Thursday, July 30, 2020

Drama Review: Kimi wa Petto (2017)

poster for Kimi wa Petto 2017 starring Iriyama Noriko and Shison Jun

Kimi wa Petto or You're My Pet! (Japanese live-action drama series)

based on the manga of the same name

Year: 2017

Episodes: 16 episodes / 45 minutes each

Starring: Iriyama Noriko, Shison Jun, Takezai Terunosuke, Yanagi Yurina

29-year-old Iwaya Sumire (Iriyama Noriko) has had a bad day. Make that the worst of all bad days. She has been dumped by her boyfriend of 5 years when she was anticipating a marriage proposal (although she read the situation and dumped him before he could get the words out) and has been demoted from the foreign news department to a different department at the newspaper where she works because she punched her boss when he made drunken advances. Stumbling home, drunk and emotionally wrung out, Sumire remembers that a puppy had been set out for adoption in a box near her apartment building that morning. Hoping that the puppy is still there, she opens the box flaps only to find a young man with a lithe, graceful body, large, dark eyes, and a mop of shaggy dark hair staring back at her. 

In her drunken stupor, Sumire mistakes the young man, 20-year-old modern interpretive dancer Goda Takeshi (Shison Jun) as her favorite dog Momo from when she was a child. Goda Takeshi is practically homeless, and at the moment is slightly injured from having been beaten up and chased by an assailant when he climbed into the box to both hide and catch some sleep. Sumire clings to him, weeping. Compassionate to a fault, Takeshi's heart softens for this strange woman and he brings her safely to her home where she kisses him in the entryway, still crying. I think he was wrecked from that moment, honestly. So begins a bizarre and beautiful relationship where Sumire allows Takeshi to live with her, but solely in the capacity of a pet dog. She even calls him Momo. Every day, coming home, Sumire-chan (as Takeshi calls her) and "Momo" do life together in such a way that gradually develops into so much more.

Since nothing is simple in Japanese entertainment, throw in Sumire's ex-boyfriend Hasumi Shigehito (Takezai Terunosuke) from 9 years previously who returns to the scene and the manhunter receptionist Fukushima Shiori (Yanagi Yurina) who's after Hasumi.

I picked up the last couple volumes of the manga since I could check them out for free using Kindle Unlimited just to compare the manga series with the drama. I think it depends on what viewers want. I didn't much care for the manga, but that's just me.

This is my first introduction to actress Iriyama Noriko and boy can this woman cry. I felt so much empathy with the character because of the way the actress approached her. Iriyama-san really brought out the fragility of Sumire in a way that made me love her. I empathized with Sumire so much, and I cried for and with her a couple of times, and that is thanks to the actress. Great job!

Iriyama Noriko Shison Jun in Kimi wa Petto (2017)Jun Shison blew me away with his performance as Goda Takeshi or "Momo." I have never felt so much radiance from a male lead before with such a controlled rawness in his acting skill. His dancing took my breath away too, although I wish we could have seen more of it. I feel like they used the scope of Shison-san's dancing skills to the limits of what he could do. Takeshi has so many facets to his personality and Shison-san managed to bring all of them to vibrant life.

The secondary casting which includes actors Takezai Terunosuke and Yanagi Yurina were highly adequate performers, regardless of my opinions on the characters themselves which I will get into in the story section below. I especially adore the actress who plays Sumire's best friend, Yuri, and her little daughter, Ran.

This story will make some folks uncomfortable. I was also uncomfortable with the idea of this series. But once I started, I couldn't stop because I knew right from the beginning that the whole master/pet thing was simply a facade until they could grow into love. Sumire and Takeshi are both lonely, broken people who have had their dreams and hopes crushed by the people in their lives who were supposed to protect them. They have a common understanding, and Takeshi himself admitted that he needs to be needed, which is why he stays with Sumire. She desperately needs him. What's beautiful is when he realizes how much he needs her too. And in all that time, 16 episodes worth, not once do Sumire and Takeshi sleep together.

Another thing that may trouble some viewers is the ten-year age gap between Sumire and Takeshi. But he's twenty when they meet so I have nothing to say about it. Age gap romances are common in Asian entertainment, and I see nothing wrong with them if both parties are adults, meaning at least twenty.

Iriyama Noriko Shison Jun in Kimi wa Petto (2017)The other set of stories was unnecessary in the ways that only an Asian drama can manage. At least we didn't have an angry set of parents descending on the scene, just an angry older sister to Sumire who thinks it's high time her little sister get married. Believe me, interfering family members are absolutely a must for any Asian romance drama and that trope can get old so I was grateful I wasn't majorly subjected to it here. The romantic relationship between Sumire and her ex-boyfriend was dull. I won't go into my feelings about the receptionist. So we're left with a drama rated a 3 that probably would have gotten a 4 for me on a scale of 1 to 5 if the ex-boyfriend and the receptionist hadn't existed. Oh well, nothing's perfect.

The episode screenplays were pretty decent. I do feel that some of the scenes would have been better if we'd seen them start to finish rather than them ending randomly. So it felt a little choppy in places. But on the whole, I found the series to be extremely clever. It's a fun drama overall with some intense seriousness thrown in for emphasis that people usually hide the hurt they feel. Takeshi is a prime example of this. There's one scene about 10 or 11 episodes in when we realize just how deeply wounded Takeshi is and how desperately he wants to feel safe and wanted. It's the first time that Sumire sees him cry and it starts to really change the dynamic between Sumire and Takeshi in a good way. It's a moving scene, not just for the acting, for all of the moments and dialogue leading up to that moment.

Iriyama Noriko Shison Jun in Kimi wa Petto (2017)I would rate this as PG13. For the topic, the content could have been so much more graphic which means I wouldn't have watched it. I've dropped a couple of dramas because the suggestive content just went way too far. I feel like Kimi wa Petto draws a really good line with what they show and what they don't.

There are readings of tarot cards by Sumire's friend Yuri, several instances of adults getting drunk, a character has a few scenes that I can only describe as intense depression that might be triggering to some viewers, several scenes of male chauvinism from the secondary male lead and another minor male character, three or so scenes of attempted forced sexual intimacy (including one between Takeshi and Sumire, the only time that's he actually scary, keep in mind that there are extenuating circumstances), one scene of what I call rape because a secondary female character drugs a secondary male character just enough to make him pliable and suggestible (WRONG on so many levels), several mild/moderate (no actual nudity, no real movement) sex scenes, intense and genuine kissing scenes (Japanese dramas don't often go into actual, real kisses), a couple of scenes of women in bras that are very suggestive, Takeshi as Sumire's pet takes baths and she washes his hair the way she would bathe a pet dog, several scenes of Takeshi and Sumire sharing a bed as a means of comfort (nothing happens), Takeshi is sexually experienced and has lived with older women off and on for years as a means of support so that's what he initially thinks Sumire wants from him so he comes onto her pretty strong at the beginning and is rebuffed (Sumire does become his One and Only), and of course the concept of an actual person being someone else's pet (because this happens with two separate sets of people and the second set just makes it so much ickier than Sumire and Takeshi).

Iriyama Noriko Shison Jun in Kimi wa Petto (2017)Honestly, just skip all of the Sumire/Hasumi and Hasumi/Shiori scenes (final 4 episodes) and you'll be absolutely fine.

If I forgot anything, please forgive me.

I didn't expect to enjoy Kimi wa Petto. I expected to hate it within the first episode. But that didn't happen. Instead, I ended up adoring 70% of this amazing drama and simply fast-forwarding through the rest. The world is full of broken people and I can relate to Takeshi and Sumire on that level. They complete each other in ways that are seldom seen. I have never been so happy to start a drama and so sad to finish it. I know it probably seems like there's a lot of content, but really, there isn't that much in terms of what is seen or not seen. The series handles suggestive topics delicately, and for those viewers who might have been waffling on the fence about Kimi wa Petto, I hope you take the plunge and try it.

Kim wa Petto's opening credits are perfect, in my opinion, and just capture the relationship between Sumire and Takeshi so well, a comparison between what they're like apart vs. what they're like together. The song is called Rainbow Rain which is why the raindrops burst into confetti, a transition from sorrow to joy.

Where can I watch Kimi wa Petto?

If you want to watch it with pretty brilliant English subtitles then watch it on THIS PAGE at Viki. I have a paid membership in the hopes that they'll start adding more Japanese content. The website has high-quality volunteer-provided subtitles and I was super impressed with the subbing I saw. There are some ads on the free accounts, but meh, nothing bad. Probably local ads for your region which is what I saw before I switched to a paid account.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Movie Review: My Little Monster (2018)

My Little Monster (Japanese live-action film)

based on the manga of the same name

Year: 2018

Starring: Suda Masaki, Tsuchiya Tao, Yamada Yuki, Furukawa Yuuki

Official MDL (My Drama List) Synopsis

Mizutani Shizuku (Tsuchiya Tao) is a self-absorbed overachiever,​ concerned only with maintaining the highest grades in school.​ Yoshida Haru (Suda Masaki) is an impulsive short tempered brute,​ who scares everyone with his explosive bursts of violence.​

Haru gets suspended on the first day of school when he encounters some bullies harassing a student and dispatches the bullies with great bloody violence.​ Mizutani is tasked with delivering school materials to Haru who interprets this as an act of friendship and latches on to Mizutani,​ much to her dismay.​ And so begins a strange and potentially combustible relationship!

My Thoughts on My Little Monster

The synopsis of this movie makes me laugh. Part of it is true, but I think Haru is a lot less violent than they make him sound. So keep that in mind. I have read a couple volumes of the manga since I first saw the movie, and I confess that I like the movie a lot better than the manga. I have a couple of reasons for this, but I'll get into that later on.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Learn to Argue

I had an epiphany while watching one of my Japanese dramas, Proposal Daisakusen

In life, it's absolutely paramount that you learn to disagree with others and even argue. That you can feel there is a safe space in which to do that and that it won't put the relationship at risk.

I'd never given it that much thought before, but the idea struck me between the eyes today because it's so true.

I have a friend, one that I want to continue getting to know, and our relationship has always allowed for arguing and disagreeing. He's blunt but empathetic and I think that combination allows me to be blunt in return. The first argument I had with him, I was absolutely sure he would hold a grudge. That I would be less in his estimation, if that makes sense. Because I dared to disagree with him or think I knew better than him. But that didn't happen. The argument did not strain our relationship in the slightest. In fact, knowing that I can honestly tell him if something upsets me, has made me reach out to him more rather than less. And I think my disagreeing with him and speaking out actually made him respect me more, which was a first for me. Our friendship is solid enough for me to trust him with my frustrations and my disagreements. 

I really cherish him, actually. A fact he doesn't know and never will because he's also pretty darn clueless about why people like him, but that's one reason, I think, why people are drawn to him. Because he creates a safe place for others to be their best and their worst and he loves them anyway. I don't have to always agree with him. And he doesn't always have to agree with me. But we respect each other enough to back off after we disagree and we stop forcing the issue. We don't always have to see eye to eye and neither becomes less to the other.

Why did this happen while watching Proposal Daisakusen? Because the female lead is engaged to be married, but in the two years of their relationship, there's never been a single argument. He's too agreeable and she wants to present herself to him in a certain way, so she is also too agreeable. But that's not who she always is. When she's with the male lead, their friendship stretches back over 15 years of childhood, teen, and college experiences, and she can be herself with him, arguments, warts, unlovely moments and all. He sees the real her, she sees the real him. And of course, they love each other (it's a time-slip drama so he's trying to win her over by going back to the past to fix mistakes he made). The female lead and male lead have a healthier relationship because they know how to argue with one another and still be friends.

I hope I continue to learn from my friend. After 6 years where acquaintance developed into friendship, I only now am able to realize just why I need him in my life and will do anything I can to keep him there.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Period Drama Review: Emma (1996)

1996 version of Emma starring Kate Beckinsale

Were you expecting the much beloved version of Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam? That's fine if you were. I didn't know until this year that a second version of Emma also came out in 1996, this time starring a remarkably young Kate Beckinsale as the leading lady.

I have a confession to make. 

Emma Woodhouse has always been my least favorite of Austen's heroines, with Fanny Price as a close second. No actress has been able to make Emma remotely likable to me, not even Gwyneth who is pretty much everyone's favorite rendering of this officious busybody. To my amazement, Kate Beckinsale impressed me, more than impressed me, blew me away with her performance as Emma.

I had pretty much lost hope that an actress existed who could convince me that Emma had a heart beating in her breast. She always seems such an arrogant person, holding low opinions of everyone while having very little status other than being a Woodhouse. If she were to travel to London she would be nobody, which is why she is content to stay put in her little hamlet where she is the queen.

But I digress.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Movie Review: Koizora or Sky of Love (2007)

In light of Miura Haruma's death, I wasn't sure if I should post this movie review yet or not. But I feel like it's a disservice to his memory to not talk about his body of work. I think it'll help me a bit in the grieving process too. So here we go.

Koizora Sky of Love (2007) movie poster

Koizora or Sky of Love (Japanese live-action film)

Year: 2007

Starring: Miura Haruma and Aragaki Yui

Story Synopsis for Sky of Love

Good girl Mika is the apple of her parents' eyes. She's always been obedient, sweet, and cute. Then the day before spring break starts she loses her cell phone, finds it in the school library, and takes a call from a strange boy who refuses to give her his name. Fascinated by the mysterious voice on the other end of her phone, Mika spends countless hours in conversation with him every day throughout the break.

The first day back in school, also her birthday, she officially meets him. He is a boy from Class D named Hiro, with bleached blonde hair and earrings, every parents' worst nightmare. Her first response is what you would expect, shock and discomfort at his appearance, especially since she had seen him at school and was uncomfortable at that time too. What's worse is that he brings her a birthday gift that is a little flower that he pulled up the entire plant from a flower bed on his way to school.

Mika leaves him on the rooftop of their school, hoping that she'll never see him again. On her way home, however, she finds Hiro carefully replacing the plant that he'd uprooted, giving it fertilizer and watering it, revealing a different side to him than she had originally seen. After all, the Hiro in her phone conversations is the real boy, not just a stereotype of a teenage delinquent. Hiro is different than she had originally thought and so begins a relationship that is both sweet and painful, as all teenage love affairs seem to be.

My Thoughts on Sky of Love

Sky of Love is a radiant, melancholy film that is one of my favorites and has been since I first saw it.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Japanese actor Miura Haruma dies at age 30

Miura Haruma - rest in peace

Much-loved Japanese actor Miura Haruma was found deceased in his Tokyo home the morning of Saturday, July 18, 2020. It is suspected suicide since he left a note.

What can I even say at a time like this?

I never knew this man personally, but I have appreciated several of his films and consider him to be a top-notch actor. But we never know what's going on inside someone's head. 

All I know is that my heart breaks for the people he leaves behind, and for the reality that no one was there to stop him. That he felt so alone and hopeless that the only thing he could do was commit suicide.

I don't know the reasons left in his note, and that may never be released to the public.

What I do know is that Haruma leaves behind him a deeply grieving country and vast collection of fans. I have wept bitterly over him tonight, and will undoubtedly cry again. Such a senseless, devastating loss.

Remember to pray for the emotional and mental wellbeing of the actors you love right now. Haruma's death has made me remember that life is such a fragile thing.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Learning Swedish

I finally started a notebook for all the Swedish phrases/words I'm learning. I should have done that at the beginning, but I never learned another language before, not even in high school since I was homeschooled, so it's not natural for me to keep notes on stuff like this.

But, I want to do my best and the only way that will happen is if I keep practicing the personal pronouns and plurals and possessives and all of that.

Just like with anything, the more you practice something, the more natural it becomes.

I've actually started thinking a lot about my grandfather lately, on my mother's side. He passed away before I was even born, but he was a strong and loving Christian husband and father. My mother loved him dearly, and that's enough to show me what kind of man he was as a dad.

His parents were from Finland, although they didn't meet and marry until they were both in the US. I always thought that was funny since they only lived maybe 20 miles apart when they were in Finland. Not that it was actually Finland at that time, but rather a duchy of Russia. That sucked, believe me, which is partially why they moved.

Anyway, back to Grandpa, he actually knew Swedish. He could speak it and read it, but for some reason that I struggle understanding, he never taught his children the language. So here my sister and I are, trying to learn something that is natural to our heritage, but a struggle because it wasn't something we heard in the home, except for Christmas records in Swedish.

Am I mad at him? I don't know, but I am sad. I wish that he'd taught my mother Swedish. That's all I can really say. I'm not in his head so I don't know what his logic was behind not making his children bilingual. It was probably the era since my mom was born in 1955. It wasn't necessarily a cool thing to be from a bilingual family at that point in history. People came to America for a fresh start and it was intended that they would leave their other identity behind when they immigrated.

I don't agree with that mentality since we're actually all immigrants to the United States. And we should be able to hold on to those roots since they help define our identity. I'm a Swedish Finn. It's who I am, and I just happen to live in America and speak English.

Will learning the language be an uphill battle? No.

It's not going to be nearly as difficult as learning Japanese. There's a natural inclination I have towards Swedish that is ingrained in me. So it's not really that difficult of an endeavor. I've been studying it long enough now that I automatically recognize and translate English words into Swedish when I hear them. Even strawberry! It's jordgubbe in Swedish, such a funny word!

This is a good feeling. Connecting with my ancestry and not just allowing myself to be American. Because what is that? America is supposed to be a melting pot of different ethnicities and cultures, but somewhere along the way, that intention got lost by labeling us American as if we're all the same thing.

Anyway, it's fun, discovering a large part of who I am and working towards a bigger goal. Because there are reasons behind my learning Swedish. It's not just for the fun of it.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Catching Up

And so the world goes round and round.

It's been such a bloody long time since the start of COVID, but here we are with the world having not yet returned to normal. Not that I'm actually expecting it to, but I live in so much hope.

Yesterday depressed me.

Finding Neverland poster with Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet

I spent 5 hours with a very dear friend of mine. We went out to lunch at a local Mexican restaurant that we both enjoy. Then we watched Finding Neverland with Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. It had been, oh, at least a decade since I'd seen it. I'd forgotten that it was so good! BUT, our reason for watching Finding Neverland is because we had theatre tickets for a live production that's been getting rave reviews. Guess what was canceled due to COVID?

We did the next best thing, but it just wasn't the same. We were supposed to dress up a little fancier than usual, go out to dinner at a nice restaurant, and troop into the Pikes Peak Center for a live production. 

I'm reminded how much our world has changed in just the last four months. So many events have either been canceled or put on hold. Even the Colorado Renaissance Festival was moved to an August through September run, but may still be canceled. LeakyCon, a Harry Potter convention we have tickets for, was moved from October 2020 to October 2021. And it just feels like the world is completely closed.

How is everyone coping with the isolation and boredom?

I'm continuing to learn Swedish through Duolingo. If you want to learn a secondary language, this is a pretty good resource. My family is from Swedish/Finnish origins and the region of Finland we come from on my mother's side actually utilizes both Swedish and Finnish, hence the Swedish lessons. It's remarkable how natural the language sounds and feels when I use it. My sister is also learning Swedish, she's actually way far ahead of me, so we can practice together.

I also ordered my first textbook to learn Japanese called Japanese from Zero!. It should be here on Monday. I'm sure it sounds crazy to be learning two languages at once, but I really do want to learn Japanese so very badly. Not just how to speak it, but how to read and write it too. This textbook series is apparently pretty successful with homeschoolers, of which I was one, so I'm hopeful that it'll work with my brain.

I've lost between 12 and 13 pounds since the start of COVID, so that's a plus. I've slacked off a bit in the last month, but I'm getting determined again. I use this particular Youtube video for the exercise portion of my weight loss plan. It's EXHAUSTING, but it works and I always feel so much better after working out. I just have to remember to shower afterwards so my skin doesn't break out. Sometimes I think I can get away without a shower, but no can do.

Food obsessions right now are miso and dashi flavored foods, so a lot of Japanese influence there. Still watching my Japanese entertainment. I've seen so many amazing programs and found some incredible actors along the way.

The We Love Lucy Blogathon will proceed as scheduled, so keep a lookout for that. I need to re-watch Two Smart People for my topic.

Blessings to all of you and I hope you're able to create a balance of staying safe and still seeing others.