Posted tagged ‘oguri shun’

Movie Smackdown (Part 1): Crows Zero (2007 & 2009) vs. Volcano High (2001)

September 24, 2010

Battlefield High School

Part One: Counting Crows, Feuding Foes

by Ender’s Girl

A murder of Crows, a violent eruption of teen superpowers… and oh yes, those epic dogfights in the pelting rain and churning mud. Get a taste of high school action, J- and K-style.

Love is a battlefield, as Pat Benatar lustily declared in her 1983 song. Planet Earth is one too, according to John Travolta’s alien Psychlo character from his 2000 intergalactic flop.

Aaaand… so is high school, apparently – a premise that has spawned an entire genre of teen action comedy/dramedy on screens big and small. You need only transplant the barroom brawling and gangsta-mongering from mainstream action flicks into the tamer, more innocuous environs of an educational institution, and voila! – Battlefield High School.

The fact that these stories are set on a high school campus lends a patina of harmlessness to the violent scenarios — even though the plot actually has less to do with academics than with a bunch of overgrown kids fond of rearranging each others’ faces and dislocating random body parts as their after-school routine. To describe these types of productions (most rating not lower than PG-15 or its equivalent) as being “about high school life” is like saying that Titanic was about the, um, iceberg. The school setting isn’t really the point; films like these get made so that teen audiences — ah, those intense little creatures! — can live out their aggressive, hormone-fueled fantasies that continually chafe (futilely, it seems to them) against the carefully imposed strictures of a traditionalistic, “adults rule” society.

Korean director Kim Tae-gyun and Japanese filmmaker Miike Takashi tender two alternate interpretations of this proposition with Volcano High and the Crows Zeros, respectively — all diverting, popcorn-friendly fare, but each bearing the unique and heavily stylized stamp of its maker.

Crows Zero & Crows Zero II

The Cast:
Oguri Shun, Yamada Takayuki, Yabe Kyosuke, Kiritani Kenta, Takaoka Sousuke, Kaneko Nobuaki, Miura Haruma

Directed by Miike Takashi / Toho Company, 2007 & 2009

In a Nutshell:
Senior toughie Takiya Genji transfers to the notoriously lawless Suzuran All-Boys’ High School. His mission? To vanquish the rival student gangs one by one and earn the title of Suzuran’s top dog – er, crow – and thus prove to his yakuza boss of a father that he has what it takes to inherit the family business. The biggest obstacle to Genji’s mission happens to be Suzuran’s strongest and most dangerous punk Serizawa Tamao and his head-bashing posse of high school hoods.

(SpoilLert: Moderately spoilery.)

Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!


Drama & Film Review: Densha Otoko / Train Man (Fuji TV, 2005)

December 20, 2009

Beauty and the Geek

by Ender’s Girl


The Cast (drama):
Ito Misaki, Ito Atsushi, Shiraishi Miho, Toyohara Kosuke, Horikita Maki, Oguri Shun (hehe)

The Cast (film):
Yamada Takayuki, Nakatani Miki, Kuninaka Ryoko, Eita (hehe)

Directed by Murakami Shosuke; Adapted screenplay by Kaneko Arisa / Toho Company, 2005


In a Nutshell:
Guy meets Girl on a train. (Except that our Guy is your Ultimate Akiba Geek — a bespectacled, backpack-lugging, action figure-collecting, Tokyo Anime Center habitué who lives in his tiny cubicle of a room and has never scored a date in his life, while our Girl is a 6-foot-tall, Benoist tea-drinking, angel-faced goddess who was raised in luxury and is more or less genetically predisposed to being, oh, PERFECT. DOES OUR HERO HAVE A SHOT IN HELL????

(SpoilLert: Very! But it doesn’t matter because anyone who’s ever been online knows this fairy tale by heart–and how it ends.)

[Recommended companion track: What else? “Twilight” by the Electric Light Orchestra]

“I Choo-Choo-Choose You!”
– Valentine’s Day card given by Lisa Simpson to Ralph Wiggum, The Simpsons Season 4


Otaku Rising

Otaku of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your Evangelion action figures, Nintendo joysticks, and Pokemon hand puppets! Hahahahaha

But seriously, never before has the geek counterculture enjoyed so much social acceptability as it does now. The Information/Technology Age IS the Age of the SuperGeek: Geek chic is the new cool, nerdishness is practically mainstream. Oh, the old stereotypes are still there — the gadgetry and gizmos and the gawkiness and the geekspeak esoterica and a hundred-and-one other oddities, and they aren’t really expected to go away anytime soon in media and pop culture. But with society’s growing dependence on technology and all its fringe benefits, and with a thriving film and TV drama niche dedicated to advancing the Cause of the Nerd (and the Revenge of the Otaku!), comes this one inescapable truth: “Blessed are the geeks, for they shall inherit the earth.”


But first, to disambiguate: The term “otaku” is probably closer in meaning to “geek” than to “nerd.” Although both terms connote a conspicuous lack of social skills, geeks are distinguished by their “eccentric devotion to a particular interest,” while nerds are usually perceived to be “intelligent, single-minded experts in a particular technical discipline” (Oxford Dictionary of English). But the otaku spectrum is an eclectic one, and anywhere within its ambit you will find the audio/videophiles, gamers and techies, manga/anime junkies, cosplay enthusiasts, “technosexuals” and “infornographers,” seiyuu groupies, mecha collectors, maid café regulars… and maybe an actual Trekkie or two. But for the most part, geekhood is mostly a harmless, if rather arcane calling. Geek extremism, however, is never pretty: on the fringe of the fringe you have the otaku as sociopathic killer (take the 1989 Miyazaki Tsutomu kidnap/murder case for instance, or even the more recent Akihabara Massacre), as well as the crazies who actually marry video game characters in webcast ceremonies officiated by actual freakin’ priests, ugh.

Hop on board! (Toot! Toot!) 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


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]


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.


<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!!!