2004 Fuji TV drama that stars Kimura Takuya as Satonaka Halu, a brash, overly confident but lonely and desperate young man who plays minor-league hockey for a living.
Y'know, I never gravitate toward sports-themed dramas or movies because aside from watching tennis on TV, sports has no appeal whatsoever -
yet, every time I watch one of these types of dramas or movies, I can't help but get sucked in both emotionally and figuratively until the very, last episode.
Everyone who reads my blogs knows all, too well that I only watch what I like, and if I recognize the name of someone I'm crazy about or madly HORNY for, I'll watch them in anything!
He wasn't the star, but Sakaguchi Kenji is in this one, so how could I possibly resist?
Halu (funny how his co-stars called him Ha-Ru) is super-popular, blindly followed by his peers, and the ace goal-scorer for the Blue Scorpions.
He's also cynical about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness, so he makes a 'game' of dating girls via 'contract' - assuring him of a no-strings relationship until he gets bored and wants to move on.
A girl who works at the head office of the local franchise, Takeuchi Yuko as Murase Aki, gets talked into joining her co-workers at the Face-Off bar near the office, and Halu easily spots another victim in her.
He moves in on her almost immediately, and since she is overly bored waiting for her boyfriend of two-years to return from overseas as he promised, she decides what the hell, I'll play along and accepts Halu 'contract' to pretend-date until the anticipated first-love eventually decides to return to Japan.
Aki hasn't heard from this guy in over two years, yet every, single Sunday she goes to a bridge and waits for him since that's where he asked her to meet him on the day he left her.
She's not into sports (like me) and at the first game she attends, instead of cheering for the team, Aki cringes every time a guy slams against the wall, flips over backwards onto the ice, or gets body-checked by an aggressive opponent (same way I'd do if I tried to watch a game that violent).
Halu scores a pretty impressive goal, though, and he skates up to the wall, staring at her until she uncovers her eyes, then pointing to his eyes, he gives her the signal to keep them open next time.
After the game, he hands her a molar that was knocked out during the game, totally creeping her out, but she takes the unexpected present, making Halu smile.
Aki has a friend who is determined to marry money, and by innocent mistake, Sakaguchi's (I totally love this name) Hotta Yamato borrows his rich buddy's sports car to take the girl home.
This gives her the wrong but exciting impression that HOT-ta is not only gorgeous but loaded as well, so naturally she wants him and decides to marry him right then and there.
HOT-ta just wants sex, though, but deep-down, he's a good boy with character, and it isn't until he falls in love with her that he takes her to a 'love' hotel.
The rich hockey player and flashy dude on the team is Ichikawa Somegoro as Ikegawa Tomonori, a playa with long hair and a sense of style who loves the ladies and drops c-notes like they are monopoly money.
As with a majority of Asian dramas, especially Japanese, EVERYone has a secret to hide and a sob story to tell.
Pride is no exception to this unwritten rule, and for 11 episodes we find out the secrets and stories of the key team players and the gals who adore them.
Sato Ryuta is Shimamura Makoto, the team clown and chicken-shit more interested in being close to Halu than participating in or even learning how to play hockey.
I love Sato, and in every drama or movie I've seen him in, he's always managed to tug at my heartstrings and make me say 'aw!' at least three times.
The guy from Kougen e Irrasshai, Sato Koichi, turns out to be the Blue Scorpion's replacement coach after their first coach ends up in the hospital.
Halu doesn't like him one bit, having grown up with and hero-worshipped the old coach, so the two clash almost every time they meet.
Yes, Halu starts to have deeper feelings for Aki and vice versa, and of course the latent boyfriend decides to return from overseas at the most inopportune of times!
Snobby girl finds out eventually that HOT-ta isn't the rich guy she dreamed of marrying, too.
Richy Rich Tomonori gets in trouble by being accused of knocking up a high-school girl, and when sad-ass Makoto ends up getting dropped from the team, his hero Halu doesn't come to his defense or even argue about it with the coach he loathes.
Snobby girl ends up falling for a 'real' rich guy who also happens to play on an opposing team the Blue Scorpions are doubtful they'll be able to beat in the championship games, and HOT-ta goes out of his way to beg the rich guy not to use her as a 'mistress' instead of marrying her.
Yea, that's how he ends up in a pool of blood, but I sure as heck ain't telling you how or what happens afterward!
Even the new coach ends up with a few secrets and stories to tell, though he remains an aloof hard-ass throughout the drama, he's still got a lot to say and even more to bring to the table in this excellent, 11-episode jaw dropper.
This is how it ends ...