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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Yukan Club / 有閑倶楽部



2007 NTS drama that starred one of my favorite Japanese JPop turned Actor, Akanishi Jin.
Episode 7 starred another, favorite actor - this one from Taiwan - Mike He.

That's about all the GOOD I can say with regards to this particular drama.

Yeeeeesh! what a mess.

This was the last of the dramas I watched but had no time to critique here because of college - and I had dumped it five different times before finally forcing myself to go through with it to the bitter end.

Poor Bakanishi, having to plod his way through something so asinine and cheeky!


Honestly, I don't even feel like telling anyone about this, although I already know everyone under the age of 18 has seen it at least twice, if not five times now.

Yukan Club wasn't, even smarmy in the typical Asian bubble-gum chewer fashion with dopey uniform wearers acting stupid, immature, or cocky.

Not even hotty Jin could keep this mess afloat - and when Mike He came to the rescue toward the end - it still wasn't enough to do Yukan Club any justice.



It was yet another attempt at making Manga seem realistic - only this time it failed with a huge-ass bomb.

I'm hard-pressed to remember a Japanese drama (manga/anime based or not) that made me this disappointed and embarrassed.




The acting wasn't half bad, though the chick who liked to eat all the time made me want to smack her early on -

Instead, it was the inane, dopey plots that made me groan and tune out so many times!



I'm no rocket scientist, but I'll bet the ONLY reason this was so popular with the 12-15 year old set was because of Jin and nothing else.

If they filmed him sitting on a toilet for 11 episodes, I'm sure those same chicks would tune in and gush to their heart's content.

No doubt that afterward they'd find more than enough reason to recommend it to their friends, too.



I noticed this was the last drama he starred in, and that his latest work is in a movie titled 'Bandage' ??

He plays a rock star.

It was also rumored that he spent time in America in order to perfect his English, and I must say that if it's true, then it did him some good because while he didn't say much in English in Yukan Club, he did pop off a few lines in one episode, and it sounded rather flawless to my American English ears.



Ok - here are my pictures and then it's time for me to start looking for summer employment.





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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ikebukuro West Gate Park / 池袋ウエストゲートパーク





2000 TBS drama that starred a boat-load of hot, fine actors in their prime, including Nagase Tomoya as Makoto Majima, a slacker living with his widowed mother above their fruit shop.

I'm curious to find out why 'baka' was translated as 'bitch' only when he spoke to his weirded-out mother.

Perhaps the translator has an okaasan complex?

Anyway, dude was haaaawt!


Johnny Depp vibe


Here he is again with no shirt on (giggle):



and again for the hell of it:



The synopsis at aznv.tv scared me away from this one for the longest time - making me think it's nothing but gangland violence start to finish.

Then I re-read the comments made by folks who already watched it, and I became more curious.

Funny, you say?

The original draw was Sakaguchi Kenji,



and then I caught the name Yamashita Tomohisa, and I went 'huh?'

2000 - Yamapi - what, was he ten or something at the time?



Watanabe Ken (plays the totally hot police sergeant determined to crush both gangs),



Sato Ryusa (Masa) is Makoto's best friend,



Oguri Shun had a bit-part in act 2, Tsumabuki Satoshi is Saitou Fujio, Kubozuka Yosuke as King Takashi, leader of the G-boys (glad he didn't succeed in killing himself, cause I think he's awesome), and Nishijima Kazuhiro (he plays an evil ballet dancer - kekeke - who creates a rival gang called Black Angels).

Ok, so the drama starts out rather dark and sinister when a chick gets strangled in the shower at a 'love' hotel.
Turns out she's dating Makoto - a guy who refuses to join the G-boys but who is determined to keep his beloved Ikebukuro alive, thriving, and as normal as normal can get under a myriad of extenuating circumstances that all converge to attempt destroying the area, break up friendships, and drive Makoto to the brink of madness.

That was it for the dark & gloomy, though.

Suddenly, and like everyone on the aznv.tv board attested to - the show made a sharp turn to the left and became light, comedic, and entirely interesting.

Funny as hell, too.

Makoto turns out to be a sleuth of sorts who notices things everyone else can't, so in every episode, he helps to solve mysteries and whodunnit's while the police always give the impression of being incompetent assholes in need of ritalin.

He's an ace bowler with a deadpan expression all the time, and oh yea - he's impotent for some, strange reason.

The story culminates in a massive battle between the G-boys and the Black Angels, but Takashi won't let the fighting begin until Makoto shows up.

I highly recommend this one, though the stream at aznv.tv is unreliable for an odd reason: especially during the credits about ten minutes into each episode when it buffers or cuts out altogether (and then you have to go back and watch from the start again since rewinding is a massive no-no on streaming sights).

Speaking of the opening credits, this is funny:



...unless that's a real Japanese word?

nah - just their way of saying rhapsody.

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Yamada Tarō Monogatari / 山田太郎ものがたり / The Story of Yamada Taro




2007 TBS drama that stars a couple cuties from the JPop group Arashi: namely, Ninomiya Kazunari and Sakurai Sho.


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This is yet, another spin-off of a manga series, and in 2001, Taiwan based Ping Qiong Gui Gong Zi : Poor Prince (with Vic Zhou) on the same premise.

Kazunari plays Taro Yamada (An-chan), a boy living in poverty with his okaasan and six, younger siblings in a dilapidated shack tucked neatly away somewhere in Tokyo.

He's extremely intelligent and makes it into a prestigious high school, where on the first day, he happens to enter the grounds at precisely the same moment as the real rich dude with just as notable good looks, Takuya (Sakurai Sho).

In increasingly annoying, Japanese teenage girl fashion, a daily procession of cheering twits in uniform line both sides of a 'red carpet' that leads to the school, and the two, handsome boys make their way through the adoring throng acting as if it is natural, expected, and no big deal.

I would beg to differ, but that's just me.

In actuality, it breaks my heart to think about the way Asian pop stars are idolized, worshipped, and their private lives scrutinized while their private decisions are severely sanctioned by agents and a totally whack fan base.

Mob mentality, hero-worship, and misguided assumptions all cater to and encourage an entire country to adopt the ways and immature mind-set of an already generalized segment of the population that has no idea of the difference between their head or their ass.

Scary sh*t.

Anyway, Taro is adorable and unassuming - caring only about food and making enough money to keep the family going.

Takuya finds him to be interesting and strikes up an immediate friendship with the guy whose smile sends the entire school (boys included) to the floor in a swoon.

Taro gets high marks all the time, and an annoying woman (made to be annoying on purpose, since this is a tweeny-bopper drama, so making 'old' people look stupid is only natural) is determined to change Taro's mind about not entering college.

There's a girl who is crazy about Taro (even though they all are) and since she is determined to become --- "ama no koshi", she pursues him under the misinformed notion that he is wealthy and therefore socially acceptable.

Y'know, this is actually true over there?

yeesh ---

on with the story.

So, rather early on in this interesting piece of work, An-chan's otousan arrives, and I'm sorry, but when I first saw him, it made me gasp in shock.

Matsuoka Mitsuru of SOPHIA






Having a rock & roll dad would be cool, yes?

I'm not being mean, either - I swear it.

He just shocked me at first because ... well, because he looked like a plastic surgery nightmare is all.

It just seemed, to me, that there was something overly fake about his face - (like he had on a mask or something) - but then I got used to seeing him and it didn't bug me anymore.

The weird didn't end there, though.

Turns out this guy portrays a wandering artist who travels the world on a whim.

Yea - like, while his wife and seven kids are stuck in that hovel scraping together pennies for food, and he's traveling around having a good ol' time doing what he wants to do, when he wants to do it, and to hell with responsibility.

THEN they had the audacity to make him out to be paternal and wise!



Regardless, it was minor and not a big deal - but still a tad on the irksome side for me.

Yamada Taro Monogatari was a nice drama with a feel-good attitude that I would recommend despite a few flaws and annoyances.



Densha Otoko / でんしゃおとこ / The Train Man





2005 Fuji TV drama that starred Itoh Misaki, Itoh Atsushi, Shiraishi Miho, Sato Eriko, Oguri Shun, and Hayami Mokomichi, to name a few.

Apparently, there is another version of the same story as well:



But, I don't know about that.

The version I saw is based on an anime about a red-headed chick with carrots up her ass.
Or, our Otaku-san, Yamada Tsuyoshi (Itoh Atsushi), is in love with the anime chick with carrots coming out of her ass - I really don't know, and it's totally beside the point of this drama.

Tsuyoshi is a nerd living in a fantasy world of anime, video games, and everything geek when he ends up sitting across from a beautiful, young woman on a subway train and she ends up getting harassed by an old, drunk man.

Tsuyoshi, being a nerd, has no strength of body but a modicum of strength in character to want to come to fair damsel's rescue - so in stereotypical, timid fashion, he stands up and meekly asks the drunk man to leave yon maiden alone.

Now, before I get to the punch line here, it needs to be noted that the credits listed this one as 'a fake story based on actual events' - and if you know me by now, then you'll know I have to say that this doesn't make a damn bit of sense.

Tsuyoshi goes back home to his father's modest apartment and goes online to the Aladdin Bulletin Board in search of help to overcome his nervousness about what he did on the train.

Aladdin is a place for single men who want to talk about their singleness (I guess).

Of course, I'm being totally facetious here, but then so was this drama.

Perhaps the bulletin board existed or still exists in Japan, I don't know.

Perhaps some nerdy dude experienced an incident on a subway train that had a major impact on his hum-drum life, I can't be too sure.

Why didn't the synopsis just say that, though?

Bifurcation and confusion aside, this was a mighty entertaining piece of work!

Tsuyoshi annoyed a lot of people who watched this at aznv.tv, and I, for one, would agree that Itoh overstepped his boundaries by turning Tsuyoshi into a sniveling, blubbering, overly anxious geek afraid of his own shadow and unable to s-s-speak a complete s-s-sentence without tripping over his own tongue.

I mean, I can see the guy s-s-stuttering on occasion from fear or anxiety, but not all the damn time, and what was the point of blubbering every time he tried to apologize to Tess Trueheart or tell her how he really felt?

Heck, at least now I know more about the separation class in Japan and that the distinctly divided sects each has their own 'district' for crying out loud.

How cool is that?

Geeks hang out in this part of town, the trouble-makers hang out here, and this is where you go if you want to be seen with the totally rad cool people.

!! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA !!

I love it!

It's also totally cool that I can now get away with saying such things as "Baka!" and "Otaku!" to people and they'll have no idea what I mean.

So anyway, our nerdish gallant ends up becoming the hero of this bulletin board (created by none other than Oguri 'Shunkerbelle' Shun - not at all nerdy for a number of obvious reasons).

Everyone who chats at Aladdin is rooting for Tsuyoshi to succeed in winning the heart of the pretty lady aboard the subway train, and they band together to help him every step of the way.

Bulletin Boards were once the norm over here, and watching Densha Otoko made me sad to think that it doesn't work the same way for us as it does for Japanese computer geeks.

They have blog followers who make the blogger famous, and we just have blog followers who like to think that by following, they are somehow as important as, if not greater than, the blogger himself.

Over there, you can access any type of board that handles any type of situation, and suddenly you are connected with people who share your interests or issues with a modicum of interest, and they are actually rooting for you to succeed.

Gambatte!

Over here, we have thousands of useless or broken links to still, more useless web sites that offer little in the way of interaction - and if you say Facebook, I'll scream.

Ok, so our minuscule geeky boy starts to transform himself in order to prevent our prize-winning catch from discovering the fact of his loathsome Otaku-ness.

Hilarious thing was, all he had to do was to get a haircut and he was already more than halfway there to --- normal, if you will.

There's just something about Itoh Atsushi that makes one want to squeeze him to death, pat him on the head, or pinch his cheeks.
The first time I saw him was when I watched Umizaru and he portrayed a squat geek wanting desperately to become a Sea Monkey.
He made me cry then, and he made me cry again when I watched him standing in the pouring rain with a birthday present for his girl, and she failed to show.



The story had good flow, it was beyond an interesting concept, and fake in a true kinda way or not, I sat spellbound for the duration and rooting for our unlikely hero every step of the way.

SHE turned out to be slightly as awkward and nerdish as he was, being timid and afraid of dishonesty because her parents divorced due to infidelity, and an ex-fiance ended up being a married man.




And, her BROTHER was Hayami Mokomichi !!!!

I don't know why, but aside from Tokyo Tower 2007, he has always been bathed in shadows and darkness in these dramas, and I can't figure out why.

Well, yes, there was Zettai Kareshi, but it's nearly impossible for me to capture a great shot of him onscreen because he's either moving too fast, on camera for a split-second, or in a dark, smoke-filled nightclub.

WHY??

So, if you're fortunate enough to have an entire day to yourself, and it's pouring rain outside or your boyfriend stood you up, or you just, don't feel like going anywhere - I recommend you watch Densha Otoko.