Rikokatsu リコカツ (2021) – Dorama Review

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO1000
“リコカツ” Cedar Park, 2021

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

Today I finished up watching the last episode of Rikokatsu リコカツ starring my favorite actress, Kitagawa Keiko 北川景子 as Saki. Co-starring with her is Nagayama Eita 永山瑛太 as her husband, Koichi. The premise of the story is that the couple meet by chance and marry quickly, and later decide that they have nothing in common and should divorce. Along with them, their parents are also divorcing, as well as Saki’s sister.

It’s a very lighthearted comedy, and Eita’s comedic acting is hilarious. I was laughing out loud several times watching this dorama because of him. Besides the humor, there were also a few times that tugged on the heart-strings which is something I always appreciate in a movie or dorama. 😭

I thought the story itself was just okay, and a bit repetitive and predictable. It’s a typical melodramatic Japanese dorama, so if you are in the mood for it (or a fan of one of the actors as I am) Rikokatsu is a decent choice.

One of the characters that I disliked greatly was Minazuki Ren, a novelist to whom Saki is assigned as editor. Minazuki’s behavior is infuriating, exhibiting sexual harassment, power harassment, and literal thievery. He’s a total asshole. I kept hoping he would get his lights punched out. I know this is not a serious dorama, but normalizing that kind of behavior (without any repercussions) is awful. Towards the end, we learn he had a difficult childhood and is struggling to become a better person, but the way he treats everyone just makes my blood boil.

Okay, back to the positives… the ending where Koichi bends a bit to make a compromise so that Saki can live her dream was pretty cool and well-done. The long-distance relationship and video calls were funny and during this pandemic time, everyone can relate. I enjoy anything Kitagawa Keiko is in, but in this dorama it was refreshing to watch her as a “normal” person. In Ie Uru Onna 家売るオンナ, her character is very one-dimensional, outwardly emotionless, and never smiled. After watching two seasons of that character, it was nice to see her acting as a person with a range of relatable emotions, and is not always dressed/made-up perfectly.

I give Rikokatsu a 7 out of 10.

p.s. Thank you to Citrine Subs for subbing Rikokatsu!

Children of the Sea – Movie Mini-Review

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO2000
“Children of the Sea” Austin, 2021

I saw Children of the Sea at the theater with my good friend, and I thought it was excellent! I wasn’t so sure about the character design at first, but the facial expressions quickly grew on me. The landscapes, clouds, and background art were amazing, and the word “Wow” was constantly running around my head.

The story itself was interesting, but I wasn’t a fan of the “2001: A Space Odyssey” moment, as my friend so accurately called it. Still, I liked all the characters. A very fun and beautiful film, well-worth watching, in my opinion.

What I also noted was that the soundtrack is fantastic. Joe Hisaishi captured the mood with a minimalistic orchestration perfectly. I loved it so much. Give the Spotify playlist a listen at the end of this post if you are curious!

I hope you get a chance to watch Children of the Sea, especially if you love the warm summer ocean breeze. 😊

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO2000
“Children of the Sea” Austin, 2021
Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO2000
“Children of the Sea” Austin, 2021

Millennium Actress / 千年女優 – Movie Mini-Review

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 27mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO1000
“Millennium Actress” Cedar Park, 2021

I was browsing Amazon Prime Movies and came across the Satoshi Kon movie Millennium Actress so I made some popcorn and settled in to watch it.

I enjoyed it a lot! The story was cool and imaginative, following the story of a veteran actress Chiyoko’s career, with flashbacks to different genres of movies in various historical settings. The scene where Chiyoko appears as a scientist/doctor in a kaiju movie was one of my favorites, even though it only lasted a few seconds. But the transition between the genres was so cool. There was also a nice amount of action and fighting during the ninja-assassin scenes which was very well-done.

I’ve never thought that the character style in Satoshi Kon’s movies were to my liking, but I might finally be coming around. Some of the expressions in Millennium Actress were fantastic. Definitely a recommended anime to watch!

Minari / 미나리 (2020) – Movie Mini-Review

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO2000
“Watching Minari” Cedar Park, 2021

Last night we watched the film Minari / 미나리. I was really looking forward to this movie because of all the glowing reviews, and although I enjoyed it, I didn’t connect with it on the level that many others did, mainly because my childhood experience was much different than any of the characters in the movie. It also makes sense because there are probably many nuances in the film that only people of Korean descent would identify with (Korea is not part of my multi-ethnic background).

I thought the family dynamic was interesting and realistic – not over-the-top, but typical of a slice-of-life story, which I enjoy. My favorite character was grandma, and I would have liked to learn more about her story. The rest of the family seemed one-dimensional compared to her. It felt like her age and history shaped her character to a greater extent and there was a lot of mystery to her motivations, whereas the others’ motivations seemed straightforward.

In short, I thought Minari was a good, but unremarkable, movie. As always, YMMV.

My rating of Minari / 미나리 is 7.5 out of 10.

Shout out to the JACL for making tickets to Minari available to members!

Mulan: Rise of a Warrior 花木蘭 (2009) – Movie Review

Today I watched the 2009 film Mulan: Rise of a Warrior / 花木蘭 starring Zhao Wei. I read some good things about this telling of the Mulan story and I like Zhao Wei so I was really looking forward to it.

The story of Mulan is one that most of us are familiar with, but in this version, the plot focuses more on her time as a general in the army, and the romance between her and a fellow soldier who also rises to become a leader. I found this spin on the story somewhat interesting, but I felt they didn’t spend enough time developing the relationship, and kind of left it to the imagination. Lots of tears were shed on-screen, but that emotion didn’t quite connect with me. I often get teary-eyed when watching movies, but not for this one.

Of course, the tale of Mulan has to have a lot of fighting in it, and this movie has its share of battle scenes, however, I was a little disappointed in the quality of them. I guess I was expecting a more epic feel along the lines of Lord of the Rings or Avengers, but that was not to be. I’m sure the budget for Mulan was only a fraction of those blockbusters, so it’s understandable. The fighting here is pretty much all live-action actors and extras as far as I could tell and nothing special or memorable in the martial arts world. It makes sense though since the focus of the story is on Mulan’s emotional struggles rather than the physical battles.

The overall look of the movie is washed-out and gloomy (in contrast to the vibrant colors of the live-action Disney version) and not pretty to look at which is kind of a bummer, because I’ve seen movies where dark and depressing can look slick, polished, and amazing, such as in Shadow 影. I’m pretty sure a touch of CGI could have given Mulan: Rise of a Warrior that extra boost visually that it needed.

On the other hand, you could say the movie had an authentic, historical feel to it (although having a white character in the opening shot was an odd choice). Contributing to the authentic feel were the costumes and armor. I loved looking at them and although I am no expert, they felt accurate to the time… as if I were looking at the real armor from a museum. The colors were muted and not flashy at all. I didn’t once feel like this aspect of the movie was unrealistic. And the clothes that the characters wore in Mulan’s rural village at the beginning of the movie seemed authentic as well. It really establishes that this isn’t a fantasy world, but part of history, even if Mulan was most likely a fictional character.

If you want to watch a wartime romance movie, Mulan: Rise of a Warrior might just be for you. Just don’t expect anything super-epic, which is a shame since the story of Mulan I think deserves that kind of scope. Still, it’s a good re-telling of the story and worth a watch.

My rating of Mulan: Rise of a Warrior is 7 out of 10.