Sometimes I try to be less picky about what to watch, but taking a chance on the unknown is risky business and I’m not always lucky enough to hit jackpot. So since I thought it’s about time I learn to broaden my drama-watching tastes, I decided I’d give two dramas, whose lead actors I don’t give a fig about, the chance to impress me.
I. Todome no Kiss
I had no great desire to watch Todome no Kiss, since I was somewhat familiar with only one of the four key actors – that’d be Kadowaki Mugi – and the rest did not interest me. However, the drama’s marketing team made such a hoo-ha with the suggestive posters, so I thought I’d give it a go just to see what the fuss was about. The drama’s premise is about Dojima Otaro (Yamazaki Kento), a popular host working under the name Eight, who dies after being kissed by a mysterious woman (Kadowaki). Otaro regains consciousness but realises he has gone back in time to a week earlier. Thanks to the woman’s kissing powers, Otaro goes back to the past repeatedly in order to change his destiny.
The drama had a slow start as Otaro tried to figure out just what was going on, and the back and forth got tiring pretty quickly. Otaro’s social climbing ambitions didn’t interest me in the slightest, and his target, the rich society girl Namiki Mikoto, is played stiff and boring by Araki Yuuko. Mikoto’s adopted brother Takauji (Arata Mackenyu) was a more intriguing figure as he wrestles between his love for Mikoto and desire to gain control of the family business, in between fending off Otaro’s repeated attempts to insinuate himself into the Namiki group.
The idea of toying with people’s fates is an interesting concept if executed well, and there’s a tingle of vicarious schadenfreude when watching Otaro try to get one up (and succeed most of the time) on Takauji and the latter’s nefarious uncle. However, it would have been more satisfying had Otaro and Takauji gotten the same shot at manipulating their own fates and that of others. Only Otaro getting all the fun was boring, especially since he wasn’t really someone worth rooting for, and it had nothing to do with his supposedly being an anti-hero. Takauji too could have benefited from being more complex, instead of always scrambling to figure out why Otaro keeps getting the upper hand in their encounters. The women in the drama are terribly written, with Saiko (Kadowaki’s character) being too self-sacrificial and doormat-ish, while Mikoto lacked brains and had a personality duller than grass.
I had not seen Yamazaki Kento before this, and I think he was uncomfortable being Eight in the earlier episodes – he doesn’t wear the flamboyance and bad boy charm well, and took time to settle into the role. He had pretty decent chemistry with Kadowaki, who was solid as Saiko and handled both the character’s creepy and awkward vibes with aplomb. I’d first seen Kadowaki in Kageri Yuku Natsu and liked her there, and have been impressed by her versatility in whatever I’ve seen her in so far. Araki Yuuko irritated me as Mikoto, and I blame it on the writing and acting. Arata Mackenyu was decent as Takauji, who is clearly wasted on Mikoto, whether before or after being roundly played by Otaro. Suda Masaki had a fairly interesting role and did pretty well.
There was a parallel series as well that purportedly tied up the main story threads, but I had no desire to spend another hour or ten with these characters, so I didn’t bother.
II. Final Cut
This drama had an interesting backdrop as the media featured quite heavily, with the journalists and TV producers portrayed as having a hand in wrecking people’s lives with their invasion of privacy tactics and sleight-of-hand editing to suit their purposes. Kamenashi Kazuya is Nakamura Keisuke, who wants justice for his mother after she was accused of murdering a young girl 12 years ago and committed suicide. Keisuke begins targeting the people responsible for his mother’s suicide, including media bigwigs like Momose Rui (Fujiki Naohito), and a pair of sisters who hold the key to the truth…
I went into this with low expectations because I did not think much of Kamenashi, and he proved every bit as one note as I’d thought he would be. So it was a pleasant surprise to find that Keisuke did not always get his way once Momose figured things out and started fighting back. There was a bit of back and forth between them and I rather liked that Momose used his wits to get what he wanted and was not shy about it. The rare times I rooted for Keisuke were when he teamed up with his police supervisor Takada Seiichiro (Sasaki Kuranosuke) to deal with both the media and the girl’s possible killer. It just seemed, however, that everybody simply accepted that the killer was Ogawara Shota (and the drama shoved it in viewers’ faces) without properly establishing the motive for murder and the steps leading to it. The ending was unsatisfactory and trite, and Momose’s about-face lacked conviction.
Kamenashi had zero chemistry with his leading lady, Kuriyama Chiaki, who played Ogawara Yukiko and the sister to the supposed big bad, who was meh. The other sister, Wakaba (Hashimoto Kanna), was a little deluded, so when she suddenly decided to grow up and “protect” her family, it was silly rather than touching. Sasaki Kuranosuke was solid as usual as Takada, and Fujiki Naohito did well as the morally grey Momose. I wish there were more scenes of these two together, and I was surprised that I actually enjoyed seeing Fujiki in such a role. The media were mostly portrayed as lacking a conscience and out to wreck lives just to boost viewership ratings, which had me rolling my eyes at such a lame attempt to induce sympathy for the main character. Would it have killed to offer a more balanced perspective of how the media worked? Not every journalist or TV producer is a power-hungry, self-serving asshole whose main purpose is to check off how many lives he can ruin in a day’s work.
Watchable only if you, like the director, adore close-ups of Kamenashi’s face.