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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Karei-naru Ichizoku / 華麗なる一族

The Grand Family

2007, 10-episode melodrama that stars Kimura Takuya AND Nakamura Toru and is loosely based on a novel about the real-life story of Manpyo Daisuke; a banker at the time of Japan's reorganization period in the late 1960s.

The drama, however, delves into the life of Daisuke's son, Teppei - played by Kimura-san.

Remember when I said I was getting bored with the sameness of the characters Kimura-kun tended to portray onscreen?

Forget it.

THIS was what I was searching for, and I haven't had this much fun watching a JDorama in a good, long time, either.

What a magnificently portrayed rendition of an amazing family struggle!

Corruption, greed, thoughtlessness, and power all converge on this household and tear it apart slowly but surely, until all that is left to do but to weep - and, weep I did.

Teppei is the first-born son of Daisuke and his high-born wife, whose family ran into trouble early in their marriage; thus relegating her to 'nothing' by societies over-bearing standards.

Daisuke takes a mistress, whom he invites into the Manpyo household and beds right under his wife and the kid's noses.

He also has a second son and two daughters - the eldest daughter being married to the head of finance ministry in Parliament (Mima Ataru is Nakamura Toru) and Teppei being married to the daughter of another Parliamentary figure.

It is the mistress who arranged the marriages with the intention of helping to secure power in the Manpyo household.

Teppei was in love with another woman, but once married, became a devoted and loving husband to his pretty wife and a great father to his adorable, little boy.

Grandfather Manpyo had instilled in young Teppei the benefits and value of becoming a steel man, so when he grew up, Teppei studied metalurgy in college and ended up running a steel mill once owned by his grandfather, who also started a small bank that Daisuke quickly inherited and made it larger and more powerful in the circle of financial things in Japan after the war.

The steel mill is doing well, and Teppei's special metals are garnering interest from companies in the United States while the banking business is taking a hard hit from the government, who are in the planning stages of merging all but the four, most powerful banks in the entire country under the guise of it being more of a help to Japan's economy in the global arena.

Naturally, I don't get it and didn't, really care, but it was a major catalyst in this story, so watch it yourself to better understand that aspect since I am hopelessly inept at explaining such matters with any amount of clarity.

Daisuke doesn't like Teppei, and Teppei is well-aware of the animosity his father has toward him, and this situation comes to a head in the drama, where the father works behind the son's back to take him down with deliberate and hateful calm, destroying Teppei's livelihood as much as his life.

The struggles our poor, innocent Teppei went through on account of his father tore at my heart and made me shed tears while also hating his father even knowing that the poor, old man had as legitimate a reason to behave as he did as anyone else would under the strangely disgusting yet unproved circumstances that led to his despising his first-born to begin with.

Daisuke is determined to jump from position 11 to position 3 in the banking realm with the aid of his dastardly but handsome son-in-law Mima-san, who sees and knows what is going on inside the Manpyo household yet doesn't, seem to care, even as his Manpyo wife grows more and more suspicious and angry with what she sees and hears between husband and father.

In the end, Daisuke gets everything that he set out to devour, including the 3rd place position of his bank and the destruction of Teppei's steel mill - but, as things go, fate had a strange and more perverse way of intervening at the eleventh hour - and it is Mima-san who triumphs, of all people.

The story took place in the late half of the 1960s, and it was funny to note the laptops, printers, and cell phones - but, only in the first episode, and then the continuity people probably got reemed big-time for their lack of ... well, continuity, I guess, and for the rest of the show, it resembled Japan in 1968-69.

(pay attention to the scene where Daisuke peers through a window above the ground-floor action of his bank - it's funny stuff)

LOVED the streetcars!

Teppei Manpyo also had built on his father's property the coolest, most welcoming Frank Lloyd Wright home ever, too - absolutely thrilled to bits about the way the house was decorated from within.

The Grand Family was SO worth the time, and I highly recommend you watch this if you haven't already.

WAY thumbs up on this one, and not just because of Taku-san, either (or Nakamura-san for that matter).

エンジン / Engine

2005 JDorama that stars Kimura Takuya as a washed-up Formula-1 racer who returns from the European circuit and tries his best to start over again with his original team, though that doesn't go quite so well as Kanzaki Jiro would like.

His widowed father now runs an orphanage for kids who are abandoned by their parents, and despite his aloof nature, Jiro uses his own brand of coping with the new members of his family, which happens to go against the grain of the learned positions of the two, opposite aids who work there.

Jiro's adopted father is a kind-hearted man unable to help a darling, two-year-old girl learn how to adjust to her new surroundings as he carries the girl around with the help of a gunny sack strapped to his back.

She was given up by her still-in-high school parents.

There is an adorable kindergarten boy who sits beside Jiro at the large dining table every night - where the only rule of the house is that no one eats unless all are present.

The female aid worker is trying way, too hard to make everyone like her while the male aid has a more stern and completely by-the-book way of dealing with the children.

Neither is able to see beyond their own ideals, and it is Jiro who ends up helping each of them to cope with the loss of their families while also teaching them how to deal with the hand they were given without losing hope of a brighter tomorrow.

There are high school children among them, which leads to hormonal issues that cause the snooty neighbors to come down hard on the 'home'; eventually forcing them to have to go away.

Meanwhile, Jiro is bussing the kids to and from school in a rickety, white van donated by the local church while also working as a mechanic for the racing team he once led to glory.

I know - but, still, it's funny

Coach Ichinose wants Jiro to learn some valuable life lessons before he'll permit the brash racer to don a uniform again, and it takes all of the 11 episodes for Jiro to finally figure out what that most valuable lesson actually is, too.

To be honest, I didn't, quite catch the lesson myself - but that doesn't mean it wasn't implied in the show, just that I may have been momentarily distracted by Kimura-san, I don't know.

The kids were adorable, the story was interesting, and as usual, Kimura-kun knocked it out of the park again with his brilliantly laid-back performance.

He does, finally get to race, and what happens to him made me cry, but I won't spoil the fun for those who have yet to see this wonderful drama.


グッドラック!! / Good Luck!!

Yes, I would get on this plane and fall asleep without worry knowing my pilot, Shinkai Hajime, is at the helm!

If you can't tell, I have a fear of flying on aircraft, though I do it on occasion, and while watching this 10-episode, 2003 JDorama, it made me wonder if knowing that the pilot or co-pilot were handsome, that it might, somehow help me to relax.

I doubt it, but then again, I can't be too sure, since it is usually the moment when the pilot or co-pilot comes over the pa system to announce the fact that we are now at 30,000+ feet above the ground, and that the weather seems favorable for an eventless flight that I become even more aware of my helplessness and tend to panic further - so, if I heard a silky-smooth voice at that moment and could envision it being KIMURA TAKUYA speaking to me, I'd probably exhale almost immediately and forget everything else going on just then.

HOWEVER ~ I think if I heard him say 'Good Luck!', I'd unfasten my seatbelt and demand to be let off the craft.

Enough about me, though, and more about the charismatic star of the show - Shinkai Hajime!

He's trying really hard to earn that coveted, fourth stripe on his sleeve and become a full-fledged pilot - which is what this show is all about.

Right away, he bumps into mechanic Ogawa Ayumi and the two don't, quite hit it off.

She works alongside Abe Takayuki (Kaname Jun), who has a secret crush on her, but because of her stand-offish nature, it is virtually impossible for him, Hajime, or anyone else to get very close.

Just when things seem to start looking up for Hajime, along comes prune-face senpai Tsutsumi Shinichi as Koda Kazuki - a hard-nosed veteran with more than twelve-years experience as a pilot, but who is now in charge of pilot performance.

Right away, he gets rid of a veteran who has flown more miles than anyone else in the industry because he took over when it seemed that Hajime might, not know what to do under foul weather conditions - 'lacks teamwork skills'.

No one likes Kazuki, save a pretty but aging flight attendant who also ends up in the line of fire on occasion, though she seems to understand his harsh ways a bit better than everyone else at the airline.

As you can imagine, every episode takes us on a new and exciting journey not only in the sky, but on the ground with someone falling in or out of love with someone else, and the personal lives of the players making the spotlight for the duration.

It wasn't so much about the inner workings of what it takes to become a pilot, or detailed analysis of the mechanics of a plane, either, but more about Hajime's personal affairs both in the cockpit and outside the plane.

I kept thinking how fun it would have been to be an extra for this drama, since a majority of the time we watched as unruly or terrified passengers went through one ordeal after the other high above the ground - only to have our dashing hero come to the rescue time and again.

There were a few love stories intertwined, but like all Japanese dramas I've seen up to this point, this also was sorely lacking in the emotional/physical department - with most everything about love, sex, and intimacy left to the imagination.

At least in a Korean drama they show couples in bed before or after the fact - but never in a Japanese drama (save Anego, which shocked the heck out of me) - but, most JDoramas show the one-night-stand set-up and nothing more - which I presume is meant to constantly imply that true love is pure and childish.

Funny thing is, after watching so, many of these shows, I have this distorted impression of the sex lives of Asians - which is weird since a majority of them live together almost as soon as they meet, and most always with the intention of marriage, though that doesn't, always occur.

What are all these living-together couples doing, then, if there is no sex?

Whatever ... I enjoyed watching KimuTaku fly a plane, deal with a hard-headed senpai, and make it impossible for the equally stubborn mechanic chick NOT to fall in love with him.

Good Luck! was a winner, and I highly recommend it if you haven't, already watched.

流星の絆 / Ryusei no Kizuna

Ties of Shooting Stars

This was a two-fer in that Kazunari Ninomiya AND Nishikido Ryo star in this 10-episode, 2008 JDorama about three siblings who sneak out of the house late at night in order to watch the Leonid meteor shower (despite the pouring rain and their father's stern warning to forget about it and go to bed), and when they return home, they discover the brutal slaying of their parents.

Of course, the three are sent off to an orphanage, but at least they remain together, and because Nino's Ariake Koichiis is the eldest, it is his responsibility to look after his younger siblings, who all vow to one day find and kill the perpetrator.

Fourteen years later, and when the statute is about to run out on the murder case (not that way in the States), Koichiis, his younger brother, Taisuke (Ryo), and their little sister, Shizuna (Erika Toda), have already set in motion their attempt to find the culprit and have him slain.

Koichiis works at a diner, Taisuke at a video rental place, and Shizuna in an office until the unreasonable harrassment by a senpai forces her to quit.

She wants revenge on the office manager, and with the help of her brothers, they manage to swindle him, which came a bit, too easy, so they start to swindle others who had swindled the sister.

All the while they continue to work the case of their murdered parents when, after more than fourteen years, and with the expiration date fast-approaching, the siblings have little, if any, confidence in the investigator in charge since that fateful night long ago.

What I picked up on and appreciated was the writer's sensibility in that he/she allowed us to see the adults through the eyes of or at least from the perspective of the Ariake children, who still believe what they perceived to be the truth without the benefit of growing up in understanding and knowledge of their parents true nature.

Also, there was plenty of great, Japanese food in this one - though they did regard the dish as Western fare (hashed meat, curry stew, or Shichūkarē).

An added bonus (for me) was that Kaname Jun also starred as Togami Yukinari, a rich kid whose father owns several, Western-style restaurants but Yuki-chan is in search of the perfect Shichūkarē recipe for the restaurant he is soon to be in charge of once opening day arrives.

Yuki-kun also falls for the little sister, whom he invites to the restaurant and serves her a curry rice dish based on a recipe he found among his father's personal belongings - and when she tastes the dish, it brings tears to her eyes, reminding her of the dish her late father used to prepare in a tiny but popular Western-fare restaurant he ran before his untimely death.

Turns out that Yukinari's father had a falling-out with Ariake-san, who loved to gamble and usually ordered take-out from Togami-san's food stall up the street.

Ariake told Togami that his food was awful, and that he had no right preparing Shichūkarē if he wasn't going to do it right.

All roads seem to lead toward Togami-san as the killer, which devastates poor Yuki-kun and completely confuses Shizuna, but the two brothers are determined to find out the truth and take their revenge.

There is a plot-twist at the end that I didn't see coming despite a few warning signs along the way, which always makes me very happy - when the writer can stump me.

If you haven't already, I recommend you give Ryusei no Kizuna a try - I think you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

그 남자의 책 198쪽 / Keu Namjaui Chak 198Jjeuk

Heartbreak Library

who is she?

2008 Korean movie that stars Lee Dong wook as Jun oh and Eugene as Cho Eun su.

She is a librarian who catches the culprit who has been ripping out page 198 of most every book in the library.

Jun oh is a tall, quiet man who is trying without success to find the answer to a riddle his late girlfriend, who loved to read and checked out more than 400 books at that, particular library, left him: Look on p. 198

He seems a bit surprised to know that he could have just copied page 198 from all of the books he had thus far searched for the answer, and soon Eun su is helping Jun oh in his quest for the answer.

Jun oh is quiet as well as wealthy and a learned Sushi chef with his own restaurant.

Eun su is brash and hardened by a recent break-up, so at first it doesn't seem as if the two will strike up a romantic relationship, but the story was so well-written that one could not help but want to root for them just the same.

After Eun su hears Jun oh's story, she begins to settle down a bit while also struggling to maintain a sense of decorum about her past as much as about her seemingly budding feelings for Jun oh.

Jun oh didn't realize it right away, but he did, eventually accept the fact that what happened was an accident, and that he needed to move on while also remembering to thank the helpful Eun su for all her help.

The acting was marvelous and the story flowed without interruption or too, many flashbacks to add to the confusion that sometimes can occur in movies of this caliber.

Heartbreak Library received only three-flower bouquets from me because while I thoroughly enjoyed the story and thought that the acting was superb, it left some reservations in my heart about the eventual outcome - but since I'm not one to spoil things for others, I'll leave it up to you to decide what you think about this, particular movie.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beautiful Life / ビューティフルライフ

28,246 total views at, and not surprising that most viewers gave this a 5-star rating.

2000 JDorama that stars Kimura Takuya as Okishima Shuji - a hair stylist at the inaptly named Hot Lip salon.

Shuji-kun is from a wealthy family of doctors, but because he's baka, it became inevitable that he walk away from his past and carve out a new path of his own.

Early in this 11-episode drama, his beautiful, kimono-clad mother demurely seeks him out so as to express her displeasure at having their neighbors come to her with a fashion magazine showcasing his work (embarrassing her and putting her in an awkward situation with her husband).


Right away, he also encounters the woman he will eventually fall in love with, and because she nearly knocks him off his motorcycle at a stop light when she sticks her arm out the car window (plus the fact that she received a bad perm from a neighbor), he isn't, quite interested in anything other than arguing right away.

Shuji-kun parks his bike alongside her car in front of the library where she works, and the beautiful, smiling woman politely insists that he move so she can exit the car.

He argues that there is plenty of room for her to get out, but the pleasant Machida Kyoko (Tokiwa Takako) still insists that he do the right thing by her, so he does, and as he turns to glare at her, he sees that she is removing a wheelchair from the little, red Vita she drives.

Until this point in her life, Kyoko has resigned herself to the fact that since being struck ill at the prime age of seventeen, that there is no room for nor need to stress about not finding love, so her attitude toward the gorgeous Shuji-kun not only helps her to cope with her reality but also to help intrigue the handsome hair stylist who doesn't, quite know what to do now.

Kyoko isn't in-your-face rude or an outright bitch, but she does possess a mildly serpant-like tongue and is able to quickly return barbs to the equally sarcastic but charismatic hair stylist who at first seems intent on being mean when you (and he) know he really doesn't want to be.

Kyoko ends up anticipating Shuji's return, and when it is discovered that he has slid the book he checked out into the night slot, her disappointment shows clearly on her pretty face.

This isn't the sad end to a budding romance, however!

Shuji is a great stylist, but his bedside manner leaves something to be desired; which means he doesn't get on too well with his boss, the other stylists at Hot Lip, or even with his clients who ask for little changes to his cuts only to be ignored by handsome Shuji-kun.

He's in direct competition with the top stylist at the salon, and he once dated a female stylist who made her way to the top by sexing the boss - but after meeting Kyoko, Shuji suddenly has this desire to become a top stylist, so instead of using one of the girls on the street that his assistant found, Shuji invites Kyoko to Hot Lip so that he can fix the bad perm she received from the neighborhood barber.

Not only is the transformation a hit at the salon and with Kyoko, his work ends up in a style publication that features Kyoko and her new do - but, it also insensitively points out the fact that '...even a chick in a wheelchair can look good'.

Shuji outwardly appears unaffected by what transpired, but when Kyoko confronts him about his having used her to gain the coveted Top Stylist spot, humiliating her in the process, his true feelings start to show.

Kyoko is easily forgiving, however, but Shuji-kun's guilt has mounted to the point where he feels obligated to butt into her life and force her to do things she wouldn't, normally have done had she never met the guy with awesome hair, flawless skin, and soft, brown eyes.

At the turn of the century, Japan wasn't, exactly accomodating to the handicapped, and pre-1950's American attitudes seemed prevalent as well - so, I hope in the year 2010 that things over there have progressed in that regard.

His guilt and her curiosity are what help to fuel the flames of desire and force their romance to blossom under a myriad of extenuating circumstances that take nine of the eleven episodes to iron out.

I chose Beautiful Life not for the storyline - because had Kimura-san not starred in this, it isn't likely I would have watched - ever.

Knowing from the very start that the heroine would die, and that she spent the entire length of this drama in a wheelchair are two factors that chase me away - especially since the obvious outcome without having to watch is lame and pisses me off.

The reason I chose to watch this drama was because up to this point, I have only ever seen Kimura-kun portray the aloof goof-ball or the hard-headed playa, and I wanted to see how well he did at something on the so-called serious side.

Also, and while he has snagged the woman in a majority of the dramas I've seen, he has yet to play a romantic role with a storyline that revolves around romance for romance' sake.

I had hoped that Beautiful Life would be that romantic drama - but, it wasn't.

Okay, so it was - just not in the way I would have liked to see him star.

I want to see him in something along the same lines as Tree of Heaven, with gooey, mushy love start to finish and hardly any incidentals in-between to spoil the affect of romance.

YES, Shuji and Kyoko fell in love, beat the odds, and managed to make something of their unexpected relationship - but, maybe it is a Japanese thing where hot & heavy just isn't tolerated or accepted, so the writers steer clear of such longed-for nonsense, I don't know.

Anno - I think what I'm trying to say is that I'd love to see hot-tay Kimura-chan star in something with substance, class, and adult-themed content while also stepping out of his 'you can look but don't you dare touch' persona ... just ONCE, please.

He's got range, don't get me wrong, and his odd-ball sense of humor got me the very, first time I saw him on screen, too, so there's no problem here with being madly, hopelessly, and endlessly in love with the guy - it just feels like I've seen the spectrum of that range, and now I want to see something refreshingly new and different.

Beautiful Life was supposed to fit that bill, but sadly, it missed the mark.

I enjoyed watching this drama, though!

I gave it four-stars at the website and here, too.

It was, indeed, a love-story nearly everyone who commented at suggested I have a box of kleenex on hand before watching since it was likely to make me sob buckets of tears, yet even that didn't occur for me - I actually felt more sorry for Shuji than the pre-destined Kyoko, too, but there was only one scene in which my eyes welled up slightly with unshed tears.

I'm not done watching everything he's made, either, so there is still hope!

I recommend this drama if, like me, you chose not to watch because of the played-out and predictable storyline.

when did awhile become two words?