Playing Single – Double Trouble or Troublesome Triangle?

Coming from India, one tended to assume marriage was a popular and natural transition for adults. However, I soon found that, in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia, many young women prefer being single. In any case, Japan is tussling with its problem of low rates of reproduction, a consequence of this reluctance to tie the knot.

It must surely be with this preoccupation in mind that there is a set of Japanese dramas which address the desire to forgo marriage and to embrace being single. Some are pure fun and some have elaborate stories. As with all J doramas, the point is never anything as paltry as the ‘story’.

Dokushin Kizoku – A Swinging Single / Noble Bachelor – is a 2013 Japanese drama that revolves around the world of film production with reference mainly to scriptwriting. Two brothers vie for the love of a mousy bespectacled girl whose script brings her into their world.

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Dokushin Kizoku

Two men and one woman – a classic recipe for the traditional love triangle. Who will win the lady? The real ladies man or the dyed-in-wool bachelor with no wiles? The girl is guileless and struggles to make sense of all sorts of mixed signals from her two eligible bosses.

Mamoru Hoshino (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi) is the president and creative director of Kinema Etoile, a film production company founded by his late father. He is brilliant and has a keen sense for talent, but he is also peculiar when it comes to his personal daily habits. He has strong beliefs in being single and has no desire to get married as he likes to spend his personal time in a way that he chooses. On the other hand, Mamoru’s younger brother Susumu (Hideaki Ito) was previously married, but is currently going through harsh divorce proceedings. Unlike his older sibling, Susumu is outgoing and has good social skills. He loves women, but is not interested in long term relationships. Yuki Haruno (Keiko Kitagawa) has struggled with previous relationships and recently declined a marriage proposal. She has dreams of becoming a scriptwriter and believes that marriage will hinder her efforts in her pursuit of that dream. She is not against marriage though, as a matter of fact, she strongly believes in it.

DRAMA KING

Let’s take Mamoru first because I adored the role. Tsuyoshi Kusanagi has the typical fascinating face that marks an actor of quality in Japanese dramas and films. We have to bear in mind that the Japanese industry appears to favour actors over ‘stars’. Though they have their share of those too in ample proportions.

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Tsuyoshi Kusanagi

He has a perfect life – from food to shoes. Yes, he worships his and wipes them with champagne. This perfectionism is what makes him sensitive in his role as editor as well. In that sense, he is obvious to us as the appropriate love interest for Yuki. Yet, his ingrained protectiveness towards his bachelorhood makes him a clumsy wooer. And that is exactly what makes him so delicious in the romantic moments. Some have found him expressionless which is tragic – it’s the subtle passing of emotions across his face, in his eyes, that charms as does the inscrutable sky with its swiftly changing moods. All this also combines to make him the key player in the drama where humour is concerned – is it not always thus? The more serious the actor appears the funnier it is where the comic is required.

However, his brother is the more acceptably cooler of the two. We see how women come and go in his life. He’s also struggling through a mind bogglingly costly divorce. Yet he knows the moves and now his heart is involved. The girl is so unlike those he normally dates. Who in their right mind is going to turn down this handsome articulate hunk for his odd looking tongue tied brother?

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Hideaki Ito

And what about the object of their affections?

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Keiko Kitagawa

Keiko Kitagawa has handled the role well – she flows easily from dumpy nerd girl look to deadly chic and she plays romance, humour and heartbreak to perfection here.

What the reviews say:

I love the movie leitmotif for this series. They talk about movies all the time, and they use famous songs from classic movies for the BGM. Even without the sensitive lighting of certain scenes, the carefully heartbreaking lines, and the sheer talent Kitagawa Keiko showed throughout the show’s run, hearing Audrey Hepburn singing Moon River straight from Breakfast at Tiffany’s is enough to break one’s heart. At least I think it was straight from the movie.

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Contrary to its title, Dokushin Kizoku is not really about the swinging single life. Yes, it’s a love story that takes root during the course of a movie production but, in its own way, it’s also a circumspect tribute to cinematic endeavors in general. It has protagonists who are certified cinephiles who share a strong belief in film, not only as a form of artistic expression but also as a medium that captures the imagination and opens up worlds that would otherwise have been out of reach.

RUNDOWN ZOO

 

From the Title song

The Episode titles are cute: 

  1. Cinderella for a night! The royal bachelor falls in love!
  2. The end of the royal bachelor life!?
  3. The night you stole my heart
  4. The night I decided to never fall in love again
  5. Love comes alive… I will get married
  6. A tearful proposal
  7. The things I can do for her
  8. I can’t go back… The scar of heartbreak
  9. Goodbye… Everyone has a choice
  10. Love’s Conclusion

I hope you find a way to catch this drama – Hulu or Netflix might have it – for it is well made and engaging. As usual, for me, it’s a struggle to read the subtitles – I loathe dubbing – as there is so much going on in the background and each frame is simply divine.

My favourite scene is one in which Yuki and Mamoru are stuck in a hotel in adjacent rooms. They are each in a hot tub and looking out at the moonlit sky – simply heaven. Take me there at once!

Yes, Dokushin Kizoku, as do many other Japanese dramas, makes you want to get your hands on everything you see – the clothes, things in the background – and, most of all, to visit the locales.

 

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A Series of Paintings on Postcards – A Sampling of Spanish Painters

I’ve been frying eggs for most days of my married life! And there’s nothing quite like a fried egg when made to order. Today I’m not exactly presenting you with a Spanish Omelet but rather a paella of Spanish painters, tossed together with joyful memories of their art.

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Diego Velázquez – Google Art Project, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19980800

From Flemish to Spanish is not really from the frying pan to the fire but here is a painting that shows eggs being fried! This is the second postcard from my collection.

Diego Velazquez painted An Old Woman Cooking Eggs before he was 20 years old. It is clearly a demonstration piece. Everything is on display. The contents of the scene are laid out around the canvas like decorations on a Christmas tree. Let the eye circulate, checking each thing off: melon, glass flask, wooden spoon, terracotta pot, brass pan, egg, china plate, red garlic, brass mortar, red onion, earthenware jugs, tin dippers, woven straw basket, linen cloth.

From the INDEPENDENT

You can stroll through his other works here

This particular painting is termed A Masterpiece in Texture and Culinary History

Learn more about Diego Velázquez (1599 – 1660), such a compassionate, yet unflinching painter

Here is a video about one of his other famous paintings

Velázquez was a painter of the Baroque period – a period in Western European art and music from roughly 1600 to 1750. But, for me, he is mainly a Spanish artist – along with others whose art has given me such a world of joy:

El Greco (1541 – 1614)

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El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) – Laocoön – Google Art Project

I chose this one because it is very powerful. Slightly disturbing too – qualities I associate with Spanish painters.

There seem to be two films about him and here is a trailer from one:

I’m putting Goya (1746 – 1828) next – a painter for whom I do have a special spot. However, I’ve merely chosen the one that remains representative to me of the Spanish Civil War.

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The Third of May by Francisco Goya, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18777858

And, if we are speaking of  Spanish painters, how can we not mention Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) and Salvador Dali (1904 – 1989)?

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Picasso’s Guernica, image from Mark Barry, flickr.com/photos/markart/236849245

Picasso’s Guernica was inspired by the bombing of Guernica, in Spain, April 26, 1937. It was the time of the Spanish Civil War. The bombing killed some 1600 people and destroyed the city. The Spanish Republican government commissioned the mural for the Spanish Pavilion of the Paris International Exposition.

Explore the range of Pablo Picasso’s art.

With both Picasso and Dali, I find it hard to get a good print to share with you! Here is a famous Dali:

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Salvador Dali’s Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire, wikiart.org/en/salvador-dali/slave-market-with-the-disappearing-bust-of-voltaire-1940

A short piece by Andy Warhol explores some of these ‘modern’ artists:

There are many books about these artists and here is one, merely as a sample:

 

 

A Series of Paintings on Postcards – Petrus Christus, Portrait of a Young Girl

During my early childhood, my father received dairies every year. These were wonderful to me as each showcased  some aspect of India’s art and architecture. And then it was my sister’s school book which furthered my love for art as it had passages about paintings with some very good colour plates. Alas that textbooks in India today lack such quality.

My journey of exploration of world art settled on European painters for many years as our school had some fine art books and a serene room in which students could sit and explore such volumes. Somewhere along the way, people started sending me picture postbards with famous paintings.

Today I share with you, not the first such postcard that I received, but one that is earliest in terms of the period of the painter.

Petrus_Christus_-_Portrait_of_a_Young_Woman_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg
By Petrus Christus – UAGsuoFcmmRiTg at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13333895

I will not go into detail about Petrus ChristusPortrait of a Young Girl, as there is a long and thorough discussion about it on Flemish Primitive Mystery Painting. He is said to be influenced by Jan van Eyck.

I have certainly seen a Jan van Eyck or two in my time.  Continue reading

The Last Cop – Action, Fun and More

This 2016 Japanese drama surfs not only the cop genre but also that of Rip Van Winkle. You know, waking up after a ‘long sleep’ as in Hibernatus , for example, a 1969 French-Italian film starring the one and only Louis de Funès.

There is also a Japanese film and I cannot recall its name nor that of the actor! Hopefully, someone will tell me on Quora.

However, The Last Cop is a remake of a German series

The Japanese remake is very entertaining and quite well made too. 

Another whacky angle in this drama is provided a most plain looking woman. This is the wife of the cop who has come out of a coma of many years. He finds her remarried. To another detective! But that’s not all: long ago, he’d won her in a fair fight with another friend. And so we have this absolutely ordinary looking woman who has something like three men in her life! It’s very funny to absorb and watch in action.

The hero’s sidekick is a well known actor: the versatile Masataka Kubota.

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Since many seem to have seen Death Note (not in my favourite genres), he stars in it:

It’s such despair for me not to be able to access screenshots or links to sales of DVDs or anything else that can help me get you to love Japanese dramas as much as I do.

Another fantastic cop show is 7 Detectives or Keiji 7 nin.

Here are some videos that might help you get as addicted as I am:

 

Scandal, a 2008 Japanese drama – A Real Treat!

I can’t tell you how many doramas I’ve tried and given up half way and that’s mainly because I am a very fidgety person. Scandal has kept us gripped till now – we’re at the 6th episode.

The drama opens with a woman tending to her family. The elegant Kyoka Suzuki as Takako Takayanagi will remind one of who she was in Dakara Koya where she played a very submissive housewife who breaks free. Yet in this drama she is full of facets and we can smile at her wiles.  Here, as the drama begins, she is shown as an excellent housewife and mother with a careless husband who is probably cheating on her and a teenage daughter with attitude. She is in her forties.

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Next comes Kyoko Hasegawa as Hitomi Kawai. This one is also a docile wife and mother of two little children. She is always up to her elbows in household chores. Her husband is not sympathetic.

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 And then there’s a flighty young thing, Kazue Fukiishi as Mayuko Samejima. Well, frankly, she seems to be enjoying the ideal life – pampered wife of a successful plastic  surgeon.

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 Last but not least is Kaori Momoi as Tamaki Shindo. She works as lawyer while her lawyer husband looks after the house. And they have a son who’s shut himself up in his room. So far we’ve not seen him. We have had a glimpse that suggests that his father calls him when mom is out and he emerges. Also, mom has a ritual of going to his door with his food and talking to him about her day.

Kaorimomi

All these ladies have been invited to a wedding. Naho Toda, Risako Shiraishi, is somehow connected to all of them.

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All these women get together on the eve of the wedding and it appears that a ‘game’ has been suggested! Each lady has to find a male drinking companion for the evening.

Naturally, our first girl is scandalised. She walks off. Her attempt to accost a passerby for the purpose is a hilarious failure and she returns to the group.

The younger ones have each found a young man – a hairdresser for the mother and a banker for the flighty wife. The lawyer returns with a most unappetising specimen – a great actor, though! Fumiyo Kohinata as detective Ryutaro Katsushima.

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Normally, he acts as a very unassuming man but here he is very macho and this results in a delightful performance – he looks down on these women!

Anyway, soon we find that the bride to be has disappeared. Her groom to be seems distraught.

However, all is murky. Everyone has secrets. The 4 ladies all dislike each other. The respective husbands become grumpy with the nightly bonding sessions of their wives.

Ikki Sawamura as Hidenori Takayanagi, the husband of the first lady, has done justice to his role but to appreciate his art I would suggest Gisou no Fuufu.

Ikki_Sawamura

We suspect that he is having an affair and so does his wife. But it emerges that more’s the matter than meets the eye.

Ken Mitsuishi as Yuichi Kawai is a rather crotchety husband to his dreamy wife. He works in the finance ministry and worries that her involvement with this scandal will harm his reputation but doesn’t he have more to hide than she does?

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And then is my personal heartthrob! Kenichi Endo as the doting Kenji Samejima but then I’d suspect him the first with his Yakuza looks.

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The lawyer househusband is runner up as husband material but let’s not get fooled because he sports an apron!

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Full of intrigue, with a twist at every episode end, Scandal is a delightful series.

I can see that the DVD is available on Amazon.com:

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It’s really worth the watch.

What Really Happened or How Nice It Is Not To Have Anybody To Blame

Otousan wa Nido Shinu or Father Dies Two Times is a Japanese drama in four episodes.

A man is stabbed. His family of wife and two adult children attend his funeral. What happened? Why is this father never present in any family photo? Why was he stabbed? Who is the lady presiding over the funeral? Was he stabbed or …?

Replete with twists and turns, this drama takes you through a minor crisis only to resolve it most sweetly and benignly. The bereaved wife, who looks quite in control of herself, who is ever reassuring her daughter and son that their father really loves them, appears to us to be heaving with sobs as we see her from the back, huddled and racked with grief. Actually, she’s eating sweet bean paste buns!

The absent father whose funeral forms the background of the drama is a high class actor.

Sadly I can’t offer you any videos of the drama – Do try and see it though!

And then on to another and again it’s no big deal though the triggering crisis is worthy of a mighty explosion. And so on for a set number of times and, finally, it’s daijobu really.

It’s really zen, zen, daijobu!

Which is the name of another must-see Japanese film. The link has a trailer with English subtitles.

Kenichi Endo has not much of a role at all here but do try and watch Tamiou, where he’s an apparently heartless minister and his spirit gets exchanged with that of his good for nothing son and Otosan to Yobasete, where he’s son-in-law-to-be of a man somewhat younger than himself.

The DVDs seem expensive! But worth it if one has the money as most Japanese films and dramas are worth watching over and over again.

Tip For Indian TV: Take A Page From J Dorama!

Growing up in India in the sixties it was a taken that few had access to education. When I entered graduation years, the sister of a young girl who worked as our maid went to the same college as I. By the late nineties, I’d spent a few afternoons participating in an initiative to bring schooling to the children of migrant labourers in Gurgaon. Enter the mid 2000s and it was not uncommon to see classes being conducted on the roadsides, in the open. Fast forward to somewhere in 2010 and all children went to school – some went after hours. Zip to now and all children go to school when it’s school time.

Today, most people in their twenties and maybe even thirties, in India, have attended school. And I can well imagine an Indian version of Grade A Reversal or Gekokujo Juken being a hit here.

Shinichi Sakurai is a real estate agent who has not studied past middle school. Neither has his home maker wife. Kaori, their daughter and only child, is not so good at school either.

One fine day, her terrible grades stir a bee in her father’s bonnet and this lets loose a whole wasp’s nest of hilarious measures he takes to see her pass an entrance exam.

His pretty wife is at first of the opinion that the child requires to focus on friendships and the now and that making her attend “cram school” will be harmful to her.

There is also the question of expense.

Somehow a whole lot of people get tugged into this exuberant current of a father who wants to be worthy of his kid by struggling through schooling along with her.

All sections of society are represented from the super richie rich classmate of the kid whose father happens to have been classmate of Kaori’s father to the cute school teacher, almost a kid herself, whose attitude is well representative of teacher mentalities even here in India, to Sakurai’s workmates, his carpenter father…

Such a TV drama can be made anywhere in India and would be a huge hit if suitably adapted to our current conditions. I’d suggest only the most minor of tweaks.

Sadao Abe is such a great actor that I’d watch anything that has him in it. Crazy For Me or Kokoro ga Pokkito ne deserves a blog all to itself. A superlative experience.

It’s hard to get good trailers/teasers of Japanese shows 😦

Kyoko Fukada is just too cute as is to say more about but it’s not that she’s not a great actor in her own right.

I’m so sorry I can’t give you anything other than this but she’s just toooo pretty! Khaaaaaaaawaaaaaaaiiiiiiii!
Kyoko Fukada - red carpet at Harry Potter 2007 Tokyo
Grandfather, Kaoru Kobayashi, is a veteran  and entertains as always.

Midnight Diner is a must watch, drama or film, season 1, 2 or 3 and, hopefully, the new Part 2 of the film.

Japanese dramas routinely tackle school stories.

However, the sad fact remains that most of us cannot access J dramas, easily or at all. And this blinds us to a wealth of beauty.

In the name of copyright, piracy and DMCA, we’re being herded into a narrow pen where we shall, in the name of so-called law and order, only watch anything made in India (or whatever region you are in) or from Holy Hollywood and ilk.