Tag Archives: Shun Oguri

Gintama (2017 Movie)

Warner Bros. Pictures

My rating: 5 of 5

Edo-period Japan has been invaded by aliens from outer space, and the country looks a bit different now with aliens (known as Amanto) in positions of political and social privilege and samurai bereft of their swords. One such former samurai, Sakata Gintoki, has embraced the challenges of this new life by becoming a sweets-loving odd-jobber along with his young friends, Shinpachi and Kagura. But when rumors of a serial killer begin to arise, Gin finds himself drawn back by his past in order to protect the present that he loves.

Okay, first of all, confession: I totally started watching this live-action remake of Gintama just because I love Shun Oguri’s work; never mind the fact that I also love the anime/manga on which this movie is based. Having said that, Oguri did a fabulous job with the role of Gin, but there was a ton of other things that I loved about Gintama. First of all, the casting in general was very well done, and everyone did a great job portraying their characters. And, even though the particular story arc they chose involves a lot of characters, they didn’t go chopping people out left and right, so fair warning, there are a lot of people to keep track of. But I appreciated that they went to the trouble of not chopping . . . either characters or plot, actually. Plot context: at the start, we do get the cafe scene where Gin and Shinpachi first meet–but after that, there’s this big plot gap, and the majority of the movie is the Benizakura arc. I wasn’t expecting them to jump headlong into the story like that, but I think it was a smart choice. It’s one of my favorite parts of the anime/manga for a lot of the reasons that make it a great choice for the movie as well. It captures the absurdity and general silliness that makes Gintama (whatever the medium) such a  fun, funny story; I confess to laughing out loud for a great portion of the movie. You’ve got fourth-wall breaking, references galore, plus just plain ridiculousness (like the Yorozuya and Shinsengumi’s beetle-hunting madness). But this arc also has a lot of heart. It pulls from both Gin’s and Katsura’s childhood days as well as from their resistance-fighter exploits, incorporating that into the present-day plot. And of course, said plot allows for some great action sequences and sword fights–it’s one of the few points in the series where Gin gets a chance to truly look cool for a moment . . . before he ruins it by picking his nose or something. As far as the sets and makeup/CGI, it’s honestly not the greatest. I mean, a lot of the aliens are obviously just folks in animal suits or wearing body paint. But that fits the story–the absurdity and fourth-wall breaking and such–so well that I honestly prefer that over awesome, convincing CG for everything. It just works. So yes, I really loved the Gintama live-action movie, although I would caution that if you haven’t either read the manga or watched the anime at least a bit, you’ll likely be a bit confused; even with two-and-a-half hours of film, there’s still a lot that isn’t explained in a lot of detail. But for fans . . . absolutely recommended; it captures not just the story itself, but the heart of Gintama.

Written & Directed by Yūichi Fukuda/Based on Gintama by Hideaki Sorachi/Starring Shun Oguri, Masaki Suda, Kanna Hashimoto, Yūya Yagira, Ryo Yoshizawa, Masami Nagasawa, Masaki Okada, Nakamura Kankurō VI, & Tsuyoshi Dōmoto

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Ouroboros (2015 TV Series)

TBSouroboros

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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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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