The Emperor’s Cook – 天皇の料理番 Comprehensive Review and Acting Highlights [Part 2 of 3 Parts]

TBS Network’s The Emperor’s Cook swept the major trophies at the 8th International Drama Awards in Tokyo back in 2015. Aside from the Grand Prix (Best Drama), Satoh Takeru, Kuroki Haru, and Suzuki Ryohei won major acting awards as well. 

In Part One, we have an introduction and some historical notes. Let’s have a recap, shall we?

Based on the novel “Tenno no Ryoriban” by Sugimori Hisahide, it tells the story of Akiyama Tokuzo (1888-1974) who served as Emperor Taishō’s and later Emperor Shōwa’s Imperial chef. He is regarded as an influential figure in spreading French cuisine in Japan and is also referred to as the “Japanese Escoffier”.

Tokuzo is a spoiled brat, who is notorious, annoying and easily gets bored on any activity he joins out of curiosity. His strict father and diligent mother had almost given up hope on whether he can be reformed, but his niiyan (eldest brother) remains his staunchest supporter. Forced into a marriage of convenience, Tokuzo, instead became passionate about cooking when he had his first taste of beef cutlet. Even in his pursuit of becoming the “Best cook of the Empire of Japan”, his arranged wife took it upon herself to support him. Trained in Tokyo, and later in Paris, France, he learned the many secrets and wonders of cooking amidst discrimination, hardship, and rejection. He overcomes it all to be appointed Emperor’s Cook at the young age of 25.

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The Emperor’s Cook – 天皇の料理番 Its Relevance in today’s perception of Chefs + historical and acting highlights! [Part 1 of 3 Parts]

The awards and impressive reviews bestowed on TBS’s The Emperor’s Cook – 天皇の料理番 (released in 2015) may be regarded as unprecedented when it comes to a foodie drama. As it tackles very important milestones in Japanese history, it also puts the spotlight on the status of cooks and chefs in recent Japanese society.

Based on the novel “Tenno no Ryoriban” by Sugimori Hisahide, it tells the story of Akiyama Tokuzo (1888-1974) who served as Emperor Taishō’s and later Emperor Shōwa’s Imperial chef. He is regarded as an influential figure in spreading French cuisine in Japan and is also referred to as the “Japanese Escoffier”.

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Haro Hari Nezumi – First Impressions + Ep 1 Review

After skipping a significant number of drama seasons, I had an inclination (perhaps even an itchiness) to review a drama series. TBS’s Haro Hari Nezumi –  ハロー張りネズミ is my perfect candidate, and I have some very compelling reasons why I am writing a review:

1. One Hitoshi of Bakuman, Moteki, and Scoop! fame is directing the series;

2. Eita headlines the cast, with a guest (correction: a mainstay) appearance from Aoi Yu. Kamikaze Girls’ Fukada Kyoko is also one of the mainstays, so who can resist two fabulous actresses in one drama?

3. Reminiscent of such shows as Mahoro Eki Mae Bangaichi (Eita with Matsuda Ryuhei) and Rivers Edge Okawabata Detective Agency (Odagiri Joe), this is another opportunity to be in awe at a quality Japanese slice-of-life, detective thriller/drama series.

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Death Note Drama: Episode 11 (Final Installment) Review

“I am the way into the city of woe,
I am the way into eternal pain,
I am the way to go among the lost.

Justice caused my high architect to move,
Divine omnipotence created me,
The highest wisdom, and the primal love.

Before me there were no created things
But those that last forever—as do I.
Abandon all hope you who enter here.”
― Dante Alighieri, Inferno

It took Light Yagami the deaths of many to finally admit that he is, after all, Kira. Among the casualties – L, a prospective friend who knew his agenda and his own father who desperately hold on to hope that his son is not a murderer. In both deaths, Light pretended to mourn but is actually celebrating – how can someone be so ruthless, so heartless? 

The answer lies in becoming a god. A god who walks tall among men, who is both judge and jury.

In the final episode of Death Note, Light Yagami (Masataka Kubota) died in flames, still holding on to his desire to become omnipotent and punish men for their sins.

 3 stars out of 5

I could not help but remember Daedalus and his young son Icarus. As father and son escaped from the Labyrinth using two pairs of wings made from feathers and wax, Icarus was so thrilled that he can almost touch the sky. In his frenzy, he flew too high and the sun melted his wings and he died a tragic death. Light and his father, who both adhere to law and justice had a similar fate – as dedicated as he is to his son, Soichiro knew that he is doomed to rescue Light, so as to make the ultimate sacrifice he dedicated his life for Light’s salvation. 

Whether or not you are a fan of the Death Note manga and its subsequent anime and movies, the NTV drama series is more than just a companion to the earlier adaptations. It explores the whole issue of the struggle between good and evil, of the crusade of justice and the ultimate sacrifice for the ones we love. Unlike the movies which require condensing and editing the source material, the producers of the drama version knew they have a lot of time in their hands – enough to develop the characters and offer surprising twists and turns.

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Death Note Drama: Episode 10 Review

Where is your soul? Asked the father.

To become a god. I’ll even throw away my soul, replied Light Yagami

In the penultimate episode of Death Note drama, Light’s Dad – the dedicated policeman described by L himself, whom he also considered like a father wrote his name in the Death Note and died. Light who has metamorphosed into the evil Kira has shown he had no soul and found his father’s death as nothing but a sacrifice to become the God he envisioned himself and ruled the world and changed it.

 4 stars out of 5

Melo, the psychopath, has won the struggle and finally buried Near into the abyss of his very own being. He abhors L and says so – that L could have been more ruthless, more objective in pursuing Kira and should never have considered “personal” feelings in the pursuit of justice. But is Mello the true successor to L and is he the one who can finally bring Kira to justice?

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Death Note Drama: Episode 9 Review

“If you hold back on the emotions–if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them–you can never get to being detached, you’re too busy being afraid. You’re afraid of the pain; you’re afraid of the grief. You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails. But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely.” [ source ]

Well, Light Yagami did not hold back, and he’s very much the cause of L’s demise.

 3 stars out of 5

I’ve read a lot of books through the years – from bestselling novelists and lately manga authors – and I seldom get impressed with the preaching about humanity, of right and wrong, of getting rid of criminals, of love conquering all. The same can be said of Light and L’s arguments about justice and mercy, of following the law and taking the law into one’s hand.

Death Note is, after all, the struggle between good and evil, of defining what justice is, how a man gets affected by corruption and power and that in every struggle one has to die for the other to live.

With L’s death, there is a need to fill the void – so Near takes us to a whole new battle.

Mio Yuki emerges as the new heroine (or hero for that matter). The ugly and terrifying (yet somewhat hilarious) doll also takes center stage as the “Jekyll and Hyde-inspired” dual personality takes over from L… Yuki looks serene and innocent, even naive then takes on a cross-over character and acts with malevolence. I love her acting so far…

Kento Yamazaki’s take on L is over – at least as lead investigator, but looking back at the young man’s career (re-watched Control Tower last night, and saw a few Mare episodes), I have to say he has grown tremendously and this challenging role has taken a lot from him. He is not yet a Yagira or a Sometani, but he certainly is way-way above a Fukushi, even a Nomura at this point.

I agree with the notion (perhaps even a stated fact) that the director and scriptwriter are responsible for the change in Kubota’s acting style. Gone is the subtlety – what we see is over-the-top acting, unadulterated even and it either turns you off or inspires you and entertains you. I guess, after an Episode 8 re-watch I got the point. They obviously want viewers to gain more sympathy of the fallen private detective and transform the timid young man that is Light into the epitome of evil.

 

Death Note Drama: Episode 8 Review

I admit I’m doing a complete turn around from hating Episode 7 to absolutely loving Episode 8 of Death Note drama. I lost faith, but then it was completely restored for a good number of reasons.

 4 stars out of 5

Episode 8 is the show’s biggest cliffhanger yet – this is where the full frontal attack I expected to happen in previous episodes took place. Kento’s L revealed a character worth rooting for. While we may have seen glimpses of malice in how he interrogated Light, admitting all he wanted is to become his friend tugs at the heart. Kento Yamazaki delivered his lines with both conviction and tenderness that Kubota’s eye-popping exaggerated acting seems neutralize;

The public prosecutor who wanted to join the crusade for justice and the elimination of the world’s criminals may have demonstrated a great level of over-the-top acting, but he delivered it to annoy and irritated the audience, which makes him just as effective as the two leads. I mean, I was annoyed because he wanted to shake things up, which makes him good at what he’s doing;

Near as a girl pretending to be a boy got to me in a way I never expected. I no longer wonder why they cast Mio Yuki. She’s like the unknown ingredient in a world famous recipe where people come from all over the place just to get a taste of;

Anyway, two separate lines delivered by Light sums up the Episode leading up to the deadly confrontation between Light and L, the outcome of which we will know soon enough.

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Death Note Drama: Episode 7 Review

If you’re just starting to watch the drama version of the popular manga Death Note, then you may not like it if you begin at Episode 7.

As explained to me by a friend who followed the details of Death Note from the source to its anime version, this part of the story supposedly represents another leap towards Light and L’s deadly confrontation. However, here the acting becomes so obviously over the top, it’s not hard to laugh at Masataka Kubota. The vein-poping overacting tradition of Tatsuya Fujiwara is like a ghost who suddenly appeared in the form of his predecessor! Gone is the elegance in acting, now we are introduced to mediocrity and caricature.

 2 out of 5 stars

Why my sudden change of tune? First of all, Episode 7 is where there are more over the top acting than episodes 1-6 combined. The lackey who was supposed to be part of the corporate management representing Yotsuba is one of the worst supporting actors I’ve seen.

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Death Note Drama: Episode 6 Review

When Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata created their Death Note manga, they introduced the Shinigami as important characters in the story. These so-called “death gods” extend their conditional immortality by killing humans. While they have no power to stop death, they can end human lives sooner than originally intended. To explain further how the death note works, it should be pointed out that all Shinigami possess their personal death notes which they used to extend their lives. Another death note must be in their possession to offer to humans if they can have the same power to kill.

3 out of 5 stars

As to Ryuk and Rem, the two Shinigami who introduced themselves into the lives of Light and Misa, they made it known to Light that they can assist him in any way he wants.

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