Aoi Tori [青い鳥] I do not think there is another dorama around that can emotionally involve the viewer so well for so long. That's why there is still a popular tour (near Matsumoto) of the town & train station where it was mostly filmed. This dorama has a strong effect that will make you want to watch it again and again. The acting is brilliant.
meruchan's artiste votes (1)
Yonekura Ryoko [米倉涼子] Has taken over where Tomoko Yamaguchi left off as a beautiful woman who is also a terrific actress. See her in Seikei Bijin & you'll agree--WOW!
Aoi Tori [青い鳥] For me also, the best Japanese dorama ever... [Rating: 10/10] I usually watch Aoi Tori once a year, just so I have a standard to measure other doramas by. Aoi Tori is probably the most powerful and meaningful dorama you will ever see. The story centers around a JR employee and the three females who love him, but this is not a comedy or light-hearted romance. All of the actors, from Toyo Etsu to Ann Suzuki, are top quality and brilliant in this intense story. The scenery is also incredible, as the story moves from a mountain resort to Aomori to Hakodate, the lake country of Hokkaido, and finally to Kyushu.
The music by Globe perfectly matches this dorama and you will remember the music for a long time afterwards. Halfway thru this compelling dorama, there is a dramatic change. The writer took a huge risk with such a change, but if you continue to watch, you will undestand why it happened, and how people changed because of it. At the end, a bluebird is set free from his cage at the station, just like the two people at the end who finally find happiness with each other. This is a dorama that will make you happy at times, anger you at other times, and always make you identify with Toyoetsu's character, his joy and his pain. He is awesome in this dorama, which is more like a long movie mini-series than just a dorama. There are many symbols in this dorama, and it's fun to watch and learn more about the story each time. It is probably the best thing that TBS has ever ever done. "Mieru?"
First Love 7 [Rating: ?/10] Dark and full of tension in many scenes, but I love the theme-song and Kyoko's whining so much!
Koi ga shitai Koi ga shitai Koi ga shitai [恋がしたい恋がしたい] Love Love Love is worth your time. [Rating: 8/10] Just started watching this dorama in the LA area (4 episodes), but just the cast makes this dorama worth checking out--Kanno Miho, Mizuno Miki, Watabe Atsuro, Tokoro Joji!! William Penn downplays this dorama, characterizing it as just a "Lonely Hearts Club" theme. I beg to differ--it's quite interesting to see how these characters interact and how such experienced actors handle their roles. I think the script could be better at times (some events are predictable), but I won't complain.
Watabe and Mizuno renew their interactions made famous from their roles in "Beautiful Life", where I thought their wonderful dating scenes almost stole the show from KimuTaku and Tokiwa Takako early on in that dorama. Some of the scenes in this dorama seem quite "raw" for a TBS production--Kanno Miho sitting on the toilet (and also reaching down one while working as a housemaid in another scene); a HS student "touching himself" while listening to phone date messages and viewing sexy photos on his computer; and poor Kanno cleaning up a variety of nasty things hotel lovers have left behind. Surprisingly, the VCD version I own has some of these strong scenes "edited" out, while the LA TV version I'm recording is broadcast uncensored at 9PM Sundays. A simple guydon restaurant is the common ground where the various characters meet from time to time, and where we can eventually figure out some startling relationships between the characters.
The script realistically depicts the lives of average workers in the big city, and their insecurities, loneliness, hopes and disappointments. No smalzy glitter here. It's all done in a calm but interesting way that allows the viewer to reflect on their own lives, because many of us have been through what these characters experience. Tokoro Joji and Watabe Atsuro in particular, show their very accomplished acting skills in this dorama, although Kanno is also quite good and adorable as usual. It's not a tearjerker in the fashion of "Beautiful Life", but we can still identify in many ways with the pain and small joys of these characters. The theme song was surprising--a lesser known Carpenters song (at least to me), but quite appropriate for the storyline, and its subtle melody sticks with you.
Koi ga shitai Koi ga shitai Koi ga shitai [恋がしたい恋がしたい] Quite funny at times... [Rating: 8/10] The 4th and 7th episodes are especially funny at times with the situations that many of the characters are drawn into. The significance of each scene in these episodes required me to view these episodes several times to appreciate all the things going on. The actors' efforts make up for any script flaws--I haven't seen a better acting performance by Kanno Miho anywhere.
As for the dorama theme songs, "Rainbow Connection" and "Leave Yesterday Behind" are part of a collection of previously unpublished Carpenters songs that were released in Japan around the same time as the dorama (Summer 2001.) The name of the album is "As Time Goes By" and due to royalty disputes over some of the song medleys, this excellent album will probably not be released in the US anytime soon, if ever. Richard Carpenter made it available in Japan mainly because of the huge fan following for the Carpenters in Japan and other parts of Asia. "Rainbow Connection", written by the prolific Paul Williams, was originally recorded in 1980; "Leave Yesterday Behind", written by Fred Karlin, was originally recorded in 1978. Many Carpenters fans consider these two songs to be among their best works, and it is surprising to me that such fine songs have waited over 2 decades to be released. "As Time Goes By" can be purchased thru most Japanese music concerns on the Internet.
Kou kou kyoushi [高校教師] Not a sick dorama--REALITY! [Rating: 10/10] It is unfortunate that some previous reviewers have bashed this dorama based on their obviously limited knowledge of Japanese high schools and their focus on select scenes instead of the entire storyline. This dorama was far ahead of its time in 1993--By 2005 it is nothing new for those who have actually worked in a number of Japanese urban secondary schools as I have. The writing, acting, and direction in this memorable dorama are all first-rate and performed with great sensitivity, unlike the cheap trashy movie by the same name. This well-known writer is also responsible the most recent version starring Ueto Aya.
The issues covered in Kou Kou Kyoushi are controversial (a rape by a teacher, an abortion, another relationship between a young teacher & student, incest, etc.) but these accurate depictions did much to bring such topics into public discussion in Japan during the 1990s. The situations portrayed here are quite realistic--Japanese teachers have a higher responsibility for their students than in many other countries, and unfortunately some have intentionally or unintentionally abused this trust. I have personally known of teachers involved with HS students in Japan, while the administration covered up the situation time and again. Kou Kou Kyoushi brings all of these issues to focus during one high school year for dramatic effect.
What is lost among uninformed criticisms here is that the plot and acting are superb. Unbiased viewers will come to understand and appreciate the primary characters in this dorama as they develop in classic Japanese style. Unlike many dramatizations, the students portrayed in Kou Kou Kyoushi look and act like real students. Main actress Sakurai Sachiko was much beloved by Japanese boys during the 1990s for her role here and in others such as NHK serial Ten Urara. If you were not offended by syrupy Majo no Jouken, you should NOT be offended by Kou Kou Kyoushi. The main plot and premise are basically identical--Yet some of the same reviewers are willing to completely overlook that obstacle because they are so smitten by their idols Nanako and Taki.
My only question is how Kou Kou's producers were able to find a Japanese high school administration willing to allow the use of their school & students for the filming of this dorama. Kou Kou's plots must have caused great embarrassment to the school district officials, resulting in the subsequent "retirement" of the principal.
Kyousoukyoku [協奏曲] A Superior Pairing: Kimura Takuya/ Tamura Masakazu [Rating: 10/10] This dorama features some of the best acting I have seen in matching Masakazu and Kimura. Both offer up some of their best performances in Concerto. The storyline has a much more realistic feel to it than other more glitzy/fantasy Kimura products like Pride and Hero. I have known architects who are very similar in character as these two men--artistic and stubborn. For those who have short attention spans and love shallow Fuji-type plots, you won't be happy with Concerto. The writers here developed a classy adult-style dorama with all the complexities of real life. It was the perfect low-key followup for Kimura after the emotional heights of Long Vacation. For Rie Miyazawa, this dorama was a big revival for her career and yet she didn't have to stress over being the star of the story. Her character is typical of some young Japanese women, very sweet but lacking confidence, thus easily controlled and influenced by the men in her life. Fortunately for her, she has two of the best in Japanese acting as her co-stars in Concerto. I'm sure many women would love to be in her shoes here! The ending was a perfect complement to the entire story. This dorama takes a little more thought than most doramas do, and won't be too satisfying if you try to watch it all at once. Give each episode some time to work in your mind, and you'll appreciate it more...
Love complex [ラブコンプレックス] The Director Ruined This Dorama! [Rating: 2/10] This dorama was notorious in Japan when it came out, primarily because it demonstrated how a good storyline and excellent star power in the form of Sorimachi, Koyuki, Ryo, and Kimura Yoshino could be wasted by a self-absorbed director. This clown of a director attempts to imitate French New Wave filming techniques, with fast/slow motion, abstract scene sequences, etc. Some of these techniques work, but most do not, because his storytelling lacks any semblance of cohesion or consistency. Even New Waves fans would laugh at this amateurish effort, which also strangely reflects the directors' obvious inclination towards homosexuality in a number of scenes. Of course, such up-front, aggressive scenes must have gone over just great with prime-time Japanese viewers--not.
Some reviewers here will pretend to understand the "story" which this director has tried to portray, especially regarding the last episode, which usually ties a story together. Yet in this case, the final chapter insults poor viewers who have hung in to this point, by tossing in even more outlandish subplots, including extended gratuitous violence in the form of a fatal fistfight. Typically such a director would not want his work to be fully understood except in an abstract sense. Which makes this type of dorama a complete failure for normal viewing audiences that networks usually want to attract.
I have watched dozens of doramas and love French New Wave, but this dorama is simply pathetic--The efforts of an egotistical director who went wild and lost most of his viewers in the process. The actors try to do the best with the lines they have, but they also had to be surprised with how their scenes and special effects were spliced together. Hopefully this fool will never be allowed to direct another J-dorama. And hopefully you will find much better doramas to watch--Even the English subs for Love Complex are awful and on the level with the Malaysian-Chinese version of Koi ga Shitai. Look elsewhere!
Messengers [メッセンジャー] Fun and funky [Rating: 9/10] I really enjoyed this simple story. Tsuyoshi eventually warms up to Ijima's charms, and then the movie really gets interesting. The music video during the closing credits is really good too. Kyono Kotomi is very cute here also. Isn't Tommy Nagase in this too??
Mukashi no otoko [昔の男] Difficult theme, but compelling dorama! [Rating: 9/10] I'm sorry that some can actually find this dorama "boring." I found it ANYTHING but that. Fujiwara Norika, who used to be the typical bimbo stereotype (cast for her magnificent body rather than any acting ability), shows that she has indeed become a very good actress with hard work. The other lead, the complex Osawa Takao, has more of a muted role in this dorama, compared to other things he's done. Osawa and Fujiwara make a very sensuous and attractive couple here. Also, brilliant supporting acting by Tomita Yasuko, Abe Hiroshi, and Kato Takako absolutely dominate any scene they are in.
The storyline of adultry is extremely difficult to portray effectively in any fashion. But the writers and director of "Mukashi no otoko" let the story go its natural course, and we see that adultry does indeed exact a terrible penalty to everyone involved (no, not death.) The script is especially sensitive to the suffering of those people left behind by the offending lovers--family, friends, and even the offenders themselves. I have not seen a better portrayal of the frustrations and devastation of people caught up in spouse-cheating since the magnificent "Aoi Tori." As with Aoi Tori, the viewer can identify quite readily with the reasons that these characters fall into adultry. We're even made to feel somewhat happy when they feel happiness, after suffering so much in their former situations. But such elation is temporary, and we see the troubling results of their indiscretion.
The ending, as with all good stories, is quite surprising and we wonder if it is truly deserved. But the realism of what people go through with regards to this topic is accurately, if not cruelly portrayed, and very well-acted throughout. Some monologue lines here I still remember because of their stunning summation of the situation at hand--to me that is the mark of a great dorama. The theme song and introduction are also very, very appropriate-- This is one of my favorite Ayu songs because of the strong emotions I experienced when watching this powerful dorama. It requires some maturity and experiences in relationships to appreciate "Mukashi no otoko", but everyone should understand what makes people do this type of thing, and what often happens as a result. The Jerry Springer Show this is not!!!
Seikei Bijin [整形美人。] Underrated dorama that delivers for romantics! [Rating: 9/10] This dorama was actually one of the better ones of 2002, yet overlooked by many because it lacks the "star power" of a Kimura Takuya. The storyline addresses two major issues in Japanese society today: First, the huge obstacles placed against couples from different social status who want to marry (common problem where I lived in Kyoto & Tokyo); Secondly, the prejudice shown against those who opt for plastic surgery to improve their facial or body features (Which is so hypocritical when you consider how many Japanese actors & singers stay popular ONLY because of their own plastic surgery.) Yonekura Ryoko, as a beautiful and brassy model, delivers the most enthusiastic performance I've seen since Yamaguchi Tomoko's model role in Long Vacation. The problem is that talented Yonekura doesn't nearly have the supporting cast here as Tomoko did in LV, although Hanami's family will grow on you. Konishi Minami is also stunning eye-candy in her unique role. This is a funny, warm, and clever dorama that accurately portrays how important social status remains in Japan when it comes to relationships. While there is a deeper plot here than most give credit for, Seikei Bijin also provides a window into the stuffy world of ikebana in Japan, which I never much appreciated until now. The dorama music is memorable in a romantic, longing sort of way as the two main characters sort out their feelings for one another, in light of so many who are against their union. If you can sit still for more than 5 minutes at a time without falling asleep, you probably will enjoy this dorama and learn something about Japanese values & true love in the process.