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

Friday, October 09, 2009

アラウンド40 / Around 40

注文の多いオンナたち / Chumon no Oi Onna-tachi / Demanding Women



A 2008 TBS broadcast from Japan that aired between April 11 and June 20 and starred Fujiki Naohito as Okamura Keitaro, a mid-thirties psychologist, and Amami Yuki as Ogata Satoko, a psychiatrist on the verge of turning 40.

This was another offering, and again, with flawless subtitles. Normally, I read the posts before I watch a movie or drama there, and a majority of the time, I agree with what people had to say, good or bad, about the show.

This time, it got mixed reviews, but most people said the ending was too predictable, and I have to agree. It's never fun to sit through things this long only to have it not end the way that you would hope.


That is no reason not to watch Around 40, because it was another of Japan's finer moments, IMHO.

The story is mainly about the trials and tribulations associated with Japanese women going through what might mildly be deemed as a 'mid-life crisis', but in this case, that would be getting married and having a child before it's too late.

Satoko's friend, Takeuchi Mizue (Matsushita Yuki) had a mid-life crisis, being married and with a teenage son, thinking that life was swiftly passing her by and that once the boy was gone, she would have nothing.

Her other friend, Morimura Nao (Otsuka Nene) didn't, necessarily suffer because of her age, but because of her inability to let go of the past.

Satoko, though, wasn't suffering anything more than the constant nagging of her relatives & friends - always curious to know when and if she intends to get hitched, and if so, to whom and how soon?

Satoko had it together, enjoyed her job, and had no trouble being single, much less worrying about it. She lived in a nice apartment surrounded by nice things, and she frequently treated herself to relaxing nights at a local Hot Springs resort to unwind. She was particularly fond of a certain comedian, and she didn't mind attending his live performances by herself. She may have been stuck in a routine, but it wasn't a routine that affected her mentally or even started to drag her down.

The only reason she decided to visit a marriage service is because she got the feeling her father might be upset about dying before she gave him a grandchild (even though her younger brother was married, had a little girl, and lived happily together with his father, his wife, and their child).

It was hinted at a few times that because Satoko tended to frequent her father's home for evening meals, then it was presumed to be her subconscious desire to have a family of her own - when in reality, she was simply tired of eating fast food and wanted home-cooking instead.

But, then our darling and quite clueless Okamura arrives on the scene to turn Satoko's world upside down by helping to further encourage her friends & family to grind into her pretty head that she isn't getting any younger.

After coming from Yako no Kaidan, it was hard for me to wrap my head around Fujiki's character in this one. He dressed down (actually, he wore the same outfit day after day after day until I thought I would go nuts), he smiled a ton, and he had an aire of confidence about him entirely unlike his character in Yako. He was also a clean freak and a tree-hugger, annoying everyone in the hospital with his demands that they unplug unused appliances, sort their recycling properly, and bring their own set of chopsticks to restaurants. He even claims to be in bed by 10:30pm each night in order to cut down on electricity after dark.

"It's not being stingy!  It's being ecological!"

It was refreshing, too, when the antagonists SOON became friends and then lovers - instead of spending 9 out of the 11 episodes total fighting like cats & dogs.

However, the ubiquitous twist came when Satoko's ex-lover returned out of the blue, and though it pissed her off at first, Satoko falls back in love with the man who said he had to 'step out'' for a minute, only to end up in Afghanistan for more than five years.

He's a photographer named Kanasugi Kazuya (Kato Masaya), and naturally, he went through something traumatic in that part of the world, so when he told Satoko he would never, again take up photography, red flags began to wave inside everyone's head except for Satoko's!

Okamura has a natural talent for getting psychologically unstable people to open up, and since he was one of the first to spot something wrong with Kazuya, he invited the man to meet with him at a nearby park, to 'talk'. Eventually, he gets Kazuya to spill his guts, and when he's not suffering internally anymore, he knows he has no intention of giving up on his career as a photographer.

Satoko's friend, Morimura Nao, is pursued from the start by this guy:

Maruyama Tomomi as Shinjo Takafumi

Guys like him really piss me off, hiding their true intentions while lying, cheating, and shafting an innocent woman until she gives in, thinking he truly loves her - only to discover his true character AFTER she's said 'I Do'. Probably because I was once married to a guy with that mentality, it rubs me the wrong way when I see it portrayed on the big screen, I don't know. Shinjo doggedly pursued Nao, and she kept blowing him off, but then something happened at work, so she went to Shinjo for comfort and the next thing you know, - 'we're married!'

That falls apart rather quickly when she finds out about him, her true worth at the office, and so on. At least she has a guy looking out for her (something rather common in the dramas yet not, quite so in real life, I think).

Tsutsui Michitaka as Ohashi Sadao

Sadao is an outstanding chef in a restaurant I wouldn't mind dining at on occasion, and yet he rarely has any customers aside from his good friends (the girls). They frequently meet at his 'raunt, eating his delicious food while talking (actually, they do a lot more arguing) about their lives. Sadao is mild-mannered, civil, and quiet - but the more he hears about Nao's loveless marriage, the angrier he becomes, until he decides to confront her husband at his office.

totally cool office

アラウンド40 is a good story - and I highly recommend it.

Now for the imagery:

awesome apartment

gorgeous apple blossom shot


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Dream / 드림

A korean drama that aired on SBS from July 27 to September 29, 2009 and starred Joo Jin Mo as Nam Jae Il, Kim Bum as Lee Jang Suk, and Son Dam Bi as Park So Yeon.

At least, I think this is over! (???)

I'm not sure, cause the last part of episode 20 just -- well, it just ended at mysoju. No 'the end' or closing credits, no music -- it just, stopped.

That's thanks to Viikii, again.

I'm tempted to go there and rewrite everything, from A to Z, but with college upon me now, that isn't likely to happen.


DREAM was incredible. Another Korean drama I'm totally and completely THANKFUL and GLAD to have watched!


Well, yes it was laden with inhuman drama, and yes, there was that ever-present love triangle thingy going on, and YES, for cripe's sake, SOMEONE DIED! But still -- I had a good time with this one, and I know if Korean's give it another chance, they'll like it, too.

Why it got such bad reviews over there???

Was it because everyone who watched Jerry McGuire thought that it was a rip-off and therefore made the decision not to see the same story twice? Heck, they even made reference to that, stupid movie in the drama! I like it when folk make fun of themselves!

And, since I hate Tom Cruise and never saw Jerry McGuire, I have no idea what the problem is with DREAM.


Kim bum and Joo Jin mo were SMOKIN' in this piece, and I was riveted from start to finish. Oh - yes, what would a Korean drama be without the pregnant pauses and five-minute dwelling scenes?


This time around, I cared less how many times hunk-a-licious Nam Jae Il felt like contemplating his rough past or wondering as he gazed into the camera if he would ever be able to defeat his nemesis!

That guy is UBER amazingly gorgeous! DAY-UM hot!

(like the chandelier behind him, too)

I don't think I've ever seen this guy act before, and it made me sad!
Where the HELL did he come from, and why haven't I heard about him before???

Had me fanning my face on more than one occasion throughout this 20-episode nail biter, let me tell you.

Then my Korean friend tells me there's a rumor going around town that he's --- (whispers)(gay)(shhh!)


He is NOT, and when I get there, he'll find out what being with a woman is REALLY like (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha - sigh). Or MAYBE it's because he played the lover of the king in an epic drama starring alongside Jo In seung as gay lovers or something like that? I just realized he was in 200lb Beauty and 3-Iron, too! Really??

Oh well, such is life, I guess.

Anyway, let me say that DREAM was about a super-sexed, high-charged go-getter (Joo's Nam Jae Il) in the Sports arena, who worked for the ubiquitous baddy, money-grubbing exec who used, abused, chewed up & spit out people like the lion he used as wallpaper in his overly modern office. He dropped Nam's name in a sports doping scandal, thus ruining Nam's character and his career, which resulted in his spiraling down to earth (reality, in this case) in less than 24 hours.

So, for the next, 18 episodes, we get to see how Nam works to gain back everything while scheming to take down the exec who destroyed him.

!!! OMG - did I like this drama !!!

I watched this at the same time I watched BUZZER BEAT, and the two, equally compelling shows had so, much in common, it made me giggle.

Buzzer Beat starred Hideaki Ito as the hunky coach of a second-rate basketball team.
Dream stars the incredibly gorgeous Joo Jin mo as a hunk-a-fied sports agent.

In Buzzer Beat, we have Yamashita Tomahisa as the star basketball player with low self-esteem, and Kim Bum's Lee Jang suk, a street-wise thief fresh from jail who just, happens to know a thing or eight about mixed martial arts, and who also packs a damn, straight punch, too.

Buzzer Beat had a chick who looked like she went a little, too heavy on the dark, brown eye liner - and so, too, did the gal who starred alongside the two, hunky guys in Dream (Son Dam bi).
Or, maybe they both have allergies or something?

I don't know, but it was their eyes and the dark circles under them that bugged me most while watching both, entertaining shows. Obviously, they were both about sports - something I'm totally NOT into (unless it's watching TENNIS), but that aspect of both dramas played little in my like or dislike of them. The point was big while not dominating the storylines, so it was no, big deal in either case.

In Buzzer Beat, Ito's Kawazaki character is played and then dumped for the younger Yamapi, while in Dream, Kim bum goes after the girl from start to finish while she pines away for the hunk-da-fied Nam - and, as usual, Nam is like 'what?' the whole time.

Continuity wasn't a big deal with Dream, either, when they decided to show Lee's trainer meeting some woman for a quicky, and then it was never shown nor mentioned again. Like, was the guy having an affair, or not??? Or, how the pasted on moles on Lee's papa's face kept turning his skin red, so that in one scene he looked like he'd been picking at them, and then in the next, they were either gone entirely, or there was no, more redness there. And, TWICE or maybe, even three times, they showed Lee jogging on a track after having knee surgery, and first the ace bandage was around his knee, then it was around his calf, then it was suddenly around his knee again, and then around his calf.

Aiy yai yai!

Shit like that rarely, ever happens in a Japanese or even a Taiwanese drama (which, btw, I'm starting to get hooked on now!), but for whatever reason, it doesn't bug me that much anymore. Maybe I'm just getting used to the lackadaisical attitude over there.

They made papa's look REALLY bad in Dream, too. Wow. Good-for-nothing, drunkard, shiftless, lazy, no-good, thieving heathens who treat their wives like sheizen, thus destroying the future happiness of their offspring.

Now, I thought, like Yamapi, that Kim bum was a little on the cute side - but, far, more kawaii than Yamapi. At least HE had a bod goin' on, but as for our Bum character, well, I'm sorry, but he's a little, too like the kid next door for my taste OR sexual cravings, thank you very much. Got a bigger kick out of his hair than I did Yamapi's, though! I mean, half the time I couldn't tell if he was wearing a black headband or not, it was that thick and bushy! Both boys worked out a lot in these dramas, but none moreso than our Bum, and yet he didn't strike me as being the sort to go in for sports, much less the brutal world of mixed martial arts. Every time they put him in the ring with someone, it made me laugh like crazy cause - I'm not expert, but I'm PRETTY sure they have a weight class for these types of sports, yes? Lee Jang Suk-ki looked like a middle-school kid in a professional ring with a mature heavy weight champion half the time!

Isn't he rumored to be gay, too?

Like, he kisses his band buddies and loves up on them in public, or something of that nature?

Don't get me wrong, though, cause I honestly thought that he carried the drama half the time! He played a baddy like he actually grew up on that side of the tracks, and though he had it rough a majority of the time, at least he freakin' SMILED sometimes, whereas our Yamapi's Naoki - jeez - what a stick in the mud!

Honestly, Korean viewers, what was it about Dream that kept you from watching???

~ Now for the fun stuff ~

it's too bad she has to be in this shot, but these are the FLOWER fighters
and, one of them is MARCO!!

I think these two made an excellent team, and it'd be terrific if they did more dramas or movies together, too.

I still can't believe I don't recognize Joo from 200lb Beauty.
Was it that long ago, and now he's this mature, electrifying GOD?

Bum, you need to mature age-wise, shed the babyface, and keep growing out that awesome head of hair!
Who knows how I'll feel about you in the next, five or ten years, eh?
Speaking of awesome and HAIR - a lot of my comrades at didn't like his cornrows for the final fight scene, but -- OMG -- I went crazy.
NOW, I think he looks hot, older, and more sexually appealing!
What do you think?

I think he morphed into something better!

big bro, lil bro (both fine to me)

not lookin' too babyboy here, eh?


gawd - that FACE!
you should have seen him every time he was ready for bed -
his chest was like he had on a plate of armor, it was that tight!




I am fighting for you --
GAWD I hated that song!

ok, now for the funny stuff

this dude appeared early in the show, and though his face wasn't all, that hot, his bod mos' def was!

as judged by THIS, particular scene
(omo - omo - omo!)

He was funny, too, but the continuity thing again, maybe - I know Bum's character knocked him out, but he needed to make a come-back or something - not just fade away!

on the subject of bodies - Bum looks totally buff here, and yet it was the only time he did during the whole show! airbrushing, or super imposing perhaps? doesn't he look slammin', though?

viewer comments courtesy ViiKii subtitling:

yes, m'dear, he most certainly IS!

Korean bar scenes are so cool -

except for this one -

which looks more like the parlor in a whore house than a bar

more, cool imagery

the circular staircase inside the bad guy's office complex

another view of the chandelier in another bar
(sorry so blurry)

the river - I guess this is Busan?

love this look
i tend to stack bracelets, too - but somehow, they never look this chic

this, believe it or not, is actually a TV, not a mirror
(the day our poor, gorgeous Nam is kicked out of the world of the elite few)

isn't this precious?
it's supposed to be Kim Bum's character

and last, but not least ~
the buck-tooth bear who farts colored bubbles

gets me every, damn time
(I laugh like an idiot)