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

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Katagoshi no Koibito / 肩ごしの恋人

Over-the-Shoulder Lover

Summer, 2007, JDorama that was a romantic comedy about two thirty-ish females with opposite personalities who, despite that fact, have been life-long friends.

Hayasaka Moe (Yonekura Ryoko) was raped and now has this sub-conscious aversion to commitment, and with little faith in men.

She's a working chick at a cross-roads in her life when a sixteen-year old runaway (Sano Kazuma as Akiyama Takashi) enters her life in the most unexpected way and ends up living with her in a platonic fashion for the most part even though he's instantly infatuated with the tall beauty who likes to drink, smile, and bear the brunt of everything bad that comes her way.

I especially liked the way her life actually came full-circle, but I'm not sure many noticed or even cared about that interesting yet realistic twist to the plot.

Her ditzy friend, Takaoka Saki as Murono Ruriko, begins the show by introducing that ear-piercing, helium-sucking whine of an Asian female voice tone that made me want to pick something else to watch ... but, I just covered my ears instead and decided to bear with it since I knew she wasn't the star and might not be onscreen for a majority of the nine instead of eleven episodes.


Still, the bar scenes where she gets drunk and acts like a total ass-bitch were tolerable because by then, I was sucked in completely and wanted to find out what would happen to each of the interesting characters.

Ruriko gave the impression of being a mindless twit with nothing but her looks to sustain a shallow presence in life, but she sometimes said things that actually made sense or caused our doubtful Moe to think twice about what she was currently undergoing.

Ruriko truly believed that marriage was the answer to all of life's woes; especially for a woman, and that Moe needed to figure that out if she wanted to find happiness.

Moe wasn't totally against marriage or dating even, and she had indiscriminate sex rather frequently for a former rape victim - but, I guess that could be beside the point, who knows.

What she couldn't do start to finish was to commit, and that was what this drama was about - commitment.

She lived in a totally cool apartment despite her meager income and the eventual loss of her go-nowhere job, but I didn't mind.

She hooked up with a hot guy who attended Ruriko's wedding, had sex with him that afternoon, and then kept meeting with him even after discovering he was married.

He introduced her to two, interesting characters at a gay bar in a gay district of Tokyo, and one of the gays was Ryo (Kaname Jun) - a brooding, young man who worked at a porn shop up the street.

The other guy, Bun-chan (Ikeuchi Hiroyuki), owned the bar, and even though he carried his military service with him; wearing fatigues and keeping his head shaven, he had a nasty thang for the guy Moe seduced, leaving the viewer to wonder for a few episodes if he was bi.

I'll let y'all find out the truth on your own.

Ruriko finds out that her husband is having an affair with a nasty piece of work from the office, and at first she's willing to make concessions for his behavior, but eventually, her third marriage ends in divorce.

She moves in with Moe and run-away Akiyama Takashi, but it seems imperative that we sort out their lives: finding a man for Moe, returning Ruriko to her wayward hubby, and forcing Takashi to see the error of his childish, misguided ways.

When Ruriko finds out about Ryo, it is then that she decides she wants nothing more to do with her cheating husband, but Ryo isn't going to change his ways for the whining, pushy female and remains as gay as the day is long despite Ruriko's annoying efforts to work on him her female charms.

Does the handsome, wealthy man forsake his snobbish, wealthy wife for Moe?

Does Ruriko return to her repentant hubby?

Will Takashi ever figure out what life is all about and do the right thing?

WHO is the father of Moe's baby?????????????????

I liked Katagoshi no Koibito, and I think you will, too.

Guilty / Akuma to Keiyakushita Onna

ギルティ 悪魔と契約した女

Fall to Winter, 2010, Mystery/Suspense JDorama that starred Kanno Miho as Nogami Meiko and Tamaki Hiroshi as Mashima Takuro, with Meiko being a mild-mannered dog groomer with a curious past and Takuro being a detective on the hunt for a criminal.

At age seventeen, and while still in high school, Meiko was accused of lacing some chocolates with poison that killed her brother-in-law and his son.

Stranger still, no one, not even her mother or older sister took her side, and even her appointed attorney turned a blind eye to the truth or her desperate pleas for justice.

She spent nearly twenty years behind bars and emerged with vengeance on her mind while also conveniently acquiring the pet grooming position at a posh shop run by a wealthy and charming woman in the city.

People left & right are committing suicide, and always is left behind a red envelope.

Our dashing detective has his own ghosts haunting him, though, and at the start of this spell-binder, he seems more preoccupied with his own, sordid past than with the current situation going on around him - especially in the office.

He lost his first partner in a gruesome manner, and shortly thereafter he ditched his hot, detective girlfriend to go it alone - always assuming he'll somehow manage to figure things out and return to who he once was before taking that next step and never succeeding without the help of those closest to him - namely, the chick he dumped to mope, and the brother of his deceased partner who is obviously just as anxious as the damaged detective to see justice prevail.

The drama makes no bones about revealing culprits right away, and even after hearing about the strange circumstances surrounding the inevitable incarceration of the seventeen-year old girl, the story never grew tedious or bothersome in the eleven episodes it took to weave this interesting and unusual tale.

There is romance involved, but not in typical mode, and it was easy to become drawn to each of the characters regardless of their good or evil roles, too.

The last, few episodes were what really worked for me and had me suspended in mid-air until the last, few frames, when I kinda-sorta knew and had a sneaking suspicion from about episode three onward that it would be the case, but was still surprised when the truth was finally revealed.

And, I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe that animals - dogs especially - will cuddle up to anyone with evil intent.

I just, don't buy it.


It's awesome.


Bin jip

2004 Korean movie that stars Lee Hyun kyoon as a drifter who posts circulars on doors and then returns to see which houses haven't touched them so he can break in, browse through their personal shit, eat their food, take some candid shots of him with the owners (via portraits he poses beside), and he maybe does some laundry for them before eventually leaving.

Aside from a few run-in's with the homeowners, this movie had little dialogue; not a bad thing considering the flow of the storyline and the simple fact that words weren't necessary - but, I think it's funny to note the fact that some of the 'critics' praising this film seemed insistent on mentioning the fact that the man who 'wrote' this movie only needs a few weeks, and that the entire film was shot within a month.

Um ~ yea, so without dialogue, it would stand to reason that ANY movie would take that long to shoot since no one has to memorize lines that they'll flub up?

Anyway, the last home our lead enters is a ritzy place owned by a grizzled, old man with a super-model for a wife whom he beats and berates to ... um, well, utter silence.

When the lead enters the house, he thinks its empty, but she's there, hiding in the bathroom in tears and likely contemplating her latest escape from the husband who just left on yet, another business trip.

Hyun kyoon's character is immediately taken by the woman of the house since her images are hung on most, every wall - and while she has figured out that there is a stranger lurking about, he continues on his appointed rounds - checking out the fridge, peeking into every room, and then pulling out his cell phone to take a picture of him standing beside a portrait of the beautiful lady of the house.

That night, after he takes a shower and washing his clothes in a bucket on the floor of the bathroom, he crawls into the master's bed naked, and with a picture of the wifey at his side - when he proceeds to ... well,

She says nothing, and he says nothing - but when the old man returns after his wife refuses to pick up his calls, the two flee and spend the rest of the movie sharing his vagrant routine - illegally entering unoccupied houses, rummaging through their belongings, eating their food, washing their clothes, and then taking pictures of themselves beside the family portraits.

The title of the movie comes from the fact that while Hyun kyoon's character was at the woman's mansion, he stole her husbands 3-Iron and from there, he drilled a hole into a golf ball, inserted a wire, and roped it around the trunks of trees to practice his swing.

During one of their street lay-overs between break-ins, he's practicing his swing when the ball leaves the wire, hitting the windshield of a nearby car and injuring the female passenger.

The Buddhist Zen factor enters the equation at this point, and I'm sure it was when a lot of viewers became confused or even annoyed with the rest of the plot, but that minor incident signaled the downfall of our Hyun kyoon's character.

The husband sics his dogs on the guy, the wife returns to the manse, and our lead hero ends up in jail, where he's brutally and mercilessly beaten by a heartless and unforgiving guard.

While in his bedless, toiletless cell, our main man becomes obsessed with his shadow and begins to practice steps that will eventually lead him to becoming nothing more than just that ... a shadow.

Upon his release, he returns to the homes he once broke into, and while no one can see him, his presence is still felt.

At last he returns to the woman's house and ... moves in.

She can see him, but her husband can't - and I think that is where the writer of this movie wants us to believe that the story remains: with the overbearing husband living with a shadow of a wife who is in love with ... a shadow of a man only she can see.

Since its release, this movie has garnered a lot of attention as well as critical acclaim from both sides of the globe, and while I remained anxious to watch ~ I kept putting it off for whatever reason until finally, I chose to take the plunge (last weekend).

Here in the States, it was shown at select theaters, and all of them the artsy sort located in upscale neighborhoods where doubtless 'educated' few went to see it and probably enjoyed it as well.

I didn't, though.

It was a disappointment after everything I read and heard about it, but that doesn't mean you won't like it - so, if you have a few hours to spare, give this one a chance and see what you think.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Hana Kimi / 花ざかりの君たちへ

Hanazakari no Kimi Tachi E

2007 JDorama that starred Oguri Shun as Sano Izumi, Mizushima Hiro as Nanba Minami (2nd Dorm Leader), Ikuta Toma as Nakatsu Shuichi, Kimura Ryo as Senri Nakao, Okada Masaki as Sekime Kyogo, Yamamoto Yusuke as Kayashima Taiki, Igarashi Shunji as Noe Shinji, Mizobata Junpei as Saga Kazuma, Sakimoto Hiromi as Kyobashi Arata, Chiyo Shota as Yodoyabashi Taichi, Tajima Ryo as Arashiyama Jyo, Shimegi Enoku as Tannowa Kyoichi, Okada Hikaru as Takaida Riku, Ikeda Jun as Kamishinjo Itsuki, Shibasaki Keisuke, as Minase Manato, Ishigaki Yuma as Tennoji Megumi (1st Dorm Leader), Takahashi Mitsuomi as Daikokucho Mitsuomi, Takeda Kohei as Kitahanada Kohei, Suzuki Ryohei as Akashi Soichiro, Sato Yuuichi as Tetsukayama Shota, Hayakawa Ryo as Gotenyama Sakyo, Matsushita Koji as Shojaku Ren, Nishiyama Sosuke as Shichido Soma, Hagiwara Tatsuya, as Ishikiri Hiroto, Kyo Nobuo as Himejima Masao (Oscar M. Himejima, 3rd Dorm Leader), Kato Keisuke as Yao Hikaru, Watanabe Toshihiko as Imamiya Sho, Takahashi Yuta, as Shijo Haruki, Matsuda Shoichi as Kuzuha Junnosuke, Miyata Naoki as Saiin Tsukasa, Furuhara Yasuhisa as Ogimachi Taiyo, Ojima Naoya as Kaizuka Kohei, Suzuki Kota, as Uenoshiba Kanata, Nakada Yuya as Katabiranotsuji Ken, Kawakami Yu as Korien Genji

and Horikita Maki as Ashiya Mizuki - a high school chick from America who runs away to Japan in order to help Sano Izumi (Oguri Shun) return to his former glory as a high jumper.

I know I'm super-late with this, and that everyone around the globe has already watched Hana Kimi at least five times already - but, whatever ... the storyline never appealed to me, and I had no idea it was so, freakin' FUNNY, either.

Even if this revolves around Shun's Sano-sama, and the unlikely but inevitable romantic relationship between him and Mizuki; for me, it was Ikuta Toma's Nakatsu Shuichi who stole the show.

I adored him in Majo Saiban, and now I really want to see him in the rest of what he's starred in.

Guy's got talent, an interesting presence, and staying power along with his unusual, good looks.

In Hana Kimi, he's supposed to be Sano's best friend, but at the start of this campy adaptation of yet, another manga/anime, they are struggling to maintain that relationship when, after a trip to America, Sano is injured, forcing him to have to let go of his high jump career for awhile.

Sano turns into a brooding mess of angry emotions while his Ohsaka Gaikusen buddies continue on their merry way through high school dorm life, soaking up all the revelry and mayhem it has to offer.

(now, I ask you - WHY would the chick at left want to wear a bikini bottom like that?)

Along comes Miss Ashiya Mizuki turned Mr. Ashiya when she decides to enroll in the all-boys high school so that she can undo the wrong she thinks she's done to Sano-sama since it was because of her that he was injured in America.

She wants to see him smile again, but more important to her is the goal of getting him to return to the high-jump sport so she can finally exhale.

Of course, the in-house Doc is the first person to notice something ain't right about our new student, but the bi-sexual with eerie, blue eyes decides to give Mizuki a break since she's there for noble reasons.

Mizuki ends up sharing a dorm room with Sano, and at the same time, our heterosexual Nakatsu struggles to maintain his coolness when the closer he gets to Mizuki, the more attracted to him he becomes until he believes he is gay and wants to accept that fact just to be intimate with him/her.

Japanese humor is ridiculous without being insulting or over-stressed, and I like that.

Timing is the key, I think, and they've mastered it.

Belly laughs are a good thing - especially if you're in the mood to lose some weight, and hopefully I shed a few pounds over the weekend, because Hana Kimi had me laughing out loud to the point of tears at least a dozen times an episode, and there were twelve, along with a lame-ass special always meant to clear up loose ends - but this one failed big-time.

Shun's character almost seemed out-of-place in this one, but that was the whole point.

Mizuki meant to make him smile again, and she almost succeeded, too - but, I think that occurred in the special, I don't really remember.

He returned to the playing field, and he broke his own record shortly before Kagurazaka Makoto (Shirota Yu) broke it again, but Sano never smiled much during this drama.

He made ME smile, though ...

Oguri Shun as Sano Izumi in Hana Kimi

Another character whose performance helped to make this a winner was Yamamoto Yusuke's Kayashima Taiki.

Yamamoto Yusuke as Kayashima Taiki in Hana Kimi
The guy who reminds me a lot of Mick Jagger and whose style is beyond hip can also act damn fine and knows how to do the is he/isn't he thing as if almost down to a science.

Speaking of questionable gender or preference, this drama was rife with curiosity in that regard, but I know it's just the thing to do over there - to behave as femme as possible without stepping over that imaginary line.

Which was probably why Mizuki had such an easy time slipping past the guys, who obviously don't possess gay-dar in Japan the way they (heterosexuals, anyhow) do over here.

That I kept noticing how 'female' Mizuki behaved despite herself is probably neither here nor there as well ... since the Metro-sexual attitude abounded in this drama, and I was hard-pressed to decide what was real and what was make-believe in that regard.

Sano only mentioned the fact that baking cookies wasn't a cool thing for a dude to do, but what about her overly feminine concern for his health, his welfare, his mind-set, and his personal issues with the old man?

Wasn't all that stepping over the line, too; at least from a guy's perspective?

The fact that she kept chasing after him the way a love-sick girl would do seemed like a huge indicator of her true sex as well, but I seemed to be the only one to notice or care, so what the heck.

Do guys do those kinds of things with their homies in real life?

Yeah, yeah, so Sano already knew he was a chick from the start, but the others accepted him/her without noticing anything funny, and perhaps that was a bit of a stretch, but whatever - the show was too, damn funny for me to care.

Hana Kimi was another of those make-believe, comic-come-to-life stories everyone (me included) wishes could be more like reality; especially when it concerns such mundane but necessary things as school and/or work ... to have constant excitement in your life, to be surrounded by buds who actually DO care, and to have adults around who truly want to see and hope you do succeed.

Accepting everyone for who they are and not poking fun at them because they're NOT like you seems to be a running theme with most manga turned anime turned drama from Asia, but it's an underlying theme hidden rather subtly by the stars of the show, who go through life's pangs & woes while striving for perfection, or at least a better outcome to their seemingly bleak future.

We could all do with a bit of this from time to time ...

... but, wouldn't it be totally cool if, for once, they did this for the gals and had a bunch of slobbering males standing outside an all-girl's school waiting for the precious cuties to appear?

Refreshing (for me anyway) was that Hana Kimi chose to dis the pop-chicks and make them look as stupid as they really are, and that when push came to shove (as it always does), the pop-chick who thought she was all-that didn't do anything overly unrealistic to our Mizuki when she could have but chose not to.

Why don't I like this guy?

Don't mean to sound mean, but I don't think I've ever liked him in anything he's done - which is probably opening a huge can of worms and likely to cause protest among his billions of fans.

I don't know what it is or why it is I don't care for him, I just don't.

He's probably the sweetest thing to come along since candy and the most appealing of dudes to a lot of bubble-gum chewers, too ... but, for whatever reason, I can't warm up to Mizushima Hiro.

Actually, I think I do know the reason; and it's kind a like my reason for not getting into Bae Yong jun the way the rest of the women of the world have.

Mizushima-san looks a lot like another boy from my childhood, and Luke wasn't a mean boy or unpopular; we actually got along rather well back in the day - but, I couldn't say there was even the slightest hint of sexual attraction going on inside me for him the same way I can honestly say Mizushima-kun does nothing for me in that regard, either.

Considering the fact there was only one Asian boy in my childhood, you'd think I knew a lot of them based on my comparisons with today's hot actors and the boys I grew up with here in Michigan ... which, to me, says a lot about the way of the world.

Or at least my lop-sided view of things, who knows.

Should I take a chance on the Taiwanese version, which I hear is a thousand times better than this one?

Maybe after school lets out in late April and I'm totally free to waste away a few, more days of my life without the thought of readings, study guides, term papers, and final exams looming over my head to distract me.

Okay, so here are the rest of my pictures from the show, and YES, I highly recommend you watch Hana Kimi if you haven't already.