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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Nagasawa Masami in autumn 2012 drama "Koukou Nyuushi"

Nagasawa Masami will be starring in the autumn 2012 FujiTV drama "Koukou Nyuushi" (High School Entrance Exam) which begins its run in October at 11.10pm on Saturdays. This is the first teacher role which Nagasawa has taken on.

The drama is based on a script from famous writer Minato Kanae and is a mystery story set in a famous senior high school where Nagasawa plays a newbie English teacher who finally gets her dream job at the age of 28 years old. On the day before the high school entrance exams, notes threatening to disrupt the exams appear in all the classrooms. True to what is declared, various happenings take place on the exam day.
Filming began at the end of June and co-stars include Minamisawa Nao, Tokuyama Hidenori, Nakao Akiyoshi, Saiki Shigeru, Takahashi Hitomi, Yamamoto Kei.

Source: Sanspo

Osawa Takao & Matsushima Nanako in movie "Wara no Tate"

Osawa Takao and Matsushima Nanako will be starring in the movie "Wara no Tate" (Straw Shield) directed by Miike Takashi. The movie is based on the novel by Kiuchi Kazuhiro and due to be shown in cinemas during Golden Week next year. Filming begins on 19 August.

Osawa and Matsushima had worked together previously in the 2007 movie "Bizan" where they played lovers. This time round, they will play colleagues in the security police (SP) department tasked to escort a criminal from Fukuoka to Tokyo. In the novel, Osawa's partner is a man but the producer decided to change it to a woman.

Story: Kiyomaru Kunihide (Fujiwara Tatsuya), a former inmate convicted of rape and murder, kills the grand-daughter of a big-name politician soon after he's released from prison and disappears before the police can catch him. 3 months later, an advertisement offering JPY 1 billion for Kiyomaru's murder appears in a newspaper. Fearing for his life, Kiyomaru surrenders himself to the Fukuoka Prefectural Police. Mekari Kazuki (Osawa Takao) and Shiroiwa Atsuko (Matsushima Nanako) are two of the five SPs tasked to escort Kiyomaru back to Tokyo before anyone can lay their hands on him.

Source: Nikkansports

Monday, July 30, 2012

Update to the Summer 2012 ratings race - 30 Jul 12

Here are the ratings of episodes shown between Wednesday and Sunday:

Tokkan Ep 4 - 10.9% (2nd lowest to date)
Keishichou Sousa Ikka 9 Kakari Ep 4 - 13.0% (same as its first episode; highest rating so far)
Iryu Sousa Ep 2 - 13.7% (0.4% higher than its first OA)
Kyoto Chiken no Onna Ep 2 - 9.4% (6.6% lower than its first OA)
Beginners Ep 3 - 5.9% (lowest to date)
Higashino Keigo Mysteries Ep 4 - 7.8% (joint lowest to date with Ep 2)
VISION Ep 3 - 3.2% (0.2% higher than Ep 2)
Kuro no Onna Kyoushi Ep 2 - 10.4% (2.5% lower than Ep 1)
Boys On The Run Ep 3 - 7.3% (1.9% higher than Ep 2)
Ghost Mama Sousasen Ep 4 - 9.5% (lowest to date; first episode to get below-10%)
Sprout Ep 4 - 2.6% (0.3% lower than Ep 3)
Omo ni naitemasu Ep 3 - 2.2% (4.4% lower than Ep 2)
Beautiful Rain Ep 5 - 9.5% (3.5% lower than Ep 4)

And this is how the average ratings ranking looks like now:

1) GTO 13.65%
2) Iryu Sousa 13.50%
3) Rich Man, Poor Woman 12.77%
4) Kyoto Chiken no Onna 12.70%
5) Summer Rescue 12.13%
6) Keishichou Sousa Ikka 9 Kakari 12.08%
7) Ghost Mama Sousasen 11.68%
8) Kuro no Onna Kyoushi 11.65%
9) Tokkan 11.45%
10) Iki mo dekinai natsu 11.10%
11) Beautiful Rain 10.70%
12) Higashino Keigo Mysteries 8.93%
13) Beginners 8.10%
14) Boys On The Run 6.73%
15) Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan 6.63%
16) Omo ni naitemasu 5.13%
17) VISION 3.43%
18) Sprout 2.60%
19) Soumatou Kabushikigaisha 2.40%

Indeed, Kyoto Chiken no Onna fails to maintain its super-high rating in its debut episode and slips to No.4 in the overall ranking. Besides the possible reason that its story might not have kept viewers interested, I am guessing that taking two weeks to air the 2nd episode could have weakened its momentum quite a bit.
 
I'm actually quite surprised about GTO because remakes usually don't fare so well. There's been a mix of positive and negative reviews about the new Onizuka and Fuyutsuki combination and the storyline but I think it does have a pretty stable viewership base in the 13% region. Iryu Sousa is proving to be a dark horse too and may just give GTO a run for its money. The dramas in the No.1 to No.11 position are very close to one another so we might see a reshuffle on a weekly basis.
 
Beautiful Rain looks so precariously close to the below 10% group that another slip may cause it to go under. On the other hand, Higashino Keigo Mysteries still struggles to keep a steady rating base as it continues being top of the pack, albeit in the below-10% group.

Tomosaka Rie and Suneohair's wedding on 28 July

Tomosaka Rie and her husband, singer Suneohair who registered their marriage last June, held their wedding on 28 July this year as revealed on her blog entry dated 29 July. The wedding ceremony was held at Meiji Kinenkan and Tomosaka shared photos of her in the traditional wedding attire and a wedding dress. She remarked jokingly that this wasn't her first wedding and she felt a bit embarrassed about having to do this again.

Please visit Tomosaka's blog if you are interested to see the photos.

Tomosaka Rie's blog: here

Source: Sanspo

Review of Soumatou Kabushikigaisha Ep 1

The drama opens with Kaminuma (Kashii Yu), a mysterious woman dressed in a white dress and with long and curly tresses, walking into a room where the TV screen is showing a video of children playing together. As she walks towards the TV console,  reaches for the remote control to switch off the DVD player and remove the disc titled "Seki Takahiro", the camera then shows a man dangling from the ceiling (he apparently hung himself to commit suicide) behind Kaminuma's back. However, she seems unaffected by this scene and walks out of the room with an eerie smirk on her face...

The scene then shifts to a young couple Seki Takahiro (Kubota Masataka) and Tachibana Yuko (Kajihara Hikari) who are visiting Takahiro's hometown for the first time. Yuko is undestandably nervous about meeting Takahiro's mother Hiroko (Yokoyama Megumi) but he assures Yuko that Hiroko is very kind and easygoing so there's nothing to worry about. True to what Takahiro said, Hiroko receives them warmly and is disappointed to hear that they won't be able to extend their stay beyond the weekend. Just then, Takahiro gets a message from his buddy Keisuke who asks if he has heard of this company called "Soumatou Kabushikigaisha".

After dinner, Takahiro goes to look for Keisuke at the bar he works in and is surprised to see the latter visibly disturbed by something. Takahiro asks Keisuke what he meant in his message but the latter is hesitant to reveal more than the fact that he saw DVDs of his life till now and he felt a deep emptiness in what he had done so far in life. Takahiro is dismissive of this idea about being able to reflect on someone's life on video and doesn't think much of it.

On his way home, Takahiro comes across an office named "Soumatou Kabushikigaisha" and he steps in to take a look. He is shocked to see Kaminuma appearing before him suddenly and is ushered into a room which has a sofa set, refreshments and beds like a hotel room. Kaminuma explains to Takahiro that he can look at the 23 DVDs bearing his name from the time he was born till now which he is rather sceptical about. After Kaminuma leaves the room, Takahiro picks up the DVD bearing his name and the number 00. He sees a young couple fussing over their newborn baby where the camera angle is from that of the baby's eyes as he lies in the cot. Takahiro wonders what the couple had to do with him since he has never seen them before. The next scene jumps to where the baby is crying in the cot and he can hear the mother getting a phone call informing her that her husband was involved in an accident. As soon as the mother rushes out of the house to see her husband, another woman sneaks into the house and snatches the baby away. To Takahiro's surprise, that woman is Hiroko! Takahiro is so shocked that he stumbles out of Soumatou Kabushikigaisha where Kaminuma comments that he was done earlier than expected. Takahiro refuses to believe what he has seen but Kaminuma replies confidently that he will be back again to watch the rest of the DVDs.

Takahiro is dying to ask his mother about his parentage but cannot summon the courage to do so. In order to find out more about his childhood, he heads back to Soumatou Kabushikigaisha to watch the remaining DVDs. To his surprise, he sees that his birth mother came to look for Hiroko and demanded that she return Takahiro to him. Hiroko was adamant that Takahiro was her child and denied Takahiro's mother's accusations. The latter realised that Hiroko had something to do with her husband's death as Hiroko was infatuated with Takahiro's father. The thought that Hiroko had killed Takahiro's father shakes him so much that he barely manages to move on to the next DVD taken supposedly when he was five years old.

When Takahiro returned home in the evening after kindergarten, he couldn't see his mother anywhere and was looking for him. To his horror, the childhood Takahiro had witnessed his birth mother lying dead in the shed after being killed by Hiroko. The young Takahiro fainted and was later told by his mother that he must have seen a ghost at the shed and warned him not to go near there.

Takahiro decides that he needs to go back home and find out the truth from his mother. However, when he reaches home, Yuko is nowhere to be found and that Hiroko deliberately avoids mentioning her as she pretends to be her usual self. The camera then pans to the family altar where a new paper doll is placed there and there are fresh blood stains on the lock at the shed...

The last scene goes back to the beginning where Kaminuma retrieves the DVD from the player and walks out of the room. From the camera's shot of the hanging body, it is clear that Takahiro had been the one who killed himself! Kaminuma's eerie smile after she left the room...did she expect this outcome after showing Takahiro the DVDs?

I must say that this drama is really quite interesting. It did feel a bit like Yo ni mo Kimyou na Monogatari at first glance because its genre was a psycho-thriller but I enjoyed watching this partly because it was short and succint. If it had been a full 45-min episode, I might not have liked it as much since there wasn't a lot of material to go around the bush. The developments in the story were not spelt out obviously but the way the storytelling is done, it was easy to infer from the tell-tale signs. For example, when Yuko asked Takahiro about the paper dolls on his family altar, he said that Hiroko told him before that each doll represented someone in the household who had died. Takahiro never realised before watching the DVDs that one of the dolls represented his birth mother. As such, when the story was nearing its end and showed one new doll there, it could only mean that Yuko was killed by Hiroko. The only reason I can think of is that she didn't want Yuko to snatch Takahiro away since he was the offspring of the man she loved.

As for Takahiro's supposed suicide, I guess the weight of his birth secret and the fact that he had been living with a murderer for years who also killed his girlfriend was too much to bear. That leads us to wonder, what is Kaminuma's motive in showing these DVDs and did she expect that Takahiro would kill himself at the end? And what is the reason for Soumatou Kabushikigaisha's existence? Lots of questions to be answered so I'm hoping that by the end of the season, we'll have all the answers.

Just a side note, is it just me or did anyone feel that the logo of Soumatou Kabushikigaisha resembled that of Enma Ai in Jigoku Shoujo?

Last but not least, I didn't get to hear the theme song from 2AM clearly because there was some dialogue going on in the ending credits. As such, I couldn't really tell if the song was nice or whether it was a good fit for the drama at this point in time. Will have to wait for the later episodes then!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Preview of "Soumatou Kabushikigaisha" - Summer 2012

Title: Soumatou Kabushikigaisha 走馬灯株式会社
Official website: here
O.A. Start Date: 16 July 2012
Timeslot: 12.20am Mondays
Broadcast by: TBS
Original manga by: Sugahara Keita
Theme song: For you ~ Kimi no tame ni dekiru koto by 2AM
Lead actress: Kashii Yu (Weekly guests for each episode)

Review of Tsumi to Batsu A Falsified Romance

If you are looking for some lighthearted fare or something which doesn't require you to do a lot of thinking, this is definitely not for you. If you find dramas with rather controversial themes like "Shokuzai" quite difficult to stomach, "Tsumi to Batsu" will take things up a notch especially the sickening human nature on display here.

This drama is based on the same-titled manga by Ochiai Naoyuki which was serialised between January 2007 and March 2011. The manga itself isn't an original work because it adopts the basic concepts of "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Of course, the character names in both works are different but the basic premise of a man who believes that he has the ability and the right to do certain things can be seen in the original story and this drama. Before I begin talking about how I feel about "Tsumi to Batsu", I think I should start off by introducing the key characters and a synopsis of what's to come. If you haven't watched the drama and would rather not know the storyline, you may wish to skip directly to the review section.

Synopsis:

Tachi Miroku (Koura Kengo) is an university student who comes from a small town in Iwate Prefecture and bears the hopes of his mother Yoshimi and elder sister Yoshino by making it to a Tokyo university. However, Miroku has mixed feelings about his family and the weight of their expectations. On one hand, he's proud of the fact that he has the ability to bring glory to the family but conversely, he also hates having to follow the path which his mother in particular wants him to take. He cannot understand why his mother would want him to admire his father who used to be a teacher when he was alive. This is especially so when he found out that his father had committed suicide with his student who he was having an affair with. Miroku knows deep down that he loves his mother and sister but he is extremely unhappy about the fact that Yoshino is going to marry someone who she doesn't love for the sake of supporting Miroku through his university education. Or so he thinks because Yoshino has never said so or expressed unwillingness about the marriage to her fiance.

Without his family's knowledge, Miroku drops out of school and goes around doing virtually doing other than dreaming of becoming a great writer some day. In fact, he won a literature award for a short piece "Shuukakusha no Shikaku" (The Qualifications of a Harvester - the article is about a hypothesis of the likelihood of some people having the ability and right to do certain things which others can't and his reasoning why it holds true) but since then, nothing much has happened to bring him closer to his dream. While out at night, he meets Shimazu Risa (Ono Asuka), a senior high school student, who offers to sleep with him for money. Although Miroku rejects her proposition, his interest is aroused when he realises that Risa is forced to be a teenage prostitute by her fellow schoolmate Baba Hikaru (Hashimoto Ai). Hikaru runs the prostitution business involving her friends like a professional pimp and contributes the takings to a gang. Miroku doesn't understand why Risa has to do Hikaru's bidding and later finds out that Hikaru had earned Risa's trust initally when they first met but later engineered an episode to make Risa the victim of gang rape. Using Risa's dependency on her for friendship and the gang rape to undermine the importance of her own body, Hikaru managed to force Risa into the sex trade despite her reluctance. As a result of this discovery, Miroku comes up with a plan to "set things in order" because he regards himself as someone having the authority and qualification to do so.

Miroku sets up an elaborate scheme to kill Hikaru and rob her of the money she earned from managing the prostitution business. However, as a fate would have it, Risa's sudden appearance at the crime scene causes Miroku to lose control and he also kills Risa who misunderstands that Miroku did everything for her. As Miroku wanted the whole scheme to be perfect and for him to be in perfect control of the situation, he simply can't stand Risa's unexpected behaviour and her assumption that Miroku's actions were for her sake i.e. not as noble as he wanted his cause to be. Although he manages to escape detection (Risa's mother had been working somewhere else but returned home on that same day when Miroku killed the girls), the stress brought about by what he had done causes Miroku to collapse on the street and he falls into a deep slumber for a couple of days.

While in a coma, Miroku dreams about his past and what happened a year ago. He was an intern at a company then and came to know Sudou Kai (Tanaka Tetsushi) who graduated from the same university which Miroku was from. Sudou gave Miroku the impression that he was nothing more than a womaniser but strangely enough, when Sudou came to read Miroku's article, he could understand what Miroku had in mind and even had contrasting viewpoints to point out the contradictions in Miroku's hypothesis. On one hand, Miroku thought that Sudou was a weirdo who kept egging him on to acknowledge his desires for no apparent reason. Sudou evidently saw that Miroku wasn't one who was content to discuss his hypothesis on paper but rather, he had that hidden pride in himself and belief that he was superior to others. As such, Sudou wanted to bring out Miroku's desires to prove himself as someone who's qualified to do certain things. Before any of that could have happened, Sudou disappeared after killing the female president of a company. Unknown to Miroku, Sudou had been the sex slave of that female president and also had secret ties to the underworld which was contrary to Miroku's impression that Sudou was a mere company employee.

When Miroku wakes up from his sleep, he finds himself in the hospital ward with another man Ameya Kikuo (Horibe Keisuke) who's being treated for alcholism. Ameya decides to tell Miroku his story and what led to his alcoholism even though the latter does not seem interested. Kikuo has a very young and pretty wife named Echika (Mizukawa Asami) which earns him the envy of many people. However, the circumstances which led to their marriage were far from ideal because Kikuo had betrayed Echika's trust.

Echika used to be Kikuo's student back in high school and she found an unexplainable affinity with him because he unwittingly offered her a place to take refuge from her stepmother's ill treatment. In return, Echika spent a lot of time with his family and young kids which in turn gave her a chance to taste family warmth and feel needed. However, Kikuo's excessive drinking habits caused him to be blackmailed by the school bully at that time and he was forced to set up secret cameras at various spots in school which allowed the bullies to have access to compromising images and videos of the female students. Even so, the bully was still not satisfied and turned his attention to Echika because he could see that she meant a lot to him. Kikuo pleaded with the bully not to harm Echika but was threatened that if Kikuo did not rape Echika in front of him and his cronies, they would gang-rape her instead and expose Kikuo's drinking habits. Having no choice, Kikuo tricked Echika to come to the school's laboratory where he forced himself on her and caused her to be beaten up by the bully's gang.

However, the bully still did not let Kikuo off and sent the video of Echika's rape to the school management. Although Kikuo was going to be fired for what he did, Echika unexpectedly told the school that she was a willing party and she was going to marry Kikuo after graduation from high school. Kikuo didn't think that Echika would do this and was shocked when the latter confessed that she would never forgive him for betraying her and she would make sure he remembers what he did throughout their marriage. Ever since then, Kikuo has never been able to hold his head up in front of Echika who gets involved in the sex trade to support the family. In a way, Echika is also punishing Kikuo by abusing her body because the latter was the culprit who reduced her body to something worthless.

Miroku is intrigued by Kikuo and Echika's story but still maintains a straight face in front of Kikuo who he regards as someone he would never see again. When Miroku is discharged from hospital, he is horrified to see Goi Kurodo (Ibu Masato), a prosecutor, getting close to him on the pretext of being interested in his award-winning article. Miroku knows that Goi is suspecting him of being involved in the killings of Hikaru and Risa. Unable to confide in anyone else and being close to succumbing to the stress of worrying when he will be arrested, Miroku contemplates killing himself rather than suffer a humiliating end in jail. However, just as he is about to fling himself off the bridge, Kikuo happens to see Miroku from the other side of the road and hurries over to stop him. Just then, a car drives towards Kikuo and he is killed as a result. Miroku is shocked to see what happens and freaks out at what his suicide attempt had done to an innocent party.

At the hospital where Kikuo's body is resting, Miroku meets Echika for the first time and becomes drawn to her in an unexplainable manner. He knows that he indirectly caused Kikuo's death but decides against telling Echika about it. At the same time, with Kikuo's passing, his mother tells Echika to leave the family and live for herself instead which in turn causes Echika to be unsure of what the future holds for her. Miroku and Echika decide to stick together because they think that they would be the only people capable of doing that for the other party.

Sudou returns to Japan from his overseas hideout after hearing about Hikaru and Risa. He is convinced that Miroku is the killer and tries to stop Miroku from getting together with Echika. Sudou reminds Miroku of what he's done and that Echika is just clinging onto him since she's like a leech who needs to feed on a man's misfortune to feel needed and superior. No doubt Miroku professes his trust in Echika, he is also aware that even if they stay together in future, there is no way they can be like a normal couple because he won't be able to touch Echika as a man because he has sinned. When Echika hears Miroku's confession on what he's done, she wants him to surrender himself to the police and repent for what he's done instead of running away. On the other hand, Sudou tempts Miroku with the prospect of getting away scot-free if he leaves Echika and go away with him...

Review

There are a few key story arcs in this drama despite it being shorter than the usual full-season dramas. They may seem rather unrelated but each of them is a building block which gives us some information on why the key characters are behaving in a certain manner.

First of all, Miroku's story with Hikaru and Risa formed the groundwork as to why he thought he was someone who was qualified to do certain things i.e. correcting a wrong by killing someone. Miroku's one conflicted soul because on one hand, he feels inferior about certain things (e.g. his father's not-so-glorious death or the fact that he didn't achieve any success as a writer despite winning a newcomer's award) and yet he also thinks that he's above others when it comes to doing righteous deeds. Frankly speaking, I don't sympathise with him at all because he really wasn't wronged or treated unfairly by anyone in the first place. The supposed unfairness was what he had thought it should be and it felt like he was using that as an excuse to explain why he was less successful than he thought he would be. His motive for killing Hikaru wasn't even for the money nor to save Risa from her agony. It was more like he was disgusted with how Hikaru behaved when she barely flinched while abusing Risa as if the latter was her slave. If Hikaru had expressed a tinge of conscience, Miroku might not have gone to the extent of killing her. Risa, on the other hand, was another character which I found it difficult to understand. Hikaru had caused her to be gang-raped and abused her friendship by forcing her into the sex trade but Risa found it difficult to break away. I'm guessing that her dependency on Hikaru and the lack of alternative friendships as support caused the situation to continue. When Miroku killed Risa, it was such an infuriating scene because he did it just to make his scheme perfect. What a control freak he is! If he had told Risa not to say anything, she would definitely oblige because she already saw Miroku as a saviour and would never go against him. There was really no need to kill Risa other than the fact that Miroku couldn't stand the thought of Risa tainting his lofty aspirations of correcting a wrong.

The next story was about Miroku's past with Sudou. This part was really confusing because the time order was rather jumbled and there were too many mysterious things about Sudou. There was also little described on why he became the sex slave of the company president and what made him finally snap. Sudou is one interesting character because he's so eloquent and can offer counter arguments whatever Miroku has to say. It's almost as if there is a mirror in front of Miroku and vice versa. I think Sudou did see that Miroku was somewhat similar to him and he was going all out to make sure that Miroku doesn't stop that unique streak in his character from being buried under his pessimism. Sudou also represented the goal of what Miroku wanted to achieve thus it was evident that there were times Miroku did look up to him. However, Sudou also represented the dangerous extreme which Miroku could head towards if he did went ahead to do what he wants. Sudou was such an enigmatic character that I really fail to understand why he had to end up in such a manner which makes me feel that he went through all these for nothing.

Last but not least, Echika's story was the last of the introduction portion of this drama. It took such a long time before Mizukawa Asami made her first appearance but it was worth the wait after all. I'm impressed with how she managed to potray such a complicated character. It was just a pity that she did not have more airtime to develop the character further and Echika sort of became an accessory to Miroku after the two got together.

I don't think Echika is entirely like what Sudou described her to be i.e. a leech who latches onto a man's misfortune in order to feel needed or at least Echika doesn't do it knowingly. Logically, Echika should have hated Kikuo when she became the victim due to Kikuo's actions. However, Echika saw that even if she had sued Kikuo for the deed, the only people who would have suffered would be his family. Through her earlier interaction with the family, Echika had built up a bond with them and derived satisfaction from being needed by them. As such, I'm of the opinion that she let Kikuo off and went to the extent of marrying him in order to protect his family. And as seen from her sense of loss when Kikuo's mother declared that she is free to leave their family since Kikuo had died, Echika evidently wanted to be needed by someone somewhere. I don't think there's anything romantic between her and Miroku too but rather Miroku's "timely" appearance felt like a life buoy was thrown at her. Miroku needed her and that was all she needed.

There is a similar problem between this drama and "Shokuzai" in that they both suffered from lack of consistency. Some episodes were extremely engaging e.g. when the murder of the girls took place and Echika's story while some paled in comparison. I also feel that this drama lacked a bit of punch in its conclusion so it was a pity to see that the smaller story arcs were sometimes much more interesting that the main storyline. I am just wondering, could this drama have been even more controversial and darker than Shokuzai if it didn't decide to hold back at the last minute? The ending could have been very different if it was decided that Miroku's character was stronger and more egoistic than he was in the drama and that he was slightly tempted by Sudou's proposition to run away together.

As for the acting, I think Koura Kengo did try his best to play the complicated and idealistic Miroku. However, I think Miroku turned out to be more on the pessimistic and cowardy side and his egoistic side was largely restricted to his inner thoughts. It might have been better if he could show this God-wannabe side of Miroku which would be good to contrast against his normally insecure side. Frankly speaking, the most eye-catching person in my opinion was Tanaka Tetsushi because Sudou was such an intriguing character. No doubt he wasn't the lead, he actually stole the limelight with his limited appearances to the extent that Miroku/Koura was no match for him.

In conclusion, if you want something which is dark and explores a theme which is rarely seen in most regular season dramas, this might be for you. However, be warned that this drama is a half-baked attempt at a potentially extreme theme and you might find yourself wondering why the ending did not match up to the anticipation built up in the earlier episodes.

And my ratings for this drama...
Story: 4 out of 10 (Suffered from lack of consistency and an ending which literally fizzled out)
Acting: 7.5 out of 10 (Especially from Tanaka Tetsushi and Mizukawa Asami during Echika's arc)

Theme song: 5 out of 10 (Didn't leave much of an impression on me)
Visual effects / Scenery: 4 out of 10 (Very dark colour scheme as if the characters reside in a world without colours but still not as monotone as what was in Shokuzai)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 5 out of 10 (Most of the time, it was always one party being stronger than the other so there were some sparks lacking.)



Total: 25.5 out of 50

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Production press conference of "Itsuka Hi no Ataru Basho de"

Ueto Aya and Iijima Naoko attended the production press conference of their Winter 2013 drama "Itsuka Hi no Ataru Basho de" which is due to be shown via NHK from 8 January 2013 at 10pm on Tuesdays. The drama features both of them as women who are former inmates and how they rebuild their lives after getting out of prison.
Source: Sanspo

Friday, July 27, 2012

Koura Kengo reportedly dating model Nozaki Moeka

Koura Kengo is reportedly dating model Nozaki Moeka, according to the 27th July issue of FRIDAY. The two of them supposedly got to know each other when Nozaki went to watch a play which Koura appeared in. FRIDAY published photos of Koura escorting Nozaki into his apartment when the latter came to visit him at home. When asked about the relationship between Koura and Nozaki, Koura's agency said that they will leave it to him to handle this since he's already an adult.
Source: Sanspo

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Igawa Haruka announces the birth of her 2nd child

Igawa Haruka announced through her official website on 25 July that her 2nd child (a boy) was born recently after the end of the rainy season. She is anticipating a return to work next year. Igawa married fashion designer Matsumoto Yo in November 2006 and their first daughter was born in June 2009.

Source: Sanspo

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Update to the Summer 2012 ratings race - 25 Jul 12

Here are the ratings of episodes shown on Monday and Tuesday:

Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan Ep 4 - 7.1% (up 0.5%)
Soumatou Kabushigaisha Ep 2 - 2.0% (down 0.8%)
Rich Man, Poor Woman Ep 3 - 13.1% (up 1.8%)
Iki mo dekinai natsu Ep 3 - 11.0% (up 0.8%)
GTO Ep 4 - 13.9% (up 1.6%)

Omori Nao to star in TV Tokyo drama SP "Oyaji ga kureta himitsu ~ Shimoarai 5 Kyoudai no Kikyou"

Omori Nao will be starring in the TV Tokyo drama SP "Oyaji ga kureta himitsu ~ Shimoarai 5 Kyoudai no Kikyou" which is due to be shown in September. The story is based on a popular play written by actor Oizumi Yo's theatre group TEAM NACS which they performed in 2009 and this will be the first time it is made into a drama. Co-stars in this SP include Ozawa Yukiyoshi, Koura Kengo, Nagayama Kento and Hasegawa Kyoko.

Source: Sanspo

Ayase Haruka & Okada Masaki at press conference of "Himitsu no Akko-chan"

Ayase Haruka and Okada Masaki appeared in yukatas at the completion press conference of their movie "Himitsu no Akko-chan" which is due to be shown in cinemas from 1 September. The story is based on the late Akatsuka Fujio's manga which depicts a 10-year-old girl being transformed into an adult (Ayase) through a magical mirror. When asked about who they would like to transform into if they have this mirror, Ayase and Okada answered Yamamoto Yae and Minamoto Yoritomo respectively which are the characters they play in the upcoming and current Taiga dramas.

Source: Sanspo

Sakai Masato & Hirosue Ryoko at press conference of "Kagidorobo no Mesoddo"

Sakai Masato and Hirosue Ryoko appeared at the press conference of their new movie "Kagidorobo no Mesoddo" held in Osaka on 24 July. The movie is scheduled to be shown in cinemas from 15 September. Sakai plays an unpopular actor who goes through an unexpected character change with a professional killer played by Kagawa Teruyuki and the two get involved in a love triangle with Hirosue's character who is a woman in search of a marriage partner but doesn't smile at all.

Source: Sanspo

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yamada Ryosuke to be 4th generation Kindaichi Hajime in latest SP

Hey! Say! JUMP!'s Yamada Ryosuke will become the 4th generation Kindaichi Hajime in the latest SP of the Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo series titled "Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo Hong Kong Kowloon Zaihou Satsujin Jiken" due to be shown on NTV this winter. Yamada has previously acted in other detective dramas like "Tantei Gakuen Q" and "Furuhata Chuugakusei" and joins his seniors Domoto Tsuyoshi, Matsumoto Jun and Kamenashi Kazuya in playing Kindaichi. Filming will take place in Hong Kong from mid September.
Source: Yomiuri Hochi
 
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Being a longtime fan of the Kindaichi series (I have all volumes of the manga and have watched all the dramas made so far), my personal favourite is still Domoto Tsuyoshi. Frankly speaking, it's rather difficult for his juniors to carry on the Kindaichi legacy because the role is one of Domoto's signature works and they will have big shoes to fit. It's inevitable that younger actors will take on this role in time to come (since Kindaichi is forever a high school student) but it remains to be seen if those who have seen the past generations of Kindaichi will continue to support the series, no matter who plays the lead role.
 
Now, the next question is...who will be Miyuki???

Monday, July 23, 2012

Update to Summer 2012 ratings race - 23 Jul 12

With all summer dramas having aired their first episodes, here is how the ranking looks like in terms of first OA ratings:

1) Kyoto Chiken no Onna 16.0%
2) Ghost Mama Sousasen 15.2%
3) GTO 15.1%
4) Summer Rescue 14.7%
5) Rich Man, Poor Woman 13.9%
6) Iryu Sousa 13.3%
7) Keishichou Sousa Ikka 9 Kakari 13.0%
8) Tokkan / Kuro no Onna Kyoushi / Beautiful Rain 12.9%
11) Iki mo dekinai natsu 12.1%
12) Higashino Keigo Mysteries 11.3%
13) Beginners 8.5%
14) Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan 7.8%
15) Boys On The Run 7.5%
16) Omo ni naitemasu 6.6%
17) VISION 4.1%
18) Soumatou Kabushikigaisha 2.8%
19) Sprout 2.4%
And here are the ratings for episodes aired between last Thursday and Sunday:

Beginners Ep 2 - 9.9% (increased by 1.4% from its debut)
Higashino Keigo Mysteries Ep 3 - 8.8% (1% higher than its worst rating so far the previous week)
Kuro no Onna Kyoushi Ep 1 - 12.9%
Ghost Mama Sousasen Ep 3 - 11.0% (same as episode 2)
Sprout Ep 3 - 2.9% (highest to date)
Summer Rescue Ep 3 - 10.1% (lowest to date)
Beautiful Rain Ep 4 - 13.0% (highest to date)

Finally, this is how the ranking stands now in terms of average ratings:

1) Kyoto Chiken no Onna 16.0%
2) GTO 13.57%
3) Iryu Sousa 13.3%
4) Kuro no Onna Kyoushi 12.9%
5) Rich Man, Poor Woman 12.6%
6) Ghost Mama Sousasen 12.4%
7) Summer Rescue 12.13%%
8) Keishichou Sousa Ikka 9 Kakari 11.77%
9) Tokkan 11.63%
10) Iki mo dekinai natsu 11.15%
11) Beautiful Rain 11.0%

12) Higashino Keigo Mysteries 9.3%
13) Beginners 9.2%
14) Omo ni naitemasu 6.6%
15) Naniwa Shounen Tanteidan 6.47%
16) Boys On The Run 6.45%
17) VISION 3.55%
18) Soumatou Kabushikigaisha 2.8%
19) Sprout 2.6%
One interesting trait about the ratings this season is that, they are so close to one another that it won't be surprising to find a drama going up and down the ranking in a matter of a week. For example, the 12% club has 4 contenders which are likely to swap positions if they do well or badly in a week.
 
Kyoto Chiken no Onna hasn't aired its 2nd episode yet so going by the usual trend of the 2nd episode doing not as well as the first, its top position may be at risk. Then again, it has to go below 11.1% in order for it to have a lower average than GTO, provided the latter will not do badly this week. Likewise for Iryu Sousa and Kuro no Onna Kyoushi, the first episode ratings can't really tell the direction of these two dramas in terms of viewership so their OAs this week will be a barometer of how well it is received by viewers.
 
As for VISION, Soumatou and Sprout, I think their low ratings aren't as alarming as it seems especially when you consider that their timeslots aren't primetime. Usually, past 11pm and midnight dramas tend to have lower ratings (Jikou Keisatsu was a rare hit) so the situation isn't bad after all unlike Kazoku no Uta last season which was in a primetime slot. Sprout in particular seems to be gaining popularity since its first OA.

Preview of Kuro no Onna Kyoushi - Summer 2012

Title: Kuro no Onna Kyoushi (The Black Female Teacher)
Official site: here
Official Twitter: here
O.A. start date: 20 July 2012
Timeslot: Fridays 10pm
Broadcast by: TBS
Theme song: THE OVER by UVERworld
Cast: Eikura Nana, Kimura Fumino, Triendl Reina, Moro Morooka, Suzuki Ryohei, Mitsuishi Ken, Ichikawa Mikako, Minami Kaho, Kobayashi Satomi

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The price tags which popular actresses supposedly charge for drama appearances and potential ratings they bring in (Nikkan Gendai)

Nikkan Gendai recently published a ranking of actresses in terms of the amount they supposedly charge for each drama episode and the potential ratings they are expected to secure for their dramas.

1) Matsushima Nanako / More than JPY 2.5m / 12.4%

2) Ayase Haruka / More than JPY 2.2m / 12.1%

3) Ueto Aya / More than JPY 2m / 11.9%
4) Nagasawa Masami / More than JPY 2m / 9.7%
5) Amami Yuki / More than JPY 2m / 8.9%
6) Koizumi Kyoko / More than JPY 2m / 8.4%
7) Yonekura Ryoko / More than JPY 2m / 7.9%
8) Nakama Yukie / More than JPY 2m / 5.5%

9) Suzuki Kyoka / More than JPY 1.8m / 5.9%

10) Matsushita Nao / More than JPY 1.7m / 8.7%

11) Takeuchi Yuko / More than JPY 1.6m / 11.7%
12) Kanno Miho / More than JPY 1.6m / 11.4%
13) Maki Youko / More than JPY 1.6m / 10.7%
14) Horikita Maki / More than JPY 1.6m / 10.5%
15) Kichise Michiko / More than JPY 1.6m / 10.1%
16) Fukada Kyoko / More than JPY 1.6m / 9.4%
17) Shibasaki Kou / More than JPY 1.6m / 9.3%
18) Maeda Atsuko / More than JPY 1.6m / 4.9%

19) Kitagawa Keiko / More than JPY 1.5m / 11.2%
20) Ashida Mana / More than JPY 1.5m / 11.1%

Matsushima Nanako is enjoying a resurgence in her career after "Kaseifu no Mita" became a phenomenal hit but given the high price tag she supposedly commands, it could be why she doesn't appear in as many dramas or movies like many of her counterparts who charge lesser and can bring in as many viewers as her. Likewise in the JPY 2m club (with the exception of Ueto Aya), it looks like these actresses' price tags don't seem to justify the below-10% ratings they bring in. In contrast, the JPY 1.6m club looks like a better deal for TV stations and movie companies. Of course, this type of ranking may not be truly accurate since price tags are usually confidential information and potential ratings of a drama depends a lot on the co-stars and story as well.

Source: Nikkan Gendai

Review of Rich Man, Poor Woman Ep 1

Hyuga Toru (Oguri Shun), a 29-year-old company president, is lying down in a tatami-mat room while tapping on his smartphone. He enters the name "Sawaki Chihiro" into a search engine and ends up not finding any result. Hyuga is frustrated by this but it looks as if he was expecting this anyway. An alert pops up on his phone and he hurriedly checks the information. At the same time, Asahina Kosuke (Iura Arata), the co-founder and vice president of Hyuga's company Next Innovation, is looking for the latter high and low at a US trade fair and finds that Hyuga had gone back to Japan without telling him. Just then, Hyuga calls Asahina and Yamagami Yoshiyuki (Sano Shiro), the accounting director, that he wants to buy a IT company in India. Yamagami raises his objection because this purchase will eat up a big chunk of the company's cash but Asahina allows Hyuga to go ahead, much to Yamagami's exasperation. In a matter of a few taps on his phone, Hyuga completes the 9 billion yen purchase which he's extremely pleased about. Despite his high-flying status, Hyuga is one who doesn't conform to social norms and has an illness which prevents him from remembering someone's face or name.

On the other end of spectrum, we have this lady here (Ishihara Satomi) who's complaining to her university's career counsellor about how difficult it is for her to find a job despite being a science student in the prestigious University of Tokyo (Todai for short). In the current economic conditions, being a student from a top school no longer gives her an advantage and she's very worried about not getting a job offer before her graduation next spring. Note that I'm not naming her now because something will happen later on in this episode which also explains why she will remain as Miss Todai for now. It will also be worth noting that through this recap of her job search journey, nobody had called out her name once so this piece of information looks set to remain confidential for a while longer.

The hero and heroine would never have met if not for a recruitment talk Next Innovation is holding for  graduating students who want to join the company. As per things would happen in most romance dramas, the two of them leave a bad impression on each other. While asking questions from the students on why they want to join his company, Hyuga had picks Miss Todai from the audience and asks her how many job offers she has received to date. Miss Todai admits sheepishly that she hasn't been successful at all during her job search which leads Hyuga to mock her for being so useless that nobody will want to hire her despite her excellent results and the brand name school she's from. He even goes as far as saying that Miss Todai is a failure under Japan's current education system. This leads Miss Todai to retort that Hyuga should also consider those who don't meet his criteria as worthy of joining Next Innovation instead of dismissing them just because they haven't received offers from other companies. Hyuga tells Miss Todai that there's nothing good about her except her strong memory which earns him another rebuke from her that her name is Sawaki Chihiro, not Miss Todai! This is a strong blow to Hyuga who attempts to cover his uneasiness at the mention of Sawaki Chihiro because that's the name of his mother who he is trying to locate.

Hyuga gets Asahina to help him shift his refrigerator to a new spot which is right in the middle of a bare living room with just a sofa in front of it. Asahina can't understand why Hyuga couldn't pay to get someone to do this to which Hyuga remarks that he asked for it so many times that the company doing it didn't want to take up the job anymore. Just then, Asahina's sister Yoko (Aibu Saki) comes over to Hyuga's place to meet her elder brother and greets the latter as if she has met him before. However, Hyuga doesn't remember Yoko at all so she has to hide her uneasiness when she unwittingly reveals things that she already knows about Hyuga but he can't even recall that he ever told her these. Asahina tells Yoko that Hyuga can't remember people's names or faces so she is determined to make sure he doesn't forget her the next time they meet. They will definitely meet more often as time goes by since Yoko is going to be the lead chef at the restaurant which is located at the ground floor of the building where Next Innovation is at.

Hyuga, Asahina and Yamagami discuss the idea of taking on a project to handle single identification numbers for the government which has yet to be be passed in parliament. Yamagami feels that it is a very risky project given that the idea hasn't even been legally passed and the amount involved is too big. Flopping would mean that Next Innovation would go under. However, Hyuga is bent on making his company become more than a IT company which depended on social media and virtual merchandise to make its fortune while Asahina seems content to let Hyuga have his way. The only thing is, Fujikawa Masako (Daichi Mao), the official at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications who is in-charge of the this, simply dislikes Hyuga especially after a clash over another project in the past. As such, Hyuga decides to get Sawaki to act as a high-ranking employee in Next Innovation and try to get into Fujikawa's good books since they are from the same school (Todai) and should be on the same frequency.

Sawaki is called to Next Innovation to meet Hyuga. Although she believes that she wouldn't be hired after that outburst, she is somewhat eagerly anticipating something good to come out of the meeting. To her surprise, Hyuga starts treating her like she's some goddess in front of his staff but his true colours show when they are alone in his office. Hyuga tells Sawaki about his plan and offers her money to help him out. He gives her a huge stack of materials to memorise before they meet Fujikawa. Although Sawaki is rather reluctant to help Hyuga because of his arrogant attitude, she decides to prove to him that her strong memory is a plus point despite Hyuga dismissing her the first time they met. Sawaki fulfills her side of the promise and goes to Hyuga's office the next day, armed with the knowledge she had memorised over night. However, Hyuga tells Sawaki that her dress sense will definitely give the game away and brings her to branded boutiques to have a makeover. Even Asahina is surprised by how Sawaki looks and gives her the thumbs-up.

 The trio then head to a party where they are supposed to meet Fujikawa. Sawaki is overwhelmed by the grand setting and starts to get cold feet. Hyuga gives her a boost in confidence by saying that she can do it so Sawaki tries her best to manage the situation. True to what Hyuga had expected, Sawaki does manage to impress Fujikawa with her knowledge and sharp views on the single identification number issue. However, a smart-aleck remark by Sawaki at the end of the party offends Fujikawa so much that Hyuga knows that it will be a miracle if Fujikawa still views Next Innovation favourably as a potential vendor for the project. This makes Hyuga so mad that he scolds Sawaki till she's on the verge of tears. When Hyuga leaves the party, Asahina goes to console Sawaki who knows that she created a mess despite being so close to success.

As Hyuga is driving, he notices Sawaki's shoes in his car and turns around to return to the party venue. However, when he sees that Sawaki and Asahina are leaving the place together in his car and how she seems to have cheered up after being scolded, Hyuga gets mad for no reason and drives off without returning the shoes.

Meanwhile, Asahina and Sawaki are discussing where to have some food since they didn't manage to eat much during the party. However, when Asahina suddenly asks Sawaki who she is and why she's using a fake name, this makes her stumped and she keeps silent while Asahina waits for her explanation...

If not for the final twist in this episode, I might not want to watch this drama any longer. The premise isn't that new because Cinderella stories have been really common in J-dramaland for a very long time where a rich man's son meets a poor woman. Strictly speaking, Hyuga isn't a rich man's son since he built his company from scratch so that's one thing different from the norm. On the other hand, Sawaki isn't a typical poor girl too because she comes from a top-notch school and seemingly has a supportive family but she's expected to be poor in the future, given that she can't find a job yet. 

Hyuga's success is largely due to Asahina and Yamagami because his out-of-the-box thinking and ideas wouldn't have materialised without Asahina and Yamagami doing all the ground work. It's no wonder why the whole world thinks that Asahina is a better choice as CEO rather than Hyuga and nobody understands why Asahina wants to remain in the background. I think Asahina really thinks that Hyuga should bask in the limelight and he is indeed impressed by the latter's abilities. However, I don't think this will remain like this for a long time because in dramaland logic, Hyuga has to undergo a setback somewhere in time and I feel that Asahina holds the key to that. Sawaki may be the catalyst that sparks a change in status quo between these two buddies.Without Asahina, Hyuga may find it difficult to do what he wants because no one else can be as indulging as him.

Although I don't foresee that Yoko will be a strong contender for Hyuga's feelings, I think the past that they shared (not sure what it is yet) could be a factor that draws them closer. However, Sawaki already has an added advantage because of her name so Yoko looks set to fight a losing battle. Nonetheless, I like her character so far because she's not like the usual 2nd female lead who looks so frail and gentle and her vivacious personality will surely make her look more endearing even though she will be a stumbling block for our lead couple.

There's been talk going on about how this drama feels a lot like a typical Korean romance drama. I can see some similarities here and there but to be fair, some of these things have existed long ago in both types of dramas so it's rather difficult to say who copied who. One particular thing I find quite interesting is, most J-dramas wouldn't feature the 2nd leads so prominently in a poster or on the index page of its website but this drama features all 4 of them with equally big pictures (refer to the pre-site image) just like in K-dramas. That's rather unusual because 2nd leads are usually relegated to the sidelines or do not even make it to the poster images. I would think that Yoko and Asahina are not your mere 2nd leads who exist for the sole purpose of fighting for the affection of the lead couple but rather, their roles are important enough for them to be put together with the leads.

Like I said, the feeling of deja-vu kept popping up when I watched this episode because I've seen a lot of things which were present in the past. The idea of our heroine using a fake name was really ingenious (I wonder if she thought of the name on the spot or she was connected to Hyuga in the past) so I'll be interested enough to watch a few more episodes to see how it turns out. I just hope that the reason or rationale surrounding why she used this name would be explained in a reasonable manner though or I'll be quite mad at being taken on a ride to nowhere.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review of Higashino Keigo Mysteries Ep 1 - Sayonara Coach

I have to admit, I'm watching this drama mainly for the story rather than the star-studded cast lineup. I've always liked to watch Higashino Keigo's novels being made into dramas (although there were some which weren't handled so nicely) so this is a must-watch for me. Then again, I was a bit sceptical about how they could cram each short story into one episode and make it as engaging as a full-length drama which was usually based on an entire novel. The first episode was largely predictable but I liked the twist at the end which added an extra meaning to the title than what was obvious to all.

The episode begins with Nakai Kiichi playing the character of a spirit who stands beside his own corpse and starts to explain how he might have died. I'll call him Mr. Editor for now since there's no mention of his name so far. Mr. Editor stresses that he was a well-loved man and he can't figure out who might have wanted him dead. Just then, his secretary enters the room and discovers Mr. Editor's body. This leads him to wonder if a past affair with his secretary could have prompted her to kill him. As Mr.Editor starts to explain how frightening a spurned woman's wrath can be, this leads us to the main story in this episode.

Mochizuki Naomi (Tanaka Rena) was found dead in the locker room of the archery club of Mizuki Electronics and the police are combing the room for clues. Her coach Ishigami Jun (Karasawa Toshiaki) is being questioned by the police since he's the one who found her body and he has to watch the suicide note Mochizuki left for him in the form of a video tape.In the video recording, Mochizuki recounted how she was tired after trying her best in archery over many years and yet she couldn't fulfill her promise to Ishigami i.e. making it to the Olympics. As such, she felt that she had nothing left in life and had to end her life. Mochizuki repeated the words "sayonara coach" (goodbye coach) at least twice in the video which suggested that the message in the suicide note was meant for Ishigami.

Suzuki Kazuma (Nishioka Tokuma), a police detective, is in charge of this case and is especially interested in why Mochizuki had to go through all that trouble to kill herself (consuming sleeping pills and setting a timer to turn on the electric circuit she attached to her body) and leave the suicide note in a video. He gradually starts to suspect that things between Mochizuki and Ishigami weren't that simple after all and later finds out that Mochizuki had confided in a man who had been stalking her about the fact that she had committed suicide before and Ishigami had saved her then. Ishigami is eager to move on and forget about Mochizuki's death which further arouses Suzuki's suspicion.

In the end, it is revealed that Mochizuki and Ishigami started having an affair from the night he saved her from her first suicide attempt. She became more and more attached to him and was gradually showing signs of mental instability. When Mochizuki went to Ishigami's place and appeared to try to harm his wife (Toda Naho), Ishigami realised that he had to get rid of Mochizuki. He wanted to use the video she made during her first suicide and even persuaded Mochizuki to cut her long hair to match the hairstyle in the old video on the pretext of taking a final photo before Mochizuki retired as an archery athlete. This was when Mochizuki realised that Ishigami had the intention to kill her. However, she went along with his idea which made Ishigami think that his plan was foolproof. Little did he know that Mochizuki had left telltale clues in a new video she took after cutting her hair and wanted Ishigami to be implicated so that she could literally "bring him along to hell" with her death.

Like what I said, I thought it was too obvious from the start that Ishigami was guilty of killing Mochizuki and the only probable reason I could think of was because they were having an affair and he had to dump her. However, the saving grace was that Mochizuki was aware of Ishigami's plans and still went along for the sake of using her life to bring down Ishigami. There was no way Ishigami would leave his wife for her but she was also reluctant to let him get away with it while she suffered the agony of losing her love. That's why Mr.Editor remarked in the opening scene that a spurned woman's wrath is indeed extreme and frightening. Mochizuki was smart enough to make a new video and leave telltale clues that would indicate that there were discrepancies with the crime scene and what's featured in the video. I think fate also played a part in helping her because a spider which had been crawling on her bow in the locker room was featured in the suicide note video and that was the only thing Ishigami needed to see in order to realise that he was outsmarted by his protege. This final twist also added a different meaning to the title of this episode. It not only meant that Mochizuki was saying goodbye to her coach because she was going to die and also referred to the fact that Ishigami could only kiss his happy life goodbye when he was nabbed by the police.

Mr.Editor's presence was probably meant to lighten up the mood but at present, there's really nothing much to talk about with regard to his own murder so I guess some viewers may feel that his presence is redundant. I'm hoping that as he appears in more episodes, the mystery surrounding his death will be enticing and interesting enough to justify his role as navigator in this drama.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kouda Kumi gives birth to baby boy

Singer Kouda Kumi announced the birth of her first child, a baby boy, on 18 July. According to her agency, Kouda gave birth in the middle of July and this is the first child of her and her husband KENJI03 of rock band BACK-ON. The couple had gotten married in December 2011.

Source: Sanspo

FujiTV year-end drama SP "Onna Nobunaga"

Amami Yuki will be starring in FujiTV drama SP "Onna Nobunaga" as Oda Nobunaga during the Sengoku era who was born as a female but raised as a man by her father Oda Nobuhide. The drama SP based on a 2006 novel by Naoki Award winner Sato Kenichi is scheduled to be shown at the end of the year over two nights and it had a stage play version starring Kuroki Meisa in 2009. The female Nobunaga's romantic interest Akechi Mitsuhide will be played by Uchino Masaaki while Koyuki plays the wife of Nobunaga who doesn't know her husband's true gender. Other supporting cast members include Iseya Yusuke who plays Toyotomi Hidekichi while his sister Ichi will be played by Nagasawa Masami. Filming began last week.

Source: Sanspo

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review of Kagi no Kakatta Heya Ep 6

This time, our "detective trio" investigates a case which takes place in a theatre. At the beginning of the episode, Enomoto goes about his usual routine and explains how people are misled by their assumptions which leads them to miss out the important things. It will be worth noting that this short introduction clip contains a small trick which most people can't spot unless you hear Enomoto explaining it towards the end of the episode. This is something which has been used and widely discussed in many detective/suspense dramas but the concept never becomes stale because it's always a blind spot in human nature to miss what's in the surroundings when they are focused on something else.

Aoto asks Enomoto out to watch a stage play titled "Mishitsu ni torawareta otoko" (A man trapped in a closed room) at the invitation of Mizugi Rina, a secretary working in Serizawa's law firm who also happens to be the daughter of Serizawa's senior. Rina knows that her father objects to her acting so she has to keep this a secret. Enomoto obviously has no interest in stage plays but agrees to come along since he finds the title intriguing. Aoto is very impressed with the performance before the play and keeps exclaiming her excitement but Enomoto remains cool as a cucumber. When they finish watching the play, Aoto remarks that she didn't know the truth behind the mystery until the end while Enomoto remarks nonchalantly that he knew what happened at midpoint. They keep waiting for Rina to come out of the theatre but she's still nowhere to be found so they go to look for her with the assistance of a staff member. It is then that they find that one of the founding members of the theatre group Yakushiji was murdered by a wooden pole used to hit his head.

Serizawa hears from Aoto what happened and is worried about what might happen if Rina's father hears about what happened especially if her boyfriend is one of the murder suspects. He wants nothing to do with the case but Aoto manages to twist Serizawa around her finger by threatening to tell Rina's father that Serizawa failed to keep an eye on Rina and report her acting activities to him. Serizawa has no choice but to let Aoto get Enomoto continue with the investigation.

However, this case turns out to be more troublesome than expected and Enomoto has no idea what the murderer could have done to commit the crime. As Aoto goes around talking to the key personnel in the case i.e. Onitsuka (Sakamoto Masayuki), Hatakeyama (Horiuchi Keiko) and Ioka (Kiriyama Akito) who were also performers in the same segment as Yakushiji, she realises that Ioka (Rina's boyfriend) was likely to be the ghost writer of Onitsuka in exchange for a chance to act on stage.

At the same time, Onitsuka pays a visit to Enomoto on the pretext of asking about security systems which he would like to incorporate into his next script. Aoto tells Enomoto to ask Onitsuka indirectly if he might have been involved in the murder. Enomoto's lack of interest in knowing who's the culprit prompts him to ask Onitsuka bluntly (maybe he wants to get it over and done with?) and visibly startles the latter who starts to stutter. However, during their conversation, Enomoto does pick up an useful lead which indicates that Onitsuka would not have written the script for the play and Ioka should have been the ghost writer.

As Serizawa starts to get uptight about Rina's father asking him about his daughter again during the next meeting, he hurries Aoto to try to solve the case as soon as possible. While observing Onitsuka at the theatre, Enomoto realises something and checks it against a video recording of the play he watched with Aoto. Unexpectedly, Aoto also gets a lead from Hatakeyama that leads them to confirm that Onitsuka is the killer of Yakushiji.

Apparently, Yakushiji found out about Ioka being Onitsuka's ghost writer for an award-winning stage play and blackmailed him for money. This had been witnessed by Hatakeyama who happened to be present at the theatre. In order to stop Yakushiji from having his way, Onitsuka planned to murder Yakushiji and made use of the stage to create a scheme which would help him deflect suspicion. He had no intention of getting Ioka to be his scapegoat and was confident that Ioka wouldn't be implicated since there was no evidence that he could have killed Yakushiji.

I have to admit, this episode didn't excite me at all. Sakamoto Masayuki's appearance as a guest should have spiced things up a little especially when fellow artistes from Johnny's come together in the same drama/movie. The interaction between Enomoto and Onitsuka was sorely lacking and I thought it might have been better if we had been shown more of their conversation at Enomoto's office. That would have given an opportunity to provide some much-needed sparks in this episode. Even the showdown at the end of the episode felt like Onitsuka had no chance of defending himself against Enomoto and the latter literally had the whole stage to himself.

The use of humans' assumptions in suspense stories like this isn't a new concept and it depends very much on how the writer chooses to use it. Frankly speaking, it's always a given that we know who the culprit is in this drama. At least, that's what I'm seeing so far after 6 episodes. However, that scene of showing Onitsuka on stage practising the exact movements which would bring attention to himself was unwarranted. It was almost like he was telling the whole world that he was capable of doing that. To give the character the benefit of the doubt, he might not have been aware that Enomoto was sitting in the audience observing him but to me, I felt that there wasn't a need for the scriptwriter to show that to the viewers, at least not in that setting. If Enomoto had chanced upon Onitsuka practising those moves somewhere without others present, that would have gone down better with me.

At the end of this episode, we see Enomoto picking a lock AGAIN and it seems like this has nothing to do with his work. What's with that smirk after breaking the lock? ^__^ Somewhere in this episode as well, it is revealed that Koono feeds Enomoto information about the progress of police investigations. Are they getting too close for comfort? Does Koono have a motive for being friendly with Enomoto? After that revelation about Enomoto possibly being a criminal, nothing has taken place in this episode so I would look forward to more hints about Enomoto's background.

The next story takes place in the suburbs and has a hint of something supernatural going on. Given that this drama is not about spirits or the supernatural, the murder must have been the work of a human being so knowing this, viewers probably won't get spooked by whatever goes on.

Update to the Summer 2012 ratings race - 17 Jul 12

Here are the ratings for episodes shown from last Friday to yesterday:

Boys on the run Ep 2 - 5.4%
Ghost Mama Sousasen Ep 2 - 11.0%
Sprout Ep 2 - 2.5%
Omo ni naitemasu Ep 2 - 6.6%
Summer Rescue Ep 2 - 11.6%
Beautiful Rain Ep 3 - 8.6%
Naniwa Shonen Tanteidan Ep 3 - 5.6%
Soumatou Kabushigaisha Ep 1 - 2.8%
Rich Man Poor Woman Ep 2 - 11.3%

The 2nd episode "curse" strikes again with all but two dramas doing worse than their first OAs. Omo ni naitemasu managed to stay afloat at 6.6% while Sprout rose 0.1% in its 2nd episode. Besides this, the long weekend in Japan (it was Umi no Hi yesterday) could have meant that people were out on holiday rather than staying at home to catch up on their dramas. On a side note, Kyoto Chiken no Onna has not shown its 2nd episode yet (Iryu Sousa took up its slot with a 2 hour premiere) so it remains to be seen if it can hold on to its top position or that 16.0% was merely a fluke.

And here's how the situation looks like in terms of average ratings so far:

1) Kyoto Chiken no Onna 16.0%
2) GTO 14.2%
3) Iryu Sousa 13.3%
4) Summer Rescue 13.15%
5) Ghost Mama Sousasen 13.1%
6) Rich Man, Poor Woman 12.6%
7) Iki mo dekinai natsu 12.1%
8) Tokkan 11.85%
9) Keishichou Sousa Ikka 9 Kakari 11.45%
10) Beautiful Rain 10.33%

11) Higashino Keigo Mysteries 9.55%
12) Beginners 8.5%
13) Omo ni naitemasu 6.6%
14) Naniwa Shonen Tanteidan 6.47%
15) Boys On The Run 6.45%
16) VISION 3.55%
17) Soumatou Kabushigaisha 2.8%
18) Sprout 2.45%

We are not even at the mid-season mark but half of the offerings are below the 10% mark. I'm rather surprised at Higashino Keigo Mysteries doing so badly and wonder if it's really due to the poor story execution that I've heard about. Common traits among those below-10% dramas are that they are mostly headed by young and upcoming actors and the timeslots aren't exactly primetime, more like experimental works to test these actors' popularity and hone their acting skills. Even within the top 10, figures are still rather close to one another. If Kyoto Chiken no Onna does badly in the second episode, it opens up a path for GTO to aim for the top spot. It's still early days to see how many dramas will pass the 10% mark come September but one thing is for sure, the ratings will probably hit rock bottom when the Olympics start. Whether they will bounce back after that is another question.

Higa Manami and Fukushi Seiji in FujiTV drama "Bakken Record wo Koete"

Higa Manami and Fukushi Seiji play a couple in the upcoming FujiTV drama "Bakken Record wo Koete" (Crossing the jumping record) which is due to be shown this winter. The drama is based on a true story which won an award in the 17th FNS Documentary Award and is scheduled to be a commemorative drama to celebrate UHB's 40th anniversary. Fukushi plays a former ski jump athlete Kaneko Yusuke who had aimed to take part in the Winter Olympics but suffered a major head injury during practice. With the help of his wife Hitomi (Higa), he makes an amazing recovery back to the sport.

Filming began in February in Tokyo and Hokkaido and stopped for four months before wrapping up at the end of June. The final scene to be shot was when Hitomi looked on to see her husband participating in a ski jump event again. It was a pity though that the real Hitomi passed away in May at the young age of 37 due to cancer and wasn't able to see the completion of this drama. With regard to this, Higa remarked that they had met Hitomi back in February during the filming and the latter had left a deep impression on everyone then with her smile.

Source: Sanspo

Production press conference of "Kuro no Onna Kyoushi"

The production press conference of TBS summer drama "Kuro no Onna Kyoushi" was held on 16 July where lead cast members Eikura Nana, Ichikawa Mikako and Kobayashi Satomi made appearances. The drama which features Eikura as a senior high school teacher who resorts to drastic measures at night to solve problems in school for high remuneration, will begin its run on 20 April at 10pm on Fridays. This press conference also marked the first public appearance of Kobayashi who had been involved in a major traffic accident on 6 July while on the way to filming.

Source: Sanspo

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"Brave Hearts Umizaru" begins its run in cinemas

The latest instalment in the Umizaru series, "Brave Hearts Umizaru" began its run on 14 July which was marked by a series of 10 meet-and-greet sessions by the cast at 8 different locations in Tokyo. Cast members who made appearances included Ito Hideaki, Kato Ai, Sato Ryuta, Naka Riisa, Miura Shohei and Ihara Takeshi. According to Toho, the movie company which distributes the movie, "Brave Hearts Umizaru" had already attracted 42 percent more cinema-goers on its first screening day compared to the last instalment which was the top Japanese movie in 2010. As such, the new movie is set to cross the JPY 10bn mark if the trend continues. Cast members thanked the fans for their support with Ito declaring that they would really like to see "Brave Hearts Umizaru" become the top movie again this year.

Source: Sanspo