Archive for the ‘Dark Kimura’ category

Drama Review: Sora Kara Furu Ichioku no Hoshi / A Million Stars Falling From the Sky (Fuji TV, 2002)

November 18, 2009

Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magick

by Ender’s Girl

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The Cast:
Akashiya Sanma, Kimura Takuya, Fukatsu Eri, Shibasaki Kou, Igawa Haruka, Morishita Aiko

In a Nutshell:
Homicide detective Dojima Kanzo investigates the mysterious death of a female college student, while his sister Yuko grapples with her growing attraction to Katase Ryo, an apprentice cook who has started dating Yuko’s heiress friend Miwa.

(SpoilLert: Land mines up ahead!!! Proceed at your own risk!!!)

[Recommended companion track: “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” by U2]

“O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed.”

-Gerard Manley Hopkins, “No Worst, There Is None”

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Paradise Lost

You would expect a drama bearing the title A Million Stars Falling From the Sky (The Smile Has Left Your Eyes) to be nothing short of epic. Images both great and terrible spring to mind, a tragic vision of Miltonian proportions. So you steel yourself for the onslaught, ready to be swept away by the darkness and the doom. (Don’t watch Sora Kara Furu Ichioku no Hoshi if you’re in the mood for light, breezy fluff, obviously.) The drama’s overall tone is sordid and depressing, and the denouement does NOT go down smoothly. You’re in for a helluva ride down the homestretch, so buckle up and brace for impact. The whole thing has the atmosphere of a Greek tragedy, and you come away feeling dirty, as in deep-down dirty, right after watching it. Where do you even begin to make sense of this morass of malice, manipulation and murder? Everybody here is tainted, a gray area, deeply flawed and complex. When push comes to shove, nobody is above moral compromise. Nobody. “No worst, there is none.”

The jigsaw puzzle is a recurrent theme in this drama, from the opening credits down to the final moments. The college student’s death that prefaces the story is but one piece in this puzzle, with the Big Picture gradually materializing as each (seemingly unrelated) fragment falls into place. Despite the story kicking off with a homicide investigation, and despite one of the main characters being a detective, Sora Kara Furu… is not your action-packed whodunit or garden-variety police drama. It is something else altogether, and you get the feeling that whoever is assembling this puzzle is doing so at a very deliberate and measured pace. This drama is a slow burn for the first ten episodes, and you can only watch and wait in mingled fascination and dread as the story makes its inexorable climb to that unforgettable climax.

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Criminal Minds

You wonder what the two parallel story lines — the homicide investigation and the Yuko-Ryo-Miwa love triangle — have to do with each other, but you realize soon enough that these arcs aren’t parallel at all, but crisscrossing threads in a growing web of lies and lust and secrets, of past sins and new crimes, of suspicion and cover-ups. And at the center of it all is Katase Ryo, with the face of an angel (and the body of, well, something else, heh heh heh) but possessing the deadened eyes of one who has fallen from grace long before the story unfolds, who charms with his smile while ever so subtly ensnaring people in his own machinations — until they are all dead, or broken.

Ryo is arguably Kimura Takuya’s darkest role to date. Like Shakespeare’s Iago, Ryo is the perfect criminal because he never gets his hands bloodied. Both masters at string-pulling and button-pushing, Iago and Ryo play god without a second thought, moving people around like willing pawns in the crimes they have masterminded, disposable pieces in their sick little games. Othello‘s Iago is described by Samuel Taylor Coleridge as this “motiveless malignity,” though one can argue that there IS a motive behind Iago’s (and Ryo’s) sociopathy, and that is POWER — over people’s lives and destinies. The lust for power is a potent drug that creates a false patina of invincibility — and even immortality. For in Ryo’s illusory world, blinded by his own hubris, he really becomes a god, vowing to make the stars “fall from the sky” through sheer cunning and will — while spitting in the face of Fate. But nothing lasts forever, and these stars that Ryo has willed to fall from the heavens — these beautiful, unattainable stars that mock him in their splendor — plummet to earth in a deadly firestorm that leaves Ryo’s world in ashes. Trapped in his own endgame, the master of destiny becomes the prisoner of doom.

Something Evil is a-cooking… (and it’s peeling the potatoes, too!) Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!

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Drama Review: Nemureru Mori / A Sleeping Forest (Fuji TV, 1998)

October 31, 2009

Vivere disce, cogita mori – Learn to live; Remember death.
(sundial inscription)

by Ender’s Girl

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The Cast:
Nakayama Miho, Kimura Takuya, Nakamura Toru, Jinnai Takanori, Yusuke Santamaria, Natsuyagi Isao

In a Nutshell:
A 15-year-old crime casts a long shadow on a young woman whose lost memory of the incident returns with a vengeance. She meets a mysterious stranger, who vows to help her reclaim her forgotten past.

(SpoilLert: Major, major plot revelations!!! Proceed only if you’ve watched the ENTIRE drama!!!)

[Recommended companion track: “A Sorta Fairytale” by Tori Amos]

Once upon a Time, in a Faraway Land…

I enjoyed Nemureru Mori for the dark, modern-day fairy tale that it is: it takes the Sleeping Beauty archetype and gives it an urban-whodunit spin, setting it in 1998 Tokyo. But here the Sleeping in question is a psychological rather than a physical condition, as it is the Princess’ memories that remain submerged for a certain time period, to be Awakened by the Prince at the right Moment. (But who is the Prince, pray tell? Is there even one at all?)

When stripped of its more palatable, Victorian-era coating, the Fairy Tale is no children’s bedtime reading. I’m glad that Nemureru Mori feels less like Hans Christian Andersen and more like the earlier work of the Brothers Grimm, with the gore and the gloom and the, er, grimness not seen in their later (and heavily sanitized) versions. I welcome fairy tales in all their literary incarnations, in particular Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber,” a collection of retold fairy tales — dark, violent, sensuous and lushly romantic, but at times also bleak and terrifying.

The question, therefore, would be: If this is the story of Sleeping Beauty, who are the other characters? Who’s the Wicked Witch? The Fairy Godmother? The White Knight? But given the murder-mystery angle of Nemureru Mori you know that everything and everyone is immediately suspect — with the exception of Beauty, through whose eyes we watch the story unfold. So… could it be that certain characters in Nemureru Mori are actually composites of two or more of these fairy tale figures, who in turn may (or may not) be fundamentally disparate from each other (i.e. what if the Prince turns out to be the Big Bad Wolf?) — thus rendering them more ambiguous (but more interesting)? I’ve read enough crime capers and Agatha Christie mysteries to expect the unexpected and brace for twists in the plot. You try to second-guess people’s motives and anticipate the telltale signs that may (or may not) Mean Something Later On, those breadcrumbs in the woods that point the Way Out. And the woods of this Sleeping Forest have a beautiful, surreal quality to them, where time and space lose their real-world sway. It truly is an enchanted place, one both tranquil and threatening, a secret dream-garden where a long-forgotten evil lurks unseen.

The starting point of our story is a Christmas Eve massacre in a picturesque little town 15 years past. Beneath the snow-coated rooftops and steeples of churches, beneath the clear voices of carolers rising through the winter air, a gruesome crime has just been committed: the cold-blooded murder of three family members. The rain has washed away all traces of the killer, all evidence of his identity. Amid the flashing police sirens and crowds of onlookers, the body bags are carted into the ambulance one by one, the child Minako’s family — dead forever. That the carnage happened at Yuletide, of all times — is inconceivable, and yet the proof of this horrific deed is incontrovertible: the red stains against the snow, the bloodied corpses, the knife left behind when the murderer fled the scene. The 12-year-old girl Minako, the sole survivor of this nightmare, retreats deep into the darkness, her spirit broken and all memories locked away inside, in a place where even she dares not go. And through it all, the statue of the Virgin Mary at the nearby church remains the lone witness to this scene, her marmoreal countenance sphinx-like in dispensing either benediction — or judgment. And so our Fairy Tale begins. Enter the Gingerbread House! Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!