Posted tagged ‘nakama yukie’

The Great Asian Fantasy Movie Quest: Shinobi ~ Heart Under Blade (2005)

April 2, 2011

Ten Little, Nine Little, Eight Little Ninjas…

by Ender’s Girl

A hopeless sucker for a good sword-and-sorcery yarn, I never pass up the chance to road-test possible contenders for the Next Great Asian Fantasy Flick. (Recs from y’all are most welcome!) This particular movie tracks two ill-fated ninja lovers trying (not?) to kill each other in the mountain forests of 17th-century Japan. Sounds, epic, I know. But is it really?


Shinobi: Heart Under Blade

The Cast:
Nakama Yukie, Odagiri Joe, Sawajiri Erika

Directed by Shimoyama Ten / Shochiku Films, 2005

In a Nutshell:
An uncanny pair of star-crossed ninjas (and one in a mullet) must choose between forbidden love and clan duty. (OHNOES OHNOES!!!)

(SpoilLert: Ohohoho you bet!)

Genres: fantasy, romance, cosplay
Iconography: secret ninja communes, dueling magicky people, Odagiri Joe in a mullet
Main themes: mullets, blood feuds, filial piety, forbidden love
Key message: If your boyfriend grows a mullet, you might as well gouge your eyes out. (Yowww!)

Watching certain parts of Shinobi – and I’m just talking about the good parts here – is like watching nature-themed screensavers while pretending to send emails from your workstation. Same amount of brainwork required, too. Because if all you’re looking for is a pretty movie, then this one is it. It’s hard to top the visuals of the Edenic realm in which this film is set: a falcon winging over tree-topped ravines… a shallow rock pool shimmering in a forest glade… a fish arcing out of the water and scattering crystal droplets in slow-mo… a wood nymph with lavender chenille in her hair, alighting by the pool for a sip while her would-be lover, a solemn young man in a mullet, gazes at her from across the water…

Click to see MOAR mullets! MOAR!!!

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Drama Review: 99-nen no Ai ~ Japanese-Americans (TBS, 2010)

February 21, 2011

99 Years of Zzzzsolitude

by Ender’s Girl


The Cast:
Kusanagi Tsuyoshi, Matsuyama Kenichi, Nakama Yukie, Nakai Kiichi, Izumi Pinko, Kawashima Umika, Terashima Saki, Yachigusa Kaoru, Kamijo Tsunehiko, Kishi Keiko

In a Nutshell:
A family of Japanese immigrants struggle to survive in America in the years leading up to the Second World War, enduring bigotry and injustice – both on their farm, and later, in an internment camp – from an increasingly xenophobic society and its government.

(SpoilLert: It’s A WAR DRAMA, so it can’t possibly end well, can it?)

“But when we came out of camp, that’s when I first realized that being in camp, that being Japanese-American, was something shameful.”

– George Takei


This multi-generational saga begins when the founding patriarch leaves his hometown in search of a better life and a better future…

[*buzz* What is “One Hundred Years of Solitude”?]

…and he embarks on an epic journey across the ocean, where America beckons with the promise of land so green and bountiful, as far as the eye can see. And on this land he unexpectedly finds love…

[*buzz* What is Far and Away?]

…But he and his wife soon realize the hardships faced by migrant sharecroppers – the unfair wages, abusive landlords and wretched living conditions…

[*buzz* What is “The Grapes of Wrath”?]

…Still, the young couple persevere until they acquire their own farm and start to raise a family. But when war breaks out between America and Japan following the Pearl Harbor attacks, the family is forced off their land by the U.S. government and relocated to the Manzanar Internment Camp…

[*buzz* What is “Snow Falling on Cedars”?]

…And in this production, the lead actor appears in multiple roles…

[*buzzzzzz* What is Coming to America???????]

(LOL.) Er, sorry to disappoint the Gabriel Garcia-Marquez fans, the Tom+Nicole fans, the Steinbeck fans, the Ethan Hawke fans (lol) and most of all, the Eddie Murphy fans reading this blog, but the answer is “none of the above.”

When 99-nen no Ai (99 Years of Love) ~ Japanese-Americans aired for five consecutive nights in November of 2010, it wasn’t just touted as TBS’ 60th anniversary offering — a worthy milestone in itself — but as something more momentous, not only for the network but for the whole country. For this tanpatsu wasn’t just any historical drama, it was a drama about a particular subset of Nihonjin who lived in a land not their own, amid a people hostile to their race, and during one of the most harrowing periods in 20th-century history. By following the story of the fictional Hiramatsu family, 99-nen no Ai gives viewers a glimpse into the injustices suffered by the first-generation Japanese-American immigrants (called Issei) and their American-born children (or Nisei) on U.S. soil during the 1920s-1940s, the most egregious of which being their blanket labeling as “enemy aliens” during the Second World War (despite the Nisei being American citizens) and subsequent incarceration in concentration camps.

Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!

Drama Reviews: Gokusen 1 (NTV, 2002); Gokusen 2 (NTV, 2005); Hana Kimi (Fuji TV, 2007)

November 23, 2009

High School Farcical
Part One

by Ender’s Girl

With a precious few exceptions (like Nobuta wo Produce), high school-based J-dramas seem to be nothing but an endless wasteland of sheer inanity, where people are one-dimensional buffoons and situational plausibility gets pimped out for cheap laughs. In this world, school IS a joke. Literally.

I give you Exhibit A:

Groundhog Day with the Gokusens

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The Cast:
Nakama Yukie, Utsui Ken, Namase Katsuhisa, and a truckload of Johnnies, Johnny-types, Johnny wannabes, and Johnny rejects… plus the seasonal posse of Angry Young Rebels aka Yankumi’s Core Group

In a Nutshell:
Young math teacher Yankumi + her homeroom class of toughies and teenage dirtbags = Too much violence, waaaaaay too much playing hooky, but not enough algebra. (Stand and Deliver this ain’t.)

(SpoilLert: Ehhhh… the whole damn nutshell IS the plot.)

[Recommended companion track: “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus]

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I finally gave Gokusen a try because of all the hype surrounding the series/franchise/commercial juggernaut. And I suppose anyone would’ve found the story *marginally* enjoyable… if they were FIVE years old, that is. Sitting through the Gokusens I kept feeling like frikkin’ Bill Murray in Groundhog Day: You’re forced to relive the same episode over and over and over again, watching various permutations of the same rehashed situations: The baaad, baaaad boys of Class 3-D are mean to Yankumi! Yankumi gets tough on them! The boys get into various scrapes/fisticuffs with the Criminal Elements of Society! Yankumi saves her “precious students” — because Yankumi is really… a Yakuza scion trained in the age-old art of a$$-kicking! So the boys inevitably end up learning Valuable Life Lessons! Like… Obey your elders! Choose your battles wisely! Learn to appreciate your teachers! Finish high school, and reach!your!potential! Follow your heart! (Hahaha)

Really, they could’ve done ALL OF THIS with just one SP and achieved the same result — instead of 3 seasons, 2 SPs and a feature film.

But for purposes of comparison: Gokusen 1 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Gokusen 2.

Gokusen 1 is definitely less frenetic and less cartoonish than G2, and loads more enjoyable. (And the 3-D classroom of G1 looks so… normal, unlike that pigsty from G2. *shudders*) I actually found myself emotionally involved at some level — the Kumai boy’s (Waki Tomohiro) story in particular. And Nakama Yukie has great chemistry with Matsumoto Jun as Sawada Shin, G1’s Alpha Male of the Angry Young Rebels. Nothing sexual or anything (she’s his frikkin’ teacher, duh), but their scenes make the viewer wish for some post-graduation romance, haha. NOW I understand why there are like, 1 million YankumixShin shippers out there (…and why the Kame haters increased by 1 million when the movie came out this year, lol).

And it’s interesting to see MatsuJun and Oguri Shun in their career-making roles (this was way back in 2002, after all)… even more interesting to see how they looked before the advent of eyebrow threading and orthodontia, lol.

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<Now this is the part where my three regular readers get whittled down to two. (Run away!!! Run away!!!)>

(No, come back! Come back!!!) Next up: Gokusen 2 and Hana Kimi! Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!