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

Friday, May 15, 2009

Japanese Dramas - 2009

Since reading a comic strip that depicted the bumbling, main character slipping on a rooftop, thus rotating a satellite dish so that reception changed from American channels to Asian, I've often wondered if I should invest in satellite TV, have the dish point in whatever direction it takes to GET Asian broadcasts, and NOT American television!

I suppose it'd take a simple phone call to find out if this is even possible, but until then, I'm content to await the arrival of Asian cinema & drama via the internet. At least there will be subtitles (though piss-poor a majority of the time).

Anyway ... I came across a list of spring/summer television viewing for Japan, and some of the new dramas look mighty interesting! I'm quite sad, however, that my favorite, Japanese honey (ITO Hideaki) isn't in any of them.

FUJIKI Naohito is, though! In two!

I've always preferred the Japanese storyline to Korean, and the Korean actor to the Japanese actor. That's not to say there are, no gorgeous Japanese actors, though! Korean dramas are predictable, more sappy & sentimental, and are geared toward a much, younger audience. Japanese dramas like to tell a story, delve deep into your sub-conscious, or just speak the truth.

Taiwan dramas have a little bit of both going for them, and yet the subtitling is a bit embarrassing, to say the least. Their slang, double-speak, and archaic sense of values (not to mention an obvious, British influence, which is uncomfortable and ill-suited to the characters) make it hard to enjoy the show.

So, here is a list of the shows already in progress, wrapping up, or coming soon to Japanese television that I look forward to seeing online SOON (I hope).

Hancho Jinnansho Azumihan (ハンチョウ〜神南署安積班〜)
TBS ~ premieres April 13

Jinnan Station, a small, newly established police station in Harajuku, is where Kuranosuke Sasaki plays chief clerk on the detective force, with five detectives working under him.
In the first episode, the body of jewelry shop owner Mitsue Yokotani is discovered.
Her purse is missing from the crime scene, so it appears to be a robbery, but one detective (Muga Tsukaji) feels there’s more to the case.
The behavior of a nearby resident (Etsuko Ichihara) seems suspicious, so the team begins to investigate the woman.
After an interesting encounter with her that night, she shows up the next day at the station, giving herself up as Yokotani’s killer.

Other Cast: Shunsuke Nakamura, Tomoka Kurotani, Toshiki Kashu, Shogo Yamaguchi

Fufudo 2 (夫婦道)
TBS, premieres April 15

Tetsuya Takeda and Atsuko Takahata return in a sequel to the 2007 series.
Tea-loving Kosuke Takanabe (Takeda) and his reliable wife Satoko (Takahata) are an ordinary couple, living in Saitama.
They manufacture and sell tea and have three daughters, all married, and a son named Shigeru (Yuto Suzuki).
The sequel starts in the spring, with Kosuke about to begin the harvest and Satoko planning to start a cafe in a section of their store.
One day a TV producer (Joji Kokubo) comes to Takanabe’s garden looking to do a show.
Kosuke is excited about the opportunity to grow via publicity, but things do not go as smoothly as he expects.

Other Cast: Shizu-chan, Seiko Takuma, Yuika Motokariya, Kaoru Sugita, Isao Hashizume

Hyoryu Net Cafe (漂流ネットカフェ)
TBS, premieres April 15

The hero, Koichi (Atsushi Ito), is a soon-to-be father leading a complacent life.
One day he stops at an internet cafe, and there he bumps into Kaho (KIKI), his first love in junior high.
Having just fought with his wife, Koichi’s heart is filled with old feelings.
A strange wave flows through the computers and cell phones in the cafe, and the entire place blacks out before it begins to rain.
Unable to leave the cafe, Koichi and Kaho stay overnight, andthe next morning, they find the world has changed completely.
Koichi is determined to find out why the cafe has transported him to a different world, and he's now anxious to return to his family in the original world.
As he fights against various fears and tries to solve the mystery, people start to disappear one by one.
Can they survive such a crisis?
What is Kaho's secret?

Other Cast: Reina Asami, Hidekazu Nagae, Masahiro Toda, Yuko Mano

Smile (スマイル)
TBS, premieres April 17

Bito Hayakawa (Jun Matsumoto) has a Filipino father and a Japanese mother, but he was born and raised in Japan and never visited the Philippines.
The ever-smiling Bito works at Machimura Foods during the day, and at night, he works a part-time job trying to make his dreams come true.
During an incident at a bookstore, he meets a girl named Hana Mishima (Yui Aragaki), who is mute due to an accident.
Bito is drawn to her beautiful smile.
Bito is wrongly suspected by the police to have committed a crime, and after meeting with lawyer Kazuma (Kiichi Nakai), the situation grows.
Together, Bito, Hana, and Kazuma go through challenging times and must overcome many obstacles.

Other Cast: Eiko Koike, Hidenori Tokuyama, Suzunosuke, Shun Oguri, Masanobu Katsumura

God Hand Teru (ゴッドハンド輝)
TBS, premieres April 11

An adaptation of Kazuki Yamamoto’s manga series God Hand Teru
Teru Mahigashi (Yuta Hiraoka) is a rookie surgeon who has just finished his training and is assigned to Yasuda Kinen Hospital, home of the best operating room in the world.
The hospital is even nicknamed “Valhalla” because its top-notch surgeons are viewed as gods. Patients are constantly being brought in, and the hospital seems like a battlefield much of the time.
Teru is assigned as an assistant to Valhalla’s #2 surgeon, Shuichi Kitami (Tetsuya Bessho), but he is kicked out of the operating room for his inability to keep up with Kitami’s incredible speed. Teru’s rival is the rising star Kozue Shinomiya (Asami Mizukawa), who is highly skilled and views surgery as an art.
One day, a young girl in critical condition arrives and Teru is the only available surgeon.
He freezes, but then he begins to feel an ache in his chest from a mark left when his father saved him as a youngster. Suddenly, his mind becomes clear and he focuses on saving the girl’s life.

Other Cast: Eri Murakawa, Hirofumi Araki, Taiki Nakabayashi, Atsuro Watabe

Mr. Brain
TBS, premieres May 23

SMAP’s Takuya Kimura takes on yet, another new challenge.

After portraying a race car driver, a public prosecutor, and even the Prime Minister, he will now play the role of neuro-scientist, Ryusuke Tsukumo.

He'll work for the National Research Institute of Police Science (part of the National Police Agency).

He is incapable of reading the atmosphere of a situation, but when it comes to science, he is well respected.

Whenever something captures his interest, he sticks to it and never gives up, chasing down the criminals with certainty.

This series combines the exciting elements of mystery, suspense, and comedy.

Other Cast: Haruka Ayase, Hiro Mizushima, Mao Daichi, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yuji Tanaka, Tortoise Matsumoto, Sei Hiraizumi

Boku no Imouto (ぼくの妹)
TBS, premieres April 19

The older brother (Joe Odagiri) is a genius surgeon, but is somehow still lacking.

The younger sister (Masami Nagasawa), is not good at studying, but she has a good nature and a strength for living.

Boku no Imouto is a human drama about two siblings whose parents died while they were still young.

Because of their different values, they are always arguing, like when the brother finds out that his sister is having an affair with a married man.

The siblings have also developed a strong bond that keeps them together, but a huge and unexpected incident occurs, threatening their relationship.

Other Cast: Junior Chihara, Rie Tomosaka, Tetsushi Tanaka, Go Wakabayashi, Hideji Otaki

Konkatsu! (婚カツ!)
Fuji TV, premieres April 20

Fuji TV has assembled a high profile cast for its new drama series, Konkatsu.

SMAP’s Masahiro Nakai plays the lead as the unemployed son of a Tonkatsu restaurant owner. He finds a job that requires a married person, so he lies & says he plans to marry, forcing him to keep up a charade with a part-time worker at the restaurant (Aya Ueto).

The relationship between these two is key to this romantic comedy, though the series also focuses on family and friendship through Nakai’s interactions with the other characters. KAT-TUN’s Tatsuya Ueda makes his drama debut as Nakai’s brother, and Ryuta Sato & Shosuke Tanihara star as his friends.

Other Cast: Yumiko Shaku, Yukiya Kitamura, Ryo, Jun Fubuki, Isao Hashizume, Fumiyo Kohinata

Atashinchi no Danshi (アタシんちの男子)
Fuji TV, premieres April 14

These days, the word homeless has taken on new meaning.

Youths referred to as “net cafe refugees,” have neither a job nor a place to live, but they spend all their time going to internet cafes.

One such refugee, a 20-year-old named Chisato (Maki Horikita), lost her mother at a young age due to sickness.

She spends her youth trying to escape from a huge debt her father left behind, and her battle with the debt collectors unfolds every night.

Her life changes when she meets a man named Shinzo (Masao Kusakari), who also helps her to change her views about family.

Shinzo comes from a rich background, traced back to the Edo period, and he adopted six, good-looking boys in the hope that one might become his successor.

All of them have strange personalities, though, so Shinzo promises to free Chisato from her debt if she will marry him and become the mother of his sons.

Life under one roof with these, six guys will not go smoothly.

Other Cast: Jun Kaname, Yoshinori Okada, Osamu Mukai, Yusuke Yamamoto, Koji Seto, Tomoki Okayama, Takeshi Tsuruno, Koji Yamamoto, Reiko Takashima

Shiroi Haru (白い春)
Fuji TV, premieres April 14

Former yakuza Haruo (Hiroshi Abe) is released from prison after completing a nine-year sentence.

He stops at a restaurant to enjoy a good meal when all his money is stolen.

With nothing left, he spends the night at a net cafe, and there he looks up an old friend.

He discovers that his old girlfriend, Mariko (Mahiru Konno), was living with another man, but that she died of an illness that Haruo had committed murder for, to gain the money needed for Mariko’s medical treatment.

Naturally, he is shocked and angry, and he decides to track down that other man (Kenichi Endo), who runs a bakery with his wife (Miho Shiraishi) and daughter Sachi (Nozomi Ohashi).

Haruo later runs into Sachi at a park, but he has yet to find out the truth about her.

Other Cast: Yuriko Yoshitaka, Yuya Endo, David Ito

Fuji TV, premieres April 16

This series revolves around a group of peculiar detectives in a new division created to fight against an increase in atrocious crimes.

A beautiful career woman (Yuki Amami) has just returned from training in the U.S. and is appointed as the “boss” of this division.

Despite her intelligence and capabilities, she can't figure out a man, so she's still single.

Her assignment in the U.S. was really a demotion after she ruined her career over a man, so she wonders why she was chosen to be the boss of the new division.

The detectives are talented, yet they all have issues & flaws, and they are considered to be the problem children of the police force.

In the end, the division’s true purpose is just to isolate these problematic detectives.

Other Cast: Yutaka Takenouchi, Erika Toda, Junpei Mizobata, Michiko Kichise, Kendo Kobayashi, Yoichi Nukumizu, Tetsuji Tamayama

Majo Saiban (魔女裁判)
Fuji TV, premieres April 25

Majo Saiban is the first television drama series which focuses on Japan’s new jury system, being introduced in May.

The story is about a young, part-timer named Toru (Toma Ikuta) who has no interest in social issues.

He is called in as a juror in the trial of a woman labeled a witch (Yuriko Ishida).

She is charged with a murder that involves an enormous inheritance.

Though it seems she is guilty, the jurors begin casting their votes for a not guilty verdict.

There is a mysterious organization buying control of the jury, and at the same time, strange events begin to occur for Toru.

Another juror (Ai Kato), is threatened, and Toru is determined to save her, but his girlfriend, a newspaper reporter (Manami Higa), is suspicious of their relationship, so Toru begins his lonely fight for the truth.

Other Cast: Ryohei Suzuki, Shiori Kutsuna, Haruka Suenaga, Saori Takizawa

Rinjo (臨場)
TV Asahi, premieres April 15

Masaaki Uchino stars as Kuraishi, a coroner known for his keen powers of observation and his thorough investigations.

In the first case of this series, a man and woman are found dead in an apartment. Kuraishi asks apprentice coroner Ichinose (Dai Watanabe) for his opinion, and Ichinose concludes that the presence of hydrogen cyanide on the woman suggests a forced, double suicide.

Kuraishi presses him for more proof, and Ichinose argues that his job is to determine the cause of death, nothing more.

Kuraishi rebukes him and immediately heads off with his assistant Rumi (Yuki Matsushita), to the next case.

There, they find a man dead in his basement, and Kuraishi declares it a suicide, but detective Tachihara (Masanobu Takashima) insists that the evidence points to murder.

Other Cast: Sayaka Kaneko, Jun Hashizume, Masato Ibu, Kotomi Kyono

Kyoto Chiken no Onna (京都地検の女)
TV Asahi, premieres April 23

In it's fifth season, Kyoto Chiken no Onna, a mystery series that first aired in 2003, still has as the main character Aya Tsurumaru (Yuko Natori), a prosecutor at the Kyoto District Public Prosecutor’s Office.

She is a working mother, and her strength is her housewife’s intuition, which gives her insight into cases that none of the men in her office can see.

Many, familiar faces return to the series, and new additions include Susumu Terajima and newcomer Tsubasa Mori.

Other Cast: Toru Masuoka, Ikkei Watanabe, Keizo Kanie, Kana Wakisawa

Yakou no Kaidan (夜光の階段)
TV Asahi, premieres April 23

The Seicho Matsumoto novel Yakou no Kaidan is adapted for television to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Matsumoto’s birth.

It is said that women seek dominance while men are satisfied with fortune and fame.

The story centers around one young man (Naohito Fujiki) who rises to the top in the beauty industry from a simple stylist.

He is merciless and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his desire.

One of the victims of his ambition is a woman’s magazine editor, (Yoshino Kimura).

Desire, envy, and lust abound in this suspenseful, human drama.

Other Cast: Yui Natsukawa, Keiko Oginome, Kimiko Yo, Shigeru Muroi, Nenji Kobayashi

Meitantei no Okite (名探偵の掟)
TV Asahi, premieres April 17

The original Meitantei no Okite was written by Naoki Prize-winning mystery writer Keigo Higashino, whose works have been turned into several hit dramas including “Galileo” and “Ryusei no Kizuna.”

In this series, Higashino applies his humor to the mystery genre, poking fun at shameful cliches and contradictions found in standard mysteries, like locked-door murders, alibi deceptions, and messages left by the dying.

Shota Matsuda stars as the so-called famous detective Daigoro Tenkaichi, and Yu Kashii takes on the female lead as a rookie cop.

Other Cast: Yuichi Kimura, Chisun, Jingi Irie

Aishiteru Kaiyou (アイシテル~海容~)
NTV, premieres April 15

Aishiteru is a human drama based on a manga by Minoru Ito.

A young boy takes another boy’s life, and the drama brings together the stories of their families and how they cope with the tragedy.

Both families are typical, and the two mothers (Izumi Inamori, Yuka Itaya) are like any other, devoting their lives to raising their kids with love.

The show touches on similar events that have occurred in recent years in Japan, but unlike other dramas that have also tried, Aishiteru truly focuses on the lives of the families involved as they struggle to find their way and continue to live after a tragedy.

Other Cast: Taro Yamamoto, Umika Kawashima, Tomoko Tabata, Shiro Sano, Misako Tanaka

NTV, premieres April 23

If you can pass the ultimate challenge regarding love, you receive 100 million yen, and you don’t have to risk anything, either!

However, there has yet to be a winner of the love game.

Yumiko Shaku plays a beautiful but mysterious dealer in this game, and the first challenger is a 29-year-old businessman, Koichi Takizawa (Shun Shioya).

His challenge is to get his wife to sign divorce papers within an eight-hour period.

Koichi accepts the challenge, believing that it will be easy to persuade his obedient wife (Hiromi Kitagawa), confident that an explanation afterward will appease her.

He discovers that she refuses to sign the divorce papers or to leave him since she's hiding a shocking secret.

The Quiz Show
NTV, premieres April 18

At Ginga TV, a live-broadcast quiz show is about to begin.

The contestants will answer seven questions, with each correct answer earning them more money, up to ten-million yen.

Those who answer correctly all, seven questions have a chance to gamble all their money for a Dream Chance (those who complete a final task will have a dream come true).

What the contestants don’t know is that the show’s unrelenting host (Arashi’s Sho Sakurai) will lead them to reveal live on the air their darkest secrets.

Can the contestants keep their cool?

How far will they go to achieve their dreams?

Other Cast: Yu Yokoyama, Miki Maya, Aya Matsuura, Shigeru Izumiya, Eisuke Sasai, Sho Aikawa, Toshihide Tonesaku, Narushi Ikeda, Erena Mizusawa, Nozomi Ohashi

Ikemen Sobaya Tantei (イケ麺そば屋探偵~いいんだぜ!~)

NTV, premieres April 4

Worried about her younger brother Juntaro’s future, Itako (Keiko Horiuchi) visits the soba restaurant that Juntaro runs. The store is known as the “Ikemen Sobaya,” due to the good looks of Juntaro (Naohito Fujiki) and the part-time delivery boys. Itako discovers that Juntaro does more than just work at the shop – he also happens to work as a detective who solves a lot of incidents around the neighborhood. Juntaro is also surrounded by a cast of strange characters, such as the gay president of a local talent agency (Arata Furuta) and a detective who is constantly at odds with Juntaro (Katsuhisa Namase). Each episode features an unusual mystery and a special guest, starting with Naoto Takenaka.

Cast: Kyo Nobuo, Kazuma Kawahara

Ghost Friends (ゴーストフレンズ)
NHK, premieres April 2

Ghost Friends is a cute, comical, and slightly scary drama about a high school girl named Asuka (Saki Fukuda), who begins to see ghosts after being involved in a traffic accident. Asuka realizes these ghosts have regrets and unfulfilled wishes, so she begins working towards granting their wishes. One day, Asuka meets Kaito (Takahiro Nishijima), who shares the same power. Asuka becomes curious about his mysterious atmosphere, and it turns out that he is a ghost in human form. Kaito came to the human world chasing after his girl friend Misora (Noriko Iriyama), another ghost who ran away and entered the human world. As Asuka helps Kaito in his search, she gradually falls in love with him. Through the interactions between Asuka and the ghosts, this comedy depicts one girl’s experiences of love, friendship, and family.

Cast: Nana Katase, Megumi Nakayama, Yoshinori Okada, Jingi Irie, Tomochika

Konkatsu Rikatsu (コンカツ・リカツ) NHK, premieres April 3

This drama is a story about women in their 30s to 40s, reflecting their current lifestyles. Nanami Machida (Sachiko Sakurai) realizes she is 39 years old, and even though she doesn’t want to marry, she feels the need to get married and establish a family. On the other hand, Rikako Kudo (Misa Shimizu) had happiness until 39 years old, and finds herself having to divorce even though she does not want to. These two, who have been classmates since elementary school, hold different values and personalities. But as the questions of marriage and divorce arise, they both are searching for the true meaning of love.

Cast: Sayuri Kokusho, Keiko Matsuzaka, Maimi Okuwa

Kagero no Tsuji 3 (陽炎の辻3-居眠り磐音 江戸双紙)
NHK, premieres April 18

The jidaigeki series “Kagero no Tsuji” is back for a third season. Koji Yamamoto reprises his role as Iwane Sakazaki, a warm-hearted and righteous man who has been living as a ronin in Edo since leaving his home five years ago. Sakazaki deals not only with the problems surrounding him in the city, but also with his own personal troubles, including his former fiancee Nao (Yuko Fueki) and his contested promise of marriage to Okon (Noriko Nakagoshi).

Cast: Takashi Ukaji, Ikkei Watanabe, Hiromi Kitagawa, Sei Hiraizumi, Yosuke Kawamura

Harukanaru Kizuna (遥かなる絆)
NHK, Saturday 9:00pm, premieres April 18

In 1970, before there was public awareness of the phenomenon of “Japanese war-displaced orphans in China,” one young man (Gregory Wong) from China arrived at Haneda Airport. After 25 years, he was finally able to reunite with his true parents. But even though he returned to his native Japan, a difficult and challenging life awaited him. Many years later, his daughter (Anne Suzuki) decides to study abroad in China, where she begins to learn about the life her father led there. She traces his struggles and his footsteps between the two countries, and in the process learns an important message. This drama portrays the bonds of fate that transcended borders and generations, as seen through the daughter’s eyes.

Cast: Kenichi Kato, Aiko Morishita, Megumi Sato, Hu Bing

Tsubasa (つばさ)
NHK, premieres March 30

Tsubasa Tamaki (Mikako Tabe) is 20-year-old junior college student in Kawagoe, Saitama. She lives with her grandmother (Kazuko Yoshiyuki), her father (Baijaku Nakamura), and younger brother (Satoshi Tomiura) at the long-standing confectionery that her family runs. Her mother (Atsuko Takahata), who left the house 10 years ago, still stops by once in a while, but the majority of the housework is done by Tsubasa, causing her to be known as “20-year-old mother.” The series starts off with Tsubasa’s mother coming back home and getting into a big argument with the grandmother. Meanwhile, Tsubasa becomes an assistant to the soccer team, where she reunites with a young man named Shota (Yu Koyanagi), leading to her first romance. However, with her mother stirring things up at the shop, Tsubasa has more than enough to deal with.

Also stars: Mikako Tabe

Yukemuri Sniper (湯けむりスナイパー)
TV Tokyo, premieres April 3

Kenichi Endo stars as Gen (age and real name unknown), a retired assassin who now quietly works at the hot spring inn Tsubakiya in a remote area of Japan. Hoping to restart his life, he applied for the job after seeing an ad, claiming to be a middle-aged salaryman who just got laid off. He hides his past from the inn’s beautiful proprietress (Yuko Ito) and veteran clerk (Denden), as well as the rest of the people around him. These include a once-famous stripper named Tomoyo (Nobue Iketani), a hostess bar owner (Miyuki Matsuda), and Q, the only man who knows Gen’s past (Hiroyuki Nagato). Surrounded by this unusual cast, Gen is constantly tangled up in various troubles at Tsubakiya.

Cast: Momoko Tani, Miku Ono

Mama wa Newhalf (ママはニューハーフ)
TV Tokyo, premieres April 6

Iwataro (Noboru Kaneko) is a handsome, elite salaryman, but he also happens to be a “newhalf,” or transsexual. Five years ago, he quit his company and started a new life as “Luna” among the newhalf community, quickly becoming the number-one hostess at a nightclub. Iwataro enjoys living his life freely, but his family back in Kagoshima has no clue about his new identity. One day, a 5-year-old boy named Kiyoto (Tatsuya Kose) suddenly becomes part of his life, as Iwataro takes on the responsibility of raising the young child. “Mama wa Newhalf” is about the two of these characters living together, experiencing both tears and laughter among the newhalf community.

Cast: Chiaki Hara, Nana Ogawa, Daisuke Shima, Atsushi Fukazawa, Noemi Takayama, Asami Abe

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