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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hirosue Ryoko to be the guest star in episode 4 of "Wakamonotachi 2014"

Hirosue Ryoko will be the guest star in the 4th episode of FujiTV summer 2014 drama "Wakamonotachi 2014" to be shown on 30 July. She will play the role of Yoshikawa Mizuki, an ex-girlfriend of Satoru (Eita) who aspired to be a stage actress. While watching the play "Hiryuden" being performed by his younger brother Haru (Emoto Tasuku), Satoru imagines the heroine to be played by Mizuki and reminisces about her.

"Hiryuden" is a play set in the 1970s about the love story between Kanbayashi Michiko, the female chairman of the All-Campus Joint Struggle League, and Yamazaki Ippei, a leader in the riot police. Hirosue had acted in the same play as Kanbayashi back in 2003 where she had to act in intimate scenes with the male lead and marked her formal transition from an idol to an actress. Hirosue commented that it was great that she can relive the passion and memories she had while doing "Hiryuden" through this drama.

Source: Sanspo

Monday, July 28, 2014

Completion press conference of WOWOW drama "Zainin no Uso"

The completion press conference of new WOWOW drama "Zainin no Uso" was held at Maru Building Hall on 27 July which was attended by the main cast members Ito Hideaki, Kimura Yoshino and Takito Kenichi and the director Zeze Takahisa. The drama which will begin its run from 31 August at 10pm on Sundays, features Ito as a lawyer who has a nasty reputation for stopping at nothing to win his cases while Kimura plays his childhood friend who is a doctor now and Takito plays a lawyer who is the exact opposite of Ito's character's scheming ways.

During the press conference, both the director Zeze and Ito admitted to not having subscribed to WOWOW and called upon the public to sign up for the cable TV service so as to be able to watch their drama.

In addition, Ito was "singled out" by his co-stars and director for various "crimes" during the filming. Zeze jokingly revealed that Ito kept "complaining" that he was at his limit and wanted to quit being an actor but till now, has not made good his promise so Ito was guilty of making a false statement. Kimura then commented that Ito must have lied about his real age because he behaved like a primary 4 boy on set and would even play sumo for real with her female manager. As for Takito, he complained that Ito was too handsome and only needed 10 shots to be taken during the poster shooting session. Upon hearing the testimonies of Ito's co-stars and the director, the 220-strong audience gave Ito a guilty verdict. In response to that, Ito admitted that he has the tendency to complain and whine about things but won't retire as an actor just because of that. As for being said to be like a 10-year-old kid, he "defiantly" said that since he's so "young", he doesn't understand the meaning of age fraud. At the end, Ito joked that the media should not talk about his "guilty verdict" so that it won't make his mother sad (especially about the part for being too handsome).

Source: Sanspo / Nikkansports

Ayase Haruka to star in 2016 NHK Taiga fantasy drama "Seirei no Moribito"

Ayase Haruka will be starring in the 2016 NHK Taiga fantasy drama "Seirei no Moribito" (The Guardian of Spirits) as announced during the press conference held on 28 July. The drama is based on a 10-volume fantasy novel by Uehashi Nahoko published in 1996 which had sold 3.7 million copies to date and will be shot entirely in 4K format. In conjunction with NHK's 90th anniversary, this drama will be shown over 22 episodes in three years starting from spring 2016.

Ayase plays the role of Barusa, a lonely female bodyguard who co-exists with spirits and embarks on an adventure with the prince Chagumu in this drama. She remarked during the press conference that she is very happy to work with NHK again after their collaboration in "Yae no Sakura" although she also admitted about being worried over the longer O.A. period this time. Although there will be many action scenes in this fantasy drama, she also hopes to show the human side of things in the story to the viewers.

Source: Sponichi / Nikkansports

Okada Masaki & Namase Katsuhisa to play lovers in new Ninagawa Yukio stage play "Kaikishoku"

Okada Masaki and Namase Katsuhisa will be playing lovers in the new Ninagawa Yukio stage play titled "Kaikishoku" (Total Eclipse) which will be performed at Shibuya Theatre Cocoon between 7th and 29th November. There had been a movie version starring Leonardo Dicaprio in 1995 and Okada will be playing Dicaprio's role i.e. genius French poet Arthur Rimbaud in his first leading role and first appearance in a stage play.

The story which is based on a 1967 play by Christopher Hampton, features two French poets Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine (Namase) who were representative of the literature scene in the 19th century and their taboo relationship as same-sex lovers. Rimbaud was described as a genius poet mature beyond his young age and had looks which would even attract men. On the other hand, Verlaine who was living relatively comfortably in a middle class family and had a beauty wife, was seduced by Rimbaud's talent and looks which led to the breakdown of his marriage and his subsequent imprisonment for wounding Rimbaud with a gun and his sexual relationship with the latter. As the play is largely focused on these two characters, Okada found himself having to memorise pages of long lines and pledged to learn from Namase, a stage veteran, in order to play his character well.

Source: Sanspo

Otsuka Nene to make guest appearance in episode 4 of "HERO 2"

Otsuka Nene who was one of the original cast members in the original HERO series, will be making a guest appearance in the 4th episode of "HERO 2" which is due to be shown on 4 August. This is the second original cast member to appear in the new series as a guest star following Katsumura Masanobu who played Egami and was shown as having moved to the prestigious special investigation department in the opening moments of episode 1. Otsuka will reprise her role as prosecutor Nakamura Misuzu who is now working at Kyoto Prosecutors Office and returns to her previous office to work with her ex-colleagues because the fraud case suspect she is in-charge of happened to have committed the same crimes in the area governed by Josai Prosecutors Branch Office. Especially happy to see Misuzu back is Suetsugu (Kohinata Fumio) who had been holding a torch for her in the past but is aghast to find that her new administrative officer Koganezawa Katsuo (Nukumizu Yoichi) is also a rival for her affection. Besides this, episode 4 will also show a surprising link between Misuzu and Baba (Yoshida Yo) and a new fact about Asagi Chika's past (Kitagawa Keiko).

Source: Sanspo

Review of "Arisu no Toge" - Spring 2014

Being Ueno Juri's first drama since her Taiga "Gou" in 2011, "Arisu no Toge" had attracted a fair bit of attention especially since her character this time was said to be a dark heroine out for revenge. Due to the huge success of Nodame Cantabile, it had somewhat worked against her when she was in "Gou" because there were talk of her being unable to shake off Nodame's image. As such, this drama was also dubbed as the best chance for Ueno to shake off the lingering effects from Nodame's success and show her ability to tackle serious roles as what she had been known for in the past.

Before I go into details about her performance and how this drama fared in my opinion, I would like to give a brief recap of the storyline. In case you haven't seen this drama and would not want to know how the story progressed and ended, it might be best for you to skip this review.

Mizuno Asumi (Ueno Juri) is a new doctor at Seirin University's affiliated hospital's gastrointestinal surgical department. Unknown to everyone, she has deliberately concealed her identity as Osanai Asumi, the daughter of Osanai Takao, a former doctor at the hospital who had died under mysterious circumstances 15 years ago. At that time, Asumi who was living with her father only as her mother had passed away long ago, was suddenly informed by the hospital late one night that her father had collapsed. Despite going through an emergency operation, Takao still passed away which sent Asumi's world crashing down on her. To make things worse, Takao was framed for taking kickbacks and had his reputation smeared by his colleagues such as Bandai Shuichi (Iwaki Koichi) and Nishikado Yusuke (Odagiri Jo) when news of his supposed wrongdoing made it to the media. Asumi never believed these incriminating reports and was angry at these people especially Nishikado for pushing the blame to her father who could not have done such heinous things and certainly didn't deserve to die under such circumstances.


Subsequently, Asumi received a copy of her father's surgical records from an anonymous person where the details on the form were different from the copy she had received when her father died. This suggested that someone had amended the original surgical record and provided Asumi the falsified version so that she would not suspect a thing about her father's death. Given the details on the original form, Asumi was convinced that someone was behind her father's untimely death so she changed her surname by becoming the foster daughter of her father's friend Mizuno Kazufumi in order to infiltrate the university hospital and find the true culprit.

She starts off by "recruiting" her first crony Ebisu Masato (Musaka Naomasa) with threatening him and soon finds her target Date Risa (Fujiwara Norika), an up-and-rising star in the same department who is aiming to be the first professor in the university. Asumi finds out from Ebisu that Date was the surgeon who did her father's operation and that she had no experience in a new type of surgery then but insisted on following through with the help of a textbook. That convinces Asumi that Date is the one responsible for her father's death but upon further probing, she learns that there are more people involved in this seemingly-simple case. Nonetheless, she does not let Date off for her involvement in causing her father's death and takes revenge on her in the best way that hurts Date the most.

At the same time, she reunites with Nishikado who recognises Asumi as soon as he sees her but she keeps denying having known him. Actually, the two of them had known each other 15 years ago when Takao was the chief physician for Nishikado's younger sister Yui so Nishikado and Asumi had often spent time together in the company of Yui and Takao then. Unfortunately, Yui had died slightly earlier before Takao and the subsequent actions of Nishikado i.e. confronting Asumi at the funeral hall about her father's misdeeds and writing about it in the papers caused them to be estranged since then. Naturally, Asumi would not want to have anything to do with Nishikado, not just because he had a part in causing her pain but also the fact he knows her real identity.

However, the cover is blown soon and Nishikado, upon knowing that Asumi is back at the hospital to investigate her father's case and take revenge, tries to talk her out of it. He also apologises for having misunderstood Takao back then and wrote an incriminating article against the latter after his death because he was apparently misled by someone then. Blinded by fury under the assumption that Takao's crime sort of led to his sister's death, Nishikado then wrote that heavily-opinionated article against Takao without doing his due checks. Much as Asumi hates Nishikado for having a hand in smearing her father's name and sort of taking the side of the baddies, the animosity between them is quickly gone as Nishikado promises to help her since he knows that he cannot talk her out of her revenge plans. Nonetheless, Asumi still doesn't trust Nishikado fully in the beginning especially as he is critical of her methods in taking revenge.

Despite having a tough time trying to locate the true culprits behind her father's death and taking revenge against these people who are in a higher position than her in terms of social status or wealth, Asumi manages to find solace in the hospital as well through Hoshino Miwa (Kuriyama Chiaki) and Bandai Yuma (Nakamura Aoi). Hoshino is a nurse who speaks her mind especially against Ebisu who is known for bossing the nurses around with his arrogant attitude and inclination to cut corners at work. Asumi and Hoshino soon become good friends even though Asumi is more interested in getting intelligence from the latter especially with regard to her revenge targets.  However, Hoshino's earnest and sincere attitude as a friend makes Asumi warm up to her which eventually leads to Asumi's reluctance to hurt Hoshino who holds a torch for Yuma.

On the other hand, Yuma is clearly besotted with Asumi from the moment he met her at the hospital. Asumi has no intention of getting romantically involved with Yuma even though she knows that he is an important pawn in her plans to take revenge against his father. This is also partly due to her consideration for Hoshino who has expressed her interest in Yuma to Asumi. However, due to the change in circumstances and the fact that dating Yuma would put her in a better position to find out more about Bandai's wrongdoings, Asumi has no choice but to betray Hoshino which turns the latter against Asumi in the second half of the drama. Later, even though Asumi makes it clear to Yuma that she doesn't love him and was just using him, Yuma's selfless act of love for her makes Asumi rethink if she should change her way of doing things so as not to hurt anyone during her pursuit of justice for her father.

As Asumi finds out that more and more people were involved in her father's death and how a seemingly surgical mistake was spurred by a huge and sinister conspiracy, Asumi experiences one failure after another as the mastermind (or so it seems) continues to outsmart her or preampt her moves before she springs into action. The sense of powerlessness sweeps over Asumi as she struggles to stay focused on her goal. However, with each crushing defeat, Asumi starts to lose faith and even plans to kill herself because of the number of innocent people who had been implicated by her revenge plans. Thankfully, with Nishikado's help, they finally track the real culprit down and seek closure in their own lives as they attempt to move on from this unhappy episode.

To be perfectly honest, I thought that the first episode started off pretty promisingly especially because Ueno Juri was back at her best i.e. portraying Asumi who seemingly was numb to the world after going through the loss of her father due to such unfortunate circumstances and yet had this tender and kind side inside which she had to keep under wraps in order to continue surviving. As she was confronting Ebisu on the rooftop, the coldness in her voice was quite chilling because it felt as if she didn't care at all what happens to her at the end of the whole saga. Asumi wanted justice and there was no other way around it besides seeking it on her own with her hands. However, with the appearance of Nishikado, Hoshino and Yuma, they were the ones who stopped her from going over the edge and losing her humanity. In a way, it made Asumi more human than she appeared on the surface and gave her the space to redeem herself at the end. However, this also meant that Asumi was never able to go full out for her revenge because the moment she appeared to step over the boundary, either one of these characters would make her regain her senses. That in a way, tested Ueno's acting skills as she had to switch between her cold and calculating mode and the kind nature in Asumi but I would have preferred that Asumi be a stronger or more extreme dark heroine for a while longer. I was rather dissatisfied with the fact that Asumi's good side was more dominant in the drama and thought that Ueno would probably do a great job with showing Asumi's darker side if the story had allowed for more development in this area.

Among the revenge stories in the drama, I thought the episode about Hyuga Makoto (Omi Toshinori) was rather exciting. Due to the fact that this guy was a smart lawyer who would stoop at nothing to turn something black into white, it was a battle of wits between Asumi and him as she had to outsmart him in order to bring him down. However, he still didn't think that he needed to repent for his actions so he ended up being poisoned to death at the hands of the mysterious mastermind because he still wanted to milk something from those involved in Osanai Takao's case after losing everything. In that sense, he had it coming so didn't deserve any sympathy. Asumi's showdown with Bandai was also quite exciting to watch e.g. when he got to the documents providing possible evidence of wrongdoing by Bandai in the kickbacks case earlier than Asumi but the way that he died was too anti-climatic.

What I didn't particularly understand in this story was how stupid or trusting Asumi could have been when she believed Arima too easily. There she was doubting Nishikado most of the time (I probably would have felt the same way) but she trusted Arima too readily which led to her initial defeat at his hands. This part was something which I thought did not appear too convincing and it felt like the story was deliberately twisted in this manner so that the rest of the developments would fall into place.

Talking about the ending, I think I felt the same way as I did when I watched "Koori no Sekai". How can someone who completely slipped under the radar and had no links to the case at all suddenly show up to be the evil mastermind? What's more, he didn't set out to be the baddie but simply became one due to his unintended action? Although it was quite apparent that this person could be the possible mastermind after pretty much everyone was dead or eliminated during this revenge process, it just didn't occur to me on how he could have fitted in the whole equation. As such, it felt a bit like a hard-sell to make this character the ultimate mastermind and is barely convincing when Asumi simply forgave him because he went to surrender himself to the police.

As for Odagiri Joe's portrayal of Nishikado, I thought it might be better to make him an ally-cum-enemy of Asumi rather than make him choose his side so early in the story. The air of suspicion hanging over his actions would have made his character a lot more interesting. The problem is, the scriptwriter made Nishikado expose Asumi's identity too early and could have made him keep Asumi on tenterhooks for a while longer. Throughout most of the story, Nishikado's role was probably more of an assistant to Asumi in her revenge plans and it made his character so predictable. I would have wanted more explanations on how he could have been deceived by Hyuga 15 years ago with the fabricated evidence against Takao. No doubt he was a young journalist then, surely he would have thought of doubting the evidence before him especially since he knew Takao personally as his sister's doctor. That was something which I could not really understand especially when you consider that Nishikado was not at an age when he could not exercise his own judgement.

As for the romantic side of things, I sort of expected that Asumi and Nishikado would not be able to get together, at least not at the end of this drama. Somehow, a lot of dramas these days tend to steer clear of very explicit endings where the male and female leads would end up together as a romantic couple especially since their interactions so far have been nothing but romantic. Having gone through the rollercoaster ride of taking revenge, it will probably take some time for them to come to terms to what had happened and get back to the normal state of things before they consider romance between them as a possibility. Well, that is something which viewers can only imagine and not get to see by the end of the drama.

And my ratings for this drama...

Story: 6 out of 10 (The last few episodes of the drama seemed to be in too much of a hurry to wrap things up that quality was uneven and I didn't like how the ultimate mastermind was crafted into the story. Using "Alice in Wonderland" as a reference in certain points of the story was not really necessary, in my opinion. This reminded me too much of "Maou" which used a similar method to warn people of their impending deaths.)

Acting: 7 out of 10 (Ueno Juri had the potential to go full out as a dark heroine but too bad the story wanted to keep her firmly grounded as a dark heroine with an humane side so she couldn't go all out with the coldness and cruelness caused by her circumstances. The remaining cast members performed credibly but nobody really stood out. Odagiri Jo was so bland in this drama after episode 3.)

Theme song/BGM: 8 out of 10 (I thought that the theme song was quite good and very easy to remember after listening to it a couple of times. BGM didn't leave as much of an impression on me.)

Visual effects / Scenery: 5 out 10 (Most of the scenes were confined within the hospital but there were some nice sakura scenes in the first few episodes.)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 5 out of 10 (Not much chemistry as far as I see. Ueno and Odagiri's characters were not really comrades in war nor lovers so there was limited opportunity for them to show great teamwork or chemistry.)

Total: 31 out of 50

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ichimura Masachika takes a break from work due to stomach cancer

Ichimura Masachika has been diagnosed with early stage stomach cancer and will not be participating in the muscial "Miss Saigon" which recently began its run on 25 July and is supposed to end on 5 October. According to the statement released by Ichimura's agency and Toho which is producing the musical, Ichimura who was supposed to play the role of Engineer, will be replaced by Komada Hajime who will appear in the July performances. As for the sessions from August onwards, they will be shared by Komada and Kakei Toshio and details will be released at a later date.

Ichimura's agency revealed that Ichimura had complained of feeling unwell in late June and went for a checkup where he was first diagnosed with acute gastritis. However, upon a detailed checkup, it was later determined that he had a malignant tumour in his stomach. In order to concentrate on treatment, Ichimura had no choice but to stop appearing in the musical after his last performance on 27th July and announced the news to the cast on the same night. He is due to be hospitalised for two weeks to undergo laparoscopic surgery before recuperating at home. If all goes well, Ichimura will make his return to work in the musical "Mozart!" in November.

Source: Oricon

Friday, July 25, 2014

SMAP to appear together in a drama SP for the first time in 10 years

SMAP members will be acting together for the first time in 10 years in the drama SP "Oretachi ni ashita wa aru" (We have a tomorrow) which is due to be shown during the "SMAPxFNS 27 Jikan Terebi" programme. The broadcast timeslot will be at 9.45pm on 26 July where the story features the members as themselves and rumours of the group disbanding start circulating online which leads everyone to be caught in a huge frenzy due to the media attention. There will be scenes of cameras following the members around so viewers can get to see them engaged in their private activities such as Kimura Takuya surfing at the beach on his off-day. There will also be as many as 77 guest stars appearing as themselves in the 90-minute long drama SP.

This is the first time in 10 years since the members appeared together in a drama after 2004's "X'smap ~ Tora to Lion to Gonin no Otoko".

Source: Sponichi

Goto Maki announces her marriage through her blog

Goto Maki announced her marriage to a company employee three years younger than her on 22 July through her blog. The couple who live in the same neighbourhood, reportedly came to know each other through mutual friends 7 years ago and were dating each other for a while but broke up later. However, they reconciled two and a half years ago when Goto took a break from her showbiz activities and he provided her with a lot of emotional support. In her blog entry, Goto referred to her husband as someone she is very comfortable to be with and an understanding partner.

After a number of family tragedies such as her mother's fatal accidental fall in January 2010 and her younger brother's brush with the law, Goto stopped her showbiz activities and had no intention of returning until her reunion with her husband which was the catalyst for her return to work this year. According to Goto's agency, the couple are preparing an apartment to live together but have no plans to hold a wedding.

Goto is the 11th Morning Musume member to get married.

Source: Sponichi

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ishida Issei gets married for the second time

Ishida Issei announced through his official website on 22 July that he has married his 11-year younger girlfriend on 14 July after a 4-year courtship. Ishida revealed that his wife was born in the Tohoku region and is a very simple and innocent woman who is emotionally strong and supports him in his work. He also confirmed that she is not pregnant but will aim to create a family with many children in future.

Ishida's stepmother Higashio Riko also revealed on her blog entry in May that Ishida had gotten engaged then and the family including his father Ishida Junichi and his younger sister Sumire were all present. The wedding is expected to be held next spring.

Ishida was previously married to a female celebrity in December 2003 but they got divorced in January 2006.

Source: Sponichi

Ayase Haruka to be the lead of NTV Autumn 2014 drama "Kyouwa Kaisha Yasumimasu"

Ayase Haruka will be the lead in the upcoming NTV Autumn 2014 drama "Kyouwa Kaisha Yasumimasu" (I'm taking a break from work today) which is scheduled to start from October in the Wednesdays 10pm timeslot. The drama which is based on the same-titled manga, features Ayase as a plain OL named Aoishi Hanae who has never had a boyfriend and is a virgin at 30 but suddenly finds herself experiencing romance and sex for the first time when she has a one-night stand with a handsome university student who is 9 years younger than her. Just when she is making preparations to cohabit with her new boyfriend, the CEO of a food company takes a sudden interest in Hanae and even proposes to her.

Source: Sponichi

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Press conference of WOWOW drama "Henshin"

The press conference for new WOWOW drama "Henshin" was held on 18 July in Tokyo which was attended by the leads Kamiki Ryunosuke and Nikaido Fumi as well as the director Nagata Koto. The drama which will be shown from 27 July,  is based on Higashino Keigo's novel which had sold more than 1.25 million copies to date and features Kamiki as Junichi, a young man who had to go through the world's first brain transplant operation after suffering a serious brain injury during an accident. However, he becomes a changed person after the operation which leads him and his girlfriend Megumi (Nikaido) to try to find out why this has happened.

Kamiki commented that the most important part of his character was not about his changes but the fact that Junichi had no intention of changing and yet he couldn't control himself. As such, he had to keep this in mind while acting in this drama. On the other hand, Nikaido revealed that she had no idea why Megumi was so besotted with Junichi after he had changed drastically even after reading the original novel. However, when she started acting in this drama, she began to understand Megumi's mentality. Although this is the first time Kamiki and Nikaido have worked together, Kamiki said that Nikaido is just one year younger than her but she sometimes feels more like an adult with her maturity. Nikaido also complimented Kamiki for helping her as her senior and felt that the trust they had in each other helped them to work well this time.

Source: Eiga.com

Takei Emi & Okura Tadayoshi to star in movie version of "Clover"

Takei Emi and Kanjani 8's Okura Tadayoshi will be starring in the movie version of Chiya Toriko's shoujo comic "Clover" which is due to be shown in cinemas from 1 November. The comic which consists of 24 volumes and had sold more than 9 million copies to date, features Takei in the lead role of Suzuki Saya who can't forget her first love and is not good at relationships. However, she later falls for her superior at work Tsuge Susumu (Okura) who has a rich dating history unlike her.

Other key characters include Nagayama Kento who plays Saya's first love and is now a popular actor Hino Haruki. Natsuna will play the role of Tsutsui Shiori who is the company president's daughter and tries to come between Tsuge and Saya. Kamiji Yusuke will play the role of Shiori's elder brother Yoshimichi who is also Tsuge's superior. Co-stars also include Kinami Haruka, Mizusawa Erena, Mitsura Yasuko, Murakami Kenji (Fruit Punch), Suzuki Taku, Shibata Rie, Shishido Kai and Nishimura Masahiko.

Source: Eiga.com

Matsuyama Kenichi & Nikaido Fumi to star in TBS drama SP "Tooi Yakusoku ~ Hoshi ni natta kodomotachi ~"

Matsuyama Kenichi and Nikaido Fumi will star in the TBS drama SP "Tooi Yakusoku ~ Hoshi ni natta kodomotachi ~" (A far promise ~ the children who became stars" which will be shown on 25 August at 9pm. The drama SP is based on a novel and picture by Masuda Shoichi about the war orphans struggling to survive against the cold and hunger while housed in the refugee quarters at Manchuria. Matsuyama will play the role of a lieutenant who tries to protect the orphans there while Nikaido plays a primary school teacher. At the beginning of the SP will be a documentary shot on location in Changchun, China, which used to be the capital of Manchuria. Co-stars include Fukada Kyoko, Shiina Kippei, Kato Seishiro and Yamada Mochika.

Source: Sanspo

Romaji lyrics of "Taiyo to Hana" by Takahashi Yu (Theme song of "Arisu no Toge")

Title: Taiyo to Hana
Artiste: Takahashi Yu
Lyrics & Melody: Takahashi Yu

waratte itara iina shiawase ni tsutsumare
tayoru atemonai mama tatakatte iru no kana
taiyo wa mizukara wo yaite hikaru
hi wo abita kusaki wa hana sakaseru
sono mabushisa wa dare mo mitsumerarenu hodo

kodoku na kagayaki sabishii kagayaki
katarareru koto mo naku tada aishi tsuzuketeru
inochi no mabataki dare mo ga hitori
sorezore no sora miagete ima mo tsunagatte iru to shinji nagara

kokoro ga kizutsuitemo dare ni mo wakaranai
muri shite warau kao wa nakigao yori kanashii

taiyo no hi to chikyuu no kage wo matotte
tsuki wa sono sugata wo yoru ni utsusu
dare mo hitori kiri dewa ikite yukenai

hakanai tomoshibi yureru tomoshibi
aisarezu sodatsu inochi nado nai hazu nano ni
namida wo misezu ni keshite misezu ni
hoshizora ni negai komeru mou ichido meguri awasete kure to

taiyo wa mizukara wo yaite hikaru
hi wo abita kusaki wa hana sakaseru
kimi no hohoemi ni sukuwareta boku ga iru

totoi  kagayaki itoshii kagayaki
kabawareru koto mo naku tada hana wa saki hokoru
inochi no mabataki dare mo ga hitori
sorezore no sora miagete ima mo tsunagatte iru to shinji nagara

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Top 10 most anticipated movies during the 2014 summer holidays (Oricon)

1) Maleficient

2) Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Taikahen

3) GODZILLA

4) Chou Kousoku! Sankin Koutai

5) Kawaki

6) Omoide no Marnie

7) Sukitte Iinayo

8) Eight Ranger 2

9) Lupin III

10) Hot Road

Source: Oricon

Top 10 male artistes who made a breakthrough in the first half of 2014 (Oricon)

1) Fukushi Sota

2) Higashide Masahiro

3) Sakai Masato

4) Nishijima Hidetoshi

5) Yamazaki Kento

6) Takito Kenichi

7) Miura Shohei

8) Ikematsu Sosuke

9) Suda Masaki / Ayano Go / Kataoka Ainosuke

Source: Oricon

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"HERO 2" gets off to a good start with 26.5% for its first episode

The first episode of "HERO 2" got off to a good start with a high average rating of 26.5% for its first episode in the Kanto region. The sequel is the highest-rated drama this season so far among those which have already begun its run. The highest moment rating was at 10.08pm when Kuryu Kohei (Kimura Takuya) was confronting Onishi Yuji (Moriyama Naotaro) about the truth and getting him to confess to his crime.

The second and third episodes to be shown on 21st and 28th July will be extended by 15 minutes each.

Source: Sanspo

Production press conference of NHK drama "Fuyou no Hito ~ Fujisanchou no Tsuma~"

The production press conference of NHK drama "Fuyou no Hito ~ Fujisanchou no Tsuma~" was held on 14 July which was attended by the leads Matsushita Nao and Sato Ryuta. The drama which will begin its run fom 26th July in the Saturdays 9pm timeslot, features Sato and Matsushita as Meiji-era meteorologist  Nonaka Itaru and his wife Chiyoko who spent a long and cold winter on the peak of Mount Fuji for the first time in history in the year 1895. To film scenes at the mountaintop observatory, the wo of them will have to be in a freezing warehouse for a week of intensive filming where the temperature is only minus 10 degrees Celsius.

Source: Sanspo

Production press conference of FujiTV Summer 2014 drama "Hirugao"

The production press conference of FujiTV Summer 2014 drama "Hirugao" was held at Cinema Mediage on 15 July which was attended by the cast members Ueto Aya, Kichise Michiko, Saito Takumi and Kitamura Kazuki. The drama will begin its run from 17th July in the Thursdays 10pm timeslot and features Ueto Aya as an ordinary housewife who has an affair with a high school teacher played by Saito after an incident.

As she is playing a straying wife for the first time, Ueto revealed that when she watched the drama's first episode with her husband i.e. EXILE's leader HIRO, he was making comments jokingly like how she didn't look like a middle-aged woman. Nonetheless, she expressed thanks to him for supporting her in her work. On the other hand, Kichise who got married to a 10-year-older entrepreneur in 2010, said that her husband had seen her play a straying wife character before so he didn't react in any special way this time.

Source: Sanspo

Preview of "Hakugin Jack" (drama SP)

Title: Hakugin Jack 白銀ジャック
Official website: here
O.A. Date: 2 August 2014, 9pm
Broadcast by: TV Asahi
Original novel by: Higashino Keigo
Cast: Watanabe Ken, Okada Masaki, Hirosue Ryoko, Suzuki Kosuke, Shonozaki Ken, Yasuda Ken, Nakao Akiyoshi, Yamashita Rio, Kaneda Akio, Watanabe Tetsu, Omiya Taro, Bengal, Hiraizumi Sei, Nogiwa Yoko, Kunimura Jun

Monday, July 14, 2014

Preview of "Suikyuu Yankees" - Summer 2014

Title: Suikyuu Yankees 水球ヤンキース (Water Polo Yankees)
Official website: here
Official Twitter: here
O.A. Start Date: 12 July 2014
Timeslot: Saturdays 11.10pm
Broadcast by: FujiTV
Cast: Nakajima Yuto (Hey! Say! Jump), Yamazaki Kento, Takaki Yuya (Hey! Say! Jump), Ohara Sakurako, Chiba Yudai, Mamiya Shotaro, Nakagawa Daishi, Yoshizawa Ryo, Yagi Yuma, Yokoyama Yu, Shinkawa Yua, Kakei Miwako, Sano Hinako, Suzuki Nobuyuki, Hashimoto Kanna, Omasa Aya, Ikezu Shoko, Minagawa Sarutoki, Kurashina Kana, Kitamura Yukiya, Morimoto Leo

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review of "Ieji" 家路 (The road back home)

Did any reader of this blog catch this movie at the National Museum's Gallery Theatre on Friday evening (11th July)? Other than "Mogura no Uta" which was sold out, "Ieji" was the other film which also had a full house but too bad it was shown on the second last day of the Japanese Film Festival thus it did not get a second screening like "Mogura no Uta". As I've not watched "Mogura no Uta", I can't really compare it with "Ieji" but I can at least say that the latter has its own merits too and deserves a second screening. Then again, if it is to be released in a commercial cinema, chances are it might not do very well in terms of box office takings because the pacing is rather slow and the mood of this movie is quite sombre most of the time. For people who prefer watching blockbusters or movies with a lighter atmosphere, "Ieji" might not be their cup of tea. As such, it's probably ideal for the film to make its debut in Singapore through a film festival than a commercial release.

Before I share my thoughts about this movie, I will describe the story first. As usual, if you haven't watched this and would prefer not to read the spoilers, please skip this review.

At the centre of this story is the Sawada family which is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crisis after the area where their family home and land are located in is declared as inhabitable due to the high radiation levels. As a result, the eldest son Soichi has to bring his wife Misa, daughter Naho and his stepmother Tomiko to live in a temporary shelter which is too cramped for the four of them.

Soichi who no longer can work as a farmer as a result of the crisis, keeps going to the police station to seek compensation from the authorities for contaminating his land and making it impossible for him to go home even though the people around him think that it's wiser for him to just take the compensation and make a fresh start elsewhere. This makes him frustrated as to why the people around him don't seem to understand what he's thinking. In addition, Misa who works in the health delivery service (i.e. providing sex services to clients at places such as love hotels or their homes) is a constant source of worry for Soichi who resorts to trailing her and even buying her services at times just to stop her from meeting her clients. Misa herself doesn't think that she is doing anything shameful as long as the money allows her family to survive and keeps reassuring Soichi that she won't stray or leave him for someone else. Even though Misa tries to persuade Soichi to move out of Fukushima so that they can make a fresh start, Soichi is reluctant to do so and gives all sorts of reasons to explain why he would not do so.

At the same time, Tomiko who is living with Soichi's family, is also struggling to adapt to live in the temporary shelter. As she can't be a farmer anymore unlike when they were still living in the family home, she hopes to make herself useful in the household so that she doesn't pose as a burden to her stepson who she knows feels a certain emotional barrier towards her. In the meantime, Tomiko is still pining for her own son Jiro who left home close to 20 years ago due to an incident which she had no control over and has no news of him to date but keeps this thought deep within her. As Tomiko starts to show signs of becoming senile, this makes Jiro and Misa wonder what they can do about Tomiko as they can't just dump her behind and move elsewhere nor do they have any means of helping her to find Jiro and reuniting them.

Jiro who left home many years ago, returns to his family home unannounced and begins working on the land to prepare for the planting of rice. He accidentally meets his ex-classmate Kitamura and gets reminded of his past i.e. how smart he was in Kitamura's eyes and how his casual remarks back then came eerily true during the March 11 crisis. At that time, there was a discussion during class when the students were asked on what could be done to make their hometown a better place to live in. The young Jiro at that time simply said that as long as there were no more human beings around, the place would be a good one to live in and this remark caused everyone to be at a loss for words. Jiro doesn't remember much of his past in his hometown as if he deliberately tried to erase it from his memory when he left home. Even when told by the police and persuaded by his friend that his family home is inhabitable, Jiro still refuses to leave. It is only when Soichi is informed about Jiro's return that the latter finally budges and goes to meet his mother at the temporary shelter.

When Jiro goes to meet Tomiko, she is visibly pleased to see him and seems to remember everything about her son and the farming workflow which makes Jiro and Soichi wonder if she is indeed becoming senile. It is also revealed later when Jiro and Soichi have a heart-to-heart talk that Jiro had left home because of Soichi's actions.

Back then, the brothers' father Senzo was running for election in the local town council. In a bid to please his father and hurt the opposition candidate, Soichi resorted to draining the water from the rice plantations of the opposition candidate. Even though Senzo was well aware that this was Soichi's doing and he thought very highly of Jiro because he was smart and a talented farmer, Senzo wanted to protect Soichi's reputation and made Jiro become the scapegoat. As a result of this saga, Jiro left home and swore never to return again. In actual fact, before this episode, Jiro was already not keen on staying in his hometown as he felt stifled living here with the constant attention around him due to his father's status. However, after the tsunami crisis, he suddenly felt as if the mountains and animals in his hometown were calling for him to return since nobody is living here anymore so he came back because he was finally feeling homesick. All along, Soichi had felt guilty about Jiro's departure from home but he was helpless to do anything then. It was only when the crisis struck and he had to leave the family home that he realised again that it would have been better if Jiro was around but he had no way of finding his younger brother and wondered if he was dead.

Jiro suggests to Soichi that he wants to bring Tomiko back to their family home to live which is met with some apprehension from the latter. However, seeing that Tomiko would be happiest to return to farming and staying with Jiro, Soichi agrees to the idea. Upon sending Jiro and Tomiko off, Soichi finally makes up his mind to start over at another place by buying another piece of land to do farming.

Understandably, this is a rather emotional film with two main topics i.e. the Sawada family struggling to make a fresh start despite it being a few years after the tsunami crisis and trying to patch things up after what happened many years ago as well as show the current state of Fukushima and bringing it to life what that crisis had meant to the people who originally lived there.

In the case of the Sawada family, Soichi was still bogged down by the bitterness of losing everything overnight and he was powerless against preventing it from happening. He could have made a fresh start by accepting the compensation and moving elsewhere but he gave excuses that he didn't want to be ostracised or cause his daughter to be unable to get married in future just because they are from Fukushima. In actual fact, he still wanted to go back to how things were before the crisis but deep down, he knows that it wasn't going to be that way. He was also tormented by the fact that his wife Misa had to take on such a job because he couldn't bring in any income to support the family and yet he still didn't want to back down. It did feel like Misa was quite exasperated by Soichi's stubbornness but she knew that she couldn't make him change his mind. Perhaps deep down, Soichi's insistence stemmed from the fact that he was the reason why Jiro had to leave home so he couldn't forgive himself for failing to protect what Jiro might have been able to. Then again, the crisis was something nobody could have foreseen which added on to the helplessness that Soichi felt. He could have put his past behind him but without knowing whether Jiro was still alive or seeking his forgiveness for what happened in the past, Soichi couldn't move on.

Meanwhile, although Jiro appeared to bear no ill will towards his brother for what happened, he could have resented the manner he had to leave due to no mistake of his. It might have been better if he had chosen to leave at a time he wished to. When Tomiko asked him in the past about how he felt about their hometown, Jiro clearly expressed his dislike for the place but it felt to me as if he didn't like the people there rather than hate the place itself. His father's political pursuits could have resulted in why Jiro didn't like that kind of unwanted attention. Besides, due to Tomiko being the second wife of Senzo, Jiro's status as the second son was somewhat not a very comfortable one for him. Although he was clearly more suitable than Soichi as the heir of the family, the birth order issue came into play. On the other hand, when you come to think of it, Jiro could have felt that being the scapegoat for Soichi was the perfect opportunity to leave his hometown so that's why he didn't seem to react too negatively to the idea when Senzo explained why he had to protect Soichi. However, the harsh reality of being thrown into the outside world and being unable to lead a better life than he did in his hometown was probably what made Jiro jaded and so weary of life that he came home despite the threat of radiation and having to bear with the loneliness of living alone.

As for Tomiko's situation, it was a reflection of how the elderly feel about their lives in their twilight years. The problem between Tomiko and Soichi was that they are not related by blood. Even though Soichi was not really nasty to Tomiko, there was an invisible wall between them. When Tomiko was having problems using the key to open the door, Soichi simply walked away because he thought this was better than flaring up at Tomiko. However, from Tomiko's point of view, Soichi holding back his frustration only made her feel more strongly that she was a nuisance and burden to him. There was no way Tomiko could share her worries with anyone and she could not see her own son Jiro. The double whammy of having to adjust to new surroundings and worry about her existence being a problem to her stepson could be what led to her developing symptoms of becoming senile. On the other hand, her interaction with Jiro showed that she was pretty much at ease with him and could even joke at times. Of course, it helped that she was back in the comfort of the family home but Jiro's presence was probably the best medicine for Tomiko after all.

Besides the very engaging story about the Sawada family, another thing which left a strong impression on me was the scenery of Fukushima featured extensively in the film as this movie was filmed entirely there. What struck me was the wilderness and feeling of solitude from a very beautiful landscape. As per Senzo's words in his election speech, Fukushima has everything i.e. mountains and water and they produced the energy for Tokyo to prosper over the years (the power stations were located there but the electricity used mainly in the capital city). It's such a beautiful place when you look at the scenery in the film without knowing about what happened but it's quite painful to see this when the realisation that people may never be able to return to those areas affected by high radiation for decades. It also reflects the fact that due to the crisis, people had to leave their homes in a hurry and everything seemed to have been frozen as it was on 11 March 2011. You would have thought that things would be restored to normal by now but there are still many places which are like how it was featured in this movie i.e. nothing has really changed except the passage of time. The empty houses, shops, schools etc all bear testimony to the fact that so many people have had their lives interrupted drastically and suddenly as a result of this catastrophic crisis. When home is no longer as it was or ceases to exist, how will people react? I think this movie attempts to address this question but doesn't really give a definite answer in the end as seen from the paths chosen by the Sawada brothers. Jiro chose to go back to the tainted homeland while Soichi moved on to find a new home. There is no correct or perfect answer as their choices were prompted by their own circumstances and what they felt was best for themselves.

With regard to the acting, I must say that I enjoyed the performances of the main cast very thoroughly. Matsuyama Kenichi did very well as the jaded Jiro who had conflicted feelings about his homeland and finally returned because there was nobody around. When you come to think of it, it's very sad because he had to leave due to circumstances beyond his control and he came back when nobody didn't want to stay and couldn't stay. It seemed to suggest that he was destined for a life of solitude but thankfully, it was good that Jiro could reunite with Tomiko and stay in their homeland. Despite being a young actor, Matsuyama never fails to amaze me with his ability to show a variety of emotions which is mature beyond his actual age. I also liked his interaction with Uchino Seiyo who played Soichi as they had their heart-to-heart talk and resolved the many years of misunderstanding between them.

Uchino nailed it as the frustrated and trapped Soichi who knew that he had to do something about his situation but he couldn't do anything about his anger and frustration. It was only till Jiro's return that he sort of saw the light and decided to move on. Imagine if he had never met Jiro again, things would have remained the same for him until the day things got to the point of no return or when he finally gets the idea that he can't be trapped in his old thinking anymore. The thing is, the latter outcome might not have materialised after all if Jiro did not come back. It was annoying to see someone like Soichi keep whining about the situation but not doing anything to change it but when you look at it from another perspective, his desire to be accepted by his father and to protect what his family had was his duty as the eldest son and he was seriously bogged down by this sense of responsibility until he could not see for himself what was best for him and his family. In this way, it's hard to blame Soichi for being so stubborn about resisting change.

Tanaka Yuko, being the veteran in the cast, had limited scenes actually but in the short time she appeared, she breathed life into the character of Tomiko and showed how a traditional woman like her was powerless to go against her husband when he sent her only son away for a ridiculous reason  and how she had to depend on her stepson and be wary of stepping on his toes because she could not depend on Jiro. I thought she gave the character a lot of depth and provided the viewers with some much needed humour when Tomiko could answer some questions logically but her memory was stuck in the days before Jiro left home. Likewise, Ando Sakura did not have a very meaty role but her gusty portrayal of Misa who stood up to the challenge of supporting her family while her husband was still unable to accept reality was really commendable. There were two lines from her which I really liked and they showed the strong and logical mind of Misa i.e. when she refused to feel ashamed of her job because that helped her put food on the table and how she refused to feel inadequate or inferior to others just because she is from Fukushima. The people of Fukushima didn't cause the crisis anyway so why should they be fearful of other people looking at them differently just because of their origin? I thought these two lines were really full of impact and very memorable. In addition, I really liked her interaction with her mother-in-law Tomiko because they seemed to get along really well and it looked like Tomiko could afford to breathe a bit easier in front of Soichi when Misa was around.

In conclusion, I think that this is a very good film worth recommending to everyone but the pacing can get a  bit slow at times even though it's largely bearable. The message of family relationships coupled with the sorrow of not being able to return to your homeland or it being different from the place will probably strike a chord with many people.

And my ratings for this movie...

Story: 9 out of 10 (Very nicely-crafted story which had well-developed characters with a lot of depth. However, it could be better if the pacing was not dragged down with extensively long scenes of Fukushima's scenery. It might have been better to insert the scenery scenes at more regular intervals than to do it once in a long while and drag it on for too long each time.)

Acting: 9.5 out of 10 (Nothing much to pick fault with)

Theme song/BGM: 7 out of 10 (The BGM was largely on the slow side and had a tinge of sadness most of the time but nothing really stood out.)

Visual effects / Scenery: 8.5 out 10 (A great and realistic way to see Fukushima beyond the scenes from news reports and how time has stood still in those radiation-tainted towns. Can be a bit too sad to handle at times though)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 9 out of 10 (I liked the chemistry between the main cast members a lot and it was especially good that this was not restricted to just one or two pairs of characters)

Total: 43 out of 50

Preview of "Zainin no Uso" - Summer 2014

Title: Zainin no Uso 罪人の嘘 (The Sinner's Lies)
Official website: here
O.A. Start Date: 31 August 2014
Timeslot: Sundays 10pm
Total number of episodes: 5
Scriptwriter: Kaneko Arisa
Cast: Ito Hideaki, Takito Kenichi, Kimura Yoshino, Nakamura Aoi, Komoto Masahiro, Kataoka Reiko, Majima Hidekazu, Emoto Tokio, Shibukawa Kiyohiko, Okunuki Kaoru, Takenaka Naoto, Yajima Kenichi, Tsuda Kenji, Otoo Takuma, Kitami Toshiyuki, Matsushige Yutaka, Tsutsui Michitaka, Nakadai Tatsuya

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Preview of "Tokumei Tantei" - Summer 2014

Title: Tokumei Tantei 匿名探偵 (Anonymous Detective)
Official website: here
O.A. Start Date: 4 July 2014
Timeslot: Fridays 11.15pm
Broadcast by: TV Asahi
Theme song: Can't Stop by EDGE OF LIFE
Cast: Takahashi Katsunori, Katase Nana, Yamaguchi Daichi, Hara Mikie, Moritsugu Koji, Tayama Ryosei, Shiba Toshio

Friday, July 11, 2014

Top 10 actresses who made a breakthrough in the first half of 2014 (Oricon)

1) Arimura Kasumi

2) An

3) Nounen Rena

4) Nikaido Fumi

5) Yoshitaka Yuriko

6) Takahata Mitsuki

7) Ishihara Satomi / Gouriki Ayame

9) Matsu Takako

10) Hashimoto Ai

Source: Oricon

Artistes with the most CM deals in the first half of 2014 (Nihon Monitor)

Male Celebrities Ranking
10 deals: Aiba Masaki (Arashi) / Abe Hiroshi / Matsuoka Shuzo
9 deals: Sakurai Sho (Arashi) / Ninomiya Kazunari (Arashi)
8 deals: Ohno Satoshi (Arashi) / Kagawa Shinji / Nishijima Hidetoshi / Honda Keisuke / Matsumoto Jun (Arashi) / Mukai Osamu
7 deals: Ishikawa Ryo / Kamenashi Kazuya (KAT-TUN) / Kimura Takuya (SMAP) / Kokubun Taichi (TOKIO) / Shofukutei Tsurube

Female Celebrities Ranking
12 deals: Arimura Kasumi / Kiritani Mirei
11 deals: Takei Emi / Horikita Maki
10 deals: Ueto Aya / Becky
9 deals: Ishihara Satomi / Kojima Haruna (AKB48) / Honda Tsubasa
8 deals: Amami Yuki / Ayase Haruka / Kanno Miho / Gouriki Ayame / Sasaki Nozomi / Shimazaki Haruka (AKB48) / Matsuko Deluxe / Yamamoto Mitsuki / Rola

Source: Nihon Monitor

Preview of "Zero no Shinjitsu - Kansatsui Matsumoto Mao" - Summer 2014

Title: Zero no Shinjitsu - Kansatsui Matsumoto Mao ゼロの真実 - 監察医・松本真央 (The Truth of Zero - Coroner Matsumoto Mao)
Official website: here
O.A. Start Date: 17 July 2014
Timeslot: Thursdays 9pm
Broadcast: TV Asahi
Theme song: Puzzle by Shonan no Kaze
Scriptwriter: Oishi Shizuka
Cast: Takei Emi, Sasaki Kuranosuke, Namase Katsuhisa, Wada Masato, Denden, Rokkaku Seiji, Omi Toshinori, Aoyagi Sho, Komatsu Kazushige, Mizusawa Erena, Miyazaki Karen, Hashizume Isao, Maya Miki

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Preview of "Nobunaga no Chef" - Summer 2014

Title Nobunaga no Chef 信長のシェフ (Nobunaga's Chef)
Official website: here
Official blog: here
O.A. Start Date: 10 July 2014
Timeslot: Thursdays 7.58pm
Broadcast by: TV Asahi
Original work by: Nishimura Mitsuru & Kajikawa Takuro
Cast: Tamamori Yuta (Kis-My-Ft2), Oikawa Mitsuhiro, Shida Mirai, Gori, Ukaji Takashi, Ashina Sei, Inagaki Goro, Ichikawa Ennosuke, Cunning Takeyama, Kitarou, Masana Bokuzo, Nagase Ren (Kansai Johnny's Jrs), Kaai Gamon, Hoshino Mari, Sasaki Nozomi, Takashima Masanobu, Saito Yuki, Sasano Takashi, David Ito, Kazama Toru, Kaku Kento

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Production press conference of FujiTV summer 2014 drama "Asunaro Sansannanabyoushi"

The production press conference of FujiTV summer 2014 drama "Asunaro Sansannanabyoushi: was held on 9 July at Komazawa University which was attended by the cast Yanagiba Toshiro, Gouriki Ayame, Sorimachi Takashi, Kazama Shunsuke, Ouchida Yuhei and Honkon. The drama which will begin its run from 15 July at 9pm on Tuesdays, is based on a novel by Shigematsu Kiyoshi about a 50-year-old salaryman who becomes the leader of a cheering group in exchange for not being retrenched.

Yanagiba who last wore a school uniform 35 years ago, remarked that he felt hot in this attire but hopes to convert the heat to passion on the set. As for Sorimachi, he revealed that the mood on set was friendly. Gouriki who is the only female in the cheering group, pledged not to lose out to the others although she acknowledged that it was tough to raise her voice during cheering.

Source: Sanspo