In contrast to last season dreary selection, there's a host of more interesting dramas out this season, starting from CRISIS
, which has screened at Cannes, and Kizoku Tantei
starring half a dozen "main character level" actors. Will it save the Jdrama world from its seemingly unstoppable decline?
-- Oguri Shun, Nishijima Hidetoshi Synopsis: A group of people with troubled pasts are assembled in a new team of anti-terrorism specialists.
Much of the drama's promotions have centered around the fact it has screened at Cannes. It stars none other than Oguri Shun in probably his last serious role before ruining his image forever in Gintama
It also has Nishijima Hidetoshi, who has the dubious honour of being the first ossan I liked even though I think I've only seen him in Strawberry Night
. Even though he has a playboyish role in that one, I somehow have it imprinted in my memory that he's a 憂鬱型帥大叔....why.
Apart from the girl, the other 2 team members are all reliable actors who play side roles regularly.
So far, the first episode was...good but disappointing. I think the expectations given it keeps pushing the "we've been to Cannes!" slogan was too high. The episode does not break out of the usual Japanese police drama mold. It drops you straight into the action to introduce the 5 main characters, then without a pause, goes onto another case. The sum is you get a vague idea of each person's specialty, a hint of their quirks, but nothing you can get your teeth into about their personalities or back stories. As far as introductions go, it's good but not as memorable as the tight, tense and occasionally quirky first episode of BOSS
, which gave a much stronger impression of each of the weirdos that made up the team.
Almost every Japanese police drama these days seems to open with a (literal) bomb so I'm getting pretty immune to it. Where this first case is concerned, there was not a lot of deduction involved, nor was there much sympathy for the Victim-of-the-Week. When you take those two elements away, you need a villain with a strong presence to really rack up the tension (because to be honest, I would have totally not felt sorry if the guy died, and neither would the main character judging by his own words) but the series has decided to keep the antagonist as a nebulous force or group behind the scenes.
It was an otherwise well-written and well-produced episode, with some good action (fairly rare in J-dramas), good natural acting (except for the guest victim...seriously kiddo) and good pacing that didn't let up until the end. But in a way, as a series pilot that is supposed to draw audiences in, I feel it just scraped past because the case of the week wasn't able to give the audience any emotional connection, either to the victim or even to the main characters. Presumably there is some big conspiracy overarching all of this but the episode doesn't give enough away to really build up the suspense. If it weren't for the quality of actors and the fact I know the production team have come up with some solid works, I don't think I would continue watching.
-- Fujiwara Tatsuya, Toda Erika, Koike TeppeiSynopsis: Based on the eponymous novel, Fukase is an ordinary man without much luck or excitement in his life, until he meets the girl of his dreams. Just as he begins to enjoy this blossoming romance, an anonymous note arrives in his girlfriend's hands: "Fukase is a murderer". 10 years ago, Fukase had gone on a car trip with his best friend Hirose Yuki and 3 other mates. Hirose never returned and they promised between themselves to take the secrets of that night into their graves. What happened to Hirose? What are they hiding? Who is hunting them down now?
So...I don't know if anyone else does this, but I'm the kind of person who always reads the beginning, the end, before reading the middle....
So obviously, after watching the first episode, I rushed onto Google to find out "what happened to Hirose?!" "Who killed Hirose?!" "What is the meaning of Reverse?!"
I confess the answer will be much less underwhelming if you read/watch the story for what it is.
This drama was promoted as "a 11 year reunion of Death Note
actors Raito and Misa-chan!" which...I didn't know that was a thing until this season (see below and the up and coming Code Blue 3
). Fujiwara was first known - and probably best known to western audiences - as the protagonist of the somewhat uniquely Japanese dystopian bloodfest known as Battle Royale
. Both he and Erika (and Matsuyama Kenichi who was L) have gone on to forge fulfilling careers spanning a rich library of interesting and varied characters. Koike Teppei I have not seen onscreen for so long that I didn't realise how much I miss his cute ageless face. Every time he smiles it makes me sad at knowing this heart-warming character already died. Apparently in the original story, Hirose is supposed to be a big burly bear-like man who is a sweet and gentle giant. But Koike just screams 暖男暖男 in every scene that I don't think the difference will bother fans of the original work.
Minato Kanae's novels are known for their rational but cutting expositions on the failings of humans and the innate selfishness in all of us. The tone of this particular novel is said to be much warmer than her other works, and will probably be more palatable to the audiences. Fujiwara manages to make the clumsy, ordinary and painfully submissive character into someone for whom we can have some sympathy. Definitely worth watching for anyone interested in the interplay of human selfishness.
Boku, Unmei no Hito desu
(I am the destined one) - Kamenashi Kazuya, Yamashita Tomohisa, Kimura FuminoSynopsis: Masaki is a guy without much luck with girlfriends. Kogetsu is a girl without much luck with boyfriends. One day, a mysterious man appears in front of Masaki and proclaims he is God, and the reason that Masaki has been failing in his relationships is because he is destined to marry Kogetsu so that their child, 30 years later, can save the Earth from a meteor. Thus starts Masaki's arduous task of wooing Kogetsu for the future of Earth...!
So this one is touted as "a 12 year reunion between Nobuta
actors Shinji and Akira!" A lot of politics and arguments came following this casting, which I won't go over here, except that Yamapi is noted down more as a special guest rather than a "secondary main character" judging by the way his name is arranged on the official cast page.
I thought it was joking about the "God" bit, but he does appear out of and disappear into thin air, so...
How do I put it, it's hard not to think about the ugly politics that runs on in Johnny's Entertainment when you see Kame and Yamapi appear together. To their credit, both Kame and Yamapi are much more mature actors compared to their Nobuta days, and the scenes where they appear together were surprisingly impressive by how much presence both of them have.
The role is fairly natural for Kame, and he's always been pretty good at these clumsy but cute characters much more than he is at extroverted or expansive characters like Yamaneko (which I'm still impressed he pulled off). Yamapi, on the other hand, is much closer to what he's like in Nobuta than his more recent 面癱 main characters. I know a lot of people call him 死魚眼 (dead fish eyes) and 面癱 (facial paralysis) and 木頭君 (Mr Wooden), and I'd agree with most of them in his usual roles. I think a lot of people say that he's more suited to the cool roles, but personally I find him much more likable in these expressive roles where he makes use of his surprising sense of comic timing. With introspective roles, he's really not able to emote a lot with his eyes, but here his eyes are twinkling and his smirks are endearing, and there's a strange sense of camaraderie in his scenes with Kame. I have a fondness for Kimura, who I think is amongst the few in her generation who puts a lot of effort into her roles and holds her characters well.
The script is light, humorous and self-aware, which is perfect for the ridiculous premise and the tone of this series. It's one of the few rare romances that actually makes me want to keep watching, at least for the laughs.