Spring 2014 Part 3: Fixers, Detectives, and Old Loves

Gokuako Ganbo River's EdgeSecond to last love

I was a little (ok, a lot) overwhelmed by all the dramas that I was watching, so I had to pull back for a bit and take a breather, but I’m good now. After all, there is still so much to watch this season.

Gokuako Ganbo

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Starring: Ono Machiko, Shiina Kippei, Miura Shohei, Naka Riisa, Miura Tomokazu, Kobayashi Kaoru, Odagiri Joe

What it’s about: Driven into debt by her no-good boyfriend, Kanzaki Kaoru (Ono Machiko) doesn’t see a way out until she meets Kaneko Chiaki (Miura Tomokazu)of Koshimizu Consultants. The employees at Koshimizu call themselves “fixers,” but really they’re just guys trying to scam people out of their money. Tired of trying to live an honest life, Kaoru decides to join Koshimizu Consultants and work as a “fixer.”

Thoughts: 

Right now, Gokuako Ganbo is sitting at a watchable level. After the first episode, I was wondering if they were setting up Kaoru to become just like the guys at Koshimizu, but it’s clear by episode two that she’s not going down that path. Though Kaoru entered Koshimizu to survive, she’s determined to keep her morality, so her scams are aimed at helping the weak and punishing the powerful (insert eyeroll here), but thankfully, the cases aren’t so black and white, as episode three demonstrates.

Kaoru is a little too naïve, especially for the type of job she’s signed up for, but she’s not an idiot. As the underdog in the cut-throat world of “fixers,” you want to see her succeed and watching her try to figure out how to outsmart the other guys is entertaining, even if it doesn’t always work. We haven’t really gotten to know the other fixers yet, but Kaoru’s always at odds with Kaneko, who she calls Kinpachi (Blondie) behind his back. Kaneko scammed Kaoru in the first episode so he doesn’t think she’s up to the job, but since he’s the one who introduced her to Koshimizu, the boss (played by the wonderful Kobayashi Kaoru), forces him to take responsibility for her. Naturally, he’s doing everything he can to get rid of her, though it looks like he acknowledges she has some skill after the third episode. There’s also Fuyutsuki (Shiina Kippei), a former cop that helps out Kaoru if he can get some money out of it.

It’s not exactly a dog-eat-dog world since this is a comedy, but there are always enough stakes involved to keep things interesting.

River’s Edge Ookawabata Tanteisha

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Starring: Odagiri Joe, Ishibashi Renji, Koizumi Maya

What it’s about: Ookawabata Tanteisha is a small detective agency run by three people; the Director (Ishibashi Renji), a mysterious man, Muraki (Odagiri Joe), the main investigator that has prophetic dreams, and Megumi (Koizumi Maya), the pretty receptionist who cares more about her looks than the cases. Ookawabata Tanteisha will take on any case, no matter how ridiculous.

Thoughts: 

Somehow or another, Odagiri Joe is doing the impossible and taking on three dramas this season (Not that that’s a bad thing, you can never have enough Odagiri). He’s a journalist in Alice no Toge, an insanely dressed, crooked cop in Gokuako Ganbo, and in River’s Edge he’s a scruffy detective that can see the future. Well, sort of, the mechanics of that haven’t been explained yet.

Episodic storytelling is hard to pull off, but River’s Edge is doing a pretty good job at it. Dramas tend to try too hard to get the audience invested in the character of the week to the point that you can figure out when and where a writer wants you to feel moved or happy or whatever. River’s Edge doesn’t do that, so the stories don’t feel contrived. While I wouldn’t say these characters are necessarily layered or complex, at least they’re not cardboard stereotypes that you’ve seen a hundred times. It’s simple, but it makes for good story-telling since you feel like you’re watching real people instead of a drama.

I don’t have a really good feel for the characters yet since I’ve only seen two episodes, but I really like the interactions between the Director and Muraki. When they sit around  drinking and talking about their clients, with the Director imparting some type of wisdom to Muraki, it doesn’t feel forced or cheesy.

I am curious about Muraki’s prophetic dreams and if they’ll become more important in the series later. Right now, it’s a gimmick for the sake of a gimmick and since it’s not adding anything to the cases, I could do without it.

Overall, I’m enjoying the low-key vibe of River’s Edge.  It’s stylish, quirky, and who doesn’t like that addictive opening theme?

Zoku-Saigo Kara Nibanme no Koi 2 (Sequel-Second to Last Love 2)

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Starring: Koizumi Kyoko, Nakai Kiichi, Sakaguchi Kenji, Uchida Yuki, Kase Ryo

What it’s about: It’s been two years since we last saw Yoshino Chiaki (Koizumi Kyoko) and the Nagakura family, so quite a bit has changed. Chiaki is now the deputy chief at her TV station so she’s in charge of supervising her juniors. Meanwhile Nagakura Wahei (Nakai Kiichi) has failed to make Kamakura a World Heritage site so he’s forced to become the head of the Secretarial Division under the new mayor in addition to his current duties.

Thoughts: 

Most dramas don’t actually need a second season and Saigo Kara Nibanme no Koi is not an exception. The dynamic between Nakai Kiichi and Koizumi Kyoko is as great as it was the first time around and I like their individual stories (too-nice-for-his-own-good Wahei never ceases to be funny), but the subplots with Wahei’s family do feel like a retread through the first season. I’m just not all that invested in Shinpei and Tomomi’s relationship or Noriko’s family neglecting her. Mariko does have a slightly more interesting story line if her relationship with Chiaki’s ex-boyfriend is going where I think it’s going, but that’s because Mariko’s such an off-beat character.

Still, Saigo Kara Nibanme no Koi 2 is fun to watch just for the dialogue, which is just as sharp and fast as it was in the first season. It is a talent to write a ten-minute conversation about a wedding gift without boring your audience to death. Definitely worth a shot if you enjoyed the first season.

 

 

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