Sunday, November 26, 2017

Hokuto spoiler review

Hokuto is about a tragedy about a person who never knew love as a child. Hokuto's father compensates for his perceived inadequacies by ruling his house with an iron fist.

The scene where Hokuto's mom muffles his screams of pain is heartbreaking.

I love the scene where Hokuto goes to his friend's house for dinner and he is completely befuddled by this normal family. Albeit a bit too nice and cheery but they might as well be compared to what Hokuto goes through every day.

My heart broke a second time during the scene where the mother strangles Hokuto. She blames Hokuto for her suffering as she only stayed in the marriage because she got pregnant and in her mind would have left the abusive husband. Can you imagine Hokuto's sense of self worth at this stage being blamed for his mother's suffering? Being told he was responsible by the person who should have been protecting him?

Hokuto and his mom have been trapped in this cycle of daily violence and abuse for so long that both of them do not know what to do when the father died. Hokuto has no idea how to treat another human being and the mother only knew pain.

The question Hokuto keeps asking the audience is who's fault is it? Well, besides the father that is. Where does the thread of responsibility begin or end? Is Hokuto justified in committing violence against his mother for her complicity? Can Hokuto be excused because he does not know anything else or is the mom to blame for all this being adult? I've always heard of battered woman syndrome and people who commit abuse have usually been abused but Hokuto is one show that made me think that there is no freaking way out.

Hokuto wants escape this cycle of violence and seeks help to leave his mother.

And starts living with a foster mother. I wasn't too fond of this childless widow who seemed too nice. Surely someone like Hokuto who's only known hell his whole life would be push back against so much niceness. Would it have been better to place him with a stricter parent? I didn't like the foster mother much. I thought she didn't know what she was doing with her pestering Hokuto to smile.

Then we meet Asumi-chan, Hokuto's foster sister and we learn that the foster mother has been through this before and knows what she is doing.

Foster mother falls gravely ill and sadly starts believing that this fake water is making her better. Hokuto does not do against his foster mother's wishes and empties the bank account buying the fake water despite knowing that it is a scam. Hokuto does not know how to go against her wishes because she is everything to him and he would do anything to make her better.

Hokuto wants to kill the man responsible for this scam and waits at his house. Unfortunately, one of his workers catches a glimpse of his weapons and he kills two of the workers in the organisation before he is taken down. So Hokuto goes to prison having not exacted revenge and taking the lives of two 'innocents'.

Innocents who knew they were committing crimes.  Innocents who were complicit in crimes for the sake of their families. I'm pretty sure audiences like me couldn't give a crap about the victims but the families at the court kept reminding me that Hokuto had not just taken two lives, he had devastated two families, who still profited from the suffering of others.

The scene where Hokuto's mother turns up at his trial is so powerful. No just because she had  to admit the things that she had done in the past to Hokuto but also because she had remarried and was pregnant. The mother had finally broken free of the cycle of violence, attained some happiness and was probably throwing it all away for possibility of saving Hokuto's life. One could say she owed Hokuto that at least but does she? What about Hokuto's unborn sibling who would forever be known as the sibling of a killer?

This scene where the sister of one of the victims said that she did not want the death sentence for Hokuto was so powerful. No idea who she is but I'm betting she's not an idoru cause her acting was superb. The sister had broken free of the cycle of violence. The end the cycle of hate thing is not new in Jdoramas. I would even say its cliche. But what Hokuto does so well is that it does not spell it out for the audience.

Is Hokuto an anti death penalty story? I don't know because Hokuto's case is an extreme case whereby everything is so tragic. I think Hokuto is a story about life. How all life is precious and we should not give up on it.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Yamegoku Episodes 1-4

So I somehow started watching this two year old jdorama while looking around for something to watch. I didn't give it a try the first time cause I saw Oshima Yuko's face and thought not another idoru vehicle dorama, which Yamegoku is. Decided to give Yamegoku a try cause its fully subbed and it would be fun to watch a show with all the yakuza terms I learned from Yakuza/Ryu ga Gotoku.

Yamegoku is an action comedy where Oshima Yuko plays a cop who helps yakuza break free from gang life but harbous a deep resentment for them. I don't really find it that funny and some jokes just went over me head but there are two things that have kept me watching all the way to four episodes and probably through to the end.

First is Kitamura Kazuki as Mikajima, this panpadour hair yakuza wannabe cop who is a scarey cat but has a heart of gold. He absolutely is the heart and star of this show. First rule of doing a show featuring a former idoru, give her top billing but a role with no acting required and let the show get carried by someone who can act. To be fair to Oshima Yuko, she's probably the best actress of the AKB bunch.

No two reason I've kept watching is that, they are doing a great job teasing the mystery of Oshima Yuko's past and they've kep the variety of clients wanting to quit the yakuza very interesting. Plus Endo Kenichi is in it and Oshima Yuko's no.1 target.

I came in with no expectations and I'm happy to say, Yamegoku doesn't suck. With jdramacity being down, I had to grab the torrent from avistaz. Unexpectedly watchable.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Ashita no Yakusoku Eps 1

Ashita no Yakusoku is yet another jdorama about scary and controlling moms.  Inoue Mao is the school counsellor with her own mommy problems and she hasn't even introduced her boyfriend of 3 years to her mother. She gets involved with a student who has been absent from school and has Nakama Yukie for a freaky mom.

To be honest, I am getting sick of the creepy mother genre having seen at least 3 or 4 of such shows within the past year and I was struggling to feel any empathy for any of the characters.

The episode ends with something big happening but I didn't care. There's a hint that that there are more rotten things happening in the school but I have no interest. I can't say that Ashita no Yakusoku does anything bad but I'm just ambivalent about a counsellor telling other people to free themselves from the crappy mother while she herself is stuck with hers. Meh.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


EDIT: Looks like Hokuto has English subs! Thanks to anon for pointing that out. Please do watch it. It really is worth your time!

WOWOW have done it once again and created another strong contender for jdorama of the year. And surprisingly even with a jpop guy in the lead! Hokuto is about Hashizume Hokuto, a 20 year old who at the start of the story is in prison facing the death penalty for murdering two people.

As details about his crime are slowly revealed, we start to learn more about Hokuto's tragic past and what made is poor person commit those crimes.

Having just finished the series, I'm at a lost trying to process my thoughts. That was probably the heaviest episode I've ever seen. I feel emotionally spent and I'm trying to process everything I had just seen.

Hokuto is about cruelty and about how difficulty it is for people to escape horrible situations. Its about how people can become addicted and trapped in the cycle of abuse and how unconditional love can doom someone who has never known it.

A big thank you to keiko1981 for the Japanese subs. it made watching so much easier. The raws can be gotten from nyaa here. A definitely must watch and deserves to be subbed in English. Bravo WOWOW. Maybe they can even get Fukada Kyoko to actually act if they cast her in one of their shows. Or maybe not.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Border Shokuzai

The conclusion to the cliffhanger ending of Border 3 years ago is finally here and I am happy to say that it does not suck! That being said, its less a climactic conclusion and more of a bridge between the end of season 1 and hopefully the beginning of season 2.

I won't spoil what happens in Shokuzai except to say that Oguri Shun is brought into questioning and gets involved in another murder case. Storyline-wise its not very exciting but its all about how Oguri Shun's character Ishikawa deals with crossing the line.

I love Omori Nao's bad guy taunting Oguri Shun with all the "how does it feel to be a murderer question" but sadly their interplay does not extend to the new murder case. I would have loved to see Omori Nao interplay with Oguri Shun especially when he uses illegal tactics to solve cases and Omori Nao could have inadvertently helped Oguri solve some cases.

Oh well. I just hope the ratings were good enough for season 2 and that Kaneshiro Kazuki, the writer of SP has good ideas for season 2. Border Shokuzai has not been subbed yet. Watchable.