Rakuen ep5-6 finale [review]

You can get subtitles here.

I’ll start with non-spoiler review and move on to the spoiler one but I’ll put up a WARNING so you can safely read the first part.

NON-SPOILER REVIEW

If you like crime/mystery, give this a try. This show does need a little patience as it may be slow for some. Personally, I think it’d have been better paced if they made it a 5-episode drama instead of 6. Bear in mind that this is not a police drama. Instead you have an investigative journalist struggling with a past case gone awry who starts digging around a new case after the death of a child. On the surface, there are two ongoing cases and audience will be wondering whether both of them are connected or not. You’ll be in for further surprises especially in the finale. Accompanied with some provoking scenes (attempted rape, beating) there’s no space for any humor at all, in fact, I’d say it’s very grim throughout. I thought the scenes with that young girl was very well done in particular due to its disturbing atmosphere. The cast are great and though Nakama Yukie is the main here (needless to say, she shines) I’m more captivated by Kobayashi Kaoru whose every move and facial expression is so magnetic, I truly felt for his character from beginning to end.

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As for the case itself, it’s not plothole free. I found myself questioning several actions and scenes throughout the show, hence, do not expect a perfect crime show. For example, the neighbors not calling the cops despite hearing screams originating from a known ex-convict’s house is terribly questionable. Bottom line is the show is watchable, can be quite slow but utterly tense at times, great acting, good cinematography (love those vibrant night scenes!) but not without its flaws.

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Rakuen ep2-4 [review]

You can get subtitles here.

Like many staple WOWOW dramas, Rakuen caters to crime suspense lovers. The drama features Nakama Yukie, Shigeko Maehata, who works as an investigative journalist. The pilot starts with a shocking revelation when a couple admitted that they murdered their daughter and buried her underneath their house after a fire broke out. That had kept me going because besides being intrigued by how the two seemingly unrelated simultaneous cases have in common, I also want to see the process of Shigeko’s investigative work. Investigative journalists as depicted in this show seem to get a lot of flak for being nosy and ruining people’s lives. For Shigeko, a wrong report regarding an old case caused a young woman to commit suicide. That has haunted her ever since and we see her struggle to come to terms with that.

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Cold Case ep1 [first impression]

**Subtitle is available here.

 Based on the American police procedural television series, Cold Case (2003-2010), WOWOW teamed up with Warner Bros in conjunction with the station’s 25th anniversary to produce a remake, the Japanese version.

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As I’ve never watched the original series, I’m not sure if the remake follows similar format but judging from the pilot, I can already tell from the vibe that this has a Western atmosphere rather than your typical Japanese crime series. For one, there’s no overacting which often feels off-putting (for me personally) when it comes to cop shows. I really don’t need annoying cops who act like clowns or spoiled brats which is already abundant in Japanese crime dramas. Secondly, the overall tone is serious or no-nonsense so there’s no overused comical crap. Everything feels more genuine and realistic as far as the working environment goes. Thirdly and thank god gender discrimination is absent here. We all know how much crap female cops get in typical Japanese police dramas. It’s as if having double XX chromosome automatically grants them permission to make your life miserable. What era are we living in?

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Hippocrates no Chikai ep1-2 [review]

**Subtitles are available here. It’s not always WOWOW dramas get subbed!

I’m hoping for good quality crime shows from WOWOW this season, especially when they’re offering 3 – Hippocrates no Chikai, Cold Case and Suisho no Kodou. I’m beyond excited to be honest. Praying to the Gods of Jdrama to not let WOWOW disappoint us crime fiction lovers.

Hippocrates no Chikai stars Keiko Kitagawa as a medical intern, Tsugano Makoto. Her drama last season, Ie Uru Onna is probably one of the best and most enjoyable (thanks to the comedy). While her stiff robotic-like character makes us laugh in that show, it’s the other way around for Hippocrates. This is grim and heavy (as expected from WOWOW) and always, always right up my alley. I love serious crime shows. I’m also pleasantly surprised to find out that the Akira Uchikata who directed Ishi no Mayu is responsible for this too (really like his work for Ishi).

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So far, I like this show for touching on controversial issues regarding postmortem. While it’s the norm in Western countries for suspicious deaths, Asian culture prefers bodies to be perfect when cremated or buried. It’s probably the sense of wholeness and most family members wouldn’t want their beloved ones to suffer any further scarring.

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What sets WOWOW dramas apart from the rest?

Just something that popped up in my mind so I thought of discussing the matter. I’m no expert about the channels in Japan so this is based on what I observed so far.

  1. They often tackle darker and grim plots.
  2. Overacting is almost non-existent. Everything is toned down when it comes to WOWOW, you won’t see characters acting out of the world, exaggerating or unrealistically (unless the character is required to but still rarely seen). The acting is often more subdued and restrained.
  3. WOWOW seems to be quite picky when it comes to their actors/actresses. People you don’t normally see in the prime time channels, you’ll most likely see them appear in WOWOW. For example those who have been playing supporting roles. You also rarely see idol-related people in them (the only exception from recent ones I’ve seen so far was Maeda Atsuko in Kageri Yuku Natsu and Nogizaka46 girls in Tenshi no Knife).
  4. Cinematography is just on a whole other level when compared to other channels. This is something I really like about WOWOW. The camera work and lighting are similar to movie style. The same goes with the quality background music. I’m not sure if they use different types of cameras or it’s really just the style of directing…I’m not an expert in movie cinematography so if anyone knows more, please share your opinions or thoughts below.
  5. The 5-episode and sometimes, 4-episode format works really brilliantly despite how short it is. Having cut the length into half of what is usually offered, it doesn’t feel draggy. Pacing is often faster and it’s convenient if you don’t have time to chase after 10-11 episodes of drama.
  6. Last but not least, it just gives a more adult ambience in my opinion. Probably due to the target audience. So if you’re into more serious and realistic stuffs, then try WOWOW dramas. For anything else, you can go for the other channels.

The only downside so far is how rarely they get subbed compared to other channels’ dramas. With this, I’m referring to English subs of course.

So what are the things you like or hate about WOWOW dramas?
Any favorite dramas?

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For me personally, I really liked Kageri Yuku Natsu (subbed) and though MOZU (subbed) (WOWOW x TBS) was more well known and slightly overrated (it’s getting a spin-off and movie soon), it left me very disappointed by the end of second season. Great cast wasted in a poorly written plot. I hope the movie fares better and answer more questions, for example what exactly is Dharma?

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For more recent offering, do try Shi no Zouki. I like the collaboration they had with Taiwan and getting to hear Mandarin is something fresh. The twist is also quite surprising and I like the whole ambiance. It can be slightly dark and heavy towards the end when they start questioning about organ trading/donation and the medical ethics. If you’re into black comedy, you have Enka: Gold Rush but beware that it might be slightly draggy.

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I recently just finished Tenshi no Knife. You can read my review here. As for police suspense thriller, Ishi no Mayu (subbed) has taken off really well too so watch out for that.

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I have yet to finish Zainin no Uso because the lawyer jargon is a bit too complicated for me to watch without proper subs. I’m a bit lazy to really rack my brain too but it’s saved up in my collection. I might give it a go in the future. I’ve watched Garasu no Ashi as well. Dark protagonist and basically quite depressing.

Next on my list to watch is Yami no Bansosha.

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