JPTV Spring 2009 Season
It’s already that time of year again, when you all whip out your wallets and donate $5 to the cause of Kimi’s Early Christmas.
Okay, okay, I kid. But with April around the corner, it’s already time for a new season of Japanese TV, which also means it’s time for me to name-drop like Armageddon’s here. As always, all summaries from DramaWiki, because I’m a lazy, lazy blogger who can’t be bothered to translate unless absolutely necessary.
Atashinchi no Danshi: In the drama, Horikita’s character is burdened with 100 million yen worth of debt after her gambling father disappears. Chased out of her home by collectors, she is forced to sleep in places like internet cafes. However, she meets the president of a major company who offers to pay off the debt if she marries him, and she soon finds herself moving in with a rather eccentric family.
I don’t count myself among the legions of Horikita Maki fans. In fact, I’m watching this for her pretty boy co-stars. Among them, Kaname Jun, Okada Yoshinori, Mukai Osamu (Hi Raid!), Yamamoto Yusuke, and for my sister and probably other fans of the Koizora drama or Tenimyu, Seto Koji. This sort of looks like it’ll become a reverse harem drama, though her character’s supposed to be already married and there’s also an old man and a little boy in the pretty family. But when a drama promises me “eccentric,” I’m going to demand wacky hijinks.
BOSS: Amami stars as the new “boss” of a team of quirky detectives who are trying to fight a series of brutal crimes. Her character is intelligent and capable in her work. But even though she can understand the mentalities of the criminals she pursues, she has difficulty understanding men, leaving her unable to find what she really wants: a husband.
TAKARAZUKA LOVE, REPRESENT. Okay, so though I know of more than one ex-Takarazuka actress who continues to work in television, I only really follow the exploits of the gorgeous Maya Miki. Amami Yuuki, however, was also a former Takarasienne, a former otokoyaku, and a former top star before Maya Miki came along, and so it seems only right to give her due credit and a chance to appreciate her as well. Also presumably members of her “quirky detective” squad, Toda Erika, Kichise Michiko, Nukumizu Youichi, and ex-sentai Tamayama Tetsuji, with Takenouchi Yutaka presumably being her love interest and Mizobata Junpei doing… something. He’s jailbait for her, isn’t he?
GHOST FRIENDS: Fukuda plays a high schooler who can see ghosts as a result of a car accident. The story follows her growth as she interacts with the spirits she meets, and even falls in love with a young male ghost named Kaito.
Because a) I still have an obligation to follow AAA’s exploits, in this case, Nishijima Takahiro‘s; b) there is Okada Yoshinori and I cannot get enough of his acting; c) Tomochika and Katase Nana promise fun times (and my sister will be glad to see Irie Jingi once more); d) I always was a sucker for supernatural short story manga, but they usually turn out well. Here’s a desperate hope that a drama will do the same. (Fun fact: The obligatory Johnny’s link here is Sakurai Sho, who’s starred with both Okada and Fukuda Saki before and dealt with Tomochika and Katase Nana indirectly through the projects of other members of Arashi.)
GODHAND Teru: The story revolves around a young man named Mahigashi Teru. When he was young, his father, a brilliant surgeon, died in an accident, but not before saving Teru’s life. As a result, Teru also aims to become a great surgeon like his father, devoted to never letting a patient die. As a clumsy newcomer at his hospital, he seems to be an unlikely savior. But whenever a patient’s life is in danger, his true powers emerge in the form of his “god hands,” allowing him to successfully perform even the most difficult operations.
Honestly? The manga this is based off of wasn’t all that great. As a medical drama, Iryu still surpasses (if outdated). However, if it’s anything like the manga, then it’ll be focused less on Japan’s medical community, and more on the growth of Teru (played by Hiraoka Yuta) as a surgeon. More importantly, though, Kaname Jun shows up.
HANCHOU: Focusing around the criminal division department of a fictional small police station in Harajuku, this drama doesn’t have any over the top criminals or special abilities. Rather, the team solves crimes by hard work and accumulated effort, even when they’re up against a wall. A realistic drama that shows the relationship of trust in a group of police officers with pride in their duties.
A “realistic” police drama with – surprise, surprise – Tsukaji Muga. Wow, he’s been doing loads as an actor. Also features Sasaki Kuranosuke in his second leading role after GIRAGIRA, and okay, that’s all I’ve got. This is what, Kiina without the mysteries?
Hyouryuu NET CAFE: The story revolves around salaryman Toki Koichi, who leads a trouble-free but unexciting life. One day he stops by an internet cafe, where he runs into his first love whom he never forgot. A sudden electrical failure traps him and the other customers in the cafe, which has become a strange universe of its own.
This doesn’t bode well. After all, Hyouryuu Classroom (The Drifting Classroom) is a horror manga and it can only be assumed the manga this drama is based off that. The biggest name is undeniably lead Ito Atsushi, who’s probably best known overseas as being the Densha Otoko – which I didn’t watch and don’t plan to, either. So why would I be interested in watching this? …I have no clue.
IKEmen Soba-ya Tantei: The plot revolves around Higuchi Juntaro, a good-looking employee at a soba restaurant (the “ikemen” in the title is a pun on the word “men,” meaning noodles). While working there, he is constantly asked to solve various cases.
With the pun in the title, and the emphasis on the soba, I’m expecting this to be a milder version of Kuitan. Perhaps not as food oriented, but the food had better be snuck into the mystery somehow. Stars Fujiki Naohito in his return to the drama world after nearly a year, with Namase Katsuhisa presumably playing the bumbling detective (his first role of the kind – detective, that is – since TRICK!) and Furuta Arata… well, I don’t know what role Furuta Arata will be. But he looks like the type to own a soba shop.
KonKATSU!: Nakai plays a single salaryman in his mid-thirties. He has focused himself on his work rather than finding a marriage partner, but the topic of marriage is constantly coming up around him. As a result, he begins thinking about his own life and begins looking for a potential wife.
Nakai Masahiro of SMAP is finally starring in a drama again after so long. 4 years (5 if you don’t want to count the sequel) is quite a bit of time, after all. He almost got one last year, but since he didn’t actually get it, it doesn’t count. So while this is a romance drama, what I’ll be looking for is to see if I can disassociate the Nakai of Utaban and various other variety shows from his character onscreen. Also faces you’ll probably know if you like the romance or Johnny’s dramas respectively – Ueto Aya, Shaku Yumiko, Tanihara Shosuke, Ryo, Tanaka Yoji, Fubuki Jun, and Sato Ryuta. (I’ll let you figure out where the divide is, though honestly at some point I’m sure there’s a 3 degrees of Johnny’s thing going on.) Also, KAT-TUN member Ueda Tatsuya finally gets a drama role, but let’s be honest, if you decide you’re watching this after reading my blog, it’s probably to see Nakai.
LOVE GAME: “LOVE GAME” revolves around a secret game in which the participants can win 100 million yen if they succeed at a love-related task. However, no one has ever succeeded in the game before. Shaku plays the beautiful but mysterious “dealer” of the game. The challenges she presents to the contestants, who are constantly monitored, include tasks such as “get your wife to sign divorce papers within 8 hours” and “steal your friend’s boyfriend within 3 days.
I’m sorry, did anyone read the title and the description and not think LIAR GAME? Shaku Yumiko is a gorgeous woman, yes, but now in my head she is an amalgamation of Kichise Michiko and LERONIRA from LIAR GAME and that’s a bit of a scary thought. The parallels to LIAR GAME (which has been mentioned more than the actual drama in question, sorry) is the most appealing thing I’ve found, right down to the countdown timer on the site (you can see it above), but if they make the individual stories – as each episode seems to contain its own task – interesting enough, I could stick around. Also, what’s with the creepy game-focused shows? (See The Quiz Show 2, below.)
Majo Saiban: In “Majo Saiban,” Ikuta plays a typical part-timer with little interest in social issues. However, he is unexpectedly chosen as a juror in the trial of a suspected female murderer. While the mystery surrounding the case unfolds, an unknown group is secretly attempting to bribe the jury.
As Japan faces the deadly threat of jury duty, Fuji TV capitalizes by having a jury drama. It’s genius! Now Japan will learn to dread jury duty as much as we do here in America! Okay, I kid, my one experience with jury duty was painfully boring and I never set foot in the courtroom outside of playing every Gyakuten Saiban game I could get my hands on, but the suspense in this is certainly alluring. If you’re like my sister and just watch for the eye candy, though, it stars Ikuta Toma, and has loads of pretty ladies and Suzuki Ryohei (who is not a lady, though still pretty) amongst the jurors.
Meitantei no Okite: The original writing is a short mystery collection that takes a humorous approach to many of the genre’s cliches. Matsuda stars as the “famous detective” Tenkaichi Daigoro, while Kashii Yu plays the female lead as a rookie cop.
Matsuda Shota? Check. Kashii Yu? Well, people probably care less about her and more about her marriage to Odagiri Joe, but… Check. Kimura Yuichi? (Who no one knows but will forever be immortalized in my mind for his on-the-spot gag in Fuji TV’s Winter 2008 Star Bowling special. Because I’m too lazy to hunt down a clip – basically Katori Shingo of SMAP claimed he’d get “star” power from the other SMAP members when Nakai offered him the star candy that supposedly helped Koyama Keiichiro and Ikuta Toma get strikes. So he calls upon “Kimura (Takuya)-kun” – and gets Kimura Yuichi instead.) Check. Mystery? Check. Parody? Check. Probability of this being horribly cliched without the humor? Check. Am I watching it anyways? Check.
Rinjou: “Rinjo” revolves around Kuraishi Yoshio, a legendary coroner with a keen eye for evidence. The term “rinjo” is said to be police slang for the initial investigation carried out at the scene of the crime.
On DramaWiki, this is classified as a police drama, which means I fully expect department interaction. Police is becoming the easy way to say “Mystery, but mystery’s getting a bit overdone so we’ll stick a police officer or three in there and call it police.” Also, after the disappointment of VOICE as a post-mortem mystery drama (though it made for a fine human-relations thing), I’m hoping I’ll get my fix of it here. Okay, that’s all I got. No one’s going to be watching this for the only name I can mention, Ibu Masato, right?
Shiroi Haru: The show’s theme is the love between a parent and child. Haruo is a man just released after a 10-year prison sentence. He encounters a young girl, who turns out to be his own daughter that he conceived with his ex-girlfriend just before he went to jail.
Recent Kohaku star (and the person who upturned Hagiwara Mai of some H!P group as the youngest Kohaku participant) Ohashi Nozomi plays the daughter, and Abe Hiroshi is the gruff prison daddy. This promises to be heartwarming. For watchers of Love Shuffle, Yoshitaka Yuriko is in here; also, Endo Yuuya, who I like out of nostalgia for the early days of Tenimyu. Also, I predict that I’ll be bored with this within the first episode, but I’m watching it anyways, so what do I know?
The Quiz Show 2: Sakurai plays the host of a live TV quiz program. On the show, contestants who achieve 7 correct answers win 10 million yen, and those who get 8 correct answers will have one of their wishes granted by the TV network. But while the questions start off innocently enough, as the game progresses, the questions gradually delve into the contestants’ past crimes or indiscretions, presenting them with the dilemma of having to confess their guilt in order to win. Sakurai’s character also has a mysterious past. Before becoming the show’s host, an accident had left him in a vegetative state for six years, which also resulted in him losing most of his memories.
To be honest, this is the one I’m looking forward to the most. The first series, something I can only sort of describe as a cross between Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? and LIAR GAME, was amazingly addictive and well done considering its late timeslot, shorter length, and possibly lower production values. Sakurai Sho and Yokoyama Yu will have hard jobs living up to the acting of Katagiri Jin and Totsugi Shigeyuki as the host and producer respectively… unless they change the menacing atmosphere into something more “suitable” for Johnny’s boys and Matsuura Aya. (It could happen. Despite retaining the same producers and a screenwriter, the directors have changed.) In which case I will be quite disappointed, and still follow just to see more Maya Miki hotness. Dammit, NTV.
Yako no Kaidan: Sayama Michio is a young and callous beautician who will stop at nothing to fulfill his ambition(s). Coming from an impoverished background, he suddenly becomes the darling of the beauty world. He holds women who desire beauty captive and puts on several different faces when dealing with Murase Minako, the female owner of the place that he works at; Hatano Masako, a woman of leisure; and Fukuchi Fujiko, an editor of a weekly magazine to come out tops. He also gets involved with two detectives who are investigating him for a prior incident.
Fujiki Naohito‘s running his hand at two serial dramas this season, though ironically enough in this one he wants to avoid the good detectives. As expected of a drama on a womanizer, several pretty faces of the older variety show up – readers of my blog will be most likely to recognize Kimura Yoshino and Muroi Shigeru, though.
It looks like Fuji TV’s knocking out a nice variety of dramas this season. In contrast, TBS, which gained a fairly avid following from me last year, pretty much went down the drain with their offerings this season. If you are wondering where SMILE is in all this, as it’s a Matsujun drama and all… well, I think the Matsujun part should have answered your question. (Also, I just don’t care for that sort of story.) I maintain that The Quiz Show will be the one I’m looking forward to, which would be good for NTV if I were in Japan, but unfortunately I’m not.
Last season I found myself severely disinterested in anime, but there may be some coming up on my plate this season, as I’ve found myself much more adaptable to the 30-minute timeslot compared to the hour that a drama takes up. Summaries from Anime News Network.
Hagane no Renkinjutsushi/Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood: After losing their mother, Alphonse and Edward Elric attempt to bring her back using the forbidden science of human alchemy. However, alchemy operates on the theory of equivalent trade, and breaking the human alchemy taboo carries a heavy price. Ed loses his leg, and Al loses his body. Ed is able to seal Al’s soul inside of a huge suit of armor, at the cost of his arm. Years later, Ed (now with two mechanical limbs) and Al (still trapped in the armor) leave their childhood home, each brother concerned with the other’s happiness. Ed, who has a natural talent and skill for alchemy, becomes nationally certified and is soon known everywhere as the “Fullmetal Alchemist.”
I’d just finished the first go-round of this series when my interest in anime as a whole had begun to wane, so part of this is the nostalgia factor. (It’s been over 4 years already? Wow.) That’s a bit hard when almost everyone has switched voice actors but the two heroes (Paku Romi as Ed and Kugimiya Rie as Al), but still doable as the anime also took a drastic turn from the manga near the end of its run and all the new ones are also veteran seiyuu. It’s a money-maker, so production values will also probably be high. Unless you hated the first round, there’s no way you can go wrong with this one.
Pandora Hearts: Oz Bezarius, heir to one of the duke houses, has just turned fifteen. His life is rich and carefree, darkened only by the constant absence of his father. At his coming-of-age ceremony, however, everything changes. For no reason that he can discern, he’s cast into the prison known as the “Abyss”, only to be saved by a “chain” known as Alice, the bloodstained black rabbit. The mystery there begins as Oz unravels the mystery behind Alice, the Abyss and the strange organization know as Pandora. The series features heavy references to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and can be considered both fantasy and mystery.
MINAGAWA JUNKO LEADS. Character designs look a bit stereotypical, and I sort of want to draw parallels to Kuroshitsuji, but because this is based off a manga, there should be plenty of story to draw from. None of this is quite as important as the fact that Minagawa Junko plays the hero. With this and the above – TBS, your crappy drama selection is forgiven.
Ristorante Paradiso: The manga’s story is set in a restaurant in Rome that the heroine Nicoletta visits from the countryside. Her parents divorced when she was young, so her grandparents raised her while her mother tried to remarry. Unfortunately for Nicoletta, her mother abandons her even after remarrying. Nicoletta goes to the restaurant that is now owned by the new husband of Nicoletta’s mother, and ends up apprenticing there among a kitchen staff of colorful characters.
In short: Bambi~no! the anime. Okay, I lie. (Especially as Bambi~no! was it’s own manga.) But I like food, I like slice of life, and colorful characters always make for an interesting time. (I speak from firsthand experience.) Again, this is based off a manga, and I am expecting things that may not happen because I didn’t read this one. Orikasa Fumiko plays the heroine, but her most memorable role for me has also been her debut role (Makino Ruki from Digimon Tamers) so expectations aren’t going anywhere on that count.
Which series this season (or starting this season, as the case is for HagaRen) are you eagerly awaiting?