Saturday, October 19, 2013
Beautiful Life stars Takuya Kimura as Shuji Okishima and Takako Tokiwa as Kyoko Machida. Shuji is an up and coming talented hairstylist at a salon called Hot Lip. Raised in a family connected with the medical field, they basically disown him for chasing his dream to cut hair. Kyoko on the other hand is a librarian doing the best she can with an illness that robbed her legs and bound her to a wheelchair at the age of 17. On a fateful day both Shuji and Kyoko confront each other during a minor traffic incident. Their first meeting was a troublesome one, but gradually, their curiosity grows and they soon find themselves attractive to each other. They start a relationship, but with Shuji's popularity growing and Kyoko's disability hindering their lives, will they be able to overcome the onslaught of obstacles ahead?
Recommendation: Please don't read any further if you haven't watched this drama yet. First of all, Takuya Kimura is my favorite actor and when I was in high school, Takako Tokiwa was my favorite actress. I still remember when this drama debuted and I was so excited because I felt the timing was perfect for these two to work with each other. Now, don't get me wrong, this is a great drama and is a must watch, but it is probably also around the top of the list for the most saddest drama of all time. I actually watched this when it came out, but I was so worried about the ending that I actually stopped watching it around the 7th episode because I knew there wasn't going to be a happy ending. It was obvious because of the narrations by Shuji and Kyoko in every episode that this was going to be a sad drama. Still, the story, acting, directing was all great and it is a deep love story with a unique perspective. The final episode was truly heartbreaking. Interestingly, somewhere inside me still had hope for Kyoko. In a way I think the drama was meant to make the viewers feel this way. The drama made me think how life is precious and fragile. It also sent a message that it really isn't about how long you live, but what you experience that is important. I don't think I will be watching this again, but it was definitely worth it.
Character Development: 1.0
Emotional Factor: 1.0
5.0 Out Of 5.0 Crowns
Love Shuffle is a drama about four young people (Kei, Airu, Ojiro, and Kikuta) with different personalities and occupations who happen to live on the top floor of an exquisite apartment building. One day they coincidentally take the elevator at the same time during a storm and end up getting stuck due to a black out. With nothing else to do, they get acquainted and begin conversing about their love lives. With each of them questioning the purpose of love, they decide to "shuffle" their partners or acquaintances with each other as a test to find out if they can fall in love or affirm that their former relationships were indeed the best for them.
Kei Usami (Hiroshi Tamaki) works for a highly regarded corporation, but was offered the job mainly because his fiance, Mei Kagawa (Shihori Kanjiya) is the daughter of the chairman of said corporation. Airu Aizawa (Karina) is a multilingual translator who is contemplating the meaning of love and marriage. Yukichi Oishi (Daigo) likes Airu, but he tends to buy friendships and anything else he wants with money. Ojiro Sera (Shota Matsuda) is a talented model photographer and a womanizer. He brings along a model, Reiko Kamijyo (Hijiri Kojima) who tends to see men from a physical perspective. Masato Kikuta (Shosuke Tanihara) is a psychiatrist and the mastermind of the love shuffle. He brings along a suicidal patient named Kairi Hayakawa (Yuriko Yoshitaka) as a form of treatment, hoping that she stops attempting to kill herself if she finds a lover. Will the game of love work or will it cause more harm than good?
Recommendation: This drama had a good cast of characters but a sub-par cast of actors to play them. The story of switching partners every week to find love was interesting and the chemistry between the characters were fun to watch. The script was ok too and I found myself laughing quite hard during some silly scenes but some of the puns were hit or miss. I felt that this drama could have been better in terms of the selection of actors. Also, the story in my opinion fizzled in the end and I just didn't feel emotionally attached to the outcomes of each character. I blame the directing for this especially the last episode in which all the stories for each character needed to be resolved. So due to time constraints it felt like the outcomes were squeezed in to fit the length of the episode. Since Kei and Airu are basically the main characters I would have liked to see the other character's problems solved in episode 9 and have their issues worked out in episode 10. That would have created more drama in my opinion and probably a more "natural" ending. This drama wasn't bad, but it isn't a must watch. If you want something lighthearted with a lot of puns this drama is for you, but for me, the frequently used phrase, "say it ain't so Joe" sums it up for me.
Spoiler alert: I wasn't happy with the last two episodes. The final episode in particular seemed like it was edited without much thought. Problems were resolved in a cut and dry manner which sucked all of the emotions I had for the characters, especially when Mei and Yukichi got married. That was certainly a surprise, but it felt rushed and came out of nowhere. They didn't even seem good together. That said, episode 7 was the funniest for me especially when Kei and Airu find out Kikuta was gay.
Character Development: 0.5
Emotional Factor: 0.5
3.0 Out Of 5.0 Crowns
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Kagi no Kakatta Heya (Locked Rooms) is a drama about a well known lawyer named Gou Serizawa (Koichi Sato) and his new assistant, Junko Aoto (Erika Toda) who inadvertently meets Kei Enomoto (Satoshi Ohno) who is an eccentric security expert working for a security firm in Tokyo. Serizawa is a corporate lawyer and only cares about the bottom line and his image, but Aoto works towards seeking justice. The lawyers end up becoming involved in a locked room case in which they hire Enomoto to help them determine whether the case involved a murder or suicide. Enomoto is not interested in any crimes, but is curiously drawn to the locked room as he believes he can unlock its secrets. Gradually, the group takes on similar cases as more locked room scenarios come to light.
First of all, this drama wasn't great, but it was good. Every episode involved a new locked room case besides the last two episodes. The fun part of this drama was figuring out how the criminals hid their true intentions in these locked rooms. It isn't a drama specifically geared toward finding the culprit because there is enough foreshadowing, that I basically knew who the criminal was in almost every episode before the locked rooms cases were solved. The cast was pretty good and it was the first time I saw Satoshi Ohno act and I think he did a good job playing an introverted and insightful character. Koichi Sato and Erika Toda also did a good job in their respective roles. This is not a bad drama in any sense, but it also lacks certain qualities, mainly character development, to make it a very good drama. Despite the drama involving crimes, it is quite upbeat and has its humorous moments.
Spoiler alert: Although it was fun to watch, I think a lot of these types of dramas lack in character development. I guess it can't be helped because it is really just focused on solving cases, but I wish I could feel like I cared more about these characters. Sometimes it seemed like both lawyers were (almost) useless despite their hard work and research (mostly done by Junko Aoto). Enomoto basically solves every case and it just lacks in background information on all three main characters. Why is Enomoto so good at what he does? Why did he end up working for a security firm? What drove Junko Aoto to feel so strongly about seeking justice and why is Serizawa a photogenic money loving corporate lawyer? I think if they answered some of these questions throughout the series I would have loved it. I have to say the twist in the end wasn't bad, but I still wish we knew more about these characters. I know there will be a special episode coming out soon, so yes, you will hear the phrase, "mishitsu wa yaburemashita" (the locked room has been solved) one more time.
Character Development: 0.5
Emotional Factor: 0.5
4.0 Out Of 5.0 Crowns