piranha: red origami crane (Default)
i watched this a while ago, but wanted to wait with reviewing it until i had finished the manga. i chose it because it's another incredibly well-liked shoujo, it's tagged as a "gender bender", and the live action has two of my favourite actors in the lead role.

the manga (affectionately abbreviated as 'hanakimi'), written by nakajo hisaya, started in 1996, and i had to remind myself of that at times because, while the art doesn't show its age, the pace does -- it gets very slow at times, and there is a bit too much extraneous filler stuff that i'd prefer cut. but since i have not read much shoujo, i have no complaint about the storyline being overdone. at the time it certainly was not, and it does in fact retain some facets that i have not seen a lot. for example, there is an actual gay man in this manga, who even gets to have his own small arc, including an onscreen kiss. i find this very cool in a genre that usually only teases with pseudo-gayness as fan service, if that.

anyway, the story is that ashiya mizuki (horikita maki) had been idolising high jumper sano izumi (oguri shun) after seeing him in a competition, and when he seemed to drop out of the sport after an accident, she decides to transfer to his school to encourage him to return to high jumping. the twist is that his school is an all-boys school, but that doesn't deter her; she cuts her hair and disguises herself as a boy. when she arrives at school, she happens to be in luck and gets assigned as his roommate. yes, i know -- how much more feeble a setup could you design if you tried? :)

summary opinion: enjoyed the manga, hated the live action. read why, mild possible spoilers )

so, read the manga if you like shoujo, crossdressing girls as boys, don't mind the slow pace (23 volumes; licensed by viz). the art is decent throughout -- strangely enough it becomes really good at some point in the middle, and then towards the end gets worse again. there is no anime, which strikes me as odd. don't watch the live action.

ps: ok, i am officially an arashi fanboi now, *sigh*. so sad, but i can't help it that so many of their songs are so catchy that i find myself singing along all the time. ah, the joy of men who sing in the high tenor range. but guys, what is it with your totally non-sensical lyrics? i don't really care because i can still totally ignore japanese lyrics, but it's startling how often i can't even decipher the plentiful engrish.

piranha: red origami crane (Default)
picked it for kame. what can i say. i have no excuse. the love is still strong; after nobuta no produce i forgive him and yamapi any sin.

actually, that's not really fair to kame -- i think he's one of the better actors of the JE boyband troup; at least as far as i have seen so far (ninomiya is my current fave). unfortunately kame, or whoever picks roles for him, has no taste, so one must be prepared for some pain. but hey, "life is pain", sez westley.

suppli is based on the josei manga by okazaki mari (not scanlated, licensed by tokyopop), which i haven't read. it's mostly a workplace love story, taking place in an ad agency. the title does not stand for the italian snack, but is short for "vitamin supplements" -- don't ask me. i've given up trying to discern rhyme or reason behind japanese titling.
kamenashi and ito cover
minami fujii (ito misaki) is a dedicated and successful copy writer in her late twenties who's basically married to her job -- in the first episode we see that her boyfriend has had enough of that, and breaks up with her. outwardly she is is cool and put-together, but inside she's a hopeless romantic, asking herself whether there isn't something more. enter ishida yuuya (kamenashi kazuya), a young, dissheveled slacker, who gets hired as a part-time gopher by the agency. he and fujii have a "fated" encounter the morning of ishida's first day at work wherein she finds his cell phone (hot pink! with the cutest little amigurumi vampire dangling from it -- i swear kame is an otomen), and they end up both standing at an intersection watching an ad in which a puppy runs through the rain, which has them all introspective. but they don't actually meet until later. ishida pretty much falls for fujii right away, and is spurred on by his admiration for her to get more involved in actual work than he's been before, where he discovers his creative side. but fujii has only eyes for ogiwara satoshi (eita), who is the opposite of ishida -- professional, successful, and suave (unfortunately also somewhat unscrupulous). ogiwara flirts with fujii, but he is still hung up on his on again / off again mistress tanaka mizuho (ryo), who is married. yup, she also works in the ad agency, that hotbed of amorous undercurrents.

summary opinion: meh. read more; mildly spoilerific )

there's no overacting here (yay), the setting is interesting, and the process of developing ads, deadline pressures, and cut throat competition feel realistic to me. the production values are good. this could have been fun, but as it is i think i'd only recommend this to kame completists. or, you know, if you're really bored, or want to practice your japanese listening skills. that's something japanese TV dramas are definitely good for, because of their short runs (usually just one season of 9-12 episodes), and the fact that the modern ones use relatively simple, common japanese.

ps: koike teppei sounds even happy when he sings; it just shines through his voice. awww.

piranha: red origami crane (Default)
i regret that i called hana yori dango "unmitigated crap", because now i need an expression that describes something considerably worse.

i watched itazura na kiss because the manga by tada kaoru is popular and "ground-breaking" shoujo, and i put it on my list without checking the comments at mangaupdates. they would have probably tipped me off that i would hate it, because most people are enraptured by the "dumb but cute and funny" protagonist. i never, ever, find dumb "cute and funny". i mean, tom hanks as forrest gump is oftentimes (unintentionally) funny, but hanks doesn't play gump for laughs; i can handle that. this, i couldn't.

in retrospect i gather the "ground-breaking" part is that the manga goes beyond the two lead characters getting together and shows them as a married couple, so the "happily ever after" isn't merely implied as is usual in romance. the live action, however, doesn't go there; it stops at the point where they get together. i don't think i could have handled to watch any more; as it is i forced myself through 8 of the 9 episodes and was glad when it ended. rantage ahead )

kashiwabara takashi
so, no love from me. well, maybe a little love for kashiwabara takashi who's one of the few characters in this show not overacting, and for akashi ryoutarou who plays yuki, naoki's little brother -- he's smarter and more mature than kotoko, and he writes and draws a diary about her which is actually funny.

i won't bother with the manga or anime or the korean and chinese adaptations.

piranha: red origami crane (Default)
why was i watching a comedy in which horny yet frustrated teenage boys are obsessed with sex? it's got a stellar cast; 7 (!) actors i know and like. and i was in luck; this turned out rather better than i had feared (i did not like american pie, which is probably the closest well-known western equivalent).

the story revolves around four friends who are apparently the last virgins in their high school, and get quite a bit of fun poked at them for it, such as being nicknamed the DB4's (doutei boys = virgin boys). they're desperate to gain some actual experience (like, say, a kiss). they live in a close-knit neighbourhood in which their parents are shop keepers. the neighbourhood is very concerned with keeping its children "pure" -- away from any and all potential sexual activities. (good luck with that!)

at the beginning of the summer holidays, oowada chie (suzuki anne) [1] comes to visit; a girl who used to be the much admired neighbourhood "princess" 11 years ago, but then moved away. chie has changed; she's a bit chubby and frumpy, wears thick glasses, and is generally awkward. she's also hiding something from everyone. at first the guys don't really know how to interact with her. chie has a crush on our lead protagonist asai shouhei "shou-chan" (ninomiya kazunari) [2], who, blissfully ignorant of that fact, has himself an unrequited crush on a pretty teacher. shouhei is a bit young for his age, small, naive, and insecure.

then we have shouhei's friends: iwasaki kengo "ken-ken" (yamashita tomohisa), a sensitive dork who has a strange fascination with trains; enami kouji "kou-kun" (oguri shun), who is the loud-mouthed athletic type who gets foot-in-mouth disease when a girl comes near; and lastly udagawa hayato "udayan" (narimiya hiroki) who is the group’s clown.

(left to right: yamashita tomohisa, ninomiya kazunari, narimiya hiroki, suzuki anne, oguri shun)

the show is very silly, thanks to the boys doing some really ridiculous stuff in their quests to have their first experiences, and the adults all having quite special foibles. but as it progresses i started to care about those guys -- regardless of their immaturity this is clearly (once again) a story about friendship, between the four of them, and between them and chie. and despite the humour, which is sometimes a bit loud for my taste, in this show it didn't turn me off, but i got used to it. that's mostly due to good acting by the 5 lead characters, but a part of it is also that the show doesn't have any seriously dramatic bits until near the end, and so the humour didn't kick me out of the mood. the guys suffer typical teenage angst and frustration, which i can remember myself, but with enough distance to laugh at it now, so the mood stays light. kinda nice how age has taken the sting out of those painful experiences -- i really never want to be 17 again.

i'm not gonna write a lot about it because all the fun is in the well-timed interactions. the friendship between the boys and chie felt real to me; especially ninomiya does a superb job portraying shou-chan. yamapi is sickeningly adorable here -- not that he isn't always adorable anyway, but ken-ken brings it out to the max. oguri hadn't quite gotten into his stride yet -- or maybe i just didn't warm up entirely to his character, who's a type i've not cared for in real life. narimiya is just plain nuts; i want to hang out with him.

theme song: 言葉より大切なもの (kotoba yori taisetsu na mono) by arashi (ninomiya sings with arashi). i like this one; very upbeat and has a tongue-twister section which i am still practicing to sing fast enough after 11 episodes. *ack*. i wasn't previously very fond of arashi, but lately they've been growing on me.

there is one jarring note to the show, and it comes towards the end when we finally find out exactly what chie has been hiding. all of a sudden everything turns deadly serious, and the hijinks that follow a bit later don't work for me anymore. IMO that situation is also not satisfactorily resolved, so there's a bit of a regretful aftertaste. and i don't like how the shou-chan/chie/ken-ken triangle is worked out -- the end seemed a bit rushed, thrown together hastily.

but overall this didn't feel like a waste, and not just because of the pretty boys -- actually they're just a bit too young for me to drool over here anyway. it's kinda fun to see these actors all in their late teens; at that age 7 years makes a big difference. i now must go and find everything ninomiya has been in since.

if you can handle that style of humour, i'd recommend the show; it left me with a generally warm feeling of affection for the characters.

[1] if suzuki anne's name sounds familiar, that's probably because she was in snow falling on cedars.
[2] possibly also familiar, if you have seen letters from iwo jima.
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
watched this because oguri shun is in it -- once i get attached to a voice, i really get attached. :) also, the subject matter seemed potentially like fun, and i always like watching animals.

at first glance tottori ken'ichi (oguri shun) is a cold, rude, foul-mouthed veterinarian who appears to only be interested in money. his catch phrase is 'pet care is business', and he refuses to treat any animal unless the owner can pay his -- often steep -- bills. he's also extraordinarily skillful, otherwise he might not have any clients. as it is, he is often the go-to man of last resort. he runs his animal clinic by himself until he encounters tajima asuka (inoue mao), who comes to him for help with her lame race horse. because she can't pay, he hires her as his gopher/assistant so she can work off her debt. one of the few people with whom he is friendly is fellow vet hanabishi masaru (narimiya hiroki), a friend from university; the charismatic host of a popular TV animal show. hanabishi excels at diagnosis, but he has a secret -- ever since botching an operation on his own dog, which resulted in the dog bleeding out, he has been unable to operate. he hides this from everyone, and often comes to tottori for help with operations.

i can't say this is a good drama, but i watched all 9 episodes of it, and enjoyed myself. click for detail, very mild spoilers )

i can't say i'd heartily recommend it to anyone but fans of the lead actors, and maybe those who're looking for some light entertainment in japanese (it's good for learning weird medical terms!).
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
this is an insanely popular franchise; there is a 37 volume manga (licensed by viz), an anime (subbed for the north american market), a taiwanese tv drama, a korean tv drama, a japanese film, and who knows what else. people go into ecstatic raptures over it. the manga won the 1996 shougakukan manga award, and is the best-selling shoujo manga in japan. so it made it onto my list of jdramas to watch (but i was prepared for disappointment; ecstatic general raptures seem to usually predict serious disappointment for me, and even award winners do not always come through). i have not read the manga, nor seen the anime or watched the chinese version.

the storyline is fairly cliched (though the manga started in 1992; maybe it was fresh then): makino tsukushi (inoue mao), a girl from a poor working-class family, attends an elite high school, where the other pupils all come from high-society families. at the very top are the "F4", a group of 4 boys from powerful families. naturally, they're all good-looking, and the entire school is ga-ga over them. unfortunately they also rule with an iron fist, and get away with bullying anyone who doesn't fit in. makino hates the lot, but is determined to keep her head down and just work towards graduation. but one day the only girl who befriended her accidentally runs into doumyouji tsukasa (matsumoto jun) (the leader of the F4) and spills food on him. despite apologizing profusely, that results in a "red notice" -- the F4's public call to seriously harass her. we're not just talking nasty words here, but physical abuse as well.

that's when makino's resolve to be quiet and unobtrusive cracks, and she tells doumyouji just what she thinks of him, and then punches him hard enough so he goes down.

the next day there is a red notice in her locker, and the entire school starts to make her life miserable. there seems to be only one person who's not joining in: hanazawa rui (oguri shun), another member of the F4, who likes makino's spunk and starts to stick up for her.

ok, so it's cliched, but at first glance the female lead seemed to be a strong person who wasn't shy in conveying her disdain for bullying, and i always like some butt-kicking by a strong female lead.

alas the drama is unmitigated crap.
read why; spoilers )
i like the music; it fits well with the emotions of the story. opening song is "WISH" by arashi (matsumoto jun's group); pleasant jungle. ending song is "planetarium" by ohtsuka ai; i like it too and let it play out every time.

the production values are unusually high; too bad they're wasted on such a uninspired show.

there is a second season, and a movie. i am debating whether to start the manga to see whether it's any better, but 37 volumes is a lot, and i didn't like the art when i looked at it. normally i wouldn't even bother, but if something is this popular i keep thinking maybe i missed something.
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
picked this up because i got into a yamapi mood.

iwase ken (yamashita tomohisa) and yoshida rei (nagasawa masami) have been friends from elementary school through university. rei is about to get married. ken, who is attending the wedding ceremony, is filled with regrets that he never expressed his true feelings to rei while there was time, that he naively thought they would continue to always be together. just then a somewhat unconventional fairy (mikami hiroshi) appears and sends ken back in time, giving him another chance to do things differently.

details, possibly mild spoilers )
highly recommended if you're in the mood for a romantic comedy that's not made from the same mold as so many, and if you don't mind fan subtitles, of course. the translation (by "love song") is clumsy in a lot of places (really, guys, 事 does not translate to "stuffs"), but it's good enough to understand, and i didn't notice any really serious mistakes.
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
since i am on this live action kick i started looking at some where i have not read the manga yet, and i am picking those on story concept and lead actors. when i saw that kurosagi features both yamashita tomohisa and horikita maki, two of the three leads in nobuta wo produce (my favourite jdrama), i jumped on it. the story sounded intriguing too.

based on the manga by the same name (by natsuhara takeshi and kuromaru), this is primarily a crime/mystery drama with a wee bit of romantic interest thrown in. the show tells us at the start that there are 3 kinds of swindlers: those who pray on people's money; the shirosagi (white swindlers), those who prey on people's emotions; the akasagi (red swindlers), and finally kurosagi (black swindlers), who prey on the other two. an important factor is that the law, because of a loophole, cannot bring justice to the victims (i have no idea whether that is true).click for details, possibly mildly spoilery )

overall i liked it enough to see the movie sequel, but i am not sure i'd recommend it, because part of why i liked it is that the protagonist is a loner with emotional issues, and i can look at yamapi all day long. the reviews on the net seem generally less impressed than i was. if you're a yamapi fan, it's a must, of course. ;) and there's slashy subtext -- kurosaki runs into a former friend from high school, tanabe satoshi (koyama keiichiro), and wow, at first i thought HERE is the real love interest; the two virtually lit off sparks (maybe they have real good rapport because they're both in NEWS -- another JE boyband). koyama's role is small, but i liked him in it.
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
the title is a play on 乙女 (otome; young lady) and "men" (in english), and it refers to boys who like girlish things. i've seen another term for this, which seems to carry more of a connotation of such men also not being very sexual or aggressive/assertive when it comes to love: 草食男子 (soushoku danshi, literally "herbivorous guy"; i guess because herbivores are less aggressive?).

masamune asuka is quite the manly guy, excelling in karate and kendo. but he has a secret: what he really likes is cooking, sewing, knitting, and everything sparkly and cute. when he was a young teenager, his father left home because he had always wanted to be a woman. this affected asuka's mother very badly, and, because she saw that her son liked girly things, she forced him to be completely masculine.

of course denying a large part of oneself doesn't ever work well, but asuka doesn't actually want to be a woman; he just wants to do things that normally are in a girl's domain. one day a new transfer student joins his class; miyakozuka ryou. ryou has grown up without a mother, and with a tough father, and she's pretty much taken on the role of his son; he taught her karate and kendo, and training with him is one of her favourite things. she doesn't know how to cook or sew, and she likes action and horror movies. asuka and ryou are quite taken with each other, and quickly admit their secrets and start helping each other.

i started reading this because i think japan, and especially shoujo, needs manga in which people break through gender barriers, and it sure can't hurt westerners either. this is a true gender bender; not as in magic body swapping, or pretending to be a boy/girl, but as in stretching the meaning of gender beyond its standard perceptions. read more detail; no spoilers )

it's not any big revelation for anyone who's been pondering gender seriously already, but it's quite progressive in the shoujo manga universe, and indirectly acknowledges that gender isn't binary, and that liking pursuits commonly attributed to the "opposite" gender doesn't turn one into a transvestite or transsexual or make one homosexual, and i am happy that it's quite successful in japan. so yeah, recommended.

piranha: red origami crane (Default)
this is one of those strange occurrences where i got sucked into something i would never think i'd be attracted to. i only watched the anime because i am following two of its seiyuu around; suzumura ken'ichi and konishi katsuyuki, and that led me to find the manga and then the first live action series, and now the second -- i haven't previously touched live action adaptation of manga at all.

the manga is josei (marketed at young women), and it has a strong female lead, which is always a good thing to see -- i am still amazed how japan with all of its gender inequality creates so much fiction with competent female characters who can handle themselves and don't need any guy to rescue them from distress. now, that would of course interest me, but it's also comedy, and i am very careful with japanese comedy because 95% of it misses for me. and indeed i am glad i didn't see the live action first, because it would not have had the same effect as the anime had; i doubt i would have checked out the manga and the anime.
click for in-depth notes; images; spoiler alert )

and speaking of crushes, fujiwara motoo is still god. bump of chicken can make me happy even if i am down. i should order the new CD.

piranha: 3 little terracotta friendship pigs and the kanji for "heart" (kokoro)
i shall just have to give up trying to write a rational review of nobuta wo produce, because really, all i can do is squee.

i want you all to watch it. i can't think of anything else right now about which i'd say that.

i am tearing up just thinking about it. and that's me; i don't tear up this way easily, this way that feels true, not manipulated. i usually resent it when television or film try to pull my heart strings. but this, this touches me where i live.

nobuta wo produce is a japanese television drama about ...
shuuji (kamenashi kazuya). he's popular and easy-going, always joking around, helping people out, everyone's pal. except that nobody knows shuuji is a liar. shuuji has invented this version of himself in order to skate through high school without any true emotional investment. he doesn't actually care; it's all a game to him.
akira (yamashita tomohisa). he's mostly shunned by his classmates, because he is weird, eccentric, with no sense for proper social interaction, touchy-feely in a culture that is anything but. even shuuji who gets along with everyone tells akira to get out of his face. (not that akira listens...)
nobuta (horikita maki). she's sullen and silent, hiding behind a curtain of hair, shuffling through life hoping at best to be ignored. isolated and bullied mercilessly, nearly suicidal, she has given up on people.

nobuta becomes the new student in shuuji and akira's class, and after seeing her bullied, akira decides something needs to be done, and drags the initially unwilling shuuji into a plan to secretly "produce" nobuta: make her popular. shuuji accepts because hey, that's the biggest challenge he's had in a while, what a capital game.

nothing in this drama is quite as might be expected from that initial plot. there are so many ways this could be done badly; we've all seen them. but no, not here. it's brilliant. even if all the adults in the show are nuts. or maybe in part because? yeah, i think so; it's just now sinking in how much that is a metaphor, really. it's all about friendship, and how much it matters, how much it can change and enrich your life.

it makes me want to call everyone i've ever loved and tell them that i still love them today.

i got the paramour to watch it. and even the paramour cried. read the review.

watch it. like any good pimp, i'll help you by providing a taste in the f-locked post following this (f-locked just because i don't have the bandwidth to be eaten by random googlers), and a link to the rest of the episodes (there are 10). it'll appear about 4 hours from now (because *wah*, small upload pipeline). if you're reading my LJ, are now sold on watching it, but are not on my f-list, let me know here, and i'll give you access. there is also a good, active torrent out there (raws with soft subs), if you prefer that: http://d-addicts.net/torrents/nobuta%20wo%20produce.torrent.

and now for some totally irrational squeeing and more pic spam )
*wibble*. so, so good in every which way. my heart-felt thanks go to [livejournal.com profile] bookshop for squeeing about it so exuberantly that i had to take notice. though i am not sure the paramour will thank her once japanese boyband pictures appear on the walls.


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renaissance poisson

July 2015

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