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

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Okashi no Ie

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Greetings after a spot of radio silence! Real life kept me busy for a while, but I’ve finally had the time to sit down and work through a drama. Thankfully, it’s of the nice and slow variety, and I found it difficult to resist the combination of Odagiri Joe and Ono Machiko in a genre the Japanese tend to excel in.

Sakurai Taro (Odagiri Joe) lives with his grandmother Akiko (Yachigusa Kaoru) and cat Mii-chan in an old part of town, where they run an old-fashioned candy shop called Sakuraya. The shop doesn’t make much money and has only a few customers. Grandma is worried that keeping the candy shop running is holding Taro back from a brighter future, but Taro wants to keep it going for Grandma’s sake. One day, Taro gets a surprise visitor when his childhood friend and now single mother Reiko (Ono Machiko) returns to the neighbourhood… Continue reading

Short takes: Neko Zamurai & Shinya Shokudo 2

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Concise storytelling is one of the hallmarks of Japanese dramas, and the good ones make sure scenes contribute to plot, characterisation and the overall big picture. This is even more evident when it comes to dramas whose episodes are at most 25 mins each – you need to tell a story in that period of time and not leave the viewer feeling shortchanged. Fortunately, when Japan does something like this, it tends to do it well, as both Neko Zamurai and Shinya Shokudo will attest. The two dramas are slightly different in the sense that Neko Zamurai is one whole story divided into 12 episodes of 20 minutes each, while Shinya Shokudo is more episodic with loose connections between stories. But they both leave you wanting more. Continue reading

Alice no Toge

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Recently finished Alice no Toge, Ueno Juri’s first drama after a three-year break from TV-land (her last being the 2011 taiga Gou). I generally enjoy revenge medical thrillers and this was a pretty good one to sink my teeth into. Hong Kong and Japan are fairly reliable in their procedurals (though I think Hong Kong has the edge), and at 10 episodes, Alice no Toge certainly burst off the blocks with a dramatic bang. Once it settled down, however, it had good pace and I found myself wanting to watch the next episode. Besides, it was refreshing to watch Ueno shed her iconic Nodame image to take on a very different role to showcase her versatility.

Mizuno Asumi (Ueno Juri) is a doctor at Seirin University Hospital, where her father was also a doctor fifteen years ago. Unfortunately, dad died because of medical malpractice that was covered up, and Asumi is determined to bring the matter to light to avenge her father. Initially, Asumi goes at it alone but gains an ally in the journalist Nishikado Yusuke (Odagiri Joe), who turns out to be her childhood friend. Together, they set out to unearth the mastermind(s) behind the cover-up and get more than they bargained for… Continue reading