Category: Summer 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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Pin to Kona Ep 10 Review

So here we are – the last episode of Pin to Kona (ぴんとこな). I admit, this series has not gone the way I thought it would and has lacked the charm that it could have had. The talent was there – we’ve seen so many of these actors and actresses getting better results in other series – but it was simply not put to use. Let’s find out if this drama can at least end make a solid landing.

While it wasn’t at all surprising that they saved the issue of Kyonosuke (Tamamori Yuta)’s father’s failing health for last, it also makes good sense in terms of the overall plot about Kyonosuke’s developing maturity and kabuki professionalism. Too bad that plot hasn’t gotten proper treatment along the way, but they try to fix that with a recap at the start of this episode.

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Kyonosuke’s father wants his own senpai to train Kyonosuke for the next performance – a reprise of The Mirror Spirit which we saw Kyonosuke fail at in the first episode of the series. He’s adamant that this next play has to be a success.

Kyonosuke is exactly how you’d expect him to be after finding out about his father’s potentially fatal illness.

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Ayame (Kawashima Umika) makes the stupidest attempt to reassure him possible – shouting “you’re not alone” because that’s what he said to her in the previous episode. The problem with that is, in her case it made sense because her problem was that she felt like she had to deal with everything on her own. In Kyonosuke’s case it makes no sense at all – his problem is that he might lose somebody who is in most ways more important to him than Ayame is. Different situation, and Ayame doesn’t seem to understand that her own presence at his side can’t counteract the loss he will feel if his father dies.

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Pin to Kona Ep 09 Review

When we last left Pin to Kona (ぴんとこな), Kyonosuke (Tamamori Yuta) had offered to let Ayame (Kawashima Umika) stay at his place when her own apartment was no longer habitable – an excellent opportunity for the two of them to become closer.

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Except, of course, that it’s not really his place, and he didn’t bother to consult his father (Kawamura Sesaemon played by Kishitani Goro) until after he made the offer.

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His father is initially against the whole idea, as you might expect, but Kyonosuke seems to know the right buttons to push and ultimately gets his way.

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Pin to Kona Ep 08 Review

In the previous episode of Pin to Kona (ぴんとこな), everybody got dressed up . . .

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. . . and Kyonosuke (Tamamori Yuta) finally worked up the courage to confess to Ayame (Kawashima Umika), and this time she didn’t interrupt him by talking about Ichiya (Nakayama Yuma)!

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Can’t say that she looks particularly happy with this turn of events, though:

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But since this is now a full-fledged romance drama with barely any drama, I know what comes next – the most irritating part in any romance story and the reason I have trouble with them – pointless delaying tactics on the way to the inevitable.

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Kamen Teacher Ep 12 Review

Here we are: the final episode of Kamen Teacher (仮面ティーチャー). If you haven’t watched the rest of the series, you might want to do that before reading the rest of this review. Or, you could just read the rest of my reviews 🙂 I know some people like to check out the end of a book before deciding to read it, but as a writer I find the very idea of that . . . problematic.

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With that caveat to the reader out of the way, we discovered that the Jinrou brothers – you know, these guys:

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. . . that they’re officially sanctioned to be violent assholes. That seems weird to me, but apparently the guy in charge of the Kamen Teacher program is also in charge of them. At least it explains why they were able to beat up on Kusanagi (Jesse) a fw episodes back even though Kusanagi as the dark kamen teacher has super fighting skills. To get to be officially sanctioned to be violent, the Jinrou brothers must be exceptionally good at it. Wonder if there’s some sort of audition for that, and whether it looks anything like Battle Royale.

So the fight between the brothers and the two kamen teachers is on . . . .

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