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Completed
Matrimonial Chaos
43 people found this review helpful
Nov 28, 2018
32 of 32 episodes seen
Completed 1
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
Matrimonial Chaos is a Korean remake of Sakamoto Yuji's excellent Saikou no Rikon (The Best Divorce). Both stories center on two couples whose relationships are breaking down. The four principal characters are not particularly likable: Sook Moo is fastidious and fussy, his wife Hwi Ru is messy and inattentive, Yoo Young is detached and distant and Jang Hyun is an oblivious philanderer. Thus, the narrative relies on the charisma of the actors to keep the audience invested, and the four actors largely and, in some moments, spectacularly deliver on that difficult task.

The show is quite stagey: the major moments of this drama occur when two to four of the main characters are in a room together talking through their issues. I recommend watching through Ep. 8 (the fourth hour) if you wish to test this show out. If Bae Doo Nah's performance in the final scene of that episode does not move you, then this show is not for you.

The characters, performances and writing are uniformly superb throughout this drama. Even though all the characters are pretty difficult people, there are plenty of comedic moments to keep this drama from being a dire examination of failing marriages. There are plenty of surprises along the way, and many happy and light moments in addition to the more hurtful consequences of the failing relationships.

In the end, I preferred this version to the original. Sakamoto's script is more comedic, but Moon Jungmin's additions and changes to the story all tended to clarify and enhance the themes of the original. Furthermore, the supporting cast is definitely better in the Korean version. Moon Sook is radiantly beautiful and luminously wise in the role as the grandmother. And there are a couple of lovely romances going on with the side characters that help provide relief to the two main stories.

Matrimonial Chaos is a sharply observed investigation into the ways that people in relationship can get in the way of each other's happiness. It's a beautiful story of people learning to see each other for the first time all over again. It does not rest on the usual tropes of marriage as a happily-ever-after, but, instead, finds deep wisdom in the ways people still find to like each and learn to be for each other even when it's not easy to do so.

It is great. You should watch it.

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Get to the Punchline
17 people found this review helpful
Dec 13, 2019
Completed 0
Overall 7.5
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 6.0
Rena Nounen was set to be a breakout star after playing the lead in the extremely popular (and great) 2013 asadora Amachan. But she had a dispute with and left her agency (which forced her to change her name to Non) and was black-listed FOR FIVE YEARS: no broadcast TV dramas and no movie roles for that entire period in what is a demonstration of the power and control of the agency system in Japan and is, simply, a national disgrace to the point that her case has been brought up in parliament as an example of unfair working conditions in the entertainment industry.

Nevertheless, she is still well liked enough to get fairly steady work for national advertising campaigns and has launched a music career as a singer/song-writer and guitarist. And, obviously, someone liked her enough to invest in her for this movie for YouTube Originals that she wrote, directed, starred in, did the costumes for, art directed and edited. That someone also paid for an accompanying documentary series on the making of the movie called "I AM NON".

And so what we have here is, essentially, a student film shot on a thirteen day shooting schedule with a professional crew led by a wildly creative young woman who has, apparently, never heard of these strange things called film schools. Given all of the above saying anything bad about this film would be like punching a kitten.

It is a fairly simple story of a high school senior trying to understand why her grandmother has left the household and also trying to figure out what to do with her life while being tempted by and distracted by the forest spirits (yokai) around her. There are no real surprises here, and the editing would probably be tighter in more experienced hands. However, Non does have a strong visual sense as a director and is a charming actress. The story has Ghibli-esque aspirations and largely succeeds at evoking the wonder of a young woman discovering her power as an artist (both within the story and outside via the making of the film).

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Doki no Sakura
10 people found this review helpful
Jan 12, 2020
10 of 10 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.5
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
Dramas featuring non-neurotypical protagonists are comparatively rare, and they are difficult to pull off. There is always a tension between idealizing or glamorizing their different ways of perceiving the world or, on the other end of the spectrum, demonizing, denigrating and othering them for being different which historically has been how most societies treat such differences. Doki no Sakura successfully presents a non-neurotypical protagonist who is fairly understandably and continuously punished for being different, and, yet, the story values her and her way of seeing the world, and, ultimately provides a critique of normative corporate culture by doing so.

The titular Sakura is played by Takahata Mitsuki in a rigorously disciplined and idiosyncratic performance which is similar in some ways to that of her Sachiko in Boukyaku no Sachiko, but here the script takes her character much more seriously, and she is allowed to go much deeper. I am no expert in neurological classifications, but Sakura appears to be autistic, rarely smiling and unrelentingly honest for which the large construction firm which hires her repeatedly punishes with demotions and transfers.

The episodes themselves are highly structured. Each tells a story in Sakura's corporate life from ten successive years told by her co-worker friends to her while she is in a coma in 2019. Through repeated encounters and motifs in each episode we learn about how she became their friends and the positive impact she has had on their lives.

The series is unquestionably good through episode 9 where the episodic structure is intentionally broken, and there is a very interesting tension well into episode 10 of whether the show can actually stick the landing without betraying the spirit of its characters. Surprisingly, it does so. A bit unrealistically and conveniently, perhaps, but the show does remain true to Sakura's character while providing a satisfying, if a bit pat, ending to the series.

In the end, the series makes a fairly clear case that the company would be better were it more open to Sakura's way of seeing the world. The story talks about corporate power and intention, and provides an interesting though probably simplistic view of what the source of that power and intention should be. Sakura comes to her company with a dream of building structures with her friends that will make the world a better place, and ends with her having helped those friends define their own dreams. They become more Sakura-like, and she becomes more empowered by their increased authenticity.

It's worth checking out.

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Hanbun, Aoi
13 people found this review helpful
Mar 25, 2020
156 of 156 episodes seen
Completed 1
Overall 6.5
Story 5.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 4.5
This review is going to be more negative than I expect most viewer's would, and so I do recommend reading the comment thread for this show as well for contrasting opinions. I do not, by any means, think this series is particularly bad, but I do believe that is not nearly as good as the half-a-dozen other asadoras I have seen.

Hanbun, Aoi was the summer asadora in 2018, and tells the story of Suzume from birth through the age of 40. As a typical NHK asadora the production, cast and direction are all of the usual high quality. However, the show is an exemplar of bad top-down writing in which certain check-points have to be hit for the protagonist in the desired narrative, and as a result there are some unbelievably stupid plot points along the way. I think the series is meant to be a fabulous tale of a young woman overcoming some personal adversities to find the love and happiness that she was fated to find. The title "Half Blue" is meant to be interpreted as a "the glass is half-full" kind of optimism in the face of challenges, but, ultimately, the story pretty much continuously beats down the protagonist, ignores any of her achievements and acquisition of skills along the way, and reaches a markedly tepid finale (The marginally interesting thing they were working on goes into production and the preordained OTP finally hug. Yay?)

The first third of the story is reasonably interesting. Suzume loses the hearing in her left ear at 8 from an otherwise asymptomatic cases of the mumps. She is supported by her family and friends and adapts to her disability. Suzume is not particularly bright, but does have some talent at drawing and illustration and so she decides to pursue a dream of becoming a mangaka. She becomes one of three proteges of a very successful mangaka, and the characters throughout this section and the challenges they face as artists are all pretty interesting and fun.

The brief middle section middle section which is meant to transition the character from a working mangaka to a single mom is pretty much utter tripe. Events which normally would be signs of success are interpreted as disasters. Plot threads about finances are brought up and then blatantly ignored over a couple of large time jumps, and the marriage ends pretty much as it began: because the writer says so, Nothing in this section makes much sense.

The last half of the series is focused on Suzume becoming a maker where you might expect the skills she developed as a mangaka to come in handy and help her thrive. But, no. The story pretty much continues to beat her down, and we are left with a very mild will-they/won't-they plot that lurches over an arbitrary finish line slightly beyond the Tohoku earthquake.

The cast is good, however, and Nagano Mei capably carries the show, such as it is. The character cries fairly frequently and the actress seems to get there effortlessly. Suzume is a little blunt and a little oblivious, and Nagano's charm makes the character quite likable. Like most asadora there is a large ensemble cast surrounding her with an interesting range of characters with their own dreams and aspirations.

Top down writing is not necessarily bad. Sakamoto Yuji's 2016 Love That Makes You Cry (https://mydramalist.com/16024-love-that-makes-you-cry) covers much the same territory, planting the Tohoku quake in the exact middle of the series and ending on the OTP's first kiss. But even then, it's not his best work, and comes off as more of a writer's exercise than one of his more organic tales. In contrast, the blatant structuring of the story makes Hanbun, Aoi even less interesting because the predictable ending is predictable and the machinations to get the characters where the outline put them frequently seem arbitrary and contrived.

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Jan 23, 2021
1 of 1 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.5
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 3.0

A Delightful Pregnancy/New Parent Story

This is a follow-up special to the excellent 2016 J-Drama Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu and if you enjoyed that series, then this special is absolutely a must-see. The film is a tad didactic about pregnancy and new parenthood, but I think that even people who have not seen the original series can enjoy it as a standalone movie.

The special continues roughly three years after the end of the series. Mikuri and HIramasu are now happily and genuinely (if not legally) married, and working hard at their jobs. Mukuri's Aunt Yuri has broken up with Ryota, and facing her prospects as a successful business woman with no life partner.

The story largely focusses on Mikuri and Hiramasu as they discover that a child is on its way, and have to deal with the usual issues of first-time parents in Japan which are complicated by the birth occurring immediately before the first Covid lockdown in Japan. The show deftly addresses the systemic resistance to the legally mandated parental leave by Japanese businesses, and places the two on the front lines of trying to change the work culture to reasonably accommodate pregnancy.

Most of the side characters return for the special, and the series continues to be unusually LGBTQ+ positive in comparison to most J-dramas. Hiramasu's gay previous boss Numata is now living with the guy he met in the final episode and there are a couple of other good solid moments of inclusion as well.

All in all, this special is a happy story about a young couple facing the challenges of pregnancy and new parenthood. It is a test for their relationship, but it is one that they work together to face, and in the end they have a loving, growing family in the new normals of life in Covid times and the acceptance of LGBTQ+ relationships.

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Terrace House: Boys x Girls Next Door
7 people found this review helpful
Aug 30, 2018
98 of 98 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 10
Rewatch Value 8.0
Terrace House: Boys x Girls Next Door was the first season of a show which was later revived in collaboration with Netflix and was exposed through these later seasons to international audiences and became a hit. The original series covered the lives of six rotating cast members one episode per week for nearly two years from October, 2012 through September, 2014. If you have seen any of the other seasons on Netflix, then you know the set up: three men and three women share a house in Tokyo and we get to watch their lives together.

This series of the show takes a while to reach the form of the later series. Initially, there was only one host, YOU. She was joined by Reina Triendl in episode 14, and four more panelists join in episode 27 including Hiroomi Tosaka, a member of the band Sandaime J Soulbrothers and the only panelist who did not return for the Netflix revivals. If you like the Netflix series, you might be tempted to skip the earlier episodes; however, doing so would cause you to miss several iconic moments and the introduction of key house members who play important roles in the peak episodes of this series.

Another important difference between this series and the subsequent series is that the time between filming and broadcast was initially an astonishingly short one week(!). That is, because the housemates can and do watch the show on the show, they could see what their housemates had said when they were not in the room from the week before. This fact only really has a impact two or three times over the course of the series, and the length of the lag slowly increased so by the end there was a three week gap between filming and broadcast. Nevertheless, if you ever imagined what a reality series would be like if the participants could immediately see how they were portrayed, then this is the show for you.

In general, the Boys x Girls Next Door typical episode is about the same in quality to episodes of the later series: you still have the amazing cinematography that never has a camera or mic pack in shot, you still have the slowly developing relationships and romances, and you still have the comedy relief and empathy of the panel who break in to provide context and color - but do note that unlike later series, there is often a panel segment after the closing door sound. However, the peaks of this series are higher than those of subsequent seasons. There are events which unfold which could not have been scripted which are likely to touch you more than anything which has happened in the subsequent seasons. You are likely to laugh harder, cry more, and have your heart lifted higher by a romantic connection than in any subsequent season to date.

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In Love and Deep Water
8 people found this review helpful
Nov 17, 2023
Completed 0
Overall 7.0
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.5

Interesting film. Not sure it worked.

After skewering the tropes and conventions of mysteries in last summer's series, Hatsukoi no Akuma, it's clear that Sakamoto understands the genre and could have written a satisfying, bog standard mystery set on a cruise ship. But, instead, he seems to have chosen not to, and it makes me wonder why.

Our intrepid, ersatz detectives are Ubukata and Banjuku who have a meet-cute as the cruise ship is leaving the dock in Hokaido for a 45 day cruise to the Aegean and back. Banjuku is trying to track down the woman she suspects of cheating with her boyfriend and who happens to be Ubukata's girlfriend, and somehow ends up on board with no ticket and no luggage but manages to have a week's worth of fashionable wardrobe to wear throughout the film. There are TONS of little details in the film like that which make no sense at all. None of them are insurmountable, but the filmmakers do not even seem to care. And so do not come to this film expecting to find a tightly woven thriller where every detail was intentional and counts towards the "solution" to the mystery.

But does it work as a romcom instead? Eh... There is SOME chemistry between the two leads, and Ubukata has some character growth, but Banjuku is just sort of an MPDG tugging that growth along, and we really do not get much a backstory and motivation for her other than her suspecting her boyfriend of cheating.

And so it's not much of a mystery and not much of romcom? Is there anything here to salvage the film? Well, you know: it's Sakamoto, and he generally does have things to say. (See, for instance, my coverage of his oeuvre through 2021 here on MDL: https://mydramalist.com/article/a-watcher-s-guide-to-the-series-of-sakamoto-yuji)

In this film, he touches a bit on classism and the divide between the haves and the have-nots who serve them, and, as usual, he questions the reductivism of eat-the-rich, and, while he does condemn all rudeness and abuse, he weaves a bit of complexity into that dichotomy by focusing on the resulting relationships and how they can bridge the gap between social classes.

He also considers at length the importance of people's intentions over their actions. Does it matter if someone intended to cheat, but did not in fact do so? Does it matter if someone intended to murder, but did not in fact do so? I do think Sakamoto intends to say yes and always. But I'm not sure that thesis is enough to bring this film up to his usual standard.

If you're looking for what Sakamoto has to say about mysteries go seek out Hatsukoi no Akuma: it's fun, and the acting is off the charts in that last episode. If you're looking for his views on romance, I'd probably go with Saikou no Rikon even though it's explicitly set after the bloom has come off the rose.

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Nemesis
8 people found this review helpful
Jun 21, 2021
10 of 10 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 4.5
Story 2.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 1.0

Wow, stunningly bad writing to the bitter end

If you wish to see some of the best actors in Japan acting the hell of some o f the shittiest scripts you will ever see, then this is the show for you.

For most of its run its meant to be a light murder of the week mystery show, and you might find maybe the first 7 episodes endearing as such; however, even there most of the scenarios and "solutions" to the mysteries happen because the writer says so and not particularly because he planted clues that would result in the kind of satisfactory resolution that is de rigueur in these kind of shows. And ALL of the recurring characters are idiots accept Anna (Hirose Suzu) and a friend, Tomori (Hashimoto Kanna), she makes early on. Almost all of the rest of the characters are played pretty much as comedic buffoons. I mean, maybe Maki Yoko's Mizuho and Tomita Miu's Kaoru are not buffoons, but SOMEONE has to provide the the exposition and deus ex machina that the wretched writer has to rely on to progress the plots such as they are. Even the head of the detective agency played by the legendary star, Eguchi Yosuke, who is supposed to be this retired master detective never actually solves anything throughout the series and only exists to do some tepid fight scenes which are meant to bring some action to the series but only occur because the writer wanted there to be a fight scene at that point in the script.

The tone of the series arc which is hinted at in all the all episodes and resolved in the final episodes entirely contradicts the lighter tone of the earlier episodes, and nothing about that arc makes sense. Things like Anna being set up throughout the series as a genetically modified supergenius are entirely ignored by the writer in the (anti)climactic final episodes mostly because he only has a passing acquaintance with intelligence himself.

I'd say skip this series even if you are a stan of the greats like Hirose, Eguchi and Maki and the goods like Arashi's Sakurai Sho,

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Completed
Living
6 people found this review helpful
Aug 12, 2020
4 of 4 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 7.5
Rewatch Value 6.0

A Pandemic Dividend

What do you do when your country goes into lock-down, and normal TV productions are halted for a few weeks? How about grabbing one of the greatest living screen-writers in Japan, and rush out four short stories that can be filmed in the actor's homes?

Apparently on a tight deadline, Sakamoto-sensei includes a self-insert character who needs to get a series of scripts out the door. The writer played by Abe Sadao is going a bit wonky from isolation, and has a defensive relation to an acorn as he tries to grapple with the inherent worth of humanity, as one does. His segments serve as the wrapper for all four short stories.

All the stories are set in sort of parallel universes to now. The first deals with a modern species of Neanderthals facing their probable extinction to Homo Sapiens. The second has two brothers sharing the making of a meal before a divided Japan begins a civil war with the two on opposite sides. The third is a charming tale of a guy trying to salvage his relationship by using a magic spell which resets the mind of his girl friend back a couple of minutes. And the final episode has a TV producer grappling with the decision to air a program which could get him fired while he confronts an incident in his past.

I found three of the episodes delightful, and all of the performances are quite good. The series is short, and more Sakamoto writing is always a good thing.

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Raise de wa Chanto Shimasu Season 3
7 people found this review helpful
Mar 30, 2023
12 of 12 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 1.5
Rewatch Value 3.5

What happens to Raise de wa Chanto Shimasu when it drops most of the sex?

If you are reading this review, then you most likely know the deal with RdwCS: it's the sex-positive show that over two prior series and a special explored the love lives of a small company of five young CG artists making animations for TV and film. As ever, the third season affirms a broad spectrum of sexual identities and sexual interests (and non-interests). However, if you've enjoyed the prior series, you might be upset to learn that they've taken our favorite PG-rated sex comedy and produced a season where there is very little if any sex happening. The surprising and fun thing is that doing so has resulted in the best season yet.

There was nothing puritanical about the change in focus for this season: the series retains the same sex-positive tone of the earlier seasons. However, in exchange for the antic sex scenario introductions of the prior series, this season instead goes deeper into the emotional lives of the characters (yes, even Masaru), It fleshes out the back story of Momoe and Ken, but also gives nice arcs to Masaru, Toru and Ume. There are probably as many laughs this season but now also some tears, and the emotional canvass is broader in other ways as well. The show has, surprisingly, grown up just a bit.

The episode structure remains the same with each 30 minute episode divided into two vignettes featuring at least one of the principal characters, and the show continues to resolutely avoid trying to say much of import. Nevertheless, if you have enjoyed the prior seasons, it is quite likely that you will enjoy this season even more. (You need only glance at the comment section here for confirmation).

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BL Metamorphosis
5 people found this review helpful
Mar 2, 2023
Completed 0
Overall 8.5
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 8.0

A charming and delightful film based on a manga and about manga

BL Metamorphosis is the story of Urara and Yuki (Sunshine and Snow) who build a cross-generational friendship based on their mutual enjoyment of BL manga. Urara (Ashida Mana) is in her second to last year of high school and facing the choice of what college programs to apply for next year. She's working at a local bookstore when a recently widowed calligraphy teacher Yuki (Miyamoto Nobuko) wanders in to escape the summer heat and a finds a popular BL which catches her eye. Urara is an embarrassed secret fan of the genre, and Yuki had no idea such a thing existed but quickly finds that she loves it and seeks out Urara's advice to learn more about it and get her recommendations.

Acting is reacting, and, as ever, Ashida's reactions are on point, expressing all the embarrassment and social awkwardness of a young woman who has not found herself yet. Yes, she has a crush. But he's already dating the tall, popular, beautiful Eri, and what would happen if he or, worse, THEY ever found out she's into BL? Nevertheless, Urara guides Yuki into the world of BL fandom, and Yuki encourages Urara to try making a manga of her own.

The film is quite smart with lovely parallels drawn between the manga that the two are reading, and the other things happening in their lives. The score and song choices help to propel the story along and as whole the film feels much shorter than its two hour runtime.

It is, indeed, rare for a film to center on a friendship between two people with an age difference of over 60 years, and this film does so lovingly and well. Ashida, if she chooses to, will be Japan's breakout star in the coming years and Miyamoto is a good solid veteran actor. Together their scene work provides all the warm-fuzzies you could want.

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Produce 48
7 people found this review helpful
Sep 3, 2018
12 of 12 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 7.0
Story 6.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 1.0
The following review was written before the vote-manipulation scandal discovered 1.5 years later revealed that the votes for the final 12 were ignored and the final members selected by the producers (see: https://www.soompi.com/article/1369776wpp/entire-lineups-of-x1-and-izone-reportedly-decided-before-finale-voting-ranking-of-a-wanna-one-member-also-manipulated ).

I am not a K-pop or J-pop fan, and so my review should be fairly free of any emotional investment in those scenes.

Produce 48 is the third Korean installment of a musical survival show produced by Mnet. The prior two seasons resulted in a successful debut of a girl-group and boy-group respectively. What made this particular iteration of the series more interesting from a global perspective was its collaboration with AKS, the parent company responsible for developing AKB48 in Japan and turning it into a wildly successful music group franchising organization. The initial plan was to do a version of the show in which half of the contestants were Korean trainees and half were Japanese idols from the various 48 groups.

That's not quite what we got. Produce 48 initially started with 39 Japanese Idols and 59 Korean trainees, and the show chose not to or was not able to allow people to vote outside of Korea. And so the contest was never particularly structured to be fair for the Japanese contestants.

The early episodes of the series are a quite interesting look at the differences in approach to artistic development and growth between the two systems. In short, the Japanese idols are shocking less well trained at singing and dance in comparison to the Korean trainees in their agency system. Now, that could be a bias of the presentation on this show; however, it's fairly well documented outside the show that the girls in the 48 groups are not, in general, provided with any kind of training while agencies in Korea can invest years of training into performers before their debut (and exact huge debts for from the performers for doing so, but that's a whole other discussion). What the Japanese idols do acquire from AKS is a wealth of stage and general entertainment experience.

Generally, the structure of the show is a couple episodes of the contestants preparing and then performing a song, and then an elimination episode where roughly a third of the current pool is eliminated until at the end of episode 12 we're left with a group of 12 performers to be known as IZONE. Voting for the contestants often begins weeks before a performance is shown, and so much of the fate of individuals is based on how much screen time they've managed to get and how well they present on camera rather than their ability to sing, dance or rap which is ostensibly are the skills upon which they are supposed to be judged. All survival shows are popularity contests, and Produce 48 is no different in that respect, but it's clear that the way the voting on Produce 48 is structured does not particularly serve to select the best performers which might be okay as long as you understand that fact.

The performances throughout this series were uniformly outstanding, but subject to the usual quirks of Korean editing where any notable moment good or bad is repeated immediately two or three times. Were the show more focused on the performances, it would be far better. The training segments are okay and the training staff are generally charismatic and professional. But there's also a lot of fluff around group selection for the performances, inevitable product placement segments and utterly crap and banal game segments that only serve to juice the votes for whomever makes the cut in the final edit. The host, Lee Seung Gi, does an excellent job until the final live episode where he could use a teleprompter and some training to get his head out of the cards in his hand.

In conclusion, Produce 48 was an intriguing cross-national premise that was poorly served by the game structure and production decisions. It was not a unmitigated disaster, and, indeed, resulted in some quality musical performances. However, it did certainly fail to live up to its hype, and it did fail to create a level playing field for the two groups involved. I enjoyed watching it, but it could have been much better with some fairly obvious structural changes.

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Yell
4 people found this review helpful
Nov 10, 2021
120 of 120 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.5
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 4.0

A Love Story Between Two Musicians

Yell is the story of Yuichi and Oto who managed to meet, fall in love and marry at a time in Japanese history when most marriages were arranged. The series is a relatively faithful biography of the composer Koseki Yuji whose music is showcased throughout. (There is a one-week arc where the series cheerfully veers into the paranormal, and the historicity of that particular week may be in doubt.) The series follows Yuichi from his childhood where he was bullied for having a stutter through to a happy retirement following a long and successful career in the music industry making hit songs in the pre-war era, writing propaganda songs during the war, and composing the music for radio serials, film and stage productions after the war. Kubota Masataka plays this mild and gentle soul from high school through retirement.

Yuichi's soulmate is Oto, the second daughter of a Christian family who had a small business making saddles. She encounters a famous operatic soprano when she is young and decides to become an opera singer. Oto is played by Nikaido Fumi whose voice is surprisingly convincing in the role.

The focus of this series is centered more on Yuichi than Oto mostly because the roles of wives and mothers were comparatively limited in early to mid century Japan, and so there are fewer family anecdotes about her to be incorporated into the series once they settled down and had their daughter Hana. Nevertheless, the show is pretty balanced between the two characters until the war when Yuichi's stories tend to dominate. There are also many lovely side stories involving the couple's siblings, friends and daughter.

The height of this series is Yuichi's involvement in the war. Yuichi proudly writes music for the war effort until late in the war when he makes a fateful morale trip near the front lines in Burma where he is confronted with the consequences of his support of the war - to the point that he stops composing for a period, and eventually writes a now beloved and haunting song for peace. The script really does not pull any punches in its portrayal of wartime Japan , showing the country's military fervor and its dire consequences, and this section of the series is quite moving.

Other than the war years, the tone of the series is pretty light with the dramatic obstacles being those usually associated with trying to establish oneself in the music industry and the expected parental objection to the match of Yuichi and Oto. The series was in production when the pandemic hit and for the first time in decades NHK had to put its asadora on hiatus for a few weeks. I don't think that the hiatus had any noticeable effect on the quality or the story, but the series ended up slightly shorter at 24 weeks instead of 26. A bigger impact on the length of the series arose from the decision to move from six episodes per week down to five, but I believe that decision was made prior to the pandemic and will remain true for the asadoras from Yell on. Thus, Yell has 120 episodes when prior asadora typically had 156.

Yell is an above average asadora with a few a particularly stellar weeks. The last week is a bit of a hodgepodge trying to complete a final romantic arc, doing the final payoff to a setup in Ep. 1, and building to a fanciful denouement in Ep. 119 to match the unusual opening scenes of the series. Ep. 120 is a final concert of Koseki's music with Nikaido concluding the series with a lovely performance of The Bells of Nagasaki.

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Completed
Yuube wa Otanoshimi Deshita ne
4 people found this review helpful
Feb 15, 2019
6 of 6 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 5.0
This review may contain spoilers
Like Dad of Light, Yuube wa Otanoshimi Deshita ne is a pretty blatant ad for an MMORPG which serves as a conduit for two people to learn to express their emotions. This time the MMORPG is Dragon Quest X and the emotion is romance here between the stunning Miyako (Honda Tsubasa) and the relentlessly herbivorous Takumi (Okayama Amane). Like Good Morning Call the plot has the two unexpectedly sharing a house together because, in this case, they were guildies in the game and both playing characters of opposite gender and assuming the other was the same gender as their character. Ha. Ha. But that matters for barely an episode before they find that they enjoy each other IRL, and the main boss fight for the series over all is the tired, tropey, ineffectual man-boy character of Takumi which is eventually defeated by virtually every other character in the series including Miyako's ex telling him that, no, she really does like him.

Tsubasa shines and Amane whines, and Terrace House's Kakei Miwako has a lovely turn as a comedic vixen playing Ayano, Miyako's best friend. The story is short and sweet, and ends on a kiss.

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Completed
Mother
7 people found this review helpful
Aug 28, 2018
16 of 16 episodes seen
Completed 1
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 9.5
Music 7.5
Rewatch Value 4.0
I came to this drama having already seen the original Japanese drama. Call Me Mother is good and definitely worth watching, but Mother is great.

I initially thought this production was nearly as good. My initial criticism of the first ten episodes was only that it makes some elements of the story far more explicit and is somewhat worse for doing so. There are countless examples, but here's one. The protagonist is icy and detached. In the original, the character is simply portrayed that way. In this version, an early minor character remarks that she's icy and detached. Lee Bo Young's performance is excellent and did not need the explicit framing of her character. Everything is similarly spelled out: the extent of the Hye Na's abuse, her birth mother's motivations, her birth mother's boyfriend's motivations, etc. Jung Seo Kung is writing in crayon compared to Sakamoto Yuji. Clarity in writing is generally a good thing, but subtlety can be more effective and that's certainly the case here.

Far worse, however, are episodes 11 and 12 in which Yoon Bok and Soo Jin are literally damselled by the biological mother's boyfriend who is in this version a serial child killer(!). And the two are, of course, rescued repeatedly by men to the point that the series briefly becomes a mediocre police procedural like the hundreds of other such shows produced on this planet each year. The original never limits the agency of the women in the story in this fashion, nor sinks to the use of such pedestrian tropes.

The series recovers a bit in its final episodes. However, it does spin its wheels a bit in the final episode as it lurches to a happy ending. Everyone wants the pair to be a family. That's the point of the shared scenario between the two productions. Call Me Mother is worse for going there. The end of Mother is d-e-v-a-s-t-a-t-i-n-g. I can tear up right now just by bringing it to memory. The end of Call Me Mother is fine: I will never recall it.

The performances and the production are, nevertheless, excellent. Heo Yool deserves the praise she gets. It's unfair to her, however, that Ashida Mana was there first.

You do not have to choose between these two productions: you can watch and enjoy both. But, if you have only seen this one, do yourself a huge favor and watch the original.

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