Kimura Dorama, in a Nutshell
This post goes out to all those wide-eyed Kimura newbies who may need a *little* help in navigating Kimura Takuya’s… uh, staggering body of work. Maybe you just sampled one of his dramas for the very first time (default answer: PRIDE!!! it usually is PRIDE!!! lol) and now you’re looking for the next one to watch, and the next, and the next after that.
After experiencing my own Kimura epiphany last April 2009, my life (and my sanity! and my freedom! lol) has never been the same. And if it weren’t for some Kind Souls (and longtime Kimura devotees/SMAP diehards) who ever-so-patiently initiated me into the Wonderful World of KimuTaku, I doubt I would’ve been able to cover as much ground as I did in the last five months. So I owe it to them (bless their fangirly hearts, lol) to pay it forward. And so I have, and so I have.
Kimura Dorama, in a Nutshell
by Ender’s Girl
I suppose one can group Kimura’s dramas into genres, if you will. (I’m not including his period dramas such as CHUUSHINGURA 1/47 and ODA NOBUNAGA, just the contemporary stuff. Easier to digest, lol.)
KIMURA AS TOM CRUISE: (The “Tom Cruise Era” dramas — as Belleza, a user from another forum, called them — are rom-coms or light dramedies centered around “exciting” professions such as aviation or sports.)
1. GOOD LUCK! (TBS, 2003) – In which KimuTaku is a newbie pilot with, er, lofty ambitions. I didn’t like the romance angle (or Shibasaki Kou’s acting, heh), and Kimura’s “good-hearted pilot” character isn’t as well fleshed-out as co-star Tsutsumi Shinichi’s, but but BUT it’s all Kimura eye candy from takeoff to touchdown, baby. Those crisp uniforms and aviator shades are enough reason to watch this just-okay drama, IMHO. Plus, you don’t have to be a bleeping airplane otaku to find all the cockpit/airport/hangar stuff interesting. (Read the review)
2. PRIDE (Fuji TV, 2004) – In which KimuTaku is a pro hockey player who is cool as ice… but smokin’ hawt! (Heh heh heh) PRIDE is one of my ultimate faves, and the drama that effectively turned me into yet another statistic in this One Nation Under KimuTaku, lol. Kimura’s teammates are a riot, and his love story with Takeuchi Yuko (as Aki to his Halu) is even more thrilling than the sports action. Plus, you’ll be rocking out (and waving your arms, lol) to Queen’s “I Was Born to Love You” anthem before the second episode, teehee! (Read the review) (Related post: Favorite Halu-Aki Moments)
3. ENGINE (Fuji TV, 2005) – In which KimuTaku is a down-and-out F3 racer who has to Deal with a houseful of Troubled Children. Don’t expect much romance, which is just as well because Kimura and Koyuki don’t have any chemistry. But the KIDS at the foster home are wonderful!!!!! Kimura is probably at his comedic best in this drama (maybe aside from CHANGE), and his interactions with the kids create the funniest (as well as the most touching) moments in the story. But this drama is also the point at which Kimura starts to age, as in really really age. In the opening scene alone, I was like, WTF! Barely a year after PRIDE and he already looks SO MUCH OLDER!!!! Sorry to say that Kimura has not aged well.
KIMURA AS LOVE-SEX-MAGIC-ROCK’N’ROLL GOLDEN GOD-HEARTTHROB: (Self-explanatory. Circa mid- to late 90s.)
1. LONG VACATION (Fuji TV, 1996) – This was probably THE seminal drama of the ’90s (and a ratings monster, at that), which raised the bar for romantic ensemble dramas. This is also Kitagawa Eriko (in-demand drama writer and long-time Kimura collaborator) at the top of her game, because the drama is so even-toned, the dialogue is a gem in itself, and the romance dynamic between the two leads is developed so beautifully. Kimura plays Sena, an introverted aspiring classical pianist, while Yamaguchi Tomoko is a much older, washed-up model who just got dumped on her wedding day. Needless to say, their sexual tension sizzles despite their 7-year age gap. And you will find some very memorable performances from pre-KimuTaku hottie Takenouchi Yutaka and a young Matsu Takako. After watching this drama I wanted to jump straight into the Pacific and start swimming for Japan, lollll. Oh, and watch out for the opening credits, where a slim, mop-haired Kimura wearing a Live Aid T-shirt jams on his guitar with his co-stars on that basketball court by the bay. Classic.
2. LOVE GENERATION (Fuji TV, 1997) – Okay, now for the total Kimura SexLoveMojo, lol… Watch this. This romantic drama got even higher ratings than LONG VACATION, and effectively secured Kimura’s status as Gen-X Poster Boy and Heartthrob for the entire female demographic of the Nihonjin Nation. If you just want a story that really, really focuses on “The Anatomy of a Relationship,” and is unencumbered by all those nonessential trappings (haha) like… sports and politics and airplanes and orphanages and racetracks and legal stuff and amnesia and piano-playing and finance and murder and forensics and hairdressing……… If you just want a straightforward love story between two twenty-somethings, and all the relationship issues therewith, then LOVEGEN should be IT. It’s cute, it’s funny, it’s bittersweet, it’s heartbreaking, it’s honest, it’s romantic, it’s maddening, it’s sexy, it’s flawed, it’s beautiful. You will also get the full experience of the Kimura Takuya + Matsu Takako “Golden Combi” (as the fans call them), sort of the Ultimate Jdorama Supercouple/Love Team of all time. Their chemistry is simply amazing, and both are such good actors that you really do appreciate and enjoy all their scenes and moments together. They’ve co-starred in other productions before and since, but LOVEGEN remains the mother lode of the KimuMatsu experience.
DARK / SERIOUS KIMURA: (To showcase his range as an actor.)
1. GIFT (Fuji TV, 1997) – I have not watched this mystery/thriller, but have heard it’s very good. It didn’t rate very well, but it’s still considered a cult favorite by many.
2. NEMURERU MORI / SLEEPING FOREST (Fuji TV, 1998) – I enjoyed this dark, modern-day fairy tale-slash-whodunit for the most part (being a fan of murder mysteries in general), although the ending was highly unsatisfying for me. Still, watch it if you want to see Kimura trying to stretch his acting range. He’s a *little* bit self-conscious in this drama (all that hair-flipping! lol), but in some moments he really, really shines. And oh boy, is he frikkin’ CUTE here, in those tight white undershirts and floppy hats, hihihi… (Read the review)
3. SORA KARA FURU ICHIOKU NO HOSHI / A MILLION STARS FALLING FROM THE SKY (Fuji TV, 2002) – Arguably one of Kimura’s darkest and most complex roles. Don’t watch this if you’re in the mood for light, breezy fluff, obviously. The drama’s overall tone is rather sordid and distressing, and the denouement does NOT go down smoothly. You’re in for a helluva ride here, so buckle up and brace for impact. And did I say this could also have been titled “A Million Sex Scenes Falling from the Kimura Sky”? Lol. (Read the review)
4. KAREI NARU ICHIZOKU / THE GRAND FAMILY (TBS, 2007) – Set against Japan’s post-WWII economic restructuring of the 1960s, the story revolves around a powerful (albeit fictional) family in Kobe with interests ranging from banking to steel production. Kimura plays the eldest son, whose thorny relationship with his father, the clan patriarch, is at the heart of this excellent ensemble drama about a family torn apart by hatred, ambition and greed. The plot is complex and highly gripping, expertly interweaving the main characters’ personal tensions with the bigger socio-economic upheavals of a country in transition. And the themes — tradition vs. innovation, man’s struggle with the evil in society, and existentialism — make for a serious, if very bleak, watch. Definitely Kimura’s most depressing drama so far.
KIMURA AS THE HERO OF THE DAY: (Template formula: he plays an idiosyncratic nonconformist whom his colleagues easily write off and underestimate, but who ends up saving the day… and who ultimately earns everyone’s grudging respect and admiration.)
1. HERO (Fuji TV, 2001) – Kimura’s highest-rating drama ever, and one of the highest in recent Jdorama history. I had a blast watching this, not only for Kimura but for the prosecutors and law clerks rounding off the cast. Best ensemble J-drama I’ve seen, bar none. Plus, Kimura and Matsu are back (!!!), so watching HERO has an added bonus for fans of LOVE GENERATION. (Read the review)
2. CHANGE (Fuji TV, 2008) – Maybe this drama bit off a tad more than it could chew, as most political fairy tales are prone to doing. I read a comment somewhere saying that CHANGE felt like a 10-year-old schoolboy had been given a textbook on Japanese politics, and was told to go write a script. Hehehe. I’m rather inclined to agree. But Kimura does some great comedy all throughout, so that’s a good thing. And from a purely superficial, looks-driven point of view, this drama is probably Kimura at his… grossest, lol. The nerdy specs and that Afro (or Jap’fro, hehe) hairstyle scream “deglamorized!!! deglamorized!!!” in every scene. The romance takes a backseat to the politics, but is… moderately satisfying nonetheless. (Read the review)
3. MR. BRAIN (TBS, 2009) – In his newest drama, Kimura plays a quirky neuroscientist who ends up cracking the most difficult cases for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. As a police procedural, MR. BRAIN is nothing special, and (I’m sorry to say this) neither is Kimura’s patchy rendition of the forensic eccentric Tsukumo Ryusuke. I’m getting tired of these “unlikely hero” roles, and I say it’s about time he went back to his romantic drama roots, because it’s what he does BEST. I know he wants to test the limits of being a serious actor and all that stuff (and I hope he still gets to), but the best Kimura is still Romantic Lead Kimura. This is his niche, the one area where nobody (and I mean NOBODY!!!) is his better. He obviously isn’t the best J-actor around, but is he the best Jdorama leading man in three star systems? Hellyeahhhh. (Read the review)
Which brings me to a drama that doesn’t seem to fit any of the preceding genres, mainly because it’s the only Kimura drama that can be categorized as a MELODRAMA:
BEAUTIFUL LIFE (TBS, 2000) – Kitagawa Eriko (LONG VACATION, SORA KARA FURU ICHIOKU NO HOSHI ) wrote this wonderful gem of a drama about an unlikely romance between a driven, difficult stylist and a wheelchair-bound woman. The drama is very sobering, but doesn’t dwell on the female lead’s illness and its ensuing… complications. Under a second-rate writer, BEAUTIFUL LIFE could easily have degenerated into Melodrama Cliché Hell. Good thing the writing is simply sublime. The end credits sequence (which can stand alone as a music video, thanks in part to that awesome song by the J-Rock act B’z) is the BEST I’ve seen in ANY drama. I loved, loved, loved this drama. I hope you will, too.
Which leaves us with the question: is there anything Kimura’s done that was a dud? Hahaha… Quite a few, I must say. Steer clear of the following, unless you have absolutely nothing better to watch:
1. CONCERTO / KYOSOKYOKU (TBS, 1996) – This drama effectively put me to sleep before the first episode was even over. Zzzzzzzzz. Bad writing, uninspired direction, characters that don’t do anything for you. Kimura figgerz in a love triangle with this stooped, sad-looking, old little man, and the hammiest actress to ever walk the earth. Why bother? Lol. Mebbe I’ll finish this… someday……
2. ASUNARO HAKUSHO (Fuji TV, 1993) – This drama is the earliest work of Kimura’s that I’ve seen, and his talent shines amid this drippy little sleazefest of a campus soap opera. Curiously enough, Kitagawa Eriko (yes, THE Kitagawa Eriko) penned this sordid, uber-pretentious, amazingly execrable drama. Kimura as Lovesick Geekboy maybe isn’t a role you’d want to see him in right on the heels of PRIDE & Co., but he’s actually the best thing about this stupid grotty show. (Read the review)
So, that’s pretty much it from my end. Enjoy your Kimura dorama.
Keeping the KimuTaku luuuurrrve alive (and festering, hyukyuk),
XOXO Ender’s Girl