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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.

MR BRAIN

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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.

Kimura T as hairdresser

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Just finished watching the 12 episode J-drama  “Beautiful Life” (TBS,2000) starring Kimura Takuya as Okishima Shuji, a 27-year old talented and popular hairdresser and  Tokiwa Takako as Machida Kyoko, a 27-year old physically handicapped wheelchair bound librarian with an incurable  disease.  Both met “on the road” under not so friendly circumstances in the beginning, but later the animosity gave way to a stormy love relationship.  This was the focus of the “love story”–the development of the relationship between a supposedly “normal” person in the character  of Shuji and a not normal (?) person in the character of Kyoko as they struggled with so many personal issues related to their “circumstances.”  Kyoko fell in love with Shuji because of Shuji’s being a person with a “barrier free” heart, a pun on a “barrier free” environment  where physically challenged people can move freely around.  Shuji was a guy who have never said the cliche “I will protect you”  to Kyoko; instead he said the unusual “We will face the challenge together” .  Neither did Shuji display any pity but rather had a unique way of  viewing Kyoko’s  physically challenged circunstances by saying “I wonder how the world looks like from a 100 cm height.”   Kyoko says she finds strength in Shuji; after all Shuji never gave up their relationship when he found out that Kyoko had a terminal illness; instead he even pursued her  (I thought I would hear the following line from Shuji when he learned that the Kyoko he loves will soon die:  “I would rather die having loved you even for a minute, than not having a chance to love you at all.”)

Takuya was very convincing as a  hairstylist (it was said that Takuya became a licensed hairstylist after that drama) but I really was so amazed at the last episode when he was shown for the first time putting on make-up for the dead Tokiwa.  Having seen Takuya play “macho” roles, I felt quite uneasy seeing  Takuya weild his cutting scissors through a woman’s hair; but all the more when he put make up on a woman  (in my country, the best hairstylists are mostly gays, you know….), but sasuga Takuya, he was able to get away with it.

The other actors were good as well.  I liked Kyoko’s brother, Masao (Watabe Atsuro)’s acting the best–he was cute as the bumbling and clumsy brother of the smart Kyoko.   Both Kimura and Tokiwa won Best Actor and Actress in the 24th Television Drama Awards, as well as  Atsuro and Mizuno Miki (role as Sachi, Kyoko’s best friend) for best supporting actor and actress.  In fact, according to drama-wiki, this drama holds the record for the most awards won from the television Drama Academy awards. Other awards went to: Best Newcomer: Nishikawa Takanori (satoru, the rival hairdresser); Screenwriter: Kitagawa Eriko; Best Director: Shono Jiro; Best Theme Song (Konya tsuki no mieru oka ni” by B’z) and Best Opening.

According to several drama database sites, as of March 2000, it was the second most watched drama ever in Japan with a 41.3 % rating with the no 1 drama being way back in 1983 with a 45.1% rating. I wouldn’t say this was my personal best drama starring Kimura Takuya  (I like Long vacation better and loved Takuya’s acting  in Pride and Miliion Stars Falling from the Sky).  However, I liked my learnings from the relationship bet the two characters–consider the feelings of both parties in a relationship (Kyoko would always say that she didn’t want Shuji to be disadvanatged with the relationship  so she would break their relationship without considering how Shuji feels ; that is Shuji on the other hand feels “disadvanatged” by not continuing the relationship with Kyoko).

Beautiful Life is the 12th J drama of Kimura Takuya that I have seen so far, and judging from the character that he played here and interviews I read about him, Shuji’s character seem to echo the real Takuya–straightforward, candid, rather than saying that he doesn’t really care about what people will say ; I may be wrong but he may be  a person who doesn’t get affected or mind what people thinks of him or his actions (although being in showbiz and being looked upon as an “idol” I don’t know how he practices this because he has a great responsibility as a “role model’ ).

Just as aside.  Kimura smoked a lot here and this reminded me of one side of Kimura that I do not appreciate–he IS a smoker in real life. I wish he would soon realize that smoking is not healthy not only for the smoker himself but to non-smokers as well.

Sleeping Forest (1998)

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This suspense thriller (Fuji, fall 1998) really kept me on my toes. I was a little disappointed when there was no romantic angle between Nakayama Miho and Kimura Takuya. This j drama is in the same genre as Takuya’s A Million Stars Falling from the Sky, one of my best Takuya dramas ever. In Sleeping, Takuya was younger and his acting was not as good though as in Million Stars, but both dramas cast him as being cold and mean in the beginning of the dramas. But there was more blood in Sleeping and the plot more mysterious. It was a whodunnit type of mystery…The ending is also not quite sad and not quite happy either,,,I had the hunch about who the murderer is but the plot misleads one into believing another guy did it. Also, this hallucinations about Hamazaki Kiichiro (Nakamori Toru)’s mother establishes the fact that he had some insane moments.

I like the profession of Takuya here as a stage lighting expert–really cool. I am not that hot over Takuya anymore and I do agree with some observations that he isn;t really that handsome but he does have expressive eyes and sexy lips. He is not tall either…

Thsi story pomders on whether people can just forget the past and just live on the present and the future. Hypnotic regressions, child abuse, illegitimate children, etc. The musical score is also great and adds toi the suspense and the thrill mood.

Found out the OSY is by Yoshimata Ryo, the same guy who composed the OST of A Million Stars.

Concerto_Kimutaku as a passionate architect

Concerto

 

It took me some three months to finish Concerto (Or Kyousookyoku 1998, TBS).  In November, I eagerly started watching Concerto after seeing that Miyazawa Rie is the love interest of Kimura Takuya here.  Also, the actor who I used not to like before_Tamura Masakazu_ also stars.  Kimura Takuya is Takakura Kakeru, a self-learned architect in his 20s struggled for four years to get the break he needed–that is, to build St Mary Church in Kamakura.  His idol who became his mentor,  Ebisawa Kousuke (played by Tamura) hired him after recognizing his extraordinary talent.  Both Kakeru and Ebisawa are in love with Hana, played by Miyazawa.  The two are involved in a love triangle against the backdrop of Kimura’s struggle to reach the top of his profession and Tamura’s enlightenment after falling from the apex position of his profession.  Both guys learn from each other and alternatingly giving up their love for Miyazawa because of their respect for each other.  Although  the story is interesting,  it couldn’t compete with my busy sked during the Christmas season and some family emergencies that kept me away from watching any dramas.  I thought Kimura was hot here, and I began to like Tamura’s character here, especially his stuttering. I didn’t quite like Miyazawa’s acting here –I thought she was a bit overgrown for her cutesy acting.  Didn’t find any real romantic moments here–no kissing scenes at all!  BTW, I’d like to note that the OST is basically Burt Bacharach’s music from the 70s like the theme “Alfie”.  I also heard “Walk on By”, “A HOuse is not a Home”, “April Fools” “I Say A Little Prayer.”  Anyway, I am so glad I have finished waching the drama.

Nada Sou Sou_Tears for You

I just finisheded watching a J movie shown in 2006, Nada Sou Sou.  It is a real tearjerker with a sad ending–the 25 year old stepbrother (Youtaro) of Kaoru (20 yrs) dies after wearing out his body trying to make a better life for his stepsister.  The setting is in Okinawa, and the background of Okinawan folk music is really beautiful.  He stopped going to school at 16 years and worked for realizing his dream of owing a restaurant.  At 21 years, he was able tor ealize his dream and thus asked his young sister to join him in Okinawa after she passed a good senior high.  However,on the eve of the blessing of the restaurant, Yotaru found out that he was swindled and that the property was never really sold by the rightful owner.  At the same time, he also broke up with his rich girlfriend upon realizing that the big gap in their backgrounds was not going to work out, especially so when the father of the girl had plans for the girlfriend to take over his hospital later.

Engine_Kimura as race car driver

I finished Engine (2005,Fuji TV) early this morning.  I had used a couple of tissues to wipe off tears watching the scene where Takuya had to drive the orphans to their new orphanages after his dad’s orphanage had to close down due to public pressure and high rent, among others.   Here, Takuya is a hot-tempered top race car driver, (Jiro Kanzaki, 32 years) who had just returned to Japan after being fired from his job in Europe.   He had been away for five years and have not communicated at all with his family.  His father, a former school teacher, heads”Kaze no Oka Home” which is like a halfway house cum orphanage.   His sister Chihiro, a divorcee, also works in that orphanage.  His father reluctantly takes Jiro back on the condition that he helps in the task of running the orphanage.  Jiro repairs a rundown coaster donated by the Catholic church and becomes the de facto driver of the orphanage.  There is a young teacher-counsellor who works in the orphanage (Tomomi sensei played by Koyuki) who “envies” Jiro for the rapport he has with the kids with his unorthodox and childish ways, in contrast to the theory based learnings of the rest of the staffs who work at the orphanage.  I always think that Takuya carries his role very well, and again, he fits the role of Jiro Kanzaki to a T.   He is also very good looking here, having a heavier build here.  His romantic interest here is Koyuki, but there is a dearth of romantic scenes here, save for a stolen kiss or rather peck on the lips towards the end when Jiro loses the Regullus cup that spells his retirement, aside from not accomplishing his goal to having funds to reopen the orphanage.   Koyuki is pretty but I am not so much for a Takuya-Koyuki screen partnership.  Furthermore, sasuga Nihon no dorama desu ga,  Jiro didn’t win, but his act alone inspired the others to work harder and to contribute in reopening the orphanage.  Engine isn’t your rah rah kind of movie compared to Pride, and I wasn’t as inspired by it as his character in CHANGE, but Jiro’s more childlike qualities has reminded me to get rid of all personas linked to an adult like behavior. I found Takuya cute whenever he relates with the other children of the orphanage at their level.

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.

teppei manpyou, why did you have to die?

Just finished watching Karei Naru Ichizoku (TBS, 2007) and ended up having puffy and reddish eyes from crying my heart out.  I had sensed a sad ending for the idealistic Teppei Manpyou, (Kimura Takuya) who at 36 years gave up his life in order to save the Manpyou family from further demoralization and destruction.  I cried because Teppei’s passion and ideal to pursue his dream of making Japan globally competitve through steel against all odds was very inspiring and I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t live to see it through.   His being able to defy all the odds was possible because of the support of his friends, family and staff whom he had valued and cherished and this I intended to emulate.  He actually didn’t give up his dream–he had thought that his death would pave the way for the others to pursue his dream, which did come true.  He gave up his life because he saw himself as the cause of  all his family’s dysfunctionality; that he would never really gain his father’s love despite all his achievements because of the deep seated hatred of his father for him for reasons not of his own doing.  “If I have not been born, then how would things have been?”, he asked.  However, in the end, we find that the hate relationship between Teppei and his father Daisuke should never have existed, that teh basis for the hatred an unintended mistake.  Daisuke thought that Teppei was not his true son and this was proven by Teppei’s blood type; only to find out from Teppei’s death certificate that Teppei;s bloodtype was erroneously listed as another because of the confusion during the war(?)  (wasn’t Teppei born in 1932?)which was the time the blood type was taken as I understood.

Again, Takuya Kimura gave an outstanding performance; in fact he won an award for his acting in this drama series.  Also, this drama was a TBS 50th anniversary special so it had this “cinematic” effect on it–spectacular scenes (love the snowstorm and snowcap mountain scenes and the view of the steel factory), cinematic music by Hattori Takayuki with the Philharmonic Orchestra and chorale.  I thought Daisuke (played by Kitaoji Kinya) gave out the most superb performance of a father that you would “love” to “hate.”  Again, Takuya had such expressive eyes here.  When he was mulling over what his father said about how he would  have been another person having an “ordinary” family had Teppei not been born, I thought his iris had a bluish grey tint and then later, “sparkling brown.” Just noticed Takuya was a little thin here but still retained his boyish charm.  Great drama, although a bit heavy for Takuya fans who are used to a Takuya doing “feel good” roles.  But then again, Takuya is such a verstile actor that one looks forward to him doing offbeat roles from time to time.

Got this synopsis from a website that sells DVD of this drama:

SYNOPSIS / Editorial Review about – Karei naru Ichizoku (The Wealthy Family)

With a big cast headlined by perennial favorite Kimura Takuya, TBS drama Karei naru Ichizoku, a.k.a. The Grand Tribe and The Family, has brought in equally big ratings. Set in the financial tumult of the 1970s, the sweeping TV series is based on Yamazaki Toyoko’s classic novel, which has previously been adapted for television and film. The story revolves around a wealthy and powerful family, and the inner conflicts, family secrets, and financial powerplay that tear them apart.Head of the family Manpyo Daisuke (Kitaoji Kinya) is a ruthless and powerful banker whose firm exercises great influence in the financial circle. Eldest son Teppei (Kimura Takuya) is the head of a steel firm, eldest daughter Sanae (Hasegawa Kyoko) is in the Ministry of Finance, second son Ginpei (Yamamoto Koji) works at his father’s bank, and youngest daughter Tsugiko (Aibu Saki) is a student. Along with Daisuke’s traditional wife (Harada Mieko) and scheming mistress (Suzuki Kyoka), the Manpyos form one of the most powerful families in Japan.