|Ai no Uta [あいのうた]|
Underated drama [Rating: 10/10]
I really hate it when people rate a drama based not on story or acting, but on how they like the main characters' face, or how they want who to end up with whom! Grow up already! Kanno Miho gave one of her better performances in this drama, portraying a wide array of personalities and emotions that a lesser actress with only a pretty face would never be able to match: Not many pretty-faced actresses can go from being extremely cute to extremely annoying, from extremely comic to extremely sad, all in the same scene! And Tamaki Koji (who wrote and performed the theme song, is a talented singer and song writer and was an idol himself back in his Anzen Chitai days), while not a professional actor, gave a reasonable and honest performance as an ordinary loving father thrust into extraordinary circumstances. The supporting cast, including the 3 cute kids, are also very effective in their respective roles. The story itself is a poignant and moving drama about life, death, love, loneliness and happiness. I finished all 10 episodes in one sitting, that's how much I liked it.
P.S. about the silly comment that the relationship between Kanno's and Tamaki's characters as being "disgusting", how can their relationship be disgusting when it's so pure and unconditional? I think their relationship is more beautiful than most of the relationships between pretty-faced actors and actresses in other shows.
|Ai wo kudasai [愛をください]|
Another Award-winning performance by Kanno Miho! [Rating: 10/10]
I suppose not many people like this drama because of the generally depressing story and the initially unlikable (even nasty) character played by Kanno Miho. This is not one of those feel-good type of dramas that leave you all fuzzy and warm inside, but is instead a brutally honest character-driven drama about the almost unbearable fate suffered by its main character.
Kanno Miho again confirms her reputation as the Queen of Gloom and Doom (TM) by her award-winning performance (her performance in this show won her the best actress award in the Japanese Drama Academy Awards in 2000) as the lonely and vengeful Tohno Ririka, who was abandoned when she was a baby, grew up in an abusive orphanage, and ended up as a nursery school teacher plotting sweet revenge on the unloving world that abandoned her. But her road to revenge and self-destruction was obstructed by a seeming stranger who rescued her from suicide attempt and went on to support and encourage her through written correspondence...
While there aren't a lot of tear-jerking moments in this drama, it's nevertheless a moving statement about one unfortunate soul's journey through loneliness and despair, played to gloomy perfection by Kanno Miho. She even sang the very addictive theme song "Zoo"! Highly recommended!
|Beautiful life [ビューティフルライフ]|
Great drama in spite of Kimura Takuya... [Rating: 9/10]
I suppose I'm in the minority here because I'm not a big fan of Kimura Takuya. I must admit that he's cool and handsome-looking, but let's face it, he can't act! Well, he can act when the character is behaving like Kimura is in real life I guess, but that's about it. His range of acting is really really limited, which really detracts from those otherwise great shows that he's in. He is utterly unconvincing in any scene that demands deep emotions. It's a shame that most people still rate appearance much higher than acting abilities... sigh
|Iguana no musume [イグアナの娘]|
Very Touching Allegory about Self-Acceptance [Rating: 10/10]
While many viewers seem to view this show as a fairy tale, I tend to view it as an interesting allegory about self-acceptance. Like many of us, Rika (played brilliantly gloomily by Kanno Miho, only 18 at the time) sees something ugly when she looks into the mirror, and it took much courage and help from her friends and family to undo the damage done by her unloving mother, and for Rika to finally accept and love herself for who she is.
|Itoshi Kimie [愛し君へ]|
The Eyes The Eyes... [Rating: 10/10]
Another amazing and heartfelt performance by Kanno Miho, as a pediatric intern who fell in love with a photographer (played by Fujiki Naohito) who's destined to lose his eyesight in a few months. The ironic thing is that in real life Kanno Miho's eyesight is probably much worse than that of Fujiki Naohito, because Kanno Miho has serious myopia and has to wear contacts. I think this at least in part contributes to the very unique and mesmerizing stares and blinks that are the trademarks of Kanno Miho. Her eyes are so oddly expressive that they can almost tell a story by themselves ^^
|Koi ga shitai Koi ga shitai Koi ga shitai [恋がしたい恋がしたい]|
Rainbow Connection [Rating: 10/10]
7 main characters with names of the colors of the rainbow, and the intricate connections among themselves and those around them, weave together a perfectly tuned human symphony that hits all the right notes, at least for this reviewer. It takes real writing and acting talents to keep a story with such diverse characters both engaging and meaningful. This is a story about the universal need for human beings to connect with one another. There are numerous insightful quotes in the show that mature audiences with real life experiences in love and loss can readily identify with. This is the kind of show where it's not so important who ends up with whom, but that they make connections, and at the end of the show it makes you want to reconnect with your loved ones as well. Heartily recommended.
|Watashitachi no kyokasho [わたしたちの教科書]|
Intriguing drama about controversial subjects [Rating: 9/10]
While watching this show, I can't help but feel that the writer is trying to educate us the viewers about some of the unspoken ills that plague schools and society today. Perhaps that's why the title of the show is "Watashitachi no kyokasho".
This is not a feel-good school drama like GTO, nor is it a school comedy like Nobuta. Perhaps it's a bit similar to Jyoou no Kyoushitsu, in that both dramas try to educate the viewer about the education system, but the subject matter and the approach to it are rather different between the two shows. The main themes in this show include school bullying, student suicide, alienation between teachers and students, parental negligence and the fight for the often inconvenient truth. What's intriguing about this show is that it doesn't try to present simple truths to the viewers, but everything and everyone in the show seem to have a hidden side, so it's not easy to tell who's good or bad, and what's right or wrong. It serves to keep the viewer guessing and thus wanting to find out more about the show.
The cast is generally excellent, with the usual brilliant and abrasive acting by Kanno Miho as a combative lawyer and negligent but remorseful step-mother, Itoh Atsushi (Densha Otoko) as the awkward but honest new teacher, Shida Mirai as the ill-fated bullied student, and surprisingly captivating performance by Maki Yoko as the seemingly uptight veteran teacher.
At times, this show feels like a whodunit mystery, with constant surprising plot twists. This, on top of the excellent cast, will make sure that I'll keep watching until the end.
P.S. even though this show is about the Japanese school system and aimed at a Japanese audience, in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting incident and the fact that bullying seems to be one of the root causes, perhaps the subject matter here will be of relevance to the American audience as well...