Thursday, February 27, 2014

Saikou no Rikon SP 2014

The gang is back for more hijinks one year after the series ended. Eita is the same grumbling guy as usual, Ono Machiko is having a strong awakening if her maternal instincts, Ayano Go runs into his old flame Usuda Asami and Maki Yoko is a MILF.


- Usada Asami!!!!!

- You can't go wrong with Sakamoto Yuji dialogue and humour. The man can write fun arguments that is more about the speaker than the argument.

- Young Hayao Miyazaki. lol.

- The train conference. roflol.

- Eita and Ono Machiko are gold.

- Ono Machiko and Maki Yoko singing Shabondama! Not exactly old school momusu but close enough.


- I don't give a crap about Ayano Go's character. The only knock against the main series was that he and Maki Yoko turned into side characters when their story flamed out. They are both opposites of two extremes with flimsy excuses.


- The Soredemo Ikite Yuku ending though I'm was scared it would turn into Madoka movie 3.


I don't think they could have done much better. Dorama specials are usually pure ratings grabs but are also due to fan who want to see more. How do you do a 1 1/2 hour story that's not a retread of the series but doesn't ruin it? Entertaining, but I would have been happy as well if it never existed in the first place.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Rewatching Shinsengumi!

I could have sworn I wrote a review for Shinsengumi! since it was the first taiga dorama that I ever completed but it didn't show up in the search box.  Hhhmm, on further inspection, I didn't even write about Musashi either which I liked as well. Anyways, the reason I rewatched Shinsengumi! was in preparation for Ryu ga Gotoku Ishin which is an alternate reality telling of the Sakamoto Ryoma and Shinsengumi story. Its my 2nd most anticipated game of the year but the huge number of characters is so intimidating.

I wanted to put faces to names that I will encounter in the game but frankly, outside of the main characters, I had a hard time with remembering names. The first time I watched Shinsengumi many years ago, I really enjoyed the Kondo Isami, Hijikata and Yamanami dynamic. You've got your leader flanked by his two advisors, the street smart Hijikata who is not afraid to play bad cop and the well read Yamanami.

On second viewing, Shinsengumi! plays to me more like a Hijikata as the ultimate puppeteer show. Mitani Koki in turning Kondo Isami into a saint, as transferred all the blame and guile onto Hijikata thus turning our ultra good guy main character into a puppet that was used by kingmaker Hijikata.

While I was half-rewatching Shinsengumi while half-playing Sen no Kiseki (I'll not be able to finish this game before Ishin arrives), its more obvious how Mitani Koki writes an honourable out for ever killing and seppuku that happens. I guess its the unwritten rule in taiga doramas that famous historical figures must be presented in the best light unless they were historically reviled. Every backstabbing, power struggle move can be justified as doing it for love of country/Shogun/Emperor and every bad guy is just doing it for his own interests.

As much as Mitani Koki can dramatise the story, he cannot change the actions and deaths of the Shinsengumi and I found myself thinking more of what actually could have happened instead of what was presented to me on screen. Don't take it as me noticing the flaws of Shinsengumi! the second time. Mitani Koki has crafted a very enjoyable show with colourful characters but it played to me more as a work of historical fiction the second time.

The stand out performances for me are Yamamoto Koji as the mastermind Hijikata, Fujiwara Tatsuwa as the child-like yet deadly Okita Soji who has an interesting character arc, Sato Koichi as Kamo 'I don't give a damn' Serizawa, Suzuki Kyoka Oume and course Eguchi Yosuke as Sakamoto Ryoma. I really enjoyed Euchi Yosuke and Uchino Masaaki's portrayal of the unkempt and enigmatic Ryoma and I found it very hard to get into Masaharu Fukuyama's stiff Ryoma in Ryoma Den. Still a fun, must watch show the second time around.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Kinkyuu Torishirabe Shitsu ep 1

I found the fact that Amami Yuki's character was angry the hostage taker was shot when clearly the hostage who had run out from the bus was in danger. Yes, she could have possibly continued to talk him down but he could have easily killed Amami Yuki or worse, the hostage. Anyway, the first scene establishes we have our maverick investigator who does not follow the take out hostage taker  as soon as a clear shot is available and without endangering the hostages. (Which I assume is in the SIT handbook)

So turns out the gimmick of the this dorama is a special emergency interrogation team meaning I expect to see not your everyday jdorama interrogation scenes.

So Moriyama sensei is the baddie for this episode who turns himself in after setting his plan into motion. He plays a game with Amami Yuki and leaves her this 36F clue.

It turns out special interrogation team people also interview witnesses and search homes. Why not call this show generic police section-1 investigation show?

Amami Yuki surmises that 36F refers to Fahrenheit and the police finds the bomb at the morgue of the university where Moriyama works. Bad guy is smart enough to (I'm assuming) remove the mobile phones from the two police hostages but stashes them and the bomb at his workplace morgue? Fine, bad guys can be idiots too. Case closed right? His confession is on video, hostages are safe and bomb is being dismantled.

Nope. The writer realises that since this dorama is about this emergency interrogation room, he better write in a meaningless 'interrogation' where we find out about Moriyama's motive (instead of the cops just reading his case file) and Amami Yuki gets to cry and basically call Moriyama a bad boy. WTF is the point of all that besides the writer feeling to need to write some powerful scene for Amami Yuki but it just make sense in the context of the story? Where is the purpose of this emergency interrogation team as apposed to letting your regular investigation team who have been investigating a case do the interrogating? The stupidity and inconsistency in non-WOW and NHK police shows just continues to astound me. Watching crap like this just pisses me off. Now, more than ever, Japan needs a Ministry of Common Sense to prevent stuff like this from airing.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Jmovie review: R100

From Matsumoto Hitoshi, the writer and director of the awesome Scabbard Samurai comes the most 'WTF did I just watch' movie of the year, R100. Omori Nao (security guy from Link) is a mild mannered furniture and upholstery salesman who signs up for this one year S&M play with this club called bondage. Basically anytime and anywhere during the year Omori Nao will can be assaulted by any of the club's girls.

R100 is similar to Sono Sion's Why don't you Play in Hell in that its a self aware film that is trying to say certain things by breaking the fourth wall with one big exception; R100 is a very slow movie that is not even half as fun. I can see that Matsumoto Hitoshi purposely made it bland with the drab colours and lack of titillation despite the subject matter but whatever he was trying to say made it boring for me with pacing issues and a nonsensical story that that the censors in the film were happy to point out. The only good thing about R100 is that its made me appreciate Why don't you Play in Hell more which was a much better attempt at a self aware movie.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Isharyou Bengoshi Ep 4

This is such a weird domestic violence (DV) episode. Husband gets abused by wife and what does the lawyer do? Send him back to get whacked by the wife so that they can get evidence of the abuse. I wonder what would happen if he send a wife back to her abusive husband? Imagine the wife coming back to the office with a bandage around her head and her lawyer going, "Good job! Now we have evidence!"

All good until the long suffering husband is about to win and we get some stupid excuse for all the violence about the wife being lonely and needing money to keep up with her new rich friends. I want to see a dorama where an abusive husband gets away with it in the end with such a flimsy excuse! Serious, WTF. This reminds me of something Sakamoto Yuji said near the end of his interview I am still translating about glorifying people who have done evil things.

I'll keep watching cause Japanese divorce law is so amusing but this episode was just fucked up. Somehow our expert lawyer doesn't think that a wife who can treat another human being that way doesn't have deeper issues. Why isn't the family association of Japan complaining about this show teaching people to get the most from a divorce?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

S -Saigo no Keikan- ep 1

Saigo no Keikan is a tokusatsu show masquerading as a cop dorama. There is not even an ounch of realism or excitement in this show. Contrived things happen so that certain characters can do and say certain things that are suppose to be cool to 6 year old boys and really aren't if the 6 year old thinks about it. Saigo no Keikan has got the kind of dumbed down dialogue and stereotypes to make it easily understandable for kids and I'm pretty sure the source material was a seinen manga. I want to make fun of this show but its just too easy. Run very far away from this and rewatch Gonzo, Rinjo and Gaiji Keisatsu.

Edit: The Ravine of Goodbye is available on the net with English subs!

My favourite movie from the Japanese Film Festival. Great story, acting with a raw and unflinching story. The Ravine of Goodby straddles the line between artsy and entertaining well. Don't go in expecting light entertainment. Highly recommended.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Legend of Galactic Heroes anime remake???!!!

Just saw this post at Jin115 and I couldn't believe my eyes. I'm pretty sure アニメ化 means making an anime version and there's already a classic 100+ episode series which I dearly love. I could watch it again and again and again. Its the greatest anime series ever along with Macross. How do you improve on perfection? Will today's anime viewer be even interested in a smartly written, grey area political drama with a huge cast of characters?

The one good thing is at least people will now know the name of the series. I hope Yang Wenli will not get his own harem of female generals and little sister/maid. I'm not really excited cause the anime is so perfect but I'd rather watch an anime try to improve on perfection rather than your usual interesting light novel premise that descends into generic harem anime series. I predict its going to fizzle out cause if the awesome Guin Saga can't even get a 2nd season, what hope does LoGH have unless all the generals turn into your stereotypical female harem?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Why Fukuda Saki is not getting a push.

Was going through Majide2ch, a nice blog that translates various stuff from 2ch and came across this post about Anne and Fukuda Saki. As mentioned many times, Oscar agency's huge push of Gouriki Ayame and Takei Emi is a blight on jdorama land and I couldn't understand why someone who has shown so much potential in Life and Daisuki 5 years ago is now relegated to supporting roles. If Oscar agency is so powerful as to shove those two talento who cannot act down the throat of the Japanese public, surely they can push Fukuda Saki who is so much better?

Turns out Fukuda Saki was apparently a diva during the shoot of Sakura no Sono, a movie that's been on my to watch queue for ages. Of course this all makes sense because Erika-sama is still popular and getting main roles despite her betsuni incident and reputation. The article says that its difficult to barter Fukuda Saki with other talents so its obvious that her only main role recently was in IS which was with the overpushed Gouriki from the same agency.

Article finishes by saying that Takei and Gouriki have been warned to be nice to everybody which reminds me of reading about how Fukada Kyoko is like super nice on set. Lesson of the day for Japanese talent, unless you are a johnny or have one of those faces that Japanese women worship, be nice to everyone.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Sakamoto Yuji - Soredemo Ikite Yuku interview Part 3A

I haven't touched the interview since my Japan trip but I am determined to see this through to the end. Thanks to Chuks for fixing my translations and hopefully it reads better than my previous efforts. Corrections are most welcome. This is the first half of part 3 of the original interview which can be found here.

Abiko: I think Soredemo Ikite Yuku was a revolutionary dorama. The unification of language in novels and doramas has actually become possible. Characters can speak not just through conversation but also explain things through verbal expression. The lines in the drama sound realistic, just like you see in novels. The characters(casts) speak naturally, without any unnatural explanations (explanatory dialogs) you see in many dramas. Plus, I think the direction of the fighting scenes were excellent.

Sakamoto: Thank you very much.

Abiko: The direction of the fights were different from the so called usual ones. For example, the actor playing the criminal, Kazama Shunsuke and the victim's mother Otake Shinobu scene at the fishing house (Episode 8: Prepared for everthing). After they found out who each other were, they started to fight. There is no way Otake Shinobu can win. (Laughs) Although, she cannot not win, Otake was leaning on Kazama, and Kazama doesn't stay still and and take the beating. He fights back while listening to her yelling. Isn’t everything in this scene in line with the promise to be real? So, I am interested in finding out who's decision it was. I thought it was the director's decision but there were more than one directors, right?

Sakamoto: It was decided by 3 people.

Abiko: In the case where there are multiple directors, who's decision has the most influence on the style of the directing?

Sakamoto: I think it is the producers together with the directors after having detailed conversations. The only thing I ask is this, 'please shoot the performers' acting properly'. Recently the demands on the actors have become wide ranging. Not only do they have to act, they have to be able to do facial expressions that are easy to read. An example of the type of acting that is asked of them is that when surprised, they go 'Waa!'. Actors act the way they are expected to in accordance with the changes in the times. The starting point of an actor's job is the create emotions and that is the foundation of acting. However nowadays, so not to be boring to the viewers, every scene is burdened with high tension. Even the script and lines explain everything so it is easily understood. This prevents actors from acting they way that they want.

Abiko: Yes.

Sakamoto: However for this dorama, I only provided the emotions of the characters and minimum setting, to let actors create the dorama by acting the way they feel is right. We have to protect the actors and let them ride the emotional waves, capture the actor’s expression of emotions and just continue with it. When the whole crew keep it in mind and just focus on the actor’s acting and nothing else, there won’t be a need to shoot from various angles. Music or gimmicks can’t capture the actors’ unspoken emotions between the lines. Once everybody starts to focus on nothing but shooting the actors’ performances, Otake would get into character followed by Eita and Mitsushima. When that happens, watching the actors performance becomes watching them portraying someone’s life realistically.

Abiko: The actors' tension and the atmosphere at the set can be seen in the performance, can't it?

Sakamoto: The actors' decide how good a dorama is. It was nothing to do with the script or the director. In any case, everything is about whether the actors can unleash their acting powers.

Abiko: The actors' are unable to put their mind at ease until they have given their whole effort, right?

Sakamoto: Yes. Even with Mitsushima-san, at the time she was waiting for the script for the third episode, she was nervous because she could not wait to see the script. I could feel everyone had high motivation.

< I want to see Otake-san who normally acts on stage in television>

Abiko: Sakamoto-san, did you managed to go to the shooting locations?

Sakamoto: I did not even go to the locations once.

Abiko: Then what did you think of the finished product when you saw the DVD that they sent you?

Sakamoto: I honestly think it is interesting. I was not pleased with the script and most of the lines I wrote for the first episode. However, after the second episode, I became used to that world and began get in tune. I began to enjoy the show and thought, "Ah, this is good." (laughs)

Abiko: Why were you not pleased?

Sakamoto: I'm not certain but I had a vague image in my head. A character wearing a certain clothing a certain way or speaking in a certain rhythm. Although I don't have a concrete idea, these images exist in my head when I write.

Abiko: So the more you watched the more you got used to the show being different from your images.

Sakamoto: Yes.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Ashita, Mama ga Inai ep 1

Thanks to jadefrost for pointing out that Nojima Shinki is the script supervisor as can be seen above.

If you've been following Japanese entertainment news, you can't escape the so called Ashita, Mama ga Inai controversy where the Child Welfare Association is protesting against the dorama giving a bad name to orphanages. I completely agree with the Child Welfare Association because jdoramas have a responsibility to portray all public institutions only in a positive light.

I think other associations should join the Child Welfare Association in protesting their own depictions in jdoramas:

1.  The Love Hotel Association should protest against Isharyou Bengoshi because it has taught the Japanese housewives that their husband's mistresses can be sued for damage, thus driving down Love Hotel patronage in the last few weeks.

2. The Police should protest every single Japanese cop show because they always show every other police officer besides the main character as inept. One would think from watching all the police jdoramas that Japanese Police are a bunch of lazy bureaucrats that despise anyone who can do their job properly.

3. Emergency Medical Services should protest against Code Blue for having their seasoned medical professionals played by actors in their early 20s giving the impression that it only takes an emergency doctor 5 years out of high school to get a degree and training.

4. The Japanese Harbour Warehouse association should protest against every single action jdorama ending in a harbour warehouse making the public think that warehouses are the base of operations of choice for all bad guys. This has also led to the practice by Japanese police of breaking into random warehouses every time there is a kidnapping, troubling law abiding citizens who use warehouses for non-kidnapping purposes.

5. The Seto Islands should sue Umi no Ue Shinryojo for falsely depicting that there is a hot chick on every island. The Seto Islands tourism board have been beset by complaints from disappointed tourists.

6. The Japanese Surgeons Association should protest against Iryu because patients now expect every surgeon to be able to do surgeries on the beat and save on the heart machine costs.

7. The Japanese Employers Association should protest against Dandarin for making employees believe this fabrication that they should get paid for overtime.

As for the first episode of Ashita, Mama ga Inai, I love the acting by the little girl from Woman. Not sure about Ashida Mana cause I find she's overacting playing an adult in a child's body but I guess it plays a counterbalance to Suzuki Rio's more realistic girl. Speaking of realistic characters, I bloody hate the two Jolipi girls. How anyone can protest against this fake, contrived dorama is shocking. Not as super melodramatic to the point of absurdity as Beautiful Rain but it doesn't feel as smart as your Nojima Shinji show.