Friday, May 04, 2012

Saka no ue no kumo eps 1-5


WHAT IS IT?

An NHK special dorama which was aired over three years. For a total of 13 episodes. I had bought the HK autotranslated series before I went to Japan but since its being subbed now, I'd rather watch it with proper subs. It tells the tale of 2 brothers, one who joins the navy and the other the army and their friend who became a famous haiku poet.


WHAT I LIKED

- Very, very ambitious dorama

- Great casting, similar to Unmei no Hito. Masahiro Motoki, Abe Hiroshi, the killer from Shokuzai, Kanno Miho, Matsu Takako and lots of actors in bit parts.

- Interesting era for Japan at the end of the 19th Century and the climax I assume is the Russo-Japan war.

- They actually got some decent actors for English speaking roles.


WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE

- The first 3-4 episodes did feel like a documentary with the three characters shoehorned in. Kind of like how Kodoku no gurume is more variety show than dorama. The narrative struggles between the three main characters and the world politics and they don't feel connected at all. Lots of this guest star is playing this historical character and this historical character will do this. Omake for history buffs I guess.

From a historical perspective, I'd rather see the leaders from other countries and what their plans and aims are. It'll get better I guess as the characters start playing a more prominent role. Saka no ue no kumo tries to paint the big picture but its not detailed enough without perspectives from multiple sides.

- Masahiro Motoki tries hard with his English but I wish they had gotten Hiroyuki Sanada. My problem is not the pronunciation but its obvious he memorised the difficult lines and is trying very hard to navigate the tongue twisters. Whoever the English coach was on this dorama should have told him to pause a lot more.

All that budget and they couldn't afford some real looking beard?

SUMMARY

I want to like this dorama but I neither care about the characters and I just wished they'd get deep into the politics of the era but it mostly shows the Japanese perspective. Mostly watching for the history bits  but hopefully it gets better as the main characters become major players instead of just being spectators.

6 comments:

Parsley said...

It gets better in the second part, which focuses a lot more on Masaoka Shiki, more battles, diplomacy and all. The slightly annoying macho aura is still intact, but it's more drama and less documentary.

Jesus Christ Supercop said...

This reminded me to finally check out the soundtrack, since it's by Joe Hisaishi. It sounds like he was phoning it in, which is very unusual. The theme song is fairly nice, except I don't understand why they had Sarah Silverman sing it.

Anonymous said...

>>It sounds like he was phoning it in, which is very unusual. The theme song is fairly nice, except I don't understand why they had Sarah Silverman sing it.<<
Not one of Hisaishi's best work for sure, I think his forte are stories like Miyasaki's anime, not the type suited for heart pumping grand epics/war-stories. And by Silverman, you mean Sarah Brightman? Fuji chosed her 'Time to say goodbye' as the theme song for 'Amalfi', and The Celtic Woman to sing the theme song for 'Princess Toyotomi', so I guess it's probably a trendy thing to do currently in Japan.


>>I want to like this dorama but I neither care about the characters and I just wished they'd get deep into the politics of the era but it mostly shows the Japanese perspective. Mostly watching for the history bits but hopefully it gets better as the main characters become major players instead of just being spectators.<<
But what other perspective can it show? To show other 'countries' perspective at the time would be pretentious and may be downright inflammatory, not to mention making the voice-over unnecessarily long. The viewers need to know the background in order to understand why the people think and act like they did. I thought the directors/producers/writers did a good job balancing the drama and the amount of voice overs. I guess if you're not into history then you may find the first few episodes slow going, but I view that as necessary setup for the drama to really get going starting from ep.4.

Anonymous said...

Didn't the Ryomaden opening feature a western singer as well?

Anonymous said...

>>Didn't the Ryomaden opening feature a western singer as well?<<Yes, the theme song was sung by Lisa Gerrard, though I've no idea in what language as it sounds more like a vocalise.

Akiramike said...

Anon: I feel all that stuff about their childhood, family and the Kanno Miho love story to be unnecessary.

I guess I just wanted more global politics than this navy dude chasing away some army guys from the village lake cause it didn't add anything to the drama.