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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nakai Masahiro, Esumi Makiko & AKB48 to host new music show

SMAP's Nakai Masahiro, actress Esumi Makiko and idol group AKB48 will be working together for the first time as hosts of a new TBS music programme. The show which is untitled yet will start from mid April at 9pm on Tuesdays. Every week, 3 or 4 groups of artistes will make appearances as guests on the show. This will also be the first time Esumi and AKB48 are hosting a music show on TV. AKB48's main members will appear weekly but the lineup may change on a weekly basis.

Source: Sanspo

Kawashima Umika entering Meiji University in April

Actress Kawashima Umika has managed to qualify for Meiji University as reported on 28 Feb. The university has had the highest number of applicants nationwide for three years in a row thus making it one of the most difficult schools to enter. Last year, Kawashima appeared in three dramas and the movie "Kaibutsu-kun" along with being part of a five-member group 9nine. Nonetheless, she still managed to spend time on her studies and even went for tuition during her free time. Her last photobook and DVD as a senior high school student "Umikaze" will be released on 28 Mar before she enters university in April.

Source: Nikkansports

Brutus no Shinzou's novel by Higashino Keigo

Title: Brutus no Shinzou (Brutus' Heart)
Author: Higashino Keigo
Price: 600 yen
Number of pages: 362
ISBN: 9784334717391
Date published: August 1993
For more details on this novel, please visit this site.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Amami Yuki to star in "Kaeru no Oujosama"

Amami Yuki will star in FujiTV's spring drama "Kaeru no Oujosama" which begins airing on 12 April at 10pm Thursdays. She plays a top musical star Mio who suffers a setback at Broadway and returns to Japan to resurrect a choir made up of housewives which is on the verge of collapse. Ishida Yuriko will be a conservative housewife in the choir who doesn't accept the radical ways of Mio. This is the first time that Amami is playing a musical star in the drama but she has loads of stage experience as the top star of Tsukigumi when she was with the Takarazuka between 1987 and 1995.

Source: Sanspo

Nishikido Ryo playing himself in TBS drama "Papa wa Aidoru!"

Kanjani 8's Nishikido Ryo will be playing himself in the TBS spring drama "Papa wa Aidoru!" (Daddy is an idol) which is scheduled to begin airing in April at 9pm on Thursdays. The drama is a remake of Nakayama Miho's 1987 drama "Mama wa Aidoru" where she played a top idol who married a man with three children. In Nishikido's version, he will appear as himself using his real name and his fellow Kanjani 8 members will also make appearances using their real names. The story depicts his life after marrying a single mother played by Yuka who has three children. Kawashima Umika plays her eldest daughter. Nishikido would have to deal with the demands of his agency to either quit being an idol or divorce his wife within three months. If news of his marriage leaks out, he would have to retire immediately.

Source: Sanspo

Review of Higashino Keigo 3-week drama SP series - Brutus no Shinzou

Title: Brutus no Shinzou (Brutus' Heart)
O.A. Date: 17 June 2011
Shown via: FujiTV
Cast:
Suenaga Takuya (Fujiwara Tatsuya)
Amamiya Yasuko (Uchiyama Rina)
Nakamori Yumie (Kato Ai)
Hashimoto Atsushi (Ookura Koji)
Nishina Hoshiko (Ashina Sei)
Sayama Souichi (Kondo Yoshimasa)
Sakai Goro (Takahashi Tsutomu)
Takashima Shuji (Oshinari Shugo)
Nishina Naoki (Hakamada Yoshihiko)
Munekata Shinichi (Tsurumi Shingo)
Nishina Toshiki (Kazama Morio)

Suenaga Takuya is a rising star in industrial machinery maker MM Heavy Industries after his industrial robot system Brutus is recognised as a promising invention by the management. The president of the company, Nishina Toshiki, seems to be keen to let Suenaga date his daughter Hoshiko although Suenaga is very much aware that Hoshiko doesn't feel the same and detests arranged marriages. Unknown to them, Suenaga is involved in a secret relationship with Amamiya Yasuko who also happens to be Toshiki's secretary.

Suenaga's path to success is unexpectedly interrupted by Amamiya's announcement that she is pregnant. Amamiya insists that she's not keen on marrying Suenaga but wants him to pay for the baby's expenses. Suenaga knows that Amamiya has been sleeping with other men as well and insists that he shouldn't be made to bear the responsibility alone. Amamiya isn't bothered by his reaction and hints at exposing their relationship which will definitely spoil Suenaga's career prospects and his relationship with Hoshiko.

Just as Suenaga is troubled about Amamiya's pregnancy, he gets called to a meeting with his boss Naoki and another colleague Hashimoto. It is then when he finds out that the three of them are all involved with Amamiya and have been told to support the baby she's carrying. Naoki then suggests killing Amamiya in order to solve their problems and asks them to take part because this will allow them to create alibis for themselves. The trio draw lots and decides who does which task. In the end, Naoki has to kill Amamiya in Osaka, Suenaga to transport the body from Nagoya to Tokyo and Hashimoto to dispose the body. In order to prevent anyone from backing out of the plan and revealing the others' involvement in the case, Naoki who is responsible for the actual killing gets to keep an agreement with their signatures.

However, when it comes to the day when Amamiya is due to be killed, something happens which causes the plan to go haywire...

This SP started with something which seemed unrelated to the main story of how the three men set out to kill their lover. The death of an employee in MM Heavy Industries actually fits in as a puzzle piece in the whole mystery of why the murder relay didn't work out. I won't go into too many details on what happened in case it spoils the fun for you so I'll focus more on the story's structure and acting.

Although the story did seem quite engaging initially, I think the editing was kinda choppy especially when the scene was on the trio planning Amamiya's murder and then suddenly, we moved to the time when they were already in action. In addition, the pace slowed down considerably and the story was clearly dragging its feet especially when the number of suspects who could be the culprit withered down to almost none. From that point onwards, the story seemed to have lost its direction and was seemingly leading the viewers to nowhere. In particular, I took offence with the fact that someone who didn't get enough attention in the drama turned out to be the culprit. This person wasn't even part of the main story and seemed to have popped out of the blue to be the murderer. This really affected how I viewed this drama and sad to say, I really hated the climax scene. In the end, you get a lukewarm showdown between Suenaga and the murderer ending with something which feels a lot like preaching to me (the usual drift about good and evil).

As compared to the first drama, there aren't that many "nostalgic" faces other than Uchiyama Rina who I've not seen for some time (she may have appeared in recent dramas but I'm not following the new releases as closely as before). Nonetheless, I think she really shone as Amamiya as a sexy, scheming and shrewd woman. I've always have the impression that she's more capable of the sweetie and kind roles so it's a refreshing change from the past. I wouldn't call it a completely radical change though because there's not enough airtime for Amamiya to be developed as a more complete character but she did OK in the restricted time.

As for Fujiwara Tatsuya, I have to stress that I've always been neutral about him. I don't dislike him but I am also not particularly fond of him either. He's a good actor nonetheless, just that I think this role of Suenaga reminds me a lot of Yagami Light in Death Note. The same self-confidence, haughtiness and belief that nobody is above him are some of the similarities I noted while watching the SP. However, unlike Light, Suenaga's mindset is probably shaped by the fact that he didn't have a happy childhood. There were certain junctures when I thought I was looking at Light but I could also see the differences between both characters. That being said, it was rather difficult for me to empathise with Suenaga's plight because he had it coming after all. Initially, he might have been an "innocent" party since he didn't plan the murder but still, some of his actions were indeed controversial in deciding whether he deserved to be treated like what happened in the ending.

Compared to the first story in this series, I think the lack of tension in the second half of the story was a huge disappointment. Acting-wise, I think most of them were doing OK just that nobody really shone in such a way that made me sit up and take notice. And I still don't quite get why the title is "Brutus no Shinzou". Does that refer to how Suenaga got to see a reflection of his life through Brutus' heart in the ending scene? Well, that's the only explanation I can think of now.

And my ratings for this drama...
Story: 4 out of 10 (It would have been a better idea if the story's pace could be managed in a better way and they didn't follow the same pattern as Koori no Sekai)
Acting: 6.5 out of 10 (Generally passable acting)
Theme song: 3 out of 10 (The BGM didn't leave much of an impression and I can't even remember hearing a theme song at the end - goes to show if there had been one, it wasn't strong enough to make me remember it)
Visual effects / Scenery: 5 out of 10 (Nothing particularly nice to see and there were quite a lot of indoor shots)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 4 out of 10 (Nothing much which stands out to me)

Total: 22.5 out of 50

Monday, February 27, 2012

Toda Erika to be the heroine in spring drama "Kagi no Kakatta Heya"

Toda Erika will be taking on the heroine role in spring drama "Kagi no Kakatta Heya" which will also be the first time she is working with the male lead Ohno Satoshi. Toda plays a young lawyer Aoto Junko who is optimistic and frank and happens to see Ohno's character Enomoto unlocking a safe easily. Although she initially suspects him to be a criminal who specialises in locks, she gradually goes to him for help in solving various cases involving locked rooms.

Source: Oricon

11-moji no Satsujin's novel by Higashino Keigo

Title: 11-moji no Satsujin
Author: Higashino Keigo
Price: 580 yen
Total no. of pages: 332
First published in: December 1990
ISBN: 9784334712549
For more information, please visit here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review of Higashino Keigo 3-week drama SP series - 11-moji no Satsujin (Murder of 11 characters)

Title: 11-moji no Satsujin (Murder of 11 characters)
Original novel by: Higashino Keigo
Rating: 16.0%
Characters:
Yuuki Rikako (Nagasaku Hiromi)
Hagio Fuyuko (Hoshino Mari)
Kanai Saburo (Harada Ryuuji)
Kawazu Masayuki (Hasegawa Tomoharu)
Shinohara Koichi (Majima Hidekazu)
Sakagami Yutaka (Asari Yousuke)
Yamamori Yumi (Hinata Nanami)
Harumura Shizuko (Adachi Yumi)
Yamamori Takuya (Ishiguro Ken)

Yuuki Rikako, a female suspense novel writer, is told by her boyfriend Kawazu Masayuki that he feels like his life is in danger. However, she doesn't think much of it since Kawazu doesn't go into details on exactly why he feels this way. The two had been introduced to each other by Hagio Fuyuko, an editor at a publishing house who is a big fan and supporter of Yuuki despite her not being able to write anything for the past three years.

Kawazu is later found dead in a river but the police are unable to tell whether he fell in by mistake, committed suicide or was murdered. Remembering Kawazu's words about his life being in danger, Yuuki sets out to find the truth behind her boyfriend's death. She gradually finds that Kawazu's death could have been linked to a boat trip one year ago and is aghast to find that every person she has met so far while investigating the matter ends up murdered one after another...

Among the three stories in this Higashino Keigo drama SP series, I like this the most. With each death that occurs in the story, it actually reduces the number of suspects. You would be surprised that someone who you have suspected turns out to be the victim later so it's actually quite challenging to guess who might be the true killer. I won't go into too many details here but there's a huge decoy towards the end which makes it difficult to guess how the ending might be like. In addition, if you've seen the other two SPs as well, this is the one which has the most positive vibe at the end with Yuuki finally being able to start writing again. Compared to how dark the material may seem, the ending rounds up everything nicely so I feel more satisfied with this story.

Nagasaku Hiromi, as usual, puts up a good performance and she is looking even better than before. Likewise for Hoshino Mari, it's nice to see her again in a pretty significant role and her chemistry with Nagasaku was pretty good. However, the biggest surprise for me was to see Adachi Yumi again. I remember those days when she was still a little kid in Ienakiko and when you look at her now, the main difference is that she has matured, not just physically but also appearance-wise. It's still the same familiar face but the vibe she gives out now is very much different. Same goes for Harada Ryuuji who doesn't really look like he has aged...I think the last drama I saw him in was Ooku? I did a check on his past works in recent years but quite a number of them were actually guest appearances, not regular cast members. No wonder I have this impression that he's not appearing in many dramas these days. When you look at the cast lineup, there's a bit of nostalgia in the air because you get to see actors/actresses who aren't that active in the drama scene coming together in this SP.

And my ratings for this drama...
Story: 9 out of 10 (Sound story structure with a rather complete and positive ending)
Acting: 8 out of 10 (Good acting from the key characters in general)
Theme song: 5 out of 10 (There is only a song at the credits roll which sounded OK to me but the BGM didn't leave much of an impression)
Visual effects / Scenery: 6 out of 10 (The only so-called scenery would probably be at the island but I think it's a nice change for me at least to see more vibrant colours after Shokuzai's muted colour scheme.)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 8 out of 10 (Nagasaku vs. Hoshino are quite good but I think another pair worth mentioning will be Nagasaku's scenes with Ishiguro Ken. If you have watched this, you would know what I mean.)

Total: 36 out of 50

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"The King's Speech" to be made into a stage play

"The King's Speech" will be made into a stage play this summer and stars Shonentai's Higashiyama Noriyuki as the lead actor. The movie which had won the best movie, best director, best script and best leading actor titles in the 83rd Academy Awards last year starred Colin Firth as George VI who had a stammering problem when speaking in public. It was screened in Japan from Feb last year and managed to attract more than a million cinema-goers and made 1.82 billion yen in total. The Japanese play will be shown in late August at Tokyo's Setagaya Public Theatre and at Osaka's Morinomiya Piloti Hall. As for the British version, it will be from Feb this year so Japan will be the 2nd country which has adapted the movie into a stage play.

Source: Sports Hochi

"Kazoku no Uta" may change its storyline following allegations of plagiarism

During FujiTV's regular press conference on 24 Feb, its president Toyoda Gou commented on recent reports of alleged plagiarism regarding the new spring drama "Kazoku no Uta". The controversy began when a scriptwriter Ban Kazuhiko remarked on his Twitter that the drama's setting of a former rock musician suddenly realises that he has three daughters with three different women was very similar to the TBS drama "Papa wa Newscaster" which he wrote the script for and hinted at the possibility of plagiarism. The TBS drama which was aired in 1987 starred Tamura Masakazu as a newscaster who finds himself having to live with three daughters born by different women.

President Toyoda said that the producers in charge of "Kazoku no Uta" had met Ban and TBS director Yagi Yasuo on 20 Feb regarding this matter where the producer-in-charge admitted having the impression of watching Ban's drama as a kid. Following that meeting, the drama's setting will be tweaked accordingly.

Source: Nikkansports

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Hmm...bad publicity even before the drama started. We'll see how they can twist the story to make sure it doesn't end up being called a copycat.

Preview of Suitei Yuuzai 推定有罪

Title: Suitei Yuuzai 推定有罪 (Assumed guilty)
Official website: here
Broadcast by: WOWOW
Timeslot: Sundays 10pm
O.A. Start Date: 25 Mar 2012
Original novel by: Maekawa Yoichi
Cast: Nakamura Toru, Kuroki Hitomi, Mimura, Motokariya Yuika, Terajima Susumu, Matsuo Suzuki, Nakamura Shunsuke, Aijima Kazuyuki, Hakamata Yoshihiko, Kirijima Reika, Kusabue Mitsuko, Ryu Raita, Mitsuishi Ken, Shiba Toshio, Jinnai Takanori and Kunimura Jun

Friday, February 24, 2012

Eita and Kubozuka Yosuke in movie "Monsters Club"

The premiere screening of movie "Monsters Club" was held on 23 Feb where cast members Eita and Kubozuka Yosuke made appearances. The movie is scheduled to be screened from 21 April. Eita spoke for the first time regarding his father's suicide a year ago which was when the filming of this movie took place. He commented that it was a hard time for him then but he was glad that he could confide in Kubozuka during that period which helped him cope with his father's death. Kubozuka then said that Eita was very strong to have overcome the crisis and he himself would not have been able to do that.

Source: Nikkansports

Bunshin's novel by Higashino Keigo

Title: Bunshin
Author: Higashino Keigo
Price: 730 yen
First published on: 20 Sep 1996
ISBN: 9784087485196
For more information, please visit this site.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Suzuki-sensei" to be made into a movie this autumn

Hasegawa Hiroki will be starring in his first leading role in a movie when "Suzuki-sensei" starts its run in cinemas this autumn. Despite the fact that the average ratings for this drama shown last spring was a mere 2.1%, the DVD was selling very well and Hasegawa's popularity in dramas like "Kaseifu no Mita" made it possible for the drama to be made into a movie. The producer of the drama Yamashika Tatsuya commented that it couldn't be helped that "Suzuki-sensei" didn't do well on TV partly because it had strong competition in the same timeslot i.e. "SMAPxSMAP" on FujiTV and "Shabekuri 007" on NTV but he believes that the quality of the movie would make it a hit in cinemas.

Filming will begin from 5 March and co-stars include Yamaguchi Tomomitsu and Usuda Asami.

Source: Sports Hochi

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Somehow, this feels like a big leap of faith for TV Tokyo. Average rating of 2.1% still warrants a movie adaptation? I've never watched this drama so I can't tell whether it was really because of the competition that caused the low viewership. Nonetheless, this is such a huge gamble even though Hasegawa Hiroki is indeed popular these days.

Shinohara Ryoko gave birth to her second child

Shinohara Ryoko's and Ichimura Masachika's second son was born on 22 Feb as announced in a fax statement that same evening. Shinohara had been on maternity leave since the end of last year and will plan her return to work after taking a break.

Source: Sanspo

Preview of Bunshin 分身

Title: Bunshin 分身 (Alter Ego)
Official website: here
Broadcast by: WOWOW
Timeslot: Sundays 10pm
O.A. Start Date: 12 Feb 2012
Total number of episodes: 5
Cast: Nagasawa Masami, Katsuji Ryo, Usuda Asami, Sano Shiro, Suzuki Sawa, Tezuka Satomi, Ibu Masato

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Arashi's Ohno Satoshi and Aiba Masaki starring in separate spring dramas

Arashi's Ohno Satoshi and Aiba Masaki will be battling it out as the leads of two separate spring dramas starting in April.

Ohno will be starring in FujiTV Gekku drama "Kagi no Kakatta Heya" as Enomoto Kei, an employee of a security services firm who is a security systems otaku and does research on it in the warehouse of his company. The drama is based on a mystery novel by Kishi Yusuke. Enomoto believes that there is no lock which cannot be unlocked and is more concerned with solving the mystery of locked rooms rather than the truth behind the case. Nonetheless, with his expertise in this field, Enomoto manages to solve many difficult cases.

On the other hand, Aiba is also starring in another suspense drama "Mikeneko Holmes no Suiri" based on the novel by Akagawa Jiro which will be shown at 9pm on Saturdays on NTV. The novel has sold 2.6m copies to date and is one of Akagawa's signature works. Aiba plays a hopeless police detective Katayama Yoshitaro who joined the police force because he admired his late father who was a famous detective. However, Katayama faints at the sight of blood, is scared of heights, women and ghosts and is on the verge of quitting his job. When he happens to meet Holmes, the mikeneko who understands human languages and has a sharp mind, Katayama starts to depend on Holmes to help him solve tough cases.

Source: Nikkansports, Sanspo, Sanspo

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The spring season suddenly seems so appealing to me... ^__^ Lots of interesting dramas (at least on paper) so I'll see how many will make me stay till the end.

Actually, this isn't a direct ratings battle between Ohno and Aiba since their dramas aren't in the same slot. However, given that the genre is similar and they both play characters who are unlike the usual type of police detectives we see in serious suspense dramas, there will definitely be comparisons made between them. Somehow, I think these characters are tailored for them. Ohno usually appears disinterested in most things but perks up when it's about fishing or art. Likewise for Aiba, he always appears a bit clumsy and unreliable on variety shows so it fits the character he's going to play. Hope that all goes well for them!

Review of Seinaru Kaibutsutachi Ep 5

This episode simply flew by because there were so many things happening in just 45 minutes. Some of my guesses went the other way while some were partially correct. It was exciting to see how the pieces of the puzzle fell into place and how some seemingly impossible things could be achieved. Ep 5 also marks the end of the first arc which can be summarised as how the surrogate pregnancy scheme was hatched and executed. Now that the baby is born, it looks like the theme of the second half of this drama will be how the key players fight to keep the truth from being exposed.

Following Mie's fall from the staircase, Keiko panics and calls her sister for help since she cannot reach Toshio nor the gynae. Kasugai then instructs Keiko to drive Mie to Okubo Hospital and drop her off before escaping from the scene. This actually provides answers to two questions: why Mie didn't give birth with the help of that gynae who Toshio bribed and who was the one who drove Mie to the hospital. In the first episode, Kasugai had been standing beside the window for a reason. She was waiting for Keiko drop off Mie and drive away. As soon as that happens, Kasugai scurries to get help in order for Mie to be able to give birth at Okubo Hospital. As fate would have it, Shiba and Yoko are both on duty so my guess that Shiba was tricked into delivering the baby was only half correct. Shiba didn't know what was going on but he certainly wasn't forced to treat Mie. As a doctor, he had to do so and of course, Kasugai did play some tricks to make it happen.

As the hospital does not have any gynae who can handle the Caesaran operation, Shiba is reluctant to take this on especially since he has not done this before. However, Kasugai manages to persuade Shiba to do it because there aren't any hospitals which would accept Mie and it would be dangerous for her to be transferred to somewhere else. Now, that's something I think which might be easily found to be untrue since I doubt Kasugai really checked with other hospitals to accept Mie. Anyway, Shiba trusts Kasugai so much that he's more than willing to listen to what she says. It will probably hurt even more at the end when he finds out that Kasugai plays such a huge role in the scam and isn't as noble as he thinks. One other thing which should be a potential key factor in determining when the surrogate mother scam comes to live and how it is exposed will be Itokawa. He happens to overhear Kasugai's conversation with Toshio on the phone so it will be soon before he realises what is going on. The thing is, will he be drawn into the scheme as an accomplice or be the one who helps Shiba to expose the ugly truth? It's quite difficult to tell because Itokawa does seem to like Shiba but if he is indeed in financial difficulty like what the last episode implied, he might just sell his conscience for money.

Although the baby is born successfully, Mie suddenly develops contradictions and dies. This is a crushing blow to Shiba and he starts to doubt whether he did anything wrong to cause Mie's death. On the other hand, Kasugai is busy making arrangements to make sure nobody suspects a thing about Mie's case so this is when her "intelligence" comes into play. Frankly speaking, I was doubting how they could pass on Mie's baby to Toshio and Keiko given that Mie came in as an unidentified patient. To think that the scriptwriter managed to make it work with the inclusion of a few missing puzzle pieces!

True to what I guessed previously, Okubo and Yoko would be pulled into the scam sooner or later. What I didn't expect was that it was done as a form of salvaging the critical situation rather than being a planned move. Of course, from the opening scene in Ep 1, it was already evident that Okubo would have to be bought over so that Mie could deliver the baby at his hospital. I didn't really see how Yoko would fit into the picture prior to this episode. In Yoko's case, Kasugai knew that Yoko has been receiving money on the sly from patients so the latter has no choice but to do her bidding. Yoko probably won't be as persistent in finding out the truth like Shiba but at least there's one more person to hide the secret and assist in stopping Shiba from probing further. As for Okubo, the reason why he hopped onto the train of accomplices ultimately boils down to money. With Toshio's backing, his hospital can be saved from financial ruin so there's no way he would reject such a tempting proposal.

Even with these people being bribed to turn a blind eye to things, there is still the difficulty of how the baby could be taken away from the hospital without anyone suspecting anything. I think the timing of taking away Mie's body and the baby was calculated in such a way that Shiba wouldn't be around to question anything but it just so happens (coincidences only happen in dramaland, we all know that the scriptwriter deliberately planned for this so that there will be more clues for Shiba later to piece the story together) that he catches a glimpse of Toshio. True, he may not have met Toshio formally (Shiba probably couldn't remember Toshio and Keiko when she was sent to the university hospital after suffering a miscarriage) but his suspicions would definitely be aroused when he finds out that Toshio is Keiko's husband so why would Toshio be Mie's family and take away the baby? And I was thinking that it is extremely dumb of Toshio to turn back while in the cab. Shiba could have managed to take a good look at his face when that happened.

We still have half the run to go so it doesn't mean that the story ends with Mie's death. Of course, Shiba's guilt in being inexperienced and indirectly causing Mie's death will prompt him to find out the truth despite people around him trying to stop this. Itokawa's presence may also serve to be a key factor on how fast Shiba gets to know the bottom of things. Itokawa has also dropped a hint to Shiba that he isn't responsible for Mie's death so this would be a sign to the latter that Itokawa knows something. As for where his loyalty lies, it's really not easy to tell. When Shiba traces the address given to the hospital, he finds out that it's fake so this will be another key warning sign to him that things aren't that simple after all.

We also have two other subplots i.e. Yoko's acquaintance (or rather family member since they share the same surname) meeting Shiba for the first time and the appearance of someone who has come looking for Mie. The masterminds in this scam did not foresee this happening for sure because they chose Mie simply due to the fact that she doesn't have friends nor family so nobody would be looking for Mie when she was staying at Keiko's house during the pregnancy. Now that someone has come looking for her, that should be another sign of trouble as people start to trace Mie's whereabouts. It's probably going to be a tall order because Mie's cremation was done without her photo and I doubt that Kasugai or Toshio put down Mie's real name as the deceased people. Makes me wonder how Shiba is going to make the link between the dead mother with Mie.

To put it bluntly, Mie's death actually turns out to be a better outcome for some of the people in the scam. First of all, Keiko would benefit because she wouldn't have to rack her brains on how to prevent Mie from taking off with the child and be on tenterhooks all day long. For Toshio, he wouldn't have to worry about Mie revealing their affair to Keiko and in turn exposing the fact that the child isn't Keiko's. Even for Kasugai, it would be easier to handle things since she wouldn't have to help Keiko deal with Mie after their aim was achieved. However, if she had not died, would it mean that Shiba wouldn't try to investigate why Mie had to come to Okubo Hospital to give birth? If she had not died, would that man looking for Mie appear after all?

As we move to the second half of the story, the focus would be on how to keep the pack of lies under wraps. It will definitely be a series of near-misses and harrowing scares for the "holy monsters" as they try to make sure nobody finds out the truth. I'm actually looking forward to the final showdown between Shiba and Kasugai as he confronts her about her role in the scam and how she will justify her actions so I can't wait for Shiba to get to the truth soon.

At the same time, I also hope that the drama won't end too early (i.e. number of episodes being cut due to low ratings). When you look at this drama's official BBS, a lot of people mention recording the show and watching it later or catching the repeat telecast. This goes to show that the actual ratings on the first screening seems to be underestimating the reach of this drama (well, not just for this drama definitely). It's also quite worrying especially when this drama only has one competitor in the same timeslot i.e. Saikou no Jinsei no Owarikata. Some people have complained that this is a half-baked medical drama but frankly speaking, this was never touted as one like Iryu or Kyuumei Byoto 24 Ji. TV Asahi markets this as a medical suspense drama so for those who were looking for something like Iryu, they would have stopped watching this long ago. As a suspense drama, I think it's doing quite well in terms of the storyline and acting but I have to admit, Okada Masaki is really overshadowed by the veterans around him. He needs to build up a stronger screen presence in the second arc of the story or risk being a lead character who people can't really remember him for anything.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shokuzai's novel by Minato Kanae

Title: Shokuzai
Author: Minato Kanae
First published on: 15 Jun 2009
Total number of pages: 254
ISBN: 9784488017569
For more details on the novel and to sample the first few pages, please go here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Kusanagi Tsuyoshi to star in FujiTV spring drama "37sai de Isha ni Natta Boku ~ Kenshuui Junjou Monogatari"

SMAP's Kusanagi Tsuyoshi will be starring in FujiTV's spring drama "37-sai de Isha ni Natta Boku ~ Kenshuui Junjou Monogatari" (I became a doctor at 37 ~ An Intern's pure love story) which will be shown in the Tuesday 10pm timeslot. This is his first drama back in the same timeslot since his hit "Boku series" ended six years ago.

Kusanagi will play a former salaryman who worked at a foodstuff manufacturer who quite at the age of 30 and entered medical school in order to be a doctor. He becomes an intern in the internal medicine department of the university hospital at the age of 37. The story is based on the true life experience of Kawabuchi Keiichi, a doctor-cum-writer who graduated from University of Tokyo and worked at various companies. Later, he quit his job and spent a year coping himself at home before entering University of Kyoto's medicine faculty becoming an intern at 37. Kawabuchi then went on to publish two books on his experience in 2002 and 2011.

Source: Sanspo

Angela Aki gave birth to her first son

Singer-songwriter Angela Aki announced through her official website on 20 Feb that she had given birth to her first son. She got married to a music director in March 2007.

Source: Sanspo

Matsuyama Kenichi & Eita promoting their new movie "Bokutachi Kyuukou A Ressha de Ikou"

Matsuyama Kenichi and Eita appeared at Shinagawa Prince Cinema on 19 Feb for the premiere screening of their new movie "Bokutachi Kyuukou A Ressha de Ikou" which is due to be screened from 24 March onwards. The movie also happens to be the last movie from director Morita Yoshimitsu who died suddenly last Dec. As part of the screening, there was a tour of Kyushu via train since it was the place where the filming took place. After attending the premiere screening, Matsuyama and Eita made a surprise appearance on the Shinkansen to meet fans who signed up for the tour and were headed to Hakata Station in Fukuoka.

Source: Sanspo

Top 10 Showa Period female idols ranking

*Note that numbers in brackets indicate the number of votes.

1) Yamaguchi Momoe (419)

2) Amachi Mari (396)

3) Matsuda Seiko (310)

4) Koizumi Kyoko (144)

5) Pink Lady (142)

6) Candies (139)

7) Nakamori Akina (101)

8) Nakayama Miho (71)

9) Onyanko Club (55)

10) Kawai Naoko (48)

Source: Nikkansports

Terajima Shinobu reportedly pregnant

Terajima Shinobu is reportedly in the early stage of her first pregnancy, as published in articles on 20 Feb. She got married to a French art director on 26 Feb 2007. Terajima had appeared in public recently for a press conference of her new movie and being the host for the Blue Ribbon awards but there were no significant changes to her figure yet.

Source: Nikkansports

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review of Shokuzai Ep 5 (Final)

As far as I can remember, Shokuzai has one of the better drama finales I've seen in recent years. The drama started with a bang (thanks to the fast-paced storytelling and stellar performances from Koizumi Kyoko, Aoi Yu and Moriyama Mirai), got a little sluggish in the middle but still managed to end on a high note. Before I get to the review of the entire drama, let me recap the story in the finale first. If you do not wish to know the developments before watching the drama, please skip this post.

Asako gets a clue from Yuka about the identity of the killer and is preparing to look for him. Her husband Toshiro senses that she is up to something and tries to persuade her to give things up but Asako doesn't pay heed to the warning. This is actually the first time Toshiro appears in the drama and we see how he reacted to Emily's untimely death 15 years back. Compared to Asako's deep grief and bitterness, Toshiro appeared relatively unaffected because he could still handle work matters weeks after Emily's murder. I don't think it's because he didn't love Emily as much as Asako but rather, being someone who manages a company and the head of the family, he probably didn't have the luxury like Asako to grieve openly and for a prolonged period. You can see that he still misses Emily when he remarked that their son (born after Emily's death) will be at his late sister's age soon. He knows Asako is still being badly affected by Emily's murder and I think he knows very well that she is hunting for the killer. Although he doesn't think that it is good to continue being affected by the past, he still lets Asako have her way because he knows that only getting the killer nabbed will bring closure for his wife.

Using that clue which Yuka gave her, Asako sets off to look for Aoki Hiroaki (Kagawa Teruyuki), the principal of a free-school and it turns out this man is actually her ex-lover Nanjo Hiroaki! Nanjo changed his surname to Aoki because he married into his wife's family and set up the free school for kids who couldn't adapt to the regular school system in Yamanashi Prefecture. I think Asako could have already guessed Aoki's true identity before seeing him because she was wary of being seen by him. Nonetheless, the reunion of these two was really exciting to watch, thanks to Koizumi's and Kagawa's great acting. I won't go into details on what exactly transpired between them in the past (way before Emily was killed) but I'll go straight to their final showdown.

Actually, once Nanjo appeared in the story, it was already confirmed that he was Emily's killer. However, he didn't set out to kill her just to get back at Asako in the first place. An uncanny series of coincidences led Nanjo to find out what Asako did long ago and he just wanted to hurt Emily in one way or another to get back at Asako. That means Nanjo had no intention of raping or killing Emily in the first place but at the time of the crime, something went off in his mind and he went to the extreme. Frankly speaking, I didn't realise that Emily was sexually assaulted at the time of the murder and it was only until this episode when I found out what happened. Asako didn't understand why Nanjo could be so cruel to Emily and was expecting to see his remorse when she revealed that Emily was Nanjo's daughter (he had raped Asako before she got married to Toshiro). However, Nanjo didn't react in the way she wanted and frankly speaking, it was rather sickening to hear what he had to say about raping and killing Emily.

In the end, Nanjo chose to kill himself as a final present to Asako and in a way, it's an atonement towards what he did. However, I don't think he was really fearless as he appeared because he crouched down before the train hit him. When Asako was brought back to the police station, she insisted that she pushed Nanjo onto the tracks but the police found that she was innocent and released her. As Asako walks away aimlessly from the police station, she realises that she no longer has an aim in life and that she doesn't know what to do to make it up to Emily...

If we want to discuss who should bear the most responsibility for Emily's death and the subsequent tragedies which happened to Emily's friends, Asako would appear to be the one. Asako's obsessive love for Nanjo in the past spurred her to do the wrong thing and in turn, Nanjo's hatred for Asako made him do the worst thing possible to Emily. If Asako didn't threaten Emily's friends to make appropriate "amends" towards Emily, would that have spared Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuka from the misery they suffered 15 years later? However, for her part in causing everything which happened, her fate at the end of the drama does make people sympathise with her to a certain extent. She wouldn't have known in advance that her actions would cause so much pain to the people around her. It might not have hurt as much if Asako did suffer retribution for what she did. However, unrelated people took the brunt for her and in the end, she has to pay with losing her purpose in life, not knowing what she can do to make amends to Emily and the burden of causing four girls and Nanjo's lives to be affected adversely by her obsessive nature.

Shokuzai succeeds as an emotionally-charged story because of three main reasons i.e. the story, acting and atmosphere. Although I had some complaints about Ep 2 and 3 i.e. Maki and Akiko's arcs, I think the quality of the drama in general is very good. Especially in the last episode, it was filled with lots of tension as you see the truth unraveling. I have been disappointed many times when the finale spoiled good dramas so it was a relief that Shokuzai surprised me in a good way.

Acting-wise, Koizumi Kyoko takes the cake for potraying Asako so well as a grieving mother who has an unknown side and past. At times, you think that she has really lost it but sometimes, Asako appears so lucid and normal (especially when she's with her husband and son) that you think she is playing two different persons. Kagawa Teruyuki only appeared for one episode but is such a joy to watch with his potrayal of the twisted Nanjo. Well, Nanjo wasn't like this but he sort of went crazy after discovering what Asako did so it gave me the creeps especially when he faced off with Asako during their reunion and during the climax scene when he responded to the revelation that Emily was his daughter. As for the four ladies who potrayed the grown-up versions of Emily's friends, it is really difficult to judge them because their stories placed different restrictions on their characters so Ando Sakura and Koike Eiko appeared a bit weaker to me because their stories didn't mesh as well as Aoi Yu's or Ikewaki Chizuru's episodes with the main storyline of making amends to Emily for not remembering the killer. Especially for Ando who had to emphasize Akiko's plain appearance and character, she didn't stand out as much as the rest because she had to divide her screen time between appearing normal and looking like she was hallucinating. We also have to look at their "partners" in their stories. Aoi had Moriyama Mirai play her weirdo husband which gave Sae's story added impact while the rest didn't have someone like this. Kase Ryo was impressive but he didn't have much time to show what he could do. Personally, I like Aoi's story the best but I also think Ikewaki did pretty well albeit the story being a bit more predictable than the first episode.

As mentioned before, the toned-down colour contrast helped a lot in making the story more engaging. It seems to represent how the main characters' lives have lost their colour ever since Emily's death and sets the stage for the tragedies that unfolded. If you look at Asako's final scene, it was so misty and gloomy that the only way for her seemed to be death. Of course, we wouldn't know Asako's fate through the drama but the setting did boost the impact of Asako's despair being relayed to the viewers.

If you are one who doesn't like emotionally-heavy dramas, this may be a bit difficult to stomach but if you are prepared to give it a try, you should feel satisfied by the end of it.

And my ratings for this drama...
Story: 8.5 out of 10 (I would have given it a perfect 10 if not for the sluggish pace in the middle of its run)
Acting: 9 out of 10 (Good acting from the key characters in general)
Theme song: 7 out of 10 (There's no theme song but I think the BGM was quite good in building up the suspense)
Visual effects / Scenery: 7.5 out of 10 (It may be a bit uncomfortable to see the muted colour scheme but it lends credit to the story and builds up the heavy atmosphere. Some of the scenes at Yamanashi e.g. when Asako and Nanjo talked in the forest looked quite nice)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 8 out of 10 (This is for three pairs of actors - Aoi Yu vs. Moriyama Mirai, Koizumi Kyoko vs. Ikewaki Chizuru and of course Koizumi vs. Kagawa Teruyuki)

Total: 40 out of 50

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Koura Kengo starring in WOWOW drama "Tsumi to Batsu A Falsified Romance"

Koura Kengo will be starring in WOWOW's drama "Tsumi to Batsu A Falsified Romance" (Crime & Punishment) which is due to be shown from 29 April on Sundays at 10pm. The drama is based on Russian author Dostoyevsky's signature work "Crime & Punishment" but will be set in modern Japan. This drama will be Koura's first in a leading role and he plays an university student Tachi Miroku whose father committed suicide and has to bear the expectations of his mother and elder sister. As a result, Miroku develops a character who places a lot of emphasis of his pride and yet feels inferior to others at the same time. One day, Miroku decides to kill a female senior high school student who is the mastermind behind an enjokousai group but something happens at the crime scene to foil his plans...

Koura commented that he had a lot of lines in the drama and had to undergo a lot of emotional upheavals while playing this character. According to him, it can be really taxing at times as he had to go through Miroku's darker emotions during the filming which started on 20 Jan and is expected to wrap up on 20 Mar.

Co-stars include Mizukawa Asami who plays Ameya Echika, Tanaka Tetsuji who plays a mysterious man drawn to Miroku and Ibu Masato as the police detective who tries to find out what Miroku is thinking. Hashimoto Ai plays the leader of the enjoukosai group while Someya Shota plays a deliveryman who sends the prostitution proceeds to the leader.

Source: Sports Hochi

Video Research's CM Celebrities' Exposure Ranking 2011

Top 10 in Kanto region
1) Ueto Aya
2) Owada Kensuke
3) Oshima Yuko
4) Maeda Atsuko
5) Nagatomo Yuuto
6) Dante Carver
7) Shinoda Mariko
8) Sakurai Sho
9) Matsuki Rina
10) Takei Emi

Top 10 in Kansai region
1) Ueto Aya
2) Oshima Yuko
3) Owada Kensuke
4) Maeda Atsuko
5) Karasawa Toshiaki
6) Shinoda Mariko
7) Becky
8) Ayase Haruka
9) Dante Carver
10) Takahashi Minami

Top 10 in Nagoya region
1) Ueto Aya
2) Maeda Atsuko
3) Karina
4) Oshima Yuko
5) Owada Kensuke
6) Shinoda Mariko
7) Dante Carver
8) Takei Emi
9) Amami Yuki
10) Takahashi Minami

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sato Ryuuta to star in NTV spring drama "Cleopatra na Onnatachi"

Sato Ryuuta will star in NTV's spring drama "Cleopatra na Onnatachi" to be shown from April in the Wednesdays 10pm slot. The story by Oishi Shizuka is set in a plastic surgery clinic and Sato plays a skilful plastic surgeon who's cool towards people and dislikes women. His co-stars include Inamori Izumi, Kitano Kii, Ayano Go, Miura Shohei and Yo Kimiko.

Source: Sports Hochi

Okada Masaki to star in "Mirai Nikki - Another: World - "

FujiTV's Sat 11pm timeslot which boasted hit dramas such as "Life", "Liar Game" and "SP" will be making a comeback in April for the first time in two years. The first drama to be launched will be "Mirai Nikki - Another: World -" starring Okada Masaki. This is the 2nd time Okada is playing a lead role in a drama featured in the same timeslot following Otomen three years ago.

The drama is based on a manga by Esuno Sakae which has sold more than 4 million copies to date. The manga series ran from 2006 to 2011 and features Okada as Hoshino Shinta, an university student (in the manga, it's a junior high student) who gets a mirai nikki (diary of the future) and is shocked at his bleak future. He strives to do things to change the course of his future and gets involved in a survival game with other people who also hold the diaries.

Source: Sanspo

Review of Shokuzai Ep 4

The story now shifts to Yuka (Ikewaki Chizuru), the last of the quartet who had been close friends with Emily. At the time of the murder, Yuka had gone to report the case to the police. As a result of this encounter, Yuka started to have an unexplainable infatuation with the policeman she met that day. It could be due to the fact that Yuka was practically ignored at home because her sickly sister Mayu hogged their mother's attention. Whenever Yuka went to the police post to turn in lost items she found, she was basking in the attention and praise the policeman showered on her. However, this did not last as the policeman was transferred to another place.

Compared to her other friends who had been seriously affected by Asako's threatening words, Yuka declared that she wasn't going to do Asako's bidding and would live the way she wants. I don't think that it necessarily means that she's emotionally stronger than the rest. Due to the fact that Yuka had been neglected by her mother at home, she had no choice but to toughen up emotionally or put up a front to show that she wasn't affected at all.

15 years later, Yuka becomes the owner of a florist shop (probably due to financing from a married man Noguchi who seems to be having an affair with her) while her elder sister Mayu is already married to Murakami Keita. Due to the fact that her shop is near her sister's place, Yuka starts to know more about Keita and finds out that he's a policeman. This ignites the dormant infatuation she has always held for policemen and the jealousy towards her sister for having the things she has always wanted. Yuka then seduces Keita and even becomes pregnant with his child. This causes Mayu to collapse from the shock and Keita scurrying to save his marriage. At the same time, Asako sends a letter to Yuka, asking to meet her because she doesn't want her words to have the same undesirable effects on Yuka like how her friends suffered. However, Yuka doesn't go to visit Asako immediately and only does so when she uncovers a clue to Emily's murder.

Frankly speaking, among the four episodes so far, I think Yuka's story is the best in terms of pace and developments. Sae's story took a long time to develop and was bordering on being too draggy at times although I enjoyed it as a whole. Maki's story likewise suffered from a similar problem and the half-hearted ending not talking much about her fate feels like unfinished business to me. Akiko's story left a lot to imagination and we couldn't even be sure whether she was reading too much into the situation or those events did happen. Yuka's story dealt not only with her own feelings of feeling victimised and suffering from the side effects of favouritism (of course, she wasn't the pampered one) but also the dynamics of her relationship with her sister even after they had grown up and how far she was willing to go in order to achieve her aims. I don't think she really likes Keita but his being a policeman and her brother-in-law just made her go all out to snatch him from Mayu.

The title referring to the 10-month pregnancy period seems to be suggesting that Yuka might undergo a change in her character after being a mother. It isn't that significant but I think her stand did soften a bit. She initially wanted Asako to exchange her husband for the clue on the killer but gave it to her readily after Asako sent her to hospital following some complications with her pregnancy. Coupled with the fact that Yuka pushed Keita to his death, it could have meant that she felt that there was no more reason to hold on to the clue and she owed Asako a favour after all.

Now that Asako has a clue to the killer, looks like we are in for a showdown between her and the culprit. It does seem that Emily wasn't kiled due to chance so there should be something linking Asako and that man. If this happens to be true, that means Asako also has a duty to make amends towards Emily for her past actions?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nakayama Miho to be back in a drama after 10 years

Nakayama Miho will be starring in the TBS drama SP "Shuuchakueki - Twilight Express no Koi" (title not confirmed) along with Sato Koichi which is due to be shown on 20 March at 9pm. This is the first time she's appearing in a drama since she got married and moved to Paris with her family. Nakayama and Sato play ex-lovers who get together again despite her character being married. Filming took place in Niigata Prefecture.

Source: Sports Hochi

Eguchi Yosuke and Tokiwa Takako star in FujiTV drama SP "Saikai"

Eguchi Yosuke and Tokiwa Takako will be working together for the first time in FujiTV's drama SP "Saikai" (broadcast timeslot not confirmed yet). The SP will be based on a suspense novel by Yokozeki Dai which won the Edogawa Ranpo award in 2010. Unlike usual SPs, the filming started on 2 Feb and will extend for a month at various spots in Chiba and Gunma Prefectures.

Eguchi and Tokiwa play childhood friends along with Tsutsumi Shinichi and Kagawa Teruyuki who come together again when a murder takes place. The gun which had been used during the murder actually came from a policeman who died in the line of duty 27 years ago. However, this gun was actually buried in the school field by this group of four friends for some reason and someone among them had apparently dug out the gun...

Source: Sanspo

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Wow, such an interesting lineup there! Wonder when this will be aired though?

SMAP to sing the theme song for Horikita Maki's NHK morning drama

SMAP will be singing the theme song "Sakasama no Sora" for the NHK morning drama "Ume-chan Sensei" which starts on 2 April at 8am on Mondays to Saturdays. The drama stars Horikita Maki as a doctor in the post-war period. This is the first time SMAP is singing the theme song for a NHK morning drama and also the first for a Johnny's Jimusho artiste. Although this is the first time SMAP is involved in a morning drama's theme song, member Inagaki Goro appeared in such a drama himself in 1989 when he acted in "Seishun Kazoku" at the age of 15.

Source: Nikkansports

Oshio Manabu headed for prison after appeal was rejected

Oshio Manabu's appeal against his 2.5 years prison sentence (originally suspended but revoked later) for abandoning the woman who consumed drugs with him and leaving her to die was rejected by the Supreme Court on 15 Feb. As such, he will be expected to serve at least 3.5 years in prison because he was convicted of another consumption of drugs offence in Nov 2009 and this was in violation of the conditions for him to receive a suspended prison sentence.

Source: Nikkansports

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

UPDATE: Tamayama Tetsuji got married to a friend of Yamada Takayuki

More updates on the lady who Tamayama Tetsuji married yesterday:

- She is six years younger than Tamayama and works as a housekeeper.

- The marriage application was filed by her yesterday.

- Tamayama's wife is currently three months' pregnant. No plans for a wedding.

- She is actually a friend of Yamada Takayuki who also happens to be a buddy of Tamayama. They knew each other six months ago and started dating soon after that. The couple began living together since the end of last year.

Source: Nikkansports

Review of Shokuzai Ep 3

The third story focuses on Takano Akiko, the girl who went to inform Asako about Emily's death. As compared to Sae and Maki, I think Akiko was affected in a different way by the incident. Sae and Maki didn't seem like they were emotionally flawed in any way especially when Maki was potrayed to be a top performer and natural leader in a group. They only changed because of Emily's murder. However, Akiko seemed to have been belittled by her mother since young and therefore appeared to lack self confidence. What happened to Emily only served to reinforce her belief that she didn't deserve to look good and behave like a normal girl but I wouldn't say it changed her fundamentally in the same way Sae and Maki did.

Before Emily's murder, Akiko was pretty much what we would call the plain Jane. She didn't really stand out as a kid in the group of five girls and seemed to be slipping into the background most of the time. However, a turning point came when her aunt bought Akiko a branded dress which made her realise that she could be as cute as her friends and look good just like an ordinary little girl. Unfortunately, Emily's murder destroyed this little flicker of self-confidence. Akiko happened to be wearing this dress on that fateful day and as Asako rushed to the school after being informed by Akiko, the little girl was pushed aside and fell down at the garden of Asako's house. She ended up having a nose bleed which stained her dress so badly that her mother had to throw it away. After hearing her mother's remarks that she should never have worn that dress, Akiko started to have this idea that she is like a bear and should never behave like a girl anymore. I think this could be her own way of punishing herself so that she never enjoys the happiness of leading a normal life.

Something also differentiates Akiko from Sae and Maki who didn't seem particularly close to anyone in their families. Akiko has a brother Koji who dotes on her and she looks up to him. Actually, other than the fact that Akiko copes herself up in her room, is not working and never dresses like a woman in her 20s, she's pretty normal in the family side of things because she goes out to run errands for her mother and holds decent conversations with them. When Koji returns home from Tokyo after getting married to a woman named Haruka who already has a daughter (Wakaba), Akiko starts to change and suspects that something is not quite right.

Well, from this point onwards, if you are not prepared to know what happened at the end, it might be a good idea to skip the review.

Frankly speaking, it was difficult to tell if what happened was Akiko's imagination or that Koji really was up to no good. True, he was seen once in the company of a young girl and that Wakaba appeared resistant to the idea of spending time alone with her stepfather. However, that scene when Koji and Wakaba were playing together on the bed is pretty much open to everyone's interpretation. Maybe they were just having fun in a harmless manner but Akiko's suspicions about Koji had been building up and that scene sort of tipped the balance in her mind. I personally think that it probably feels a bit weird for the stepfather to play like that with his stepdaughter but then Wakaba didn't look like she was being forced or anything. That's why I get the feeling that Akiko would not have over-reacted if she didn't think badly of Koji in the first place. Coupled with her guilt towards not being able to save Emily and her promise to Asako to compensate for her inability to help with the capture of Emily's murderer prompted her to do what she did. Then again, if you think of it in another way, I don't feel that it was entirely for Emily's sake nor Asako's after all. At the very least, Asako wasn't convinced by Akiko's rationale that she killed her brother because she saw him as a threat to Wakaba's well-being. Akiko's argument was that she didn't want Wakaba to end up like Emily but this does sound a bit far-fetched to me.

I think by this point in time, Asako would have some doubts in her mind as to whether her action 15 years ago destroyed the lives of these young girls. One murdered her husband, one lost her career while another killed her own brother. It now remains to be seen how the fourth girl will turn out and it appears that she will finally provide Asako with some answers she needs before we get to the finale episode of finding who the murderer was.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

FujiTV Spring 2012 drama "Legal High"

Sakai Masato will be starring in FujiTV spring drama "Legal High" which is due to be shown from April in the Tuesday 9pm slot. This will be the first time Sakai is playing a lawyer. Filming is scheduled to begin in early March.

The drama's scriptwriter is Furusawa Ryota who is well-known for the movie "ALWAYS 3chome no Yuuhi". Sakai plays a lawyer Komikado Kensuke who graduated from a third-rate university and opened his law firm after passing the bar exams. His character is an arrogant man who always makes sarcastic remarks, is eccentric, thinks nothing about wasting things or resources and has a strong liking for money, fame and women. However, Mikado is well-known for his motto of going all out for the sake of his client and boasts of a 100% success rate in his lawsuits. As a result, he has the worst reputation in the legal industry and is at loggerheads with Mayuzumi Machiko (Aragaki Yui), a fellow lawyer who's very serious about her work.

Co-stars also include Satomi Kotaro and Namase Katsuhisa.

Source: Sanspo

Uchi Hiroki & Sasamoto Reina dating?

Uchi Hiroki and Sasamoto Reina were caught leaving the same apartment block according to the 14 Feb issue of "Shuukan Josei". The two were spotted together on 8th and 9th Feb going on walks with Sasamoto's pet dog. Uchi and Hiroki first worked together in April 2010 and were previously reported to have gone on a trip to Hawaii in September of the same year. When contacted about the report, Sasamoto's agency commented that they are not dating and are just friends.

Source: Nikkansports

Tamayama Tetsuji gets married on Valentine's Day

Actor Tamayama Tetsuji announced his marriage to his longtime girlfriend on 14 Feb via fax to the media. He also confirmed that his wife is already expecting their child. However, he does not have any plans to hold a press conference regarding this.

Source: Sports Nichi Annex

Monday, February 13, 2012

Press conference of WOWOW drama "Suitei Yuuzai"

The production press conference of WOWOW drama "Suitei Yuuzai" (Presumption of guilt) was held on 13 Feb where cast members Nakamura Toru, Kuroki Hitomi, Jinnai Takanori, Kunimura Jun, Terajima Susumu, Mimura and Motokariya Yuika made appearances. The drama which consists of 5 episodes, will be shown from 25 March on Sundays at 10pm.

The story talks about Shinozuka (Kunimura), a man who was wrongly accused of being the culprit of a child murder 12 years ago and only has his innocence proved after spending years in jail. Nakamura plays Kayama, a journalist who firmly believed that Shinozuka was guilty and wrote many articles about it while Jinnai plays Asada, the police detective who caught the wrong man.

Source: Oricon

Odoru Daisousasen's SP to be shown before the final movie

"Odoru Daisousasen" will be back as a drama SP for the first time in 14 years in conjunction with the impending screening of the last movie in the series "Odoru Daisousaen THE FINAL". The movie is due to be screened in Sep while the drama SP titled "Odoru Daisousasen" which is due to be shown on FujiTV before that will have its story set at one month before the movie's story. The SP's cast members include the original lineup of Oda Yuji, Yanagiba Toshiro, Fukatsu Eri and Yusuke Santa Maria along with new participants such as Oguri Shun, Ito Atsushi and Uchida Yuki who also appear in the movie.

Source: Sanspo

Review of Seinaru Kaibutsutachi Ep 4

Mie is putting up an obvious defiance against Keiko as shown by her behaviour in the opening scene. Keiko's mother-in-law sends a helper over to pass a gift to Keiko for her unborn grandchild when the helper hears Mie's laughter from the second floor. Mie is watching a comedic performance on TV and seems to be making such sounds on purpose so as to make things difficult for Keiko. In addition, Mie keeps reminding Keiko that she is the one carrying the baby even though the latter emphasizes that Mie is carrying Keiko's and Toshio's child. By now, Keiko should finally realise that Mie isn't going to do her bidding without putting up a resistance. There will be a time when Keiko will find it unbearable and Mie's existence will threaten the success of the surrogate mother scam so it's anybody's guess what she will do to ensure that Mie doesn't stand in her way.

Coupled with troubles with Mie, Keiko also has to put up a front in public. During an event at the Hyuga Group's kindergarten, Keiko suddenly finds the cushion she tied to her stomach slipping downwards in front of two kids. If not for Toshio's quick thinking, she would have been exposed for faking the pregnancy. Those two kids who saw what happened were so shocked that their jaws were practically going to drop. To be frank, this development seemed funny on one hand but was also harrowing for Keiko and Toshio on the other.

Meanwhile, Itokawa seems to be suffering from something more serious but is reluctant to undergo further tests. Actually, his spreading of rumours about the hospital's operations is making the staff lose their patience with him and I suppose they would be really keen to see him leave the hospital soon. If it so happens that Itokawa has something more serious going on in his body, he might have to be transferred elsewhere to receive medical care. I don't foresee him going anywhere soon since he's definitely going to dig for more information and threaten a person or two along the way before the surrogate mother scam erupts. In the later part of the episode, more is revealed about Itokawa as one who failed in business, no longer has a family and keeps coming to the hospital because that's the only place he can be at.

Kasugai goes to Keiko's place to draw blood from Mie in preparation for the childbirth in case she needs a transfusion at that time. And this is where we can observe the group dynamics. At first, Kasugai is really dismissive of Keiko's claims that Mie's actions are freaking her out but then what happens at the dinner table makes Kasugai take notice of what's going on. As Keiko tries to be protective of her child and Mie deliberately goes against her, Toshio seems to be under Mie's influence or rather Mie seems to have something on Toshio which makes him do her bidding. Toshio tells Keiko to relax and takes Mie's side but I don't think Keiko is shrewd enough to sense the link between her husband and Mie.

Looks like the bridge between Okubo and Toshio is finally established, although the first encounter isn't pleasant for Okubo. Toshio sort of gives a dressing down to Okubo, saying that to protect the legacy of his predecessor i.e. parents, pride and lofty ambitions are most important. In other words, Toshio's belittling Okubo for getting so desperate to talk him into investing in the hospital the moment they meet. I'm thinking that the tables may be turned slightly in Okubo's favour when the gynae Toshio has engaged falls out with them for one reason or another. In any case, it is highly probable that Okubo will benefit from the scam and save his hospital (at least before the scandal breaks).

Shiba finally realises why his friend Takeuchi asked about Yoko. Turns out that Takeuchi is Yoko's ex and she had tried to borrow JPY 2m from him but to no avail. Although Shiba wants to know why she needs the money, he's not one who pursues it directly but it sure will be a nagging concern for him. At the same time, seems like the guy blackmailing Yoko or rather the reason why she needs money goes to Shiba's father's shop as a customer but it isn't clear if he's already aware of Shiba and Yoko being an item or he just happened to be there. Anyway, at least now we know he's a policeman (or so he claims). Even though Shiba asks Yoko about the loan of JPY 2m later, she refuses to tell him the reason. And from the fact that Yoko also takes money from a female patient and promises the "best" medical care with this payment, I think it's hard to believe that she's as angelic as it seems or really has no choice in doing this.

Besides the scare that Keiko had in front of the kindergarten kids, there are more near-misses in this episode.

Keiko's mother-in-law comes visiting with Toshio's son and ex-wife unannounced. Keiko is literally on tenterhooks as she tries hard to suppress her anxiety at them finding out about Mie. However, Shosuke (Toshio's son) spots Mie and tells Keiko's mother-in-law. On the surface, she tells Shosuke not to divulge this to anyone but I think she is probably starting to suspect something.

The second crisis (well, not yet a full-blown one) is when Shiba meets Keiko face-to-face and knows about her identity as Kasugai's sister. Keiko and Kasugai may not know it but Shiba has seen Keiko being sent to the university hospital when she suffered a miscarriage and I vaguely remember that he and his friend were commenting that Keiko's womb might be removed. If Shiba remembers this and suspects why Keiko is pregnant now, that will be a big problem for those in the surrogate mother scam.

There is also more reason for Mie to be extra protective of the baby she is carrying. During the visit by Keiko's mother-in-law, I think she sensed that Keiko seems more obsessed with maintaining her position in the Hyuga family rather than wanting to have Toshio's child as what she had claimed. That's why Keiko is wary of leaving Mie alone and gets Kasugai to keep an eye on her. True to what Keiko suspects, Mie runs away but is soon caught by Kasugai who is so smart to even fish out the truth i.e. the child that Mie is carrying was the result of her affair with Toshio and not Keiko's and Toshio's child! As how they started, Toshio was the one who took the initiative and it was before Keiko came up with the idea of a surrogate mother. Apparently, Toshio was the one who told Mie to pass off their baby as that of his and Keiko's when he accepted Keiko's proposal. It was the easy way out for him because Mie refused to abort his child at that time.

I don't know what Kasugai did but she manages to get Mie back to the Hyuga residence. Even when confronted by Kasugai, Toshio shamelessly taunts her to tell Keiko the truth, knowing very well that this will deal her a double blow i.e. her husband's infidelity and the child she has been eagerly anticipating is not hers. Of course, Kasugai wouldn't want to do anything to hurt her sister so she tells Toshio to make sure the truth wouldn't be known. Talking of coincidences, Okubo happens to see Toshio and Kasugai leaving the same place after their confrontation so this piece of information might figure in why Toshio will finance Okubo's hospital at the end.

Mie turns out to be still harbouring plans to escape from the Hyuga residence but in her haste to run, she falls down from the staircase. Isn't it too early for her to give birth when the drama isn't only at the halfway point? And the next episode's trailer shows Keiko and Toshio holding a baby? Then that means there will be another surrogate pregnancy in the later half of the story?

The trailer also shows Shiba possibly being part of a malpractice case and that Kasugai has all along been aware of what Yoko is doing. Wow, more showdowns next week! Last episode was a bit slow for me but I think this episode really picked up the pace and got very exciting.

Nakatani Miki and Hasegawa Hiroki were very good in that intense confrontation scene. If Toshio thought that Kasugai would have no choice but to become an accomplice in hiding things from Keiko, he would only be half correct. Kasugai had the last word after all and pointed out that Toshio would have to bear the sin of lying forever. Great acting there from the two of them!

Similarly, when Kasugai was fishing out the truth from Mie, that was also a good scene from Nakatani and Suzuki An. For a moment, I also thought that the teddy bear contained a wire tap but it turns out that Kasugai was bluffing Mie. That was such a genius move from Kasugai!

Okada Masaki seems to be more at ease with his role now but Shiba is still lacking in emotional development as compared to the other characters who have undergone upheavals in their characters' emotions. The only significant change would be that he has nagging thoughts about Yoko but is still trusting her. I'm hoping for him to show different sides to Shiba rather than continuing to be the good young doctor. Looks like the next episode will offer some potential for change.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kuroki Meisa cancels public appearances

Following the revelation that Kuroki Meisa got married to Akanishi Jin in early Feb, it looks like this is already having an effect on her career. First of all, she had been scheduled to appear on TBS music program "Kamisun" on 13 Feb to promote her new album but it was cancelled. In addition, the special event for fans who bought her album "UNLOCKED" which was due to be held on 4 March will no longer be held. On her official website, reasons given were Kuroki's health and other causes.

On 11 Feb, Kuroki finally put up a message on her homepage and Twitter, apologising for the late announcement to the public. She also asked for support and promised to work even harder in future.

Source: Daily Sports

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What baffles me to date is, why aren't they confirming her pregnancy yet? Is there any logic to keep evading this issue when it's being splashed and talked about in all papers? Anyway, if she's indeed pregnant, there's no way she can sing and dance on TV so it's normal that the TV appearance has to be cancelled. And there's no way her agency would want reporters to swarm Kuroki the moment she appears in public so she might have to stay out of the limelight for a while, even until she gives birth.

Toda Naho gave birth to her first child on 10 Feb

Actress Toda Naho gave birth to her first child (a baby girl) on 10 Feb as announced by her agency on 11 Feb. According to the statement, her daughter was born at 2.23pm on 10th Feb and weighed 3,606g. Toda got married to a doctor who works in a Tokyo hospital in October 2010.

Source: Sanspo

Higashino Keigo 3-week drama SP series

Title: Higashino Keigo 3-week drama SP Series
Official website: here
Broadcast by: FujiTV
O.A. Dates: 10 Jun, 17 Jun and 24 Jun 2011
Lead Cast: Nagasaku Hiromi, Fujiwara Tatsuya and Tokiwa Takako

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Kuroki Meisa's agency visiting sponsors to explain the situation

Kuroki Meisa's agency Sweet Power maintains its stand that it's still confirming whether Kuroki is indeed pregnant but has started visiting sponsors to explain the situation. Fuji Heavy Industries and Uniqlo who have CM contracts with Kuroki said on 10 Feb that they have no plans for now to change their working arrangements with her. In addition, Kuroki who had been sending her resume to American movie companies recently in order to work as an actress in the US, has had a blank schedule since the beginning of the year.

Source: Nikkansports

Johnny's Jimusho president admits considering punishment for Akanishi Jin

In response to Akanishi Jin's sudden marriage to Kuroki Meisa, the president of Johnny's Jimusho, Johnny Kitagawa admitted to reporters on 10 Feb that he is indeed considering punishing Akanishi in one way or another for not informing the company of his plans before the media reports came out. Kitagawa said that he didn't hear anything at all before the news broke and only got a call from Akanishi after that. He revealed that he doesn't keep in touch with Akanishi usually so he has no idea what the latter is up to with regard to his private life.

Kitagawa had supported Akanishi's decisions when he said he wanted to go for further studies in Los Angeles or leave KAT-TUN to have solo performances in the US. However, the fact that he wasn't informed beforehand about the marriage meant a lot of inconveniences for the agency when settling issues arising with work commitments due to this matter. He also commented that Akanishi should have considered the circumstances which Kuroki was in as well (given that she's also an artiste) and be more responsible about how he handled the matter. As the person-in-charge of the agency, Kitagawa felt that he should start thinking of what to do although he did not give any indication of how he wants to punish Akanishi.

Source: Nikkansports

Review of Shokuzai Ep 2

The second episode titled "PTA Rinji Soukai" (PTA Emergency Assembly) features Shinohara Maki (Koike Eiko), the class monitor and model student at the time of Emily's death. As compared to Sae who was badly traumatised by Emily's murder and becoming so jumpy whenever a man came near her, Maki's trauma manifested in a different way. Before the incident, she was the natural leader in the group and even "distributed" duties among her friends after they found Emily dead. However, as she was unable to locate any teacher to seek help before the police arrived, the guilt at not doing anything worthwhile made her lose confidence in her abilities as seen from her withdrawal from things which needed responsibility.

15 years later, Maki becomes a teacher at a primary school but is known for being excessively strict with her students. This causes her to be unpopular and constantly being called up by the vice principal to be lectured about her attitude. One day, Maki chances upon a girl being bullied by other male schoolmates and demands to know what happened. However, this makes her the target of attacks by parents as they want to know why she had to do that to the girl who was bullied. Luckily for Maki, a colleague Tanabe who's popular with the kids, stands up for her.

On the day of Emily's 15th death anniversary, Maki bumps into Asako at Emily's grave and promises Asako that she hasn't forgotten about her promise. Soon after, an incident happens which causes Maki to confront her hidden fears and traumatic past...

Just like the 1st episode, the colour tone in this episode is muted which also reflects how Maki has been living for the past 15 years. Being the leader in the group, Maki could have had a stronger sense of responsibility as compared to the others. This can be seen from the fact that she had run around once to look for teachers in the school but couldn't find anyone. However, she couldn't allow herself to return to the crime scene withouth achieving her goal and ran around for the second time. When Maki saw that the police came before she could do anything, the sense of disappointment in herself appeared to be very strong. As a result, she had avoided responsibility and making decisions because she thinks that she no longer knows what's right and wrong.

At that time when Maki was questioned by the police about Emily's killer, I think she could have faked that she couldn't remember anything because she didn't trust herself anymore. That's why she avoided giving out the information because it could be wrong. However, at the ending scene, Maki seems to have overcome her emotional barrier and decided to come clean with Asako. I don't really think that Maki would have died as a result of that punch from Tanabe so she could have just passed out for a while. Coming to that, I think Tanabe was angry at Maki who walked away from the controversy surrounding her actions relatively unscathed while he had to bear the brunt of the ridicule for his behaviour.

Compared to Asako's cold front when she faced Sae at her wedding, I'm starting to observe some changes in Asako's attitude toward Emily's friends. She seemed really happy to see that Maki came to visit Emily's grave and her expression softened a lot when the scene shifted to her interaction with her son (most likely born after Emily's death). I don't think Asako meant that the girls should pay for Emily's death. She was really furious that the investigation was going nowhere as a result of them being unable to provide any information to the police. However, being a mother herself, she probably wanted them to remember Emily's tragic end and make sure they live their lives in a manner that will satisfy her. Unfortunately, we can see that at least two of the girls have suffered badly because they have been heavily burdened by both Emily's murder and their promise to Asako.

Looks like the third episode is also going to be one emotionally-heavy ride. At least Sae and Maki did lead "normal" lives but the third girl seems to be cooped up at home and behaves oddly. There aren't a lot of leads for Asako to work on in order to trace the killer so it also remains to be seen how the final revelation will be.

Friday, February 10, 2012

UPDATE: Akanishi Jin & Kuroki Meisa registered their marriage before telling their agencies?

This morning's news has more details about the sudden deki-kon than last night's fax statement so I'll be putting them in point form. Well, frankly speaking, to get married before letting their agencies is a big taboo in the entertainment industry and brings to mind what Mizushima Hiro and ayaka did. However, circumstances were different then because ayaka wasn't pregnant but Kuroki is and the official reason for getting married was that Mizushima wanted to support and take care of ayaka who was ill then. As such, the impression which the general public would have about Akanishi and Kuroki will be different for sure. It will be worth observing if their careers will be affected by this "rebellious" act.
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- Akanishi and Kuroki got married on 2 Feb without informing their agencies. Some reports mention that the agencies only came to know about it from the articles which came out yesterday while some articles say that Kuroki did inform her agency after the registration while Akanishi said nothing about this to his agency Johnny's Jimusho. Apparently, Johnny's only got wind of it from yesterday's articles.

- They reportedly knew each other from some years back and only started dating this year.

- The fax statements did not mention whether Kuroki was pregnant. However, most sources quoted an insider saying Kuroki is indeed two months' pregnant and will give birth in October.

- Before they registered their marriage, the couple went to Kuroki's hometown in Nago City, Okinawa Prefecture, to meet her family on 27 Jan.

- Kuroki mentioned in her statement that she will continue working and asked for support from the public. Akanishi is due to go to the US for work soon so the two will be living apart for a while.

- There are no plans for a wedding as of now.

- The relationship first came to light in mid Jan when reports of their dates at Tokyo DisneySea and an izakaya in Naka Meguro were published. Both agencies denied the relationship at that time and claimed that they were friends. (Now, this feels like a slap in the agencies' faces and a big dent to the credibility of these two artistes)

Newcomer award winners for 2012 Elandor Awards

The prize-giving ceremony for the 2012 Elandor Awards which commends promising new actors and high-quality productions was held on 9 Feb. For this year's Newcomer awards, there were five recepients i.e. Hasegawa Hiroki (Second Virgin, Kaseifu no Mita), An (Namae wo Nakushita Megami, Yokai Ningen Bemu), Kora Kengo (Ohisama), Inoue Mao (Ohisama) and Yoshitaka Yuriko.

Source: Oricon

Review of Seinaru Kaibutsutachi Episode 3

Things are heating up, literally. Although this episode did feel a bit slow at times especially when it featured the side story of Shiba seeing patients in the hospital, I think the introduction of such side plots could be due to the scriptwriter's intention to show a contrast between the main story's key players' idea of what it means to be parents and the "holy" side of motherhood. As Shiba's ideals get more and more detached from what's happening around him without his knowledge, the impact would probably be greater by the time he knows what's going on.

In this particular episode, Shiba encounters a mother-to-be who finally gets pregnant after a long time of trying. Unfortunately, she is down with cancer and has to choose between starting treatment now and later. If it's the former, her baby would not live and if it's later, she would lose her life. It's a no-brainer that the mother would definitely choose her baby's survival over hers while the husband objects. Although she loses her voice as a result, at least she's around to hold her child. Seeing this, Shiba starts to get this idea that mothers can sacrifice anything for their children. I'm starting to wonder how he will react when he realises that the people around him who all appear so kind with lofty ideals about taking care of patients aren't that selfless after all.

In the main story arc, Mie is finally confirmed to be pregnant with Toshio and Keiko's child. Although Mie had claimed that she wanted to help Keiko realise her dream of being a mother, the fact that she strongly objected to Kasugai's request to sign a contract giving up all rights to the child after giving birth is something that should ring an alarm bell in the heads of everyone. I don't think Keiko realised that there was something not quite right with Mie but Kasugai seems to have picked up something from this test. Nonetheless, Kasugai "reminds" or rather threatens Mie by saying that it's worse to betray someone than to kill him i.e. if she dares to go back on her word of giving up the child to Keiko, Mie will not be able to get away with it as well.

One unexpected development (at least to me) was to see Shiba and Yoko get together. I knew they were supposed to be together at some point in time but that's kinda fast. And when Shiba's ex-colleague asks him about Yoko, this naive guy still doesn't know that he should be wary of Yoko. There should be something suspicious as to why Yoko left the university hospital and being evasive when asked about her family background. At this point, I'm guessing that someone in her family, maybe a brother or even an ex-boyfriend is extorting money from her so that's why she's getting money from other men. Yoko didn't seem to appear in the opening scene of the first episode so I'm guessing that Shiba might have known the truth before Mie's delivery so Yoko might have left the hospital by then. I just hope that Shiba wouldn't accept the truth so readily and at least flare up at Yoko for lying. Otherwise, he'll just appear as a meek fellow who accepts the nonsense people give him without making any noise.

As Mie's pregnancy progresses, Keiko starts to imagine that the baby is growing inside her and pretends that her tastes have changed and even stuffs a cushion into her clothes to appear pregnant. Seeing how his wife has become obsessed with the idea of motherhood, Toshio's feelings seem to have changed a bit. Actually, I'm not even convinced that he married her out of love. More like, she was pregnant and he had no choice but to take up responsibility. I just feel that Toshio is just riding along to fulfill Keiko's dream but the truth is, he probably doesn't care whether they have a child. When Mie starts to act strangely and Keiko finally realises that Mie seems to be thinking of the child as hers only, the trust relationship between Mie and Keiko (or rather Keiko's blind faith in Mie's loyalty) seems to be crumbling.

Right from episode 1, Mie appeared to have an interest in Toshio but I don't think she was thinking of beginning any relationship with him at that stage. However, when Keiko came to look for her to be the surrogate mother, I am tempted to think that other than the reason of wanting to bear a child herself (on the surface claiming it to be for Keiko's sake), the fact that Toshio will be the father of the child just lends more credibility to why Mie would accept such a proposal. The idea of bearing the child of the man you love would be too tempting for Mie. I'm starting to think though, what if the child in Mie's womb isn't Keiko's and Toshio's? Did Mie and Toshio do something before the implantation procedure? Or were Keiko's eggs switched with Mie's? If it so happens that the child isn't Keiko's after all, how will Keiko react to this and ensure that she has a baby at the end of the story? Looks like there will be more twists and turns before we get to the conclusion.

I think it's predictable from the first episode's opening scene that the key players succeeded in getting Mie to carry the baby to full term. However, why did they dump her outside the Okubo hospital? Wasn't a gynae who received money from Toshio in charge of Mie? Something must have gone wrong with that gynae so they switched to the hospital with Kasugai lending a helping hand. It's only episode 3 but there are quite a lot of complications to contend. Wonder how low these "holy" monsters will stoop to in order to achieve their aims? Omoshiroi ne~ ^__^