2018 has been a hectic year for the Psycho-Drama team. Nonetheless, we’ve managed to check out a couple of projects along the way while juggling real life. Here are some of the 2018 Japanese dramas that we peeked at but didn’t manage to produce a full-fledge review for:
Giver: Revenge’s Giver (GIVER 復讐の贈与者)
The drama retained its “Keep In View” status after episode 1 as I was willing to give it more chances despite it having a number of issues.
Yoshizawa Ryo’s performance in episode 1 was exceptional, showing his ability to shift swiftly between a cowering “victim” to a heartless hunter. He stole the scene whenever he appeared, be it the initial cryptic message telling Yoshimura’s character to stop, or the insanely believable pretense as a meek “Okamoto”. Yoshizawa was very detailed in his portrayal, right down to the way he stared in shock at his grabbed collar and how he cowered subtly in reaction. Sometimes, actors are judged in greatness not only by scenes in which they play their turn in chess, but also in reaction shots. All these made the final reveal of his true self even more stunning, and the way he flipped the switch between two extreme personalities was captivating. Yoshizawa never fails to give me chills every time he switches into such a cold persona. Although he has existing issues with enunciation, his voice was so inhumane and emotionless, as if he was speaking to someone who was already dead. To an object.
On the other hand, Yoshimura Kaito overdid it as the first episode’s guest. He felt too forced and seemed to be playing too hard with the crazed manga villain stereotype with the rough pronunciation, wild expression and #Goldfisheyes. Yoshimura was also unfortunate enough to have his character fall prey to the writing to become a irritatingly pretentious entity. Pretentiousness is funny if executed well, but he kept rambling on and not getting to the point in the show. I understand that it’s suppose to be a character trait, but it ended up going overboard. Doing so disinterests the audience and it certainly made me want to drag the progress bar to the end of his monologue. Admittedly, the pretentiousness became so oversaturated at one point that it entered into the realm of comedy. It not only became a device for tonal shifts and focal shifts, but also for comedic relief, with Yoshimura’s character calling out Yoshizawa’s for the very same thing.
As for the directing, I would put it at “less than desirable”. It had too much gratuitous male gaze and pantyshots. There were unnecessary scenes and poor attempts to have comedic relief exactly in moments where tension had just been successfully built, making the whole episode feel rather chaotic and less coherent than I would have liked it. The writing was long-winded – the plot was simple yet unnecessarily convoluted. In addition, there were scenes that made it seem more like a tokusatsu drama than the dark image they had been trying to sell during the promotions. It was also a pity that the effects were on the cheap side, and they looked like they came out of a movie effects app on a smartphone.
Long story short, the drama had all the trappings of a mediocre dark shounen or seinen manga, from the crazed wild villain and the cold powerful protagonist to panicking civilians and useless pantyshots. However, Yoshizawa was the only reason that could convince me to continue. (Jia)
Good Doctor (グッド ドクター)
I was not interested in the plot but Yamazaki Kento was good so far. Ueno Juri continued to unimpress. I simply came to see how the first episode was and dropped this because I was already satisfied with the acting Yamazaki had shown so far and the plot was not my cup of tea. Also because I had already watched the Korean original and the Japanese remake seemed to be going down a similar path. (Jia)
Ao to Boku (青と僕)
The show stars Inowaki Kai as the lead with Ikeda Elaiza as a fellow ex-classmate. Recently, said lead character started receiving weird messages in all kinds of places concerning the death of a close friend and classmate years prior, pointing to the fact that the truth surrounding the death might not be so far off and that he, himself, might have had something to do with it. Together they tried figuring out what’s going on and who’s behind the sudden threats and messages. Kick-started by these happenings, the story’s first episode showed the bonds between the lead characters, as well as some of their past, which gave us a decent grip on the situation. It didn’t take long for Inowaki to notice something was going on as him and Ikeda inevitably get onto the road towards the truth. While the one luring out the leads wasn’t shown in the first episode, I had a good reason to assume it was none other than Kaneko Daichi in another somewhat dark role. Enough for me to join Inowaki and Ikeda on the ride for another few episodes to see where this story would eventually lead to.
Sitting through the next few episodes showed that in the end nothing was what it seemed to be. Two completely separate stories get mixed to eventually come to a certain climax by episode four where Kaneko’s character snapped and went from one side of his broken character to another, all the while continuing his main focus: revenge. Inowaki did a good job at playing out his confusion to the point where I wondered whether he’d actually known what Kaneko was up to in their joint scenes. Aside from the both of them, Ikeda gave a performance much to what I’ve become used to see of her, and Kanichiro’s already alternative vibe only added to his artsy character, leaving a decent enough impression and some hope for future works. (Kaye)
Watashi ni XX Shinasai (わたしに××しなさい！)
With – at the time – a movie on the way, we just needed to check it out before its release. BatsuShina is about as ridiculous as it sounds as its pre-release drama brings the dating-game concept to life, and as the main girl gets through her choices she meets a variety of boys to test. First one up was Koseki Yuta. The actor was good and was tapping into his potential to be “twisted”. It’s been clear he’s always had a hint of it in his gaze, so I was glad this project brought it out. Another good performance was from Kaneko Daichi. Though in theory still a rookie, he is capable of both fluff and a dark intensity, and he was fantastic as an asshole-ish brat here. The guy is a chameleon and he looks and feels different each time I see him appear in anything. Conversely, Sato Kanta and Tamashiro Tina were hardly bearable and they both looked and sounded stiff. Their line delivery was terribly stilted. Sato, in particular, looked dead and did not appear to have an ounce of interest in the female lead despite his lines proclaiming his passion for her.
The plot of this pre-film drama was ridiculous and its lines were terribly cheesy, but the show was delivered in an interesting manner using the earlier mentioned format instead of the more manipulative nature of the original work. I am not sure if the film will continue with this or expand to have the main character use the style of the original work. (Jia & Kaye)
Ani Tomo (兄友)
Just as with BatsuShina, Ani Tomo was a pre-movie drama series giving slight backstory to the movie’s lead characters. The four episode short drama showed Yokohama Ryusei and Matsukaze Risaki in the lead, with a backing of at least somewhat interesting rookies.
Though I had no expectations whatsoever, the acting left a lot to be desired. When a random drama-original role played by someone who’s actually a voice actor (Fukuyama Jun) is more amusing than any of the actors themselves, you know something’s wrong. The main surprise might have just been EBiDAN group Super Dragon’s second oldest, Furukawa Tsuyoshi, who took on his first drama/acting role as the main girl’s older brother. He clearly gave a show of the typical Stardust-cold-brat gaze and I’ve been wondering what fellow agency actor he’s been looking most at ever since.
In the background we got to see some of Ono Karin and Matsuoka Koudai, but as with the others, there’s not much to be said. At least I hope the movie has more depth and weight and gives its, in theory, promising cast something to work with so I can actually properly assess its entertainment value. (Kaye)
Soroban Samurai Kaze no Ichibe (そろばん侍 風の市兵衛)
This drama was technically under 2018 Spring but was still airing at the start of 2018 Summer. Mukai Osamu combined the gentleness of a kind soul, the righteousness of a warrior, the sharpness of a genius and the power of a skilled fighter. The story and sets were simple but sometimes less does more. The acting of the cast varied from actor to actor, with some performing below average and some shining. But it was heartwarming to see the love between Mukai’s character and his older brother and how they gradually warmed up to each other again. (Jia)
Colours. Colours everywhere. Non returned with a role as bubbly Mirai in a short LINE drama series called Mirai-san. With backing of Hongo Kanata, Makita Sports, and Horiuchi Keiko, and character names all linked to past, present, and future, the colorful visuals only added to the drama’s obvious odd stories before I’d even checked as much as the trailer.
Mirai is a girl who does nothing but fool around and play games all day every day, and her older brother does nothing but – sometimes indirectly – supports her in this by developing all kinds of random futuristic tools through his job as a researcher. The first episode already showed its quirky nature when Mirai’s boyfriend appeared to be a robot in need of a recharge, and all but 10 minutes later we’re already done with the first part of the lives of Mirai’s family. Episode two continued the same theme of odd romance in which Mirai didn’t like the idea of her brother moving out to go and live closer to his girlfriend as it’ll only result in her having to do all his chores. And so it goes on and on.
What’s basically The Daily Life of Mirai was an amusing debut for the LINE drama platform, but with a main cast filled with people who like to break out of the regular – and weren’t scared to show their odd sides – it turned all the more ridiculous. (Kaye)
Kakugo wa Iika Soko no Joshi (覚悟はいいかそこの女子)
Nakagawa Taishi played Furuya Towa, a high schooler who – despite never having had a girlfriend in his life – seemed popular with his fellow students. When he got upset with the remark of a classmate he vowed to make the one person who turned everyone down his girlfriend. Or that was at least what the main story was about.
As Kakugo wa Iika Soko no Joshi followed the 2018 trend of pre-movie dramas, it also got its in-universe expansion with a five episode prequel series. This time it brought to us Furuya and his close friends, the latter of which were played by Wakabayashi Jiei, Kai Shouma, and Ito Kentaro, as they went about their high school lives and met with characters played by the likes of Tsunematsu Yuri, Koike Teppei, and Sugino Yosuke among others.
The first episode immediately set the tone when Towa’s classmate Touma (Sugino) started putting in extra effort to take all the girls away from his self-proclaimed rival, while episode two presented a Furuya copycat in the form of an all grown-up Tanaka Taketo. Similar romance stories involving people around Towa were shown in the rest of the episodes, preparing us for the ultimate finale in the movie. Kakugo wa Iika Soko no Joshi, as a pre-movie drama, gave us a look and feel of the lead boy and his circle of friends as well as the random scenarios they seem to easily get mixed up in. It’s a nice and light watch! Plus, if you feel like it, there are some fairly new and interesting rookie actors to pick up almost every single episode. (Kaye)
What dramas did you watch in 2018? Which ones did you enjoy and dislike? Share with us below!