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

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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…

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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

Intermezzo: 바꿔 – Gloomy 30s

This song has been on my mind for the past two weeks, and is a timely reminder of how much I loved Jang Hyuk as Lee Dae-gil in Chuno. The song, 바꿔 (Change) by Gloomy 30s, typifies everything I liked about Chuno – swashbuckling fun, reckless adventure, solid fight choreography, and plenty of style, substance and oomph. While I disagreed with the direction Chuno eventually took, among other things, it doesn’t take away how awesome Jang Hyuk’s portrayal of Dae-gil is. That smirk, that swagger, the intensity, the choco abs… totally to die for! Perhaps a rewatch is on the cards…

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Beautiful Mind: Episodes 13-14

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All good things come to an end, and for Beautiful Mind, it’s been an incredible journey of self-discovery and healing. To be honest, I’ve sat here for days wondering how to write this post, knowing that I’m still not ready to let go but ultimately must. It’s been a fantastic ride, along with many memorable firsts, making this my favourite k-drama to date. When a drama shows this much integrity in all aspects of its production, you know you’ve got a real gem on your hands. One that lasts the test of time, to savour for years to come. Continue reading

Beautiful Mind: Episodes 11-12

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We move into Angstville and a number of familiar tropes, which have been simmering throughout the drama, are in full play this week (and possibly the next). It’s difficult to ignore the fact that Beautiful Mind does have enough story to last the full 16 episodes, but I’m trying to make peace with the episode cut by deluding myself that this would be like a slightly longer J-drama – how awesome would it be, though, if Japan remade this and invited Jang Hyuk to reprise his role? So many dramas have faltered in the second half of their run, but the cast and crew have responded admirably so far and I hope this continues as we head into the final stretch. Also, episode 11 is a big fuck you to KBS, cleverly couched in the downsizing plot with several choice barbs of love thrown in. Good one, drama. Continue reading

Beautiful Mind: Episodes 1-10

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Lately, I’ve lost my marbles again, but this time it’s for a good cause. When you sink your teeth into a drama on a whim (more or less), and find yourself richly rewarded, the feels… they are damn good.

Lee Young-oh (Jang Hyuk) is a genius neurosurgeon with impeccable observational, deductive and logical skills, but is unable to feel empathy. A series of patient deaths at Hyunsung Medical Centre, where Young-oh works, force him and traffic cop Gye Jin-sung (Park So-dam) to work together to uncover the mystery behind it all… 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