The first of three Chihayafuru movies has been released outside Japan -  it's time for some discussion! This report is part one of a 4-part series featuring the live-action movies Chihayafuru.

My head is spinning as I glimpse at the list of live action adaptations coming up in the next few months or so... I know the manga to anime to movie adaptations/productions have been going on for years, but since we're so much into the younger generation of Japanese actors and actresses, I just can't help but feel excited and incapable of covering everything. Just like the more than dozens of J-doramas coming up every season, a reviewer/blogger has to make a choice - either cover just 1 or 2 or get overwhelmed with the pressure to post a review of everything.  

I am not only fascinated with Chihayafuru (the anime version is beautiful and heartbreaking and just brilliant!) but also the Japanese sport of karuta which is just unique to me. 

Also, the primary thing you always read on this blog - actor bias and their acting style. So the fundamental questions - Can Suzu Hirose play an excellent Chihaya Ayase? Is Shuhei Nomura bitten by the bug called "Second Lead Syndrome" and is suffering from such casting? Is Mackenyu gearing up for a reliable Arata Wataya and come up with some heartbreaking dramatic acting? 

Our previous articles on Japanese live-action adaptations have focused on the movies, the storylines, and box office results. In this series, we'll put the spotlight on select characters and the actors playing the parts. 

Much of the buzz is on Death Note: Light Up the World due to the triple casting of Masahiro Higashide, Sosuke Ikematsu, and Masaki Suda. Let's talk about that later - I think the topic of L and Light Yagami (notwithstanding that we have fresh new characters in this movie) has been exhausted to a great extent already. I also believe there are plenty of interesting characters aside from these two colorful personalities.

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For example, we have:

Rei Kiriyama: March Comes in Like a Lion, portrayed on the silver screen by Ryunosuke Kamiki;

Kusuo Saiki: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K, played by Kento Yamazaki;

Ichigo Kurosaki: Bleach, played by Sota Fukishi

Since this is just Part 1 of the series, let's discuss some others later on.

Yaoi movies don't exist for bed (read: sex) scenes alone. Of course, moviegoers who watch love stories between young boys would expect such scenes to spice it up. Filmmakers are also 'obliged' to add them up since people would expect them. With this frame of mind, I went to watching the first movie in the Takumi Kun Series.

takumi-kun-cover

Set in Shidou Gakuen, an all-boys boarding school up in the mountains, Takumi Kun encompasses all other BL movies, in its ambition and scope - with an array of exciting and promising young actors, breathtaking location, a memorable and poignant musical score, and stories that explore the beauty and pain of young love. Takumi-Kun may be considered a trailblazer of sorts for being simply the best of its kind. But not everything is perfect, as you will see from the critique below.

This post is the final part in our BL/Yaoi series.

Bullies are everywhere. And so is love, if you're lucky that is. But not everyone is molested by his brother, while the parents go about their ways as if nothing has happened. What would you do if your parents even blame you for being molested? I would probably go insane and jump from a building, how can I even think of asking for psychiatric help, I'm a high school student, for chrissake! With a situation like that, I would probably acquire the Human phobia syndrome myself.

So what makes a good rom-com? In this case, a Japanese romantic comedy. Let's see...

1. It must be filled with characters we care about, even if we hate some of them;

2. There are minimal plot holes - acceptable even if we question them or have flimsy explanation ( or none at all), but the point is, it shows a certain sincerity and honesty that we can somehow accept or live with;

3. There is a sense of humor - how would you really enjoy a romcom if there is no funny, comedic relief, at least with all the expected scenarios (or plots) including cancer, abortion, bullying, amnesia and the likes?

4. Complemented with memorable, romantic, at least appealing music (yes, soundtrack) not necessarily sugary-sweet, but appropriate for the scene (or scenes). I don't care if they have Metallica or death metal music but at least it sounded 'appropriate' for the scene if you know what I mean...

5. Offers breathtaking (at least picturesque) shots where you expect the leads to have a kiss. It's not necessary to have a location shoot in Paris (though it might be a good idea) or some other famous romantic locations since there are plenty of nice places in Japan that foreigners have not yet seen or at least, love to explore a bit more ( of course, from the PoV of the locals, places where they have fond memories).

Anyway, here's a definition that may be acceptable to many:

Romantic comedy films are films with light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centered on romantic ideals such as that true love is able to surmount most obstacles. One dictionary definition is "a funny movie, play, or television program about a love story that ends happily". Another definition states that its "primary distinguishing feature is a love plot in which two sympathetic and well-matched lovers are united or reconciled". In a typical romantic comedy the two lovers tend to be young, likable, and apparently meant for each other, yet they are kept apart by some complicating circumstance (e.g., class differences, parental interference; a previous girlfriend or boyfriend) until, surmounting all obstacles, they are finally wed. A wedding-bells, fairy-tale-style happy ending is practically mandatory.

Some may argue with me that a rom-com must have a happy ending to be considered a rom-com, but even the genre has to grow and expand and allow some form of innovation. So, which Japanese movies of recent years are in my top list? Let's see...

There was a time when Japanese romantic comedies rule. Now, it's the Koreans, the Chinese and more recently the Thais and the Filipinos who are producing some exciting new shows. But hey, are some of these popular titles inspired by such beloved Japanese romcoms? I'm not going to dwell more into the current craze, this site being a loyal Japanese entertainment blog will do the "job" its supposed to do. 

Japanese manga, the source of most of these romantic comedies, maybe the "culprit" in what some people described as the decline in Japanese movies, but then again, how are the viewers supposed to react? Boycott them? Change genre and settle for horror? Go to the Koreans? Nah. While I have my complaints, I'd rather embrace them rather than reject them...

Anyway, what are some of the most exciting Japanese rom-com nowadays? Let's start with Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso - 四月は君の嘘). Now, you see I just watched the latest video clip for Your Lie in April, featuring favorites Kento Yamazaki and Taishi Nakagawa, with Japan's current darling Suzu Hirose. Joining the lead cast is one of Solomon's Perjury's standouts, Anna Ishii (who looks so gorgeous here!).

Music accompanies the path of the human metronome, the prodigious pianist Kousei Arima. But after the passing of his mother, Saki Arima, Kousei falls into a downward spiral, rendering him unable to hear the sound of his own piano. Two years later, Kousei still avoids the piano, leaving behind his admirers and rivals, and lives a colorless life alongside his friends Tsubaki Sawabe and Ryouta Watari. However, everything changes when he meets a beautiful violinist, Kaori Miyazono, who stirs up his world and sets him on a journey to face music again. Based on the manga series of the same name, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso approaches the story of Kousei's recovery as he discovers that music is more than playing each note perfectly, and a single melody can bring in the fresh spring air of April. [ source ]

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I'm still convinced that Kento will - some day, perhaps in the near future - venture into portraying dark, brooding characters (in the tradition of Yagira, Sometani, et al), but it seems he's destined to do some more rom-com, unless the casting gods will begin to look at him at a different light. His co-star Taishi Nakagawa can take up his place. Nakagawa, mind you, is no small fry. The young actor has also shown some of his acting 'sparks', so having him play lead romantic roles in also a sort of blessing in disguise for rom-com lovers.

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Psycho Drama list of 100 favorite Japanese films through the years.