Archives

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….

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

 

 

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.

MR BRAIN

400px-MR-BRAIN-banner

This is Takuya Kimura’s latest renzoku drama for 2009 (TBS, 2009).   It is very short–just eight episodes.  It is not really a renzoku drama in the real sense of the word since the episodes don’t have to be seen in chronological order.  There is not much continuity except for the transition from Ep 5-6 which stars Nakama Yukie.  Each episode has a famous guest star–from Gackt to Kazuya Kamenashi of Kat-Tun, Koyuki, etc.  Takuya plays Tsukumo Ryusuke, a former “hosto” turned neuroscientist after he experiences an accident which alters his brain.  Tsukumo’s kanji is the japanese kanji  for numbers “9-10-9”. He works at the IPS (Institute of Policy Science–Kakeiken) which researches criminal methods to advance investigation of crimes.   I started watching it in May after it premiered on May 28, Saturday, 7:40-8:40 Japan time.  It’s first episode garnered a 34% rating, which is rare for a Staurday drama. It is a comedy, mystery type of drama.  Tsukumo is a weird scientist who wears his pajama’s under his business suit and wears a blue denim lab gown in contrast to the regular white gown.   He looks at everyone close up and eats a lot of bananas for potassium which perks up and energizes people.  He also eats a lot of carbs for breakfast which he said is good for the brain.   HIs assistant is Ayase Haruka, a young pretty star who has a crush on him.  Another supporting actor is neophyte detective Hayashida (Rinda to Tsukumo) played by Mizoguzhi Hiroyuki.   Mr Brain is interesting; but I wish Takuya would take a break from playing non-conventional roles to go into the more romantic genre where he falls in love again.  His most recent dramas, that is Karei Naru Ichizoku in 2007, then Change in 2008 and then now Mr Brain doesn’t put him in a more romantic role unlike his earlier films.  I thought he may be choosing roles that would fit his age in his mid-30s.  However, these days, a lot of guys in their mid-30s just start dating and falling in love so it is not too old for him to be playing these roles.  I am really grateful to Giri Giri fansubs because theur subs facilitated my understanding of the drama, which is a little difficult to undertsand becasue of scientific terms related to neuroscience.  But the drama is very educational and advances new theories about brain behavior in neuroscince.  I also found the instructional anime inserts in the drama–so very cute Japanese.

CHANGE_Kimutaku as Prime Minister

It’s been a while since I wrote in this blog–the last was in September.  I had already watched HERO, the movie and series sometime October but have realized that I haven’t written a review on it.  But let me talk about “Change.” My friend had bought this original 2-DVD  set from a shop in Malaysia in October.  CHANGE is the most recent J-drama series of J-pop idol Kimura Takuya.  It premiered on Fuji TV on 12 May this year.  Here, he is Asakura Keita, 35 years old, a curly-haired (“Mojakura”) primary school teacher in Nagano Prefecture, who gets thrown after his politician father, together with his older brother, gets killed in a plane crash in Vietnam.  The father’s political party Seiyu-to, led by chief Kanbayashi-sensei, sends his secretary Miyami (Fukatsu Eri) to convince Asakura to try for the elections, which he won in his hometown in Fukuoka. His main appeal is his “non-traditional” politician stand and his sincerity to really create a better future for the citizens, especially the young people.  This endeared him to voters, especially women.  As part of Kanbayashi’s strategy to finally wrest the prime minister’s position at a later time, he maneuvers Asakura, through Miyama, to run for the prime minister position in the general elections, which he won.  Kanbayashi thought that since Asakura was a political neophyte, Asakura could be a “puppet” leader with a shadow Cabinet run by “real” leader Kanbayashi.  However, Asakura turns out to be a hardworking eager to learn prime minister who has his own mind and this creates some trouble for Kanbayashi’s political ambitions.  Asakura is assisted by Hiroshi Abe, his election strategist and Rosa Kato, his campaign assistant, who both moves in with him at his father’s home in Tokyo.  Miyama becomes his secreatry upon the suggestion of Kanbayashi  (Asakura decides against staying inthe official prime minister’s residence because he thought this too big for his comfort).  The highlight of the drama is when Asakura’s Cabinet is rocked by a political scandal that happened 18 years ago–a trading company Daidou had given money (bribes) to politicians, including his father and polticial ally, Onoda-sensei.  Of the politicians, eight are now sitting in Asakura’s Cabinet.  Note that the Cabinet was handpicked for him by Kanbayashi, who already had already plotted this political bomb from the very start.  As a nontrad politician, Asakura seemed to have no option but to take responsibility for his Cabinet’s “scandal” and to resign.  But just as he was about to announce his resignation at a Cabinet meeting, he lost consciousness as a result of stress related fatigue (karoshi), which the Diet doctor had already forewarned Miyama about.  When Asakura recovered, he made a live broadcast to apologize to the citizens for overlooking the fact that his Cabinet members were scandal-tainted and to announce his decision to resign.   (The speech was quite long and the English subs was not as good as the earlier parts).  But in an unexpected move that surprised even his allies, he dissolved parliament and called for a general election, which would give him an opportunity to run again.  Again, I thought Takuya performed superbly in this drama (his comeback drama on Fuji TV after three years since Engine). I just thought that he  really is very thin (he might have worked out in Pride since he had muscles there).  How I wish though that he had more romantic scene with his leading lady__I was expecting a kiss or two from him but the “closest” the pair had was when she accidentally leaned against Takuya after almost falling into the pool during a function sponsored by the French embassy.   Then there was that time when Takuya proposed to Miyama and she had accepted. He held her hand  and pulled her to his side.  My most favorite scene (usually where I am inspired the most and get some philosphical learnings) was the reply of  US TRade Sec Bigham who expressed his disappointment to Asakura about the Japanese response to the Structural Impediment talks  (the Japanese side had not agreed to the demand of the US party to increase their purchase of US agri products by 20?percent).  Bigham had barged in Asakura’s house without appointment on the latter’s day off  (Asakura was supposed to fall in line for his favorite Beverly Hills Donut). Asakura said:  When he was a teacher, in an effort to solve bullying in his class, he would talk to his students about the value of listening to the other side in order for the other to appreciate their individual differences and thereby understand  different responses and reactions and circumstances of people.  Bullying usually results when the bully wants the person to do what he wants and doesn’t understand why this person doesn’t act the same way that he does.  So Asakura asked US to understand Jap position which is to protect the interests of its own citizens, just as the US also wants to protect the interests of its own citizens.  Asakura also said that the talks are continuing so there would be time to thresh out the differences between the two and work out a more satisfactory solution.  BTW, the theme song “Miles Away” was sung by Madonna.  Also, I know the song “Yume with You” by Toshinobu Kubota was also for “Change” but I don’t think I heard it played in the drama.  Or am I wrong?  So  far, there are no announcements to any future project of Kimura, other than the most recently coccluded SMAP 2008 concert tour, which I was fortunate enough to watch live in Nagoya.

t-drama remakes vs original j-drama

I noticed that the Taiwanese dramas of the comedy/romance genre I like best are either based on Japanese mangas or usually adaptations of the original Japanese dramas (which are also based on a Japanese manga) shown ten or so years ago.   Are there differences, aside from the language, of the two versions?  Which one is better?

Generally, one noticeable difference is the length.  The Japanese versions will usually have about ten or so episodes while the Taiwanese ones will have around 15-20 episodes.  The t-drama versions would usually have several subplots and will try to stick as much as possible to the original storyline; the j-versions’ plot are usually centered on the main plot and would slightly have a “modified” storyline compared to the j-manga on which it was based.    Second difference is that the t-dramas would usually have an OST with a main title song and several pop songs which lyrics are related to the song.  These songs would usually be played in scenes where the actors are in a contemplating or reflective mode, scenes where the actors would usually be looking out the window or lying awake in bed while scenes are flashbacked. Thus a viewer would have to listen carefully to the lyrics of the songs to get an enhanced understanding of the scene.  The j-dramas OST are usually composed of one main title song and a so-called “insert”song .  The rest are background music and thus have no lyrics.  I noticed j-dramas have less or even zero reflection scenes of the t-drama mode but there are also flashbacks.  A third difference is the ending–for t-dramas, the endings are happy, boy and girl live happily ever after type of endings; in the j-dramas, one doesn’t directly see a straightforward ending where the girl and boy live happily ever after, although this is implied.  This leaves the viewer to expect a “drama special-SP” of two episodes to follow.  In the SPs, the “happily ever after” ending usually happens. 

Now, let’s see the four cases of the comedy/romance genre taiwanese and japanese dramas that I have watched and give my personal (subjective?) rating.

Hana KImi–I like the J-version better because I found the lead actress, Ella Chen, in the t-version not appealing.  Maki Horikita as Mizuki Ashiya was better (in fact, she won the Best Actress award in the 54th Television Awards in Japan).  Further, the j-version starred Oguri Shun (aka Hanazawa Rui of Hana yori dango fame) as Izumi Sano.  Oguri is one of my favorite actors, which explains the bias. 

The t-drama “It Started with a Kiss”(ISWAK)  vs j-drama “Itazura na Kisu”.  I like the t-drama version better.  It was funnier, acting was good although sometimes exaggerated, the actors had better chemisty esp Ariel Lin and Joe Chen, OST was excellent, the longer length allowed for development of the story, the ending really made me feel good.   The j-version, although made ten years earlier was also okay because acting was likewise good.  (BTW, the  lead actor is far more handsome than Joe Chen. ) Plot was short and really focused on the two lead charaters; absolutely no subplot. The lead actress’ acting was not as ” naturally cute” as Ariel Lin; she was really “trying hard” so her acting was exaggerated to the point of irritating. The title song cute for its time. 

“Sweet Relationship” (t-drama) vs. “Oishi Kankei” (j-drama).  Again, ST is a remake of OK which was shown in Japan ten years ago.  I like the t-drama version better because the lead actress, Patricia Hsu, was so convincing whenever she describes the food she eats.  Although I like Nakayama Miho (the lead actress in the -j version), it was Patricia that pulled it off better.  The J-version is more realistic though, but the t-version funnier.  Again, the length of the t-drama allowed for more development of the storyline, although the subplots were sometimes boring and tended to draw the focus away from the main plot.  I was a bit disappointed in the acting of Vic Zhou, one of my favorite t-actors.  His acting didn’t exude “authority” that his role asked for, in contrast to the Japanese actor who played the same role in the j-version.  (BTW, this actor looks better than Vic).  Vic looked  emaciated here and his facial expression was almost the same throughout (although he really looked  great when he smiled). Although both Vic and Patty looked good together, their chemistry was lacking  (maybe due to Vic’s “tired” acting).  But the ending of ST is better, as the j-version ended with the chef going to Paris with his girlfriend and leaving Nakayama Miho in Tokyo, with the promise that he will come back to Toko after two years to taste Miho’s cooking.  (I have a feeling there is an “SP” to provide the closure to the story, but have searched the internet endlessly for one but in vain).  Again, the t-version OST is good and I like Vic Zhu’s sweet relationship main song and Alan Kuo’s “Don’t say goodbye”. 

Meteor Garden (t-drama) vs. Hana Yori Dango (j-version).  Definitely, HYD lords it over MG.  Why?  I will save the comments for another day.

My Girl–Philippine version

    It’s been a while since I last wrote my thoughts about Asian drama.  So far, I’ve written about Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese dramas that I have seen, but not about Philippine dramas.  I have not seen any Philippine dramas because they have not interested me until “My Girl–Philippine version.” When I heard that the TV station ABS CBN made an adaptation of the Korean hit drama (and one of my all time favorites)-My Girl- I became curious and watched it.  I was hooked!  The lead Philippine stars (unknown to me until this drama) –Gerald Anderson playing the hotel executive Julian in the Philippine version  (that is, the role of Lee Dong Wook as Gong Chan in the Korean version) and Kim Chiu playing the “fake” cousin of Julian (that is, the role played by Lee Da-Hae as  Joo Yoo Rin in the Korean version) are great actors.  At first I thought that they were too young for the roles (Both are not yet in their 20s; they were winners in the Philippine version of Big Brother–first Teen edition  in 2006)  but they are so good they could get away with it.  And both Gerald and Kim are so cute together. 

I am so glad the Philippine version was able to adapt the drama to Philippine culture and situations.  Julian (Gong Chan in the Korean) belongs to an aristocratic Spanish family while Jasmine (Yoo Rin in the Korean) is a street smart Chinese-Filipino girl. Julian’s lost cousins parents were victims of landslide vis the Korean version where the parents were victims of the Kobe earthquake. 

 I thought the Philippine cast is far good looking than the Korean cast, but I prefer the Korean OST than the Philippine OST.  There are new songs composed solely for the Philippine version like “Sabihin Mo Na” (Tell Me Now) by Philippine singer Yeng Constantino.  Moreover, Philippine dramas are usually dragging, but this one is fast paced.  And just like their  Korean counterparts, the lead actors here are also “fashionistas.”

I don’t know how many episodes there are and until when I would be glued to the TV daily during weekdays; but I do look forward to being at home by 9pm so that I could watch my latest favorite drama.