JPTV Winter 2008 Season
I don’t think I even have the right to be making this post, because there’s so much from 2007 that I have yet to finish watching (or start, even). But, whatever, forging on ahead because this post has been sitting on the back burner, but it’ll be overcooked if I leave it too long. (Yes, the lack of food dramas this season has gotten to me.) Here are the highlights of the current winter 2008 season of Japanese dramas and anime for me.
I confess I’ve got a strong urge to watch Atsu-hime this season, due in part to the ridiculous amount of actors I know, and due in part to the interest the plot actually generates in me this time (probably because it doesn’t center around a battlefield leader, but on the civilian side of life in ancient Japan). Unfortunately, it’s also the 2008 NHK Taiga drama, which means it’s going on for a long while and I don’t know if I have the attention span. We’ll see.
The clear winner for drama that almost every overseas drama watcher/Johnny’s fangirl will be talking about this season – Hachimitsu to CLOVER. This, of course, means that I won’t be watching it. People, I joined the fandom when it was still an anime/manga; the live-action movie barely interests me (and only now) because of Arashi’s hand in it; I’m only interested in the drama for its actors and not all that much. Please don’t be the horrible person who shoves this in my face when I probably got into it before you even heard of it.
I really want to watch Bara no nai Hana-ya. Because it has both Matsuda Shota and Terajima Susumu. I’ll even overlook that there’s a SMAP member in there (because I never thought I’d like SMAP and then I stupidly got into watching Utaban). But the summary doesn’t interest me at all. I’m obviously not a big fan of romance (which takes out an automatic half of all Japanese dramas, overlaps included), but on the other hand, I’m very curious to see Shota in a not golden-hearted young gangster-ish role. (Terajima is king of golden-hearted yakuza lookalikes in dramas, though.)
And so after the above misleading paragraphs, here are the 13 not-long running dramas that I’m interested in this season. All drama summaries from D-Addicts or Tokyograph.
1 Pound no Fukuin: Kosaku Hatanaka is a skilled boxer who turned pro at the age of 19, but he finds himself facing a string of defeats due to his inability to control his appetite, which always puts him in a heavier weight class. One day after losing a match, he wanders into a church where he meets a naive, fledgling nun, and he immediately finds himself interested in her.
Sometimes I feel like I’m going to be the only Johnny’s fan (What? Dare I give in? Apparently, yes.) watching this not because of KAT-TUN or the terrible miscasting of Kamenashi Kazuya‘s skinny butt, but because I read the manga by Takahashi Rumiko. To be fair, Kame’s also the only member of KAT-TUN to have grown on me and not annoyed the hell out of me afterwards, mostly from the Nobuta wo Produce. drama and behind-the-scenes special, so his appeal is there. But the manga did get a bit boring during the second volume, and frankly, the overall premise kind of sucked for a long-term thing so I’m surprised it even became a drama. Desperate much, Japan? We’ll see how how predictable each episode becomes, I suppose. (And with any luck, LIPS won’t grow on me because AT-TUN really hasn’t appealed to me.)
4 Shimai Tantei-dan: The story features a team of four sleuthing sisters.
10 years ago, a series aired that was titled 3 Shimai Tantei-dan. It was based on a novel of the same title, with a similar premise as above – except that there were three, not four sisters. Apparently to spice it up for the viewers a decade later, they added a fourth girl. I’m not sure if it’s the oldest or the youngest. Basically the only thing drawing me to this is the mystery (and surprisingly, not Yoshizawa Yuu or Ichikawa Yui), and since the cases seem as though they’ll be of a darker nature than finding lost kittens for old ladies… why not? (Also, because I’m an odd duck, it amuses me that it shortened into 4 STD for the filename of the picture above. Don’t be like me, be a… not odd duck. Or something.)
Anmitsu-hime: Anmitsu is a curious and mischievous tomboy princess who constantly causes trouble. Becoming tired of her constrained life, she longs to leave her castle and see the outside world.
I’m surprised this drama isn’t getting much buzz, especially since Inoue Mao plays the heroine and also sings the theme song (with none other than fellow actress… Nakagawa Shoko? Hey, looks like her management’s doing more than just letting Sony handle her.) At any rate, cute little hijinks drama.
Ashita no Kita Yoshio: Kita Yoshio is a debt-laden man whose wife has left him. With his close friend’s death anniversary only 11 days away, Yoshio chooses that date for his own death. However, a string of encounters and incidents makes those 11 days far from peaceful. But can those events save him from his death and show him how to live again?
Let’s be honest, hmm? I’m superficial. Now look at the many hot people up there in the banner. You have Matsuda Ryuhei. (Who looks a lot better with that scruff than as Ren in the NANA movie.) Kuriyama Chiaki. Kaname Jun. Konishi Manami. Sure, Kohinata Fumiyo isn’t the best looker, but he’s got a pleasing voice and acting adaptability from the roles I have seen him in. I’m sort of curious to see what these events described in the premise are, as well.
Aoi Yu x Yottsu no Uso: The series consists of four 3-episode chapters, each handled by a different director. The directors were given freedom in their stories, but they all share a common theme: lies.
What the summary fails to say is – “…and Aoi Yu.” I don’t have anything against Aoi Yu, and the concept promises to be especially interesting if handled right. Now to see if they did. (But so far, they’re doing a pretty poor job on the marketing so I’m a bit worried.)
Binbo Danshi/BOMB-BEE MEN: Oguri Shun plays a poor but optimistic college student in this comical story. Because of his overly nice personality, he ends up taking on other people’s debts and faces various challenges to pay off those debts.
Also known as the “GASP. Kimi may be watching an Oguri Shun drama?” drama. Let’s face it, I don’t like Oguri Shun. I don’t think he’s hot – in fact, I can’t even see why people think he’s hot. Sure, he can be good looking (and he’s oddly appealing in that newspaper outfit above), but for me, the times when he looks plain outnumber the times when he looks good. But it’s all about the premise in this case – this sort of hardship under heavy fire story appeals. Such was the case with the Yamada Taro Monogatari manga (which led to the drama, which led to my Arashi fandom… wait, I don’t like where this is going already.), and such will probably be the case here. Also, Yamada Yu‘s in here? Sign me up.
Edison no Haha: The series focuses on Ayukawa Noriko, the teacher of a class of first-graders. One day, a boy named Kento transfers into her class from another school, where he was treated as a problem child. In reality, the inquisitive Kento actually displays potential as a prodigy, and it’s up to Noriko to figure out how to handle him. The story draws inspiration from the childhood of famous inventor Thomas Edison, who was also considered a problem child by most adults around him.
I’ve gotten to see a lot of Tanihara Shosuke lately, what with Mop Girl, Yama Onna Kabe Onna, Deru Toko Demasho!, and I’m waiting on Shabake, but he’s in there too. He’s back with Densha Onna Ito Misaki here, but the point of this drama, for me, is really how the “Edison”-ish kid gets treated. Hopefully it’ll be done properly, because the premise of this, especially for a country of conformity like Japan, is really interesting. Also, I was amused by how, on the cast/correlation chart, all the characters are described as Edison’s something or Edison himself, but that has no bearing on the treatment of this series. Right?
Guren Onna: The drama is based on the novel of the same name by Joko Nobuyuki. Takabe plays a high school teacher who has no friends due to her gloomy personality. Trying to find a reason for living, she spends her nights dressing up as the “guren-onna,” a fictional ghost, and terrifying other people. However, she begins running into actual ghosts.
Let’s add more to the “what you should know about a total stranger on the Internet” book – I’m a big chicken. Even with the comparatively bad graphics, I can’t even play the original Resident Evil (for the PlayStation) with the lights on before freaking out at the bunch of pixels that suddenly decided to get up off the ground. The Grudge 2? I only watched it for Misako and pretended it didn’t exist for the rest while blocking it from sight with a body pillow. So why I want to watch this is a bit odd, especially since I don’t know a single one of the actors/actresses, but hopefully it’ll live up to its promise of comedic horror. I would especially like to stress the comedic part of that sentence.
Koshonin: In a modern society in which violent crimes are on the rise, there is a team that tries to resolve cases without bloodshed. It is the metropolitan police’s special team, known by the abbreviation SIT (Special Investigation Team). The SIT doesn’t get into action after a case but heads to the site just as a crime is being committed. They are on the front-line of risky missions, facing off against criminals; tenaciously conducting negotiations with criminals. As a result of the rigid police hierarchy that can curb the conduct of negotiators, the SIT is also a male-dominated society controlled with strict discipline. There is one female negotiator, Usagi Reiko, who bravely fights at the frontline. She is isolated in the male world of the SIT but courageously fights against crime as well as her organisation.
I have an odd attraction to police dramas. Maybe it’s because there will invariably be crime in a police (note, not a police academy) drama, but the whole thing calls to me. I do wonder if SIT is an attempt at popularizing another nonexistent “police” abbreviation, like how CSI’s kind of running wildfire these days, but I’ll have to watch to note its usage. The usual suspects: Shirota Yu, Suzuki Kosuke (who will be wearing glasses again and just had his “Amount Kimi is likely to squee over him” factor shoot up), and Jinnai Takanori playing yet another (hopefully not bumbling) crime-related personnel. I don’t think I’ve seen him in any role yet that doesn’t have his character’s job involve investigations or crime. Huh.
Lost Time Life: The title is taken from the Japanese term for stoppage time in soccer. In each episode, the lead character will be in a situation where he or she is about to die. Time suddenly stops and a mysterious group of referees appears, who grants the protagonist extra time based on the time wasted during that person’s life. The story will explore the ways that each of the characters decides to spend that extra time.
The drama medium as a short story collection. Or is it the other way around? As someone who’s wasted a lot of time over various things, to say I’m not interested in this would really be an absolute lie. Just the premise gets me thinking – in that sort of situation, what would I do? And so, what would each character do as time runs out? The biggest problem with this will probably be that no character’s story seems to flow into the other so development will have to be maximized in a minimal amount of time, which is going to be crucial for a character-driven drama like this.
Mirai Koshi Meguru: Yoshida Meguru is an English teacher at a cram school. On her 24th birthday, she awakens to a new power – she can see 20 years ahead into the future of everyone around her.
FUKAKYO IS BACK. The season where there is no Fukada Kyoko drama/special I find myself interested in is going to be odd, at the rate I’ve been going. (This includes running out of old Fukakyo stuff to watch.) Which sort of terrifies me, because I don’t even like her all that much. She just always shows up in the things I want to watch. On the bright side, she looks adorable with her hair in that chin-length cut and powers to see into the future and maybe adjust it are always cool.
Saitou-san: Saito Masako is a mother of one child. Unafraid to speak her mind, she constantly confronts people who violate proper manners and other rules of society.
I automatically approve of pretty Japanese ladies whacking and scolding the crap out of anyone, as compared to the usual demure Yamato Nadeshiko-type that show up far too often for my tastes. Mizuki Arisa is a pretty Japanese lady who’s really selling that “take-no-prisoners” attitude. SOLD. (Also, Sasaki Kuranosuke is in this drama. Hook, line, and sinker. And funnily enough, I’ve been unknowingly watching Yamada Shintaro‘s entire filmography so far – and we can add this one to the list.)
Sasaki Fusai no Naki Jingi Tatakai: Sasaki Horin and his wife Ritsuko are two lawyers with opposite personalities, who’ve been married for three years. However, their completely opposite personalities result in heated quarrels that lead them to the courtroom to settle a possible divorce, with the two representing themselves in an amusing legal battlefield.
There’s still a number of lawyer dramas from 2006 I’m really interested in – if anything, there was a ridiculous amount of those that year. This promises to be comedic, even if I’m not especially familiar with any of the main cast involved. Whether or not this turns me into a SMAP fan (between the theme song and Inagaki Goro‘s role) is a different story, but hey, at least we know where SMAP’s efforts are focused this time.
In contrast to the winter drama load, only 3 anime series…? Wait, I suppose that’s a good thing considering how much I have to watch. But I guess it’s a bit telling how bad the season is, or how much my interest has waned, when they’re all sequels of some sort. All summaries from Wikipedia.
Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-: Set in modern-day Italy, Gunslinger Girl follows the exploits of the Social Welfare Agency, ostensibly a charitable institution sponsored by the Italian government. While the Agency professes to aid the rehabilitation of the physically injured, it is actually a military organization specializing in counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism. Special Ops employs young girls fitted with cybernetic implants as agents. Each girl is paired with a male trainer, or “handler,” and together they are referred to as a fratello. The handler is responsible for the training, welfare and field performance of his charge, and is free to use whatever methods he considers suitable. While these methods vary according to the handler, a common part of each girl’s regimen is brainwashing called “conditioning,” which produces a deadly assassin with unquestioning loyalty to her handler.
Gunslinger Girl is one of the most thought provoking comics/cartoons I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading/watching, and we shall carefully dismiss my preference for shounen series when we take that sentence into account. It attacks a number of sociological and moral issues (and now that I think about it, I could probably bring this up in Sociology for extra credit if I didn’t mind weird looks from the professor.) Wrap those questions in a lolicon package, give the lolita in question some pretty awesome firearms, throw in gunfights and action scenes as a replacement for fanservice, and you have Gunslinger Girl. I’m less fond of the art style and character designs for this second season, which turns the girls into even more cutesy shoujo lolita fanservice than they already were. But I suspect half of you reading this are focusing on the “lolita” part anyways.
Persona -trinity soul-: Takes place 10 years after the end of Persona 3. Set in Ayanagi City, a city located near the Sea of Japan, its police force begins to investigate several cases involving a mysterious illness called the Apathy Syndrome. In the midst of the crisis, two brothers named Shin and Jun Kanzato move back to Ayanagi to see their elder brother Ryou, who is now the Superintendent of the Ayanagi City Police. It had been 10 years since the three siblings had last met with each other.
Okay, so I lie. I’m actually going to hold off on this for a bit. Like, say, after I finish the game it’s meant to be a sequel to. Which usually equals “never” when it comes to console games, but even more so in this case because I’ve yet to find and buy the game. …it’s not my fault most of my spending money was being put away for Otakon and Hong Kong when it came out. Um, yes. I like Persona and MegaTen. That’s my excuse here.
Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei: Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei revolves around a very pessimistic high school teacher named Itoshiki Nozomu who, at the very beginning of the series, tries to hang himself on a sakura tree. Despite this effort of self-destruction, he is saved by an extremely optimistic girl known only as Fuura Kafuka (it should be noted, however, that in her effort to save his life, she almost kills him). She explains to him that it is simply unforgivable to hang himself on such a nice day, especially in front of such beautiful trees. After having enough of the strange girl, Nozomu bolts to the school and starts his homeroom class, but the attempt to escape was in vain as he finds that the girl is one of his students.
Another one where I’m going to hold off for a bit. Y’see, I’ve yet to finish the first season. But I’m liking everything so far and I get the feeling that it’ll continue into the second. Sharp character designs, odd humor, good voice talent… let’s keep it going.
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