Sunday, December 30, 2007

Review: Azumi 2 - Death or Love

Genre: Historical, action
Release Date: Mar. 12, 2005

  • Ueto Aya as Azumi
  • Kuriyama Chiaki as Kozue
  • Oguri Shun as Ginkaku
Azumi 2 takes place shortly after the events of the first movie. Azumi and Nagara are the only surviving assassins whose purpose was prevent a civil war in Japan. Their last mission is to assassinate Sanada Masayuki. However, Sanada has recruited an army and has hired a deadly ninja clan. During their mission, Azumi meets a bandit who resembles her friend Nachi.

Both movies are very similar and are basically about assassins killing anyone that the enemy can throw at them. However, I thought that the first Azumi movie was slightly better than Azumi 2. Azumi 2 had a couple of things that just turned me off. First of all, in Azumi 2, Azumi meets a group of bandits that decide to help her out, but most of the actors who play the bandits just seem very goofy. They’re very horrible actors who are just in the movie to get killed and they just put a bad impression on the movie. I also didn’t like the order in which some of the characters were killed. I won’t mention who gets killed, but for some reason the important characters that seem like decent fighters get killed pretty early on while the no-names get to live a lot longer. Azumi 2 also had a very high death count, too high in my opinion. The sheer number of major characters who die make the ending very week. If they just kept some of the characters alive, they could have added a little extra to ending.

However, Azumi 2 can provide some enjoyment to fans of Japanese historical action movies. The fighting choreography is nothing too special, but the fighting scenes are somewhat enjoyable to watch because of the unique enemies and the weapons they use. I also enjoyed watching how some of the enemies got killed. Though very unreal, they’re pretty interesting to see. The same goes for how the movie deals with blood. When an enemy gets killed blood splatters everywhere like a hose. It’s definitely better than seeing just blood dripping.

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  • Has some enjoyment for historical/action movie fans
  • Blood splatter goodness
  • High production quality
  • All-star cast, this time with Oguri Shun as a main character
  • Number of major characters that get killed is way too high
  • Characters that look like decent fighters are killed early on while the no-names get to live longer
  • Ending was very weak, they could added a lot more if some major characers stayed alive
  • Some special effects were cheesy
If you’re a fan of historical/action movies, you should watch Azumi 2. If you’re not, you should probably avoid it.

Rating: 6.7/10

Related Reviews (historical/action)
Shinobi: Heart Under Blade

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Review: Sapuri

Alternative Titles: サプリ, Sappli, Supply, Suppliment
Genre: Romance, workplace
Episodes: 11
Broadcast: Jul. - Sept. 2006

  • Ito Misaki as Fuji Minami
  • Kamenashi Kazuya as Ishida Yuya
  • Eita as Ogiwara Satoshi
Fuji Minami is a 29-year-old employee at a marketing firm. One day, while riding the train to work, she finds a lost cellphone ringing and answers it. A young man named Ishida Yuya claims that he has lost his cellphone and wants her to return it to him before his job interview. When Ishida gets hired and starts working, he notices that Fuji Minami works in the exact same office.

Sapuri is a pure romance drama that takes place in the workplace. There is absolutely no other genre you can really recognize. In other words, it's just full of love triangles. Having said that, Sapuri is unquestionably the most boring drama I’ve ever watched. Each episode mainly deals with the relationships between the workers at the marketing firm. About mid-way through the series, if you were to draw a correlation chart that shows who likes who, it would become pretty complex. However, many of the relationships between characters are every predictable and there aren’t any significant plot twists. You could probably take a good guess of the two employees that will end up together at the end. In addition, Sapuri takes place mostly in a office, which makes it even more boring to watch.

On the other hand, not 100% of Sapuri is about romance. Romance does dominate most of the series, but there is a subplot in every episode about the marketing firm that Fuji and Ishida work at. The marketing firm is called Create Agency and it produces CMs for various companies (CM is a abbreviation used by the Japanese for the word commercial). Basically in every episode, they create a different commercial for a different product or service and it’s somewhat interesting to see how they create the CMs. These segments can be interesting if you’re the business type.

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  • Scenes showing the creation of CMs can be interesting
  • Boring since it’s a pure romance drama, contains no other genres
  • Basically about love triangles and not much else
  • Relationships between characters are predictable
  • Not many unexpected plot twists to keep story interesting
  • Mostly takes place in one office
I bet many females will watch it because Kamenashi Kazuya (KAT-TUN) plays the lead role, but it’s not worth it to just watch Sapuri because of one person. I had to force myself to watch it so that I could review it. In other words, I watched it so that you don’t have to.

Rating: 5/10

Related Reviews
(ItoMisaki or Kamenashi Kazuya in a major role)
Densha Otoko
Nobuta wo Produce

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Featured Artist: ayaka

Real Name: Iida Ayaka, 飯田絢香
Birthday: Dec 18, 1987
Birthplace: Osaka, Japan

Quick Facts

  • Debuted in 2006 with the song, "I believe"
  • "I Believe" reached #3 on Oricon charts and was featured in J-drama Rondo
  • "I Believe" also made her the first singer/songwriter after Utada Hikaru to debute in the top 5
  • First Message (her first album) was a great success despite being delayed several times
  • First Message reached #1 on Oricon charts, sold over 1,000,000 copies, and was 13th highest selling album of 2006
Ayaka was choosen as Featured Artist because I absolutely love her ballad songs. Recently, she has been releasing more rock songs, which I don't really enjoy. I think she's definitely better singing ballads.
Here's a list of my favourite ayaka singles with their release date:
  • [2006.02.01] I believe
  • [2006.07.19] Real voice
  • [2006.09.27] Mikazuki
  • [2007.07.04] Jewelry day

Here's a playlist of ayaka's first album, First Message.

These are all of ayaka's PVs released so far. Just click on the thumbnail and the video will show.

Previous 3 Featured Artists
Bonnie Pink
Kou Shibasaki

Friday, December 21, 2007

Review: Azumi

Genre: Action, Historical
Release Date: May 10, 2003 (Japan)

  • Ueto Aya as Azumi
  • Oguri Shun as Nachi
  • Hiroki Narimiya as Ukiha
  • Yuma Ishigaki as Nagara
After a major battle, Japan is closer to being united thanks to the Tokugawa clan. However, three warlords seek to overthrow the Tokugawa clan. The Tokugawa clan orders a master samurai named Gessai to raise and train ten assassins. After years of training, the assassins are put through one final test that leaves only five of them alive. They are then given their mission which is to kill the three warlords.

Azumi is probably one of the most popular action films in Japan. It has a very high production quality and an all-star cast. There’s the talented and popular singer/actor Ueto Aya and there’s the ever so popular Oguri Shun who you might recognize from Hana Yori Dango and Hana Kimi. Like I said before, production quality of Azumi is very high. There are very nice environments, Edo-period customers, music, and gory effects. Unfortunately, the all-star cast and the production quality were the only good points of Azumi.

Ultimately, Azumi is just a pure action movie with the assassins battling it out with any enemies the warlords can throw at them. However, I thought the fighting choreography was quite boring to watch compared to what I’ve seen in Chinese and Hong Kong movies. In Azumi, every battle between characters is just a simple block or evade then a slash, nothing too special. One of reasons for this was because most of the cast aren’t the people you see in action movies often.

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  • High production quality, with nice scenery, costumes, music etc.
  • All-star cast
  • Ueto Aya!!! (>//<)
  • Pure action film with a weak story
  • Fighting choreography is boring
  • Cast is inexperienced in terms of action movies
  • Death count is really high
  • Monkey ninja guy makes a very cheesy dog sound (-_-‘)
If you like action movies, you will get some entertainment out of Azumi. If you don’t, I suggest you stay away from this movie.

Rating: 7/10

Stay Tuned! I plan to review Azumi 2: Death or Love

Related Review (action/historical)
Shinobi - Heart Under Blade

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Review: Hana Kimi

Alternative Titles: 花ざかりの君たちへ, For You in Full Blossom, Hanazakari no Kimitachi e
Genre: School, comedy, romance
Episodes: 12
Broadcast: Jul. - Sept. 2007

  • Horikita Maki as Ashiya Mizuki
  • Oguri Shun as Sano Izumi
  • Ikuta Toma as Nakatsu Shuichi
Ashiya Mizuki is a Japanese girl living in the United States. One day, she sees Sano Izumi compete in a high jump competition on TV and Sano immediately becomes her idol. However as time passes, Sano stops high jumping. Ashiya decides to travel to Japan so that she can attend the same school as Sano and convince him to high jump again. However, Sano attends an all-boys school so Ashiya must look and act like a male student.

Hana Kimi is probably one of the most hyped J-dramas ever. In my opinion, it didn’t quite live up to the hype. The number one thing I disliked about Hana Kimi is the overall silliness. There are just so any scenes with dozens of students doing random and ridiculous things in the background. The more serious and romantic scenes were kind of weak since all of those wacky scenes dominated most of Hana Kimi. I just wished it had a more serious tone to it in some of the scenes.

Another major thing I disliked were cliff-hangers at the end of some episodes. This somewhat relates to what I said previously. Some episodes end with a nail-biting, dead serious cliff-hanger, but when you watch the next episode, the cliff-hanger gets finished right away and turns out to be not so serious. In other words, they’re just useless cliff-hangers that don’t add anything to the story and are there so that you’ll watch the next episode. Watch the cliff-hanger at the end of episode 4 then watch beginning episode 5, then you’ll know what I mean by “useless cliff-hangers”.

On the other hand, I liked the fact that Horikita Maki plays the main role. Also, there were many twists in the story that kept me interested in continuing the series. In addition, not all the cliff-hangers were bad. There were some that added to the overall story and kept the story moving.

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  • Horikita Maki plays the main role
  • Enough twists in story to keep you interested in continuing the series
  • There’s TONS of Japanese boys with long hair…I always like to put in something for the female readers(⌒▽⌒)
  • There were some funny scenes
  • Many scenes are way too silly, there’s dozens of people doing random things in background
  • Some cliff-hangers don’t add anything to the overall story, they’re just there so you’ll watch the next ep.
  • Some of the school “challenges” were too weird for me
  • The last ep. had too many boys dressed as girls (-_-‘)
I bet many people have already watched Hana Kimi due to the hype. I don’t strongly recommend that you watch it, but it’s an ok drama to sit through.

Rating: 8.5/10

Video Preview
Here's the first 10 minutes of episode 1:

Related Reviews (school dramas)
Dragon Zakura
My Boss My Hero
Nobuta wo Produce

Sunday, December 16, 2007

TopChart: Top13 Winter PVs

Here's my top13 PVs for the winter season. I based this list on the content of the actual PV as well as the song. ENJOY!!!(^_^) and Happy Holidays!

Previous TopCharts
Top5 Most Boring PVs
Top9 Most Beautiful PVs
Top5 Weirdest PVs

Friday, December 14, 2007

Review: Death Trance

Genre: Action, Fantasy, Adventure
Release Date: May 20, 2005 (Japan)
Starring: Tak Sakaguchi as Coffin man, Takamasa Suga as a young monk

A mysterious man who is known as Coffin Man sets out to a holy place called the East Template to steal a coffin. Legend says that if the coffin is open at a specific place then it will grant wishes. A young monk set out to retrieve the coffin and prevent anyone from opening it. However, there are many other people are after the coffin and all-out battle is started.

Death Trance is the worst Japanese action movie I’ve watched so far mostly because the story is unexplained. You ever get find out any information about all of the major characters and there are several plot holes. Death Trance is just a group of people battling it out for a coffin. Every few minutes there’s at least one fight scene, but I thought many of the enemies were just thrown in the movie for no reason. The main character is walking through the forest and suddenly a group of enemies that you’ve never before comes and starts a fight. The fight scenes weren’t all that great either. The first fighting scene was the best because there’s a guy who fights by break dancing. After that, the other fighting scenes were less inventive.

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  • First fighting scene was good
  • Story and characters are unexplained
  • Many fighting scenes were meaningless
  • Mediocre acting
Stay away from Death Trance at all costs even if you like action movies.

Rating: 5/10

Related Review
Shinobi - Heart Under Blade

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Review: Dragon Zakura

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Alternative Title: ドラゴン桜
Genre: School, comedy
Episodes: 11
Broadcast: Jul. - Sept. 2005
Starring: Abe Hiroshi as Sakuragi Kenji, Yamashita Tomohisa as Yajima Yuusuke, Nagasawa Masami as Mizuno Naomi, Aragaki Yui as Kosaka Yoshino

Sakuragi Keniji is a a poor lawyer and former gang member who's always looking for a chance to become more successful and popular. His perfect chance comes to him when he find out about Ryuuzan High School, one of the worst schools in Tokyo, where just about every student skips classes regularly and ends up failing. In addition, the school is almost bankrupt and the teachers have given up hope on the students.

Sakuragi soon becomes a teacher at the school and organizes a special class that aims to prepare five students to pass the entrance exam for Tokyo University, one of the most prestigious universities in Japan.

Compared to other school dramas I've watched, Dragon Zakura definitely isn’t the most enjoyable one to watch. I thought that certain parts of every episode were too repetitive and boring. In just about every episode the five students of the special class are involved in some sort of lesson that's supposed to help them pass the Tokyo University entrance exam. Every one or two episodes has the students learning a different subject. One episode might be about math and another one about english and so forth. These episodes are boring because they basically deal with three things....advice....advice...and more advice. During these lessons, Sakuragi just blurbs out tons upon tons of advice to the students. Most of the time you'd just wish that the students just write exam and get it over with.

Bad things aside, the good parts of Dragon Zakura were parts outside the classroom. Every student of the special class is trying to get into Tokyo University, but at the some time, they face issues that slow down their progress or completely change their mind about even taking the exam. Every student has a different story and the drama does a good job of focusing on all characters and getting their stories across.

Another positive thing about Dragon Zakura is the humour. There’s two things that make this drama one of the funniest I’ve watched. One is the character, Okuno. He’s a student of Ryuuzan and is basically an idiot that does random things. The other one are the short scenes in every episode about Ino Mamako’s friend who goes on a double date with one guy who is good-looking but stupid and another guy who is ugly but smart. (Mamako is a teacher at Ryuuzan)

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  • Parts that don’t take place in the classroom
  • Okuno adds a lot of humour to the series
  • Short dating scenes in every episode are also hilarious
  • Acting is fairly good
  • All-star cast
  • Scenes about the special class preparing for exam are boring and repetitive
  • Sakuragi gives way too much advice
  • Subject teachers that help teach the special class are way over-the-top
Do the teaching methods used to teach the special class really work?

The humour definitely makes up for the boring parts so I recommend you watch it for the humour.

Rating: 8.5/10

Related Reviews (school dramas)
My Boss My Hero
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Announcement: The KJ is back in action!

You might have noticed that The Keizou Journal has been quite inactive for about two months. This was because I was very busy with my university workload and exams.

However, I'm now finished with my last exam and my winter break was begun! (≧∇≦)/
Stay tuned! I 'll be posting more often and I have a very special announcement about a new type of blog post.