drama: KimuTaku, children & dogs. I’m sold!

Until I watched the drama that is.

Kimura Takuya’s newest drama, Nankyoku Tairiku has all the promise of a truly absorbing drama like any of KimuTaku’s dramas.

It has all the ingredients too: powerhouse cast, budget and KimuTaku himself, interacting with children–he’s always been good at it. Remember him in Engine and Pride? And who can resist dogs?

It also marks the return, not only of KimuTaku’s tandem with Ayase Haruka, but also with Kagawa Teruyuki, who was his sort of a sparring partner, in Mr Brain.

I really enjoyed that drama and the dynamics between KimuTaku’s neuroscientist character and Kagawa-san’s police detective one. Their scenes elicited a lot of laughs.

That is not the case in Nankyoku Tairiku, where both of them play scientists. Scientists = serious. In fact, from the first episode, the drama right away set a somber mood depicting post-war Japan and how a defeated nation was trying to regain its lost glory. It right away gave off a nationalistic propaganda flavor and considering this drama marks TBS’ 60th anniversary, I’m not surprised at the choice of material. Especially when one considers the parallelisms to the Japan then and the Japan now, which has been saddled by a stagnant economy and was further hobbled by the March 11 disaster. I have no doubt that this drama will be a celebration of the Japanese brand of heroism. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially if the hero is played by its most famous idol-actor no less. It makes me wonder if after this drama, lots of Japanese men would want to be scientists the way they wanted to be pilots, public prosecutors and car racers after watching KimuTaku’s previous dramas.

Speaking of watching KimuTaku, one who has watched him in more than enough films and dramas would be able to tell his acting mannerisms. And in Nankyoku Tairiku, they have started to seriously distract me. The purse of the lips, the twitching of the jaw, the watery eyes… I rolled my eyes after reading a blog celebrating the freshness of his portrayal after every drama he does. Don’t get me wrong, I am a KimuTaku fan. I have lost count of how many times I watched Pride and how I shouldered on through Karei naru Izhizoku despite it’s heavy material. But I enjoyed him more in HERO, CHANGE (who can resist Prime Minister Kimura?) and Mr Brain. I skipped many episodes of Tsuki no Koibito because I could not stand Lin Chi-ling so I was really looking forward to this new drama because I have missed watching him.

Nankyoku Tairiku is an ensemble drama; I love ensemble dramas and I have hope that the back story of each character would provide more nuance to the plot in episodes to come. I’m just missing the humor, it’s all so serious and it gives me the impression that the production crew took itself too seriously in conceptualizing this drama. Nothing wrong with that except it can alienate viewers in episodes to come if this goes on. And in episode two, the flow of the story was so contrived and manipulative it stank like a dead fish in Antarctica. I do get it that there has to be plot points and story arcs for the drama to move along but when you put in a lot of highlights and tension-filled scenes to get your point across, the product itself ends up trying so hard.

Thank goodness, there were the children, including Ashida Mana, the cutest little girl on Japanese TV, in episode one. And then, there are the dogs. Any animal lover would fall in love with this drama. I trust that in the coming episodes, we will see more of the dogs as the scenes are set in Antarctica.

It is too early to say I want my money back. This is a KimuTaku drama, after all, where he will win you over in the end. Maybe? Must be.

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