Saturday, June 13, 2009

Secret




Also known as “The Secret That Cannot Be Told,” Secret is singer/songwriter Jay Chou’s directorial debut.
Jay Chou is Ye Xiang Lun, a newly transferred music student majoring in piano. On his first day, while he was being toured around by Qing Yi (Alice Tzeng), he hears a beautiful melody being played that leads him to the old piano room. In there, he meets Lu Xiao Yu (Kwai Lun Mei), another piano major. But when Xiang Lun asks her what is the song she was playing, she said that it was a secret that cannot be told. Soon, they became friends and Xiao Yu falls for Xiang Lun. Due to a miscommunication, Xiao Yu sees Xiang Lun kissed another girl and she disappeared.
Jay Chou is definitely one of the hottest singers in China today. Not only that, he is also a brilliant composer. But apparently, he didn’t want to stay like that. Wanting to broaden his horizons, he delved into directing. He had experiences in directing music videos but Secret is his first time directing a film. He also co-wrote it and stars in it. Pretty good for a first timer and I must say that at the very least, it wasn’t a typical love story.
On the other hand, Jay Chou doesn’t fair very well as an actor. He has charm but it doesn’t translate well on screen. He doesn’t know how to effectively convey different emotions on his face. Two scenes where he stands out though were the piano duel scene and the last scene where he still plays the piano even when the building was being demolished.
Jay Chou also wrote some of the music for this movie and they were good. I also liked it that he was a Chopin fan (like me!) and he made a lot of tribute to this composer. I enjoyed the piano duel very much. They played Chopin’s Waltz and Black Key Etude.
Jay Chou’s leading actress is Kwai Lun Mei who I didn’t actually find that pretty at first. I thought that Alice Tzeng was a better choice. However, I realized that Alice Tzeng is perfect as the third wheel because it supplied additional tension. Kwan Lun Mei, on the other hand, proved to be a good actress. She started really plain, though mysterious, and soon after become charming and affable. When her story was revealed, we see a deeper level to her character and she started to have an effect on the audience in a very good way.
Other characters that were also a stand out in this film include Xiang Lun’s father played by Anthony Wong and Zhan Yu Hao, who is called the Prince of the Piano, who had the piano duel with Xiang Lun.
The story being shrouded in mystery is the film’s strongest point. Audience is captivated by the vagueness of the female character and it’s what would drive the people to watch until the very end.
However, there are a lot of loopholes in the film which is sad to say, glaringly obvious. Secret is built on a set of rules, but near the end, when everything is revealed, Secret disregarded these so-called rules. Credibility that was from the very start treading on a shaky ground, crumbles.
But that part is also the most poignant part of the film, and the one part that built my resolve that I actually love this film despite all its flaws. It had me crying until the end. Kwan Lun Mei was very good in here and Jay Chou started to show something different. The parts that I like include Xiao You communicating with a whiteout, Xiang Lun’s father running after Xiang Lun when he realized that it was his son that Xiao Yu had fallen in love with, and Xiang Lun playing the piano though he was already bleeding and the building was being demolished.
By and large, the movie’s cinematography was pleasing and the music was commendable (of course, most of it is classical!). Kwai Lun Mei presented the audience with a convincing performance. And, even though Jay Chou needs to polish his acting, I have high regards for all his efforts for this movie. I am actually excited to see him do another film. There’s a rumor that Secret Part 2 is in the works. And like what I twitted before when I was watching the movie, since Jay Chou can play kickass classical music, I am already his fan!
So, despite all of its conspicuous slipups, Secret managed to deliver a moving love story.

*pic from Google

Friday, June 12, 2009

Crows Zero




After watching the over dramatic Koizora, I decided to follow it up with this one. I didn’t know anything about it at first. All I know is that Oguri Shun won Best Actor for this film. MySoju described it as an action film. I have nothing against action films, in fact I like a lot of them, but they have to be well done in order for me to appreciate it. The poster didn’t help too. It was like a gangster movie.
But since I was way too choked up because of the previous movie, I went ahead and watch this film and never regretted it, not even once. It was one heck of a film. It was such a badass film and I liked it too much.
Crows Zero tells the story of Takiya Genji (Oguri Shun) who’s a newcomer to Suzuran All-Boys High School. He is there to conquer the school due to a deal he made with his father. If he conquered Suzuran, then Genji will replaced his father as the head of their yakuza group. However, he has a lot of people to defeat first, especially Tamao Serizawa (Yamada Takayuki) who was considered to be “King of A Hundred Beasts.” Serizawa is also the closest to conquering the notorious high school.
I was skeptical at first but just a few minutes into the movie and I was hooked. I honestly didn’t know the director but everyone was praising him and saying that he was such a good filmmaker and after watching Crows Zero, I have no choice but to agree a hundred percent. Takashi Miike is brilliant!
The movie is such a masterpiece. The style, the shots, the fight scenes, the pacing are spot-on. The direction is perfect and totally enthralling. The story is good, and even more is the storytelling.
Oguri Shun delivered a top-notch performance. No wonder he won a Best Actor Award. He was fantastic as Genji and his presence onscreen was remarkable that he brought the character to life. I wasn’t so into Yamada Takayuki when I saw him here because I wondered how he can be the “King of a Hundred Beasts” when he was short like that. But no, Takayuki proved how terrific he can be as Serizawa.
There wasn’t even one character to hate. All of them are interesting and their performance gave extra color to the movie. The fight sequences are done skillfully, realistic with a bit of manga trademarks. There’s also more than a tad of great dark comedy that makes the film even more fantastic.
Overall, with a good story, a great cast, fantastic acting, genius direction, amazing fight sequences, riveting storytelling, Crows Zero is a gift wrapped in a beautiful box complete with a red ribbon.
I would wholeheartedly accept a gift like this everyday.

Koizora




Koizora, also known as Sky of Love, is the film adaptation of a cell phone novel by a first time author named Mika. It is purportedly based from her own experiences and the cell phone novel had millions of followers. Sounds interesting, yes, however what a heck of life she must have had! Koizora deals with underage sex, teenage pregnancy, gang rape, miscarriage and cancer! Wow, what a life.
Aragaki Yui plays high school student Tahara Mika who one day loses her cell phone. It was found and returned by schoolmate and high school delinquent Sakurai “Hiro” Hiroki. Hiro deletes all her contacts and stalks her with phone calls. The two decided to finally meet and despite obvious differences started a relationship. They are hampered with a lot of difficulties including Hiro’s ex-girlfriend, Saki who hired a couple of guys and had Mika kidnapped and raped.
I think the leads are way mature for their roles but I think it worked anyway. Aragaki Yui is a perfect choice to play the na├»ve Mika as she was totally likable and captivating. She has a natural charm and charisma that were magnified onscreen. J-pop singer Miura Haruma is also right for the role of Hiro. The bleached hair suited him perfectly and he can carry on the bad boy image with such brass, that it was believable. However, acting wise, he was not good on dramatic parts. I was laughing when he was crying by the river and telling Mika that he didn’t want to die.
By the way, who else adore Keisuke Koide as Fukuhara Yu, the good boyfriend? I really wanted Mika to end up with him. But I guess, girls do fall for the bad guys.
The cinematography was beautiful. The careful shots of Kyushu were breathtaking. There were also great shots of the skies over Japan.
Now on to criticisms. For the fans, forgive me but I didn’t fell in love with this movie. I liked it yes, but I wasn’t over-my-head gaga over it like what happened in Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru. I think it bit off more than it can chew. I guess it could have been better then if there was enough time to develop the plot points.
Koizora was a romantic story but the hurdles that befall this young couple, especially to Mika were just pretty mind-boggling to be real. Suspension of belief is important indeed.
Also, it’s poignant and heartbreaking at parts but for some reason I didn’t even shed a tear for this movie. Even at the tragic part, which I actually thought was well-done, I didn’t even sob. Maybe because it was way too overdramatic that my tears won’t come out, ya’ think?
That being said, I still do think the movie was worth my time. Aragaki Yui and (okay, fine) Miura Haruma too were good reasons enough to check it out. Plus, the visual beauty of the cinematography.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

10 Promises to My Dog



There I was finding myself visiting MySoju again and scrolling down the list of Japanese movies when I came across this title. I am a pet lover and I love movies about dogs especially, so when I read the title, I was immediately curious.
10 Promises to My Dog (Inu to watashi no 10 no yakusoku) is the story of Akari, a fourteen year old girl who finds a small Golden Retriever in their backyard one afternoon. She named this puppy Socks. Her mother told Akari that before she can keep the dog, she must agree to keep 10 promises to Socks. The story is told in a span of 10 years and we see Akari grew up, encounter problems, make career decisions, fall in love and be independent. All along, Socks is with her providing unconditional love and support.
There are countless of dog movies and basically all of them used more or less the same formula. Dogs are known to be man’s best friend and they give unconditional love and support. They are loyal and trustworthy. You can always count on them to protect you and your property. They will always be there for you.
The last doggie movie that I’ve seen was Marley and Me and like what usually happens, there was a dramatic overdrive at the end. I don’t know how 10 Promises to My Dog will deliver but as always, I succumbed to watching it.
The Japanese have their own way of crafting a beautiful and touching love story about man and his best friend. The 10 promises are as follows:
1. Listen patiently to me.
2. Trust me. I am always on your side.
3. Play with me a lot.
4. Don’t forget that I have feelings, too.
5. Let’s never fight. Someday I’ll win!
6. If I don’t obey you, I have a good reason.
7. You have school and friends, but I have only you.
8. Stay my best friend even when I’m old.
9. I’ll only live about 10 years, so let’s make every moment together count.
10. Never forget our life together. When my time comes, please be by my side.
Not exactly the best promises one would pledge to her beloved pet but the promises are full of trust, understanding and love.
However, the movie is not all about the dog and the girl. There are social issues highlighted in this film that are very good subplots. There’s overcoming death in the family, family against career, and personal aspiration against parents’ wishes. And we see Socks somehow find itself in the middle of the issues.
Not much to carp about the acting too. Mayuko Fukuda as the young Akari was perfect and Rena Tanaka as the older Akari was good as well. The father played by Etushi Toyokawa was likable as the father and even Ryo Kase as Hoshi was okay too.
However, hats off to the dog. She definitely stole the show. I thought Marley was already a good actor (he was played by several Labrador Retrievers) but Socks was totally lovable. She’s definitely the cutest. I want a dog like him!
Doggie movies are always my weakness but I never seem to get tired of them.

*pic from Google

Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru (Heavenly Forest)



“She used to lie very often. I want to be fooled by her lies just a little longer.”
Casts:
Tamaki Hiroshi as Makoto
Aoi Miyazaki as Shizuru

Review:
First off, Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru literally translates to Just, Loving You however its international title  is Heavenly Forest.
This drama has been in my wish list for a long time and I already started watching this before via the Internet but for some reason, I didn’t continue. We didn’t have Internet connection then and I was still renting somewhere and the connection was just bad. It was only last month that I finally remembered this movie and decided to continue watching it.
It stars my favorite Tamaki Hiroshi (of Nodame Cantabile) as Makoto, a shy and awkward university student who met a strange girl named Shizuru played by the beautiful Aoi Miyazaki. The two became friends and because Makoto likes photography, Shizuru also took up the hobby so she can always be with him. He took landscape pictures while she took pictures of people. Shizuru fell in love with Makoto however he likes another girl named Miyuki.  Shizuru decided that she would like Miyuki too because Makoto likes her and she wanted to support his love. One day, Shizuru told Makoto that she wants to take a photo of them kissing for a competition. Makoto obliges and they went to the forest to take the picture. They had their first kiss. After that, she disappeared from his life.
I totally loved this movie. I mentally cursed myself for forgetting about it for quite sometime.
At start, it may seem like a romantic comedy and basic formulas of previous movies would come to mind. We see Aoi Miyazaki, looking extremely strange, wearing big eyeglasses, talking funny, and walking weird. We know in an instant that she would transform into someone beautiful. When the glasses were taken off, there was no doubt who’s beautiful.
But it’s not just a romantic comedy, it is also has drama, complete with a tearjerker and beautiful ending.
Everything was absolutely likable. The pacing was just right, the cinematography was beautiful, and the characters were a perfect mix. I was even amazed to find out that Miyuki – the girl Makoto likes – who I thought would be going to be a simple character and shallow character actually has layers.
A beautiful movie also got to have a beautiful soundtrack. The song is Renai Shashin and it is performed by Otsuka Ai.
Kudos to Aoi Miyazaki for a great performance. She would totally win everyone’s hearts in this drama. She’s endearing, she’s cute, she’s just absolutely lovable! And her picture at the end, beautiful!
And I found a new respect for Tamaki Hiroshi’s acting. I already love him way before because of his work in my favorite drama but I was wondering if that was just my fangirling side thinking. But in this drama, Tamaki showed a different side of himself. He was great as the confident Chiaki in Nodame Cantabile but he was also compelling in this movie as the shy and awkward Makoto. He’s good in acting awkward! But when the time fast forwards to his present year (out of college already) we see that those awkwardness is already gone and he actually grew up as a mature young man. Well done!
Maybe you’re wandering what’s the quote above is all about. If I reveal it, it would be too much of a spoiler and I don’t want to spoil it because the ending was special and it would be nice if you experience it yourself.
The kiss was uber beautiful and romantic by the way.
Totally recommended!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Boys Over Flowers





Also Known As: Kgotboda Namja, Boys Before Flowers

Casts:

Goo Hye Sun as Geum Jan Di
Lee Min Ho as Goo Jun Pyo
Kim Hyun Joong as Yoon Ji Hoo
Kim Bum as So Yi Jeong
Kim Joon as Song Woo Bin

Extended Cast:

Kim So Eun as Chu Ga Eul (Jan Di’s best friend)
Kim Hyun Joo as Goo Joon Hee (Jun Pyo’s elder sister)
Lee Hye Young as Kang Hee Soo (Jun Pyo’s mother)
Han Chae Young as Min Seo Hyun (Ji Hoo’s first love)
Lee Min Jung as Ha Jae Kyung (Jun Pyo’s fiancee)
Lee Jung Gil as Yoon Seok Young (Ji Hoo’s grandfather)
Jung Ho Bin as Jung Sang Rok (Madam Kang’s Secretary)

Plot:

Jan Di is an average girl whose family owns a dry cleaning store located near the luxurious and well known Shin Hwa College. Jan Di meets the four richest and most spoiled boys known as the F4. After saving a boy from jumping off the roof of Shinhwa High School, she is admitted into the school on a swimming scholarship. Jan Di tries to avoid confrontation with the F4 at all cost because she knows what happens to those that stand against them. However, when Jan Di’s friend, Oh Min Ji, accidentally gets ice cream on the leader of the F4′s shoes, she’s forced to declare war on the leader of the F4, Goo Joon Pyo.

credits: dramawiki

IMO:

This review was long overdue. I was watching the drama the same time it was airing in Korea however since it was only twice a week, I wasn’t absorbing it very much. Plus the fact that I was busy with thesis and everything. I told myself that I will get hold of a copy of the DVD so I can watch it continuously and have it embedded in my system for a while. So here it is. Pardon me if some of the stuff in here were already mentioned in previous posts.

One problem that this drama has dealt with from the very start was the fact that it was a well-known story. The manga still remains to be the best-selling manga in Japan and it has spawned an anime and two live-action adaptations that were hugely successful all over Asia. With such a familiar plot, audience already knows what’s going to happen and the story arcs involved.

Because of that I was skeptical about it when I first heard of it. However, since it is already inevitable and it is of course another Hana Yori Dango, I made a resolve to try my hardest and watch it as if it is a whole new drama. So, my comments here will be specifically for the Korean version only. I will try my best not to make any comparisons. I will save that for another post.

Before I start, I am going to make something clear. I am not used to calling this Boys Over Flowers. It’s English title is really Boys BEFORE Flowers but somehow, ABS-CBN used OVER Flowers instead. That is fine since the manga is really translated as Boys OVER Flowers. 

Now, my take on the plot. The Korean version somehow offered something fresh to its viewers. At first, I was actually nervous if they are going to adapt it literally but since there were already two adaptations before them, I know they will try their best to put something new on the otherwise overused and jam-packed table.

They started it quickly with Geum Jan Di’s entranced to Shinhwa University and then slowly incorporated their own spin on things. It’s nice because when BBF adapt the manga literally they actually fall behind but when they veer away from it and add their own tricks, they shine. And somehow, my resolve to watch it as an original drama wasn’t that much needed anymore because it then felt like it was indeed a whole new drama. They even managed to squeezed a two-season worth of story into only one.

But of course, the drama is far from perfect. Although I love it when they put their own plot twists, I hate it when the twists and moments are weird and totally irrelevant. Case in point: In episode 15, Ji Hoo played and sung on the street after they lost both of their wallets? I mean, if the director (or the writer) really wanted Ji Hoo to perform, since he is a good singer and all, they can provide a more believable story than that. So, although I enjoyed his performance (singing Lee Jook’s Panic then afterwards, Because I’m Stupid), I didn’t appreciate the weird plot jump very much.

The Jae Kyung story arc was dragged way way too long. I was so ready to let go of her two or three episodes down.

The amnesia part, one of the crucial moments in the manga was handled well. I was wondering if they are going to insert that arc after all, but when they did, I was glad that it was believable, poignant but romantic as well.

The locations used were beautiful. Using small and relatively unknown actors has helped the production saved up money for lavish locations. We have New Caledonia, Macau and Jeju Island.  It was perfect because it was believable that these grand places are a part of the lavish, luxurious world of these ultra-rich people.

Characters:

The casting was almost perfect. After so many qualms regarding the casting for this drama with a lot of people posting who they want for the parts, I think the one responsible for the casting won almost everyone hearts with this cast. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that since they are up there on the looks department, they are also up there with regards to acting and portrayal of character.



Goo Hye Sun as Geum Jan Di: The very first thing that I noticed about her in the pilot episode was that she reminded me so much of Nodame. But thankfully, that faded quickly. I am so not ready to watch anything with an Ueno Juri-look alike. GHS acted the part okay, quite passable. There were times when she was being too cute and somehow that lessen my belief in her acting. I think she was better in dramatic parts because she can convey emotions better that way. I just don’t like how her character sometimes losses its continuity. Case in point: Watch episode 11 again and you get a whole Jan Di crap. This was the episode where I really hate her because her character just didn’t make sense. They introduced to us a Jan Di who’s sassy and wouldn’t take anybody’s crap. That Jan Di who gave Jun Pyo a well-deserving flying twist kick (or whatever you want to call it). In ep 11, she didn’t only lose this ability but also her common sense. So, yes, I hated that. Also, during the whole Jae Kyung arc she was just portrayed very weak. She didn’t even try to fight for her and Jun Pyo’s love. She just sat there with calm expressions, absorbing everything and again, being weak.


Lee Min Ho as Goo Jun Pyo: At first, I really didn’t like him. I thought his hairstyle was weird, and funny and ugly. He really didn’t grab me during the first episode however as soon as the next episode came, he had already won me over quickly. It’s just like how Kamio Yoko-sensei (the creator of the original manga) was captivated by Domyouji’s character. It really wasn’t supposed to be Domyouji in the lead, it was supposed to be Rui but then Domyouji just refused to shut up. It was just like Lee Min Ho’s portrayal. I guess everyone’s nervous and worried about him the most because basically the series is also depending a lot on him. Domyouji’s character is a hard character to portray. One may think that no, it’s just all violence and acting tough but it wasn’t really like that. He is a complex character and thankfully, Lee Min Ho acted Goo Jun Pyo pretty well. Case in point: Hopefully, I am right on this one. I am really trying hard to remember. I think it is in episode 14, the Macau episode, where he confronted Madam Kang with the situation regarding Jan Di. He was really really good there. His attack on the character has a certain charm. He is harsh, cold and cruel but with a big capacity to love.



Kim Hyun Joong as Yoon Ji Hoo: Jeez, don’t I have a lot to say regarding him and his character. Watching him in this drama is just like watching him evolve slowly and painfully. First, seeing him in the posters, you can deduce it right away. He is the most beautiful among the F4. Well, he was really supposed to be. However, with his blond hair, I didn’t recognize him right away as the leader of the idol group SS501.  I was actually looking forward to him because he is portraying Rui. However, during the pilot episode, I was left disappointed with his character and portrayal. Kim Hyun Joong, though good looking and a good singer, apparently is not that much of an actor. As I was watching him, it didn’t felt like he was portraying Hanazawa Rui, rather, it was like he was acting Shun Oguri. I really don’t need someone who’ll make me remember Shun, I need someone who’ll make me see Hanazawa Rui. For the next episodes, his acting improved, thankfully. Somehow, it was made clear that he was better in parts where he doesn’t need to speak at all. He could just stay quiet and remain forever mysterious. I think Ji Hoo had more screen time with Jan Di than Jun Pyo with Jan Di. They make a lovely pair if you just look at them but since Ji Hoo wasn’t acted out convincingly by Hyun Joong, even if I wanted to jump ship to that pair, I really can’t. However, during the last few episodes, Hyun Joong almost lost all that stiffness in his acting. He and Jan Di looked like they were getting comfortable with each other. I am also beginning to like him. Actually, I already like seeing him onscreen, even though his acting is not that outstanding, because every time I see him I see Bae Young Jun in him and the opening song of Winter Sonata just keeps playing inside my head. Anyway, aside from that, I also want to comment regarding his decision to become a doctor. That twist felt rushed. I know, it has something to do with succeeding his grandfather’s clinic and perhaps with Jan Di as well, but I really want to know what happened to his budding musical career? Another thing, I hate it that Ji Hoo continued to harbor feelings for Jan Di after everything. It was just… sad. Especially, after I saw the After Story. Sad, sad, sad.


Kim Bum as So Yi Jeong: From the very start, a lot people already like him and is rooting for him. Me, I only started rooting for him when his side story with Ga Eul started but even then it wasn’t continuous. I don’t know, he is indeed gorgeous and all but I just don’t feel his smile. It’s like it’s all he ever does and it made me feel creepy. Haha. His character started interesting however he became such an emotional wreck at the middle. It was pathetic. It was painful to watch. It took all my courage not to fast forward those parts.


Kim Joon as Song Woo Bin: He doesn’t have any side story and we don’t get to see his character evolve very much. I think he acted consistently though I confess to cringing every time he speaks English. Oh, I almost forgot, there is this episode where he goes all emo while talking to Yi Jeong about his Mafia background. There’s also that yaoi moment there, or rather, at least I hoped. Haha. Anyway, Akira’s role in the manga is he was supposed to be the one who’ll remind us about the friendship among the four. It wasn’t so much obvious. Yes, he was helping his friends and all but I would like it to be more pronounced.


Kim So Eun as Chu Ga Eul: First off, she’s very very pretty and her pairing with Kim Bum is just perfect. Ga Eul, I thought, was going to be a stable, consistent character. I admired her the very first time she talked to Yi Jeong who was belittling Jan Di a bit and she got mad. However, somewhere in the middle, she lost her spark when she started following Yi Jeong around and always dropping by his house. Aside from that, I admire Kim So Eun’s work for this drama especially since she’s also doing another drama at the same time.


Kim Hyun Joo as Goo Jun Hee: Hyun Joo has always been a reliable actress aside from being pretty. When I learned she was going to play Jun Pyo’s elder sister, I know she can pull it off.



Lee Hye Young as Kang Hee Soo: If you guys have seen I’m Sorry, I Love You, you know how good an actress she is. In this drama, she proved what a seasoned actress she is. She’s cold and calculated. She’s harsh and mean and a little obsessed with her son. Hating her is ever easy. However, during the last episode, when she showed a weakness, when she shed a tear and her cold mask was cracked a bit, somehow we saw a trace of humanity in her after all. A vulnerability that we never knew she had. A complex character acted exceptionally by Lee Hye Young.



Lee Min Jung as Ha Jae Kyung: Her character was very hard to dislike at first. She’s bubbly and totally a breath of fresh air. However, when she became a bit manipulative and insensitive near the end of her arc, I was itching for her to go away. Case in point: How insensitive can she be to actually ask Jan Di to be her maid-of-honor? With regards to her interactions with Lee Min Ho’s character, there’s indeed a connection and a definite chemistry. In fact, it’s like they’re trying to compartmentalize and compress their chemistry for the sake of their respective characters. It’s actually scary because they look so good together. If you just stumbled upon the series starting at the Macau episode and doesn’t have an idea about the whole thing, you might think that they are the PAIR. I felt that vast chemistry during the grocery scene. It’s overwhelming! And it somehow threatens the position of the original couple. So, it sucked that her arc was dragged way too long because I really wanted to root back for the original couple.

The Soundtrack:

Boys Over Flowers is so far the only drama I know that has 3 different soundtrack. The last one is a special edition that features a gorgeous Kim Hyun Joong on the cover while playing a guitar. They have good songs. A lot of them upbeat, since what can you expect when you got idol groups singing for the soundtrack. I especially like A’ST1’s Yearning of the Heart, I think it is such a beautiful song with an easy melody. Soothing. I love all the songs contributed by SS501: Making a Lover and Because I’m Stupid. Kim Hyun Joong also contributed a song, his version of Thing Called Happiness, included in the special edition. My early favorite is Shinee’s Stand By Me and Ashily’s Lucky. Other songs include T-Max’s Paradise, which is the carrier single of the album and Say Yes. Howl and J who collaborated for the unforgettable Perhaps Love in Princess Hours were also in this soundtrack. Howl sang Love You while J teamed up with T-Max for Wish You’re My Love. There’s also Love is Fire by Kara which is really good too, with a jpop sound in it, Tree Bicycle’s One More Time, Lee Sang Gon’s With Tears, Seo Jin Young’s A Little, Jisun’s What Should I Do, and Brand New Day’s Like Love. The song that’s played during sad and dramatic parts is Kim Yoo Kyung’s Starlight Tears.

However, for some reason, the one responsible for placing these songs together in their proper scenes is not very good at it. These songs that are good when you hear them on their own become bad just because they were carelessly placed in scenes where they obviously didn’t fit. Music is very important; it adds emotion and helps create a mood. But sometimes, the music ruins the mood. Case in point: Hmm, was it episode 12 when Jan Di was kidnapped by Jae Ha? He was then rescued by Jun Pyo and after a lot of beatings and Jan Di receiving a hit for Jun Pyo, in comes the F3 to help. At such a crucial moment like that one, the background music when the F3 entered was freakin’ Almost Paradise!  Hell!!!

Conclusion:

Wow, that was quite long. I can’t believe I had so much to say after having entries about this drama before.

Boys Over Flowers being so hyped up from the very start, thankfully, delivered. Yes, it had flaws – a lot of it even. The pacing was inconsistent, the music was placed on the wrong parts, and the acting was sometimes good, sometimes awfully bad, most of the time passable. The script also lacked consistency with the logic of some scenes pushing me to my limit. However, like I said (and I am going to repeat what I already said here), sometimes it all boils down to whether or not I had fun watching it. Whether it moved me, excited me, or touched my heart. And Boys Over Flowers did.

I had fun following it. I was so entertained. Even when it is being insane, it made me felt so alive. I love to see my favorite manga characters breathe into life all over again, so to other countries trying or wanting to adapt this manga(Mainland China is already on the works), all I can say is, bring it on!


*pics from Google

High School Debut




“…since I don’t think I will be able to go out with anyone but you.Not now, not ever. So I don’t really want this to end.”

This is my first time to try and review a manga so I don’t really know how to go about it. But anyway, I guess I’ll try.

Alternative Title: Koukou Debut

Mangaka (Author): Kawahara Kazune

The Plot:

When Haruna Nagashima was in junior high her life consisted of playing softball and reading comics. But now that she’s going to high school, Haruna decides to put all of her energy towards getting a boyfriend and having the high school romance of a lifetime. To help in her quest, she enlists cute upperclassman Yoh Komiyama to coach her as she eschews her jock tendencies and turns herself into the kind of girl who can catch a guy. Yoh agrees, with one catch: Haruna had better not fall for him!

From Viz (Baka-Updates Manga)

IMO:

Ever since we had this amazing, amazing Internet connection, manga reading has become unbelievably fast.  I’m following 5-6 mangas that were still ongoing and in between that, I’ve already read a crapload of one-shots already. I’m so close to finishing all the works of two authors, one with about 34 works and the other around 14. All that in a span of just three weeks! Well, it’s not like I spent all my time reading (my mom’s gonna kill me for the bill) the Internet connection is just amazing!

So anyway, I was lurking around my favorite forums and looking for a new shoujo manga to pick up. This title just came up a lot (Yoh and Haruna were even posted a lot of times as the best shoujo couple) so I decided to check it out on Mangafox. It only has 13 volumes and 52 chapters so it’s not really that long. I also read the comments on the Mangafox forum and it seemed like everyone who read it loved it. 

Actually, the title is not so new to me. I’ve read its plot already in Onemanga and NCIS (the one scanlating Nodame Cantabile) was the one who also scanlated it. 

Mangas with school life genres are just so fun and easy to read. Although, school life in Japan is different, it is somewhat closer to heart than anything else. And besides, I know quite a lot about it, having read and watched a lot Japanese stuff already.

Okay, I’m dividing this review in three parts. One for the art (although, I’m not really artsy so don’t expect me to be so critical about it.) Another one for the story. The other is for the characters, mainly the two characters but I’ll pitch in something for the supporting characters.

Here goes nothing.

ART: Out of 5, it’ll be 3.

It’s in the middle. The characters were not drawn uber beautifully like Fushigi Yuugi or even Special A. The mangaka wasn’t like Yuu Watase. However, it wasn’t bad. In fact, I kinda like the way he draws the guys, though they were not so drop dead gorgeous but they have a certain charm in them. The girls were fine but I don’t like the way she draws the “cute girls”. She puts something on the cheeks. I don’t know if it was supposed to be a blush but I don’t think so because Asami had them all the time. Even Yoh’s ex-girlfriend. I think they were already cute without that. 

The scenes were drawn okay. Sometimes, there were dark spots. I don’t know if you really get what I mean here but if you read Nodame, I’ll guess you’ll understand. Nodame has few dark spots, it’s very easy to read.

STORY: Out of 5, it’s a 4.

Well, I want to say 5 but it’s a shoujo manga and a lot of stuff that happens in a shoujo manga isn’t very realistic. This manga wasn’t an exemption too. But I like that it was fast-paced and not boring at all. I read the summary in Wikipedia and I really thought that it’ll take a long time before Yoh and Haruna get together but I was surprised that it only took a few chapters. When they became a couple, I thought it’s gonna go downhill after that but it didn’t. It just kept on climbing up till it reached an awesome and a bit tear-jerky climax. I also like it that the story arcs don’t take too long. They were usually done in a chapter or two. 

CHARACTERS:

Komiyama Yoh: Out of 5, it’s a 5.

It’s amazing that his character is unlike most lead guys. Okay, yes he’s supposed to be gorgeous and popular and gets a lot of girls – we can’t help this part, it’s a formula for shoujo mangas. But what I find different is that I really didn’t expect him to develop so much. Since Koukou Debut is a love story, I was just giddy every time because of him. I love the way he changed while he is going out with Haruna. I love the fact that while Haruna obviously loves him A LOT, he ALSO loves her a lot. At first, he wasn’t showing anybody his feelings but then it shows in his actions and then he became vocal about it. During the last few chapters, Yoh was just so lovable. I felt like melting every time he can’t help but tell it straight to Haruna what he feels.  (She just can’t get it because she’s dense.) It was just too cute, too endearing. Actually, it is so damn hard to explain it here. I so want a boyfriend like him!

It’s nice because even though the story aims to center on Haruna’s change (after all it’s her high school debut), we see Yoh changing because of her. Haruna’s change is more like physical (though we’re not gonna notice that a lot), while Yoh is a lot deeper. His change is inside. That’s why in chapter 52, I think it’s very fitting how the classmates of Yoh in Tokyo described Haruna. It ran something like. 

“I hear his girlfriend is in town today. The one we’ve heard so much about.” “You mean, the girl who changed Yoh’s high school life?” “More like, the girl who changed Yoh’s ENTIRE life.” “Yoh’s dearest and most beloved girlfriend, right?”

Yeah, she changed him indeed.

Nagashima Haruna: Out of 5, it’s a 4.

Her character also contains the formula for female leads in shoujo mangas. Hard working, clueless and definitely good hearted. There’s not much new about her. I’ve seen a lot like her, most notably is Hikaru of SA. However, even if it is like that, you will just learn to love Haruna, just like how Yoh fell for her. She’s not perfect but she’s got a charm of her own. You will cheer for her and feel for her during her trying times.

Other characters: Out of 5, it’s a 4.

They are a good mix of different personalities. I loved Mami-chan because she is just so nice and all. But I have to say that my favorite is Asaoka-san! My God, I have a hard time deciphering his intentions at all, although I felt like he really has developed feelings for Haruna. Fumi-kun is okay, though he didn’t stand out very much but he was a good supporting character. I would like to say I hate Asami because she’s just too complicated and a bit twisted. I didn’t like very much the story arcs involving her but the mangaka is just a pure genius. We see a lot of YohxHaruna stuff in story arcs involving Asami.

OVERALL: Out of 5, Koukou Debut for me is 4.

I just love it. I love it a lot. It’s romantic. It’s fun. It makes you want to fall in love. Yoh is just love. Actually, the Yoh and Haruna pairing is just love. Plus it’s clean. Ha! No surprise stuff here and there. Thank goodness. ^,^.

Now, what should I read next? 

Where’s my Yoh???????






*pic from Google


The Swan Princess



I caught this animated film this afternoon on Cartoon Network. The Swan Princess is an adaptation of the ballet The Swan Lake.
Swan Lake was composed by one of my favorite classical composers, Tchaikovsky. I’ve always loved the story and I’ve always wanted to see the performance. Until now, I still envy my sister for being able to watch it performed live by no less than the Philippine’s Prima Ballerina herself, Lisa Macuja-Elizalde last 2007 in Aliw Theater.
The Swan Princess is a loose adaptation. The basic story goes like this: Odette was transformed into a swan by the villain Von Rothbart. She turns into swan by day and turns back into being human at night, only when there’s a moon. She befriends a puffin, a turtle and a frog. These three creatures helped her reunite with her love, Prince Derek. Okay, pretty cliche. But remember, this is from a very old fairy tale.
So, like I said, it was a loose adaptation. Odile wasn’t there, only, of course, Odette. Prince Siegfried, becomes Prince Derek. The film also suggested a reason why Von Rothbart cursed Odette. In the real ballet, it wasn’t known. However, in this film, Von Rothbart cursed Odette because he wanted to rule Odette’s father’s kingdom.
They were bethrothed to each other since birth. They didn’t like each other at first but when they met each other again when they grew up, they seemed to warm up to each other. Prince Derek announced that the wedding must go on.
However, the wedding didn’t pursue. Why? This is actually my favorite part. Prince Derek complimented Odette on her beauty and she asked, “Is beauty all that matters to you?”
You know what he said? “What else is there?” My favorite line in the movie, and yet it was the stupidest thing he ever said. So, Odette went away. Yeah, you go girl! The counselor even said that the Prince should write a book and the title goes like, “How to Offend Women in Five Sentences or Less.” That was funny.
So anyway, Odette was kidnapped by evil sorcerer Rothbart and turned into a swan. Prince Derek realized that beauty wasn’t everything and worked hard to find Odette. They met and Prince Derek learned that the only way to break the spell was to declare his promise of eternal love.
The next part was so screaming Little Mermaid. The prince almost married the wrong girl and Odette almost died because of it. But well, the spell was broken when he said that he love her for her kindness and courage. It’s not all about beauty anymore.
The Swan Princess was entertaining and lively and romantic. Though, not up to Disney’s standards, the animation was okay, too. The songs were also likable when you hear them, though for some reason, nothing really sticks to my mind. “Far Longer Than Forever” was nice but I guess I have to hear it a couple more times before it becomes a favorite.
But anyway, I still love it.

*picture from Google

Fated To Love You



“Life is like a game of gambling.
It’s impossible to win every time.
As long as you have a chip in your hand,
you will always have hope.”

Also Known As: Ming Zhong Zhu Ding Wo Ai Ni/ Sticky Note Girl/ Destiny Love/ You’re My Destiny

CAST:
Joe Chen Qiao En as Chen Xin Yi/Elaine
Ethan Ruan Ting Jian as Ji Cun Xi
Baron Chen Chu He as Dylan/Dai Jian Ren
Bianca Bai Xin Yui as Shi Ah Na/ Dai Xin Yi

THE PLOT:
A really unfashionable working class girl Chen Xin Yi has the desire to tie down her handsome boyfriend to be with her. Due to certain reasons, her boyfriend gets her to go on a love cruise and she started to ponder on how to lose her virginity and tie down her boyfriend. Xin Yi ended up taking cold medicine which made her drowsy and went into Ji Cun Xi’s room. Cun Xi is the sole male heir to his family’s company and has been in love with his girlfriend, Anna, for a long time. He planned to propose to Anna on the boat but she didn’t turn up on the cruise. An island owner added drugs into Cun Xi’s drink and Cun Xi became disorientated and returned to his own room. Xin Yi and Cun Xi end up having a one night stand. Xin Yi later finds out that she’s pregnant and Cun Xi’s grandmother forces them to get married. Will a couple forced to marry for the sake of their unborn child find love with each other?
credits: dramawiki
IMO:
When I first researched about this drama a year ago, I wasn’t that much interested in it. I don’t know, there’s just something about the plot “being pregnant before marriage” that doesn’t appeal so much to me. Moreover, they were not even in a relationship and it was an accident. The only thing that caught my interest was the leads. I was watching Green Forest, My Home and falling in love with Owen then when I first knew about FTLY. He is Ji Cun Xi here and of course, we all know who Joe Chen is especially after that successful stint in Frog Prince.
The plot was ordinary however they made it so extraordinary after giving it with so much heart. And I believe it is more realistic than other idol dramas. Yes, I did cry a lot in this drama. I cried because it was sad, I felt pity for Xin Yi and I totally dig the family relationships here. It wasn’t so typical anymore because of so many twists and basically just how they developed the whole story.
My only complaint was just it was too long. For someone who’s so immersed in Jdoramas lately, a series with 24 episodes at 1 and 30 mins each was already a stretch. Thank God, there weren’t many boring episodes, feelers and side stories.
After watching Bump Off Lover, this was another good watch. Although the concepts differ a lot from each other, they were done and carried out very well. If they can make dramas this good, they don’t need a script taken out from a manga. However, in most cases, it wasn’t like that. Though I’m not going to complain anymore because I just remembered Meteor Garden and Devil Beside You, both taken from a manga.

CHARACTERS:
Joe Chen Qiao En as Chen Xin Yi: She’s been giving hit dramas after another and her lead men shot to higher fame after co-starring with her. She’s very lucky.  She has come a long way. Actually, I think I’ve seen her grow into a beautiful and very reliable actress because I’ve seen most of her dramas, even her very first drama which was Lavender. She’s not the lead there and though she gave a pretty good performance there, it wasn’t that much noticeable. But now, look at her. She’s one of the primary leading actresses in Taiwan and I’m happy that her drama roles in some drama deviate from the typical Taiwanese lead actresses’ roles.
Ethan Ruan Ting Jian as Ji Cun Xi: As I said, he’s Owen from Green Forest, My Home. I’ve missed him. He was lovable there and I also can’t forget his small stint in Hana Kimi. I almost didn’t notice him there, what with the hair and all. In FTLY, he played a rich, arrogant and childish successor of Mo Fa Ling. He really did well. He has good funny scenes and nice dramatic scenes too (maybe except that one when he was leaving Xin Yi at the bridge. I thought he was funny there.) He and Joe Chen has this amazing chemistry and if I hadn’t known he already has a girlfriend (Tiffany Xu from ISWAK), I would like to think that they could also hit it off real well in real life. BTW, I really think that Ming Dao (from Frog Prince) and Ethan looked so much alike. Maybe it was the eyebrows.
Baron Chen Chu He as Dylan/ Dai Jian Ren: He is gorgeous and very easy to like however there’s just something off about him that I can’t pinpoint. But anyway, I like it that although he likes Xin Yi, he made an effort to be strict with her so that she can change her “sticky note girl” personality. However, in one scene he said that he gave 100% in trying to get Xin Yi, but somehow I cannot believe that. But I’m glad that he just let her go because it’s not him she loves and he knows that love cannot be forced. With regards to his acting, he did good, not that outstanding compared to the two leads but he held his ground. I think he should change some of his expressions. Sometimes, I can’t detect whether he looks angry or just smug or sad. Also, he just usually pouts his lips. But then again, Baron is a new comer and this is his first drama so he must be given a second chance. I am actually looking forward to his future drama projects.
Bianca Bai Xin Yui as Shi Ah Na/ Dai Xin Yi: Do you guys remember her from ISWAK? Honestly, she’s a lovable character. Okay, maybe that’s too much but I swear her character is just too hard to hate even though she did what she did to Xin Yi. We can also understand why she stood Cun Xi up for 12 times because she’s very much dedicated and focused on her ballet career and even Cun Xi knows that. We can understand it because of her back story with her strict stepmother and everything. Plus, she loves Cun Xi very much and she makes up through giving Cun Xi surprises on his birthday, etc. I love that scene on ep 1 when she rejected the supporting role at Swan Lake and she said, “If I can’t play Odette, I’m not going. Rather than playing a supporting role in New York, I might as well stay by my boyfriend’s side and be forever his leading actress. I’ve broken too many promises to him. I shouldn’t give him up this time.” That was a really good line. If Cun Xi heard it, he could’ve died from happiness. Oh, and also, she and Dylan really look like they’re related to each other. Is it the eyes? Too bad she wasn’t in the final ep anymore. Just some narrative about what happened to her. Dylan too.
Other Characters:
Xin Yi’s family: I’m surprised that they were not so eager to marry Xin Yi off to Cun Xi even though she’s already pregnant and he is a very rich guy. I love the family conversations because they show how much they really care for Xin Yi. And every conversation Xin Yi had with her mom was like a tug at heart.
Grandma: I love her because she’s not the bad guy here. I thought she’s going to hate Xin Yi because she’s poor and she’s not suitable for the Ji family.
Anson: Comedic relief. I like him.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES:
The BTS are so funny and they really got so close to each other. No wonder they can wonderfully portray such a good drama.
Trivia:
  • It was an expensive drama. The first episode cost more than NT $5,000,000. They filmed in Taiwan, Shanghai and Hong Kong. But I think it was all worth it. They’ve produced such a heartwarming and unforgettable drama.
  • Won in the 43rd Golden Bell Awards as 2008’s Best Drama.
  • Among the screenwriters, there was actually someone named Chen Xin Yi.
  • The singer Shorty Yuen (Yuan Ruo Lan) who sang the opening and ending song (this one together with Wu Zhong Ming) appeared in the drama as a guest. She played the nurse at a Shanghai hospital where Cun Xi brought Xin Yi. I didn’t notice it at first but I really thought that the nurse was familiar. Ha! It was her.
  • The plot is connected to the first episode of Invincible Shan Bao Mei and when you watched ISBM, you will see Joe Chen and Ethan Ruan there playing their respective roles in here. BTW, Invincible Shan Bao Mei stars Smiling Pasta actor Nicholas Teo!
THE SOUNDTRACK:
I soooo love the soundtrack. The opening song is I love him 99 times by Shorty Yuen. It is upbeat, beautiful, lively and really cute. The ending song, which isSticky Note with Wishes, is a duet of Shorty Yuen and Wu Zhong Ming and it was beautifully made. The melody is nice and soothing to the ears. It’s also really cute. Insert songs include Half of a Love Song by Shorty Yuen again. She really did a great job in this OST. This song is played during flashbacks and some dramatic scenes. My favorite, however, is a duet from the Jin Xiu duets, My Happiness. The stanzas are very fast and the chorus is a bit slower but still lively and so heartfelt. I love the piano work for the song. It is also played on crucial moments and it helps a lot to the emotional appeal of the scene.

EPISODES:
Episode
Subtitle
Ratings
01
Go! Chen Xin Yi
2.56
02
Pregnant?! Stop kidding Cupid
3.81
03
What?! The baby is mine
5.18
04
God! I hope that I’m not the groom
4.49
05
It’s not easy to be Ji Cun Xi’s bride!
4.77
06
Ji Cun Xi’s trap of gentleness
4.67
07
Sorry, I wronged you
4.55
08
For you, I am willing to be a chicken
5.28
09
The drastic change of Ji Cun Xi’s feelings!
5.74
10
Happiness, like treading on ice
5.97
11
Ji Cun Xi’s difficult problem!
6.71
12
Everything back to zero…
7.84
13
Rebirth!
8.09
14
Love in Shanghai
9.17
15
Uncuttable
9.08
16
Courage
9.11
17
Out of control
9.69
18
Fated to be with love
10.60
19
The self assertive sticky note
10.51
20
A confession over two years
10.91
21
Rewards finally come from hardship
10.38
22
Suffering from the consequences of love
9.18
23
Fated to love you
10.45
24
The last sticky note of Fated to Love You
9.80
average
7.44

CONCLUSION:
Obviously, such a long review but all I’m going to say is GO AND WATCH IT NOW!
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