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

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

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…

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Crime-busting with Tamaki Hiroshi

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It be rainin’ lawyers and policemen in October, as Tamaki Hiroshi takes on not one, but two law enforcement roles. First up is the drama SP Kyoaku wa nemurasenai Tokusou Kenji no gyakushuu (Great evil does not go to sleep – The counterattack of the special investigation unit prosecutor), which is an adaptation of the novel Baikoku (Treason) by Mayama Jin. Tamaki portrays public prosecutor Tominaga Shinichi, a newcomer at the special investigation unit, who investigates a case of illegal donations involving a big-name politician (Tachibana Yohei, played by Nakadai Tatsuya). Tominaga also gets embroiled in a scandal involving a space exploration project due to the disappearance of a childhood friend and realises the two cases are linked. The teaser looks awesome already and has that sort of intriguing battle of wits/strategy vibe that I’m generally a sucker for.

I’m so happy to see Tamaki once again lining up against a really solid veteran actor, and Nakadai-san is as big as they come – I still remember his imposing performance in Kurosawa’s Ran (highly recommended), and he also has a string of other illustrious works under his belt, so it’s fantastic for Tamaki to be able to learn from one of the greats in the industry. Tamaki commented that it is a very challenging drama as it’ll get viewers to reflect on what justice really means, and he’d been thinking of how to portray the confrontation scene between Tominaga and Tachibana, which is surely one to look out for. Nakadai-san was very modest and said he felt he couldn’t compete with the younger actors in terms of freshness and thus was nervous standing beside Tamaki, but I’m sure Tamaki himself felt nervous as well acting opposite Nakadai-san!

Hot on the heels of the SP is a new drama, titled Career ~ Okiteyaburi no Keisatsu Shochou ~. Tamaki will star as Toyama Kinshiro, the eccentric but compassionate chief of a police precinct who helps citizens without a voice, regardless of the type of case. He would investigate cases in plainclothes, but his methods aren’t always conventional and drive his colleagues up the wall. The teaser is more light-hearted as the genre is investigative comedy, and it reminds me of Tamaki’s offbeat detective role in Watashi no Kirai na Tantei, which was completely silly. I don’t expect Career (what a title) will be as screwball, but it sounds like a fun drama for the autumn season. Co-stars include Takashima Masahiro, who plays a detective at loggerheads with Toyama, and Takimoto Miori, whose character wants to be an independent detective but keeps making mistakes.

Kyoaku airs on Oct 5 at 9pm, while Career starts on Oct 9 at 9pm.

Away from dramas, Tamaki will be one of the guest stars in a new variety programme hosted by Amami Yuki and Ishida Yuriko, titled Amami Yuki Ishida Yuriko no Snack Akebono Hashi, which will air on Sept 29. The ladies will play the bosses of a fictitious snack bar and chat with guests on a variety of topics while also making food and drinks for them. It’s nice of Amami to invite Tamaki, I figure they must have gotten along well while filming Top Caster back in 2006 and Kekkon Shinai in 2012.

And finally, Tamaki won the Best Supporting Actor prize at the 88th Drama Academy Awards (Winter 2016) for his role in Asa ga Kita! おめでとう! I’m delighted for him since it’s been a while that he’s won something, even though he totally deserves more acting awards. Now that there’s additional motivation (haha), I promise to get to the rest of Asa ga Kita as soon as possible!

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Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi

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Japan is the land of the weird and wonderful, so it’s no surprise that this quirky characteristic is also present in some of its dramas. When a drama goes all out and actually delivers on the kooky, it deserves all the appreciation it can get.

Tada Keisuke (Eita) runs a small benriya business Tada Benriken in the fictional town of Mahoro. His only “employee” is Gyoten Haruhiko (Matsuda Ryuhei), who seems happy to sponge off Tada. As the pair work through some of the oddest job requests they can imagine, their relationship and clients’ backgrounds come to the fore… Continue reading

Kageri Yuku Natsu

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Is there a lifelong WOWOW subscription available and if so, where do I sign up? Once again, a WOWOW production leaves me impressed with the station’s reliability in churning out quality dramas, and I love that there are still networks that care about and put effort into ensuring a high standard of storytelling, acting and production values.

Kaji Hidekazu (Watabe Atsuro) and Muto Seiichi (Tokito Saburo) were journalists on the case of a newborn baby being kidnapped from the Yokosuka General Hospital in the summer of 1995. Unusually, the kidnappers demanded a ransom from the hospital director rather than the baby’s parents. The kidnappers fled with the ransom but were killed in a car accident. Twenty years later, the kidnapper’s daughter Hiroko applies for a job at the newspaper company where Kaji and Muto work, and as Muto struggles to protect Hiroko from the glare of the media scrutiny, Kaji is tasked to relook into the kidnapping incident… Continue reading

Seirei no Moribito season 1

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Fantasy and sci-fi are not genres I gravitate towards often because there’s usually a lot of (sometimes complicated) world-building going on that tends to be too much for my limited brains. But spirits and such are okay, and it was a good opportunity to see if I could finally watch Ayase Haruka after her previous horrific drama. Fortunately, the stars aligned in my favour.

Balsa (Ayase Haruka) is a wandering, spear-wielding bodyguard who has promised her mentor Jiguro (Kikkawa Koji) to save eight lives in order to atone for eight previous deaths. On her journeys, she saves Prince Chagum of New Yogo Country and is tasked to become his bodyguard. As Balsa and her friends work to figure out Chagum’s connection to a legendary water spirit which could destroy the kingdom, her own complicated past begins to come to the fore… Continue reading

Short Takes: Neko Zamurai 2 & Shinya Shokudo 3

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It’s back to regular programming on this blog with two feel-good dramas. While there’s always a fear that sequels are unnecessary and don’t live up to successful earlier seasons, fortunately both Neko Zamurai 2 and Shinya Shokudo 3 still know how to keep a good thing going. The magic is knowing when to stop. For this round, kitty edges it, which makes me think a certain poet turned policeman needs to feature in a cat-related drama soon. Besides, how apt is that tagline on the poster of Neko Zamurai 2? It’s totally my motto in life! Continue reading

Yami no Bansosha

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It’s not often, given the current bleh drama climate, that you get a show that ticks all the boxes on why it should be a must-watch or be deserving of a place on any recommended drama list. Fortunately, Yami no Bansosha is all that and another testament to the enduring quality of WOWOW dramas. It’s short at only five episodes, but there’s a lot going on that deserves your full attention every minute of the way.

Mizuno Yuki (Matsushita Nao) is an ex-cop turned researcher for a publishing company. She gets an unusual request to look into whether a series of 50 unpublished sketches were really the work of manga master Ajima Fumiya, who died a year ago. The sketches are eerily similar to 35-year-old cases of young women who went missing. As manga is not her forte, Yuki enlists the help of eccentric manga editor Daigo Shinji (Furuta Arata) to uncover the mystery behind these sketches… Continue reading