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)
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)
renaissance poisson

July 2015

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