[J-drama Review] Samurai Gourmet

“If you have a choice, why not try something you’ve never had before?”
-Takeshi Shizuko, “Anniversary Oden,” Samurai Gourmet

Having just finished another J-drama food series, Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, Netflix rightly suggested I try Samurai Gourmet, a television series with a lighter spirit and distinct sense of humor. In addition to the food and individual stories, I was drawn to the series by its main actor, Naoto Takenaka, who I loved in the live action music series, Nodame Cantabile.

Gourmet Samurai is an episodic series spanning 12, 25-minute episodes. Played by Takenaka, Takeshi Kasumi is a retired salaryman unsure of how to fill his now free days. Thanks to the suggestion of his wife, Kasumi steps out in search of a hobby and stumbles across the joy of dining out. His food discoveries are always accompanied by a hallucination (or is it?) of a wandering samurai. This samurai, played by the very handsome Tamayama Tetsuji, helps Kasumi overcome his misgivings, like drinking in the middle of the day, eating properly in a formal setting, and even dealing with grouchy chefs. The more Kasumi learns from the samurai, the more he is able to appreciate his new found hobby.

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[Film] An (a.k.a. Sweet Bean)

On my flight home from Australia, I had the luck of stumbling across the 2015 film An while browsing the available movies. An tells the story of a Japanese dorayaki seller and few of the people who impact his life. Dorayaki is a confection pairing little pancakes with an, sweet red bean paste. Obviously it was the setting of the dorayaki shop that drew me in, but it was the story that kept me watching, smiling, then later crying unashamedly. Thank goodness the plane’s lights were dimmed! I really had no idea what I was walking into–the only real hints I had were the drama categorization and the short trailer showing Sentaro learning how to make real an from Yoshii Tokue. The movie ended up sharing so much more than that, including such topics as the human spectrum of emotions regarding helping others, the cages others build and that we create on our own, as well as our resilience and ability to start again. As you can tell, this discussion will include a fair amount of spoilers, so if that deters you from watching, please take my suggestion now to try the film and let me know your thoughts.

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Kekkon Dekinai Otoko Review

After revisiting an old favorite, Hero, and watching its recent sequel, I followed actor Abe Hiroshi to another of his past roles as the main character in Kekkon Dekinai Otoko. This is likely my most favorite character of his that I’ve seen to date–he plays a successful architect named Kuwano Shinsuke with a solitary lifestyle of his own choosing. He has no qualms with eating alone in restaurants, does not allow anyone but his mother into his home, and relies heavily on his charismatic colleague to mediate all customer interactions. This is a man bent on self-satisfaction. He does not care if diets heavy on fatty meats and milks are detrimental to his high cholesterol–he will continue to eat at all-you-can-eat barbecues and drink his daily glasses of whole milk. But through his continued interactions with the people around him, particularly a few strong-willed women, he starts to appreciate human connections.

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Back to J-Drama with Prosecutors and Antique Books

I’ve been dry up on dramas lately with the flood of decent anime for the past few seasons. But finally, I have spotted a couple that are intriguing enough to wedge themselves into my weekly line-up. One is a sequel to an old favorite of mine that takes place in a public prosecutor’s office. The other is a live action of a manga about an antique bookstore. I like my television shows like I like my dinner table: covered with many different foods of varying sizes and spices. Fortunately for those of you interested, both are available on Crunchyroll: Hero 2 and Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia’s Case Files.

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J-Drama Review of Asuko March!: Blending HanaKimi and Gokusen

Enough of summer season initial impressions for now! Amidst all the new anime, I stumbled across a 2011 spring J-drama titled Asuko March! This live action is a bit of a cross between the J-dramas Hanazakari no Kimitachi e and Gokusen, and certainly stands its ground as one of my more recently enjoyed school dramas.  Though I’ve been wading through a pool of angsty K-drama romances, I went back to my Japanese live action foundation to try a newer series.  My stint away from that particular circle was immediately evident, as the only actors I recognized were the two adult teachers.  Upon looking up the acting backgrounds of the student characters, I also saw that they were all younger than me by at least a few years.  Despite having finished high school many years ago, I still enjoy school dramas, albeit from what I like to consider a wiser standpoint.

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