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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review of Shitsuren Chocolatier 失恋ショコラティエ- Winter 2014

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't too keen on watching this in the first place. Much as I really do like Arashi as a whole (but favour some members over the rest), I've not been so impressed or captivated by Matsumoto Jun's acting. My impression of him was that he could do OK for exaggerated and "out-of-the-ordinary" roles such as Domyouji Tsukasa in "Hana Yori Dango" but when he has to play an "ordinary" guy, his appearance, dressing and mannerisms seem to work otherwise for some reason. Maybe it's the strong image of a fashionista he has which I sometimes fail to identify with but after watching "Hidamari no Kanojo", I thought that I should give this a shot even though I knew jolly well that I would be really fed up with this story about a guy hankering after a woman that he has no choice of snagging at all. It's like those typical dramas where a woman goes all out to win over a guy who snubs her, just that this time, the gender roles are switched.

To begin with, let me explain the story and relationships between the main characters. The protagonist Koyurugi Souta (Matsumoto) fell in love at first sight with Saeko (Ishihara Satomi), his senior by one year when he just entered high school. However, Saeko was so popular with guys and kept dating different people that Souta never really got a chance to confess his feelings to her. Just before Christmas, Souta and Saeko shared a kiss which led him to misunderstand that Saeko liked him and had accepted him as her boyfriend. However, in actual fact, Saeko merely saw Souta as a stand-in for her boyfriend who she was having problems with at that time.

The following year on Valentine Day's eve, Souta who had been attending confectionery school after high school graduation, prepared some chocolates for Saeko. This led Saeko to realise that Souta had misunderstood the nature of their relationship and she blatantly told him that as long as they did not sleep together, she didn't see them as an item. The blow from this revelation led Souta to head to France for the sake of learning the art of making chocolates in a bid to win Saeko back.

Six years later, Souta returns to Japan to open his own chocolate specialty shop "choc la vie" which was remodelled from his father Makoto's (Takenaka Naoto) cake shop. Helping him out are Inoue Kaoruko (Mizukawa Asami) who had been working at Makoto's cake shop since Souta was a student, Souta's younger sister Matsuri (Arimura Kasumi) who is an university student and Souta's friend Olivier (Mizobata Junpei) who is the son of a famous and rich patissier in France and has a Japanese mother. However, much as Souta thinks that he's finally in a position to attract Saeko with his career and newfound celebrity chocolatier status, he is aghast to find that she is going to marry Yoshioka, a magazine editor who is older than her. On top of that, Saeko even asks Souta to make her wedding cake which he agrees to readily. Kaoruko cannot understand why Saeko would do that to a man who used to love her but finds it even harder to comprehend Souta's thinking as to why he agreed to make the wedding cake. Souta goes to the extent of forgoing sleep just to make the perfect wedding cake for Saeko and deems it as a closure to his longtime pining for Saeko. However, with Saeko's appearance at "choc la vie" on a regular basis to buy his chocolates, Souta finds it difficult to bid farewell to his one-sided love for Saeko as she continues to send him mixed signals despite her status as a newly-married woman.

As Souta grapples with guessing how Saeko really feels about him, he comes to befriend Kato Erena (Mizuhara Kiko), a beautiful model at a party hosted by celebrity chocolatier Rikudo Seinosuke (Sato Ryuta) who is impressed with Souta's talent. By a strange stroke of fate, Souta and Erena come to realise that they are both lonely souls being trapped in a one-sided love and become close friends very quickly. Erena suddenly suggests that they become sex friends (friends who sleep together for the sake of sexual satisfaction but with no emotional attachment) which Souta is not keen on at first but later accepts because he wants to show Saeko that he won't be emotionally manipulated by her anymore. However, as the two start to develop feelings for each other and when Souta finally resolves to let go of Saeko once and for all, he gets distracted by Saeko again which causes Erena to be hurt by his indecisiveness.

At the same time, Olivier finds himself being increasingly attracted to Matsuri who is stuck in a love triangle with her friend and her friend's boyfriend. Although she feels guilty about dating her friend's boyfriend, she can't seem to break it off. When they subsequently break up, Olivier confesses to Matsuri about how he feels and tries to build up confidence in her to start a new relationship. Meanwhile, Kaoruko becomes acquaintances with Sekiya (Kato Shigeaki) where she easily pours out her dissatisfaction with Souta's indecisiveness, Saeko's manipulative ways and Erena being a loose woman (because she slept with Souta despite not being in a relationship with him). Sekiya points out point blank that Kaoruko is so upset because she likes Souta but she stresses that she doesn't want to date him or anything but just finds it annoying to see what's going on. Although Kaoruko tries to think of Sekiya as a romantic interest, she realises that things aren't going to work out and gives up the idea in the end.

First of all, I have to admit that I was really frustrated while watching this drama. It's not just Souta or Saeko who gets to me althought these two are the worst of the lot. That's not to say that the others are flawless but comparatively, they are easier to relate to. Rikudo, Makoto and Sekiya don't have a lot of airtime so it's kind hard to put a finger on what kind of people they actually are.

Much as I get why Souta is besotted with Saeko (first loves have a special space in men's hearts), what I don't understand and cannot accept is his stubborn thinking that Saeko can still be his if he works hard enough at creating chocolates that she likes. The biggest issue is, she's already a married woman. Is he trying to be the third party or wants to make her get a divorce just to be with him? In addition, his wishy-washy attitude towards whether to give up or continue his pining for her is simply irritating. At one point, he decides that enough is enough and he should forget about Saeko. The next moment, he decides to be a "bad guy" in order to gain the upperhand because Saeko is usually the one who leads him on. And that's precisely what prompted him to start his sexual relationship with Erena because he thinks that he shouldn't remain chaste for someone who's leading him on. As a result of his flip-flops, what used to be an issue affecting himself along ends up affecting those around him. Kaoruko cannot accept that Souta's efforts in making new products are primarily motivated by his intention to impress Saeko, not because he had the interests of his shop in mind. That in turn makes his staff Kaoruko and Olivier look like they are working for the sake of his romantic pursuits even Kaoruko clearly enjoys her work and takes pride in it. Likewise, Souta also gave Erena false hope by asking her to be ready to date him after he settles things with Saeko (so whether Erena becomes his girlfriend hinges on the outcome of something else which she has no control over). I think that's very selfish of him so that's why I didn't sympathise with Souta at all when he finally knew that Saeko doesn't love him and was just using him as a refuge from her shaky marriage. Actually, he should have known it when Saeko did not answer him every time when he said he loves her. She never said "suki da" or "aishiteiru" once. Truth be said, I think he had it coming that he ended with nobody. It got me even more irritated to see how he just dumped his work aside because Saeko went home to her husband and was moping around like it's the end of the world. Being unable to make chocolates just because the woman you wanted to impress most isn't around to taste it anymore? That makes it even more unlikely to view a character like Souta favourably.

On the other hand, Saeko appears at first glance to be a dimwit who's oblivious to others' feelings and simply does what she likes. Her antics in leading Souta on were indeed not acceptable for a married woman and you really wonder if she just enjoys the attention Souta showers on her or she felt something for him. I tend to believe the former because when Saeko's husband questioned her why she still cared so much about how she looks and if she still wants to attract men despite being married, Saeko was stumped for a moment. No doubt her husband was a bit too much in saying that (people still can look great even if they are married), I believe it hit the jackpot too because Saeko has enjoyed the attention from the opposite sex all along and being married probably wasn't going to change how she felt about this issue. Nonetheless, it took the last few episodes for the viewers to finally see how Saeko is. No doubt she may appear like a thoughtless person most of the time, the insights she gave Matsuri and Kaoruko about love and dating were indeed spot-on. She's not as stupid as she seems but underneath that ditzy appearance, she does use her brain, just that it's not apparent to those around her. That's why her husband took for granted that she will be OK with staying at home as a housewife and he doesn't need to pay too much attention to her now that they are married. And that's also why Saeko's mother seemed to think that her daughter has no future and cannot survive on her own if she leaves her husband. I still think Saeko was being really cruel to Souta for leading him on all this while but then again, you feel a little sorry for her because she's accepting reality because of her circumstances, not because she wants to return to her husband out of her own will.

As for Olivier and Matsuri, I found their relationship's development a bit bland and uneventful (it was almost a given that they would be paired up together) except for the part when he confronted her about her intention to visit her ex's place to collect her belongings. Olivier was right about it when he said that Matsuri was opening herself to potentially retracting her steps to that painful relationship if she met the ex alone at his apartment. No matter how hard she tried to convince him, I'm glad Olivier put his foot down and threatened to break up if she went ahead without him tagging along. Matsuri knew jolly well what might happen and yet still tried to convince herself that it won't head that way but thankfully, Olivier knocked some sense into her. This development was a bit different from the norm when usually the new boyfriend would get jittery over his girlfriend meeting the ex and yet does not do anything to stop it.

Erena probably didn't expect that she would fall for Souta when she raised the suggestion of them developing a sexual relationship just to satisfy each other's needs. No doubt Souta's concern and gentleness in helping her get over her heartbreak was a factor in making Erena fall for him, I think his devotion towards Saeko was also what swayed her heart. In a way, Erena is somewhat like Saeko in the sense that she may appear to be bold, open and a bit loose when dealing with men but deep down, she's a frank girl who thinks the best of others. Actually. Souta was at fault for giving his friends that impression because he had talked about Erena as a mere sex partner. He could have positioned Erena as a close friend which would have prompted his friends to view her with more respect. Kaoruko met Erena on the same night as Souta and was disgusted at how they could have slept together on that very night without knowing much about each other. Souta didn't help things by lying to Kaoruko that he did nothing with Erena. Of course, this would have made Kaoruko misunderstand that Erena is a loose woman who sleeps around. At the same time, Olivier heard a lot about Erena from Souta but he had always been led to believe that Souta thinks of her as someone no more than a sex partner. In such circumstances, what kind of impression do you think he would have about her if he never knew her personally? And because of this type of mentality, Souta didn't think that he owed Erena an explanation when Saeko turned up at his doorstep and he had to stand Erena up. He just dragged things on until Erena decided to show up and find out what was going on but was dealt with the truth in a harsh manner through Kaoruko. Then again, she would be better off without a guy like Souta because he clearly doesn't deserve her. Not having the courage to face Erena is not an excuse for this type of behaviour.

As for Kaoruko, I really felt sorry for her when Souta had the cheek to scold her for speaking ill of Erena. Of course, her view of Erena was flawed but who was the one who had contributed to that impression? If Souta had treated Erena seriously and respectfully like a friend, I'm sure Kaoruko wouldn't view Erena with so much ill will even though she is in love with Souta. No doubt Erena is her rival in love, what irks Kaoruko is probably the fact that Erena and Souta's relationship is a warped one (according to her values) and she cannot understand why they would still sleep together even though Erena knows jolly well that Souta loves Saeko. That was why she didn't see the logic in Souta skipping such an important function to celebrate their business taking off and going to Erena who had just fallen out of love. To her, Erena should be nothing more than a sex friend so why would he care for her feelings? However, to Souta, Erena had become more than a sex partner and was his close friend. The gap in their perceptions led to Souta saying such harsh words to Kaoruko which I thought was really uncalled for. You can be unhappy about how she talks about your friend but you don't have to be so nasty about it. At the same time, Kaoruko is a character which people can relate to easily. Other than the part where she said that she loves Souta but doesn't want to be in a relationship with him, I think that's something which is a bit hard to understand. Maybe she wants to be with him but knows that chances are so slim that it's better to be beside him as a working partner. As for her interaction with Sekiya, I thought it offered some comic relief and the advice given by Saeko e.g. making yourself available in the dating market and taking the effort to promote yourself was really hilarious but also spot-on. In the end, Kaoruko may not have ended up with any guy but at least she got a new friend i.e. Saeko and managed to learn to come to terms with her weak points when it comes to romance.

With regard to the acting, I thought there were some very memorable performances from Matsumoto Jun, Ishihara Satomi, Mizukawa Asami and Mizuhara Kiko. Like what I mentioned before, I have never been convinced that Matsujun can act because I've found his body language a bit exaggerated at times and he tends to exert too much force when conveying certain emotions. However, when he does his monologues for Souta and puts on a more serious face when pondering about his relationships, I think he has showed that he can manage a more subtle style of acting which can grow on people. And his image this time looks quite good because there are times when his hairstyles and clothes worn in dramas are too similar with his usual styles which don't go down well with me. On the other hand, I don't really like the day-dreaming scenes which called for more exaggerated acting.

Ishihara Satomi did well in making Saeko a detestable character right from the start. I don't know how guys actually view a woman like Saeko but from a woman's point of view, someone like Saeko is a common enemy among her peers, just like how Kaoruko views her. Manipulative, act-cute, pretentious, the negative descriptions keep coming out. However, you can't deny too that she looked so cute and appealing as Saeko so it's not difficult to imagine why Souta is besotted with her. I liked her scenes towards the end of the drama where she enjoyed the short-lived and fantasy-like happiness with Souta and yet was fully aware that she had to return to reality one day. In the past, I never paid that much attention to Ishihara but I think she's showing that she can manage a variety of roles and can look plain and pretty at the same time. That is an advantage she is clearly making full use of these days.

Mizukawa Asami was great in showing the insecurities of Kaoruko who wants to be more experienced in dating but is clueless about it. I thought her scenes with Ishihara Satomi were quite interesting but it sure took them a long time to bond. At the same time, it was a pity that things didn't work out with Sekiya which would have been a fun couple where one talks all the time and the other just listens. Of course, I didn't like it when Kaoruko was moping around for Souta but I think she still had one foot in reality to keep her grounded so that aspect didn't get on my nerves as much as Souta chanting "Saeko-san" all the time.

Last but not least, I've seen Mizuhara Kiko in relatively small roles in various movies but she's left quite a deep impression on me with her unique screen presence. This time, it was good that Erena wasn't some haughty model who thought the world of herself and I liked that she was a down-to-earth and frank girl who had emotions just like everyone else. It will be worth anticipating what Mizuhara can come up with next time especially if she gets a meatier role.

And my ratings for this drama...

Story: 6 out of 10 (It took too long for Souta to finally come to terms with the truth but I like the ending in a sense since Kaoruko and Saeko became friends. Brings across the message that you really need to interact with a person rather than let skewed perceptions get the better of you)

Acting: 7.5 out of 10 (Although Matsujun and his leading ladies did fairly well, I think there was severe under-usage of the supporting case. Mizobata Junpei and Arimura Kasumi were pretty forgettable because their characters had a relatively not-so-exciting love story while Takenaka Naoto only popped up once in a while. Sato Ryuta looked charismatic for the first time as Rikudo but there was really nothing much about him in the drama which was a pity.)

Theme song: 7 out of 10 (Arashi's theme song was catchy but didn't really appeal to me. I thought the BGM used was quite good though.)

Visual effects / Scenery: 6.5 out 10 (Pretty nice sets but a lot of the filming was done indoors apparently so it would have been nice for them to venture out of the shop more often)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 7 out of 10 (Considering that Souta was in a one-way relationship with Saeko while he hit it off really well with Erena, it wasn't surprising that Matsujun and Mizuhara Kiko had more chemistry.)

Total: 34 out of 50

"Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo" to be back as full-length series this summer

Hey! Say! JUMP's Yamada Ryosuke and Kawaguchi Haruna will be back as Kindaichi Hajime and Nanase Miyuki in the new "Kindaichi Shonen no Jiken N (neo)" which begins its run via NTV from July at 9pm on Saturdays. This is the first time in 13 years since a full-length series featuring second-generation Kindaichi i.e. Arashi's Matsumoto Jun was made. Yamada became the fourth generation Kindaichi last year and had appeared in two SPs so far. The new releases of the Kindaichi manga resumed last November and the anime version also began its run from 5 April this year thus the drama will be the icing on the cake for the Kindaichi year.

Co-stars include Hey! Say! JUMP's Arioka Daiki who will play the role of Saki Ryuji again while Detective Kenmochi will be played by Yamaguchi Tomomitsu who is appearing in the Kindaichi series for the first time.

Source: Sponichi

Fukada Kyoko to star in FujiTV drama SP "Cabin Attendant"


Fukada Kyoko will be taking on the leading role in the FujiTV drama SP "Cabin Attendant" due to be shown in July. She will be playing a cabin attendant for the first time in this modern remake of 1997's "Stewardess Keiji" which featured Zaizen Naomi. Fukada's character Okamura Miho will be an air stewardess flying the international line and encounters a murder case in New York which she solves on her own. Japan Airlines which is supporting this drama SP, will also get Fukada to wear their new uniform which has been in use since last year.

As almost all the scenes will be shot in New York, Fukada commented that she is looking forward to visiting various places of interest including a winery while filming there. Her co-stars will be announced at a later date.

Source: Sponichi

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kimura Takuya to be back in "HERO 2" with a new leading lady

SMAP's Kimura Takuya will be playing the role of charismatic prosecutor Kuryu Kohei in the new "HERO 2" which is due to be shown in the Gekku slot of summer 2014. The original drama which was aired in winter 2001, had featured Kimura and Matsu Takako and achieved above-30% ratings for all of its 11 episodes which resulted in an average rating of 34.3%. However, this time round, his new leading lady will be played by Kitagawa Keiko even though the setting of the drama is still at the Josei Branch of the prosecutors' office. After the original drama ended, there was a movie version in 2007 which was the top grossing film of that year with ticket sales of JPY 8.1bn.

Filming began from the 20th of this month. Co-stars include new additions Sugimoto Tetta and Hamada Gaku along with Kadono Takuzo and Kohinata Fumio who had appeared in the original series.

Source: Sponichi

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I really think that this is a very bad idea. First of all, when there were rumours about a sequel for HERO, I thought it was a ridiculous idea. Even with the same cast 13 years ago, I am not confident that it can do as well as it did in the past. No Matsu Takako, No Abe Hiroshi, No Otsuka Nene, No Katsumura Masanobu and No Yashima Norito??? It must be difficult to get all of them on board since Matsu is now basking in the glory of mega hit "Frozen" and is more into movies and stage plays these days while Abe is a bigger name than he was 13 years ago but two names only from the original supporting cast just doesn't cut it. It's as if watching Hanzawa Naoki with Sakai Masato and everyone around him is a new face including his buddies and wife.

Things have changed so much in the past decade that getting 20% is already a feat. I can envisage that the media will have a field day bashing HERO 2 for not doing as well as HERO and of course in turn pinning the blame on Kimura Takuya alone. Of course, what Hanzawa Naoki achieved last summer was a great encouragement to those in the TV industry but is FujiTV really sure that HERO 2 can do the same? What's more, the choice of the heroine doesn't really go down well with me. Kitagawa's name already came up when the rumours started circulating so it wasn't surprising at all but it's just a personal thing that I don't fancy her. Sorry about that, Kitagawa's fans. For those who loved the Kimura-Matsu teamwork, it will be even hard to pull them in for the long haul. I for one loved their combination and it will be hard to find another partner like that for Kimura.

Last but not least, why summer?? Kuryu's trademark is his brown jacket and he would be nuts to wear that in summer. So how? He will have a new fashion item to promote this time? A designer T-shirt perhaps? And traditionally, summer is when people go for vacations so drama ratings tend to be lower. OK, you may say that Hanzawa Naoki bucked the trend but it was really an anomaly. No one expected it to be a runaway hit in the first place and it suddenly became the talk of the town. On the other hand, HERO 2 may just buckle under the weight of the expectations to do as well as HERO. I feel bad for those doing HERO 2...they've got a lot of emotional baggage and pressure to cope with and that raises the hurdle for them compared to their competitors in the same season.

All I can say, good luck to KimuTaku when summer comes!

Mukai Osamu to star in FujiTV's drama Matsumoto Seicho SP "Shi no Hassou"

Mukai Osamu will be starring in his first Matsumoto Seicho drama adaptation when he appears in the lead role of FujiTV's 55th anniversary drama SP "Shi no Hassou" (Delivery of Death) which is due to be shown at 9pm on 30 May. The drama which is based on the same-titled novel published in 1961, is the first adaptation for this novel and has the time setting changed to the modern day where Mukai plays the role of a magazine reporter chasing after the truth behind the case of a corpse transported from Tokyo to Iwate in the trunk of a car. Mukai commented that it was a tough filming process because he had many lines and there were many pieces of information which had to be put together in order for the truth to be revealed so he had to act in a way which viewers can understand the links between these parts. Co-stars include Higa Manami and Terao Akira.

Source: Sponichi

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Yonekura Ryoko to star in FujiTV drama SP "Autobahn ~ Soushiki Hanzai Taisakuka Yagami Eiko ~"

Yonekura Ryoko will be taking on the role of a police detective with ties to the underworld in the upcoming FujiTV drama SP "Autobahn ~ Soushiki Hanzai Taisakuka Yagami Eiko ~" which is due to be shown this summer. The drama SP is based on the same-titled mystery novel by Fukamachi Akio and features Yonekura in the role of Yagami Eiko, a police detective working in the Ueno Chuo Police Station's Anti-Organised Crime Division who is rumoured to be linked to the underworld and extends loans without interests to her colleagues. In addition, she is labelled as an "outsider" within the police station and would do anything to solve her cases.

Filming will begin in May and co-stars include Nishida Toshiyuki and Watabe Atsuro.

Source: Sanspo

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Matsushita Nao & Sato Ryuta to star in NHK drama "Fuyou no Hito ~ Fujisanchou no Tsuma"

Matsushita Nao and Sato Ryuta will be starring in the new NHK drama "Fuyou no Hito ~ Fujisanchou no Tsuma" (The Hibiscus Person ~ The wife on top of Mt. Fuji) which will begin its run from 26 July in the Saturdays 9pm timeslot. The drama which consists of six episodes, features Matsushita as Chiyoko, the wife of Meiji-era meteorologist Nonaka Itaru (Sato) who set up the first private meteorological station on Mount Fuji in 1895. Despite temperatures being around minus 30 degrees Celsius on top of the mountain, Nonaka still wanted to spend a winter there for the set-up of the station so Chiyoko even lied to her mother-in-law just to accompany her husband there despite the threat of the cold and altitude sickness.

Filming will begin from the end of April to the beginning of August and the crew will film on Mt. Fuji for a few days at the end of May. Despite being early summer, temperatures are still in the negative zone on the peak. Matsushita revealed that she has been trying to walk 10,000 steps per day since February in order to prepare for the climb up to Mt.Fuji.

Source: Sanspo

Sakai Ayana announces her pregnancy; due to give birth in summer

Actress Sakai Ayana who is married to L'arc-en-Ciel's tetsuya, announced through her agency Horipro on 21 April that she is currently six months' pregnant with their first child. In the statement, Sakai said that she is eagerly awaiting the birth of her baby in summer. Although she is filled with worry due to this being her first pregnancy, she is also very happy about the growth of her child as the days go by.

Sakai married tetsuya in 2007 and has been an actress and wedding dress designer since then. She is expected to return to work after childbirth depending on her condition.

Source: Sanspo

5-member singing unit bump.y to suspend its group activities for the time being

5-member singing unit bump.y will suspend its group activities for the time being from the end of June as announced on its official blog on 21 April. The 5 members i.e. Sakuraba Nanami, Matsuyama Mary, Miyatake Mio, Takatsuki Sara and Miyatake Matsuri will concentrate on their acting careers after the suspension of the group activities. The members mentioned in the statement that they would like to thank their fans for the support and are planning an event as a gesture of their appreciation.

Source: Sanspo

Abe Hiroshi & Ueto Aya at Kusatsu Onsen for premiere event of movie "Thermae Romae II"

Abe Hiroshi and Ueto Aya were at Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma Prefecture on 21 April for a premiere event of their movie "Thermae Romae II". The movie is scheduled to be shown in cinemas from 26 April. The two of them were treated to a foot bath during the event which Ueto commented that it was great for them to enjoy this while taking in the clean air and aroma of the hot spring water so they felt as if they were enjoying life rather than working.

Source: Sanspo

Kataoka Ainosuke denies rumours of his breakup with Kumakiri Asami

The 22nd April issue of magazine "FLASH" carried a report claiming that Kataoka Ainosuke and his girlfriend Kumakiri Asami have broken up. According to the magazine, Kataoka who is primarily based in Osaka, would always stay at Kumakiri's apartment in Tokyo whenever he came for work but he has been staying at a hotel during his visits since the end of last year. However, Kataoka's agency confirmed that he is still dating Kumakiri and asked for everyone's support for them. On the other hand, Kumakiri's agency said that this is her private matter so they will not be commenting on the report.

Kumakiri was last seen at an event on 20th April for the new movie "Kabukicho High School" which she had acted in with Kataoka and was what led to them start dating where she recounted that it was a very happy filming process for her.

Source: Sanspo

Aragaki Yui to play a mother for the first time in new movie "TWILIGHT Sasarasaya"

Aragaki Yui will play a mother for the first time in the new movie "TWILIGHT Sasarasaya" which will be released this autumn. She plays the role of Saya, a young mother who had just given birth to her first son but loses her husband Yutaro (Oizumi Yo) due to a freak accident and has to face the struggles of living on her own with her baby. Unable to leave his family in this state, Yutaro who has become a ghost makes use of his neighbours' bodies to help his wife along the way. His neighbours will be played by Nakamura Aoi and Fuji Sumiko.

Aragaki said that when she held the baby playing her son in the movie, he stopped crying immediately so she was very happy about that. Oizumi who is already a father of one, said that since Saya is supposed to be a newbie mother, he thinks that Aragaki can pull off this role well. In response to this, Aragaki said that as she has a pet dog, she can somewhat understand how it feels to be a mother.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Review of "Kamisama no Karte 2"

While on a recent trip in Japan, I had the opportunity to catch three new movies showing in cinemas. As such, I begin with the review of the first movie I watched in Yokohama i.e. "Kamisama no Karte 2".

Frankly speaking, I didn't think too much of the first movie which I had watched while on a flight. Granted that it wasn't exactly the best condition to be in to watch a slow movie like this and I was already tired due to the delayed takeoff, I found myself dozing off so many times that I decided to stop watching it after an hour. In view of this, I wasn't too keen on the sequel. However, the double lure of Sakurai Sho and Fujiwara Takuya made me decide to pay a hefty price of JPY 1,800 just to watch this movie (considered rather ex because a ticket in Singapore would cost SGD 11 at most during the weekend compared to SGD 22.50 based on the current exchange rate). However, there are discounted rates on certain days e.g. half price on the 1st day of the month and Wednesdays where ladies get to buy discounted tickets so you might want to time your visit to the cinema to coincide with these offers.

From this point onwards, there will be spoilers so if you do not wish to know the story, you may wish to skip this review.

Kurihara Ichito (Sakurai Sho) is still working in the Honjo Hospital as a gastrointestinal medicine specialist and works alongside his respected mentor Nukita Seitaro (Emoto Akira) as they both give their all to the patients rather than spend more time with their families. While on a rare outing with their husbands, Haruna (Miyazaki Aoi) and Nukita's wife Chiyo (Ichige Yoshie) meet for the first time where the latter takes the opportunity to "lament" that their husbands are literally married to the hospital and patients rather than them.

At around the same time, Ichito's former schoolmate Shindo Tatsuya (Fujiwara Tatsuya) comes to work at the Honjo Hospital which makes Ichito very happy to be reunited with his buddy. However, he soon realises that something is not quite right with Shindo as he would knock off on time and would not respond to calls to return to work outside of the usual working hours. When Ichito tries to confront Shindo about the latter's attitude, he is even more disappointed to hear that Shindo doesn't think that he is wrong to draw a clear line between work and family. Later on, Ichito realises that Shindo's marriage with Chinatsu (Fukiishi Kazue -their junior back in medical school) is on the rocks as she became obsessed with work and tried very hard to prove herself after an incident. As a result, Shindo brought his daughter Natsuna back to his hometown because he had enough of Chinatsu's negligence of their family.

Nukita collapses one day and is found to be suffering from terminal cancer. Although Ichito and Shindo try their best to save Nukita, his condition worsens gradually. Being unable to do much for him medically, the crew decide to help Nukita fulfill his last wish to see a starry sky with Chiyo which they are very grateful for. Nukita's passing somehow serves as a catalyst for change in Ichito and Shindo as they try to find the answer of seeking a balance between doing their best for patients and giving due attention to their families.

To be honest, this movie is also very slow like its original. I have no idea about the novel and how it presents the story but the movies have one common characteristic i.e. the storytelling is done at a leisurely pace and there are rarely major fluctuations in the emotions displayed by the characters except for a few scenes like when Ichito poured coffee over Shindo because he was angry with Shindo's attitude. Then again, pouring coffee is considered a rather subtle way of showing the anger as compared to pouncing on the guy and giving him a few punches. As such, the pace and generally peaceful atmosphere in this film can be rather sleep-inducing. I did find myself dozing off a couple of times (again!) because it felt as if nothing much was happening on the screen. If you are one who relishes action and emotional displays in a more elaborate manner rather than keeping it in all the time, you might find it very difficult to stay awake or remain interested in the movie.

In addition, I felt that the dilemma and conflicts felt by Ichito and Shindo were probably done too superficially i.e. did not get to the crux of the issue. While introducing the film, the PR efforts talked a fair bit about work-life balance but this isn't really the problem which the two doctors are facing. In Ichito's case, he has always been driven by his ideals of doing his best for his patients. He knows that he needs to do more for Haruna who is already pregnant but I get the feeling that he is not making an effort to change because he always thinks that Haruna will understand him. Simply put, he knows that there is a problem but he doesn't have the impetus to change things. Of course, with Nukita's death, it sort of made him realise that he has to pay more attention to Haruna. However, he doesn't realise that what Haruna minds is not so much about the lack of we-time but rather the fact that Ichito keeps his troubles to himself and doesn't open up to her. As such, although this couple appears loving on the surface, this gap in their perceptions may jolly form the next conflict between them if there is going to be another sequel.

On the other hand, Shindo's problem with Chinatsu was a bit surprising because I had thought that Shindo might have been a workaholic and has to change his ways now to save his marriage. Turns out that Chinatsu is the workaholic and how she became one was rather unexpected. The thing is, the problem between this couple is not so readily resolved by either party changing and giving in. They both know that they can't make major steps to change their current situation but as long as they can continue taking small actions to mend the rift between them, there is a chance that they can reconcile after all. I thought that Fujiwara and Fukiishi's scene over the phone as the first step in their reconciliation was quite touching.

In terms of visuals, the scenery in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, was great and made the movie look somewhat like a travelogue at times. However, it would have been best if the story and BGM could be beefed up to make the scenery stand out and become more memorable. "Hakusen Nagashi" did a great job in bringing out the charms of Matsumoto City with its very infectious music and story which everyone can relate to easily as long as you've been a student before. Too bad this movie didn't achieve the same impact.

It certainly doesn't look like this movie did extremely well in the box office despite stepped-up efforts to promote it. I was in this huge cinema theatre which can easily hold more than 200 people but I was the only one there watching the movie with another couple. Granted it was a Monday and most people probably wouldn't watch a movie on weekday nights, it might explain the low turnout but if you had seen the huge amount of people showing up to watch "Frozen", it would make you think otherwise. The movie only got No.5 during the first weekend it was shown. I have no idea if it was "Frozen" which was too strong and beat the competition flat out or a lack of draw factors even for Arashi fangirls to show up and support Sakurai.

As for the promotional efforts, I was more surprised to see Miyazaki Aoi making the rounds on at least two Arashi variety programmes i.e. VS Arashi and Arashi ni Shiyagare. Now, if you know the Miyazaki of the old, she rarely shows on variety programmes, not to even mention playing games like what she did in VS Arashi. There's a lot of speculation on why she changed her mind but most of the views were that since she got divorced and had her name dragged through that extramarital affair rumour with Okada Junichi, her pulling power as an actress seemed to have been badly affected so it resulted in her having to put in more effort to promote her work. Even as she appeared in these variety shows, she seemed a bit emotionally detached and the chemistry between her and Sakurai seemed quite lacking.

On the other hand, I've also read reports pointing to the movie company complaining about Sakurai not doing his part for the promotion and the bad performance of the movie was due to that. Well, as the leads of the movie, you get praised when it does well and get bashed when it doesn't. Kimura Takuya should know the pain of this dilemma because he has been bashed so much in recent years. When you take a closer look at the so-called flops, there can hardly be one single reason amounting to the poor performance. As such, I do not think promotional efforts are the sole reason why a movie flops. I truly think that this story's pacing might be a huge deterrence to people who have no patience to sit through a thought-provoking movie. Even I did not watch it because I was drawn to the story. The cast was the key motivator in my choice. Besides, competition is stiff these days with so many Japanese and foreign films vying for attention. If the movie attracts a niche crowd, chances are it may become a critical favourite but not as well-received in the box office. Now, if you want to shift the blame, Fujiwara Tatsuya who has a pretty meaty role was also not actively seen in the promotional run and was actually concentrating his efforts on another movie where he was the lead actor i.e. Sanbun no Ichi. Would you then think that he deserves to be blamed for promoting another movie showing at around the same time as "Kamisama no Karte 2" or he is not wrong to promote the other movie due to his status as lead actor?

And my ratings for this movie...

Story: 6 out of 10 (It could have been better but the dilemma of work-life balance is something which there is no perfect answer yet. As such, whatever discussion of it in the film seems to be barely scratching the surface and not getting to the crux of the issues between the couples featured in this movie)

Acting: 6.5 out of 10 (I like the fact that Sakurai doesn't have to sport that curly hairdo anymore but honestly, there seems to be an invisible wall between him and Miyazaki which coincides with how Haruna feels towards Ichito i.e. he doesn't open up to her. As such, I don't really have the feeling that this couple is emotionally invested in each other and the lovey-dovey displays of affection seem quite odd to me. In that sense, I get the feeling that they are "acting" as a couple i.e. making it too obvious that it's not real. Besides, there is little character development for Haruna and I feel that I hardly know her after two movies. In contrast, Fujiwara and Fukiishi may have lesser screentime but I felt more emotionally involved in their conflict and could empathise with them.)

Theme song: 4 out of 10 (Very peaceful and slow BGM but doesn't leave too much of an impression)

Visual effects / Scenery: 8 out 10 (Great scenery at Matsumoto, Nagano)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 6 out of 10 (After two movies, I still don't feel as much towards the main couple. On surface, they seem to be quite loving but like what I pointed out earlier, there are deeper emotional issues which need resolving.)

Total: 30.5 out of 50

Friday, April 18, 2014

Odagiri Jo & Kashii Yu welcome the birth of their second son

Odagiri Jo and Kashii Yu welcomed the birth of their second son recently as announced by her agency on 18 April. However, no details regarding the birth were made known which the agency apologised for and sought the understanding of everyone. Kashii will make her return to work as soon as she can, depending on her condition and childcare situation.

Odagiri and Kashii got married on 16 February 2008 which happens to be their birthdays and their first son was born in February 2011. Kashii announced her second pregnancy last October when she was already 5 months' pregnant and had to quit from the TBS drama "Kurokochi" because she had severe morning sickness.

Source: Sponichi

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Koura Kengo & Ishida Yuriko to star in new movie "Itamu Hito"

Koura Kengo and Ishida Yuriko will be co-starring in the new movie "Itamu Hito" (The Mourning Person) which is based on the 2009 Naoki Award winning novel by Tendo Arata and will be directed by Tsutsumi Yukihiko. The movie is scheduled to be shown in cinemas from February 2015.

Koura plays the role of a young man named Shizuto who is on a journey to visit the places where people died due to crimes or accidents and mourns their passing. On the other hand, Ishida plays Yukiyo, a woman who had killed her husband and served a prison sentence and subsequently joins Shizuto on his journey when she meets him at the spot where she killed her husband.

The same novel was made into a stage play back in 2012 and plans for the movie were made soon after that. Tsutsumi explained that getting Koura to play Shizuto was due to the tinge of sadness felt in his eyes even when he smiles which fits the image of Shizuto. On the other hand, Ishida will have to play a dark heroine who suffers domestic violence at the hands of her husband which is a deviation from her usual pure and innocent roles.

Filming began on 22 March and will be primarily done in Fukushima and the outskirts of the Kanto region.

Source: Sponichi

Mizuki Arisa denies rumours of impending marriage to president of construction company

According to some media outlets' reports on 16 April, Mizuki Arisa is going to marry Aoyama Koji, the president of a construction-related company. Aoyama was married to celebrity Uehara Sakura and they went through a divorce in April last year. Mizuki and Aoyama were said to have been friends for a long time but only started dating last autumn. However, Mizuki's friend Haruna Ai denied the news on her friend's behalf on TV and said that Mizuki replied to her via email that the reports about her impending marriage were untrue when Haruna asked her about it.

Source: Sanspo

Koizumi Kyoko & Nakai Kiichi sings duet as insert song for "Zoku Saigo kara nibanme no koi"

Koizumi Kyoko and Nakai Kiichi, the leads of FujiTV Spring 2014 drama "Zoku Saigo kara nibanme no koi", collaborated to record a duet song which will be used as an insert song in their drama. The song titled "T-jiro" (T-junction) was written by Crazy Ken Band's Yokoyama Ken but the release date of the song has not been decided yet. The decision to get the leads to sing a duet was conceived when they sang the song "Ginza no Koi no Monogatari" at a karaoke where the wrap-up party of the original series was held. The producer felt that their voices were in harmony and suggested the collaboration this time. Koizumi last sang a duet "Tatoeba Forever" with Sanada Hiroyuki 26 years ago in 1988 while Nakai had never sang a duet before but released a song "Kuro no Niau hito" in 1987.

Nakai commented that he had watched Koizumi and Sanada's performance back then in a music programme and thought to himself that he wants to sing with Koizumi one day so it's a strange feeling for it to come true now. Koizumi also expressed joy at being able to sing with Nakai this time.

Yokoyama who is a great fan of Koizumi, wrote the song to describe the uncertainty facing the leads in the drama and used Kamakura as the setting of the song. Koizumi and Nakai recorded the song in a studio in mid March. Koizumi commented that the recent duets tend to be very fashionable and cool but their song will be something which the middle-aged people will be able to learn easily and sing at the karaoke.

Source: Sanspo 1 / Sanspo 2

Monday, April 14, 2014

Preview of "Shinigami-kun" - Spring 2014

Title: Shinigami-kun 死神くん
Official website: here
Broadcast by: TV Asahi
O.A. Start Date: 18 April 2014
Timeslot: Fridays 11.15pm
Original manga by: Endo Koichi
Cast: Ohno Satoshi, Kiritani Mirei, Suda Masaki, Matsushige Yutaka

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Production press conference and screening event of TV Asahi Spring 2014 drama "Shinigami-kun"

The production press conference and  screening event of TV Asahi Spring 2014 drama "Shinigami-kun" was held on 12 April which was attended by the cast members Ohno Satoshi,  Kiritani Mirei, Suda Masaki and Matsushige Yutaka and 500 viewers. The drama which will begin its run from 18 April in the Fridays 11.15pm timeslot, features Ohno as a newbie reaper who goes to fetch those about to die and can fly around in the sky. As such, Ohno appeared at the event "flying" from 11.8m while suspended by wires.

This is the second time that Ohno is playing a non-human since his last appearance as a monster in NTV's "Kaibutsu-kun" in spring 2010. When news of the offer came, fellow Arashi members had a good laugh over Ohno playing a non-human again. With regard to this, Ohno commented that he must have given the impression that he isn't like a typical human being thus he keeps getting such roles. When asked the question on the order of who he wanted to fetch first in his capacity as the reaper, Ohno hesitated for a long while before deciding on Sakurai Sho since he is the next oldest in the group. As for the question on who he wants to see on his deathbed, Ohno chose his fellow Arashi members and singled out Ninomiya Kazunari if he could only choose one of them.

On the other hand, Kiritani who plays Ohno's supervisor in the drama, gets to scold him with very harsh words because she is deeply dissatisfied with his work performance. Regarding this, Kiritani said that it is an interesting experience since she doesn't get to say such things in real life.

Source: Sanspo / Nikkansports / Sponichi 1 / Sponichi 2

Newbie male group SOLIDEMO to sing the theme song for FujiTV Spring 2014 drama "First Class"

Newbie 8-member male group SOLIDEMO who is making their debut on 16 April, will be singing the theme song for FujiTV Spring 2014 drama "First Class" starring Sawajiri Erika. The drama will begin its run from 19 April in the Saturdays 11.10pm timeslot.

The theme song "Heroine" is an up-tempo number which is reflective of the lead character's inner world as she tries to climb to the top of the corporate ladder. SOLIDEMO commented that they are deeply honoured to have their debut song be the theme song of a drama despite being newbies in the industry.

Source: Sanspo

World premiere of movie "Thermae Romae II"

The world premiere of movie "Thermae Romae II" was held at Royal Palace of Caserta, a World Heritage site in Italy, on 9 April which was attended by the leads Abe Hiroshi and Ueto Aya as well as the director Takeuchi Hideki. The movie will be shown in Japan from 26 April and is the sequel to the original movie shown in April 2012. 300 students from the Università degli Studi di Napoli L'Orientale gathered for the screening held at the theatre previously used for opera performances by the royal family and were full of praise for the movie.

Abe who watched the movie from the 2nd floor's balcony seat with the audience, said that he was very touched by the support and good response and even greeted the audience in Italian. He was especially glad that the screening could be held at a place which exuded the feel of the Roman era that was in line with his character's background. Abe plays the role of a bathroom designer from the Roman era who time-travels to Japan in the modern day and is awed by the technology of today. Members of the audience commented that Abe looked just like an Italian and they were amused by his performance in the movie.

Before the screening, Abe and Ueto were also invited to try foot baths and massages in the Italian way. Ueto also revealed during the event that Part 1 is due to be shown in Italy from June so she hopes that it will be a huge success as well.

Source: Sanspo

First-day-screening of movie "CROWS EXPLODE"

The first-day-screening of movie "CROWS EXPLODE" was held on 12 April at TOHO Cinemas Roppongi Hills which was attended by cast members Higashide Masahiro, Katsuji Ryo, Nagayama Kento, ELLY and KENZO. The movie is the third installment in the CROWS series which talks about the lives of juvenile delinquents. Higashide appealed to everyone to watch the movie without any prejudice as everyone had worked very hard to make this movie and that they should view it as a movie about youth. As for Katsuji, he recounted that they had to run naked in a shopping street for a scene even though it was bitterly cold in February but joked that thanks to that scene where he got to see Higashide's buttocks, their relationship improved and the distance between them shortened.

Source: Sanspo

Preview of "Tokubou - Keisatsucho Tokushu Bouhanka" - Spring 2014

Title: Tokubou - Keisatsusho Tokushu Bouhanka トクボウ - 警察庁特殊防犯課
Official website: here
Official Twitter page: here
Broadcast by: NTV
O.A. Start Date: 3 April 2014
Timeslot: Thursdays 11.59pm
Original manga by: Takahashi Hidebu
Theme song: HANDS by AAA
Cast: Ihara Tsuyoshi, Matsushita Kohei, Takuma Takayuki, Adachi Yumi

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Completion screening event of FujiTV Spring 2014 drama "Zoku Saigo kara nibanme no koi"

The completion screening event of FujiTV Spring 2014 drama "Zoku Saigo kara nibanme no koi" was held on 12 April at Odaiba Cinema Mediage which was attended by the cast members Koizumi Kyoko, Nakai Kiichi, Sakaguchi Kenji, Uchida Yuki and Iijima Naoko. The drama which will begin its run from 17 April in the Thursdays 10pm timeslot, is a sequel to the original series shown during winter 2012 and is set in Kamakura about the romance and relationships of adults. In conjunction with the theme, only viewers above the age of 30 were invited to this screening and the clear difference between this session and other screening sessions was that the cast was not greeted with screams when they appeared but rather gasps of admiration from the audience. With response to this, Koizumi said that she never noticed the difference between the reactions of younger and older fans until today because all she heard when she was an idol in the past was screams of excitement. As such, she felt as if she had become an adult since the reaction she gets now is different. In addition, she used to be called cute all the time which switched to being called youthful looking for her age but she feels that she is no longer suitable to be called that now.

When asked about when they felt that they had become adults, Nakai recounted that it was when he could buy 20 snacks from the snack shop.

Meanwhile. Sakaguchi who got married on 18 March and will be a father in August, made his first appearance through this event and was greeted with congratulations from the press and audience.

Source: Sanspo

Preview of "Yowakutemo Katemasu ~ Aoshi-sensei to Heppoko Koukou Kyuuji no Yabou ~" - Spring 2014

Title: Yowakutemo Katemasu ~ Aoshi-sensei to Heppoko Koukou Kyuuji no Yabou ~ 弱くても 勝てます ~ 青志先生とへっぽこ高校球児の野望
Official website: here
Official Twitter page: here
Broadcast by: NTV
O.A. Start Date: 12 April 2014
Timeslot: Saturdays 9pm
Original novel by: Takahashi Hidemine
Theme song: GUTS! by Arashi
Cast: Ninomiya Kazunari, Aso Kumiko, Fukushi Souta, Arimura Kasumi, Nakajima Yuto, Yamazaki Kento, Hongo Kanata, Mamiya Shotaro, Sakurada Dori, Suzuki Katsuhiro, Yanagi Shuntaro, Hiraoka Takuma, Akutsu Shintaro, Ichikawa Ebizo, Mitsuishi Ken, Kawahara Kazuhisa, Arakawa Yoshiyoshi, Sasano Takashi, Yakushimaru Hiroko

Friday, April 11, 2014

Preview of "Roosevelt Game" - Spring 2014

Title: Roosevelt Game ルーズヴェルト・ゲーム
Official website: here
Official Facebook page: here
Official Twitter page: here
Broadcast by: TBS
O.A. Start Date: 27 April 2014
Timeslot: Sundays 9pm
Original novel by: Ikeido Jun
Cast: Karasawa Toshiaki, Dan Rei, Ishimaru Kanji, Rokkaku Seiji, Tezuka Toru, Kojima Kazuya, Yamamoto Akira, Takahashi Kazuya, Kosuda Yasuto, Wada Masato, Makita Sports, Hirose Alice, Mine Ryuta, Tatekawa Danshun, Eguchi Yosuke, Yamazaki Tsutomu

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Production press conference of FujiTV Spring 2014 drama "Bitter Blood"

The production press conference of FujiTV Spring 2014 drama "Bitter Blood" was held on 9 April which was attended by cast members Sato Takeru, Watabe Atsuro, Kutsuna Shiori, Minagawa Sarutoki, Fukikoshi Mitsuru, Takahashi Katsumi, Tanaka Tetsushi and EXILE's KEIJI. The drama which will begin its run from 15 April in the Tuesdays 9pm timeslot, features Sato as a newbie police detective who gets assigned to work at the Ginza Police Station's First Investigation Unit and has to become buddies with his father (Watabe) who left him when he was young. When asked to comment about Sato who is in actual fact 21 years younger than him, Watabe said that Sato is the one offering ideas on how to act in various scenes so it's very enjoyable to work with him and he feels as if Sato is like his real son.

On the other hand, Sato who is acting in his first police detective role, revealed that he had wanted to become a police officer when he was a student so this role is like a dream come true. However, among the various police detective dramas offerings this season, Sato remarked that there aren't that many cases in his drama and cited Episode 6 as having nothing happening. Co-star Fukikoshi also jokingly said that although his character is supposed to be an expert in tailing and tracking people, there is only one scene where he has to do so among the nine episodes' worth of scripts he has received so far. Joining in was Tanaka who also said that although he is said to be a sharp shooter in the drama, he has no scenes so far where he has to use a gun.

Source: Oricon

Thanksgiving event for movie "Kamisama no Karte 2"

The thanksgiving event for movie "Kamisama no Karte 2" was held on 9 April where the leads Sakurai Sho and Miyazaki Aoi appeared at a cinema in Tokyo to thank the audience for their support. Satisfaction ratings had reached 98.4% for the movie while the touching index was rated as 95% by those who had watched the movie. In response to these, Sakurai said that he is very happy to hear about the good reviews and commented that more people can watch this movie to get that warm fuzzy feeling as if they are sitting beside a candle's light. He also revealed that this was the second time he watched the movie and he found himself crying at the end which was rare among the movies he had starred in. Sakurai also spoke about playing a married couple with Miyazaki again in this movie and expressed his thanks towards her. On the other hand, Miyazaki said that she felt very secure and assured whenever they appeared in public events for the movie as Sakurai would take the lead in speaking and talk about interesting things so as to liven up the mood.

Source: Sponichi

Nakashima Mika & Kato Miriya to collaborate in song included in 2014 World Cup's official album

Nakashima Mika and Kato Miriya will be working together for the first time in the song "Fighter" which will be included in the 2014 World Cup's official album involving various artistes all over the world and released as a single in Japan on 4 June. The song was chosen as the Asian representative for the tournament's album which will be sold from 21 May. The duo will also be invited to Brazil and are expected to perform the song live there during a World Cup-related music event.

Nakashima and Kato have been close friends all along but this is the first time they are working together. The lyrics were written by them while Kato composed the melody. The song "Fighter" is a rock number with a samba feel which will stir the competitive spirit. They both expressed admiration for each other and are proud to be chosen as the Asian representative in the World Cup album.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Preview of "Naru you ni Naru sa" - Spring 2014

Title: Naru you ni Naru sa なるようになるさ
Official website: here
Official Twitter page: here
Broadcast by: TBS
O.A. Start Date: 22 April 2014
Timeslot: Tuesdays 9pm
Theme Song: hello by Sashida Yuya
Cast: Tachi Hiroshi, Asano Atsuko, Shida Mirai, Yasuda Shota, Konno Mahiru, Watanabe Misako, Minamisawa Nao, Inoo Kei, Izumi Pinko

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Production press conference of FujiTV Spring 2014 drama "Gokuaku Ganbo"

The production press conference of FujiTV Spring 2014 Gekku "Gokuaku Ganbo" was held on 8 April at Odaiba, Tokyo, which was attended by the cast members Ono Machiko, Shiina Kippei, Miura Tomokazu, Miura Shohei, Naka Riisa and Takeuchi Riki. The drama which will begin its run from 14 April at 9pm on Mondays, is Ono's first leading role in a Gekku and she plays a heroine who enters the underworld due to being saddled with debts. However, Ono commented that this drama is not typical of the usual Gekku as she finds herself having to behave and speak roughly.

Miura Tomokazu who plays Ono's boss in the drama, dyed his hair blonde for the first time because he found that it was too troublesome to wear a wig for four months. Although he got shocked by how he looked when he woke up one morning, his wife Yamaguchi Momoe got used to his new look in just three days.

Co-star Shiina exposed Ono also behaved roughly off set just like the character she plays as she sits with her legs apart and would proclaim loudly that she's hungry. Miura Tomokazu also revealed that once they finish a scene, Ono would head into the smoking room immediately. Not to be outdone, Ono said that her co-stars are mostly old men so their favourite topics in the waiting room would be things like presbyopia.

After the press conference, the cast got on a promotional car and set out on a promotion campaign on the streets where Ono spoke using a mike to introduce herself like a politician running for election.

Source: Sanspo

Yonekura Ryoko to star in TV Tokyo's Matsumoto Seicho drama SP "Tsuyoki Ari"

Yonekura Ryoko will be starring in her 5th Matsumoto Seicho drama adaptation when she takes on the leading role in TV Tokyo's new drama SP "Tsuyoki Ari" (Strong Ant) which will be shown this summer. She will play the role of a woman who married a company director 31 years older than her and is living a life of luxury. However, she detests the fact that the family finances are handled by the housekeeper and tries to murder her husband in order to get his JPY 1 billion fortune. In the process, she ends up being involved with other men by using her charm.

Yonekura commented that this character is very interesting considering how she would stop at nothing to achieve her aims so in a way, viewers might find themselves rooting for the heroine despite her evil ways. As her previous appearances in Matsumoto Seicho drama adaptations had helped her to reach new heights in her career, Yonekura revealed that through acting in these adaptations, they have helped her to discover new joys in acting and she would always visit Matsumoto's grave each time she took on a project related to him.

Source: Nikkansports

Preview of "White Labo" - Spring 2014

Title: White Labo ホワイト・ラボ (White Laboratory)
Official website: here
Official Facebook page: here
Official Twitter page: here
Broadcast by: TBS
O.A. Start Date: 14 April 2014
Timeslot: Mondays 8pm
Cast: Kitamura Kazuki, Miyasako Hiroyuki, Yabu Kota, Osugi Ren, Tanihara Shosuke, Wakui Emi

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Preview of "Arisu no Toge" - Spring 2014

Title: Arisu no Toge アリスの棘 (Alice's thorns)
Official website: here
Official Facebook page: here
Official Twitter page: here
Official Youtube channel: here
Broadcast by: TBS
O.A. Start Date: 11 April 2014
Timeslot: Fridays 10pm
Theme song: "Taiyo to Hana" by Takahashi Yu
Cast: Ueno Juri, Nakamura Aoi, Odagiri Jo, Tanaka Naoki, Omi Toshinori, Nakamura Baishaku, Fujiwara Norika, Musaka Naomasa, Iwaki Koichi, Kuriyama Chiaki, Kunimura Jun

Monday, April 07, 2014

Hamasaki Ayumi to sing the theme song for FujiTV Spring 2014 drama "Zoku Saigo kara nibanme no koi"

Hamasaki Ayumi will be singing the theme song for upcoming FujiTV Spring 2014 drama "Zoku Saigo kara nibanme no koi" which features co-leads Koizumi Kyoko and Nakai Kiichi. The drama will begin its run from 17 April in the Thursdays 10pm timeslot.

The theme song titled "Hello new me" was written for this drama and is a slow ballad talking about romance between adults. Hamasaki had also sung the theme song for the first series i.e. "Saigo kara nibanme no koi" back in January 2012. She commented that in the new theme song, there is an encouraging and warm message and it's one of the best songs she likes among her works.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Nakayama Miho & Domoto Tsuyoshi to star in NHK's new drama "Platonic"

Nakayama Miho will be making her return to dramaland when she takes on the lead role of a single mother in the upcoming NHK BS Premium drama "Platonic" which will be written by Nojima Shinji. Her co-star will be KinKi Kids' Domoto Tsuyoshi. The drama will begin its run from 25 May in the Sundays 10pm timeslot.

Nakayama plays the role of Sara, a single mother with a daughter suffering from a heart ailment. However, she then meets a mysterious man played by Domoto who she falls for thus making her struggle between her responsibilities as a mother and her feelings as a woman in love. Although Nakayama and Domoto have never worked together before, they have both acted in Nojima's dramas i.e. 1990's "Sutekina Kataomoi" and 1994's "Ningen Shikaku" respectively.

Filming will begin in the middle of this month.

Source: Sanspo

Preview of "Zoku Saigo kara nibanme no koi" - Spring 2014

Title: Zoku Saigo kara nibanme no koi 続・最後から二番目の恋 (Continued. The second-last love)
Official website: here
Broadcast by: FujiTV
O.A. Start Date: 17 April 2014
Timeslot: Thursdays 10pm
Cast: Koizumi Kyoko, Naka Kiichi, Sakaguchi Kenji, Uchida Yuki, Iijima Naoko, Hasegawa Kyoko, Kase Ryo, Moriguchi Hiroko, Asano Kazuyuki

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Preview of "SMOKING GUN Ketteiteki Shouko" - Spring 2014

Title: SMOKING GUN Ketteiteki Shouko スモーキング ガン 決定的証拠 (Smoking Gun - The decisive evidence)
Official website: here
Official Facebook page: here
Official blog: here
Broadcast by: FujiTV
O.A. Start Date: 9 April 2014
Timeslot: Wednesdays 10pm
Original manga by: Yokomaku Tomohiro and Takeya Shuji
Theme song: Jesus Friend by N Shukugawa Boys
Cast: Katori Shingo, Nishiuchi Mariya, Nakayama Yuma, Ando Tamae, Hamada Kokone, Suzuki Honami, Kurashina Kana, Issei Ogata, Tanihara Shosuke

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Production press conference & screening of "MOZU Season 1 ~ Mozu no sakebu yoru ~"

The production press conference and screening of TBS Spring 2014 drama "MOZU Season 1 ~ Mozu no sakebu yoru" was held on 5 April which was attended by cast members Nishijima Hidetoshi, Kagawa Teruyuki, Maki Yoko, Ito Atsushi, Ishida Yuriko, Ikematsu Sosuke and Arimusa Kasumi as well as the director Hasumi Eiichiro. The drama will begin its run from 10 April at 9pm on Thursdays and is based on the Mozu novel series by Osaka Go.

During the press conference, Nishijima commented that everyone has given his all to the filming in order to produce a good drama. At the same time, co-star Maki also joked that there was a scene when she had to wipe the blood off Nishijima's body but she was also thinking that his fans might hate her for it as she secretly admired his well-built body during the filming of that scene.

"MOZU Season 2 ~ Maboroshi no Tsubasa" will be shown via WOWOW from 22 June.

Source: Sanspo

Natsuna to appear as guest star in the first episode of FujiTV Spring 2014 drama "Gokuaku Ganbo"

Natsuna will be appearing as the guest star in the first episode of FujiTV Spring 2014 drama "Gokuaku Ganbo" which begins its run from 14 April in the Mondays 9pm timeslot. She will play the role of Yashiki Satomi, a young woman who filed for voluntary bankruptcy before but finds herself saddled with a fresh debt of JPY 2m from the loansharks again.

Natsuna commented that it is like a dream come true for her to appear in a Gekku and to make things better, she got to work with Ono Machiko who is the lead of this drama. Natsuna revealed that the atmosphere on set was always quite relaxed but she was particularly impressed with Ono who managed to put on a serious face once it was time to start filming even though she had been joking around just seconds earlier. On the day she participated in the filming, it happened to be the first day of the drama's filming too and she had to dive into the night sea despite a low temperature of 4 degrees Celsius. However, once she got into the water, it didn't feel so cold after a while so she was slightly reluctant to get out after that.

Source: Sanspo