Tag Archives: J-drama

Ouroboros (2015 TV Series)


Status: Completed, 10 episodes

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Growing up together in the orphanage of Mahoroba, Danno Tatsuya and Ryuzaki Ikuo found love, inspiration, and strength in their caregiver, Yuiko-sensei. . . . That is, until one night when she is murdered and the case is covered up by a police man wearing a gold watch. Young Tatsuya and Ikuo vow to find Yuiko’s murder and exact their own justice. Twenty years later, Tatsuya is a leader in the yakuza and Ikuo is rising through the ranks of the police, working together to ferret out any clues as to Yuiko’s killer. But will they be able to handle the truths they find?

Ouroboros is probably the best J-drama I’ve seen to date. Of course, part of that is the fact that it stars both Shun Oguri and Toma Ikuta, two of my favorite actors. They have a really great dynamic when they work together, and their part in this show was definitely a huge plus for me. But I think that even for those unfamiliar with these two, the show has a lot to offer. It’s a cops and yakuza story, with lots of interconnecting plots, tragic backstory, and a nice balance of drama and action. There are some nicely choreographed fight scenes, even. And an adorable but tragic love story (more than one, depending on how you look at it). Of course, being a J-drama, there’s a certain amount of just plain goofiness, especially at the beginning (then again, can you put Toma in a show without some goofiness?). But again, it balances out, and by the end of the show, it’s just plain heartbreaking. This is a tear-jerker, to be sure, but I think the writers did a great job of making the story fall the way it needs to, not the way you necessarily want it to. . . . It feels like hitsuzen when you get down to it, I guess. Also just have to mention that the character development is remarkably well done–especially for this sort of show–and even the relatively minor characters are interesting. And one last point of note: the casting for the childhood versions of Tatsuya and Ikuo are fabulous. So often, kids seem just picked at random, but the kids chosen for the roles here are perfect, both in appearance and in how they act. Ouroboros is high on my list of recommendations, both for those who enjoy J-dramas and for those who like detective stories in general.

Note: At this point, I don’t know of an official English version of this show, but there are some quite decent fan-subs available.

Based on the manga by Kanzaki Yuya/Directed by Yasuharu Ishii/Music by Kimura Hideakira/Starring Toma Ikuta, Shun Oguri, & Juri Ueno


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Death Note II: The Last Name (Live Action Movie)

Directed by Shusuke Kaneko/Produced by Toyoharu Fukuda, Takahiro Kohashi, & Takahiro Satō/Music by Kenji Kawai/Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kenichi Matsuyama, Erika Toda, Shinnosuke Ikehata, Shidou Nakamura, Shunji Fujimura, Takeshi Kaga, & Nana Katase/Based on the manga by Tsugumi Oba & Takeshi Obata

Following his girlfriend’s death at the hands of the mass murderer popularly known as “Kira,” Light Yagami has finally been allowed to join L’s investigative team. Which is, of course, the best possible place for Light to keep an eye on things and to steer suspicious away from the fact that he is actually Kira. All is going according to his precise plans, of course. However, when a second Kira emerges, acting flashily and carelessly killing even the innocent, Light’s cover is definitely threatened. It’s a close race between L and Light to find this second Kira and secure their cause’s victory.

I really, really enjoyed watching Death Note II: The Last Name. This is the sequel the the first Death Note live action film and picks up the story right at the point where L and Light begin to have more interaction. I really love the dynamic between these two, and I feel like their actors pulled this off excellently (loved the chess game!). The cat-and-mouse interplay is extremely intense (in a cool fashion). I though all the actors did well, and I was particularly pleased with the casting for Misa–Erica Toda pulls her off beautifully. I must admit, while Rem was quite well done, he totally didn’t fit my mental image for voice and such, so that was a bit of a clash. They did change a few plot points compared to the manga, particularly at the ending of this movie; however, I found the choices to be consistent with the characters and premises of the manga, so it works. I do miss M and N, though. . . . If possible, read the manga first. But if you like the Death Note manga, I think both the first live action movie (see above) and Death Note II: The Last Name will also be enjoyable for you.

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Death Note (Live Action Movie)

Directed by Shusuke Kaneko/Produced by Toyoharu Fukuda, Takahiro Kohashi, & Takahiro Satō/Music by Kenji Kawai/Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kenichi Matsuyama, Erika Toda, Asaka Seto, Shidou Nakamura, Shigeki Hosokawa, Shunji Fujimura, Takeshi Kaga, & Yuu Kashii/Based on the manga by Tsugumi Oba & Takeshi Obata

Around the world, criminals are being punished as never before. Those who might once have worked the system and escaped justice are now being mysteriously killed, and the world is taking notice . . . and taking sides. Some laud the perpetrator–whom they dub “Kira”–as a savior, protecting the weak and reducing crime in the name of justice. Others see Kira as simply a mass murderer, using “justice” as an excuse for his wrongdoings. College honors student Yagami Light has his own opinions on the subject . . . but he might be a bit biased.

As a long-time fan of Oba-sensei and Obata-sensei’s amazing manga and of the anime based on it, I found the live-action movie version of Death Note to be an intriguing take on the story. Certain plot elements are changed–for instance, Light starts out as a college student and has a steady girlfriend instead of being the playboy he is in the manga. The focus is a bit different also–you don’t even meet Light at first, or see L until nearly the end. Still, I think the choices they made stay true to the spirit of the story and work well in movie form. The casting was very well done, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of L and Misa in the sequel/conclusion. My one complaint is that the CG on Ryuk (the shinigami) looked kind of off and video-gamey, but what can you do? Personally, I’d say read the Death Note manga first, but do also check out the live action movie–it’s quite good.


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Hana Yori Dango

Directed by Yasuharu Ishii/Starring Mao Inoue, Jun Matsumoto, Shun Oguri, Shota Matsuda, & Tsuyoshi Abe/ Music by Yamashita Kosuke/Based on the manga by Yoko Kamio

In pursuit of her dreams (and her parents’), Makino Tsukushi is attending the prestigious Eitoku Academy. Unfortunately, the high school isn’t exactly what she had expected. Because of their families’ power and money, four young men–styling themselves the F4–essentially dominate the school, including the teachers. All Makino wants is to lead a quiet high school life . . . so naturally, she manages to let her strong sense of justice get her on the wrong side of F4’s leader, Domyouji Tsukasa. Just when Domyouji is making Makino’s life unbearable, another member of the F4, Hanazawa Rui, steps in like a knight in shining armor to save the day. Of course, Makino falls for him. And just when her life couldn’t get any more complicated, Domyouji decides that he actually likes this gutsy girl?! Will Makino ever be able to graduate smoothly or have a reasonable love life?

I found Hana Yori Dango to be quite an intense emotional roller coaster–and I loved it! The story is full of drama, with lots of complicated relationships and emotions. If it were American, it would be a cheesy soap, and I would hate it; the Japanese writers and actors pull it off beautifully. The story is based on the manga of the same name by Yoko Kamio, which I haven’t read yet. As for the actors, they were brilliant in their portrayal of the characters. Of course, the reason I watched this to begin with is that Shun Oguri was playing the part of Hanazawa Rui, which he did wonderfully–my favorite character in the story and the one character I cried for. But the actors for Tsukushi (Mao Inoue) and the rest were also well done. I think Jun Matsumoto in particular did a brilliant job with Domyouji, who is a difficult character to get across. Regarding the other F4 members, they seemed relatively colorless for most of the first season, but as Makino became more involved in the group, they fleshed out their characters a lot and really grew on me. I also really enjoyed the soundtrack–it fit well and was pleasant to listen to. All in all, I’d recommend Hana Yori Dango if you enjoy romantic dramas and don’t mind watching subtitles (or if your Japanese is just that good).

Note: This is a Japanese drama TV series. The first season comprises 9 episodes, the second, 11 episodes. The series is completed in a final movie special.

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Hanazakari no Kimitachi e: Ikemen♂Paradise

Written by Muto Shogo & Yamaura Masahiro/Directed by Matsuda Hidetomo, Tsuzuki Junichi, & Sato Genta/Starring Maki Horikita, Shun Oguri, & Toma Ikuta/Based on the Manga by Nakajo Hisaya

Ohsaka Gakuen is a prestigious (infamous?) all-boys high school, known for only accepting attractive (not necessarily smart) students. So why on earth would an American-Japanese girl like Ashiya Mizuki travel across the world to sneak into such a school–disguised as a boy, no less?! The answer is . . . complicated, but basically she came to inspire the guy who has in times past been her own inspiration. Mizuki wants to see Sano Izumi start high jumping again, and she is willing to do whatever she has to to make that happen. Along the way, she’ll have a tough but interesting time, becoming friends with Sano, Nakatsu, and the rest of the zany guys in the dorms–and struggling to keep her gender a secret. It’s hard to say what kind of success Mizuki will have . . . or where love will bloom.

I think I’m in love–both with this series and with the main characters! I started watching this drama after reading Hana-Kimi, the manga it’s (loosely) based on. Actually though, they’re two different stories that happen to share some basic ideas and characters. I love them both! Hanazakari no Kimitachi e is a lot of fun, although it does have its serious moments. There’s a lot of just plain silliness, especially with the numerous dorm competitions and such. The story also includes drama, athletics, and romance (a love triangle!), so it balances out pretty well. The cast is well selected, and they suit their characters excellently. I especially love the characters for Sano (Shun Oguri), Mizuki (Maki Horikita), Nakatsu (Toma Ikuta), and Nanba-senpai (Hiro Mizushima) to the extent that I’m searching out more of their work to watch. I’m still getting used to the J-drama genre, but I think Hanazakari no Kimitachi e will be one of my longstanding favorites.

Note: This is a Japanese live-action television series consisting of 12 episodes + 1 TV special.

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