Sunday, April 19, 2015

ZETTAI KARESHI (絶対彼氏)




Spring 2008

Zettai Kareshi is about a young, single woman named Riko Izawa (Saki Aibu); a temporary staffer with relationship issues that works for a giant dessert company. One day, an "electrician" named Gaku Namikiri (Kuranosuke Sasaki) from Kronos Heaven offers a free trial to test a new ideal lover robot to Riko. Being a little tipsy and frustrated that night, she doesn't fully comprehend what she was getting herself into, but signed the papers to test the robot out. The next day the robot "01" is delivered to her door with instructions that requires a kiss from a human to activate it. Riko thinks it ridiculous but abides by the rules and leaves for work. Later, a sexy man follows her around embarrassingly stating that he is her ideal boyfriend. Riko calls the robot Tenjo Night and thinks of him as just another expensive appliance, but as Tenjo's unwavering devotion begins to affect her, she realizes that her heart is receiving mixed emotions as she's also drawn to her good looking boss, Soshi Asamoto (Hiro Mizushima). 

Recommendation: I heard about this drama a few years ago and reading the synopsis I wasn't interested in another love triangle romcom that screamed "cliche!" But I found it on YouTube recently and realized Saki Aibu and Hiro Mizushima were in it. Being a fan of both actors and just finishing up "Mei Chan No Shitsuji" that starred Mizushima, I checked out the first episode and got hooked right away. This drama was hard for me to rate for different reasons. First, the story is definitely nothing new (with the possible exception that a robot is part of a love triangle) and the style of directing and witty script have been seen and done. But with the actors all doing an exceptional job, I felt like it was executed very well overall. I really enjoyed every episode. In this case the phrase, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies here. The drama is full of wit, interesting characters, and heart breaking moments (no pun intended). Although I did see the special episode which possibly could be episode 12 that came out the following year, but I think they should have left the ending at episode 11 so I'm not counting episode 12 in my ranking as it was kind of a useless story in my opinion. If you like a good, fun romantic comedy that also includes some thought provoking moments than this drama is one to watch. I'm always rooting for Saki Aibu to get more notoriety in the awards department but she was up against some heavy hitters from dramas like "Change", "Gokusen 3", and "Last Friends" that season and I think she was robbed of a TV drama academy award for her role in "Kaseifu No Mita." 

Story: 1.0
Acting: 1.0
Directing: 1.0
Character Development: 1.0
Emotional Factor: 1.0

5.0 Out Of 5.0 Crowns
    

Friday, April 10, 2015

MEI CHAN NO SHITSUJI (メイちゃんの執事)

















Winter 2009

This drama is about a young girl named Mei Shinonome (Nana Eikura) who was living an ordinary life helping her parents run a small udon shop. Her family was poor but she was grateful to have loving parents and friends. Unfortunately one day her parents are killed in a fire that destroys the udon shop and her life is turned upside down. Even more, a strange young man named Rihito Shibata (Hiro Mizushima) suddenly appears and tells her that he has come to serve her as her personal butler. She finds out that she is related to the great Hongo family and that she must attend the exclusive St. Lucia Girl's Academy where all the students have butlers to care for them. Kento Shibata (Takeru Sato), her longtime friend enrolls as an apprentice butler to stay close to her. At the school, she is met with disdain from all the girls and Mei begins to doubt her new position. She then meets the beautiful and mysterious Lucia (Yu Yamada) who is the leader of the highest ranking Sole class. Lucia comforts Mei at first but will she help Mei get acquainted to her new life as a wealthy heiress or is Lucia planning something more sinister behind the scenes? In any case, both Rihito and Kento do there utmost to protect her.

Recommendation: I was interested in the drama because Nana Eikura is one of my favorite actresses. I was also surprised to see some familiar faces such as Hiro Mizushima, Yu Yamada, Osamu Mukai, and even Shiori Kutsuna (although she had a minor role). It was also the first time I saw Takeru Sato and I think he was the best actor in this drama and made it more fun to watch. This drama is based on a popular girl's manga and it is adapted so that it reflects a manga style. Honestly, I wish there were less dramas that try this because I don't think it works well. On the other hand, I'm a guy and this drama is probably geared towards young girls so I might be totally wrong here. In any case, I found the plot to be formulaic as Mei is hated at first, but starts to gain confidants as she helps her fellow classmates one by one to deal with their personal problems. The story is too much of a fantasy for me to swallow and it was difficult to immerse myself in a strange world of super wealthy girls, duels and hard rules against love between butlers and their masters. I did enjoy the acting from the main stars and love triangles that develop between them. If you are into "manga-esque" romantic comedy dramas with an eccentric story-line than this may be one to take a look at.

Story: 0.5
Acting: 1.0
Directing: 0.5
Character Development: 1.0
Emotional Factor: 0.5

3.5 Out Of 5.0 Crowns

Saturday, April 4, 2015

HERO 2















Summer 2014

After being transferred to other districts, Kohei Kuryu (Takuya Kimura) the charismatic public prosecutor returns to Josai branch of the Tokyo district prosecutor's office. Old and new faces greet him including his beautiful new assistant Chika Asagi (Keiko Kitagawa). Will the branch be able to tolerate Kuryu's meticulous style of seeking truth and justice?

Recommendation: Well in terms of the ratings it looks like Takuya Kimura is back on top returning as Kohei Kuryu. It was good to see him in a drama that helped solidify his status as a popular actor. In terms of the drama itself though, it's basically the same formula as the original series with some minor cosmetic changes. Honestly, like the first series, I think that Kuryu is just too good at what he does and so there isn't a lot of drama or tension in each episode. I was hoping for more back story from other characters. Even in the first series the supporting cast didn't do much and I hoped that they could of added some special skills for the other members to help Kuryu in a pinch more often. I did begin to enjoy the stories from around episode 9 and I was happy to see the bartender back with his usual "aruyo" cameos, but overall the drama comes off as a bit pretentious and too idealistic for my taste. Still, it's always a pleasure to see Kimura act and Kitagawa wasn't bad either. Strangely, I did miss Kuryu's orange down jacket...

Story: 0.5
Acting: 1.0
Directing: 0.5
Character Development: 0.5
Emotional Factor: 0.5

3.0 Out Of 5.0 Crowns


Thursday, March 26, 2015

HERO




















Winter 2001

Hero is a drama about a young public prosecutor named Kohei Kuryu (Takuya Kimura) who is transferred to the Josai branch of the Tokyo district prosecutor's office. Kuryu has his own unique style of prosecuting suspects and dresses in a casual style that is frowned upon. He teams up Maiko Amamiya (Takako Matsu) who is an uptight paralegal that has dreams of one day becoming a prosecutor herself. She despises Kuryu at first, especially when she finds out that he only graduated from middle school, but as Kuryu's meticulous style of pursuing justice emanates throughout the office, her perceptions about him slowly begin to change.

Recommendation: Since the second season of Hero was recently completed, I re-watched the first season that came out 14 years ago. I vaguely remember that Kimura was at the top of his game and starring together again with Takako Matsu must have hyped this drama up. It's funny because I know how popular this drama was and how famous Kimura's orange down jacket became, but after watching it again, I couldn't for the life of me get excited about this drama. It has its funny moments, I like the supporting cast, and Kimura and Matsu are great but the drama as a whole is slow and often boring. Some episodes included cases that just weren't exciting. When I start to see a pattern and know that Kuryu is going to get to the bottom of every case and justice is gonna be served, the suspense is lost. I think when you have a unique character who is too good at what he does, it can make for a dull drama because there is no challenge. Of course he gets into a dilemma in the last episode, but I was hoping for something more exciting with a bit more character development from the supporting cast as well. Still, if you like feel good drama's with strong charismatic characters than this drama is for you.

Story: 0.5
Acting: 1.0
Directing: 0.5
Character Development: 0.5
Emotional Factor: 0.5

3.0 Out Of 5.0 Crowns

Friday, March 13, 2015

N NO TAMENI (Nのために)





















Fall 2014

N No Tame Ni is a drama based on a best selling novel by Kanae Minato. The story is based on four young adults, Nozomi Sugishita (Nana Eikura), Shinji Naruse (Masataka Kubota), Nozomi Ando (Kento Kaku) and Masato Nishizaki (Keisuke Koide) who are found at a crime scene with Naoko Noguchi (Manami Konishi) and her husband Takahiro Noguchi (Yoshimi Tokui) dead on the floor. Nishizaki is sentenced to a 10 year prison term for confessing that he committed the crime and that no else was involved. 10 years later, when Nishizaki is released from prison, a former police officer Shigeru Takano (Tomokazu Miura) who worked on an island in the Seto Inland Sea has doubts about the verdict in the case, especially because he was acquainted with Sugishita and Naruse 15 years ago when they both lived on the same island and were involved in an unsolved crime.

Recommendation: So it's been about a year since I posted on my blog and I do deeply apologize as I was busy with other hobbies of mine. Nevertheless, I am back and I watched this drama because a friend recommended to me. I usually try to avoid possibly dark, moody, creepy crime dramas but this one was actually not as heavy as other ones that I've seen. The acting is also very good and the chemistry between the actors/actresses were quite smooth in my opinion. It is a bit on the slow side, but it has its moments of suspense and the story keeps you on your toes as the crime unfolds, teetering back and forth 10 and 15 years ago and then back to the present day to offer clues of the crime that took place. If you like mystery crime dramas, this is one to watch. It's all about misunderstandings so I was caught off guard in terms of how it all played out.

Story: 1.0
Acting: 1.0
Directing: 1.0
Character Development: 1.0
Emotional Factor: 0.5

4.5 Out Of 5.0 Crowns

Sunday, February 16, 2014

LEGAL HIGH 2



Fall 2013

Masato Sakai and Yui Aragaki return as Kensuke Komikado and Machiko Mayuzumi respectively in "Legal High 2". Still undefeated in court, eccentric lawyer Komikado continues to wallow in his victories. Enter Haruki Hanyu; a handsome and spirited young lawyer who traveled the world and returned to Japan to gain experience under Komikado. Hanyu's perspective on the outcomes of a trial differ greatly from Komikado's, but they have great respect for each other. After leaving Komikado's law firm, Hanyu joins the Public Prosecution office which is working on a highly publicized murder case. Coincidentally, Komikado and Mayuzumi are hired to defend the suspected murderer. Is Komikado's days as a undefeated lawyer numbered? Will Hanyu's idealistic "win-win" strategy beat Komikado's "winning is all that matters" style? 

Recommendation: The ratings for the second season of "Legal High" were much higher than the first season. One reason is probably due to the fact that "Hanzawa Naoki" just ended and there is a Masato Sakai boom presently in Japan. I was quite happy with the first season, but I think the second season started out even better. From the get go, there was the usual slapstick, over the top humor that made the first season memorable. I'm still at awe as to how Masato Sakai can talk so fast. What I found really interesting about this drama is that, I thought I would get tired of each new case that was presented in every episode. This was the same format from the first season with the only difference being the Ando Kiwa murder case starring Koyuki which progresses throughout the drama, but most of the cases were quite good and were thought provoking. Despite the drama being a comedy, it presented some deep social issues. The characters all have a distinct trait, whether it be Komikado pointing his finger and swiping his hairline, Hanyu snapping his fingers and stating an Arabian quote, or Hattori-san revealing another talent or skill he learned while traveling overseas. Even judge Beppu played by Ryoko Hirosue returned from "Legal High SP" to show how much she loves actual field work. The little twist in the end caught me off guard too. I have a feeling that people will either really like this drama or hate it. Kensuke Komikado can be really annoying at times, but overall I laughed a lot and I also shed a few tears (probably from laughing a lot). I also liked the slow motion battle scenes that developed during the opening credits. Overall, I highly recommend this drama. Just remember that it is a bit crazy and over the top. 

Story: 1.0
Acting: 1.0
Directing: 1.0
Character Development: 1.0
Emotional Factor: 1.0

5.0 Out Of 5.0 Crowns


Saturday, February 1, 2014

UMI NO UE NO SHINRYOJO (海の上の診療所)















Fall 2013

Umi No Ue No Shinryojo is about a young doctor named Kota Sezaki (Shota Matsuda) who is hired to practice on a boat clinic called the Kaishinmaru. The Kaishinmaru travels to rural islands located in the Seto Inland Sea due to the lack of medical resources in the area. Dr. Kota is talented and highly skilled, but his reasons for accepting the job is a mystery. What is immediately known by the staff of the Kaishinmaru is that Dr. Kota is single and falls for beautiful women a bit too quickly. Will he eventually find that special someone or will he be destined to sail on the Kaishinmaru empty handed?

Recommendation: I've seen Shota Matsuda in "Hana Yori Dango" and "Tsuki No Koibito". I wasn't a huge fan of his, but he showed some range in this drama as an eccentric young doctor. I enjoyed his acting, but despite his best efforts, the drama as a whole was a bit dull and slow. I think it was meant to be a bit on the slow side, in a way showcasing the calm and serene life of rural Japan. I did enjoy the beautiful shots of the ocean and mountains, but as a drama it didn't arouse much excitement in me.

If I could sum up the drama in just a few words, the story is really all about misunderstandings and miscommunication as Dr. Kota repetitively visits one island after the next and falls in love with the first beautiful woman he sets his eyes on, only to be dumped or realizing that said beautiful woman already has a lover. The first episode started out mysteriously, but all the mysteries and tense subplots ended up being nothing more than misunderstandings that were resolved easily. Also, every person or acquaintance of said person he encounters has an accident which is not only coincidental, but just too patterned for my taste. In the end, I had a hard time trying to figure out what exactly this drama was about. I thought the last two episodes were good, but it was a little too late. I really felt Emi Takei's character, Mako chan could have been utilized better. I would have added more scenes that develop the relationship between Dr. Kota and Mako chan like maybe adding more scenes of walking through the countryside and talking about a variety of issues. Their relationship just felt awkward to me and to have them come together in the end didn't feel realistic.

If you want to see a drama that's a bit slow with some subtle humor and you like Shota Matsuda then by no means, please watch this drama. Unfortunately, for me, it was a bit light in terms of story, character development and overall excitement. I think the Kaishinmaru can sail on without me.

Story: 0.5
Acting: 0.5
Directing: 0.5
Character Development: 0.5
Emotional Factor: 0.5

2.5 Out Of 5.0 Crowns