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Buzzer Beat 11

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This is coming a little late, since the (raw) last episode of Buzzer Beat has been out since last Tuesday, but I really loved the ending of this drama (and yes, apparently the scriptwriters here understand the meaning of closure!) and felt I needed to mull over it a little.

I thought there might be a special episode after this, that would run for 75 mins long, but according to honeydew, this is the last of it, which I must say, wouldn’t be a bad thing since everything’s been very nicely finished, and I’m not keen to open up anything else to continue the story. (Although I felt a little cheated since the actual episode length was about 60 minutes as opposed to the advertised 75 mins long, so I was like…does that mean 15 minutes went to advertisements??).

Back to the drama – the only flaw, I felt, marring the ending is that, somehow, in this particular episode, there seemed to be an overplay of symbology – it felt like the scriptwriters weren’t quite sure we were getting it at the end, and decided to throw in plenty of hints. Nonetheless, it’s a small price to pay, to see everything wrap up so nicely – and I was right about deciding that Natsuki, despite the fact that she seemed like a bitch from the start, was really only human. Her worst vice is her pride – ah, hubris, there is a saying that goes, “But a man’s pride cometh before the fall”.

The last episode is kicked off with Coach Kanzaki gathering the team, to ready them for the new season.

The last episode is kicked off with Coach Kanzaki gathering the team, to ready them for the new season.

Naoki in therapy, working his ankle.

In the meantime, Naoki goes for therapy, working his ankle, followed by Natsuki, who tells him not to strain himself.

Since dramas all work within the premise of coincidences, coincidentally, on Riko’s last day at the bookstore, she meets her boss’s wife (he’s a remarried man), who just happens to be – Naoki’s older sister. (I wanted to say that these things don’t happen in real life, but forget that – I know too many people who know other people who know people I know. It’s all very bizarre, so let’s just put it this way: I’m just not surprised things turned out this way!)

When Naoki's older sister saw her, she recognised Riko as the violinist to whom her brother had wanted to give a sunflower to during her very first recital at a place near the station, but when Coach Kanzaki had turned up bearing a bouquet of roses, Naoki decided to give the sunflower to a little boy instead (who passed it on Riko unintentionally, so she still managed to get the flower anyway, since we must all have our little coincidences here).

When Naoki's older sister saw her, she recognised Riko as the violinist to whom her brother had wanted to give a sunflower to during her very first recital at a place near the station, but when Coach Kanzaki had turned up bearing a bouquet of roses, Naoki decided to give the sunflower to a little boy instead (who passed it on Riko unintentionally, so she still managed to get the flower anyway, since we must all have our little coincidences here).

When Riko hears this, she immediately rushes out of the shop, only to remember that she’s abandoned her phone and doesn’t have Naoki’s number any longer. Just as Mai follows her out and is about to ask Shuji for Naoki’s number, Riko stops her and tells her that if the sunflower was really given to her by Naoki, then she has to work even harder to accomplish her dream for him, since he was the one who supported her even from then, and had given her the courage to pursue her dreams.

Later that night, we see Riko packing up to go to Karuizawa, and Mai and Shuji helping her. As they finish off the packing and prepare to spend their last night together, Mai fetches out a time-line that she’s drawn, detailing their history together – from university days, to moving in together, and most especially, falling in love over this summer. As they reminisce over the good old days, Mai figured out that everything that happened, happened after the two of them moved in together into the apartment they were renting now.

Riko muses that all that blank time they've had in the past 2 years seems to have exploded this summer - everything that could have possibly happened did happen. Mai, in turn, gives Riko a bear hug, half-joking (although I do think the sentiment she expressed was genuine) as she tells Riko not to go, while Riko admits that she almost can't bear to.

Shuji's unbearably comic here when he asked why Naoki's name is at the end Riko's line and drawn with a heart, while Coach Kanzaki was further in the front. I laughed when Mai shot him her trademark exasperated look and said, "I'll explain everything to you later." Classic. I absolutely love the way they've made Shuji so clueless about everything important, even though he makes up for it with his sweetness.

Despite the fact that it’s only been half a year (of summer??…well, I suppose that’s possible in some places, but I never realised summer was so long in Japan), the two girls have bonded and grown even closer, what with all they’ve had to go through. Riko muses that all that blank time they’ve had in the past 2 years seems to have exploded this summer – everything that could have possibly happened did happen. Mai, in turn, gives Riko a bear hug, half-joking (although I do think the sentiment she expressed was genuine) as she tells Riko not to go, while Riko admits that she almost can’t bear to. Shuji brings over a box of tissue, and I died when he was the first one to draw from it as he wiped tears away (he’s so adorable!!) – the three spend a few moments blowing their respective noses and wiping their eyes.

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Naoki returns home, to find that Natsuki has dropped by his house and left some vitamins and supplements to help with his recovery.

Naoki’s mother and sister don’t understand why they broke up (since the boy didn’t tell them Natsuki cheated on him), and Naoki’s mother even tells him that she hopes they’d get back together, whereupon Naoki lets out this sigh and goes all broody asking, “What’s love?” (I burst out at that; it’s very 问世间情为何物,直教人生死相许 if you understand Mandarin – or “What is this thing called love, that compels people to promise their lives to each other til death do them part?”…it’s very Romeo and Juliet, if you ask me.) He reflects that once upon a time, his mother must have loved his father, and yet, they still broke up. (His mother looked a little confused and amused at the same time while she tried her best to parry the conversational sword by telling him she never regretted a single moment in any of her relationships since she threw herself whole-heartedly into it – a point of view I have never quite managed to wholly comprehend either.)

After that, Naoki tells his mother, “…I’ve found it. The girl that Mother described long ago – someone who makes my heart feel at peace. (Both his mother and sister look delighted at this) But she has a dream. I want to be her pillar of strength, but I don’t want to be separated from her, and yet I can’t expect her to abandon her dreams to follow me.” Just as he sinks back into gloominess, his mother plonks a cup of water in front of him and answers, “She’s an important person isn’t she? …Well then, just trust your heart, and follow it. It’s easy to give up and say that love is tiring, but for those who manage to hold on to it in the face of adversity, I think only they (the persistent) will be able to see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (that’s my own translation. Literally she says something like they will see something sparkling and shining). Hasn’t Naoki always believed that you should never give up until after the very last second?” (I think it’s hilarious how the writers are trying to dish out important advice to the audiences via the mouthpiece of their characters)

The camera then pans to Naoki at South Park basketball court again, and he gazes longingly at Riko’s window (I thought it was funny that it was Mai’s silhouette that appeared first).

Happier moments with Riko replay in his head, and he turns to look at the signboard that says, "Love Makes Me Strong" (and of course, we immediately suspect something is up, right?).

Happier moments with Riko replay in his head, and he turns to look at the signboard that says, "Love Makes Me Strong" (and of course, we immediately suspect something is up, right?).

And we would be right, because when Riko wakes up the next morning and opens the window for fresh air, the first thing she sees are the words on the signboard, which says, "Work hard towards achieving your dreams. By your number 1 fan." Even as she smiles at the sweetness of it all, tears fall down Riko's cheeks.

And we would be right, because when Riko wakes up the next morning and opens the window for fresh air, the first thing she sees are the words on the signboard, which says, "Work hard towards achieving your dreams. By your number 1 fan." Even as she smiles at the sweetness of it all, tears fall down Riko's cheeks. Just before she leaves for good, Riko takes a picture of the board, and the message Naoki's left for her on it.

The drama then moves in, finally, on some proper basketball action scenes, when the basketball season officially begins. Commentators raise the heat by pondering on the kind of performance that JCArcs would give this season, considering that Naoki’s being put out of action, and they have a new member on the team.

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Will JCArcs finally shake off their losing streak and make it all the way to the Nationals? Or will they, like last season, break and falter during a crucial game and lose the championship again?

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Beginning of Summer 2010: Riko is hard at practice in her new environment.

Her new do looks fineeee to me.

I reckon she looks really pretty with the waves in her long hair (but then again, Keiko's always pretty anyway). Reminders that she still remembers Naoki? She's eating the French toast that he "taught" her how to make, while she sits in the basketball court watching the kids throw some hoops.

More action scenes of Naoki and the rest of the JCArcs on court. After the game, we see Naoki and Natsuki walking alongside each other as they make their way to the traditional celebratory party after the hard fought win to get to the finals. As they are on their way, Natsuki comments that it feels like as though nothing has changed from last year (replay memories of Naoki proposing to her and all their happy moments together) and yet…Naoki smiles ruefully, since he’s actually thinking of Riko, and he halts when he hears the tune that Riko always used to play. Meantime, at the bar/eatery where the party’s being held, rumours are flying around that they will reconcile, since Natsuki has been faithfully following Naoki around everywhere. Shuji, who hears this, immediately thinks of reporting this to Mai (so cute!).

After this, Mai receives a call from Riko, who is calling from a train station, telling Mai that she’ll be back in Tokyo for a short while to help her senior with something, and wanted to stay with Mai for a few days. Mai immediately agrees, but adds that it’s unfortunate that Shuji (and therefore, by implication, Naoki?) would be away for a game. When Riko hangs up and is walking up the stairs with her senior (the guy eating her French toast in the picture above), she hears a familiar voice talking about basketball, and turns around. She catches a glimpse of Naoki and Shuji as they leave the train station (Shuji talking about Mai’s curry again! The boy either loves his curry, or Mai cooks nothing else LOL.) and immediately dashes out after them.

The two boys get on a bus and are happily yammering away, whilst poor Riko chases the bus and yells out Naoki's name.

The two boys get on a bus and are happily yammering away, whilst poor Riko chases the bus and yells out Naoki's name. They don't hear her, unfortunately, and Riko can't keep up with the bus, so she watches them leave reluctantly.

Obvious replay of the first episode where Naoki and Riko meet, really. (Like I said, lots of mirroring and symbolism going on in this episode) Back at the apartment with Mai, Riko finds out that Shuji finally gets to play in a game (for about 5 minutes; Mai manages a delicate balance between being proud of Shuji while knowing he still has far to go) and that the team has done very well this season, especially Naoki, after he recovered from his ankle injury. Riko seems comforted upon knowing that Naoki is working hard at achieving his dream as well, and Mai hands her the schedule for the team’s (final) game. Unfortunately, Riko’s orchestra has an upcoming concert they have to practise for, and she can’t take the time off to go for the game, but wishes aloud that she could cheer alongside Mai.

After the short talk with Mai, Riko visits the South Park basketball court, with the “Love Makes Me Strong” sign that still has Naoki’s message on it. As she stares at the message, good memories of happy times with Naoki wash over her (again with the replay thing! It feels like about 10 minutes in this drama is being taken up by replays, in my opinion).

As Riko leaves the park, she brushes past a familiar shoulder – Coach Kanzaki. The two halt abruptly and turn back to look at each other in belated recognition, and off they go for another chat, where Riko admits to Coach Kanzaki that Naoki’s support has meant a lot to her, because she originally thought she could give up the violin for him (that was how much she liked him) but after she’s been to Karuizawa, she realised all over again exactly how much she loves the violin. The fact that Naoki was able to let her go to pursue her own dreams was something she really appreciated, and Coach Kanzaki confesses as well that he would never have been able to do that; instead he would have asked her to give up her violin and stay by his side.

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Riko wonders aloud if Naoki's forgotten her, and Coach Kanzaki teases her by saying that the chance of ending up together forever, even though they seem like a destined couple, was even lower than that of a "buzzer beat".

In response to Riko’s bewilderment, he explains that a buzzer beat is a shot that is made just as the bell buzzes (thus the coined term). HAHA. So cheesy to stick this at the end of the drama, as if audiences would never have figured this out by now. Anyway, I thought Naoki explained what a buzzer beat was to Riko before, but it could just be my memory failing me, which is entirely possible. At the end of their conversation, just as Coach Kanzaki turns away after thanking her for a most delightful catching up session, he comes to a sudden stop (as if an afterthought) and turns back to add, “Since we promised not to lie, I’ll tell you one last thing. Naoki still remembers you.” Riko is left with a mix of emotions – yearning, gladness, sadness? (Keiko does this really well, I have to say. She’s going up on my list of Class A actors/actresses.)

Of course, since the story needs to tie up the plot between Naoki and Natsuki, we see them next, with Natsuki watching Naoki practising his hoops. It’s here that I would like to applaud Saki for doing such a fabulous job, and let me explain why:

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Natsuki tells Naoki that, after watching him for the past half a year, she has finally come to understand his dream, and she believes in it from the bottom of her heart. "I like Naoki. Can't you be happy, with me?"

Naoki: “Natsuki, you’ll be happy. But the person who will make you happy isn’t me.” Ouch. He goes on to tell her she’s a good girl (double whammy), and that he hopes his image in her heart will always be that of a cool guy, and that it was basically his fault because he was so insistent on acting cool all the time that he lost touch with what she was really looking for – when Natsuki cuts in with a “tsk”-ing sound (it’s meant to show your annoyance, and it does, here).

Natsuki then seemingly reverts back to her “bad girl” side where she tells him, “You’re being overly kind again. It’s because you’re always like that, that you’re always being cheated on. Oh well. She (referring to Riko) won’t do that to you. I was told off by her. She told me that your dream was definitely achievable. So go. Go to her.” When Naoki nods his head, Natsuki adds with a throwaway smile, “Next time, please teach me how to make French toast.”

She turns her back here, and you can see the sorrow in her eyes. “That’s the one thing that, no matter how hard I try, I can never get right.” (What, so now the French toast is becoming a symbol too?) I thought it was really touching because you could tell she really does love him, from this particular scene. When she hears Naoki say, “Okay, if it’s Natsuki, you can definitely do it (referring to the French toast).” a bittersweet smile appears on her face and she replies, “That goes without saying. Ah yes, I was lying just now, when I said I liked you. I don’t think about you anymore.” (This line is killer! Her eyes! Her eyes are totally denying everything she’s telling Naoki! She’s letting him go…at last. About time, girl.)

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She tears up a little, but holds it back in and puts on a brave smile, as she turns around and tells Naoki, "You must win. If for no one else, then for that last shred of pride you have."

You can tell where Natsuki’s thoughts deviate from Naoki’s and Riko’s. The latter two think of love as their strength, while Natsuki holds on for pride. Like I said, ah…hubris…she’s holding on right now to it too, denying her last feelings for her ex-boyfriend. As Naoki nods and walks out of the room (I thought it was hilarious how he leaves so abruptly while she stays in the room, but it has to be directed that way), Natsuki finally lets her tears flow.

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I adore the way Saki manages to make Natsuki look simultaneously angry (at herself?), disgusted (again with herself? for being so weak? and losing Naoki?) and yet so grieved at her loss.

The tears overwhelms her and she slumps to the floor in distress. As she is crying her heart out, a shadow falls over her, and a familiar voice calls out, “Natsuki. What’s wrong?” LOL and this would be our dearest Toru, of course, since he’s been watching over Natsuki for…oh…I don’t know…3 years now?

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Natsuki: "Why are you here?" Toru: "Practise." Natsuki (as she wipes her tears away): "Basketball, basketball, it's no wonder people think you're gay." Toru: "...Then, why don't you go out with me?" WIN! Very, very win. Totally great pick up line, there, dude.

I laughed like a hyena at Natsuki’s taken aback expression as she went, “Eh??” At her shocked look, Toru quickly tacks on at the end, “To eat cake together.” ARGH! Great opportunity lost here, Toru! No! I do think they make a sweet couple though, mostly because I think Natsuki is at her most real when she’s together with Toru – she doesn’t feel like she needs to put on a mask, either to be overtly good/bad like she did with Naoki/Yoyogi respectively. In a sense, Toru’s her fulcrum. Since he knows the ‘real’ her, and is still in love with her, I really wish she’d give him a chance. I think she’d find herself surprisingly blissful if she did, since Toru’s a great catch (team captain and star shooter and all that).

There’s a really cute moment after this whole emotionally draining scene for Natsuki, with Shuji and Mai. Mai’s cooking her Katsu-don (fried pork with rice) for Shuji, so that their team will win the game (since “Katsu” sounds very similar to win in Japanese). Shuji watches her and at the same time is practising his speech – he wants to propose to Mai that if they win the game, she’d marry him (similar to Naoki and Natsuki in Ep1) but at the same time, he’s afraid to jinx it since Naoki did so badly with Natsuki last year! This moment was soooo cute. As they eat, Mai tells him, “If you win…I’ll marry you.” Shuji almost chokes on his food, and his wide-eyed look was supremely mirth-inducing. I probably almost fell off my bed laughing at this point.

I have to fast-forward things a little, since I’m running out of space and time. Coach Kanzaki and Naoki are on their daily run, and Kanzaki tells Naoki not to push it too much since the final match was approaching. Naoki tells Kanzaki, in turn, that he was going to Karuizawa to fetch Riko, which Kanzaki approves of. Naoki leaves the train station holding a sunflower, and makes his way to Riko’s dorm, only to be told that she wasn’t in since she was in practice for the upcoming concert. The landlady praises Riko for being so capable, at such a young age, to participate in such a large-scale concert, thus making Naoki feel guilty for coming all the way out here to bring her to watch him play when she needed to be focused on her concert practices. He leaves the sunflower with her landlady, instructing her to give it to Riko, only telling her that it was from “a fan”.

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Riko arrives at her dorm just as Naoki leaves (again with the coincidental leaving/arriving thing!) and when she gets the message from the landlady she immediately dashes out the door (again!) but is left high and dry since Naoki's gone back.

There’s a man to man bonding session at South Park basketball court where Naoki and Shuji start shooting hoops and exchanging words of worry and encouragement (Naoki will continue to strive to achieve his dream), and then the scene cuts to and fro between the JCArcs’ match and Riko’s violin practice. There’s a really funny bit before the match starts, where a row of school girls, along with Naoki’s sister, file in behind Mai, and recognise her as that older woman who was ragging Shuji out for his date with the school girls the other time. Then Naoki’s older sister, and her husband (the bookstore owner) arrives, and he immediately picks out Mai as well. The poor girl’s just like, “…All the people you don’t want to meet…”, which was a super laugh out loud moment. Then the match starts, and Riko’s still in practice so audiences agonise over that…for about 10 seconds. Until Riko blanks out, thinking about Naoki’s upcoming game, during rehearsal.

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As she falters completely, the conductor brings rehearsal to a halt and calls out her name sharply. Riko looks up and is all like, "I can't do this. It's an important time for an important person in my life and I have to be there for him."

Mr Conductor asks, “Do you love him?” and Riko replies, “Yes. I do.” and Mr Conductor states firmly. “It’s alright. Love makes one strong.” (HOW DO THEY COME UP WITH CHEESY LINES LIKE THIS?! On the other hand, it’s actually strangely comforting…even if it’s a line they throw at you about 10,000 times in this last episode.) Riko thanks Mr Conductor and immediately sets off for Tokyo at a run.

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I love this shot of her running towards the sky - it's like, freedom to pursue her love too? (I don't know, I could be making too much out of it)

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Meanwhile, at the match, JCArcs are behind by 5 points, with only 2:43 minutes left on the scoreboard - can you spell CRITICAL MOMENT here?

Naoki manages to throw in a shot while a player from the opposing team fouls him – which means he has an extra chance to gain points by throwing in a foul shot.

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The entire crowd waits with bated breath for his shot, and he braces himself for it when...

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...who else would come running in, but Riko? She yells at them to, "Wait! Number 8 over there! I'm here! Your number 1 fan is here to cheer for you. You have to win for me, idiot!" (Mai's reaction here is hilarious - she murmured to herself, "I'm so glad you're here...but it's also a good thing basketball isn't aired on TV...")

Her nod of support gives Naoki strength, and he mutters to himself, “I’m strong, I’m strong.” (which, frankly, looks a little psychotic to me, but I talk to myself all the time so I shouldn’t complain really) before he throws the ball – and makes a perfect shot. Everyone, including Mai and Naoki’s entire family, squeal, jump up and down delightedly and hug each other fervently. With seconds left on the clock, Yoyogi intercepts an opponent’s pass, and throws it towards Naoki, who…

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...performs that miracle of all miracles - yep, if you guessed buzzer beat you were right. I'm a little amused at how, er, subtle things are.

The whole team goes insane, cheering, and the crowd goes wild. As they exchange sweaty hugs, and manly grunts of victory, throwing Coach Kanzaki and Naoki in the air, Naoki looks over to Riko, and leaves the team as soon as he can, to run up to her.

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The first thing he says to her is, "After having not met for so long, is there anyone who first greets someone 'idiot' like you do?...but it's fortunate that you were here, because you made me stronger..."

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And he pulls her into a hug.

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"Let's never separate again." AND THEY KISS.

At the end, as they pull apart, they lean their foreheads against each other and smile blissfully. Finito.

I thought the ending was sweet, if a tad overly so. I’m a little bereft now that it’s finally all over, even though I pretty much expected the ending. There are some people who may find this drama a little boring, since…well…nothing terribly antagonistic ever happens, but for a Japanese drama, this is actually pretty unusual. Japanese people are big on open endings. I’m not sure if they’ll ever do a special, but if they do, I don’t know what avenue they’ll explore, since they’ve pretty much tied everything up – Toru with Natsuki (I hope!), Shuji and Mai, and Naoki and Riko.

…I have a big problem. Now what am I going to watch?!

Continuation of Abracadabra on Star King Episode

Which is absolutely hilarious since they managed to get MC Kang Ho Dong and even Alex from Clazzaquai (whom I love) to get out on the floor. Jo Kwon’s explanation of how to conduct the dance for the famous pelvis-shaking move of Brown-eyed Girl’s famous Abracadabra video was my personal favourite – I think he said something akin to, “The most important point is the eyebrows. You have to look like you’re always shocked/surprised! And then, you have to think you’re the best (or really good) – forever (in Korean), forever! (emphasized when he repeated it in English)”. (I do not claim accurate translation of what Jo Kwon says, since my Korean is fail i.e. learnt from spending too much time on dramas)

(I found this out on Omona, and just had to comment because it was so…win…)

Brown-eyed Girls vs. Dirty-eyed Girls (…Boys, Really…)

So, I’m slow on the uptake as usual, but decided that these videos were too delicious to pass up, even if you’ve already seen them floating around months ago:

Brown-eyed Girls: Abracadabra

And then, 2PM + 2AM’s parody, the “Dirty” version by Dirty-eyed Girls, starring Chansung, Wooyoung and Taekcyon from 2PM and Seulong and Jo Kwon (who is fast becoming my favourite 2AM member, simply because he is so drama-mama and is an absolute uproar. Although I suspect he could be also be *ahem* not heterosexual, but honestly, WHO CARES? The man is funny, a rare thing nowadays) from 2AM

Rakugo in English

Just came home from a performance of Rakugo in English, by Kaishi Katsura, who was a traditional Rakugo performer before he decided he wanted to share the spirit of Rakugo with the world, and began performing Rakugo in English in 1997. He has since performed in more than 70 cities, and done more than 300 performances world-wide.

Rakugo, in case you weren’t aware, is a traditional comic storytelling art that began in the Edo era and continues even today, with a long history of over 400 years. Some stories are recycled through the years, and some stories are revamped; in Kaishi’s words,

“It may be traditional, but it is anything but old-fashioned. Throughout its history, storytellers have always put their own modern stamp on the old stories, and are always coming up with new stories as well!”

My first introduction to Rakugo was when I watched the Japanese drama Tiger & Dragon about 3 years ago (yes, I know, I gain most of my knowledge of Japanese traditions through anime/manga/dramas; it’s a terrible thing), which was 11 episodes long (and it even came with a Special, which you must watch before starting the series, yes, I know, strange, but it wasn’t done chronologically…but since the whole drama’s completed now you might as well try to make sense of it chronologically). It starred Nagase Tomoya as Yamazaki Kotora / Hayashiyatei Kotora / Tora / Toraji / Toravolta and Okada Junichi as Yanaka Ryuji / Hayashiyatei Kotatsu, and these two boys absolutely made my day. I laughed so hard throughout the drama it was hard-pressed for me to remember when I didn’t love it (I never not loved it I think). In any case, I don’t think I’ll start a review on Tiger & Dragon now since I love it so much it’s quite hard to get me to shut up about it, but do watch it if you haven’t, since I highly recommend it! (It gets 5 out of 5 stars both acting and plot-wise from me, although I understand from my friends that not everyone enjoys the show; some say it drags a little in the middle, starting from about episode 5 or 6, but that never happened to me, so…)

Moving back to Katsura’s rendition of Rakugo in English. The performance began at 8 pm and ended in an hour (or so), which felt much too short since we were all enjoying ourselves thoroughly. Although I had issues with the emcee who sounded like she was faking her accent (I hate it when people do it and sound abnormal, the way most Asians do when they’re trying to speak to Caucasians, although I admit I do it myself, sigh) and trying much too hard to be funny as well (just give it up girl), I was practically wheezing with laughter every time Katsura said something.

Understandably, he didn’t try to give us too many of the really traditional Japanese rakugo stories (I love the story Manju Kowaii, which means in literal translation, “I’m Afraid Of [Japanese] Dumplings”…I’ll share the story on another post/page if I have time), so I was a little disappointed that the rakugo stories he presented catered so much to an English audience – so much so that, for many of them, you could literally see the punchline about 5 lines before it occurs.

Of course, the best thing about rakugo is that, in rakugo, because so many of the stories are recited repeatedly, audiences do actually know many of the rakugo stories even before they watch the performance (take for e.g. manju kowaii) – what makes rakugo special is in the way the rakugoka (the performer of the rakugo) does his performance, or the way he presents his stories (which may be different from his master’s / other rakugokas). This held true for Katsura-san’s rendition – even though I saw the punchline coming, and was giggling in my seat in the silences before he even performed it, his expressions and his mannerisms were still priceless, and caused many a member in the audience to burst out laughing unexpectedly.

His rakugo stories were split into 3 sections, interspersed with various interesting tidbits about rakugo (where it was first performed: a temple; when it first started: Edo period, 400 years ago; how many rakugo performers there are currently: over 700, and they earn income equivalent to movie actors; how to become a rakugoka i.e. undergo apprenticeship for 3 years and suffer without money, girls, or free time, etc). I was a little afraid that the audience might not get the jokes, but since everyone was practically laughing continuously throughout the programme, my fears became unfounded.

The first story he shared was about a man who wanted to hire a rickshaw (I can’t remember what the Japanese equivalent is anymore) to get him to church. First, he hired one that was so slow, even a grandmother walked faster than him. The slow rickshaw puller even had to get the customer out of the shaw in order for him to help push the shaw up a steep slope…and unfortunately, he didn’t anticipate that what goes up must eventually come down, so when he crossed the peak, the puller ended up rolling down the slope, leaving the customer stranded.

The man then said to himself, “I still need a rickshaw puller to get to the church on time. But this time I shall choose carefully.” So, he picked another rickshaw puller, who looked strong and able and who yelled confidently of his speed and strength. When he got into the rickshaw, the puller said to him, “Hold onto the bars, close your mouth, shut your eyes and off we go!” and shot off at the speed of light. The man was shocked at the way the rickshaw bounced up and down, up and down, and so he yelled at the puller, “Why is it doing that?” The puller answered, “Oh, we’re going very fast on a road that hasn’t finished construction yet. You’d better stop talking. One of my other customers tried to speak here and ended up biting his tongue and bleeding to death.”

….you can imagine the man’s reaction when he heard that.

Anyway, the man realised that the puller was heading in the direction of the train tracks, and of course, what else would come along but an express train? The man yells to the puller, “Slow down! We’re going to hit the train!” and the puller instead speeds up, yelling back, “But that’s what makes it so exciting!” The train whistles past them and the man grabs on and prays. They aren’t hit, and the man heaves a sigh of relief, whereupon the puller tells him, “You’re lucky. Sometimes the back of the rickshaw gets hit by the train and my customers get killed.” (Black comedy here, anyone?)

Then the puller stops and goes, “Sir, we’re here.” “…Where?” “…Here.” Grains of sand blow into the man’s face. “…This isn’t the church.” “Did you say church, sir?” “Yes, I said church.” “…Oh. I heard beach. Nevermind, sir, we’ll just head back the same way we came.” Before the man can do anything to protest this (and I think he would have protested, just for the hell of it), the puller goes off and heads straight back for the train tracks again, and this time, a super express train heads straight for them. The man yells, “We’re not going to make it! You have to stop!” but the puller only speeds up the same way he did before. The man faints, and is woken up moments later by the driver. As he wakes up, he sees the most beautiful flowers he’s ever seen in his life.”Where are we?” He asks the puller.

“Heaven, sir.”

Finito. It’s a great rakugo story, with many different elements you can analyse (if you’re in a literary mood) or just laugh at (if you’re in the mood for a bit of humour). There’s a moralistic point of view here (don’t judge by appearances?) interspersed with lots of black humour (the whole ending up in heaven, which is the final destination, one can argue, through which the church is supposed to be a medium). I quite enjoyed this one, but perhaps it’s only better if you go back and think through it again since a friend of mine confessed this was the section she liked the least.

Katsura-san’s second section was more condensed, and concise. He showed the audience how the rakugoka performs an entire show (rakugo is like a one-man standup comedy, except sitting down) using only 3 props: the paper fan (扇子, “sensu”) and a small cloth (手拭, “tenugui”), and perhaps the most important prop of all: an audience’s imagination (vital point, this one. No imagination = no story). The rakugoka kneels on a cushion, called the Kōza (高座), and performs in a special theatre called the Yose that was built for rakugo storytellers. In this section, he specifically showed how the rakugoka is able to act several different characters, and how he is able to use his acting abilities to show the audience, for example, a difference in the size of the house that a person is in.

The example he used was short, but hilarious. In a normal house, a person would call out, “Hey! You!” “Who, me?” “Yes, you, come on up over here!”. In a big house, a person would call out, “Heeeeyyyyyyyy….Yooooouuu.” (The way he pulled his echoes were supremely well done) “Whhhoooo, mmmmeeee?” “Yeeeesss, yoooouuuu, cccooooommme ooon uuuppp oovvveerr hhhheeerreee….”. In a small house, a person would call out, “Hey yo – Oh!” (Shock because the other person is right over the shoulder). We all died laughing.

He also showed us how rakugokas eat noodles, which was extremely difficult, since they make a slurping noise – I have no idea how (this part was interactive, so it was quite fun). He finished it off by telling us, “That was disgusting!”

The third and last section was also quite short, and to be honest, this was the one where I saw the punchline about 5 lines ahead and started giggling way before anyone else did, so it was a little embarrassing.

…this post ended up being a little longer than I expected, and I need to sleep for work tomorrow, so I guess I’ll have to continue tomorrow. Anyway, great work, Katsura-san, and do keep the spirit of rakugo alive and well! I want to be able to understand Japanese well enough to go watch a genuine rakugo performance in Japanese, and be able to laugh at all the jokes. Ja, oyasuminasai, minna-san!

Buzzer Beat 10

I’ve been terribly busy this week catching up on YEH’s new drama, Take Care of the Young Lady (10 episodes! In a week!) so I haven’t exactly had time to pen down any thoughts, but thought I’d better make some time for the latest episode of Buzzer Beat. Since my internet is fail, which equates to downloading at the pace of a snail, I only just finished watching the subbed version of it on Friday, although I know raws have been out since Tuesday morning (it’s like, if my internet worked any faster it would curl up and die…). Thanks to spoilers from various sources, I’ve also managed to figure out most of what happened even before watching it, but this did not stop my heart from breaking right at the end, when they both do the right thing and walk away from each other in tears!

So recapping from the end of the last episode, with Riko being hugged by Coach Kanzaki, and Naoki on his way to Riko’s apartment with a sunflower…

just as he gets to the door of her apartment, the door opens and Coach Kanzaki steps out, and sees Naoki, and says, "Oh...Naoki.". Naoki hesitates, and in that moment, Coach Kanzaki brushes past Naoki, and heads towards the basketball court.

Just as he gets to the door of her apartment, the door opens and Coach Kanzaki steps out, and sees Naoki, and says, "Oh...Naoki." Naoki hesitates, and in that moment, Coach Kanzaki brushes past Naoki, and heads towards the basketball court.

Naoki follows him and what follows is both the cutest and sweetest confrontation between two love rivals that I’ve ever seen:

Naoki, immediately after dropping his bag on the bench, bows and apologises to Coach Kanzaki, saying, "I'm sorry. I like Shirahaka-san (Riko's surname), but she wasn't at fault, it was all my fault. I couldn't stop myself (from falling for her)." Coach Kanzaki, "Naoki. Do you know what Riko and I were doing in the room? ...She cried, because of you, and it was I who wrapped her in my warm embrace. I don't think you can protect her." Naoki, "No, I want to protect Riko. It is true that I am not strong enough, that I don't have faith in myself, that I feel inferior, but this is the me she accepted. My basketball...my way of life.  With her, I think I will become stronger. Since she is important to me, I will protect and cherish her. Together with Riko, I want to fulfil our dreams." After which, the boy bows again and apologises, "I'm really sorry." (ARGH I want to hire these scriptwriters to go and write My Fair Lady for Yoon Eun Hye!! The poor girl is suffering from a terrible script and awful direction)

Naoki, immediately after dropping his bag on the bench, bows and apologises to Coach Kanzaki, saying, "I'm sorry. I like Shirahaka-san (Riko's surname), but she wasn't at fault, it was all my fault. I couldn't stop myself (from falling for her)." Coach Kanzaki, "Naoki. Do you know what Riko and I were doing in the room? ...She cried, because of you, and it was I who wrapped her in my warm embrace. I don't think you can protect her."

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Naoki, "No, I want to protect Riko. It's true that I'm not strong enough, that I'm not confident enough, and that I feel inferior, but she accepted me the way I am. My way of playing basketball...my way of life. With her, I think I will become stronger. Since she is an important person to me, I want to protect and cherish her. With Riko, I want to fulfil our dreams together." After which, the boy bows again and apologises, "I'm really sorry, but I will never let her go." (ARGH I want to hire these scriptwriters to go and write My Fair Lady for Yoon Eun Hye!! The poor girl is suffering from a terrible script and awful direction)

At this Coach Kanzaki turns around, basketball in hand, smiles wryly and lets out a, "Ahhh...The two of you are really an annoying couple. Riko said the same thing, earlier. Forget it, I'll let the two of you immature little kids just be together. I don't care anymore."

At this, Coach Kanzaki turns around, basketball in hand, smiles wryly and lets out a, "Ahhh...The two of you are really an annoying couple. Riko said the same thing, earlier. Forget it, I'll let the two of you immature little kids just be together. I don't care anymore." (Is that NOT JUST THE SWEETEST THING YOU HAVE EVER HEARD?! Coach Kanzaki is the probably the best love rival I've ever come across in any sort of drama...)

In a symbolic move, Coach Kanzaki suddenly walks over to Naoki, and presses the ball into his hands, saying, "But I'll wait to see how strong you've grown. Show how much Riko's love has changed you, on the basketball court." Naoki: "Yes."  As Coach Kanzaki walks away, he holds up the small white box (with his proposal ring in it) and lets out another wry smile as he waves goodbye to Naoki. Naoki in turn, immediately says, "Thank you very much." and bows yet again.

In a symbolic move, Coach Kanzaki suddenly walks over to Naoki, and presses the ball into his hands, saying, "But I'll wait to see how strong you've grown. Show how much Riko's love has changed you, on the basketball court." Naoki: "Yes." As Coach Kanzaki walks away, he holds up the small white box (with his proposal ring in it) and lets out another wry smile as he waves goodbye to Naoki. Naoki in turn, immediately says, "Thank you very much." and bows yet again. (Quite pensive and bittersweet)

The symbolism of the transferring ball from Coach Kanzaki to Naoki here is strangely paternal and at the same time, an acknowledgment of Naoki’s “win” over Kanzaki in gaining the fair lady’s heart (although to be honest, since Riko had been, metaphorically speaking, in Naoki’s court the whole time, it wasn’t exactly a gargantuan task).

See, I always knew I liked the scriptwriters of Buzzer Beat for a good reason (okay, so some people will say this script is boring since everything’s progressing so smoothly…which is rare in a drama! It’s about time people started writing things that don’t frustrate me at every corner, which I will angst about in my review of MFL, as much as I love YEH) and the best thing here is that, so far, I like and/or understand/empathise with most of the characters (even the crazy bitch-ex-girlfriend, since I can tell she loves him in her own way, and is rather human with the way she expresses it). I especially love Coach Kanzaki for being able to tell that Riko and Naoki really, truly love each other, and thus, even as he lets go, he issues Naoki a (sort of embedded) warning not to break Riko’s heart. (Although, as much as I love Coach Kanzaki, I love the fact that Naoki and Riko are finally free from that particular burden!)

As Naoki stands in the basketball court at South Park, he looks towards Riko’s window, only to see her staring down back at him. There’s a rather beatific smile on her face (she’s never looked so at peace with herself before in the show, which, I guess, goes to show that the cry she had on Coach Kanzaki’s shoulder was cathartic).

Back at the house, Naoki is bowing and apologising for the thousandth time in the first 5 minutes of this episode. Riko: "I felt lonely. I knew nothing about the injury on your leg, and the fact that it was so serious you might need surgery." Puzzled, Naoki asks, "How did you know?" to which Riko replies, "You don't have to know. I won't tell you." There's a momentary pause, and then she looks up and asks in concern, "Are you okay?" Naoki nods, answering, "Mm. Actually, I just didn't want you to worry." To which Riko nods and gives an understanding sort of smile. Naoki: "Men...don't like to expose their vulnerable (actually here he says lame, but I thought vulnerable would sound better in the context) sides

Back at the house, Naoki is bowing and apologising for the thousandth time in the first 5 minutes of this episode. A bit too much "sorry"-ing going on, but never mind, how else are you supposed to tell the scene is meant to be harmonious anyway?

Riko starts off with, “I felt lonely. I knew nothing about the injury on your leg, and the fact that it was so serious you might need surgery.” Puzzled, Naoki asks, “How did you know?” to which Riko replies, “You don’t have to know. I won’t tell you.” There’s a momentary pause, and then she looks up and asks in concern, “Are you okay?” Naoki nods, answering, “Mm. Actually, I just didn’t want you to worry.” To which, Riko nods and gives an understanding sort of smile. Naoki: “Men…don’t like to expose their vulnerable (actually here he says lame, but I thought vulnerable would sound better in the context) sides in front of the woman they like.” (HAH. Excuses. Men.) To which Riko gives an (understandingly) feminine snort (I like to think, of disbelief) as she smiles and says, “Ah, is that so? How strange.”

And since this is turning out to be some major fessing-up session, Naoki in turn tells Riko, “Actually, I also felt lonely, since Riko, you didn’t tell me about how you lost your violin job.” There’s a LOL moment here as Riko widens her eyes and immediately says, “Ah, I just didn’t want you to worry…” and Naoki perches on the couch comfortably as he goes, “You see?” (Man, I hate it when people say that, but since I am guilty of throwing it out myself rather smugly on occasion, I can completely understand where they’re coming from.) It is Riko’s turn then to apologise, and after she does, Naoki reaches behind him and pulls out…

The sunflower he bought for Riko! She beams in joy and tells him, "I love sunflowers! Come to think of it, I also received a sunflower the other time when I finished performing at the recital in the building near the bus stop." Naoki smiles secretly at this, but doesn't tell her that in reality, he'd bought that other sunflower for her too. (I found the comparison of the living sunflower that Naoki bought for her vs the dying rose that Kanzaki bought for her absolutely hilarious for unknown reasons)

The sunflower he bought for Riko! She beams in joy and tells him, "I love sunflowers! Come to think of it, I also received a sunflower the other time when I finished performing at the recital in the building near the bus stop." Naoki smiles secretly at this, but doesn't tell her that in reality, he'd bought that other sunflower for her too. (I found the comparison of the living sunflower that Naoki bought for her vs the dying rose that Kanzaki bought for her absolutely hilarious for unknown reasons)

Naoki then tells Riko, “The only person in my heart is Riko, so, please, have faith in me. Okay?” And Riko nods firmly and gives him her trademark smile. So, this particular scene played out really well and had a happy ending as I’d hoped it would, which made me delirious with joy. For about 7 minutes, anyway, since this is how long the entire thing lasted.

The next scene, unfortunately, stars our favourite bad girl, Natsuki. What happens is that during practice, as Naoki is running to grab the basketball, his ankle gives out and he crashes to the floor grunting and sweating in pain, clutching his ankle. The camera then pans to the hospital and we see Natsuki and Naoki in the doctor’s office. The doctor advises Naoki to go for surgery in order to cure his ankle once and for all, telling him he should recover in time for the later half of the season and wouldn’t miss the season entirely.

As Natsuki walks out of the doctor's office, Naoki scrambling behind to follow her on crutches, she stops suddenly, turns around and tells Naoki, "Sorry. If I were by your side, I would have stepped in to help you make the decision earlier. Then you wouldn't have had to suffer so." And Naoki watches her back as she walks away again.

However, Naoki is adamant on not operating, since he doesn't even want to miss out on half the season. Natsuki watches Naoki arguing with the doctor in mounting horror and just when we think Naoki is about to get his way, Natsuki steps in and immediately tells the doctor to set a date for the surgery, completely bypassing Naoki.

As Natsuki walks out of the doctor’s office, Naoki scrambling behind to follow her on crutches, Naoki asks her, “Why did you make the decision for me?” Natsuki snaps back, “If this happens again in a match, can you imagine the trouble it would bring to the team? I know this season is important to you, but because it is, you can’t go out fighting in your current condition.” She adds, “Sorry. If I were by your side, I would have stepped in to help you make the decision earlier.” And Naoki watches her back as she walks away again. I have to say, no matter how much of a bitch Natsuki is, she’s terribly responsible and capable, and I can see why she rose so fast in the ranks of the company. However, the woman also does emotional blackmail really well, and I can almost see the guilt welling in Naoki as he realises he should have taken the surgery earlier, if only for his team-mates. Still, here you can see genuine concern for Naoki in Natsuki’s eyes, once again making the point that in her own selfish way, she does love the boy (not that we really care, but oh well, good try anyway scriptwriters).

In the meantime, good news descends for Riko, who finally picked up that unknown number that she keeps receiving on her phone. Turns out, of course, that the guest who reprimanded her in the lounge in the previous episode is actually the Director of a company that drafts and operates concerts (as far as I can tell, it seems akin to some concert-specific event management company).

Director Yao Ryusuke...who, as he sat down, apologised for getting her fired from her job, which wasn't his intention, but added, "It was partially your own fault. Every time I hear your recital, there's a massive difference. Sometimes, it's very good...and sometimes, it's very bad. In other words, emotionally speaking, you're not very professional. Which university did you graduate from, who was your instructor, what is your current income and current lifestyle like, and how much do you practise everyday?"

Director Yao Ryusuke...who, as he sat down, apologised for getting her fired from her job, which wasn't his intention, but added, "It was partially your own fault. Every time I hear your recital, there's a massive difference. Sometimes, it's very good...and sometimes, it's very bad. In other words, emotionally speaking, you're not very professional." He then proceeded to pepper her, bullet-like, with questions,"Which university did you graduate from, who was your instructor, what is your current income and current lifestyle like, and how much do you practise everyday?" Stunned, Riko replied only to the last one, "I practise about 3 hours a day..." Ryusuke leans back, "I see. No wonder you play the violin like that."

Ryusuke then tells her, “Can you give me your next week?” To which Riko is flabbergasted, until Ryusuke explains, “In a week’s time, we have an opening for a violinist in one of our concerts. We can consider you for the position, depending on the amount of effort you invest in the next week.” As Riko picks up the brochure they give her, he ends off with, “Give it some thought, and then call us.” Riko can’t believe her luck in this turn of events, and as she leaves, she dials Naoki, who is lounging in the boys’ locker room, and tells him everything that has happened. Naoki is delighted for Riko, and Riko tells him, “This is all thanks to Naoki. You were the one who told me, ‘Someone will always listen to you.'” and Naoki replies, “Work hard, okay?” And as he sets down the phone, Naoki lifts his injured ankle, grimacing.

As Naoki tries to shoot a hoop with his injured leg at the usual basketball court where they hang out, the ball bounces off the board without going into the hoop. Naoki hobbles over to catch the rebound and stands morosely beneath the board

As Naoki tries to shoot a hoop with his injured leg at the usual basketball court where they hang out, the ball bounces off the board without going into the hoop. Naoki hobbles over to catch the rebound and stands morosely beneath the board, before throwing the ball down in disgust.

In the meantime, Riko undergoes really harsh training. I'm not musically trained, so I have no idea what the teacher in here is saying, but she seems quite critical. You can tell from her eyes that Riko is a little disheartened at all the critique, but the spunky girl decides to keep going at it (and I say kudos to Keiko for an excellent performance here).

In the meantime, Riko undergoes really harsh training. I'm not musically trained, so I have no idea what the teacher in here is saying, but she seems quite critical. You can tell from her eyes that Riko is a little disheartened at all the critique, but the spunky girl decides to keep going at it (and I say kudos to Keiko for an excellent performance here).

Naoki

Naoki watches all his team-mates practise without him, and his lonely silhouette projects a feeling of abandonment, as he feels he is being left behind.

Upon seeing his despondence at home, Naoki’s mother decides that she will go watch his basketball matches when he recovers from the surgery, which she previously hadn’t due to a superstition that if she goes she would cause him to lose his match (which he had in the high school matches that she goes to watch. It’s a kind of silly superstition, but I can see where she’s coming from, because I’ve felt like that before, which is why I adamantly refuse to take sides in a match). Naoki is cheered by this, and the camera snaps to Naoki and Riko sitting by the river at night. (What I don’t quite understand is how Naoki and Riko managed to get there without Naoki giving away the fact that he was on crutches and would definitely be going for surgery – where the hell did he hide them and how did he get there if it wasn’t on crutches since he can’t walk by himself?! …okay, okay, yes, I get it, it’s called suspension of disbelief.)

Riko shows Naoki a magazine

Riko shows Naoki a magazine, where his team is featured, and tells Naoki that she's so excited that the season is starting (which is the WRONG THING to say, as we can ALL TELL). Naoki, in turn, opened his mouth to tell her about his surgery, but got as far as, "Er...that...Nevermind." and he immediately switches the topic to that of her practice for the concert. (Coward! Seriously, even if you don't want to worry your other half...TELL THEM THINGS. Keeping secrets do not a good couple make.)

Riko tells him that practice is hard, and that she gets very depressed thinking that she’s not very good since her bad habits are picked on every day. She has the additional stress of knowing that she hasn’t been officially selected to fill in the role yet either, and then she decides to confess to Naoki that she originally planned on going back home and giving up violin since she hasn’t had a real job in the two years since she’s graduated (this just gets worse and worse, woman you are not looking at your boy and his eyes properly because he’s becoming more and more worried for you and thus refusing to tell you about his ankle injury!) but decided she would press on a little more. Naoki suppresses his own worries and tells her, “Even if there is only a single ray of hope, please work hard.” Riko nods and adds, “And you are by my side.”

The scene then proceeds to dissolve into saccharine sweetness, as they playfully push each other and then Naoki enfolds her in his embrace. Riko later sits up, turns around and puckers her lips cutely for a kiss, and Naoki presses a chaste sweet kiss on a lips.

The scene then proceeds to dissolve into saccharine sweetness, as they playfully push each other and then Naoki enfolds her in his embrace. Riko later sits up, turns around and puckers her lips cutely for a kiss, and Naoki presses a chaste sweet kiss on a lips.

What I find important is that all the underlying things that aren’t being said by Naoki here…things that I think undermine Riko’s trust and faith in him. Not very smart of the boy, since her faith and all that has already been eroded from all the little manipulations Natsuki has pulled. Still, it’s very consistent with his character, so I can’t fault the scriptwriters, director OR actor. Can only gnaw on my fist, shake it at the screen and go, “Naoki, you FOOL!”

hkjb

Naoki and Yoyogi brush past each other as Naoki finishes throwing a ball and Yoyogi comes in for practice. As he is about to leave, Yoyogi asks, "Are you going for surgery now?" Naoki answers, "Mm." and makes to leave, but stops and turns around.

He then starts telling Yoyogi about his team-mates’ idiosyncrasies during the games, and tells Yoyogi to trust them more. In return, Yoyogi asks, “Why are you telling me all this?” Naoki replies, “Because to win, the Arcs need you. So please, trust your team-mates more.” You can tell this actually moves Yoyogi, perhaps because he’s always been slated as an outsider of the team, and now to have a pillar of the team tell him that he is needed for the team to go all the way to success…not to mention all the emotional baggage and rivalry between them; it probably really hits home for Yoyogi because the man actually says, as Naoki is leaving, “Your ankle injury isn’t a big deal right? So stop nagging here. Just get better sooner and come back.” (Kaneko is really improving in his acting, because he’s starting to look less stiff in his later scenes, and it comes out really well here because there’s a careful balance of rivalry and yet camaraderie in his words and in his facial expression. You can tell he’s started to convert to being a real part of the team, and is starting to trust in Naoki, treating him like a comrade)

Naoki is in turn touched by this, as he retorts, “You’d better play well before I return.” and smiles. As he is really about to leave (I almost wish he would leave already, there’s way too much “about to leave” bits here), the whole manly-bond-touching-scene is taken in by the rest of his crazy team-mates, who cheer and whoop at the sight.

All of them yell out encouragement, wishing Naoki luck for the surgery. It's quite cute really, a bunch of grown men going insane like this!

All of them yell out encouragement, wishing Naoki luck for the surgery. It's quite cute really, a bunch of grown men going insane like this!

With the support of his whole team behind him, Naoki leaves in peace for the surgery. This whole scene was really quite heartwarming (oh, manly love!) and I’m quite glad Naoki and Yoyogi seem to be over Natsuki now (since the woman is really not worth fighting over, in my opinion). At the end, Yoyogi smiles and and sighs, “He’s really a good guy.” after which he casually throws a ball that goes into the hoop (the first one he’s thrown recently that’s gone in!…symbolism here, anyone?).

This was shown in the teaser from the last episode, which now all makes sense to me as Natsuki sees Naoki into surgery. Obviously, Riko's not around since the stupid boy didn't tell his own girlfriend he would be undergoing surgery since she was actually doing the audition for the concert spot on the same day as his surgery. Must have thought it would affect her (which I think it would have)...it IS kind of sweet, but dumb.

This was shown in the teaser from the last episode, which now all makes sense to me as Natsuki sees Naoki into surgery. Obviously, Riko's not around since the stupid boy didn't tell his own girlfriend he would be undergoing surgery since she was actually doing the audition for the concert spot on the same day as his surgery. He must have thought it would affect her (he does have a point) so I can't say it isn't sweet, but that doesn't stop it from also being dumb.

Riko's audition goes well and she's chosen for the violin vacancy, and she's super delighted. She tried to call Naoki but couldn't get through (since he was in surgery) so she texted him instead, telling him, "I made it!"

Riko's audition goes well and she's chosen for the violin vacancy, and she's super delighted. She tried to call Naoki but couldn't get through (since he was in surgery) so she texted him instead, telling him, "I made it!"

Riko reaches home and shares her good news with Mai, and both of them squeal in delight. Mai is genuinely delighted for Riko, as good friends are wont to be, but realises that Riko doesn’t know that Naoki is in surgery, so of course, Mai spills the beans about everything.

Riko runs desperately to the hospital...

Riko runs desperately to the hospital...

But when she finally gets there and is about to enter his room, who else would she see but our favourite bad girl?

But when she finally gets there and is about to enter his room, who else would she see but our favourite bad girl?

Natsuki asks Naoki if there’s anything he wants so she can buy it for him (taking on responsibilities Riko should have been taking!) and when he replies in the negative, she tells him, “Then I’ll go home. Oh, but before I do…” and she pulls out a bag with (as far as I can tell) a couple of computer games (I gather they’re the latest editions from what Naoki says). As Natsuki makes to leave, Naoki calls out, “Thank you. If not for Natsuki, I would not have had the determination to go through with the surgery. I’m feeling a little sleepy now.” When Riko hears this, she’s even more dismayed than when she first saw Natsuki in the room. Our dear boy is always honest with the wrong person at the wrong moments. So, anyway, Natsuki rushes over to Naoki’s side to pull the blankets over him.

As Riko leans back morosely against the hospital walls, she hears a, "Excuse me..." looks up and sees Naoki's mother and sister.

As Riko leans back morosely against the hospital walls, she hears a, "Excuse me...", looks up and sees Naoki's mother and sister. She immediately apologises for blocking the door (UGH! Why hasn't Naoki introduced her to his family yet so they recognise her??) and moves to the other side, but doesn't leave yet.

As they enter the room, they are surprised to see Natsuki, who holds up a finger in the universal signal for silence, and tells them that Naoki has just fallen asleep due to the medication.

As they enter the room, they are surprised to see Natsuki, who holds up a finger in the universal signal for silence, and tells them that Naoki has just fallen asleep due to the medication.

Unfortunately, as they come fully into the room and Natsuki looks up, she spots Riko peering into the room, which immediately spurs her (again!) into action (I don’t quite know why she doesn’t take no for an answer, but I suppose it’s the same reason why she’s so successful at work). She apologises to Naoki’s mother, bowing, “It’s all because I broke up with Naoki so rashly. I didn’t take good care of him…so…I shouldn’t have broken up with him.” At this point Riko, who had been about to leave, immediately comes back and leans in to eavesdrop (and I would scold her for this, except I would probably do the same in her shoes).

Natsuki then continues, "I still like Naoki. I can't forget him. I regret this." Riko looks more and more distraught as Natsuki tears up and tells Naoki's mother, "After losing him, I realised I'm really nothing without him.

Natsuki then continues, "I still like Naoki. I can't forget him. I regret this." Riko looks more and more distraught as Natsuki tears up and tells Naoki's mother, "After losing him, I realised I'm really nothing without him. It doesn't matter if it's one-sided, but as long as I can support him like this, even if it's only as a team-mate, I'll be happy."

Of course, Naoki’s mother being the soft-hearted creature she is (the whole family faults on the side of being too nice and gentle) immediately steps up to comfort Natsuki and rubs her back in concern. Meanwhile, Riko’s face grows increasingly despondent. Natsuki seemingly rallies and smiles through her tears saying, “I will stay by his side and protect him. One day, he will need me.” and Naoki’s mother replies, “Indeed. I’m on your side.” (Which is possibly the worst comment one’s mother can make in front of one’s new and ex-girlfriends! Meanwhile Naoki is happily SNOOZING through all this unfolding drama?! I want to knock the boy out myself – through traditional means.) Riko leaves in grief as Naoki’s mother embraces Natsuki, and Natsuki’s eyes reveal a hint of insecurity – she’s not quite sure if she’s done the right thing, but she’s done it. (Man I can anticipate that this is going to lead to some awkwardness, to say the least, when Naoki finally gets around to introducing Riko to his family.) As Riko is on her way home, she passes by the empty basketball court, looks up and sees the sign “Love Makes Me Strong” (which has been a running motto throughout the show) and scrunches her brows further. (Lots of dramatic irony and symbolism in this episode, which I am more or less loving.)

Naoki just read Riko's text message about the audition and (very cutely) went, "Yes!! Ow ow ow." in pain as in his jubilation he forgot to be careful of his ankle. He tried calling her but couldn't get through so he texted her back instead.

Naoki just read Riko's text message about the audition and (very cutely) went, "Yes!! Ow ow ow." in pain as in his jubilation he forgot to be careful of his ankle. He tried calling her but couldn't get through so he texted her back instead.

“Dear Riko,” says Naoki’s text message, “Congratulations on passing the audition! I’m as happy for you as I would have felt if it was something I was doing. Perhaps you’re still in practice now, but I just wanted to tell you…Actually, I had surgery on my ankle today. I didn’t want you to worry about me at this important point in time, so I could only tell you after the fact, but everything went smoothly and the operation was a success. From now on, all that is left is recovery. I won’t be able to participate in matches for now,  I would really like you to see me in a match soon, but due to this period that I’ve been given to rest and recuperate, I’m able to view the team’s strengths and weaknesses through new eyes. I think this is also a kind of reward. So, don’t worry about me. I’m looking forward to your concert, please work hard.” (In the meantime they have flashes of Riko’s practice, Naoki sitting on the bench cheering his team-mates during practice, Natsuki looking at Naoki fondly, and Toru looking, in turn, at Natsuki…ARG! The love triangle!…that, well, doesn’t technically exist anymore since Naoki’s made it very clear to Natsuki that he’s moved on, the good boy.)

When Riko sees the text message, she smiles, and replies, “Naoki. Thank you. Is your ankle alright? Don’t force yourself too much. I will work doubly hard from tomorrow onwards, I love you.”

We finally arrive at the day of the concert, and we see Mai coming in to locate her seat and finding Riko's parents.

We finally arrive at the day of the concert, and we see Mai coming in to locate her seat and finding Riko's parents. Riko walks in together with the rest of the violinists, and Mai, upon seeing Riko, smiles delightedly even with tears in her eyes, saying,"Riko's beautiful today." She then gives a few tiny claps with her fingertips. (Ah, the beauty of friendship!)

As Riko is tuning her violin, she pauses to look up into the audience. At first, she’s a little disappointed she can’t see Naoki at all. Then, the heavy double doors swing open, and…

...and who else would be standing in the doorway but our dear boy with a bouquet of sunflowers? Upon seeing Riko, he transfers the flowers to his other hand, and holds up his right hand in their trademark salute. Riko beams and goes back to tuning her violin at ease.

...and who else would be standing in the doorway but our dear boy with a bouquet of sunflowers? Upon seeing Riko, he transfers the flowers to his other hand, and holds up his right hand in their trademark salute. Riko beams and goes back to tuning her violin at ease.

Riko's the one in blue, in case you can't tell. Anyway, the concert turns out to be a smashing success, and everyone, even Director Ryusuke and the harsh music teacher, who were all standing in the back wings, ended up hugging each other delightedly at the close of the concert.

Riko's the one in blue, in case you can't tell. Anyway, the concert turns out to be a smashing success, and everyone, even Director Ryusuke, his assistant and the harsh music teacher, who were all standing in the back wings, ended up hugging each other delightedly (or at least Director Ryusuke and his assistant did) at the close of the concert.

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Naoki gives Riko the bouquet of sunflowers as he congratulates her on the stellar performance. Riko is delighted, and the both sit down for a small chat.

Riko tells Naoki, “Just now, I had an offer from the Director to join the leading orchestra for his company; it’s an orchestra that gathers youthful talents from Karuizawa.” Naoki, “Isn’t that great?” Riko, “Yeah, but if I go, it’ll be really hard. I’ll have to practise 10 hours a day, and there will be slated concerts to perform at, and… (at this point she glances over at Naoki before looking away) if I accept the offer, I’ll have to go to Karuizawa for a year, next week.”

Naoki, “…Next week?”

Riko turns back to Naoki and offers him a brilliant smile, “That’s why I’m not going. If I go, I won’t be able to see you, and I won’t be able to support you at your matches.” Naoki tries to protest with a, “But…” Riko cuts in, “I want to remain by Naoki’s side. I want to stay in the place closest to you. I don’t want to be apart from you.” It’s Naoki’s turn to be worried, as he watches Riko go on about how wonderful it is to play in the orchestra, even if only for one day, under a famous conductor, while letting Naoki hear her playing. Riko finishes with, “I’m happy enough, like this. From now on, I will remain by Naoki’s side, and continue working hard, and auditioning for more violin positions, and working hard at my violin.”

Naoki can only nod at this point and smile encouragingly back at her, but of course, everyone can sense here that he’s feeling very uneasy about her decision to (sort of) give up her dream to follow him (in a way). As Riko gets called back in by the Director’s assistant, Naoki watches her go and you can almost follow his thought processes here as he thinks about all the things that Riko hasn’t said. (The boy’s quite perceptive when he wants to be!) Back at the basketball court, he stands there with a ball under his arm, gazing into air (I think at the same signboard that says, Love Makes Me Strong)…so we all know what’s going to happen next, don’t we?

Back at home, Riko tells Mai about the job offer and Mai wonders why she turned it down.

Back at home, Mai asks Riko if it's really okay with her turning down the Karuizawa offer, and Riko admits that she's afraid of being apart from Naoki, and she's afraid of Natsuki since she will always be with him. So, she would rather sacrifice the job offer and stay by her man's side. (Not that I don't understand where she's coming from, but I do have to say, I disagree. And apparently so does Naoki...)

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The two of them meet up again at night in their usual hangout (the South Park basketball court) and they start off by reminiscing about when they first met.

Naoki admits that it was Riko who had changed him, when he met her at his lowest point in life, and she supported him and his dreams. “Which is why…(he takes a deep breath)…I wish for you to go to Karuizawa. I hope that Riko will also be able to pursue her own dreams.” When Riko stands up in protest and says, “I don’t want to split up with Naoki – ” He steps forth and pulls her into his arms, telling her, “It will be fine. Even if we are apart, I will always be your strongest armour, because I am your number one fan. Let’s work hard together. Although we are at the age where we can’t live on dreams alone, and it’s about time to face reality, but the two of us, let’s never give up even at the very last second, and work hard together.” (This all sounds very awkward in English but is very heartmelting in Japanese!) Poor Riko is about to weep buckets of tears now, and Naoki pats her gently on the head. “Go to Karuizawa.”

The most heartbreaking best part about this scene is the way Riko's tears keep falling, but for Naoki, she puts on a smile in between her tears and nods, saying, "

The most heartbreaking best part about this scene is the way Riko's tears keep falling, but for Naoki, she puts on a smile in between her tears and nods, saying, "I understand." She then turns to the bag she was carrying, and takes out a white box from it.

Turns out the girl collected enough stickers to redeem a cup for him and wanted to give it to him tonight to celebrate her concert. Riko adds wryly, “If I’d known you were going to say all that, I would’ve prepared a cooler present for you tonight.” Naoki smiles, “I’m glad.” Riko nods and replies, “You’re right. Until the very last second of the very last second, we shouldn’t give up. It’s a promise I made with you.” Naoki: “Even if we’re not together, just thinking of you makes me braver.” With tear trail marks showing clearly against her cheek, Riko tells Naoki, “Me too. Thinking of you makes me stronger.”

Naoki nods and Riko finishes off with a smile saying, “Let’s not meet any more. If we meet again, it will only make the parting harder to bear. Goodbye.” Naoki, “Goodbye.” (Argh! This is the part from the teaser! The reason why the sadness is compounded here is because they use the formal version of “Goodbye” in Japanese i.e. sayonara which most people don’t use unless it’s a very formal or significant occasion…in other words, an official goodbye. It feels like they’re biding each other farewell forever!…well, but since it’s a drama, they still have one episode left to ties things up properly.)

And the episode ends off Riko crying as she walks away from Naoki (a scene which Keiko does really well you almost can see her heart breaking) and Naoki follows her out the court and looks at her retreating back (here you can see he almost regrets saying what he said, and he opens his mouth to call out to her, but he doesn’t. VERY WELL DONE YAMAPI! I knew there was a reason I liked you so much) and he recollects moments of them being together in happier times (their first meeting, the sparklers, their first kiss, her confession, her waiting in the rain for him, her smile as she learns how to play basketball for the first time) and tears well up in his eyes before he drops his head and turns away.

Unfortunately I found the whole lights going off at the "Love Makes Me Stronger!" signboard at this point in time terribly amusing.

Unfortunately I found the whole lights going off at the "Love Makes Me Strong!" signboard at this point in time terribly amusing.

Next is the last episode and the special’s going to be 75 minutes long apparently. (I think the last episode and the special will be 2 different episodes because that’s how it’s usually done, but I could be wrong.) There are quite a few loose threads to wrap up i.e. the whole Natsuki thing, and of course, if Riko will be able to come support Naoki in his most important match (which I think she will) and whether he will introduce her to his family (please do!) and what happens to poor Toru who still appears to be pining over Natsuki. Sadly, there are no cute Mai and Shuji moments in this episode, but there are enough tension-filled moments to make you forget that. While I’m looking forward to the last episode, I’m also a bit reluctant for the drama to end, since it’s been a great 11 weeks. I’m probably going to have to look for something new to stoop the gap. If you have any dramas you’d like to recommend, now’s the time!

Take Care of the Young Lady a.k.a My Fair Lady a.k.a Lady Castle Ep 1

Anyone who is a fan of Yoon Eun Hye (of 1st Shop of Coffee Prince and Goong fame) would have tried to catch the latest drama that she’s doing (the name of which has been changed so many times I can hardly keep up with it all), which is known as:

    Take Care of the Young Lady aka My Fair Lady aka Lady Castle (they had copyright issues with the name, thus explaining all the changes, which merely served to confuse me further) / Left: Yoon Sang Hyun as Seo Dong Chan / Centre: Yoon Eun Hye as Kang Hye Na / Right: Jung Il Woo as Lee Tae Yoon

Take Care of the Young Lady aka My Fair Lady aka Lady Castle (they had copyright issues with the name, thus explaining all the changes, which merely served to confuse me further) / Left: Yoon Sang Hyun as Seo Dong Chan / Centre: Yoon Eun Hye as Kang Hye Na / Right: Jung Il Woo as Lee Tae Yoon

I’m a little late in reviewing this, since approximately 8 episodes (subbed) have already been circulating for weeks, but my excuse was that I wanted to have the whole series before I even started, since I tend to be a little obsessive about continuing episodes. Alas, I couldn’t make myself stay away from temptation and succumbed to the first couple of episodes, after which I felt I just had to share about it.

YEH is one of my favourite Korean actresses (let’s face it, Coffee Prince was made for her) firstly because she’s distinctive (Korean female faces all tend to blur after a while, since plastic surgery…well, let’s not go there) but mostly because she’s oh-so-talented at acting it makes me want to hug her.

In this drama, she plays a haughty ‘princess’ (unlike the pedestrian roles she used to take in her previous dramas) who not only excels at all the masculine sports such as horse-riding, shooting, and kendo, but is also gifted with the face of an angel and the body of a sinner. Unfortunately, she’s also impossible to control or please. She’s rude, uncouth, and quite ruthless when it comes to vengeance (or so it seems), and fires people at whim (Got her hair caught in your ring? Fired. Can’t remember what she said and want her to repeat it? Fired).

The first episode begins with her grandfather setting her up for a blind date (similar to a Goukon if you know Japanese) and she completely ruined it by casually telling the other party that all the “scandals” about her past was real (living together with men in two, no, three countries, having a child – all of which I thought was quite hilarious since it seems pretty normal to me, but I suppose you have to factor in conservative Korean culture here) and then after she stalked out of the room and was followed by the man who was supposed to be her goukon date, she lays him out flat, crushes him beneath her stiletto heels and then walks off like it doesn’t matter (which I found rather endearing but also I understand why everyone in the drama finds her a bitch HAHA).

At the...not so round table where they are gathered for the Korean version of a Goukon dinner...

At the...not so round table where they are gathered for the Korean version of a Goukon dinner...

I couldn't stop laughing when she...

I couldn't stop laughing when she...

...totally crushed him under her feet. LOL. (Plus those boots are hot.)

...totally crushed him under her feet. LOL. (Plus those boots are hot.)

Speaking of which, the outfits that they dress her in are just fabulous. Every single scene that she appears in, I salivate, lusting after what she’s wearing (except some of them also look damn uncomfortable, and I can’t help but think only YEH would have been able to carry it off).

I mean, like, seriously, how hot is that white, black strappy dress with those curtains of beads draped over her shoulders? HOT, I tell you! Oh yes, next to her on the left is her cousin, I believe, who is frankly quite annoying but fortunately has little screen time, so I forgive her (for now...)

I mean, like, seriously, how hot is that white, black strappy dress with those curtains of beads draped over her shoulders? HOT, I tell you! Oh yes, next to her on the left is her cousin Kang Soo Ah (played by Jang Ah Young), I believe, who is frankly quite annoying but fortunately has little screen time, so I forgive her (for now...)

The boys on the other hand in the drama…aren’t quite the eye-candies I was looking forward to, but manage to grow on you somehow through the show. So back to Episode 1:

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We are introduced to Dong Chan when he first appears as a preacher/deacon in a church, preaching to the masses about salvation when he had been such a sinner LOLs I was totally amused when he walked out of the church shaking his own head saying, "What people do now just to earn money..." HAHA

As Dong Chan mutters that to himself beneath his breath, he is greeted by 3 guys who are, obviously through the smirks on their faces and their sauntering as well as all that bling bling and gadawful print shirts, loansharks and dearest Dong Chan immediately makes a run for it…right into a dead end. So we learn that Dong Chan is, apparently, deeply in debt, and has worked as a gigolo to pay for his dead mother’s hospitalization bills (although it wasn’t enough, since he’s had to borrow from the loansharks as well) and in order to save his butt, he promised to cough up another $50,000 won…soon.

Dong Chan, however, doesn’t have any money as we all know, and is in fact working for his childhood friend in the flowershop that she and her mother operate/own (he lives with them too. Can you spell freeloader? Although I suppose he has a good reason, so he’s forgiven). His friend, Yeo Eui Joo who is played by Moon Chae Won, has a really obvious crush on Dong Chan that I’m surprised he (or her mother) hasn’t figured out (I wouldn’t be surprised if they have figured it out and just don’t want to deal with her feelings, hoping she’ll outgrow them, but alas, if it were to be, then this drama wouldn’t exist, would it??) and even asked her mother whether they have the money to lend Dong Chan (unfortunately the answer is no).

So how do our two protagonists meet? Simple.

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Dong Chan is on his way to deliver some flower wreaths (must be either a congratulatory kind or a condolence kind, although it could be a "get well soon" kind, but I doubt it lol) and is happily minding his own business driving along when good old crazy Hye Na (YEH) does this insane cut into his lane, causing him to brake sharply, which in turn causes the flower wreaths standing at the back of his lorry to fall over onto the road.

To be honest, I can see why he would be furious (who wouldn’t?) and of course, Dong Chan isn’t going to take something like this lying down (and I can’t see why not) so he gets out of his car, all armed with righteous wrath, and stomps angrily to Hye Na’s gorgeous car, tapping on her window and gesturing wildly to make her roll her window down, which Hye Na does while rolling her eyes (LOL this girl is such a bitch, I love her).

Dong Chan (who is at first slightly taken aback by her 1. richness 2. prettiness but recovers quickly when faced with Hye Na's ridiculous temper) demands an apology from Hye Na for her crazy driving (and I would too, if I was him) but Hye Na, of course, thinks he only wants money - and the argument escalates so much they get into this crazy driving race whereby at one point in time, Dong Chan thinks he's got Hye Na cornered as he managed to get his lorry stationed in front of her...when Hye Na decides to ram into him. NICE ONE GIRL. When you're crazy, do it with style, I say.

Dong Chan (who is at first slightly taken aback by her 1. richness 2. prettiness but recovers quickly when faced with Hye Na's ridiculous temper) demands an apology from Hye Na for her crazy driving (and I would too, if I was him) but Hye Na, of course, thinks he only wants money - and the argument escalates so much they get into this crazy driving race whereby at one point in time, Dong Chan thinks he's got Hye Na cornered as he managed to get his lorry stationed in front of her...when Hye Na decides to ram into him. NICE ONE GIRL. When you're crazy, do it with style, I say.

The two are brought to the police (and you can see the obvious differential treatment here) and in anger, Dong Chan decides to teach Hye Na a lesson when she refuses to apologise and keeps offering him (or rather her lawyer keeps offering him) money instead. He refuses the out of court settlement (which went up to $50,000 won!) and brought her to court to see justice done (it’s all very good in principle, but doesn’t quite put bread on the table for poor Dong Chan as we find out later), where Hye Na was sentenced to 140 hours of community service and fined $10,000 won.

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I died laughing at all the community service scenes (playing with children, washing clothes, washing the dishes, cleaning out chicken poop...and the children hated her so much when she left they pelted her with lettuce and they yelled at her not to come back WAHAHAHA precocious little kids).

While her cousin, and their family, gloats over Hye Na's misery, little Kang Soo Min (played by that cute little rascal Wang Suk Hyun of Speed Scandal fame) is the only one who figures out that Hye Na's scandal may not be a cause for gloating simply because their company's shares may fall due to the damage done to her (and by default, the company's) reputation. OMG LIKE HOW PRECOCIOUS IS THAT KID?!?! I absolutely LOVED that disgusted face he made WAHAHAHA he is damn fabulous. One of my favourite characters in the play already!

Speaking of precocious little kids...While her cousin, and their family, gloat over Hye Na's misery, little Kang Soo Min (played by that cute little rascal Wang Suk Hyun of Speed Scandal fame) is the only one who figures out that Hye Na's scandal may not be a cause for gloating simply because their company's shares may fall due to the damage done to her (and by default, the company's) reputation. OMG LIKE HOW PRECOCIOUS IS THAT KID?!?! I absolutely LOVED that disgusted face he made WAHAHAHA he is damn fabulous. One of my favourite characters in the play already!

Of course, Hye Na (like Dong Chan – we start to note the similarities, don’t we?) isn’t able to take this lying down, so she makes her butlers find out where Dong Chan works and what he does for a living so that she can devise her revenge (ahhhh, woman… hell hath no fury and I would continue the quote except she wasn’t really scorned, it was more like she got her just desserts). She also orders her butlers to buy over the place where Dong Chan is living (i.e. poor Eui Joo’s house) so that she can kick him out (which was a bit over the top, I have to admit).

When Hye Na finds out Dong Chan works as a part-time chauffeur, she makes a call…and of course, Dong Chan gets into the car and is all ready to do his chauffeuring without realising it’s Hye Na when…

...Hye Na embarks on her revenge plot i.e. pretend to have been raped and kidnapped by Dong Chan, whose helpless expression and look of utter fury is actually damn hilarious here!...

...Hye Na embarks on her revenge plot i.e. pretend to have been raped and kidnapped by Dong Chan, whose helpless expression and look of utter fury is actually damn hilarious here!...

Of course, just when Dong Chan thinks it’s all over, and that Hye Na’s had her share of fun since he was almost dragged off to jail and locked in (fortunately for him, Hye Na’s grandfather found out about the mess she created and tried to keep it all hush-hush so called the police station to ask them to let Dong Chan go), Eui Joo’s mother rushes in to tell Dong Chan and Eui Joo (who were having a cosy meal of ramen) that the house they were renting had been bought over by the Kang group, and the landlord had asked them to move out the next day! …which is, as everyone knows, virtually impossible. Angered, Dong Chan figures out that it’s Hye Na who was behind this, and once again ran off angrily to confront her.

In the meantime, Hye Na’s grandfather is absolutely frustrated with the mess(es) that Hye Na has been creating, and asks her, “Could it be because of that person?” to which Hye Na replies, “Am I the kind of person who would mope over a first love? Sorry, but I’ve long forgotten him.” (proving that she hasn’t of course, since she managed to pull out a music box with a photo of that man and herself:

I couldn't quite make out who the guy is supposed to be, so if anyone has a clue, do let me know. Anyway, so having secretly loved and lost him I assume, is supposed to make up for all the rude and uncouth things she's been doing...which doesn't equate in my mind, but ahhhh, suspension of disbelief is a great invention!

I couldn't quite make out who the guy is supposed to be, so if anyone has a clue, do let me know. Anyway, so having secretly loved and lost him I assume, is supposed to make up for all the rude and uncouth things she's been doing...which doesn't equate in my mind, but ahhhh, suspension of disbelief is a great invention!

and YEH here does a great job acting all morose and melancholic, so we all believe, just a little, that that rich little spoiled brat in her does all that she does in order to keep a distance from people, because she’s waiting for her man to come back, although where he has gone and what he has done, we have yet to find out…)

Going back to Dong Chan, whom we left stomping off in anger to find Hye Na and confront her…now, since Hye Na lives in a freaking mansion, which looks like this:

...you would think that all the money that's been poured into building such a vista would also have been used on heightened security since there are valuable things like Ming vases that cost millions of dollars on display in the house...

...you would think that all the money that's been poured into building such a vista would also have been used on heightened security since there are valuable things like Ming vases that cost millions of dollars on display in the house...

But thanks to the 3 bumbling butlers that are always following Hye Na around, our intrepid hero, Dong Chan, somehow manages to barge into the mansion (since the butlers 1. cannot fight 2. do not understand what it means to close the gate and 3. somehow are unable to summon security to deal with ONE man) and stumbles upon Hye Na’s grandfather who was trimming some plants in the garden.

Mistaking Hye Na's grandfather for yet another employee of this huge labyrinth that Dong Chan has somehow managed to get lost in (unsurprising, that), Dong Chan blurts out all that has happened between Hye Na and himself, and manages to put his foot further in his mouth by declaring that if he had his way with her, he would be able to cure her of her bad temper in about 2 months.

Mistaking Hye Na's grandfather for yet another employee of this huge labyrinth that Dong Chan has somehow managed to get lost in (unsurprising, that), Dong Chan blurts out all that has happened between Hye Na and himself, and manages to put his foot further in his mouth by declaring that if he had his way with her, he would be able to cure her of her bad temper in about 2 months.

Although Hye Na’s grandfather has him carted out ungracefully by the 3 bumbling butlers (I shall henceforth acronym them the “BB”s), we all know some plotting is underway (really, no guesses as to what?).

Hye Na, on the other hand, is planning a quick getaway to New York in order for all this furor over what she’s done to die out (even though her grandfather specifically ordered her to be restrained at home) and is at the airport, ready to board the plane:

...whoever worked on her clothes? I want them. LOOK AT THAT JACKET and just TELL ME IT IS NOT HOT. (I will smack you)

...whoever worked on her clothes? I want them. LOOK AT THAT JACKET and just TELL ME IT IS NOT HOT. (I will smack you) Plus that necklace. Damn.

And just when you think she’s about to make a clean getaway:

LOLs who else would turn up but our intrepid hero? He acts as though they had a lover's spat and he came to stop her from leaving (well, 1 out of 2 isn't half bad odds) and then picks her up and puts her over his shoulders (all very humilating I'm sure) carrying her out to his car (whereby he then proceeds to bind her with rope). Hye Na, needless to say, is aghast at all this and demands in her usual screechy voice, "What's happening??! What are you doing?!" to which Dong Chan calmly replies, "Why, kidnapping you, of course."

LOLs who else would turn up but our intrepid hero? He acts as though they had a lover's spat and he came to stop her from leaving (well, 1 out of 2 isn't half bad odds) and then picks her up and puts her over his shoulders (all very humilating I'm sure) carrying her out to his car (whereby he then proceeds to bind her with rope).

Hye Na, needless to say, is aghast at all this and demands in her usual screechy voice, “What’s happening??! What are you doing?!” to which Dong Chan calmly replies, “Why, kidnapping you, of course.”

At this, Hye Na goes a little bit hysterical (who wouldn’t?) and offers him money (again) to which Dong Chan steadfastly refuses, instead telling her, “I want your apology.” Hye Na, being the prideful woman she is (ah, but pride cometh before the fall!) adamantly refuses to apologise, telling Dong Chan that she would rather die than say sorry, since the word apparently doesn’t exist in her vocabulary…at the same time, when Hye Na seems to have resigned herself to her death (at which Dong Chan is secretly grinning away) she tells him to bid her grandfather adieu on her behalf, all the while choking up as she asks him to tell her grandfather she loves him (so…she can ask him to tell her grandfather she loves him…but…she can’t say sorry?…AHHHH well. The mechanics of drama).

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Just as she reaches the climax of her speech, the car screeches to a stop and Hye Na is brought out to her OWN HOUSE.

And Hye Na finds out something the audience has suspected for a while now - that Dong Chan has been hired by her grandfather to be her personal butler, and will be in charge of her personal daily life from now on! LOLs. The look on her face was classic.

And Hye Na finds out something the audience has suspected for a while now - that Dong Chan has been hired by her grandfather to be her personal butler, and will be in charge of her personal daily life from now on! LOLs. The look on her face was classic.

End of the first episode.

I would have tried to do the second, but condensing an hour’s worth of work into one blog entry was enough to kill me already, and I’ve already done this over a period of two days, so I think I’ll save Episode 2 for another day (also, next week = long weekend! = holiday! = may try to go somewhere to chill out, relax, and do some well-deserved shopping!). In the meantime, I have to say, I do love YEH and all that, and think she’s a great actress, but I’ve got some reserves about the character she’s playing in this drama. I won’t voice them yet, since I’m still trying to figure out how it all works, and I’m waiting for the next few episodes to see how it all pans out before I make any (hasty) judgements. Dong Chan is funny but…again, I’m waiting to see how it all pans out. I’ve gotta say, my favourite character here, even though he probably has the least screen time, has got to be that little kid from Speed Scandal (he is the best!) since his face is SUPER CLASSIC and he has, like, THE BEST LINE(S)! It’s not a bad first episode, although nothing too impressive, but since I haven’t yet run into anything that would make me stop watching it (the way I only managed to watch 3 episodes of Boys Over Flowers) I’ll hold my other comments on it.

Any opinions?

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…!).

Buzzer Beat Ep 9

The cliffhanger ending in Episode 8 left me seriously unhappy, mostly because I didn’t like Naoki’s wishy-washiness (please, none of that namby-pamby “I can’t make up my mind between my first love and this one” nonsense for me) and how it looked like he was actually going to tell Natsuki something like, “I can’t forget you too…” but fortunately the scriptwriters for Buzzer Beat must think along the same lines as me, because Episode 9 was rescued by Naoki’s steadfastness!

The beginning of the episode replays the end of 8 (of course) and continues with Naoki pulling out of Natsuki’s grip (yes! there is a scriptwriter who knows what they’re doing!) and then asking her, “What’s wrong? I still have an appointment with a friend tonight, so I have to go. What’s wrong?” so of course Natsuki does her whole pseudo-innocent-pained face and shakes her head and tells him, “Nothing’s wrong. Just go.” and she leaves with his umbrella.

Natsuki leaves with Naoki's umbrella...and...there's a part where he muses thinking, "At that moment, I couldn't think of Riko's smile. All I could see was Natsuki's vulnerable back." .........NO, Naoki, seriously, NO.

Natsuki leaves with Naoki's umbrella...and...there's a part later in the gym where he muses, "At that moment, I couldn't think of Riko's smile. All I could see was Natsuki's vulnerable back." .........NO, Naoki, seriously, NO.Get OVER the girl already!

So Naoki then makes his way to Riko in the rain (and the poor girl is still waiting! …talk about dedication.) and it turns out Riko’s not leaving for her old home that night after all, since she wanted so desperately to see Naoki. (Cute moments here where he’s drying off in her home and realises she was holding on to the plastic bag with the terribly made French toast, and he teases her by picking it up and refusing to return it to her. Very Cute Naoki!)

Naoki eating Riko's French Toast. ...silence. "Looks like I have to teach you from scratch." Riko is dismayed and Naoki laughs, saying, "I'm joking! It's good, really."

Naoki eating Riko's French Toast. ...silence. "Looks like I have to teach you from scratch." Riko is dismayed and Naoki laughs, saying, "I'm joking! It's good, really."

…Up until this moment, I thought to myself, Oh good, Naoki’s being steadfast, and Riko managed to hold on and wait for him, so it wasn’t going to be one of those dramatic “Oh I missed you by half a second” moments – although I admit to snorting at the dramatic irony of Riko telling Naoki, “I was afraid you weren’t going to show up, because you would meet someone else you liked on the way and realise you don’t like me that much, after all.” and all Naoki says is, “Sorry I made you worry.” But, since this is a shoujo drama, and the bad person must, after all, be bad, Natsuki ends up calling Riko and telling her, “Is Naoki meeting up with you? He said he was meeting a friend. [Okay, first arrow here already. Like, friend. Huh. Right.] I’m really sorry he was late. I was caught in the rain and didn’t have an umbrella so he ran up to me and insisted on giving me his umbrella. If he was late, it’s all my fault and I apologise so please don’t blame him.” Oooooh the bitch! Second arrow, and she draws blood! Although technically, she isn’t lying, so it’s also partially Naoki’s fault for not telling Riko anything. Instead he told her practice ended late and now she finds out it’s not true! Riko walks out and tells Naoki it’s better if he heads home for a hot shower so that his health isn’t compromised since he was running in the rain, and Naoki leaves reluctantly.

So, my predictions (they’re going to break up! ..or at least have a fight) looked like they were, more or less, about to come true, but to a certain extent, it was less heartrending than I thought it was going to be, since Naoki’s moments of “wavering” were short-lived, and he was very honest about who and what he was thinking about – one of my favourite things in any person.

Back to what happened: On one hand, Riko heads home and enjoys being with her family (and eating apparently, since she put on 1.5kg – a girl after my own heart!); on the other, Mai and Shuji (yay!) finally tell Utsunomiya Toru (who is played by Nagai Masaru) that they are dating (originally Mai was interested in Toru, and it seemed Toru was about to return her interest but nooo he tells her he’s actually been in love for a long time with another girl, but she has a boyfriend and it’s about time that he gives up – NOW, I GIVE YOU THREE GUESSES AS TO WHO THE GIRL IS!!!!! ….GIVE UP!? It’s Natsuki! Definitely Natsuki!!! Ahem. Watch and finnnnddd outttt).

They look so cute together! Mai tells Toru: "Without me, you'd get along fine, whereas Shuji..." and exchanges a glance with Shuji, which is classic I tell you.

They look so cute together! Mai tells Toru: "Without me, you'd get along fine, whereas Shuji..." and exchanges a glance with Shuji, which is classic I tell you, and then she even goes on to ask,"So from now, will you please also take care of Shuji?"...best thing? Toru says, "Yes!" LOL. Oh, and Mai asked him curiously, "So...you are...towards Coach...?" and Toru shakes his head frantically and falls back in laughter HAHA

Ahem you can see why I guessed what I guessed. Natsuki's pouring her heart to Toru, telling him she wishes Naoki wouldn't succeed so he would beg her to come back, and there Toru is, just lapping it up. Ugh. Please, buster. Get a move on or move out.

Ahem you can see why I guessed what I guessed. Natsuki's pouring her heart to Toru, telling him she wishes Naoki wouldn't succeed so he would beg her to come back, and there Toru is, just lapping it up. Ugh. Please, buster. Get a move on or move out.

At Riko’s old home, her mother tells her, “Your father and I think it’s about time that you give up your violin. It’s been two years since you’ve graduated but you haven’t been able to find a proper job. Please. Your father’s retiring next year. Will you move back home here before it’s too late? You’ll be able to get a job here easily. Please.” and Riko looks at her parents, nods dutifully and replies, “I’ll think about it.” before taking a gulp of water (or whatever liquid it is she has in her cup, for all I know it could just be alcohol which, I think, is what she needs). Riko heads back to (I assume it is) Tokyo and heads for the bookstore where she looks for Mai so that the two can go off and have an awesome buddy dinner together (oh, I love friends). At the bookstore however, she meets Natsuki, who, while casually browsing some books on a shelf, asks, “How’s Coach? Oh. Don’t tell me. You’re cheating on him, aren’t you?” At Riko’s gasp, Natsuki swings around and says, “With Naoki, right?” She then goes on to belittle their relationship by telling Riko, “Did you know he has an ankle injury and refuses to go for surgery? You don’t, right? It’s the important things he doesn’t tell you. You’re not important to him. All you have going for you is the fact that the both of you lick each other’s wounds, and make each other feel better. He doesn’t have to feel inferior when he’s in your company.” (OOOooohhhh, I have no words to describe this woman, but man, I have to give the scriptwriter a prize. Great speech.) Riko is taken aback and at first tries to defend herself, and asks Natsuki, “What is the purpose of you telling me this?” Natsuki: “I don’t like people like you, who only talk about your dreams and don’t live up to reality.”

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Mai then arrives at the scene, and becomes all outraged on Riko’s behalf, “Why don’t you tell Naoki this yourself? Why did you come here to look for Riko and tell her all these?” Natsuki: “I will.” Mai becomes even more furious, but then Riko interrupts: “I think you may be right, but I can’t forgive you for not believing in Naoki’s dream.” and all Natsuki does is smile at her and go, “You’re…so gentle. So kind. Isn’t that great?” … OHHHhhhhhhh.

Fortunately, Mai steps in and tells Natsuki: "I think you're pathetic." Natsuki: "Me?" Mai: "How could a person like you understand anything when all you do is build upon other people's miseries?" and then pulls Riko away before MORE damage is done...unfortunately...damage has already been done...

Fortunately, Mai steps in and tells Natsuki: "I think you're pathetic." Natsuki: "Me?" Mai: "How could a person like you understand anything when all you do is build upon other people's miseries?" and then pulls Riko away before MORE damage is done...unfortunately...damage has already been done...

(I discover in this episode that Mai is the epitome of what a good girl friend is meant to be, and salute Shihori for being able to pull it all off so naturally)

That night, Shuji comes back home and tells Mai (and unintentionally, Riko) that Naoki and Yoyogi fought in the dressing room over Natsuki, which of course, just makes Riko feel worse. Mai, being Mai, immediately shoves Shuji into the cupboard and tells him not to come out until she finishes dinner (oh, Mai!…excuse the pun) and becomes all awkward as Riko stares at her phone morosely when Naoki sends her a text message telling her he can’t come see her tonight.

Naoki and Yoyogi going at it in the dressing room, with Naoki yelling at Yoyogi to apologise to Natsuki (later he tells Toru that the reason he wanted Yoyogi to apologise to her is because he realised how much he had depended on Natsuki during their relationship, and how much he had learnt from her, and that was why he was angry when Yoyogi did not seem to appreciate her the same way he used to)

Naoki and Yoyogi going at it in the dressing room, with Naoki yelling at Yoyogi to apologise to Natsuki (later he tells Toru that the reason he wanted Yoyogi to apologise to her is because he realised how much he had depended on Natsuki during their relationship, and how much he had learnt from her, and that was why he was angry when Yoyogi did not seem to appreciate her the same way he used to)

In the morning, Riko hears the sounds of a dribbling basketball, pulls open her window and peers out to find Naoki standing, waiting for her in their usual basketball court.

She goes down to see him, and when they meet, he said, “Sorry I couldn’t see you last night. I was talking to Toru.” …which is, I think, the last straw for Riko. She turns around and tells him, “Why do you gloss it over like that?” Naoki: “What do you mean?” Riko: “Why do you gloss it over like that?” Naoki: “Eh?” Riko: “That night when it was raining…it was Natsuki you were with. Yesterday, you got into a fight, because of Natsuki. I know it all. All your lies. Why did you lie?” Naoki: “I didn’t mean to lie. I just didn’t want you to get the wrong idea.” (Yeah, dude, that’s what they all say)

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Riko: "You...care about Natsuki more than me, don't you? Why? Didn't she cheat on you?" Naoki: "What are you saying?" Riko: "She cheated on you and treated you like a fool, simply because of your kind nature." Naoki: "Why do you keep speaking bad of her?" Riko: "Isn't that the truth?" Naoki: "Riko, you don't know anything about Natsuki and I. ... Sorry. I don't want to speak of such things with Riko." Riko: "Is that so? ...With me, all you need is for us to lick each other's wounds? Because, being with me, you don't have to feel inferior, you don't have to think, so you're happy?" and Riko walks away. (See, you can tell the poison Natsuki injected in Riko is spreading. Ugh. Jealousy. The things it makes us do. Women. Sometimes, we're just plain stupid.)

As she walks away, Naoki calls out to her, "What's wrong?" Riko turns: "I am always looking at you. During that rainy night, in the bright morning light, at home when I'm playing the violin, I'm always, always thinking of you but you...Why can't you ever see me, Naoki?" and this time she walks away for real. STUPID BOY DIDN'T CHASE AFTER HER - obviously you don't understand women very well!

As she walks away, Naoki calls out to her, "What's wrong?" Riko turns: "I am always looking at you. During that rainy night, in the bright morning light, at home when I'm playing the violin, I'm always, always thinking of you but you...Why can't you ever see me, Naoki?" and this time she walks away for real. STUPID BOY DIDN'T CHASE AFTER HER - obviously you don't understand women very well!

While Riko waits for a phone call from Naoki (that never happens), she lets Mai know that she’s thinking of going home for good and giving up the violin. Mai’s woebegone expression was terribly heartwarming. (Meanwhile poor Riko doesn’t realise that the customer who critiqued her so seriously at her last performance in the lounge and caused her to lose her job is now searching for her because he actually didn’t mean to make her lose her job; rather he wanted her to improve i.e. so I get the vibe that it means he thinks she’s a talent and wants to make her perform to her full potential)

After Naoki's practice, Natsuki waylays him and passes him some official work documents, but also tells him, "...I think I can't forget you..." to which Naoki (finally!!) replies, "Natsuki. I already have someone important in my heart. I'm grateful to you, because I went through a lot with you, both happy and sad. But now, I need to walk my own way." and he leaves, and cycles to Riko's place.

After Naoki's practice, Natsuki waylays him and passes him some official work documents, but also tells him, "...I think I can't forget you..." to which Naoki (finally!!) replies, "Natsuki. I already have someone important in my heart. I'm grateful to you, because I went through a lot with you, both happy and sad. But now, I need to walk my own way." and he leaves, and cycles to Riko's place.

And just when you thought it was going to be all over...? NO! Coach Kanzaki comes knocking on Riko's door! Riko tells him, "Unfortunately, the person I like is Naoki." Coach Kanzaki: "Ahh... so the two of you got closer while I was away. Well. Okay. Congratulations. You must be in bliss, because Naoki treats you very well." and Riko starts tearing up while she wears a smile that threatens to turn inside out at any moment. "Yes, he treats me well. He's very kind to me. I'm happy. I think I mean something to him. But...I don't have any idea what he's thinking." and she completely breaks down. ...and OF COURSE, Coach Kanzaki wraps her in his embrace and she doesn't quite know how to deal with it all!

And just when you thought it was going to be all over...? NO! Coach Kanzaki comes knocking on Riko's door! Riko tells him, "Unfortunately, the person I like is Naoki." Coach Kanzaki: "Ahh... so the two of you got closer while I was away. Well. Okay. Congratulations. You must be in bliss, because Naoki treats you very well."

and Riko starts tearing up while she wears a smile that threatens to turn inside out at any moment. "Yes, he treats me well. He's very kind to me. I'm happy. I think I mean something to him. But...I don't have any idea what he's thinking." and she completely breaks down. ...and OF COURSE, Coach Kanzaki wraps her in his embrace and she doesn't quite know how to deal with it all!...seriously, the girl needs to stop getting herself into awkward situations with Kanzaki man...

and Riko starts tearing up while she wears a smile that threatens to turn inside out at any moment. "Yes, he treats me well. He's very kind to me. I'm happy. I think I mean something to him. But...I don't have any idea what he's thinking." and she completely breaks down. ...and OF COURSE, Coach Kanzaki wraps her in his embrace and she doesn't quite know how to deal with it all!...seriously, the girl needs to stop getting herself into awkward situations with Kanzaki man...

...and in the meantime, Naoki's on the way to Riko's place with a sunflower. ....that is just damn GG...

...and in the meantime, Naoki's on the way to Riko's place with a sunflower. ....which is just damn GG...

Teaser for Episode 10 (which is, by the way, the last episode, if you are able to read Chinese or Japanese) shows: both Riko and Naoki in formal suits saying “Goodbye” in Japanese, Riko doing lots of running, Naoki going into surgery while Natsuki looks on…

and I wonder how they will end it off, seeing as how they only have about 45 mins to wrap up the love …quadrangle! I had mixed feelings about this episode, and unfortunately, not enough Mai & Shuji moments to sustain me, although I squeal whenever they appear simply because they’re so funny. The loyalty here is good and at least Naoki, surprisingly, didn’t really waver when Natsuki re-confessed to him (and I thought they would make him but fortunately Bacchus appears to be on my side at least). Like I said, I can’t stand being wishy-washy and namby-pamby, so Naoki was resurrected in my good graces (which he had fallen from at the end of Ep 8 and in the beginning of 9). I’m rather skeptical at what will happen with the Kanzaki and Riko hugging scene (will Naoki see it and think Riko’s cheating on him??? Replay of Natsuki?? Will Kanzaki try forcing a kiss??? Is the goodbye scene they show them saying goodbye to each other forever???) …and so the questions go…but so far, I’ve really enjoyed it, and the scriptwriters I think have done a really good job in making me not hate the drama (I usually tend to drop dramas when I hit a particular scene or episode I don’t like i.e. Kami no Shizuku even though I absolutely adore Kame) so I’m looking forward to how they will wrap it all up.

What do you think?

Jaebum’s Departure from 2PM

So if you know anything at all about Korean news, you would have heard this already, but I was so aghast that I simply had to blog about it:

2PM’s leader, Jaebum, has officially tendered his resignation and left on a plane to Seattle today, after the whole mess about his 2005 Myspace negative comments on Korea blew up in his face when Korean netizens dug them up.

Jay leaving at the airport (Not My Image)

Jay leaving at the airport (Not My Image)

Omonatheydidnt gives more details (just go clicking away on all the 2PM and Jaeboem related news; I think there was even one post that almost made it up to 5000 comments, which I have to so agree with)

Now, I understand why Koreans would have been angry about the whole thing in the first place, because who wouldn’t be when some “foreigner” (because even if he is Korean, let’s face it, when he first came, he was truly more of a “banana” i.e. American than Korean) who makes money out of your people turns around and tell them they suck? Okay, I can totally, totally understand that. TOTALLY.

But, also, you do realise, this was written in 2005? Like…4 years ago? Before the debut of 2PM? When he was a trainee? Give the guy a break! 4 years can change everything! (As fans later found out here. A bit late to be pulling out the tissues, dudes and dudettes. You’re the ones that pulled the gun and spilled the blood, so suck it up already.)

So, all I’m saying is that, it was much too quick to jump to conclusions. He’d also already issued a public apology to the people. So, what was up with all the hate mail and the suicide petitions, and the pulling of 2PM’s jobs?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not exactly a 2PM fan, although I do like some of their music. (I’m more of a SHINee fan, thanks, and if SHINee ever tries pulling a stunt like this, I am so flying over to Korea to boot them a good one in the butt. While I’m there, will probably be doing lots of eating, hot springs, sweat rooms, and that freaking scary 75 degree rollercoaster ride. It will be a holiday, afterall! May as well.) But I do think that the reactions of netizens over there were a bit much, and you really have to give it to the Korean entertainers for being able to withstand the pressure of working in the industry. I’m impressed, personally, mostly because celebrities here don’t have much of a problem. (We are a relatively tame, sane society. I say relative.)

The whole Korean entertainment industry is fanatic. I mean, and I thought I was obsessive, but noooooo, by comparative terms, I’m positively an angel!

…and I don’t get anti-fans. I just don’t get it. I know how you can hate a particular celebrity, but why go to all the trouble of showing your hate for them? I don’t get it. I would think most of the things that anti-fans do would border on or be harassment. (And why wouldn’t that be an issue, seriously?)

I do love Korean music, but the whole industry is slipping. First that mess with DBSK (who, by the by, I like, but not love, but am still royally not happy with the way they’re getting played around by SM Entertainment), and then there was that bleep with G-Dragon’s plagarium issue, and now this whole nonsense with 2PM. (And just when they’d crossed their 1st year anniversary! Guys! Couldn’t you have just let those comments go and continue supporting your idols, if they really were your idols?) So, what is up with Korean netizens, seriously? Do they not have better things to do than to get on people’s backs and rehash old, old mistakes? What kind of human doesn’t make mistakes? Isn’t facing them with honesty and courage and making amends for them what matters the most? So, then – why, Korea, why?

…in the end, it only proves the fickle-mindedness of mankind, and how terribly unkind we can be.

[Edit: Latest update from Omona says that Jaebum will be back…we’re just not quite sure when. Still, I do hope Jae learns from this and grows into a better person. He wasn’t one of my favourites in the group; I did find him rather immature and silly, but I do agree that 2PM isn’t the same without him.

Says he will be going to America to study music, and will then return to Korea, but I suspect not to 2PM although I doubt they’d reject him if he were to request to come back. So many memories, it’d be hard not to. The poor boy looks like he’s gone through war in the past few days, which I also suspect he has, rather.

Heard 1000 fans turned up at the airport to send him off, which I have to say, is insane, but quite heartwarming I suppose to have their support. Except you really have to mute the videos of Jae leaving in the airport unless you like hearing piercing shrieks and wailing. (Image below is Not Mine)

jayleavingairport

I wish him all the best, and hope he’ll be able to make a glorious comeback. Also hope the rest of the 2PM boys will stay strong and, cheesy as this is, carry on.]

Buzzer Beat 8

[Edit: By the way, I think Otomen is on hiatus or at least the Chinese subbers working on the drama are on hiatus for this week…maybe they invested so much effort subbing Buzzer Beat to get it out ASAP that they need a break…? Check back with me next week if you’re looking for updates.]

Watched Buzzer Beat 8 night before last, even though I was half-dead from work, but ohhhhh….the drama….

I have to admit, I have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with this particular episode. Like all other drama-addicts, I like closure in my drama, I love the good guys (although I have fallen, on occasion, for the bad ones instead) and I hate the scheming manipulative people who try to break the “chosen” couple apart (in this case Riko & Naoki). However, I have to say that I’ve always liked Aibu Saki, and she does an excellent portrayal as Nanami Natsuki by layering her character with more depth than the usual, “Yeah I’m a bitch sue me” antagonist you see in shoujo dramas.

But perhaps I’m jumping the gun a little by talking about Saki/Natsuki. To be honest, I actually loved and then hated this episode respectively in halves, and here are the reasons why…

I Loved It

…because the cliffhanger ending in Episode 7 meant that the beginning of Episode 8 sizzled with drama and tension, with Naoki grabbing Riko desperately and kissing her to no end and finally, FINALLY, admitting that he likes her (c’mon what took you so long to figure that out!?) and where her feelings are being, at last!, reciprocated.

Right at the beginning (where you see them running the titles) as a continuation from the last episode...and what a hot continuation!

Right at the beginning (where you see them running the titles) as a continuation from the last episode...and what a hot continuation!

In fact, he leaned into her so hard that they fell back against the floor, and please tell me your heart didn't melt when he picked her up princess style!! (YOU ICE QUEEN!) Wish I could convince some dude to do that to me...but...naw lol

In fact, he leaned into her so hard that they fell back against the floor, and please tell me your heart didn't melt when he picked her up princess style!! (YOU ICE QUEEN!) Wish I could convince some dude to do that to me...but...naw lol

And he plonked her in the centre of the room and they carried on where they left off (and you tell me they are NOT getting it on??)

And he plonked her in the centre of the room and they carried on where they left off (and you tell me they are NOT getting it on??)

I proudly title this one: And They Look Like They Are Eating Each Other Up (which is, I suppose, more or less true when you're frenching)

I proudly title this one: And They Look Like They Are Eating Each Other Up (which is, I suppose, more or less true when you're frenching)

Okay, enough with the kissing shots already (yes I know I am obsessed but hey, at least I admit it!) but the action doesn’t stop there. Deep in their kiss, Riko suddenly pulls away and is all like, “Mai’s footsteps! I hear her.” (Man, that girl has got some ears. Wish I could have something like that, except switch it to my eyes.)

And she quickly shoves Naoki (poor Yamapi!) into her room and is immediately all happy-happy when Mai and Shuji traipse in (the girl thinks quick!). They continue the birthday party and drink into the night (which also means poor Naoki is stuck in her room until morning…and his bag and basketball and bicycle that hasn’t been locked down is just waiting in the cold lonely basketball court…man, doesn’t this drama have any thieves?) and by morning, Riko is the only one who is still awake.

She looks in on Mai (who is uber cute when sleeping) and Shuji (who is just as cute and earnest to boot as he mumbles Mai’s name) and then finally she enters her own room where the love of her life is sleeping in her bed (guess he got tired of leaning against her table) and she sits there and reaches out and strokes him. He catches her hand in his, and yanks her onto the bed, and without opening his eyes he said, “Were you secretly stroking me, Riko?” and she beams in joy as she retorts, “Are you calling me directly by my name…Naoki?” and they both exchange delighted smiles (oh so sweet) as they stare into each other’s eyes (as the next capture shot is called).

Staring into each other's eyes....

Staring into each other's eyes....

Naoki muses on this morning spent with her in his arms and feels a sense of homecoming, a sense of warmth and a sense of rightness. (I tell you, the scriptwriter is female. Has to be.)

As he pulls her against him, he secretly muses how right it all feels with this one particular girl. (Dude you're a bit slow at figuring out she's the one for you...)

As he pulls her against him, he secretly muses how right it all feels with this one particular girl. (Dude you're a bit slow at figuring out she's the one for you...)

So all seems happy with the golden couple, except Naoki tells Riko they’ve got to keep their feelings for each other under wraps until Coach comes back and he can tell him properly he would like Riko to be his girlfriend (at long long last!) and Riko agrees to this (I think because she empathises). Shuji and Mai aren’t in the house anymore since they went out to buy breakfast and as they are walking back to the house (hand-in-hand!) they see Naoki’s ball and bag and bicycle (seriously, which part of Japan is so safe they can do this?) and they are all like, gee wonder what’s up with that when they see him coming out of the block of apartments and going to the court to retrieve his stuff. Mai, being Mai, immediately grabs Shuji and they hide behind an umbrella I love the way drama scriptwriters imagine that characters hiding behind things like umbrellas, books, newspapers, menus etc actually means they won’t ever be seen! How lovely would that be, really… and they watch in curiosity as Naoki waves goodbye to Riko. (So they know something is up!)

The other reason why I liked this episode so much is because Mai and Shuji are finally “officially” together (technically Mai hadn’t said yes and hadn’t said she liked Shuji in the last episode, but she did in this one).

Shuji: If I shoot and get this ball in, will you be my girlfriend? Mai: Okay (Naoki who happened to be passing by and was standing at the fence went, ???) Shuji - shoots ...and gets it in! Shuji: I GOT IT IN!!! Mai: YOU GOT IT IN!!! They grab each other's hands and dance. (Naoki:...you're a professional basketball player. That should have been normal!... Oh Naoki, so classic.)

Shuji: If I shoot and get this ball in, will you be my girlfriend? Mai: Okay (Naoki who happened to be passing by and was standing at the fence went, ???) Shuji - shoots ...and gets it in! Shuji: I GOT IT IN!!! Mai: YOU GOT IT IN!!! They grab each other's hands and dance. (Naoki:...you're a professional basketball player. That should have been normal!... Oh Naoki, so classic. Very fail. LOL)

They had a really sweet couple moment in the basketball court (I like Mai alot, I think she’s sharp and that she’s loyal to her friends, and that, even though she pretends to be rational and logical, in reality, she’s very emotional) where Mai nudges Shuji on by saying, “I”m not the kind of girl who will say I like you first. Even if you are younger, it should be the guy who does these things first.” and Shuji immediately lights up and says, “Mai-san, I like you.” and she smiles back at him and says, “I like you too.” (and Naoki who is embarrassingly enough listening to all this just smiles and leaves.)

Why I Hate This Episode

I like Aibu Saki, but…man…I hate Natsuki with a passion (which goes to show how successful Saki is in her acting). First, she finds out that one of her colleagues is dating Yoyogi behind her back (probably sleeping with the dude too) and she’s just all, smile and walk away and then drop smile. Very well done that scene.

Natsuki realises Yoyogi called her colleague, thus finding out about their underground relationship

Natsuki realises Yoyogi called her colleague, thus finding out about their underground relationship

And then, seeing Riko and Naoki so happy together at the basketball court (she trailed Naoki in a cab…this woman is insane I tell you. Very stalkerish) she decides to befriend Riko and even dates her out but ends up spending the whole time talking about Naoki and how she can’t get over him the manipulative bitch if you will excuse my language (poor Riko! She could only sit and smile) thus making Riko unable to concentrate on her playing.

Natsuki devising her wicked plan of pulling the two apart!! NOOOooOOoO

Natsuki devising her wicked plan of pulling the two apart!! NOOOooOOoO

And then to top it off, she has all these tense scenes with Yoyogi where she makes it obvious to him that she never really liked him, he was just a distraction from Naoki, and she couldn’t care less what he does. (And then he gets angry. Yoyogi is the only character who really doesn’t make sense to me. But maybe it’s also partially due to Kaneko’s acting because…the man is…stiff.)

Yoyogi gets mad at Natsuki for being so discouraging when he can't make in any of his shots (I can't quite figure out if she's trying to help or hurt him cos I think both...)

Yoyogi gets mad at Natsuki for being so discouraging when he can't make in any of his shots (I can't quite figure out if she's trying to help or hurt him cos I think both...)

Natsuki pushes Yoyogi away after this (and is seen by Naoki who correctly interprets it as them having a fight)

Natsuki pushes Yoyogi away after this (and is seen by Naoki who correctly interprets it as them having a fight)

So we come to the magic of Aibu Saki who makes Natsuki complex by revealing her vulnerable sides in flashes of solitude like below, where, in her own way, I think she really does love Naoki (even though it’s a selfish kind of love). It hurts her and she struggles with it, but I don’t agree with the way she’s dealing with it (but then again I’m not supposed to, she IS the antagonist after all). Two thumbs up to Saki who did a great job of portraying Natsuki. I think Saki’s versatility as an actress is an absolute asset. I was quite surprised when I initially saw her in this role, but turns out she’s actually darn good in it. I mean, the woman is scheming and manipulative but gotta say, these one-off moments of anguish make you go, “Okay…so…she feels bad about it?” …I think there are elements of Natsuki’s character here that resonate strongly with human follies, for e.g. when she asks herself, “What am I doing?” (Yeah, I know, brilliant right, ask yourself, ask us too. How would we know?!) – makes you wonder sometimes if all her actions are on impulse (I think they are, rather. She strikes me as the calculative sort but in the end her rashness wins out over patience case in point: Yoyogi vs. Naoki)

Natsuki called Naoki, but immediately hangs up. In her own selfish way, she really does love him and it shows in these moments when she's alone by herself and thinking of him

Natsuki called Naoki, but immediately hangs up. In her own selfish way, she really does love him and it shows in these moments when she's alone by herself and thinking of him

And now we come to the part where I completely LOATHE: Where Natsuki successfully manages to sway Naoki (what is wrong with you dude?! I thought you LOVED Riko now! GEEZZZ!)

Context being: Riko is called home and decides to make a trip back to spend some time with family, since she lost her job as a violinist at the restaurant (although no one knows about this, not even Mai). She tells Naoki this, and he told her he would come over after practice to see her one last time before she goes back home since she’s going to be away for a while. Riko is delighted and decides to make French toast for him using the recipe he gave her when he said he was going to be busy for a while and might not have the time to make it for her. So she’s out there buying all the ingredients, goes home and tries to make it (but she cannot break an egg. That woman got shell in her broken egg. Like. What. The. Heck have you been eating this whole time?!) and ends up with some really sad excuse for French toast (no offense, but I make better French toast than that, and I can’t cook). So then practice ends…and…it…RAINS….

And of course it must rain, in all good shoujo dramas...

And of course it must rain, because it will in all good shoujo dramas...

Naoki being the nice guy he is actually shared his umbrella with her when she was stuck outside the office and then of COURSE he must offer his umbrella to her and speak gently to her...DUDE DO YOU NOT KNOW HOW TO LET GO!?

Naoki, being the nice guy he is, actually shared his umbrella with her when she was stuck outside the office and then of COURSE he must offer his umbrella to her and speak gently to her...DUDE DO YOU NOT KNOW HOW TO LET GO!?

She refuses his umbrella, and he tells her, "Take it. You're not as strong as you think you are sometimes." ZOMG WTH! Like, WAY to melt a girl's heart, but WRONG GIRL DUDE WRONG ONE

She refuses his umbrella, and he tells her, "Take it. You're not as strong as you think you are sometimes." ZOMG WTH! Like, WAY to melt a girl's heart, but WRONG GIRL DUDE WRONG ONE

So of course, as he turns to leave, Natsuki hugs him from behind and begs him not to go

So of course, as he turns to leave, Natsuki hugs him from behind and begs him not to go

What I hate about this part is that Naoki is actually prevaricating between Natsuki and Riko. WHY?! WHYYY?! And the best thing is, of course, since it is raining, and Naoki and Riko arranged to meet in the park, poor Riko is doing this:

She senses something is wrong...? (No she was just looking at the gate in the hopes Naoki would walk in so she could get out of the cold wet rain, like, NOW)

She senses something is wrong...? (No she was just looking at the gate in the hopes Naoki would walk in so she could get out of the cold wet rain, like, NOW)

And at first the lights were on....

And at first the lights were on....

And then they WEREN'T. So obviously, she's cold, wet, and waiting for Naoki in the DARK. How much worse could it get?!

And then they WEREN'T. So obviously, she's cold, wet, and waiting for Naoki in the DARK. How much worse could it get?!

In desperation she tries to call Naoki, but his number is otherwise engaged. And it's past 7, in fact it's closer to 8 pm. And she's still waiting! Talk about dedication. I would've ditched the dude no matter how much I liked him if he did that to me.

In desperation she tries to call Naoki, but his number is otherwise engaged. And it's past 7, in fact it's closer to 8 pm. And she's still waiting! Talk about dedication. I would've ditched the dude no matter how much I liked him if he did that to me.

She looks so morose here! I just feel like hugging her and telling her, "It's okay!" except well, while she's waiting in the dark and cold and wet and all that, her stupid love of her life is being hugged by his ex-girlfriend.

She looks so morose here! I just feel like hugging her and telling her, "It's okay!" except well, while she's waiting in the dark and cold and wet and all that, her stupid love of her life is being hugged by his ex-girlfriend.

And so while we watch the poor girl clutch her bag of French toast, look at her watch and then smile to herself and decide to continue waiting for her stupid guy, the same retard she’s wasting energies over is BEING HUGGED BY HIS EX. (Yes I have issues with people who can’t keep their relationships straight.)

And it must end off like this, because they want us to hang on for the next episode....

And it must end off like this, because they want us to hang on for the next episode....

The End.

Trailer for the next episode makes me think they’re going to break up (when they barely just got together in this episode UGH) and that many exciting things are going to happen (Naoki’s ankle injury? Riko and Natsuki having a confrontation? Naoki fighting Yoyogi and wanting him to apologise to Natsuki? Riko telling Natsuki, “Why didn’t I know anything about you?” …yeah I can sense this is the breaking point).

So now I understand the reason for the 17% rating…but I wonder how well the next episode will turn out. Critical point because if the next episode isn’t done well, I think people will give up following the drama to its natural death, er,  I mean end.

What do you think?