Life as a purist is hard.

A pawnshop owner is killed in 1973 in Osaka. Detective Sasagaki Junzo, who has been assigned to the case, begins to piece together the connection of two young people who are seemingly involved in the crime – the son of the victim, and the suspect’s daughter. Over the years, Sasagaki tracks the whereabouts of these two people as he tries to bring the case to a close… Continue reading

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

Seirei no Moribito season 1


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

Day 4: Favourite Actor & Actress


Clockwise from top left: Fujiki Naohito, Tamaki Hiroshi, Takenouchi Yutaka, Kagawa Teruyuki, Nakamura Toru, Shiina Kippei, Abe Hiroshi

It’s pretty obvious from this blog that Tamaki Hiroshi is my favourite actor, but this post will also feature actors whom I enjoy seeing regularly on my screen and whom I think deserve a shout-out. Currently, I have a “super seven” group of Japanese actors whom I hope will team up together in a big drama that will be the most kickass one in Japan ever, haha. They include Tamaki, Fujiki Naohito, Shiina Kippei, Nakamura Toru, Takenouchi Yutaka, Abe Hiroshi and Kagawa Teruyuki. These are all solid actors and I’ve generally enjoyed watching the stuff they’re in.

I might as well toss in some drama recs while I’m at it. For Tamaki, definitely check out Nodame Cantabile, Shikaotoko Aoniyoshi and Love Shuffle. Fujiki was awesome in Love Revolution and Hotaru no Hikari. Shiina is incredibly versatile, check him out in Antique and Over Time. Nakamura and Takenouchi were both in Koori no Sekai, but also give Soratobu Taiya and Suteki na Sen Taxi a spin while you’re at it. As for Abe, definitely Kekkon Dekinai Otoko, but I also liked him tons in Shinzanmono and Hero. Kagawa was excellent in Double Face and pretty much the only saving grace in MOZU (which was incredibly tedious).

As for Hong Kong actors, I’m very fond of Miu Kiu Wai, who is pretty versatile and a really nice guy in real life. I’ve watched most of his stuff and like his range – he’s done everything from the good guys and baddies, to comedies and serious stuff. And this section would not be complete without the two Tony Leungs – both big Tony and small Tony are awesome, although their careers have branched out in different ways. I haven’t always liked small Tony’s recent film choices – Lust, Caution was pretty mehhh – but he remains one of the standout actors of his generation. I also like Lee Jung-jae and Kim Kang-woo even if their recent works haven’t been particularly interesting.

From left: Jessica Hsuan, Ueno Juri, Esumi Makiko, Ayase Haruka, Jeon Ji-hyun

From left: Jessica Hsuan, Ueno Juri, Esumi Makiko, Ayase Haruka, Jeon Ji-hyun

I have to admit I’m hard-pressed to select an outright favourite actress, but I’ll just name five ladies of whose works I’ve seen at least two and whom I’d want to grace my screen again: Jessica Hsuan, Ueno Juri, Esumi Makiko, Ayase Haruka and Jeon Ji-hyun. They are all solid and versatile in their own ways and have proven chemistry with the male co-stars they’ve worked with over the years. Jeon is actually more of a film actress (even if she did have a ratings hit drama last year), and she is especially memorable for her earlier works Il Mare and My Sassy Girl, both of which I recommend (Il Mare does have the edge, though). Ayase does need more challenging projects and co-stars who can bring out the best in her, while Esumi just needs a new drama, stat. Maybe it’s time for Ueno, Esumi and Ayase to team up with my “super seven” for a truly blockbuster J-drama to own all J-dramas (yes, one can dream!).


Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu episodes 9-10


Well, let’s get this dumb drama out of the way. Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu ended at episode 10, and boy was I glad to see the back of it. Even though I’d grumbled about the writing flaws and I knew Yu and Hanae wouldn’t be end game, I was still prepared to be okay with it overall so long as the drama wrapped things up decently. I wasn’t even against a Hanae-Yuto ending, just that they should start behaving like adults since we’re now into the final stretch. However, the drama couldn’t even do that basic thing and the ending was just epic logic fail. How that even happened, I don’t know and will never understand. As always, Tamaki Hiroshi remains the best thing about the drama. Continue reading

Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu episodes 6-8


Tamaki Hiroshi continues to be the best thing about Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu, and this is both a good and bad thing. The good is that Tamaki is successfully making use of his minimal screentime for maximum impact, but the bad is that this drama is not about his character and the main relationship isn’t gaining any sort of logical traction. Ayase Haruka is still doing a fine job as Hanae, but it’s become increasingly obvious she can’t single-handedly sell this older woman-younger man relationship, especially since her co-star is still as stiff as a board. It’s a pity that the story, which had a fair amount of potential in the earlier stages, is kind of fizzling out as it reaches the final stretch. Continue reading

Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu episodes 3-5


Tamaki Hiroshi in a white shirt = irresistible

Time to check back with Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu, and the drama is progressing at a good pace, with both Tamaki Hiroshi and Ayase Haruka selling their respective characters well. It’s probably my bias speaking, but Tamaki is seriously the best thing about Kaisha, and this is despite his limited screentime. He really does light up the screen whenever he appears, and I look forward to Yu’s exchanges with Hanae every week. Ayase is still killing it as Hanae, and continues to make the character likeable even though many of Hanae’s actions may frustrate the viewer. Continue reading

Shikaotoko Aoniyoshi


It seems appropriate, given the currently airing Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu, to take a look at another Tamaki Hiroshi-Ayase Haruka collaboration, the 2008 drama Shikaotoko Aoniyoshi. This is an underrated gem that gets passed by often because of its fantastical plot, but it is an awesome watch and cannot be recommended enough.

Ogawa Takanobu (Tamaki Hiroshi) takes up a teaching job at a girls’ high school in Nara after being forced out of his research group due to conflicts with his colleagues. He stays at a boarding house with a few other teachers, including the history-loving Fujiwara Michiko (Ayase Haruka) and the wise Fukuhara Shigehisa (Sasaki Kuranosuke). Ogawa, however, soon gets off on the wrong foot with one of his students, Hotta Ito (Tabe Mikako), when she arrives late and gives a ridiculous excuse – that she got a ticket trying to park her deer in front of the train station. Ogawa later experiences something even stranger when he is confronted by a talking deer who orders him to prevent the destruction of Japan by fulfilling a very special mission… Continue reading

Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu episodes 1-2


It’s been a long while since I’m actually following a currently airing J-drama, and I tend not to because the wait gets excruciating if the drama has an actor I enjoy watching. However, this time I couldn’t resist Tamaki Hiroshi looking so deliciously sexy in Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu, and even though he doesn’t get a lot of screentime since he’s essentially the second lead, he really lights up the screen whenever he comes on. This is not a recap – for detailed ones, please visit koalasplayground. Rather, here are some thoughts on the initial two episodes…

The plot is simple – Aoishi Hanae (Ayase Haruka) is a 30-year-old plain OL working at a trading company. She has an unexciting life at and outside of work and has never dated. However, after an unexpected one-night stand, she ends up getting a boyfriend nine years younger, in the form of Tanokura Yuto (Fukushi Sota), a temp worker in her office. At the same time, Asao Yu (Tamaki Hiroshi), the CEO of an Italian food company located in the same building as Hanae’s office, begins to show interest in her… Continue reading

A second lead and a diplomat

28wkk92Screen shot 2014-09-17 at 06.21.22

Just a quick update on casting news. Tamaki Hiroshi has been cast in two dramas – Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu, which will begin in October, and a Japanese adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. The latter is a two-part New Year special, and is chock-full of stars. Tamaki will play a diplomat named Ando, whose wife is played by Anne. I’ve never read the book, but it’ll be good reason for me to check it out now. I hope Tamaki’s role won’t be too small, since there are just so many people in it, but it’s still a good thing for him to be in this production. The pompadour took a bit getting used to, but ultimately I think he looks handsome anyway, heh. Check out aramajapan and Dorama World for more details and a list of the stars.

Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu, meanwhile, is a romantic comedy whose plot gives me the shivers down the spine. Poor Tamaki is stuck in second-lead territory here – he plays Asao Yu, the CEO of an Italian food company, who is interested in Aoishi Hanae (Ayase Haruka), a plain office lady with zero experience in relationships. But Hanae somehow has managed to land herself a boyfriend (Fukushi Sota) nine years younger despite being utterly clueless in the dating game. And Yu happens to like her for… some reason that escapes me right now. This is totally the plot of the atrocious Last Cinderella, which was so bad I dropped it within three episodes. I have alua‘s word that Fukushi Sota is a middling actor (he looks middling too), but I doubt the drama will pair Yu and Hanae together, even though the manga from which it is adapted is as yet unfinished.

But some Tamaki is better than none, so here’s hoping for the best!