Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rinjo: The Last Message

I like the Rinjo series. Its one of the very few police procedural jdoramas that gets it right. Its your usual police maverick who oversteps his boundaries show but not everyone in the organisation is portrayed as incompetent and Moriyama sensei from Doctors plays Kuraishi's superior who begrudgingly respects Kuraishi's abilities. None of that main character has proven him/herself over and over but everyone hates the main character cause they are useless at their jobs. Most importantly, Rinjo is about how Kuraishi solves the crimes and not manufacturing cheesy/cool moments.

Which brings us to this Rinjo movie, The Last Message which starts of with one of the fakest mass stabbing scenes brought to screen. I appreciate them going for a wide continuous shot but lack of visual contact with the knife is does nothing to sell me on the scene.

The Last Message has a good story but two things take away from it. First is the story about the mother of one of the stabbing victims which just feels tacked on just to lead to a tear jerker reason for her daughter to be at the scene of the stabbings. I guess that's why the movie is called the Last Message but drawing a family picture over graffiti is hard to buy.

Second is the long debate at the end with the karmic stabbing ending which just feels so contrived. Its like stupid shit has to happen because the karmic jmovie laws decree that people always have to pay for their sins at the end of a movie.

Besides those two gripes, I like the story and the twist and turns, especially with the old policeman. They've also got a good reason to introduce this new police dude who's always pissed at Kuraishi. Watchable, just don't not as good as the series.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Haitatsu Saretai Watashitachi ep 2

I really like this show. Not enough to call it must watch yet, but its certainly pretty good. Spoiler talk ahead if you haven't watched episode 1 which I urge you to do. You know how in jdoramas, there is always this throwaway redemption thing? It was there in episode one with Yu's mother and I just loved how Sawano pointed out that it was a meaningless exercise to lessen Yu's mother's guilt and Yu replies, "You think I don't know that?".

Redemption and feelings of abandonment and guilt cannot be resolved so easily and Sawano's cynical view of the world is a breath of fresh air in the black and white world of jdoramas. Emotional wounds are complicated things and its not like anyone suffering from PTSD for example can utter the words ,"I am a mechanic!" and be magically cured. If you didn't get that reference, just move along.

I really like the humour in episode 2, especially with Sawano's doctor. He's got a more rounded view which is a fun way to view depression. Instead of let's list all the symptoms of depression and make it morbid and pitiful, Sawano's doctor's view is this is what we know about depression, this is what we can do and people suffering from it can still function in their own way. It doesn't try to make Sawano into a sob story.

There's certainly a lot of Sawano's backstory to explore though and judging from the previews, it looks like the stories that we get from the people receiving the letters serve Sawano and Yu's story rather than them being just bystanders. The more I think about Haitatsu Saretai Watashitachi, the more I realise it does so many things right. I hope at the end, I can declare it a must watch.

For those who like the ending song for Minna! Esper Dayo! Yakan Hikou, you can grab the song here. I'm so hooked to this song.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Minna! Esper Dayo! ep 6

Bad news is Furransu has stopped creating torrents for Minna! Esper Dayo!. Luckily we get to see a lot of Kaho this episode. :)

Good news is you can watch good quality rips at dailymotion and download them using keepvid. If only it had Japanese subs but beggers can't be choosers. Beggers can only find alternative sources. The above subtitle is Japanese translation of English. Sono Sion's translation for 'fucking assholes' is 'baka na otoko'.

Three good things about this episode. First is we finally find out the source of why seemingly everyone in the town is an esper. Let's just say its very funny and Kaho does a good embarrassed look.

The second is a short Mano Erina is tied up scene and finally Mano Erina gets her Sono Sion moment, doing a short soliloquy accompanied by Beethoven symphony no 7.

Problem is, I'm still waiting for this series to go someplace interesting. Hmm, this would make a great wallpaper.

Next episode looks like a zombie spoof episode. Is Minna! Esper Dayo! going to be more than just fanservice and dirty jokes? At least Mano Erina doesn't have to act perfect anymore.

I can't believe how many times the F-word is used in this episode, not that it would offend the Japanese anyway.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Haitatsu Saretai Watashitachi ep 1

Looks like Minna! Esper Dayo! isn't the only good dorama this season. You can always count on WOWOW to not settle for the mediocre. Eiji from KDO plays the main character Sawano, a father suffering from depression who comes across 7 undelivered letters from 7 years ago and sets off to deliver the letters. Kuriyama Chiaki is Yu, the first person he delivers a letter and she involves herself in Sawano's affairs.

My first impression was that this was going to be a sappy Shinzanmono type series. However, there is something about the direction, music and story that gives me the impression this is not just a generic 7 sob stories dorama. That its not going through the motions and the dorama takes some interesting turns with the characters. They also don't really milk anything  to the point of over-sentimentality.

I don't want to spoil anything. I really enjoyed going into Haitatsu Saretai Watashitachi with no knowledge whatsoever and from the opening scene with Kuriyama Chiaki holding a blade against her neck, this dorama had my attention. My opinion of Haitatsu Saretai Watashitachi went from not bad, to good to this good be a very good dorama. I really like Eiji's character though its probably his easiest acting job ever. He just needs to look disinterested in everything.

Wanted to give it a must watch but let's see how the rest of the series goes. For now, very recommended show with much promise.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The making of Love Exposure

Unfortunately, no Minna! Esper dayo! this week. Not having my week tousatsu fix is worse than not having Game of Thrones. Anyway, decided to watch something that I've been meaning to watch for a long time which is the making Love Exposure. I love this Jmovie classic. Its the only movie that I've written two reviews for. One general review and one spoiler review discussing all the subtext. As Mitsushima Hikari says in the making of, its a simple story but its so complicated.

I don't really get to see much stuff about making of Japanese movies. Most of the time with American movies, its everyone kissing each other's asses saying how great they are. The making of Love Exposure starts out with Sono Sion saying to the effect that he's not 100% sure about the movie and he sometimes thinks he shouldn't be making it.

It is very interesting to watch Sono Sion direct. He keeps a figurative distance between him and Mitsushima Hikari and he is not hesitant to tell her that her acting was bad. There's this bit where Sono Sion says he can't feel anything from her acting and calls her baka. As the staff on the movie slink away for a break, you don't know whether Mitsushima Hikari is a mess because its a crying scene or because of the huge pressure the director is putting on her. I'd like to see Sono Sion direct Fukuda Kyoko and scold her for having only 1 facial expression.

I need to rewatch this 4 hour epic with some KFC hot and spicy. Can't believe Sono Sion shot this epic movie in only 1 month! One month to shoot 4 hours of one of the greatest jmovies of all time. Had a look for the Japanese blu-ray and apparently the one they are selling on HMV Japan is the international version cause it has English subtitles and the English name on the cover. Its such an unpopular movie in Japan that there's no blu-ray Japanese version.

Lol. Do enough Sono Sion movies and its pretty much guaranteed you'd get to do one.

Now we know where Noriko's Dinner table came from.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Jmoview review: The Land of Hope / Kibou no Kuni

Sono Sion's previous movie Himizu was altered and set against the backdrop of the Tohoku earthquake. Clearly the Fukushima disaster was something Sono Sion wanted to talk about and The Land of Hope is the story that he wanted to tell. The Land of hope is set in the fictional town of Nagashima where another nuclear disaster happens and residents are forced to evacuate.

Natsuyagi Isao (RIP) plays Ono, the old farmer who's house sits just outside of the border of the 20km evacuation zone. Everyone else is evacuated and Ono urges his son and daughter-in-law to leave while he stays behind with his mentally ill wife. The story is told through 3 viewpoints, Ono and his wife who refuses to leave, Ono's son and wife who move further away and a young couple who lived nearby.

There are no upskirt shots, no violence and no soliloquies with classical music. The Land of Hope is Sono Sion at his most serious and it is devoid of melodrama. Instead, it is an observation how people involved in disasters like Fukushima deal with those situations. We get some interesting commentary that's not preachy about the Japanese government keeping vital information from people and how the Japanese media propagates this as well by spreading false information that things are not that bad.

One of the interesting aspects of the movie is Japanese society's reaction to the dangers of radiation. People are made fun of being paranoid or bullied because they came from the danger areas. Its as if Japanese society puts on this face of everything will be all right and any behaviour that suggests otherwise is frowned upon.

There's this scene from a tv show where this housewife says that she stopped wearing masks because the other housewives disapprove her being the only one showing sensitivity to the radiation issue and she ends by saying that everyone wants to forget about radiation and be positive. I like that its not one-sided criticism with Ono's daughter-in-law developing radiation paranoia. I guess this is Sono Sion looking at both issues of turning a blind eye and overreaction to the radiation problem. 

The heart of the movie is Ono, the old man. Jdorama fans will know him better as Abe Hiroshi's father in Going My Home. Unfortunately he passed away last week. In this movie, he moves very well, can still run and carry his wife on his back. Ono is the stubborn old man who refuses to move, dotes on his wife who has dementia and is concerned about the future of this son and daughter-in-law.

I can't really rate The Land of Hope as a must watch movie. The narrative is a bit lacking and slow but the acting is good and there a few beautiful moments in this movie. Its more of a social message movie instead of an exciting narrative about society. I'd still recommend it, its just good, not great.