Has it really been three years since I started this blog? My goodness. As is usual on this day, I present my round up of what I've been watching for the past twelve months. And remember: this is about what I've seen since last November, not about what has been released so that the new has to battle against the old.
Ai no Nedan
It is unfair to throw a classic in amongst the newcomers, but those are the rules. As it is Furuhata Ninzaburo wins handsomely with its cleverly structured murder mysteries, all set up and solved in under an hour. Shokuzai was a beautiful piece of writing and directing with a powerful storyline. Ai no Nedan was the surprise of the year: almost no publicity but it was a smart mystery based around life insurance claims. And Suzuki Sensei was another clever story, with an excellent cast.
Toshi Densetsu no Onna
Kekkon Dekinai Otoko
Kagi Kakatta no Heya
Difficult to be unbiased here, since I subbed two of these series. In the end, though, I think that Toshi Densetsu no Onna made me laugh more often than the others, so it takes this prize. Kekkon Dekinai Otoko was a great piece of slice-of-life comedy, while Tokkan mixed tax regulations with Inoue Mao's physical clumsiness. Kagi Kakatta no Heya's interplay of the three main characters that was the show's real attraction.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Golly, what a line up. I still haven't written about A Pierrot (Gravity Clown), but it I enjoyed it's mix of family secrets and crime solving. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is an excellent documentary, made with care and attention. Watching Rebirth was a powerful experience and very moving, but it's the almost-musical Moteki that wins, simply for reminding me what is good about film-making. Very life-affirming.
Hosshan (Renai Kentei)
Sato Koichi (Kagi Kakatta no Heya)
Tamura Masakazu (Furuhata Ninzaburo)
Hasegawa Hiroki (Suzuki Sensei)
Did I watch the wrong stuff, or was there a lack of interesting roles for men this year? Hmmm, maybe it was just me.
Although Tamura Masakazu is perfect in his role in Furuhata Ninzaburo, I think that Hasegawa Hiroki was another piece of inspired casting as the all-knowing teacher in Suzuki Sensei. Meanwhile, Hosshan was great as the god of love in Renai Kentei and Sato Koichi stole plenty of scenes as the vain lawyer in Kagi Kakatta...
Nagasawa Masami (Moteki)
Nakatani Miki (Seinaru Kaibutsutachi)
Koizumi Kyoko (Saigo Kara Nibanme no Koi, Shokuzai)
Inoue Mao (Rebirth, Tokkan)
Nagasaku Hiromi (Rebirth)
Nakatani Miki's performance as the cold, calculating head nurse was Seinaru Kaibutsutachi's main attraction, Nagasawa Masami held my attention like never before in Moteki, meanwhile Koizumi Kyoko demostrated her range in two completely different roles this year, as did Inoue Mao. But it is Nagasaku Hiromi who takes the plaudits with her inch-perfect performance in Rebirth.
Best game show
Nazotoki Battle TORE!
Game Center CX
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't separate the two winners, so we'll just have to make do with a tie. And they could hardly be more different: Running Man's high-concept, CGI-laden physical challenges compared to Game Center CX's low-budget retro battles. But both of them are essential viewing, and to chose one over the other would be too cruel. Meanwhile, Nazotoki Battle TORE! and Vs Arashi offer up the same thrills and spills as they always do.
Shugo Tokumaru “Port Entropy”
Taru “100 per cent”
While for most people 2012 will be the year when Kpop burst onto the scene with Gangam Style, for me it was the year when Korean artists put out some great albums. Singer-Songwriter Taru's album was a lovely collection of ballads, and Jambinai's album was an occasionally extreme (but still melodic) post-rock aural adventure. But it is the eighties disco overload of TaeTiSeo that wins. No other album has been in my mp3 player as long as this. Meanwhile, Shugo Tokumaru represents Japan in a dry year, with his charming clockwork anthems.
The Safe Pair of Hands Award
Nagasawa Masami (Moteki, Toshi Densetsu, Yasashii no Jikan)
Toda Erika (SPEC: Shou, Kagi Kakatta no Heya)
Koizumi Kyoko (Saigo Kara Nibanme no Koi, Shokuzai, Adrift in Tokyo)
This award is for the person who always seems to choose good things to be in, and this year it was an easy choice. Koizumi Kyoko never put a foot wrong all year, and each one of the three things I saw her in was excellent. Nagasawa Masami appeared in three things (four, if you include a cameo role in a dream I had) and each one was very good. Toda Erika, too, had two very different but very enjoyable roles.