|101 Kaime no Puropozu [101回目のプロポーズ]|
Cinderfella meets Princess Charming [Rating: 7/10]
A beautiful and classy cellist falls for a repulsive man whose only quality is to have a good heart (but so do poodles). When just about everyone around her urges her to marry him, the story goes as out of tune as a broken cello. But great camera work and photography, a nice cast and some funny moments save the day.
It means charming, and it means it [Rating: 8/10]
This slice-of-village-life viewed through the eyes of a 12 year-old boy navigates between low-grade slapstick and high comedy, cheap melodrama and heart-warming delight. But the good far outweighs the bad and delivers some truly magical moments. Michael Jackson's perfectly fitting "Ben" reminds us that he too was a cute kid once.
My Little Boring Chef [Rating: ?/10]
Couldn't figure out what this dorama was about. A storyless showcase of pretty faces? An 11 hour-long advertisement for confectionery? A chance for Mr. Children to unload half of their repertoire? Gave up after 3 eps and went to stuff myself at the local bakery for better entertainment.
|Atarashii Kaze [新しい風]|
One vote for the new politician [Rating: 8/10]
A good dorama with a solid cast, nice subplots, great music score. But when the characters you sympathize with start making bad decisions, the connection breaks.
|Attention Please [アテンションン プリース]|
Pay no attention please [Rating: 3/10]
This formulaic, cliche-ridden drama featuring Ueto Aya at her most annoying has no more brain and artistic value than the JAL recruitment infomercial it actually is.
|Boku dake no Madonna [僕だけのマドンナ]|
Madonna with wings? [Rating: 3/10]
This dorama might have some appeal to shy boys who fantasize about living on their own and finding a girl in their room*. This shallow piece might have been written by one. (*She comes in and goes out through the window, but when you see the exterior of the building, the window is on a high floor with no access to it.)
|Bus stop [バスストップ]|
Wish the bus hadn't stopped [Rating: 2/10]
A bad remake of an overused theme. This unfunny comedy is like a shirt washed too many times: a sad-looking thing, discolored and misshapen.
Thin 'n fun [Rating: 8/10]
The paper-thin story of this asadora is held together by a solid cast, some good comedy and inviting settings populated by colorful characters. If Kuninaka Ryoko bubbles, her male co-star is as wooden as another co-star who has the excuse of being a tree.
|Densha Otoko [電車男]|
Densha, ganbare! [Rating: 9/10]
It's funny, touching, without a boring moment. A great concept with many familiar faces. A 10 if the two main characters weren't such an impossible match and I didn't feel like kicking Densha in the butt for being such a whimp.
|Dragon Zakura [ドラゴン桜]|
Zakura drags on [Rating: 5/10]
An ill-conceived high school drama in which teachers act like asylum patients and students suffer an epidemic of bad hairdos. The endless lectures are taken right out of the Idiot's Guide to Tokyo-U Entrance Exam, and if they succeed in activating an idiot's brain, they're more likely to deactivate yours.
|Egao no Hosoku [笑顔の法則]|
Yuko will put an egao on your face [Rating: 7/10]
Abe Hiroshi looks a bit awkward in this drama. Takeuchi Yuko, on the other hand, is perfect as the little sister who always thinks of others. But the series takes a while to turn you on, and the overacting of some characters gets really annoying.
Engi-oyable [Rating: 8/10]
Not really about race cars but more about a bunch of uprooted kids who find someone they can look up to. Kimura Takuya is perfect as the over-the-hill race car driver. But the chemistry between Koyuki and Kimura runs out of gas when romance develops.
Twin tumbs up [Rating: 10/10]
This high-energy asadora digs deeper and flies higher than your usual morning soap. Writer Ohishi Shizuka's up-to-date depiction of modern Japanese women is done with sensitivity and intelligence. The cast is first class.
Fuufu = so so? No no [Rating: 8/10]
A sweet and sensitive look at an aging couple struggling with their marriage. This well-acted drama is a nice follow-up to all the marriage-happy endings. Reminds me of these lines in Kurosagi: "Cinderella meets Prince Charming. They get married. That's when the real story begins."
Go Yukie [Rating: 9/10]
Nakama Yukie shines in this one. She'll make you want to jump out of your couch and join her gang of misfits to "feel your breeze". Fight-to oh!
|Good Luck !! [グッドラック！！]|
If you like airline commercials [Rating: 4/10]
Severe turbulence sent the story on crutches, Shibasaki in a bad hair day, Kimura in need of acting lessons, and Tsutsumi frozen faced. The rest is just an unending ANA commercial.
This grandaddy of high-school dramas has arthritis [Rating: 3/10]
"Great" teacher, you say? A teacher whose favorite pastime is watching porn videos and whose reckless attitude toward his students would have had him arrested? You'd think no woman in her right mind would fall for this guy who's so obnoxious and sexist that he makes his female co-teacher's blood boil every time they meet. Well, after undergoing brain removal (not revealed in the story), she does.
|Haken no Hinkaku [ハケンの品格]|
Ms. Supertemp needs a reality check [Rating: 7/10]
She can type at the speed of light, staple like she has 6 hands, drive cranes and six-wheelers, slice fish like a sushi chef, yell like a sailor (in Russian), rope down elevator shafts, predict earthquakes, deliver babies, fight like a kendo master, perform flamenco like a pro, parachute over Tokyo, live among Andalusian peasants and, in the end, picks Mr. Wrong.
|Hana Yori Dango [花より男子]|
Hana Yori dang it [Rating: 3/10]
An impossible story with impossible characters who make you want to kick their butt. 3 points for the nice-looking sets.
|Hanazakari no Kimitachi e [花ざかりの君たちへ]|
Zoom and then poof [Rating: 7/10]
The first few episodes shoot like a super-charged train riding on a nice premise with a stream of good comedy and inspired scenes. But the story soon derails under the weight of endless fillers that go from repetitious to irritating with a mob of sexually disoriented loonies on steroids. The chemistry between the ever-brooding Oguri and the miscast Horikita never produces sparks.
|Haru to Natsu/Haru e Natsu [ハルとナツ]|
Get out your hankie [Rating: 5/10]
Another war-era drama about expats struggling with the locals. This one sinks in the quicksand of thick melodrama.
I applauded the real hero [Rating: 4/10]
This drama tries too hard to be funny and clever but is neither. You've got to be a hero to sit through 11 episodes of thin stories, lame subplots and bad camera work.
|Himitsu no Hanazono [ヒミツの花園]|
More like Hanazono no Himitsu [Rating: 8/10]
A nice little comedy, thin and fluffy, about a junior editor who finds herself playing mom/sister/maid to an all-male family of manga artists. She gets bullied a lot, works around the clock without apparent sleep, always wears a beaten-dog look on her face, and dresses with urban chic like a socialite on her way to a tea-party. Reminds me of a maze: a fun walk through paths leading nowhere.
|Hitonatsu no Papa e [ひと夏のパパへ]|
Should please Aya's fans [Rating: 7/10]
If I didn't feel like slapping Kitamura for being such a rotten dad, I'd have clapped my hands a little louder. Great music score when there's no dancing.
|Hitotsu yane no shita 1 [ひとつ屋根の下 1]|
As good as they get [Rating: 10/10]
In this inspiring tale of familial bond, Super Brother manages to reunite five siblings as diverse as society itself. The story moves at a good pace and stays on the light side with some very funny moments. Add a nice music score and a great cast, you've got something that will charm you to the bones.
|Hoshi no kinka 1 [星の金貨]|
Old but far from dated [Rating: 9/10]
Pure love is caught in a world of intrigue where doctors should be wearing straight-jackets and handcuffs instead of white blouses. But this dorama from another century still cruises nicely thanks to its first-rate cast, great music score and beautiful photography. The melodrama is sometimes overdone.
Hotman cools quickly [Rating: ?/10]
Tries a bit too hard to make Enzo loveable. Boredom looms after only a few eps. I'll try to watch the rest next time I have to stay home to nurse a cold.
|Ima Ai ni Yukimasu [いま会いにゆきます]|
Still scratching my head [Rating: 6/10]
This over-stretched drama is so contrived, I kept wondering why I should care. It reminds me of those Bergman movies: you can make it look poetic and artsy but in the end a boring drama is still a boring drama.
|Iryu [医龍 Team Medical Dragon]|
Superdoc saves the day (but not the drama) [Rating: 4/10]
A genius surgeon-turned-bum is called to perform surgical miracles with his hands in his pockets while pulling together an A-team of mentally unstable doctors to bleed this drama to absurdity.
|Jyoou no Kyoushitsu [女王の教室]|
If you hate kids [Rating: 3/10]
A depressing and uninspiring school drama about a tyrannical teacher who looks like a vampire and believes that oppression and mental torture are the best teaching tools. 3 points for being worth watching the day you'll grow to hate kids (may the day never come).
|Kaze no Haruka [風のハルカ]|
Murakawa no Haruka [Rating: 8/10]
This asadora gets a speedy start with a cast of talented kids, but soon slows to a crawl when Haruka-The-Country-Bumpkin leaves her village for the big city. It switches gears again when Haruka-Turned-City-Slicker returns home. The story then deepens and sees all its characters and subplots intertwine nicely to a heart-warming finish.
|Kazoku -tsuma fuzai oto no sonzai [家族〜妻の不在・夫の存在〜]|
Needs a shot of caffeine [Rating: 7/10]
They took an old theme but brought nothing new to it. The whole thing moves at a drowsy pace, but the pace is steady, the acting first rate, and the music score just right. It's slow without being boring and grows on you without sticking. Hard to hate it, hard to love it.
|Keiji Ichiro [刑事★イチロー]|
Only in your dreams [Rating: 6/10]
The outcast cop image of the main character doesn't quite work in this one.
|Kekkon Dekinai Otoko [結婚できない男]|
Bore you dekinai dorama [Rating: 9/10]
Abe Hiroshi is perfect as the cynic bachelor with a soft heart. This drama will make you think that Tokyo is just a little town where you'll bump into your small circle of acquaintances where ever you go. A better music score would have made it a 10.
|Kochira Hon Ikegami Sho Season 3 [こちら本池上署 3]|
Nice family drama [Rating: 7/10]
Humorous, human, never quite boring without being exciting either. Makes you think that if you ever step out of line, shachou Shiina and his team of over-dedicated angels-with-a-badge will be standing in background watching over you with a compassionate look on their face.
|Kochira Hon Ikegami Sho Season 5 [こちら本池上署 5]|
See one and you might have seen them all [Rating: 6/10]
Number 5 feels tired, but Shiina and his aging team keep chasing the bad and the misguided with the same tireless dedication.
|Koi ni Ochitara ~Boku no Seikou no Himitsu~ [恋におちたら〜僕の成功の秘密〜]|
When I fall yawning [Rating: 6/10]
This drama has the artificial flavor of industrially manufactured products. The story is a collection of refurbished old ideas that unfold at a metronome beat, and the scenes are shot with almost aseptic symetry. Kusanagi has little to offer besides his name, and with his limited acting abilities and emotional range, he can only stand dwarfed by Tsutsumi's screen presence.
|Koi Seyo Otome [恋セヨ乙女]|
Girl fun [Rating: 8/10]
A nice, light-hearted comedy about a girl searching for love and finding food. Every girl should enjoy the ride until it ends with a flat tire.
Kurosagi v. shirosagi [Rating: 9/10]
This one has a great style and concept. I like the look, the relationships between the main characters, their attractions and rivalries, and also the subplots with informers and cops, the characters with a heavy past. Some eps were too long but each brought in something new that kept the story moving and deepening.
|Last Christmas [ラストクリスマス]|
Lost Christmas [Rating: 6/10]
I like the romance-your-neighbor premise, but stretching a simple idea into 11 eps makes this dorama look like it's chasing itself like a dog chasing its tail. Nice music score and night photography.
|Long vacation [ロングバケーション]|
Well written, mature, intelligent [Rating: 9/10]
Another winner from Kitagawa Eriko who also wrote Orange Days. Kimura does a good job as the desillusioned pianist, but he doesn't quite hold it to co-star Yamagushi Tomoko. He's got trouble expressing emotions with his face and often uses mannerisms that become irritating. The ending doesn't do justice to the quality of this show.
|Love Revolution [ラブレボリューション]|
Love revolves but its wheel squeaks [Rating: 3/10]
Another dame-without-a-brain falling for Mr. Wrong story. Here, the patient with the brainectomy happens to be a classy and attractive 32 year-old heart surgeon. Are we supposed to feel for her when she gets hurt and humiliated? 3 points for the nice little intros at the begining of each ep.
|Lunch no Joou [ランチの女王]|
Maybe not a queen, but a princess for sure [Rating: 9/10]
"Lunch Queen" is a bit of a device to put a label on this show which is really about a girl with a past who's given a second chance by a bunch of great people.
|M no Higeki [Ｍの悲劇]|
M = A+ [Rating: 10/10]
Riveting drama about a man who dedicates his life to the safety of others but can't help bringing calamity on himself. Mystery, intrigue and suspence loom at every corner, and everytime you think the story can't go further, it bounces back with the same energy to reveal yet another twist.
3.8 liters of tears [Rating: 4/10]
A dumbed-down drama in which a pop star invades an ordinary family to play busybody and village idiot. When not acting the buffoon, Nagase Tomoya sputters moralistic speeches as hollow as the music score. My heart goes to the behind-the-scene janitor who has to mop the gallon of tears Mr. Pop Star sheds every time he gets emotional.
|My Boss, My Hero [マイボスマイヒロ]|
Hee-heelarious [Rating: 9/10]
Take some leftovers from Gokusen and put it on steroids and you've got My Boss My Hero. If Gokusen is funny, this one is hilarious. Think you can't love a stupid gangster? Think again. The over-stretched and over-choreographed ending robs it of a 10.
|My Little Chef|
Akiko can cook [Rating: 7/10]
Yada Akiko and Ueto Aya found the perfect roles here (they even end up sharing lip gloss). It's a drama with a good feel (and taste) and touching moments. Some eps are just too long and repetitive.
|Nemureru mori [眠れる森]|
Nemureru on my couch [Rating: 5/10]
This overly complex mystery/thriller uses all the cheap tricks in the book just for effect and only succeeds in making you guess which character is the least unappealing.
|Nobuta wo Produce [野ブタ。をプロデュース]|
A fresh teen drama without a pimple [Rating: 10/10]
A well-written and inspiring story of friendship between three misfits who find themselves and help one another as their popularity rises and falls.
|Nodame Cantabile [のだめ カンタビ−レ]|
Send in the clowns [Rating: 6/10]
Take a bunch of circus clowns, dress them as students, give them violins and timpani instead of kazoos and slide-whistles, and you've got Nodame Cantabile. If you like circus acts, you may love this show. If you like classical music, better turn off the sound and play your grandpa's Spike Jones vinyls.
|Ns' Aoi [Ns’ あおい ]|
Nurse A minus [Rating: 8/10]
Some great moments at the beginning and at the end. The middle will put you to sleep, but once you wake up, this dorama will make you feel like it was worth watching. Yanagiba Toshiro wins a prize for overacting and another prize for good acting when not overacting.
|Odoru Daisousasen [踊る大捜査線]|
AKA Odoru Daisousomething [Rating: 8/10]
A well-paced action/drama peppered with hilarious moments. It cruises nicely past the half way mark, then spoils its charm by using the cheapest substitute for new ideas: guns and blood. Hats off to composer Matsumoto Akihiko for one of the most creative scores, and to Yanagiba Toshiro for occasionally unclenching his teeth.
|Orange Days [オレンジデイズ]|
Orange Days gets a green light [Rating: 10/10]
An intelligent story about friendship and love from the writer of Long Vacation. Shibasaki Kou gives an impressive performance (without saying a word). Co-star Tsumabuki has trouble expressing emotions with his face. In dramatic moments, he just stares stupidly.
No sonata for Choi Ji Woo [Rating: 3/10]
Big stars couldn't pull this one out of its dark world. Should have been called Rondo in D minor.
Sakura blooms [Rating: 7/10]
The main spices of this otherwise bland asadora are its beautiful locations and the "Will he, won't he?" that'll keeps you guessing to the end. A piece of trivia: Mr. Will-He-Won't-He is the son of music conductor Osawa Seiji.
|Shiawase ni Naritai [幸せになりたい]|
Big Sis gets her first job [Rating: 8/10]
Take a rags-to-riches story, give it the right dose of comedy, add a pinch of drama without melo, mix in a well-seasoned cast, set the timer to a good pace, and you've got yourself this unpretentious dish that'll charm you with every bite.
|Shiroi Kyoto [白い巨塔]|
This tower soars above the rest [Rating: 10/10]
The quality of Part 1 of this two-part medic soap is so good in every way (the cast in particular), I decided to shelf Part 2 out of fear of impending disappointment.
Go girls or go-go girls? [Rating: 7/10]
The promise of a social theme about the condition of female office workers quickly drowns in the swamp of shallow entertainment to the beat of an overblown music score. With her modeling poses and shortened skirt, Esumi Makiko would be more convincing selling work uniforms in a fashion magazine than playing tough cookie.
|Star no Koi [スタアの恋]|
Ham and some cheese [Rating: 8/10]
The first half of this feather-weight comedy is pure fun thanks to its very creative direction and a nicely fitting music score (except for the theme song that'll send you scrambling for the mute button). At times you even forget that androgynous Tsuyopon has no more charisma than a slice of ham. The second half looks like the writers scratched their head as to what they could come up with, and you'll likely scratch yours as to what they came up with.
Warms like summer and shines like snow [Rating: 9/10]
A 10 if it wasn't for the mismatch of the two main characters. We sympathize but don't quite connect.
|Teru Teru Kazoku [てるてる家族]|
Amateur night at the Iwatas [Rating: 4/10]
This over-crowded asadora tries too hard to be entertaining. The musical numbers look like school productions, the photography is what you see in a bad smog day, and the music score sounds like something coming out of a saloon.
|Tiger & Dragon [タイガー＆ドラゴン]|
The tiger has no claws & the dragon has a cold [Rating: 5/10]
An original concept but full of unappealing characters who do a lot of yelling, fighting and overacting. Nagase Tomoya's exagerated facial expressions worked well in My Boss My Hero but not quite so here.
|Tokumei Kakarichou Tadano Hitoshi Season 2 [特命係長・只野仁 2]|
This recycled Superman bites the dust [Rating: 4/10]
If you switch your brain to a pre-teen level you might enjoy watching Mr. Superotoko fighting the bad and the ugly, provided you don't mind stories written for (and by?) the even less mature.
|Tokumei! Keiji Dongame [待命！刑事どん亀]|
Someone please retire Nishida Toshiyuki [Rating: 2/10]
A ridiculous drama in which ridiculous members of a ridiculous secret service solve ridiculous cases in the most ridiculous way.
|Tokyo Tower ~Okan to Boku to, tokidoki, Oton [東京タワー2007]|
An odd ode to mom [Rating: 8/10]
The old theme of the country bumpkin landing in the big city. In this one, a bunch of uprooted loners find a home-away-from-home and learn the value of friendship and momship, thanks to Mrs. Busybody. The show has some nice moments until it gets bogged down in thick melodrama.
|Tokyo Wankei [東京湾景]|
Tokyo Sonata? [Rating: 7/10]
Nakama Yukie shines again, this time in a dramatic role. Her co-star What's-His-Name-Again is just as good, and the chemistry between these two unlikely characters works really well. The end is disappointing, especially if you've watched Winter Sonata. The parallels will make you shake your head and cluck your tongue.
|Top Caster [トップキャスタ]|
Top drama it ain't [Rating: 6/10]
Yada Akiko brings her usual sweetness and signature hair style and lip gloss to form a perfect pair with Amami Yuki's tough reporter persona. But this winning duo is plagued by an over-excited crew, low-grade humor and shallow stories. 3 cheers for Amami plus 3 cheers for Yada make it a 6.
Hats off for this sleight-of-hand [Rating: 9/10]
Hiroshi and Yukie really found themselves in this one. The end is a bit disappointing, but the rest is funny, clever and refreshing.
|Trick Season 3 [トリック3]|
This one deflates and falls flat [Rating: 5/10]
The Trick collection ran out of breath with this one. Low production values make it look like a homemovie with a lot of props. Ms. Flat and Mr. Big should have known better.
Dirty Harriette [Rating: 9/10]
The maverick fem cop caught in a personal battle between her past and a killer. Clues and twists are revealed in a steady stream that makes this well-crafted story move and deepen at a good pace. Like quicksand, it catches you and pulls you in to the end. The plot gets a bit too thick to see clearly through it.
Viva Harada [Rating: 6/10]
The middle of this asadora has some great moments when a dead character shows up alive, but the idea, like many other ideas in this show never develops. Harada Natsuki is doing a nice job as the sensitive big sister who tries to keep a smile no matter what. Harada has shown to be a high-class actress in her cameos in other dramas.
|Watashi no Aozora [私の青空]|
Asadora no aozora [Rating: 8/10]
This asadora rises to refreshing heights with good-humor, sweet moments and a great music score. Every set is lit with direct sunlight blasting through a window which makes everyone either bask in blinding light or glow in semi-darkness.
|Water Boys [ウォーターボーイズ]|
Boredom with a bad music score [Rating: 4/10]
and so much swimming you can smell the chlorine.
|Yamato Nadeshiko [やまとなでしこ【大和撫子】]|
Nakano flies high [Rating: 8/10]
Matsushima Nakano gives the perfect performance in this heart-warming love story as the "perfect woman" aiming high and falling low. The elegant look of this drama works really well.
Guys fare [Rating: 7/10]
Lift-off took a few eps. The main characters are mosty unappealing, but this show offers an interesting look at the world of male club hosts.
|Yasashii Jikan [優しい時間]|
No bells-and-whistles entertainment here [Rating: 9/10]
Masterfully executed with taste and sensitivity, this slow-paced drama is pure delight with its first-rate cast, great music score and a perfectly fitting winter backdrop.