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

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lucky Seven


2012, 10-episode FujiTV detective drama that starred Matsumoto Jun as Tokita Shuntaro, a 'freeter' who is great with women as well as reading people.

The story unfolds with some private detectives spying on a married woman having frequent interval sex with an unsuspecting Shuntaro. The PI's pop the woman, and the next day, when Shuntaro calls her for another bit of afternoon delight, she tells him to stop calling her on account of being caught by her upset husband.

Shuntaro figures out how it happened and goes after Eita's Nitta Teru, one of the spies he bumped into in the underground parking garage of the 'love' hotel.

The two don't get along, and the first episode showed it in spades. It was an action-packed episode straight out of the gate that never slowed down much until the very end, and even then it had me wide-eyed and laughing.

Nitta is a hot-headed loud-mouth with issues who isn't inclined to smile, much less take the time to listen or get to know anyone.

After the two duke it out inside the detective agency, the boss appears to break it up, and then she propositions Shuntaro, asking if he thinks he can cut it as a detective.

This is the second time around for me, having watched it shortly after its upload at and then again at because apparently is having technical difficulties once again.

The subs were stupid. Since graduating (even before) I began to notice that one of the big issues with these subbers is their inability to comprehend or lack of education with regard to prepositions, subject/verb agreement, and tense.

A, and, the, is, was, the be's, etc.

The inability to properly word phrases, too, like butt OUT.

Then there is the problem of Asian phrases not being properly translated to English. Their strange use of ordinal versus cardinal, time, and context.

I'll leave 'first', and hang up 'now', until just now, and since just then don't compute well in English vernacular and sound ridiculous to the English-trained ear.

Regardless, this had a minor effect on my LIKE of this drama.

Each episode brings a new client into the office, and then the mismatched group of detectives do their thing right up to the very end - which starts out normal, goes wrong, and usually with Shuntaro figuring out what needs doing to set things right.

The first episode, though, was a powerhouse packed full of amazing and hilarious fight scenes between Eita's Nitta and Jun's Shuntaro.

Their first client is a disillusioned and heartbroken fire fighter who gives up on life and keeps entering illegal fight club rounds, letting whatever contestant ends up in the cage with him beat the crap out of him without defending himself or fighting back.

The tag team of detectives discovers gambling on the premises and enlists the aid of the police, but until they can get there, a diversion is needed in order to keep their client's aniki out of the ring - fearing he might, just die this time around.

Enter Shuntaro and Nitta.

Way too much fun there.

An aside or story-within-the-story is Shuntaro's little nephew, who lives with Shuntaro, his grandmother, Shuntaro's mother, and his father, Shuntaro's aniki.

The little boy is addicted to a long-running detective show on TV, and toward the end of this 10-episode drama, fantasy meets reality.

The five-rainbow rating is simple. This drama is re-watchable, not over-the-top stupid, less predictable than you'd think, and not cram-packed with ganbatte messages.

Watching guys like Matsumoto Jun and Eita bicker, learning the secrets of what makes each of the stars character's tick, and being interested in each of the stories that make their way into the detective agency also helped decide on such a high rating.

If you haven't seen this one yet, get going. You won't be disappointed.

I Miss You

보고싶다 / Bogoshipda / Missing You

2012, 20-episode MBC melodrama with a lot of suspense tossed in the mix that starred Park (Micky) Yoo chun and Yoon Eun hye.

The synopsis states that as youngsters (15) poor, picked on Lee Soo yeon (Eun hye) with a heart of gold despite her unfavorable circumstances meets and experiences a first crush on believe-it-or-not handsome rich kid, Han Jung woo (Micky).

Another Cinderella story, but I let that irritating aspect go because I like Park Yoochun and wanted to see how well he stood up in this compared with Rooftop Prince.

At about the same time poor, picked-on Soo yeon meets lonely but friendly and charming Jung woo, she also discovers a young boy locked away in a ramshackle apartment in an alley near her home and peeks inside the barred windows. Shocked to see a serious wound on his leg, she wants to help but is diverted and must leave.

The reason Jung woo is so lonely and easily makes friends with the cute, forlorn Soo yeon is because he doesn't have a nice home life. His mother is gone and his father is a ruthless horror with no heart or soul.

There is a connection between the two young males that isn't touched on for awhile, and even when it is, it becomes easy to forget as the story progresses.

The father has done another senseless, cruel deed, and this time the vengeance involves Jung woo. He and Soo yeon are kidnapped, dragged to an abandoned warehouse and tied up together.

One of the accomplices leaves, and the other (we're supposed to believe he is a coke-head, I think) wanders back inside the warehouse with the intention of raping Soo yeon (because he's high).

For an undisclosed but necessary reason, Jung woo ends up escaping without Soo yeon, and this memory is a theme for them both for the duration of the show.

He grows up to be a detective and slowly begins to unravel the mysteries that led to his being kidnapped, and about why his father behaved the way he did.

After the kidnapping and rape, Soo yeon manages to make her way out of the warehouse, but she's struck by a car and experiences amnesia.

She's with Kang Hyung joon (Yoo Seung so) now, and later, the two end up in Paris together where she becomes fashion designer Zoe and he becomes Harry.

Jung woo never forgot Soo yeon and ends up moving in with her mother, taking good care of her and vowing to help locate the missing Soo yeon.

It's a cute relationship where they call each other lovers, and Jung woo remained affectionate, concerned, and diligent throughout the show. It helped draw the viewer to him in a way that wouldn't otherwise be expected after what happened, but his grief knew no bounds and made it difficult for anyone not to sympathize.

There were enough flash-backs and re-caps to keep us reminded of those incidences and his reactions as well.

Zoe and Harry end up going back to Korea (against Harry's wishes) but it's a necessary evil if the story is to be wrapped up and all of the missing puzzle pieces are to be put in place.

The ending, however, was a mixed bag for me. Pathetic, sad, and even somewhat disappointing yet also magical, rewarding, and sweet.

Yoo Seung so's Hyung joon (Harry) had a right to behave the way he did, yet his end was the part that left me in tears.

It was sad to see him that way, and he portrayed the character so well it became pointless to try and hold them back.

He left for his mandatory enlistment right after this drama, and when I looked him up, it said his nickname is Little So Ji sup.

I don't know why and can't figure it out much less find anything related to the topic online.

I don't agree if it has anything to do with looks. Still, he's adorable and worth watching in some of his old stuff as well as anything he intends to pursue after his discharge.

If you haven't watched this yet, do. This is twice for me, and it wasn't a wasted effort either time.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Golden Empire

Empire of Gold / 황금의 제국 / Wanggeum-ui Jegook

2013 SBS K-dorama about a Chaebol family, their legacy, greed, and influential power over all else in their tiny corner of the world. It's about a poor guy from a poor section of that world who is down-trodden, brow-beaten, and disillusioned by it all. After losing his father to that corrupt system, he vows revenge.

Another Korean rehash of another Korean over-borrowed genre that played out precisely as had all of the others written, directed, and starred the same way.

I gave it three out of five because despite a lot of flaws, it actually intrigued me. I'll admit to being riveted for most of the 24 episodes. At least until about episode 18, when I began to realize and feel like I'd been there before, I'd seen this thing played out already, I'd heard enough of the same-old, same-old dialogue being reiterated again and again, and that the outcome for everyone involved was going to be entirely too predictable.

Then I wasn't as enthralled anymore.

Yet, and still, the star of the show, Go Soo as Jang Tae joo, had my attention start to finish, and even if I knew precisely what was going to happen (and, it did) he helped keep me interested, entertained, and drawn to him.

Go Soo as Jang Tae joo

Another star, Son Hyun joo as Choi Min jae, did nearly as fantastic a job of keeping me into the drama and rooting for him some of the time.

Son Hyun joo as Choi Min jae

The synopsis was misleading (again), too. Jang Tae joo DOESN'T fall for the leading lady of this Utopian household. I'll apologize if you think that might be a spoiler. For me, it was simply a lie that annoyed and upset me but not enough to keep me from watching the show.

Zero romance, too. I mean zero, and for 24 episodes, this isn't a good thing. A majority of the scenes took place either at the dining table of the Chaebol house or inside the office of the Empire. 24 episodes, a little more than an hour long each, and nothing but bickering, conniving, scheming, back-biting, hate-spewing dialogue start to finish.

For me, the most disheartening thing about these Korean (and Japanese) dramas that concentrate on one aspect of life and run with it for the duration, is the lack of human emotion, predictable behavior, and common-sense psychology involved in human contact.

This story was supposed to have spanned 2 decades, too. From 1993 to 2013.

Can you imagine living 20 years of your life this way? I certainly can't.

Sure, there were scenes that strayed from the mundane usual, like Min jae visiting his ill wife in the hospital, and Tae joo spouting off one-sided dialogue about his future plans to the ever-faithful Jang Shin yong as Yoon Sul hee, but even then it was dialogue and nothing emotional or embracing.

Cold, stiff, one-dimensional characters start to finish that leave me feeling as cold and uninterested in their story as I did for their plights.

No one touches, embraces, shows compassion, or even desire in these things, and there is nothing romantic about it to keep me involved emotionally.

The leading lady in this one, Lee Yo won as Choi Seo yoon, didn't interest me, either. Not that she didn't do a good job of acting, but that she remained as one-dimensional throughout, never swaying, varying her opinion, growing or learning from her experience.

There was the irritating time conundrum in this one, too.

If what she says is true, then she was 40 when she entered the house as a pregnant widow. Not entirely a stretch of the imagination, but ... if everyone in the household was under the misguided notion (for 30 years) that her son was their real brother, then it isn't likely she entered that house with a child on her arm or at her side.

If what she said is true, then that means Seo yoon is 40 as well. Which would mean that at the start of the show, she couldn't possibly have graduated college and garnered a college-level teaching position. Not at age 20, anyway. She'd have been more like 28, going on 30 at that time, which would make her 48 going on 50 at the end.

At the start, the stepmother had a 28 year-old college-bound, college-grad, not sure son. At the end, she said she was now 70. Do the math. The son was born 27 years ago. That would actually make him 28, - 29 is a stretch - and after 30 years, how old would he be then? Yet, he remained perpetually 27-28-29 whatever throughout the story.

These 20-somethings at the start would become 40-something's at the end, right? So, what would prompt Sul hee to want to remain by Tae joo's side all this time? What would make either supposed lover still talk about love, marriage, kids, and a sea-side home in the Philippines?

Tae joo referred to her as Sunbae, which would make her older than him. Which would mean she, too, was in her late 20's early 30's at the start and ended up in her late 40's early 50's at the end.

She went to jail for seven years, and after seven years ... was that supposed to be the leap from 2003 to 2013? That's ten years, or more depending on when you factor in her fall from grace and eventual incarceration to her final release.

The fashion strayed as well. Nail polish, hand bags, shoes, hairstyles, short-shorts, etc. that conflicted greatly with the era in which it was being worn or used - at whim and on occasion. Though there were also times when the characters wore the same thing over and over again ... argh.

The only thing that remained constant were the clunky, old hand phones that suddenly became 2013 models while everyone in this story stayed relatively the same as they had from the supposed 20 years earlier variety of themselves.

They never once used a computer, a laptop, or a tablet and received all of their bad news (insider trading, corruption, scandal, and even business slumps) via the news on 2013 big-screen, flat-screen televisions start to finish.

Do empires learn about their own stock slides, employee scandals, and consumer slumps via the news?

Crawling into bed in your street clothes.

Don't get that and never will.

How clean is clean over there anyhow? And, by clean I mean day's worth of grime collected on the body as well as ratings, time-slot, censorship clean via the broadcast system in that country.

I'm positive that before Korean's crawl into bed each night, that they at least shower but definitely change into something more comfortable, like pajamas, sweats, or a t-shirt, if not go nude prior to falling asleep.

Tae joo was dirt-poor at the beginning, and then he suddenly had 2 billion won in his hands. If anyone in this world knows the value of money, it's the poorest of the poor. Metaphor and symbolism aside, when he went to the pier and tossed two handful's of the stuff into the air, it made me furious.

Stop with the unbelievable crap already. It has no meaning, no lasting or redeeming qualities to it, and it makes no sense. A rich guy who is drunk or angry will do something that stupid, but not someone in Tae joo's shoes.

I liked and rooted for the seemingly budding friendship that sprang up between Tae joo and Min jae. I didn't like or feel any chemistry between Tae joo and Seo yoon.

Seo yoon abused Tae joo and then used him in a most cruel way but constantly worked against him - maybe put her faith in him once or twice - but never even bothered to explore her feminine side. Is she a robot?

After experiencing the things she and her family experienced, what was the actual lure of that responsibility supposed to be, anyway?

So she started out wanting to be a teacher and succeeded before her unaffectionate and cold father ended up relying on her for help in his waning years. Did she ever, really have a life? Get out and explore it on occasion? Meet new people and knock back a few cold ones with friends from her past? Was she really that stupid to believe her spiteful, wounded siblings would eventually see things her way?

She turned out to be as selfish and self-absorbed as the rest.

Actually, dear, he walked into Sung Jin Group because you were desperate for his help. Remember? The 2 Billion Won you needed in order to save your father's flagging empire? My, oh, my, how quickly we forget, eh?

Like I said: one-track, one-dimensional characters start to finish.

The reviews were quite favorable at, too. Poignant BS that nearly sounded excess in critique and made me laugh. For me, there was nothing profound, believable, or even outstanding about this drama other than the two male leads did a great job in their stereotypical and over-done roles.

Sorry ... man and woman living together for 30 years without contact is just too much for me to swallow, much less believe.

Or, was it four? Four years that turned into 30 or maybe seven years? I'm so confused, I don't know anything anymore.

I despised the ending, too.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Zeni Geba

Money Crazy, 銭ゲバ

2009, nine-episode NTV JDorama that starred Matsuyama Kenichi as Gamagori Futaro, a child of the system who grows up to avenge in a sociopath's style.

If you haven't seen this yet, or if you chose not to watch it because of the synopsis, you've made a big mistake.

Yes, it's dark and even hideous in nature, but well worth the nine episodes it took to tell the tale. And, the synopsis wasn't written well or accurate, either.

First off, I love Kenichi-kun and am working my way through everything he's starred in, and this is actually the third time I've watched Zeni Geba, too.

It's a psychological thriller of sorts but at a slower pace than the typical dramas of this nature. We are walked through Futaro's mixed-up life start to finish, made to see every aspect of that twisted existence, and then shown the decisions he made one after the other all in the name of money.

Gamagori Futaro arrived into a normal life, but it wasn't long before that life took a major turn for the worst. His father became a shiftless nuisance and his mother ended up with a terminal illness. He lived impoverished up until her death, and then he was forced to have to survive on his own from age ten onward.

Yes, at the start he believed money was the answer to all his woes, and yes, his father was to blame for a majority of what ended up being instilled inside his twisted mind. Still, the writer (Original manga by George Akiyama) seemed not to choose sides or even let us pick one over the other - in a sense, brilliant and yet not.

However, the last episode turned out to be something unexpected, and yet it also switched gears - giving us another side of the equation to think about - and in a way that made me start to believe the writer DID have a side to take.

As manga writing goes, they seem to take a 'now' topic and expound on it, twist and turn it into something fantasy, or delve deeper into a specific aspect of that issue. This time, though, the writer chose to take all sides before suddenly forming an opinion at the very end.

This particular topic being Money and how it influences people.

Before I continue, let me suggest you not let the weird camera angles have any effect on your judgment about this drama ...

It doesn't occur often, but a bit more toward the end than usual, yet it has its purpose. You'll find that out later on, but then again, it isn't difficult to figure out why the director chose to add these distortions into the show.

A twisted mind has a twisted view of the world. A warped sense of perspective, and therefore things like this become necessary.

The problem I had with the synopsis was that it made the story sound too simple and point-blank when it isn't. This isn't about Futaro's desire to obtain money through devious means. His victims were chosen with purpose, and by now his distorted view of money has changed drastically as well.

Those who seemed to think they knew it all, could survive despite their circumstances, or who tried to make themselves appear better than the rest were the ones who were targeted ... and for that reason alone.

This is more about the damage done to a child's vulnerable and impressionable mind at an early age, the heavy weight of responsibility a parent has toward their offspring, and about society's lack of compassion or true understanding of the absolute value of human life.

Can or should we take Futaro's side based on everything we know about him and his past? Is it the responsibility of those who have to reach out and help those who have not? Is it wrong for me to want to root for Futaro because of what I already know about him?

I did, actually, right up to the very end. It didn't bother me much to see the things he did as an adult, and I understood his reason for doing them, too.

Does this make me a sociopath, too?

Throughout this drama, Futaro was told a few phrases to live by - like money can't buy happiness, etc. - and the more he heard, the more that he experienced, the less inclined he was to believe anything or anyone. This is logical, especially to one who has hit the bottom and been forced to scratch and claw his way back to daylight at the least; the height of power at the most.

We're led to believe that money is the root of all evil and that those silly sayings are created by people who are on the brink of insanity and need them in order not to succumb.


The have's and the have-not's merge in this drama, and the ganbatte phrases meant to help lift up a weary soul are uttered from time to time, but the bottom line in all this is that it is bullshit. You either have it or you don't. You're either pretty or not, rich or not, successful or not, and capable or not.

Black and white with no grey area to consider.

Futaro's eventual goal became to prove the have-not's are as wrong and useless as the have's. And, yes, he targeted the wealthy Mikuni clan on purpose, but I had to wonder if it was more about what occurred between him and Midori as children than it did about obtaining all that wealth only to toss it all away at the end.

As for that ending ... well ... it was a roller-coaster ride for me, and as it slowly came to a close, I was disappointed. It became another cliche about evil needing punishment regardless of the extenuating circumstances.

All Futaro really needed was help. Help that wasn't available, and this is the real problem with society, not money. Why are little ones made to wander around Japan without adult help?

Thanks to Reagan-omics, the U.S. is suffering due to lack of proper mental care and social programs in this country. We're experiencing the effects of that stupidity with mass-murder events occurring at least once or twice a year, too.

We're all responsible for one another, and it's got zero to do with money, wealth, or power. Although until everyone gets on board, the brunt of that responsibility falls on their shoulders. It's their fault, though, for creating such a situation in the first place.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Nodame Cantabile

2006, 11-episode Fuji-TV JDo that starred Ueno Juri as Noda Megumi aka Nodame (Piano) and Tamaki Hiroshi as Chiaki Shinichi (Piano/Conducting).

This is based on Manga of the same premise and characters, and the two leads did terrific jobs portraying the stressed-out, uppity conductor wonna-be Chiaki, and the flaky, unrealistic kindergarten teaching hopeful, Noda.

Tamaki Hiroshi as Chiaki Shinichi

This is the fourth time I've watched the drama and the movie that followed shortly after it ended. Not a waste of time at all, either.

The reason I gave it 4 instead of 5 is because while I enjoy reading Manga and don't mind too much that it becomes live-action, it still bugs me that there aren't more novels that become that way instead.

The second reason is because of the pretentiousness with which the entire story was presented. Classical music isn't and shouldn't be portrayed as something high-brow, upper class, and worth giving up your entire life to perfect, much less pursue. It's for everyone to enjoy as well as to play and participate in.

Someone always has to be god-like as well, and I've said all I can about the way that line of thinking makes me feel.

Until now, I mistook him for Ikuta Toma. They have similar facial features but not the same voice, I think. Still, they're both hot and worth spending hours staring at and admiring. Hiroshi-kun was amazing in this drama!

Nodame Cantabile is about Chiaki-kun's journey to self-discovery in the form of learning how to grow, let go of past notions about life and career, to get along well with others, and then accept the things that come to pass without fighting against it via self-will.

He's a child prodigy who grew up in the lap of luxury and never got rid of an initial desire to conduct orchestras rather than play in one like his estranged father, a concert pianist.

He attends a music academy in Japan but wants desperately to return to Europe and study with his old master. Unfortunately, after his parents divorced when he was young, he returned to Japan with his mother and experienced a bad plane landing which resulted in his fear of flying.

Stuck on land in Japan, he stomps his way through this academy, complaining about everything he hears being played by the other students. Naturally, the chicks dig him for his looks and size, but he isn't very receptive to their advances or even the fact that the guys there would like it if he were their friend.

He keeps attempting to get into the conducting division at the academy, even knowing it's pointless since he'll never be able to reach Europe without overcoming his fear of flying. Each time he applies, though, the request is turned down.

At the apartment, he meets his neighbor, Noda Megumi. She's the complete opposite of him, and when she drags him inside her apartment, he realizes what a slob she is. Later, on his balcony, he notices a nasty smell and then watches in horror as neon purple liquid begins oozing onto his side of the wall.

Upset, he marches into Nodame's apartment and insists that she clean the place. Chiaki-kun ends up doing all the work, though.

Then he is forced to have to play a piano duet with her in a classroom setting. He's reluctant at first, but he's already heard her play before and is overly curious about her lack of control yet ability to captivate.

He's crass and rude to Noda, always shouting at her to get her act together and do the right thing while she ignores it all and continues to smile, goof off, and do everything the way she sees fit.

Everything about Nodame annoys Chiaki, and yet he's still drawn to her. Because of his desire to conduct, it's natural for him to want to help draw out the natural talent he sees in her.

She's not there to become famous or travel the world as a member of an orchestra, though. Noda has aspirations of becoming a kindergarten teacher.

I didn't get that. I had no idea why she'd spend good money at this academy if that was her goal. Do music academy's teach education classes for kindergarten students?

Regardless, for the eleven episodes, we watch how these two opposites end up in a budding relationship, spend time together, and how their personalities end up having some type of effect one over the other here and there.

At the same time, though, their personalities are such that regardless of how the two end up being sucked into the other's world, they both always return to who they are naturally.

The kotatsu episode was a case in point and hilarious as well.

The more that Nodame ends up falling for Chiaki-kun, the harder she attempts to mold herself into his ideal, and sometimes it works, sometimes not.

Every time she upset Chiaki, he'd toss her aside like a rag doll, and every time this occurred, or when he said or did something to upset her, she'd let out this word.

Funny, cute, silly stuff completely in line with the Manga.

I had issues with the subs, too. At the beginning of each episode, it stated that this was beta and would be cleaned up later. Um ... not sure how that is possible, and this is 2014 now. I've yet to find another streaming website that uses cleaned up subs.

This can't be what she said, and regardless, it makes no sense.

Another of my favorite Japanese actors starred in this one:

Eita as Mine Ryutaro (Violin)

He started out as an electric violin player intent on restructuring classical music by adding a Rock & Roll flavor that would be a definite hit with kids his age and younger.

Early on, he ends up befriending Chiaki, and not long afterward the whole gang shows up at his father's tiny restaurant to meet, eat, and drink, chat, commiserate, and plan their next move.

Loved the rainbow hair clips.

His character was a little on the spaz side, but he didn't shout a whole lot or annoy. His passion was what ended up helping Chiaki-kun realize his dream of becoming a conductor. Mine made it to a second-string orchestra, and the conductor bailed, so he and Nodame enlisted Chiaki for the job.

Mine played the cheerleader, the go-to guy, and the referee in times of conflict. He fell in love as well, and he continued to cheer on the girl after she ended up leaving for Europe and further studies.

Then there was the guy with the interesting mustache. He also sported an afro, but it didn't stick out as much as the 'stache.

Koide Keisuke as Okuyama Masumi played timpani and had a huge crush on Chiaki-kun. Every time that Nodame entered the picture, his jealousy showed to the point of mild violence.

Masumi was always there whenever another girl (or guy) tried to wile their way into Chiaki's private time, and Chiaki-kun eventually learned to appreciate him while ignoring his one-sided affection.

He liked to wear 1970's apparel to include bright colors, paisley, bell-bottoms, vests, and white lifts.

Another aspect of Nodame Cantabile that I always enjoy is the music - of course.

Here's where the pretentiousness comes in, though.

It's great to learn new things, and I like finding out stuff I didn't know before, too, but still. The way it's presented is annoying and in-your-face, making me not appreciate the effort.

Again, the subs kept making the mistake of referring to a concert as a concerto.

Concert: [kon-surt] a public musical performance in which a number of singers or instrumentalists, or both, participate.

Concerto: [kuhn-cher-toh] a composition for one or more principal instruments, with orchestral accompaniment, now usually in symphonic form.

However, I'll give them a bit of credit since there were times when the actors themselves said concert-o, which might be habit rather than misconception. They can't end any word with a consonant, but the two words are pronounced much different, so the subber's should have known better.

Anyway, I liked watching this drama a lot and I loved hearing the music, too.

It's my understanding, too, that the Korean version will finally become reality this fall. Sources report Joo Won as being the Chiaki-kun, too.

Wait and see for me. It's still too early to get excited until all the pieces are put in place.