Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Yasuko to Kenji ep 1+2

What do you get, when you have a former bike gang leader (Kenji) who is now a famous shojo mangaka, add a younger sister (Yasuko) who is trying to escape her brother's control plus a a former female gang leader (Erika) who is in love with Kenji but suffers from dual personality disorder? You get what is probably the best dorama showing this season.

I hope she's disgusted at her brother for using makeup....

Yasuko to Kenji has a premise that is almost fail... I don't want to jinx it. Every freaking dorama that I praise for its concept ends up fucking it up. Makes me want to watch really hard to do shows so at least they have an excuse when they screw up. There are warning signs where this show could crash and burn but its still early and the beginning of doramas are always full of hope.

OMFG! Its Haruna! Wow, can't believe I've seen her in 3 different shows this year. And the chick on the right is kawaii~~~~~

I like Matsuoka Masahiro though I've only seen him in Heaven Cannot Wait. I always thought he could be a better actor than Nagase Tomoya who is essentially a one trick pony. Unfortunately, Matsuoka basically does a bad impression of Nagase's numerous yakuza characters. The overacting, exagerrated movements etc. I know lots of shows do it but to me, it seems like he's trying to out Nagase Nagase. Too much overacting is bad. The character becomes a total caricacture rather than a person. He really needs to tone it down cause Kenji is close to becoming an irritant rather than source of comedy.

No one speaks to Hirosue Ryoko that way, no matter how much hair gel he uses...

Tabe Mikako, who I've only seen in Shikaotoko is fucking brilliant as the younger sister, Yasuko. Her acting is really good and there is no chance Aragaki Yui could pull Yasuko. I hate to say this but she doesn't have the looks of someone like Aragki Yui but the fact that she is one of the main characters means that she can bloody well act. Yasuko is the string that ties all the characters together. While everyone else is basically constant, we follow her on her journey of chasing after an effeminite man. The fact that Japanese girls like guys who look like girls means that the country is doomed.

The main reason I got addicted to jdoramas in the first place...

And lets not forget Hirosue Ryoko. I'm just so freaking happy to see her in a dorama again. She doesn't really do a great job with Erika the biker chick but I love her role as Erika the indecisive woman in love. She and Tabe Mikako make a great pair. Thinking back, this show so far is watchable cause of Tabe Mikako. An actress of lesser skill would have condemned it to my unwatchable list.

OMG! Is that a pantsu shot?? Or hotpants???? I feel so dirty... :)

I'm glad that the story didn't take the turn it threatened to at the end of ep 2 though it might resurface later.(I think it will) And the end of eps 1 and 2 have huge plot holes as to how each party found out about the scene. I remain wary of this show cause it can quickly go downhill but it had me laughing and its got good casting. Fingers crossed.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Change ep 10

OMFG, who the fuck came up with the idea to bore everyone to death by putting a mundane 20 minute speech in the last episode. Did KimuTaku just want to try to put everyone in Japan to sleep or something? Does the writer not know what an inspirational speech should sound like?A boring personal speech by a Prime Minister without any climatic build up? Its a freaking disgrace that the last episode rated 27%.

Jdoramas can be so much fun yet so frustrating. For every Shikaotoko, there is Change. I just hate how most of the time, they always manage to screw up a failsafe dorama. By failsafe I mean doramas with interesting concepts like Change. I was going to give it a watchable rating as I was expecting some nice political twist at the end. Instead we are shown why KimuTaku should never be given monologues. The citizens should freaking lynch Asakura Keita for gross misuse of taxpayer funds.

The neglect of Abe Hiroshi's acting skills is criminal. Talentless idols are given major roles and when a good actor is put in a major dorama, he is relegated to bystander status. I guess I should have seen the writing on the wall. It just fucking boggles the mind how the script can be so childish and oversimplistic. Avoid!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Code Blue eps 1+2 v Tomorrow ep 1

Muroi Shinji showing that he has more than one facial expression...

Iryu sits atop the throne of Japanese medical doramas. The chances of another show matching Iryu in sheer entertainment value is minimal. This season, we have two medical shows vying for viewers' attention. Will Code Blue and Tomorrow join Iryu as one of Jdorama's greats?

Reason no 1 to watch this show.

Code Blue of course has the double chick factor of Toda Erika and Aragaki Yui, so that got me really excited. Watching the first show, I realised the stupidy in their stunt casting; they are too freaking young to be doctors! I mean seriously, how many years does it take to get a medical degree in Japan? One would expect at least 5 years. Of course, its true that age of actors doesn't matter but Aragaki Yui especially still looks like she belongs in a high school uniform.

Reason no. 2. Hey, we've got a Galcir reunion! Why not do Galcir2 instead of this?

And the fact they are suppose to be doctors with ER experience just doesn't fly with me. Shouldn't the director tell them to at least try to look and act like someone in their mid 20s? Aragaki Yui's hairstyle just doesn't help. At least Toda Erika hasn't done any high school doramas recently. To compound the problem, their characters act like total noobs. Okay, they are suppose to be fresh graduates or something but ffs ER shit is almost the same. Yes, you always need a noob to be the eyes of the viewer but how green they are is sickening. It just defies logic to send such incompetent 'doctors' to emergency situations.

Hitotsu hitoyori hataraite... ooops wrong show...

Tomorrow to me is like a less manga version of Iryu. Yes, they've got Noguchi and Hideki sensei and they whole hospital trying to maximise profits argument but its got one important thing that Code Blue doesn't have; excitement! Code Blue is like this star studded high budget show that like to show off the helicopter every freaking 3 minutes (even thePC wallpapers have it) but doesn't have heart. Tomorrow has Takeuchi Yutaka playing Kohei, a former doctor is who is now a civil servant but is pulled into the troubles of the only general hospital in a small town. Kanno Miho is the strong headed nurse Aiko.

Takeuchi Yutaka hoping to erase the horrible memories of Rondo...

Its the perfect recipe for lots of arguments and life saving surgeries. I guess the keyis that the characters in Tomorrow are much more interesting and real.Its not that Code Blue does not try to imbue its characters with their own specific traits. The writer tries hard, too hard. Its like a flashing neonsign saying this character is cold heartedbut gifted, this character is too nice etc. I guess that's because there really is no conflict in Code Blue and its more incompetent doctors trying to be competent.

Hope his role will be as memorable as Noguchi in Iryu. Entlassen! Tom yum goon suki?

Back to Tomorrow, I really like Takeuchi Yutaka's reluctant hero. (I mean, who doesn't) The characters have the audience's empathy, even Ogawa Tamaki's cold character, Endo sensei. I guess its also down to acting skills. Young actors should only play young roles but when playing characters in their mid 20s, there's no sense in casting 20 year olds unless they are that damn good. Aragaki Yui looks like she's more concerned about looking good than playing the character. Give Tomorrow a try and you'll be anticipating ep 2 just like me. Code Blue just makes me want to rewatch Iryu. Ijuiin would kick all four of their noob asses.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Change eps 1-9

When you put KimuTaku and Abe Hiroshi together in a dorama, there's a 99% chance that it will be an entertaining one. The 1% chance being Hero. Everyone knows that this show is about KimuTaku becoming Prime Minister. We knew that this show is probably going to cater to the idiot masses so expect lots of dumbed down, idealistic stuff. Watching this show, I did not expect The West Wing. I however expected to be entertained by KimuTaku being kakoii, Abe being his fun self, laughing at some jokes and perhaps some simple political chess games.

Obligatory slow-mo walking as group shot.

Instead we have a dorama which feels like it was written by a 10 year old kid armed with a textbook on Japanese politics. No, I'm not faulting Asakura Keita's (KimuTaku) idealism. On a side note, why do his characters always have cool and memorable names like Satonaka Haru? Change just feels like a small scale dorama. It would have been more appropriate if it were about an everyman who is elected to be the president of some company, not the Prime Minister of Japan. Yes, there are budgetary constraints but there are many easy ways to get around it such as news reporting.

Abe Hiroshi just steals every scene he is in!

For example, we don't see him having meetings and consulting with his cabinet. We don't see him using Japan's version of secret service to locate an expert that he needed. Asakura Keita wastes his time visiting a kid in hospital multiple times. Yes, its to show that he is an everyman but ffs being Prime Minister is not about micromanagement, its macro! Its about the big picture. I guess I had images of KimuTaku doing cool Prime Ministerial stuff.

Someone once said that we should not review shows based on our expectations but rather what the writer wanted to tell. Its so blatantly obvious that the purpose of the show wasn't to entertain the audience with politics, it was to set up the ending in ep 10. The cliffhanger at the end of ep 9 is just so lame. There is no political fightback. The whole point to having an underdog is the fucking fightback. Asakura Keita should go down after the fightback, not before. Its like the Korean idea of sob dramas. Draw huge fucking arrows at a character telling the audience, 'look at how pitiful he is!'. Blatant sentimentality just makes me sick.

If I were PM, I would be going for a check up everyday. Horiuchi Keiko looks to hot to be 37. :)

Abe Hiroshi is criminally misused. If guaranteed way to make this show interesting is to rip of Shinsengumi with KimuTaku being Kondo Isami, the idealistic leader who is not as naive as he looks and Abe Hiroshi being Hijikata, the man who would do whatever it took to make Isami the leader but leave Isami's hands clean. That way, Kimutaku can still be the idealistic teacher but Abe can do all the backroom political dealings to entertain the audience. Yes, I know asking for a 'darker' show is uselss but goddammit if Shinsengumi can do it so should this show. Abe's character of Nirasawa has the potential to be the most interesting of all. His backstory is cool yet he is reduced to pure comedy relief.

Fukatsu Eri does a good job but the writing is so fucking shoddy. Her character's too naive to point of stupidity and in ep 9 she dares give KimuTaku a lecture on the 'evil's of politics? And Kota Rosa's character is a huge waste of screen time. For a story with this many characters, every character's appearance must have a purpose. Often times, it just feels like your typical workplace dorama with coworkers living together interspliced with clips from people pretending to be parliamentarians.

You can say that this series can be split into two parts. There's the kingmaker part which is too brief and uninteresting because there is no relationship between King and kingmaker. When maker turns on the king, its boring because there's no bloody battle. Their only tenuous link is Fukatsu Eri but she's such a weak character. Best friends make the best enemies. In short, this show is short on political relationships and does too much on the negligeble ones. I'm still going to watch it to the end and admittedly some parts are funny but ultimately this is a very forgettable show. If anything, I will remember it for how much wasted potential it had.

Abe Hiroshi as PM dorama? I'll certainly watch it!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rookies ep 1-5

I'm a bit concerned for the youth of Japan if Rookies is any indication of how they are today. Rookies in short is basically a what if GTO was a baseball coach except GTO in Rookies, Kawato is basically a bumbling teacher who talks more bullshit than a politician. When Sato Ryuta was announced as Kawato, I knew it was trouble. Most people probably remember him as Makoto from Pride or Croissant from Utahime or the police dude from Galcir. The common theme for all his characters? Bumbling character for comedy relief. In all the shows I've seen him in, there was no hint of him being able to play the main character. 

Basically, he plays Kawato the same way. I've had a quick glance through a few chapters of the manga and (I could be wrong) it seems like Kawato in the manga is nowhere as extreme as in the dorama. Kawato in the dorama suffers the same problem as Yankumi in Gokusen, he is not kakoii. And unlike Yankumi, neither is he funny. All he does is scream and shout stupid slogans like a politician who does not know how to articulate himself properly.
He is like an idealistic dreamer who tells kids its ok to try to run before you can crawl. You see, Kawato has become the baseball coach of a bunch of so called delinquents. If these kids are actually representative of what being a bad kid in school in Japan is, I think Japan's future is in deep shit.

How I long for the days of GTO teenagers who don't trust adults. Now, we have a bunch of emo kids who wallow in self pity and cryas often as Korean doramas. Yes, I know Japanese love Korean doramas but wtf???? Aren't these kids suppose to be badass or something? They're like punks who act all high and mighty to hide the fact that they come to tears more easily than most girls. And all that bullcrap about friendship and stuff is so fake and empty. Back in the good old days, being masculine/macho in doramas was about being stoic. Being decisive. Being responsible. Rookies are about kids who think being men means making loud noises and being drowned in their emotions. These guys are about as pussified as Shinji Ikari.

And lets not forget all that stupid talk about Koshien. The basis of getting good at any sport is lots and lots of practice. Kawato and co are a lot of hot air. They spend more time making motivational speeches that don't make sense than putting in the effort. And Kawato's  obsession with dreams. OMFG. He's like this religious zealot who thinks he can brainwash people by repeating the same bullshit again and again. There's a line by Shogo in Muri na Renai which completely owns the two hours that Kawato has rambled about yume that I've seen in five episodes.
That said, this is after all an underdog sports dorama so there is always some entertainment value. Its just that I can't support a bunch of emotionally unstable people who are more suited to be in a Korean dorama. And ffs, couldn't they have gotten a female teacher who actually looks hot to support Kawato?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Ryokiteki no Kanojo eps 1-10

When I first heard of a Japanese dorama remake of Sassy Girl, I was filled with dread. Hotelier was a pathetic remake of a Korean dorama. How the hell were they going to expand a 2 hour movie, into 11? Not to mention the first half of the Korean movie really stretched my patience. Basically the crutch of My Sassy Girl are the two revelations and two inportant scenes, the conversation in the cafe followed by the running and the tree in the hills. I sorta thought about how they would have to space the dorama and concluded that the dorama would require Kimutaku/Matsu Takako chemistry and lost of comedy.

The best thing about the GTO movie and Over Time.

I heart leapt for joy when I found out Tanaka Rena would be in it. She doesn't do doramas and 11 episodes of Tanaka Rena is good enough reason to watch this show. Unfortunately, Ryokiteki no Kanojo proves that once again, movies should never be adapted to doramas unless there's a lot of backstory to tell.

Riko spying on Saburo checking out some JAV. :)

First main problem is absolutely no chemistry between Kusanagi Tsuyoshi (Saburo) and Tanaka Rena (Riko). I'm usually a fan of Tsuyoshi's doramas but this time he really seems to be sleepwalking through this role. On paper, he seems the perfect fit. He's always played the passive, lovable loser type of role but in this show, Saburo is such a boring and unentertaining charater. After watching 10 episodes of this show, I think Tsuyoshi is not suited for shows where he has to talk to much. Santamaria Yusuke is a much better fit. Think back to his and Iijima Naoko's fighting in wedding planner. The spark seems to be missing from Tsuyoshi and there's no light in his eyes. Yusuke is a bit too old but IMO, he'll actually bring some fire to the Saburo and Riko fights.

Didn't you use to do para-para in Shibuya?

Tanaka Rena tries but it takes two to make a relationship work. Towards the middle I got so freaking bored with the Saburo and Riko story that I was eagerly anticipating the side stories. The writers of course realised that stretching a two hour movie in 11 episodes is hard and instead of expand bits to make it work, they completely reworked the story. Problem is, they sorta took bits and pieces of the movie and plastered it all over a story about an abusive girl.

If I had a daughter like that the mum better look like Umemiya Masako!

The result is that the dorama feels so disjointed. Its sorta like watching the Departed. Its got the scenes from Infernal Affairs but feels to capture the spirit/magic. I just feels like they threw every jdorama convention they could think off and strung them together. There's no pacing in terms of build up of the story that when pivotal scenes from the movie happen, its just so meh. If it weren't for Tanihara Shosuke's Professor Kazushima, the show would be completely unwatchable.

Sigh, such a big waste of Tanaka Rena. The big question is, if this movie was not called Ryokiteki no Kanojo, would I still have rated it as badly? Probably. End of the day, My Sassy Girl was not a character movie. It was a movie with two nice revelations. Ryokiteki no Kanojo completely removed those revelations and basically came up with a remake in name but not in spirit.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Coin Locker Monogatari eps 1 and 2

Why does Haruna look so happy? :)

So close, yet so far....

I am grateful to Muri na Renai not only for being a good Natsukawa Yui show but also for introducing me Kojima Haruna. I've been listening to AKB48 for the past 2 years but never really learned their names and stuff. Coin Locker Monogatari is a really late night show (1.30am) so my expectations were really low. Plus, Muri na Renai showed that Haruna has a long way to go in the acting department and should stick to just looking pretty.

Hi, I'm just making a documentary on the length of seifuku skirts.....

..could you give me a better view?

In Coin Locker, Haruna plays Miki, a high school student who has a mysterious connection with the coin lockers in Shibuya station. She runs into the manager of the coin lockers and somehow manages to convince him to let her stay in his office in return for helping him in his duties. As the title suggests its a dorama about people who use the coin lockers.

Akiramike raises hand slowly...

How easily joshi kousei confuse tools for educational purposes for other things...

I think the running time of 23 minutes really helps the show unlike most midnight doramas. Its short enough that you don't get bored and really start analyzing the story or bad acting. And its knows it target audience very well; fans of AKB48. So we have interesting stories like a man who likes to document upskirt videos and a hot swimmer (Sugimoto Yumi) who works at a mysterious club.

I want to work at a Shibuya coin locker when I grow up....

Its light fan service entertainment. There's tons of possible stories they can tell so its kinda dissappointing that its only 4 episodes. So if you think you're in the target audience of Coin Locker Monogatari, definitely check it out. Who the fuck am I kidding. Haruna + fan service = must watch!

My, what big ears you have....