aquarel, We are the others

Review: Yowakutemo Katemasu episode 1

Meet Tamo-sensei, the reluctant teacher.

Yowakutemo Katemasu is mostly known as the Ninomiya Kazunari's new drama. It airs on Saturdays at 21:00 on NTV and it is currently subbed by bunnyandclover.

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The episode opens with a baseball match. With his narration we see how the protagonist is a hopeless catcher, and with his narration he tells the viewer that his theory on sports: even the weak can win. It's a bold statement considering that his team is brutally beaten by the opponent. Still, even though he let's almost every batting player pass the home base, he tries to take out one of them by tagging him after he has finally retrieved the ball. He doesn't succeed, because he drops the ball. His opponent looks down on him, both literally and figuratively, and I can't help but feel sorry for the cather.

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aquarel, We are the others

Review: Shitsuren Chocolatier episode 1

I'm going to try something new. I watch a lot of drama and movies (Japanese, Korean, British, American) and I always have an opinion about it, but I never write it down. So, I thought of this project that I have seen other people do on the internet: I'm going to recap/review each episode of Shitsuren Chocolatier and I might even do the same with other dramas. I hope this will make me think about the way I watch and experience a drama and maybe exchange thoughts with other watchers.
I actually should have thought of this before I begun to watch Shitsuren Chocolatier, however, as I didn't, I have already watched episode 1 till 3 when writing this. I will wait with watching episode 4 until after I have jotted down my thoughts on the third episode.
If you want to comment and share some thoughts; feel free to do so! I only ask that you won't spoil me (I have not read the manga) and that you will keep the comment friendly, even if you completely disagree with my opinion.

Shitsuren Chocolatier 1
Meet Shouta: a chocolate making lovefool

A great way to begin a drama? Use chocolate. Within a few seconds we hear the rustling of wrapping paper and see 28 (yes, I counted) delicious looking bonbons. This drama is going to torture me with all the chocolate on display, I know it. I also know that it won't stop me from watching this.
It's February 2007 and we meet Koyurugi Souta and Takahashi Saeko. My first impression of Souta is: young, energetic, cute and a chocolate enthusiast. Even before we see him, his voice displays the passion he has for chocolate. And then we are greeted by his mouth that is taking a bite of one of those lovely bonbons.
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Across the table, the one who has brought the chocolates, is Saeko, who is cute, flirty and loves chocolate as well. When she leans over to Shouta, she is 100% flirting and Souta is 100% in love with her. It's nice that this is established right at the beginning. Now we just have to see how this relationship will work out.
It won't. In the next scene Souta is rejected for a Valentine's Day date (he brushes it away awkwardly, because it is custom in Japan that on Valentine's Day girls give chocolate to boys, not the other way around) and though he clearly wants to kiss Saeko, she obviously ignores his lips and instead hurries away. As we find out later during the "how they met"-scene, this is not an abnormal occurence: Souta is clearly in love with her, and she ignores him and does what she wants to do.
Souta gives off this sweet, even wimpy impression. This changes when we see him tempering chocolate. Rich, dark chocolate. Working with chocolate is his talent and you can see the confidence in his actions, something that we haven't seen yet when interacting with Saeko.
In this scene we meet two new characters: Souta's father, the owner of a not very succesful confectionery shop, and Inoue Kaoruko, his father's help in the shop. Souta's father doesn't seem to be very happy with how Souta uses his confectionery school diploma to make chocolate for a woman, but he can't resist taking some credit for Souta's talent, as it is "A product of my DNA."
Souta and Kaoruko seem to have a good friendship, as she offers to help him with the chocolate and they have a conversation about Souta's feelings for Saeko. This was quite interesting to me, because Souta shows here some rationality. He knows he is a convenient boyfriend, as Saeko was alone as she had ended things with her boyfriend just before Christmas, and Souta also admits that he had planned it this way. He may be a bit naive in some ways, but this also shows that he can be cunning to get Saeko.
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As promised Souta and Saeko meet on February 13th, the day before Valentine's Day. Saeko is surprised that Souta made serious chocolate and confesses she has a boyfriend. However, she denies that she is two-timing Souta, because they were not going out.
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Confused? Yeah, so is Souta. In Souta's mind they were going out because they had kissed. In Saeko's mind they were not going out because they had not had sex. This part of Saeko confuses me. She seems genuinely surprised by Souta's assumption that they were girlfriend and boyfriend, however, she said yes when he asked her out and they have been meeting regularly (or that is just the impression I get). How did she explain the Souta's attempt to kiss her then? Hopefully this will be explored in future episodes as I think Souta does deserve a proper explanation.
Souta had noticed the tabacco smell, but with something that I identify as classic-Souta he ignored it, because it would show a bad side of Saeko. He can be observant, but he refuses to fully use it. Love makes blind, and Souta is a good example of this. Then he says something I want to shake him for: "It's fine to two-time." Just a moment ago he was upset that she was two-timing him, but now, just to be her boyfriend, he says it's okay. It's not okay, Souta, and you know it!
Back home Souta stays in bed and daydreams about the fairy Saeko hovering about the box where the Bonheur chocolates used to be in. You can see he has made a decision and without any fuss he says to his family (his father and his sister) that he is off to Paris. In Paris he basically bribes a Japanese employee of Bonheur with a Weekly Shounen Monday and he stays there for six years to become a fully-fletched chocolatier.

When Souta returns to Japan he takes Olivier Treluyer with and renovates his father's confectionery shop to open his own shop. Olivier is the son of the famous French chocolatier Treluyer, but he has a Japanese mother, which explains his Japanese looks. He stays at Souta's house where the preparations for the opening of the shop are in full swing, although Souta and Kaoruko seem to be doing most of the work.
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Saeko saw Souta on tv and stops by the shop (which is still closed) to see Souta. What struck me the most here is the manner in which they let us know Saeko has arrived. Firstly there is music, but as soon as the door opens and Saeko greets him with a lovely "Excuse me" the music stops and we only hear the clicking of her heels. It almost seems threatening, but it mostly shows the impact she has on Souta. He can only hear her when she is around. It shows that even after six years Souta's love is still going strong.
They meet again after a few days and there she drops a bomb on Souta: she is getting married and she would love it if Souta would make the cake and some desserts. He accepts, eventhough he is busy with the opening and it is for the woman he loves who is going to marry another guy. He won't accept it if another guy would do it for her.
Olivier suggests that Souta invites Saeko to his house to sample some desserts and use that oppertunity to make a move on Saeko. Souta takes his advice to heart and that's why a few days later Saeko can be found in Souta's house. This is the scene that has been much discussed on the internet. This was for two reasons: 1. Matsumoto Jun (Souta) and Ishihara Satomi (Saeko) act out a proper and steamy kissing scene, and 2. Souta says that Saeko is asking to be 'captured' because she is wearing a short dress.
Firstly, the kissing scene; yes, finally!
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A proper kissing scene in a Japanese drama in which both participants are actually participating. I've seen some dramas and one thing I don't like is the kiss in which only one is kissing, most often the man. And although this is a daydream, it's good to see that the director of Shitsuren Chocolatier understands what makes a good kissing scene. More of these, please, though not necessarily between Souta and Saeko.
Secondly, the daydream Souta has. In this daydream he kisses Saeko, because she is wearing a short dress and thus asking to be captured. When I was watching this for the first time and I didn't know it was a daydream I just thought; nope, no no no no, don't do it, please don't do, oh, he is doing it. Than he even forced a kiss on her even after she refused it. That's a no go. Another oen was that he used the excuse of the short skirt. When a girl doesn't want to kiss, you simply don't kiss her and a short skirt does not equal wanting sex. However, I'm not mad at the writer for including this, because this is realistic. This is something people fantasise about and the fact that Sout does not act in real life shows that he knows it is not right. His fantasies are not his best side, but it make him realistic. He does not only want the pure, cute love, but also the physical love.

After Saeko has left we hear why Souta has not given up on Saeko yet: he believes that his time with Saeko has not come yet. That one day it will all be fine. It explains why he has hold on to her for the past six years. It also tells me that it will take a lot for Souta to fall out of love with her.

Finally it is the day of the wedding. Souta has collapsed out of exhaustion, so Kaoruko and Olivier represent him on the wedding. Kaoruko is becoming one of my favourite characters as she tells Saeko exactly how Souta has collapsed due to her selfish request. Kaoruko doesn't look like it, but she can be admirably honest with her opinion. In this episode she has also showed that she is not afraid to express her view on things to Souta, eventhough she knows he won't agree. Sadly she is also a victim of unrequited love, though she handles it differently than Souta (More about that in the next review).
Meanwhile Souta has another dream in which he ruins the wedding with a speech that begins brilliantly, but has a disappointing ending. Initially he recounts how Saeko always had a boyfriend in high school and must have had the whole school, thus schocking the whole audience.
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Sadly, he ends with the promise that he won't give up.

After he wakes up and Saeko calls to ask how he is doing and to tell him that she will visit the shop everyday, he says the best lines of the episode:
"Saeko-san, I... I want to be even more wounded by you. I want to be beaten by your mean words to the point I can't get up. With that, for sure, I will hate you, and I will be able to put an end to this love. I still don't suffer enough. If it keeps on like this... I will get defeated by that innocence of yours, that I don't know if it's fake or real, and will become more and more addicted to you."
This shows that Souta knows what's going on, that this love can't continue. But he also knows that it will take a lot to not love Saeko anymore. It's not necessarily a healthy love, but rationality does not defeat emotion, but this could be a first step to letting go.

The episode ends with Olivier and Kaoroku acknowledging Kaoruko's crush on Souta, the mysterious appearance of a rival chocolatier and his friend and the opening of the shop. Choco la Vie has finally opened and Shitsuren Chocolatier has finally begun. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the drama.

Please leave a comment with your reaction and I will post the review of episode 2 soon.
All screenshots and the quote come from the episode subbed by bunnyandclover. Head over to their community if you would like to see the subbed version as well.
aquarel, We are the others

My Japanese summer at home

Somewhere in the middle of Summer I suddenly felt like I was on a holiday in Japan. Which was quite surprising, as I had decided to not go on a trip this Summer and just enjoy the weather here at home, with a little luck. I was actually at home, but via the internet I have spent a lot of time in Japan.

It al began due to Mark Watches. This brilliant one-man-book/film/tv-club consist of just Mark Oshiro, and he reads and watches recommendations by his followers. He has tackled Twilight (which he hated with his entire being), Harry Potter (which he loved), and many more books and tv-series which I can't all mention. To my great surprise and pleasure he decided to watch the (in my personal humble opinion) brilliant anime Fullmetal Alchimst: Brotherhood. I have watched this anime about two times and I have read the manga, also twice, so I was excited when he decided to take this up. I decided I would watch along with him, in other words, on the day of the review I would watch the accompanying episode.
Yeah, that didn't happen. I watched the whole anime in a week. I still don't regret it.

Watching the anime made me want more, so I began to search the internet and via a fanfiction, based on The Mortal Instruments, I ended up watching Shiritsu Bakaleya Koukou, a Japanese drama about a boys' school which suddenly has also female students due to a merging of schools. Of course, this is the start of chaos and hostility, but still the two parties manage to get along in the end. I noticed from the beginning that it was not a high quality drama and obviously aimed at a teenage audience (which I am as a 22-year-old not a part of anymore), but still, I could not stop watching. After finishing the series I searched some more and I have been watching Japanese dramas ever since. I am offically hooked.

What are some dramas I have seen, you ask? Pride, Buzzer Beat, Bartender, Hana Yori Dango (1, 2 and Final), Love Shuffle, Mr. Brain, etc.
J-drama is pleasant to watch, because there is a diversity in storytelling and there is clear story to tell. There are about 11 episodes and in those episodes the main arc is told. There are no irritating cliffhangers at the end of the season, I love it! (Though Kagi no Kakatta Haya, you are a fantastic exception to the rule)

As I am a person who loves trivia, I of course researched the actors in the dramas I've watched. Many actors are also in a idol group and the group I came across the most incidentily was Arashi. It began with Hana Yori Dango in which Matsumoto Jun had the lead and I saw on his wikipedia-page he was a member of Arashi. Fine, I thought, but that was it. Until I watched Bartender due to Kanyija Shihori who I liked a lot in Buzzer Beat. Imagine my suprise when I realised that the lead in Bartender, Aiba Masaki, was in the same group as Matsumoto Jun. So searched them on YouTube, saw some videos and now I am slowly beginning to turn into an Arashi-fan. Their music is quite catchy and positive, but I also like them as tv-personalities. VS Arashi is a great show with funny games and room for Arashi to show their personalities.
Has anyone seen the haunted house sequence of Himitsu no Arashi? Honestly, I could not stop laughing when Aiba and Sho were in the house and at the end running away from the people, while Aiba kept screaming.
It almost makes me jealous that we don't have this entertainment 'system' here in the Netherlands.

This post is a bit incoherent I'm afraid, but my LiveJournal will consist from now on of entries about the dramas and variety shows I've seen. It will be my Dutch view on the Japanese entertainment industry, so to speak. Hopefully it will be interesting, but mostly of all, it will be a means for me to organise my thoughts on everything I have seen and heard.