Summer 2013: Aliens, Single Moms, and the Beach

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With Itazura na Kiss ending in a week (yeah, I don’t want to think about it either) it’s about time to start looking for a new j-drama to watch. Luckily the summer season has started and it’s looking better than last season.

Woman

Woman_ntv

Starring: Mitsushima Hikari, Tanaka Yuko, Oguri Shun, Kobayashi Kaoru, Tanimura Mitsuki, Fumi Nikaido

Woman was obviously my most anticipated drama this season with one of my favorite screenwriter Sakamoto Yuji reuniting with one of Japan’s best actresses Mitsushima Hikari and it did not disappoint. I was surprised at how quickly Oguri Shun was taken out, though he gets adequate screen time for a dead guy, and even more surprised by how he died, though something about the way Koharu describes his death makes me think that there’s more to it. The first episode managed to show Koharu (Mitsushima Hikari)’s struggle without feeling forced. Watching her start out as hopeful despite the loss of her husband and then lose faith as her problems continue to mount over a three-year time span made her breakdown at the end that much more powerful. There are so many great scenes, like when Riku’s stroller falls and Koharu begging the welfare agency guy for money before passing out. But I don’t think I was really hooked until Koharu finally meets with her mother. That moment when they’re fighting over the money is charged with so much tension despite having so little dialogue and no music that you can’t tear yourself away, you’re absolutely absorbed into the scene and all the emotions running in it.

I will admit that the first episode did feel a little heavy sometimes with all the crying and the feeling that things were not going to get better, so I can understand why the ratings aren’t so high, but I think it laid the foundation for the drama. I haven’t seen the second episode yet, but with all of Koharu’s single mom problems laid out in the first episode, I don’t think there will be as much focus on them. I trust Sakamoto and the drama’s supposed to focus more on the issues between Koharu and her mother, so I don’t think we’ll have as many heart-tugging, crying moments as this episode. Hats off to the kids, by the way, who are beyond adorable and manage to hold their own, especially Suzuki Rio, who plays Nozomi.

Starman~Kono Hoshi no Koi

Starman

Starring: Hirosue Ryoko, Fukushi Sota, Eiko Koike, KENCHI, Yamada Yuki

The premise of Starman sounds very strange on paper and like it drew a bit from the movie Overboard. Basically Hirosue Ryoko’s character, Sawako, is a single mom who was left by her husband. She finds a suicidal man, Hoshio, played by Fukushi Sota that loses his memory and decides to make him the father of her three sons. I thought it would be an over the top comedy, since Fukushi Sota is an alien (or is possessed by an alien? I don’t know, that scene where he got hit with a shooting star was really vague) there are young kids, and it takes place in a small town where secrets aren’t kept for long, but it’s actually pretty subdued. It lacks any over the top dramatics so it feels more like a slice-of-life drama so far, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. For once, I think this is a show that would benefit from a little bit of over the top antics because what’s a drama without any actual drama? It also feels like the show’s taking itself a little too seriously, though it has a ridiculous plot.

 I’m not entirely sold on the premise because though the show tries to justify it, it still doesn’t make any sense for her to bring in a man from God knows where and trick him into thinking he’s the father of her children. What kind of mother with young children think that’s a good idea? On top of that, Fukushi Sota hardly looks old enough to have kids that old, especially with a woman Sawako’s age, though the show sufficiently addresses that problem in the first episode. At least the show sort of acknowledges that this is a bad decision and even the oldest son is looking at his mother like she’s crazy. I think I might stick with it because the screenwriter did Saigo Kara Nibanme no Koi (Second to Last Love), which ended up being my favorite drama last year and with everything taking place in a small town there might be some hijinks when Hoshio’s alien powers start to kick in.

Summer Nude

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Starring: Yamashita Tomohisa, Karina, Toda Erika, Nagasawa Masami

I’m not even going to pretend that Yamapi is the main reason I’m watching this. Yes, he’s a terrible actor, but I like Yamapi and I tend to like his dramas, though the last few he’s done haven’t managed to hold my attention. Toda Erika is a factor too, since I want to see her in something good after watching her last drama bomb near the end. Thankfully, I like Summer Nude and so did Japan,  scoring almost 18% on it’s first episode. It’s surpisingly breezy and light,  despite the angst of our leads, so it’s perfect for summer.

There’s a good balance betweeen serious and cute moments between Yamapi and Karina, who go from bickering one moment to being understanding the next. Do they have a lot of chemistry? Maybe it’s too early to say, but the air’s hardly crackling between them, and I doubt that will change, but since this drama’s more about being able forget the past and move on, I can deal with a lukewarm romance. I do like that it’s not just Asahi and Natsuki that are stuck in stasis, but that many of the other characters, like Hanae and Hikaru, can’t move to the next stage of their lives.  No one’s really found their purpose yet or just can’t take that next step. Toda Erika’s character, Hanae, is a little too upfront and almost one-note because she really isn’t focused on anything but Asahi because she’s a rich girl without any worries, but she’s actully really likeable. I’m worried that she might fall into second lead bitch territory because she’s a little pushy when it comes to Asahi. I really hope not, since I like the friendship developing between her and Natsuki.

There are still a few other dramas I haven’t gotten around to watching yet like Gekiriyuu, LIMIT, and Hanzawa Naoki (though I’m not sure if anyone’s picked this up the last two yet), but so far the summer season is looking very promising.

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