Winter 2014: Chocolate, Terminal Illness, Orphans, Murder, and Aliens

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I doubt I’ll be able to recap like I used to, at least for this season, so I tried to get in as many dramas as possible for my first impressions post. As you can tell from the title,  there’s a lot, and there might be a part two if I ever get the time, but I figured I might as well start with everything I wanted to watch and work my way down.

Shitsuren Chocolatier (Heartbroken Chocolatier)

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Starring: Matsumoto Jun, Ishihara Satomi, Mizobata Junpei, Mizukawa Asami, Sato Ryuta, Kato Shigeaki

What it’s about: Koyurugi Souta (Matsumoto Jun) has been hopelessly in love with the innocent looking, but devilish Takahashi Saeko (Ishihara Satomi) since high school. When he finally gets the chance to date her, she quickly dumps him for another guy and he finds out she was leading him along the entire time. Knowing how much she loves chocolate, he studies in Paris and returns as a famous chocolatier, hoping to win her heart.

Thoughts: 

Matsujun? Chocolate? FujiTV can’t possibly screw this up, right? While the show has it’s faults, I’m enjoying Shitsuren Chocolatier a lot more than I thought I would. It has a light tone because it’s originally a manga, but it’s not a fluffy rom-com where Saeko will realize the error of her ways and be won over by Souta’s earnest feelings. Souta isn’t an innocent, love-sick puppy being strung along by Saeko; while she does have the upper hand, he’s aware of her fickle nature and refuses to be duped by her again. It’s a push-pull between them as he’s using every trick he can to get her, but since she’s a more experienced player, when things start to go well between them, he’s afraid that he’s taking her bait and will be tossed to the side again.

Souta’s acceptance of the fact that Saeko will only hurt him isn’t surprising. Selfish and calculating, she knows just how to push Souta’s buttons so when he does get the best of her, I can’t help but cheer. She has her own storyline with her possessive and demanding (possibly abusive?) husband, so I do feel a little bit sorry for her, but that also seems to be the main reason she’s started pursuing Souta since of course he’s going to pay attention to her, so I still hate her.

As for the rest of the cast, they’re likeable, but not particularly interesting as their stories haven’t really been fleshed out yet. They’re all in one-sided loves too (go figure), so there’s enough moping to go around. I do like the interactions between Kaoruko and Saeko though, I need someone to take Saeko down a peg or two once in a while.

Also, can we get some more Takenaka Naoto? He is being totally underused.

Boku no Ita Jikan (The Hours of My Life)

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Starring: Miura Haruma, Tabe Mikako, Saito Takumi, Kazama Shunsuke

What it’s about: Sawada Takuto (Miura Haruma) is a college student having a rough time finding a job. Though he always seems cheerful and outgoing, Takuto’s parents only pay attention to his younger brother because he decided not to take over his family’s hospital. Because of this neglect, he avoids forging deep relationships with people and has never had any real goals in life. One day he discovers he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an incurable neurodegenerative disease, so he decides to make the most of what little time he has left.

Thoughts:

Despite its depressing premise (yes everyone, Miura Haruma is going to die by the time this drama ends, so prepare your tissues now), I find Boku no Ita Jikan is quite easy to watch as of episode three, but something’s keeping me from being completely hooked.

I’ve seen Hashibe Atsuko’s last two works (Freeter, Ie wo Kau and Osozaki no Himawari), so there’s nothing surprising about Boku no Ita Jikan, though it is more subtle than those two dramas. Hashibe isn’t a bad writer and she’s quite good when it comes to human dramas, but I do feel like she keeps writing the same story with slightly tweaked situations. That hasn’t kept me from enjoying the drama so far; it frankly addresses finding one’s place in society, family relationships, and I’m pleased that we actually get to watch a romantic relationship develop instead of merely hinting at it and only addressing it at the end like most j-dramas do, but it’s just so similar to Freeter and Osozaki in execution and tone that I can’t help but compare and it disengages me from the story. This will probably change in episode four since Takuto now knows he has ALS, so this conflict should take the story in a different direction.

If you haven’t seen a Hashibe drama before and you like human dramas, then you will enjoy Boku no Ita Jikan, but if you’re familiar with Hashibe or don’t want to see Miura Haruma die, then you might be a little bored as it has the same familiar tropes and style.

Ashita, Mama ga Inai  (Tomorrow, Mama won’t be here)

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Starring: Ashida Mana, Suzuki Rio, Miura Shohei, Mikami Hiroshi

What it’s about: Maki (Suzuki Rio), is placed into an orphanage after her mother is arrested. All the children at the orphanage go by nicknames instead of their given names; there’s Piami, a girl who’s good at piano, Bombi, a girl who comes from a poor family, and Post (Ashida Mana), the leader of the orphans and the only one brave enough to stand up to the caretaker nicknamed Maou (Mikami Hiroshi). Though all the kids at the orphanage hope to be adopted, Maki has hope that her mother will come back for her.

Thoughts: 

There is an insane amount of controversy around Ashita, Mama ga Inai, but if anything all the fuss is helping as ratings go up with each episode. It’s contrived and borderline crazy, and while I don’t expect realism from my dramas, Ashita is trying way too hard to wring tears from its audience. The caretaker is the fairy guy from Proposal Daisakusen and he walks with a cane and a scowl on his face, making the children cry for their meal. Because if you can’t cry, you won’t be adopted. *Sigh* Really? No wonder your nickname is Maou. Even if I overlook that, the woman who goes crazy while trying to adopt Post because her husband is cheating on her was way too over the top. I understand what they were trying to do, some people have ulterior motives when it comes to adopting kids, like the ramen family seemed to, but that was just ridiculous.

The only thing grounding this show is Ashida Mana and Suzuki Rio’s performances. I do think that Post is a little too adult (she’s only nine), but I still can’t help but marvel at how well Ashida plays Post, from her facial expressions to the little ticks like how she plays with her hair ties. Good is an understatement; most adult actors don’t have the range Ashida has. Suzuki Rio, in comparison, plays the more realistic Maki, who is naturally afraid of this new environment that she’s been thrust into and can’t understand the other children’s desire for new parents. Since Maki’s a kid, her naiveté about her situation is understandable, so when her mom makes it clear that she’s giving her up (for a man that she attacked, no less), it’s expected, but Suzuki plays the shock and sadness of that scene so well that you can’t help but feel bad for her.

I think I need another episode before I decide if I’m going to stick with this one. The bad is outweighing the good right now, but I want to know what’s going to happen to Maki, Post, and the other girls and when it’s not being heavy-handed, like with Maki’s separation from her mom, the show definitely hit the right notes. Besides, the show is cute sometimes (Jolipi!)

Lost Days

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Starring: Seto Koji, Treindl Reina, Ishibashi Anna, Kiriyama Renn, Kojima Fujiko

What it’s about: For their graduation, seven university students belonging to the same club go on a trip to the mountains. Though they are good friends, everyone has a secret they can’t tell the others. Yuta (Seto Koji) has a crush on Miki (Ishibashi Anna) and intends to confess to her, but Miki’s already dating Yuta’s flirtatious friend Natsu. The love lines become tangled and rising tensions lead to a murder.

Thoughts:

There isn’t a lot to Lost Days. So far, it looks like it will play out like a teen horror movie. I’ve only seen the first episode, but I don’t particularly care for any of the characters, especially the chatty kouhai. I am intrigued by Mana and her relationship with Wataru and of course, the eventual murder, but right now, not much to see her. Unless you like Seto Koji, this is a pass.

Nazo no Tenkousei (Mysterious Transfer Student)

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Starring: Hongo Kanata, Nakamura Aoi,Sakurai Minami

What it’s about: Adapted from the novel of the same name, Nazo no Tenkousei follows second-year high school students Iwata Koichi (Nakamura Aoi) and Kagawa Midori (Sakurai Minami). When walking home from school, they see a shooting star rising into the sky and the next day Midori sees a shining figure at school. Rumors of a ghost spread around school and that’s when a transfer student, Yamazawa Norio (Hongo Kanata) shows up. He lives next door with Koichi’s slightly unhinged neighbor and more strange things start happening.

Thoughts:

The first episode seems like the calm before the storm. There’s a very low key vibe as we slowly get to know our main characters and peek at their everyday lives, but then we have the mysterious shooting stars, the seemingly crazy old man next door, and the ghost at the school which hints that something is about to disrupt this peaceful existence. I like the slow and easy flow of this show so much that I’m worried about what will happen when Hongo Kanata’s character comes front and center. I’ve been striking out with sci-fi dramas, but I like it so far, so I’m crossing my fingers and toes that it doesn’t fall apart.

Overall, nothing’s really jumping out this season which is too bad because I had high hopes for most of these dramas. There’s still a few I plan to check out, but the drama season will probably be over by the time I get around to that.

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2 thoughts on “Winter 2014: Chocolate, Terminal Illness, Orphans, Murder, and Aliens”

  1. I also feel like Boku no Ita Jikan is missing something that Osozaki had. Something about Osozaki made me instantly want to watch it. Boku no Ita Jikan, not so much.

    I wasn’t expecting anything from Lost Days so I avoided it. I think there are way too many dramas with stories about past classmates’ dark secrets. T_T”

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    1. Boku no Ita Jikan is definitely missing something, but maybe when I catch up it will be better.

      “I think there are way too many dramas with stories about past classmates’ dark secrets. T_T” This wouldn’t bother me so much if Lost Days was at least doing something interesting with it’s premise, but right now it’s very predictable.

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