Sunday, July 21, 2013

JMovie Review: Kyou Koi wo Hajimemasu

The Gist: Hibino Tsubaki (Takei Emi) is a plain girl, who loves to style others but not herself. Her modest appearance makes her the target of class playboy Tsubaki Kyota (Matsuzaka Tori), who doesn’t know what to do with a girl uninterested in him. However, her indifference is short lived as Kyota spends more time with her and she can’t help but develop feelings for him. After spurning her new advances, Tsubaki learns that Kyota has deep trust issues with women. In order to even get a shot with him, she needs to teach him how to trust people and convince him that not everyone is cruel. 


1.Decent Adaptation

As an avid reader of the manga, I was incredibly curious as to how they were going to make this a movie that preteens could see. Much of the manga has pretty strong sexual themes that are actual pretty vital to defining the relationship between Tsubaki and Kyota. I was glad that they left the karaoke scene in, even a less explicit version, because it really drove home the kind of person that Kyota is. I also thought they were going to leave the ending cheesy and innocent and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. 

2.The Scope of the Story

 Like I said, having read the manga, I know how much ground there is to cover to this story. I was pleased to see a bit of the dating life instead of spending all the time on the buildup. I felt that there wasn’t a decent chunk left out of the story like I do with most adaptations. I am glad that the producers decided to jump ahead into their relationship, so we could see some long term struggles. While it doesn’t follow the manga closely, it hits a bunch of the right emotional points.

3.Sibling Relationship

Shinkawa Yua plays Hibino Sakura, Tsubaki’s younger sister, who knows how to work it. The contrast between these characters was beautiful and I found Sakura to be a pretty typical teenage girl, which really highlighted Tsubaki’s unique personality. As the plainest of three sisters, I really identify with this relationship and I thought it was portrayed beautifully. It was great to see that despite their differences, they really supported each other. Sakura was a good sister at heart.


1.Chemistry Between our Leads

While I am not totally in love with either lead actor, I also felt that their chemistry was a little off. I think Emi was able to pull off a better emotional performance than Tori, where I actually felt bad for her when their relationship starts to get a little bit rocky. I didn’t think that you could feel the tension between our characters, which I find to be a pretty big part of their interactions. I do think that Tori had a nice moment in the Ferris wheel, but I think overall he didn’t quite capture Kyota’s underlying sincerity and issues. 


There’s not a lot to this story that I can really say is unique to KKWH. For the manga, I’d say it’s the stronger sexual overtones, but that doesn’t really translate to the movie. Everything this movie does has been done before. Unassuming lead gets the playboy and changes him for the better – doesn’t get much more cliché than that. That said, it does it well with likeable characters and decent writing.


1.Running Everywhere!

OK. This could be on a whole bunch of reviews, but I’m finding it here. How small does Tokyo have to be to run everywhere? At the end when Kyota is running all over God’s green Earth, I’m just thinking, man this is ridiculous! Tokyo is huge, massive and to run to find someone should never really work in a show. 

2.Sick Mom

This was one thing I just found too cliché. The fact that Kyota’s mom is dying and now he has to go see her. Even though Kyota’s mom makes an appearance in the manga, I don’t believe there’s a sickness accompanied with it and I thought that was just too on the nose. I think it would have been better to leave her out altogether. 


So… As far as Japanese shojo movies go, this one is really not bad. The story doesn’t feel rushed or incomplete and is a pretty fair representation of its source material, despite being way toned down. It’s not really covering any new ground and I didn’t love the leads, but it was an enjoyable few hours of my life.

Final Grade: B+

Monday, July 8, 2013

JDrama Review: Nobuta wo Produce

The Gist: Shy girl Nobuta (Horikita Maki) has a rough time at school. Constantly teased by her classmates who are alarmed by her ghoulish appearance – think Sadako in Kimi ni Todoke, Nobuta needs some friends. Those come in an unlikely pairing: Kiritani Shuji (Kamenashi Kazuya), popular but secretly apathetic to just about everything, and Kusano Akira (Yamapi), an outcast odd ball with a warm heart. The two of them take on the task of making over Nobuta, so that her life can be easier, while simultaneously getting more comfortable at being themselves. 


1.The Cast

Considering this was one of my first dramas, the actors weren’t familiar faces the first time I watched, but I loved them all the same. Now that I know them pretty well, the Johnny’s boys and Hana Kimi vet, I am ever more impressed. Their chemistry works together remarkably well for such well-known actors and their characters let you get right at their hearts. Of course, it’s a little bit old hat for Kazuya to be playing Mr. Hot and Popular who hates it, but he does it well, so we’re letting it go. Also, love seeing Toda Erika pop up every now and then.

2. The Makeover

Or I guess I should say I’m glad that the makeover wasn’t really a makeover. It would have been disappointing for this show to turn into “let’s cut her hair and change her clothes,” but it never really does and I appreciate it for focusing more deeply on the emotional. Really the makeover Nobuta needed was just some support and a few good friends and she gets that in Kiritani and Kusano. It does what Yamato Nadeshiko Henge does, but I’d argue Nobuta does it a little better and a lot less campy. 


1.Little Boring

While I appreciate the nuances of this show, it does drag on a bit in the middle. Since there isn’t really an end goal when they don’t really makeover Nobuta, the show sort of wanders without purpose for a while. I would have appreciated a few more subplots to spice up the friendship development. That said, I did like the progression of growth between the characters, which stays decidedly fuzzy for a while, but I wouldn’t have minded seeing a bit more.

2. Will They/Won’t They 

I spent a good chunk of NWP, trying to figure out if it was supposed to be a romance. When you’ve got a group of friends with two guys and a girl, everybody’s got to be crushing on everybody else. NWP hints at it, sometimes strongly, without ever really going full blown romance. The problem with this is that I couldn’t decide if I liked that decision or not. Pairing off our characters would have left someone in the lurch, which would have been tragic, but not doing anything when they keep bringing it up makes the duration end a little anti-climactically. I’d say this show is probably appreciated more on a second watch through, when you already know what to expect from it.


1.The Ending

**SPOILERS** I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a thousand times. I hate shows that cart off one of their main characters at the end. It’s played out and just frustrating. While I appreciate Nobuta learning to be happy on her own, it sort of left you with a hole in your heart as you see her left alone…again. While obvious they would have had to separate for college or jobs or something, it was just a sad note to end on to leave Nobuta alone again. That said, I did find it a nice touch that Kusano went with Kiritani, speaking volumes about their friendship. I just wish it didn’t come at Nobuta’s cost. 


So…I’ve been putting off this review for months now and I don’t know why. I feel as if I should like this show more than I did. The actors are great and it’s a much loved, if not very original, premise. Still, I feel like the writers didn’t give our characters enough to do and ended up on such a heartbreaking ending that I could never re-watch it. Still, the emotions are written well and it’s a great tale of friendship, just don’t expect much romance out of it. 

Final Grade: B-