❤ Happy birthday, Tamaki Hiroshi! ❤
Our Chiaki senpai turns 36 today! Here’s wishing him many happy returns, and may all his dreams come true! Even though Tamaki wasn’t in a lot of dramas or films last year, I’m glad he ended 2015 strongly with Asa ga Kita, which is doing well in ratings so far. I’ve missed seeing Tamaki in solid roles and I really hope a super meaty one will land on his lap soon – the asadora is a wonderful opportunity for him, but I’d still like to see him in more primetime dramas.
Anyway, to celebrate his birthday, here’s a quick post on one of his recent films, 2014’s Bakumatsu Kokosei, otherwise known as Time Trip App. Basically, high school teacher Kawabe Mikako (Ishihara Satomi) and her students have somehow time-travelled back to 1868 Edo, where they meet imperial statesman Katsu Kaishu (Tamaki Hiroshi). These are troubled times for Edo, where a battle is about to break out between shogunate forces and those of the new government. Eager to prevent bloodshed, Katsu sends a peace envoy to the highly influential samurai Saigo Takamori (Sato Koichi). But as time ticks by, there is no response from Saigo and Mikako despairs that Katsu does not seem like he’s doing anything to rescue the situation…
The film is inspired from a 1994 drama series of the same name, which itself was based on the novel Nagori no Yuki by Mayumura Taku. The film doesn’t require you to have any intimate knowledge of Japanese history, since the premise itself already takes some liberties with the personalities involved. Katsu in the film does retain his progressive ideals (as he was known for in history), but is portrayed outwardly as a coward who’d run away from a fight and whose desire to prevent bloodshed draws scorn and accusations of being a traitor. He lets them slide and just goes ahead with what he believes to be right no matter how misunderstood he may be, which Mikako notes is a rare trait among the modern-day humans she knows.
There are quite a few hilarious moments, mostly involving Katsu, such as the exchange with his wife Tami (Yoshida Yo), who deadpans all the reasons why people want to get rid of her husband. Mikako is starstruck when she first meets Katsu, with history having hyped him up as some sort of saviour of Japan, and there’s a funny parallel when she later meets Saigo (any fangirl worth her salt would totally understand). Katsu is one moment terrified of dogs (a childhood phobia milked for laughs), the next marvelling at Mikako’s car which has somehow also time-travelled with her. One of the students, Eri, practises her make-up skills on sceptical Edo girls while America turns into Meriken, which had me giggling every time someone said it.
Tamaki Hiroshi was pretty good as Katsu, both during the silly moments and when the situation called for him to man up. I liked the scene where Mikako is lamenting about how she has failed her students and Katsu says the world may have progressed technology-wise, but people seem to have remained unchanged over the years – a simple observation that is at the same time a damning indictment of mankind. Another scene, when Katsu defends a Satsuma man subjected to the wrath of Edo citizens, also got to me – he doesn’t draw his sword, but pleads with the Satsuma man not to fight back, and stares down the Edo folk who back off cursing him for being a traitor. After the furore, Katsu apologises for what happened and the Satsuma man thanks Katsu sincerely. And finally, the bit when Katsu and Saigo have their “talk” at the sobaya was pretty neat. I’m all in favour of big meetings being held at soba places!
Ishihara Satomi was funny when she was getting on Katsu’s case for not doing anything about preventing history from changing, but otherwise it was a little difficult buying her as a high-school teacher. Sato Koichi is imposing as the samurai Saigo, but otherwise has nothing much to do. There isn’t enough characterisation to fill a thimble, save for Mikako realising she needs to be a better teacher and be more in tune to her students’ needs. There’s probably a great deal the film left out from the original source material in order to cram everything into two hours, but you get the feeling Katsu would have gotten things done even without Mikako and her students around. Still, if you just want to park your brains at the door and watch some eye candy prancing around in Edo garb, then Tamaki and his Rubik’s cube will be happy to keep you company for a couple of hours.