The Little Dorama Girl
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The rest of my reviews can be found on my Wordpress blog:

The Little Dorama Girl:
Reviews, Rants, Rhapsodies, and Ruminations

endersgirrrl.wordpress.com/

Enjoy. =D

Film Review: Bushi no Ichibun / Love and Honor (2006)
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Still Life, Samurai-Style

by Ender's Girl

The Cast:
Kimura Takuya, Dan Rei, Bando Mitsugoro, Sasano Takashi, Kobayashi Nenji, Momoi Kaori, Ogata Ken


Co-written and directed by Yamada Yoji

In a Nutshell:

Samurai Mimura Shinnojo (Kimura Takuya) and his wife Kayo (Dan Rei) find their comfortable life in disarray after a taste-testing session gone awry leaves Mimura blind--and unemployed. But as the two face an uncertain future in Tokugwa Japan, their relationship takes a sudden and unexpected turn for the worse.


(SpoilLert: Everything major! Proceed at your own risk!!!)


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Hmmm... Well... <how do I say this?> I think I came into this movie expecting two hours of unabated swordplay and bloodshed. What I didn't expect was a domestic drama with just 9 minutes of kendo training and one short duel near the end. I told my best friend about it and she replied (having also seen the film), "That’s exactly what Yamada Yoji is known for in Japan, his movies (Twilight Samurai, The Hidden Blade) are very slice of life. He doesn’t glamorize the samurai but shows them as real, ordinary folk."

Maybe I'm still not a sophisticated enough viewer (and jidaegeki connoisseur) to appreciate the deglamorized, quieter side of the warrior class in feudal Japan. Maybe I'll always be THAT kind of viewer, the one that pops a chanbara movie into their DVD player and beats their chest, bellowing, "I want my savagery and gore! I want my katana blades gleaming crimson with blood! I want my epic duels to the death! I want my spewed guts and decapitated corpses littering the wayside! For love, for daimyo, for courage, for honor!" Hahaha. Believe me, if I had wanted to see a bunch of samurai sitting around all day and talking about the weather or how many kokus of rice they were getting that year, I would have watched a frikkin' History Channel documentary instead, durrr.

Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!Collapse )

Drama Rant: Zettai Kareshi / Absolute Boyfriend (Fuji TV, 2008)
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Robots R Us!

by Ender's Girl


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The Cast:
Mizushima Hiro, Hayami Mokomichi, Aibu Saki, and assorted pastries

In a Nutshell:
Three robots in a love triangle. ‘Nuff said.


(SpoilLert: Not. Enough. Data. *whir, whir*)

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Durrr... can robots learn to love? Can a human fall for a(n incredibly good-looking) household appliance? Can Japan possibly think of a screwier premise for a drama? And will the Blue Fairy magically appear and grant the Loverbot's wish to become A Real Boy? Do I look like I give a flying fig? *throws up in mouth*

Haha, but the premise looks straight out of some trashy romance novel. A LoveDroid!!! Made especially for Hot! Robot! Nookie!!! Designed and assembled to tailor-fit your intimacy needs!!! Requires minimal clothing! In fact, can function in a perpetual state of dishabille! Batteries not included! Must re-charge at night while squatting on your toilet bowl! Comes with the perfect male stripper name: Night-o!!! (LMAO! whattaname! whattaname!!!!!)Click to see more robots! MOAR!!! MOAR!!!Collapse )

Film Reviews: Fly Boys, Fly! (1995); Shoot!/Hit the Goal! (1994)
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KimuTaku: The Wonder Years
(Part One)

by Ender's Girl


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Ever wondered what kept Kimura busy before 1996, when he starred in Long Vacation and became THE KimuTaku, Supreme Japanese Heartthrob? (Lol) Well, he did four movies (see Part One of reviews below), which I’ve lumped together not due to any similarities in plot content (thematically they’re quite a mixed bunch), but because they made up the First Wave of Kimura’s filmography--back when he was still KimuTaku 1.0 (circa his late teens to early twenties). It’s also much easier to group them chronologically, given that Kimura took a 9-year hiatus from films (a lifetime in movie industry reckoning!) before resurfacing in 2004 as Serious Actor Kimura (Who Works with Auteurs! and Real Filmmakers!) in Wong Kar Wai’s 2046, albeit in a supporting role.

Since 2004, Kimura has been making one film a year, and 4 times out of 5 with such internationally respected filmmakers as Miyazaki, Yamada Yoji and Tran Anh Hung, aside from Wong Kar Wai. This is not to say, though, that all of his recent forays into SeriousActorLand have been critically praised. (Separate film reviews to follow.) But as of press time, KimuTaku’s latest flick--Battleship Yamato--is in the offing. Could this be the dawning of a new era in his film career, i.e. KimuTaku the Movie Star? Hmmm… *strokes chin*)

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Anyway, back to the KimuTaku 1.0 movies. Despite being commercially friendly fare, they’re not particularly memorable, and they do suffer from low-tech production values (i.e. poor audio/video quality, laughable special effects) aka The Bane of Pre-Digital Revolution Movies. Artistically, the overall direction is uninspired, the writing nothing special either—with draggy plots and tepid character treatments. So you really WON’T be missing out on much should you pass on these flicks. But for the Kimura Completist, this could prove to be a veritable goldmine of his earliest work, in which his raw talent, despite being a little rough around the edges, is already quite noticeable.Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!Collapse )

Film Review: The Duelist / Hyeongsa (Korea Pictures, 2005)
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Dreaming of The Duelist

by Ender’s Girl

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The Cast:
Ha Ji-won, Kang Dong-won, Ahn Sung-ki, Song Young-chan


Written and directed by Lee Myung-se

In a Nutshell:
Undercover detectives Ahn and Namsoon are hot on the trail of a counterfeiting syndicate that is fast paralyzing the Joseon economy. Complicating matters is the entrance of a mysterious and deadly swordsman who stands in the way of their investigation.


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What I loved most about this film was the breathtaking beauty of the visuals and the heavily stylized direction. It’s as if I had walked into a dream... The movie had the feel of a graphic novel on celluloid (like Frank Miller’s 300, for instance), or a stage play translated to film. The director (Lee Myung-se) revealed his proclivity for the theatrical with his use of dramatic tableaus, vivid colors and striking contrasts in scene rendering and composition, and especially the interplay of light and shadow. This third aspect was particularly used to enhance the atmosphere of the duel scenes between Namsoon (Ha Ji-won) and the mysterious swordsman, whom we only know as Sad Eyes (Kang Dong-won)--and we see this in the clash of blades, the glint of steel, the shadows and silhouettes. Super cool...
Walk the dreamscape of The DuelistCollapse )

Drama Rant: Code Blue (Fuji TV, 2008)
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Gray’s Lobotomy

by Ender’s Girl

The Cast:
Yamashita Tomohisa, Aragaki Yui, Toda Erika, Higa Manami, Asari Yosuke, Yanagiba Toshiro


In a Nutshell:
Kids in a chopper! Saving lives! Losing patients! Getting shouted at by their superiors! Feeling discouraged, wanting to quit! Blood and drama, sweat and tears! Hospital tension running high! Can they successfully complete their training before my brain has fully atrophied? Do I look like I care???


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Disclaimer: This is NOT a review. All pretense to objectivity has been chucked out the (helicopter) window. This is more like... a rant with a mission!

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Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! You have four children who play doctors, who play children, who play... (you guessed it!) doctors!!! How come nobody thought of this before??? Durrrrr..... Oh man, I'd rather stick a syringe in my eye than watch this drama all over again. Oh, yeahhh, suuure, Code Blue is a medical drama alright--because you get a frikkin' lobotomy watching the first episode alone. Then you can be as brain-dead as YamaPi & Co. Everybody. Happy.

It doesn't speak well of a drama if the ONE GOOD highlight from all eleven episodes is that shot of YamaPi in the locker room, 20 seconds into Episode Bloody One. Where YamaPi, M.D. gives us a lesson in...Human Anatomy, yesss? The camera inexorably pans upward to show a ridiculously buff torso channeling...Enter the Dragon! *gonnngggg!!!!* (Oh-ho-ho, YammmaPiiii.... you nearly gave me a myocardial infarction right there, you naughty, naughty boy! Looks like *someone's* been trying to... overcompensate for all that non-acting they’ve been doing lately, ehhh?) Okay, pop quiz, YamaPi, where are your... rectus abdominis? (There they are!!!) Very good, YamaPi! Now, point to your... pectoralis major!!! Verrrryyyy gooood, YamaPi! Another gold star for you! LAWWWL.

I’m appending a more sanitized... anatomical diagram (for instructional purposes, yes?). Can you point to those deltoids and latissimus dorsi? Heh heh.

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But--uh-oh, uh-oh, looks like YamaPi overdid all those bench press workouts! Somebody killed the REAL YamaPi and put this... Rambo dude in his place (with dark, curly hair to match, eeep!)!!! Rambo-YamaPi shows everyone how to do a Particularly Risky Surgical Procedure--on his first day on the job!!! Wow. It's Rambo with a stethoscope! Rambo in scrubs! Rambo rides the skies in a chopper, swooping down to earth to amputate the limbs and vivisect the bodies of his patients! But Rambo can show No!Emotion!--other than clenching his fists, and clenching his... torso muscles! (Hahahaha) He looks convincing enough as a doctor here--SO CONVINCING I wouldn't let him stitch me up even if I was bleeding to death.

Apparently, each episode in this drama is subtitled, "Who Will Get to Ride the Doctor Heli Today?" So the senior doctors go around saying stuff like, "You put the poor schmuck's kidneys back all wrong!" *hospital staff give collective gasp of horror* "Bad doctor! Bad doctor! No more chopper rides for you this week!!!" And so it goes for ten. More. Episodesssss......

Yurghghrrrghh... Someone hit me with the defribrillibrilator...

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Drama Review: Asunaro Hakusho (Fuji TV, 1993)
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Sex, Lies, and Shoulder Pads

by Ender’s Girl

The Cast:
Kimura Takuya, Ishida Hikari, Tsutsui Michitaka, Anju Suzuki, Nishijima Hidetoshi


In a Nutshell:
Five college students play musical chairs with each other’s hearts amid the sexual revolution and sociopolitical tumult (mwahahahahaha yeah right) of the… early 1990s.


(SpoiLert: Major plot revelations!!! Not that you should care!!!)

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Good friggin' grief. Am I the only one who thought this drama SUCKED more than a giant monster lamprey? No? Good.

You take a sordid soap opera like... Melrose Place, situate it on a Japanese college campus, and contort the main cast into this SLEAZY LOVE PRETZEL where they do nothing but sleep with each other, then cheat on each other, then sleep with OTHER people, then cheat on other people, then break up, then hook up, then KNOCK another person up, then get outed as gays and DIE. Oh, and not to mention they engage in a few token "let us study because we are college students" scenes thrown in for good luck.Enter the monkey house!Collapse )

Drama Review: Proposal Daisakusen / Operation Love (Fuji TV, 2007)
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Back to the Future: Tokyo Drift

by Ender’s Girl

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The Cast:
Yamashita Tomohisa, Nagasawa Masami, Fujiki Naohito, Hiraoka Yuta, Eikura Nana, Hamada Gaku


In a Nutshell:

On the wedding day of his best friend Rei (Nagasawa Masami), Iwase Ken (Yamashita Tomohisa) realizes that he has let The One get away. But a magical twist of fate grants Ken a unique opportunity to go back in time and try to win Rei’s heart.


(SpoilLert: Moderately spoilerish.)


[Recommended companion track: The Mongol800 cover of Chiisana Koi no Uta, used as the insert song of the drama. This version sounds a lot like Green Day’s Basket Case, but maybe that’s why I like it so much.]




Really, I would've watched this even without YamaPi (heh heh) in it because I liked the CONCEPT. The premise is really a vicarious expiation of sorts for anyone who's ever loved and lost, and who secretly yearns for that One Chance to go back and redress a wrong, or a series of wrongs. And what better way to do this than by the finger-snapping and heel-clicking of a benevolent *cough* meddlesome *cough* fairy taking an interest in mortal affairs? (Waiiit... that saturnine looking, bowler-hat-wearing dude's a fairy? Looks more like an oversized leprechaun to me...)

But oh--a twist! Our hero Ken has to do it all within the time it takes to frame one day's events in a single snapshot! Does he have what it takes to win his One True Love back? Can he finally pull off... that buzzer-beater and win? (Heh heh) Can the Leprechaun of Love singlehandedly outwit, outplay and outlast the Cosmic Juggernaut of Fate? And in the end, will it all have been in vain? Everything will be illuminated in due time... Hallelujaaaaah... CHANCE!!!

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Proposal Daisakusen marks Yamashita Tomohisa’s official debut as a Romantic Lead after years of playing various permutations of his, er, weird spacey self. (And well well well... I see someone's been working out since Nobuta wo Produce, ehh? *hentai leer*) Not to say that I don’t like YamaPi’s early work; on the contrary, IMO he was at his best when he played these flaky (but refreshingly uncomplicated) adolescents in his past dramas. Maybe all he can do really well is be a vacuous little fluffball, but he IS the best damn fluffball in town! Lol. So it was for this reason that I felt apprehensive about his reinvention as YamaPi 2.0, Romantic Leading Man. Although his woodenness as an actor is... legendary, YamaPi is actually... not bad in Proposal Daisakusen. The boy can carry a romantic drama. While he did have his fair share of wooden moments, overall I thought he connected well with his character’s inner struggle.

Ken goes back into the past thinking that the advantage of hindsight has made him wiser and more percipient, but he still ends up doing and saying the same hurtful things. And as the chronological divide between the photographs and the present becomes ever briefer, the precious window of opportunity gets ever smaller. You understand that it is Ken’s fault that Rei slipped away, but at the same time you feel his mounting frustration and crushing sense of failure as each time-slip backfires, and you root for him and hope that things work out for the best. Win or lose, I was Team Kenzo to the bitter (?) end! As the heroine Rei, Nagasawa Masami is pretty and pleasant and--well, bland. (I’ll bet in real life, Nagasawa Masami is also pretty and pleasant and bland. Oooh, coincidence? Lol.) While I didn't think much of the YamaPixNagasawa chemistry (*cough* YamaPixKame 4vr *cough* hahaha), the characters of Kenzo and Rei share the most meaningful and poignant moments in the drama, where regret and heartbreak and hope intermingle afresh with each revisited snapshot.

Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!Collapse )

Concert Review: The SMAP 2008 Super Modern Artistic Performance Tour
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THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT!

by Ender’s Girl

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Prelude to a Diss

One muggy summer night not so long ago, I realized that *this* newly weaned convert to Jdorama (read: Kimura Takuya, hehe) knew nothing about J-Pop. Nada, zilch, zip. In fact, I had instinctively steered clear of it for as long as I could remember. Though I adored Kimura Takuya as an actor, the fact that he was part of a *gasp!* boy band (eeew) was an embarrassing little gob of information I had always managed to tune out. BUT I realized that to gain the entire Kimura experience, I needed to bravely go where a million Japanese housewives and teenage girls were already, uh, camped out for life. So I descended into the belly of the Beast--and entered the J-Pop Mother Ship itself, where the heart of all J-Ent beats untiringly and the bonfires of Nihonjin fandom burn the brightest. I decided to watch a SMAP concert on DVD, the title a classic case of Engrish, baby: The “SMAP 2008 Super Modern Artistic Performance Tour!!!”! Hahahahahahaha

Man, I actually sat through the whole thing from beginning to end. Ohgawdwhattanexperience.

Well, I should've known what I was getting into; what else would you expect from a group calling themselves "Sports Music Assemble People"? (I'll never forget the very second I learned from Wiki what the SMAP acronym meant: t'was a singular moment of hilarity reaching cosmic proportions. I could. Not. Stop. Laughing. I laughed so hard I think that somewhere in a nearby galaxy, a star system exploded.) *wipes away tear* I suppose what this really establishes is that NOBODY beats the Japanese when it comes to these two things: Technology... and ENGRISH! (Yeah, baby!!! at least the Engrish lyrics of their songs were amusing, as I later discovered--when I could understand them, that is, haha.)

So. Nearly 2700 years after Jimmu Tenno, descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu, began his fabled rule with imperial mirror, sword and jewel in hand, 1,000 years after Lady Murasaki wrote the world’s first modern novel during the cultural flowering of the Heian Period, 750 years after Kublai Khan’s invading armies were repelled by two separate “kamikaze” super-typhoons, 150 years after the last of the daimyo lords and their samurai roamed the countryside in the early days of the Meiji Restoration… After a long, storied history spanning millennia and which birthed such enduring cultural hallmarks as Shinto, Zen Buddhism, Bushido, hiragana and katakana, cha-no-yu, haiku, ikebana and origami, kabuki, Noh and tanka theater, judo and kendo and sumo, Hayao Miyazaki and anime, and the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world… it comes down to THIS.

The culmination of all history and culture in the Land of the Rising Sun, as it turns out, is this belief-defying spectacle of light and sound and motion, a jaw-dropping extravaganza where the crazy and the weird and the What-The-Eff take center stage with a vengeance. History and destiny crystallize into One Defining Moment that will soon take its rightful place in the annals of this great nation: Welcome to the SMAP 2008 Super Modern Artistic Performance Tour, baby.

Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!Collapse )

Drama Review: Nemureru Mori / A Sleeping Forest (Fuji TV, 1998)
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Vivere disce, cogita mori - Learn to live; Remember death.
(sundial inscription)


by Ender's Girl

The Cast:
Nakayama Miho, Kimura Takuya, Nakamura Toru, Jinnai Takanori, Yusuke Santamaria, Natsuyagi Isao


In a Nutshell:
A 15-year-old crime casts a long shadow on a young woman whose lost memory of the incident returns with a vengeance. She meets a mysterious stranger, who vows to help her reclaim her forgotten past.


(SpoilLert: Major, major plot revelations!!! Proceed only if you’ve watched the ENTIRE drama!!!)

[Recommended companion track: “A Sorta Fairytale” by Tori Amos]

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Once upon a Time, in a Faraway Land…

I enjoyed Nemureru Mori for the dark, modern-day fairy tale that it is: it takes the Sleeping Beauty archetype and gives it an urban-whodunit spin, setting it in 1998 Tokyo. But here the Sleeping in question is a psychological rather than a physical condition, as it is the Princess’ memories that remain submerged for a certain time period, to be Awakened by the Prince at the right Moment. (But who is the Prince, pray tell? Is there even one at all?)

When stripped of its more palatable, Victorian-era coating, the Fairy Tale is no children’s bedtime reading. I’m glad that Nemureru Mori feels less like Hans Christian Andersen and more like the earlier work of the Brothers Grimm, with the gore and the gloom and the, er, grimness not seen in their later (and heavily sanitized) versions. I welcome fairy tales in all their literary incarnations, in particular Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber,” a collection of retold fairy tales--dark, violent, sensuous and lushly romantic, but at times also bleak and terrifying.

The question, therefore, would be: If this is the story of Sleeping Beauty, who are the other characters? Who’s the Wicked Witch? The Fairy Godmother? The White Knight? But given the murder-mystery angle of Nemureru Mori you know that everything and everyone is immediately suspect--with the exception of Beauty, through whose eyes we watch the story unfold. So… could it be that certain characters in Nemureru Mori are actually composites of two or more of these fairy tale figures, who in turn may (or may not) be fundamentally disparate from each other (i.e. what if the Prince turns out to be the Big Bad Wolf?)--thus rendering them more ambiguous (but more interesting)? I’ve read enough crime capers and Agatha Christie mysteries to expect the unexpected and brace for twists in the plot. You try to second-guess people’s motives and anticipate the telltale signs that may (or may not) Mean Something Later On, those breadcrumbs in the woods that point the Way Out. And the woods of this Sleeping Forest have a beautiful, surreal quality to them, where time and space lose their real-world sway. It truly is an enchanted place, one both tranquil and threatening, a secret dream-garden where a long-forgotten evil lurks unseen.

The starting point of our story is a Christmas Eve massacre in a picturesque little town 15 years past. Beneath the snow-coated rooftops and steeples of churches, beneath the clear voices of carolers rising through the winter air, a gruesome crime has just been committed: the cold-blooded murder of three family members. The rain has washed away all traces of the killer, all evidence of his identity. Amid the flashing police sirens and crowds of onlookers, the body bags are carted into the ambulance one by one, the child Minako’s family--dead forever. That the carnage happened at Yuletide, of all times--is inconceivable, and yet the proof of this horrific deed is incontrovertible: the red stains against the snow, the bloodied corpses, the knife left behind when the murderer fled the scene. The 12-year-old girl Minako, the sole survivor of this nightmare, retreats deep into the darkness, her spirit broken and all memories locked away inside, in a place where even she dares not go. And through it all, the statue of the Virgin Mary at the nearby church remains the lone witness to this scene, her marmoreal countenance sphinx-like in dispensing either benediction—or judgment. And so our Fairy Tale begins.
Enter the woods!Collapse )

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