Archive for December, 2013


Hanzawa Naoki Series Review

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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Ando Lloyd Ep 05 Review

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.

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They play Shogi with the expected result and Asahi proved that she’s not a good loser.

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Suppli (Honda Tsubasa) sneaks in even though Lloyd doesn’t need her. It’s pretty clear that she’s jealous of Asahi.

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Just as Suppli leaves, Lloyd gets a shock to his system, but we don’t know from what.

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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).

January 1st

Golden Bomber – 101 Kaime no Noroi

Sandaime J Soul Brothers – The Best/Blue Impact (album)

January 8th

IDOLING!!! – Gold Experience (album)

Home Made Kazoku – Kaho – The Best of Home Made Kazoku (album)

January 15th

Kanjani8 – Hibiki

Sakanaction – Good Bye/Eureka

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