Saturday, September 28, 2013

Nanatsu no Kaigi

Can't stand the overacting and the unbelievable ratings of Hanzawa Naoki? Want your business doramas to be realistic and less black and white? Then Nanatsu no Kaigi is the one for you. Higashiyama Noriyuki is Harashima, the chief of sales division four at a electronics company and your average joe salaryman. One day, the chief of division one is ousted and Harashima promoted in his place. Its not a huge spoiler to say that Harashima's promotion is not because of his performance but to cover something up.

Yup, Nanatsu no Kaigi is a cover-up dorama from the perspective of the company doing the cover-up. Higashiyama Noriyuki does an excellent job playing Harashima. I've only seen him overacting in comedies like Kuitan and GM Odore Doctor but he really pulls through as the average salaryman worker forced into a difficult position by his company.

There's no stupid idealistic character in Nanatsu no Kaigi screaming every 5 minutes that cover-ups are absolutely wrong. This is a show about investigating what went wrong and looking at the potential losses of a product recall. Nanatsu no Kaigi is about being told by your bosses to do certain things that will have huge repercussions not just on your company but also other companies along the manufacturing chain.

The story is very straightforward. At the beginning we already know that everything gets exposed at the end. The interesting part is how Harashima slowly uncovers the truth and how he struggles with it and the various colleagues who help or hinder with him along the way. The various characters are interesting such as Lan Evo as the politician salaryman of the company. I'm happy to say non of the arguments get too long to become preachy.

Thanks to Arthur for recommending this one. Not sure about best dorama this year but definitely one of the best. Hats off to NHK for making this and Meoto Zenzai. Its unfortunate that these two great doramas are not English subbed cause these are the shows that make jdoramas good and not the summer nudes. Suffice to say Nanatsu no Kaigi is a great character and procedural cover up dorama and is a must watch.

Unfortunately, there's no Japanese sub for the last episode. The subs at jpsubbers are actually from a baseball game. The one thing I noticed while watching the last episode raw is that while I learned to recognise certain words by reading the subs, I never learned to recognise them by hearing. Maybe watching with Japanese subtitles is more detrimental to my Japanese because I never really remember the words and only the shape of the kanji. On the other hand looking up the dictionary can be a pain cause I'm not always sure whether I've got the right word.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Meoto Zenzai eps 2-4

First thing I want to say is that I'm glad Avallac'h uploaded the 720p version cause Meoto Zenzai is a visually exquisite dorama. From costumes to the lighting and camera, its so beautiful to look at. After episode 1, I was approaching this show with trepidation. Can they keep a show where this geisha turned mistress who sticks by her lazy and spoilt lover interesting? 

Watching episode 2, I was thinking the cycle of Moteki's character screwing things up and Ono Machiko's forgiving him is just going to continue. Why am I watching this? Cause of the acting the atmosphere. The heartbreaking scene where stupid Moteki tells Ono Machiko to choose between him and her dying mother was painful to watch. 

I hated Ono Machiko's character for choosing him then Moteki's insecurity. Ono Machiko works like crazy for Moteki when he gets sick and in the end of episode 2, she catches him spending her and his sister's money on women. I hated the story but everything else was good.

I didn't feel like continuing on. This was an award winning movie back in the day, so there must be something good to the story. Surely, it won't turn into Enka no Jouou? Ep 3 was where the story really became interesting for me and perhaps I had been watching the first two through the wrong lens. The story and character suddenly clicked for me and I realised my preconceived notions and fears had been clouding my judgement.

Meoto Zenzai is not your typical hardworking woman in love with useless guy. Its about the mistress snatching away a rich married useless son who was disowned because of her and their inability to get married Moteki's father did not approve of their relationship. Its about Moteki losing, not only his station in life and society but also his fortune and his daughter for this former geisha.

It certainly put that hospital scene with Ono Machiko's mom dying scene in a slightly different context and Moteki while spoilt was not a useless character nor was he one dimensional. He was a character with flaws and emotions being pulled multiple ways. 

Ono Machiko's relentless drive for Moteki and her to be the best couple in Japan is the heart of the show. Actually the heart of the show is their hardship and suffering to stay together and be together. Its what makes this story great. This is not good looking guy with lots of gel in hair meets girl with surgically enlarged eyes dorama and they must be together because they are the most attractive people in the show.

Meoto Zenzai is about paying the price to be together in a relationship that is frowned upon. It is through their hardship that we come to know these two characters and learn to enjoy watching them. The became more than just the archetypes I feard they would be. Brilliant dorama and must watch for me. The old kansai-ben and business stuff was really difficult for me, but it got easier once I started getting used it. 

Hats off to NHK for this brilliant production. You can tell the people who made this really put their heart and soul into it and there's no stunt casting. Ono Machiko and Moteki show why they are two of the best actors in Japan today. Why NHK decided to use the no talent A-chan as the main actor in a jidaigeki is beyond me. Anyways, contender for dorama of the year IMHO.

Forgot to mention the 'sold the rights to the cafe' scene at the end of ep 3. That was a huge 'wtf not again' moment.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Namonaki Doku eps 6-11

I continued watching Namonaki Doku based on  Rootabega's comments and it is such a weird dorama. We've got Mr Nice Guy Sugimuro who's not at all connected to the incidents but who gets himself involved cause he's too nice. He's not an everyman hero because he's too nice to be real and he finally showed himself to be human at the last episode with the wall slamming scene but then he quickly feels guilty about it.

I do get what the writer is trying to say here. I would have preferred a bit less preaching at the end but the story worked for me. I get the nameless poison topic. I could not agree with any character who felt sorry for the crazy woman Harada Izumi played by Eguchi Noriko. She clearly has some chemical imbalance issues in the brain and treating her like a sane person is just stupid.

Namonaki Doku kept me entertained especially when the two girls entered the company, I mean when the coffee scene happened. The highlight was the kitchen window scene. When Maya Miki's character turned up I was like 'WTF, you're going to get the girl killed!' Speaking of Maya Miki, I never liked her acting. There's something about the way she acts that feels insincere but in this case, it works because we are suppose to doubt her character.

The strength of Namonaki Doku is the directing and writing, except for the devoid of personality Sugimura dude. I get that he to be a nice girl for the story but he doesn't need to be that nice. 'I feel so bad cause I had murderous intent when my child was threatened' straddles the border of too nice and stupid. Acting wise, its up and down but on the whole watchable series that's slightly different.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Meoto Zenzai ep 1

I was really looking forward to this. No one is subbing so furransu has only uploaded the first episode. Avallac'h has just uploaded the first episode as well but its 5 freaking gigs! Hopefully its a typo and its actually 500 megs. Anyway, Meoto Zenzai is a story in the 'useless guy and good woman who can't break up with him' dark comedy genre.

Its a difficult type of story to make cause while the guy has to be unlikeable the story and their disfunctional relationship has to be entertaining enough that we don't get bored thinking he's an idiot, she's an even bigger idiot for sticking with him and why do I even care? Meoto Zenzai seems to be on the lighter side of the dark comedy scale though with this type of story, there is no escaping  the darkness.

There are two shows that immediately come to mind in this genre. First is Yume uru Futari which I saw last year. Decent movie with great performances marred by clumsy writing. (Sakamoto Yuji would have turned it into a must watch movie if he could rewrite the script). I still recommend it for and I believe its out with English subs on the internet. The second is Enko no Joou which really tried hard but lacked a certain something. I could see what they were trying to do but its such a hard genre to pull off.

Couldn't understand the jokes and since its set in the old days, quite a bit of difficult dialogue though following the story is not hard. Directing is good and Meoto Zenzai cannot fail in the acting department. The question is whether they can keep the characters and their relationship interesting. This a dorama I can't really judge until its finished.


TGS is here and I'm so excited with the RGG press conference footage. Sakuraba Nanami is playing, Oryou Sakamoto Ryoma's wife. The first thing that comes to mind is won't Kiryuu, I mean Ryoma look like a pedo when they have lovey dovey scenes with her? Lol. Especially when I think of Kiryuu in RGG5 who looks like he's 50 and Sega's not going back to the RGG1+2 20+ year old look. She's like the youngest love interest he's ever had, not including the hostesses.

Its funny reading comments at No one knows who Sakuraba Nanami is. So bloody excited for the game. Makes me want to replay Kenzan. The PS4 version can't be that much better than the PS3 version, can it? None of the other next gen games excite me. Sony better announce The Last Guardian this weekend.......

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magic movies 1+2


2 years ago, this anime called Madoka blew my freaking mind.Years after Sailormoon, Magic Knight Rayearth and Cardcaptor Sakura someone finally decided to deconstruct the genre and what was created was the Watchmen of the Mahou Shoujo genre. Deconstruct meaning pulling apart all the magical girl conventions to see how they work and putting them back together in a way that had never been done before. I would like to think Madoka scared millions of Japanese girls from wishing they were Mahou Shoujos but I guess with the popularity of Pretty Cure, I don't think its happened. At the very least, this generation of parents will teach their daughters to say no to strangers and cute talking animals.

When I heard about the movies, it sounded like a cash grab, similar to the Eva movies. Granted, I've only seen the first Eva movie which was basically the TV show with some new scenes but if its the price for having the third movie continue the story, so be it. Whether or not the third movie will be worth it remains to be seen. It comes out in Japan end of October. Not going to try the Eva movies unless I hear that Shinji actually grows a pair.

The two Madoka movies are basically the edited version of the 12 episode series. With each episode running at 20+ minutes, it wasn't that difficult to refit it into two movies. I have to say unlike the first two Berserk movies, its doesn't feel like anything was left out. Of course we can't really compare the two since the Berserk movies were 25 episodes crammed into 3 movies but basically there's nothing really new to see here. If there were, they was nothing that stood out.

However, it was really fun watching the story a second time because now that I knew the truth, it becomes a different experience. I know that Homura is the main character and not the uber nice but seemingly boring Madoka. Its like Homura is the only sane person in a psychiatric ward and she can't tell everyone that they are crazy because they would never believe her. Instead of being an enjoyable groundhog day experience for Homura, its a never ending fight for her against the inevitable and that is what makes her interesting.

If you've only seen the series once, I recommend watching the movie. If you've watched the series more than once, there's nothing new to see here. Fingers crossed the movie will be good but I can't see how they could continue from a pretty good happy end with a deus ex machina that is connected with the story. Do they want to do a happier ending cause that would suck. Do they want to go darker? What new twist can they add to the truth?

I'm happy to see Homura kick ass in the third movie but since its a movie and not say an OVA, they can't simply do adventures of Homura in new reality. Its got to have a new and proper ending for the series. I'm excited about the upcoming Vita game though. I didn't get the PSP one cause it looked like a cheap tie in.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Woman Ep 11

Kind of sad its finished. Only one episode left? I'm going to rewatch Soredemo Ikite Yuku for my Sakamoto Yuji fix. The end of episode 10 teased that Koharu was going to die. Usually when doramas tease someone dying, it never happens. The overly happy dancing in the rain scene had me thinking Koharu was definitely going to die.

Then we had the sister talk where Shiori said if her bone marrow matched for Koharu think of her as her sister. I was convinced Koharu was a goner. What better scene than Koharu calling Shiori sister as she lies dying and what better punishment for Shiori than to raise the kids she deprived of a father?

I like the tension as they were waiting for the phone call. As Sakamoto said in the interview, no need to over explain. You could feel the palpable tension in the room while the kids are just being kids. When the phone feel, I was thinking Koharu was a goner. Took me a second before I remembered Shiori's injured hand.

This is Sakamoto trying to fuck with the audience. When they showed Shiori's weird not smiling expression I thought is this the reason Sakamoto wrote her like this stoned character? So she would no sell the good news. Even with the nod from Koharu's mom, I wasn't entirely sure it was good news until we had that lovely slow-mo of the doctor falling from his chair. What an awesome sequence that was. I don't agree with Sakamoto's story choices but he knows how to put my heart in my mouth.

The welfare husband and doctor wife ending was meh and pointless to me. Oguri Shun showed up again to give Koharu an answer about forgiving her sister. Since Sakamoto said in the interview that he doesn't write nor plan doramas out beforehand, was Oguri Shun simply waiting at home for the phone call to come to set? I would have thought since he's used so sparingly (but still too much IMHO) that it would have been more efficient to shoot his stuff in one go.

The whole thing about not wanting Koharu's kids to resent Shiori is acecptable but her character exploration and what she did wasn't done well enough for me to buy. We get a nice scene with Koharu and her mom and our happy ending.

Overall, Woman is still a must watch, just not perfect or close to it like Soredemo Ikite Yuku or Mother. Sakamoto wanted to go for a happier dorama than I was hoping for in terms of storyline choices and Shiori I feel is still a weak point despite me getting the epiphany that we were suppose to hate her throughout the series. Not to mention too much Oguri Shun. Good dorama with really good execution I'm looking forward to Sakamoto's next one.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sakamoto Yuji - Soredemo Ikite Yuku interview Part 2A

Anyway, here's my crappy translation of the first half of part 2 of the interview. I hate the way this Abiko guy talks. He likes to say the same thing twice, completely differently and with slight nuances. As always, corrections are most welcome.



Abiko: In the very end, the main character returned the AV didn’t he? As for that, I think this dorama shows the attitude of not wanting to settle for mediocrity. Actually don’t you think that the ending is a bit light?

Sakamoto: For me, I don’t like the main character to disappear from the story. I’ve never written it like that.

Abiko: However, there’s the side story isn’t there? The AV story existed from the first episode. (translator's note - I don't even remember an AV side story. Need to rewatch)

Sakamoto: However, I didn’t intend for it to appear at the end. At that time I was thinking about for to end this and I thought, “He should pick it up and return it.” Actually in the first draft, I wrote a returning the AV scene.

Abiko: Aaa -, I see.

Sakamoto: After returning it, he would have met the dead sister’s family. That is what I wrote for the first draft. However for the second draft, that scene was erased. The situation where he did not return the AV was created.

Abiko: However, wasn’t there the scene where Mitsushima came to the house and found the AV? However, he hadn’t gone and returned it.

Sakamoto: He had forgotten to return it.

Abiko: The script writer as well?

Sakamoto: I didn’t forget it, its more it was forgotten in the story. That tends to happen. Whether to return or not, lets leave it for the time being.  I tend to do that sort of thing  I think guys would thinkg “Suddenly die in an incident, what is going to happen to the AV that is hidden from the family.” In this case what I imagined is “When is the AV that is borrowed around the time the sister dies going to be returned?” From the start of the AV thing, I wanted the theme of whole story to be about to living in unusual circumstances and having to deal with ordinary life. More than peeking at reality, I wanted to see the lifestyle of someone who cannot escape from such an incident because it is interesting. Once I pile that up, the dorama won’t be clichéd. I felt when writing that daily life can be unusual.


Abiko: How many revisions of the script did you do?

Sakamoto:  Err, 3 scripts. After that with some adjustments about 3.5 scripts. I felt that for the first pass, about 1.5 times of the material that I wrote were cut and amended. At the second script, the story began taking shape…


After that the director and producer had their input. After that I would say it took roughly 3 drafts of the script before it came close to its final form.

Abiko: Before the shooting began, did you finish all 11 episodes of the script?

Sakamoto: Not at all. 3 or 4 books/chapters.

Abiko: But, did you finish the scripts from that?

Sakamoto: I had not decided anything about the second half.

Abiko: Ehhh?

Sakamoto: No matter what dorama, its going to be like that every time. If not, the dorama won’t be good.  I am asked the people around, “What is going to happen?” As I hadn't decided on anything yet, I could not give anyone a straight answer.

Abiko: Did you not have the image of the conclusion?

Sakamoto: Before I decided on the story, the only thing I come up with was the synopsis. ‘What type of person is this character’. It would be good if I could capture the character image.  Its is important to thing and write at the same time, but if I know the answer (to who the characters are), its is not necessary to write.

Abiko: When I rewatched the DVD, I thought I should think thoroughly. You finished writing 11 chapters from the beginning and how many time you had to revise your script. Ordinarily I know its not like this but was it like this in this case? (This paragraph does not make sense to me.)

Sakamoto: Are you talking about the side story?

Abiko: Yes, the side story.

Sakamoto: As for serial doramas, at first you need to sow a lot of the seeds. After that there are things you need to pick up, things you should not throw away will appear. Anyway, you need to sow a lot of seeds. Ahh, that thing was there! And you can collect/harvest and as  it grows into a side story. Anyway, scenes, dialogue and items that make an impression naturally become side stories.


Abiko: About TV dorama scripts, talk about casting?

Sakamoto: A lot of things have to be there. If I can’t decide on the casting, its is very difficult. Since I debut 20 years ago, at that time the system was that casting is already decided while the dorama is being being created. I am used to that and it is easier for me because I grew up in that system. Now its very difficult for me to  write a script before casting has been done.

Abiko: DVD special bonus was the script which I read slowly read . Of course, every even deleted stuff . Spoken words and conversation and verbal expressions are all in the script….

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kakera: A Piece of Our Life

A was surprised when bframe informed me of the existence of a lesbian Mitsushima Hikari movie.I've got a whole heap of movies in my to be watched queue but I definitely had to check this out. Written and directed by Ando Momoko, sister of Ando Sakura, Kakera is less a lesbian film and more a movie about finding oneself.

Mitsushima Hikari is Haru, a university student stuck in a relationship as a mistress of a guy who doesn't treat her right yet Haru is not able to move past the loveless relationship. One day she meets Riko, a very straightforward medical prosthetic maker who nampas Haru in a cafe.

Haru and Riko strike up a frienship and Riko wants to pull Haru away from her abusive relationship (with two implied rape scenes) while Haru is reluctant to leave her boyfriend. Its easy to say its a movie about a girl who's in a cold straight relationship who experiments with the same sex, its more about as the title suggests Haru trying to fill up this hole in her life.

Execution wise, very indie movie style. While Kakera does have interesting dialogue, it does tend to feel like the writer/director Ando Momoko is trying to say something through the movie instead of the characters saying it.

Its also got the indie movie inconclusive ending where not much happens and lots of stuff has to be inferred. I don't like things being spelled out for me but its basically your everyone's improved as human beings, blah blah blah everyone moves on movie. At least we don't have all characters meeting in the end and someone saying everyone's gotten stronger. The most out there thing is the water bottle turning into bird scene and the flock of birds in the end. Its like Ando Momoko wanted to make this visually psychedelic movie but didn't know how.

If Kakera had the visual quality of say Koreeda's Air Doll, it would have stood out for me. As it is, its just another quirky interesting movie that didn't linger long in my mind.  

Monday, September 09, 2013

Sakamoto Yuji - Soredemo Ikite Yuku interview Part 1B

Second half of Part 1 of the interview. Apologies for shoddy quality. There are quite a few perplexing lines for me. I can read most of it but I have a hard time understanding his point so some lines seem machine translated. This Abiko dude knows how to speak in bloody long and difficult sentences. The original Japanese interview is here. Corrections and suggestions are most welcome.


Abiko: I was shocked by this show and wanted to say to people involved in making TV doramas, "If this can be done, you guys have to work harder!" In terms of Dialogue, acting and execution. Even when novels and doramas are predictable and string together cliches, that is ok. However this dorama has been the beginning rejected (such mediocrity) and has been about being real.

Sakamoto: Yes.

Abiko: As for that secret (about the quality of the show), who's intention/will power was it that made this possible? What type of the miracle of collaboration, chemistry or from an original script with a strong idea that the scriptwriter Sakamono-san. Can you tell me in detail the start of your plan?

Sakamoto: After I did Mother for Nipponterebi, I could not decide on what to do next. At that time, I heard from Fuji TV about the bare bones plan for 'there is a killer and there is his sister'. I thought it was interesting, very interesting. For doramas, the past and the future are must both exist in the story. You can't do doramas only about people who have suffered from traumas in the past live difficult lives. However, if the viewer can forsee  or anticipate the future (of the story) then the dorama can continue. I had to plan for what will happen.

Abiko: Certainly.

Sakamoto: As for dorama planning, even if you have special plans or settings, sometimes you have cases where what's going to happen next has not been written. After coming to do standstill, I thought there was a destination to this project and I went to 'I want to makes this dorama!'. After that I asked Eita-san and he agreed to do it. After that, it could finally move forward as a TV dorama.

Abiko: At that time the of screnarios has not started, right? At that time, Eita's character (the victims brother) hasn't appeared, right? As for the murderer and his sister, did you want Eita-san to play the murderer?

Sakamoto: At first, that is what I thought. In my head, I had the image of Eita-san as the murdererer and at that time, Eita-san also indicated his interest (in the role). After that, I was thinking of the plot and from out of the people associated with the victim came the main character...


Sakamoto: Well, there are a variety of factors that lead me to this decision. First, I could not write from the murderer's point of view. The victim's family, I put to the side and I could really feel the plot start to advance.

Literally: If you don't determine (what is) good or evil,you can write anything.

Abiko: So the story starts from 'there is a killer and there is his sister'. In the beginning what were the components that you wanted to write? Heating up the materials/story about the people involved with the crime. From before, this is your writing style isn't it? 

Sakamoto: Well...... actuallly its not.  I did not feel that its would have been easy to expand on the dorama.

Abiko: In this case gathering the necessary materials, hunting for scenarios and developing them. What is the nucleas of what you were developing?

Sakamoto: I haven't brought any story materials yet. Well,before writing anything the only thing I determined was that it was not going to be black and white. In regards to Soredemo Ikite Yuku, it means the victim's family. The victim's families go through a lot of things and I wanted to paint that confrontation. I wanted a dorama about two characters with different thoughts and positions meeting. So I wanted to see whatever themes flow from it.

Abiko: There is an interview where Mitsushima-san said she was offered the job and her schedule didn't match and she had to refuse, However I read that you really wanted her for this role.

Sakamoto: When Mother was other, I wanted to next job to be with Mitsushima-san. The keyword that come out for me was 'younger sister'. Please do this Mitsushima-san. I want you to do this. That was my intention at the start of the plan though it was pretty big.

Abiko: from there, if I'm not working or repeat Shinahan while trouble this and that producers and directors and we willl or realigning the plot.

Sakamoto: A lot of TV doramas are shot in Tokyo, right? So from the start I wanted to set it in the countryside. No matter how much effort you put into it, there are people who are tired of seeing Tokyo. The only things I thought about were going to the countryside and the dorama looking different from usual.With that, we decided to go to locations like Nagano and Yamanashi...