Japanese Drama / Movie Reviews

Since my summer hols are ending real soon, I thought of collating all the Japanese dramas and movies that I had watched during this three-month break. For anyone who might be looking for a good J show, here are some recommendations. For some of the series, I had completed them quite a while back already, so I don’t have much in-depth recollection of what the really good parts are any more (most of them I just spammed to my friends on WhatsApp). Therefore, my reviews for these titles may be a little shorter and less elaborated. Hope this post aids you in deciding what series to watch next. The titles I post would be in chronological order of when I had watched the series. But first, let me introduce my number one J drama of all time (yes this is an exception cause I watched this after A Levels):

OUROBOROS ウロボロス (2015)

Genre: Suspense, Mystery
Episodes: 10
Viewership Ratings: 10.4%
Main Cast: Ikuta Toma, Oguri Shun, Ueno Juri
Synopsis:

“Ikuo and Tatsuya are orphans. They live at Mahoroba’s house which is a child and family services home. At their elementary school, they see Teacher Yuko, who took good care of them like a real older sister, killed right in front of them. Ikuo and Tatsuya tell the police what they saw, but the case is covered by a police officer wearing a gold watch.

15 years later, Ikuo now works as a detective. He is a good person and his arrest rate is the highest at the police station. Meanwhile, using his handsome appearance and cleverness, Tatsuya becomes a high ranking yakuza.

Detective Ikuo and Yakuza Tatsuya have a singular purpose, which is to find the man wearing the gold watch, dig out the truth and reveal the dark side of the police organization.”

– Taken from AsianWiki

Personal Thoughts: Since I watched this like two years ago, all I remember is that it was a really really really good drama. Like nothing can every compare to this. A really tragic ending (I teared like crazy) but a thrilling and mind-blowing storyline. I liked the onscreen chemistry between Ikuta Toma and Oguri Shun very much – very bromance HAHA. They’re two of my favourite actors (and I didn’t like them because of their looks, but really their acting skills).
And not to mention that the theme song for this drama is Sakura by Arashi. They’re my favourite J-pop group – or one of the few that I ever listen to. Somehow their songs always make me think of the clear blue skies above an endless grass plain on a windy day. Very soothing. And yes I always keep an eye out for anything related to Johnny’s Entertainment – in this case would be Ikuta Toma and Arashi, who’re artistes from this company.

BORDER ボーダー (2014)

Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Episodes: 9
Viewership Ratings: 12.2%
Main Cast: Oguri Shun
Synopsis:

“Ango Ishikawa is a detective with smarts and a keen sense of observation. He’s in a great physical shape and also highly ambitious. Ango also only focuses on his work and his personal life is pretty much non-existent.

One day, a former police officer is killed by a gun shot. Ango goes to the scene of the crime, but is shot in the head by the killer who is lurking at the crime scene. Ango hovers between life and death. At that time, he thinks to himself “where do people go after they die?” and then “I don’t want to die.” A miracle then happens. Ango survives with the bullet still lodged in his head. He goes back to work.

A new murder case takes place. When Ango goes to the crime scene he notices a boy who looks like he is about to cry, but only Ango is able to see the boy. The boy is the one who was killed. Since Ango was shot, he can now see and talk with the dead.”

– Taken from AsianWiki

Personal Thoughts: Yes it’s Oguri Shun again! I think he really suits action dramas.  Another mind-blowing crime series with a supernatural twist to it. Some scenes scared me a little though – made me jump and all. But a really thrilling and interesting storyline as well. Not to mention that I liked the opening theme evils fall by MAN WITH A MISSION.

The Quiz Show 2 ザ・クイズショウ (2009)

Genre: Suspense, Psychological
Episodes: 10
Viewership Rating: 12.0%
Main Cast: Sakurai Sho, Yokoyama Yu
Synopsis:

“When individuals accept the invitation to be a guest on The Quiz Show, they are told the ultimate prize is to have one dream- whatever it is- granted by the show’s producers. What they are not told is that when they sit down in the chair they will be facing questions asked by a mysterious young man that claims to know “everything” about them, nor are they prepared for how personal the questions suddenly become.

Can each guest make it through to the last challenge? Will their dreams really become a reality if they answer every question they are asked, no matter how far into their deepest secrets it digs?

Just what is the purpose of The Quiz Show?”

– Taken from AsianWiki

Personal Thoughts: This series was super mind-blowing – I was so shocked when everything was revealed at the end. Super dark and twisted storyline. Dragging everybody involved in the accident of a girl just for her revenge. Their crying scenes were really messy though, but who cries glamorously in real life? A bonus point for this particular realistic element for this drama.
One reason why I started watching this in the first place cause the main leads were Sakurai Sho and Yokoyama Yu. Both of them are artistes from Johnny’s EntertainmentSakurai Sho being in Arashi and Yokoyama Yu being in Kanjani8. Their characters in this drama have a complicated relationship – they seemed like arch enemies (or maybe master and servant?) but yet they seemed like they were best friends before.
I was a little annoyed at how they started every episode the same way though, and the development at the first few episodes were rather slow. But I was glad that I didn’t drop it cause like I mentioned, it was explosively mind-blowing towards the end where everything got revealed at once. So when watching this, press on!

HARD NUT! ハードナッツ! (2013)

Genre: Crime, Comedy
Episodes: 8
Main Cast: Hashimoto Ai, Kora Kengo
Synopsis:

“Kurumi Nanba is a student majoring in math at prestigious university. She’s viewed as a weirdo due to her poor communication skills, but having a genius level intellect. Meanwhile, Tatsuhiko Tomoda is a young detective. Kurumi Nanba and Tatsuhiko Tomoda work together to solve difficult cases including a series of bomb explosions, a locked-room murder and corporate blackmail.”

– Taken from AsianWiki

Personal Thoughts: The two leads are adorable! Was kind of hoping that they’d get together at the end but yet glad that they did, if not it would defeat the entire purpose of this drama (and this drama isn’t supposed to focus on romance). But seeing how Hashimoto Ai‘s character has a crush on Kora Kengo‘s character is amusing and how she tries every way and mean to get him to like her back. I think Hashimoto Ai really suits the cute and funny character. And it’s mind-blowing in how they really use mathematics to solve crimes. This is a crime drama with more light-hearted comedy.

BRAIN MAN 脳男 (2013 – Movie)

Genre: Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Main Cast: Ikuta Toma, Matsuyuki Yasuko, Eguchi Yosuke
Synopsis:

“In a small town in Japan, a series of seemingly random explosion cases occur. Ichiro Suzuki knowns as “Brain Man” is fingered as an accomplice. Midorikawa works on the explosion case.

The mysterious man known as “Brain Man” has outstanding memory, high intelligence and a perfect body, but doesn’t seem to have human emotions. Neurosurgeon Mariko Washiya, who has her own personal trauma, believes that human nature is fundamentally good and tries to save criminals. She then becomes interested in Brain Man and works to uncover the truth. Meanwhile, Detective Chaya tracks down Brain Man.”

– Taken from AsianWiki

Personal Thoughts: Yes I watched this for Ikuta Toma! Kept admiring his side profile cause his nose very defined HAHA. But the story is really action-packed and thrilling as well. And the ending really struck me – the lesson that old habits do die hard, and it has to be learnt the hard way.
Shall bring your attention to this particular actress. Totally amazed by how good she acted out her villain role – a completely crazy girl. Her name is Fumi Nikaido and she’s only two years older than I am. Went to look up on her other dramas and apparently she seems to be able to act a variety of characters – from an insane villain here to perhaps an innocent and demure girl from some shoujo manga-adapted drama. What a versatile actress – shall keep a look-out for her future works.

MR. BRAIN (2009)

Genre: Comedy, Mystery
Episodes: 8
Viewership Rating: 20%
Main Cast: Kimura Takuya, Ayase Haruka
Synopsis:

“Tsukumo Ryusuke is a quirky, yet brilliant neuroscientist working for the National Research Institute of Police Science. Wielding a unique perspective and psychology, Tsukumo tackles the nation’s most baffling crimes and scandals, going head-to-head with the most brilliant and twisted criminal minds. But his eccentricities and poor social timing can also aggravate people and circumstances, further complicating matters. –TBS”

– Taken from DramaWiki

Personal Thoughts: Kind of similar in terms of comedic elements to Hard Nut. While Hard Nut uses mathematics to solve crimes, Mr. Brain uses neurology. Super mind-blowing. Complements each other I would think. Super hilarious how the main character comes in at the start and almost everyone disliked him but he left at the end with everyone totally influenced by him (I wonder how many bananas the actors ate throughout the entire filming of this drama man HAHA). Was kind of judging his long hair though, but that’s besides the point. Didn’t know that Kimura Takuya is actually a big-shot actor until a friend told me though.
Another reason why I attempted this drama was because of Ayase Haruka. Watched some of the variety show episodes that she appeared on and she seemed really cheerful and positive but yet not the very loud type of actress. Quite calming to watch her though.
And another actor who caught my attention was Mizushima Hiro. His character was super funny in this series, being a joker and hilariously getting bossed around by his superior. Saw that he has a blog and went to check it out. It looks really nice, despite the template / theme design of his website being minimalistic and simple. Really heart-warming to see how devoted he is to his family, being a young father. There’re quite a number of posts about his adorable daughter.

KAGI NO KAKATTA HEYA 鍵のかかった部屋 (2012)

Genre: Mystery
Episodes: 11
Viewership Rating: 16.0%
Main Cast: Ohno Satoshi, Toda Erika, Sato Koichi
Synopsis:

“Enomoto Kei is a security “otaku” working for a security firm, devoted to improving the securities system on a daily basis. He is not an easy person to familiarize oneself with, always collected and calm, unapproachable, a maniac in Physics, Science, Architecture and profound in other basic theoretical foundation. He is certain and proud of the fact that there is no key which he cannot unlock.

One day, Kei is asked to help reveal a mystery behind a locked room murderer. While he lacks any interest in solving the mystery, he is inevitably intrigued by the term, “Closed Doors” and decides to take on the position. He works side by side with Aoto Junko and Serizawa Gou, who are lawyers working at a major law firm. Junko is pure and forward, acting upon her instincts while Serizawa is a prideful elitist who sees time as money, and therefore, will not take on any job that is unprofitable.

Possessing a vast amount of knowledge and acute insightfulness, Kei is able to unlock the closed doors and unravel the secrets leading to the solution. Never before has there been a drama focused solely on closed doors. It’s an all new original mystery that will keep you guessing every week! — Fuji TV”

– Taken from DramaWiki

Personal Thoughts: Really liked the ending theme of this drama – Face Down by Arashi! Really liked how Arashi sings the theme songs for dramas that their members / company’s other artistes appear in. Another totally unique storyline – all about locked room murders. And another mind-blowing series. Watched this for Ohno Satoshi (he’s my second favourite member in Arashi after Nino). Amused at how his emotionless his character seemed to be. Watched this for Toda Erika too. Another big-name actress in the Japanese show-biz.

TOKYO DOGS 東京DOGS (2009)

Genre: Police, Action
Episodes: 10
Viewership Rating: 15.7%
Main Cast: Oguri Shun, Mizushima Hiro, Yoshitaka Yuriko
Synopsis:

“Kanade Takakura is an elite detective from the New York Police department. He has a very keen sense of judgement but is cold and inflexible. Kanade lost his father in a murder as a young boy, which drove him to become a detective. Maruo Kudo is a former motorcycle gang member now special detective with the Japanese police department. These two opposite characters team up on a case in which secrets are held by a young lady named Yuki Matsunada.”

– Taken from AsianWiki

Personal Thoughts: Another super funny crime drama. The onscreen chemistry between Oguri Shun and Mizushima Hiro was just hilarious. Like who starts arguing with each other in the middle of a confrontation with criminals? But I really liked the bond between the three main characters that developed over the course of the entire drama. There was a subtle hint of romance as well between Oguri Shun‘s character and Yoshitaka Yuriko‘s character, but once again glad that they didn’t turn this into a romance story and ruin everything. For Mizushima Hiro‘s character, it was more like a one-sided crush? But this actor really suits the playboy / joker yet loyal deep down type of characters man.

ATARU (2012)

Genre: Mystery
Episodes: 11
Viewership Rating: 15.6%
Main Cast: Nakai Masahiro, Kitamura Kazuki, Kuriyama Chiaki
Synopsis:

“Ataru, who suffers from “savant syndrome,” has the power to discover, observe, see through, and deduct microscopic evidence of unsolved cases. Why does he always go to the criminal sites? What explains his strange behavior? His sad past will be revealed as the story unfolds.

An explosion occurs at a chemical factory, leaving one person dead. The investigation team concludes that it is merely an accident, but Ebina Maiko has her doubts. When she goes to the site again, she finds a man who introduces himself as “Chokozai.” After blurting out a series of words that Maiko cannot understand, he suddenly falls asleep. Maiko decides to look up the meaning of these words. She is taken aback when she discovers that when put together, these words provide the key to solving the case. — TBS”

– Taken from DramaWiki

Personal Thoughts: Somehow I’m really amazed by how the Japanese can come up with such different storylines every time. Another comedic drama – kept laughing at Kitamura Kazuki and Kuriyama Chiaki‘s characters bickering with each other and Nakai Masahiro‘s character causing trouble for them all the time. Interesting to know more about this Savant Syndrome as well.
Reminds me a little of my second favourite Korean drama Kill Me, Heal Me where Ji Sung had to act out a character with seven different personalities and I don’t think anybody could do it better than him. And omg that best couple award with Park Seo Joon though HAHA.

JOKER YURUSAREZARU SOSAKAN ジョーカー 許されざる捜査官 (2010)

Genre: Crime
Episodes: 10
Viewership Rating: 14.2%
Main Cast: Sakai Masato, Anne, Nishikido Ryo
Synopsis:

“Date Kazuyoshi is a detective on the Kanagawa prefectural police force. During the day, he is known as a “Buddha” for his gentle personality, pouring all of his energy into resolving each case. At night, however, he transforms into a cruel punisher as his gentleness gives way to his anger towards the criminals. The series poses questions about what justice and evil truly are. — Tokyograph

– Taken from DramaWiki

Personal Thoughts: Watched this for Nishikido Ryo – another Johnny’s Entertainment artiste in Kanjani8. He seems to suit the nice guy who is also slightly joker / playboy yet yells justice kind of character. But the main actor Sakai Masato caught my attention more in this drama. The first thing I noticed about him was that his voice was really calm and soothing (I think he can be a seiyuu if he wanted to HAHA). Really liked his character in this series as well.
The ending was really shocking in the sense that the true villain was revealed to be the most unexpected character ever. But yet he had his own reasons for choosing to become the bad guy, so you just can’t seem to be angry at him.

MAOU 魔王 (2008)

Genre: Suspense, Romance
Episodes: 11
Viewership Rating: 11.4%
Main Cast: Ohno Satoshi, Ikuta Toma
Synopsis: 

“Ryo Naruse is known as the “Angelic lawyer”, a very smart lawyer who always manages to alter any case to its advantage. However, he also has another face that nobody knows about. He is in fact, a “Satan” who has been devoting his whole life to seeking revenge on the person who killed his younger brother 11 years ago…

Naoto Serizawa is a fervent detective who has the top crime arresting rate. However, his hate for crimes is so strong that he often causes trouble during investigations. One day, Naoto receives a package containing a tarot card. Few days later, Naoto’s father Eisaku’s lawyer is murdered. At the crime scene, they find the same tarot card that was in the package…

One mystery is followed by another in a series of killings. It is “the” perfect revenge scenario…so perfect that it is almost beautiful.

A confrontation between two people, both with a dark past is about to begin.”

– Taken from AsianWiki

Personal Thoughts: The first thought that popped into my mind after watching this drama was that it totally goes hand in hand with Ouroboros! The ending was totally like a duplicate to Ouroboros – tragic. And yes it’s Ohno Satoshi and Ikuta Toma again. Super dark and twisted storyline where the tagline was evidently ‘Revenge breeds revenge’. And one thing I took away from this series was that although one may claim that he / she is seeking revenge for the sake of someone else, he / she is actually just doing that for his / her own sake in the hopes of easing their guilt and regret. Thinking that they’d have atoned for their sins that way, for something they should’ve done but never did (perhaps due to the lack of courage) back then.
The similarity with Ouroboros ends here though. The other elements of this drama are opposite from Ouroboros. The two main characters in Ouroboros were super close right from the very start, while the two main characters in Maou were in hate relationship. But after that, the two main characters in Maou got to know each other better and finally accepted that they were both actually the same. And thus leading to the same heartbreaking ending.
And I think that tarot cards are really interesting. I’ve always marvelled at how gorgeous their designs and drawings are, as well as the meaning behind very card.

ST AKA TO SHIROU NO SOUSA PAIRE ST 赤と白の捜査ファイル (2014)

Genre: Crime, Mystery
Episodes: 10
Viewership Rating: 11.3%
Main Cast: Fujiwara Tatsuya, Okada Masaki
Synopsis:

“The ST team at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department consists of eccentric members. Akagi works as an analyst on the ST team. He won’t appear in front of others, but his colleagues trust him as a leader. Yurine is tasked to manage the ST team. He experiences difficulties in dealing with the team. Meanwhile, the ST team come into conflict with other detectives at the police department over an indiscriminate gun firing case and a grotesque murder case. This forces Akagi to appear in front others. Akagi and Yurine work together to solve the case.”

– Taken from DramaWiki

Personal Thoughts: Two big-name actors leading the screen for this drama as well. I kept thinking that Fujiwara Tatsuya looks like Ohno Satoshi, but maybe it’s just me. And actually I didn’t know about Okada Masaki until a friend was fangirl-ing to me about him. But anyways, the main characters of this series totally spell bromance – hilariously so. Like how Fujiwara Tatsuya‘s character always makes Okada Masaki‘s character run all his errands for him despite the latter being a superior instead. But it’s nice to see that they never gave up on each other.
Liked seeing the teamwork in solving incomprehensible crimes with the rest of their team members (labelled misfits by the rest of the police force). One of the actors for one of the other members in the team caught my attention. Kubota Masataka – first saw him acting in Joker Yurusarezaru Sosakan as a murderer in one of the episodes and he did a superb job at acting out a mentally unstable criminal. Then now in this drama he acted as a super quiet and shy guy who barely spoke but great at fighting. You can say that he communicates with his fists. So adorable eh I think HAHA. Definitely keeping a lookout for his future shows as well.
A shortcoming of this drama though would definitely be its ending. It was totally a cliffhanger. I know they’re trying to make people watch the sequel film, but this still doesn’t seem to be an appropriate way to end off. But otherwise the storyline is worth watching for and some mind-blowing discoveries made towards the end.

Okay that’s all for the Japanese shows that I’ve completed watching during the duration of summer hols. Doing this post to sort of end off and conclude before the new academic year starts in August. Can’t afford to relax like this during the semester. The next time I’d have time to continue watching would most probably be during winter hols. Below are the list of J dramas that I didn’t complete watching – either because they didn’t seem that appealing to me and so I might be dropping them, or because I just wasn’t in the mood to finish them right now. Plus some sequel films of the above completed series that I may want to watch next. I still have lists of possible titles in my e-mail to sieve through though HAHA.

  • Galileo
  • Bloody Monday
  • Keizoku 2: Spec
  • Kaito Yamaneko
  • CRISIS
  • ATARU The First Love & The Last Kill
  • ST: The Movie
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