Live action Coverage: Timeline + Buzz for Death Note! Kenichi Matsuyama & Tatsuya Fujiwara returns!

The Death Note movies of Kenichi Matsuyama and Tatsuya Fujiwara serve as my introduction to Japanese live-action movies. Matsuyama is especially memorable in Death Note for the perfect combination of subtle, thrilling and comedic acting. I saw the first Death Note movie after I watched Matsuyama in Norwegian Wood. Somebody told me about his almost perfect portrayal of the world’s “greatest detective.” Matsuken’s L is what I imagined the fictional character would be in real life.

That was late 2011, a few years after the first Death Note movie was released. Five years later, we’re into the fifth live-action adaptation of the manga made famous by Tsugumi Ohba, with illustration by Takeshi Obata. 

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Q&A: In Death Note, both main characters (L and Light) seem to be somehow evil. What are some of your thoughts on this?

Here’s the question:

My Answer:

Unusual, even surprising question, yet I understand why someone would ask about it.

I think everyone who have read the manga or watched the anime and the live action movies (and recent drama) already knew that Light Yagami murdered L using the death note. With that singular act alone, I would say Light is evil, but he’s not pure evil (at least not yet). One needs to understand the radical change in his persona to make a proper judgment.

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On Live Action Adaptations: 20 Favorite Japanese Live action movies & Why you need to watch them! [Vol 2, Part 2]

In Part 1, we featured 10 favorite Japanese live action films, in Part 2, we’ll celebrate our top 10 favorites. 

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Hana Yori Dango and Crows Zero are like staple live action Japanese movie recommendations. Both represent beloved genres – the romantic side of youth and its violent, thrilling opposite. With Shun Oguri featured prominently in both series (and movies), he represented quite a few famous manga/anime characters throughout his acting career. Mao Inoue, who is considered one of Japan’s most talented actresses, has made quite a lasting impression in Hana Yori Dango, not to mention her reportedly romantic relationship with her co-star, Jun Matsumoto.

Both HYD and Crows also feature personalities going against the ‘establishment’, with Genji (Shun Oguri) fighting to take on the gang in Suzuran High, while Makino (Mao Inoue) fighting for her right to co-exist inside the posh, prestigious escalator school Eitoku Gakuen. Genji’s struggle to become the #1 boy in the ultra-violent school is more than a coming of age tale since it depicts friendships, loyalty, and even family issues. On the other hand, Makino brings to focus class struggle and the arrogance of the elite. The romance between Makino and Domyouji (Matsumoto) provided more than just excitement and thrills for fans of both actors. The chemistry between them remained unmatched by subsequent adaptations.

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On Live action adaptations: Favorite live action through the years + Is there a point to the making of Japanese live action adaptation? So what’s the point if it sucks? [ Vol 1, Part 1]

Now that’s the question we are all here to try to answer!

In filmmaking, video production, and other media, live action refers to cinematography or videography that does not use animation (though sometimes based on an original animated series). As the normal process of making visual media involves live-action, the term itself is usually superfluous, but it makes an important distinction in situations in which one might normally expect animation, as in a Pixar film, a video game, or when the work is adapted from an animated cartoon, such as Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones, 101 Dalmatians films, or The Tick television program. The phrase “live action” also occurs within an animation context to refer to non-animated characters: in a live-action/animated film such as Space Jam, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, or Mary Poppins in which humans and cartoons co-exist, “live-action” characters are the “real” actors, such as Bob Hoskins and Julie Andrews, as opposed to the animated “actors”, such as Roger Rabbit himself.

As you may have noticed in the wiki definition, the examples are all Hollywood-based movies and actors.

As an intro, please take the survey below [poll] with 5 particular live action adaptations featured – Hana Yori Dango, Death Note, Hana Kimi, Kimi ni Todoke, Nodame Cantabile and you’ll be asked which are your personal bias and favorites.

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To put it simply, in the Japanese scene, live action adaptation refers to movies based on manga and anime. Aside from Japan, the US and France belong to the top 3 producers of Live action adaptation based on original manga and comics. I’m not going to go deeper into the differences or similarities of manga and comics, but would like to concentrate on the following:

[1] An introduction to Japanese live action movies; popular genres of manga and anime; a journey down the live-action lane;

[2] Statistics on live action films through the years; survey on favorites and list of top 10 live action movies [based on manga and/or anime]

[3] A look at future productions and mentions of filmmakers, innovators, manga artists (and actors who made waves in the live action scene, including voice acting); and finally answer the question: Do most live action adaptations suck?

In Part 1, we’ll take a bird’s eye view at the current state of live action affairs!

Continue reading “On Live action adaptations: Favorite live action through the years + Is there a point to the making of Japanese live action adaptation? So what’s the point if it sucks? [ Vol 1, Part 1]”

The Year in Review – 2015: Japanese Dramas that made waves during the year + Favorite dramatic scenes & performances! [ Summer Shows – Part 3/4]

It’s funny how I keep on telling myself not to take on a lot of drama to review since one series is more than enough – given time for the subs to arrive and real-life issues to manage. But then again, it seems I will never listen (even to myself). So now after weeks of posting 2015 Drama Review, we’re into Summer Season – finally!

For me, I have to say Summer J-drama 2015 season is one of my most anticipated and most enjoyable ever.

First of all, the live-action drama series Death Note aired during this time, and many of you regulars know how much this blog is biased towards Kento Yamazaki.

Second, Akagi and Kanata Hongo (another favorite) was expected to dazzle and intrigue and the show really did rock!

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Third, the return of Mirai Moriyama and Kenichi Matsuyama in Japanese TV via Enka Gold Rush and Futagashira, respectively. Though until now, I have yet to finish both of the shows. The problem is always the same- the lack of English subs.

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Death Note Drama: Episode 2 Review

When dead criminals began to reach an alarming proportion, the police launched a desperate search for the murderer, with L on their side. 

Light Yagami’s gentle, mild-mannered personality also began to change. What appears to be subtle changes – more confidence and assertiveness now borders into something else, but can he handle it? Episode 2 is more about Light and less about L, and viewers like me who have seen the previous movie adaptations can’t help but feel that Masataka Kubota is not going to suffer from lack of challenging scenes, just as Tatsuya Fujiwara did in the movies.

 3 out of 5 stars

My biggest complaint in the movie version is that Fujiwara’s Light started out ‘matured’ already – it’s hard to accept someone who goes to a bar and gambles as a perfectionist with some noble ideals. 

In the current drama series, Light works at a bar and goes to school like an ordinary young man. Having the power to put someone to death is something huge for him, but as Kira corrupts him, Light is seduced by the power of the Death Note.

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Masataka Kubota & Kento Yamazaki headline Death Note drama: Perfect Cast or Mis-cast? Yuuki Mio takes male character Near!

Updates: After a qualified “leak” or slip or whatever (Casting scoop was in the 26th issue of Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump), Japanese entertainment sites officially revealed the cast – Masataka Kubota, Kento Yamazaki, Mio Yuki – confirming earlier reports.

Insiders mentioned that the drama series – to be aired by NTV every Sunday starting July – differs from previous movie adaptations where the main characters battle it out as young professionals. In the new drama, both Light Yagami and L are college students. (Not really sure if both have scenes inside the school or if one of them is as “eccentric” as previously depicted) I think the biggest drawback of the movie was portraying Yagami immediately as being corruptible hence it was not entirely convincing how an idealistic young guy who is passionate about the law and ethics could easily succumb to the temptation of the death note and start killing criminals.

The powerful production committee – unknown business executives – who are clueless about movies, drama and anything that has to do with the artistic process in live action adaptation does it again! This time in the Death Note drama series scheduled for airing this coming July 2015. While the casting of Masataka Kubota as Light Yagami is perfect regarding quality and credibility, Kento Yamazaki as L is a pleasant surprise and something to speculate. Mio Yuki as the relatively unknown Near (for those who are not familiar with the manga) is the most shocking of all.

In our previous article discussing the launch of the drama series, fellow J-dorama watchers speculated on the cast, and Kento Yamazaki was mentioned as – perhaps – a viable candidate to play one of the characters. Yamazaki, who is getting quality roles of late is a capable and intense dramatic actor as anyone from his generation (except Masaki Suda, of course, which is entirely on a different level). Previously played by Kenichi Matsuyama, the character of L is the most colorful and intriguing among the Death Note players. Playing L is not easy especially for #deadfisheyes actors, but Yamazaki had demonstrated his dramatic abilities way before anyone took an interest in him (Control Tower is an excellent example of how good he is). I don’t know how good Yamazaki is on playing such a unique character because when Kenichi played L, he was both charismatic, geeky-nerdy and the movie series’ class act.

Casting Kento Yamazaki is probably the biggest draw for the drama series, and I’m one of the most excited for it.

Continue reading “Masataka Kubota & Kento Yamazaki headline Death Note drama: Perfect Cast or Mis-cast? Yuuki Mio takes male character Near!”

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