Based on Umino Chika’s popular manga this live-action drama production of Hachimitsu to Clover (Honey and Clover) has got to be one of the most reviled Japanese dramas I have ever had the displeasure in watching. Instead of an insightful pastiche of intertwining love triangles what we have here is almost ten hours of turgidly paced schlock filled with grating characters who waffle in the wind at every turn including a lead in Takemoto Yuta (Ikuta Toma) whose inability to say his true feelings is so ponderous that you wish you could reach into your television set and strangle him with your own two hands at his sheer stupidity.
Hanazakari no Kimitachi e (For You in Full Blossom) is one of those shows which surprises at nearly every turn a monumental feat considering that the series straddles the thin razor’s edge between sanity and total outright lunacy. To say that the comedy is broad is the understatement of the year as some of the wit seems to have been written by a psychotic clown. Yet the show plainly works on so many levels even though it often teeters at the edge of total chaos and kudos goes to the cast most of which seem to have invented the phrase “hamming it up.”
Gal Circle is a totally off the wall Japanese comedy series filled with a cornucopia of Native American stereotypes that would normally spell doom for Western viewers but is ultimately saved by the fact that everything is so incredibly light-hearted that political correctness is rendered moot. It also helps that it features three up and coming young actresses and a bevy of scantily dressed girls who bounce around the screen dancing para para in almost every episode. However, that is not to say that feminists will be up in arms since the series ultimately preaches strong family values albeit with modern sensibilities and most of these characters are merely misunderstood and lacking direction rather than being dumb as a doorpost.
Although it runs for far too long Proposal Daisakusen (Operation Love) has just enough of a twist narrative to keep viewers somewhat entertained. The premise is about as believable as pigs flying with science fiction / fantasy stylings that don’t particularly make a whole lot of sense yet the general air of romance that permeates every episode is especially welcome to fans of the genre.
With Taiyou No Uta we’re once again subjected to yet another “dying girl” drama where everyone watching is expected to reach for tissue paper and give up loud sobs as the girl’s condition begins to deteriorate leading to her eventual demise. Although the girl is ill her inherent charm, good nature and unflinching self-confidence that rises to the occasion to remain honourable in the face of death ultimately inspires everyone around her to live their lives to the fullest. Clearly, in terms of originality this show is running in the negatives.
Kurosagi (The Black Swindler) is an amusing Japanese drama that dares to be a bit different by following Western television series that focus on episodic storylines instead of serialized plots that weave through the whole season. The show’s formulaic format does eventually wear out its welcome as subplots begin to grind as the season progresses yet there’s enough here to recommend especially if you are a fan of either leads, Yamashita Tomohisa and Horikita Maki who make the rote narratives more enjoyable than they should be.