Attack of the Killer Cheese Floss! The Giant Pecs of Doom! (And Other Hardcourt Horrors)
by Ender’s Girl
Yamashita Tomohisa, Kitagawa Keiko, Aibu Saki, Ito Hideaki, Kaneko Nobuaki, Kanjiya Shihori, Maya Miki, Mizobata Junpei, and Yamashita Tomohisa’s various muscle groups
In a Nutshell:
Hotshot hoopster Kamiya Naoki crosses paths with Shirakawa Riko, an aspiring violinist who has just moved into his neighborhood. Though they have little in common, the two become good friends and cheer each other on through their respective setbacks and victories. But love pulls a fast break — despite Naoki’s serious relationship with his cheerleader girlfriend, and Riko’s budding romance with Naoki’s head coach. Will Naoki and Riko ever make that slam dunk into love? Or will they only foul out at the buzzer? (And will I ever lay off the lame basketball puns? Not a chance! Hahahaha)
(SpoilLert: Major-league spoilers up ahead! I left all the good stuff in, sorry.)
The apartment complex. The neighborhood basketball court. The strains of classical music wafting from an open window. The friendship growing into love. The bouncing rubber ball… Now, where have we seen these before? Heh. But before all you Long Vacation fans wheel out your beat-up old pianos while warbling the “La La La Love Song” chorus and Cagnet medleys, before you start sobbing “Sena… Sena…” into your tattered Live Aid T-shirts… <oh, so was it just me doing that? lol> Chotto matte! This ain’t about Long Vacation. (Well, duh.)
Of course this is all about the drama Buzzer Beat starring “Mr. Getsu 9” himself, Yamashita Tomohisa — lest we forget that this whole production is really his vehicle. Interestingly enough, Buzzer Beat was co-directed by Nagayama Kozo, the same dude who shared credits for the two hottest Kimura Takuya dramas of the ‘90s, Long Vacation (1996) and Love Generation (1997). Same director, eh? That would explain Buzzer Beat’s obvious similarities to Long Vacation in setting, story, and atmosphere, as well as the few references to Love Generation (like the ubiquitous billboard emblazoned with <insert love proverb of choice>). I felt I had to address the LV and LG allusions right off the bat, these proverbial elephants in the room. (There are also the unavoidable comparisons to Kimura’s iconic 2004 sports ren’ai Pride, but more on that later.) I don’t know if the homage to LV was intentional, but given the same director, this “tribute” really did seem self-referential more than anything (i.e. “Let’s do LV all over again, but with sports+YamaPi thrown in to jazz things up for the Heisei generation!”) So yeah, I believe it was done on purpose.
But here’s where it gets sticky: Yes, there’s nothing wrong with Buzzer Beat riffing off familiar motifs from well-loved dramas. BUT when you’re watching Buzzer Beat and ALL you can think of is how it’s SO NOT Long Vacation, and how inferior the drama is to LV in terms of writing, direction and acting, when the drama’s flaws become even more glaring because the 1996 dorama was just so bloody wonderful, then Buzzer Beat no longer becomes an homage, but just this second-rate imitation, a fuzzy and forgettable throwback to the Golden Age of KimuTaku renzoku ren’ai. Just because it feels like Long Vacation doesn’t mean it’s as good as Long Vacation, or ever will be. To pay tribute to such an ICONIC and universally loved drama (even by non-Kimura fans) is a humongous gamble, one you should only be willing to take if you’ve got all bases covered, if you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed you t’s. And if you don’t merely rely on fan nostalgia, but have something new to bring to the drama, a fresh take on the old staples that will really make a dent on the viewers.