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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Kashii Yui pregnant with her second child; gives up her role in "Kurokochi" to Ashina Sei

Odagiri Jo and his wife Kashii Yui are expecting their second child as reported on 30 October. The couple who got married in February 2008, had their first son in early 2011. Kashii is currently five months' pregnant and has been suffering from serious morning sickness since the middle of this month. Although she was involved in the filming of TBS autumn drama "Kurokochi" since 27 September, she was absent from the drama's press conference on 3 October due to the morning sickness which had lasted much longer than expected. In view of her condition, Kashii had no choice but to give up her role in the drama even though she has finished filming for her scenes up to the 3rd episode. Kashii's role in the drama will now be played by Ashina Sei.

Sources: Sponichi 1 / Sponichi 2

Completion screening event of WOWOW drama SP "Chicken Race"

The completion screening event of new WOWOW drama SP "Chicken Race" was held on 31 October in Tokyo which was attended by cast members Terao Akira, Okada Masaki, Arimura Kasumi and Matsusaka Keiko. The drama SP will be shown via WOWOW on 10 November at 9pm and was filmed using 4K definition technology. Terao commented that this was the best story and cast he had come across in his 40-year acting career and hopes that the drama SP will touch the hearts of many people.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Toda Erika & Katsuji Ryo reportedly dating?

Toda Erika and Katsuji Ryo are reportedly dating, according to the 22nd October issue of "Shuukan Josei" which featured photos of the couple locking arms while on a date. The article mentioned that Toda and Katsuji went for a meal at a Japanese restaurant in Tokyo before heading to a discount shop to do some shopping. After their date, the couple were seen locking arms and holding hands while on their way back to Toda's apartment.

Toda and Katsuji met during the filming of FujiTV summer drama "SUMMER NUDE" this year and were said to have become closer as a result. When asked about the report, Katsuji's agency did not deny nor admit to the relationship and said that they will leave things to him since it is his private affair.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Shaku Yumiko to be guest star in Episode 4 of "Doctor X Gekkai Daimon Michiko"

Shaku Yumiko will be the guest star in the fourth episode of TV Asahi autumn 2013 drama "Doctor X Gekkai Daimon Michiko" which will be shown on 7 November. This is the first time in 9 years since Shaku last worked with the lead of "Doctor X" i.e. Yonekura Ryoko and they last played rivals in the 2004 TV Asahi drama "Kurokawa no Tecchou". This time, Shaku will play the mamasan of a high-class club in Ginza which is sort of a continuation of her role in "Kurokawa no Tecchou". As there is a scene in the drama featuring Yonekura giving Shaku a heart massage, Shaku jokingly said that it was a pretty "enjoyable" scene to have Yonekura place her hands on Shaku's chest.

Source: Sanspo

Abe Hiroshi to be back in Shinzanmono drama SP during New Year 2014

Abe Hiroshi will be back in the latest drama SP of the Shinzanmono series which will be shown during New Year 2014 via TBS. The drama SP titled "Nemuri no mori ~ Shinzanmono SP" (O.A. date undecided) is based on Higashino Keigo's bestselling novel and will be set during a period way before Abe's characer Kaga Kyoichiro was posted to the Nihonbashi Police Station in the 2010 drama series. In the SP, he will be investigating a murder case which involves a ballet troupe. Famous ballet dancer Kumakawa Tetsuya's ballet company "K Ballet Company" will be providing full support in the form of their dancers, choreography, music, stage art, costumes and live performances being featured in the SP. K Ballet Company dancers such as Miyao Shuntaro and Masuko Yamato will also be acting in the drama SP as members of the ballet troupe. As for the heroine who plays a ballet dancer, it will be announced at a later date.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Completion screening event of movie "Roommate"

The completion screening event of movie "Roommate" was held at Shinjuku Wald 9 on 30 October which was attended by cast members Kitagawa Keiko, Fukada Kyoko and Koura Kengo. The suspense-horror film will be shown in cinemas from 9 November and features Kitagawa and Fukada as friends who later fall out and Kitagawa's character is horrified to find her good friend being more than who appears to be after they meet a man played by Koura.

When the media asked the ladies about their kiss scene with each other, Kitagawa said that it was the first time she had kissed a woman and she was quite nervous about it. She commented shyly that Fukada's lips felt very soft and the latter gave the same compliment in return.

Source: Sanspo

Screening event of movie "Mugiko-san to"

The screening event of new movie "Mugiko-san to" was held in Tokyo on 28 October which was attended by the leads Horikita Maki and Matsuda Ryuhei who play siblings. The film will be shown in cinemas from 21 December. When asked about her impression of Matsuda, Horikita commented that although he looks quiet on the surface, he's actually quite talkative. As both of them had worked on NHK's morning dramas, they also shared their experiences on set while shooting the movie.

Source: Sponichi

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Preview of "Hard Nut! ~ Suugaku Girl no Koi Suru Jikenbo"

Title: Hard Nut! ~ Suugaku Girl no Koi Suru Jikenbo
Official website: here
O.A. Start Date: 20 October 2013
Broadcast by: NHK
Timeslot: Sundays 10pm
Total number of episodes: 8
Main Cast: Hashimoto Ai, Koura Kengo

First-day screening event of movie "Kiyoku Yawaku"

The first-day screening event of movie "Kiyoku Yawaku" was held at TOHO Cinemas Shibuya on 26 October which was attended by cast members Nagasawa Masami, Okada Masaki, Koura Kengo, Haru, Nakamura Aoi and the director Shinjou Takehiko. The movie which is now showing at 266 cinemas nationwide, features Nagasawa as the heroine Kanna who loses her childhood friend Haruta (Koura) through a traffic accident when she was in the first year of senior high school and is unable to fall in love with anyone until she meets Akazawa Roku (Okada) who has a similar painful past like Kanna. As the event coincided with Halloween, marshmallows were given out by the cast to the audience.

Source: Eiga.com

Takeda Shinji to join the cast of FujiTV autumn 2013 drama "Honey Trap" from Ep 3 onwards

Takeda Shinji will be joining the cast of FujiTV autumn 2013 drama "Honey Trap" from the 3rd episode onwards which will be shown on 2 November. The drama features EXILE member AKIRA as the lead character Miyama Yuichi who gets framed for leaking confidential corporate information and is suspended from work. However, things do not stop there as his father who is an university professor suddenly dies due to mysterious circumstances, he finds a bug in his house and discovers a forged passport belonging to his wife Natsumi (Nakama Yukie). As a result, Yuichi finds it hard to trust anyone and meets a mysterious man named Amane (Takeda) who gets close to Yuichi on purpose.

Source: Sanspo

Ikewaki Chizuru reportedly dating a lighting engineer from Kyoto

Ikewaki Chizuru is reportedly in a long distance relationship as reported in the 25th October issue of "FRIDAY". According to the magazine, Ikewaki is seeing an engineer working in a lighting company based in Uzumasa, Kyoto. The couple reportedly spent time together in September at Ikewaki's apartment in Tokyo and were seen shopping at a supermarket. When asked about the report, Ikewaki's agency commented that they will leave things to her since it's her private life.

Source: Sanspo

Friday, October 25, 2013

Oricon Favourite Artistes Ranking 2013

Numbers in brackets indicate the ranking held by the artiste in the previous year:

1) Arashi (1)

2) Ikimonogakari (2)

3) Mr.Children (3)

4) Fukuyama Masaharu (4)

5) Yuzu (5)

6) Utada Hikaru (8)

7) B'z (6)

8) Southern All Stars (7)

9) Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (outside of top 50)

10) Kobukuro (9)

11) Amuro Namie (16)

12) Spitz (11)

13) Porno Graffiti (10)

14) Momoiro Clover Z (outside of top 50)

15) Perfume (14)

16) YUI (15)

17) aiko (12)

18) Kuwata Keisuke (18)

19) EXILE (20)

20) BUMP OF CHICKEN (19)

Source: Oricon

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Completion screening event of "Gekijouban SPEC ~ Close"

The completion screening event of movie "Gekijouban SPEC ~ Close" which consists of two parts "Zen no Hen" and "Kou no Hen", was held at Tokyo International Forum on 21 October where cast members such as Toda Erika, Kase Ryo, Mukai Osamu, Oshima Yuko, Ryu Raita, Kamiki Ryunosuke, Arimura Kasumi, Fukuda Saki, Shirota Yu and Mano Erina appeared. Toda commented that the SPEC series has become her signature work. The first part of the movie will be shown in cinemas from 1 Nov while part 2 will begin its run from 29 Nov.

Source: Sanspo

Tokoshima Yoshiko, Uchi Hiroki & Takada Sho in FujiTV afternoon drama "Tengoku no Koi"

The production press conference of FujiTV afternoon drama "Tengoku no Koi" was held on 21 October which was attended by cast members such as Tokoshima Yoshiko, Uchi Hiroki, Johnny's Jr member Takada Sho and Ishida Junichi. The drama which begins its run from 28 October at 1.30pm on weekdays, features Tokoshima as a 41-year-old housewife who falls in love with two young guys of 27 years old. When asked if they would be able to sleep with someone in their 40s who takes the initiative, Uchi answered with a smile that he would do it because age does not matter in love. Meanwhile, Takada said that since he's only 20 years old now, he doesn't think he can do it yet until he matures as a man. On the other hand, Ishida Junichi who plays a father with an illegitimate son in the story said that there will be no such occurrence in his real life.

Source: Sanspo

Koike Eiko to be the lead for NHK drama "Hana Saku Ashita"

Koike Eiko will take on her first leading role in a NHK drama through the new series "Hana Saku Ashita" (Tomorrow when the flower blooms) which begins its run from 5 January at 10pm on Sundays. She plays the role a career woman from a family living in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture, whose mother (Natsuki Mari) left home 20 years ago to go to Italy and abandoned her husband and five children. When her mother suddenly returns to look for them, Koike's character clashes with her as she cannot understand why her mother left them and why she returned. Koike's siblings will be played by Mashima Hidekazu, Hoshino Mari, Yamada Yu and Takeda Kohei. Her love interests will be played by Suruga Taro and Yanagishita Tomo.

Source: Sanspo

Hirosue Ryoko to be guest star in Ep 4 of "Legal High 2"

Hirosue Ryoko will appear in Episode 4 of "Legal High 2" which is due to be shown on 30 October at 10pm on Wednesday. She first appeared in the SP shown in April this year as a emotionless judge Beppu Toshiko who is nicknamed "The Sadistic Judge" by Komikado Kensuke (Sakai Masato) when he insulted her in court and was kept in custody for disrupting the order of the court. This time, the two of them cross paths again during a trial of a case where neighbours are suing each other. Hirosue commented that she was honoured to be able to play this role again and hopes to be able to match up to Komikado with the calmness in this role.

Source: Sanspo                                                  

Winners of the Tokyo Drama Award 2013

Best Drama Series (Grand Prix): Ama-chan (NHK)

Best Drama Series (Excellence Awards):
Nakuna, Hara-chan (NTV)
Doctor X ~ Gekkai Daimon Michiko (TV Asahi)
Tonbi (TBS)
Kodoku no Gourmet Season 2 (TV Tokyo)
Galileo (FujiTV)

Best Drama SP (Grand Prix): Double Face ~ Sennyuu Sousahen Gisou Keisatsu hen (TBS / WOWOW)

Best Drama SP (Excellence Awards):
Radio (NHK / TV Man Union)
Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo Hong Kong Kowloon Zaihou Satsujin Jiken (NTV)
Saigo kara nibanme no Koi 2012 Autumn (FujiTV)

Best Local Drama (i.e. those made outside of Tokyo):
Tanuki na Kazoku (NHK Tokushima)
Nagoya iki saishuu ressha (Nagoya TV)

Best Leading Actor: Eita - Saikou no Rikon (FujiTV)
Best Leading Actress: Nounen Reina - Ama-chan (NHK)
Best Supporting Actor: Ayano Go - Saikou no Rikon (FujiTV)
Best Supporting Actress: Koizumi Kyoko - Ama-chan (NHK)
Best Script: Kudo Kankuro - Ama-chan (NHK)

Source: Tokyo Drama Award

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Are theme songs still relevant to dramas now?

Came across this article by music critic Tomisawa Issei which talks about the relevance of theme songs to dramas now which I found very insightful. I won't translate the whole article word for word but will just highlight the key observations and viewpoints he raised:

In the past especially in the 90s, drama theme songs such as "Love Story wa totsuzen ni" or "SAY YE can be said to be a part of the drama just like the lines spoken by the cast. Most, if not all theme songs were crafted to portray the feelings of the characters and could boost the impact of critical scenes at the right moment. As such, this is why viewers then to remember the drama and its signature scenes whenever they hear the theme songs. Conversely, the reverse holds true i.e. seeing the drama brings back memories of the theme song.

However, in recent years, there are less examples of such theme songs. Even so for top-rating dramas like "Hanzawa Naoki" or "Ama-chan", all they had were BGMs and no theme songs. In this age, is there still a need for drama theme songs if they do not wield the same power as before?

In the old days where drama producers brought the scripts to recording companies and singers to ask them to write a song for the drama, it was no wonder that the songs were a perfect fit and complemented the dramas. When drama theme songs became profitable commercially, the reverse happened i.e. record companies became more active in lobbying for their artistes to sing theme songs. It turned out to be good for the TV stations which no longer needed to spend money on producing the theme songs or BGM. In extreme cases, theme songs were selected not on the basis of their suitability and TV stations just used whatever they were offered. As such, there were many "ready-made" theme songs which fitted the requirements of the TV stations.

As a result of this trend, drama viewers started to wonder why certain songs were used as the themes even though they were obviously incompatible with the dramas' content. It was also becoming more obvious that the use of some of these songs were meant to be for money-making purposes.

And that is precisely why drama theme songs find it hard to make it as hits these days. The opening theme of "Ama-chan" and theme of "Hanzawa Naoki" were made to match the drama's content so even without a theme song with lyrics, they were still memorable and popular with viewers. This sort of lends credibility to the argument that a theme song is not always necessary for a drama if the BGM can convey the same message.

It is probably now that we should think about not attaching irrelevant and unwanted things to the lyrics of drama theme songs and return to the basics of the golden era for theme songs.

I tend to agree with most of this article as in, the theme songs these days just don't have the same amount of influence and reach as before and there have been many mismatches between the dramas and the songs. Even for theme songs coming from artistes I like, I can't help but think that the usage of such songs stems from a commercial reason rather than the songs selected for their quality or compatibility with the dramas.

Back in the days when I was still a very hardcore Johnny's fan (I still support some of the older groups now), I think most people would notice that the theme songs of dramas featuring Johnny's artistes would tend to be that sung by the same person or group which he belongs to. So for example, if a TOKIO member is the lead for a drama, chances are the theme song is also by TOKIO. Same goes for SMAP, V6, KinKi Kids, Arashi etc. This led to some criticism that the tie-up with the drama was merely a way to sell the CDs which I do notice and acknowledge that the singles which had been drama theme songs tend to do better in sales. Commercially, they are not wrong in doing that but to the viewers especially those who aren't fans, the theme songs sometimes do not go down well with the general public. Due to this perceived "unfair advantage" held by the JE groups, it can be a pity at times especially if the song is good but prejudice against the group or this system already rules out the song as a potential favourite right from the start.

Do you have any examples of mismatched theme songs which you feel that do not fit the dramas? Or do you have any examples of theme songs which are perfect matches with the dramas? Do share your thoughts here through the comments section.

Source: News Post Seven

First-day screening event of movie "Jinrui Shikin"

The first-day screening event of new movie "Jinrui Shikin" was held on 19 October at Marunouchi Picadilly in Yurakucho which was attended by cast members Sato Koichi, Moriyama Mirai, Odagiri Jo, Katori Shingo, Mizuki Arisa and Kishibe Ittoku. As the filming of the movie was done in 4 countries and the travelling distance was more than 50,000 km, Sato jokingly lamented that he should have earned all those air miles while they were travelling.

The movie is currently showing in 260 cinemas nationwide.

Source: Eiga.com

Tsutsumi Shinichi, Ono Machiko & Tamaki Hiroshi in new movie "Kamisama wa Bali ni iru"

Tsutsumi Shinichi, Ono Machiko and Tamaki Hiroshi will be starring in the new movie "Kamisama wa Bali ni iru" (God is in Bali) which was shot on location in Bali from late July over a month and will be wrapped up in Japan. The movie which will be shown in cinemas in 2014, is based on a novel "Dekasegeba Daifugo" by Kuroiwa Sho which features Ono as Shoko, whose matchmaking business flops and she runs away to Bali. While there, she happens to meet a rich Japanese businessman by the nickname Aniki who sports a permed hairstyle and has the feel of a yakuza. Through the interactions with Aniki, the locals in Bali and Ryu, a doctor whose life had also been changed by Aniki, Shoko undergoes a change in mindset and gets the courage to change herself and deal with her problems.

Source: Eiga.com

Kimura Yoshino to star in FujiTV 2-hour drama SP "Morimura Seiichi Suspense Kodoku no Missou ~ Honyakuka no Satsujin Suiri"

Kimura Yoshino will be the lead in the FujiTV 2-hour drama SP titled "Morimura Seiichi Suspense Kodoku no Missou ~ Honyakuka no Satsujin Suiri" (Morimura Seiichi Suspense The Lonely Secret Burying ~ A translator's murder deduction" which is due to be shown on 1 November. This marks her first drama appearance since the birth of her second daughter in May this year. As she had been getting mother roles recently, Kimura commented that it was a refreshing change to play a lonely single woman who falls in love.

The drama SP based on Morimura's novel will be the first of three women mysteries shown over three consecutive weeks in November. Kimura plays the role of a female translator who moves into a new house and realises that the previous occupant had died without anyone knowing thus decides to investigate what led to the sad tragedy. During the process, she meets a man played by Hagiwara Masato and falls for him. Co-stars also include Kurashina Kana. Filming was conducted between October 2012 and January 2013 when Kimura was pregnant. When asked to comment on the filming process, Kimura said that it was the first time she played an ordinary woman who was lonely and it was difficult for her both mentally and physically to portray this character.

Source: Sanspo

Review of "Limit" - Summer 2013

I had no plans of watching this drama and did not even do a preview of this on the blog. I wasn't too keen on the lineup which featured a group of relatively unknown and young actresses (except for Sakuraba Nanami perhaps?). To top things off, TV Tokyo dramas are rather difficult to find online as compared to those from the other private networks so I didn't bother checking this out. So why did I watch this in the end? Well, a friend first strongly suggested that I catch this drama and said that it was very interesting. It was a bit unusual to hear this from a friend who's not an avid J-drama watcher. Still, it wasn't enough to push me into action. However, when I started to hear from more than one person tell me about this drama within a short period of time, I began to wonder: what is this drama which had slipped under my radar? Did I really miss something good?

I finished this drama within a week where I sped through the second half relatively quickly because the plot was heating up. I wouldn't say that it's a super fabulous piece of work but it does have its winning points which I'll like to share here. If you haven't watched this drama or are in the midst of it and do not want me to reveal all the spoilers, please skip this review and the photos within.

First of all, let me talk about the story which starts in a senior high school called Hino Koukou and the focus is on this Year 2 class which is heading for a school trip to Yamanashi Prefecture. Little is told about this class of students except that you can see some very standard relationship types portrayed in many school dramas e.g. the bullying group and those being bullied, people who are lone rangers, the popular and the not-so-well-liked types. Everything seems to be going well until it's realised that the bus driver who is supposed to transport them to the field trip site has driven to Shizuoka Prefecture instead due to his punishing schedule and this leads the class and their teachers to their doom literally. When the bus plunges down a cliff into the forest, most of those on board are dead except for five female students: Konno Mizuki (Sakuraba Nanami), Kamiya Chieko (Tsuchiya Tao), Morishige Arisa (Yamashita Rio), Ichinose Haru (Kudo Ayano) and Usui Chikage (Masuda Yuka).

As the story unfolds, we get to know about the backgrounds of these five survivors and in turn understand why they are behaving the way they are after the near-death encounter. Our heroine Konno appears to be a well-liked person in school who hangs out with the most popular girl in class Himesawa Sakura who died during the crash and another survivor Ichinose. However, Konno does have a cold side to her because she seems oblivious to things around her or turns a blind eye to the bullying of other classmates by Sakura and Co. Konno takes pride in the fact that she's able to move along with the current and keep a low profile because she had made up her mind never to trust anyone easily after being betrayed by her friend back in junior high. At that time, her best friend was bullied by other girls in class so Konno decided to stand up for her friend and give those bullies a piece of her mind. Unexpectedly, the buddy who was now free of the bullying because the group changed their target to Konno, decided to join them in the bullying which made Konno very sad and bitter that she vowed never to help anyone again. It is only until now that Konno realises that her so-called excellent way of surviving in class backfired on her long ago because Ichinose hates her for hogging Sakura's friendship and attention while other people view her as a pretentious person who may not have bullied people directly but actually helps those bullies in one way or another by turning a blind eye.

Kamiya is the exact opposite of Konno because she does not belong to any clique and is regarded somewhat as a lone ranger in class. It's not that Kamiya is naturally cold and aloof but it has to do with her family background because she has to take care of her three younger siblings and elderly grandfather after her parents died in an accident when she was in junior high. Having to spend a lot of time outside of school to take care of the family, Kamiya simply doesn't have the luxury to hang out with friends even though deep down, she may have had a fleeting thought that she envied those who could do that. As such, she finds it silly that people like Konno have to stick to the popular group for comfort and to avoid being picked on. When Kamiya sees that the bullies are at it again, she doesn't hesitate to speak up but frankly speaking, that still doesn't help to stop the bullies. The good thing is that, she doesn't get bullied because the bullies do not seem to view her as a pushover like Morishige or Usui. In a way, you can say that the Kamiya now is the old Konno before she got betrayed by her friend. Kamiya also doesn't mince her words and would reveal her frank thoughts about people which may make her seem blunt and insensitive. After the bus crash, she should have been as scared as the rest but chose to toughen herself up in order to ensure that survival chances are high so she's somewhat like the leader of the pack.

Morishige is one of those being bullied in class and she gets singled out because she's quiet, keeps to herself and spends time drawing manga rather mixing around with her classmates. However, little does everyone know that she is a victim of domestic violence and her own mother's attitude towards her further destroys her self-worth. With no place to release her pent-up frustration, Morishige goes to great efforts to record the number of times she has been bullied and who had done it while waiting for the perfect opportunity to retaliate. As a result of the bus crash, this actually "empowers" Morishige in the group as she finds herself in possession of the sickle which their form teacher had brought along for clearing wild grass at the school trip site. She uses this to make the others do her bidding and relishes in turning them against one another for the sake of survival. It's not really because she's sick in the mind or what but the constant violence she suffered may have twisted her belief into thinking that force is the only way to get things done your way and the only defence to protect yourself.

Ichinose belongs to the popular crowd and used to be close friends with Himesawa before Konno came into the picture. She feels left out and always fears that Konno will take away Himesawa from her but pretends that everything is fine on the surface. In actual fact, Konno does realise that something is not quite right with Ichinose but chooses not to do anything about it because she wants to keep things status quo. Due to the stress of not doing as well as before in her studies and the fear of losing her beloved friend, Ichinose takes to binge eating in order to relieve stress. The bus crash forces Ichinose to confront her true feelings towards Konno as she lays bare her fear and uneasiness about the latter's presence. Even though Ichinose feels this way towards her, Konno still tries to assure her that things have not changed between them and that she's thankful that she can finally understand Ichinose. However, Ichinose herself feels ashamed that she bore ill feelings towards Konno and their friendship doesn't seem to be the same as before. If it had been that Himesawa had also survived the bus crash, Ichinose may never tell Konno about her feelings so I think there was a reason why Himesawa had to be taken out of the equation so as to force Ichinose to be true to herself.

Usui also belongs to the bullied side but the key difference between her and Morishige is that Usui somehow feels that she deserves to be bullied and doesn't seem to harbour any thoughts of taking revenge. This probably has a lot to do with her mother who keeps reminding her to keep a low profile and avoid causing trouble for others. As a result, Usui feels bad that she cannot do much for the survivors since her mobility's affected by her leg injury and the others have to spend time and effort to take care of her. In turn, this makes her worry that they might abandon her to die alone if they have had enough of her being a nuisance thus Usui feels very jittery all the time and tries to be on her best behaviour. However, when the ownership of the sickle switches from Morishige to Usui, this causes a change in the latter's attitude and she even goes missing with it while the rest search for her whereabouts. Morishige needs it to regain her power over the group while Konno and Kamiya do seem genuinely concerned about her well-being.

In the first half of the drama, the story is centred on these five girls as they struggle to come to terms with the sudden crisis and think of ways to survive in the forest without any means to contact the outside world. If they are best friends, it might have been easier but due to the fact that their relationships as classmates were complicated due to the power dynamics prior to the bus crash and the presence of that sickle gives a power to those who wield it, it takes a number of episodes for the girls to clash with one another before being more focused on ensuring that the entire group survives the ordeal. However, with the appearance of another survivor Hinata Haruaki and the disappearance of Usui at around the same time, the story switches its direction to one of survival to one more leaning towards a suspense thriller as Usui is later found murdered. The survivors then suspect one another of being responsible for the deed as the situation gets more dire with the passing time.

On the other hand, things in the outside world are also in a mess due to various reasons. First of all, the class's assistant form teacher Igarashi Wataru (Kubota Masataka) fails to realise that the class did not reach the study trip site because he was mistaken into believing that the form teacher had called him. When he finally realises his mistake, Igarashi tries to make amends but is stopped by the school's principal who wants to make sure that they will not be held accountable for the lapse in communication. On the other hand, the bus company's president also wants to cover the inconvenient truth of his drivers being overworked and resorts to destroying important evidence in order to do so. Luckily, Igarashi still has a conscience and wants to save his students as soon as possible so he owns up to his own misdeed and even gets a chance to redeem himself towards the end of the story. At the bus company's side, a responsible employee exposes the truth to the police because he could not stand the president shirking responsibility at the expense of his colleague's life and reputation.

Frankly speaking, one key reason why I didn't bother checking out this drama was due to the fact that the synopsis did not spark my interest as it was merely stated that this drama talks about a group of students struggling to survive the bus crash. That alone isn't very interesting and I was skeptical about whether there was enough material to last the entire season. After watching the drama, I must say that I do like the reference of the class being a miniature society whereby people knowingly or unknowingly group people into different levels i.e. the popular, the shunned, the bullied, those in power and those who don't. As such, by looking the plights of Morishige or Usui, you can somehow project that onto the adult's society where people who are deemed to be less useful or do not have obvious strengths are relegated to the sidelines and ostracised. People who behave differently from the "norm" are said to be lone rangers who are strange i.e. Kamiya. Then there are also people like Konno and Ichinose who go with the flow not because they like it but rather they don't want to be singled out for being different. This actually brings a lot of relevance to the story so that it's not easily written off as a survival story in the forest. And the fact that each of the survivors have some time to tell their story and reveal why they are behaving the way they are actually makes the story more logical.

The second part of the story focuses on the search for the "criminal" i.e. who killed Usui. Everyone in the group gets their turn at being the suspect at one point or another so by the time it gets to the final revelation, it wasn't really that unexpected. When Hinata popped out of the blue, it was obvious that something was not quite right because he appeared a bit evasive on the topic of Usui. However, the truth behind Usui's death had more to do with an unfortunate turn of events rather than Hinata bearing ill will against her so I think that was a good way of explaining the circumstances behind Usui's death. However, the second arc did seem a bit too long at certain junctures so I think it would have been better to keep the drama short to about 10 episodes so that the balance of the story is maintained.

As for the performances of the cast, Tsuchiya Tao and Yamashita Rio who played Kamiya and Morishige caught my eye more than the rest. Tsuchiya's image in the drama may be a bit bland and bordering on nerdy but that's in line with Kamiya's character who appears cool, collected, unruffled and very learned throughout most of the story. What I like about her acting is that, despite the calm surface of Kamiya, Tsuchiya was able to show the inner feelings of her character especially when she talked a bit about her envy of people who walked around with friends or revealed some of her insecurities to Konno. It felt as if she was talking about someone else and fitted the impression Kamiya gave to most people. On the other hand, Yamashita had a more elaborate role as Morishige where she had to go to extremes in terms of showing emotions. When she was initially bullied, she had to keep her fury to herself. When she was beaten up by her father at home, she had to display fear and helplessness. When she got the power through holding the sickle, Morishige felt like a mad person who was dizzy with her newfound strength. Although Yamashita's role is yet again like Tsuchiya's i.e. bland in terms of appearance, she managed to steal the limelight with her great performance.

On the other hand, although Sakuraba Nanami was the lead, her character didn't really resonate with me and I found it a bit irritating that she could be "goody-two-shoes" even after Ichinose had intended to kill her to ensure her own survival. I could understand her rationale for wanting to stay under the radar and her need to be in the popular group but from the point when the hunt for the killer started, there she was again trying to be a nice person and not wanting to suspect anyone which seriously got on my nerves. Perhaps it's too early to write off Sakuraba so early since it's only her second piece of work which I've watched (first being the Nazotoki movie) but I think she needs a good role to cement her position in the up-and-coming world of newbie actresses. Playing a sweet young thing doesn't really make her memorable to the viewers which I find is a pity given that she took on the heroine role here.

One other memorable mention should go to Kubota Masataka. He may not be the leading man here but there's something about his acting which makes you sit up and take notice. The first time I saw him was in "Saikou no Rikon" where he was a cutie attempting to marry Yuka (Ono Machiko) despite being a much younger man and having to take care of his siblings. He didn't have a huge role then but had a very interesting chemistry with Ono in that drama. This time, his role Igarashi may seem a bit irresponsible initially but he later steps up to admit to his mistakes and shows true concern for his students who he had spent a fair bit of time with. It was especially heartwarming to see his scenes with Kamiya's siblings. Given the right opportunities in future, he will certainly leave a deeper impression on many people.

And my ratings for this drama...

Story: 8 out of 10 (I would have given this a 9 if the number of episodes had been lesser. The pace was just fine until the ending stage when it got too draggy.)

Acting: 8 out of 10 (On the whole, the young cast did fairly well with special mention for Tsuchiya Tao and Yamashita Rio)

Theme song: 6 out of 10 (Both the opening and ending themes didn't leave a huge impression on me but I must say that the ending theme sounded slightly better to me.)

Visual effects / Scenery: 6 out 10 (Well, most of the scenes were in the forest and cave the survivors took shelter at so there was really limited variety in terms of scenery which couldn't be helped.)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 6 out of 10 (I think because the characters were not supposed to be good friends right from the start, there was more squabbling but later on when it got to trying to ensure their survival, the friendship became a bit more evident. Still, I wouldn't call that chemistry between the actors.)

Total: 34 out of 50

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Toda Erika & Kase Ryo at fan meeting in Osaka to promote the SPEC movies

Toda Erika and Kase Ryo who are the double leads for the upcoming SPEC movies "Gekijouban SPEC ~ Cross ~ Zen no Hen" and "Gekijouban SPEC ~ Cross ~ Kou no Hen", attended a public fan meeting Abeno Cues Mall in Osaka on 17 October. The movies will be shown from 1 November and 29 November respectively. Out of the 8,000 applications received, only 2,000 were picked to attend the event. Toda whose hometown is in Kobe, greeted the audience in Kansai-ben that she was back home to meet them.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Arashi & Ayase Haruka to be the hosts for the 64th Kouhaku Utagassen

Arashi and Ayase Haruka will be the hosts for the white and red teams in the 64th Kouhaku Utagassen which will be shown via NHK on 31st December. This is Ayase's first attempt at being a Kouhaku host while this is the 4th consecutive year that Arashi is leading the white team. The overall host will be NHK announcer Udou Yumiko.

This year's theme will be "Uta ga koko ni aru" (The song is here) and the programme will be shown from 7.15pm till 11.45pm with a 5 minute break for news.

Source: Sanspo

Nounen Reina to star in movie adaptation of shoujo manga "Hot Road"

Nounen Reina will be starring in the movie adaptation of shoujo manga "Hot Road" as reported on 16 October. The manga which consists of 4 volumes and had been serialised in Bessatsu Magaret from 1986, boasts of sales totaling 7 million copies and features Nounen as Miyaichi Kazuki, a 14-year-old teenager who is isolated by her own family and falls for Haruyama Hiroshi, the leader of a motorcycle gang. Kazuki will have her fair share of brushes with the law too e.g. being caught for shoplifting and her hair will be blonde so it will be an entirely different image for Nounen who shot to fame in the NHK morning drama "Ama-chan". Filming begins in November this year and will be completed by April 2014. The movie is scheduled to be shown in cinemas from summer 2014.

Source: Sanspo

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nishijima Hidetoshi, Kagawa Teruyuki & Maki Youko to star in TBS & WOWOW relay drama "MOZU"

Nishijima Hidetoshi, Kagawa Teruyuki and Maki Youko will be the leads in the first relay drama series produced by TBS and WOWOW titled "MOZU" based on the popular police detective novel series "Mozu" by Osaka Gou. TBS will show 10 episodes during spring 2014 while WOWOW will show the remaining 5 during summer 2014. However, the actual broadcast timeslots and O.A. dates have not been confirmed yet. This is the second time that TBS and WOWOW are working together after they last produced the remake of HK movie "Infernal Affairs" in the form of the drama SP "Double Face" also starring Nishijima and Kagawa which was shown in October 2012. Filming of the drama began from mid September.

Nishijima plays the role of Kuraki, an ace detective in the public security department of the Metropolitan Police Department, Kagawa plays a self-made detective Osugi while Maki plays the role of Miki, a young public security police officer. The three of them work together to find the truth behind a series of cases committed by a mysterious professional killer Mozu. The first part of the drama titled "MOZU Season 1 ~ Mozu no sakebu yoru" features the case of Kuraki's wife killed by an explosion engineered by Mozu while the second part "MOZU Season 2 ~ Maboroshi no Tsubasa" talks about a mass murder at a hospital.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi / Cinema Today

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Ando Lloyd ~ A.I. knows LOVE? ~" starts the season with a rating of 19.2%

The first episode of TBS autumn drama "Ando Lloyd ~ A.I. knows LOVE? ~" starring Kimura Takuya started the season with a rating of 19,2% for the broadcast on 13 October. This places it at No.2 in terms of the autumn dramas shown so far, behind "Legal High 2" which got 21.2% for its first episode. When compared to its predecessor i.e. mega hit "Hanzawa Naoki" which got 19.4%, "Ando Lloyd" performed more or less on par.

Source: Sanspo

Matsuyuki Yasuko's younger brother Matsuyuki Yo arrested for assault

Matsuyuki Yasuko's younger brother Matsuyuki Yo who is a singer-songwriter, was arrested on suspicion of assault on 15 October. The younger Matsuyuki whose real name is Yohei, reportedly was drunk when he beat up a taxi driver at 3am on 11 October in Shibuya after getting off from the latter's taxi. The victim suffered injuries to his thigh and fractured pelvis due to the 30-min attack.

Matsuyuki Yo's most recent work was when he sung the theme song "Futtou Shiyouze" for TBS drama "Nagasawa-kun" which was aired between April and September this year.

Source: Sanspo

"Mogura no Uta Sennyuu Sousakan REIJI" to enter the 8th Rome International Film Festival's competition category

The movie "Mogura no Uta Sennyuu Sousakan REIJI" starring Ikuta Toma which will be shown in Japan from 15 February 2014, has entered the 8th Rome International Film Festival's competition category as reported on 14 October. The film festival will be held in Rome, Italy, from 8th to 17th November this year. Although this is not the first film Ikuta had starred in which entered a film festival, he will be attending a film festival for the first time overseas.

The movie is based on a bestselling manga which has sold more than 4 million copies and features Ikuta as a lecherous police office who is still a virgin that goes undercover for work.

Source: Sanspo

Tsutsumi Shinichi becomes a father for the first time at 49 years old

Tsutsumi Shinichi has become a father for the first time at 49 years old after the birth of his baby daughter on 13 October. According to an announcement on his official website, Tsutsumi's wife gave birth to the baby at 11.54am on that day and she weighed 2,680 grams at birth. It was said that the baby arrived earlier than the expected due date but both mother and child are doing well. Tsutsumi was unable to accompany his wife on that day due to work but rushed to the hospital later that day to see her and the baby. He commented that the feeling of being a father has gradually sunk in and he's relieved about the arrival of his child.

Tsutsumi got married in March this year to his wife who is 16 years old younger than him and announced her pregnancy in June this year.

Source: Sanspo

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Review of Toshokan Sensou (Library Wars)

My first contact with Toshokan Sensou was its anime. Prior to that, I had only known that the original novel was a big hit but there was never a motivation pushing me to check this out. By chance, I happened to watch the anime and was quickly hooked by the story and its characters. As such, when news about the Toshokan Sensou movie was released, I was eagerly awaiting for its screening in Singapore. And for bringing in this film, thanks are due to Filmgarde which has been screening quite a number of Japanese films recently and usually on an exclusive basis. The good thing, it's great for their business since they only have two cinema multiplexes. The bad thing, I have to travel a bit to watch their movies and when I'm busy, I find that I miss films I want to watch because I just don't have the time or mood to do the travelling on a weekend.

That aside, let me describe briefly what the story is all about. In 1988, there was a new law passed in Japan which was meant to eradicate any reading materials perceived to be harmful for the young or those seen to be infringing on human rights or disrupting public order. As a result of the new law being passed, an organisation named Media Improvement Committee was set up which confiscated and destroyed any books they perceived to have infringed the law. However, the committee could not actually lay hands on public libraries at will because the latter was protected under the library freedom laws which allowed them to stock so-called problematic books and let the public access them. This led to some activists viewing public libraries as a source of evil and an unannounced shooting attack and arson at the Hino Public Library in 1999 (referred to as the Nightmare of Hino) caused the Libary Forces to become a full-fledged defence force with their weapons so as to guard against the Media Improvement Committee which sometimes resorted to force in order to raid the libraries.

The heroine of this story, Kasahara Iku (Eikura Nana) joins the Library Forces after being "saved" by a "Prince Charming" when she was in the final year of senior high school. At that time, Kasahara happened to be in a bookstore to buy the final volume of a book series she loved but the Media Improvement Committee came by and wanted to confiscate her book. Despite being threatened that she will be hauled to the police station for theft when Kasahara refuses to let the Committee confiscate her book, she still fights hard. Just then, someone from the Library Forces come by and exercises his authority to acquire the books in that store for the public libraries so that the Committee cannot take away them. Kasahara is so thankful for this gesture and resolves to join the Library Forces so that she can meet her Prince Charming again.

However, things are not so smooth-sailing for Kasahara although she is one of the few female members in the Library Forces and is known for her athleticism. She has a hard time picking up professional knowledge about libraries e.g. categorising and locating books for users and is rather careless (not handcuffing an armed thief at the library after throwing the guy onto the floor). As such, she keeps getting scolded by her instructor Doujou Atsushi (Okada Junichi) for her poor performance. In return, she mocks Doujou for being a chibi because he is shorter than Kasahara which unfortunately gets overheard by Doujou again. Looking on at their constant bantering with amusement is Doujou's friend Komaki Mikihisa (Tanaka Kei) and Kasahara's roommate and buddy Shibasaki Asako (Kuriyama Chiaki) who is in the operations department. To make things worse, she is also belittled by her fellow teammate Tezuka Hikaru (Fukushi Souta) who doesn't think that Kasahara deserves to be in the combat section of the Library Forces.

After going through her first defence operation at the library against the Media Improvement Committee, Kasahara is stunned by how dangerous it can be and it's a life-threatening situation each time because the Library Forces only aim to defend but the Committee would not hesitate to kill in order to achieve their aim of breaking into the libraries. At the same time, Tezuka starts to see Kasahara in a different light and even asks her to be his girlfriend but she is too smitten with her Prince Charming and vows to find him. However, when it's revealed that this Prince Charming is actually her arch enemy Doujou, he keeps the truth from Kasahara and makes Komaki do the same because he thinks that it won't do her any good to know.

The climax finally arrives in the form of a transportation operation where a rich man's collection of banned materials that will threaten the survival of the Media Improvement Committee are to be sent to the public library. However, to intercept the deliveries, the Committee is going all out to stop the Library Forces. Kasahara is dropped from this mission which she fails to understand why and gets angry at Doujou for belittling her again. Kasahara is then sent to protect Nishina, the Commander of the Library Forces, to attend the funeral of the rich man but they get abducted by an unknown group which threatens the Library Forces to give up the materials or else Kasahara and Nishina will be killed.

Despite being the movie being relatively long (about 2 hours or so), I thought this was pretty well-paced. There's a fair bit of attention on the relationships between the characters and enough explanation given on how the situation with the Media Improvement Committee has developed over the years so in terms of the structure, I think it's rather sound. However, if you compare this with the anime or perhaps the novel, I think there's a bit more room to show the developing romance between Doujou and Kasahara but in the movie, the romance factor is somewhat toned down. Maybe it's just me, I do think that Okada Junichi and Eikura Nana fit the images of Doujou and Kasahara but when you place them together, they feel like an awkward couple and sparks are somewhat missing so in a way, I'm thankful that the film doesn't force them to act lovey-dovey or confess their feelings for each other in a mushy manner. Sometimes, the best things should be left unsaid since they already know what's going on.

Kuriyama is exactly how I imagined Shibasaki to be so her casting was a good choice. I understand that the author had actually modeled Shibasaki based on Kuriyama's image so it's no wonder that the character is a perfect match with her. Tanaka Kei as Komaki was also quite interesting because he did bring out the cheeky side of Komaki. Fukushi Souta looks a bit too skinny to match the brawny and rougher image of Tezuka but other than that, I don't have a lot to pick on his acting.

One particular thing I would to highlight is the amount of detail paid to the fighting scenes. In most situations, the moves don't usually pack a lot of punch but Okada really showed that his martial arts training since "SP" is really put into good use here. As such, the combat scenes he was in really helped to kick up the excitement factor a lot.

Overall, I think this is a pretty entertaining film to watch. For those who are looking forward to the romance between Doujou and Kasahara, you may be very disappointed though because things remain rather ambiguous between them throughout the film. Nonetheless, for its smart casting choices and ability to keep most of the key factors balanced within 2 hours, I have to give it credit.

And my ratings for this movie...

Story: 7 out of 10 (Given the limited time, the story structure was largely intact although some portions which I saw in the anime were not featured here)

Acting: 7.5 out of 10 (On the whole, credible performances from the cast)

Theme song: NA (Don't remember hearing any theme song so I'm not giving any marks for this)

Visual effects / Scenery: 7 out 10 (Most of the scenes were indoors but I didn't really feel bored. Visual effects-wise, I like how the action scenes were filmed, packs a lot of punch without a lot of fake moves.)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 8.5 out of 10 (Not so much for Doujou and Kasahara but rather them with their respective buddies)

Total: 30 out of 40

Saturday, October 12, 2013

First-day-screening of movie "Oshin"

The first-day-screening of movie "Oshin" was held on 12 October at Marunouchi's TOEI 1 which was attended by cast members Ueto Aya, Hamada Kokone, Izumi Pinko and Igashira Manami. The movie is the first remake of the Oshin drama which achieved high ratings of 52.6% 30 years ago and features Hamada as the lead. It was also announced on the same day that Hamada won the best female newcomer in the 37th Yamaji Fumiko Movie Award.

Source: Eiga.com

Nakamura Aoi to play the lead for the first time in NHK drama "Kibou no Hana"

Nakamura Aoi will be playing the lead for the first time in the NHK drama "Kibou no Hana" (Flower of Hope) written by Fujii Kaori which won the "Sousaku Terebi Drama Taisho" last year. The drama is expected to be shown in March next year. Nakamura plays a young man who is unable to find a permanent job despite going to many interviews and ends up joining the family's florist business. As a result of this experience, he starts to regain his self-confidence.

Source: Sponichi

Thanksgiving event for movie "Shazai no Ousama"

To celebrate "Shazai no Ousama" being a hit in the theatres, a thanksgiving ceremony was held on 10 October which was attended by the lead Abe Sadao and girls group E-girls who sings the theme song and appeared in the ending of the film. The movie features Abe as a professional in apologies as he guides various people get out of difficult situations through apologising. In just 12 days, there were 779,000 cinema visits and ticket sales reached the JPY 952m mark.

Source: Sponichi

Sorimachi Takashi & Matsushima Nanako ordered to pay more damages after appeal

The Tokyo High Court ruled on 10 October that Sorimachi Takashi and Matsushima Nanako will have to pay damages of JPY 17.25m to the real estate management company which is in charge of the apartment block they are staying at after their appeal was rejected. The initial verdict was that they had to pay JPY 3.85m only. The couple were taken to court after their pet dog bit a former neighbour in May 2011 and caused the latter's family to move out of the estate prior to the end of their rental contract. As such, the company sued the couple to compensate them for the loss of rental income during the remaining lease period.

The judge ruled that the couple had violated the rule of not keeping big-sized animals as pets in their apartment and that they should have paid attention to ensuring the safety of the residents. As such, they were asked to pay 9 months' worth of rental income and all legal fees incurred by the company.

Source: Sanspo

Fujiwara Tatsuya & Horikita Maki win "Best Formalist Award 2013"

Fujiwara Tatsuya and Horikita Maki attended the prize-giving ceremony for the Best Formalist Award 2013 on 8 October. This award is given to celebrities who look good in formal wear. Horikita appeared at the ceremony in a magenta dress and commented that she rarely has the chance to wear something so formal but hopes to do it more often in future. As for Fujiwara, he was dressed in a fitting tuxedo and commented that if he had won this award a bit earlier, he would have worn a tuxedo to attend the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe since he is a big horse racing fan.

Source: Sponichi

Limited edition confectionery launched in conjunction with "Ando Lloyd ~ A.I. knows LOVE? ~"

TBS and Yamazaki Bread are working to release two limited edition confectionery items in conjunction with the launch of the autumn 2013 drama "Ando Lloyd ~ A.I. knows LOVE? ~" which stars Kimura Takuya and Shibasaki Kou. The drama is due to begin its run from 13 October at 9pm on Sundays. On the first O.A. day, the items Kinako Agepan (Roasted soy bean flour fried bread) and Kinako Cream & Tsubuan will be available for sale at all supermarkets and convenience stores nationwide.

In the drama, the Kinako Agepan is featured as a favourite food of Matsushima Reiji (Kimura) and is an item which links him to his fiancee Asahi (Shibasaki). As for the Kinako Cream & Tsuban, it is featured as a staple lunch pack item for Reiji's research centre.

In the past, TBS had also released a Curry Bread (Karee Pan) in 2007 when Kimura starred in the drama "Karei Naru Ichizoku" and it sold 1.05 million pieces on the launch day alone. Total sales broke the 30 million units mark.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Sato Ryuta & Tanimura Mitsuki to be the guests in the 2nd episode of "Legal High 2"

Sato Ryuta and Tanimura Mitsuki will be the guests in the 2nd episode of "Legal High 2" which is to be shown on 16 October. Sato's character is Ayukawa Hikaru, a up-and-coming star in the IT world who set up his company when he was in the last year of senior high school and has grown his company by buying over other top-notch firms. However, he was later sentenced to jail for insider trading and tax evasion. After being released, he appeared in various TV programmes but suffered a huge backlash from the media so Ayukawa declared on TV that he was going to sue the media for defamation. When Komikado (Sakai Masato) happens to see this on TV, he offers to take up Ayukawa's case but the latter rejects him because he has never seen any lawyer who is smarter than him. On the other hand, Tanimura plays the role of Tamakawa Tama who is a comic artist sued by Ayukawa.

Source: Sponichi