Review of Japanese Movies and TV Shows

Samurai Gourmet Review

Samurai GourmetSamurai Gourmet (aka Mangaban Nobushi no Gurume/漫画版 野武士のグルメ) is a Japanese TV series commissioned by Netflix airing first in March 2017.

About

Kasumi Takeshi is a retired salaryman getting used to the routine of his second life. He has never had a beer at lunchtime during the week. He is trying to get acquainted with going out and eating alone.

The series is an adaptation of the very popular The Solitary Gourmet TV show. It’s also had a Chinese remake.

Cast

Takenaka Naoto (竹中直人) as Kasumi Takeshi
He is an actor, comedian, singer and director. He has been in many TV shows and directed about 6 movies. I don’t recall seeing him in any other productions.

Amayama Tetsuji (玉山鉄二) as Samurai
He is a model turned actor and has appeared in many TV shows, films and music videos. He is in Naked Director which is showing on Netflix as is Samurai Gourmet.

Summary

There are 12 episodes in the series of about 20 minutes in duration which makes it very watchable.

This is a very delightful relaxed TV series with nothing offensive or stressful going on in it. I would say it’s one of the best I’ve seen in 2021. Every person in the same age group can relate to this drama.

The stories are very simple, nothing complex, although drawing the views in to see where he is going to end up next. The main character gets excited by the simplest of food. It makes you think about the effort that goes into small business restaurants to bring their lovely creations to us.

This show is a must-watch and I give it a 5/5.

Where Can I Watch

This is only available on Netflix.

Trailer

2021-11-29T22:27:54+00:0029 November 2021|Review Japan|

Kingdom Review

We really enjoyed this movie, one of the best we’ve seen from Japan.

About

Kingdom is an adaptation of a Manga series of the same name which I believe ran into 3 seasons.

Shin is a war orphan and becomes a slave. There he meets Hyo, they have a close relationship for years, both who have ambitions to become “The Great General under the Heaven”. Hyo is then recruited by the Royal Army which sets Shin off on a dramatic path.

Well, I have limited down the amount of information about the plot, just wanted to provide a little taster.

Crew

Shin is played by popular actor Yamazaki Kento (山﨑賢人). His career started as a model but got his first acting roll in 2010 appearing in many productions since then.

Hyo is played by Ryo Yoshizawa (吉沢亮), another popular actor whose career started in 2011.

Yamazaki Kento interviewed by Netflix Japan, English subtitles are available:

Review

I saw a little of the original Manga series and there are distinct similarities between that and the film, even down to the costume design. From what I can make out it’s a pretty good adaptation.

The production quality is very good, they appear to have gone all out to make this into an epic including the CGI work. I did notice an error with the CGI, in two scenes the army was cheering, however, I bet many people won’t even notice.

The storyline was solid and moved fairly fast with some breaks when they needed to discuss strategy. Lot’s of fighting and action scenes.

Yamazaki Kento made the movie, he was clearly the star, sometimes comical, delightfully over the top now and again, appeared to put a lot of passion into his role.

My only criticism, this was a movie about China but didn’t feel like it at all, only when they actually mentioned the country. The production didn’t feel “Chinese” at all from the costumes to the mannerisms. I guess it was like Chinese TV and films pretending to have a scene in England where a Russian actor is faking a British accent, which I see quite often.

We gave this move a 4.5 out of 5.

To Be Continued

There is no indication in this movie that there will be a part two, however, it’s definitely happening. Both Yamazaki Kento and Ryo Yoshizawa will be reprising their characters along with others. According to what I have seen Kingdom 2 will be released this year, 2021.

Teaser

2021-09-21T02:35:26+00:0011 January 2021|Review Japan|

Brain Man Review

I thought Brain Man would be a cheesy superhero type adventure, given the odd title, but it turned out to be quite the opposite.

About

Brain ManBrain Man (脳男) is a Japanese movie released in February 2013. A serious of random explosions occur which leads the police and psychologist Mariko Washiya to come across Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro is also known as “Brain Man”; he is without emotion, doesn’t feel pain, and has extremely high intelligence.

The film is 2 hours 5 minutes in duration and is 18+.

Crew

Ikuta Toma plays Ichiro Suzuki
He was very convincing in this role, his character was kind of frightening and every small move he made, and the way he did it, was very important for the part. Toma started his entertainment career in a child band called Strawberry Parfait but was more widely recognized in the 2007 Fuji TV drama Hanazakari no Kimitachi.

Matsuyuki Yasuko plays Mariko Washiya
She played this role very well too. Yasuko is an actress and singer with a very decent career in TV and film.

Review

This was a “who is right” and “who is wrong” type of drama, I won’t give anything away.

It was fairly violent, not too bad, and that usually turns me off a movie as I do prefer cute and cuddly. They probably could have made the movie without it but may not have been so intense as it was supposed to be.

I don’t think there was anything spectacular about the cinematography apart from the scenes showing “Brain Man” in his isolation and how they focus on his every move to make him a little scary or mysterious.

There were surprises throughout the movie, including at the end as well. I notice on Asian forums that many ask what the ending is like to determine whether it’s worth watching, this one won’t disappoint.

I felt the script left things open for a potential follow up movie, but there wasn’t. I would rate it as 4/5, the markdown was the violence and maybe the overtop acting of one of the characters.

Trailer

2021-09-21T02:36:54+00:0022 December 2020|Review Japan|

Not Quite Dead Yet Movie Review

Not Quite Dead Yet 一度死んでみた is a Japanese comedy thriller movie released in March 2020.

About

Not Quite Dead YetNanase Nobata is a university student who has a very bad relationship with her father, he works for a pharmaceutical company who invented a pill that emulates death for 2 days. He took the pill but his daughter then has to find out who is trying to steal company secrets to give them to a rival.

Crew

The film was notable for its number of cameo appearances although, I shamefully admit, I didn’t know any of them. The main case was:

  • Popular actress and model Hirose Suzu plays Nobata Nanase.
  • Yoshizawa Ryo plays Matsuoka Taku. He started his television career playing in three different Kamen Rider series. In Not Quite Dead Yet he plays an employee of the pharmaceutical company and helps Nobata with her quest.
  • Multi-award-winning actor Tsutsumi Shinichi plays the Father, Nobata Kei.
  • The only actor I instantly recognized, from his role in the Afro Tanaka TV series, was Ozawa Yukiyoshi who played the not so nice Watanabe.
  • It was the debut of Hamasaki Shinji as a film Director, although he had worked many years on award-winning commercials.

Review

As always Internet Movie Database didn’t review this film too kindly but it went down well with Asian netizens, one review said it was hilarious and inspirational. In the end, the movie did come with a moral message to tell in a quick hit kind of way.

The first few minutes of the film I thought…what on earth have I just started watching?! After that initial hurdle, I started to enjoy it. It was a very funny tongue in cheek humour about death and funerals, I never knew such humour would be acceptable in Japan.

The acting was very good, kept in line with the completely bonkers style of the movie. The straight-laced father actually fit in well with the more over the top characters of the film.

There was a small number of special effects in the movie. Some special effects could have replaced the set that represented heaven with a little bit more imagination.

The movie was well worth a watch. Be patient with the first few minutes and don’t forget to watch the clip at the end of the closing credits.

Trailer

2021-09-21T02:36:38+00:0015 December 2020|Review Japan|

Aozora Cut Review

Aozora CutAozora Cut (アオゾラカット) was one of those shows I just stumbled across, didn’t know anything about but thought I would watch anyway.

Storyline

Kawamura Shouta returns home to Japan, from Paris, to attend his mother’s funeral. He comes from a family of hairdressers and after beauty school decided to move to France rather than stay with the family business due to historical conflicts. Returning home he has to face up to the family issues he left behind.

Crew

The short movie starred two actors I am very familiar with from Ossan’s Love.

Hayashi Kento (はやし けんと) plays Shouta extremely well. The actor’s had many roles in different shows and in this one gets to, surprisingly, test his English Language skills. I am not sure if he speaks English but he does a pretty decent job.

Yoshida Kotaro (よしだ こうたろう;Yoshida) plays Goro, the father, and is a veteran of the acting world with many performances in his resume including stage, TV and movies. He was of course very good in this show too.

Japan Academy Award winner Dobashi Akihiro (どばし あきひろ) was the screenwriter on the show.

Review

Anything that Hayashi Kento appears in does tend to be on the cute and this show is no exception. There are many little twists and turns to surprise the audience. It wasn’t a big-budget film, more like a low budget on-screen play that would work well on stage, but was very well executed. I haven’t seen many review’s of the show and the ones I have seems to be negative, don’t let them spoil your enjoyment of it, I do recommend it. If you are a fan of any of the above actors it is a must-see.

2021-09-21T02:39:34+00:009 November 2020|Review Japan|

Maison De Police Review

Maison De Police

Story Summary

Maison De Police (メゾン・ド・ポリス) Twitter is a Japanese TV show broadcast in 2019 about how rookie detective Makino Hiyori, while investigating a crime, becomes involved with a “share house” of ex-police officers. The 10 part series is adapted from the novel of the same name, “Maison de Police”, by Katō Miaki.

As the series develops the story focuses more on the suspected murder of Makino Hiyori’s father who worked at a construction company and somehow some ex-officers in the share house are involved in the previous investigation of the crime.

The show aired between 11 January to 15 March 2019 every Friday night on the TBS network. I understand a DVD is now available.

Review

I really enjoyed this series, it has some light comedy, the actors of the share house were a little eccentric adding to the charm of the show, and quite a bit of drama with unexpected plot twists.

The first 7 episodes were more stand-alone than the last 3. The first episode was so-so, could have been improved, but after that, we were hooked.

Certainly, the last 3 episodes were the best of the series and were very well done, linking all elements of the story to a dramatic conclusion.

Actors

Other reviewers appeared to be familiar with the cast, however not watched many Japanese TV shows myself I didn’t know them at all.  It’s difficult to focus on any 1 or 2 actors being the lead but I would say the main focus was on:

  • Takahata Mitsuki who played the main character rookie detective Makino Hiyori. She was absolutely perfect for this show, she is a great actress who bought a little shyness, clumsiness, yet determined trait to the character that improved her policing skills over time.
  • Nishijima Hidetoshi who played main character ex-detective Natsume Souichirou. A brilliant actor playing what seems like a private person in the share house but turns out to be the action man of the show. Looking through his biography the actor has had quite an impressive career, I must look out for other shows he’s been in.

Summary

I give this show a 5 out of 5, loved it, must watch if you love Japanese dramas and a great introduction if you’ve never watched any before.

2021-09-21T02:44:13+00:0021 April 2020|Review Japan|

Mob Psycho 100 Review

Mob Psycho 100Mob Psycho 100 is a TV Tokyo and Netflix co-production from 2018 based on the Anime series of the same name.

The series is about a middle school boy named Kageyama Shigeo, nicknamed Mobu (or Mob), who is extremely shy and has very low self-esteem. Mob has extremely powerful psychic abilities which he doesn’t like to use due to hurting people with them in the past. He also thinks using these abilities will not win him a girlfriend. Mob isn’t the only person with these special abilities and he is manipulated by those who want to harness them for good and bad.

Cast

The main actor in this series is Hamada Tatsuomi who is known most recently for being Ultraman Geed and other Ultraman related movies. He is absolutely perfect for this part as he comes across as very sweet and innocent, just like the actual character itself.

Trailer

Review

It was a pretty good show, I enjoyed it a lot.

I checked out a couple of episodes of the original anime before reviewing the show. The anime was fast and busy for me, whereas the live-action was slower.

The show might be more suitable to a younger audience but definitely over 18 since some of the content wasn’t children appropriate. The story was pretty much secure but very cartoonish. Some of the humour in the show was very unique, especially from the Arataka Reigen and Takane Tsubomi characters whose performances I enjoyed very much. The structure of the show was unique too, quite a different feel to it and very cute in parts, I love the closing theme and how they had different versions of it. I was quite impressed by the dramatic scenes and acting from Mochizuki Ayumu who played Mob’s brother Ritsu.

The special effects were of a much higher standard than I expected but some were a little old school compared to what we see in the US, Canada and UK. The physical effects, where people were thrown around the room crashing into furniture I thought was of a very high standard, they much have been very highly trained stunt people.

I would recommend this show.

2021-09-21T02:47:52+00:005 March 2020|Review Japan|

Ultraman from Netflix Review

UltramanUltraman is one of the most significant brands in Japanese entertainment so I was very intrigued to see the Netflix version of the show, and I wasn’t disappointed.  This is my review.

Who is Ultraman?

I can’t describe Ultraman better than what the Ultraman Wiki has so nicely laid out for us, however, he defends the Earth against aliens and monsters who don’t appear to be in short supply. The Ultraman industry, which started in 1966, even though it is thought that the character is actually 20,000 years old, has generated significant income in the billions. This was the first episode that aired back then:

Ultraman 2019

The new series, commissioned by Netflix, appears to take on a slightly different slant. The “new” Ultraman is the son of the original but also we find there is, in fact, other Ultramen. The 2019 version is more elaborate than it’s originals, probably the most technically stunning that has been produced so far, not the usual format this time of genre from Japan.  This new series has 13 episodes in total.

My Review

Story: The series is really engaging not just from a technical perspective but the story is sound too. It actually reminded me of many super-hero comics rather than a classic Ultraman story with a child growing up to discovering he has super abilities. The part where the new Ultraman is facing tough decisions to destroy evil aliens as told to do against what humanity has taught him to bring people to justice rather than kill them is a good story arc.

Look & Feel: Visually the series is absolutely stunning, I was just amazed by the attention of detail to the artwork which was difficult to find fault with. It really puts all other Ultraman series to shame really, however, I am sure they don’t have the budget to produce this high quality work.

Overall: 13 episodes didn’t feel enough but I am pleased a season 2 has been ordered. I would give it an 8.5/10. I think this is higher than other people have given it.

This is the Netflix trailer:

Ultraman Taiga

Started this year is another Ultraman series called Ultraman Taiga. Not as visually stunning as the show on Netflix but might be worth watching if you are a fan.

2021-09-21T02:49:51+00:0021 October 2019|Review Japan|