Archive for ‘Films/Dramas’

August 26, 2011

Kim Tae-hee to play a leading role in Japanese drama

Kim Tae-hee to play a leading role in Japanese drama

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kim Tae-hee is to play a leading role in a Japanese drama series called “Boku to Star no 99 Nichi” (99 Days of Me and My Star) and this once more shows the influence of South Korean entertainment in Japan.  A host of South Korean dramas have been shown in Japan in recent times and now more and more music groups from this nation are hitting the headlines in Japan.

Kim Tae-hee is elegant, stylish, highly intelligent and extremely beautiful.  The new drama, Boku to Star no 99 Nichi, is reported to share similar themes with Notting Hill which was a hit film from the United Kingdom. Obviously, cultural differences, plot lines, and other realities, mean that Boku to Star no 99 Nichi will be very different from Notting Hill but the angle is within the feel.

My Princess and Iris opened up Japan to Kim Tae-hee because both South Korean dramas built up a strong fan base for this talented lady. Therefore, while this will be her first time in a Japanese drama it is crystal clear that her fans will be waiting for her debut drama in Japan.

Kim Tae-hee will play a role whereby she falls in love with a down to earth Japanese man. The plot therefore is clearly similar to Notting Hill and Han Yu-na (Kim Tae-hee) who is the famous Korean actress in the drama will highlight the passions of two individuals who hail from different walks of life. 

Nishijima Hidetoshi is the Japanese actor that she will be passionate about in the drama. Therefore, everything seems set up for this drama to make impact and it is a great start for Kim Tae-hee to ease her way into Japanese dramas and perhaps further afield in the future.

Tensions still persist because of history and recent demonstrations against Fuji TV in Tokyo and the usual territorial dispute is a reminder that nothing is plain sailing. However, for most viewers in Japan who watch this drama it will be nothing more than a romantic drama and the fans of Kim Tae-hee will get another chance to see their favorite actress.

The plot line is not the most sophisticated but neither was Notting Hill but if the drama can build up passion, sense of humor, uncertainty and other angles, then her fans will be happy and hopefully Kim Tae-hee will grow in even more popularity in Japan.

The drama will hit television and be aired in October this year on Fuji TV.

June 7, 2011

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


Japanese animation is rich and varied and Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day) is full of promise because the storyline is very emotional and the main characters are a mixed bag of individuals. 

This animation series is currently being shown and it began to be aired in the middle of April this year.  Tatsuyuki Nagai, the director, is clearly creative and the series shows you the development of each character and is based on a tragic event which took place during their childhood.

It is about the closeness of six children who have strong bonds until the tragic death of one of the children called Meiko “Menma” Honma.  After this event they drift apart and Jinta Yadomi desires to shut the world out.

Therefore, Jinta Yadomi begins to develop hikikomori symptons because he is very reclusive and the future looks grim because he is trapped by the past.  However, one day during the hot summer an individual called Menma appears and after this things begin to change because Menma resembles an adult Meiko if she had lived.

Jinta is the main male character because before the tragedy struck he was full of life and the leader of the Super Peace Busters.  However, the death of Meiko and his mother changes everything and his world becomes based on staying at home, sleeping, withdrawing himself from society and playing video games.

It is also apparent that Jinta had deep feelings for Meiko despite suppressing his feelings when they were children. 

Menma becomes a turning point because when she appears in his life he starts to come out of his shell.  However, rather than seeing Menma to be a ghost he believes that Menma is a reality of his stress. Therefore, Jinta starts to re-connect with people whom he once held so dearly in his life.

The main female in the series is clearly Meiko Honma and she is of mixed blood but despite knowing clearly about her death her thinking is different.  For instead of feeling bleak and full of morose she is very outgoing when she re-connects with Jinta.

Meiko cherishes her memories and holds them dearly unlike Jinta who collapsed internally and withdrew from society.  This paradox also makes the series tick because it is full of emotion and focuses on real life issues and how they alter people differently.

Despite aging naturally it is clear that Meiko uses language which is caught up with the time of her death.  Meiko still retains the same dress that she had on the fatal day which took her life. 

Only Jinta can see Meiko but in the series her nickname is used and Menma (Meiko) does at times feel sad, despite trying to hide this from Jinta.  This applies to the fact that her friends and family can‘t visually see Meiko.

However, Meiko can interact in the world because she can play video games, cook, eat, and so forth.  Also, people can feel something even if they don’t understand what it is and later in the series this theme is developed. Therefore, others begin to understand when Meiko writes in her dairy and makes a noise after deliberately dropping it on the floor in order to get their attention. 

Naruko is also a very interesting character because she hides her true feelings and concerns for Jinta.  Also, her feelings for Meiko are complex because on the one hand she admired her but on the other hand she was jealous.

In truth, every character is different and fascinating and they have all reacted to their childhood in different ways. 

If you really like animation which is based on real emotions then Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai will appeal greatly to you.

Also, if you are on the border line where only famous animation like Spirited Away is part of your knowledge; then Ano Hi Mita no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai will appeal to you. 

It is very rewarding to watch and full of emotion.  (Good introduction)  (English music – nice)  (Song by Mads Langer )

March 5, 2011

Grave of the Fireflies and the brutality of war

Grave of the Fireflies and the brutality of war

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies is a very moving animation film which focuses on the innocence of children and the brutality of war.  It is a film which blends into reality and it is easy to forget that it is an animation film because the two main characters are full of humanity and you feel their huge highs and tragic lows at all times.

In many ways I believe that Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka) is in a class of its own because from start to finish you can see the reality of war.  More important, it is not overtly sentimental from any nationalistic point of view and it does not portray victor or vanquished in any harsh light.

Instead it based on the strong bond between brother and sister and how they both try to endure the reality of war but not losing their childhood glee from rare moments of joy and fresh hope.

The film was written and directed by Isao Takahata and it was produced by Shinchosha, while production work was done by Studio Ghibli. The animation film is based on the novel by Akiyuki Nosaka which shares the same name. Nosaka fuses the novel with the reality of what happened to him and his family during this tragic period but changes the theme and direction of the two main characters.

The Grave of the Fireflies was intended as a heartfelt and sincere apology to the author’s sister who tragically died from sickness. This fact is clear because the passion of the characters and how the events unfolded could only have been written and expressed by someone who experienced such wrenching times.

Full credit must be given to Isao Takahata because even grown adults will do well not to cry or to feel the tragic loss near the end when the plot unfolds. 

Also, Isao Takahata shows the simple beauty of nature and the animation reminds us of a time when the simple things in life offered so much and this is often lost in today’s world of commercialization.

More intriguing, is that the animation film does not have to turn to any ideology or to provide evidence of who is right or wrong.  Instead, it is about two young children who are fighting against terrible adversity and how moments of rare treasure lights up their world.

The film also highlights the innocence of civilians and when people focus on anti-German sentiments or anti-Japanese sentiments during this period of history; it is worth remembering the millions of innocent Japanese and German people, and all other nationalities in a multitude of conflicts, who have been brushed aside by historians or the media.

Yes, we know that innocents are always killed in war but this film focuses on the inhumanity of war and of human nature.  For the adversity that these two children face is not just the threat of allied bombings and the destruction that unfolds; but the film also shows the inhumanity of other family members who cared little about these two children. It also highlights the neglect of the Japanese people by their own government who could not understand the reality of what had befallen the people of Japan.

The film is based on the pre-teen Seita and Setsuko, his younger sister, and how he strives to protect her once they become orphaned.  From the start you see Seita in Sannomiya Station and he is dying of starvation and in a terrible condition.  Then a janitor just prods Seita and throws out a candy tin containing what he holds dear because inside the tin was ashes and bones. 

After this the spirit of Setsuko and Seita are released and a cloud of fireflies can be seen.  From this starts the story and Seita’s spirit then narrates the tragic events which unfolded during this brutal period and you have a flashback to the Kobe fire-bombings and the ending of World War Two.

Straight away the symbol of America’s power can be seen and this applies to B-29s and while the children escape, their mother who is already sick is injured severely during the bombing raid and shortly afterwards she dies from terrible burns.

Now their world is turned upside down but Seita focuses his energy on protecting Setsuko.  Their options are now severely limited because they have been abandoned and they are in the midst of a brutal war.  Therefore, Seita hopes to find solace with their aunt but in time she turns out to be a cold hearted lady and instead of feeding and caring for the children, she forces Seita to sell many things and in time the only thing left is a small tin of fruit drops.

The tin of fruit drops often props up in the film and the coldness of their aunt turns into major resentment and clearly she believes that Seita and Setsuko are a burden.  Therefore, they leave and move into an abandoned bomb shelter and for light they find fireflies and fill their dark world with the beautiful light of nature.

However, the beautiful life of nature dies quickly and Setsuko is mortified when she finds out that all the fireflies have died.  Their brief moment of joy ends all too quickly and Setsuko painfully asks Seita why the fireflies had to die and why her mother had to die.

Now their life is full of despair and anguish but Seita remains strong despite the light of Setsuko fading all too quickly.  Seita is now forced to steal crops and loot abandoned homes during fresh bombing attacks but once he is caught then the desperation he faces grips him and in one last throw of the dice he takes Setsuko to see a doctor.

However, just like the American bombers which did not care about life and death or just like the Japanese military who did not care about the innocents they killed; then the same inhumanity and hopelessness is found in the doctor because he offers no solution or compassion.  The doctor just ushers in a blunt statement that Setsuko is suffering from malnutrition and he provides no comfort or remedy.

Seita then hears about Japan’s unconditional surrender but for Setsuko the darkness of death is getting closer.  When Seita returns to the shelter he finds Setsuko hallucinating because she thinks that she is sucking on fruit drops and despite Seita’s deep care and love it is all too late because Setsuko dies of starvation.

After this Seita cremates Setsuko, the sister he cherishes and cares deeply about, and he puts her ashes into the fruit tin which he carries and this, along with a photo of his father, and the memories of his mother; is all that remains of a life which is soon to fade because his candle is now very weak. 

Then turning back to the train station where the story began you can see the emaciated body of Seita.

At the end you see the two orphaned children but the spirits of Seita and Setsuko are no longer skin and bones and filled with pain. Instead they are reunited and dressed in nice clothes and they are looking down on the city of Kobe.

This animation film is viewed by many to be an anti-war film but like any film you will have different interpretations.  I myself believe it is about the tormented soul of a writer who witnessed so much pain and anguish and that the Grave of the Fireflies is about the struggle that he faced.

When turning to the bigger picture it is clear that you had countless numbers of Seita’s and Setsuko’s who witnessed the brutality of this period.  Therefore, the war theme is obvious but the animation film focuses heavily on the darkside and coldness of human nature and not just the war.

It is not for me to say what the real meaning is or is not; instead if you have never seen this animation film then I recommend that you put this on your list. 

Yes, this animation film is not new; however, it is a classic and timeless and not only this, it reaches the heart unlike other films. The brief highs are fantastically high but the lows are full of heartache and the film reminds us of the brutality of World War Two and the continuing struggle which rages in many modern day nations.

More than this, it highlights two innocents who are caught up in a tragic adult world and how inhumanity is not only at the drop of a bomb, but also within families and communities.

Grave of the Fireflies will always stay with me because of the passion that it unleashes and because it focuses on the reality of life in dark times.    Grave of the Fireflies