Archive for December, 2013
Hanzawa Naoki (半沢直樹) was the best-received drama of 2013, so it seems right to close out the year with a review of it. Drawing a striking 19.4% of Kanto viewers in its first episode, its ratings went nowhere but up – literally increasing episode-by-episode to its finale peak of 42.2%. Normally I wouldn’t bring up ratings in the course of an interview, but I’ve never seen a series do anything like this before (I’m sure it must have happened, but I’ve never seen it). So yeah, that got my eyebrows raised.
I viewed the entire series over the course of two days, and then took a few days to decide how to review it. Always encouraging readers to watch the drama for themselves, I never want to ruin anything or toss in unnecessary spoilers, but this series poses a peculiar problem because it is a suspense series with story lines stretched over the course of multiple episodes. So, the normal model of going through it one episode at a time totally not going to work, and I’m going to focus more on the characters than the story.
I will say upfront, though, that there are two major phases to the show – an Osaka arc and a Tokyo arc. It’s fair to reveal that since even a visit to DramaWiki would reveal the same, and it’s important because after the first episode, you might wonder whether they spend all ten episodes on the same story, which would be drawing it out a bit too much. So don’t worry – they don’t.
The series begins with Hanzawa Naoki (Sakai Masato) at a job interview for the Sangyo Chuo Bank. He says he wants to join this bank specifically because it helped save his parent’s factory after his father died.
At the reception for new employees, we find out he’s ambitious, aiming for the top.
Jumping to the present day two decades after he joined the bank, we find him being shoved to the floor to apologize to this man:
That’s Branch Manager Asano (Ishimaru Kanji) and all we know for now is that the issue is 500 million yen (around $5 million) have been lost and Hanzawa does not want to apologize to Asano. Instead, he aims to recover the money.
Moving back in time a little bit, we find Hanzawa at his regular work as loan department chief for the Osaka Nishi branch of the Tokyo Chuo bank (the product of a merger between the bank Hanzawa originally worked for and another – a fact vaguely important because of the internal politics). He has to assess whether a factory is credit-worthy for a loan.
Last time in 49, Dan (Sato Shori) got to show off a skill no one knew he had – he’s actually a very strong Go player. While it’s not possible to become a strong player just by reading books, it is possible to become one even if you’re reclusive thanks to high-level internet Go, so it’s one of the few things Dan could really master on his own.
Sachi (Yamamoto Maika) starts out by complimenting him on his victory, but leaves a bad taste in the viewer’s mouth as she ends the conversation by pointing out how grateful he should be to his father for saving him. She taunts him by saying that he’d have far greater injuries if his father hadn’t turned him the right way in the midst of the fall.
Look, I understand that she doesn’t know Dan likes her and that she’s totally and irrationally in love with Dan’s father, but that’s no excuse for the way she acts. I’m eagerly waiting for the point where they tell her how Dan feels about her so she feels a bit of regret about treating him this way. Hopefully.
At the start of this episode of Yorozu Uranaidokoro Onmyoya e Yokoso (よろず占い処 陰陽屋へようこそ), Shomei (Nishikido Ryo) tells Shunta (Chinen Yuri) that he’s just purchased a 20-volume set of books on magic and rituals for the amazing price of 80000 yen (around $800). Shunta considers it a reckless purchase, but it’s more of a professional investment, isn’t it? Shomei could probably write it off on his taxes.
Besides, since we’ve already seen that this series has good writers, we know that those books are going to come in handy some time during the episode, otherwise the writers wouldn’t have brought such attention to them at the start of the show.
Hideyuki (Suruga Taro) continues talk to Shomei about family obligations, and that seems to be the one topic that can throw Shomei off. He retreats to his quarters where he muses about Shunta, who he calls Kitsune-kun (Mr. Fox, if you will).
It takes the arrival of a customer – Kimiko – to snap Shomei into action again. He remembers reading her palm a year ago at a host club and she wants him to read it again. He agrees, pointing out that slight changes can emerge over time.
In the previous episode of Ando Lloyd (安堂ロイド〜A.I. knows LOVE?〜), Asahi (Shibasaki Kou) finally gave her android protector (Kimura Takuya) a name and, because the Japanese love puns, she names him Lloyd so that combined with her surname, he becomes Ando Lloyd.
They play Shogi with the expected result and Asahi proved that she’s not a good loser.
Suppli (Honda Tsubasa) sneaks in even though Lloyd doesn’t need her. It’s pretty clear that she’s jealous of Asahi.
Just as Suppli leaves, Lloyd gets a shock to his system, but we don’t know from what.
As usual, January starts off as a practical no-man’s land of releases, except that Golden Bomber seems to be starting a tradition of releasing on New Year’s Day, and Sandaime J Soul Brothers is joining them this time. It so happens that Jan. 1st is Wednesday – the standard release day – this year, so they won’t be facing a shortened first week of sales. Otherwise, with only a couple notable exceptions, it’s pretty dry until January 22nd, where we start to see a more normal number of releases. For the first few weeks, there seem to be an inordinate number of collections.
This list has selected single and album releases for the month, not all of them (i.e. releases from groups that I’m interested in tracking or at least recognize). My apologies if I missed a significant release – please mention the artist and title in a comment and I’ll update the list.
More complete listings are available on merchant websites (I use CD Japan’s list).
Golden Bomber – 101 Kaime no Noroi
Sandaime J Soul Brothers – The Best/Blue Impact (album)
IDOLING!!! – Gold Experience (album)
Home Made Kazoku – Kaho – The Best of Home Made Kazoku (album)
Kanjani8 – Hibiki
Sakanaction – Good Bye/Eureka
A little late with this update, but I’m sure everyone knows why (and I didn’t take a flight to be with my extended family for nothing).
SMAP’s “Shareotsu/Hello” was the top single for the past week, selling a reasonable 207,665 copies. Hopefully, it will pass the platinum mark before dropping out of the top 30, but that might be difficult.
“Nano-second” from UVERworld took #2, selling 55,111.
At #3, S/mileage’s “Ii Yatsu/Eeka!?” saw 33,320 copies sold.
The Busaiku subunit (is it really alright to call them that?) of Kis-My-Ft2 saw an extremely strong second week of sales for “Tana kara Botamochi”. It sold 26,441 at #5 to bring its total to 158,979. That’s a 20% second week – even given the late release date for the single, that’s well beyond expectations for an idol single. Do you suppose this is good enough so that these four members won’t have to be treated like second-class citizens within Kis-My-Ft2?
AKB48’s *insert really long title here* had a very normal AKB second week – pretty much 5% of first week sales on the dot. It sold 22,600 at #6 and now has a total of 1,055,936. Sort of impressive that the Busaiku team’s second week was stronger than AKB’s.
And since “Barrette” from Nogizaka46 is holding #8 again in its fourth week, selling 19,626, I think we’re going to see a crossover where, once again, Nogizaka46 shows its longevity in the rankings. The total for the single is now at 457,614.
SKE48’s “Sansei Kawaii!” is not to far behind, either – at #11 in its fifth week with a total of 542,474 copies sold. It should be able to cross above AKB’s single, too (and if you just compare its fifth week with what will be AKB’s fifth week, it’s likely it has already shown a better grip on the standings).
They didn’t take any time at all before introducing the guest team in this VS Arashi (VS 嵐). It was the cast of the movie “Kanojo wa Uso wo Aishisugiteru”, which opened two days after this episode aired.
Representing the movie were Sato Takeru-kun, Miura Shohei-kun, Kubota Masataka-kun, Ohara Sakurako-san, Tanimura Mitsuki-san, and Aibu Saki-san. Ranging from 17 to 28, they are all younger than the Arashi members, so will youth beat experience? This will be Sato Takeru-kun’s first time on the show and the first time for Ohara-san on any variety show.
The plus one guests were the comedy duo Non Style – Ishida Akira-san, and Inoue Yuusuke-san – and I think it’s fair to consider them top-notch comedy guests.