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Monday, June 30, 2014

Press conference of TV Tokyo's 50th anniversary drama SP "Tsuyoki Ari"

The press conference of TV Tokyo's 50th anniversary drama SP "Tsuyoki Ari" was held on 30 June which was attended by the cast members Yonekura Ryoko, Hashizume Isao, Takuma Shin, Takashima Masanobu and Kaname Jun. The drama SP which will be shown at 9pm on 2 July, features Yonekura as an ambitious woman Sawada Isako who becomes the second wife of a rich company director who is 31 years older than her (Hashizume) but is unhappy about the housekeeper holding on to the finances of the family. In a bid to lay her hands on the JPY 1bn inheritance, she sets out to murder her husband. Takuma, Takashima and Kaname all play her lovers in the drama SP.

Even though this is the 5th Matsumoto Seicho drama adaptation that Yonekura has starred in and she always played evil women in these productions, she commented that she doesn't feel weird about playing such roles and has never felt uncomfortable with the idea of being seen as evil. On the contrary, she is happy about playing such characters since it offers her an avenue to let off stress and manipulate people although that's just in a fictitious world.

Source: Nikkansports / Sanspo

Preview of "Asunaro Sansannanabyoushi" - Summer 2014

Title: Asunaro Sansannanabyoushi あすなろ三三七拍子
Official website: here
Official blog: here
O.A. Start Date: 15 July 2014
Timeslot: Tuesdays 9pm
Broadcast by: FujiTV
Original work by: Shigematsu Kiyoshi
Theme Song: Ai no Kotoba - 2014 mix by Spitz
Cast: Yanagiba Toshiro, Gouriki Ayame, Kazama Shunsuke, Takahata Mitsuki, Ouchida Yuhei, Iitoyo Marie, Kikuchi Momoko, Nishida Toshiyuki, Moriguchi Yoko, Honkon, Sorimachi Takashi

Sunday, June 29, 2014

"Watashi no Otoko" wins double awards at the 36th Moscow International Film Festival

The movie "Watashi no Otoko" which is currently being shown in Japan, won two awards i.e. best movie and best leading actor (Asano Tadanobu) during the 36th Moscow International Film Festival as announced on 28 June. This is the first win in 15 years for a Japanese film in the best movie category since 1999's "Ikitai" and the first best leading actor win in 31 years since Kato Yoshi got it in 1983 for his movie "Furusato". This is also Asano's first acting award in an international film festival.

As Asano was in Nagoya for a live performance at the time when the award was announced, he could not be in Moscow for the ceremony but expressed his joy at being given the award. The director of the movie Kumakiri Kazuyoshi commented that the filming was tough as they had to do things like wait for the drift-ice to appear before shooting some scenes and overcome various problems. However, he was glad that the effort paid off in the end. Female lead Nikaido Fumi also congratulated her co-star Asano and the director for their wins and expressed her pride at having been involved in this film.

Asano and Nikaido are expected to attend a press conference in Tokyo on 30 June where they will make the official announcement about the awards to the media.

Source: Sanspo

Preview of "Henshin" - Summer 2014

Title: Henshin 変身 (Transformation)
Official website: here
O.A. Start Date: 27 July 2014
Timeslot: Sundays 10pm
Broadcast by: WOWOW
Original novel by: Higashino Keigo
Theme song: Oyasumi by Takahashi Yu
Cast: Kamiki Ryunosuke, Nikaido Fumi, Usuda Asami, Watabe Gota, Totsugi Shigeyuki, Makita Sports, Nakao Akiyoshi, Tonesaku Toshihide, Honda Tsubasa, Matsushige Yutaka, Murakami Jun, Kashiwabara Shuji, Aijima Kazuyuki, Masana Bokuzo, Fukami Motoki, Horiuchi Masami, Ibu Masato

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Top 10 bestselling movies in the first half of 2014 (Oricon)

Figures in brackets indicate estimated box office takings.

1) Frozen (More than JPY 26bn)

2) Eien no Zero (JPY 8.7bn)

3)Thermae Romae II (JPY 4.4bn)

4) Rupin Sansei vs. Meitantei Conan THE MOVIE (JPY 4.3bn)

5) Meitantei Conan Ijigen no Sniper (JPY 4.1bn)

6) Doraemon Shin Nobita no Daimakyo ~ Peko to Gonin no Tankentai (JPY 3.6bn)

7) Zero Gravity (JPY 3.17bn)

8) Amazing Spiderman 2 (JPY 3.1bn)

9) Aibou - Gekijouban III (JPY 2.4bn)

10) Mogura no Uta Sennyuu Sousakan REIJI (JPY 2.2bn)

Source: Oricon

Top 10 highest-rated single episode ratings for dramas shown in the first half of 2014 (Oricon)

1) Gochisousan - NHK - 13 March 2014 (Episode 136) - 25.3%

2) Hanako to Anne - NHK - 9 May 2014 / 26 May 2014 (Episodes 35 and 49) - 24.8%

3) Aibou New Year SP & Aibou season 12 2-hour finale SP - TV Asahi - 1st Jan 2014 / 19 Mar 2014 - 19.6%

4) Gunshi Kanbee - NHK - 5 Jan 2014 - Episode 1 - 18.9%
S Saigo no Keisatsukan - TBS - 12 Jan 2014 - Episode 1 - 18.9%

6) Hanasaki Mai ga damatte inai - NTV - 18 Jun 2014 - Final Episode - 18.3%

7) Roosevelt Game - TBS - 22 Jun 2014 - Final Episode - 17.6%

8) Kaseifu wa Mita! - TV Asahi - 2 Mar 2014 - 17.4%

9) BORDER - TV Asahi - 22 May 2014 - Episode 7 - 16.7%

10) Kinkyuu Toshirabeshitsu - TV Asahi - 23 Jan 2014 - Episode 3 - 16.1%
Specialist 2 - TV Asahi - 8 Mar 2014 - 16.1%

Source: Oricon

Preview of "MOZU Season 2 ~ Maboroshi no Tsubasa" - Summer 2014

Title: MOZU Season 2 ~ Maboroshi no Tsubasa ~ 幻の翼
Official website: here
Official Facebook: here
Official Twitter: here
Official Youtube Channel: here
O.A. Start Date: 22 June 2014
Timeslot: Sundays 10pm
Broadcast by: WOWOW
Original novel by: Ousaka Go
Director: Hasumi Eiichiro
Cast: Nishijima Hidetoshi, Kagawa Teruyuki, Maki Youko, Ikematsu Sosuke, Sano Shiro, Ito Atsushi, Aoi Yu, Hasegawa Hiroki, Ishida Yuriko, Kohinata Fumio

Friday, June 27, 2014

Top 10 bestselling DVDs in the first half of 2014 (Oricon)

Figures in brackets indicate the number of units sold.

1) ARASHI AraFes'13 NATIONAL STADIUM 2013 - Arashi (532,232)

2) Kanjani 8 LIVE TOUR JUKE BOX - Kanjani 8 (216,283)

3) SNOW DOME no Yakusoku IN TOKYO DOME 2013.11.16 - Kis-My-Ft2 (197,089)

4) namie amuro FEEL tour 2013 - Amuro Namie (118,208)

5) EXILE LIVE TOUR 2013 "EXILE PRIDE" 9.27 FINAL - EXILE (86,749)

6) BIG BANG JAPAN DOME TOUR 2013 ~ 2014 - BIG BANG (81,047)

7) Mr.Children [(an imitation) blood orange] Tour - Mr.Children (76,700)

8) Tohoshinki LIVE TOUR 2013 ~ TIME ~ FINAL in NISSAN STADIUM - Tohoshinki (76,211)

9) B'z LIVE-GYM Pleasure 2013 ENDLESS SUMMER - XXV BEST- B'z (70,566)

10) Honoo to Mori no Carnival in 2013 - SEKAI NO OWARI (63,484)

Source: Oricon

Top 10 bestselling albums in the first half of 2014 (Oricon)

Figures in brackets indicate the number of units sold.

1) Tsugi no ashiato - AKB48 (1,036,751)

2) OST of "FROZEN" - Various Artistes (754,407)

3) HUMAN - Fukuyama Masaharu (329,285)

4) THE BEST / BLUE IMPACT - Sandaime J-Soul Brothers from EXILE TRIBE (323,798)

5) HIT! HIT! HIT! - Kis-My-Ft2 (277,330)

6) TREE - Tohoshinki (263,080)

7) RAY - BUMP OF CHICKEN (259,141)

8) Ballada - Amuro Namie (254,944)

9) Music - EXILE ATSUSHI (253,366)

10) Shinseikai - Yuzu (218,707)

Source: Oricon

Top 10 bestselling CD singles in the first half of 2014 (Oricon)

Figures in brackets indicate the number of units sold.

1) Labrador Retriever - AKB48 (1,764,489)

2) Mae shika mukanee - AKB48 (1,151,372)

3) 'Suzukake no Ki no Michi de
 Hohoemi wo Yume ni Miru' to Itte
 Shimattara Bokutachi no Kankei wa
 Dou Kawatte Shimau no ka, Bokunari ni
 Nan-nichi ka Kangaeta Ue de no Yaya
 Kihazukashii Ketsuron no You na Mono - AKB48 (1,086,491)

4) Bittersweet - Arashi (591,130)

5) GUTS! - Arashi (582,995)

6) Kizuitara Kataomoi - Nogizaka 46 (538,090)

7) Mirai to wa? - SKE48 (502,835)

8) Dare mo shiranai - Arashi (497,374)

9) Takamine no Ringo - NMB48 (443,069)

10) King of Otoko! - Kanjani 8 (388,826)

Source: Oricon

First episode of "Wakamonotachi 2014" to be shown to Yahoo! Japan premium members before O.A.

FujiTV's 55th anniversary drama "Wakamonotachi 2014" starring Tsumabuki Satoshi, Eita, Mitsushima Hikari, Emoto Tasuku, Nomura Shuhei, Aoi Yu, Nagasawa Masami, Hashimoto Ai and Yoshioka Hidetaka will have its first episode shown exclusively to 10,000 Yahoo! Japan premium members before its first O.A. on 9 July at 10pm. Members will have to register for the right to watch the first episode on 5th and 6th July by registering via this website which is a first for the TV station.

The drama is based on the same-titled drama produced in 1966 and talks about how 5 siblings try to survive in the current world after losing their parents at a young age. The theme song of the drama will be sung by Moriyama Naotaro.

Source: Sanspo

Preview of "Kazokugari" - Summer 2014

Title: Kazokugari 家族狩り
Official website: here
Official Twitter: here
O.A. Start Date: 4 July 2014
Timeslot: Fridays 10pm
Broadcast by: TBS
Original novel by: Tendou Arata
Scriptwriter: Oishi Shizuka
Theme song: Shout by androp
Cast: Matsuyuki Yasuko, Ito Atsushi, Kitayama Hiromitsu, Mizuno Miki, Shinoda Mariko, Okada Koki, Miyaji Masako, Ichikawa Tomohiro, Sano Kazuma, Nakamura Yurika, Hiraoka Yuta, Yamaguchi Sayaka, Fujimoto Takahiro, Inoue Makio, Akiyama Natsuko, Asada Miyoko, Zaizen Naomi, Endo Kenichi

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Preview of "Dousousei ~ Hito wa sando koi wo suru" - Summer 2014

Title: Dousousei ~ Hito wa sando koi wo suru 同窓生 ~ 人は、三度恋をする
Official website: here
Official Facebook: here
Official Twitter: here
O.A. Start Date: 10 July 2014
Timeslot: Thursdays 9pm
Broadcast by: TBS
Original manga by: Saimon Fumi
Cast: Iura Arata, Inamori Izumi, Itaya Yuka, Matsuoka Masahiro, Matsumoto Toshio (EXILE), Ichikawa Miwako, Takachi Noboru, Okamoto Rei, Totsugi Shigeyuki, Miura Rieko, Ichige Yoshie, Emoto Akira

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review of "Lost Days" (ロスト・デイズ) - Winter 2014

At first sight, "Lost Days" reminded me a little of "Limit" which I reviewed some time earlier. Both dramas had a similar setting where a group of friends was stuck somewhere and the so-called friendships began to unravel with each exposed truth. There was also a murder involved so there would be a witch hunt to find the killer. The key difference between these two dramas were that the characters in "Lost Days" never really got into a life-and-death situation (except for the one who was killed) while those in "Limit" were the survivors of a traffic accident and had to survive before they were found by the rescuers.

Nonetheless, what got me started to watch this drama was the lure of a murder mystery and how the relationships of this group of buddies would change due to the truths they were hiding from one another. However, the level of suspense never met my expectations and it was quite easy to guess the progression of the story where even the identity of the killer was a giveaway. To put it simply, the suspense element of this story was a disappointment. The character development and acting were also pretty uneven thus making it even more difficult for me to like this drama.

Before I begin sharing my views, please be warned that there will be spoilers in this review so please skip this review if you haven't watched the drama.

A group of six friends from an university's tennis club decide to go on a 10-day skiing trip to mark their graduation. Shino Yuta (Seto Koji) is the chairman of this club and has already secured a job before his graduation. Vice-chairman Sakurada Miki (Ishibashi Anna) is from a rich family and is currently dating fellow member Takano Natsu (Yoshizawa Ryo) who will be repeating a year and had been romantically-linked to many other women before he began dating Miki. Sasaki Rika (Triendl Reina) is known for being stylish and smart but had previously been rejected by Shino when she confessed her feelings for him. Fueki Mana (Kojima Fujiko) is Miki's childhood friend while Tachibana Satsuki (Miyoshi Ayaka) is a second-year student who likes to tag along with her seniors.

When the group heads to the bungalow owned by Miki's family which is near the ski resort, they are surprised to see Miki's elder brother Wataru (Kiriyama Ren) there. Miki is unhappy to see him as she doesn't want her friends to feel uncomfortable around him and not enjoy their holiday but the rest reassure her that they are OK with Wataru's presence. Although it appears on the surface that the group are good friends with one another, they actually have secrets which they are hiding from one another.

Rika is envious of Miki who has everything in life and tries her best to keep up with the latter's lifestyle so as to be "accepted" into the circle of friends. However, Rika is not as financially well-off and resorts to working part-time as a hostess but lies to her friends that she is working as a tutor at a cram school. At the same time, she seems envious that Miki is dating Natsu and even seduces him with a kiss which sort of sets things spiralling out of control later. It is later revealed in the story that Rika doesn't have any interest in Natsu although he seems a bit besotted with her compared to how he feels towards Miki. Rika had previously confessed her feelings to Shino but since he's been holding a torch for Miki, he rejected Rika and assumed that she had gotten over this.

On the other hand, Miki has never looked down on Rika and instead holds her in high regard because Rika is always sure of what she wants to do in future and takes concrete steps to realise her dreams. As such, she doesn't have the intention of befriending Rika just because she is stylish or pretty. However, Miki's goody-two-shoes nature does get on the nerves of her friends especially Mana who reveals her true feelings about Miki later and how much she detests Miki for trying to be nice all the time which ends up hurting those around her even more. Miki never realises that by hiding her true self behind that nice facade makes her appear as a fake hypocrite and is truly shocked by how others really view her.

At the same time, all is not well between Shino and Natsu too. Shino is unhappy about Natsu getting romantically involved with Rika despite already dating Miki. Especially since Shino likes Miki and can't even bring himself to say it, the frustration of having to keep the situation under wraps to protect Miki and wanting to get his friend back on the right track makes Shino a bit jumpy at times. On the other hand, Shino is like a replica of Miki in the sense that he appears to be so good and perfect with no temper that Natsu may have felt inferior to him at one point or another especially when he has to repeat a year in university but Shino is already assured of a place in the corporate world. Moreover, Rika is still in love with Shino and just uses Natsu as a tool to get back at Miki. As such, besides the messy state of relationships between these four people, Shino and Natsu too have problems with each other which are sort of hidden until this trip and it forces them to be frank with one another about their true thoughts.

Mana may seem like the cool outsider while these conflicts are going on between her friends but her mysterious relationship with Wataru causes her to be his accomplice in spoiling the relationships of her friends. Although she knows very well that Wataru is not mentally sound, she doesn't really stop him and lets him do what he wants. Maybe Mana may not mean to spoil the relationships between her friends but the mounting resentment towards her friends probably made her do what she did. In actual fact, Mana has been hiding her true self all this while so when she finally explodes and shows how she truly feels, it comes as a total surprise to her friends who feel as if they are looking at a different person. Much as Mana appears to be a cool and collected person in the beginning, her feelings for Wataru makes her lose control to a certain extent as she tries her best to defend him even when all odds are against him.

If Wataru is the mastermind behind what happens to this group of friends, Satsuki must be the unwitting assistant who makes things worse. Although it is depicted in the end that Satsuki never meant any ill will with what she did, her actions were precisely what drove some of her seniors to breaking point and what led to her own death. I won't say that she deserves to die but Satsuki can't wriggle her way out of things by saying that she wants things to be fair and square and that nobody should be kept in the dark and deceived by others. Her obsession with Wataru was also a key catalyst in leading to Mana's outburst so it is difficult for most, if not all viewers to sympathise with what happened to Satsuki in the end.

Although I am not intending to reveal the identity of the killer (quite evident from this picture though), my biggest grouse about this story was how they handled the developments after Satsuki's death. After finding her body, Shino and Miki simply left it in the valley which would be tantamount to deserting a corpse in Japanese law. And to make things worse, after the group gathers to pay respects to Satsuki and puts on her jacket for her, they leave her body there again without calling for the authorities to deliver her corpse for an autopsy or send back to her parents and to arrest the killer. No doubt this is a fictional work, I think this deviates too much from reality and is simply illogical. As such, besides the fact that the identity of the killer being a giveaway, I thought this was the worst part of the story.

Towards the end of the drama, I'm not sure if this was a bid to try to turn the tables around because of the potentially anti-climatic ending but the appearance of someone with blood-stained gloves attempting to hitch a ride from the group of friends seemed to hint at two things. It could have been Wataru who supposedly left the bungalow before them but he was seen with these gloves earlier in the drama. Did he come back to take revenge against the group of friends for exposing his secret and making it impossible for Miki to accept his presence? Or was this hitch-rider the serial killer constantly mentioned during the course of the entire drama? If the identity of this person was Wataru, chances are, the group might not stop for him. However, if it was the killer who the group have not seen before, they might stop to help him. Of course, we'll never know the answer to this unless there's a SP or sequel but honestly speaking, I don't think this development alone would warrant a sequel. That's stretching things a bit too thin.

As for the acting of the cast, I thought Seto Koji and Ishibashi Anna were at a huge disadvantage because their roles were so boring and predictable. Yoshizawa Ryo was OK but his character wasn't that exciting to make me remember him. Comparatively, Triendl Reina's portrayal of Rika was rather good because she managed to show different sides to her character eg. when she was worried about blowing her cover as a hostess and how she would try to taunt Miki by seducing Natsu and yet worry about hurting her friend's feelings. Same goes for Kojima Fujiko who left a huge impression on me when Mana showed her true colours and later on when she got deeply affected by Wataru's change of heart. No doubt Miyoshi Ayaka's role of Satsuki was the most obnoxious of the lot, her ability to make the character as detestable as possible is a testimony of her acting potential. Too bad the drama didn't give her enough time to redeem her character and earn the sympathy of the viewers. As for Kiriyama Ren, he looks too much like Saito Takumi from certain angles that I have to keep reminding myself that they are not the same person. Kiriyama did quite well in portraying the creepy side of Wataru but I thought it was a pity that he made a rather wimpy exit in the end which contributed to the anti-climatic ending.

And my ratings for this drama...

Story: 3 out of 10 (Predictable and not very exciting. Seemed like the scriptwriter was holding back and preventing it from being too dark.)

Acting: 7 out of 10 (The female supporting cast performed much better than the leads.)

Theme song/BGM: 1 out of 10 (That theme song must be one of the most jarring ones I've encountered in recent years. Sorry but that's really not my cup of tea)

Visual effects / Scenery: 4 out 10 (I thought these people were supposed to be at a ski resort but there were limited shots of the resort. Instead, most of the action took place inside the bungalow or the woods around it which was a tad boring.)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 4 out of 10 (To be honest, although the actions of the characters are supposed to be interlinked i.e. one leads to another, the issue is that the cast seemed to be doing their own thing and it didn't look like they had much chemistry with one another. Even the confrontation scenes fizzled out quickly.)

Total: 19 out of 50

Ayase Haruka, Nagasawa Masami, Kaho & Hirose Suzu to play sisters in "Umimachi diary"

Ayase Haruka, Nagasawa Masami, Kaho and Hirose Suzu will be playing sisters in the new movie "Umimachi diary" to be directed by Koreeda Hirokazu. The movie which is based on the hit manga by Yoshida Akimi, will be released in cinemas next summer.

Ayase plays the eldest daughter Sachi who is a nurse and has an affair with a married doctor. Nagasawa plays the second daughter Yoshino, an OL who is particular about money as she works in a trust bank but has bad luck with men, likes men who are younger than her and behaves badly when she's drunk. As for Kaho, she plays the third daughter Chika who is working at a sports equipment shop and suddenly changes her long hairstyle to an afro on the day of their father's funeral. The three sisters had been living on their own in Kamakura ever since their father who had married into their mother's family eloped with Suzu's mother. However, when their father passes away, Sachi makes the decision to adopt Suzu who is only 13 years old and the three sisters must adapt to living with their half-sister all of a sudden. The movie will describe the first year of when the four sisters first meet and filming will be done primarily in Kamakura.

The four actresses first met in late March for a pre-production meeting and filming will begin at the end of July.

Source: Sponichi / Wikipedia

Spitz to sing the theme song for FujiTV summer 2014 drama "Asunaro Sansannanabyoushi"

Spitz will be singing the theme song for the upcoming FujiTV summer 2014 drama "Asunaro Sansannanabyoushi" which is due to begin its run from 15 July in the Tuesdays 9pm timeslot. The song titled "Ai no Kotoba" (Love's Words) was released in the band's 1995 album "Hachimitsu" and will be rearranged to form the new version "Ai no Kotoba - 2014 mix -".

The drama's planning-in-charge Mizuno Ayako was thinking of which song to use as the theme when she decided that she wanted to use a Spitz song as she had been an avid fan during her university days. Mizuno then sent a handwritten letter to the band which led to the successful collaboration.

Source: Sanspo

Sakaguchi Kenji takes time off work due to hip joint pain

Sakaguchi Kenji will be taking some time off work due to his right hip joint problem and is scheduled to be hospitalised after his surgery. According to his agency, Sakaguchi has been busy with the filming of his dramas i.e. "Iryu 4" and "Zoku Saigo kara Nibanme no Koi" since the beginning of the year and had to use crutches in order to walk two months ago due to the pain. However, during the filming of "Zoku Saigo kara Nibanme no Koi", he didn't want to use them on set so as not to let the staff and cast worry too much about his condition. However, the pain in his right hip joint proved too much to bear and he underwent an examination in the middle of this month where he was told to go through a more detailed test and treatment that would require him to be hospitalised for 1 week to 10 days. As such, he will only return to work in August after he recovers.

Source: Sanspo

The Japanese Film Festival 2014 - Singapore


The Japanese Film Festival 2014 is back in Singapore again. As per previous editions, there is a mix of old movies i.e. those black and white films classified as "Retrospectives" and the newer movies classified as "Currents" which can sometimes be as recent as those shown a couple of months ago in Japan.

For "Retrospectives", the tickets are given away free on the day of the screening at least 45 minutes before the scheduled screening time. On days where there are multiple screenings, ticket distribution begins 60 minutes before the first film's screening time. Each person can get two tickets only and it will be free-seating for all. On the other hand, "Currents" are ticketed at SGD 13 each. You are definitely assured entry into the viewing session but seating is not fixed. You may get the tickets online via Ticketbooth's website or head to their outlets to buy them personally.

*One word of caution though, I tried buying tickets on the site a couple of days back but was hit with an expired security certificate warning. As such, I ended up going to Ticketbooth's counter to get my tickets. It might be best not to buy the tickets online if this problem is still not fixed because it might compromise your credit card information.

One feature of this year's festival is that the closing film is a mystery title so tickets will be given out through ballot only to all festival attendees. I suppose you might be given a form to fill in so that you can take part in this lucky draw? All screenings this year will be at the National Museum's Gallery Theatre except for one which is shown outdoors.

I will focus on talking about the "Currents" rather than the "Retrospectives" which I know relatively little about. There are 8 movies in this category and some of them are quite new i.e. shown within a year of its Japanese release. If I recall correctly, "Ieji" (translated as Homeland here) should be the newest in the batch since it was released in Japan on 1 March so it's only been 3 months or so since it ended its run there. That's really fast, considering that past editions of the film festival tended to show more of the older films. Another very new film is "Mogura no Uta" which was shown in Japan from 15 February 2014. "Chuugakusei Maruyama" is comparatively a little older since it was released in May 2013. "SURVIVE STYLE 5+" which has a very interesting trailer and boasts of big names such as Asano Tadanobu, Koizumi Kyoko and Abe Hiroshi, was actually from 2004, "Homesick" and "Iya Monogatari" were from last year while "Tabidachi no Shimauta" was from May 2013. The closing film is also categorised as "Currents" so it should be a fairly recent film too.

Among the "Currents", I will be watching "Ieji" only due to lack of time to catch the others. I won't deny that part of the reason for choosing this film is for Matsuyama Kenichi but also for the fact that I like the story of how a family is affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis and how they overcome their differences and problems to mend their relationships despite the tough circumstances of not being able to return to their original house. As for "Mogura no Uta", I did consider it for a brief moment because of Ikuta Toma and Tsutsumi Shinichi but I'm not really a fan of Miike Takashi's works so I guess I will have to skip this. Similarly for "Chuugakusei Maruyama", I would have loved to watch Kusanagi Tsuyoshi as a seemingly hentai single father but alas, the timing doesn't work out for me.

If you are also going for this film festival, please feel free to share with me which film you've watched and how you found it. If you happen to be catching "Ieji" too, let's share our thoughts here after the screening. ^__^

For those who are interested in finding out more on this film festival, please go to their official website.

UPDATE 1: Tickets to "Mogura no Uta" are sold-out as of this morning (25 June).

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Koura Kengo & Ono Machiko to co-star in new movie "Kimi wa Iiko"

Koura Kengo and Ono Machiko will be working together for the first time in the new movie "Kimi wa Iiko" (You are a good child) which is due to be shown next year. The movie is based on the Tsubota Joji Literature Award winning novel by Nakawaki Hatsue which talks about child abuse from various viewpoints.

Koura plays a newbie teacher Okano in a primary school who is troubled over how to handle problems such as bullying and domestic violence affecting his students and tries to extend a helping hand to them. On the other hand, Ono plays Masami, a mother who has a three-year-old daughter and cannot stop herself from hurting her own child. In contrast to when she played a similar role in the 2010 NTV drama "Mother", the character this time will have her past and problems described in detail within the movie. As their stories will be parallel of each other, they will have limited screentime together.

Filming is due to begin at the end of this month in Otaru, Hokkaido.

Source: Yomiuri Hochi

Completion press conference of WOWOW drama "MOZU Season 2 ~ Maboroshi no Tsubasa"

The completion press conference of WOWOW drama "MOZU Season 2 ~ Maboroshi no Tsubasa" (The Legendary Wing) was held on 20 June at United Cinema Toyosu which was attended by the cast members Nishijima Hidetoshi, Maki Youko, Ikematsu Sosuke and the director Hasumi Eiichiro. The drama which is the continuation of the first series shown on TBS this spring, will begin its run on 22 June at 10pm on Sundays and consists of 5 episodes.

Nishijima revealed that there will be lots of action scenes and new things which he had not attempted before which will be very interesting to viewers. Maki who plays his colleague, jokingly said that female viewers should tune in to the drama because Nishijima would be barring his body quite often which led him to clarify that she was just making things up. As for Ikematsu who plays a killing monster, he commented that the story is far from over which hints that there could be more sequels coming up.

New additions to the cast in Season 2 include Aoi Yu who plays a journalist and Sano Shiro.

Source: Sanspo

Fukatsu Eri & Asano Tadanobu co-star in new movie "Kishibe no Tabi"

Fukatsu Eri and Asano Tadanobu will be co-starring in the new movie "Kishibe no Tabi" which is due to be shown next year in Japan and France.

They play a married couple Yusuke (Asano) and Mizuki (Fukatsu) who live apart for three years due to the sudden disappearance of Yusuke. Just when Mizuki has finally decided to move on with her life and go back to work, Yusuke suddenly returns home and invites Mizuki to go on a trip with him to meet the people who have helped him during the past three years. As a result of interacting with those people and getting to know a different side of Yusuke, Mizuki finds herself being drawn to him again but something else has also changed during the period of their separation.

Source: Sanspo

Sakai Masato to be the lead in NHK's 2016 Taiga "Sanadamaru"

Sakai Masato will be playing the lead role Sanada Nobushige (also known as Sanada Yukimura) in the upcoming NHK 2016 Taiga titled "Sanadamaru".  The scriptwriter will be Mitani Koki.

Although this is the third time that Sakai is appearing in a Taiga, this will be his first leading role. Sakai commented that although much of Sanada's 49-year-life was shrouded in mystery, he is looking forward to seeing how Mitani will "fill in the blanks" and show a new side to this well-known historical character. On the other hand, NHK denied that Sakai was chosen due to his runaway hit last year i.e. "Hanzawa Naoki" but rather for his ability to take on the tough leading role in a Taiga for a year and his close relationship with Mitani.

Source: Sanspo

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Kato Ai holds her wedding at Toranomon Hills

Kato Ai who registered her marriage to her husband on 22 November last year, held her wedding at the newly-opened Toranomon Hills on 14 June. The ceremony was held at the chapel on the top floor of the building and the wedding reception held at Andaz Tokyo within the same building.

The couple met through friends several years ago and started dating last spring.

Source: Sanspo

Review of "Shirayuki Hime Satsujin Jiken" (白ゆき姫殺人事件)

Finally, the last of my three-part movie reviews series - Shirayuki Hime Satsujin Jiken (The Murder Case of Snow White). I had the highest expectation of this movie compared to the other two I watched in Japan and thankfully it did not disappoint. Besides the suspense element, I think the success of this film lies in the fact that it had such a high level of reality that anyone could have been in the shoes of the heroine who was buckling under the pressure of lies and skewed perceptions created by the people around her who coincidentally wanted to hide their inconvenient truths from the world. In that sense, I think Minato Kanae did a great job in portraying this side of humans which is truly frightening even as we view the whole situation as an onlooker.

From this point onwards, there will be a lot of spoilers so please skip this review if you haven't watched the movie.

A beautiful OL Miki Noriko (Nanao) is found murdered and set on fire in Shiguretani, a national park. Investigations soon point to her colleague Shirono Miki (Inoue Mao), a plain OL who's the exact opposite of Noriko and coincidentally goes missing after Noriko's death. When a TV programme director Akahoshi Yuji (Ayano Go) sets out to investigate the case after receiving a tip-off from his friend Kano Risako (Renbutsu Misako), he finds that the people around Shirono provide nothing but information which paint her to be someone capable of and having the motive to murder Noriko. Swept over by the success of his feature on the case and the attention paid on his Tweets about the investigation, Akahoshi gets caught up in the spiral of lies spun by Shirono's associates but finds that there is only one person who firmly believes in Shirono despite what the world has to say i.e. her childhood friend Tanimura Yuko (Kanjiya Shihori). When the truth is finally revealed, Akahoshi realises his blunder in not verifying the facts before airing his report on Shirono which nearly drives her to commit suicide due to the social pressure...

To be frank, the suspense isn't the key in this story. Although the author tries to suggest that there might be a dark side to Shirono which is unknown to most or concealed, the negativity in the statements provided by those around her gives me the impression that everyone is unwittingly ganging up to make her the scapegoat for something. That is why I was never convinced that she might be the killer because it all seemed to be too much of a coincidence that everyone is speaking ill of the same person. They may not mean to point a finger at Shirono for being Noriko's killer but the combined effect of these comments about Shirono gives the impression to society as a whole that since she's such a dark and scary person, she is capable of anything. The issue with these people who know Shirono or claim to know her is that, they all have inconvenient truths which they don't want the world to know. As such, you have people like Shirono's boss Shinoyama (Kaneko Nobuaki) claiming that she took the initiative to woo him and he dumped her because she was too clingy but the truth was that he was the one who approached her and he dumped her because he got tempted by Noriko who just wanted to snatch him from Shirono. Besides these people who openly spoke ill of Shirono, there were people who concealed their true intentions behind their testimonies of believing in Shirono e.g. Shirono's university schoolmate Maetani Minori (Tanimura Mitsuki) who claimed to be such a good friend of hers but was jealous and nasty towards Shirono once she knew that the latter was seeing Shinoyama. It's quite scary when you come to think of it. People who you know or have known for ages can turn against you in such a dramatic fashion just to make themselves look good or to conceal the truth and you are powerless to fight back because it's one against many. Somehow, the more people concur with something, the more it appears to be the truth and it takes a lot to turn things around and make them see what's true.

At the same time, we are also shown how stereotypes in society can be really misleading and far from the truth. Due to Noriko's good looks and good family background, she was automatically assumed to be a nice person but in actual fact, she was anything far from that. Her persistent efforts in making life difficult for Shirono for no apparent reason (Shirono didn't actually step on her toes or go against her on purpose in any way) just reeks of elitism and her sense of self-entitlement that she should get what she wants. Since Shirono is plain and doesn't seem to have any trait in particular which is outstanding, Noriko could not stand it when Shirono got the attention of Shinoyama nor when she adored the musician group Serizawa Brothers. By using her charm and lying to Shirono, Noriko succeeded in making Shirono upset over the loss of her boyfriend and her idols. However, despite her spiteful nature, those who knew about it did not expose this because that would in turn reveal the things they were hiding. Shinoyama wouldn't have wanted people to know that he was seduced by Noriko which led to him dumping Shirono. Likewise, the killer couldn't tell people about Noriko's true nature because that would have revealed why Noriko was killed. As a result, Noriko got labelled as Snow White, the victim who got killed despite her good looks and kind nature while Shirono was tagged as the witch who was jealous of Snow White.

Another part of the story which I think is worth discussing is whether the family is to be held responsible for the crimes of a criminal. There have been many dramas which have touched on this topic, be it from the victim's family's point of view or the criminal's family's point of view (Sore demo ikite yuku is a good example which shows both sides of the argument). In the Japanese society, it is often seen that family members, usually parents who appear on the TV screen to apologise for the misdeeds of their children. To people who come from countries where the criminal act is seen as the sole responsibility of the criminal, it may seem weird for the family to be held accountable for the deed. However, in most Asian societies, it is often viewed as a failure of parenting duties if your child becomes a criminal i.e. you are seen as not having taught the child well. Moreover, the concept of shared responsibility (rentai sekinin) is so strong in Japan that if the parents or family members do not show remorse or regret over what happened, it is socially acceptable. That is precisely why when Akahoshi went to interview Shirono's parents, they immediately apologised to society for what Shirono was said to have done even though it wasn't proven at that point if their daughter was indeed the killer. As such, it was also no surprise that Shirono was so upset at her parents not trusting her at all that she ignored them when she returned to her family home for her grandmother's funeral.

As I mentioned above, the suspense factor probably wasn't the key in this story so that's why the truth was revealed rather quickly at the end. I think the focus of the story was more on human nature and the dark sides of people rather than the suspense so for those who are looking for suspense thrillers, this may be a tad disappointing since the truth gets shoved into your face literally and there were not many clues along the way to point to the real killer. Personally, I think this is a characteristic I've noticed in Minato Kanae's works which I've watched so far. The premise of the story and its development can be rather exciting but the ending tends to fizzle out that it leaves the viewer wanting a bit more. Much as I thought that the revelation of the killer's identity and motive was rather anti-climatic, I like the final scene where Shirono and Akahoshi cross paths for the first time but never get to know each other's identities. It was ironic that Akahoshi's actions almost caused Shirono her life but she never got to know who this person was. On the other hand, Akahoshi never got to know Shirono and would have to live with the guilt and regret that his irresponsible actions almost caused her to be wronged for something she did not do. I thought it was a rather good ending and rounded up the story pretty well. If it had just ended at the killer being nabbed, I might not have liked this movie as much.

However, not all is lost, or should I say there is some hope to be conveyed in this film. Much as the world seemed to be ganging up against Shirono, the sole saving grace was that she still had a childhood friend Yuko who believed in her innocence. It is indeed difficult to say that you will believe in someone unconditionally no matter what happens especially when the situation was so not in Shirono's favour thus when Shirono comes to know that Yuko has unwavering faith in her, you can imagine how touched she must have been because that would have meant the world to her.

As for the acting, I thought Inoue Mao really nailed it as Shirono Miki this time. I've not watched much of Inoue ever since her Hana Yori Dango days so much of my impression of her still comes from then when she was the spunky Tsukushi. However, she managed to blend herself into Shirono this time and was very convincing as the plain Jane who was wronged for something she did not do. As the movie needed to show both sides of the argument i.e. one of her being the suspected killer and the other being innocent, it needed her to show versatility in her acting and put on entirely different expressions to portray these two types of personalities. I thought she managed to do both sides pretty well which should have convinced some viewers at one point or another that she might have been Noriko's killer.

On the other hand, Ayano Go was surprisingly suitable as Akahoshi who was a jerk for most, if not all times. My impression of Ayano was largely formed when he appeared in "Saikou no Rikon" as a womanising-type of guy with a lazy charm so it surprised me to see him fitting Akahoshi to a T. I felt rather disgusted at Akahoshi, not just because of what he did i.e. not verifying the facts before airing his feature or tweeting his own speculations without proof but also his physical appearance which was kind of sloppy. Even though he got his just desserts in the end (sacked from his job and being attacked by netizens online for spreading the wrong information), I thought that the best punishment for Akahoshi was exactly how the movie ended because he would have to remember the consequences of his actions for as long as he lived.

As for Nanao who was making her film debut through this movie, I thought that the role of Noriko seemed to be a replica of what she did in "Last Cinderella". Equally annoying but I thought Noriko was far more detestable, not that she deserved to die in this fashion. She could probably have been punished in another way for the things she did. Due to the fact that Nanao is still pretty new at acting, there were times when I thought she was a bit stiff but she did manage to convey the spitefulness of Noriko to a certain extent, which I thought was commendable for a first try. If you've seen what she is doing in the current season drama "First Class", I think she seems to be getting better at playing nasty and detestable women which may be good or bad for her career. She has to be careful of being stereotyped if she plays too many of such roles.

And my ratings for this movie...

Story: 9 out of 10 (A bit anti-climatic on the revelation of the killer's identity, would have been better if the suspense factor was improved on)

Acting: 8.5 out of 10 (Inoue Mao and Ayano Go both managed to change my impressions of them and showed versatility in their acting. Supporting cast was OK too.)

Theme song/BGM: 5 out of 10 (The Serizawa Brothers' music didn't leave too much of an impact on me.)

Visual effects / Scenery: 6 out 10 (There were a variety of indoor and outdoor scenes but nothing in particular outdoors which really caught my eye.)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 6 out of 10 (Surprisingly, being the leads of this movie, Inoue and Ayano only had one scene together at the end of the movie so it's hard to say if they had any chemistry. What's more, Inoue and Nanao were mostly featured in flashback scenes so their interaction with the rest of the cast was somewhat limited)

Total: 34.5 out of 50

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Romaji lyrics of "Dare mo shiranai" by Arashi (Theme song of "Shinigami-kun")

Title: Dare mo shiranai
Artist: Arashi
Lyrics: mfmsiQ, SQUAREF, John World, Sakuta Masaya
Melody: Takuya Harada, Joakim Bjornberg, Christofer Erixon, BJ Khan

kizukanai uchi ni toki no suna wa ochiteyuku
dore kurai mada koko ni irareru ka wa dare mo shiranai

atarimae ni kanjiteru lifetime
dare mo ga sekasareteru day by day
hontou wa kakegae no nai dorama bakari sa

shibarareta toki ga maki okosu inochi no shoudou
tsunaida te hanasanai mimamotte iru yo zutto

owaranai mada atsui omoi moyashi myaku utsu countdown
hakanai hodo kagayaki mashi mune wo shimetsukeru kara
unmei to iu kotoba ja katarenai story wo michibiku eien no kanata e

moshi ima shiawase no owari wo tsugeta nara
koukai nado hito kakera mo nai to tsuyoku ieru kai?

kokoro no oku wo yusaburu passion
kazoe kirenai hodo no tears & smiles
ikite yuku akashi tachi  soko ni aru kara

wasureru koto nai atatakai te no nukumori wo
mamotte yuku dake kanjirareru yo motto

wakaranai kara muki au dake soshite fumi dasu countdown
uso janai kara todoku hazu sa ikite iku itami sae
nayami samayou hate ni yasashisa ga aru no nara
tonari de waratte itai yo

jimon jitou kuri kaeshita hikaru to kage no ruupu
tomerarenai jikan no uzu subete nomi kondeku owaranai

owaranai mada atsui omoi moyashi myaku utsu countdown
hakanai hodo kagayaki mashi mune wo shimetsukeru kara
unmei to iu kotoba ja katarenai story wo michibiku eien no kanata e

Friday, June 13, 2014

Yanagiba Toshiro to star in FujiTV summer 2014 drama "Asunaro Sansannanabyoushi"

Yanagiba Toshiro will be starring in the FujiTV summer 2014 drama "Asunaro Sansannanabyoushi" which will begin its run from 15 July in the Tuesdays 9pm timeslot. This is his first leading role in 15 years in a terrestrial network drama since 1999's "Ring ~ Saishusho".

The drama is based on the same-titled novel by Shigematsu Kiyoshi about Fujimaki, a salaryman who is 50 years old and gets retrenched suddenly. He is then told to join an university's cheering team at the orders of his company's president where he has to save the team from being disbanded. As preparations for the role. Yanagiba had to undergo intense training from the OBs of University of Tokyo's cheering team.

Co-stars include Gouriki Ayame, a 3rd year student who hates the cheering team for being a place where men are seen as superior to women and wants to destroy it, Kazama Shunsuke, a cheering team member with blonde hair and earrings as well as Sorimachi Takashi, the OB of the cheering team who coaches Fujimaki on the art of cheering.

Source: Sanspo

Arashi to be back in new installment of "Pikanchi"; to be shown for one month only in August

Arashi will be back with a movie of their own titled "Pikanchi Half LIFE IS HARD Tabun HAPPY" for the first time in 7 years since 2007's "Kiroii Namida". The new movie will be screened four times a day exclusively at Tokyo Dome City Hall from 1 August to 31 August.

The first Pikanchi movie titled "Pikanchi LIFE IS HARD Dakedo HAPPY" which was shown in October 2002, was based on the life story of V6's Inohara Yoshihiko and featured the five members as friends who lived in the same housing estate. The second movie "Pikanchi LIFE IS HARD Dakara HAPPY" was screened in March 2004. In the third movie, the characters who are now in their 30s will reunite for the first time in 10 years and Inohara himself is expected to appear in the movie too. As to why the third movie is not named Pikanchi Triple (second movie was commonly known as Pikanchi Double) and instead called Pikanchi Half, Ninomiya Kazunari said that the reason will be revealed during the movie.

Matsumoto Jun revealed that as the group is celebrating their 15th anniversary this year, they decided that it was the right time to make this sequel as a memento for them to spend time with their fans. About 250,000 people will get to see the movie during its one month run and the filming will begin from mid June for a month.

Source: Nikkansports / Sanspo

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cast announcements for NHK 2015 Taiga "Hana Moyu"

NHK announced on 11 June the addition of three actors i.e. Iseya Yusuke, Koura Kengo and Higashide Masahiro to the cast lineup of its 2015 Taiga "Hana Moyu" starring Inoue Mao. Iseya will play the role of Yoshida Shoin, the elder brother of Fumi (Inoue) who had an important role in the Bakumatsu Restoration. Koura plays Shoin's disciple Takasugi Shinsaku while Higashide plays Fumi's first husband Kusaka Genzui.

Filming will begin in August at Hagi in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Source: Sanspo

Yagira Yuya & Yamamoto Mizuki to star in TV Tokyo summer 2014 drama "Aoi Honoo"

Yagira Yuya and Yamamoto Mizuki will be starring in the TV Tokyo summer 2014 drama "Aoi Honoo" which begins its run from 18th July in the Fridays 12.12am timeslot. This will be Yagira's first leading role in a terrestrial station's drama and the first heroine role for Yamamoto.

"Aoi Honoo" is based on the same-titled manga by Shimamoto Kazuhiko which describes the comedic journey of an university student Honoo (Yagira) who tries to be a manga artist. Yamamoto plays the role of Morinaga Tonko who is Honoo's senior at school and the manager of the badminton team which Honoo belongs to. Although she is shortsighted, Tonko hates wearing glasses thus would talk to people at close distances in order to see them clearly, a gesture often mistaken by guys who think that she is interested in them. As the story is set in Osaka during the 1980s, the cast would be dressed in items seen as fashionable then e.g. slim jeans.

Co-stars include Kuroshima Yuina and Urai Kenji.

Source: Sanspo

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Review of "Team Batista 4 - Raden Meikyuu" (チーム・バチスタ4 螺鈿迷宮)

By right, this drama should come before the final movie in the Batista series but as I did not have time to finish the drama before I headed to Japan, I ended up watching the movie first. If you've already read my review of the movie, I made the observation that not watching the earlier installments of the Batista series could have been a major reason why I did not enjoy the movie. After finishing the drama, it gives me a new perspective on some of the settings and background in the movie especially why Sumire hated Shiratori that much and what exactly happened in the Hekisui Hospital. However, I still do not think that the drama could have done anything to make me like the movie more since I thought the biggest reason for the movie's lacklustre performance was the flimsy story.

As a disclaimer, I did not read the original novel of Raden Meikyuu prior to watching the drama so my views are entirely based on the drama. I do note that there are some differences between both versions e.g. Aoi was the eldest daughter in the Sakuranomiya family according to the novel but was the youngest son in the drama version but I won't be able to comment much unless I've finished the novel.

Before sharing my views on this drama, here's a summary of the story. In case you haven't watched this drama and do not want to read the spoilers, please skip this section of the review.

The Batista duo reunites in unexpected circumstances this time with Taguchi Kohei (Ito Atsushi) being assigned to work at Hekisui Hospital which is located in the suburbs and well-known in the area for its palliative care services and Shiratori Keisuke (Nakamura Toru) infiltrating the same hospital as a bogus doctor due to an anonymous note sent to him about patients never making it out of Hekisui alive. Of course, it doesn't take long before Shiratori's real identity is exposed but the director of the hospital Sakuranomiya Iwao (Yanagiba Toshiro) doesn't chase Shiratori away or rather can't do it and leaves Shiratori to do his own prying around. This irritates the people working and staying in Hekisui because to them, Shiratori is bent on proving that their haven is nothing but a scam so they are not very willing to cooperate or say anything bad about Hekisui or the Sakuranomiya family who manages the hospital.

The disappearance of Tachibana, a doctor who used to work at Hekisui and had been to see Iwao on the first day when Taguchi and Shiratori arrived, leads Shiratori to believe that this is related to the mysterious note he received. Subsequently, when Shiratori receives CT images of a dead person, it makes him realise that there is something dark going on within Hekisui. Meanwhile, Taguchi gets a feel of how important Hekisui is to the locals as he sees first-hand how the patients are full of gratitude for Iwao and his daughters Sayuri (Mizuno Miki) and Sumire (Kuriyama Chiaki). At the back of his mind, he does wonder if Shiratori's investigation will actually bring about tragedy to the locals if Hekisui is really found to be guilty of any wrongdoing and ceases to exist.

As the investigation deepens, they find that the Sakuranomiya family has been hiding the existence of their youngest son, Aoi who supposedly died during a freak accident. What happened 8 years ago was that Sayuri had been raped by a stranger on one summer night which led to Aoi going to confront the culprit and accidentally killing him. While running away from the crime scene, he fell from a cliff and was on the verge of death. However, as a result of his head injury, Aoi went through a temperament change and would flare up for no reason once his splitting headache strikes. In order to protect Aoi from being held responsible for the death of the rapist, the Sakuranomiya family had no choice but to conceal Aoi's existence from the world. Being unable to live in the open anymore and frustrated with his inability to control his emotions, Aoi sent the message to Shiratori in a bid to cause problems for his family who he somehow feels is partly responsible for his current situation.

The second arc of the drama focuses on the issue of palliative care and euthanasia. Taguchi and Shiratori come to realise that some of the patients who had been critically ill and hospitalised in Hekisui died under sudden circumstances and always at the "right" time which leads them to suspect Iwao, his wife Hanao and Sayuri are committing euthanasia albeit with the consent of the patients. Sumire cannot believe this as she had not been fully informed nor allowed to participate in this all this while. Shiratori is especially against euthanasia which is still illegal in Japan and people who commit this, no matter what reason they may be doing this for. With Shiratori getting closer to the truth and on the verge of stopping the Sakuranomiyas from helping one last patient to die under painless conditions, the patient changes her mind thus leading Iwao to know that all is lost. In order to prevent his daughters from being implicated, he decides to commit suicide with Hanao. Just when they are about to set fire to the Raden room which is where the euthanasia incidents took place, Aoi begs his parents to take him with them. Before Taguchi and Shiratori can stop them, the trio are engulfed in flames thus bringing with them the existence of Hekisui. Sayuri is arrested for her involvement in the euthanasia cases while Sumire suffers injuries and becomes the sole survivor in her family. At the end, even though Shiratori managed to stop Iwao and his family from continuing with the euthanasia killings, the outcome turns out to be beyond what he imagined as he never thought that Iwao would have chosen suicide so as to absolve his daughters of the responsibility.

What I liked about the storyline was that it did a good job of teasing the viewers with sequential mysteries along the way but did not let the suspense become too stale or overused by waiting till the last few episodes to reveal the truth. Instead, by solving each mystery with a new fact or piece of information or clue within a short period of time, this was helpful in maintaining viewer interest for a season drama like this. Frankly speaking, this drama had the benefit of having more time to develop its storyline to its fullest compared to the movie which needed to wrap up everything in just two hours. It is thus not fair to say that the handling of the drama's storyline is definitely more superior than the movie. I think the issue lies more with the fact that expectations are better managed in the drama's case because it did not promise to be the most complicated mystery of all time. Rather than being a pure medical mystery, the selling point of the drama was more about the thought-provoking issue of euthanasia. As such, I did not expect too much from the mystery part of the story and in turn, was not disappointed to find that the suspense part was simpler than I thought. The movie, on the other hand, promised too much and delivered too little.

Another key factor which made the story more engaging was the cast. It was such a thrill to see the constant confrontations by Shiratori to Iwao where the latter remained unruffled no matter what Shiratori accused him of and he always had a ready answer to counterattack. Sayuri's response to Shiratori's incessant and somewhat overboard investigation was between that of her father's and younger sister's responses because she could be cold and displayed no reaction at times but would get worked up in some instances. Sumire, in contrast, was the hot-headed one who displayed her dislike for Shiratori very openly. This would have meant that Shiratori's relationships with the Sakuranomiya family in general was not favourable terms.

On the other hand, you have Shiratori and Taguchi's interactions like best friends who are so different from each other yet complement each other so well. This actually helped to soothe the tension in the story from time to time and offered some comic relief when things were getting too heated up. Despite the slightly weaker mystery aspect of the story, the chemistry exhibited between the characters make the story even more engaging and it's not often that you have a cast of capable actors who can work well with one another regardless of which combination you are looking at.

As for the key theme of euthanasia which the drama was heavily focused on, I think there is no attempt to show a more "dominant" or "supported" view with regard to this issue. It was more like both sides of the argument were laid bare for all to see and it was up to the viewers to decide which stand they support. I liked the fact that the drama did not try too hard to preach that one view was better or more correct than the other. Ultimately, it has to do with the individual and circumstances which he or she is in before we can say whether this action is in his or her interests. Iwao probably didn't set himself out to be God i.e. dictating who dies and when it happens but he was concerned about the emotional and financial burden on the families and the physical suffering by the patients. However, that still doesn't justify what he did because it was illegal. On the other hand, Shiratori is right in his own way because there is a potential for the system to be abused if doctors are allowed to induce death in their patients especially if the latter do not want to die prematurely. However, the way he went about investigating the case and how far he went to push the Sakuranomiya family to resort to suicide to solve the problem was probably what led to Sumire being so bitter about the loss of her family even though they did wrong in the first place.

Last but not least, talking about the theme song, I have to admit that I didn't think much of it nor feel that it suits the theme of this drama. Maybe it's just me but whenever I hear Korean artistes sing in Japanese, I find it difficult to like those songs for whatever reason. In most, if not all situations where they have a song in both Korean and Japanese, I always tend to like the former more even though the melody is exactly the same. It's probably due to the fact that they still sound best in their native languages so in Tohoshinki's case, I've found it very difficult to warm up to their Japanese songs, at least based on the few titles I've come across so far.

And my ratings for this drama...

Story: 8 out of 10 (It would have gotten a higher score if the suspense aspect was tweaked to make it a bit more challenging and exciting)

Acting: 8.5 out of 10 (The main cast members did well in their own ways and helped to make the story more engaging)

Theme song/BGM: 3 out of 10 (The BGM was fine but the theme song was too forgettable and not very impressive)

Visual effects / Scenery: 7 out 10 (This drama looked like it was completed in summer or early autumn instead of winter when it was shown. As such, there were lots of greenery and nice scenes looking out to the sea since Hekisui was located in the suburbs of a seaside town. Within the hospital, there wasn't much to speak of except that spiral staircase leading up to the Raden room which was more noteworthy.)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 8.5 out of 10 (Great chemistry between the Batista duo and I liked the confrontational scenes between Nakamura Toru and Yanagiba Toshiro a lot. Not to forget, Yanagiba and Mizuno Miki actually looked convincing as father and daughter even though they are just 13 years apart in their real ages.)

Total: 35 out of 50