Murder she solved: Rakuen & Cold Case

I’m back in business! Well, on the drama-watching front that is, since I’ve finally got a new computer and can watch stuff properly again. Recently cleared two dramas featuring ladies whose characters flexed some crime-solving muscles, so it was nice to see women take charge when usually this is a male-dominated genre. Coincidentally, both are WOWOW dramas, so quality was definitely assured. Continue reading

Kanojo wa uso wo aishisugiteru

Tortured musician? Check. Hot male lead? Check. That was my mindset when searching for lighter fare to watch after BORDER and deciding to give Kanojo wa uso wo aishisugiteru a try. I am not generally a fan of shoujo manga or stories with high-school characters, but it surely couldn’t hurt to spend a couple of hours with two winsome leads.

Ogasawara Aki (Sato Takeru) is a genius musician who composes songs for the popular band Crude Play. Aki is moody and depressed despite his success, and desires an escape from the music that has dominated his life. One day, he meets high school student Koeda Riko (Ohara Sakurako) and starts a relationship with her on a whim, lying about his identity. When Riko is scouted by Takagi Soichiro (Sorimachi Takashi), the same producer who propelled Crude Play to success, Aki’s lies start to unravel… Continue reading

BORDER

Where do people go when they die?

Ishikawa Ango (Oguri Shun) is an intelligent, ambitious detective with keen powers of observation. One day, a former police officer is killed and when Ishikawa goes to the scene of the crime, he unwittingly runs into the killer and is shot in the head. He survives with the bullet lodged in his brain, but realises that as a result, he can now communicate with dead people… Continue reading

Lure of the dark side

At least this seems to be the case for Tamaki Hiroshi, whose latest roles all seem to be rather nasty. That’s actually not a bad thing, since he can’t be playing goody-two-shoes characters forever, and antagonist roles do help stretch one’s acting range, so kudos to him for being willing to experiment and not caring too much about building up a nice but bland onscreen image.

First up was his role as a ladies’ man called Yashiro Ginshiro in the spring drama SP Onna no Kunshou, opposite Matsushima Nanako, who played the heroine Oba Shikiko. Ginshiro initially helped Shikiko build up her dressmaking business but later made use of her, hurting her badly. Tamaki got to speak in Kansai-ben again for this SP as the drama was set in Kansai, and he wore glasses – presumably to complete the manipulative cad look, haha. I didn’t see any subs for this (sadly), but did skim the SP and it seemed interesting. At the very least, it featured some beautiful clothes since it was about the fashion industry in post-war Japan.

Next is the film adaptation of Aku to Kamen no Rūru (The rules of evil and the mask; published English title being Evil and the Mask), which is a novel by award-winning writer Nakamura Fuminori. Tamaki plays Kuki Fumihiro, who was raised by his father to create as much destruction and unhappiness as he possibly can. However, in order to protect the woman he loves, Fumihiro begins to question his father’s mandate and starts to resist. This sounds like a complex, layered character and Tamaki said as much, commenting that the character is a delicate person and it is very difficult to play him. It sounds like a challenging role and that’s great for Tamaki because he deserves to be doing roles that will test his range. I bought the source novel as soon as I could and can’t wait to start on it, looks like it’ll be a riveting read. The film is scheduled to be shown next year.

And for the biggie: Tamaki takes to the stage in October and November for the play Kiken no Kankei (Dangerous Liaisons). This is Tamaki’s second stage appearance – his first was in Hotel Majestic in March 2013 – and the play by Christopher Hampton is based on the famous French epistolary novel Les Liaisons dangereuses. The poster for the play has Tamaki and co-star Suzuki Kyoka in modern wear, so this is presumably a modern take on the 1782 novel (although I could be wrong). No prizes for guessing which role Tamaki will play – he is such an apt choice for the Vicomte de Valmont. Really happy for Tamaki that he’s tackling the stage again as it’s a great way to hone his acting skills, and getting to star with Suzuki is wonderful as she is a solid actress in her own right. The play’s run will be in Tokyo from Oct 8 to 31st, and Nov 9-14 in Osaka.

junny@1.14am

Seirei no Moribito season 2

It’s hard enough waiting for weekly episodes of a currently airing drama, but it’s sheer torture having to go months without the sequel of a drama you liked. That was the case of Seirei no Moribito, whose first season was a solid and enjoyable watch, and it took almost a year for season 2 to air. So it was with pleasure that I sank my teeth into the drama as soon as I could get my grabby hands on it.

Balsa (Ayase Haruka) and her herbalist/shaman friend Tanda (Higashide Masahiro) rescue a brother and sister who are about to be sold off by human traffickers. They discover that the girl Asla (Suzuki Rio) possesses a strange power that can cause great destruction when unleashed. Balsa decides to become Asla’s bodyguard upon realising that a number of people are after Asla. Meanwhile, Chagum (Itagaki Mizuki) is on a mission to save New Yogo Country from the conquering ambitions of the Talsh Empire… Continue reading

Quartet

Sometimes when I’m iffy about a particular writer’s work, the strength of the cast is usually a decisive factor in my giving a drama a shot. Sakamoto Yuji’s dramas are hit or miss for me, but the opportunity to watch some of the best acting talents in the business share a screen for 10 weeks was not to be missed.

Four people cross paths unexpectedly in a karaoke place and decide to form a string quartet. The members – first violin Maki Maki (Matsu Takako), cellist Sebuki Suzume (Mitsushima Hikari), second violin Beppu Tsukasa (Matsuda Ryuhei) and violist Iemori Yutaka (Takahashi Issei) – retreat to Beppu’s family villa in Karuizawa during the winter and begin to take on gigs, performing as Quartet Doughnuts Hole. However, they have secrets they are hiding from one another… Continue reading

A LIFE

Greetings again! I apologise for the radio silence, real life came calling and my laptop decided to kaboom on me, so it’s the office computer until I can get a new machine. This also means my drama backlog keeps increasing so I only managed to finish A LIFE, which is Kimura Takuya’s first acting outing since the break-up of SMAP. The premise was nothing new, but it had a strong cast, and the eternal mystery of why Asano Tadanobu played second fiddle to Kimura is something my mind can’t compute at all so I had to watch to find out.

Rookie doctor Okita Kazuaki (Kimura Takuya) was sent overseas thanks to the machinations of his best friend Suzuki Masao (Asano Tadanobu). Leaving his girlfriend Danjo Mifuyu (Takeuchi Yuko) behind, he went to Seattle, where he became an excellent cardiothoracic surgeon. Ten years later, he returns to Danjo Hospital at the request of Mifuyu’s father, who is the hospital director, and is handed a difficult task by Masao, who has since married Mifuyu… Continue reading

Happy birthday, Tamaki Hiroshi!

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💕 玉木宏さん、お誕生日おめでとう!💕

Tamaki Hiroshi turns 37 today! Happy birthday to this awesome guy and may all his wishes come true! So happy to able to write this post again on my blog, and it’s always a pleasure to post something about him. Here’s hoping 2017 will be a good year for him professionally and personally. He will always be my favourite conductor, pianist, teacher, florist, artist, and of course, usagi! Cookie for you if you know which scene the above photo comes from 😉

If you’ve enjoyed any of Tamaki’s dramas, please do share in the comments which role was memorable and what you liked about it. And if you haven’t seen anything of his, today is a good day to start!

junny@1.14am

Suna no Tou

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A story involving kids isn’t high on my drama-watching radar, but I felt I had to give Suna no Tou a go when I saw Kanno Miho and Matsushima Nanako on the cast list, more so when the latter was billed as the antagonist. While star power isn’t always a guarantee of quality, I was interested in what I thought would be an acting showdown between the ladies and hoped for the best.

Takano Aki (Kanno Miho) and her family move into a new high-rise condo, hoping that this would be the start of their dreams and a better life. However, she encounters the resident vainglorious housewives who ostracise her and make her life miserable, and only another neighbour, Sasaki Yumiko (Matsushima Nanako) seems to be a friend to Aki. As a series of abductions involving young children unsettles the neighbourhood, someone is also trying to tear Aki’s life and family apart… Continue reading

Career: Episodes 5-10

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The old saying that you should be careful what you wish for came true, but thankfully with a positive spin because the rest of the episodes of Career did become more engaging and I actually started liking a lot of the characters. The drama still pretty much followed the same formula of Kinshiro saving the day, but did manage to offer up a nice twist that gave the storyline a bit more meat and helped elevate the drama a notch. Continue reading

Cain and Abel: Episodes 1-4

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It’s been a while since I checked out a Getsu9 drama, and the last couple of years haven’t had particularly inspiring offerings. Gone are the days where a Getsu9 meant a ratings hit (Hero and Love Generation both hit over 30%, for example) or at least moderate success with average ratings in the late teens. The previous three seasons of Getsu9 dramas this year failed to break the 10% mark and Cain and Abel looks unlikely to turn the tide. Still, the premise seemed interesting, so I gave it a shot.

Since he was a child, Takada Yu (Yamada Ryosuke) has always lived in the shadow of his more capable elder brother Ryuichi (Kiritani Kenta). Yu longs for his father’s approval, but dad doesn’t really give him the time of day. Yu gets to know Yahagi Azusa (Kurashina Kana) by chance one day and begins to have feelings for her, but Azusa turns out to be Ryuichi’s girlfriend… Continue reading

Intermezzo: 浮生若水 – 林峯

It’s not often that a drama has a theme song that’s meaningful and reflects the spirit and essence of the story it tells. Fortunately, 浮生若水 by Raymond Lam is that song. This is the ending theme song for the TVB drama The Master of Tai Chi (太極), and I love the melody and meaningful lyrics. Raymond has sung theme songs for quite a few dramas but I feel this is the best of the lot. I also liked his performance in the drama – although he was the second male lead, it was a meaty role that allowed him to show his range. The drama was about a young man Mo Ma (Vincent Zhao) who after a series of events reunites with his mentor and begins to seriously learn tai chi and the Way from him. It had a decent storyline, a very good cast (some of whom are martial artists themselves) and some solid fight choreography – Vincent Zhao is a martial artist and I appreciated that he got to show off some really nifty moves sans stunt double. If there’s one thing Hong Kong has a near permanent advantage over Japan and Korea, it’s the quality of its martial arts scenes. Some of the fight scenes, such as the ones below, were pretty neat: Continue reading

Career: Episodes 1-4

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It’s always a pleasure having Tamaki Hiroshi back on primetime dramas, no matter the quality (or lack of), so barring a catastrophe, I was always going to tune in to Career. I just wish the drama had been smarter about naming it thus, but when Tamaki is only doing maybe one or two dramas a year, beggars can’t be choosers.

Toyama Kinshiro (Tamaki Hiroshi) is the new police chief of Kitamachi Police Station who doesn’t behave like the stereotypical, bureaucratic chief most expect. Instead, he likes to do the actual legwork when it comes to investigating crimes and listen to the voices of innocent citizens. His hands-on approach, however, incurs the wrath of lead detective Minami Yozo (Takashima Masahiro)… Continue reading

Saigo Kara Nibanme no Koi

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It’s often been my lament that Japan doesn’t do rom-coms like it used to, but I’m happy to report that there are still gems to be found once in a while. It’s even more heartening that the rom-com is actually smart, funny and fronted by leads who can act. How rare is that these days?

Yoshino Chiaki (Koizumi Kyoko) is a 45-year-old TV drama producer who decides to move to Kamakura in a bid to take stock of her life as she grows older. As luck would have it, she becomes neighbours with Nagakura Wahei (Nakai Kiichi), a 50-year-old widower who works for the Kamakura city office, and gets entangled with his family’s various antics and escapades…

Continue reading