Thursday, 29 December 2016

Currently Watching: Yuusha Yoshihiko to Michibikareshi Shichinin

Well, this came as a surprise. Five years after the last Yuusha Yoshihiko series, this new outing for our hopeless J-RPG stereotypes came out this season without me noticing any pre-publicity for it. I don’t know if it was a low-key release or if I’m just clueless. Either way, I was happy to see it back.

The format is the same: our hero Yoshihiko has to cross great distances and battle countless foes. And while they’re doing this, references to pop culture and video games pepper the dialogue.

The whole cast is back, including Yoshihiko’s sister who does very little except secretly follow her brother. Perhaps this time she’ll have more of a role to play.

Despite the long gap between series, it’s kept a lot of the amateurish charm of the original. It’s often hard to tell when the script ends and when improvising begins, and an eagle-eyed viewer should be able to spot various cast members trying not to laugh.

There is a story, but as I sit here and type, I realise I have no idea what it is. And it’s not important. It’s just a lot of very silly fun. Of course, how much you laugh will depend on how much you know about the thing they're making fun of. I especially liked the Final Fantasy episode but was less amused by the TV Tokyo story. I'm wondering if they're going to make fun of the Persona series of RPGs but that might be too niche, even for them.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Running Man: and then there were none!

Well, only days after I write about Gary leaving the show, I found out that the series would finally end in February 2017.

(EDIT 30/01/2017, Well, it seems that it will continue after all.)

This announcement came at the end of a confusing week in which SBS, the channel which makes the show, revealed that Song Ji Hyo and Kim Jong Kook would be leaving the show to make way for new cast members in Running Man 2 in January 2017.

Was this when they got the idea
for Running Man 2? (From ep 305)

Unfortunately, SBS didn’t reveal this to Song Ji Hyo or Kim Jong Kook until the day of the news release, which left them hurt and the fans angry. In the end, plans for Running Man 2 were dropped and the two regulars were reinstated with the announcement that Running Man would end for good in February 2017 with no second series.

My feelings on the series ending are mixed: I was still enjoying it, but at the same time I’m quite relieved. The cast aren’t getting any younger and both of the two mentioned above have had recurring injuries (Song Ji Hyo’s wrist and Kim Jong Kook’s knee). I’d been wondering how long it could go on for.

RM national rating 2010-2016

It seems that the high overseas sales wasn’t enough to save Running Man’s poor run (a ha ha) in the rating’s battle. As I mentioned previously, RM hasn’t been able to shift much from 6%-7%, no matter what it does.

There was a sudden drop in November 2015 when RM got squeezed between two shows: the massively popular new show Real Men 2 and the suddenly revitalized long-running 1 Night 2 Days. Since then, RM has never been able to claw back its share of the viewers.

Former regular Lizzy let's slip that she was sacked.
She's not the only one.

It’s not as if the show suddenly got worse. In fact, I thought that period (272 onwards) saw some very imaginative episodes. But public taste had left it for other shows and eventually SBS thought something had to be done.

It’s just a shame that they did it so badly. Sacking and then un-sacking members of the cast is never a good idea. However, The Korea Times says that the news was leaked and wasn't actually part of an official statement. Even so, it's a grand example of miscommunication. All of this nonsense happened around the 16th of December, so in a couple of weeks I’ll be looking very closely at those episodes that were recorded soon after the scandal broke for any signs of awkwardness. I hope they’ll mention it on air and have a good laugh about it, but I don’t think they will.

Whatever happened to this attitude?

Monday, 19 December 2016

Running Man: And then there were six

Ah, remember when there used to be nine regular members of Running Man? You know, back in the days when water was clean and bread was cheap. Well, those days are long gone and now we have to boil our water, slice our bread really thin and make do with only six regular members in Running Man. Something like that, anyway.

Once we were legion!!

Now... not so much.

Recently one of the regulars, Kang Gary, bid us all goodbye to concentrate on his music career and possibly also try to save his back which had, on and off, given him problems throughout his Running Man career.

While it was sad, it wasn’t a huge surprise. He’d made statements about leaving before and, apparently, he only stayed as long as he did after he was asked to do a few more months before he finally quit.

The finale was very sad and made me shed a tear, but it was slightly spoilt by the very end which suggested that Gary would be in the following episode, too. It kind of ruined the moment. Like winning a heated argument and leaving the room in triumph, only to have to sneak back in again and get your coat.

Mind you, the next episode (with Gary as a guest) was pretty funny and it was entertaining watching people squirm with having to meet him again so soon after a tearful farewell.

Since then, a Gary-less Running Man has carried on much as before, which I'm a bit surprised by. Ratings haven’t changed at all, seemingly stuck on 6-7% no matter what happens. Perhaps the biggest winner in terms of air-time has been Song Ji Hyo who now seems to feature more prominently.

So, no jumping the shark, no sudden drop in quality now that the seven cast members have been reduced to six. The chemistry is still there, which is a big relief.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Currently Watching: Cold Case

This WOWOW drama is something of a rarity: a foreign (in this case American) format adapted for the Japanese market. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another example where that’s happened. There have been occasions where stories have been rewritten for a Japanese audience (Agatha Christie, for example), and Furuhata Ninzaburo clearly borrows in theme and style (but not in content) from Columbo. However, this is the first occasion that I can remember which has been such a strict adaptation.

This is no bad thing, of course, and it’s nice to see a Japanese police drama that's a little more down to earth. The performances, directing and photography are all top notch and I suspect that only WOWOW could make this kind of show in Japan right now.

Having never seen the US version I can't tell how closely the Japanese version sticks to the original. However, the new writers have been clever enough that it's hard to tell where the join is.

Episode six is my favourite to date, but I've always been a sucker for the “first victim of war is innocence” kind of stories. But all episodes have been good, and there's no guarantee of a weekly resolution as you'd expect from most Japanese cop shows and a remarkable lack of moralising.

Overall, this series stands some distance above anything else in this genre I've seen recently.