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Otomen

Otomen 5

Otomen 5 just proves to me, once again, why I love this drama so much, even though I don’t normally fancy this type of shoujo drama. About 10 secs into the beginning, I started laughing so hard I couldn’t stop, and, even though Otomen 5 was strangely short (only 35 mins instead of the usual 45 mins) I found that it didn’t hurt the episode one bit at all. In fact, the way it was condensed probably made the telling so much better, and whoever wrote this particular drama has much wry humour as I do.

So the story picks up pretty much where it left off (the lot of them are still at Yamato’s uncle’s beach shop working their asses off for the summer) and:

The camera pans in and first we see Asuka practising his kendo at the beach....

The camera pans in and first we see Asuka practising his kendo at the beach....

...and who else would he meet but his puppy-dog junior, Yamato? Yamato tells Asuka, "I want to be like you! To grow even stronger so I can protect the people around me..."

...and who else would he meet but his puppy-dog junior, Yamato? Yamato tells Asuka, "I want to be like you! To grow even stronger so I can protect the people around me..."

Yamato then jumps into this bizarre telling of the kind of guy who he wants to be, which was the 10 sec mark that made me burst out into laughter and henceforth continue watching this with a ready smile on my face (you have to see the screen caps to believe this):

In his imaginings, the school is dark and cold and "his" people (or rather, his gang) have been "attacked" by an enemy gang, and as the leader, he is responsible for going to take revenge! (But OH SO CUTE when he bites his lip like that Yamato!)

In his imaginings, the school is dark and cold and "his" people (or rather, his gang) have been "attacked" by an enemy gang, and as the leader, he is responsible for going to take revenge! (But OH SO CUTE when he bites his lip like that Yamato!)

He decides to collect the boys to go for a "showdown" with the enemy and ...

He decides to collect the boys to go for a "showdown" with the enemy and ...

...LOL who else would feature as the enemy but Hajime!?! Poor Hajime, there he is trying to mind his own business, and Yamato's already marked him out as "the enemy"...

...LOL who else would feature as the enemy but Hajime!?! Poor Hajime, there he is trying to mind his own business, and Yamato's already marked him out as "the enemy"...

At this point, Yamato pulls out a photo…of ASUKA (cue: laughter) and he stares at it, muttering, “I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you, and that you were the first to go. But I promise, I will take this revenge for you!”  – whereby the real Asuka (who looks awfully bemused by Yamato’s colourful descriptions) cuts in and says, “Ah..is that so? So..I’m that kind of character?”

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Yamato in turn chirps brightly, "Yes! Asuka was set on by the ruffians on your way back from school and was beaten to death!" and says it with SUCH A BRILLIANT GRIN I almost fell off my chair laughing.

Both Yamato and Asuka become lost in their own thoughts of what the summer would bring (Asuka: time spent alone with Ryo at the beach, watching the dolphins and confessing their love…/ Yamato: the gang fight continued for 10 hours and finally he managed to kick Hajime across the face… LOLs at their thoughts. Boys. How terribly simple.) At this point, Ryo cuts in by appearing with a smile and informing the boys to come in since dinner was ready. Credits roll and the episode kicks off officially.

and LOL it MUST be kicked off with a parade of naked bodies to entice women, mustn't it? Juta and Asuka are trying to "attract" customers to Yamato's uncle's shop (which has absolutely no business because...it looks...haunted. LOL)

and LOL it MUST be kicked off with a parade of naked bodies to entice women, mustn't it? Juta and Asuka are trying to "attract" customers to Yamato's uncle's shop (which has absolutely no business because...it looks...haunted. LOL)

As we find out later, because of this, Yamato's uncle is pressured to sell off the shop in order to pay his mounting debts...

As we find out later, because of this, Yamato's uncle is pressured to sell off the shop in order to pay his mounting debts...

And since Asuka is Asuka, he can’t sit by and watch without doing anything, so late at night, he stays up coming up with new yummy looking drinks for the shop that will appeal to females (man, I’ll put in a screen cap of the drink and can I tell you, that would attract me like nobody’s business!) and Ryo, who has apparently just come out of the shower (toweling dry her hair. Hm.) is surprised to see Asuka still up so late at night (so you can wash your hair late at night but he…can’t sit there drawing? LOL). Asuka immediately asks her to try the drink he is about to make (and thinks to himself: finally! YES! A moment alone with Ryo! CHANCE! which I find hilarious for various reasons).

I put the images of his drawing & the real drink Asuka came up with side by side so you can compare and see HOW YUMMY THIS LOOKS. I am telling you, this will sell.

I put the images of his drawing & the real drink Asuka came up with side by side so you can compare and see HOW YUMMY THIS LOOKS. I am telling you, this will sell. It's called the Love Marine or Fruit Parfait (I think), so it's made out of fruits. (Watermelon and honeydew, as far as I can tell.)

And of course while Asuka prepares the drink (with all his heart!) he keeps thinking of making beautiful summer memories with Ryo and is all excited when he puts his drink down in front of her so that she can be the first one to try it except…

Yamato, from around the corner, goes, "OOooh, that looks yummy!" and promptly plonks himself down and helps himself to the first bite!!! THE LOOK ON ASUKA'S FACE!! IS MAJOR FAIL lol

Yamato, from around the corner, goes, "OOooh, that looks yummy!" and promptly plonks himself down and helps himself to the first bite!!! THE LOOK ON ASUKA'S FACE!! IS MAJOR FAIL lol Asuka (in his head): Why are you the first person to eat it???!

Ryo then excitedly says, “Isn’t this a great dish to put into the menu?” to which Yamato enthusiastically agrees. In gratitude, Yamato bows down to Asuka and Asuka looks somewhat put out (which, again, put me in stitches).

It looked like it was going to turn out happy, except since we’re only about 10 minutes into the show, you know that something is going to go wrong, and so it does…

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Since all the fruits that they needed to make the Love Marine & Fruit Parfait sold out!

It turns out that all the fruits from the vendor (and the beach apparently only has 1 vendor selling fruits, but…okay…) have been bought by the “rival” beachfront store next to Yamato’s uncle’s shop – called:

Sea Dragon (I sense an irony lying somewhere here, but nevermind)

Sea Dragon (I sense an irony lying somewhere here, but nevermind)

So the boys want their fruits, and the waiters at Sea Dragon (I use the term “waiters” here loosely; they look more like ruffians than Hajime ever did) sense competition when their customers start squealing over how cute the three boys (Juta, Asuka and Yamato) are. With their acute business acumen, the SD waiters saunter over to our boys and ask them, “So…what business do you have here with us?” and Asuka replies, “We’d like some fruits. Could you spare us some?” SD Waiter No. 1: “No. Unless…” Asuka: “Unless…?” SD Waiter No. 1: “You come here and work for us.”

At this point, Yamato tells Asuka, “Let’s just go…” and SD Waiter No. 1 goes, “Isn’t that…Yamato? Ehhh, what are you doing back here? Didn’t you run away because you couldn’t take it living here?”

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So it turns out that SD Waiter No. 1 and Yamato apparently go way back, and Yamato (poor boy) bears the brunt of the SD gang's bullying, and Yamato can't seem to walk out of that shadow (now we all understand why he thinks about being all brave and show-downy and gang-leaderish!) which Asuka takes in.

So SD Waiter No. 1 repeats to Asuka again, “Come work for us. Quit that shabby looking store and come join Sea Dragon, you’d be really popular here.” Juta and Yamato look like they’re about to give up and go when Asuka abruptly replies, “Okay.” (Cue: eye-popping) “…BUT. Let’s compete to decide. If we lose, we’ll go work for you. In return, if we win,  you will give us the fruits we need.”

And thus, we have a showdown at the beach, instead of at school, just like in Yamato's imagination!

And thus, we have a showdown at the beach, instead of at school, just like in Yamato's imagination!

Round One: Beach Soccer

Unfortunately you can tell none of the kendo boys understand soccer because they lose bare minutes into the game! (Which I can totally understand...)

Unfortunately you can tell none of the kendo boys understand soccer because they lose bare minutes into the game! (Which I can totally understand...)

Yamato is shoved by the SD Waiters and falls onto the sand, looking really pitiful, which unfortunately gets him not only no love, but instead a harsh reprimand from Juta’s sister, who yells at him, “What are you sitting there for? Get back up and beat them!” …still, our dear boys lose the first round and Asuka knits his brows in worry as they prepare for Round 2: Holding Their Breath.

3 from SD Waiters, 3 from our Kendo boys and the 6 dive down into the deep dark sea

3 from SD Waiters, 3 from our Kendo boys and the 6 dive down into the deep dark sea

The 3 boys from SD

The 3 boys from SD

And our own 2 conniving kendo boys + 1 innocent kendo boy who was tied to a rock by his comrades just so the kendo boys would win Round 2!! LOL this whole part was super funny

And our own 2 conniving kendo boys + 1 innocent kendo boy who was tied to a rock by his comrades just so the kendo boys would win Round 2!! LOL this whole part was super funny

In fact the poor boy almost passed away LOL and we are made to think he has, except since this is a shoujo drama he magically revives towards the end and hops in with seaweed in his mouth HAHAHA

In fact the poor boy almost passed away LOL and we are made to think he has, except since this is a shoujo drama he magically revives towards the end and hops in with seaweed in his mouth HAHAHA

After our Kendo boys celebrate winning Round 2 (since the poor guy never did make his way back up to air), Round 3 (which is the round that will determine the win/loss of our Kendo Boys VS the SD Waiters) is kicked off, and it turns out to be a running in the sand to grab the flag kind of race.

3 races: first up - was supposed to be Juta LOL but when he quaked upon seeing his competitor, Hajime stepped in instead and won (man, I'm seriously starting to think Hajime is kinda cool in his own quirky, psychotic way), second was Yamato vs SD Waiter No. 1 and unfortunately the poor boy was shoved in the sand again and lost (and was once again screamed at by Juta's younger sister).

3 races: first up - was supposed to be Juta LOL but when he quaked upon seeing his competitor, Hajime stepped in instead and won (man, I'm seriously starting to think Hajime is kinda cool in his own quirky, psychotic way), second was Yamato vs SD Waiter No. 1 and unfortunately the poor boy was shoved in the sand again and lost (and was once again screamed at by Juta's younger sister). That girl has no sense of compassion...

The last race, fortunately, is between Asuka and the last SD boy (who is such a jerk I can’t help but wince everytime he opens his mouth) and of course our hero prevails and wins the day, so the fruits are dutifully handed over, and Yamato’s uncle’s shop does roaring business once the Love Marine(s) and Fruit Parfait(s) are out.

Hajime helped out by opening a stall for body art whereby he painted flowers on different parts of the body for girls LOL which ended up in a long queue looking like that! Hajime's really starting to grow on me

Hajime helped out by opening a stall for body art whereby he painted flowers on different parts of the body for girls LOL which ended up in a long queue looking like that! Hajime's really starting to grow on me

However, all this had ignited a spark of jealousy in SD – that night, Yamato was attacked and injured (fortunately, Asuka who was with him was quick enough to realise someone was attacking him and caught the sword in a block by clasping it between his hands, which was, you gotta admit, kinda cool). As all of them sit there debating who did it (…”Someone who hates Asuka..” “Hates Asuka…?” Silence. Everyone looks at Hajime who is happily in one corner about to dig into his ice-cream and I positively died at his expression on his face, it was priceless as he retorted, “…You bastards! Surely you don’t think I did this??” And Asuka calmly says, “Of course it must be the Sea Dragon boys.” Super comic moment here.)

Yamato stands up abruptly and tells everyone, “Thank you, but it’s enough. I think we should go home. Thank you for all you’ve done, but I don’t want anyone to get hurt anymore, so let’s go.” to which Juta’s sister Yuriko (that one has a tongue on her, she does) retorts, “You coward, just because you want to run away doesn’t mean we all want to run away.”

The next morning, as Yamato is about to leave, with his knapsack on his back, Asuka calls out to him and asks, “Is this really okay?” Just as Yamato nods, and Asuka is about to continue to convince him to stay, they are interrupted by sounds of a fight breaking out in the shop, and both boys rush to the front to check out what’s going on. Turns out the SD Waiters are back for more trouble and are chasing customers out by flipping tables, chairs, and yelling at them. Yuriko, in a fury, grabs a pitcher of water off a table and throws it at SD Waiter No. 1 (to which I can only say, You go, girl!) and in reciprocation, SD Waiter No. 1 grabs her wrist and looks like he’s about to hit her. At this point Asuka looks at Yamato and goes, “Stop him. You should do it. Didn’t you say you wanted to grow stronger so that you can protect the people around you?  Fight. You’re a man, aren’t you?”

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And so our dear Yamato does, and yells manfully, "Let go of her." Of course SD Waiter No. 1 laughs in his face and then when Yamato rushes him, he steps aside and gives Yamato a good walloping. All this time, Asuka stops himself from interfering but encourages Yamato to not give up until the end.

Finally, Yamato’s uncle put an end to it by telling the SD boys, “Let’s see which shop will still be there tomorrow, eh?” LOL although he sounded so threatening, when the boys spat and left, he actually sat down and heaved a sigh of relief. Still, it all ends somewhat happy, because Yamato has now grown more confident, since after the fight, Yuriko came up to him and helped him up, brushed him off and asked in concern, “Are you okay?” after which she added, “You were cool, just now.” As he is running along the beach with Asuka, he tells Asuka, “I want to grow even stronger, so that someday I can confess properly to the girl I like.” (Woohoo!! Give you three guesses WHO. LOL. WHO. If you can’t guess, then obviously you’ve never read shoujo manga.) (Also, dramatic irony here, as he is telling Asuka this, Yuriko meets the boy with the flower and as he drives away, sighs dreamily and asks Juta, “Do you know him? Do you know his name?” ARGHHH! Love triangle!! Already!)

And to finish it all off, during their run, Asuka spots Ryo on the beach, in the same exact position of his daydream at the beginning of the episode (she sits back on her heels and is drawing on the sand using a branch) and tells Yamato to go ahead first as he spies his chance of potentially fulfilling his dream!

And everything appears exactly as in his dream! Dolphins break the surface of the water and Asuka blurts out: "Have you heard that couples who see dolphins together -" "Are together forever?" finishes Ryo. Asuka thinks: YES THIS IS IT, SHE GETS IT and Ryo beams at him saying, "I'm glad we're going to be together forever, since we're good..." "Good...?" "Friends." ends Ryo firmly. FAIL ASUKA FAIL. I bet he would headdesk if he had a desk! The girl just doesn't get it. Still, Asuka smiles back sweetly, nods and reaffirms her, "Friends." (The guy is also an idiot. What's wrong with you?! Just tell her you like her, for goodness sake!)

And everything appears exactly as in his dream! Dolphins break the surface of the water and Asuka blurts out: "Have you heard that couples who see dolphins together -" "Are together forever?" finishes Ryo. Asuka thinks: YES THIS IS IT, SHE GETS IT and Ryo beams at him saying, "I'm glad we're going to be together forever, since we're good..." "Good...?" "Friends." ends Ryo firmly. FAIL ASUKA FAIL. I bet he would headdesk if he had a desk! The girl just doesn't get it. Still, Asuka smiles back sweetly, nods and reaffirms her, "Friends." (The guy is also an idiot. What's wrong with you?! Just tell her you like her, for goodness sake!)

The whole episode was much shorter than I expected (since somehow they managed to shortchange us of 10 minutes) but still packed with hilarity and action, and I just have to say that Otomen makes my week since it releases all the tension that Buzzer Beat has been building up for me! I wonder how they’re going to play out the love triangle, which I personally think is kinda cute except Yuriko grates on me sometimes (fortunately she doesn’t have much screen time). Hajime’s quirkiness is really growing on me, and Yamato’s wanting to be all macho somehow just struck me as superbly funny. It’s not too bad, except Ryo’s denseness and Asuka’s hesitance is starting to grow a bit old, so I’m hoping something good will happen to shake them up a bit in the next episode (like, can’t Ryo take the lead and tell Asuka, “Actually, I like you.” or something?!?! …then again, that could just spell the end of the drama so we never know…!).


Otomen 4

I was half asleep during Japanese class today, mostly because I was so tired from coming home so late last night, and also because I was up doing Japanese homework, which kind of defeated the purpose of me going to class when I was completely not paying attention to the teacher I suppose. In any case, thought I’d quickly post my thoughts on Otomen 4 before I forget (and before the next episode comes out! Otherwise I’ll be scrambling to keep up as usual).

If you thought the 4th episode would be filled with more potential lovey-dovey scenes between Ryo and Asuka, you’d be wrong. The script actually decides to progress on a different front, which made it both more interesting (plot-wise) and yet, of course, less interesting (romance-wise).

The beginning of the episode is filled with easy throwaway moments (thank goodness they’ve stopped with the mother and father introduction! I thought I was going to have to kill the scriptwriters, but no, thankfully they got the hint!) where we see Asuka helping Juta mend his uniform (and Juta once again teases him about being an Otomen), and Hajime officially arriving in the school uniform and walking around with Asuka’s mother (who, did I mention, was the chairman of the school? No? Nevermind, must have been one of the unimportant things that slipped my mind, like anything to do with the mother.) as she tries to figure out what drew Hajime to transfer to this school.

Everything officially kicks off when Yamato (the puppy-dog junior that keeps following Asuka around) runs into class desperately and begs Asuka and Juta for help. Turns out his uncle operates a shop by the sea, and needs him to find some young strapping men to help out in the store. Both Asuka and Juta hesitate, but Ryo, who is standing nearby, of course flashes her usual brilliant grin and is all like, “Anything I can do to help!” and with Ryo as an incentive, Asuka of course jumps in the fray as well, and brings along the rest of the kendo club, including Hajime (who originally thought the trip was meant to be a training camp! lols, Hajime is just as fail as Asuka).

The boys (and girls) of the Kendo club arrive at this dodgy looking storefront

The boys (and girls) of the Kendo club arrive at this dodgy looking storefront

Obviously they started out with different plans for being at the beach!! LOLs at their gear (which they will not be able to use!)

Obviously they started out with different plans for being at the beach!! LOLs at their gear (which they will not be able to use!)

They are then greeted enthusiastically by Yamato’s uncle, and given a rousing welcome. He tells them, “I’m really glad Yamato managed to find so many strapping young men! Now, if you don’t mind, would you like to get to work?” …and just when you think they are about to be put to menial tasks such as serving customers and running around the shop like mad dogs…

...Yamato: "Er, Uncle, what's this?" Uncle: "The summer play for the beach of course!! Thank goodness you managed to find so many boys for me." ...Everyone else...I think wanted to kill Yamato right there and then!

...Yamato: "Er, Uncle, what's this?" Uncle: "The summer play for the beach of course!! Thank goodness you managed to find so many boys for me." ...Everyone else...I think wanted to kill Yamato right there and then!

The most embarrassing thing wasn’t that they all had to dress up in these pseudo-Power Rangers-cum-Captain Planet outfits (the outfits are Power Rangers like, but the script has something to do with protecting the planet, so… there you go…) but who was going to be directing them. The Uncle-From-Whereonearthdidtheyfindhim?? then pats someone on the back and introduces…

The Director from Hell...he may look like a kid, but man, he can cuss like any good old soldier! In fact he terrified all of them! (Even Asuka and Hajime!)

The Director from Hell...he may look like a kid, but man, he can cuss like any good old soldier! In fact he terrified all of them! (Even Asuka and Hajime!)

In the midst of all this drama, Asuka worries about Hajime. He wants Hajime to stop treating him as a rival; instead he hopes to be friends with Hajime, and one night, while he sees Hajime practising, he can’t help but go up and tell him, “There’s a loophole in your kendo.” (Unfortunately he is overhead by Juta’s sister, who mistook what he said as, “I like you.” since in Japanese, “loophole” and “like” sound very similar! This leads to many hilarious moments with Juta as you will see). Asuka and Hajime have several alone bonding scenes in this episode (some of you may find that boring, but it does help character development, so live with it s’okay?)

Their bonding scene at the beach (just imagine...wind blowing in their faces and all that...)

Their bonding scene at the beach (just imagine...wind blowing in their faces and all that...)

So, to make it all worse (or better, depending on your POV), apparently there’s going to be a fashion show held at the beach, with 2 celebrities in the design world helming the show: a fashion designer and a make-up designer respectively! (Asuka wanted to go the minute he heard they were performing but obviously can’t because he has his image to protect lols). However, in the next scene we see the assistants reporting to the producer telling him the models and the designers were going to be late and might not make it to the show after all! In desperation, the producer sends out someone to find a replacement model, and who else would he pick but…

...if you guessed Ryo...YOU ARE RIGHT! Unfortunately, the assistants obviously have no sense of fashion OR makeup since they dressed her up so horrendously. The producer's face when he saw this was ingenius!

...if you guessed Ryo...YOU ARE RIGHT! Unfortunately, the assistants obviously have no sense of fashion OR makeup since they dressed her up so horrendously. The producer's face when he saw this was ingenius!

Naturally, here, both Asuka and Hajime are present (they do not explain this and I think to myself, Ah the beauty of the suspension of disbelief we are meant to practise in dramas!) and as usual, Asuka is unable to stop himself from stepping out to help Ryo. He starts to do a complete makeover for the dress, and when he finishes, he looks at Hajime and tells him, “There are things I give up for Kendo too. No one is ever perfect.” and then Hajime seems to finish an internal struggle with himself and looks at the horrible makeup Ryo is still wearing and goes, “Summer accent? Cake, foundation, concealer…Come, let me transform you into a beautiful butterfly with these hands.” (Upon hearing that, Juta and his sister who also happen to be at all the important scenes it seems, are relieved. Juta nudges his sister and goes, “Asuka’s not gay…he and Hajime just have an understanding of what it’s like to be in a similar position!” referring to how Hajime, too, appears to be an Otomen)

Asuka looks all happy with his sewing

Asuka looks all happy with his sewing

Hajime actually looks really serious as he applies foundation onto Ryo's skin (he calls her skin flawless and said it would take makeup easily while brushing her skin - is it just me or is that just KIND OF EERIE??)

Hajime actually looks really serious as he applies foundation onto Ryo's skin (he calls her skin flawless and said it would take makeup easily while brushing her skin - is it just me or is that just KIND OF EERIE??)

Ryo is transformed! (Thank goodness. Otherwise I would have had to shoot someone for putting her in a dress like that)

Ryo is transformed! (Thank goodness. Otherwise I would have had to shoot someone for putting her in a dress like that)

The boys are then actually presented onstage in lieu of the missing designers together with Ryo as they explain their design concepts for the dress and makeup. LOL when they appeared in their Power Ranger suits I just died laughing because obviously they didn't want their real identities uncovered still...

The boys are then actually presented onstage in lieu of the missing designers together with Ryo as they explain their design concepts for the dress and makeup. LOL when they appeared in their Power Ranger suits I just died laughing because obviously they didn't want their real identities uncovered still...

To end it all off, the boys share a moment of bonding over their "Otomen"-ness and the episode ends.

To end it all off, the boys share a moment of bonding over their "Otomen"-ness and the episode ends.

Although this episode had less Juta moments, it was still funny, especially during the Power Ranger moments (the Kid Director From Hell was probably the best bit in the entire episode; man, do I want to grow up to be like that!) It looks like the show is taking a more serious slant – they’re showing an awful lot of boys liking feminine things already (like that boy in school in the flower club! and Asuka! and now Hajime! …and Juta, as much as I love him, has gotta be a girly boy because he draws shoujo manga. Really.) so I suppose they’re trying to live up to the name of “Otomen”. I do hope they don’t end up trying too hard and killing the show. I really like it just the way it is right now; it’s great comic relief if nothing else.


Otomen Episodes 2 + 3

I have been rather tied down at work recently, which means less time for watching dramas and less time for doing everything basically, including my favorite reading mangas, watching animes, and of course, blogging about such things.

In an effort to reach Episode 4 faster, I thought it might be quite funky if I compressed summaries of Otomen episodes 2 & 3 together, and so here goes:

Episode 2 kicked off with Ryo quite comically stepping on a banana peel (when just 5 secs ago, Juta tells Yamato no one will fall for such a silly old trick) and then falling…right into the arms of Asuka (cue: female sigh). She then looks at him and asks him to do her a favour – which then sees us all looking at Asuka in the cutest pink apron ever! (Just before this, they accidentally meet Ryo’s father who seems like a bear, and throws the boys out of the house because Asuka was holding the pink apron when the father’s ideals are Be A Man thus explaining Ryo’s expertise with martial arts and her fascination with and inability to do any of the feminine arts)

So it turns out that the “favour” Ryo is asking for is having Asuka help her out for one day at a child care centre she volunteers at, since one of the usual volunteers can’t make it that day. Asuka, of course, agrees. While they are bonding over the children, Ryo tells Asuka that she is hoping to make something for her father on her father’s upcoming birthday, and Asuka gives her the usual encouraging, “Ganbatte!” (Oh, Japanese and their ganbattes, and Koreans and their hwa-tighting!)

Asuka, Ryo, Kid's Dad and Kid sitting at the child care centre eating Asuka's deliciously-made pancakes. (Man, those pancakes are GIRLY)

Asuka, Ryo, Kid's Dad and Kid sitting at the child care centre eating Asuka's deliciously-made pancakes. (Man, those pancakes are GIRLY)

Asuka's (annoying) Mother who tries to test to see if Asuka will fall for her trap (in showing his love for feminine things including shoujo manga, sweets and the such)...Idiot woman, as though Asuka wouldn't have been able to tell!

Asuka's (annoying) Mother who tries to test to see if Asuka will fall for her trap (in showing his love for feminine things including shoujo manga, sweets and the such)...Idiot woman, as though Asuka wouldn't have been able to tell!

…So it turns out that Ryo’s father has been employed as the Kendo coach for their school, which leads to several moments of comedy as he makes the boys run around the school 200 times, and basically trains them until they are on the verge of death! In the midst of all this Spartan training, Asuka makes up his mind to help Ryo change her father’s mind about her cooking (basically her father forbids her to do anything feminine like cooking or cleaning thus explaining her lack of ability to do thereof) and he does this by…challenging the man to a kendo showdown. Yes, I know, I love the way the scriptwriters’ minds work. It’s a tough competition, (I mean, the father was hired as the coach for a reason after all), so Asuka decides to throw his all in one gamble, and he uses his secret technique, which to basically put down his sword to invite the opponent in for an attack, and when the opponent uses that, he brings his sword back up in a flash and wins – which is exactly what happens! Ryo’s father, who knows a man when he sees one, pulls off his equipment, looks at Asuka and tells him, “I take back what I said earlier. You are a real man.” and the two men shake hands. (In the meantime, it means Ryo’s father owes Asuka a debt since Asuka said, “If I win, you will owe me a debt.”)

The man-to-man buddy handshake (good lighting by the way)

The man-to-man buddy handshake (good lighting by the way)

Asuka helping Ryo out in the kitchen for her father's birthday

Asuka helping Ryo out in the kitchen for her father's birthday

Asuka also tells Ryo, “You said earlier I was cute and you wanted to protect me. But I think that Ryo is sweet, and I want to protect you too. Let me help you.” and so he helps her out with preparing her father’s birthday meal. He also helped to clean up the house such that when Ryo’s father returned home, Ryo’s father noticed straight off how unusual the house looked. When he saw that Ryo had prepared a meal for him, he was going to refuse to eat it when Asuka calls in his debt and says, “This is the debt I wish you to repay, by eating the hand-made meal that Ryo has made for you.” Ryo’s father had no choice but to live up to manly ideals and pay up his debt by digging into the meal that Ryo made, and he is astonished by how the meal tastes so much like the ones Ryo’s mother used to make before she passed away.

Asuka scooping rice for Ryo's father - and in him, Ryo's father sees the image of Ryo's mother!!!! (Like, how NOT!)

Asuka scooping rice for Ryo's father - and in him, Ryo's father sees the image of Ryo's mother!!!! (Like, how NOT!)

Ryo's father telling Ryo, "When will you get Asuka to marry into our family?" (treating Ryo like the boy and Asuka like the daughter-in-law!!) which is how major classically FAIL

Ryo's father telling Ryo, "When will you get Asuka to marry into our family?" (treating Ryo like the boy and Asuka like the daughter-in-law!!) which is how major classically FAIL

It all ends happily as Ryo’s father and Ryo wave Asuka off into the night (it is raining thus explaining the umbrellas, although why they always decide to make it rain in dramas I have no idea) and there is a classic moment of hilarity as Ryo’s father turns to Ryo and tells her, “He will make a good daughter-in-law. Ryo, you must get Asuka to marry into our family!” ……

End of Episode 2. Episode 3, to me, is a bit of a filler episode, as it revolves around a ghost story in school, Asuka’s grandfather’s story, and Juta’s failness, so I think I shall make it shorter than Ep 2…so here goes:

It all kicks off with one of the kendo boys meeting a “ghost” in the school, and aging overnight. The kendo boys are also holding an overnight camp in the school, and the story of the “ghost” that the boy had met comes to light: apparently the legend goes that 100 years back a school girl fell in love with a boy but their love was forbidden. The girl became pregnant, but the boy decided to dump her when that happened. So she called the boy to the school one night and as she was standing by the window, and it was raining (again, with the rain!), when the boy arrived in the classroom and she turned to face him, he was horrified by the massive amounts of blood on her hands, and she said, “If there’s no baby, there’s no problem right? Let’s stay together.” and she pushes him off and jumps out the window. The kendo boys are complete wusses and they inch closer and closer together in the circle as the tale ends.

Kendo boys shifting closer together (although, no joke, I think I would too. These Japanese ghost stories are too much, man!)

Kendo boys shifting closer together (although, no joke, I think I would too. These Japanese ghost stories are too much, man!)

…So it turns out that Hajime (you remember him from the first episode right?) has also joined the Kendo club of the school (he transferred schools!!) and states clearly that the reason he is here is to “just to join the kendo club and beat Asuka.” He looks upon Asuka as a rival, but Asuka clearly wishes they could be friends instead.

Hajime: "To beat Asuka." Asuka: puppy dog face = super funny & cute

Hajime: "To beat Asuka." Asuka: puppy dog face = super funny & cute

Asuka - looks to his left. Ghost clutching him. Asuka - sweatdrop!!

Asuka - looks to his left. Ghost clutching him. Asuka - sweatdrop!!

During practice, Asuka finally sees the girl ghost face to face (every time she appears, he gets a buzzing in his ears), and can’t continue practising. Another kendo boy also sees the girl ghost in the toilet, and ages overnight. Asuka and Ryo are determined to catch the ghost to stop it from frightening the other kendo members, and embark that night with a torchlight. They see a female in a white dress on the coridor coming closer in a creepy belly crawl and Asuka tells Ryo to run with the torch while he holds steady with the kendo sword (and as he says that he’s all trembling and such, so cute). But Ryo, being Ryo, runs forth and aims a good kick in the belly at the “ghost” –

who just turns out to be Juta!! Juta pretended to be the ghost in order to scare the both of them in the hopes they would clutch each other and reveal their true feelings (to no avail of course).

Juta "The Ghost"!

Juta "The Ghost"!

But just when they think it’s all over…turns out, there really is a ghost and she possessed Ryo in order to get close to Asuka because Asuka resembled her lover, who was actually Asuka’s great grandfather. The spirit however, actually means no harm, and both she and Asuka actually sit down to have a friendly chat (with tea served by Juta!) as she apologises for scaring him. The legend, of course, is total bull and nowhere close to the real story, other than she and Asuka’s great grandfather were really in love, and that her father didn’t approve. That night, they were meant to elope (no she wasn’t pregnant, there no baby) and Asuka’s great grandfather didn’t turn up, but the girl’s father came instead and tried to make her to go home, but she wouldn’t. In her struggles, she came up against the open windowsill and fell backwards out the window, thus dying. She couldn’t leave the world without figuring out why Asuka’s great grandfather never turned up, and wonders whether he really loved her. Asuka then remembers seeing this grave stone marker that his great grandfather erected, according to his mother, for a girl he once loved. He then asks the ghost her name, and brings her out to the stone marker. When she realises that Asuka’s great grandfather had really loved her, she was comforted and decided to leave for good. Before she goes, she advises Asuka, “You like this girl, don’t you? (points to herself ie Ryo) Well you’d better confess to her before you regret it! Don’t be like me…” and then she leaves.

The episode ends when Asuka tries to date Ryo out to watch a ghost movie and it seems as though he would succeed – when Yamato and the rest of the kendo boys turn up and happily invite themselves along to watch the movie!! Alas, will Asuka ever succeed in telling Ryo he wants to go out with her and will their love ever come to fruition?!

….Well, it is a shoujo drama, so my odds are on yes but the fun is in seeing how it all comes together, don’t you think? Okay, next up is Ep 4 in another post, and I’ll probably write a bit about Buzzer Beater too…


Otomen

Otomen (Screen Capture)

Otomen, aka オトメン(乙男), is based off a romantic comedy manga by Aya Kanno, and just began airing as a drama recently, with only 4 episodes (both raw and subbed) to its name.

Although not a fan of the usual shoujo manga or anime, or yea even drama, in an epic moment of boredom, I decided to have a shot at this drama, and found to my surprise that it surpassed my expectations of the usual shoujo drama – probably because the gender-bender here is unlike other gender-bender shoujo mangas where the protagonist(s) are trying to hide their “real” gender (cue: Hanazakari no Kimitachi e).

Instead, here, the two main protagonists are more or less comfortable with their genders, except that Masamune Asuka (played by Okada Masaki) has a charmingly soft spot for all things feminine, whether this be cooking, sewing, shoujo manga, sweets or indeed stuffed toys. His counterpart, Miyakozuka Ryo (played by Kaho), on the other hand, is excruciatingly helpless at all things feminine – but can take down 5 men in the space of minutes.

Asuka

Asuka (who looks kinda gorgeous in that light, and with his chin oh-so-slightly tilted towards the sun)

Ryo

Ryo (who has a luscious purple kimono that I am in deep lust over, not to mention that paper umbrella)

The beginning of the drama was rather off-putting – it begins with Asuka’s reminiscence of his father, who did not “tease” him about liking stuffed animals and other “girly” things, but told him to “follow his heart”. Although seemingly selfless, his father then proceeded to admit to both Asuka and his mother that he, too, was going to follow his heart and become a woman – whereupon Asuka’s mother (the poor woman) let out a shriek and fainted dead away. She was then carted into the hospital with the usual hullabaloo and Asuka trailing behind begging her not to leave him behind. A doctor appears (by magic!) in the hallway just when it looks like she’s not going to make it (I rather she didn’t, actually) and right there in the hallway pulls out that iron-thingamajig that doctors use to restart the heart (really, now, the hallway, where is he getting all this electricity from?) and….the introduction then finishes off showing a young Asuka packing away all his feminine loves in a box as he bids them farewell and mournfully tells the audience, “Since that day, I have promised….”

Despite my desperate wishes for the mother to have disappeared for good, it seems as though unfortunately, she is here to stay for good, as you will see in the upcoming Episode 1. I was thinking of writing an Episode Guide for the whole drama but was getting a bit lazy typing just the 5 minute introduction, so may put it off for a while yet. Will give a bit more detail about Episode 1, however, which is where Asuka and Ryo meet – in the usual boy-meets-girl kind of way.

Asuka grew up proficient in “manly” arts such as kendo (he is in fact the school’s reigning champion), since he wants to be moulded in the likeness of what his mother believes in (such is the power of upbringing!) and it all kicks off at a kendo tournament where Asuka’s proficiency is revealed in a series of fights where he goes on to win all of them (without a break. Seriously).

After his win, as he leaves the tournament doujo, he sees his junior, Ariake Yamato, a cute little puppy thing, being pinned against the wall by several bullies who are trying to extort him for money.

Yamato with his puppy dog face, and the 3 bullies (I think Yamato's kinda good looking, in a very effeminate way)

Yamato with his puppy dog face, and the 3 bullies (I think Yamato's kinda good looking, in a very effeminate way)

Just as he is about to go to Yamato’s rescue, Ryo turns up yelling at the bullies to leave Yamato alone (their exchange here is rather brilliant but I shalln’t spoil all surprises). Of course, to no surprise, the bullies aren’t happy that Ryo, who looks just like the typical Japanese girl, has interrupted their lovely money-making scheme and just when it looks like they are about make mincemeat out of her, Asuka strolls up and asks them, “So…what’s going on here?” Awed by his awesome kendo prowess (….really) the bullies turn tail and escape, and Ryo turns to Asuka with a sweet smile and thanks him prettily for saving her (and Yamato, who eventually becomes the sidekick in all of these events). Typical, right?

…So, it turns out that Ryo is a transfer student in Asuka’s class (yet another stereotypically shoujo thing to do!) and Tachibana Juta, Asuka’s classmate, finds out by accident (actually, he trailed Asuka in the hopes of finding some material for the manga he is secretly publishing; apparently he’s a new mangaka) that Asuka is an Otomen (it’s a supposed bilingual pun: “otome” is “young lady” or “mistress” in Japanese + men in English). Seeing that Asuka is falling for Ryo, Juta decides to nudge the both of them along and use them as inspiration for his manga.

There are some absolutely hilarious running gags here, such as how both Ryo and Asuka are apparently completely clueless to the fact that Juta has been spying on the both of them – on the occasions that Juta trips over something and viewers wait with baited breath for them to find him, Juta desperately lets out a, “I am a cat!”…and the both of them go, “Ah…a cat…” ……I fell over laughing; the expression on Juta’s face as he hears them is absolutely priceless.(Sorry this only happens in Episode 2 or 3 I forget which, but something to definitely look out for!)

Juta trips, makes a noise, Asuka opens the window, Juta clutches his fists and goes, "Nyyyya" and Asuka goes, "...Cat, huh." ...Juta's face = PRICELESS (Asuka, you major fail you dork)

Juta trips, makes a noise, Asuka opens the window, Juta clutches his fists and goes, "Nyyyya" and Asuka goes, "...Cat, huh." ...Juta's face = PRICELESS (Asuka, you major fail you dork)

Obviously he thinks they’re retarded (I can’t think he’s too far off the truth) but nonetheless their cluelessness makes them great material (since they’re obviously never going to find out that he’s really following them around and nudging them on to great progress).

The bullies are then seen together with yet another kendo aficionado, Tonomine Hajime, who acts as Asuka’s foil and apparent rival in kendo (apparently they have some back history together which no one is revealing now, and since I haven’t read the manga I’m all being kept in suspense here help!).

Bullies & Hajime

Bullies & Hajime

Together with the bullies, he decides to “finish” things with Asuka, which then leads to the scene where the bullies arrive in school, Hajime in tow, and head straight for the kendo club. On the way they managed to threaten 2 senior members of the kendo club into telling them where the doujo was, while Yamato who originally thought his kendo seniors would hold up, then runs off to inform Asuka that the doujo is in trouble. In the meantime, the kendo seniors accidentally send Ryo a text message to meet at the doujo, only realising afterwards that the number they had sent the message to was not Asuka (whom they had originally intended to message). The bullies completely trash the doujo just as Asuka arrives, followed by Ryo. Asuka tells Yamato to close the doors of the doujo and not let anyone in.

Just as Hajime and him are really going at it with their kendo swords, Asuka is attacked from behind with a kick from Bully 1 (I don’t recall his name, and don’t care to recall it either) and lands belly-up in a rather miserable looking position on the floor. Just as he is tugged up for a good old beating by Bully 1, there is a flash of movement and as Hajime looks up, he sees Ryo running across the doujo to Bully 1 and landing a kick to his side that lays him out flat as a fish. With her other leg, she lands a jack-kick to Hajime’s nose, which means he goes comatose as well. The other bullies rush her, but with a few well-timed punches, she manages to knock them all out in a matter of seconds.

Juta, who was watching the whole scene from one of the sliding windows at the bottom of the doujo, just goes, “…EHHHHH????” when he sees Ryo, whom he had thought was just a cute transfer student, bringing down the 5 guys. The disbelieving expression on his face just absolutely made my day. (Juta is quickly becoming my favourite character in this drama!).

Juta's jaw-dropping scenes are just AWESOME (again, Asuka, you major fail dude, you let the girl save your butt!)

Juta's jaw-dropping scenes are just AWESOME (again, Asuka, you major fail dude, you let the girl save your butt!)

Then Ryo turns to Asuka, who also has this “what-just-happened???” look on his face, and tells him, “Asuka-san is so cute, I just want to protect you.”

End of Episode 1.

Episodes 2 and 3 are just as funny, although I’m learning it’s best to skip the introductions as the mother is beginning to grate on my nerves. I haven’t seen Episode 4 yet, but am looking forward to a promising 40 minutes since Juta has already begun prodding Asuka to confess to Ryo, who as yet remains completely clueless to the fact that Asuka likes her! (By the way, Asuka has managed to sew, and bake a cake in the first episode with Ryo, and he looks uber cute with his pink apron on, so that, if nothing else, is incentive to watch the drama).

I leave you all with tentalising screen captures of the ending song of the drama (please excuse the low-res, I’m really not good enough with technology to fiddle with such things):

Being chased by random samurai brandishing swords (although, WHY, I will never understand!)

Being chased by random samurai brandishing swords (although, WHY, I will never understand!)

Close up as they exchange meaningful looks (like, shall we kick their butts or make a run for it?)

Close up as they exchange meaningful looks (like, shall we kick their butts or make a run for it?)

Storyline: 3.5/5

Acting: 3.5/5

Recommended: Watch for the comedy, and please leave your brains behind. It’s called suspension of disbelief!

The drama airs every Saturday (up until Ep 9 whereupon they are switching to Tuesdays for some odd reason – don’t ask me to fathom the minds of the Japanese entertainment industry when I can barely understand the Taiwanese or Korean ones myself), but unfortunately I only get my Chinese subtitles on Tuesday, so stay tuned for more updates and the such.