29 May 2011

Sunday Drama: Inu wo Kau to Iu Koto

Just a quick review this week because I have a big test tomorrow.  Also this drama is only half way through the season - which is dangerous because it could turn to shit in the next few episodes and I'll look like a fool.

Inu o Kau to Iu Koto (I hate romaji titles, btw) is super to the power of infinity.  It's like they have taken something cute and added on extra cute, then put a super cute cherry on top.

It's the story of a poor family - Mum, Sachiko (Mizukawa Asami) had gotten knocked up at uni so Dad, Yuji (Nishikido Ryo) did the right thing and married her.  See it's already cute because it has Ryo who is a little man packed full of cuteness with a movie star smile.   Together they raise their two cute kids.

Their daughter,  Mako, finds a super cute puppy and brings it home but, since they can barely afford to eat, how can they raise a puppy?  Mako, of course, is super cute.  And super sad because she loves that puppy.  She took a bus all on her own to rescue it from the pound and everything.

Then, when Mum goes to dump the dog, bitchy kid and bitchy mum start talking to her and it makes her change her mind.

They call the dog Sky Tree because they live near the Tokyo Sky Tree and Mako loves the Sky Tree and, if nothing else made me love this drama it's that because I too love the Sky Tree.

Added to the cuteness, is some heartwarming drama.  Ryo-papa works for the Man in the Giving People the Arse department.  He has to knee down to them so they will sign the resignation forms.  WTF Japan, if I was getting the boot from a job, I'd be like - screw your kneeling down apology, I want a big, fat redundancy pay-out.

Ryo-papa has to sack his friend/sempai which is, of course, heartbreaking... but wait, friend/sempai has a wife and she's -- ZOINKS dying of cancer!  Friend/sempai goes to the union.  I'm like WTF THERE ARE UNIONS IN JAPAN!  Who knew that?

I assumed there were no unions and that's why everyone hangs out at work until bullshit o'clock and sucks up their bosses arse at drinking parties and talks keigo.  What does the union do here?  Shouldn't they be like "KEIGO, GOT TO GO!"  and bringing in the 8 hour day and shit (I tried to explain Australia's 8 hour day holiday to some students once... I think I broke their brains).

So The Man tells Ryo-papa to get sempai out of the union by offering an early payout.  Sempai says 'mates before dates - and dates includes wives with cancer'.  So Ryo-papa goes to The Man and suggests job sharing.  The Man is like - get your dirty hippy arse out of our kaisha, dude.  We don't hold with that kind of talk about her.  Now get out of here so I can go buy a Louis Vuitton handbag to encourage a schoolgirl to have sex with me (note: this may only be in the drama as subtext).

So Mama has to work at the supermarket while Ryo-papa gets a construction job.  It is worth watching this movie just to see Nishikido in construction worker mode.  But, it gets better.  There are scenes with him in the bath.  I'm like - damn you, cloudy water!

Less kids, less dog, less water!

Then, OMG ZOINNKS, mama is pregnant and Junno from KAT-TUN is the baby doctor.  Because they are so poor, they can't even get a good member of KAT-TUN like Kame to deliver it.

Of course, all is not happy with that cute lil scallyway of a puppy either...or with the apartment residents who hate puppies.

This is the one part I had huge problems with.  Before finding out Mama is preggers, they think she collapsed because she's a housewife AND she works part-time!!!!!  WTF... she's a housewife with kids at school.  Because that's so damn exhausting?  I nearly threw something at the TV in that bit.  I was a single mother who worked full time and studied for my degree at night so don't give me that bullshit.

Oh and another bit that shit me - Mum has to work late so Mako, who is like 5 years old, has to cook dinner for her 10 year old brother.  Again, WTF.  If you are going to leave your kids at home, at least make the older one do the cooking.  It's okay because Mako is so wise beyond her years.

It's over the top with sentamentality.  Like they are thinking is there something more we can add to this scene to make it even more heart-wrenching.  But it's so damn cute.  And sweet.

I give this drama 4/5 stars.  If there are more bath scenes, I might give it 5/5.

22 May 2011

Sunday Drama – Stand Up!

Since a few people have mentioned this drama lately, I thought I’d review it today.  The premise of Stand Up! sounds like it’s going to be similar to some American frat boy drama (eg American Pie) – lots of cheap laughs and not much substance.


Stand Up! is the story of four boys who are the last virgins left in their high school.   Of course, they are mercilessly mocked for being “doutei boys”.   They decide that, over the summer holidays they need to lose their virginity.



So far, you can see that it doesn’t sound like much of a drama (or maybe it does, depending on your point of view).


Shouhei (Nino) is in love with his teacher.  I kinda had issues with this part of the plot – she’s the hot teacher, she knows he has a crush on her so she strings him along rather than trying to be responsible.  She tells him she’ll meet for a date then brings along another guy… that kind of thing.  Basically she bugged the hell out of me.


Ken-ken (Yamapi) is a train nerd and his mother runs the local love hotel.  He has a long term girlfriend but she won’t put out.  Later he finds out that she actually will put out, just not for him.  He’s the “nice” boyfriend.


Udayan (Hiroki Narimiya) is hilarious in this.  He is obsessed with seeing panties!  Since it was the first drama I ever saw him in, ever after I’ve referred to him as pants guy.   He wants to be a rock star but has no talent.  He also figures that the best way to deal with being a virgin is to embrace his virginity… and he makes the others swear to a vow of celibacy.

Koji (Oguri Shun) is so damn cute in this – I want to squish his little Oguri Shun cheeks.  He’s the sports star.  Lots of girls are interested in him but, when they talk to him, he’s so awkward and shy, he can only come out with gibberish.  Also he sleeps with his eyes open.


The main obstacle to the boys losing their virginity, apart from their own dorkiness, is that the adults of the neighbourhood think the kids are getting too promiscuous so they start cracking down on teenage sex. 


This drama really shows the hypocrisy of adults wanting to protect the morals of the young while being as perverted as hell themselves. 

Also, at the start of the summer, their childhood friend, Chie comes back to the neighbourhood.   She wants to relive her childhood memories and pick up where they left off.  Instead she’s pretty much disgusted to learn that her old friends are just interested in getting  laid.

At first no one questions why she’s just randomly turned up in the neighbourhood but later they find out that she is running away from something – and that makes them rethink their attitudes and to start seeing females are real people, rather than just potential virginity-losing opportunities.



I love that this drama actually does make some really interesting comments about relationships.  While it’s funny, because there is nothing funnier than dorky boys trying to get laid, there are some really serious issues touched on in the drama without it becoming an “issue” drama.


I highly recommend Stand Up!  While the acting isn’t the greatest in some parts, it’s a got a strong story line and some hilariously funny moments.  All up, I live it 5 stars.

15 May 2011

Sunday Drama: Kimi wa Petto

The other night I was walking home in the rain and it reminded me of this drama so I thought I’d review it.  I think a lot of Japanese dramas can be a bit fluffy, not that there’s anything wrong with that – you can’t be all deep and angsty all the time – but Kimi wa Petto, while being an enjoyable drama to watch, touches on a lot of issues about how women are treated in Japanese society and also about the nature of relationships.


Kimi wa Petto is the story of Sumire (Koyuki), who is a tall, strong, intelligent and emotionless woman.  She works for a newspaper and isn’t well liked by her co-workers.  The drama starts with her going to a therapist because she’s just broken up with her boyfriend who couldn’t handle that she had a much better job than him.


The therapist asks her when was the last time she cried.  She tells him when she was a child and her dog, Momo, dies.


Sumire returns to work to find one of her staff has slacked off on the job.  She tells the girl off and the girl, in the manner of cutesy Japanese girls, goes crying to the boss (in a very manipulative manner).  The boss puts the blame on Sumire and, in the ensuing argument, sexually harasses her.  She responds by punching him and knocking out one of his teeth.


Already at this point, I’m liking Sumire.  I’m pretty much identifying with all of this.


So she goes home, it’s pouring with rain and, outside the door of her apartment building, she finds a boy (Matsumoto Jun) who has been beaten up in a cardboard box.  She’s not sure what do do with him so she takes him and treats his wounds.  He sleeps on her couch and she expects him to leave the next day.




Back at work she is in a shitload of trouble – because this is Japan and apparently it’s perfectly okay to sexually harass your staff but not okay for them to respond.  She’s demoted from the “real” news to the light entertainment section – where they don’t want a snotty, well educated woman working either.  They give her all kinds of shit jobs that involve stuff like dressing up in costumes.


When she gets home, the boy is still there.  He wants to live with her but she doesn't want him.  He offers to be anything – friend, lover, maid…   She tells him all she wants is a pet.  Of course, she doesn’t expect him to agree to that but he does.  And she calls him Momo.



While the relationship works quite well between them, things become complicated when other people find out about it.  How do you explain to your friends that the hot young guy living in your apartment is actually your pet?


kimi wa petto (5)

Sumire’s college infatuation comes back from working overseas and that further complicates things.  Momo becomes jealous and, of course, Sumire doesn’t want him to find out about Momo.


kimi_wa_petto_10Sumire has to sort out her own feelings for Momo.  But Momo has issues of his own, mostly involving interpretative dance.  Because issues involving interpretative dance as the best issues of all.  They are also issues with his mother – and mummy issues aren’t so fun.


My sister and I had tickets to a rock festival on the day we started watching Kimi wa Petto.  We had to stop watching this drama halfway though… drive across town to catch the couple of bands we wanted to see, then race home to finish watching the last few episodes.   Naturally, at the festival, we were like “Billy Corgan, cut the guitar wank so we can get home and see Momo”.


I’d give this drama 10/10.  It’s got the cute and it’s got a real storyline.   There is a Korean version of this being filmed at the moment with Jang Geun Suk which could be good but the Korean chick in it looks annoying and not right for the role.

01 May 2011

Sunday Drama: Minami Kun No Koibito

Normally when I review drama's I’m all like this is my favourite drama ever, I love it – so I thought I would be good to review a drama I can totally slag off.


The fact that I actually watched all 11 episodes of this drama is a testament to my determination and tenacity… or maybe just a sign that I have way too much time on my hands.  It was really, really horrible.




Minami Kun no Koibito (Minami’s Girlfriend would be an approximate English translation) is the story of the love between two high school students – Minami (Ninomiya Kazunari) and Chiyomi (Fukada Kyoko).  


After eating at Chinese restaurant that has opened mysteriously overnight (why the hell do people ever go to mysteriously appearing Chinese places?  It never ends well), Chiyomi gets a fortune cookie that says if she sticks with Minami he will do great things but, if she ever leaves him, terrible things will happen.  Pretty detailed for a fortune cookie – I guess you can say a lot more on one of those little slips of paper if you write in Kanji.


So, on the way home, they have a fight and Chiyomi suddenly – OMG ZOINKS!!!! gets shrunk to 16 cm high!




As you’d expect, this leads to many wacky adventures:  Minami trying to hide his 16 cm girlfriend from his family and friends, almost being exposed, family and friends getting the wrong idea and thinking he’s up to really shady stuff and so on.


Luckily, before she got shrunk, Chiyomi’s hobby was doing novelty oversized calligraphy (there is probably a name for this) because that is a really handy skill to have when you are shrunk to a teeny-tiny size.  She can write notes in her own hand-writing and do other things that are only possible if you are really good at writing with a brush as big as you are.  It’s almost like she knew one day she would be shrunk.



The story line is pretty much what you’d expect but there is a really creepy side plot.  Chiyomi, pre-shrinkage, was being raised by her grandfather because her parents are dead.  So this dude, who is supposed to be her cousin or some relation, keeps popping into the grandfather’s sushi shop (he’s also a teacher at Minami’s school) and dealing out the life advice.


The dude is still getting over his unrequited love for Chiyomi’s mother – who, of course, looked exactly like her.    At least getting shrunk to miniature size gets her away from the creepy uncle/cousin who obviously has inappropriate feelings for her.   This whole side story goes nowhere but definitely has “inappropriate” stamped all over it.


The best thing about this drama is Fukada Kyoko – I have a big girl crush on her at the moment – and even she is kind of annoying in it.   Also, the special effects are really well done.   Apart from that, everything about it sucks.   The ending is especially annoying and you are left thinking “Huh?  That’s it?  I just watched 11 episodes of this .. and that’s how it ends?”


I give this drama one star – and that’s only because of the bits where Minami get's caught buying doll clothes  and everyone thinks he is gay and/or crazy.

24 April 2011

Sunday Drama – Tiger and Dragon

This week I thought I’d review Tiger and Dragon because it’s about rakugo, and yesterday I went to see a rakugo performance so it’s timely and I can combine both things in a nice package.

Board showing featured performers at rakugo hall

Rakugo is a form of traditional Japanese storytelling/comedy where a lone performer kneels on the stage and tells a story (usually a stock rakugo story with their own twist added) using only a fan and a small folded towel as props. 

Since watching Tiger and Dragon, I really wanted to watch rakugo but was a bit intimidated since it’s in Japanese and my Japanese is weak.  I got an opportunity in Australia to watch a performer in English which was quite good but the set up was very different to watching rakugo in Japan.

I’d really recommend going along to check it out even if you don’t understand much of what’s going on.  The story-telling is interspersed with other, Vaudevillian style, performances – magic, slapstick comedy and the like which has no language barriers – but more entertaining is the audience.

While other Japanese theatre, like kabuki and Noh have become very stylised over time and seem a bit hoity-toity for the likes of me, rakugo is very much an entertainment for the people.   I met with my date at the station and he asked if I’d prepared a bento.  Huh?  A bento?

As each show goes for around 5 hours, the audience turn up with a bento and oyatsu (snack foods).  Seems they also turn up with beer and sake as well. 


During the show, each performer is on stage for around 15 minutes and, if they aren’t entertaining or maybe you just run out of beer or something, you can freely get up and leave and re-enter.  This is a good thing because the seats are really, really uncomfortable.  Napping during the performance is also quite okay.

Tiger and Dragon
Tiger and Dragon is the story of Toraji (Nagase Tomoya), a yakuza guy who is supposed to be collecting money from an old guy who is a big wig in the rakugo world.  Instead of collecting the money though, Toraji gets hooked on rakugo and decides he wants to learn it for himself - so each week the performer gives him lessons to pay off the debt.


The reason the performer is in debt is that his son, Ryuji (Okada Junichi), wanted to open a shop in Harajuku selling his clothing designs featuring tigers.  The clothes are pretty hideous and, of course, no one ever buys them.  Ryuji was a talented rakugo performer but finds that world too old fashioned.


Toraji and Ryuji meet up when they both get involved with the same woman.

Each episode begins with the traditional rakugo story being told on stage and acted out by the various cast members in the rakugo troupe.   At the end of the episode, Toraji retells the story in his unique style using the events of the episode. 

This is a format that could end up being really awful and contrived but it really does work.  You never feel like the plot is being forced.

The story moves between the rakugo world where the weird and quirky performers live together as family - including the eldest son, Ryuhei (Abe Sadao) who has achieved fame as a humiliating himself on variety television and gets ranked “most undesirable man” in polls – and the yakuza world where Toraji becomes a babysitter for the boss’ playboy (unsuccessful) playboy son. 

Thrown into this mix a very funny look at the indie fashion world of Ura-Harajuku – and Ryuji’s “apartment” that is the top half of a closet (“but it’s in Aoyama”).

Of course, these worlds collide in strange and wonderful ways.
The chemistry between Toraji and Ryuji is amazing – a mixture of man-love and sibling rivalry and jealousy.  They do it so well.


Very clever, very well written and full of heart.  I really think I want to rewatch it again soon.

10 April 2011

Sunday Drama: Jin

I haven’t done a Sunday drama review in ages so thought I should on top of that so this week I’m reviewing one of the most beloved Japanese dramas ever – Jin.  A second season of this is starting soon and I’m so excited.
Now maybe there are people out there who don’t think the whole concept of a brain surgeon (Minakara Jin – played by Osawa Takao) travelling back in time to the Edo period where he performs brain surgery with HAND TOOLS isn’t awesome but I’m not one of them.  Performing brain surgery with hand tools is not only awesome, it’s also inspiring.  I was totally on to the idea of trying this on my sister but strangely, she was not enthusiastic.  If I’d not had to move to Japan, I could have probably tried it in her sleep without her notices cos she’s not so bright.

Of course there are some bits that aren’t so awesome, like when he’s staring out the rainy windows (figuratively since they didn’t have glass in the Edo period), thinking that maybe it’s going to ruin the fabric of time if he cures cholera before the actual cholera cure is invented.    And lots of running through Ye Olde Edo Town (I so need to find where these things are filmed so I can go there).

In between doctoring, he becomes friends with Sakamoto Ryomo (Uchino Masaaki), who is a real Edo period famous dude, who lead the movement to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate and thus bringing about the Meiji restoration that made Tokyo what it is today.  Of course Minakata Jin is fully aware of his friend’s significance in history and therefore feels the need to protect and prevent a tear in the fabric of time.


And a drama isn’t a drama without a love interest really is it.  And to make it better, the love interest is played by Ayase Haruka who I absolutely love and every time I see the SKII ad where she says “unbelieveable” I want to go out and buy it.  Of course, she’s not just a pretty face.  She gives up her being a spoilt daughter of a fancy family life to assist him in his doctoring and learn medicine.


Anyway, you should watch it because it’s not only awesome but also educational because you learn stuff about the Edo period and performing surgery and other things.

06 February 2011

Sunday Drama - Gantz

I was going to take a break from Japanese dramas this week but then I went to see Gantz at the movies and figured I should review since it’s going to be a world wide hit and all.  It’s already been released in the US and will no doubt be released in Australia and elsewhere.  Although don’t see it with dubbed voices because that’s just wrong.



I went to see it on the 1st because the first of the month is cheap movie day in Japan.  Of course everyone else in Japan decided to do the same thing so I could only get a seat in the very front row which was pretty annoying.


The cinema audience was made up of two groups – either nerd boys there because they’d read the manga or Arashi fan girls there because the movie stars Ninomiya Kazunari.   There were also some nerd boy/fan girl combos. 


I’m not sure if the nerd boy/fan girl combination would work or not.  On the one hand, he’d be totally sympathetic if you couldn’t see him because it’s the day the new Arashi concert DVD is released.  And, in return, you’d fully get his need for some new Evangelion shit (*note: I know bugger all about Evangelion).


On the other hand, Japanese apartments are tiny and imagine the space wars over your photo books vs his Gundam figurines.  I guess though that’s not an issue because I can pretty much beat that both of them still live with their parents and will do so forever.


Anyways, on to the movie.  As noted above, Gantz stars Nino as the Japanese Mad Max and Kenichi Matsuyama as Sam Winchester (ie good guy who loves kittens and rainbows and unicorns but is fated to become a killer against his will and may eventually go on to cause Armageddon and release Satan from hell and all that) .   It also stars Annoying Girl as Annoying Girl and Token Love Interest Girl as Token Love Interest Manga Drawing Girl.


So Nino and the other dude, who obviously (in sub-text) had some gay fling in school then broke up, randomly meet each other at a subway station.  They pretend not to know each other until some idiot falls on the tracks.  Seriously don’t they know “because it’s dangerous, stay behind the yellow line” – they say that like 500 times every time you catch a train in this country! 


So Nino and other dude, save the guy on the tracks only to be hit by the subway train themselves.  This is awesome.  So awesome.  Of course my family loves shit like TAC commercials and other shit like that.


Anyway, they end up in the afterlife waiting room with a lovely view of Tokyo Tower (therefore it must be hell and they are in Roppongi?) and a giant ball in the room.  The ball gives them a case containing leather cat suits and weaponry.  This is a wonderful argument for ensuring you leave a beautiful corpse because seriously I’d hate to imagine how I’d look in one of those suits, though they’d be totally awesome.


The ball tells them they have to go on a mission to kill things (aliens?) and they will get points.  If you score 100 points you get shit – like someone you love coming back from the dead and other things but nothing to make killing worthwhile like say the really awesome strawberry and banana roll cake from the the 7-11 or tickets to an Arashi concert.


So wimpy Nino and other dude and all the other dead people get zapped back to Earth to kill shit except Nino and Other Dude are far too wimpy to actually kill.  They have a time limit and manage to survive to go back to the Gantz room, then somehow go back to their regular lives.  Like zombies or something.


Now because they have the magic leather catsuits, they have all kinds of powers and shit.  When Nino discovers this he gets all like “OMG, let me kill shit” but the other dude is not convinced.  He is more like – “I just want to have kittens and unicorns and crazy gay sex with Nino in his leather cat suit”.  Then he tries to pretend his in love with Annoying Girl to hide his gay feelings but he really doesn’t hide them very well. 


Then the annoying girl gets killed and that makes me very happy because seriously if she was around me and I had awesome weaponry, I’d be like screw the aliens, you’re dead, bitch.  She was that annoying.


After that, they fight some awesome monsters and blow lots of shit up and there is more fighting.   Of all the movies I’ve seen with fighting and violence and blowing shit up, this was the BEST and I fully recommend it.  I can’t wait until April for part 2.



23 January 2011

Sunday Drama – Utahime (歌姫)



Utahime, roughly translated means “Diva”.   This is a story that moves through two time periods – something that normally bugs me.   Utahime begins with a famous singing diva announcing her retirement much to the dismay of her son.  The son, played by Nagase Toyomo, pretty much is a loser who clings to his mother.   She wants him to man up and sends him on a mysterious mission to a small town to watch the final movie being shown before the local cinema closes forever.



When he gets to the small town, it’s unclear whether we are are flashing back in time or if the other story is meant to be the movie.


Same small town in the Showa (1950s-60s) period, which is absolutely wonderfully recreated.  I was going to say realistically recreated but, let’s face, I know bugger all about what a small Japanese town would have looked like in the 60s.


The story centres around the Orion cinema and the family who own it.  Years before, the youngest daughter of the family finds a soldier, Taro, (again played by Nagase) who has washed up on the beach.  He has lost his memory and comes to live with them as part of the family.  This is a huge problem for Suzu (Aibu Saki) because she has fallen in love with him.


I have spent most of life living near the sea and walking along the beach and seriously, I’ve found driftwood and bits of plastic and dog turds and used condoms.  Why do I never find a hot soldier with memory loss? My life sucks.


Nagase helps run the cinema and we see him returning, very dapperly dressed, on a bicycle through the beautiful seaside country, with all the locals running after him wanting to know what the new movie will be.


Meanwhile, the local yakuza (Japanese mobsters) are trying to muscle in on the town.  The yakuza leader, nicknamed Croissant (Sato Ryuta) has a fearful reputation.


The town holds their annual singing competition and Suzu decides to win the grand prize, a motor scooter, so she can give it to Taro and have him see her as a woman rather than a sister and thereby win his love.  Personally, I’d say flashing your tits would do a better job but what would I know.


Suzu has some fierce competition though because every other wacky character in the town also wants to win.  Also she has intense stage fright.


Then a mysterious stranger comes to town, a professional singer who has been planted in the competition by the yakuza as a ploy to take over.  That’s how the yakuza worked in Showa Era Japan.  No guns, no violence – just singing.


After Suzu is foiled, Taro decides to enter himself.  He gets up and does a version of Jailhouse Rock to rival Elvis, shocking the small town residents who have no knowledge of ROCK! 


Now Suzu is wondering – how does Taro know how to sing in English?  How does he know Elvis?  OMG he has this whole lost memory life she knows nothing about and one day his memory might return!


Like most Japanese drama, there is a whole supporting cast of wacky characters.  My favourite is the woman who runs the local guesthouse.  Sabaco is conniving and money obsessed and the whole town is scared of her.


This week’s drama review is very light on the boy love but, of all the Asian dramas I’ve watched,  I would say this one has the strongest storylines and the most satisfying ending.   People criticise Nagase because he often plays the same character but I don’t have a problem with that.  He’s like the manliest man in Japan so of course he’s going to play manly roles.   I like the manliness.


Normally too I have issues with love stories that start off when one of the characters is a child.  It’s getting into a really grey area that can be a bit creepy.  I didn’t feel that at all in Utahime though because there is such a huge struggle for Suzu to get Taro to see her as an adult. 


I’d totally recommend Utahime.   Awesome story, awesome setting, awesome Nagase.

16 January 2011

Sunday Drama – Kizarazu Cat’s Eye

Okay, this is a huge call but I’m going start that this drama is my all time favourite drama ever.  Sometimes I watch a drama and think I like it better than Kizarazu Cat’s Eye but it’s a passing whim.  When it comes to dramas, KCE is my lasting love.


Kisarazu Cat's Eye - 09 (7) [Kisarazu Cats]


The guy who wrote this drama also wrote some other awesome stuff – like Ikebukuro West Gate Park (totally false advertising by the way) and Tiger and Dragon, which I may review at a later stage.  One of things I absolutely love about his dramas is that the setting becomes such a vibrant part of the story.  In Kizarazu, he takes a town that doesn’t have much going on and makes that a pivotal part of the story.  All the small town quirks and weird characters and traditions – especially the local dance, the Yassai Mossai.


The story is about a group of guys who live in the town and played baseball together in high school.  They almost made it to Koshien (massive Japanese high school baseball tournament and focus of many dramas) but someone screwed up. 


Mostly the drama centres on Bussan (Okada Junichi), who finds out he has cancer and only has 6 months to live.  That sounds like a bunch of laughs, you think… and, while Japan loves it’s ultra-depressing ‘terminal illness’ dramas with an unhealthy passion, this isn’t one of them.   In an instant you can go from getting all teary eyed to shrieking with laughter.  Pure brilliance.




Because of the aforementioned baseball drama, Bussan and his best friend, Bambi (Sakurai Sho) have had a falling out.  Of course, in drama terms “falling out” means unspoken gay love.  Bambi is in love with Moko who is in love with Bussan which doesn’t help their friendship (but doesn’t harm the gay love).


The other members of the cat’s eyes are Master (Sato Ryuta – who I love in everything he does and seriously, I swear to god, the guy serving my coffee in a fancy Omotesando cafe the other day had to be his brother) as the bar owner with the rarely seen but very controlling wife.




Ani (Tsukamoto Takashi)– which is Japanese for older brother, because his younger brother is the only one people remember and Uchie (Okada Yoshinori) who is so weird and funny in this that’s only later, when I saw him in something else that I realised he’s quite cute.




So anyway, until Bussan finds out he is dying all any of them, apart from Bambi (who goes to uni in Tokyo) do is play baseball against the yakuza and drink at Master’s bar.  But, they need to make money fast, so they turn to crime – based on a manga called Cat’s Eyes (about a group of female cat burglars). 


This results in high calibre wacky hi-jinx that seem to be linked together by far-fetched coincidences – until you see the other other “innings” when it all comes together.


It takes about 5 minutes to fall in love with the cast of this drama.  Even the minor characters are so freaken awesome.  Ozzie – the town drunk who hates the dark, Miss Rose – the local aging stripper “The Second Generation Kisarazu Rose” who tries to drum up business by pretending to be foreign, Busan’s dad who is taking impersonation lessons at night, the wacky Yakuza guy…. you feel like you want to live in this town and be best friends with these guys.


My favourite scene in this drama is when Bambi is trying to convince Moko to go out with him.  She tells him there is a legend that if you carry someone over the red bridge in the town, you will always be with them.  He, of course, carries her across the bridge – against her will because she just made the story up.  I’ve been to that town and crossed that bridge and it’s really freaken steep.  You’d have to seriously love someone to carry them across it.




The hotness rating in this drama is high.  It’s the only drama I’ve seen Okada Junichi in that he’s not being drippy and he’s awfully cute in this.  He totally wins my heart.


Of course, Kizarazu Cat’s Eye does star my all time favourite Japanese idol, Sakurai Sho, but I have to say, I don’t love him in this.  It’s like when he was younger, he had a hot, surly rebel thing happening and now he’s older, he has the hot hotness going on but the Bambi period was not a good one for him.  Maybe it’s the hair.  I really don’t like the orange hair.  He looks much better in the later movie with his hair black. 


If you only watch one Japanese drama, then I’d recommend this be the one you watch.  I have not even begun to scrap the surface of the awesome.

06 January 2011

Sunday Drama – Norwegian Wood

This week I’m reviewing Norwegian Wood because I went to see it at the movies recently.  This review may contain spoilers if you haven’t read the book but don’t worry about that.  You are better off just reading my review than wasting your money actually watching this film.

What goes through a film maker’s mind sometimes?  What makes someone think “I’m going to make this film and I want it to suck as much as possible… then I’m going to add in extra suck, because you can never have enough suck in a film”?  Because seriously, you could not make a film that sucked this much by accident.

I was going to leave halfway through the film because I was so freaken bored, but instead I took a little nap.  That’s kind of like leaving without actually having to make the effort.  I don’t think I missed much.

This is the basic story (which is pretty much the same as the book) – boy meets girl who is going out with his best friend (cue: Jessie’s girl), best friend tops himself, boy meets girl again when they are uni, boy has sex with girl, girl goes batshit and gets locked in the (very swisho) loony bin, boy mets other girl but still goes to visit first girl for loony bin booty calls.  First girl tops herself.  Boy sleeps with her loony girl roomie then goes back to second girl.

The difference between the movie and the book is that  the book has all kinds of interesting side plots and meanderings and quirky characters.  The film doesn’t.   Instead it’s  ‘let’s take everything good out of this story and just put in more angst, more staring off in to the mid distance with rainy windows and fish.  Yeah, that’s what the folks want – more angst.’

There is one subplot/minor character thing left in and that is with the annoying uni friend.  If you’ve read the book, you will know what I mean.  The older guy who is a real player.  Why leave this in and not the bit with Stormtrooper and the fire flies or other awesome bits?  Why?

Arggh I thought I’d have language difficulties with this film because it’s in Japanese but I thought wrong.  I made the mistaken assumption that there would be dialogue worth listening to.  But no,  all they did was walk (through very pretty scenery) then have sex then the main female character, Naoko, would go bat shit (again) then the main male character, Watanabe, would stare out the rainy windows yet again then do some hard, physical labour (those bits were actually quite good) then go visit his other girlfriend, Midori.

Seriously dude, if your girlfriend goes bat shit every time you have sex, wouldn’t you think not to have sex with her.  Which brings me to another point – Watanabe is a total root rat.  He actually is in the book too but it’s not such an issue – maybe because in the book he’s a sympathetic character so you don’t mind so much.  In  the movie, it’s like ‘hey Watanabe, put it away already’.  Young, dumb and full of cum doesn’t make for an interesting lead character.  Well maybe it does, but not when you team it with arty and wistful. 

My summary -

Ken'ichi Matsuyama as Watanabe => annoying and not as hot as he could have been.  Should have taken his shirt off during those scenes of hard physical labour.

Rinko Kikuchi as Naoko => about as annoying as you could possibly get.  I wanted to punch her in the face especially when she was doing the extreme wailing of bat shitted-ness.  Just kill yourself already.

Kiko Mizuhara as Midori => I didn’t hate her.

Best bit of the film => the trailer for the Gantz movie before it started.

02 January 2011

Drama Sunday: Mary Stayed Out All Night

I’ve decided to start a new feature here at Project Kathryn.  Drama Sunday.  Not that I’m going to go out and major life dramas on a Sunday and write about them because that would be all too tiresome; nope, I’m going to make use of the time I spend watching Asian dramas and write up reviews. 

Yep, that’s the kind of giving person I am – watching Asian drama so you don’t have to.  Of course, if you want then feel free.

First up, Mary Stayed Out All Night (also known, for some weird reason, as Marry Me, Mary).  This is the first one on the list because I just finished watching it. 


The plot is about a naive and very cute Korean girl who lives with her deadbeat dad.  Dad is on the run because he owes money to the Korean mob and Mary has had to drop out of uni because they have no money.  She spends all her time watching dramas and working her part time job.

One night, her friends call her up and she decides to drive their drunken arses all over town to make some cash.  She is driving around the edgy, rock part of Seoul when, omg, she hits someone with her car.

That person is indeed the shiny haired prince (so named because he played a shiny haired prince in another drama).  She is dazzled by the shininess of his hair.   But then she freaks on account of car crash swindlers are rife in Korea and she thinks he did it to scam her out of money.


She follows him to a club where his band perform and then stalks him to try to get to him to sign a disclaimer.  They get drunk and he follows her home.  At this point, any normal woman would be jumping his bones for sure but Mary is too sweet and naive for that.  Also, she thinks he’s a loser and tries to kick him out.  Even though, when he was drunk he tried to give her a cabbage.

Meanwhile, her dad has been on the run and happens to run into his old friend who has been living in Japan and is now super rich.  Mary’s deadbeat dad and creepy dad decide their kids should marry.

In order to avoid being sold into marriage slavery by her deadbeat dad, Mary fakes getting married to shiny hair.  As you would.  I mean he’s hella cute.

But, OMGZOINKS, at the same time, Mary’s dad marries her off to Waffles (the rich guy – called Waffles because he played a guy that made waffles in another drama).  Now I have no idea of the laws in Korea but this is a bit far reached to me.  Maybe it happens.  Maybe Korea is full of girls who are in marriages orchestrated by their scheming dad’s who forge their signatures.


So what’s in this for Waffles – he wants to make dramas but his creepy, rich dad will only give him the cash if marries Mary, for – OMG – creepy dad has a creepy thing for Mary’s dead mother.

Waffles agrees on one condition – the arrangement is for 100 days and, at the end, Mary gets to decide which one she loves – the bad boy, free spirited shiny haired rocker (who’s music really isn’t that rock to be honest) who has a weird thing for his mother or the perfect, rich, cheekbones who has a weird thing for his father.

The result is much hijinx and wackiness, as you’d expect.  The unspoken subtext is that Waffles and Shiny Hair totally fall in big, gay love and have eye sex throughout the entire drama.  And that isn’t a bad thing.

It’s not a bad drama.  There are some really, really annoying plot holes.  Also, around episode 10, the writer changes and I think the new writer only got a brief overview of what had gone.  Like new writer thinks – wow, this would be a great plot twist and it’s like ‘yeah and it was – in episode 3’!!!

Oh and Waffles is making a drama which ends up involving Shiny Hair and Mary but the whole time, they never film the drama, they never do anything except photo shoots and the soundtrack.  Go do some acting and stuff, people.

I get a bit frustrated with Asian dramas, especially Korean drama because the characters don’t just tell their annoying parents to STFU.  It would save so much angst and annoyance.  But then again, I’m not Korean and I’ve not been raised to be all respectful to my parents so I’m not sure if this is a bad plot device or just a cultural difference.

Also – a warning.  The music of Jang Geun Suk is not great but it’s insanely catchy and will be stuck in your head the whole time you watch it.  Erk, random Korean songs.


Oh and second warning, you might at some point in watching this drama, end up crawling Little Korea Town for photos and other merchandise of the adorably cute JGS. 

Sunday Drama rating – 3/5.