Short & sweet? Tokyo Friends

11 09 2010

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What the heck would possess me to sit through five 1hr+ long each straight-to-DVD episodes, putting up w/ Otsuka Ai‘s bubblegum nasal pop-tard singing voice & an “ending” that laughs, “Hah! You now MUST go to watch THE MOVIE or you will forever live not knowing exactly how this all ends MUHAHAHHAHAHAA!”??????

Eita. Nagayama Eita.

And even so, this was a seconds-Eita (well, kinda. More later in the post.)

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Tokyo Friends opens with Otsuka Ai‘s character, Iwatsuki Rei, plodding around in a small fishing village & gazing off into the ocean at the endless horizon. She is literally trying to see what is on “the other side of the world” as she narrates:-

Do you remember your first dream?

And so, we begin the journey, Rei‘s search for what it is that truly makes her heart dance with meaning & excitement. She knows there must be something she is missing.

After being wowed by a CM she sees on the boxy television set in her home-sweet-home, she makes the decision to leave her family behind in their fishing village & move to Tokyo by herself, much to her father’s dismay. She is ambling aimlessly around the streets of Godzilla’s playground & comes across a sign in front of an underground restaurant pub that reads;

Want to work at a fun-filled place?
Now hiring. For people with nothing.

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The last line immediately strikes a chord with Rei. She was here in this huge alien city, searching for something, something that would ignite her life, but she had no idea what it was. With little hesitation, she drops in to enquire about the job opening & gets hired on the spot (of course, who could go past a sugary sweet kawaii Otsuka Ai, ne?) Later that night, she rocks up at a friend’s place, who initially tries to shun her, but Rei finds a way to convince her to let her stay. Rei soon learns that this friend, Akemi, who was also from the same village, had completed her university degree long ago but had been & still was struggling to find a job. With her resources becoming scarcer by the day, Akemi is soon forced to move back to move back out to small-town life, leaving Rei to survive in the city all by herself. Life in Tokyo definitely isn’t easy.

Through working at the restaurant, Rei becomes friends with three other girls- Maki, a university student majoring in arts; Ryoko, an OL (office lady) who gets fired for having an affair in the workplace; & Hirono, a budding actress who had left her hometown to come to Tokyo in search of her senpai, Satomi Kenichi (played by Sato Ryuta. Yes, the super cheesy Kawatosensei!!) Together, they support each other in finding themselves in love, in fate & in life.

What I liked about these four girls was how they showed us that simply having a friend to share things with- whether it was a high or a low or something in between- was just a darn good thing for the soul. And I felt like I knew these girls. It seemed like they were around me, or perhaps, maybe, I was them. In a way, they represented different crossroads of life that alot of us will go through at some stage sooner or later. The decision making, the struggle to find what it is that we want, the letting go of the past, the getting lost, the fight for acceptance… somewhere, somehow, at some magnitude, alot of us will probably experience these challenges. The plot was simple but this allowed way for character storytelling in the mere five episodes. Aside from the songs & the music, going through the ups & downs with these girls was definitely the most rewarding part of the series.

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Ryoko (played by Maki Yoko) was definitely my favourite of the bunch. She had her feet much more firmly planted on the Earth than the others & she never let how others perceive her shape the way she behaved. Yes she was far from being the perfect angel, jumping around from men to men & all (well, someone has to do it) but she never burdened the people around her. Her backstory showed us how the past can be vicious, but if you learn to deal with these demons & so-called lost chances in a different light, they don’t have to be regrets. Your past is a part of you & you can’t change it but you can change the way you look at it. Most importantly, your future is also in your own hands. She was so real & I loved her for this. In spite of all her flaws you still wanted to root for her.

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Maki (played by Kobayashi Mao) was the pure, innocent one of the group, usually this would cause for melon-throwing-at-character’s-noggin action from my end (like, seriously, girl, getta grip on reality already!) but somehow, I couldn’t make myself do it! You could see inside her brain there was nothing but chaste, untainted thoughts. She had one love- art- & she committed all her energy into it. I adored the scene when she got Kitamura Kazuki‘s character to be a model for a life drawing project, he strips off everything but his boxers & she just stares at him, in that area. A bit flushed in the cheeks, he’s like, “Do, do, do you really want me to take these off as well?” to which she just matter-of-factly with her big doll eyes responds along the lines of, “Yeah, how else am I supposed to get my life-drawing done?” Definitely a funny moment x) Maki was someone who didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do in life, she didn’t have a long-term step-by-step plan. All she knew was that she loved art. She saw & felt the beauty in the world & was perfectly happy with going along with Mother Nature, living & seeing things in the moment. Through her we see that it’s okay sometimes to slow down & not know precisely what your next move is.

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Hirono (played by Matsumoto Rio) easily could’ve been haterade material as well with her super ditziness overload persona. The one thing I really didn’t rate so high wither her was how she came all the way to Tokyo to find her senpai (Sato Ryuta‘s character) because, well, she had a little crush. But even though she was often rather bimbo-esque, I think Matsumoto Rio still managed to bring a very warm, likeable charm to Hirono. You wanted to be around her & make fun of her in an endearing way^^. She had big dreams; to write, produce & act her own play; & you wanted to watch by her & see her succeed. In a way, it was like watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon, like a child grow up into her own, overcoming the fear & realising the confidence that anyone can do what they set their heart & mind out to do.

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Hirono‘s part of the story did give me the irks at times, not so much because of her (because I actually did like her) but it was because of the acting troupe she became a part of- The White Tights. Seriously, imagine a group of (& not in the good way) overly-enthusiastic grown men in super skin hugging white lycra- led by Sato Ryuta. Duhduhduuhhhnn *squirms* The only role that I’ve ever liked that man in is in Rookies (Kawato-sensei=super-awesomeness xD) Everything else, it’s not that I hate the guy but so many of his characters are just so… meh.

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As for the leading lady Rei… I can’t say that I love Otsuka Ai as an actress (don’t mind her as a singer, though sometimes her voice does get too… screechingly high-pitched -_-; But alot of her music does have a good pop flavour. Planetarium is oe of my all-time faves xD But maybe that’s because of its linkage with a certain flower boys series…) Also, I guess because the characters were in very similar rock group scenarios, I kept semi-subconsciously comparing Ai‘s role here to Mika Nakashima‘s in the 2005 Japanese manga-turned-live-action-film Nana. No surprises for guessing who I favour hey, but… speaking objectively, I don’t feel that Otsuka Ai has the same onscreen presence as MikaNana had balls & Nana had sass (or is that, Mika had balls & Mika had sass?? Yeah I love Mika blah blah blah.) As Rei, Otsuka Ai played it a little too squeaky clean for my tastes. She had too much of a girl cute thing going on & it wasn’t in the same way with Hirono where you were happy playing sister & fist-jolt ganbatte-ing her to success. At times I really found myself rolling my eyes at the girl. In her quest in choosing between love & her own success, she just seemed to wither away in uncertainty when you wanted her to take charge & stay positive but at the moments you’d expect her to be a smidgen tender, she really wasn’t (remember when she pretty much she wanted to overtake the writing of the songs for the band… come on, you didn’t even want to sing in the first place, girl! Now you want to kick my Eita Ryuuji out??)

The biggest trouble I had with her is she just kinda fell into the singing. It wasn’t something that she had dreamed of doing ever since she was a mini-Rei or anything, her becoming the lead-singer of Ryuuji‘s (Eita) band, Survival Company all happened by chance (btw, my first thought at Survival Company, with that name, they were destined for failure surely lol) And forced if I may say. A drunken escapade or two led to Ryuuji demanding that Rei sing his songs for the band. And then as they say, the rest is history. I really don’t feel like Rei had to go through or overcome much before getting her lucky break.

If I had to rate Otsuka Ai‘s acting chops, as a rookie I don’t think she was tragically unwatchable. I guess she was kinda daintily youthful, okay-interesting to watch for the most part but, for me, she was far from gripping. I certainly don’t think she is leading lady material. In Tokyo Friends, she was definitely fortunate to have been surrounded & helped out by three much better actresses.

So, now, Eita time. Eita? Eita, are you there?

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Somehow, I just didn’t get how Eita landed this role. When I say that this felt like a seconds-Eita, I don’t mean it in the sense that he failed at the acting side of things, in fact, he didn’t have much of a problem with getting across all the various emotions & layers of Ryuuji but when I look at him, I’m so, so, soooo sorry! I just don’t think Rock God. Something lacked. I think it was part-styling (really, they could’ve given him a wardrobe that wasn’t three times his size ><) but I also draw another comparison to NanaEita didn’t ooze the same carefree soulful, rock attitude as Matsuda Ryuhei‘s Ren in Nana. Ren seemed to have much more grit & a sensual love for his, er, musical instruments, like he looked wrong when the bass wasn’t in his hands whereas Eita looked a little wrong to me WHEN he had the guitar in his hands.

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But in terms of the character, I did find Ryuuji more dynamic, more multi-layered & slightly more complex. While he did have an ego (he is a rock musician after all) & on the surface loud & proud of his ability & talents as a songwriter beyond words, you couldn’t argue his instincts for his genre of music. But I feel like inside, there was a vulnerable insecurity- & I liked that. I also liked that Ryuuji did think about & care for Rei‘s dreams, even though his actions may have outwardly led people to think otherwise. When he realised her talent as a vocalist & her potential to become the star of the band, he easily could’ve evicted her from the unit but instead, he adopted to step aside. Between love & fame, he chose to see his Rei flourish in her own success.

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I think this is where I like Eita best (on par with his silly comedic acts xP) When he is acting cool but you know he is silently protecting & watching the one he loves. I’m not so much a fan when he plays a straight-up pure arrogant prick who thinks he is God’s gift to this universe. And also, as trvial as it sounds, I like his trademark so-frizzy-messy-it’s-so-cool hairstyle but I’m not overly keen when he sweeps it up into the beehive effect as seen here in Tokyo Friends. Hmm… saying all this brings me to realise why I didn’t like him so much in Sapuri either. I guess sometimes it takes a bad (by his standards) an average role to really make you see just how significant the right role for the right actor can be. I liked Eita in this role for the most part but I definitely think it would’ve been a more flesh-nipping experience had they used a real-life musician to play Ryuuji.

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But it’s okay because I got to see him (try to) sing. I got to see him (pretend to) jam a guitar. I got to see him get slapped in the face. Most importantly, I got to see him get some pashing action on xDD

The series did round up quite satisfactorily with Ryoko, Maki & Hirono‘s parts of the story but the story between Ryuuji & Rei, is left pretty much open-ended. And that’s not open-ended in the “You need to interpret yourself” way, it’s the “Congratulations! You now need to go watch Tokyo Friends: The Movie !” way. And that is what peed me off a little. I mean, I enjoyed the series for what it was, its sweet, somewhat nostalgic simplicity & all, but it wasn’t so brilliant that every nerve in my body is propelling me to go hit the movie right this second. If anything, I am more likely to rebel & not see it (I don’t like being forcibly told what I should watch next ><)

But then again… I won’t know what happens to Eita, I mean, Ryuuji… (!!!!!!) Darn it all. Fine, next time I’m at my local Asian DVD store, I’ll look out for it.

But I tell you what, it better be on special.

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20 responses

14 09 2010
Ender's Girl

oh gawwwd, that beehive hair, so spot-on. (at the time of this renzoku he obviously had not yet discovered the manifold delights of uno fog bar, lol) loved your insights about Eita and the kind of roles he’s best suited for. i didn’t like him playing the prick in Sapuri either. (although he was the better kisser by far, hehe)

haha, i can’t imagine Eita being a rock god either! (hmmm, something tells me i’ll find Jin a more believable rocker. which reminds me, have you grabbed your copy of Bandage yet? XD) oh, i know why the guitar in his hands felt kind of wrong: try picturing him with an electric violin, change his beehive hair from black to peroxide blond, maybe — better now? hehe

random: that actress kobayashi mao, she played satoshi’s ex-GF in Slow Dance, right? I COULD NOT STAND HER SQUEAKY CREAKY VOICE. AT ALL. now i’m getting flashes of her going, “rii-chiiii… *creak squeak creak* riii-chiiii” grrrrrrrrrrr

15 09 2010
jicks

Haven’t seen Slow Dance so I can’t judge there, but going from your comment, I’m thinking I should mute Kobayashi Mao whenever she pops onto the screen, ne? lol

i didn’t like him playing the prick in Sapuri either. (although he was the better kisser by far, hehe)
^^gahahaaha Well, he was also the cleanest one in the series too lol Oh the love for soiled-faced StripperGheiboy.

No! I haven’t picked up Bandage yet but I badly want to so I can hear HIM speak some Japanese again (thus sound like a normal person.) My local DVD store has it but the last few movies I’ve purchased from them have produced some v. questionable English subtitles so I’m hesitant. I’m thinking somewhere online maybe… have you seen it yet?? You should review it if you have!

try picturing him with an electric violin, change his beehive hair from black to peroxide blond, maybe — better now? hehe
^^haha Definitely Eita is Mine! Mine! Mine! lol (sorry for lame pun ;OO) But… darn it, I hate violinists (n.) Really, all violin-players-in-doramas <<— I hate you all (N.)

17 09 2010
Ender's Girl

“soiled-faced StripperGheiboy” << lmaoooo the adjectives and epithets just keep piling up, don't they?

Eita ="Mine" NOT-a-lame pun << luff this!!!!!! come to think of it, Nodame Cantabile was my very first Eita drama. it took me a while to warm up to the manic style but it beat me down eventually, lol

re Bandage — not seen it yet, still scrounging around for a copy. but dude, Jin's your man so i think you got first dibs, lol. if you ever get around to reviewing Bandage i'll be first in line to read it (provided i'd have seen it by then ^^;;)

***
lololol @ doozy stalking satoshi!!! she'll follow him to the ends of the earth methinks. completely worth the effort though XD

18 09 2010
jicks

but dude, Jin’s your man so i think you got first dibs, lol.
Hrhm, why did that comment make me slyly smile?? -_-

Will most definitely express my thoughts on the movie once I get around to it! (Hopefully soon, hopefully very very soon…)

15 09 2010
doozy

random: that actress kobayashi mao, she played satoshi’s ex-GF in Slow Dance, right?
*googles Slow Dance jdorama*

jicks, what other shows of Eita are worth checking out?

17 09 2010
jicks

hahaha doozy is showing Satoshi-mania again!!!!!! Love it xDDD

I’m still working through Eita’s resume, currently sitting on 12 for his doramas (Waterboys is next on my hit list!), 4 for his movies (not including the first Nodame movie… not sure if you’ve seen it, but I feel like I got ripped off w/ that one… I think I saw his face once ><")

It's hard to recommend a dorama he is in because his personal best acting performances (or my favourite at least) don't necessarily come from the overall best series. For instance, I thought he was brilliant in Last Friends but the series just went blah. And you know I loved him in SunaNare but of course the series itself wasn't taken down too well by many.

Other dramas I liked him in: Unfair, Nodame & Voice. Voice isn't a mind-blowingly life-changing series but the cuteness between Eita & Ishihara Satomi will make you grin from ear to ear xDD (& if you're a Toma fan, well, The Forgotten Johnny-boy does look pretty good in this. But, er, I am not a fan lol)

Movie-wise, I rate him in Dear Doctor! And if you're an Eita+Juri fan like some *coughs* *peers side to side* *shades own forehead*, Summer Time Machine Blues. But for you doozy… I would suggest Dororo. Although I'm not sure if it would be Eita you would be paying attention to ;OO (see; dimple-face demi-glace sauce maker ^_^)

18 09 2010
doozy

awesome awesome! thanks for the recs!
demi-glace sauce maker… *blush*

18 09 2010
jicks

You’re more than welcome :))

I would like to point out that I did find Dororo a lil weird though. But I’ll leave the rest up to you to judge. Lemme know what you thought if & when you get around to it^^

17 09 2010
zooey

Thanks for the review. I remember wanting to watch this a while back but my friend told me it was a so-so drama. Guess I didn’t miss much. Lol.

Seriously, imagine a group of (& not in the good way) overly-enthusiastic grown men in super skin hugging white lycra- led by Sato Ryuta.

Que horror! Always thought of Sato Ryuta as a necessarily evil, you know how the lead always has to have that annoying sidekick? Well, that’s Sato Ryuta for me. I don’t mind watching him as long as he’s in the background but as a male lead… argh, I think I haven’t recovered from watching too much of him in Rookies. “Flourish in your dreams…” blah blah, wish he was knocked unconscious when he banged his head on the podium in the Rookies movie.

Eita didn’t ooze the same carefree soulful, rock attitude as Matsuda Ryuhei‘s Ren in Nana.

Aww, poor Eita. I don’t think he’s really suited to play such roles, he’s more of the “alternative” male lead than the traditional romantic one. I think he works best as the supportive best friend or the devoted hero who does all that he can for his lady love without expecting anything in return. The boy isn’t handsome enough either in the conventional sense to pull off playing the good looking jerk– I think Tamayama Tetsuji has that market cornered. Have to give him props though for sporting that hair, he had the same look in the 2004 drama Medaka. :)

17 09 2010
jicks

…he’s more of the “alternative” male lead than the traditional romantic one. I think he works best as the supportive best friend or the devoted hero who does all that he can for his lady love without expecting anything in return.
^^Couldn’t agree more. Then again, it doesn’t have to be Eita, I generally flock to this kinda character, period. I’m thinking even if Sato Ryuta played that kinda role, I’d probably… NAH!!!!!! I can’t say it lol ><;

I actually enjoyed Rookies the dorama, but it did have alot to do with the baseball boys' bromance situation. And I did like Kawato-sensei… the character himself was admirably goofy cool, a sensei def to lean on. Haven't caught the movie yet (been told on numerous occasions that it's not all that crash hawt.)

Medaka is high on my list to watch! Any spoiler-free thoughts to share?? xP

The boy isn’t handsome enough either in the conventional sense to pull off playing the good looking jerk– I think Tamayama Tetsuji has that market cornered.
^^lmao. Tamayama Tetsuji is indeed one good-looking bastard. I like him alot ^_^ But re Eita’s looks, it’s taken me years to finally get past the ears but now that I have, yeah he’s not conventionally handsome as you say, but still, I personally think he’s more than worthy of me looking at him (fangirl spazz held off xD)

21 09 2010
zooey

Hmmm, I kinda liked how he looked in Medaka. He had fuller cheeks and his hair made him look taller. LMAO. How’s that for keeping things spoiler-free? x) Sorry girl, my head’s not working properly, I promise to get back to you on this one, seeing that you’re working your way through Eita’s filmography.

Waterboys should be fun. You’ll get to see a super skinny Eita try to thwart Yamada Takayuki and Moriyama Mirai from forming a synch swimming club as student body president, only to find himself dance and wade in chest deep water along the others. Don’t know why, but I remember this drama quite well for some reason… must be because of all those boys in swimming trunks and the cheesy dance moves. Catchy theme song from Fukuyama Masaharu, although the hook in the song kinda reminds me of “Crazy for this Girl” by Evan and Jaron.

20 09 2010
totallyclueless

I really admire your posts. I don’t exactly know how to express it in English but it seemed that you really put a lot of time and effort making these amazing posts :) Good job!

Anyway, before anything else, can’t Eita play the guitar? :( I really don’t know if he can play any instruments. It’s kinda funny because he portrayed a violinist too, lol. Am I the only one who thinks Eita as Ryuji is hot? :(

Oh and by the way, I ripped the part where he actually sings and converted it to mp3 hohoho. I love Eita’s voice :) and I love him with Ai Otsuka :3 I think they make a good pair. Not as good as Eita/Juri, though.

Tokyo Friends isn’t that great, except for the songs. I really really love the songs, especially “To Me” and “Chotto”. I memorized them by heart XD Haha. Have you seen this video? It’s pretty awesome :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMrituBIXQM&feature=related

Sato Ryuta. Duh-duh-duuhhhnn *squirms* The only role that I’ve ever liked that man in is in Rookies (Kawato-sensei=super-awesomeness xD) Everything else, it’s not that I hate the guy but so many of his characters are just so… meh.

I totally agree! :O *high fives*

You still haven’t watched Medaka? The OST is nice, and Eita looked A LOT like Ryuji there but I was very, very disappointed with how it ended :(

22 09 2010
jicks

Thankyou girl for all you super sweet comments! *goes tomato red in face*

Thanks too for sharing that clip! Very nice :))
I think they make a good pair. Not as good as Eita/Juri, though.
^^Well, you know I am nodding my head like I’m on crack to that pointer lol

Did I think Ryujji was hot? Yeah (the fashion definitely could’ve been upped a tad though imo ><) But I still don't think Eita was the best choice for that role. For me, he just didn't have that innate rocker spark (i.e. doesn’t look like he would sleep around lol) Despite that, I think his acting was still thumbs-up material.

Medaka… can I watch it online somewhere?

20 10 2010
thuthuy

Thank a lot 4 ur review.
First I’ve got to say that I’m crazy fan of Eita so I watched this series only to see him in there.
The music to me is quite good but the story doesn’t impress me much : (
About Eita, his role in this series doesn’t attract me a lot. However, seeing him in a drama satisfies me as well ( I told u I’m his crazy fan )
I love him best in Unfair, Nodame Cantabile, Last Friends and Sunao ni Narenakute. All of them are my best fav series, too.

21 10 2010
jicks

Hi thuthuy,

Overjoyed to meet a fellow Eita fan!! *high ten*

I completely agree with the dramas you named him best in… would give up my anything for any one of those characters, bad hair et all tehe ^_^

21 10 2010
thuthuy62

He he, ” Bad hair ” in an absolutely attractive way :X
Even my brother ( he’s straight :D ) told me that the actors with extraordinary hair like Eita make a better impression to him in particular and to many his friends ( most boys ) in general. Just his opinion but I virtually agree with him .

22 10 2010
jicks

…in an absolutely attractive way :X
^thehe In absolute concurrence there! You can tell it’s fried & damaged beyond repair but he still makes it work xDD It’s better to have memorable hair than ordinary hair ;OO

My youngest brother thinks Eita’s pretty cool too. I think he respects the fact that he isn’t a Johnnie lol

28 10 2010
thuthuy62

” it’s fried & damaged beyond repair ” :D
I’m watching the drama Voice right now, in which Eita’s hair isn’t much fried but still makes him look funny, even somehow silly :D
Voice’s very interesting drama, so I think I should add it to my fav list above :D

31 10 2010
jicks

Ooooohh! You’re watching Voice! Have you finished it yet? I enjoyed the series alot although I did think it became a little episodic… & it also was like, come on policemen people, does Daiki have to play the detective as well be the forensic star??

But I liked his hair in this actually (I also loved his green parka lol) I also really liked the opening theme song visual sequence.

And Eita & Ishihara Satomi were super adorable in this xDD I definitely would support him doing more romantic-comedies~~thehe

2 11 2010
thuthuy62

@ jicks: Yes, I’ve finished it and it’s really very good and worth-watching drama!

Totally agree wit u on the supercuteness of Eita & Satomi :D. If only there were some more romantic scene between them ( a soft kiss, maybe? :D )

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