Winter 2015 Part 2: Rebellions and Shooting Stars

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Gakkou no Kaidan

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Starring: Kamiki Ryunnouske, Hirose Suzu, Namase Katsuhisa, Sugisaki Hana, Suga Kenta

Episodes watched: 4

What it’s about: Haruna Tsubame (Hirose Suzu) attends the elite high school Meiran Academy which is ruled by the Platinum 8, the richest students in the school. As a specially admitted student, Tsubame is among the lowest ranks and is pushed to become the class president so the Platinum 8 can do as they wish. Tsubame is against the Platinum 8’s rule, but is unable to do anything until she meets the mysterious Shizuoka Kei (Kamiki Ryunnouske).

Thoughts: What an odd little drama you are Gakkou no Kaidan. I went into this drama blind, so I was little thrown off by how similar it was to Hana Yori Dango, not just story-wise, but the overall styling and tone just screamed HanaDan. Gakkou no Kaidan eventually finds its own voice and settles into its story, but it’s not a very strong one. I like that heroine Tsubame isn’t a naturally strong lead and is dubbed as the biggest coward in the world, yet she still wants to lead the revolution to change the oppressive school system. She’s changed, albeit just a little, from the crying girl in the first episode that accepted her fate, to someone who isn’t afraid to take the initiative, even if it means embarrassing herself. While it’s great to see Tsubame change and grow for the better, her victories do ring a little hollow as her enemies are rather tame. The Platinum 8 have just about as much personality as a piece of cardboard, in spite of the show’s recent efforts to flesh out each member. The teachers are just as bad, since they’re usually bowing down to the Platinum 8 or are just self-serving villains of the week. *Yawn*

So why am I still watching? For the delightful insanity that is Shizuoka Kei. Kamiki gives a fun, manic performance as Tsubame’s mentor and while he doesn’t offer her words of encouragement (he’s putting her down more often than not), he knows how to lead her in the right direction and get her to open up. While it seemed Kei was interested in helping Tsubame change the school for the better, after watching episode four I’m starting to wonder if he would rather just see it burn to the ground. We already know that he was a student at Meiran Academy and while we haven’t been informed of what his school life was like, I imagine it was anything but rosy by the way he broods over his old uniform in his secret room. *Sigh* I guess I’ll have to keep watching to find out

Overall, I think Gakkou no Kaidan is a pretty average school drama that’s only watchable because of Kamiki. If eccentric characters aren’t your thing though, then this is one you can skip.

Ryuusei Wagon

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Starring: Nishijima Hidetoshi, Kagawa Teruyuki

What it’s about: Nagata Kazuo’s (Nishijima Hidetoshi) life is falling apart. He lost his job, his wife has left him, and his son has become a violent shut-in. At a loss of what to do, Kazuo is given the chance to start over when a father-son ghost pair approach him in a station wagon to help him fix his past mistakes. A younger version of Kazuo’s father Tadao (Kagawa Teruyuki) also travels with Kazuo, though the two have a contentious relationship in the present.

Episodes watched: 2

Thoughts:  Kagawa Teruyuki and Nishijima Hidetoshi have worked together before, first in Double Face, then in MOZU, and were cops in both, so it was a little odd at first to see them being father and son in Ryuusei Wagon, though I’ve gotten used to it now. What bothers me the most about Ryuusei Wagon is that there’s no clear cut narrative. Is it about Kazuo and Tadao rebuilding their relationship? Because so far that’s only consisted of Kazuo bemoaning about how his dad ruined his childhood only to realize that he was a good dad after all. Wash, rinse, repeat. I get that a lot of Kazuo’s current problems arise out of the fact that he’s trying not to turn out like his father, but Kazuo whines about the same thing again and again as if he forgot about what his dad did for him before. The show could at least try to impart a different message each episode.

Is it about Kazuo and Tadao going back to key points in his past to change his future a la Proposal Daisakusen? This was where I though the show was headed, but for some reason, Kazuo and Tadao’s actions not only have no bearing on the future, but appear to have never happened. The show is hinting that something else is going on, but I don’t see a point in going back to the past to fix something when our characters don’t suffer consequences and so far haven’t learned anything about what makes these moments important. For example, Kazuo’s wife is cheating on him, so his dad decides to storm the house where her boyfriend lives, but before we get to see what happens, they’re pulled back into the station wagon and just continue on their way. There was no confrontation, no fall out, nothing. What was the point?

There is one bright spot in Ryuusei Wagon though and that’s Kagawa Teruyuki. He’s hilarious as Chuu (Tadao’s nickname), tugging his pants up all the time, walking with his shoulders squared, and always getting into fights. He’s your typical gruff dad, always talking about how he has to do certain things to be seen as a man, drinking beer no matter what time of day it is, and never willing to appear weak. He makes Kazuo’s never ending whining at least somewhat bearable. He rushes into things and is ridiculously blunt, unlike his son, but at least he’s having fun with the time travel and doesn’t mope around like Kazuo.

Ryuusei Wagon has plenty of mysteries around it, like the secret of Kazuo’s wife and the ghostly father-son pair, but it hasn’t really bothered to flesh them out, instead circling the same issues again and again between Kazuo and Chuu. I have way too many dramas to watch, so I won’t keep up with this one, but I might come back to it after the season wraps.

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