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They Kiss Again—-And Again and Again

They_Kiss_Again-poster

They Kiss Again (2007) is the sequel of It Started with a Kiss–the  2005 Taiwanese live action adaptation of the 1999 popular Japanese manga Itazura na Kiss by Kaoru Tada.  It stars Ariel Lin as Yuan Xiang Qin (袁湘琴) and Joe Cheng as Jiang Zhi Shu (江直樹).  This sequel starts with the honeymoon in Guam of couple Xiang Qin and Zhi Shu and ends with the anticipation of the pregnancy of Xiang Qin. It focuses on how the  young married couple weather the challenges in their lives while studying to become a nurse and a doctor.  Xiang Qin’s life is fully devoted to Zhi Shu, almost to the point of complete dependency on Zhi Zhu in the sense that she loses grip on her life everytime Zhi Zhu is away from her (here, Zhi Zhu goes on military service in remote Matsu Island for a year).  Zhi Zhu on the other hand, wants Xiang Qin to be independent to the point of not even answering her calls thus increasing the worries and fears  of the wife on the fate of her husband.   The drama shows a cold Zhi Zhu whose reaction to jealousy over a male nursing student, Yang Qing Tai, (played by Figaro Ceng, who I must say is a look alike of Japanese idol Kimura Takuya when he was in his 20s). was to completely ignore his miserable wife.  This was the part when I most hated Zhi Zhu when he was at the peak of his cruelty.   Not even Qiang Xin’s father could restrain himself when he hit his son-in-law to put some sense into his passive reaction or his “unhusbandly” behavior.  However, after this challenge was successfully overcome by the couple, the relationship between the two became more or less “stable.”  It was Ah Jin, former suitor of Xiang Qin (played by Jiro Wang), who made Zhi Zhu realize that what he was feeling for Xiang Qin was “jealousy” and since he didn’t understand the feeling or has never experienced such strong emotion in his whole boring and uninteresting life, he could not cope and thus the weird behavior unbecoming of an intelligent and mature husband.  As the drama progresses, Zhi Zhu develops  into a relatively kinder and more loving husband and professes his love for Xiang Qin more easily and more often.

Insterspersed with the story of Xiang Qin and Zhi Zhu are the love stories of Xiang Qin’s best friend Lin Chun Mei (played by Petty Yang) and her boyfriend, Ah Bu (Aaron Yan) , Ah Jin and  English exchange student Christine Robinson (Larisa Bakurova), and Zhi Zhu’s brother Yu Shu  and Lin Hao Mei.  Jiro Wang as Ah Jin was a bit overacting to the point of being  annoying.

As with the prequel, I like the OST.  My favorite songs were Ariel Lin’s NI (You), which was the ending theme and Joe Cheng’s Zhong Yu Yuan Wei (Loyal To The Original Taste).  The excellent music enhanced the mood of the drama.

An unexpected reaction of mine was crying at the sad ending when Xiang Qin learned about her incurable genetic condition and ran away while a frantic  Zhi Zhu looked desperately for her.  There was a scene  when  Zhi Zhu broke down  in frustration when he just missed Xiang Qin who visited the wall where he had first kissed Xiang Qin.

The last scene showed Zhi Zhu scraping the shit on Xiang Qin’s sneakers when she stepped on it  while videotaping  their walk to the OB-Gyne.   We are not sure if Xiang Qin is really pregnant or not but since it is Zhi Zhu who suspected it, being a doctor, he may be right  (if you will recall, there was a false alarm in the early episodes when a Xiang Qin had stomach ache). This kind of ending surely calls for a Part 3.  I am wishing….although it has been seven years since Part 2….

 

 

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Dong yi (2010)–A beautiful historical romance

Promotional poster for Dong Yi; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dong_Yi_(TV_series)

Promotional poster for Dong Yi; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dong_Yi_(TV_series)

After Jewel in the Palace sparked my interest in Korean dramas,  I was not disappointed in my next choice–Dong Yi, a Korean historical drama shown in 2010.  Dong-yi is about the love story between King Sukjong (Joseon dynasty) and Dong-yi (Choi Suk-bin) and tells it all in 60 episodes.

The drama  traces the life of Dong-yi,  an orphaned slave who found her way into the Royal palace Bureau of Music and because of her ability to solve court cases, becomes a  palace investigator.  She later became  a royal concubine with the  rank of Suk-bin, then bears a son who, under her tutelage, later becomes the 21st king of Joseon, Yoengjo, the father of Crown prince Sado and grandfather of Yi San.  Throughout her life, she has protected  the lowborn commoners.  Dong-yi met King Sukjong, who  introduced himself as a court judge and enjoyed his treatment as an ordinary person.

I enjoyed watching Dong-yi because its plot was made interesting through a combination of  romance, comedy, history, Korean culture and court life, suspense, intrigue, magic and even sword fights.  In this sense, it is similar to Jewel in the Palace.

Han Hyo-joo won a major best actress award as the optimistic and determined Dong-yi.  I loved the way Jin Ji hee  portrayed the character of King Sukjong–especially when Dong-yi treated him as an ordinary person and even stepped on his back to climb a wall during one of her investigations.  I think Jin Ji hee looks better with a beard and in period costumes.  I saw him in Perhaps Love but I think he looks more handsome in Jewel and in Dong Yi.

The theme song  is also very memorable -“Walking on a Dreamy Road” by Jang Na-ra.  It has a simple yet sad melody.

After Dong-yi, I have not yet found another interesting historical drama that I would like to watch.  A candidate is Jumong, said to be the most popular of all.  But when i watched the trailer, I sensed a heavy kind of drama.  Any recommendations?

 

Jewel in the Palace (2003): An insight into Korean culture and history

key_art_jewel_in_the_palace

Nine years after this worldwide hit Korean drama series  Jewel in the Palace  (Dae Jang Geum) was first shown in the Philippines in 2005 and was a phenomenal success among Filipinos, It is also a drama that my Korean intellectual friends know.  I finally watched the drama in July 2014.   I am not really a full-fledged drama addict; I do not like sad endings and tearjerkers and do not have the patience to watch dramas in installments.  I have a preference for light comedy-romance dramas that are usually between 10-20 episodes max, so I was hesitant to watch a 54-episode historical drama even when everybody was raving about it.  But after watching my first “serious” Korean historical drama, I was not disappointed.

Jewel in the Palace is a fictional drama based  on a  Korean historical figure  Seo Jang-geum  (played by Lee Young-ae)  during the reigns of King Seongjong (1457–1494), King Yeonsan (1494–1506) and King Jungjong(1506–1544).  It follows the story of Jang-geum,  an orphaned kitchen cook who went on to become the Joseon dynasty king’s first female royal physician. Min Jeong-ho (played by Ji Jin hee) is a goodlooking and intelligent  outstanding Korean scholar who became romantically involved with Jang geum.

Lee Young-ae’s portrayal of Jang-geum, marked by her warm smile despite all the challenges that came her way is very powerful.  The child actress who portrayed the little girl Jang geum was  really good; I liked the way she recited the memorized passages from the classics and the medicinal properties of herbs. Ji Jin-hee was really dashing and  one of the more good-looking Korean actors that I have encountered.

Jewel in the Palace sparked my interest in Korean historical dramas.   I thought Jewel in the Palace would be boring, but  this drama combined the elements of history, Korean culture (Korean royal court cuisine and traditional medicine), comedy, romance, tragedy, mystery and intrigue to make the plot interesting.   Moreover, Jang geum’s  perseverance  in a time when women’s status in society was low was truly inspiring.  The use of traditional Korean music in the theme song “Onara” also enhanced the drama.

Itazura na Kiss, Love in Tokyo 2013: The Best Naoki and Kotoko

I have seen all the live action adaptations of this popular Japanese manga series Itazura na Kiss (イタズラなKiss, Mischievous Kiss) written by Kaoru Tada  –the 1998 first  Japanese drama version, the 2005 Taiwanese -drama version  starring  Joe Cheng and Ariel Lin,  and the 2010 Korean version starring Jung So-min  and Kim Hyun-joong.  I like all the versions, although each  have their strong and weak points, but I will save that discussion for a future review.  For now, I would say that I  found this 2013 Japanese version–Itazura na Kiss, Love in Tokyo–  the most “refreshing” and “cutest” version of all, thanks to the good performances of the actors  who portrayed their roles well,  the cinematography and good editing.

When I learned of this latest version,  I viewed the trailer and postponed watching the  drama because I thought that the actor who portrayed Naoki Irie (Yuki Furukawa) was not my ideal of a “handsome” Naoki compared to all the lead actors who portrayed him in the past versions.  On the other hand, I found the actress, Honoka Miki,  who portrayed  Kotoko Aihara, as the “cutest” and closest to my ideal of the adorable and charming Kotoko.  The latter gave me the incentive to watch the series.  But after watching the initial episodes, I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Yuki Furukawa is so far the “perfect” Naoki–the reserved, unaffected, detached and bored, all-around genius who  at first rejects the love proposal of Kotoko because he “hates dumb girls” but later falls for her because of her perseverance and determination.  Yuki’s “handsomness” grows on you as you watch him through the series.  The confidence he exudes, very well shown when Naoki introduces himself to his father’s company’s prospective investor, strengthened by his very well modulated voice, his fluency in English, his  stolen glances at Kotoko, his relaxed gait–all these won me over.  Yuki Furukawa’s profile is proof that he may have  some similarities with Naoki –he is currently  a student of the prestigious and elite  Keio University’s Faculty of Science and Technology in Tokyo, speaks fluent English and Japanese, has lived in Canada and US and was on  the basketball team of his high school.  He has even  joined breakdance competitions.  His mature aura despite his boyish looks would probably stem from the fact that he is already in his late 20s (born 1987).  

The cute Honoka Miki, was  17 years old when she starred in the series,  about the age of a senior high school student, so I should say she comes closest to being the appropriate Kotoko in terms of age (and perhaps, the characteristics of a bubbly senior high?).  She has round wide and innocent eyes, and is really pretty by any standards.

With the lead stars perfect for their roles, the chemistry between Furukawa’s Naoki and Miki’s Kotoko is “enchanting”, despite the 10 year  age gap.  Even though the celebrated “kiss” is actually just a “peck”, I swooned and gasped everytime Naoki “kissed”  Kotoko.  The camera angles were done in such a  way to capture the “magic” of that “kiss.”

The rest of the cast who acted superbly  include  the father of Kotoko, Mr Aihara (Yoji Tanaka) and Kinchan Ikezawa (Yuki Yamada).

The cinematography was also fantastic, in particular the changing seasons that marked the passage of time and the third kiss rain scene–where the camera focuses on the  transparent umbrella that fell on the rain drenched pavement in slow motion  before the change in mood from a reserved Naoki to a jealous Naoki  who kissed Kotoko for the third time.  For a romance- comedy Japanese drama , this is about the longest I have encountered, that is 16 episodes, compared to the usual 10.

There is a Season 2 forthcoming in the last quarter of 2014, and I look forward to watching it.

 

 

 

Oda Nobunaga

oda nobunaga dramaThis is the second taiga drama of Kimura Takuya that I’ve seen.  The other one is Chuusingura.  Oda Nobunaga (TBS, 1998) is a two hour New Year Special of TBS.  Kimura does a good portrayal of the  young Oda Nobunaga, non-conformist heir of a feudal clan Oda in Japan, before he became one of the greatest shoguns in Japanese history.  The drama is not boring at all.  What caught my attention was the theme song which sounded just like an Eric Clapton music.

Secret Garden (2010) and the Resurrection of Hyun Bin

Secret_garden_korean_dramaI was so happy to see Hyun Bin’s dedimpled cheek again on Secret Garden, five years since I first saw him in Kim Sam Soon.  I thought he had gone  into hibernation because of his compulsory military training, only to find out he only went there after Secret Garden, which was shown from 13 November 2010-16 January 2011..  I watched Secret Garden because I  read that it is the best drama in 2011.  Although I wouldn’t say it is the best drama for me, I found the drama series very entertaining–it had both light and funny momentI watched Secret Garden because it was listed as the best Korean drama of 2011 (it showed from November 13, 2010 to 16 January 2011), having won several awards  for best drama and actor/actress. I was surprised to find that Hyun Bin is the lead actor, who played Kim Joo Woon, a 34 year old rich, arrogant and spoilt CEO of a huge department store and heir of a huge Korean conglomerate in property development. It was reported that his career was lackluster after Kim Sam Soon and was revived with Secret Garden). Kim Joo Won  falls in love with a poor stuntwoman, Gil Ra Im (played by Ha Ji Won), but does not know why because a woman without the “proper family background ” is not his type.  In the end, he finds admits that  Ra Im is an “amazing” woman who can ride a race car like a devil, kick the ass of sexual harrassers,  etc.  Of course, the rich and haughty mother of Kim is against the relationship. This K drama is very entertaining–it has light and funny moments, dramatic and crying moments, mysteries and intrigues, fantasy,and best of all, romance.  In fact, this is one K drama where there is quite a lot of touching and kissing scenes between the lead actors.  (In fact I read in Wikipedia that Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won are currently dating as of 2012). There were some dragging moments in the middle of the series, but there were also surprises and twists and turns around the switiching of the two lead actors.  Most of the funny moments were during these switching times when Kim Joo Won would be in the body of Ra Im.  But the saddest moment also had to do with switching.  Kim gave up his life for the unconsious Kim by sntaching the unconsioud Ra Im from her hospital bed so that they could switch bodies when the rain comes. Thus, Kim would be in the body of the unconsious Ra Im while Ra Im will find herself alive but in the body of Kim Joo Won.  In the end, the spell that led to switching was lifted by this courageous act of Kim giving up his life for the love of Ra Im.  The two end up married to each other and blessed with three kids but until the end of the drama, the relationship of the couple was not yet recognized by the very haughty mom of Kim.  In the end, it was also revealed that the two were destined to be together since Ra Im’s father was the one who dies while saving Kim Joo Won when he was trapped in an elevator during an accident when he was 21 years old.  He forgot the events during the accident and was made to believe that he had a car accident and claustrophobia so he did not ride elevators. A cute scene is the star struck Ra Im everytime she sees her idol Oska (Choi Joo Won, cousin of Kim, played by Yoon Sang Hyun) and calls her “oppa”  and wears Oska socks, which makes Kim jealous because Ra Im does not call him “oppa.” Funny moments include the scenes when the lead actors swiched so that they would find themselves in compromising situations like when Oska and switched Kim would be in the spa and swticed Kim-Ra Im would blush when he seen the private body parts of Oska.   Also, there are some angles where Yoon Sang Hyun looked like Japanese idol Kimura Takuya, for example, his expressive eyes etc). I think the weak pint of the movie is the lack of explanation for the reason for the switching and the end of the magical spell but these seems to have been glossed over since the drama is not realistic anyway.

2046 Kimura’s cameo role

2046

Just finished watching Wong Kar Wai’s 2046 (2004).  It has an all star Asian cast–Tony Leung, Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi, and Kimura Takuya, Faye Wong  and Maggie Cheung.  The story is set in the 1960s in Hong Kong, although the fim was actually shot in Shanghai.  A journalist and sci-fi writer, Chow Mo-wen (Tony Leung Chui-Wai), writes a novel about “2046” using the room number next to his hotel room as an apt title into the future–2046, that place in time where you can recapture lost memories and lost love.  Many people go there and never come back, except for one man, Tak, (Kimura Takuya) , who went to 2046 to look for his loved one, but failing to find her, returned from 2046. Along the time travel back to present, he falls in love with an android   attendant (Faye Wong)  and asks her to come back with him but receives no reply. At first, he thought the reason for such is the delay in android’s  reaction due to the long time journey but later, he realizes that the android never loved him; that she could be in love with someone else.  Incidentally, 2046 is also the number of the hotel room where  Chow Mo wen  made love to his one and only love Su Lizhen.  2046 is actually the continuing story of Chow’s unconsummated love.  Chow fell in love once with Su Lizhen, a married woman. (In the pre- and sequels, Days of Being Wild (1991) and In the Mood for Love (2006), the Chow-Su Lizhen romance is played up more). As a result of his frustrations, Chow has had  affairs with several women who occupied Rm 2046 in Oriental hotel,   including  Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi)  who desperately loved him.  Just when I thought Chow was falling in love with Bai Ling, when the latter asks if   they  start their relationship all over again  (“Why can’t it be like before?”) , if she could borrow him for just that last night before she leaves for Singapore,  Chow  said ” This is simply something that I will never lend.”  In fact, while he was nursing his sad fate over his lost love by gambling in casinos in Singapore, he was rescued by Black Spider (Gong Li) , a  woman also bearing Su Lizhen’s name.  Chow asked her to  come with him but Su declined.   Chow reflects ” I know why she declined.  In love there is no substitute and she knew.”  The scene ends with Chow going into his own 2046 and returning from there.

The movie was nominated in April 2004 for the Golden Palm Award at the 2004 Cannes film Festival. I was pleasantly surprised that I liked the movie, because it isn’t anything like the super productions that leaves one in awe.  Why do I like the movie?  Of course, Kimura. my idol  is there and though his role was short, he really exuded that “X factor” that really is so appealing on cam.  I thought he was a great actor here–I love the voice;  those expressive eyes; he had kissing scenes here though shadowed by dark lighting so couldn’t really gauge  if he was a good kisser here.  Kimura plays  a Japanese businessman who  falls in love with the eldest daughter, Wnag Jing wen (Faye Wong)  of Oriental Hotel’s owner. Wang Sun, where   he stayed while on a  businesstrip  in HK.  Wang had objected to her daughter falling in love with a “Japanese” and because of anguish over the forbidden love, had to be placed in a mental institution. Wang ji wen also moved into 2046 before Bai Ling.  Jing wen  helped Chow in writing the novel 2046 which he later changed to 2047. Chow also helped in the correspondence of the two by having the mails from Japan coursed through him.  There was a hint that he also fell in love with Jing-wen although   the love never prospered because he realizedd that the girl “never loved him at all.” Jing-wen later leaves for  Japan until we hear the hotel owner happily announcing that he was going to Japan to attend his daughter’s wedding.  The daughter had asked Chow to change the ending of 2047  to a happier one.

Zhang Ziyi was really very beautiful here and her acting received raved reviews.

But I felt sympathy for Chow and I thought the development (or nondevelopment) of  Chow’s character  was great–thanks to Wong Kar Wai’s great directing. Tony Leung isn’t as handsome as Kimura, but he sure knows how to act and superbly portrayed the playboy- yet- desperately- seeking -the- love- of- his- life Su Lizhen Chow.

BTW, in the first part, there was reference to a certain bar girl Lu-LU who fell in love with a “Chinese-Filipino” from a rich family but who died young so left Lulu broken hearted…

Wish a greater role for Takuya Kimura in another Wong Kai War film.