xxxHolic (live-action)

I remember talking to people when the subject of this week’s article was airing on television, and how shocked we all were that one of the stories from the manga circle CLAMP had been adapted for live-action.

xxxholic

I’m talking this time about xxxHolic, based of course on the manga and anime of the same name. Starring Shota Sometani (Minna Esper Dayo, Bakuman (movie, 2015)) as the awkward Kimihiro Watanuki, and Anne Higashide (Propose Kyoudai, Samurai High School) as the mysterious Yuko Ichihara, the production company stayed amazingly faithful to the spirit of the source material, no pun intended. Sadly, since each episode was only half an hour, they had to drop most of the comedic elements of Watanuki and classmate Shizuka Domeki’s rivalry, but they more than made up for it through the retelling of a few of CLAMP’s stories, along with the addition of some new material.

The first episode begins with Watanuki explaining the strange power he has, to see demons and spirits that are generally otherwise invisible to human eyes. On his way home from school, he discovers Yuko’s shop, and is pulled inside mostly against his will. Yuko’s attendants, Maru and Moro greet him, and take his hands to drag him further inside so that Yuko can be given the opportunity to decide whether to fulfill his wish.

Fans of the series will likely also recognize Watanuki and Domeki’s classmate Himawari Kunogi as they’re watching. Even though the production budget probably only allowed for a certain level of special effects, the absence of the black-furred Mokona was inconsequential. One thing I particularly appreciated was that they brought back Shikao Suga to write the opening theme song, since I’d come to associate his music with the animated series.

Please keep in mind that this show isn’t really for the faint of heart. Having the horror themes amplified by the missing comedy made for a rather scary offering. In fact, I may not have chosen to watch it, were I unfamiliar with the source material. That being said, if you are a fan of CLAMP and/or scary stories, you should definitely check it out.

Rating: 4th Gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]

Delicious Gakuin

Every once in a while, we have to take a break from the ordinary and delve into the truly goofy side of fiction writing. This week’s article is about a series that even though I have a queue I need to plow through, I occasionally feel the tug to rewatch.

Delicious Academy2

I’m talking about Delicious Gakuin. Having aired in 2007, it tells the story of a group of three kids who get kidnapped and unknowingly enrolled in culinary school. The team of foodies is made up of Rin Takasugi, played by Hiroki Aiba (Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, Prince of Tennis musical), Matthew Perrier, played by Ryosuke Miura (Kamen Rider OOO, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno), and Rouma Kitasaka, played by Takahiro Nishijima (main vocalist of AAA). When they find themselves in a classroom, their first thought is to try to escape, with zero success, eventually finding a room that’s been set up as a competition arena. With rumbling stomachs and a table full of food, they’re presented with the task of preparing a dish before they’re allowed to eat. The task is actually the school’s entrance exam, and things only get more interesting from there.

Admittedly, there are a lot of things wrong with how the plot of this show is initiated – to have three people taken from the midst of their lives is messed up. That being said, if you can take it with a grain of salt and the fact that everyone on this show is a caricature (including the teachers and other students), you’ll see the charm in watching them learn what cooking is really about.

With a lot of hi-jinks, hilarity, and a healthy dose of humility, this is one that’s not to be missed.

Rating: 5th Gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]

Tumbling

High school drama, especially of the sports and slice of life variety are incredibly common in Japanese television, of both the live action and animated varieties. Usually they tend to be aimed at a specific demographic, but hopefully this week’s topic will be able to interest everyone on some level.

tumbling

Tumbling is about rhythmic gymnastics, let’s just get that out of the way right now. But it’s also about delinquents and a little fighting, and yelling, and teamwork, and rivalry, and figuring out that there’s more to school than studying. Yusuke Yamamoto (Great Teacher Onizuka [2012], Kamen Rider Kabuto) plays Wataru Azuma, the rowdy leader of a group of troublemakers. One day his teacher tells him that because he missed so many days of school, he either needs to take extra lessons, or join a club to make up the time. Given no other options and running the risk of not graduating, he decides to try to find a club. Most of his attempts end in failure, until he discovers that the new female transfer student in his class is joining the women’s gymnastics team. He wants to catch her attention of course, so he makes an attempt at joining the men’s team. Team captain Yuta Takenaka , played by Koji Seto (Kamen Rider Kiva, Lost Days), doesn’t think he has the discipline required to be successful in a sport that demands such precision, so Wataru sets out to prove him wrong.

There are a lot of interesting dynamics going on in this series, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting the characters to be yelling at each other so much at the beginning. It does go away after a while, though, as they figure out what each team member brings to the group, and how to adapt to each other’s skills and personalities. Not only that, but Wataru is also eventually able to bring his closest associates into the group, and Yuta and the team make such strong bonds that they’re willing to help stand up for their new friends.

Of particular note is the fact that Yamamoto and Seto had previously appeared together in the drama Atashinchi no Danshi. Also, Yamamoto would later appear in Great Teacher Onizuka with Ryohei Kurosawa (aka AKIRA), who in Tumbling played the teacher Yutaka Kashiwagi. It’s always entertaining to see the shifts between characters, when a pair of actors is already familiar with each other. There was also a Tumbling stage play, with one of the members of the team from the drama reprising his character, this time as the coach of a new team.

Tumbling definitely follows a lot of the sports drama tropes, even though the sport it follows is not often given much attention (a detail to which it gives particular acknowledgment). It also hits a lot of notes with regards to breaking down social barriers, and showing how two very different people can find something in common. But the best part is that the students performed all of their own routines.

Rating; 4th Gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]

A Clinic on the Sea

Every once in a while, mediaphiles come across things they decide to watch just on a whim. Usually it’s something that falls generally outside their typical viewing genre. At the beginning, they may question the decision, only to keep going anyway and eventually discover that it was entirely worth it.

This week’s subject is A Clinic on the Sea (also known as Umi no Ue no Shinryoujo), which I had specifically started watching because I saw that Shouta Matsuda (Hana Yori Dango, Liar Game) was in it, playing the desperate doctor Kouta Sezaki. I had seen him previously in Sennyuu Tantei Tokage, which is a whole other conversation, and figured this story would at least be interesting if he was in it. The female lead, nurse Mako Togami, was played by Emi Takei (Rurouni Kenshin, W no Higeki). There was also a third actor I was not expecting to see, who caught me completely off guard, and that’s Sota Fukushi (Kamen Rider Fourze, Starman – This Star’s Love), who appeared in a supporting role.

Clinic-on-the-Sea-Umi-no-Ue-no-Shinryoujo_9475_poster

At the beginning of the series, Doctor Kouta (because that’s what he insists on everyone calling him) has taken a job on a floating medical clinic that travels between the various small islands of an inland sea. His goal, aside from professional duty, is to find a woman who will marry him, who he can take home to meet his mother. Every time they pull up to a dock, he meets someone, and proceeds to tell the crew that he won’t be coming back to the boat, much to their collective disgust and eventual frustration. Each time, the woman has some story or another as for why they can’t be together, or he’s able to come to that conclusion on his own. As the story proceeds, though, he starts to make connections with the other doctors, nurses, and members of the boat’s crew.

Like most series of this nature, every episode very much has an “A” story which relates whatever medical event is being dealt with, and a “B” story which connects the episode to the main over-arcing thread. The ending is incredibly predictable, but it doesn’t detract from the journey.

What’s great is that every supporting role is fleshed out, and the viewer gets to see what Doctor Kouta sees because it takes place in such close quarters. Please be sure to watch the ending sequence of every episode, since most of them have unique animations that illustrate various other things about the characters that aren’t necessarily shown in the main story lines.

That all being said, your mileage will probably vary on this one, because it takes some patience to get through the first couple episodes.

Rating: 3rd Gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]

Princess Princess D

 I apologize for not sharing any insights with you last week, having been in the midst of preparing to attend Setsucon. However, to make up for it, here’s what you would have seen:  

Every once in a while, it seems necessary to share something I didn’t particularly enjoy, just to keep things interesting (I have a tendency to gravitate towards stories that pique my attention, but for the purpose of this column, I may have to move away from that). In this instance, I’m talking about “Princess Princess D”, based on the manga and anime “Princess Princess”.  

Before we go any further, I’d like to mention that I did in fact (intentionally) complete the anime before sitting down to the drama, so that I’d have an idea of what was coming. The anime was quirky and funny, but also heartfelt, and so even though I’d been warned against watching the live action series, I was wondering whether it could really be that bad.

Princess Princess D, main cast

Princess Princess D, main cast

 

Princess Princess is the story of students in an all-boys school that has a tradition of choosing a few of the prettier freshmen to dress up as girls for school events and club activities to relieve the stress of being in an environment of all boys, all the time. In the anime, Tooru Kouno transfers into the school mid-year and is immediately chosen to join the existing princesses Mikoto Yutaka and Yuujirou Shihoudani (in the live action, he transfers in at the beginning of the year and is elected at the same time as the other two). The plot focuses mostly on their struggle to find balance between their school lives, private lives, princess responsibilities, and relationships with each other.  

The biggest draws for me to the live action series were Takeru Sato (Rurouni Kenshin, Kamen Rider Den-O), who played Tooru, and Ray Fujita (Garo, Zero: Black Blood), who played Yuujirou. It’s really a shame that even with their skills, they weren’t able to carry it as well as the anime. Probably the main reason it fell apart was because of the budget. The story demands a lot of extra actors to fill in gaps when the princesses are appearing in their female garb, to give the illusion that this is in fact a popular activity at the school. Unfortunately, aside from the three princesses, the student council, and the drama-only “dark princesses” the student body was incredibly sparse. Pairing that with princesses that while are good looking guys, are very awkward as girls, and the live action sadly falls flat.  

I ignored the warnings to stay away from this one, but I hope you’ll take it seriously.

Rating: 1st gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]

Nobunaga Concerto (live-action drama)

It’s been done before, and it will probably be done again. Sending characters through time somehow seems to not become overused – as long as it’s done well.

Nobunaga Concerto

In this case, I’m talking about Nobunaga Concerto. The story starts with a high school student named Saburo, played by Shun Oguri (Lupin III, Space Brothers), who is on a field trip to a historical style village. Having wandered off by himself and gotten turned around, he climbs up onto a wall to try to find his way out. His foot slips on a shingle, and he slides off, falling down a long hill and onto a dirt road. Around the bend come two figures on horseback, one of which being Nobunaga, of the famous Oda clan of Japanese history. Nobunaga is frail and under constant threat of murder. He and Saburo size each other up, noticing that their faces are identical, and he asks Saburo to take over his role as the up and coming leader of the clan, handing over a sword that will serve as proof of heritage. Saburo, thinking he’s still inside the historical tour, accepts it with a smile.

Saburo of course quickly discovers that it’s all very real. He’s really in the “Warring States” era, his life is really in danger, and everyone thinks he’s really Nobunaga. Including Nobunaga’s wife Kichou, played by Kou Shibasaki (Battle Royale, Galileo). Coming from a future where there’s an atmosphere of relative peace, he has a lot of trouble with the concept of everyone trying to kill each other and themselves. He is gradually able to win people over though, as he continually makes the arguments to start building towards his future.

I’m not much of a history student, so I really appreciate shows like this, even knowing full well that they’re mostly fiction. Every once in a while, Saburo comes across someone else who had fallen through the time slip (offhand I can think of two), and aside from his school textbook I’m actually glad that aspect wasn’t given a whole lot of attention. The story was largely character-driven, and it was great to see the chemistry between all the actors. I had somehow grown so attached to Saburo, that I found myself in tears when he faced his biggest decision in the climax of episode 11.

Having read an unfavorable review of the anime and watched part of episode 1, all I can say is that there are a lot of things that can be done in live action that can’t necessarily be done with animation, especially in this case with differences in time allotment per episode. The sets and costuming were gorgeous, and while the dialogue may not have been historically accurate to character, it was believable.

I’ve seen rumor that there’s more to the story. The manga extends beyond what we’ve seen, so I sincerely hope the rumor is true. Because if it’s not, somebody wasn’t planning very well.

Unless historical fiction is the complete opposite of your “cup of tea”, I definitely recommend checking this one out.

Rating: 4th Gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]