Thursday, April 27, 2006

DORAMA WORLD ... more to come...

TRICK 2 _ ***1/2 _ Nakama Yukie, Abe Hiroshi _ More spiritual weirdness and detective action in a show that continues to succeed mostly thanks to the chemistry and fine comic timing between principals Yukie-chan and Abe. It's still an acquired taste _ as detective doramas often are, especially one with this show's peculiar quirks. But once you're hooked, you'd buy even the most outrageous answers spouted by Yamada and Ueda. Just sit back and enjoy the trip off the beaten trendy dorama path.

HARU TO NATSU _ **** _ The Katakuras immigrate from frigid Hokkaido to Brazil in the 1920s, and get screw jobbed by bad luck and history.

ORANGE DAYS _ **** _ Shibasaki Kou, Tsumabuki Satoshi _ Winning disability youth dorama!

SHOMUNI FINAL & SHOUMNI FOREVR _ *** _ Esumi Makiko, Hosho Mai, Kyono Kotomi, Sakurai Astuko, Toda Keiko, Takahashi Yumiko _ Here it ends on a satifactory note.

TRICK _ *** _ Nakama Yukie, Abe Hiroshi _ Funny stuff.

SHOTA NO SUSHI _ **** _ Sure, it's more sushi battle than heartfelt dorama _ it has the emotional depth of Dragonball Z, which betrays its shonen "guts" manga roots, but it's way entertaining. Sekiguchi Shota's family sushi shop in Hokkaido has hit upon hard times with an evil sushi chain moving in, trying to put them out of business through less than honorable means. Young Shota reluctantly decides to move to Tokyo to apprentice at the 150-year-old Ohtori Sushi to become Nippon Ichi! sushi chef, leaving behind his girl and sister (young Ryoko Hirosue).

In between mastering sushi rice, egg omlette and eel sushi, Shota has to resolve the weekly problems confronted by the Ohtori Sushi family...chefs Masa and Hide, kitchen help Shinko and others. He also clashes with rival apprentice Sachi, who only lives for sushi and nothing else. This is one mean dude who even gives people with heart conditions a hard time.

There's a little romance _ the master's daughter (cutie Kimura Yoshino) has a thing for Shota, but early teenage boys can only handle so much conflicted emotions. Still, I learned the secret to spongy tamago, why sushi is served in circular lacqured boxes, how to make osaka style pressed sushi and other factoids. Look for the japanese Christopher Walken to appear in the last two eps.

LOVE GENERATION _ *** _ Kimura Takuya, Matsu Takako _ it's alight...kimutaku and Matsu Takako play coworkers in love, but it dragged for too long, with all that arguing. I lost patience by the 3rd-4th time somewhere around episode 8. But it's a
good cast _ kimutaku plays the same dude from Long Vacation, and Matsu is still perky, with fujiwara norika as matsu's best friend offering some fan service. Tokyo Love Story, though it was slower and a bit of a drag to watch, achieved more genuine emotional highs than this lighter remake.

DEKICHATTA KEKKON (Shotgun Marriage) _ ***1/2 _ Solid entertainment with Hirosue Ryoko as an unwed expecting mother, takenouchi as the commercial director with a 10-year-age difference who knocked her up and Sonny Chiba as her really, really angry dad.

The leads spend 11-episodes to get to know each other, overcoming realistic obstacles to become a true family. There's a well-rounded group of supporting players providing intriguing subplots, including Yuriko Ishida and a hilarious Abe Hiroshi as a tall, dark law student who became a bum because he couldn't pass the bar, who gets an ultimatum from hirosue's sister.

Sonny Chiba plays against his inner ninja-hacking, eye-gouging, testicle-ripping, street fighter like Robert DeNiro in Meet the Parents. The angry dad has very few lines _ the retired police chief is either swinging away on his katana, trimming bonsai, softened by occasional goofiness to show he really loves his daughters. He has great comic timing.

So hotties, real-but-not-too-heavy domestic dorama, Sonny Chiba _ what more can you ask for?

GOKUSEN 2 _ *1/2 _ Recycled garbage. This sequel to the Nakama Yukie hit never justifed its reason for existing _ hence never should've gotten the green light from tokyo tv. Yakuza-turn-teacher Yankumi starts a new job at a new school with new students, but there's nothing new about the individual episodes, which play like lobotomized gokusen 1 shows, then repeated over 10 weeks. Even Nakama looks bored in this tired retread, and the Kat-Tun boys are no MatusJun or Oguri Shun. I'm glad this didn't take up and hard drive space.

OKUSAMA WA MAJO (My Wife is a Witch; Bewitched in Tokyo) _ *** _ Retooling of Bewitched, now set in Tokyo. Darren is now Joji (george), who works in an ad agency and knows judo; Samantha is now Arisa (yonekura ryoko), a witch/housewife with a penchant for skimpy pastel outfits; the mom's name is Daria. There's also Aunt Sakura, a witch who has trouble with magic; suspicious neighbors. They even have a kid named Tsubasa. Each ep is self contained _ usually there's a problem at work or at home, Daria meddles with magic, usually with joji on the receiving end, and Arisa and her husband have to fix it, with the family learning an important lesson. A good time. Cool Iron Chef cameo in ep 3.

NOW SHOWING: Sekai no Chuushin, Ai wo Sakebu, Haruka 17

Friday, March 10, 2006

9:40 p.m. at IFC Mall, Central, HK...carrot juice sipping at mix, home of wraps, filo dough pastries and free Web access. i mean, i can only drink so many cups of coffee a day, just to use Pacific Coffee's Web terminals...

be back in 24 hours + or _ 8 hour time difference.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


LAST CHRISTMAS _ **** _ Yuji Oda, Yada Akiko _ Winning cohabitation romantic comedy set around Christmas 2004. MORE

***Thanks to Studio Oto for subbing the series!***

KOU KOU KIYOUSHI 2003 (High School Teacher 2003) _ Fujiki Naohito, Ueto Aya _ This is either **1/2 or ***1/2. I marked out for Fujimura sensei(Kyomoto Masaki) AKA "The Wolf" (which I guess justifies his waltzing around Tokyo with Lupin III mutton chop sideburns) and ultra-villian Yuji (Narimiya Hiroki, in a 180 from his goodie-two shoes Gokusen act). He's the club host with a taste for champange, Playstation, and putting to work high school girls like Beniko (Sonim) and Mami (Aoi Yuu, a Shunji Iwai regular who's appeared in All About Lily Chou-Chou and Hana and Alice).

Even the core forbidden love relationship between Koga sensei (Fujiki) and student Hina (damn Aya-chan has a wide smile and is actually a pretty good actress) is both incisive and heartbreaking in its depth. You feel sympathy for them even if it's wrong on a Florida school teacher-kinda level _ not an easy feat to pull off.

Actually a lot of things that happen, which the characters take for granted, are kinda wrong on a multitude of levels. I guess it's representative of the "dark dorama" genre, but the emotions are genuine enough. I mean, what would you do if you're a bishonen teacher and well-endowed teeny boppers are throwing themselves at you as you're suffering, SUFFERING!?

The twists are developed methodically, but that also means it's not seat-of-your-pants-I-want-to-watch-the-whole-series-over-two-nights exciting. It's must see _ if only to appreciate high doramatic artistry, but for advanced viewers only.

If there are two lessons gleened from this show: 1) The kids from GTO and Gokusen would get their asses kicked (or at least require years of therapy) if they attended this high school; 2) If I'm raising kids in Tokyo, I'll stick with homeschooling.