Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sono Sion's Love & Peace

I can't believe Sono Sion made a movie without an upskirt shot. I'm pretty sure he spliced in a frame or two into the movie ala Tyler Durden but this is the first time I've seen him do a family friendly movie.

In Love & Peace, Hasegawa Hiroki plays an socially awkward salaryman who becomes this rock star called Wild Ryo thanks to his pet turtle.

Running alongside the Wild Ryo part is a story about an old man living in the sewers with abandoned toys and animals.

The two stories don't mesh for me because Wild Ryo is about someone who makes it but is afraid and ashamed of who he was and the old man in sewer story is about toys and animals wanting to be wanted.

The toy story is necessary for somethings to happen in the Wild Ryo story but Sono Sion should have cut it down for more Aso Kumiko who is criminally underused in this movie.

Despite my complaints, Love & Peace is a fun, entertaining movie with two very memorable songs. I just wish it didn't feel like two different movies in one for me. Watchable but only for Sono Sion fans.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ryu ga Gotoku / Yakuza Kiwami review

When I was playing RGG0, I was thinking they could easily use the assets to remake the first game and less than a year later, the game came out last week. First thing that stands out is that it doesn't look as good as one which is understandable since its a reskin of RGG1 with some extras thrown in.

There are some new sub stories to do including two new ones which are very funny. One is called old men who are a bit dangerous and one involves the vending machines from Zero.

They've moved the battle system in from Zero which is great with four fighting styles. The styles feel a bit incomplete but that's because they want the player to switch styles on the fly. Now you can switch styles after doing a combo or getting hit etc. For example, there is a move in chinpira style to use on dizzied opponents but the best style to dizzy them is rush style.

My main problem with the game is my main problem with the series since Ishin, that is you can't get all the moves just by doing the sub missions.

Now they've added this stupid thing called Everywhere Majima and its just non-stop repetitive Majima battles. You need to fight Majima many, many times in order to get half the moves in the 4th style, the Dragon of Dojima. What about the other half of the moves? Well, you need to fight many times in the arena to get drawings so that Komaki can teach you those moves and trust me when I say you need to fight many, many times in the arena.

So I thought fuck it, I'm just going to use three styles in this game. Problem is, there is this new thing whereby you can do finishing moves on bosses and you need to unlock the finishing move and be using the right style. So more bosses towards to end are susceptible to the Dragon of Dojima style finishing move including last boss Nishikiyama but to unlock it I needed to get the bloody Majima relationship to SS. WTF.

I beat the bloody game with less than half the Dragon of Dojima style unlocked. Pisses me off. Not as bad as screaming bloody murder when Nishikiyama was flashing red and I couldn't pull off the finishing move because I didn't want to waste my time fighting Majima again and again and again.

I liked that they fleshed out the Nishikiyama story but seriously, they needed to show him and the sister (which they should have done in RGG0) cause it was her death and how she died that drove him over the edge.

I was really excited for Hatano Yui but the two hostess stories sucked and were boring. I thought less quantity meant better quality but I guess not.

Is Kiwami the definitive version of the first game? I prefer the HD remake on PS3 to be honest because they've turned this and every other recent RGG game into a stupid grind game. Anyway, I'm happy to donate money to Sega so they can make RGG6 real good. I'm not surprised the game turned out the way it did but whoever implemented the dokodemo Majima thing should be stomped.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Haretsu Episodes 4-7

Damn, I did not see that ending coming. Lol. It really saved the show. Haretsu is similar to Godan and Lady Joker in that its a thriller with lots of social commentary and questions running throughout the story. Sometimes, things are spelled out too much (some monologues are too long) but generally its very fun and its the first show I've seen to look at the big picture issue of the aging population of Japan.

I like that Haretsu looks at the issue of the aging population being a burden on the country by debating the value of life and the struggle against death. The story looks at it from various perspectives like the survivor from the Tokyo bombings and children of bedridden parents. I love how the writer manages to weave elements of the debate into the story. There are no easy answers to the questions that Haretsu raises but all I need is a deep examination of the issues, which is what I got from Haretsu.

Unfortunately, I can't give Haretsu a must watch because some of the thriller bits are not as exciting but I do highly recommend it because the script is very intelligent and does everything else very well. My hats off to NHK. If you're looking for a Lady Joker like show that's pretty good, Haretsu is the show for you.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Haretsu Eps 1-3

Haretsu is a very interesting jdorama. I thought it would be just another Pandora clone; doctor opens pandora's box by finding a way to make failing hearts younger or work again and we have a moral ending. 

Our main character is a lot more complicated character than your usual Pandora characters. He is an ambitious and perfectionist researcher whose motto is 'you become a true doctor after killing 3 patients'. He is also being sued for medical negligence which makes me worried about a karmic ending. His first human test subject ends up being his father who he hates and he finds out that the treatment might have a side effect.

On the other side, we have the Machiavelli of the National Lifestyle Ministry(?). Now this guy has interesting ideas on how to deal with Japan's aging population. He's the bad guy but there is truth in what he believes in. As someone says in episode 3, medical technology has advanced to the stage where we just keep non-functioning people alive and it is a burden on the country.

Haretsu could possibly be a non WOWOW must watch show or it could go the Pandora route and just be safe and boring. Why I haven't gone though all 7 episodes in one shot is that Haretsu's Japanese is very difficult. I bloody hate all the super long medical terms that actors say really fast. Shout out to Magboro for retiming the Japanese subs. I would not be able to watch Haretsu without them. So far so good and its nice to see a show where the main character is not really a nice person.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Otona Joshi Eps 1-4

My number one pet hate with Otona Joshi is how most scenes with Shinohara Ryoko are shot like a shampoo commercial. I know this show is not not aiming for realism but goddamn its so distracting. Look at Shinahara Ryoko posing and flipping her hair as she buys groceries. I'm guessing her shampoo sponsor paid for half the budget or something.

The best thing going for Otona Joshi is Eguchi Yosuke as the writer for a lot of successful trendy doramas back in the day. I like the use of him explaining all the romance dorama rules and cliches however it doesn't feel like Otona Joshi is going any further with the concept.

Another thing that got on my nerves was how they didn't even issue Eguchi Yosuke a guest pass. Shinohara Ryoko walks with him out of the building anyway so I don't see the not issuing a guest pass being a necessary evil. Maybe the company has a no guest pass policy.

The other characters haven't proven to be interesting. It feels run of the mill middle age women stories for me.

Despite the presense of Tanihara Shosuke, his character feels very underwritten.

Good to see Hirayama Aya again. Can't remember the last time I saw her. Haruka 17 was so long ago. I always thought she could have made it big but I'm happy she's still around.

Despite it being written by one of my favourite writers Ozaki Masaya, Otona Joshi doesn't feel very ambitious. The concept is so good because he can use to to make fun of/ deconstruct all those famous jdorama cliches but the show is called Otona Joshi and not ex-trendy dorama writer. Meh.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Godan Episodes 3-6

Godan is show that asks a lot of interesting questions: How much should one place the importance of one's company over every other thing? Is there a limit to the excuse of protecting the livelihood and families of the employees? Would you risk them just to do the right thing? Is vengeance worth it at the cost of possibly saving lives? Are sons suppose to bear the sins of their fathers?

How beautiful is Renbutsu Misako? Are the WOWOW writers on performance enhancing drugs because they are able to write shows that are far and above all the crap that exists in jdoramaland?

The most surprising thing for me is finally realising that Mr Love & Farm is not the main character but rather Kobayashi Kaoru aka Master from Shinya Shokudo is. Its not often that you have an interesting 'villain' who honestly believes he is doing the right thing and Kobayashi Kaoru has so much conviction in his acting that I do have empathy for his character and understand where he is coming from.

I kept expecting Godan to fall apart like so many shows and everytime they introduced some new element to the story I was expecting Godan to screw it up but its surpassed my expectations every episode until the strong ending.

I've said before that i don't want to see another WOWOW cover-up dorama but for Godan, they've created a cover-up dorama that is about a lot of other things. Must watch.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Godan Eps 1&2

I didn't have high hopes for Godan cause I was thinking it was yet another WOWOW cover-up show. My main reason for watching is Renbutsu Misako, who plays the fiancee of Tamayama Tetsuji, who I most remember from that so bad that its watchable Ushi no Negai wo Love & Farm.

Love & Farm promised Misako that he would quit smoking after the wedding but Misako makes him quit before with the stupid excuse of he might as well quit now. Love & Farm wisely does not point out that argument is illogical.

On to main story. Love & Farm works for the PR department at a pharmaceutical company and Master from Shinya Shokudo is the vice president. Three suicides have recent happened to people who were taking this medicine and Master wants Love & Farm's help in this matter and promises to promote Love & Farm to division chief.

Love & Farm does not realise that he is in a jdorama and that if something sounds too good, its not going to happen or there is going to be a cost. (Wait, I think this applies in real life as well) In addition, Nagarakawa is also in the red and is trying to merge with another company.

Hhhmmm. Misako in OL uniform.... I mean Misako also works at Nagarakawa.

Master plans to become president of the company after the merger and these two French speaking people are from the other company. However, they are more interested in absorbing Nagarakawa and leaving everyone else to dry. And they also bring up something about an incident 40 years ago.

Out of the 3 suicides, only one of the victim's relatives suspects that it is due to the medicine. Love & Farm visits the widow and gives her an omiage only to be shocked in finding that there is money in the box. He's been working 10 years and yet easily believes his boss's promise and never thought that there would be money. However, Love & Farm does recover and presses the widow to accept the money. At least he has a brain though he was staring at the money for too long.

Love & Farm seeks counsel from the Nagarakawa lawyer who tells him that all talks will be confidential but ignores the fact that the lawyer is from the President's faction.


Episode 2 sees Love & Farm investigating the 40 year old incident which the vice president was also involved in which leads to a shocking discovery which might be a bit hard to buy for me but I'll go along with it.

Godan is about making difficult choices. Love & Farm obeying his boss's instructions in helping to hush an incident. The widow accepting the money because she has three children to care for. The people of Hatai who payed a very heavy price so that Nagahara could keep the town alive. Since Nagahara is now in the red, what could would the truth coming out do for anyone including the victims.

Oh yeah, there's the story of Master's ungrateful daughter who wants to marry a poor actor and complains about her dad working all the time. I would like to see a jdorama where the kids get kicked out and find out that the real world is not so easy.

Godan takes your usual WOWOW cover up story and asks a lot of interesting questions from various perspectives, or so I think. Whether or not those questions will be examined will be seen in the next three episodes but I'm glad its been better than I had hoped. Very watchable so far.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Why Shirobako is a must watch anime

EDIT: Had to remove all screencaps because of google stupid DMCA thing.

+ Its about a group of groups who were in their high school anime club trying to find their place in the anime field.
- I have only one complaint about Shirobako and that is why do the five girls have to have the same face when everyone else has half realistic faces?
 + Shirobako is a nitty gritty show about all the blood, sweat and tears required to make an anime.

+ From animation and CG to voice acting, Shirobako is a tutorial on the herculean effort required to make an anime.

+ Probably the thing that most impresses me is that Shirobako is actually about a realistic workplace. The main character Aoi has to learn how to manage different priorities and cope with when things don't go according to plan. Its the type of skills that are important in any workplace. I've seen too many workplace jdorama where all they do are photocopy and do a presentation.

+ The use of Roro and Mumiji to give a funny voice to Aoi's monologues and also to explain things to the audience because having a regular character do that doesn't work.

+ I love the various interested parties pushing their own agendas on who they want as the voice actresses. I would love to see a jdorama version of this.

+ Shizuka's struggle to find jobs as a voice actress.

+ It just makes the ending all the more stronger. The last two episodes were so satisfying.
+ Shirobako is a love letter to anime. Whether its old school hand painted or new school moe and CG. As long as you love anime, you will sure enjoy shirobako.

+ I can't believe how astoundingly well written Shirobako is. Of course who better than the makers of Shirobako to know what making an anime is like but to do it in such an informative and entertaining way is unexpected. There were no slow episodes for me and I was rooting for the characters all the way through.

+ Even the gloomy Daisuke makes very good points.

+ Truer words have never been spoken.

+ Shirobako is to anime what Genshiken is to doujinshi. Do not miss this! Must watch!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso

I've read some good things about Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso and its not a harem anime so I decided to check it out. It is a beautifully drawn anime about a piano prodigy who lost his ability to hear music due to some traumatic events and this mysterious girl who drags the prodigy back into the world of music. Mystery girl also like to inflict physical violence on our main character. I am very worried about anime teaching the children of Japan that physical violence is ok.

Anyway, the first five episodes were really effing good and I thought this might be the new Welcome to NHK. Then the anime slowly started grating on me. Why? Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso became an over-explaining anime. Every single emotion and thought from the main characters has to be verbalised to the audience. It is a non stop boring monologue from the main character. Someone tell the freaking director non-stop monologues are interesting when they reveal things that cannot be shown overwise. The other exception is of course humour.

Its like playing those crappy games like Tiers to Tiara 2 or Itsuwari no Kamen where they spent more money on voice acting than the actual gameplay. I'm not just talking about during the performances. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso commits the cardinal sin of way to much telling the audience and not enough showing. The main character has his issues but its repeated way too many times that he comes off as whiny.

The root cause of the problem is the number of episodes which is way too long to tell the story and things just drag. In some parallel universe, there is a 10 episode Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso with compact storytelling that stands alongside Welcome to NHK as one of the best anime ever. However, in this universe, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is a promising anime that turns into a radio play. Do not watch. There is no point. Better to just listen and turn off your monitor.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Garasu no Ashi

WOWOW have done it again. I'm running out of superlatives for their doramas. If I were the Prime Minister of Japan, I would not raise the consumption tax unless the minimum wage was raised and I would declare WOWOW a national institution cause they make doramas that are head and shoulders above everyone else's. WOWOW should get special government funding cause they are the only ones who prioritise storytelling over idoru promotion.

Anyway, Aibu Saki stars as the main character, Setsuko. She's married to the owner of a love hotel and is having an affair with the accountant. Setsuko's husband gets into an accident and then we start learning some shocking things about her past.

I say this for most WOWOW shows but its worth saying that Garasu no Ashi looks so good..

...I mean the scenery looks so good.

Episode 1 was ok. Setsuko had a really difficult childhood and episode 1 ended in a wtf cliffhanger but I didn't really care about her character and then I saw the preview for episode 2 and I had to watch it straight away.

Speaking of not caring about Setsuko, I had mixed feelings about Aibu Saki's performance when I was watching. I was unable to feel any empathy for her because she seemed so detached, even to the audience and then I realised that this was exactly the feel Garasu no Ashi was going for. That her armour was so thick that it was impenetrable even by the fly in the wall. (the audience) I think Setsuko is Aibu Saki's role of a lifetime.

Using the little girl and the cleaning lady in the story is a great two birds with one stone move because it allows the audience to see the cracks in Setsuko's armour without her voicing her thoughts and explaining everything like so many anime. The cleaning lady's voice over in the hospital during the last episode was excessive though.

Garasu no Ashi does remind me a lot of another great WOWOW show, Hitori Shizuka. They are both very similar stories but the performances are very different.

 Garasu no Ashi also has some really awesome lines.

All I have to say is one of the must watch jdoramas of 2015. Huge thank you to wabisabi subs!