miroku's sister played by Ito Ayumi works to support his studies and he believes that she is going to marry a rich dude for money which pisses him off.

One day, Miroku gets propositioned by a cute high school girl, Risa for sex. He turns her down and proves that he is mentally insane. Unless of course he suspected it might be a trap. However, Miroku follows her and scares away her next customer by banging away at a signboard and giving a deranged stare. It seems he gets pissed off at women doing stuff for money.

Miroku follows Risa and discovers that she is part of an enjou kousai ring led by Baba Hikaru (Hashimoto Ai). Hikaru is the best bitch you'll love to hate since Fukuda Saki in Life. She bullies and abuses Risa without remorse and forces all members of the enjou kousai ring to service 3 customers a day.

Hikaru is an awesome character. A villain who revels in being a bad. She does it because she enjoys it and makes no apologies. Hikaru gives her business card to Miroku who is appalled by what he sees and then he gives her a proposition.....

This won't turn into Suitei Yuuzai because there's no way to go Sesame Street on this. Tsumi to batsu will go places we never go in real life. Miroku is naive and delusional but he is self aware. I love it when he calls himself a hypocrite after admonishing Risa.

Miroku is a character who's life and priorities are screwed up to the point that he is looking for a mission in life. A reason for existence. They'll be plenty of time character examination with 6 episodes. Nurse Miki from Iryu seems like she will play a big role in this dorama but her character hasn't appeared yet.

As can be seen from the pictures, Tsumi to Batsu looks awesome. Its typical Wowow muted colours movie look and its always such a contrast from your colourful and brightly lit from 3 light sources jdoramas. After seeing Wowow doing it for all their shows, bright colourful doramas seem to be a stylistic choice. Perhaps to achieve that anime like unreality.

Furransu says he will only upload the rest if the series is subbed. At least we've got the chinese tvrips and I'm downloading ep 2. Hope the chinese subtitles can be turned off or it will be distracting. Guess I'll find out in 15 minutes. I just love the Baba Hikaru character. After watching Tsumi to Batsu, I'm as happy as a Hulk smashing aliens in Manhattan. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Suitei Yuuzai 3-5

Where do I start? So many things I want to say about this dorama but its probably easier to start with the bad points. As mentioned earlier, the journey that the journalist Seiji goes through is, 'Oh, I didn't know my article would hurt the families of the victim and Shinozuka. I'm going to wallow in self pity and try to write articles that will not cause pain to a single soul'. The premis of Suitei Yuzai is an innocent man who was wrongly convicted and somehow it has devolved into a veteren journalist finally realising that people get offended by his articles.

You can see the writer of Suitei Yuuzai trying to create this maelstrom of heavy emotion like in Soredemo Ikite Yuki. The innocent man, Yoshio who spent 12 years in prison. His daughter who refuses to see him because he pleaded guilty. The journalist who accused him of murder in print. The police officer  who got the confession out of him. The victim's family who don't know who to hate anymore. Its a goldmind for drama.

Yet the big scenes mostly fall flat. Why? Because Suitei Yuuzai breaks the cardinal rule of writing. Show the audience instead of TELLING THE AUDIENCE. In Soredemo, the dialogue is natural and you feel like you're a fly in the wall, observing the two families. In Suitei Yuuzai, it feels so contrived. There is no build up. Its just a big arrow with the words, 'hey look at this great scene of angst and pain because the actors are trying their damnedest to cry.'

Like Mimura telling the audience that everyone in her family blames themselves for her sister's death. Came out of nowhere and felt so shoehorned in. Why bother putting it in when you don't have time to do it properly? Lots of scenes of characters doing their woe is me speech. This is one show where I can say Nakamura Toru is overacting, or at least he looks like his overacting because his character is so stupid.

I think the reason that Suitei Yuuzai fails is that the writer tries to pack too many things into 5 episodes. We've got all the issues in the second paragraph. There's also the reason Seiji's wife divorcing him because his family is always afraid for his life and his colleague which we hardly know dying so we can have another crying scene I don't care about. The politician using Yoshio for his image. Kuroki Hitomi's aim in this whole story. Too many issues to address in so little time.

Its a damn shame because episode 1 and 5 are superb. Ignoring the script, the directing, music and casting on the whole is awesome. I was watching episode 5 thinking this is so good. How could they stuff it up so much? The main mystery which bookends the dorama is decent. There's this scene in ep 5 when Shinozuka looks out the window and sees the unblinking Jinnai Takanori and you can see a gamut of emotions starting to creep up his face as he sits down with an almost exasperated body language screaming what should I do?

That scene tells me Shinozuka should have been the main character of the series because that's where the conflicting emotions lie. The maelstrom of emotions is already within one character. Of course its not like Shinozuka doesn't play a major part but the backbone of Suitei Yuuzai is this reporting running around afraid to hurt people and crying in half his scenes. Shinozuka is like this silent character that you know only from his interactions from other people instead of observing him. The story should have been through his viewpoint. Think of how much better the above scene where Motokariya Yuika breaks down would be.

Yeah, I know they needed Seiji's viewpoint to solve the mystery. Doesn't mean that they couldn't have excised most of his useless personal stuff and used him mostly for plot device. I can't say it an absolute don't watch because of how good the first and last episodes are. Actually, just watch 1,4 and 5 and ignore 2 and 3.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Legal High eps 1-4


Sakai Masato is Komikado Kensuke, a lawyer with a 100% winning record who will do anything to win. He used to be partners with Yabe Kenzo who is the villain of the series but something happened to break their partnership. Aragaki Yui plays the idealistic and naive lawyer who at the beginning of the series works for Yabe Kenzo as an expert in foreign transactions who does her first pro bono case as a defence lawyer in a criminal case.


- Komikado sensei doing anything to win including hiring people to protest outside court, tampering with witnesses and blackmail.

- Komikado calling Aragaki Yui an asadora heroine because of her misguided  and ignorant sense of 'justice'. I like how it question right and wrong, especially in ep 4 in regards to the crusading lawyer and the residents who have other reasons for suing the property developers.

- Its kind of a very light version of Boston Legal/Ally McBeal. 

- Aragaki Yui's acting being tolerable.


- The legal arguments just aren't interesting/funny. Instead it goes for sentimental parables which just  I just find boring.(see ep 3)

- There's something missing from Legal High because I always find myself skipping scenes. Whether its Komikado not being as strong a character as Bengoshi no Kuzu or if there is a lack of chemistry between the leads, I don't know.

I'm just indifferent about the characters and series and don't really care about watching the next episode. Makes me feel like watching Bengoshi no Kuzu though browsing my old reviews, it seems that show is weak in terms of legal stories and is carried by Toyokawa Etsushi's acting. Legal High is watchable since there's nothing I really hate but I don't feel compelled to watch the next episode either.