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

Thursday, January 28, 2010

婚カツ! / Konkatsu!

Marriage Hunting!

I just finished watching this 11-episode 2009 drama from Japan, and while it received mixed reviews at, I thought it was fabulous and I recommend it!

In all fairness to the show, a lot of the lukewarm reviews had to do with the fact that Ueda Tatsuya as Amamiya Kuniyasu had a bit-part and wasn't the lead actor.
Another thing some people did was to assume this was a food drama when its title clearly represents itself as Marriage Hunter material, nothing more.
I blame this confusion on the dramas billboard that has all of the actors holding chopsticks with tonkatsu on them.

Nakai Masahiro as Amamiya Kuniyuki is the son of a tonkatsu owner, and he hates the fried pork meal almost as much as he hates his life.
He's a bad-luck kid in the sense that everything he hopes will go his way doesn't until he ends up not even trying anymore.
At 30, he's become a drone who ends up making one, last seemingly bad decision to quit his job when the economy crashes the very, next day - leaving him unemployed for awhile.
His baby brother is Kuniyasu, a hair dresser who pops in and out of the show from time to time, and granted, the boy has a very, pretty face and awesome hair but - I think it was a wise decision to give him a bit part, because he needs more experience before he tackles a lead role.

Sato Ryuta as Fukazawa Shigeru nearly stole the show, but not quite.
He's one of Kuniyuki's buddies and works as the proprietor of a liquor shop directly across the narrow alley from the tonkatsu joint.
He's big, loud, and upbeat, always insisting that to smile is the answers to a majority of the worlds problems.

The konkatsu topic arises when Kuniyuki applies for a part-time job with the city planning commission in their 'low birth rate' department - with one of the conditions for being hired that he be married.
Needing the job, Kuniyuki tells a fib and makes everyone think he's currently engaged but in need of a job & money before taking that inevitable, final step in his life.

This is where we meet a few, more key players in the show: namely, Tanihara Shosuke as Nihei Takumi and Kohinata Fumiyo as Amamiya Kuni0.
Takumi grew up in the same neighborhood Kuniyuki ends up trying to save and he's been relegated to the 'shameful' position of head of the low birth rate department.
Kuniyuki and 60-something Amamiya Kunio work for and with Takumi to find ways for their prefecture to increase the number of marriages in that area in order to increase the birth rate.
It's a tiny area on the Tokyo border, and its also a dated place with a majority of the businesses already shuttered due to lagging foot traffic in the area.
Kuniyuki and Amamiya bump into each other at a konkatsu, where they both hope to find a woman to marry before their boss (the city president) discovers their lie.
After attending several of these arranged get-togethers for single men & women, the two begin to learn the strategies involved in that, particular business while also becoming closer in work and friendship matters.

As it turns out, the President hired another man, Kitamura Yukiya as Ito Masaru to find a way to revitalize the section of her prefecture in most need of a face-lift, and that happens to be the neighborhood where Kuniyuki grew up.
Masaru is a cold-hearted man with $$ for eyes, and he uses people to get what he wants as well as to move up the corporate ladder of success.
He cares less about the three, hapless men in the storage room low birth rate department and turns down every request they make of him to halt, slow down, or at least hear their side of the story about why its important not to go ahead with his proposed plans to level the area and replace it with a bunch of new, improved shops.

There are some interesting and unusual love stories, there is a lot of food, though most-often tonkatsu, and there is also just as much comedy in this drama.
And though I wasn't, too excited about the leading man, he still managed to capture my interest enough to want to see his plight through to the very end.
His hair style reminded me of the top of a soft-swirl ice cream cone.

Does she get the man of her dreams?
Does he manage to win her heart?
Will the bad guy see the error of his ways in time?
And, will the town be saved or demolished for renewal?

These questions can be asked of more than just, one character in Konkatsu, and without giving anything away, there are enough twists & turns involved to keep the story from going stale.

Friday, January 22, 2010

氷の世界 / Koori no Sekai / Ice World

This came out back in 1999, but who cares!
The picture was flawless, the subtitles were absolutely marvelous throughout, and the storyline kept me hooked for the duration, too.
Takenouchi's character is an insurance fraud investigator who ends up being drawn into a fascinating case where a young woman, a school teacher so maddeningly beautiful that she has guy after guy falling in love with her only to end up dying shortly after he cancels an insurance policy taken out to prove his unequivocal love for the mysterious female with a checkered past and no sense of remorse for any of her dead lovers.
It was also a two-fer deal for me in that Takenouchi AND Nakamura Toru star in this one!

He's a cop with a chip on his shoulder and a boat-load of personal problems that make it impossible for anyone (including his terrified wife) to warm up to the guy, much less get close to him.
She wants a divorce and he won't grant it.
She tried to leave him and he raped her.

Sooooooooo sexy.

Take's character has a steady girlfriend of 8 years, and she's a traffic cop who is suddenly promoted to detective when Nakamura hires her to help him solve the case.
He's desperate to move on so that he can concentrate more on his crumbling marriage than on his job, which is starting to weigh him down even more than his personal problems are.

There were moments when I wondered if Take's character really was falling for the mystery woman, but alas - he does, and the intensity of the following episodes increased until the very end, when a mind-boggling outcome unfolds before you and you're left utterly speechless (as was the case for me anyway).

I couldn't have predicted an outcome that surprising no matter how much I tried to concentrate on what was going on during this show.
There was another character I kept hunching at was the murderer, and boy, was I ever wrong!

Some pictures ~


April through June, 2009 Japanese drama that stars -

Takenouchi Yutaka

Yes, this one deserves all, five suns!

It's about a rag-tag group of detectives from various departments in and around the Tokyo area who converge to form a so-called secretive team but who are actually relegated to the 'basement' section of the department because of insubordination or other, disciplinary issues in their career records.
The lady cop apparently fell in love and that's what ruined it for her.
Another dude is openly gay.
Another has mental issues after a botched assignment and so on and so forth.

Each week (or episode) showcases one of these characters in-depth while sticking to the main plot, which is to catch the nasty guys before they do something really bad.
It's a cult plot to overthrow the government or something of that nature, but even if you have to keep up via subtitles while trying to stare intently at the hunky eye candy on the screen - you should be able to follow the story with as relative of ease as I had.

The plot-twist amazed me, too.
I take pride in knowing what's going to happen or whodunit rather early in the game, and even though I bit off a few nails toward the end, I held out hope that my godly hero wasn't to blame for what was going on from the very start.

BOSS was a definite winner, and I think the 17 rating it received over there is indication of that fact.

できちゃった結婚 / Dekichatta Kekkon / Shotgun Marriage

A July through September, 2001 Japanese drama that stars -

Takenouchi Yutaka

He didn't look this hot in the show, but what the hell.

THIS was a good story with an interesting plot and characters, but I wasn't, too fond of the leading lady - Hirosue Ryoko as Kotani Chiyo.
Her hair was too short and there was something wrong about her canine tooth that drove me nuts throughout all, 11 episodes.
Takenouchi plays the part of Hirao Ryunosuke, a 30-year-old playboy ad agency worker who parties hearty and likes the ladies.
On a summer vacation somewhere pretty, tropical, and warm with her older sister who is also Ryunosuke's old college buddy and the girlfriend of his best friend, 20-year-old Chiyo meets Ryunosuke (again) and after a one-night stand, she gets knocked up.
There are about five stories going on simultaneously in this drama, but the main focus centers around these two, who spend the next, eight months trying to work things out while hoping to gain her overbearing, ex-police chief father's approval.
It was a comedy with a serious message embedded into the storyline.
I didn't fall down laughing at all, and I don't think I've ever seen Abe Hiroshi (Kawaguchi Eitaro) perform comedy before, so it was always refreshing whenever he appeared on screen.
He's the 10-year's running boyfriend of Chiyo's older sister, and he's deathly afraid of their father, who tends to kick Kawaguchi's ass every time he sees him.
It turns out that Chiyo had always had a mad crush on Ryunosuke, so she had every intention of hooking up with him on that vacation.
Things didn't, exactly turn out the way she had intended, but that's life, I guess.
The point is, she laid with him for a reason, and not because they were just drunk and stupid.

We, Ryunosuke, and the overbearing father don't find this out until the end of the show, either.

それは、突然、嵐のように… / それは、突然、嵐のように... / It was sudden, like a storm...

January through March, 2004 Japanese drama that stars this guy -


It's supposed to be about a woman (Esumi Makiko as Ogawa Kozue ) married for nearly 10 years and with no children, who lives with her husband and her parents above a small flower shop, and she is at a crossroads in her life ~ wondering, did she make the right decisions and, is this all there is?

It's dialogue within character study that you might, not comprehend if you have to read subtitles, so a second watch may make things a bit clearer for some.

She's at the symbolic cross street when she bumps into Fukazawa Takuma (Yamashita Tomohisa), who is standing in the road with a dazed look on his stone but handsome face.
At first, she ignores him and continues across the avenue, but something makes her turn around (just like her contemplating about the life choices she's made) and she runs back to tackle the dolt before he's killed by the ever-present truck driver who can't, seem to hit the brakes even when he's honking his horn five minutes before actual impact.
I never get that about Japanese drama, but since it's purely for effect, I'll let that sleeping dog lie.

Turns out Takuma is a 17-year-old daydreaming dancer who does things deliberately, but not to upset anyone or to get a rise out of them - but simply because that's his way.
If a thought suddenly occurs to him at a moment when he's about to cross the street, he doesn't mind stopping to ponder.

Anyway, Kozue is intrigued by the gloomy dude with fancy hair and big, brown doe eyes.
She takes him to the dance studio, where she is immediately pressured into signing up for some lessons even as insistent as she is about not knowing how to or having any interest in learning the game.
Takuma then embraces her the way a professional dancer would, and setting a palm against her ass while gazing deep into her eyes - she's instantly blown away.

Or is she?

Takuma is king at both dance and persuasion, so it's hard for us, the viewer, to know exactly what he's thinking, much less doing at every turn in this drama.
Has he truly fallen for the pretty woman who rescued him from certain death, or is he merely operating in order to get her to take the lessons?
He pursues her unceasingly from the word go, not caring about things like age difference, social morays, or what his buddies in High School might think.

OMG - there was a scene where he graduates from High School, and he's walking alone on the street with his diploma in his hand - tearful chuckling weepy moment for me!
It was so, totally kawaii I couldn't help myself!

Ok - I've seen him in a few dramas now, and each time he played a different type of character with a unique style, mannerisms, and so on.
His studio photos are incredible (see above) and I adore his puppy eyes, but there is no way for me to make a final or even a substantial judgment call about him based on what I've seen of him so far.
He's a handsome guy, but not drop-dead gorgeous to me.
He's good as an actor, but I don't know if I care for the brooding nature that always tends to crop up regardless of the character he portrays.
In one instance he looks fit, trim, and buff - and then in another instance I get the impression he's a chubby kid who needs to spend more time at the gym and less time at Mickey D's.


It's the same opinion I have about this drama, too.

Taiyou no Kisetsu / 太陽の季節 / Season of the Sun

2002 Japanese drama that stars a very young Takizawa Hideaki as Tsugawa Tatsuya,

a tormented child who enters a prestigious college with the sole purpose of getting back at the people he presumes to be the reason for his childhood trauma.

Because it always tends to be about $$$$$ in Japan, you can probably guess, if you haven't seen this one yet, that Tatsuya lost his father to suicide due to creditors and debt incurred by the unsuspecting man, so naturally, the impressionable, young boy is haunted by the memory and thus vows to avenge his late father by going after the evil of society - the wealthy.
He befriends the son of the bank that rescinded his father's loan, and because the boy is from good stock, he has a lot of rich friends whom Tatsuya also ensnares in his web of deceit and revenge.
He also bumps into a gifted pianist who limps because when she was five, she disobeyed her mama and got hit by a car.

Symbolic ~ so don't forget that part of the story.

One by one, Tatsuya takes down the enemy, leaving them helpless and stunned at the blindsided attempts on their once-happy and pristine lives.
Maybe because he's so pretty, it was difficult for these people to really, actually hate him for what he did, I don't know.
Then again, I got the impression the writer was trying to get us to sympathize with the rich and make it appear as if the offspring of the wealthy are not at all responsible nor to blame for whatever wicked shit their elders try to pull off in order to get ahead in the world.
Who knows.

I wonder, too, why Asians (on film) tend to use waif-like musicians as desirable flowers to be chased after and worshiped.
Is it, perhaps, the talent aspect of the career choice that appeals to them, or maybe the refinement of classical music that makes it seem these people are somehow appealing?
A gospel choir aside, I have yet to take note of anyone in particular when attending a concert of this variety, much less find the 1st chair violinist or the celebrated concert pianist to be even remotely considered as something sexually enticing.
Envied, perhaps; admired, of course - but, desirable? eh

Anyway, the ending was predictable, but not entirely.
Personally, I thought it was eerie and unexpected to watch this kid go through the motions of a bad guy while pursuing his dreams and even obtaining them one by one.
I suppose the abstract notion of picturing the fallen victims he left behind as he makes his way up the crowded street was supposed to indicate a part 2 or something, but I haven't looked into it yet to know for sure this was the writers intention.

Taki was worth staring at for 11 episodes at least.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Second Proposal / 두번째 프러포즈 / Du-beon-jjae Peu-reo-po-jeu

2004 Korean drama that stars my man, Oh Ji ho!

This was my first experience with timing and subtitle issues at - but despite that, I watched all, 22 episodes because the story sucked me in right from the start and kept me spellbound for the duration.
D-Addicts was what ruined it for me and the dozens of other viewers who complained about timing issues and horrible translation.

Along with this frustration was the convoluted summary of the drama itself.
They cut/pasted the synopsis from Drama-wiki, so no matter where I searched for a better explanation for what the drama was actually about, I came up empty.

So, bear with me this time - for those of you who have never watched it before, I'll do what I can to make it sound as exciting and interesting as it turned out to be without actually giving away the guts of the drama.

A Second Proposal is about a young housewife with two, small children whose husband is a successful and self-made businessman.
They move up in the world at the start of the drama, and all of the key figures tend to congregate in that first episode, giving the viewer a good idea about what is to come.

Oh Yun soo is Mi young, the wife.
Kim Young-ho is Lee Min suk, the husband.
Heo Young-ran is Hwang Yun jung, the home wrecker.
and Oh Ji ho is Nam Kyung soo, the mover who helps Mi-young with delivering and moving her things to the new, fancier condominium complex.

I'll admit that this story is rife with symbolic gestures and stereotypical innuendo meant to suggest the whys and hows of extramarital inclinations ~
If, however, you pay close attention to a scene early in the story where Min suk photographs Mi young's broad ass as she's busy cleaning the floor, then you'll understand why I don't buy the notions this story insists to impose on the viewer.
Just keep it in mind throughout the rest of the show, and it should become evident at the very end.

It's a fairytale with the typical, sad beginnings where our heroine goes through insurmountable pains and injustices in order to end up at the opposite end of the spectrum called life.
Surprising, though, is that the writers decided to do the same thing to her nemesis ~ taking her in the opposite direction ~ a stretch for Korean drama, so kudos to them for giving it a whirl!

Since this is TV and we are directing our attention to an audience that media tends to snub as insignificant, stupid, and gullible ~ our heroine is always surrounded by a bevy of gorgeous, capable men all with stars in their eyes and hearts bursting above their heads while in Mi young's midst.
Because she's a mother (and a Korean one to boot) her only interest lies in getting back what she lost; namely her darling then suddenly obedient children.

Men have affairs with no consequences and do as they please because - well, because that's just the way it goes ~ women suffer because - well, because that's just what God intended!

Nam Kyung soo hovers throughout this drama, hiding his feelings in Mi young's distancing and icy presence while pining away for her.
In reality, and if it'd been me who was lucky enough to be in Mi young's situation (which I was, minus the hunky dude), I'd have jumped his bones almost immediately and THEN set out to conquer the world.
That's just me, though.

"Familiarity breeds contempt" was the undercurrent suggestion for the hell-on-earth demise Mi young suffered through as a result of the daylight decision made not by her but by the wayward husband and his brain-dead mistress.

"Adversity has its own reward" was the message Mi young and no-doubt every, middle-age housewife in Korea watching the drama was supposed to take away from the show.

Let's all stand up now and give a round of applause for the conquering heroine, shall we?

Both brows rose at the ending's 'communal' aspect, it was so entirely unexpected.
But, I think this is why the show worked for me.
It was entirely what I expected to see and hear when I chose to watch another, Korean drama, and yet it was so different from the other shows I've watched, it surprised me in ways in which I hadn't expected to be taken aback by.

Aw, heck people!
He accounts for over half the reason why I stuck this one out to the very end, but I'm telling you in all honesty, A Second Proposal was worth the 22-episode watch and the totally screwed up timing/subtitles.

Ah rah so?