Remember when I said that I have LOADS of new ideas in my mind post-relocation from Livejournal to WordPress? Well, this is one of them! The idea is to invite blog recappers/reviewers whom I have had some interaction with before to write an article on ANYTHING that is related to dramas. I thought it would be fun to have a mixture of thinking and writing from different people and I was right!
The first person that I have on board for this project is Mila from Milady’s Stuff. Our story starts off quite accidentally – I mistook her for another blogger for the longest time ever because they have similar names! Fret not, because we now have each other’s identities figured out. HAHA. Anyway, I’m really excited to kick start this project with a fantastic article from Mila, on pre-2000 dramas!
Mila’s Rambling Thoughts
Hi guys ! You don’t know me –at least I don’t think you do… put down those night vision goggles now !– but my name is Mila –on the internet it is anyway-, I’m a french blogger -which is my way of saying « if my english gets awkward don’t resent me too much and if something I wrote sounds stupid, well, it probably is »– and I’ve been invited by thoughtsramble to write a few words for you –poor woman had no idea what she was getting into-. I happily grabbed the hand she extended to me and, being who I am, I went for the arm –and maybe a little bit of shoulder too-, of course. Which means this is not a short post 😛 Sorry ! … well not really though cause I bring you good dramas so really you’re welcome. And I’ve decided to write on…
Because we don’t talk about them much, do we ? Well not enough anyway. And some of them really are worth knowing so here I come, bringing some of my favourites to you. And yes to clarify : I’m not gonna talk about the best dramas, only about the dramas I enjoyed. Which means that the choices are restricted to what I’ve seen. Meaning, also, that this list is Japanese-dramas only cause I’ve never watched a pre-2000 Kdrama. Basically if you are a pre-2000 drama there is a good chance I watched you cause you star Kimura Takuya, one KinKi Kid, two KinKi Kids or Takenouchi Yutaka. All good reasons to watch anything by the way. Except Concerto. Cause there are no good reasons to watch Concerto. No one should watch Concerto : if Kimura Takuya –especially 1996-KimuTaku, had-just-starred-in-Long–Vacation-KimuTaku– could not make this drama at least watchable –we’re not talking « good » here, just « watchable » just not « fall asleep in the first half of ep1 »– then … then I choose to believe this drama does not exist and for what was in it, I’m not convinced it ever did anyway. The only other pre-2000 dramas I had trouble watching were Kamisama Mou Sukoshi Dake –this is one popular drama but the writing is very weak and exploitive– and the first adaptation of Itazura na Kiss but at least that one was infuriating, it was *something*. Anyway~ Let’s go back to the positive, I have lots of positive things to say about the 7 dramas I chose to write about today !
Little warning : being old dramas, the videos out there aren’t many and aren’t great quality wise. Sorry about that.
Let’s start with… well, let’s start with Long Vacation since the name already came up. Nowadays Kimura Takuya is not the ratings king he used to be but there was a time when he ruled TV-land and Long Vacation, the drama which really started his popularity, is a good example of that. Though to be fair, even if he was a huge draw for the audience and for me when I first watched the drama, I do think now that his co-actress is the real gem here. Not to say that Kimu’s bad, he does sell his character well and he’s got amazing chemistry with his leading lady, but Yamaguchi Tomoko is oozing charisma and energy. She’s funny, she’s willful, she’s also vulnerable and clever and sensitive and sexy. The character’s great and the actress is great too. And I now realize I haven’t even told you what the drama’s about ! Okay, so Long Vacation is the story of Senna and Minami –names you’ll always remember after watching it cause they spend a good amount of time screaming them at the end-. Senna’s a pianist and a good one too but he lacks the « feeling ». Now, Minami is ALL feeling. And one day –after one of the best drama intros ever– she just barges into his apartment because she was supposed to marry his roomate and well, the groom never showed up. Stuff happens and boom, Minami and Senna are living together now. It is not a very original story, you pretty much know where it’s going, especially now that we’ve seen this kind of story being done again and again. But it’s done right : the writing’s good, the characters are great, especially when together, the acting always feels very natural and the chemistry is off the charts. Did I mention also that Takenouchi Yutaka’s in it ? And that’s always a huge plus, if only because Takenouchi is good looking. And I mean REALLY good looking. But he’s also a charismatic actor playing an interesting character and you know, that doesn’t hurt. Mostly though, he looks SO GOOD and I’m shallow. Long Vacation is, like all other dramas on the list, a bit old now so the video quality isn’t great, the characters have a certain look, the directing and editing is not what audiences are mostly used to nowadays and I understand that, being so simple, this drama won’t be for everyone –cause nothing’s for everyone anyway– but… for me this is basically the quintessential Jdrama romcom. Also the opening is catchy as hell and I love it in all its cheesiness.
[thoughtsramble’s note: because I am a tech idiot, and this is a video from Youku, it seems like I can’t embed it directly into the post. Here’s the link instead!]
Another rom com starring, again, Kimura, would be Love Generation which aired the next year. And this time, he’s paired up with Matsu Takako who, interestingly enough, was his unrequited love in Long Vacation. So I guess this OTP got a second chance after all ! Which is good, cause they work together well. This time Kimura is Teppei, a guy who gets transferred in a new work environnement –a sales department– and has an attitude problem but gradually evolves while romancing his colleague Riko –Matsu Takako– while trying to forget about his old flame and now sister in law –coz you know, wouldn’t be fun if she was married to just any dude-. LOVE SQUARE STARTO. I’m not as fond of Love Generation as I am of Long Vacation. First of all, LoveGen cut KimuTaku’s hair and while I do agree that short hair becomes him, I rather liked his haircut in episode 1 and I’m the type of girl who gets overly attached to hair length. Secondly, Love Generation came after Long Vacation and I feel these two titles are too similar so I keep confusing the two and I think I’m entitled to resent LoveGen for that. But mostly, while Long Vacation and LoveGen both have great leads and amazing OTP chemistry, Long Vacation also had compelling second leads and more energy while LoveGen seems slower and falls short on the second leads department. Everything about the OTP is good -or at least most of it is- but when it comes to the love square, it just doesn’t work as well, it gets a bit tiring even. That said some scenes really stuck with me all these years and it’s always fun to see Kimura Takuya and the awesome actress that is Matsu Takako being all romanc-y. It’s not one of my favourite dramas ever but I definitely enjoyed it a lot and watched it all in one night based on the OTP chemistry alone –it is AMAZING-.
Let’s depart from Kimu-dramas for a while –we’ll come back to them though, don’t worry, I still have two under my belt here– and let’s talk about GTO. GTO or Great Teacher Onizuka is a manga adaptation and I can’t say it’s a perfect drama but there’s at least one very good reason why you should see it :
Come on, how asewome is that opening ? Yes it’s cheesy, the singing almost sounds like a parody but it’s so fun ! Also, don’t you want to see baby Oguri Shun ? Coz I know I always do. But back to the beginning for those of you who don’t know what GTO‘s about : Onizuka, our main character, is an incidently slightly perverted ex-delinquant who wants to be a teacher and somehow manages to enter a school and get his own class. His class, obviously, is full of troubled teenagers –their problems, though, compared to other dramas, aren’t too far fetched and that’s good– and he, of course, solves their problems one by one, earning their trust on the way. We’ve seen this a lot, especially in Japan, one of the most famous examples being of course Gokusen 1, Gokusen 2-but-it’s-just-1-again, Gokusen 3-who-cares and Gokusen the movie-OMG-stop-doing-these-already. Recently there’s also been a new GTO live adaptation and though I’ve not watched it myself, I’ve heard it’s quite okay so… good for it ! This version of GTO is one of the first dramas I’ve seen and while it’s really not perfect –the lead character can make me cringe sometimes-, its inner cheesiness and less-than-subtle approach but very good heart make it quite fun. I love Sorimachi Takashi in that role –even without orange hair– and the fact that Fujiki Naohito as well as young Oguri Shun and Kubokuza Yosuke are in it is a huge bonus. I like the students and the teachers, I’ve seen that drama a few times –at least some parts– and it always makes me smile. Do I think your life will be wasted if you don’t watch it ? No. Do I think you will absolutely fall over your head in love with it ? Not really. Do I believe Kim Woo Bin’s eyes are a gift to all humankind ? Yes but that’s not relevant here. And, finally, do I believe this drama might just be a fun thing to watch and get you to spend a nice evening or two? Yes, absolutely. So give it a shot, why not ?
But let’s say you’re not into fun things. I mean, you don’t have to like fun after all. Sure you’ll have no friends and will probably die alone but at least you’ll have stuff to watch as I also got some creepy and dark dramas for you –and who needs friends when you got dramas, right ? I know I don’t-. Wanna get stressed, then scared, then sad, then a little confused then sad again ? Come on, you know you do, and so here’s Sleeping Forest for you. Kimura Takuya –told you he’d be back– is mainly known for his good guy roles. He’s the hero, the cool, sometimes quirky, guy who smiles at the camera and makes it swoon. But sometimes he’s also the dude stalking the female lead. And we’re not talking « Kim Tan is a stalker, please swoon, this is not alarming at all», we’re not talking « rom com stalking » : Sleeping Forest is as much of a rom-com as Heirs is of a well-written drama –don’t care though, still got Woobie-. Sleeping Forest is DARK and in this one, Kimu’s not good news and not just because he wears a ugly hat. He’s bad news cause he’s following our lead around, claiming he knows everything about her –and it does seem like it– and she has no idea who he is. He’s menacing and Kimura does well. This is one very intriguing drama and though it does get a little slow at times, though it has some faults into which I can’t really get as this drama is so easily spoiled –let’s just say you shouldn’t expect too much from the ending-, it’s just strange and dark enough to keep the audience interested. Won’t pretend this is the greatest drama ever but if you’re into mysteries, dark undertones, tragedy and U2’s With or Without You, you might want to give this a watch.
Now you know what IS the greatest drama ever though ? Cause I do !
But that’s a secret.
So anyway, let’s keep swimming in dark muddy and, well, cold, waters, with Koori no Sekai, translating to Ice World. Koori no Sekai, starring Matsushima Nanako and previousy-stated-really-good-looking Takenouchi Yutaka, is both a romance and a thriller drama in which Eiki, a man working in insurance and Takeshi, a cop, both have to investigate the death of a woman and both end up wondering about Egi Toko, a woman who worked with the dead woman and whose boyfriends seem to have a tendency to die a lot. And gradually Eiki –Takenouchi Yutaka– starts to fall for Toko as we also get sucked in the woman’s aura. And then the end of episode 5 happens and there was no coming back from it, I was in love. There’s a melancholy to this show and though the directing was a little jarring at first –it’d been a long time since I’d watched an older drama, that’s why-, the drama had a mood to it which really sucked me in. The story is a little dark but it’s not too heavy either and we keep learning new things about the characters and especially the female lead who’s very intriguing. She’s mysterious and it’s unclear whether we should pity or fear her, trust or doubt her… but we’re always looking at her and it’s quite easy to see why Eiki’s so attracted to her. There’s a chance he might get burned but he –and we– has no way to know unless he does get closer and anyway, he’s trapped. The lead actress is really good and I like Takenouchi Yutaka in this drama cause apart from the previously heavily mentionned hotness –I’m a fangirl after all, whatcha gonna do, eh?-, he’s got charisma and, also, a look in his eyes that just… works. When he looks at Toko, there’s a tenderness to that look. He’s wondering about her, thinking he might have to be careful, he doesn’t know if she’s dangerous, but he never really seems to be scared or alarmed either. His eyes are kind. Other characters are interesting too, I did feel for most of them, especially Eiki’s kinda-girlfriend and again, episode 5 you guys. I can’t not recommend it to you : it was sexy, it was slightly dark, it was intriguing, it was great and I loved it.
Yet I have only watched it twice entirely. Which, you know, is cool and all, but it’s not a LOT. No, a drama I watched –again : entirely, not just a few scenes– a LOT would be Hong Gil Dong for example. I’ve at least seen this one 8 times and it’s quite a time investment when you think about it. Yet even that is NOTHING compared to how many times I’ve watched Bokura No Yuuki. I won’t tell you the number since I don’t want to scare you but we’re talking double digits here and the first one is lesser than « 5 », sure, but it’s also not « 1 ». Know what the worst part is ? I have no idea why this drama in particular. There is no other show I’ve watched as many times and yet I wouldn’t even consider putting this drama near a « best Jdramas » list. But I just really really really like it –also : it was my introduction to KinKi Kids, didn’t know them before, and I can’t not be thankful : I love me some Kinki~– and truth be told, I kinda want to be watching it right now. Seeing dear KinKi and little bably Matsujun sounds appealing. But I won’t indulge and will tell you what it’s about instead. The drama starts when the news announce that a certain town has been hit by a major earthquake. Our lead number 1, Yamato –Domoto Koichi– then decides to take his bike and go as he has a friend there and wants to know if he’s alright. On the road he encounters Takeru, lead number two –Domoto Tsuyoshi-, also on a bike and also heading there to volonteer to help. When they get to the town though, it seems very clear that the earthquake never happened. Instead the whole city is under military quarantine as it seems a mysterious virus inside killed all grown-ups, leaving only kids and teenagers alive. It’s an interesting idea though I never felt the explication given was a very convincing one. That said I never really cared, this was never why I got into the drama anyway. Mostly, I was in it for the characters. Oh and also the mood, the post-apocalyptic feel : it’s dirty, colourless and heavy, with those guitar riffs for a soundtrack. But mostly I love the characters. They’re just kids living this small end of the world. They’re alone, they’re scared, they feel abandonned and it’s making the best and worst of them come out as they try to cope. Our two leads are very appealing –though their looks aren’t… let’s just say that this was another time, another fashion era-, the bromance is great and I loved seeing them gradually taking charge, trying to help others and making the best of their situation. This drama can be pretty sad but it’s not humorless. Mostly it has this X factor I can’t quite put my finger on. This has to be one of my favourite Jdramas ever and for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you exactly why.
I can, however, tell you exactly why I like Gift. First of all, it stars long-time-no-see Kimura Takuya and … haven’t you missed him ? I know I have. We almost went one whole page without his name coming up and I got a little scared for a moment there. But all is well and Kimu is back with no clothes and no memory whatsoever. Well, at least his naked character is as, one day, he is found naked in the closet of an apartment by a lady looking for a guy who owes her money. As our naked lead has no memory of who he is and what he was doing there, naked –I keep reminding you of that because it keeps reminding me too and I like reminding myself of naked Kimu– , she hires him in the meantime to keep him close, hoping that one day he’ll remember where the money-guy went. So he starts his new job. And it’s not a naked job so there’s a bit of tragedy there but then the whacky opening starts and it makes me feel better.
What the job really entails is as follows : he has to deliver stuff. It can be anything. And he has to deliver it and take a polaroid picture of the receiver with the « thing » at the end, as proof. As you can imagine, some cases get weird. But weird is good, weird is fun. This drama is really entertaining to watch, it has a bit of mystery and some heart too while you get attached to our lead and the way he interacts with other characters. By the end you almost don’t want him to remember his past as you want him to keep working there forever. This drama is of an episodic kind : to each episode, its case. But most of those cases are interesting and you always get to see the opening, which is cool too. This is not an important drama but it’s a fun one and unless you’re one of those people who don’t like fun and are now looking for Sleeping Forest –there’s a Kimu for everyone, isn’t that beautiful guys ? :’) and they’re all hot !-, why not give this a try ? Sure there’s a chance you won’t like it –it is bizarre after all and we all have different taste– but you won’t know until you try so give it up for Tokyo Joe !
And I think I’m about done here. To throw some other titles around, I think the first seasons of Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbou –starring Domoto Tsuyoshi– are entertaining for those who like Japanese detective series ; With Love is a nice –albeit frustrating at times– cyber love story with old computers and a young Takenouchi Yutka ; I also really liked the bromantic Jinsei Wa Jojo Da starring –who else?– Kimura Takuya and Hamada Hasatoshi –who should have acted more, this dude’s good!– and I enjoyed Ao no Jidai, Psychometer Eiji etc etc … but I can’t keep you forever so let’s recap : what have we learned today ?
We have learned that I like Kimura Takuya a lot. And isn’t that great ? Don’t you feel like you’ve learned something important here ? No ? That’s okay, I take pride in the uselessness of everything I write. And in the meantime I want to thank thoughtsramble once again for offering me the space to write all this. It’s been a lot of fun guys ! Wishing you all a good week/evening/morning/year/whatever you want and signing off,
[thoughtsramble speaking here again: PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT FOR US IF YOU LIKE THIS!]