Fujiki Naohito [藤木直人] He is the very embodiment of the word 'charming'. In Itoshi Kimi e, he substantiates his chivalrous looks with a stirring and vulnerable portrayal of a man who's about to go blind.
Ito Hideaki [伊藤英明] Everytime I see him in a drama, he always plays a character who is the polar opposite from the character in the drama I saw him last. Very versatile and can be surprisingly hilarious as he was in Bengoshi no Kuzu...who says handsome people aren't funny?
Kanno Miho [菅野美穂] She expresses innocence and naivety brilliantly with her wide-eyed, placid expression but don't be fooled, as she portrays vile and malevolent characters just as well. She's just wonderful and I enjoyed all of her performances that I've been able to see thus far.
Tokiwa Takako [常盤貴子] All hail the Queen! Time notwithstanding, she's the only Japanese actress who actually matters, in my opinion. I saw her in my first Japanese drama, Meguri Ai, and since then she's convinced me in her other roles that not only is she youthfully beautiful but her great acting chops can't be refuted. She always makes the best out of her characters and I commend her for that.
Toyokawa Etsushi [豊川悦司] My favourite actor who's highly-respected in Japan and whose portrayals in dramas and movies are always excellent and memorable. His merits lie in his superior acting ability, intensity, charisma and longevity. I especially love him in Aishiteiru to Itte Kure..he gave an awe-inspiring performance.
Mint's dramas (1)
Aishiteiru to Ittekure [愛していると言ってくれ] Rating: 10/10 (Bought & Watched) This is a true love story that can whisk your fluttering heart away. The ensembled cast is absolutely brilliant...my favourite drama of all time.
Mint's drama reviews (11)
Aishiteiru to Ittekure [愛していると言ってくれ] The transcendent genius of a love story [Rating: 10/10] This remarkable and melancholic love story stays resilient against the test of time still and is my favourite Japanese drama of all time. It's a gem that is teeming with romance, memorable scenes and powerful performances by 2 of the best actors of their generation, Toyokawa Etsushi and Tokiwa Takako.
Through the solitary world of silence of a deaf painter, a tender romance that transcends the language barrier kindles between him and a young budding actress, but the romance is bound to be inundated by self-inflicted insecurities, misunderstandings and a forgotten past that pose a threat to mar their relationship.
The use of sign language, which was beautifully depicted by Toyokawa, is always brimming with hopes to be reached and understood and because of that, there are countless amount of beautiful and moving scenes that are burnt in my mind, heralding the drama's reputation as being a true classic.
Hats off to Toyokawa for his mesmeric and wondrous performance of a deaf man; his hands move with such grace and precision, and Tokiwa Takako for truly immersing herself into her vulnerable and young character who's besotted with Toyokawa. These 2 elicit amazing chemistry from each other; their love scenes are so natural and romantic despite Toyokawa not uttering a single word, and when they gaze at each other, there's a look of love that is palpable in their eyes. Their scenes together can make me smile with giddiness, fume in frustration and bawl from sadness.
This is a wonderful drama that is highly recommended. I've watched this drama numerous times and I shed tears every single time.
Hotaru no Hikari [ホタルノヒカリ] A show with all the right charms [Rating: 8/10] This drama is such a treat! Throughout all the 10 episodes, it never fails to entertain, delivering tongue-in-cheek humor and adorable moments between the characters.
Ayase Haruka plays a rather simple-minded and clueless woman who has a messy alter-ego : himono-onna. She's so comical and likeable, and her character is very refreshing - she's flawed and she knows it, yet she's always at ease with herself eventhough her object of affection may not agree with her lifestyle. Fujiki Naohito is great, especially in funny scenes when he throws all these humorous, dispiriting remarks deadpan-style.
The platonic relationship between the leads - which is teeming with farcical bickering and heartfelt confessions - is such a joy to watch. The drama lacks any sort of affection, but the actors are more than capable to make their scenes work.
My only complaint is Koto Kazuki, who despite being a total eye-candy, is a very stiff and inept actor - but his performance doesn't decimate the awesomeness that is this show. Overall, I really enjoyed it and would totally recommend it to anyone who enjoys a light-hearted comedy.
Itoshi Kimie [愛し君へ] Tug at the heartstrings [Rating: 9/10] After watching this drama, I remember staring at a lush tree, thinking how beautiful it truly was. The power of sight can be overlooked in our daily lives, but this drama stirs me to think ponderously of hypothetical questions of 'what ifs?', and begin to appreciate life and its beauty much more.
The story embraces the progression and struggles of a famed photographer played by Fujiki Naohito who's about to go blind in 3 months, and the support he receives from an unlikely love interest. Fujiki incorporates his rather complex role a heart and frailty to a character that can be construed as delusional and headstrong, giving a great, breakthrough performance. In every episode, the story is beautifully enveloped with insightful and deliberative thoughts by Shiki, played perfectly by Kanno Miho, that adds a reflective depth to the story.
The development of the storyline is wonderfully-paced, with gorgeous sceneries and a solid supporting cast. The theme of family is prevalent in the drama, weaving it with both touching and funny moments. It's very much true that this drama is tears-inducing but it's not too maudlin and not contrived in being sentimental. The last scene will surely create a huge lump in your throat and poses a strong and lasting impact. Highly-recommended.
Kekkon Dekinai Otoko [結婚できない男] Quirkiness personified [Rating: 8/10] This is one the those character-driven shows that wouldn't have been half as good if it weren't for the actors. The drama's premise is pretty simple - the life of an eccentric 40-year-old man who willingly refuses to commit himself in human relationships and his everyday interactions with the other characters who are perpetually at odds with him.
Initially, the drama established itself in a forced manner - I thought the humor even fell flat. But as the show went on, I came to appreciate the subtle and sometimes acerbic derision that were spewed all over the show, and by the 7th episode when the characters were given more dimensions, the show really picked up and my interest was piqued.
The show was rather repetitive, perhaps to portray Kuwano's mundane, repetitious life and I thought the finale was rushed, but there's some wonderful acting here that made this whole thing work. Abe Hiroshi was so awkward that he was good and I can only shower praises to Yui Natsukawa - she just blew everyone out of the water. And hats off to Ken the inu, he's awesome.
This is a nice little show, highly entertaining with an ambiguous yet self-explanatory ending, but leaves something much to be desired.
Koibito yo [恋人よ] A love story of unconventionality [Rating: 7/10] To put it brusquely, this drama celebrates discreet extramarital affairs, betrayals and dishonesty between spouses. However, the execution of this seemingly poisonous plot isn't oversimplified and manages to portray the many facades of love and relationships.
I personally thought that the surreptitious relationship that so hastily bloomed between Suzuki Honami and Kishitani Goro was rushed and somewhat ludicrous. The sexual tension between them just didn't feel right at all. And after awhile, I was thinking about giving this drama a 5. But later, it was shown that despite the unfavorable circumstances, their love was actually the purest of them all.
The drama was redeemed by the great camera work and ultimately, the performances by the actors. Suzuki Honami shone, Sato Koichi was just plain awesome and Mizuno Miki stole the show in the last few episodes.
It took a lot of patience to go through this drama, especially when the characters were wreathing in their own faults, weaknesses and shortcomings. There were lots of times when I just wanted to knock some freaking sense into their heads. And certain moments were way over-the-top, cheesy and fell flat.
Despite that, when I look back at the drama as a whole, it really was quite an unconventional and poignant love story. The drama overall, with its idealistic tone, wouldn't have worked if it weren't for the seasoned actors who gave very solid performances.
Long vacation [ロングバケーション] Starts out with a crawl but sprints to the end [Rating: 8/10] It goes without saying that this particular one is perhaps the most hyped about Japanese drama there ever was, so it's rather difficult for me not to harbour very high expectations with unskeptical eyes.
Eriko Kitagawa's script seems to bring the characters alive, creating uncontrived dialogues that make it seem like the characters are real friends who are having real conversations. The infusion of pop-cultural references that were prevalent in the 90's is a great touch, and I love the opening theme.
Tomoko Yamaguchi did the best she could with her boisterous and annoying character and while I'm not really a fan of Takuya Kimura's, his insecure and timid character is rather endearing and perhaps many young guys now can still relate to his struggles and revelations.
I have to echo some reviewers here who stated that the drama is rather slow-paced and there are many times where I just went 'Why is the story going in circles?' or 'When is something exciting going to happen instead of just listening to their endless ramblings?'. There are also many random stuff happening in the drama that don't flow too well. The ending is indeed satisfying and memorable, but only for the leads, as the drama leaves out many unresolved loose ends for the supporting characters.
The drama is fun to watch however, with memorable and comical characters that drive this drama. Worth-watching but this humble viewer thinks it's very overrated.
Orange Days [オレンジデイズ] Been there, done that [Rating: 7/10] Orange Days seems to be riding along a formulaic plot, especially when writer Eriko Kitagawa appears to conjure this drama from a concoction of her previous known works, albeit her previous big hits. There are settings and situations in Orange Days that may seem too familiar and resemble the plots of Kitagawa's other dramas, that one can't help but think that perhaps this drama is a laconic summarization of Kitagawa's works to a newer audience. Or perhaps, Kitagawa has run out of fresh, enthralling ideas.
However, don't get me wrong as I did enjoy Orange Days. It does have its moments and the acting is commendable. Tsumabuki Satoshi is really good, giving an ingenuous performance that brings Kai alive. Narimiya Hiroki, Eita and Shiraishi Miho also excel. As for Kou Shibasaki...I find her character, Sae, excruciatingly exasperating from start to finish. Although I like Kou, her spoilt character is frustrating with meagre redeeming qualities. Sometimes I cheer when Kai yells at her. Kou's sign language is good but she frowns way too much.
What I like about this drama, is not the primal love story, but the strong friendships and life depicted in general. These are portrayed very well, giving this drama warmth and a heart. The characters are not stereotyped and we grow with them as the story progresses.
I just wish that Kitagawa had come up with something more original than recreating the run-of-the-mills plot with lines and scenes that have all been done before. For me, that's this drama's main demerit. Not the best I've seen, but worth checking out.
Over Time [オーバー・タイム] Could've been much better [Rating: 7/10] The overall idea of this story is perhaps to answer the arbitrary question of whether a grown man and a grown woman can be merely best friends. The exploration of friendships and relationships in this drama is pretty enjoyable to watch and at times even funny, but the excitement doesn't last for too long.
In the first few episodes, the character development is credible and thanks to the superfluous yet clever script, viewers are able to understand the characters and their idiosyncrasies at an individual range. However, the drama is later aggravated by the rather weak storyline that becomes more pronounced as the story moves on. It doesn't have a strong arc to follow but only to vacillate between the inconsequential subplots that are neither properly nor convincingly built. Somewhere in the middle of the drama, it just drags on and on endlessly with unnecessary scenes.
Takashi Sorimachi does not shine here, delivering an insipid, mundane and self-conscious performance which kills the drama for me. This may perhaps due to the character himself, who seems too confused and disingenuous with his own feelings between the 2 women in his life. His expression is too stoic that as the story progresses, I don't believe his confessions of love at all.
Esumi Makiko, however, is wonderful. She has her own style of acting which complements the character of Natsuki perfectly. The rest of the cast is great, especially Shiina Kippei. And the soundtrack is really good which lingers on ideally throughout the drama.
Although I'm disappointed and not too keen on Sorimachi's portrayal and the storyline, or lack thereof, I find the ending to be very strong and moving. Overall, this drama isn't as good as it could potentially be for me.
Tentai Kanzoku [天体観測] The tangled web of friendship [Rating: 8/10] The theme of friendship can be an overtly done theme in the realm of Japanese dramas but somehow this drama approaches it with a refreshing, mature and realistic take.
The main characters are bound by an astrological society that they joined in college, where deep friendships and love then bloomed. The story takes place a few years after graduation where the characters try to relive their carefree and insouciant youth in their busy lives. What's captivating are the backup stories of each of the characters that are somehow entangled to all of them and the rise of emotional upheavals that bring them closer than before.
The presentation of loss, failure, unrequited love, moving on and adulthood is handled with finesse and reflects a depth of reality wherein the world can be unfair and not everything is peaches and cream, which sets this drama apart from other syrupy ones. I love this drama for its unpredictable and realistic storyline that is solidified by engaging characters.
The cast did an amazing and insightful job in this underrated drama and should be given full credit.
Virgin Road [バージンロード] A long, winding road [Rating: 8/10] This is a grounded family drama that may hit an emotional chord. The characters that drive this drama are ordinary and flawed, yet, the imperfections of these well-rounded characters humanize this drama, adding a touch of realism especially when society is thrust with issues such as morality and the stigma of unwedded pregnancy.
Takeda Tetsuya gives one of the most excellent performances I've seen yet, immersing himself into the role of an old-fashioned and obstinate father with such ease and sincerity. Takashi Sorimachi also excels, he is so much better here than he will be in Over Time a couple of years later, which I saw him last. Wakui Emi initially seemed passive but as the story progresses, she shows that she can emote really well especially in dramatic scenes.
The plot is not only daring, but is filled with new plot twists in almost every episode that keep it refreshing. Even so, there is something lacking in this drama that doesn't make me want to watch an episode after another. There are parts that are too preachy and the characters tend to go off on an endless, emotional monologues which I don't really appreciate...only when Takeda does it, that it actually works. The drama also has some cheesy scenes that make me roll my eyes, and the ending is a bit too picture perfect.
However, this drama is very touching and satisfying. It makes me respect some of the actors in this drama a whole lot more for sure.
With love Quite a letdown [Rating: 6/10] In 1998, the world of internet-dating was pervasive enough to inspire this drama, and in this particular premise, the love story challenges the difference between the emotional and physical connections of a relationship.
I'm sure that many of those who watch this drama will stand up and take notice of the hair-flipping Yutaka Takenouchi, and yes while his obvious good-looks can somewhat pose a distraction to read the subtitles, he manages to bring conviction to the intense and jaded character who no longer believes in true love. However, he can be too monotonous at times. Tanaka Misato's character is demure and timid and I believe she is very charming in her role.
Where the story falls short, however, is the leisurely pace that seems too slow and draggy, and the gratuitous need to repeat a certain scene in the middle of the story to remind viewers of the events that happened 5 minutes ago every chance it gets, which gradually gets very frustrating. The plot twists are instigated by infuriating supporting characters that are not fully developed and too one-dimensional. And while the relationship build-up between Yutaka and Misato seems fine, it kicks in a little too late in the story that in the end, I question whether the love they supposedly have for each other, albeit on the emotional level, is present. The leads lack that little spark that could've changed my view otherwise.
What is most memorable for me, though, is the soundtrack that is beautifully intertwined between scenes. 'Destiny' and 'Once in a Blue Moon' are classics in their own right, thanks to this drama.