Monday, July 26, 2021

Japanese Drama Review: Death Note (2015)


  • Drama: Death Note
  • Country: Japan
  • Year: 2015
  • Episodes: 11 episodes, 45 minutes
  • Genre: Psychological, Thriller, Supernatural, Mystery
  • Starring: Masataka Kubota, Kento Yamazaki, Mio Yuki, Hinako Sano, Yutaka Matsushige, Reiko Fujiawara, Kazuaki Hankai
  • My Rating: ★★★★★ out of 5
  • You can find a list of my Japanese drama reviews on my Japanese Drama and Movie Reviews page.  

    I've read just enough of the Death Note manga to get the basic gist of the story, and I watched the original live-action films from 2006. So I know what the story is supposed to look like.

    This is not that.

    This means diehard fans might not be happy with the liberties taken, but I think the changes make the characters, particularly Light Yagami, more relatable. 

    Masataka Kubota as Light Yagami developing his righteous purpose in episode 2 of Death Note.

    When an insane increase in heart attacks among criminals begins happening for no apparent reason, law enforcement agencies around the world are concerned. The deaths are being attributed online to an entity called "Kira," which happens to be the Japanese Romanization of the word "killer." And so the hunt begins for this mass murderer who has an insane amount of support from the general public because the only people he kills are criminals.

    Saturday, July 24, 2021

    Revenge is the order of the day in the 2019 remake of popular Japanese drama, Strawberry Night Saga

    Strawberry Night Saga follows assistant inspector Reiko Himekawa (Fumi Nikaido) with the Tenth Homicide Section in Tokyo. She's only 27 so to be leading her own team is a huge stretch in the primarily male-dominated world of the Japanese police force. Himekawa is called Hime (as in princess) both fondly and not so fondly by the men around her, but at least she has a loyal team of subordinates, including Kazuo Kikuta (Kazuya Kamenashi), a newer member of the team who's not entirely sure about working for her because he's heard of her reputation. And she does have one for being reckless, but also for having solid instincts that don't always rely on proof or evidence to be right.

    Her nemesis, if we can call him that, is Kensaku Katsumata (Yosuke Eguchi) who feels crooked since he seems to be on the take, but can actually be a pretty good cop when he tries hard enough. He does have some unfortunate bullying tendencies that usually crop up when he's dealing with Himekawa.

    Himekawa and Katsumata butting heads during an investigation in episode 2.

    The first episode is 90 minutes long and deals with an underground murder-for-entertainment-purposes ring called Strawberry Night. People are filmed being brutally murdered, and it is up to Himekawa's team to track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

    Strawberry Night Saga is a pretty intense drama, and it focuses heavily on a vengeful mindset. 

    Himekawa was sexually assaulted when she was a teenager and that reality has haunted her into her adulthood. She possesses a unique ability to both understand the criminal mind and to hate it. To be honest, I don't much like her. She's a rogue agent in many ways, intuitive, but distrustful. She acts outside the allowed rules to achieve an end, sort of like Katsumata, and I personally believe rules are there for a reason.

    Kamenashi as Kikuta during an investigation in episode 3.

    This brings me to Kikuta. He is a loyal, upstanding, solid police sergeant. You can absolutely 100% trust him to have your back and to do the right thing according to the rules. He also happens to be played by Kazuya Kamenashi, one of my favorite Japanese actors. So naturally, I'm going to love him. But I think I would have loved the character even if he'd been played by someone else because Kikuta is the type of character that I love, regardless of the actor. It just was nice that Kamenashi played him. BUT, the problem remains of casting an idol actor and giving him almost NOTHING TO DO. Other than stand around looking silently competent. And he was a little active in the last episode which was nice to see. Otherwise, he was the type to observe conversations and not participate in them. Kamenashi did a wonderful job in the role, but I like hearing him speak. He's gorgeous, yes, but dialogue is also a good thing.

    Kamenashi was so much better in Red Eyes with such a broader role. I haven't officially reviewed Red Eyes yet, but I did write THIS BLOG POST with some gushing enthusiasm when the series was first airing.

    Do not expect a hopeful message in Strawberry Night Saga. My one and only thought while observing Himekawa is that she needs therapy . . . DESPERATELY. 

    Fumi Nikaido as Himekawa putting the pieces together regarding her yakuza love interest in episode 8.

    The woman is an undisputed mess, unable to maintain healthy relationships (she falls for a yakuza which is just insane), and her entire life is her job. She's, frankly, depressing, and I wouldn't wish her life choices on anyone. There are people and resources in place to help those who have been sexually assaulted cope and heal as best as they possibly can and hopefully become fulfilled and happy members of society down the road. Ten years after her assault, Himekawa might be fulfilled in her job, but happy she is not.

    The drama ends acceptably, but it's not a "woohoo, everything's coming up roses" type of ending. And it did get somewhat ridiculous at times, especially with the whole yakuza love affair thing. She's a cop in love with a mobster. Please . . . just . . . no.

    As for content, you're looking at something like Criminal Minds, with a TV14 level of violence and gore. It can get intense. There is some minor language, but nothing too severe.

    Kikuta and Himekawa in episode 8.

    My review might sound critical, but really, as crime dramas go, Strawberry Night Saga isn't bad. It would have been much better without the yakuza thing. And possibly if Kikuta's character had more dialogue, like more than 10 lines an episode during the first half of the drama. He's there and clearly observing, just not speaking. I didn't love it, but it was worth watching since I enjoy the genre. And Kamenashi. If he weren't playing Kikuta, I'm not 100% sure that I would have finished the drama.

    I'm now sensing a trend with the dramas I review. A very large portion star Kame!

    If you don't believe me, here are my official reviews written as of July 2021 for other dramas starring him:

    This list will continue to grow. Consider yourself forewarned!

    Where can I watch Strawberry Night Saga?

    First, I'm giving full credit to the fansubber, Mia-Maw Fansubs, who did a good job. If you know all about joining soft-sub files with videos then go for it and download from her site.

    Drama: Strawberry Night Saga 
    Country: Japan
    Year: 2019
    Episodes: 11 episodes, 1st ep 90 minutes, rest 45 minutes
    Genre: Mystery Drama, Detective, Investigation
    Starring: Fumi Nikaido, Kazuya Kamenashi, Yosuke Eguchi, Koji Yamamoto (the yakuza)
    My Rating: ★★★ out of 5

    You can find a list of my Japanese drama reviews on my Japanese Drama and Movie Reviews page. 

    Wednesday, July 21, 2021

    Wondering Wednesdays: The Olympics


    Welcome to Wondering Wednesdays, a weekly post to learn more about me and other bloggers. If you are a blogger, please join in every week. To learn more, click on the link below:

    Wondering Wednesdays with A Baker's Perspective

    Today’s Question: Do you enjoy watching the Olympics? What is your favorite sport at the games?

    I would have to say yes except that my household doesn't have cable or local channels as such anymore, just streaming services. So I'll need to remember to actually get onto the Olympics YouTube channel and catch highlights of this year's Olympics. Even more so because it's in Japan!

    For the summer Olympics, I love gymnastics, swimming, and track and field.

    For the winter Olympics, speed skating and figure skating. I am soooooo jazzed about Yuzuru Hanyu! And almost 20 years ago, I remember cheering my heart out for Alexei Yagudin in 2002!! He's still my figure skating champion!!

    Yuzuru Hanyu

    Alexei Yagudin

    Classics Club Read: And Then There Were None (1939) by Agatha Christie

    Read for two challenges, my participation in The Classics Club and my own Agatha Christie Project that is a bit of a slow starter, but I'm determined to focus on more in 2022.

    As almost everyone knows, this book has had multiple titles since it was penned in 1939. I am going with the least offensive title And Then There Were None, which actually makes the most sense and is the most foreboding of the various options.

    I love Agatha Christie.

    She was a clever woman who created four of the most iconic crime fighters/spies/detectives in the history of literature. I am, of course, speaking of Hercule Poirot, Miss Jane Marple, and Tommy and Tuppence Beresford.

    But Agatha Christie did write novels separate from her most popular characters, and that's where And Then There Were None falls.

    The basic gist is something akin to Clue, wherein ten people are invited under various pretexts to an island off the coast of Devon, known as Indian Island. Once there, these people quickly find that they are not on a jolly holiday, but rather, are being held accountable for murders committed by each of them at varying stages in their lives and for any number of reasons, including jealousy, carelessness, or pure neglect.

    Monday, July 19, 2021

    And the Classics Club Spin Winner is . . .

    I am not very excited about reading Tender is the Night since I think it will be depressing, BUT at least I'll get it read and out of the way. Fitzgerald is usually hit or miss with me, but I've never read this book which is why it ended up on my list. At least it's not very long so that's a plus, and I was able to pick such a glamorous book cover for this blog post. I have no idea what book cover I'll get when I order a copy from the library.

    Sunday, July 18, 2021

    Japan Movie Review: From Me to You "Kimi ni Todoke" (2010)

    A year ago today, beloved Japanese actor Haruma Miura committed suicide. He was barely 30-years-old.

    My friend, Kari, and I were about 75% finished watching his film From Me to You. We watched a little bit every time she was able to come and visit me and we were almost done. Then July 18th happened and I just couldn't finish it with her. She completely understood, but looking back, I wish we had watched that last 20 minutes together. A part of me will always regret that.

    Today, after an entire year of not watching any of Haruma Miura's entertainment because the thought of it was just too much for my heart to handle, I rewatched From Me to You.

    Those familiar with the story also know it as Kimi ni Todoke, based on an insanely popular and very, very long manga of the same name. I've read possibly 10 volumes of the manga, although that was years and years ago. From the very first moment I watched this film in the late spring of 2020 (only a few months before his death), I fell in love with the story, the acting, the cinematography, everything. I'm hugely in love with sakura さくら (cherry blossoms) and they feature heavily in the movie, so that was undoubtedly one reason for my love.

    Friday, July 16, 2021

    My list for Classics Club Spin #27

    I missed the 26th spin, but the 27th spin for The Classics Club is here, so I might as well!

    A number between 1 and 20 will be announced on July 18th, and I have until August 22nd to read the book that corresponds with that number. These books are all from my FULL LIST for The Classics Club, books that I plan to read over the next couple of years.

    You can always visit the MAIN PAGE of The Classics Club blog to see what it's all about.

    #theclassicclub #ccspin

    1. Jane Austen - Mansfield Park
    2. John Bunyan - The Pilgrim's Progress
    3. Agatha Christie - And Then There Were None
    4. Daphne Du Maurier - Rebecca
    5. Charles Dickens - Nicholas Nickleby
    6. F. Scott Fitzgerald - Tender is the Night (THE LUCKY WINNER OF THE SPIN!)
    7. C. S. Forester - The African Queen
    8. Winston Graham - Ross Poldark
    9. Shirley Jackson - The Haunting of Hill House
    10. C. S. Lewis - Till We Have Faces
    11. A. A. Milne -The Red House Mystery
    12. L. M. Montgomery - Anne of Green Gables
    13. George Orwell - 1984
    14. J. D. Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye
    15. Robert Louis Stevenson - Treasure Island
    16. Flora Thompson - Lark Rise
    17. Mark Twain - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
    18. H. G. Wells - The Time Machine
    19. Nathanael West - Miss Lonelyhearts
    20. P. G. Wodehouse - Service with a Smile

    Monday, July 12, 2021

    Happy birthday to a dear friend!

    Even though she'll only see this on FB, it's important for me to remember and share this on my blog too.

    My dear friend, Kari, is absolutely one of the best things that has happened to me in the last couple of years. She is a wonderful woman of God with a sincere love for her family and her friends. She's fun, she's quirky, and she has me in constant awe of her ability to love unconditionally. She is an example of Jesus in my life.

    And she loves Johnny Depp which is why she got this gif for her birthday FB post!

    Remember to remind your friends that you love them! Grow friendships where you both can be your crazy, unique, wonderful selves!