The winter j-drama season is usually pretty bare, but there was a surprising amount of dramas that piqued my interest this time around. I was pretty excited going into this season and though not everything is living up to my expectations, I think I’ll find something to watch.
Starring: Toma Ikuta, Oguri Shun, Ueno Juri
What it’s about: Fellow orphans Ryuuzaki Ikuo (Toma Ikuta) and Danno Tatsuya (Oguri Shun) lost their teacher Yuiko (Hirosue Ryoko) twenty years ago. Though she was murdered, the police decided to cover it up instead of investigate. To uncover the truth about their teacher’s death and seek revenge, Ryuuzaki becomes a detective, an ace in his department while Tatsuya becomes the head of a yakuza group.
Episodes watched: 2
Thoughts: I’m always a little wary when it comes to manga adaptations just because there’s a lot of stuff in manga that you just can’t or shouldn’t do in live-action, but Ouroboros seems to have transitioned well. I know fans are happy to see the reunion of real-life BFFs Oguri Shun and Toma Ikuta onscreen for the first time since Hana Kimi, though Ouroboros and Hana Kimi couldn’t be more different. The first episode wasn’t half bad for a set-up episode, though the case was forgettable for the most part, it gave a good idea of where our characters stand. The partnership between Hibino Mizuki (Ueno Juri) and Ryuuzaki is funny without being slapstick or cringy as Toma and Ueno have an easy chemistry and the show’s doing a good job of building their relationship with one another. I think Hibino would fade into the background if another actress was playing her since she isn’t doing much at this point besides suspecting Ryuuzaki and having daddy issues, but I’m sure she’ll become more involved later. At least Hibino isn’t annoying or hopelessly naive/borderline stupid like a lot of female cops tend to be.
Nothing against Toma, he’s doing a good job as the dorky-by-day-revenge-seeking-by-night Ryuuzaki, but Tatsuya is just a much more compelling character and Oguri’s pretty terrifying as the yakuza boss. Plus, I like the running gag about Tatsuya taking on a new character each week.
The cases are actually pretty well written, if a bit dry, as they tie in thematically with Ryuuzaki and Tatsuya’s quest for revenge and aren’t just filler or red herrings. I was rolling my eyes at the introduction of the Gintokei-gumi (gintokei translates to gold watch), but lame names aside, I’m actually pretty excited to see how this unfolds now that we know Ryuuzaki lost his memory and Hibino’s dad is involved. I’m crossing my fingers that the show doesn’t start pulling us in circles like a lot of revenge shows tend to do and manages to keep its momentum. Don’t fail me Ouroboros!
Starring: Mizukawa Asami, Nakatani Miki, Miura Shohei, Nanao
What it’s about: Kawahara Yuki (Mizukawa Asami) is an aspiring writer, but she’s had no luck in jump starting her career. She finally gets a chance to get her foot in the door when she lands a job as an assistant to the famous author Tono Risa (Nakatani Miki). Risa has struggled lately with writing, but she sees potential in Yuki and decides to “hone” her skills by passing off Yuki’s work as her own.
Episodes watched: 2
Thoughts: I gave Ghost Writer a shot because of writer Hashibe Atsuko. She’s mostly done human dramas like last year’s Boku no Ita Jikan, which was decent, but felt way too much like dramas she had written before, so I wanted to see if she could do something different with suspense. As much as I want to get to that opening scene where Yuki and Risa throw down in the rain, I’m not really feeling this one. I really like the look and feel of the show and the story’s there, but the execution is so stale that I’m not as invested as I could be.
In spite of all the extra baggage Risa’s given, from her ailing mother to her rebellious son, I have a hard time sympathizing with her. She’s under a lot of pressure with no one to offer a helping hand, so I should feel sorry for her, but she just comes off cold to me. Though I’m apathetic to Risa’s personal life, I find her much more engaging when she’s being calculative and manipulative. She reads Yuki easily and when she decides to keep Yuki around to help her flagging career, she knows just how to do it. The dinner scene in episode two was perfect and is giving me hope for the rest of the show.
It will be interesting to watch Yuki become the woman that looks down on Risa since she currently idolizes her. Yuki’s a little naive, but she’s far from stupid and she’s definitely not spineless. She confronts Risa when she thinks she’s published her work without her permission and breaks off her engagement once her fiance says she doesn’t have talent. There’s something brewing inside her, that’s for sure.
You have all the right ingredients Ghost Writer, you just need to pick up the pace a bit.
Mondai no Aru Restaurant
Starring: Maki Yoko, Usuda Asami, Nikaido Fumi, Masahiro Higashide, Sugimoto Tetta
What it’s about: After her friend Satsuki suffers sexual harassment and discrimination at her job, culminating in her resignation from the company, Tanaka Tamako (Maki Yoko) decides to get revenge by starting up a rival restaurant.
Thoughts: Sakamoto Yuji fan that I am, I couldn’t pass up on Mondai no Aru Restaurant, but the show’s rather…uneven, I guess. I appreciate a drama tackling the role of females in society and gender inequality, but Mondai no Aru Restaurant does it in such an over the top and extreme way that it’s hard to take it seriously. I’m really bothered by the male characters, who are all irritatingly misogynistic without an ounce of personality which makes them easy to hate, but not so interesting to watch. There’s only so many times you can watch these guys put down the the girls because of their gender before it becomes tiring.
With the men being so single-minded, it’s hard to imagine that opening a rival restaurant will change their minds and to be honest, I’m not that invested in seeing the women succeed. The thing is, the only person that was wronged by the company was Satsuki, who is no longer in the story and was only connected to two characters, Tamako and Morimura. The other characters are more or less dragged in on flimsy circumstances, so I don’t exactly have a burning desire to see them show the men what they’re capable of.
I know I sound really negative about Mondai no Aru Restaurant and all things considered, it’s not a terrible show, but I’ve come to expect more of Sakamoto and so far this one’s just rather flat. There isn’t even any zippy, fun dialogue to hook my interest and while it’s interesting to see Maki Yoko go for an image change and take on a bubbly character like Tamako, Tamako herself is not that engaging of a character. I did like episode two more than episode one with the focus on Morimura’s housewife character, but I’m still not sold on the main story line and it doesn’t look like there will be any shake-ups any time soon.