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

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Kazoku / 家族 / Family

~Tsuma no Fuzai, Oto no Sonzai~
~Absence of the Wife, Existence of the Husband~

October 20 to December 08, 2006 8-part drama from Japan that starred Yutaka Takenouchi as Kamikawa Ryohei, a 35 yr old over-achiever whose wife, Satomi (Ishida Yuriko), decides to leave him in pursuit of an architectural career.
Their son, Yuuto, is the focus of the drama, and he's an adorable 5-yr old caught in the middle of his parent's marital stand-off.
Ryohei is left to care for Yuuto when the little boy returns to the house thinking that his mother will soon follow and life will go back to normal again.
Satomi doesn't mind this at first, since she's determined to succeed at work - and having her child around would only weigh her down.
Ryohei ends up getting fired from his high-power corporate job because he has to take care of Yuuto, and he ends up selling sardine fish cakes or something at a local grocery store.
Once Satomi becomes established at the design firm, she wants her son back, and she's also become more adamant about the divorce as well.

In typical, Japanese style, this story is poignantly portrayed and volleys from past to present, character to character in such a way that you never lose focus or become confused.
Ryohei wanted a family, and at the beginning, he truly loved Satomi and vice versa.
His job became the main focus of his life, and aspects of his childhood cropped up to make him behave the way that he did as an adult.
Because the story is about him and how he has to deal with another side of his otherwise typical life, it's easy to see why so many people who commented on this drama at the website took Takenouchi's side (aside from his being totally gorgeous, of course).

However ~ that wasn't the case for me.

To the very end of this drama, I don't think that Ryohei ever, really got it!
He got married, and then he went to work and never returned.
Because he grew up having to fend for himself, he never learned how to let someone else in.
Before the split, he cut off or ignored Satomi every time she tried to talk about anything with him.
Yuuto once thought that his father's best friend was his actual papa since Ryohei was never at home.
Ryohei didn't follow the rules of the game, and Satomi didn't have the guts or the training to teach him a thing or two about what it means to live together as a family.

People often argue against arguing.
They claim that shouting matches cause more harm than good.
I couldn't disagree more.

Had Satomi snapped earlier in their seven-year marriage, things might have turned out different for them.
"Excuse me! I said - I'm thinking about going back to work!"
"Don't walk away when I'm trying to talk to you!"
"I know you didn't, just say your son's piano recital is trivial!"

If Ryohei didn't have a clue from the start, then how was he expected to know anything was wrong if Satomi remained mute?

Satomi gave up and Ryohei forged ahead without knowing anything was wrong.

The drama showed us that Satomi tried at the start to get Ryohei's attention, but that he was too busy moving up the corporate ladder to notice or care.
He made a lot of important decisions without discussing them with his wife, and finally, when he was too late to watch his son play the piano, she decided to end the relationship.
Throughout the show, the other characters took Ryohei's side and felt sorry for him since he ended up with Yuuto and lost his job.
Ryohei did a commendable thing by choosing to look after his son and not focus so much on work anymore, but unlike a majority of the other viewers, I thought that it was too little too late.
It was his turn to suffer, and suffer he did!

And, I'm not being unsympathetic, either.
It takes heaps to make me cry, and Kazoku had me in tears practically from the very start.
It was touching a majority of the time, and reality tends to bite regardless of the circumstances, so to see anyone have to suffer usually tugs at my heartstrings anyway.
The scene at the carnival (Disneyland, I think) killed me.
I fought back the tears, but it became futile and I let it go - which caused a few, curious glances from my mother each time she passed by my room.

There were funny moments, too - like when the father & son first began to live together and Yuuto awoke early because he wet the bed.
Ryohei struggled to wake up, and he whined at Yuuto to just use the potty - and little Yuuto grinned when he said, "Too late!"
Then, and because all of his things were still with his mother, Yuuto had nothing to wear, so Ryohei decided to give him a pair of his boxer shorts, which he duct taped together so they wouldn't fall down - and they fell down anyway.

I fell madly in love with Ryohei when, after realizing that he forgot his own son's birthday, he ran out after dark to buy something, and when none of the stores was still open, he bought packs of paper to draw train tracks, a park, a depot, and stores.
When Yuuto awoke the following morning, he peered over the railing and saw everything laid out on the floor.
Again, with a boyishly cute grin, he whispered, "Wow!" and ran down to play while Ryohei remained asleep on a sofa nearby.
And, I learned that while a bento box is darling under any circumstances, it's seemingly imperative that it be outstandingly kawaii for a five-year-old in kindergarten.
Ryohei cannot cook, let alone recognize another person's feelings, so until he finds out he's doing it wrong, he continues to make yucky bento boxes for Yuuto, and every day at the Cherry School, the kids gather round his desk to see what burnt offering he's forced to have to consume that day.
Eventually, he learns how to slice tiny sausages so they curl up into octopus legs, and how to put smiley faces on carrot rounds - things only a mother apparently knows how to do for her child.

And, while I'm on the topic of kawaii - I couldn't get over the uniform the kindergarten child had to wear.
The first time I saw it, I immediately thought of Pepito from the Madeline books.

Kawaii fascinates as much as it annoys me.
Maybe I'm jealous because it's over there and not over here, who knows.

Kaneko Noboru also stars in this as Yadomoto Kazunori, a guy who works at Satomi's firm and with whom we assume she is having an affair.


Lastly, and it's another, personal observation ~ but, if they used less glam actors for parts like this, it might make the situations seem more realistic.
If I was married to a guy who even remotely resembled Takenouchi, I'd be inclined to put up with just about anything in order to assure that he remained in my life.

It's hard to be sympathetic with a woman who dumps a guy like him!
Heck, it's hard to believe she could be so blatantly stupid!
Sure, who wants to see a balding beer belly with stubble - but, when most women are already married to a guy like him, trying to understand why a woman would disregard a hunk is a little too much to ask.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cinderella Man - 신데렐라맨

An April 15 through June 04, 2009 Korean drama that starred Kwon Sang woo as both Lee Joon hee (the wealthy heir of a fashion empire) and Oh Dae san, the forgotten twin.
Also starring Im Yoon ah as Seo Yeo jin, a designer hopeful who is forced to return from Paris early after her father's untimely death.
Han Eun jung is Jang Se eun, the snobbish daughter of a banker who also studied design in Paris, and Song Chang ui as Lee Jae Min, the hot but ruthless stepbrother of Lee Joon hee.

It's about a rich family whose son has an affair with a woman beneath his social status who gives birth to twin boys.
Unbeknownst to the man's mother (who looked like a guy in drag, I swear), she stole just one of two heirs, leaving the ill and weak lower class woman to have to give up the second twin to an orphanage.

The drama then moves ahead to the present day, and the wealthy Joon hee is having heart problems like his birth mother.
He hates his father's family and his stepbrother, Jae min.
Meanwhile, Dae san is working hard at a place called Great East Gate, a 5th Avenue of sorts in Seoul, where fashion knock-offs reign supreme.

Jeong woo as Ma Yi san, Dae san's buddy from the orphanage, was a definite scene stealer in this 16-episode drama.
The chemistry between them was undeniably perfect and their delivery, magnificently hilarious.
It's my hope they'll work together again soon.

It, too, has become increasingly obvious to me that whenever a Korean man plays the part of a homo, it's hard to distinguish fact from fiction, and Lee Byeong joon did it again with his to the hilt portrayal of Elegance Choi.

Anyway, it's the story of the separated-at-birth twins who grow up in entirely opposite directions.
They meet by chance at age twenty-seven, and because the wealthy twin is dying, he enlists the aid of his identical twin in order to obtain the answers about his past.
Wealthy Joon hee goes to Paris for a heart transplant (I know - whaaat?) and struggling-to-survive Dae san takes his place.

Song Chang ui (wicked stepbrother, Lee Jae min) is a good-looking guy!

Dae san worked with Yeo jin's father at the Great East Gate shopping complex, so he meets her at the man's funeral and eventually falls for her.

Jae min meets her, too, and he falls for her as well.

Se eun once dated Jae min, but when he asked her to get serious, she dumped him and ran off to Paris to become a fashion designer.
Then, she keeps bumping into the fake Joon hee and eventually falls for him, thinking he's wealthy and available.
She and Yeo jin met in Paris at the same design school, and because Yeo jin is better than her at their art, and because Se eun is wealthy and Yeo jin isn't, they don't get along too well.

Se eun tolerates Yeo jin until she finds out that Yeo jin and Joon hee (Dae san) are into each other, and then she goes Korean actress crazy.

I know - it's fake - it's drama - but, wtf?

every woman knows that blackmail works on a guy!

so, she brags about it to his stepbrother, like that makes any, more sense

suitable?? and, for whom?


so, do as I say - boy.

yes, because this mean, nasty bitch who hasn't got a clue about what real love is wants to make you into her whipping boy - why can't you get that?

Since Kwon's a married man with a kid now, I'm not as inclined to go crazy over him anymore, (while watching Cinderella Man, I kept wondering about his lucky wife, and what it might be like to get to hold a guy like him in bed every night - sigh)
but he's still got one of the finest bods in Korean show-biz, and it was only revealed to us once in Cinderella Man, wah!
Also, the scene was shot too fast for me to get a good screen image. (sniff)

I'd have liked to see Song Chang ui topless, too!
I never heard of him before, and now I'm curious to see him in something else.


The first, few episodes I watched at Mysoju, and they used Ning and Ku6 for their uploads, which was great!
But, either they or my PC began acting funny, so I had to go to Viikii to watch episodes six through ten.
Y'all already know how I feel about Viikii, and they didn't fail to disappoint me AGAIN.
There's nothing I or any of the other subbers there can do about timing - it's entirely up to the person who submitted the drama to work that out, and it was the timing that was off along with the horrible subtitling.

I worked on it to the best of my ability, and then I just gave up.
Fortunately, Ku6 and then Ning came back at Mysoju and I was able to finish watching in relative peace.

Isn't this vase adorable?

Continuity isn't something Asian directors seem to care about, but toward the end of the show, I noticed that the Great East Gate suddenly disappeared from view at Dae san' place.

All through the show, whenever he or Yeo jin or both of them went to the roof to talk or contemplate about life, there was always a magnificent view of the city lights -
and then, near the end of the show - it wasn't there - and then it was!

Finally, my last, constant complaint about Korean drama -
SEX, or lack thereof.

the first and only time they kissed - at the very end

It's Ok, though, because I'm not at all fond of the way they do it over there anyhow!
It's kind a like two fish in the sea (or a tank) that touch lips in order to extract food from one another.
The girl always hangs limp in his arms, not touching anything about him, and keeping her lips limp as well.


Not at all happy about that aspect of Asian life (unless it's totally toned down for censorship reasons), and I know I'd go stark raving MAD if I dated a guy who'd expect me to behave that way, too.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Favorite Dramas Currently Airing

Right now, I'm watching three dramas simultaneously - and they are

Buzzer Beat

Dream 2009


Yako no Kaidan

Of the three, I'm having the most fun watching --- Buzzer Beat.

It stars Yamashita Tomohisa, Ito Hideaki, Aibu Saki, Kitagawa Keiko, and Ogi Shigemitsu.
Kaneko Nobuaki (かねこ のぶあき) also stars as an off-beat character, and the more of him I see on film, the more of him I like.

He's not homely, but Yamashita isn't as exciting a man to look at (for me anyway) as my all-time favorite, Hideaki Ito, and he's the reason I became interested in the Basketball drama to begin with.

Yes, it's a sports-theme drama, but - HIDEAKI ITO!
I'll watch anything this guy stars in, I swear.

DREAM stars Joo Jin mo and Kim bum - and again, Jin mo is ten-times hotter (to me) than bum.
I figured Kim Sang bum was popular with teenagers because he's from a KPop band or something, but I guess not.
He starred in Boys Over Flowers (didn't care for it).
Joo Jin mo is sexy-handsome, and he's the reason I'll be watching the rest of Dream as each episode is uploaded.

This is another sports-theme drama, but from Korea instead of Japan, and instead of basketball, it's about kickboxing.

Lastly, there is YAKO NO KAIDAN, which stars Naohito Fujiki - a guy on par with the likes of Hideaki Ito imho.
This, too, is an exciting and intense drama, but the uploads for this on are way, too slow.

Naohito is in several dramas this year, but the quality of the uploads on are far greater than on Mysoju, so it takes them longer to upload videos.
This is fine with me, though!
So, I'll watch Yako no Kaidan first, then go on to the other dramas he stars in later on.

In Yako, he's a popular hairdresser who is under suspicion of murder, and the detective on the case is the voice-over who tells the story.
He's never looked hotter or more suspicious to me than in this drama, and I can't get enough of Yako no Kaidan!

With the exception of the latter, Buzzer Beat and Dream are uploaded via ViiKii.

ViiKii sucks, I'm sorry.

It's run by teenagers who use English as a second language, or by western Asians who are as uneducated as the rest of the western population.

At the site, and underneath each episode you work on, is a place to leave comments, and for an entirely unknown reason, those comments appear at the top of the video screen!
It's gay, it's insane, and it's totally frustrating for someone who is trying to read the translation, watch the show, and try to ignore the garbage printed at the top of the screen.

"OMG! He's so cute!"
"WTF? She so ugly!"
"kekeke, so cute when he smiles!"

It's juvenile annoyance I can do without, that's for sure.

As I've said before, I tried working for ViiKii during East of Eden and Kingdom of the Winds.
I'd change things like spelling errors, incorrect phrasing, and ubiquitous nonsense like "...", and double-type, like "...but but he's not ggoing..."
things like that.

and Every, single time, someone came behind me and put back whatever it was I changed.

It's not a question of sour grapes, either.

I don't know about the rest of the interested world of Asian cinema, but if the folks in dramaland want to make a profit on DVD sales, then they need to get serious about the quality of their subtitles.

Don't get me wrong, because without fansubbers, no one could have as much fun watching a brand new drama from Asia, but if they want to sell the DVDs to these things (and yes, I'd be willing to buy them), then it's wrong for the company to use such groups as ViiKii, With S2, SARS, and Band o Nuts that destroy the quality of the $65-$250 DVDs.

I'll continue to watch online for free and illegally, and just keep hitting the pause button to re-read what's written and make my own judgment calls about what's actually said.