Sadly, I’m STILL watching Winter season dramas. Talk about biting off more than you can chew! I think I started a total of 20 dramas from this season and finished around 12 so far. Of the 12, I can safely say these four easily bubble to the top of my list. Let’s get started.
Genre: Crime, Psychological, Supernatural
Episodes: 6, 55 min
Nakama Yukie as Maehata Shigeko
Kuroki Hitomi as Takahashi Harumi
Kaho as Inoue Seiko
Kobayashi Kaoru as Doisaki Hajime
Matsuda Miyuki as Doisaki Sakiko
Kaneko Nobuaki as Miwa Aiko
An incident is talked about all over Japan. The case involves the Doizaki couple that killed their 15-year-old daughter and hid her body under their house for 16 years. One day, housewife Toshiko Hagitani visits Shigeko Maehata who works for a small editing company. Toshiko tells Shigeko that her 12-year-old son Hitoshi might have a special ability to see other people’s memories. She pulls out a picture drawn by Hitoshi. The picture has a girl with a grey colored face lying in a house that has a bat shaped weather vane on its roof. The picture seems to depict the incident involving the Doizaki couple. Shigeko decides to do some research, but Hitoshi dies in a car accident. Meanwhile, the attorney for the Doizaki couple tells their second daughter Seiko that the couple has cut off all ties with her. Around that time, a female high student is confined.
This drama was a continuation (of sorts) of the drama special Mohouhan from the previous year. I can truthfully say that the changing of the lead actress to Nakama Yukie was actually a good thing. I thought her portrayal of Maehata Shigeko was a little more effective than Nakatani Miki, who I actually like. But back to the drama, one thing about WOWOW dramas is that you have to be totally prepared for a story line that will move you, shock you and leaving you thinking. This one definitely fit the bill.
What started out as a house fire that exposed a crime hidden for 16 years, evolved into a story of even more bizarre happenings that leave you stunned when you truly analyze the reasons behind what happened, the things that were still happening and the shock that no one seemed to care or notice what was going on right in front of them. Sadly, it takes a rather sharp and persistent journalist to bring the truth forward.
This drama is not for everyone. The subject matter is surrounded by murder, deviant behavior and some seriously sick and twisted individuals. I’m always amazed at the imagination of Japanese writers. Now more than ever, I can understand why so many of their dramas and movies get remade by other countries, especially by the U.S. The things they come up with tend to scare the bejesus out of me, have made me cautious, and definitely more aware of my surrounding. This was a short 6 episodes but the story is such that you are pulled into the end and cannot wait until all is revealed.
Genre: Comedy, Friendship, Life, Manga, Romance
Episodes: 10, 45 min
Yoshitaka Yuriko as Kamata Rinko
Eikura Nana as Yamakawa Kaori
Oshima Yuko as Torii Koyuki
Sakaguchi Kentaro as KEY
Suzuki Ryohei as Hasayaka Tetsuro
Tanaka Kei as Marui Yoshio
30-year-old Kamata Rinko is single and a struggling scriptwriter. She has no boyfriend and keeps having night outs at drinking spots with her girlfriends Kaori and Koyuki. “If I become beautiful, a better guy will appear!” “If we grow to like each other, we can get married!” They will not stop talking about these hypothetical questions. Then a younger, handsome, golden-haired guy suddenly utters, “These “what if” women!” and the trio have to face the harsh reality that they are no longer girls. Rinko enters her 30s while still immature, seeking happiness and struggling with romance and work.
What a great and very appropriate term “What if”! This drama had me going back to my youth remembering when I used to hang out with my girls and the conversations we used to have. It also brought back the stupid things that we or maybe I should say “some” women would do during the course of finding that certain someone. The wonderful thing about this drama is that it made me truly question some of the things that we do.
Kaori, first rejecting the love of her life because he wasn’t making enough money but when he returns into her life with the money, she forgets herself and her common sense and ignores the fact that he has a girlfriend; wait, he is actually living with said girlfriend! Many times I would ask her from my vantage point of my couch, whether she’d lost her ever-loving mind! I’m sure we have all had that good friend in our lives that we wanted to have that “heart to heart” talk with. So glad she came to her senses and everything worked out okay.
Koyuki was the friend that I wanted to really slap some sense into. Dating a married man that you know is married; wait, dating a married man who’s wife is pregnant with their second child is like a super nova of No-No’s in my book. What really hits you is the fact that she ignores single guys that are truly interesting in her! She had me shaking my head in frustration through most of the drama! Even her good friends couldn’t dissuade her from this path of love destruction! Again, glad she came to her senses in the end also.
Last but not least is Rinko. With two men, Tetsuro and KEY who liked her (one more willing to show it than the other), I will continue to remain on Team Tetsuro. Talk about the good man that got away. At least with Tetsuro, you were sure of his intentions and how much he cared for Rinko. Damn, in the end, the man cared enough to let her go. Contrast that with KEY that still hadn’t made up his mind and left us with an ending that we were required to use our imagination with. No, not so much Team KEY.
Overall, you cannot go wrong with a story about friendship. I love ensemble dramas where the focus isn’t just on one person and their relationship but on many so that the story is truly diverse. The length was perfect and I was never bored. And once again it was a Japanese drama to return me to watching a Rom-Com. I miss the good ones!!
Genre: Drama, Friendship, Music, Mystery, Romance
Episodes: 10, 45 min
Matsuda Ryuhei as Beppu Tsukasa
Mitsushima Hikari as Sebuki Suzume
Matsu Takako as Maki Maki
Takahashi Issei as Iemori Yutaka
Kudo Kankuro as Maki Mikio
Yoshioka Riho as Airsu Kisugi
Maki Maki, Sebuki Suzume, Beppu Tsukasa and Iemori Yutaka happen to meet and form a quartet. They even begin to live together in Karuizawa during the winter, but there is a big hidden secret. Maki, who has a negative personality and barely gives her opinions, plays the lead violin in the quartet. She has family and only goes to Karuizawa on the weekends for performances. Suzume, who is unemployed, plays the cello, while Yutaka plays the viola in the quartet. The leader of the quartet and the one providing his grandfather’s villa as a base for them is Tsukasa. He plays the second violin in the quartet and comes from a musical family. A man of many secrets, he also works at a donut company.
This drama was rather a surprise for me. Why? It was totally unexpected. The story was rather different than ones I’ve watched before. It had a mystery buried in the middle that just kept getting mysterious as each episode past. The quirkiness of the characters that made up the quartet, Doughnut Hole, could have easily been played for an additional 10 episodes. There was so much I wanted to learn about all of the characters.
I do like that the writer did give us a glimpse into each of the characters. Admittedly, the strangeness of both Suzume and Maki made the drama the most interesting. Maki, with the husband that mysteriously disappeared, the strange mother-in-law who was convinced that Maki had murdered her son and Suzume who unwillingly spied on Maki to learn what she can had her own strange story. The fellows, each with a crush on one of the girls remained side characters to the female but their inclusion in the story was necessary.
Though the drama is listed as having romance, it does not have any. This is truly about friendship and developing a camaraderie between people from all walks of life with a common love for music.
Speaking of music, the OST for this drama is sensational! The music choice as well as the feelings you get as you watch and listen to some of the great music composed in our lifetime. I’m not sure if the actors were actually playing the instruments but if they weren’t, it was the best fake playing you will ever see! I came for Mitsushima Hikari (Suzume) and learned to love all the actors.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Episodes: 9, 58 min
Ayase Haruka as Balsa
Itagaki Mizuki as Chagum
Suzuki Rio as Asura
Maki Yoko as Shihana
Emoto Akira as Sufaru
Fujioka Dean as Ihan
Extended cast list is here
Four years after her journey with Chagum ended, Balsa has become an outlaw. Concealing herself in the kingdom of Rota to the west of the New Yogo Empire, she continues to be a bodyguard. One day, Balsa saves a young girl Asura who has the ability to summon Taru Hamaya, the god of devastation. Spies of the royal family are mobilised in an attempt to eliminate her. Meanwhile, in the New Yogo Empire, Chagum who is now the crown prince, has set out on a sea voyage. The Trush Empire to the south is trying to invade the north and wages war against the seafaring kingdom of Sangal as a beachhead. Chagum leads reinforcements, but this is the emperor’s ploy to expel the crown prince. Sangal falls into the hands of the Trush Empire and Chagum ends up becoming a captive.
Once again I am convinced no one else could have played Balsa as effectively as Haruka. Having finally watched half of the anime, I can truly say this with confidence. The excitement of the first season continues into the second. With the introduction of Asura played wonderfully by Suzuki Rio, this was a great addition to the cast! As Asura, the young girl given the gift from her dying mother to summon Taru Hamaya, the god of devastation, she was scary good. I loved the flow of the story even more than the first. I also loved the new actor playing the now older Chagum on his quest to the south. Once again, your disgust on his father played well by Fujiwara Tatsuya, makes you feel even more sorrow for the life of Chagum.
Other characters that surprised me that pop up in this season were definitely Hayashi Kento as Shuga and most definitely Suzuki Ryohei as Hyugo. Ryohei must really do a full taiga or another historical drama because the stylists must love him! His mane of glory was worthy of the record books; plus his muscled physique just adds to your pleasure! Oh boy, my fandom is showing!
My excitement wouldn’t be complete without the introduction of DEAN as Ihan! What a treat! I failed to read the cast list for this season so his introduction came as a complete surprise! As the wannabe King, his character is one I look forward to being build upon in the next season. The introduction of so many new characters remains a plus of this dramas as they were well played by all.
As far as the action, it doesn’t get any better than this! The fight scenes and their choreography is impressive as you can see that all the actors worked hard with their sword work, wire work and physical fighting skills. Everyone impressed me! I hope to see even more in the next season as the fight intensifies. I wonder, will we have another time jump? I really liked the young actor, Itagaki Mizuki playing Chagum! We will see! Next season is due out in October, 2017 and I CANNOT WAIT!!
Other Dramas to Consider
Uso no Senso starring Tsuyoshi Kusanagi
Bakumatsu Gurume Bushimeshi! starring Seto Koji
Rental no Koi starring Gouriki Ayame
Shikaku Tantei Higurashi Tabito starring Matsuzaka Tori