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

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From the Bakumatsu to Bali

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A quick update on Tamaki Hiroshi’s recent film adventures, which don’t seem to have had much promotion outside Japan – a pity as both offerings look pretty fun. Anyhow, the first film, Bakumatsu Kokosei, was released in the summer and features Tamaki as imperial statesman Katsu Kaishu, who in 1868 tries to avoid conflict with anti-Shogunate forces by sending a message to highly influential samurai Saigo Takamori. Katsu crosses paths with two unusual people – high-school student Masaya and history teacher Mikako (Ishihara Satomi), who have somehow slipped back in time from the future and are trying to find two other students who may have arrived ahead of them. Katsu worries about not having received a reply from Saigo, but Mikako assures him that peace talks will be successful and war would not break out in Edo. However, something unexpected happens…

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I’ve seen the trailer and it’s a mix of comedy and seriousness, and seems like it’d be a fun film to watch, so I’ll definitely try to get my hands on it. Tamaki looked pretty cool in late Edo garb, although this Katsu Kaishu seems to be kinda dorky and a bit of a reluctant hero, at least in the earlier parts. He was even playing with a Rubik’s Cube, haha. In reality, Katsu was a man of progressive ideals. An expert in western military technology, he negotiated the surrender of Edo Castle to Saigo in 1868 during the Boshin War and played a key role in the transition of power in the Meiji Restoration. It’d be interesting to see the film’s take on this historical figure, and Tamaki had mentioned in an earlier interview he wanted to add something new in his interpretation of Katsu – that’s something I look forward to (especially since he already had me laughing in the trailer).

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Helping to whip the country into shape was tough work, so Tamaki then takes a holiday in Bali, where he morphs into an ophthalmologist named Ryu in Kamisama wa Bali ni Iru, which is slated for release on Jan 17, 2015. Based on a novel by Kuroiwa Sho, it tells the story of Sachiko (Ono Machiko), who has failed in her business and flees to Bali shouldering a lot of debt. She runs into a multi-millionaire nicknamed “Aniki” (big brother), played by Tsutsumi Shinichi, whose self-proclaimed invigorating persona seems to have earned the trust and admiration of Ryu and a few others on the island. With Aniki’s help, Sachiko begins working her way towards becoming a successful entrepreneur. But she still has her reservations about his unconventional methods…

The trailer is pretty wacky and Tsutsumi Shinichi is more like a happy thug (of the big bear variety), while Tamaki looks healthy, tanned and incredibly hot (look at those muscles!). I’m also glad that Ono Machiko is in this film as I like her as an actress, so the cast is solid on all counts. The scene where Aniki and Ryu go “yasui!” when Sachiko reveals the amount of her debt had me cracking up. This looks like a fun ride to go on and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for it when it screens!

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Saikou no Rikon

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A drama about divorce doesn’t have to be heavy and melodramatic, as Saikou no Rikon proves. This was touted to be one of the best dramas of 2013, with a stellar cast and solid writing, and eventually I took the plunge to try it out.

Hamasaki Mitsuo (Eita) is a salaryman working for a vending machine company. He is whiny, OCD to the nth degree, and not particularly good with people. Married to Yuka (Ono Machiko) for a couple of years now, Mitsuo is realising that he and his wife don’t really have anything in common. On the spur of the moment (or not?), they end up divorcing but have trouble breaking the news to their respective families and are forced for a good part of the drama to continue sharing their (ex-)matrimonial home as though nothing has happened. One day, Mitsuo runs into his ex-girlfriend Akari (Maki Yoko), and has thoughts of rekindling their relationship, only to find out that she is married to Uehara Ryo (Ayano Go), who is apparently cheating on his wife… Continue reading