Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jmovie review: Noriko's Dinner Table

The first Sono Sion movie I ever saw was Suicide Club (Jisatsu Circle). It was a very weird movie with lots of gore and I stopped watching halfway cause there was one scene involving cats I could not stomach and the movie seemed like shock porn.  Years later, I watched Love Exposure because it came highly recommended by TwitchFilm and it was four freaking hours of getting my mind blown. Since then, I've seen Cold Fish, Guilty of Romance and Himizu; non close to the brilliance of Love Exposure but always entertaining.

Noriko's Dinner Table has been mentioned a few times in the comments and I had to check it out. Its sort of a sequel to Suicide Club since it is set in the same world but is more similar to Love Exposure. I would even say that its sort of the beta version of Love Exposure with chapters of multiple character viewpoints, and characters slowly peeling back layers and everything coming together in the end.

Noriko's Dinner Table starts of with Noriko, a 17 year old girl living in a peaceful town suddenly finding herself in Tokyo and her chapter goes on to explain how she got there in the first place. The next chapter is about her sister Yuka played by Yoshitaka Yuriko and so on.

The middle of the movie is a much better version of Kazoku Kashimasu with twice emotional charge. Instead of playing it like a fairytale, Sono Sion uses it to explore the people playing the fake families than the people needing and willing to pay money for pretend families. It very much reminded of watching the first half of Audition, a subplot of a movie that is so fun that I wished the movie was just about that.

However, Noriko's dinner table is about much more than that. It is an exploration of many ideas like human relationship and how people seek them out but the exploration never feels shortchanged. *cough* DKR *cough* I don't know how Sono Sion does it. He writes damaged characters, puts them in absurd situations and creates great drama.

I absolutely adored 85% of the movie. Unfortunately, the ending was way too long for me. Sono Sion wanted to get somewhere but the felt it needed some bloodshed at the end. Actually I didn't mind the bloodbath but what followed afterwards took too much time the emotional charge had fizzled and by the time the ending scene came I couldn't be stuffed working it out. The movie is still 1 1/2 hours shorter than Love Exposure but the story lost me in the end.

As much as I want to, I can't put a must watch tag for Noriko's Dinner Table. Its like the WOWOW dorama Chase. Everything was perfect until the end and the first thought that comes to me is if only it had ended better. Its very much worth watching though. Acting and directing is awesome. Lots of brilliantly funny, moving and messed up scenes that only a director like Sono Sion and maybe Park Chan Wook can bring.  

Ahh screw it. Inserting the screencaps made me think about how brilliant most of the movie is. Flawed brilliance is still brilliant.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Furuhata Ninzaburo ep 11

The best episode yet! I wasn't that sold on the crime seeing it was done with two efficient blows to the head. How was she sure the blows were fatal? Nevertheless, the rest of the episode was a sublime combination of mystery, comedy and great acting. It is an absolute delight watching Furuhata playing catch and mouse with the suspect, especially when the role is well written and acted. I rejoice at not having the urge to skim a scene because I am hanging on every words and savouring every delicious facial expression. Masakazu Tamura's defining role for me used to be the dad from Oyaji. Now its Furuhata Ninzaburo. Absolutely not be missed.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Iki mo Dekinai Natsu eps 3-7

Yes, I was still watching this. More like half watching, half skimming. Its kind of like Tokkan in the sense I like the subject matter but there are superfluous elements that I just skip. What is wrong with Iki mo Dekinai Natsu is that it tries to do too much. There's this family history of violence thing which started off with a young girl finding out that she's not in her family register.

There is of course my favourite bit which is the exploration of people who do not belong in any family register. Let's not forget abusive dad who is dying and seeking redemption. Boohoo. Let's not forget the dad looks 30 which means he did the mom when he was 13. Who the fuck was in charge of casting the dad? Last of all is the Kiyama - Rei relationship whic is a complete fail.

Even though I'm 31 and you're 19!

Why even bother trying to turn it into a love story? Eguchi basically plays the vice president of common sense in Iki mo Dekinai Natsu. Rei gets all emotional about have the her name moved to mom's ex-husband's family register and Eguchi basically asks her if that really actually matters?  She gets all panicking about who her real dad and Kiyama tells her to stop worrying about what she can't find out and asks her if it really matters who her dad is.

He will always be Manpyo Daisuke to me.

Kiyama is more Yoda to our young heroine is having all sorts of problems thrown at her. The writer tries to convince us there's something more going on by turning the wife into a yandere, claiming that she notices Kiyama has changed and is more lively which break the very important rule of show, don't tell. If they wanted to make this work, episode 1 should have sold us more on Kiyama's habits before meeting Rei. They tried but I don't see it. Takei Emi just does not have the ability to elevate the material.

Iki mo Dekinai Natsu is not a disaster but I don't see any hope. Episode 8 will be the family history being revealed to the media and only in Japan can news about unfortunate people actually cause them hardship instead of sympathy. Its watchable but there's no chance of it turning the corner.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Jdorama news ramblings 25/8/12


You can read all about it here. I love the Infernal Affairs trilogy and the idea of two doramas set in the same world featuring characters on both sides of the coin, showing at the same time is mind blowing. How awesome would it be to see something happen from one perspective and then the same week from another? TBS and WOWOW better not fuck this up though Japan has rarely shown they can do good serious cop shows with the exceptions of Gonzo, Rinjo and Gaiji Keisatsu.

Here's hoping they explore the duality in Infernal Affairs with subtlety. No stupid moral preaching and hope it doesn't turn into The Departed which completely missed what made Infernal Affairs so good in the first place. If this turns into Rondo, I will completely give up on Japanese cop shows. Actually just realised that Densha is in it. WTF? I don't see him pulling an Ijyuiin in Tetsu no Hone and showing us he can actually act.


Jadefrost wrote about the writer not liking the dorama series. I am up to episode 5 and I feel like the stories should have been done as 2 hour doramas specials. Just not enough time to build up the characters and all you have left is the twist. It doesn't suck but nothing really stands out either. Seems like writers don't have much power in jdorama land. I wonder whether its common practice to have writers on set rewriting and reworking stuff? I suppose jdorama schedules are tighter and they don't have the luxury of time unlike movies.


Just realised from Jdrama Weblog that there's a jdorama about a dragon appearing in Tokyo. Hope it is stupid fun like Yuusha Yoshihiko. Its got Santamaria Yusuke and Renbutsu Misako so I am definitely checking it out!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Jmovie review: Byakuyako

Someone asked for recommendations dark doramas and the first dorama that popped into my head was Byakuyako. I remember that dorama most not for Yamada Takayuki nor Ayase Haruka's acting but for Fukuda Mayuko's acting. Its one of those godlike first episodes that I will always remember like the first episode of Shokuzai. The Byakuyako dorama started off pretty good but got bogged down by Kinpachi sensei's character. It was basically a boring wait watching him uncover everything that the audience knew and there wasn't anything to his character.

I was working through a list of dark doramas when I remembered there was a Byakuyako movie. Why didn't I get around to watching it? Looked it up and realised it was because of Horikita Maki. By the dorama gods, I hate her because she is so overpushed. She couldn't even keep a straight face doing Teppan Shoujo Akane. What have I got to lose besides two hours of my time? Plus its got Kora Kengo who is the go to guy for dark WOWOW doramas.

Byakuyako the movie is very different from the dorama. The dorama starts from the shocking incident and is about the two characters. The movie is more mystery as the policeman slowly unravels the plot through a long period. Instead of being about the two characters, its more about the people around them. How everyone is like them, looking for happiness despite their bitter past experiences. I couldn't help thinking how I wished I could erase my memory of the dorama so I could enjoy the mystery more.

The movie finishes very strong and I would say its stronger than the dorama in terms of structure. I need to rewatch the dorama again. Can't remember much and I only reviewed up to ep 7 but the movie finishes strong. I would say the movie and dorama are both different animals and the movie is definitely darker. Less emphasis on the main characters also means Horikita Maki doesn't have to carry the movie whereas the dorama hinges upon showing the relationship between the two characters.

Acting wise, the movie is not as good as the dorama but that has a lot to do with it being more of a mystery movie than an exploration of two people with a horrible past. If you like dark stories, this is a must watch.

For a dark dorama list besides Soredemo, I would go for (in no particular order)

1. Byakuyakou
2. Shokuzai - weaker middle with strong start and finish
3. Tsumi to Batsu - Strong first half and slow second half
4. Koukou Kyoushi 1993 - not that dark though
5. Marks no Yama
6. Youkame no Semi
7. Ai nante iraneeyo
8. Enka no Joou - dark comedy. Don't think they succeed but I like the effort.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tokkan ep 4

Tokkan is a show where I know what I like and what I dislike about it. There are moments of this is very interesting and moments of pure mediocrity.


- No stupid arbitrary workplace abuse. Sure Inoue Mao gets shouted at and stuff but that's more towards her inexperience and jealousy from her uni-mate played by Kinami Haruka. The revelation that Unoue Mao's boss caused her to be set up was funny.

- The whole department is not incompetent. (Shocking, I know) Sick of doramas where no one does their work and the protagonist has to teach them one by one.

- The four episodes was actually one big story which had some nice twists and turns.


- Still way too preachy and too many moral debates. Tax has nothing to do with morality! They are trying to put Inoue Mao's moral struggles at the forefront of her story but it should always be about tax.


- I'm not expecting it to be as good as Chase but finger crossed the writing  for ep 5 onwards concentrates more on tax investigating than Inoue Mao's emotions. Watchable.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Last Present - Musume to Ikiru Saigo no Natsu

The first episode of Last Present was subbed many years ago by Kryptolus and then dropped. Its been on my to watch list for a long, long time and now I've finally gotten around to watching it. Amami Yuki is Asuka, a divorcee who has not had contact with her daughter Ayumi (Fukuda Mayuko) for years.

Asuka is a career woman and Ayumi is being raised by her husband played by Gira gira. Gira gira is engaged to Yuri (Nagasaku Hiromi) and has a deep resentment for Asuka. However, by the first episode, Asuka finds out that she has only three months left to live.

Last Present is the type of dorama that Beautiful Rain wishes it is. Its sappy and manipulative but in a good way. The way to describe the difference is that Beautiful Rain is self aware and tries too hard. Last Present is more honest. It kind of reminds me of Shiroi Haru with the parent connecting with the child theme though of course more heavy handed in its emotions and a lot more heart wrenching moments.

The one important ingredient in Last Present is Fukuda Mayuko. She is bloody awesome and is really the best jdorama child actress I've ever seen. Non of that fake and overtly sweet Ashida Mana stuff. The rest of the cast are no slouches either. Gira gira even does the best performance I've seen from him as the angry dad or rather he gets to play a more conflicted character than his usual nice guy roles.

If you've got basic Japanese, its pretty easy to watch and Japanese subtitles help a lot. Huge thanks to Project Restoration for uploading it. I cannot recommend Last Present enough.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Poor Man Rich Woman eps 2-6

First of all, thank the jdorama gods Ishihara Satomi didn't turn out to be Hyuga's sister. Turns out that Satomi's character whose real name is Makoto Natsui met Hyuga years ago and has carried the guilt of not telling Hyuga about his mom ever since. Natsui is a throwback to the more passive cinderella protagonists of old except she doesn't fight with Hyuga.

 An IT company with this many hot chicks?

She is basically obsessed with our prince while Natsui is the only person he bullies who's name he remembers. Even after Natsui reveals her deception, Hyuga remembers her face and real name so that must mean they are made for each other or something like that right? Beats the romantic comedy law of two attractive people must get together law because they just have to. Which is not to say I don't enjoy the bullying. Ishihara Satomi in panic mode is cute and Hyuga running to her at a goukon in ep 6 is funny.

Someone explain to me why he could not have moved the two bags in the front seat to the back.

PMRW has a lot of elements that I like. Love the casting. It looks very very but I'm not hanging on every word and I've skimmed a few scenes here and there. I've been holding off on a write up waiting for the backstabbing to happen. Its happened but Hyuga doesn't know he has got a knife in his back yet.

As a business dorama, I want to see where it goes. There's certainly more business in PMRW than in Magma. The Asahina brother is the most interesting character in PMRW. He is the guy who is willing to smash his own foot just to get Tono to owe him. He is the guy smart enough to keep up with Hyuga but is happy to let Hyuga lead until Hyuga stopped listening to him and is now blinded by jealousy. Knowing jdoramas, Asahina is going to get back stabbed by the company he wants to partner with and repent at the end.

On paper RMPW should be really good but I don't really care about it. I'm ho-hum about the quadrangle with the Asahina siblings and I just want to see Hyuga kicked out of the company to see what he will do.Watchable but I'm not finding anything under it slick presentation.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Saba Doru

Saba Doru is an idoru vehicle for Watanabe Mayu. I'm a lot more forgiving of late night idoru doramas because they have no budget and run for 25 minutes. The first Majisuka Gakuen was watchable in the its so bad its fun way. If I were the Japanese vice president of common sense, I would ban all idoru pimping to after 12am. Some midnight doramas have turned out to be very good like The Quiz Show.

Mayuyu is playing herself in Saba Doru except she's actually a 38 year old woman pretending to be 17. Sounds absurd but I'm willing to accept any premise as long as it leads to a good story. Unfortunately, rather than being an examination of a 38 year old woman pretending to be 17, its more like a 17 year old girl pretending to be a 38 year old woman pretending to be 17.

The only thing I got from Saba Doru was the name of the drinking song from 101 Proposals. (I think. Haven't watched it in years) Only for the hardcore fans. Can't really critisize Saba Doru for being what it is. Was hoping there would be some entertainment value. Move along, nothing to see here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Unmei no Hito eps 5-10

Unmei no Hito runs into a bit of a problem during the court case. That is problem is that we know the fate Yuminari from the first episode and there are no twists and turns during the court case. Basically what the 3 episodes of the court case boil down to is that Yuminari did not want to expose Miki which would have given him a fighting chance.

Love the subtle anger in Matsu Takako's face in this shot.

They tried to make it about the characters but there isn't much to say despite the good acting. Miki agreeing to lie about Yuminari did not deserve so many episodes because there wasn't much to explore. Its basically Yuminari getting screwed by the government without him having any way to fight back.

However, the last episode is kick-ass. Finally we get to something that I as the audience can care about which are the people of Okinawa who were the ones who got screwed by the Japanese government the most. The last episode is an impactful history lesson on how Okinawa was sacrificed for the army bases and the cost it had on the people there.

Furthermore, Yuminari was actually doing something. I can't care about a protagonist if he isn't doing anything useful *cough* Magma *cough* and merely talks a lot. The awesome last episode is almost good enough to make me forget about the long boring trial.

Unmei no Hito starts of with really good first 5 episodes and really slows down the next four before finally talking about something that really matters for the 1 1/2 hours final episode. Regretfully, this excellent production can't be called must watch because of the nature of the story. They should have cut the court case to just one or two episodes. Doramas should never prolong the inevitable unless there are great moments to mine. Very watchable show with a slow second half before it finishes strong.