Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Review: Mop Girl

Alternative Title: モップガール
Genre: Crime, Mystery
Episodes: 10
Broadcast: Oct. - Dec. 2007

  • Kitagawa Keiko as Hasegawa Momoko
  • Tanihara Shosuke as Ohtomo Shotaro
  • Asami Reina as Ookouchi Hina
Hasegawa Momoko works for a wedding planning company, but after a workplace incident, she is transferred to Little Angels, a subsidiary of her former employer that provides funeral services. When she was a child, Momoko was involved in a traffic accident but was saved by a mysterious woman who gave Momoko the ability to travel back in time. When she becomes an adult, she learns that in order to use her ability, she has to touch an important item belonging to a deceased person. Working for a funeral planning company, she often comes into contact with dead people and uses her power to travel back in time to save that person’s life.

Mop girl is probably the biggest surprises I’ve seen and I consider it to be one of the most underrated J-dramas ever. I decided to give Mop Girl a try after reading the summary. It seemed like a very original storyline in terms of J-dramas. However, I didn’t expect much from this drama. I didn’t know most of the cast and I’m not a huge fan of mystery/crime dramas since they’re too episodic for me. After watching the series, I was thoroughly surprise.

The thing I liked most about Mop Girl is that even though it is largely episodic, there’s an overarching plot. Every episode features a different mystery with different secondary characters, but there’s an overarching plot about Momoko’s powers. We don’t know anything about the women who gave Momoko’s power and why exactly did that person have time-travelling powers in the first place. This overarching mystery entices you to continue watching.

Another plus for Mop Girl is that overall, each mystery was fairly good. Most had an unexpected plot twist at the end and I think it’s fair to say that each one was enjoyable. I have to say though, it does get a bit repetitive. All episodes start with a scene briefly showing a mysterious culprit and all episodes end with more or less the same plot twist. However, there’s a lot of variety in each episode that makes up for the repetitiveness. Each mystery features a very different setting and very different characters that we haven’t seen in previous episodes. One episode features a very bad rapper while another is about a group of authors. In terms of setting, one episode takes place in a maid café while another is set in a school.

In addition, I thought Kitagawa Keiko played her role excellently. She’s good at those humorous scenes, but she’s equally good at acting in those sadder scenes. This was the first time I’ve seen her in a drama and I definitely look forward to other J-dramas that feature her.

The biggest upset for me was the last episode. The mystery in the last episode was a bit less enjoyable than the other episodes. The characters introduced in the episode were a bit bland and the story was predictable. Also, the episode only explains the overarching story for less than 5 minutes. I wished they went into more detail about the incident when Momoko received her time-travelling powers. I can only hope a special will be made that will go into further detail and fill in the plot holes.

  • Surprisingly good episodic mystery J-drama
  • All episodes were fairly enjoyable
  • Largely episodic but overarching storyline keeps you wanting more
  • A lot of variety in each episode in terms of characters and setting
  • Kitagawa fits her role well
  • Good mix of comedy, mystery, romance and drama
  • Last episode didn’t go into much detail about overarching story
Mop Girl is one of those undiscovered gems. It’s unpopular, but in my opinion, you should give this drama a try, even if you’re not a fan of mystery dramas.

Rating: 9/10

Video Preview
Here’s a clip from the first episode.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Review: Hana Yori Dango movie

Alternative Title: Hana Yori Dango Final, 花より男子~ファイナル~
Genre: Romance
Release Date: Jun. 28, 2008

  • Mao Inoue as Tsukushi Makino
  • Jun Matsumoto as Tsukasa Domyoji
  • Shun Oguri as Rui Hanazawa
The popular J-drama series Hana Yori Dango ends with this movie. After Tsukasa announces his engagement with Tsukushi, his mother presents him with the family heirloom, a precious tiara called the Smile of Venus. Shortly after, the tiara is stolen and the feuding couple go on an adventure around the world in search of it.

This is one movie I had a lot of expectations (and hype) for. After finishing the second season of Hana Yori Dango, I’ve been waiting for more than a year for this movie to be released. There were definitely a lot of surprises with this movie and not all of them were good.

Let’s get the bad surprises off my shoulders first. One of things that surprised me about this movie was that it’s nothing like the drama series. The drama was known to have addictive episodes with a lot of drama and unpredictable twists. The movie on the other hand, had none of that. I didn’t feel like there were any sad moments like in the drama. In addition, the story was very predictable, you’ll probably have a good idea of the ending once you get halfway through the movie.

In addition, the movie seemed to have a totally different genre than the drama. The drama was mostly drama/romance, but this movie tries to mix in a bunch of stuff that just doesn’t work for a HYD movie. There’s a bit of a mystery element to the movie and there’s even this very long chase scene! It was almost like they were trying to make this a Bond movie and if you think about it, the movie does have a lot of similarities to recent Bond movies. There’s a chase scene, exotic locations, nice hotel rooms, a mysterious baddy, nice cars etc.

I also thought there was some very unnecessary scenes like the one on the tropical island. Overall, it seemed like the plot wasn’t made for Hana Yori Dango fans. They tried to appeal to a greater audience and it failed miserably. I just wish they had formulated a plot that was similar to the drama series.

There wasn’t really anything that stood out for me. The only good thing I can really say is that the movie concluded what the drama started (but of course, not is a good way).

  • It concluded what the drama started
  • Plot is completely different from what HYD fans would expect
  • Poor attempts at other genres like mystery/action
  • The extremely long chase scene
  • Ending is lame
I’m guessing everyone who has watched the HYD drama has already watched this movie. If you’re a HYD fan, I recommend it since it does sort of puts an end to the story, but in my opinion, you’re probably going to be disappointed.

Rating: 5/10

Video Preview
Here’s the clip of that dreadful chase scene that I mentioned.

Related Reviews
Hana Yori Dango season 1
Hana Yori Dango season 2

Friday, May 1, 2009

Back in Action!

You may have noticed my ~3 month hiatus. I'm happy to announce that I've just finished my final exams, so I'll be devoting a lot more time to the blog for my summer break.

In fact, I'm currently working on several posts right now, so stay tuned!