Archive for the ‘Asian drama’ Category
After my cautiously optimistic impressions of the first three Buzzer Beat episodes, this Japanese drama continued to get better, transforming into a genuinely and surprisingly great show. The pacing in particular was impressive. Revelations that might take a few episodes to unravel in other shows were quickly addressed by the characters, forsaking much of the agonizing waiting found in stereotypical dramas. The plot was moving forward swiftly, the characters had great chemistry amongst them… this show was looking like a slam dunk.
But as the finale approached, Buzzer Beat lost its momentum and concluded with an utterly worthless final episode. Where did it all go wrong?
Remakes of popular Asian dramas by different countries are fairly common in this business. Taiwan’s Meteor Garden (2001), Japan’s Hana Yori Dango (2005), and South Korea’s Boys Before Flowers (2009) all tell the same story with the same characters, and all three were blockbuster hits.
He Who Can’t Marry (2009) is South Korea’s remake of Japan’s Kekkon Dekinai Otoko (2006), one of my favorite dramas of all time. In brief, the plot is about a neurotic architect who infuriates people around him because he is self-absorbed and freely speaks his mind without concern for others. Nevertheless, he is very successful because of his excellent building designs and quest for perfection. Through some chance encounters, his neighbor and a doctor at the local hospital become involved in his life. Although they are frequently annoyed by his behavior, they inexplicably feel an attachment to him.
My review of the Japanese version talks a bit more about the plot. It’s a realistic drama with ubiquitous but subtle humor. When it comes to remakes, comparing different versions is inevitable, so my review of He Who Can’t Marry will examine the differences between the two.
The last time I watched a Japanese drama was over a year ago, and since I had some free time this past weekend, I browsed for something new to watch and came across Buzzer Beat. This show just started airing a few weeks ago and has a few big names in the cast, most notably Yamashita Tomohisa (aka Yamapi) from Nobuta wo Produce and Keiko Kitagawa. Yamapi is a super popular male idol and is without a doubt the reason most people are interested in Buzzer Beat, but I’m watching the show for Keiko. I was introduced to her on a very amusing episode of the variety show Shoujiki Shindoi, and I’ve been following her blog for quite a while. She is very honest and I like how genuine she seems.
Yamapi plays Kamiya Naoki, a professional basketball player in Japan who is in a slump and doesn’t have any confidence in himself. He had planned on proposing to his girlfriend if his team won the league championships, but they lost early in the playoffs. Things aren’t going well for him until he meets and bonds with a cheery new girl in the neighborhood. Will they fall in love? Of course!
Asian dramas definitely are a guilty pleasure for me. Most of the plots are predictable. Many big names first became famous in another facet of the entertainment industry before going into acting, which is why their acting skills aren’t particularly impressive. But this mindless entertainment nevertheless still captivates me and I become engrossed in the world and the characters of the show. Watching these dramas is a good way for me to practice my Japanese skills, but ultimately the reason why I watch is for the ladies. I will watch almost anything if the leading actress is somebody I like.
During the summer, I worked with a Korean Ph.D. candidate on a research project. He is an awesome person and made time at work pass by very quickly because we would talk constantly about Korean dramas and music. He had hooked up a stereo system in the lab and would introduce me to new artists and songs everyday. Having Epik High and Wonder Girls pumped at full volume in a lab has a very surreal quality. Research has never been so fun. Good times.
One of the shows he recommended to me is 1st Prince of Coffee House, a 2007 Korean drama. Japanese dramas are my mainstay because as I’ve stated previously, they seem to have much more variety. Korean dramas, while in general featuring better acting, tend to be too melodramatic for my tastes, even for the shows with a comedic focus. Plus, Korean dramas are quite long, averaging 16 episodes compared to the typical 10-12 for Japanese dramas.
I don’t watch too many Korean dramas for these reasons, but based on his heavy recommendation, I decided to watch this show. I think I’ve stumbled across the magic recipe for Korean dramas: two good-looking guys and two good-looking girls, each guy likes both girls and each girl likes both guys. Instead of a love triangle, they have love squares. 4 main characters is the perfect number to introduce enough plot points to sustain a 16 episode long series. Throw in some complications and misunderstandings for everybody to agonize over, wrap it up nicely, and there you have it, a Korean drama!
This is number 2 of my “forgotten blog entries”. First off, a disclaimer: I saw Nobuta wo Produce almost two years ago and took a couple screen captures for a blog post that never happened. I’ve forgotten most of the details about this drama, but since I had the screencaps lying around, I figured I might as well dust them off and get them online.
Nobuta wo Produce is a high school drama and a coming-of-age story about several students. Kiritani Shuji (played by Kamenashi Kazuya, center in image) is the most popular kid in school and respected by everyone, but his friendly and cool personality is a deceptive one that he uses to get whatever he wants. Kusano Akira (played by Yamashita Tomohisa, right in image) is the wacky class clown who talks a lot and makes a lot of noise but seems to be largely ignored by everybody, as far as I can remember. He looks up to Shuji and wants to hang around him, but Shuji wants nothing to do with him.
One day, a shy new student shows up at the school: Kotani Nobuko (played by Horikita Maki, left in image). She quickly becomes an outcast and is bullied by the other girls. For some reason I have forgotten, Shuji and Akira decide to have some fun together and begin a project to help Nobuko get out of her shell and make her popular.
I’ve had the drafts of a few drama reviews saved forever so I figured while I’m at the airport waiting for my flight back to school, this would be a great time to finish them off and get them online. I had intended on posting two of these in the summer/fall of 2007, that’s how long I’ve been putting these off.
The premise of Papa to Musume no Nanokan is hardly original. A salaryman named Kawahara Kyoichiro (played by Tachi Hiroshi) is troubled with problems at work, where he’s been reassigned to a new project in the company, and at home, where he has difficulty connecting with his teenage daughter, Kawahara Koume (played by Aragaki Yui). One day while coming home on the train together, there’s a train accident and the two wake up in the hospital, where they realize that their minds have mysteriously swapped bodies!
Cue lots of crazy hijinks as Kyoichiro and Koume are forced to live each other’s lives, ultimately leading to a greater understanding of each other’s problems and a better relationship between the two. Were you expecting anything else?
Wow, when was the last time I blogged about an Asian drama? I started watching a new series (Hotaru no Hikari) on Friday, but before I moved onto the second episode, I decided I should finally finish watching a couple series that have been lying around my hard drive for the past half year. First up is Yama Onna Kabe Onna. I had written some impressions on this series in the summer of 07, so you should check that out before reading on.
Looking back on what I had written, I commented on how one-dimensional the drama seemed after four episodes, both in terms of the jokes and the plot. That didn’t change after eight more episodes. Virtually nothing of consequence happens that can’t be quickly resolved within the episode, and I couldn’t connect with any of the characters or the budding relationships that formed. Yeah, it’s just a light comedy, but honestly it’s not all that funny after you’ve seen and heard the same breast-related gags a dozen times.
I wouldn’t go as far to say that Yama Onna Kabe Onna is flat out terrible, but its priority on your watch list should be fairly low. However, if you’re a big fanboy of Itoh Misaki, she does make the drama as a whole much more appealing. In fact, if you don’t like her, I wouldn’t bother with this show at all. Personally, I adore her so I was able to enjoy the eyecandy.
Itoh Misaki pics!
Aired Summer 2007
Yesterday I said that I’ve started watching dramas as they aired because subbing groups are so fast these days. Usually I wait until subtitles for the entire series are completed so that I can watch all the episodes continuously and not be stranded in the middle of a show. Well, I just found out that the subber for Papa to Musume no Nanokan has quit her project halfway through the series. Details are here, check it out to see some of the members throwing hissy fits. We have to remember that subbers take on projects purely for their own enjoyment and make no money, so appreciate them!
My Japanese skills are only adequate enough to understand roughly 30% of the average episode, but since I’m already hooked on this series, I think I’ll continue watching it. Stay tuned for impressions soon.
Usually I prefer waiting for a drama series to finish airing in its entirety before starting to watch it. This way I don’t stuck halfway through the season, waiting for weeks hoping for somebody to post subtitles. However, subbing teams are so on the ball nowadays that during this summer drama season, I’ve been following two series as they air. They’re so quick and reliable that you can download both the newest episode and the accompanying subtitles within a couple days of the Japanese airing. As always, check out the community at D-Addicts for details on the hottest dramas, new and old.
Coincidentally, I caught the premiere episodes of both these series “live” on TV while I was in Japan. One show is called Papa to Musume no Nanokakan and stars Aragaki Yui. I’ll talk about that one next time.
The topic for today is the comedy Yama Onna Kabe Onna, which stars Itoh Misaki, probably best known as the elegant Hermes lady in the drama Densha Otoko. She plays a luxury bag saleswoman named Aoyagi Megumi who works in a premiere Ginza department store. Unfortunately, her work attire isn’t very flattering; for that classic Hermes / Itoh Misaki look, you’ll have to wait for the scenes when she’s not at work.
Anyway, Aoyagi is a top selling bag saleswoman, but she has one small problem: she’s quite self conscious about her chest. That “A cup complex” is compounded when a new girl, Mariya Marie (played by Fukada Kyoko), with an enormous bust is transferred into the department store. She just so happens to be an excellent saleswoman as well, which makes Aoyagi feel even worse.
If you know Japanese, the title of this show now makes perfect sense. Yama Onna = mountain woman. Kabe Onna = wall woman.
As you might expect from the premise, breast related humor is very prevalent in Yama Onna Kabe Onna. On the serious side, the focus seems to be on Aoyagi struggling with her insecurities, though there’s also a little lecturing on what it means to work in a department store and to offer premium service. If you’ve ever been to a Japanese mall (or even a Japanese-owned mall in Taiwan or other Asian countries), you should be quite familiar with that level of service.
But for the most part, the show is about:
And what the heck, for good measure:
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. Yama Onna Kabe Onna is funny and Itoh Misaki is charming as always. However, four episodes have aired so far and it’s been pretty one-dimensional up to this point. I don’t expect that’ll change much, but stay tuned for a post-mortem when the series is finished in a couple months. I think there’s eight episodes left.
Other characters of note:
Ooyama Haruka (played by Koike Eiko). She is Aoyagi’s hostile rival, both professionally and romantically. She doesn’t miss an opportunity to get a jab in about Aoyagi’s chest. Quite evil looking, I must say. In real life, Koike Eiko is a gravure idol with plentiful assets.
Yoshino Kanako (played by Uehara Misa). She is a co-worker of Aoyagi and a supporting character who’s there for comic relief. You might remember Uehara Misa from the drama Nodame Cantabile, where she played Chiaki Shinichi’s ex-girlfriend.
Airing Summer 2007