Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Soredemo Ikite Yuku eps 9-11

I finally caved in last night. I just could not bear the wait for ep 9 subs and then the long wait for the last two. This isn't KDO where you could watch it raw for the story and enjoy the dialogue again with the subs. The emotional impact when first watching is important and lack of comprehension would dilute the experience/enjoyment.

There was a risk but this wasn't Hagetaka the movie with all the technical terms. I gave it a go and suffice to say episode 9 and 10 were pretty awesome with ep 11 being a lot calmer. Nothing could match the emotional kettle peg of ep 8 but the quality of the acting and story doesn't stop.

I just love how Soredemo can tackle the frequently used subjects of revenge, responsibility and forgiveness in jdoramas and avoid all the pitfalls and conventions that make most jdoramas very preachy. It is testament to the writing and acting whereby the characters do not need to voice out their emotional turmoils and how they come to terms with things. They actually do but they say it in a way that it feels like they are telling the other person, not the audience.

Soredemo is so non judgmental. We get to see Kenji as this cold blooded, unfeeling murderer. We get to see him like a kid, scared to remember what he had done when confronting Aki's mom in ep 8. We find out about his traumatic childhood but its not offered as an excuse. He tries to absolve himself of responsibility by blaming it on Futaba. He blames his father and at the same time he wants his father to acknowledge him. Kenji is what he is. A murderer, son and a brother.

Soredemo is a godlike dorama. It is invincible. Not many jdoramas can touch it. It is destined to be on my top 10 list of jdoramas, whenever I get around to it. Fukuda Mayuko may have a limited role but I'm pretty sure she got to take a small part in this show.

If you know a bit of kanji, I find watching it with Japanese subs helped with my understanding and is a great way to learn kanji besides playing the AKB48 game on my psp. I copy and pasted the Japanese subs onto google translate but it transted the counter for the lines as well, ie the first line was numbered 1 and it became 'one'. I think rewatching Soredemo and older jdoramas with Japanese subs is a pretty good idea. I'm running out of superlatives for Soredemo.  This is truly IMHO, a jdorama classic and everyone must watch it instead of generic crap like Zenkai girl which has 3000 downloads per sub.


As for the ending... I get it but I just didn't get why it had to be so sad which the last episode was based around. Its not like they couldn't be in touch and stuff. Unless of course Futaba thinks of it as a punishment for her. That she should be happy while Yuri's mom is still in the hospital.

It doesn't bother me that much cause this is a character based dorama and Futaba made that choice which I can respect. I really like the last bit where they are trading letters/lines and its just awesome scenery with rolling piano music. I just don't buy the 'we can't meet again' cause I'm going to be Yuri's mom' bit cause there's emails, skype, mobile phones and cars/trains to meet up on weekends unless there was an obvious 'we can't meet' cause I can't be happy thing that Hiroki understood. Need to wait for subs to see how it works.

Some other stuff that I loved:

- Hiroki becoming almost like an enlightened monk in ep 9, free from the shackles of hate and the past. Query where Futaba can ever be free or should she free herself? Is atonement for her brother necessary? Perhaps it is for her to find peace.

- The flying kick. I was laughing and having the feeling of WTF at the same time. After all the crying, it all the anger that is buried is unleased as she pushes the policeman aside like a rag doll. Lol. And the flashback at the beginning of episode 12 makes it even better.

- Yuri's mom didn't wake up. Forced happy endings have no place in dramatic stories.

- Alas, Kurashina Kana turned out to be merely a plot device and a sounding board for Hiroki to voice his thoughts. :(

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How can I be so blind!

While looking up calenders to buy for next year, came across the calender for Kurashina Kana. Nothing much to look at but there was something about her name that bothered me.

So did a search and what do you know, she's Satsuki from Soredemo Ikite yuku! However, that can't possibly be why the name rung a bell for me. Looked up google images and there was something oddly familiar. Can it be?

Yes, she's the girl on this Choya advertisement which greeted me everytime I took a train in Japan. I would pay $40 for the above picture in my room. I am ashamed that I was unable to link the smiling face that I saw everyday in Japan to the Tokyo girl in Soredemo who's purpose in the dorama is still unclear. In penance, maybe I should get her calender, though the cover looks pretty bad. Kurashina Kana looks infinitely better with a smile rather than a blank stare.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Risou no Kekkon eps 1-4

90s doramas have something different that we can't find anymore. I'm not talking about the giant suits that salarymen wear or the fact that people in that era think someone using a laptop on a flight is showing off. There's this kind of innocence and simplicity in them. Koukou kyoushi wasn't an innocent dorama but I find I cannot be cynical about oldies. Its like the overacting is different, it doesn't grate me like the ones today.

Risou no Kekkon starst with Tsutomu (Takenouchi Yutaka) meeting Mari (Tokiwa Takako) on a plane and next thing you know, he randomly proposes to her and she says yes. At this point I'm thinking WTF and where is this dorama going. Gotta go along with the premise and see where the story goes.

Mari is this emotional 26 year old girl from Osaka and Tsutomu is this smart salaryman who is dumb in other matters. Girls speaking kansai-ben is sexy though harder to understand. Mari's age and background is important because it touches on ideas from the 90s such as an OL's job is to get married by a certain age and the importance of wives to salarymen's careers.

Nowadays instead of romantisicing about an OL from the country finding her prince, its about uni girl dying from rare disease playing married couple with boyfriend because girls like projecting themselves onto sick beautiful creatures. There's a sort of chemistry going on between Tsutomu as the emotionally detached guy who seems to be on Xanax all the time and Mari who does all the talking and crying.

Why have I not thought of using spoons before? Probably cause there were not any places with hot waitresses in short skirts where I grew up.

At the end of episode one, we find out that the reason the proposal was so fast in the first episode was that this is going to be about the family war, especially between the mothers. Normally this would cause me to stop watching but when the mothers are being played by Nakama Yukie's mom from Trick and the old lady from Akimahende! I'm happy to make an exception to my no more evil mother in law doramas rule.

If the stupid idiot had lowered his spoon more, we could have seen some colour.

Risou no Kekkon emits warm fuzzy feelings but at the same time it seems more like high school students falling in love for the first time dorama than adults. One thing this dorama has given me is a very good reason to go eat at Anna Miller's next time I go Japan. The way the uniform emphasizes certain parts of the body is genius and I'd rather be served by a regular sized waitress wearing an Anna Miller uniform than one huge Hooters girl anyday.

Back to the dorama, Risou no Kekkon is pretty much what one would expect from a 90s dorama about an innocent couple getting married and both families who are against it. It doesn't do anything bad and there are plenty of funny moments especially Andy in ep 4 but its not good enough to be called a must watch. For fans of oldies like me, its worth your time though. Do check it out because they don't make doramas like they used to.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Soredemo Ikite Yuku ep 8

I didn't want to write about Soredemo until the subbing was completed by I am compelled to to put my thoughts on this magnificent series onto paper after watching episode 8. I had just come back from work with my take away dinner and decided to watch ep 8 out of my gigantic backlog of doramas/movies/anime and then suddenly I was just transfixed onto the screen.

More than transfixed, I was pulled in. As if I were a fly on a wall peering into the lives of the unfortunate families. I could feel the air thick with so much tension and emotion that I had to step out for a cigarette mid way through the episode.

There's no point writing about the story because episode 8 puts you right in the confrontations and the mental anguishes that the characters experience. Futaba's father in a daze thinking not again. Why did I survive 15 years only for the same shit to happen again? You really felt for the poor father who had stayed strong all this while for the family, daring to have a faint glimmer of hope that one day they would be able to live a peaceful life and put the events of the past behind them.

Aki's mom finally getting her confrontation with Futaba's brother and what a bloody (figuratively) explosion of emotion that was and not an ounce of overacting in sight. I loved it when she said "You can kill me but I won't die cause I'll only die after you are dead!" The best way to describe Soredemo Ikite Yuku is that it makes you feel. Minimal music, raw emotion on display and I almost feel like I'm seeing something that I should not.

The fact that Soredemo can't even reach 10% ratings is a crime against art. So bloody tempted to finish the series without subs. Not to know how it ends but because the characters' emotions linger on. Do not miss this.

Ai Kotoba wa Yuki eps 4-11

Ai Kotoba wa Yuki is basically an underdog dorama. Poor ignorant villagers versus evil big corporation and the villagers have placed their hope on a struggling actor pretending to be a lawyer. My big reservation about Ai Kotoba was how long they were going to play the don't let the villagers discover that the lawyer is a fake. There is only so many times he can recover from a slip of the tongue and then act like a lawyer on tv before it gets repetitive, far-fetched and boring.

Probably the best thing in the show is the actor bringing in his writer friend who has good knowledge of the law because he has watched many hours of legal dramas for research. This was awesome because now our underdogs have a brain instead of the actor magically stumbling into safety each episode.

Putting the writer into the story also brings into it a stronger team element. The writer is the brains and the actor is the brawn who has to execute the plans. Shingo is the audience POV and of course Suzuki Kyoka is the hot love interest/de facto representative of the villagers for the audience.

For me, I didn't like that they took so long for the truth to be revealed to Suzuki Kyoka's character. She is a key character and its just wrong to keep her out of the loop for so long and protecting the false identity stopped being funny a few episodes ago. I really wanted the dorama to spend times showing how the underdogs can work together instead of wasting time having the actor make slips of the tongue in front of an oblivious Suzuki Kyoka.

The big climax is of course a trial and there are things that are head scratching though I have no knowledge of Japanese jurisprudence but a lot of things are meant to be feel good and funny rather than legally thrilling. (Can't they issue subpoenas in Japan?) I can't penalize Ai Kotoba for being absolutely warm and fuzzy but I just feel underwhelmed despite Yakusha Koji's awesome acting. His ability to play this actor who is sleazy one minute and then can turn into a hot shot lawyer is just fun to watch.

I think the main reason why its not a must watch in my book is that the script is not tight enough. 2 episodes less would have made it better. I just find it was stuck too long in a holding pattern in the middle of the series. And the final speech while heartfelt was not the attention grabber that the Yakusha Koji's first speech was. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed watching it, its just not as good as I hoped it could be.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Piece Vote 1-4

I was hoping Piece Vote would turn out to be an awesome midnight dorama like Liar Game and The Quiz Show season 1, two awesome shows that Piece Vote is similar to. The main character is the younger brother of a successful internet guy who was recently killed. He and a group of other people were drugged and ended up on a ship to participate in an unknown game. The purpose of this game is to make each of the participants confess their sins which they are being watched by people on nico nico.

First thing that really bugs me is why the fuck did they have to listen to that overacting host played  by Jinnai Takanori. They could have easily overpowered him and taken over the ship, especially in the beginning. Even when he had a gun, it wasn't like he was holding it in his hand and he was close enough to be taken down before he could pull the gun out from his pocket.

There's like bloody 7 of them and they have all been drugged and imprisoned and the idiots decide to listen to this lone guy's orders instead of bloody attacking him when he's walking in their midst and making idle threats on their lives. Maybe there's something in that equation that is supposed to make me care about this story. Now if the 'host' where giving orders with a gun in hand standing where he can't be reached, then it would make more sense for them to listen to him.

Secondly, the rules of the games are changed/ignored a lot which defeats the whole purpose of these type of doramas. There is nothing for the characters to solve. The only hook of the story is that it seems all the characters on the ship have some connection with the murder.

Let's not forget the super overacting in this non-comedy and a lot of time wasting monologues, even for a 20 minute dorama. Its pretty obvious that the writer(s) has an interesting conclusion but has no bloody idea how to get there. Even the revelations can be head scratching dumb. (Probably to fit the ending) Avoid.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Jmovie review: Gantz Perfect Answer

The second part of the Gantz movies is here! The first movie ended with Kato and the not so big breasted Kei having died and Kurono vowing to revive them. The movie then takes a huge deviation from the manga with Aisha, the model who graced the posters in the first movie in possession of a small Gantz which is sending her on missions to kill people.

Yoshitaka Yuriko is so adorable I forgive them for not casting a loli Tae.

Aisha's story however makes sense and pays off very well during this awesome action sequence in a subway train. Once again, I need to tip my hat off to the writers for maximising the budget. We don't get to see the missions during the early parts of the movie but they obviously saved everything for the train fight where we get the Gantz people vs aliens using swords and guns.

My only complaint is that the katanas seem more like the rubbery swords used in wuxia movies but chalk that up to limited budget. There is this really cool sequence where Kurono gets knocked out of the train that just had me really pumped up. I really like the 3 on 1 fight sequence where for the first time, 3 people actually rushed the 1 at the same time. I'm sick of watching when people attack someone who is outnumbered one on one so I was pretty please with that.

My favourite fight in the movie.

I have mixed feeling about the ending. Action wise, I found the ending battles not as awesome as the train scene especially the retarded shoot out at the end. I think the last boss needed to show his true form and after the giant boss battles in the first movie and the train scene, the big fight was weak in comparison. The conclusion was pretty interesting and is something that I've never considered before though it wouldn't work in the manga now.

For what Perfect Answer is, a decently sized sci fi action movie, it does its job pretty well considering that 99% of big budget CG fest Japanese movies all end up being souless movies that relies on CG too hard. Just for the best Japanese CG action fest and not stuffing it up like 20th Century Boys movies, I would like to consider the Gantz movies must watch with a caveat of effects that are not as polished and your typical Japanese philosophical questions like why do you fight.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Ai kotoba wa yuki eps 1-3

Managed to find auto subs for Hagetaka the movie and decided to see what WithS2 are up to and to my surprise, they've subbed yet another jdorama, Ai kotoba wa yuki! Talk about a stellar cast! Its got Yakusha Koji (Shall we dansu) and Suzuki Kyoka! Yakusho Koji plays Akatsuki Nitaro actor who is way past his glory days and yet still acts as if the world owes him a living.He can only get roles as a corpse or monster, his mistress is cheating on him and his wife wants a divorce but he is still rude to everyone and thinks only of himself. In short, he is our asshole main character in dire need of redemption.

Yup, that's Goro from Kita no Kuni Kara!

Tadashi (Katagori Shingo) is in Tokyo on a mission, to find a lawyer to defend his village from the evil polluters. Every lawyer Tadashi has seen has refused to help because the case is hopeless and the polluters have a legendary lawyer on their side. One night, Tadashi sees Akatsuki doing his best Gregory Peck impression from To Kill a Mockingbird and hatches a plan to hire Akatsuki to pretend to be a lawyer and tell the villagers that it is not worth going to court.

Goro speechless seeing ganguro for the first time.

Akatsuki, having reach the lowest point of his professional career is now enjoying all the attention that the villages shower upon him in their mistaken belief that he is here to save them. His selfish, nonchalant attitude is in danger of being exposed but in important moments in front of the villagers, his acting skills save the day.

First off, this is a mistaken identity dorama, a genre I don't particularly like because its so formulaic. Akatsuki is going to struggle, he's going to slowly change and do well before his true identity is found out and then we get the happy ending. Normally I would avoid these shows but Yakusho Koji's performance as Akatsuki is awesome.

What happens when simple country guy meets gaijin women for the first time.

Yakusho Koji gets to play him as the whining, primadonna actor as well as when he puts on his lawyer face. Akatsuki has to be funny, compelling and even when he's at his worst, amusing. I can only think of 4 other Japanese actors who could have played this role today. Shingo does OK as the audience's POV and Suzuki Kyoka is so far just window dressing.

I am skeptical about how good this show can be because they'll have to find some interesting ways for this actor playing a lawyer to successfully defend this village of country hicks for the next 9 episodes. Add to the fact that I don't find mistaken identity doramas appealing means I have little hope. Still, I shall give this dorama a fair go because Yakusho Koji is awesome, Suzuki Kyoka is easy on the eyes and they don't make doramas like this anymore. I would like to declare Ai kotoba wa yuki must watch but I can't until I have seen how the writers can keep things interesting in later episodes. However, if you're a fan of old school doramas like me, this is definitely worth checking out.

You can find the raws at Project Restoration and the subs at With S2.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Kita no Kuni Kara 1983 ~Fuyu~

Fuyu is the first special is set one and a half years after the end of the series. Nothing much has changed for the Kuroitas. Fuyu deals with two stories, first is about Shoki and his mom and the trouble that she causes Goro. The second is about one of the founders of Furano who has come back after running away from his family many years ago.

There's going to be huge spoilers ahead so read at your own risk. Once again, Kita no Kuni Kara is about old/country values and both stories are written to illustrate that well. Goro (stupidly) signed on as a guarantor for Shokichi's mom and she has gambled all the money away and the only way Goro can settle the debt is to sell of his property.

Just realised that Yukiko is the mom in Kurumi no Heya!

While no one would certainly believe that the Kuroitas were in danger of losing their home, the highlight of the story for me was not how the townspeople came together and share Goro's burden the fact that Goro is unable to hate Shokichi's mom and the farewall scene at the train station. Goro was more concerned with Shokichi's mom losing her hometown. After what she has done, she would be forever shunned and forbidden to return to Furano.

That goodbye scene with Nakajima Miyuki's Ikoku, which luckily was translated by Chuks as well was superbly powerful. Its like saying more than money, one's hometown and the strength of the people there are more important.

The senile old guy story isn't as good though it has similar themes of regrets and forgiveness but it shouldn't have been the climax to the special. Of note is Fukubi Jun who plays the old man's granddaughter and Sota's new love interest. She looks the same as in Soredemo ikite yuku but is so much younger. Well, it looks like the Kuroita family gets a new member and I can't wait to see what the other specials have to offer.