Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu 逃げるは恥だが役に立つ (2016) – Dorama Review

Hi! I finished watching Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu (逃げるは恥だが役に立つ) a couple weeks ago (and it’s showing on TV Japan now) so I thought I’d write my thoughts about it.

First off, I enjoyed it quite a bit! It’s got a sort of “underdog guy gets the pretty girl” thing going on like Densha Otoko, but it’s a little more nuanced in that the woman, Mikuri, played by Aragaki Yui, has her own flaws. The plot is basically that the two main characters enter into a contract marriage out of convenience, but over time they develop feelings for each other. It’s a predictable story, with the inevitable break-up and reuniting, but it’s fun nonetheless.

There were some really funny off-the-wall parts, with parodies and references to other shows and celebrities. My favorite was when the couple were traveling by train to a ryokan and she does a mini-parody of a JR ad. It was pretty clever. Also, the supporting characters are funny and do a good job keeping the plot interesting. I think the final few episodes dragged on a little too much, but still, it wasn’t too long.

Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu also had a really popular theme song, sung by Hoshino Gen, who played one of the main characters. At the end of each episode, the cast dances to the song, and it became a mini-sensation in itself. Even the US Embassy in Tokyo did their own version! If you watched the 2016 Uta Gassen, you saw Hoshino Gen performing the song.

If you have the chance to watch Nigeru was Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu, I recommend it! Aragaki Yui and Hoshino Gen are great in it. It probably won’t win any awards, but it’s a fun show!

Cold Case コールドケース (2016) – Dorama Review

My second dorama to watch this year is Cold Case (コールドケース) which is the Japanese version of the US crime/detective show. It’s a 10-part series, centered around a group of detectives who take up unsolved cases from years ago. I enjoyed each episode because the plots were so varied, and there’s a ton of nostalgia too because some of the episodes flashback to the ’80s and ’90s and occasionally play pop songs from the era. なつかしい!. But, there’s also an episode in which the crime happened in the ’50s, and then an overarching story which takes place in the present. So there’s a ton of opportunity for the stories to go in many directions.

One of the things I really liked about コールドケース was the casting. Yoshida Yo (吉田羊) in the starring role did a great job, and the other detectives were strong and believable, each with their own mysterious pasts. None of them were explored deeply except for Yoshida’s character, but I’m hoping for another season so we can find out more!

If you like serious crime/detective shows, I highly recommend コールドケース. There’s no comedy or lighthearted moments, so if you are looking for hijinks you will be disappointed. But if you want good acting, believable characters, and a clever plot, give it a watch!

Lastly, check out the Instagram feed for the show to see photos of the cast which includes many guest actors. It’s fun to see them enjoying behind-the-scenes moments which is a huge contrast to the serious plots!

Squeamish

"Squeamish" Cedar Park, 2016
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/75 sec, ISO3200
“Squeamish” Cedar Park, 2016

こんばんは!How’s it going?

Tonight’s photo is of cowardly me covering the operating table in a scene of a Japanese drama I am watching. Season 2 of Doctor X shows a little bit more gross stuff, so I need to be even more vigilant! Love the show, but hate the blood. 😱

I hope you had a nice day! Especially wishing my Mom a Happy Birthday! 🎂

おやすみなさい!

– B Barron Fujimoto

Tantei no Tantei 探偵の探偵 (2015) – Dorama Review

Tantei no Tantei

I watched the 11-episode manga-based action/mystery dorama, Tantei no Tantei (探偵の探偵) last week and was impressed with how good it was. I usually decide after three or four episodes of a dorama if I like it enough to continue watching, but Tantei no Tantei had me hooked from the first episode.

To start, Kitagawa Keiko (北川景子), who is one of my favorite actresses, is in the starring role, so that is a huge plus, and the rest of the cast is also strong, especially Kawaguchi Haruna (川口春奈) and Iura Arata (井浦新). The dorama just needed a good story, and it delivered on that as well.

Very Cool
Sasaki Rena – Cool and Calculating

There will be some spoilers below, so before that, I’ll just say that Tantei no Tantei is a dark mystery, with a fair amount of action (and blood), several plot twists, and a satisfying ending. If that sounds like something you are interested in, find this dorama and give it a watch!

******** SPOILER ALERT **********

The story starts out with Sasaki Rena interviewing at a detective school. We learn that her younger sister, Sakura, was murdered a few years earlier, with the killer receiving the help of a crooked detective. Sasaki states that she doesn’t want to become a detective, but wants to learn about detectives, so she can track down the person who led the murderer to her sister. It’s basically a story about revenge.

A Rare Smile
Rena and Sakura. This might be the only time Sasaki smiles in the entire dorama.

Sasaki eventually joins Suma Research, a detective agency, as part of a newly-formed “Anti-Detective” department. Her job is to keep an eye on corrupt detectives and expose them, but while investigating these detectives, she’s also searching for clues to finding the “Death God”, which is the name she calls the detective who was involved in her sister’s murder.

Anti-Detectives
Anti-Detectives Minemori Kotoha and Sasaki Rena

I liked the fact that the episodes weren’t stand-alone mini-stories as so many doramas turn out to be. Each episode reveals more about each character, and the plot advances at a good pace. I liked the story so much that I binge-watched episodes 1-5 until 3 AM one morning!

Another thing I liked is that the story is gritty without being too gross. There’s a lot of fighting and plenty of blood in the story. At one point, one of the characters says, “Our detectives noticed that Sasaki Rena’s face has a lot of bruises on it.” Duh, that’s her face in like half the show! The make-up artists sure must have been busy.

Dirty Faces
Dirty Faces
Kidnapped
A semi-gruesome scene, where Sasaki rescues a kidnapping victim who is being held in a dark apartment surrounded my medical equipment. Yuck.

I also liked the fact that characters actually get killed in the show, and not just the criminals. One of the main characters, a police officer named Yuma, gets stabbed three times in the stomach, and dies in Sasaki’s arms. I was like whoa, no way! Unexpected! It seemed like that character was on track to become Sasaki’s love-interest, which would have been way too convenient for the plot, so his death was definitely a shocker. But then a minute later, we find out that Yuma is in the hospital, fighting for his life, and I thought how typical that was… none of the good guys die. In the next scene Sasaki sneaks into the hospital to check on Yuma’s condition and we find out he actually did die. Learning this, I was pleasantly surprised! (That sounds bad, doesn’t it?) What I mean is that it set a dark precedent that no character was immune to harm.

Unexpected Death
Unexpected Death

There were a few things I didn’t care for in Tantei no Tantei. For instance, there was a pivotal scene in episode 7 in which a police helicopter is hovering over a huge fight involving 20 or so people. It seemed like the police on the ground took forever to appear. In general, the police seemed completely inept… I don’t think they did anything beneficial. Yuma was only one who did anything, and he got killed. Anyways, that particular scene could have been handled better. It was awkward and not very realistic. Perhaps the producers could have brought in a better director for that scene.


I also didn’t care too much for episode 10, in which we are introduced to several other detectives from rival agencies. These were played by popular actors, and it seemed like such a shift in the feel of the story. For the first 9 episodes, we followed the same set of dark characters operating in a serious and unforgiving world, and then boom, episode 10 changes the tone with a comedic, light hearted, ensemble cast. It felt so forced. Like the cast of a comedy dorama made a guest appearance in Tantei no Tantei. The serious tone was lost. These new characters were squarely in the “immune to harm” camp.

Ensemble
The ensemble cast at work

Thankfully, the story shifted back to the dark tone at the end of episode 10, where the elusive “Death God” is finally revealed, and the final episode (11) was devoted to the confrontation between Sasaki and her nemesis. It was a satisfying end to the story, and I hope there is a sequel. The directors kept the door open so that the story can pick up immediately, so there is a possibility! Truthfully though, I don’t think the ratings for the series was high enough to warrant a second season. But I’ll hold onto hope.

Death God
Death God

Anyways, I would recommend this dorama to any mystery fans out there. Well acted and good story! Well worth the time – 8 out of 10 stars.

Bonus photo – the cast having some fun:

Out of Character
Out of Character

Slow Saturday

"REI Marker" Austin, 2016
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4.5, 1/160 sec, ISO200
“REI Marker” Austin, 2016

こんばんは!How’s it going? Did you have a nice Saturday?

Mine was pretty slow and relaxing. I spent the morning downtown drinking coffee and catching up on some YouTube videos and blogs and just generally relaxing.

I also took several photos of random things, one of which is above. Outside the door of the downtown Austin REI, there is a marker in the sidewalk that notes the date and elevation. I thought it was pretty cool. Reminds me of the USGS markers at the National Parks, which I’m guessing was the intention.

This afternoon I finished watching the Japanese dorama “Ie Uru Onna” which stars my favorite Japanese actress, Kitagawa Keiko. I was a bit disappointed that the final episodes didn’t really develop her character further. She was pretty much the same person from the first episode all the way til the finale. And she never once smiled! 😞

800px-ieuru_onna

But I still enjoyed the dorama and laughed quite a bit. I’d give this one a 7 out of 10 rating.

Continuing on my Kitagawa viewing odyssey, I am now watching an older dorama called “Tantei no Tantei” or Detectives vs Detectives. I’ve only watched the first episode of this mystery/thriller but it’s riveting! So far so good as far as the story goes, but Kitagawa’s character is again quite serious and somber. Will she ever smile? We’ll see! 😆

528px-tantei_no_tantei_main

Anyways, let’s have a nice Sunday!

おやすみなさい!

– B Barron Fujimoto