Sunday was Chinese New Year so I will begin this Trailer Weekly with 恭喜发财! (Gong xi fa cai!). I actually ventured out to London’s Chinatown with a friend, fully intent on enjoying some Taiwanese food but the restaurant I had in mind had a queue about a mile long, even at 3 in the afternoon. In the end we opted for Japanese (vegetable & tofu tempura bento, plus lovely gyōza) and later watched a Japanese film at my friend’s house (Ghibli’s 「おもひでぽろぽろ」/ Omohide Poro Poro/Only Yesterday, 1991, after initially considering 「火垂るの墓」 / Hotaru no Haka/Grave of the Fireflies, 1988, even buying some comfort food and then copping out. Jajaja…). Anyhow, it ended up being a pretty un-Chinese Chinese New Year, despite all intentions. Ah well.
In terms of this belated Trailer Weekly, I thought it was time for another ‘Special’, with J-actresses that I know from doramas as the focus: Anne, Karina, Koyuki, Yoko Maki, Ueno Juri and Takeuchi Yuko.
- 「映画 妖怪人間ベム」 (Eiga Yokai Ningen Bem/Humanoid Monster Bem, Japan, 2011)
Directed by Kariyama Shunsuke. I’m choosing this for Anne, but if I’m honest, that’s not where my interest for this film started. That would be J-actor Kamenashi Kazuya (who featured in my first Dorama Special Trailer Weekly). As I was working my way through his film/TV-ography, I stumbled across the dorama「妖怪人間べム」(Yokai Ningen Bem/Humanoid Monster Bem, 2011), a story about three monsters, Bem, Bela and Belo, who wish nothing more but to become human. It’s pure awesomeness (I marathoned it in one night ). Those yokai were hideously ugly, but their inner loneliness really tugged at my hearstrings. Belo (Susuki Fuku) was so kawaiiiiiiiiii, Bem (Kamenashi) had such deep sadness inside of him that made me want to cry – and insist that the actor henceforth only play these kind of withdrawn, quiet characters. But then there was also monster #3, Bela, played by Anne. Anne is one of those high-profile actresses (from an acting family, with Watanabe Ken as her father, successful as a model and in the entertainment industry) that I never paid much attention to, but her Bela was one super-cool lady that I could not help but adore. Now I want more of Yokai Ningen Bem (hence the choice of movie), but I also want to see what else Anne has done because she definitely got me interested here. And I’m even happier now knowing that she is the female lead opposite Sometani Shota in the upcoming dorama 「xxxHOLIC」.
- 「パレード」 (Paredo/Parade, Japan, 2010)
Directed by Yukisada Isao. Karina is another actress I sort of always ignored because I never found her particularly notable in the doramas she starred in. Both in「 フリーター、家を買う。」(Freeter, Ie wo Kau, 2010) and「バンビ～ノ！」(Bambino!, 2007) her characters were the same kind of too-perfect (overly gorgeous, flawless and so obviously superior to the male lead) love interest that simply bored me, but then came「PRICELESS ~あるわけねぇだろ、んなもん！~」 (PRICELESS~Aru Wake Nedaro,n namon!~/Priceless, 2012), where she played a similar sort of role but was also quirky – enough to make her obsessively number-crunching persona simply hilarious. 「ラブシャッフル」(Rabu Shaffuru/Love Shuffle, 2009) further confirmed my change-of-mind about Karina. The film: Paredo sounds like a slice-of-life story that could in fact have worked equally well (better?) in dorama form: it is about four individuals in their twenties who share a flat in Tokyo. Although they live together, they also respect each other’s privacy and keep some distance, never asking too many questions. It’s only when a blonde-haired teen appears in their apartment one day that things get turned upside down. Initially assuming that the boy is a friend of one of them, they realise that no one actually knows him. News reports about deadly attacks on women in the neighbourhood also raise their distrust. It’s a comedy with an increasing chill factor. Note: Love the poster!
- 「信さん・炭坑町のセレナーデ」 (Shin-san Tankoumachi no Serenade, 2010)
Dir. by Hideyuki Hirayama. Koyuki stars in this. Now, if I never end up seeing the film, I actually don’t care so much – not because I’m not interested in it, but because Koyuki will forever be Sumire-chan for me. Dorama addicts will know what I’m talking about -「きみはペット」(Kimi wa Petto, 2003) of course, which is totally bizarre but easily one of my top-5 Japanese television series. I just love it to bits! Koyuki played the sexy, chain-smoking power woman that kept a human pet (with the equally memorable and oh-so-kawaiiiii Matsujun as Momo). While I have seen Matsujun in plenty of other (convincing) roles, I’m not sure if watching Koyuki play another character will work for me, but, well, I might give it a try with Shin-san Tankoumachi no Serenade, set in 1963 Japan. Koyuki takes on the role of single mother Michiyo that returns to her hometown Fukuoka with her young son. There she meets Shin-san, a hardened teen boy, whose parents are dead. Raised by uncaring relatives, Michiyo is the first one to give him a sense of motherly love. (Note: I reviewed the K-film adaptation of Kimi wa Petto a year ago, with plenty of comparisons to the J-dorama.)
- 「グーグーだって猫である」(Gou-Gou Datte Neko Dearu/Gou Gou, the Cat, Japan, 2008)
Dir. by Inudo Isshin. With Ueno Juri it is a bit like with Koyuki: Ueno is Nodame – of 「のだめカンタービレ」 (Nodame Cantabile, 2006 for season 1 and 2008 for season 2, plus two movies) - forever. But I did watch some of her doramas before and after already, namely「素直になれなくて」 (Sunao ni Narenakute/Hard to Say I Love You, 2010) and 「オレンジ デイズ」 (Orenji Deis/Orange Days, 2004) so the hurdle isn’t quite the same. The movie that I’m most interested in with Ueno is 「幸福のスイッチ」(Shiawase no suitchi, 2006) but I can’t find a trailer for it so I went for Gou-Gou Datte Neko Dearu instead because Inudo Isshin directed it. Ueno doesn’t play the lead in this one, but is a prominent secondary character: she is the worrying assistant to Asako, a 40-year old comic artist who is devastated over the loss of her cat until she adopts Gou-gou.
- 「すーちゃん まいちゃん さわ子さん」 (Suchan Maichan Sawakosan/Sue, Mai and Sawa: Righting the Girl Ship, Japan, 2013)
Dir. by Minorikawa Osamu. Although not everyone took to Maki Yoko‘s doctor character in 「遅咲きのヒマワリ～ボクの人生、リニューアル～」 (Osozaki no Himawari ~Boku no Jinsei, Rinyuaru~/Late Blooming Sunflower -My Life Renewed-, 2012) because she did act rather cold at times, I enjoyed not only the dorama but also Maki in it. The actress’s film- and TV-ography is quite extended, although she has been offered lead roles only recently (she has two more interesting but as yet trailerless movies coming up this year). In Suchan Maichan Sawakosan she is one of a trio of former co-workers. Plot details are somewhat scarce, but it seems like a slice-of-life movie about three women in their thirties – nothing too exciting but realistic and relatable.
- 「天国の本屋～恋火」 (Tengoku no Honya – Koihi/Heaven’s Bookstore, Japan, 2004)
Dir. by Shinohara Tetsuo. I have seen Takeuchi Yuko in a number of doramas - 「夏の恋は虹色に輝く」 (Natsu no Koi wa Nijiiro ni Kagayaku/Summer Romance Shines in Rainbow Colors, 2010), 「薔薇のない花屋」 (Bara no nai Hanaya/Flower Shop Without Rose, 2008) and「プライド」 (Puraido/Pride, 2004), the last one probably being my favourite. Takeuchi is one of the few Japanese actresses that looks older than her age (I don’t mean this in a bad way) and perhaps because of that often ends up in noona-romance roles (like in Natsu no Koi). I have no idea whether that applies for Tengoku no Honya – Koihi, but the plot is certainly intriguing: Kenta, a pianist, wakes up in a strange room which turns out to be a bookstore in heaven. He learns that each human is given one hundred years of life, but if they die before they go to this place. In the bookstore he also meets Shoko (Takeuchi), a pianist he admired on earth, who has been unable to compose since she arrived there. A parallel story unfolds on earth.