Friday, 15 August 2014

Currently watching: Last Doctor and Zero no Shinjitsu

Eccentric, emotionless pathologist does autopsies and solves mysterious deaths. That’s the main story behind both of these series. Both mention the fact that there is a shortage of medical examiners in Japan, which is ironic, considering the large number of them in TV dramas.

Both series use the old trope of an unemotional, ultra-logical investigator – a favourite of crime writers since Sherlock Holmes. Last Doctor stars Terawaki Yasufumi as Akita Shinya, a cold, distant medial examiner. Zero no Shinjitsu stars Takei Emi as Matsumoto Mao, another cold, distant medical examiner.

I’ve only seen two episodes of Last Doctor, and can’t see myself going back to it. Instead of a killer who has to be caught, both stories so far have focused on proving the innocence of the accused, by demonstrating that it wasn’t murder at all, just a really unlikely accident.

This makes it all a bit pointless. Sure, uncovering an tragic accident is a important as uncovering a murder, but I ended both episodes thinking “Is that all it was?”

Meanwhile, Zero no Shinjitsu did not make a good first impression with me, with Takei Emi effectively rehashing her performance in Otenki Oneesan (where she was a cold, distant weather reporter who solved crimes) and the cast included Sasaki Kuranosuke, who was also in Otenki Oneesan. And much as I like Sasaki Kuranosuke, I felt that this might just be a remake.

Luckily, it wasn’t. The mysteries are better written and the cast all fit together well. It may be crime-writing-by-numbers, but the stories are a lot more clever and satisfying that Last Doctor. Not awesome by any means, but it’s keeping me interested for now.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Recommended: River's Edge Okawabata Tanteisha

In terms of production, this is difficult to fault. The director, Hitoshi One (Moteki, Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi, Akihabara@Deep), has made a series that is great to look at. And now, with that filmography, I think he’s become one of my favourite directors. On top of this, the music is excellent and the acting, too, is top quality. The casting director did a great job of filling every role, no matter how minor, with memorable faces and performances.

Only the storylines in the later half of the series disappoint. It settles into a formula of “Can you find this person I knew twenty years ago,” with little variety in the cases. The writer tries to make each conclusion as unpredictable as possible, but there’s no denying the dip in originality towards the end. Especially episode ten, which seems to be two half-finished ideas pushed into one episode.

But, despite that, I think this is worth recommending. If the quality dipped, it never stopped being worth watching. The whole feel of the drama is just so nice, and the three lead roles are perfect: Odagiri Joe’s laid-back charm, Ishibashi Renji’s sense of a dark history, and Koizumi Maya’s flirty energy. Everything went together so perfectly that, even when the stories weren't so great, I still wanted to spend time in this world with these people.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Just finished again: The Genius

So, you may (or may not) be wondering why I haven’t been posting much recently. Well, for one thing, I got a job. And on top of that I hurt my leg quite badly, which meant that sitting at my computer and typing for any length of time was quite painful.

And, as is usual when I’m ill or in pain, I tend to turn to Korean game shows to help me pass the time. I don’t know why. I just do. And in the past week, I’ve binged on both series of The Genius in a mad rush of game theory love.

I’ve written about this series before, and since I generally know who won which games, it wasn’t as intense watching it a second time. But once I started, I found it impossible to stop watching until the final episode. I’d forgotten about some of the strategies used to win various games, and how clever some of them were. I’d forgotten about how unlucky some of the first competitors to be eliminated were. And also how over-confident some of them were, too.

I also took a little time to appreciate the editing, music and set design. The recurring image of the garnet (the in-game currency) in various place was very clever. In fact, the care with which this is all put together makes other game shows look a bit shoddy in comparison. While most game shows (especially in the UK) are content with repeating the same games ad infinitum with a series of pleasant but anonymous faces playing the games. The Genius builds up relationships and rivalries, as alliances are made and empires rise and fall over several episodes. It’s pretty epic stuff, when you think about it.

And as I write this, season three should start filming soon. From what I’ve on the internet, the casting for the new series was open, meaning non-celebrities could enter. This is fine by me. After all, it’s not as if I knew who Hong Jin Ho or Cha Yu Ram were before I watched this.

Whatever happens next, I’ll be looking forward to it!