After watching the masterpiece ‘Tokyo Sonata‘, I was expecting a lot from this TV series directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. This is clearly a low budget drama series and Kurosawa does what he can with the budget (and ample space!). There are definitely key scenes and overarching sense of dread that Kurosawa fans have grown accustomed to. The camera shots bring me back to the early Kurosawa days, slow and contemplative so much as to make any fan rejoice. Kurosawa’s usage of sound and odd atmospheric background tracks are another stand out trademark of his that no fan will fail to appreciate in “Penance”. The first couple of episodes are such a treat in this sense that it’s easy to miss what blunders the story suffers at first.
The core problem with “Penance” is with it’s writing, where character actions and convictions are vastly unconvincing, and the problems they suffer are so obviously curable it makes you nearly scream. “Penance” treats childish and illogically perceived problems as absolute truths with no answer, then expects the viewer to feel sorry for it’s characters who we are supposed helpless victims.
The characters fail to use any kind of logic, and the entire script bleeds of missed conversational opportunities. Worse is the repeated idea of one’s “Penance” or “atonement” that every character is obsessed with, so much that one is locked up in a mental ward while another commits murder. Whether or not the book does a better job of showing us why this “Penance” is such an important part of these girl’s lives is unknown to me, but these episodes take something that seems almost trivial, and tries to make it out as the main plot device.
Indeed, the problems that the characters face in “Penance” would never be relevant on TV or in a novel outside of Japan. However, the idea that all Japanese enjoy this kind of story telling, or that the issues the characters suffer from are always real problems in Japan is simply untrue. Creating characters who are overcome by grand ideas, repeating illogical one liners, and plagued by overly conceptual thinking is pretentious and boring. It is never well received, and never critically acclaimed even in Japan. As even Kurosawa’s earlier films suggest, there is a home for logic and free thinking in Japan, transcendent of stereotyping and cultural boundaries, “Penance” however, is not it. Here we have a series that is a massive step backwards in story telling, handled “well” by a director who is capable of much more.
After years of disappointment from Hollywood putting out horrible films of this beloved video game franchise, now we have an independent director come and do the film JUSTICE! This was just greatness. I’ve played Street Fighter all my life and now recently have become an even bigger fan because of this movie. Street Fighter Assassins Fist is what the fans have wanted for so long. So why is Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist any different? Why is this particular series able to break the vicious circle of failures?
Well, for a starter, Street Fighter: AF was produced by passionate fans for the fans, but passion is only the starting point. While it is a great driving force, a good script is required and that’s where SFAF shines. For new comers to the franchise, the series presents a well written story that carries an intriguing lore, which gradually reveals itself through each episodes. The premise is simple and focused on two iconic characters; Ryu and Ken. Both learning a mysterious martial art in a secluded part of Japan in the mid 80s. Through each episodes, we get to discover and learn about past students and the darker secrets behind the art. To reinforce the script, we are presented with an incredible selection of actors that really poured their hearts into this production. For fans, the characters were authentic and as real as they could get. Mike Moh and Christian Howard are pretty much the perfect Ryu and Ken. Both can act the part and perform physically. Togo Igawa and Akira Koieyama really felt like masters of an ancient art while still offering a very human side. The careful balance between being a surreal character with a human touch is very hard to maintain but these actors did and it payed off. The intensity of certain scenes could rival some of the best triple A productions out there.
Speaking of authenticity, Street Fighter: AF nails it in pretty much every possible way. From choosing the right shooting location, to the fighting style of each characters to the incredible costumes. Ryu and Ken are in simple words, perfect. Even through the action scenes, the combat stances, special attacks and general movements were simply jaw dropping. As a huge fan of Street Fighter, I couldn’t stop reciting the sequence of every moves such as Ryu performing a great focus attack.
As for the music, usually in independent productions, the music is often very generic and unoriginal. However, I got to say that in this case, the soundtrack is quite good and in most situation, it strongly delivers. For the fans, there’s a few pleasant surprises. On a technical side, the production does contain a few mistakes here and there. Some special effects and editing could have used a bit of additional tweaks but for the most part, these issues are very minor and shouldn’t distract you from the overall experience. In the end, Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist is an incredible independent production that values and respects both fans and new comers alike. It has heart and knows its own limits. The story is focused, the actors are well balanced, the action is short but intense and the overall production is strong.
Season four introduces the notable comic characters Abraham Ford, Eugene Porter, Rosita Espinosa, Bob Stookey, and Lilly, as well as a modified version of the Chambler family from The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor tie-in novel. The season continues the story of former sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes, who relinquished his leadership in order to live a quiet life in contrast to his cold-hearted nature in the previous season. Rick and his fellow survivors struggle to maintain their idealistic lifestyle in the prison in the face of threats, including the proliferation of walkers near the prison gates, the outbreak of a contagious and deadly flu-like infection within the prison population, and the spectre of The Governor, whose whereabouts and status are unknown and, unbeknownst to the prison community, is planning his revenge upon meeting a new family and rallying a new army. The second half of the season mainly focuses on the individual groups that escaped from the prison after its downfall, and their efforts to survive as they follow a line of railroad tracks to a supposed safe zone named Terminus.
The first episode showed us some of the changes to the prison, introduced new characters. To many this can seem kind of slow, but it didn’t bother me any. When Rick was talking to the creepy lady in the forrest I do admit that it wasn’t the brightest part of the episode. But it showed us how some people are living this far into the ZA. When it got to the Big Spot scene, it really kept me on the edge. The scene involved walkers falling through the roof, a new character being stuck, and eventually the death of another different new character. Which surprisingly his death gave me a chill, maybe it was because we haven’t seen a good walker death scene in awhile, or maybe it was the combination of the chaos and how fast they killed him. Either way I found it pretty good. Then the death of Patrick alone increased my anticipation for the next episode and the desire to find out whats going on. This episode hit 16.1 million viewers, which I agree that quality always beats quanity. But the show is entertaining to alot of people. And if they can find joy in it, then why are people so harsh to bring it down? Its like no one has anything better to do than bash other TV shows. I know it is a review website, but “critics” need to give it an actual review instead of saying “the series is so overrated so Im gonnagive it lowest score” Seriously? Just cause something is popular and overated doesn’t make it terrible. There are plotholes, just like in every TV series and every Movie (some more than others). But if your gonna just watch the show to scan for plotholes instead of actually enjoy the show, then just don’t watch it in fact don’t watch any show because you will just ruin it for yourself.
The story just continues with the same characters who continue to live in the prison and fight zombies. It’s getting stale and the thrill of fighting the zombies isn’t there anymore because they are always hanging around the prison, it was better when they were suddenly “surprised” by them. Another thing which is disappointing is that they are so loyal to the characters now so they have added 30 new characters which we don’t know much about but they are either getting killed or sick so when they kill them off I don’t see why we would even care for a character we have been introduced to for 15 minutes. I don’t know what this show will pick up because I have just lost interest but will continue to be loyal in watching it, just because I have come this far in. There are so many better shows out there at this point so it’s disappointing. Maybe I’m done with the prison, maybe I’m not ready to accept Rick being a passive follower, and maybe there are just too many characters to follow. Yes, it’s all of those, but they all pale in comparison to the biggest problem I see: the virus. A show as viscerally, violently entertaining as this CANNOT resort to a virus as its menacing threat. It is just too boring… Many people complained about the farm in season 2, and its slower paced storytelling, but this is lurching along so slowly that they’ll need 10 episodes to move past with it….too long.
The Walking Dead has never been the best tv show, but it some truly spectacular episodes like Days gone by and Killer Within that show what the could be if it tried. I not am saying that the other episodes are really bad, in fact they are pretty good. The 1st episode of the 4th season while most people will hate on for not adding more to the plot, is more a glimpse at the daily lives of the groups, to know that when true conflict starts, why the hell they are so tense and what they consider to be their current “normal” lives. It was never about zombies, it is a character study of the best kind. The final episode, “A”, was an effective finale. It makes me hope for a big improvement in Season 5. The Walking Dead remains as one of those shows were every cent of production shows up on screen, but I’m not convinced the show will be able to survive on a long-term basis. The writers want us to think if the characters can come back from what they’ve done in the past. Perhaps the better question is whether or not the writers can come back and save a show that seems destined for mediocrity.
Season 3 has finally arrived on home video and Walking Dead fans are sure to be pleased. This season did an excellent job of phasing characters in and out with maximum emotional impact, and provided a gradual simmer-to-a-boil chess match between the heroes and a radicalized group of survivors. You struggle through the moral dilemmas with them, wondering what you would or should do in this new world where “right” and “wrong” has been turned upside down. The characters develop so differently in response to all the things they go through; you wonder what might emerge in yourself, qualities or demons that lie dormant because there is no need in an orderly world. Each season is so different because life would be constantly changing as you adapt over time. New viewers must start from the beginning to appreciate the evolution of the characters and their situation. .I won’t lie: I was hoping for the big, dramatic showdown between Rick and the Governor. Instead, The Walking Dead’s Season 3 finale ended on a mixed note, part tragic and part hopeful. As a season finale, I’m not sure this works. The last five or six episodes of the show have been all about rising tension. The drama, the stakes of the game, the whole arms race between Woodbury and the prison, all of it has built up to a breaking point, spilling over last week with Merle’s suicide run against the Governor and his men.
But, let’s go back, shall we? In season 2, many complained about the lack of action and violence. That all changes in Season 3. The monotonous killings may please gore hounds, but you’ll soon long for the big picture questions that separate “Dead” from most other zombie offerings. The season still holds plenty of potential even with the show dumping some red meat out for the base.
Another great moment of season 3 is the mid-season. Take the sixth episode of the season, titled “Hounded.” The episode begins with Merle and three of his Woodbury cronies chasing after Michonne in the woods. Planning to not let her get away, Michonne surprises the group by dropping out of the trees and slaying two of the men immediately. Michonne quickly escapes from Merle, but gets shot in the leg in the process. The hunt continues after the credits, but Michonne is the one doing the hunting. She wants to put an end to Merle and his last partner, a new recruit that the Governor wants Merle to teach the ropes to. But on Michonne’s second attack, she is unable to kill either men and barely escapes a zombie attack in the process. She cuts the stomach open on one of the geeks and has herself covered in walker guts as she scrambles to escape again. When Merle decides that the pair of men will head back to Woodbury and claim that they killed Michonne, the other man says he wants to hunt her down and end it for real. But Merle won’t have that. He pulls out his gun, and takes down his last Woodbury partner in cold blood.
Part of the problem with the zombie apocalypse, is that it has been told before. The great thing that this show does is tells the story of the people, just trying to survive. It isn’t about putting bullets into as many zombies as possible, or why it happened in the first place. First and foremost, it is a story about people put into a horrible situation. We watch as they either rise up to be great and just people, or sink down into the darkness and become the most vile human beings imaginable. But it isn’t always black and white, good and bad. Sometimes the best this group of survivors can hope for, is the moral grey. “The Walking Dead” isn’t afraid to sic walkers on some of the main characters to keep us guessing. It’s one of many reasons why “The Walking Dead” isn’t like any other show on television.
Andrew Lincoln is one of the greatest new actors I’ve seen in years and the rest of the cast that are still alive are almost as good. I hate to be another one of the complainers but I thought the season finale was terrible, the episode with Merle and Michone was fantastic. The season was just too inconsistent, and when you have to wait a week to see 45 minutes worth of your favorite T.V. series, it’s a let down. But fortunately, you don’t have to wait week-to-week anymore with this set! Having seen The Walking Dead seasons 1 and 2, season 3 was incredible! However, without watching the earlier seasons, this latest season would lose some of its entertainment value. Season 3 further built the characters, showing their toughness amidst the world changing around them. There was enough action to satisfy the intent of the show, yet, enough drama to add a delightful human touch to the show. Finale aside, this is the best show on television next to Breaking Bad. This set comes highly recommended.
- Audio Commentaries: Director Guy Ferland and Actor IronE Singleton for “Killer Within;” Director/Co-Executive Producer/Special Effects Make-Up Artist Greg Nicotero and Actor Danai Gurira for “Say the Word;” Executive Producer/Writer Robert Kirkman, Executive Producers David Alpert and Gale Anne Hurd, and Actor Danai Gurira for “Made to Suffer;” Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd and Actor Danai Gurira for “The Suicide King;” and Director/Co-Executive Producer/Special Effects Make-Up Artist Greg Nicotero and Actor Michael Rooker for “This Sorrowful Life.”
- Rising Son (HD, 6:47): A look at casting Chandler Riggs and the character’s arc through the series and in season three in particular.
- Evil Eye (HD, 7:54): An examination of “The Governor,” including the character traits and dichotomy between the Woodbury exterior and the dark interior. It also highlights the character’s evolution and David Morrissey’s performance.
- Gone, But Not Forgotten (HD, 8:14): A piece that focuses on the death of a character, death scene makeup and prosthetics, and the emotional on-set and on-screen feelings surrounding the death.
- Heart of a Warrior (HD, 8:25): This featurette examines Michonne, including Danai Gurira’s performance, her conflict with Merle, and her deeper character traits.
- Michonne vs. The Governor (HD, 5:13): A closer look into one of the season’s driving conflicts with emphasis on the making of one scene.
- Safety Behind Bars (HD, 9:44): Cast and crew discuss the prison location, the prison’s place in the show, and the process of constructing the set and the amount of detail that went into making it.
- Making the Dead (HD, 8:06): A detailed focus on zombie construction and the visual effects that support their “lives” and “deaths,” both practical and digital.
- Guts and Glory (HD, 7:42): A look at additional character deaths.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 13:20): Scenes from “Walk With Me,” “Say the Word,” “Hounded,” “Home,” “I Ain’t No Judas,” and “Clear.”
If you have ever played a Dragon Quest / Dragon Warrior game you are going to want to pay extra attention. Yuusha Yoshihiko to Maou no Shiro is a low-budget TV drama/unabashed comedic parody of the classic game series, and even received the OK from Square Enix to use the game’s well-known monsters and make all kinds of direct references. However, this is not a show which can only be enjoyed by fans of these specific games. I myself have only played one or two of the games like 10 years ago, but that did not stop me from enjoying this to the fullest. If you have ever played any RPG at all you will certainly catch 95% of the jokes, so there’s no worries there.
The story takes place in a Japanese medieval-like fantasy setting where various scary (and not-so-scary) monsters roam the land, and bandits are aplenty. Lately the number of monsters has risen and a village boy named Yoshihiko is called upon to set forth on an epic quest to travel to the castle of Maou, the evil magician who seems to be responsible, and stop him. It doesn’t take long into the first episode to notice that the show follows cliché Japanese RPG traditions, but constantly plays around with, and makes fun of them. An example is having random villagers repeating the same line over and over, or walking into a person’s house and smashing a whole bunch of big jars, and walking away. Most gamers have at least once wondered “what if this happened in the real world, it would be truly ridiculous” and that’s exactly what is hilariously portrayed here.
Yuusha Yoshihiko would not be a proper J-RPG spoof if the main character didn’t have a party. In the first episode Yoshihiko quickly rounds up a threesome of companions to join him on his quest. First off, there’s Danjo, a rugged sword-carrying man who is often the most serious person in the team but has a weak spot for pretty women. Secondly, there’s the knife-wielding Murasaki, a girl who’s tough on the outside but still sweet and girly on the inside. She is of course secretly in love with Yoshihiko, but he is blind to it. Murasaki often squabbles with the third of Yoshihiko’s companions: Merebu, the magician. He walks around with a staff and frequently learns new spells completely at random but they are rarely useful in battle. He doesn’t learn fireballs or healing spells but instead spells like “Sweets”, making the enemy crave sugary food. In addition, at the end of every episode there’s a quick appearance of Yoshihiko’s sister Hisa, who tries to keep an eye on Yoshihiko but seems to be having her own adventures behind the scenes.
Without a doubt my favorite character of the show, and perhaps any comedy show ever made, Japanese or American, is Hotoke-sama. He is a Buddha who appears in the clouds to provide Yoshihiko with wise guidance. The problem is, all he does is give vague clues and spends most of the time trying to be funny by doing silly impersonations. In every single episode Hotoke’s appearances are my favorite moments but doesn’t mean he shoulders the entire show. Even without him in it Yuusha Yoshihiko to Maou no Shiro would still be worth watching. Being aware of the references made to the Dragon Quest games will only add to the fun, but as a mentioned before, it is not a prerequisite. The show uses its low budget and perfectly casted actors practically to stuff each episode full of gags and it really never gets boring. At the time of writing this the second season (Yuusha Yoshihiko to Akuryo no Kagi) is actually well-underway, and because of its low production costs and high DVD sales this show might have a bright future ahead of it as its cult-following keeps growing. If you like comedy you’ll like this, and if you’re a gamer you will love it.
Bokura no Yuki Mimantoshi also known as The Kids are in Charge is a fantastic older Japanese drama. Just as Yaksha was my favorite Korean drama The Kids are in Charge now ranks in at my favorite Japanese drama. I loved everything about this series so I’ll try my best not to gush over it too much in this review but no promises. It has sci-fi, mystery, semi-post-apocalyptic wrapped up in a dark story that touches on themes of survival, totalitarian government, media manipulation, exploitation and relationships. For comparison it’s very similar to Lord of The Flies with a bit of Battle Royale (two classics!). It’s a dark story but it’s mature enough in tone that it’s pulled off extremely well.
After hearing of a devastating earthquake strikes in Makuhara, 18 year-old Yamato (Domoto Koichi), leaves to Makuhara to find his friend Kiichi who lives in the area. Promising his girlfriend he will return soon. Along the way Yamato meets Takeru (Domoto Tsuyoshi), who is also traveling to Makuhara as a volunteer in the relief effort and to rescue his sister who lives in Makuhara. However, when the two finally arrive at Makuhara they are shocked to find that the city, which is under government lock down, is intact and is being run internally by children. Yuri (Hosho Mai) an awesome nihilistic girl the two meet reveals that a meteor crashed in Makuhara and with it a mysterious virus resulted in the deaths of all the adults ( above age 19). Children must fend for themselves in the city, some chose to rebuild their society in a manner reflecting their old world some just choose to survive. The government offers very little in terms of support there is an irregular schedule for food drops but it’s not enough.
The interesting angle of the show was how the kids survived in the new world they inhabit. Some just try and survive not thinking of others and some of them try and work together. It’s a good character study I haven’t seen played around with too much in TV. The Walking Dead has some of these themes but I think it’s taken more seriously in this show because in that one it’s too easy for everyone to work together. How would you survive in this world with no rules? I liked that some of the kids didn’t want to work together even fighting with others for food. Brute force and manipulation are the only weapons left at anyone’s disposal and its interesting to see exactly how far the kids (keep in mind KIDS) would go to get what they want. It was pretty shocking sometimes when blood is spilled but it can be even more so when those best at manipulation decide they want something.
The characters are what sell this show; you want to see what they will do. Yamato rallies a small group that want to work together and he becomes very close to them. Yuri is my favorite she’s just awesome she has a gun and a small knife and forces her will on people mostly by taking whatever she wants. There are about 60 kids left and you get to know a lot of them so you get to see many different personalities and survival techniques interact. I really liked Takeru and Yamato’s partnership. They played off each other well, Takeru was really smart and intuitive and understood group dynamics well, using this skill he was able to try and stay one step ahead of what others were likely to do. Their partnership led to a variety of endearing moments as they become better friends they even share some comedic moments to break the tension.
There’s also a subplot about the government controlling the media and it becomes clear that nobody on the outside knows what’s really happening in Makuhara. But after a while it seems they are protecting an even bigger secret when they cut off all supplies to the kids. There’s also tension because the microbe only kills those 19 and older and Yamato is getting close to his birthday. The soundtrack and score also work impressively to immerse you in this cut throat world. I really loved this show the characters the set up and the side plots all come together in an impressive ten episodes. It’s a dark complex story with a lot working for it I’d suggest finding it.
Kaibutsu-kun is a fantasy comedy series that aired in 2010 staring Ohno Satoshi as the titular Kaibutsu-kun. It’s an odd series to say the least I am not sure who the demographic was exactly. Based off a manga of the same name it involves the prince of Monster Land Kaibutsu-kun being forced from his home of luxury and spend some time in the human realm. The interesting twist? His own father the current king of Monster Land sent him there to rot until he matures. Alongside him he has representatives from the other monster clans which include Dracula played by Yashima Norito , Ueshima Ryuhei as Werewolf, and Choi Hong Man as Franken. The monsters are reflections of the classic monsters and they share very similar traits we would recognize from their respective lore. Together they are trapped in human world until he “helps the humans and grows up”. It’s honestly a very mediocre show, I expected more because the characters are all unique but story wise there is not very much to brag about.
Once in Human world Kaibutsu-kun comes across a bullied young boy, Ichikawa Hiroshi (Hamada Tatsuomi). Hiroshi doesn’t have any friends because he lies quite a bit and he has a reputation of being untrustworthy. He befriends the monsters and with the help of his sister Ichikawa Utako (Kawashima Umika) they all grow and learn from each other. Each episode Kaibutsu-kun deals with a new concept something humans take for granted and he experiences all the ups and downs with it. For instance he is introduced to the concept of money and he initially just blows a lot of money he found, but over the episode he has to learn the meaning of hard work and earning a pay check… Yeah real riveting stuff. Another one deals with why lying to people is bad and one where we learn to respect the elderly.
While the day to day episode plots are boring and just clichéd fish out of water stories everyone has seen a million times, there is a very interesting overarching subplot. A third world called Demon realm is rising in power with their ultimate ambition to take over all three worlds and unite them under their rule. The Demons headed by Demorina (Inamori Izumi) work each episode to manipulate humans and gain their souls. When they have enough souls they believe they can resurrect an old demon leader who would crush the armies of Monster land. That would have made for a much more interesting story; these guys should have been the main characters! Their plots are semi successful and they are featured in most every episode but always in the background unfortunately.
The characters we do get prominently are actually cool even though their plots are dull. My favorite would be Dracula. He’s the most knowledgeable about our world having “sampled our culture before”. He has some good scenes with Kaibutsu-kun where he explains hard truths such as love or death. He also has very comedic scenes with the other two. He’s no Christopher Lee but he’s a decent Dracula. Ichikawa Hiroshi is another character that helped the series I enjoyed his development. He was never the typical perfect kid you see in most dramas he has major ups and downs and even points where he does things that are flat out wrong. His development mirror Kaibutsu-kun in some interesting ways and their friendship was the anchor the show needed. Ohno Satoshi is an excellent actor and it’s almost sad to see him take this role as seriously as he does, he’s far and beyond the best actor involved and everyone else looks to be just hamming it up.
The structure of each episode is very typical they really didn’t want to step to far out of this fish out of water learning/growing box witch I think weakened my experience. I mean it has by far the most insane premise I have ever encountered in a drama, and if you watch for a few minutes I think you’ll agree the mixture of monsters, demons, sets and costumes is really unique. But they take that idea and slowly water it down to a mediocre execution. The first episode is the best the others didn’t leave too much of an impression on me. I think this show is worth giving a try if you go in with the right mindset of a played for laughs comedy but again I did lose interest by the end.
Maiden detective Park Haesol (aka Little Detective Girl) is a miniseries that came out of Korea in 2012. Lasting only four episodes it’s a really quirky drama with an interesting premise and likable characters. It manages to have a quick but follow able pace. I don’t generally don’t follow too many K-dramas but this one really held my interest. Mostly it’s a detective comedy but there are some heavy drama portions. It stars Nam Ji Hyun as Park Hae Sol as the titular amateur detective an orphan. Kim Joo Young plays Choi Tae Pyung Park’s police officer friend and Lee Min Woo as Yoo Seok Won a special prosecutor for the city also star in it. Park Haesol works as a pet shop employee and is an introverted young lady who always wears a bizarre set of sunglasses. She is really good at reading people and understanding their motives and she also has a secret, she can see people’s emotions in the form of colors across their face. The glasses block out the colors which have gotten her in trouble in the past. A mystery conspiracy unfolds as she investigates the suspicious events of her father’s death 6 years earlier.
The story is quick to introduce all the characters in the first episode as a seemingly random event unites them all in an attempt to solve a mystery. The introduction of Park Haesol and officer Choi’s first meeting is really endearing and they share a nice friendship. After butting heads with the district attorney and several other lawyers Park Hae sol manages to solve the mystery no one else could. But she unearths something surprising in the process. The evidence makes Park Haesol believe her father (whom she had believed had died in an accident) was murdered. Over the next three episodes Park Haesol begins to unravel a conspiracy of people involved in her father’s death teaming up with officer Choi and others and she must decide who she can trust and who she can’t before it’s too late.
The characters of Maiden Detective Park Haesol are all pretty interesting and they all serve a purpose whether to help Park Haesol or to hurt her investigation. I loved Nam Ji Hyun as Park Hae Sol she was just an awesome character and very quick witted in her delivery. You can see her gears turning as she tries to figure out each situation and her snappy comebacks were always entertaining. Her friendship with officer Choi centered the show and their little adventures each episode were the best part. While I liked what officer Choi represented his characterization was a little off. He was just really over the top and added some unnecessary comic relief. Yoo Seok Won the prosecutor was really cool and he was the only one who really matched Park Haesol in wits so any scene they shared kept my attention. I liked that Yoo Seok Won happened to be a friend of her father during the time he was murdered so there was always a tenseness surrounding whether or not he was helping her.
The series is pretty good but I always enjoy a good conspiracy so I may be biased. The only complaint I really had with the series was that the tone changes drastically with almost no transition. One second we will have a comedy scene followed by a man burning down his house with his family inside. The characters are interesting enough to hold the series and the episodes are structured pretty well with each episode getting more intense.
- Overall a pretty suspenseful ride starts off a little bizarre with an older woman crying about a dead pet and then proceeding to strangle another lady.
- A really good episode with many twists and turns revolving around whether or not Choi can continue to be an officer after some major infractions.
- This was my favorite episode something changes the plot in a major way every few minutes.
- I feel as if the conclusion was a little drawn out but it didn’t end in typical fashion.
I truly have a love/hate relationship with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. While adoring his ‘Bright Future’ and ‘Tokyo Sonata’, some of his other acclaimed works such as; ‘Pulse’, ‘Cure’, and ‘Barren Illusions’ didn’t sit right with me. Even though he certainly mastered the art of creating a bleak and dark atmosphere early on, I’m sorry to say these three films felt extremely boring to me despite all having an interesting outline. There’s a fine line between an intriguingly calm pace and being slow as hell, and since the aforementioned two films I did love are his more recent ones, it seems Kurosawa started treading the right side of this line about ten years ago. When I found out he was going to direct a dark television drama I started getting cautiously excited. When I heard it would be based on a Kanae Minato novel, writer of the book the amazing 2010 film Kokuhaku/Confessions was based on, I was kind of thrilled. But when I discovered a star-studded cast list, helmed by Kyôko Koizumi, my expectations went through the roof.
Having high expectations can sometimes ruin a film or series for you, but when they end up actually delivering, it feels extremely satisfying. Thankfully enough, Shokuzai (meaning Atonement) definitely delivered. The core story does not stray too far from Kokuhaku; a mother loses her young child through a tragedy. The manner and time span in which this is handled differs significantly though. In Shokuzai, a little girl named Emiri is lured away from playing with her friends by a suspicious man. After a while the other four girls start looking for her, and horribly enough discover only her dead body in the school gym. Emiri’s mother Asako (Kyôko Koizumi) is devastated and obviously wants to find the person responsible. The police investigation, however, doesn’t get anywhere, mainly because none of the girls claims to remember what the man looked like. Asako has a personal sit-down with them and demands that they MUST know, but nobody speaks up. Asako then makes them promise that they will somehow atone for this sin of not being able to help Emiri, cursing them in a way.
This is the first part of the first episode, which moves on to set up the structure for the rest of the series. In each of the first four episodes we follow the lives of one of Emiri’s friends, 15 years after the murder, and observe the ways in which the incident influenced their lives and personalities. 1st up is Sae (Yû Aoi), a timid young lady who is introduced to a very gentle and patient man who seems perfect for her. Soon enough after their wedding the perfect appearance starts to break down bit by bit and the guy’s dark side emerges. In the 2nd episode we focus on Maki (Eiko Koike), who has become a teacher at a high school, and is unpopular for being extremely strict. She also gets a little too involved with the case of a girl who’s being bullied, although having merely good intentions, inciting the anger of many parents at the school.
At some point a strange man is seen hanging around the school, leading to a surprising situation, with even more exceptional repercussions. In number 3, Akiko (Sakura Andô) is shown having already had a very unhealthy home environment before Emiri’s death, which was enforced by the incident. At present we see her as a very withdrawn person, mostly holed up in her room like a borderline hikikomori. The one good thing in her life seems to be her relationship with her brother, but this takes a suspicious turn for the worse as the episode progresses. In the 4th episode Yuka (Chizuru Ikewaki) at first appears as a very sweet and vulnerable girl, but halfway through the episode it is revealed that she’s quite the manipulative one, getting involved with her sister’s lover and dealing with the scars of a tough past in a highly assertive way. Near the end of each of the four episodes is a short appearance by Asoko, coming into contact with the girls separately once again, in some manner discussing the way in which they Atoned for their past sin. The 5th and final episode focuses on her, and her everlasting struggle with the loss of Emiri 15 years ago. Still wanting for revenge, her recent interactions with the girls gave her some clues, and it all builds up to a finale.
The structure of this show, for one, makes it quite remarkable. Every episode feels like a short movie on its own, even though they all undoubtedly work as a whole. Each of the women were affected by the tragedy (and the promise made to Asoko) in different ways, and all of them are confronted by peculiar men in their current lives, some of which might or might not actually tie in with the identity of Emiri’s murderer in some manner. Every viewer will have their personal favorite (mine being the first, Sae’s) episode, but all of them are definitely great. I must say, however, that the final episode perhaps did feel like the lesser one despite Koizumi’s amazing performance, but this doesn’t mar my overall appreciation for the whole.
I was pleased to see Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s fingerprint all over Shokuzai, but most of all in the visual aspect. Most of the time he uses a grayish filter to make it all appear more austere and bleak, and especially in the first and fourth episodes this works pure magic to reflect the characters’ inner psyches. All the actresses perform as convincingly as can be expected, and as icing on the cake there are appearances by the awesome Ryo Kase and Teruyuki Kagawa. All in all Shokuzai is impressive, having only five episodes it’s short and sweet, and quite obviously a tv show made by a film director. A great tv show, made by a great film director.