The Queen of Asian Drama is Back with more Irreverent Reviews and Snarky Commentary.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Onmyoji / 陰陽師

A 2001 Japanese release that is based on a novel about Japanese folklore which also turned into another manga series.

I had a lot of fun with this, and I only chose to watch because it stars Hideaki Ito, my Japanese idol.

Instead of blogging in the usual style, I will instead do a photo blog that I hope will add to the fun.

There's this guy named Minamoto no Hiromasa who is innocent and kind, and he plays the flute in such a way that everyone admires him all the more.

Minamoto-san works as a court noble, and he befriends a guy named Abe no Seimei (Mansai Nomura), an Onmyoji or Yin-Yang master with amazing powers.

Every night, Minamoto plays his flute for a veiled woman who sits inside her sedan and weeps while listening to the lovely music.
Minamoto-san is in love with the secretive female and asks for at least her name, if not a view of her face.
She tells him a sad tale of unrequited love and refuses his request, insisting that she can't love anyone else and is only there to hear the enchanting flute.

Meanwhile, there's this really bad guy - Doson (Hiroyuki Sanada) - who is plotting to destroy the Mikado by casting an eternal curse upon the Emperor.

We find out a bit later that an eternal curse has already been cast by a court official from a few, hundred years earlier who was beheaded for a crime he did not commit.

Anyway, back to Minamoto-san.

He begs Seimei to help get rid of a nasty curse inflicted upon the Emperor's newborn son, the Prince and heir to the throne.
Seimei and a ghostly figure, Aone (Kyoko Koizumi), go to the palace and Seimei transfers the spell from the baby to the woman (Aone).
The baby is fine, so they leave.

Magic stuff occurs, and then later on, Minamoto again asks Seimei for help since the bad things keep occurring within the palace walls.

Seimei sets up his bag of magic tricks and warns the Emperor not to make a sound during the ceremony.

Hiding behind a shoji screen, Minamoto and the Emperor watch as a freaky woman with 3, lit candles atop her head floats into the room asking where is the emperor and his child cannot live anymore.

Seimei has set up fake straw bodies to look like the emperor and his son, and the woman at first thinks she's talking to them.
She weeps as she explains the same, sad story to the straw emperor that she had confided in Minamoto earlier.
Heartbroken, Minamoto can't believe his ears, and stunned, the Emperor accidentally whispers the woman's name -

- and the spell is broken.

Poor, sweet Minamoto.
He's heartbroken to realize that the woman he loves was in love with his boss.

But, he tries to snap her out of the spell she is cast under by the evil Doson, but she turns into this rather ugly creature instead.

He grabs her, and she bites him -

It hurts, but this is what he tells her -

eh - sexual innuendo I think

His love manages to break through the spell, but instead of smiling at the handsome Court Nobel with the sweet talent, she instead commits hari kari.

Minamoto is very sad.

so is Seimei.

Ok, so Minamoto hangs out with Seimei, but Aone warns of impending doom for the city - and before the real fun begins, she explains to Minamoto about her life.

Turns out she's, like, 130 years old - becoming an immortal after being offered the flesh of a merman (giggle).
The then Emperor wanted her to become immortal so she could guard over her lovers tomb and make sure he doesn't cause any trouble in the afterlife.
It turns out her lover was the man beheaded for the crime he didn't commit, and who also cast an eternal curse over the Emperor.
Doson got hold of that curse and wants to see it through to the bitter end.
He wants to become an immortal as well.
Doson enters the tomb, breaks the mold of the dead Prince, and unleashes the spirits of all the disgruntled, dead from an eerie graveyard, ordering them to destroy everyone within the city.

It's actually kind of pretty, watching the spirits float toward the palace -

But, this is what happens when one of the spirits enters a living body -

Seimei and Aone are running (or leaping, rather) toward the palace, wanting to rescue Minamoto before it's too late.
See, there were these two stars in the sky, and Aone realized that it meant Seimei and Minamoto are supposed to be together, and that if Minamoto dies, the world will somehow come to an end.

Anyway, Minamoto isn't happy, especially with Doson, whom he believes killed the woman of his desire.
Using a 'star' symbol Seimei drew for him and asked him to keep on his person, Minamoto affixes the star to the tip of an arrow, draws back his bow, and shoots the arrow right through Doson's head.

Alas - Doson is already immortal, having exchanged spirits with the late Prince, so the fatal shot proves to be anything but.

Doson pushes the arrow through his head, pulls it out of his mouth, and chucks it back at Minamoto, striking him in the heart.


Aone appears, and in a whisper-like voice, she begs Seimei to transfer her spirit to Minamoto.
She's tired after 130 years and wants a rest.

Seimei is in a quandry for a time -
does he sacrifice one friend for the sake of another?

Aone is persistent, so Seimei acquiesces and the transformation occurs rather ceremoniously, I might add.

Minamoto is alive again (yay!)

he uses a jingling necklace to snap Doson out of his hellish trance, summoning his inner spirit, the late Prince.

Doson turns into the late Prince -

Minamoto transfers back to Aone -

and the two stare at one another in silence for a time -

but, for an inexplicable reason, Doson stays as he is and butts in on the lover's reunion -

The prince tells Doson he's had enough and wants to go to eternity with his beloved Aone.
The two spirits ascend, hand in hand, in a bluish-white spiral, leaving Doson to curse his bad luck.

Seimei and his butterfly side-kick are amused

Doson isn't.
He's mad as hell now, and he blames everything on Seimei, so he challenges the fox-like Merlin to a duel.

Wire fu ensues at this point in the show, with Doson using his muscle and Seimei leaping here and there, everywhere, to avoid getting hit.

Seimei ends up at the wrong end of Doson's blade anyhow, though.

it's always a bit scary at the start, but everyone knows by now that the hero won't go out THAT quick, or that way, eh?

Seimei escapes that brush with death only to trip (maybe over the clear wire) and fall at Doson's feet.
Doson sneers as he plunges his sword into Seimei, but our tricky trickster turns into a paper doll.
This causes Doson's blade to embed into the cement ground (cement back in the day? I'm not sure - technicality I suppose)
where he is trapped in Seimei's star of spiritual good

Remember the arrow through the head?
Guess what happens to Doson in this spiritual star trap?

still, he doesn't explode or liquify or anything cool like that.
Instead, he set his neck against the sword blade and - yea - you got it - he grossly slides his way down to the ground, slitting his own throat.


Minamoto is happy, though!

so is the butterfly chick,

Minamoto and Seimei are living together at Seimei's place, and she is fluttering happily in the garden, pausing to smile when Minamoto begs Seimei not to turn her into a butterfly anymore.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Himitzu no Hanazono / ヒミツの花園 / Hanazono's Secret

A January through March, 2007 drama from Japan that starred Shaku Yumiko as Tsukiyama Kayo, Sakai Masato as Kataoka Wataru, Ikeda Tetsuhiro as Kataoka Osamu, Kaname Jun as Kataoka Satoshi, and Hongo Kanata as Kataoka Hinata.

Tsukiyama is an editor in her late twenties who decides to resign from her job after spending a fifth birthday alone and yet, another long day at the office.
The day she tries to hand in her resignation, however, is the day when her boss tells everyone that the magazine she works for is shutting down.

She is transferred to the Manga department, where she meets an overbearing, loud and obnoxious, new boss who orders her to visit her new client, a woman by the name of Yuriko Hanazono.

Tsukiyama doesn't read manga, so she hasn't got much interest in the new position, and she is still thinking to resign as well.

At a massively tall apartment building,

she meets a host of oddball characters, all men, who send her on outrageous errands that make her head spin, but she is a timid girl with no self-worth to demand any answers, much less to raise her voice in protest.

Tsukiyama is a pretty girl with a nice figure, so I found it odd that these men seemed not to even notice her right away -

- but there is a love story involved, and not one but two of the men have their sights set on her.

She wore a lot of old-fashioned costume jewelry that puzzled me at first, but if this is the latest thing over there, I'm curious to know how long the strange trend will last.
Fat, polished, and plastic beads close to the neck never appealed to me.

There were a few things about this drama that made it not, so enjoyable - the dark shadow that hung over the boys throughout, and the moody, little boy (Hongo Kanata) everyone kept referring to as kawaii, a talent scout even approached him at first sight to ask him to model (huh???) to name a few.
His ears stick out, for one thing.

Sakai Masato starred in Kudoku no Kake, and I kept expecting him to walk with a limp.
He still had the same, smiling eyes though, and that still bugs me.
I know it's probably rude of me to feel this way, but like Bill Clinton and the boy from my middle-school social studies class - I can't trust someone with that kind of an expression.
Is he upset or not?
Is he joking around, or what?
Can I take him serious, or is he leading me on?
Bugs the crap out of me, and I'm sure Masato-kun is the sweetest, most affectionate man on the planet, too.
Still -

Himitsu no Hanazono is another live-action drama based on yet, another manga series, and I thought it was funny that they poked fun at themselves by making certain reference to this fact during the show.

"No one today has the talent or the drive to write actual drama, so they rely on manga for their inspiration."

It'd be one thing if we had bookstores here dedicated to Japanese comics, where we can go, pick up a manga, and sit for hours on end, reading the entire series without having to pay $10 or more per book to enjoy!
So, in that respect, I suppose it's ok for us to watch these live-action dramas that are constantly based on those, particular types of books.
Still, where is the originality?
And since the manga series are most-often rigidly geared toward a type-cast population of bubble-gun chewers, it can be somewhat discomfiting to have to sit through a story that is 10 or even 20 years beyond my mental scope, much less my personal interest.


Kaname Jun (hot, Hot, HOT!!!)

These guys are the only reason I watch, and who are the main reason why my interest is held for the duration, too.

Thank heaven for as well, who post only good-quality movies and drama with excellent transcription service, and who also post movies and dramas that go back as far as the 1960's in some cases.

I'm not saying anything against Himitzu no Hanazono because I liked the storyline and the characters for the most part.
I simply adored the theme song, ("Baby, Don't Cry" by Amuro Namie) too - and hope to find it online for an mp3 download!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tokyo Wankei / 東京湾景 / Destiny of Love

A July to September, 2004, Japanese drama that stars Nakamura Toru, Wada Soko, and Nakama Yukie.

Before I say anything else, I have to confess here and now that, just like most guys, (and I'm a girl), I so hate sappy, saccharine sweet hog-wash love stories to death.

Tokyo Wankei
was that and more -so why the five flowers?

There are several reasons, but most of all, because I wish I had thought to write a story of this caliber and nature.

It was a fascinating plot with excellent acting performed by several of my favorite, Asian actors.

Even the theme song, Kimi sae ireba, by Weather Forecast, was a pretty tune I don't mind hearing over and over in my head.

It's the story of a young Korean woman living in Japan - Zainichi Korean - who runs into a young Japanese man while wearing a lovely Hanbok that helps to captivate him even more than her natural beauty does.

They fall in love, but her father doesn't approve and thus begins their ill-fated romance.

She runs away from home, to a place in the country where a river flows beneath a bridge, and she waits for him there.

Alas, he's struck down by falling timbers in an attempt to save a little boy from the same, painful fate.

She's devastated and blames herself, thinking that if she had not asked him to meet her that day, that he would still be alive.

Present-day and we have her daughter, Kimoto Mika / Kim Yuri, who is just as beautiful as the now-departed mother, and who works at a publishers office and personally struggles with the same self-doubt as her mother once had about being a Zainichi third-generation.

she reminds me of Shu Qi in a way - so beautiful

She's late to a Christmas party after having to attend her cousins engagement party, so she hurries along in a magnificent, pink Hanbok and guess what she does?

That's right - she runs smack into the arms of her destiny, just like her mama had done 30 years earlier.

Or, was it 20 ?

Maybe it has something to do with the continuity thing again, I don't know, but several of the dramas or movies I've watched tend to distort time without a care.

It said 1980, and then 2004 - or, was it 2006?

I'm not sure anymore, because I got all confused and then I said fack it, I don't even care anymore what's going on with the time and age discrepancies and such important things as that.

I know it said 1980, and yet her passport said she was born in 1979, so that's when I decided to let go of the time line thingy and concentrate, instead, on the story.

(maybe it's the Asian theory that you are born at conception, not live birth? she was conceived in '79 and born in '80? - argh)

See, the other thing that baffles me about these shows and their lack of continuity is that they make the adults look 20 or even 30 years older than they should, while the present-day hero or heroine appear remarkable well preserved, and that makes no sense to someone like me.

If she was born in '79 and the present-day is '04, wouldn't that make her, like, 25 years old, yea?
So, why is her father - HIS father especially, - made to look like they have one foot in the grave?

Do the men over there wait until they're 50 to get married to a woman in her 20's, is that it?
20 years is hardly enough time to make a robust, young man turn into a withered, shuffling old grandpa, am I right?

Maybe life over there is that, much harder or something?

I am under the misguided assumption that the food, air quality, and even the water are said to have preservative qualities we Americans still strive for?

Baffled - and I digress -

Mika-san is a show-stopping beauty who haphazardly lets her little sister sign her up for some online dating service, and when the questionnaire arrives on her cell phone, she blows off a majority of the questions with 'don't care' responses until she comes to one question in particular

- "What are you looking for?"

(or something like that, since the translator failed to tell us what a majority of the written things in the drama said - I had to take a wild guess using my sorely lacking Kanji skills).

Anyway, she says she likes Tokyo Wankei (the sight) and asks the question,
"Can you find the real me?"

(Isn't that a Who song?)

Anyway, you won't believe who her only, qualified match turns out to be.

Again, I digress, and I hate to give away too much of the plot for those of you who have yet to watch - so, let me jump around like the drama did, ok?

Toru Nakamura (Kamiya Fumi) is a big-shot at the NEXUS or PEN publishing company where Mika works, and he finds this diary written by her omanee or okaasan, and he says his mother had it for years, he just found it, read it, and wants Mika to write a romance novel around the contents.

He's so hot.

Mika turns down the offer, so she hands the assignment over to her co-worker, Hayase Yoshio (Sato Ryuta), who I think has a crush on Mika, but there was a time in the show when he talked about his girlfriend, and then he ended up with Mari, so again, I'm not, really sure about that part of the story.

Did I say I wished I had written this thing?
Maybe I still can, only better and with more CONTINUITY, eh?
Just kidding - on with the synopsis of sorts -

Meanwhile, Mika gets in touch with her only match through the online dating service, and she invites him to meet her at the airport terminal (because it's open and filled with people).
She wearing a really neat orange jacket (she wore white a majority of the time), and she leans against a pole, closes her eyes, and counts down from 10 to the strike of 4 o'clock, when the dude is supposed to arrive - finding her sight unseen as she had insisted.

At precisely 4 o'clock, she opens her eyes, purses her lips and begins to leave when a banner unfurls that says, "I've found you."
Gasping in shock, she looks up toward the third level and sees no one, and then a second banner unfurls, stating that if she doesn't hurry up, he'll reveal her email address.
Seeing the third, unfurled banner, Mika freaks out and runs up the escalators, anxious to stop the mad-man from going through with his threat.

When she gets there, she meets Wada Ryosuke-san (Wada Soko), and as he says he's done it, that he's found her, the third banner unfurls, causing Mika to panic and nearly fling herself over the glass railing - but then she notices that the banner has nothing written on it.

Ryosuke is a 'blue-collar' guy who drives a hi-lo by day and teaches calligraphy as a hobby.
It just, so happens that Mika's boss has asked her to find stories about the 'forgotten' Japan, people like Ryosuke-san who have real hobbies and do old-fashioned things like knit, spin yarn, and write calligraphy.

What a freakin' coincidence, eh?

Honestly, I can't say any more about this drama because I really don't want to spoil it for anyone, and I know I sound smart-ass, but it's entirely unintentional, I assure you.

Tokyo Wankei was a wonderful drama, and I highly recommend it to those of you who haven't watched it yet.

Mika's childhood friend and fellow Zainichi, Inoue Koichi/Park Hong-il (Nakamura Shunsuke)

I honestly thought this guy was a Korean for real and was stunned to discover he's actually Japanese.
That would likely explain his perfect speech and amazingly accurate dialect, eh?
Isn't he pretty?