Drama Review: Engine (Fuji TV, 2005)

Bless the (Sexy)Beast and the Children

by Ender’s Girl


The Cast:
Kimura Takuya, Koyuki, Ueno Juri, Toda Erika, Kaho, Ishida Hoshi, Ohira Natsumi, Arioka Daiki, Nakajima Yuto, Kosugi Moichiro, Sato Miku, Hirota Ryohei, Komuro Yuta, Sakai Masato, Harada Yoshio, Matsushita Yuki

In a Nutshell:
Former F3 hotshot Kanzaki Jiro returns to Japan and finds his hands full of an entire foster home of Troubled Children living under the care of his father and sister. While juggling his new (and unwanted) responsibilities as the home’s designated driver, Jiro reconnects with his old coach (and an old flame), hoping to reignite his racing career and get his life back on track.

(SpoilLert: All the way to the finish line! *waves checkered flags*)

[Recommended companion track: “I Can See Clearly Now” by Jimmy Cliff]

“‘Ohana’ means family, and family means nobody gets left behind… or forgotten.”
– Lilo

“This is my family. I found it, all on my own. Is little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.”
– Stitch

from Lilo and Stitch (Disney Pictures, 2002)

First, a Meta Moment:

Half the fun of whipping my grossly underpaid elves into cranking out passable reviews for this blog down in their dingy little sweatshop… uh, uh, gomen. Let’s try this again: Half the fun of whipping up reviews for this blog… is thinking up — the title!!! (Yeah I’m shallow, SO WHUTT.) I think the reason I waited so long to write about Engine (and thus complete my Kimura as Tom Cruise “review anthology” yay) was that I wanted an interesting — and inspiring — enough title to get me all fired up to do the rest of the review, haha. None of the possibilities that had left the gummy interstices of my little blue brain to park themselves on the top left corner of my blank Word doc sheet, right above the byline — seemed to work.

To tick off a few: Daze of Thunder? Promising, and it was a riff on that Tom Cruise racing movie, but… who exactly was in a daze? Me? Kimura? Had not the faintest, so… pass. Dude, Where’s Your Car? Boarrring. And too strong a reference to Ashton Kutcher and that doofus from American PieKimuTaku: Cruise Control, then? I would’ve settled for this had my inspiration completely dried up, but the images that the term “cruise control” always triggers are from that ’90s movie where the unbelievably dhuh-hulllll Jason Patric tries to stop the sluh-howwwest moving cruise ship known to man from pluh-howwing into some unsuspecting seaside village. (And if you’re too young to remember Speed 2: Cruise Control, then too bad, ‘coz that would mean you’re also too young to remember a young ‘n’ hawt Keanu Reeves in Speed, ahahaha.) So, “Cruise Control” = no go.

Then I realized that I was barking at the wrong dog — er, tree, I was barking up the wrong tree. (Lol, these silly Eeenglish eeedioms!!! *shakes fist*) Why was I stubbornly trying to milk the racing/car stuff from Engine when that wasn’t even my favorite part? After all, it was those kids at the Kaze no Oka foster home who OWNED the show — and my heart. Not the actual “Engine-y” stuff. And even if an old Carpenters single entitled “Bless the Beasts and Children” (actually an anti-war protest song, lol) happened to be the only pop culture reference that perfectly encapsulated how I felt about the drama, then so be it. (And YES BABY YES, the “Beast” in question WAS definitely sexy! Vrrrrooom vrrroooom! See Stanza 4 of my “2009: A Kimura Odyssey” hahaha)

The Mirriyon Yen Question: Is KimuTaku Japan’s Tom Cruise, or Is Tom Cruise America’s KimuTaku??? (Answer: Like it even matters hahahahaha)

Aired in 2005, Engine concludes the Tom Cruise Trifecta (TCT), or the dramas where Kimura plays charismatic rogues engaged in such glamorous, high-octane professions as aviation (2003’s Good Luck), ice hockey (2004’s Pride), or motorsports (Engine), and where the stories come chockablock with thrilling action sequences (aircraft takeoff and landing! body-checking! formula racing!); impressive locations and set pieces (Air Nippon hangars! hockey stadiums! Fuji Speedway!); the requisite romance angle (i.e.“rabu-rabu makes me stronggg!!!”); and — oh yes, those indispensable Life! Lessons!!!

But the similarities end here, because while Kimura’s TCT characters are all talented and driven individuals, they’re shown to be at different points in their career trajectories at the beginning of each drama. In Good Luck!, Shinkai Hajime is a newly striped pilot whose career has just taken off; in Pride, Satonaka Halu is a cooler-than-cool pro hockey player at the top of his game; while in Engine, former All-Japan F3 champ Kanzaki Jiro is labeled a has-been after crashing out of an undistinguished run on the European circuit. (How many puns were there??? How many???? Lulz)

But closer scrutiny will show Engine to be a bit of an anomaly because the car racing aspect comes secondary to the happenings inside the Kaze no Oka foster home. Take the racing out of Engine and put Jiro in some other profession, and the drama would still stand alone. (Whereas in Good Luck! the pilot-y stuff is integral to Shinkai’s story; ditto for Halu and ice hockey in Pride. I mean, can you imagine Shinkai… the Grocer? Or Halu… the Accountant? No? No? lol) So the title of Engine is actually a misrepresentation of what the drama is all about; Fuji TV shoulda named this Orphan or Foster Child instead, lol.

Compared to the foster home stuff, all the racing scenes of Engine can be condensed into a single tanpatsu. Even the characters that populate the racing arc are thinly drawn: there’s Jiro’s intractable geezer of a coach, there’s Coachy’s personal assistant (and Jiro’s ex-flame!), there’s the team of auto mechanics who become Jiro’s friends, there’s them rah-rah pit girls, and — most especially, hatesss!!! – there’s the Arrogant Younger Star Racer harboring an irrational hatred towards Jiro. *roll eyes*

Basically, the “engine” part of Engine can be summed up thus: After a celebrated racing career in Japan, Jiro tries his luck in Europe, hoping to get noticed in the Formula Three circuit as a springboard to the more prestigious GP2 (formerly F2 or F3000) and – hellsyeah whynot — F1 categories. When the story opens it’s been five years since he left home, but the big break has yet to come – and realistically speaking, it probably never will. In fact, Jiro is plain miserable in Rome because one, he isn’t really the numero uno driver on his team, just the second fiddle (or second wheel? second tire?). And two, everyone in Europe is a mean, meeeeaaan b@stard apparently, because whatever Jiro does, those Evil Euro Meanies always find a way to take him down a peg or two, e.g. —

[Jiro prepares for launch from the car bay]

Evil Euro Meanie Mechanic: “This car costs millions of dollars, idiot.” *takes a swipe at Jiro’s helmet*

[Later on a test run, Jiro spins out of control and crashes out because he wanted to overtake Evil Euro Meanie Star Racer while singing his self-motivational “Moshi Moshi Mr. Turtle” song]

Evil Euro Meanie Coach (via radio): “Jiro your CAR is DEAD! There’s NOTHING you can do now. It’s. Your OWN. FAULT!”

[Evil Euro Meanie Star Racer gets out of his car and confronts Jiro]

E.E.M.S.R.: “WTF do you think you’re DOING??? LISTEN to me, I’M the First Driver, you are the SECOND Driver. YOU’RE the SPARE tire. Why don’t you act like one, TURTLE BOY?”

 

But nobody and I mean nobody messes with Jiro’s Mr. Turtle, so Jiro gets a-scrappin’ with E.E.M.S.R. — and loses his job two seconds later. He then flies halfway across the globe to try his luck in the Aussie circuit, but no company with any sense of self-preservation will sponsor a 32-year-old has-been. And apparently, even the children in Caucasian nations are evil and mean!!!  When Jiro literally runs into a little white girl and her ice cream cone on the street (and his reaction here expositionally shows us that Jiro! Hates! Children!), the girl seems to return the feeling because —

Evil Meanie Child-Tourist (pauses, stares at Jiro): “You’re WEIIRRRRD.” *runs away* (lololol)

(Btw I did not make up the above scenes. They really did take place, further underscoring what caricatures the Caucasian extras were made to be in this drama. *shakes head at writer Inoue Yumiko*)

Thus does Jiro’s five-year international racing career crash and burn, leaving him with no recourse but to head back home and pay a visit to his old Formula 3 team (Team Ichinose), hoping to get his old job back. But Jiro’s wheelchair-bound coach, who is this creepy little tight-lipped fella perennially decked out in a red jacket, matching cap and dark glasses, and who sports a suspicious orange tan and goatee (which basically makes him Johnny Kitagawa — ON WHEELS!!! lulz), will hear none of it, and tells his former protégé in no uncertain terms that his days as a racer are done, that there are no openings on the team, and that even if there were, Jiro would still need to find his own sponsors to cover the stratospheric costs of his profession.

When Johnny-on-Wheels (henceforth to be known as the J.O.W.) tells Jiro to beat it (beat eeehhht), just beat it (beat eeehhht), Jiro tries another tack by appealing to the J.O.W.’s caregiver personal assistant Tamaki (Okamoto Aya). But she coldly rebuffs his (rather desperate) feelers to hook up again. (Note that Jiro’s still a bit of an ass at this point, as it’s still early in the drama.) Eventually Jiro realizes that his love for the sport outweighs his own pride, so he sucks it all in and vows to do whatever it takes to jump-start his flagging career. Has-been or not, Jiro just wants to RACE, baby RACE, knowing there’s still plenty of gas left in his tank. The J.O.W. finally relents but makes it clear that the only time Jiro will ever get to see the inside of a car is when he’s doing a maintenance check — as a mechanic.  (Ker-POWWW!!! J.O.W. – 1, Jiro – 0)

Only the maintenance guys, who idolized Jiro in his heyday and still regard him with some respect tinged with awe, treat Jiro like a hyoomin being. Ex-GF Tamaki, while not openly contemptuous towards her old squeeze (for as it turns out, it was Jiro who dumped her before vroooming off to Europe five years prior, tsk tsk), treats Jiro with cool professionalism and just a touch of disdain. The current star racer of Team Ichinose, Sugawara Hiroto aka Speed Racer (Aoki Shinsuke, who could pass for Abe Hiroshi’s nephew or summat) is the closest thing to the villain in this drama, but is so ludicrously one-dimensional that he reminds you of those cartoon baddies who are SO DUMB that they walk around with visible thought bubbles announcing their nefarious plans, i.e. “Hehehe… I’m so eeevil, watch me kick the toolbox over!!! Hehehe… I’m so eeevil, watch me sneer at Jiro and demean him muchly!!! Hehehe… I’m so eeevil, watch me tamper with his car on one of our test runs, so that he INJURES HIS FINGERS!!!” Mnghhh. Ohkkkay, racer boi. *gets rare brainwave* Heyyy… this dude oughtta shack up with The BoyFiend from Pride!!! Oh, the stories of narcissism, self-delusion and megalomania they’ll tell each other!!! lololol

Even the J.O.W.’s underlying reason for being SO MEAN to Jiro isn’t revealed till the final leg of the drama (and apparently it’s got sumthin’ to do with teaching Jiro to, um, race for something — or someone — other than himself *ka-ching!!!* hahhaha this dude should be a motivational speaker, a Life Coach!!! ‘cept that kids and adults will only RUN AWAY screaming whenever he rolls over to the podium, so no diiiice). But even then, it isn’t fully explained whether Jiro and the J.O.W.’s baggage-laden relationship was something they had always had — even during Jiro’s years as a brash young hot-rodder… OR was their coach-racer dynamic generally baggage-free until Jiro up and left for Rome? Because the script doesn’t bother showing us. No, wait, never mind. The less we know about the J.O.W. the better, ne?

The racing/car stuff in Japan was shot at the Fuji Speedway, a racetrack nestled in the scenic foothills of Fuji-san — how kewl is that huh? The facility was built in the Sixties and hosted Japan’s first ever Formula One race in 1976. For the next two decades it remained a popular venue for national motorsports events, the most prestigious being the annual Japanese F1 Grand Prix. However, the recent economic downturn caused major sponsors like Toyota (which was also battling its own corporate woes, remember?) to discontinue funding for the Speedway. (Which is also why the Japanese Grand Prix had to be shelved in 2010.) Still, what’s interesting is that even in the circuit’s heyday, formula racing never really seemed to be as BIG in Japan as it is in Europe — which is a bit puzzling considering that the Japanese practically invented all things… fast and compact and shiny, lol.

So it’s really no wonder that the actual racing scenes throughout Engine are few and far between. After all, racing is one sport that comes with an insanely hefty price tag — for the driver, for the team owner and for the sponsors. The bean counters over at the Fuji TV network probably decided they couldn’t afford to shoot more Engine-y scenes besides that Rome test run gone awry in Ep. 1, the initial face-off between Jiro and Speed Racer midway through the drama, a couple of test runs for both drivers, and finally the big race in Ep. 11 for the much-coveted Regulus Cup (which is like the All-Japan Cup, only fictitious).

“How Do You Solve a Problem Like… Ji-rohhh…?”

Jiro also discovers upon returning home that his estranged dad and sister have had their family house converted to a small-scale foster care facility during his absence, a group home bearing the whimsical name of Kaze no Oka (Windy Hill). The place is run by a cantankerous ojisan Kanzaki Takeshi (Harada Yoshio) lovingly called Enchou-sensei or Principal, who also happens to be — Jiro’s otosan! Assisting him is Jiro’s doting onee-chan Chihiro (Matsushita Yuki). Rounding off the full-time staff are two caseworkers, Torii Motoichiro aka The Finicky Teacher Man (Sakai Masato) and Mizukoshi Tomomi aka The Obligatory Love Interest (Koyuki), and one cool cook/cleaning lady Eiko (Takashima Reiko, I love her!). The staff oversee a houseful of twelve foster kids with ages ranging from 2 to 18.

Faced with zilch options regarding living and working conditions (he’s jobless remember, and therefore homeless as well), Jiro grudgingly shares a roof with the Kaze no Oka’s wards, and even (more grudgingly) takes on the designation of the home’s Official Driver (ohoho the irony!!! the irony!!!). And so does Kanzaki Jiro experience a dramatic downshift from his old world — with the high-stakes racing, the adrenalin and the crowds, the burning rubber on asphalt, the big bucks — and into this semi-permanent daycare center of nose-picking tykes and seriously messed-up adolescents.

Engine feels at times like several shows at once: The Mighty Ducks — arrogant child-hating hotshot finds himself saddled with a motley bunch of kiddie misfits, not knowing they will CHANGE! HIS! LIFE!!! and The Sound of Music — nonconformist adult with the mind of a child + large household of children = merry mayhem!!!  The ending of Engine even recalls that ‘90s movie Cool Runnings, loosely based on the inspiring story of the first Jamaican Olympic bobsled team: underdog becomes front-runner during major sporting event + mechanical malfunction during the Big Race + inspiring finish + life lessons, i.e. “it’s not about starting strong, but finishing strong!” or, “it’s not about winning the race, it’s how you finish it!” (Curiously enough, the theme song from Cool Runnings — “I Can See Clearly Now” by Jimmy Cliff — is the insert song used in Engine.)

The common denominator to The Mighty Ducks, The Sound of Music and Cool Runnings is the classic “fish-out-of-water comes to shake things up” premise, and this alone accounts for half the appeal of Engine. The other half comes from the relationships and interactions that arise between Jiro and the Kaze no Oka children, who, just like the Von Trapp children from The Sound of Music, are ALL adorable and precocious, and come in a smooth age-frequency distribution (for easy remembering, natch!). Jiro as the male equivalent to the Julie Andrews character would in fact make a very credible Maria — that is, IF Maria had a wardrobe full of white slacks and pastel-colored shirts, got pissed off easily, liked to cuff the kids on the head, never listened to their problems or paid attention when there was an Important! Issue! being discussed, and was too self-absorbed to notice the tense situations (fights! messed-up parents! running away!) within the home. Lawl.

Suffice it to say that Jiro HATES KIDS, he can’t stand their whining and sniveling, their inability to grasp the concept of Personal! Space!, their dependence on others for their needs and wants, their needless expenditure of energy on fighting and playing. Jiro wants nothing to do with them, and yet he must put up with them for the time being until he lands a permanent racing gig, moves into a place of his own, and finally gets these kids out of his (thick wavy chestnut) hair.

The non-Engine-y part of Engine (read: the Kaze no Oka stuff) works so well because writer Inoue Yumiko finds that perfect balance between the crazy and humorous situations that Jiro’s disruptive presence creates in the little group home, and the more serious themes of parental abandonment and loss, childhood trauma and abuse, and dysfunctional family relationships that the children have experienced prior to entering the home. This sociological dimension serves to anchor the story to reality, so that you never get the feeling that you’re watching another forgettable episode of The JDorama Slapstick Hour. The personal stories get to you, and get to you deep.

For what powers Engine isn’t high-grade F3 motor fuel, but the hearts and souls, sighs and giggles, smiles and scowls of the Kaze no Oka children, who, young as they are, have seen and experienced far more than most of us will ever get to in one lifetime. And as cute and adorable as they are, you know that these are orphans and abandoned or neglected kids, kids who somehow fell through the cracks in society’s buffers and safety nets, and were left with no family structure to fall back on, no warm and cozy home to call their own, no parents to fight for them or hold their hand when they got sick. Kanzaki Takeshi aka Enchou-sensei, the director of the small group home, muses aloud at one point: “People always say to treasure your family because your family is the best thing to have… But what are those who don’t have one to begin with, supposed to do?” True, that.

“Bless the beasts and the children
For in this world they have no voice
They have no choice…”

Once you get to know the kids through their backstories the way that Jiro does, it will be difficult to ever forget them. Throughout the drama we get these little vignettes of their everyday life, and in so doing we also get a glimpse of their distinct personalities. There’s Misae (Ueno Juri!), the eldest of the bunch and Kaze no Oka’s first ward. Her debt-ridden parents absconded when she was a child, and if you can just imagine coming home from school to a dark, empty house stripped of any reminder of their presence (and if you watched this scene, did it not give you goosebumps?), then you can imagine why Misae is the way she is. Bright and responsible though somewhat brusque and guarded, Misae becomes surrogate mother to the younger kids — although she herself had to get through childhood without her own parents. She dreams of going to college after her senior year, but doubts that she ever will as there aren’t many options available to “graduates” of Japan’s foster care system.

It’s only after Jiro matter-of-factly relates that he was adopted by Enchou-sensei after losing his biological family in an accident back in junior high, that Misae realizes that Jiro’s really just like her and the other kids, that she has no reason to be ashamed of her past, and that she is truly not alone anymore. (Ueno Juri’s acting in this drama is right on the money, as usual.) This becomes a pattern that repeats itself throughout the drama: each kid’s main problem surfaces, and Jiro inadvertently helps them get through it via some random and highly unorthodox act – much to the consternation of the Kaze no Oka adults.

Then there’s Harumi (Toda Erika), who’s a year younger than Misae and the girliest girl of the group. A bit of a coquette (lol @ how she likes to flirt with Jiro a LOT, much to his irritation and later, his fond exasperation), Harumi fits the template of the pretty and good-natured but neglected teen whose contentious dynamic with her skanky mother (and Mummy’s string of boy toys, tsk) drives her to seek emotional fulfillment in romantic (and potentially self-destructive) relationships, not knowing that by marrying young she’ll probably only end up in the same statistic as her own mother. But what really moves you is how Harumi’s a true romantic at heart, an innocent idealist whose only wish is to find stability and happiness with a good man who will love and cherish her for who she is.

When Harumi announces her plans to drop out of school and elope with her college-age boyfriend Takahashi (who turns out to be a two-timing douche bag anyway, surprise surprise), this naturally throws the entire Home into a tizzy – except for Jiro, of course, who’s just “oh. yeah, cool, whatevs” about the whole thing. (LOL) There’s this hilarious scene at dinner, when, in the middle of a heated debate between Harumi and the Adults (meaning Jiro ain’t included), the li’l boy Shunta (my favefavefave kid evar) interjects, “What’s marriage?” And Jiro, busy eating beside Shunta, answers nonchalantly, “It means you live in the same place, make babies…” before Onee-chan Chihiro hurriedly cuts him off with a very pointed look. LMAO!!!

And it’s kind of cute how the writer of Engine creates space for the Unrequited Adolescent Love Arc between Harumi and Daisuke (Ishida Hoshi), the scowly young punk whom the older Harumi only treats with friendly, siblingly affection (tsk, poor Daisuke). But despite his own personal issues, Daisuke is by far twice the man-boy Harumi’s sh*tty boyfriend can ever hope to be, and your heart breaks for how passionately he tries to defend Harumi’s honor — whether his actions are uncalled for or not.

Born to a white-collar family but banished to the Kaze no Oka Home for his behavioral problems, Daisuke may seem just another clichéd Troubled Teen seething with rage and resentment (his favorite sweater even has “Badboy” printed in large gothic letters, LOL). But like most of the kids in Engine, his story treatment is done well and the gifted young actor playing him (Ishida Hoshi, also in Hotaru no Haka) peels off all the layers to this character until all you see is a lonely, disconnected youth hungry for his father’s love.

And Daisuke’s dynamic with Jiro? GOLD. One of the best fleshed-out Jiro+kid relationships in the drama, I’ll say. Jiro’s the only one in Kaze no Oka who can handle the boy’s tantrums WITHOUT playing the dictator card (*rolleyes* @ Daisuke’s dad) or smothering him with parental concern (*rolleyes* @ Tomomi-sensei). I love how Jiro never patronizes the kid, and instead breaks through Daisuke’s sullen hostility by treating him as an equal. Which means having zero tolerance for Daisuke’s petty demands (and when the boy orders Jiro to buy him a drink at a convenience store, Jiro does just that – and gets him a bottle of viper juice [traditionally held to be a stamina-building aphrodisiac], LMAO) – but at the same time, it also means knowing when to be there for Daisuke when he needs it the most. (That breakdown scene on the bus where Jiro waits patiently in the driver’s seat while Daisuke, reeling from his latest rejection by his dentist-father, sobs his tough-guy heart out in the back seat – WHAT a TERRIFIC scene.)

There’s the brother-and-sister tandem of Toru (Arioka Daiki) and Aoi (the adorable Sato Miku), who must live with the nasty rumors circulating the neighborhood about the shocking circumstances of one parent’s death and another parent’s incarceration. Aoi was too young to remember the crime that changed their whole family, and Toru, being the protective older brother, will neither confirm nor deny it before the other Kaze no Oka kids’ frank — and sometimes prodding — curiosity. Toru and Aoi’s episode is one of the heaviest to take because of the subject matter and also because it tackles truth and shame issues in various contexts: so while the bespectacled Toru agonizes over how to shield his sister from the skeletons in their family closet, Jiro learns to face his own honesty dilemma after getting outed as a “mere” mechanic before a whole busload of Kaze no Oka kids at the Fuji Speedway. (He and little Aoi share a Moment inside an empty Team Ichinose garage that’ll give you major sniffles.)

Then there’s roly-poly Morio (Kosugi Moichiro) aka Mo-chan, he of the insatiable appetite for mayonnaise, chronic digestion problems, and trademark attitude-heavy, in-yo’-face frown, who stays at the Kaze no Oka Home while his deadbeat dad tries to get his act together. When Jiro is tasked to take Mo-chan to visit his father at their home some distance from the city, he spends the whole day whingeing about how this assignment will make him miss his crucial tryout race with Evil Speed Racer. But when Jiro resolves to help the boy meet up with his father, you know the kid has gotten to him in more ways than he’d care to admit.

Morio’s younger friend Akira (Hirota Ryohei), who gets ostracized at school for being a pathological liar (lulz), will also get to you when you realize (as does Jiro) that the kid keeps spinning those tall tales about himself out of the need to overcompensate for his own family’s lack of means, and also because he thinks that by exaggerating their financial status he’ll gain more friends and more attention. Love this kid! (Btw, Hirota Ryohei makes another appearance opposite Kimura in the 2008 dorama Change. Kewl, huh?)

There’s also the stocky, ever-optimistic Nao (Ohira Natsumi), who nurses grand dreams of making it as a J-Pop idoru. And there’s her BFF, the ethereally pretty Yukie (Kaho) whom everyone else feels protective towards because she’s fragile and timid and eats slow (lol) – or basically a J-dorama version of Beth from Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women.” Nao and Yukie don’t get as much screen time as the other foster kids, which is why I’ve always felt that Engine would’ve worked better as a longer series – maybe 16 episodes or more. Because I simply couldn’t get enough of these kids!

And yes, I saved my favorite kids for last. Shuuuheiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!!!!!! Shuntaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!

Kusama Shuhei (Nakajima Yuto) is the precocious, solitary boy with a backpack whom Jiro runs into the minute he’s back on Japanese soil. And Shuhei has just run away himself – from the Kaze no Oka Home, surprise surprise. An orphan, Shuhei is practically a pro, meaning he’s used to the rootless lifestyle from getting shunted around so much, knows all the tricks of the trade, and packs and unpacks fast because he keeps few personal belongings. It also means that at his young age he has developed a rather cynical view of the foster care system, having seen the inside of more facilities than any of the other kids. He’s the type of child who makes grownups uneasy because he’s intelligent and self-aware, but also unsettlingly polite and emotionally distant. For this reason, adoptive parents can’t seem to “keep” Shuhei because he never warms to them – until… <all together now!> Jiro comes along and shakes! things! up!

Nakajima Yuto with his husky voice, fine features, and air of soulful sensitivity, reminds me of a young Barret Oliver in The Neverending Story and D.A.R.Y.L., or a young Wil Wheaton in Stand By Me. I remember making this comment in the past that I had high hopes for the boy coming into his own as a Serious Actor – and then I discovered that he was a Johnny’s Jr. and all my dreams turned to dust, lol. As much as I loved all the Kaze no Oka kids (how could anyone NOT?), I think Shuhei was closest to my heart because he reminded me a little of myself as a kid, haha. (My parents never weaned me on the baby talk, and always related to me as they would the other big ‘uns; I’m not saying it was necessarily a good or bad parenting thing — it just was.) Anyway, I was expecting Shuhei’s story to come full circle at the close of Engine, but it never does – which makes another good case for why this drama shoulda been longer than just eleven episodes.

And then there’s teeny-weeny Shunta (Komuro Yuta), that adorable nose-picking tyke from the cupboard whom I would take home in a heartbeat. IN A HEARTBEAT!!! (=> This coming from a girl with NO maternal instincts whatsoever, lulz.) Shunta’s backstory is another handerkerchief-wringer (his parents committed suicide – yikes), but even more moving is how the kid hates being pitied by grownups. When a pair of adoptive parents come to collect Shunta but keep clucking over the child’s misfortune, calling him a “poor thing,” he proves that tiny as he is, he does have a mind and will of his own – and proves this when he goes missing the following morning.

This is around the time that Jiro has barricaded himself in his tiny garret on the Home’s top floor, having just been rejected by the J.O.W. (remember him?) for the nth time. Jiro even tacks a “Do not disturb” sign to his door, but in language only an irascible 13-year-old would use: “Don’t you dare come in!!!” (LAWL.) Which the kids never heed, anyway. (Double LAWL.) But surprise, surprise – Jiro discovers that his No. 1 Enemy at the Home, the child Shunta, has done the same and locked himself in a closet in Jiro’s attic! And it’s SO FREAKIN’ hilarious how all the adults and foster kids hate Jiro for not lifting a finger to look for Shunta, not knowing that the boy is in the last place they’d think of looking, and that Jiro has promised Shunta he won’t out the kid. But during this bonding time it is Jiro who gives Shunta the strength to voice his feelings (“I’m not a poor thing!”), just as Shunta gives Jiro the courage to go back to the J.O.W. and accept a post on the maintenance staff, and start from the beginning. Of all the kids it is Shunta whom Jiro probably comes to love the most – and you’ll know it from a poignant farewell scene much later in the drama. (Oh man.)

Rounding off the Von Trapp – er, Kaze no Oka rugrats is little Nanae, the baby of the Home who was given up for adoption by her teenage mother. Nanae won’t speak, but forms a special bond with the gruff (and equally taciturn, lol) Enchou-sensei, who is amazingly gentle with the tot and carries her with him wherever he goes.

I cannot stress enough how terrific the child/teen actors were on Engine. These kids were the best. THE BEST!!! Not a single one of these youngsters missed a beat, or came across as annoying in a stilted, child-actor-y way. They were such NATURALS – each one of them, possessing just the right blend of physical cuteness and acting skill. I kept wishing they’d never grow up. Evar.

The Way of the Jiro

The theme song of Engine is Aerosmith’s “Angel,” which was clearly composed with a more… amatory purpose in mind (it’s basically ‘bout a guy huz lookin’ 4 sum1 2 share d sack widdim thru a cold ‘n’ lonely nyt – pref. an ex-GF… or 2, lulz). For this drama, however, the “angel” in question would be Kanzaki Jiro (surprise, surprise), come down from Europe to save the kids from their loneliness and hurt with the sheer force of his charisma and those pastel body-hugging shirts, lol.

As it turns out, Jiro is the missing piece that the Kaze no Oka Home needs the most, the extraneous variable who teaches the kids life truths — without really trying. In this sense Engine works excellently as a comedy of errors, wherein the Hero (Jiro) pursues his own agenda (read: get back on the racetrack) and wants nothing to do with the brats, but in the process unwittingly helps them (and the adults as well) to resolve their problems in ways that no one else would have thought of.

For Jiro is indeed the biggest kid of all, in fact even more immature and self-absorbed than the other children – and it’s hilarious how he’s so indifferent to their personal hang-ups and never pays attention to those intense, dramatic moments the kids often find themselves in. Take for instance the scene where Misae (Ueno Juri) makes her big “I’m not going to college” announcement and gets everyone – especially the Big ‘Uns – on edge, and in the midst of it all Jiro, who has a lot on his plate as well (literally and figuratively), goes, “Fish cake is so much better than steak.” And fifteen heads swivel towards him in silence while he continues munching thoughtfully on his food, LMAO. But instead of inflaming matters, Jiro’s non sequitur unintentially defuses the situation – as we see happening in many other ways throughout the drama.

One of my favorite scenes in Engine also takes place at the massive dining table. Konnyaku (a glutinous, fiber-rich Japanese health food that Jiro apparently hates with a passion) is served with their meal, and Jiro’s oneechan Chihiro calls out to him from the other end, saying:

Chihiro: “Eat your konnyaku.  You’re an adult, riiight? You should eat your food.”

Jiro: “I’m eating it!” (stealthily slips a piece of konnyaku into Shunta’s plate when Onee-chan turns away, lol)

Shunta: (solemnly but loudly enough) “Arigatou, I love konnyaku.”

Jiro: (grindingly) “Not. At. All…” (shoots Shunta a dagger look, which the boy returns with equal measure – LOL!!!)

Jiro gels with the kids because they feel an affinity for him even though he always tries to tune them out of his zone, or kick them out of the attic storeroom where he temporarily resides (being the only place in the cramped house that isn’t occupied). For the children consider him one of them – and therefore never use the honorifics when addressing him, just plain ol’ “Jiro” – which never fails to piss him off, lol. (Jiro complains to his Oyaji: “I should be driving race cars, not this stupid beat-up bus. And why do I have to stand those little punks calling me by my first name!” LMAO) Each Troubled Kid sees a bit of himself or herself in Jiro – and this somehow helps them get through whatever it is they’re facing.

Kimura has amazing rapport with the kids. A-MAY-ZING. In Engine he displays that natural gift for dead-on comedic timing and physical brand of comedy that resurfaces a few years later in Change, another dramedy of his. His chemistry with the foster kids crackles and pops with childish roughhousing and quid-pro-quo bickering – but also resonates with tough love and genuine affection for his young friends.

Also interesting is Jiro’s dynamic with the adults at Kaze no Oka, particularly the fulltime caseworkers Torii-sensei (Sakai Masato) and Tomomi-sensei (Koyuki) who question everything about this brash, insensitive, kakkoi-looking dude who’s so full of himself and scandalously treats the kids like crap even if the poor things never notice anyway (lol). The caseworkers take issue with Jiro’s methods (lol, what methods?) which run counter to everything they’ve been academically trained is the Right Way to Deal with These Kids.

Torii-sensei aka Finicky Teacher Man asks their principal, Enchou-sensei one evening: “Do you think it’s really a good idea for someone with no skills to be interacting freely with the children?” And Enchou-sensei replies quite drily: “I’ve always thought that that idiot’s best trait is that he has no special skills.” (LOL Oh Enchou-sensei!) He goes on, “Teachers, nurses, counselors… these kids grow up with nothing but specially trained adults around them.” (read: he means YOU, Finicky Teacher Man! ahahahaha) “I think it might get suffocating for them, so sometimes I think it’s okay to have someone who doesn’t know a single thing.” (LOLOLOL Ohhh Enchou-sensei!!! And oh Jiro.)

I know the writer meant to use Torii-sensei and Tomomi-senseii as the staid, orthodox counterpoint to The Way of the Jiro, but their fears ARE valid, y’know. I myself would rather err on the side of caution because in the Real World, not everyone is a Kanzaki Jiro. Opening a group home to untrained and untested individuals could be dangerous for the kids. Just sayin’. Still, it was extremely entertaining to witness Jiro and Finicky Teacher Man’s mutual distaste from the very beginning, and oh-my-gosh the looks of loathing these two men would give each other => GOLD. Their two-way animosity really had less to do with both men’s growing attraction towards Tomomi-sensei and more to do with their fundamentally incompatible life philosophies. But it made for great entertainment just the same!

As for the mandatory romance between Jiro and Tomomi-sensei… umm… uhhh… *drags feet* (lol) Let’s just say I didn’t care much for the love part, as that wasn’t really the point of the story, was it now? The whole drama would’ve worked fine without the the buttoned-down (read: uptight) and somewhat naïve Tomomi character, who as a teacher realizes that she, too, has much to learn about… um, being a teacher. (Nothing against the comely Koyuki, but there’s sumthin’ about her that just makes me… so… sleepyyy… zzzzz.) I suppose I felt the same thing that Misae and the older Kaze no Oka kids felt whenever Koyuki – oh I’m sorry, I meant Tomomi-sensei came bouncing around the corner with another textbook solution to their adolescent problemos, heh heh.

Plot-wise, Tomomi was pretty dispensable – as was the love stuff. Sure, we got the expected cute rom-commy moments towards the end (after all, someone HAD to give Jiro some lovin’ after that crushing blow on the raceway), but overall, there wasn’t much chemistry between her and Kimura. No, make that – there wasn’t ANY chemistry between her and Kimura. Which was just fine with me because… the kids (Jiro included, natch!) were what it was all about, baby. And because… Kimura’s contractually obligated topless scenes happened anyway with no Tomomi in sight. Kimura changing into his racer suit in the first few seconds of Episode 1 – aieeeeeee! Kimura tinkering with a race car wearing a white tank top with a plaid shirt wrapped around his waist – aieeeeeeeeeeee! Kimura — *Matthew McConaughey voice* — takin’ his shirt awwfff in the attic right in front of the teenage Kaze no Oka girls, who can’t help gawking (and giggling, teehee) at his sexyback – aieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I’ll take what I can get!!! I’ll take what I can get!!! Everybody — SING!!! “Baby, baby… You’re mah ayyyn-jell… Come and save me too-night… You’re mah ayyyn-jell… Come and take me all riiiiight….” (Stoppit stoppit E.G. you stoppit right now!!!)

Uh. Gomen, gomen.

Did I forget to mention Eiko-san (Takashima Reiko), Kaze no Oka’s cook/cleaning lady, whose good ol’ homecooked meals and shy – though sometimes sad – smile never fail to make the Home feel a little warmer, a little brighter? And oh, how I shipped her and Enchou-sensei SO BAD (hehehe).

I also enjoyed Jiro’s complex and complicated relationship with his Oyaji and his Oneechan, who took him in as a wayward teenage orphan and became his only family since. Not much is mentioned of Enchou-sensei’s deceased wife (and Jiro’s adoptive mother), but these three remaining members of the Kanzaki family, highly opinionated and headstrong persons all, are the glue that holds the Kaze no Oka Home together.

But troubled times loom large for the Home when the village association – actually run by a coterie of Stepford wives – gang up on the foster home’s inhabitants and even stoop to muckraking in a bid to turn the tide of public opinion against the Home. I dunno ‘bout you, but I didn’t feel that this sub-plot was handled well. Was a series of complaints from a few disgruntled neighbors enough to single-handedly close down a foster-care facility that was duly licensed and recognized by the state? This part just felt so rushed, because suddenly – BAM, as a result of the Stepford wives’ smear campaign, the landlord jacks up the rent and the beleaguered Enchou-sensei realizes they cannot continue running the facility and remain in the black. (Tsk, tsk.) Also wishing to avoid a protracted legal dispute with the community leaders, Enchou-sensei tiredly tells his son, “Jiro, in this kind of work it’s not just about winning. To protect the kids, I’ve lost.”

So the Home does close down and Jiro is tasked to drive the kids around one last time – this time to various foster-care facilities within the city. (Toru and Aoi he takes to the train station because their new home is out in the country.) So Jiro drops the kids off one by one, and one by one they bid him goodbye. This whole sequence is probably the most heartbreaking of all the emotional moments in Engine, because by now you’re left without a doubt that these scrappy little snot-nosed kids have indeed won the cool racer guy’s heart.

In the end, Jiro resolves to race for the kids as well as for himself, knowing that racing may be in his blood… but the kids are all well ensconced in his heart. (“If I give up racing, I won’t know how to be a man anymore.”) He enters the Regulus Cup, hoping to use the prize money to re-open the Home and get the kids back. The ensuing scenes are the stuff of Hollywood inspirational-movie fantasy: dramatic, nail-biting finish + life lessons learned + Leading Lady waiting in the tunnel with a warm embrace and celebratory kiss as the Hero’s reward. Whether or not Jiro actually goes on to win the danged Regulus Cup is beside the point. For in the eyes of those most precious to him, he is already a winner even before the marshall waves that green start flag.

I also appreciate how Engine doesn’t end abruptly after the race, but traces the characters’ paths about two years down the road. Some developments are heartwarming, some bittersweet, because, well – that is Life. We learn that the Kaze no Oka Home has re-opened and of the original foster kids, only Toru and Aoi, Shuhei, Yukie and little Nanae have returned. Misae has joined the workforce (presumably as an office lady), but attends night school to become a teacher. Harumi finished high school after all, married a cook, and now the young couple hope to open their own diner. Daisuke never really reconciled with his dad; he dropped out of high school to work as a mechanic. Nao and her family have returned to Kyushu but she continues to audition to be a pop idoru. Mo-chan moved back with his old man who now has a stable job. And Akira, who has since settled in nicely at his new foster home, plans to become a lawyer when he grows up (and he’ll make a fine one indeed! the kid can argue his way out of anything, lol). And Shunta, oh Shunta, he finally finds an adoptive family that sees him as a boy to be loved, and not just another charity case.

(As for Shuhei, one morning out of the blue, the J.O.W. wheels into Kaze no Oka, takes one look at the poor kid and barks “YOU!” The next thing Shuhei knows, he’s dancing atop some giant stage piece with a dozen other kids of his age and coloring, while all around them smoke machines go off and strobe lights pulsate to the cacophony of synthesizer music, horrendously high-pitched warbling (which seems to be coming from… them), and the maddening shrieks of 836,394 Hey! Say! JUMP! fangirls crammed into the Tokyo Dome… uh, uh – gomen, got carried away. Lulz. Ohhh Yuto. *facepalm*)

And the biggest kid of all? Like countless other pro racers before him, Jiro leaves the speedway in favor of a little more job security. The sad truth is that the eagle eyes and lightning-quick reflexes needed to win a race are now, sadly, the territory of a younger breed of hotshot racers. Which is why we find Jiro maneuvering a Toyota 4×4 over rough terrain in some tropical jungle as a test driver for the Legoas Research Center. (But guess whose photo is tucked into the corner of his windshield? Those kids!!! His kids.)

But this is when reality truly sinks in, when you realize that not all of the Kaze no Oka kids will go to college and become upwardly mobile professionals. Engine leaves you with a sobering reminder of the added challenges that await products of the foster-care system once they’ve left the auspices of their “jido yogo shisetsu” (or “child protection institutions”). In Japan, many of these former wards of the state suffer the stigma of being labeled “shisetsu ji” or “institutionalized child” by a traditionalistic society that still defines family by blood ties and marriage. Products of the foster-care system often experience discrimination when looking for a job, a place to live, even a life partner. Worse, the lack of adequate after-care provisions under Japanese law deprives them of the safety net they need to make that transition into full independence.

So not all of the kids in Engine will become “successful” in the way that the rest of the world defines success. But then that isn’t really the point of living, is it? For the true yardstick of success is not in wealth or accolades, but in the lives we touch and that touch us in return. Cherished relationships that give meaning to Life — these are what it’s all about. And that is always a comforting thought.

What is family? Or rather, who is family? In Episode 2 of Engine, Misae, the eldest girl of the Kaze no Oka household, figures this out while watching Jiro surreptitiously transfer his konnyaku to Shunta’s plate. The adorably snarky exchange between Jiro and Shunta follows, and then little Aoi exclaims, “Enchou-sensei is digging out his konnyaku, too!”

Enchou-sensei: (embarrassed) “That’s not it…” (LOL oh Enchou-sensei!)

Other kids: “He must hate it…”

Oneechan Chihiro: “How pathetic… like father, like son…” (LMAO)

And Misae, who at this point is the only kid who knows about Jiro’s adoption, continue to observe Enchou-sensei and Jiro as they wolf down their fish cakes with great relish at opposite ends of the dining table. And the comprehension dawns on her — “Souka…” It’s a fleeting moment and one that will probably slip your attention unless you were watching carefully, but Misae realizes that family is less about blood ties than about the people whom you share a roof, a dinner table, a home, your LIFE with… Family is the people who, despite your faults and foibles, love you unconditionally — though they may not always show it… Family is the people from whom you draw your strength from day to day and from year to year, and who will never ever abandon you when the chips are down. Family is the people who are there to sweeten your lemonade when Life gives you — well, lemons. Whether related by blood or not, these people, they become your family.

***

For Ralph M.

***
Grade
Artistic & technical merit: B
Entertainment value: A-
Overall: B+

***
Photo credits: christblog.eu, doramanouchi.blogspot.com, jdorama.com, jdramazone.com, hyjoo.com, fansub.guckies.com, momiji-bunny.xanga.com, mono2u.com, mysoju.com, never-ending-music-power.blogspot.com, stellix.blogspot.com, takuyasworld.com, travelwebshots.com, tsinoy.com, ykosans.spaces.live.com,

Title credit: “Bless the Beast and Children” by the Carpenters (1971)

Explore posts in the same categories: J-Drama & Film, Kimura as Tom Cruise, The Kimura Project

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49 Comments on “Drama Review: Engine (Fuji TV, 2005)”

  1. jana Says:

    Here is another girl who likes the Engine children most in this dorama (together with their nii-san Jiro, I’m sorry – Jiro-niisan)! I cracked up when I read your continuantion of Shuhei’s story arc, but I don’t think Jiro’s kantoku (alias J.O.W.) was as evil as Kimura’s and Yuta’s RL shachou🙂

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Lol, I guess I got carried away equating the J.O.W. to the original Goblin King himself. Mebbe Coachy is nowhere as evil as Johnny-san, but he’s just as creepy looking!😀

      (Speaking of Yuto baby — now STOP being creepy, E.G. — he hasn’t done a drama since 2008. Is he just gonna do Shounen Club forever? Blerg. Kid’s got too much talent to waste on acting like a Teletubby every week.)

  2. ralphm1999 Says:

    Once again your excellent review has put me to shame. My image of KimuTaku is hopelessly linked to Pride and Love Generation. So I expect each KT drama to be at least loaded with romance and then comedy if possible. Ergo, Engine, became a disappointment to me. Where is the romance?
    Naturally I loved the kids. But that was not what wanted. Or did I? Your review has forced me to look in the mirror. Can I live with simple romance dramas forever? (maybe).
    Have it your way then. I will revisit Engine and look at it as a story of children’s angst and KT playing a novel role in their search for security.
    Then I will most likely return with newly inspired comments.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      That’s ‘coz you’re a hopeless romantic, Ralph.🙂 Like you I’m a sucker for romance and would still pick Pride or LoveGen over Engine any day, but the kids in Engine more than compensated for the love angle — or lack thereof.

      So yeah, I do hope you get to give this drama a second chance. No rush, though, as this review isn’t going anywhere. Just re-watch it when you have the time. (I know you’re still a bit enamored at the present with a bevy of Kdrama beauties, ne? ;-))

  3. Serendipity Says:

    Oh, yay! At last, someone else who liked Engine. And you articulated perfectly why it won me over. And I’m usually allergic to cute screen children, but Engine was done with such skill and wit. And of course KimuTaku as KimuTaku was charm itself. The show had its flaws, but I was sucked into its emotional stream.

    Thanks for the lovely review!

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      You’re welcome! Always a pleasure.😉 Yeah, the kids were a revelation, weren’t they? Reminded me of the child actors from Fashion ’70s, who were winsome — without being cutesy — and never overacted despite the bawl-your-eyes-out heavy story material.

      • Serendipity Says:

        Isn’t it a miracle? And the whole “one kid and his/her heart-tugging story per episode” format is so ridiculously formulaic and predictable and just asking to be mocked. Except that. It works!🙂

  4. Jenny Says:

    I loved Engine!!!
    somehow I ended up bawling like a little girl almost in every episode.
    Kimutaku and the kids was a great combo and Kimutaku and Shunta —-> cuteoverload
    I loved all the kids but I have to agree with you that shunta ran of with my heart. I’d take him home with me and spend hours pinching his cheeks.
    And the konnyaku scene was so funny, both sensei and Jiro are more alike then they’d like to admit.
    I also wish the end would have been a bit better written but in the end a thoroughly entertaining series.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Thanks, Jenny!😉 Oh man, I’m really curious to know how Komuro Yuta (Shunta) is doing right now. I can’t believe he was in an episode of Zettai Kareshi — I totally missed him in that drama. (prolly ‘coz I was too busy rolling my eyes at Night-o and Aibu Saki @_@)

      • Jenny Says:

        Really!!!! he was in Zettai kareshi, didn’t even see him there. Well, I was to busy staring at Hayami Mocomichi’s abs ;D
        But it’s nice that he has kept acting, some child actors quit or then stop in their teens.

  5. Ellen Says:

    Have been wanting to write you since I found your fabulous site dedicated – mostly – to the Japanese man I love the most. I am quite a new fan but my unabashed obsession makes up for the time I have wasted not knowing Kimura Takuya.

    Love Engine, too! Fell in love with him in this (I know! But it’s true). Love your writing and insights and of course the funny, fangirl bits, too. Watched Ninkyo Helper on your recommend and loved it,too. Actually, at first I thought it was Engine with old people (not quite). And who knew Kusanagi could act.

    So thanks and keep it comin’.

    E.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Hi Ellen! So nice to finally meet you ^^;; Always a thrill to meet a new fan as I’m a relatively new fan myself — of both Jdorama and Kimura, that is. (Are you new to doramas in general, or just Kimura?) So, thanks for dropping me a line, and feel right at home!🙂

      So was Engine your first Kimura drama? How many of his dramas have you seen and what have you liked/loved/loathed so far? I’m dying of curiosity here, lol😉

      • Ellen Says:

        Hey Enders Girl!

        Have been watching K-dramas, Taiwanese dramas for years. Never was much interested in Japanese stuff at all until I decided to go there. I asked a friend who was the Andy Lau (I’m sure you know Wah-jai, as you seem to know HK films) or Shah Rukh Khan (my other idol – South Asian branch) of Japan and well, you know the answer to that!

        I started with Gift and was blown away by Kimura’s beauty. You really must see how stunning he is in that. Then I jumped right to Mr. Brain and was not sure it was really the same guy at first. As of now I have seen 9 of his dramas, 3 movies. But I think Engine is my fave. I haven’t seen Pride yet. I’m sort of saving it but I also love Hero (I mean, KimMatsu?!), Long Vacation, Beautiful Life. I do like the romances a lot but I just LOVE Kimura – period. So, as far as I’m concerned he can sit around in his funny chef hat and not do a thing and I’m pretty happy. I also think he’s a fab actor (that 22 minute monologue in Change!??) but I take on board what you are saying at Kusanagi.
        Oh, and I just started A Million Stars Fall From the Sky because of your wonderful subtitle for it. My ideal Kimura drama requires 3 things – that he should have his hair wet (find it VERY hot!), that he should be cranky (no one does cranky better than him in real or reel life) and that he should kiss someone.

        Anyway I am very glad to have found your site where all things Kimura (and other lovely Japanese/Korean men) rule!

        E.

        • Ender's Girl Says:

          Oooh, I love Andy Lau! Saw him in the Infernal Affairs trilogy and became an instant fan. Shah Rukh Khan I know of (I mean, the dude IS famous), but haven’t seen any of his work.

          Lol, going from Gift to Mr Brain is one giant leap for a Kimura fan! I mean you’re talking 12 years’ worth of accelerated aging, lol. Anyway, it’s a good thing his romantic dramas are always there to draw you back into his awesomeness.

          W00t, I’m a KimuxMatsu shipper too! Glad you loved Hero too. How did you find Love Generation? *giant grin*

          And amen to your top 3 Kimuradorama must-haves! (Omo, his hair in the final scene of Beautiful Life? Wet, slicked-back and OH SO HOT.) If I may humbly add must-have #4: that he takes his shirt off at least once! or twice! or thrice! hahahah😉

          • Ellen Says:

            Enders Girl!

            We’re we separated at birth or something? I actually got to meet Andy Lau in Canada a few years ago when he came for a concert. Then year before last saw SRK (Shah Rukh Khan) at a festival in Chicago. So… I’ve only to see Kimura and all my wishes will come true. And, yes, the final moments of Beautiful Life he is looking awesome! My real dream is to not just see him but to see him in his WETSUIT! And, yes, without a shirt is good, too.

            I know you love Love Generation and I liked it a lot, too, but the final episodes were so upsetting. Matsu was such a dope! And I found the ending VERY unsatisfying – all of a sudden they are back together again and then they don’t even kiss! I needed at least 5 more minutes just for my stomach to settle down.

            Lovin’ A Million Stars after just 2 episodes. How can he be so insanely sexy and so creepy at the same time, I don’t know, but I think my heart stopped beating a couple of times during certain scenes (I’m sure you know the ones I mean).

            So much fun talking to you as I just annoy most people with my idol worship. Let me know if you need any Andy recommends (I know all the movies where his hair looks best!). Also, did you see that smappiesubs has the Bushi no Icibun dairy subbed?! Yatta!

            Best!

            E.

          • Ender's Girl Says:

            You’ve met Andy Lau and Shah Rukh Khan in person? How kewwwwl is that?!??!😀 Hope you get to do the same with KimuTaku — third time’s the charm, yo! Ganbare!😉

            I know what you’re saying about LoveGen‘s final scene. My innards were in granny knots for 99.99% of the drama and then — we get — this. *grumbles* (Although to be honest I think my dissatisfaction with the ending only made me ship KimuxMatsu more than ever, lol)

            “How can he be so insanely sexy and so creepy at the same time, I don’t know” << Hahahaha! So true!😄 Make sure your ventilator and antihypertensive pills are on your night table when you watch Sora Kara, lol. Could come in handy in quite a few scenes.😉 Would love to hear your thoughts on the drama when you’re done!

            You’re part of the SmapxSmap and SmapxMedia LJ comms, too? Way cool! Yeah, I saw that the amazing SmappieSubbers released the Bushi no Ichibun diary. Yatta!!!

            Lol okay, will let you know if I’m feeling any extra strong Andy Lau hankerings. Too bad if people don’t get your idol worship. They just don’t know what they’re missing lulz. As my best friend says, “The fangirly life can be fun if it’s tempered with self-awareness and snark.”🙂

  6. momosan Says:

    I loved Kimutaku and the kids. Totally hated the love interest part. Loved your review, though!

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      W00t! Sankyou momosan! Hahaha, the whole “loved Kimutaku and the kids. Totally hated the love interest part” seems to be the overwhelming consensus among the fans.😀 (Aigoo, Kimura shoulda known from Beautiful Life that he and Koyuki didn’t have IT.) I was actually hoping that Tomomi-sensei would end up with Finicky Teacher Man, the poor jilted do-gooder chump.

  7. jicks Says:

    I love you for doing this review!!!!!!!! My neck hurts because I was nodding away like crazy from start to finish reading this post… but it’s so worth it🙂 Could not agree more with your take on every one of the kidlings. And YES, Kimura’s chemistry with the children was magic… kinda gives you the impression he’s a pretty cool father in real-life does it not? xDD

    Shunta, Shuhei & Akira were my favourites, Daisuke as well actually. I think I just prefer boys… girls tend to get too catty or princessy for my tastes lol But yeah, watching all these kids love, care & look out for each other… in a way it kinda gave me a nice lil reality check.

    Ohma Mother of Goodness, that bus scene you mentioned with Jiro & Daisuke was Pure.Farking.Awesome(!) I remember my lil bro walked into my room around the beginning of the scene, stopped, paid major attention & then admitted to getting chokey lol^^

    Btw, you were a Shuhei?? That’s kewl! I was probs more like… Morio, because I couldn’t stop eating lol j/ks (still can’t actually xP) Actually, re the baby talk thing, I am personally not a fan of it. Not that I have any clues about being a parent but as a child, I personally didn’t like being “spoken down to”- I mean, I want to learn “adult words”!^^;

    Re the Jiro+Tomomi love angle, I remember a scene that I liked!!! (I know, madness right? lol) I think they were on a bus & Jiro accidentally catches Tomomi crying, she tries to pretend everything’s all gooood, Jiro, not really knowing how to deal with it, but manages to say something along the lines of “Those who hide their tears must be beautiful.” <<-I swear I saw Koyuki crack a real smile at that moment xDD

    LMFAO @"Johnny On Wheels" ^^;;; Well you may have ruined some feelings I have for Engine with that comment gaha Oh well xD

    P.S. FYI, everytime you said "Mr Turtle" in this review, I thought of Kame-san lol

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Hahaha, your li’l bro is majorly cute! (What age was he then? More like Shunta’s or Toru’s? ;-)) The fact that he admitted to “getting chokey” means he will grow up a well-adjusted young man!

      Lol, Mo-chan, seriously? I know you love to eat since your FB status messages are 90% about food anyway (always make me hungry too!), but you must have one heckuva metabolism, because it sure doesn’t show! ^^;;

      Re that scene b/w Jiro and Tomomi that you mentioned… okay okay you win, so I kind of liked that one too!!! (Man I am SO easy to break, lol) Although if anyone’s to take the credit it’s KimuTaku and his insufferable cuteness (argh).

      p.s. I know I know!!! I kept thinking of Kame too!!!! Hahahaha (“Moshi moshi kame o / Kame-san yo / In the whole world / No one is… [stranger? weirder? gayer? hotter? b*tchier?] — than you / Why did you and Jin / Break up…” — ah… er… wrong song, lulzzz)😀

      • jicks Says:

        When I say lil bro… he wasn’t really that little when he watched it lol (but in my eyes, he forever will be!!! ^_^) He was… 17 at the time🙂 He respects Kimura’s skills but also likes to make fun too just like us ^O^ (I have taught him well lololol)

        I know you love to eat since your FB status messages are 90% about food anyway
        Now that you mention it… *palms face* It’s true! I think I just have nothing else better to do in between waiting for the next course, the bill to come & public transport haha

        Re my metabolism, after each meal I just throw in a DVD of ANY JE concert & throw all the food back up lololol j/ks^^; No, I’m just extremely lucky to have inherited a fast metabolism from my parents otherwise I’d never be able relish in my love for food🙂

        Make no mistake about it, that scene with Jiro and Tomomi was definitely all Kimura (!!!) I also seem to recall some cute bus washing memories, too… but like you said in your review, if Koyuki the love stuff wasn’t in there, the series/story still would’ve stood strong.

        Btw, I just noticed your new sub-category under your “The Kimura Project” section: FAIL Kimura.
        ^^LMFAOOOO xDDD Hope you don’t get to slot another entry into there >_>;

        • Ender's Girl Says:

          “Re my metabolism, after each meal I just throw in a DVD of ANY JE concert & throw all the food back up lololol j/ks^^;” << Bwahahahahaha too funny!!!! *cries*😀

          Re my new sub-category, I just made it up when I realized I couldn't put TsukiKoi anywhere else since I didn’t want to contaminate my other categories, haha. I think that’s where I also dumped Asunaro Hakusho and I Come with the Rain. At least, I should have done so. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all these tags and categories. *runs off to check*

  8. zooey Says:

    I agree with everyone here that the best part of this series is Jiro’s interaction with the kids but I guess no Kimura drama would be complete unless the main character is off doing something cool and extraordinary.

    This Kimura series kinda marked the beginning of (to use your word) Kimurageddon for me. Don’t get me wrong, I remember enjoying Engine or at least thinking that it wasn’t as bad as my friend told me it would be, but for the first time, I realized how much Kimura needed to keep up a certain image, play a certain role. God forbid that Kimura play an everyday guy. Can you imagine him playing a grocer, a florist, a single parent or a farmer? Uh-no, not this guy. No wonder Kusanagi Tsuyoshi gets a stab at meatier, more heartfelt roles… In the 90s he may have been able to pull off playing the average guy, but by the year 2000, every character had to have something extra in them– whether it’s talent, looks, ambition or status– there has to be that extra element to set him apart from every one else. This tried and tested formula initially worked well, but sadly, it limited his range as an actor. Truth is, he can’t go on playing these Tom Cruise roles forever, which is why I think he’s been struggling these past few years because the dramas that he’s been given are starting to become an ill-fit. I say it’s time for him to reinvent himself. It might be a bit risky at this stage but I’d prefer to see something new from him.

    Since I got that off my chest, must say I loved your movie references– Mighty Ducks meets Sound of Music meets Cool Runnings– pretty much captured what I remember of this series, especially when it came to the ending which was a total rip off.😀

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      “I realized how much Kimura needed to keep up a certain image, play a certain role. God forbid that Kimura play an everyday guy. Can you imagine him playing a grocer, a florist, a single parent or a farmer? Uh-no, not this guy.” << Yeah, I know right? Whereas you can totally imagine Shingo or Tsuyoshi playing regular joes. And I know that playing these types of roles — with that "extra" quality to them, like you said, which gives a sheen of specialness or kakkoi-ness — limits Kimura as an actor, and the older he gets the harder it'll be to act all hot+youthful+kakkoi.

      But the thing is, he did try to re-invent himself in I Come with the Rain — but we all know how that turned out. *humorless laughter* That clearly wasn’t working, so he went back to his comfort zone with two sure-fire character templates in his last two dramas. But I dunno, it’s like he was trying TOO hard to be the “Quirky Hero of the Day” in Brain, trying TOO hard to be the “Kakkoi Ren’ai Leading Man” in TsukiKoi.

      I think, for me, it won’t really matter whether Kimura sticks to formula or does something out-of-the-box, so long as the production itself is top-notch in every way — from the writing to the direction to the ensemble acting. He did great in Karei naru Ichizoku — and that didn’t fit any of his usual templates, nor was the role such a radical reinvention. It worked because it was a well-made drama, period. Whereas ICwtR, Brain and TsukiKoi were such crappy, overblown productions, so Kimura’s limitations as an actor were only needlessly amplified, IMO.

      Re Cool Runnings – Yeah, I really loved that movie as a kid, despite the obvious Hollywood formula. Mighty Ducks, too — esp. the second one. My friends and I would buy all the teen mags with Joshua Jackson et al. on the cover and memorize all the jersey numbers on the team, lol. (Charlie Conway 96! Adam Banks 99! Guy Germaine 00! — and that’s all from memory, lulz)

      • zooey Says:

        Wow, I’m finally back online after a week or so of “normal living”. Lol. I think we’d have to agree to disagree on the whole reinvention point.

        While I do agree that I Come with the Rain took him away from his comfort zone, you’d have to admit that the movie in itself was weighed down by an almost incomprehensible storyline… it also didn’t help that Kimura pretty much didn’t have any lines and he had to act alongside Lee Byung Hun– so you can really say that the odds were against him from the get go. I don’t consider it much of a reinvention as a calculated decision, made sweeter by a chance to work with a critically acclaimed director– the thing was a foreign production (a film that would go around the filmfest circuit) starring a veritable who’s-who in Pan-Asian cinema– so Kimura, being the star the he is, was kinda expected to accept the role. Hardly counts as a risky move especially when you’re building an actor’s resume.

        Karei naru Ichizoku in my opinion wasn’t much of a stretch for him either because he was still playing a character that’s larger than life– he was the man with the vision, the dream, the son with the steel factory. In a sense, it still fell within his range but I think he barely managed to hold his own seeing that he was working with the best ensemble cast imaginable.

        You’re right though that it doesn’t matter whether Kimura sticks to the formula or does something out-of-the-box as long as the production is good but I can’t help but feel that if he doesn’t find something that piques his interest, he’ll just end up doing one of 2 things– he’ll just end up trying too hard or he’ll just phone in his performance. I, for one, would just like to see something real, something different from Kimura. I can’t shake off the feeling that part of the reason why his usual roles/characters don’t work anymore is because he’s outgrown them to a certain extent, that’s why they’re such an ill-fit.

        • Ender's Girl Says:

          Hmmm. Kimura’s character in Karei may have been well within his range, but I never got a false note from his performance, and I loved the quiet dignity he brought to the role. It wasn’t splashily dramatic like in Sora Kara, but that’s why it worked for me. I also felt that the quality of the actors in the ensemble pulled each other up to their respective “A” games — even Aibu Saki, who usually sucks in her other dramas — so that the net effect was greater than the sum of its parts.

          Anyway — no worries girl, it’s all cool, diversity rocks.😉 (And for the record, I actually like the fact that you don’t consider Kimura as the best thing since (tasty) bread, lol. At least, there’s someone within a 200-km radius of this blog who’s impervious to his, um, Kimura-ness. :-P)

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      W0000t! momosan thanks for the cool BTS linkies!!! *hugs* (So I guess I’ll especially be on the lookout for those scenes where Kimura’s spacesuit is off and he’s wearing this sleeveless top showing off the musskles heh heh heh)

      And I’m kind of glad it’s Meisa who’s the Space Chick here and not Sawajiri. Meisa’s so hot! Even if she’s half KimuTaku’s age! lulz

  9. lydia Says:

    WOW great review!! you got all my emotions stirring up again! it’s one of my KT favs!!!!!

    but i would have to say that I disagree with you on Koyuki’s role in the show! I simply LOVE THAT WOMAN! Sure the romance may have been kinda forced butttt i like the quirky heartwarming relationship, no need for all that major skinshippy stuff, wich was nice! To say that they had no chemistry whatsoever wld be to question our dear KT’s acting ability (since you don’t care much for Koyuki)!! I could tell as the show went on he was beginning to appreciate the fuddy-duddy Tomomi sensei, after all ooposites attract (: Give her some credit :p She was best supporting actress for this drama and that has to count for something right? (:

    PLUS she got to act with the Western KT too in the Last Samurai!! She was soooo GORGEOUS there!She may not be a big hit in the jdorama line but she definitely is on the big screen😀

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Whoa, Koyuki fan in da hauz!😀 Seriously, thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts on Engine. ^^;;

      Got nothing personal against Koyuki, and I do think she’s one of the loveliest J-actresses of her generation (why else would Tom Cruise have said, “her, I want her my new samurai movie. get her on the soonest flight to LA, pronto!”). I guess I’m just not that crazy over her dorama performances that I’ve seen — and to be truthful, I haven’t seen a lot. Just Engine, Beautiful Life and Mr. Brain — oh wow, lookidat, they’re all KimuTaku dramas lol. What dramas/films of hers would you recommend, anyway?🙂

      Regarding onscreen chemistry, I never believed it had anything to do with acting talent. Like the X Factor, it’s one of those either-you-have-it-or-you-don’t intangibles. There’s a whole archive of movies/dramas that have so-so actors sharing great chemistry. (e.g. Choi Ji-woo always manages to generate terrific chemistry with her Kdrama leading men — even though her one-note performances — cry, cry, cry and maybe even die — are legendary for their suckiness. :-)) And as a corollary, there are times when two individually talented actors come together but fail to generate even a scintilla of sparks. (Off the top of my head: Fukatsu Eri and Tsumabuki Satoshi on Slow Dance. ) It’s a strange little beast, this chemistry thang.😀

      • lydia Says:

        your blog’s a great place to hang out and squeal over jdramas and OF COURSE expecially takuyaaaa!!!!❤ hahaha

        Haha yea i guess i'm biased just cos Koyuki's so drop dead gorgeous! good to know that tom cruise has excellent taste!!

        kinda agree about what you said of chemistry amongst actors espcially your example on choi ji woo! hahaha! i don't care much for her, but when I watched stairway to heaven, I still cried like a dog (pardon the expression, it's just something my sis and i coined and it's stuck ever since)!!!!!
        However I still thought that Koyuki and Takuya made a good pair in Engine :p different perceptives I guess!

        and OMG she's in Beautiful Life tooo?? ok that's next on my to-watch list!

        Hmmm why do I like her so much? You're right to say she's so-so in jdomaras…I first saw her in the Last Samurai (duh) and I was like…whoa where did they find her??? She fit that role of the oldworld Japanese beauty perfectly! And as a result I felt she played her role well (casting is sooo important!!)
        Then I saw her again! this time in Kimi wa Petto…i WAS crazy over that drama don't know why now haha but you may want to catch that (: My sisters were too! It was something different I guess. Supporting actor was played by Matsu Jun. bleaaagh (on hindsight) but when I was watching it I forgave all his horrid misgivings from HYD haha. *shan't say anymore in case you decide to watch it (:

        Then after I watched Mr Brain, where Koyuki made an episode appearance, I thought she did well :p Engine next and loved it😀

        btw I commented on your nemureru mori post too! totally agreed with you there!!

        will look at your CROWS Zero posts😀 LOVE those movies btw! haha

        TAKUYA FTW😀

        • Ender's Girl Says:

          Yeah, Koyuki has a minor role in Beautiful Life.😉

          Re Kimi wa Petto, I think it’s the formula that’s keeping me away (seriously, a human pet seriously???) because MatsuJun’s ok with me. I enjoyed HYD very much and thought he was the perfect Domyouji… although to be honest, midway in Season 2 I realized I had turned RuixMakino. It only happened with HYD because with Meteor Garden and BOF I was solidly pro-Dao Ming Si and… er… Lee Min-ho’s character (I forget the name).🙂

          • doozy Says:

            Lee-Min-Ho-My-God’s name in BOF was Gu Jun Pyo.😉

          • lydia Says:

            haha throw that formula out the window and watch it without any preconceived notions (:

            that’s y i like to watch dramas without reading any synopsis/ review, that way I start on a clean slate and make my own judgement haha😀

            funny though, even though he was a jerk in S2, i “accepted” him in the end haha. maybe i just didn’t want to feel frustrated knowing that there was no way in hell Rui and Makino would get together :p

            oh i didn’t bother with the other 2 versions esp Meteor Garden. I have and aversion to anything taiwanese…ugh.

          • Ender's Girl Says:

            I also refrain from reading recaps/reviews till after I’ve watched (and reviewed) a drama, but I read the synopsis on D-Wiki to get an idea of what the story’s about. ^^;;

            Re DomjoujixMakino, I know, I know, the OTP is pretty much a done deal since Makino doesn’t reciprocate Rui’s love at any point in the story. I dunno why I capitulated to Rui in S2… maybe because Shun felt less autistic a person than how Vic Zhou was on Meteor Garden, heh heh. I normally go for the Male Lead and not the Second Lead when it comes to dramas. The only glaring exceptions would be Brilliant Legacy (which I could not finish because each episode only seemed to seal Bae Soo-bin’s fate as the Jilted Second Fiddle, and it was just too much to stomach Q_Q) and Chuno (madly madly madly shipping Lee Da-hae and Oh Ji-ho’s characters with this perverse tenacity even though OBVIOUSLY Lee Da-hae must love Jang Hyuk to her last breath, as decreed by the Great OTP Law of the K-Dramaverse, blerg).

            Heyyyy you might want to give MG a chance — Season 1 at least. It was my first Asian drama evar (outside our local soaps that is) and in many ways it was THE seminal Asian trendy of the new millennium. The production values and acting caliber of the male cast are no great shakes, but the Shan Cai character (love Barbie Xu) is strong and resilient and she ain’t dumb as bricks like BOF‘s Jan-di (sorry) and her chemistry with Jerry Yan is ooh-la-la.😀 I haven’t watched any other Tw-drama in full since MG, but MG will always be among my sentimental faves despite its flaws.😉

            BOF? Fuhgeddabout BOF.🙂

  10. doozy Says:

    ooh, it’s Ueno Juri, pre-Chiaki senpai! Okay, I’m putting this on my to-watch list. Perhaps, I’ll see KimuTaku in a different light.

    Btw, I didn’t coin the nick LMHMG. That came from the creative brain of langdon at one of dramabeans’ OTs.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Ack. Jun-pyo of course. *thwacks head* Just goes to show how *deeply* engrossed I was with this drama *rolleyes*

      LMHMG << hahahaha love this!!! langdon's so funny😀

      Pre-Chiaki Juri was terrific in Engine — as were the other kiddos, so on that basis alone I would rec this drama.🙂 Their offscreen chemistry was great too, it seems. (While shooting the drama, on Juri’s birthday Kimura and Koyuki snuck out of the studio to buy her a present at one of those high-end lingerie shops. They had a good laugh about it afterwards when Juri guested on Bistro SMAP. ^^;;)

      And yes, maybe you’ll look with favor upon Kimura this time around, lol. The character has that “I am cool and affable” gene anyway so it isn’t that much of a hard sell. (Of course, should you still come away unimpressed after Engine, there’s always… Pride ehehe ;-))

  11. ridia :p Says:

    i can’t seem to post under reply anymore, did our convo get too long? hahaa

    yea i normally go for the male leads too (i think i gear towards that cos then there’s less emotional stress, if you know what i mean haha) but HYD was the only drama where i was kinda like…”eaahhhh…ok so jun’s gonna end up with makino for sure, therefore i should stop resisting and just be happy for them.hurrr” haha.but this, “Shun felt less autistic a person than how Vic Zhou was on Meteor Garden”, HAHAHAHAHA LMAO would prob be true too! And truth be told, as much as I like Shun, i wouldn’t say he’s that great of an actor, and so for you to say that…i think i gotta catch MG just to laugh at Vic Chou :p

    I know MG is like close to almost at least every asian girl’s heart because it was just THE drama. hmmm when i find a little room in my heart for MG i’ll watch it then. Right now it’s pretty much all Takuya *blushblush*🙂
    And i know i can “Fuhgeddabout BOF” hahaha!

    ohoh i just realised I got so carried away i nv really expressed my true feelings about Engine!
    When I chance upon your blog AND this review, out from my heart burst fountains of joy!! HONTO!! <3<3
    Is Engine one of your top 5?? :p This drama just doesn't seem known/appealing to many (maybe cos there's no romance? sigh) but i was SOLD by the kids! you're right to say both on-screen and off-screen chemistry was great! I had all the warm fuzzy feeling goodness when I watched Behind the Scenes special😀 A side of takuya i very much likeeee!teeheehee! I guess your review pretty much expresses it all, that oh so important point about what is a family. LOVE IT (:

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      So glad you stumbled across my little blog. ^^;; I enjoyed Engine immensely, but no, it didn’t crack my Top 5 list, which would read: (in chronological order) LV, LG, BL, Hero, Pride, Karei — ohnoes, that’s 6! lol)

      “mmm when i find a little room in my heart for MG i’ll watch it then. Right now it’s pretty much all Takuya *blushblush*” << Hahaha, I can totally relate to ya, girl! *high-fives*😉

      One of the treats of watching a Kimura drama with kids in the cast is his natural rapport with his young co-stars. Of course Engine is the most kid-heavy of his projects, but even in dramas like Pride (Wataru!) and to a lesser extent, Good Luck! and Change (Akira from Engine played the sick boy), he was great with the kid actors.🙂

  12. ridia Says:

    i’m glad i stumbled across your blog too!!it’s been so much fun reading and laughing (even though i do so to myself haha)

    haha so you finally got down to ranking your top 5 (erm…6 :p) kimura dramas! judging from your picks, you must be a major ren ai fan yea?

    Although i love Kimura’s romance dramas, i’m more into dramas that have a thick plot…KAREI😀

    yeap he’s definitely great with kids, i laughed at how Morio kun in Engine was all over him and he didn’t mind :p :p :p yess and i saw Akira in Change too!!

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Well, I’m a sucker for anything rabu-rabu, so yeah, I guess that makes me a major ren’ai fan.😀

      “Although i love Kimura’s romance dramas, i’m more into dramas that have a thick plot…KAREI” << This ren'ai fan salutes you! ^^;; No wonder you also enjoyed Nemureru Mori. I also thought that Change had great potential to develop into a complex political drama — in the same vein as Karei, where you have a compact human drama in the center of all these era-shaping geopolitical and socioeconomic forces. Which is why Change would’ve been better off as a 20-part serial, IMO.

      Speaking of dramas with thick plots, have you given Byakuyakou a spin?🙂

      • ridia Says:

        haha why the salute? :p you swoon too much over Kimura to care about a plot? i speak for myself on that! haha, i get these moments when i just can’t get enough of the guy it’s unhealthy:/ e.g. BEAUTIFUL LIFE OMG.

        aye aye to what you said about Change! Too episodic in nature, it should have an overlying story that can hold the whole drama together. which is why i felt Mr Brain’s kinda half-baked too though I really enjoyed all the mysteries!! i want a sequel to tie it all together *HOPESSSS*

        oh and i haven’t heard of Byakuyakou, who are the prominents in the show?

        confession: i haven’t been watching any other dramas of late except that of Kimura’s.rewatching them too!and it doesn’t help that i’m my family’s unofficial drama screener/recommender wth.
        *dies of embarassment at my obsession*

        haha so if you say Byakuyakou’s gonna be good i think i should give it a shot (: and Lunch Queen too.
        Cos now i’m drama surfing between Konkatsu, Hotaru no Hikari, Kyosokyoku, Asunaro Hakusho and they’re not working out for me (except maybe Konkatsu)!!
        read your short but convincing review of Kyosokyoku and Asunaro…and i’m turned off alright haha.

        • Ender's Girl Says:

          Yeah, Mr Brain was half-baked; I was hoping for a few more episodes to give Kimura’s character a decent story resolution, but those episodes never came. @_@ I wouldn’t hold my breath for a season 2 if I were you, though. Kimura’s famously known to be averse to doing sequels. (Hero being the exception. :-))

          You watch (Kimura)dramas with your family? That is kewwwl. What’s their favorite so far?😀

          Byakuyakou stars Ayase Haruka of Hotaru no Hikari (remember her from Mr Brain? pretty useless role XD) and the awesome Yamada Takayuki (he’s also one of the kitchen cuties in Lunch Queen). It’s very dark and heavy and twisted, but since you did say you liked complex plots, I thought you might want to give it a try.😉

          Re Asunaro – haha, did you get turned off by Kimura’s geekboy fashion… or by, uh, everything else about that drama? lol

          • ridia Says:

            aww man! :p darn!

            family favourite would have to be Engine😀 it’s the kinda drama one would watch with family anyway haha.

            oh.Ayase Haruka again.haha.eeps.i had to give Hotaru a break cos chemistry btwn any character was absolutely zilch.you’re right to say her role in Mr Brain was kinda useless, except for some minor comic relief. i was looking foward to Hotaru cos of the kakkoi One Litre no Namida doctor butttt:/ haha.zen zen tame!probably my head was too full of takuya to be attempting any other drama at that time.teehee.

            As for his geeky getup in Asunaro…it was beaten hands down by the stunning fashion sense all the girls had, and not to mention that ultimate HENTAI main dude.UGH. and then i read your brief review…just died.if i’m desperate for a new drama, i’ll just watch it on fastforward hahaha

          • Ender's Girl Says:

            Hahahaha! Was fun reading your reaction to Asunaro Hakusho!!!😀

            Oh, but Fujiki Naohito is still kakkoi in Hotaru no Hikari!!! His character Buchou is so endearingly straight-laced and unsentimental that I was so bloody scared he wouldn’t end up with Hotaru. ^^;; I’ve seen Fujiki Naohito in other dramas but I realized I only really like him as Buchouuuuuu.🙂

            Head (and heart) too full of KimuTaku at the moment? Hahaha that’s all right! Maybe when you’ve had your fill of the Dorama King you’ll start adding to your Kakkoi Actor collection…😉

  13. noiha Says:

    Lol! J.O.W! xD

    You have summarized it so I’ll make this quick. I LOVE THE KIIIIDDDDDDDSSSSSS!

    Thanks for the review!

  14. linhcu Says:

    EG ,excellent review a,again!!!!!!!!!!!! At last, I have one KimuTaku that I really love ,after having difficulties finishing classics or somewhat Long vacation and Hero!
    Like you said before,the Kaze no oka kids are the spirit of the dorama .I love it but not satisfied that it is still lack of the kids factors . I wish that they could spend time for the kids ,instead of focus on 1D enemy , his boring tricks and boring race( I always go fast forward for this part)
    About the ending,”sob” it really left me with a wide smile,a bittersweet ending that it was really 1 year 8 months later that they could reopen the home. It was too late for the kids such as Misae, Nao ,Harumi and Daisuke to comeback to the home again….But doushite? why didn’t the writer let Akira kun go back to the home?
    This part made me dissapointed .
    Yeah ,but I love how the ending opened with the future ahead of the kids(jiro included,hehe) .They are young ;no one knows what will happen.They- unlucky children must continue to struggle for their unluckiness.Who knows they will succeed or not ? But I am sure they will be the Kaze no oka kids forever.Whatever happens, they have one place to call”home” ,have the beautiful lifetime moments to remember when facing difficulties.

  15. gaijin mark Says:

    Another sign I need to get a life:
    I was driving home the other night, “I Can See Clearly Now” came on the radio and the first thing I thought of was “Engine”.


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