Jan 31 2017

Terrace House – Season 1 (Series Review)

Terrace House – Boys and Girls in the City
Season 1 – Part 1 Review by David Cirone


Terrace House, now streaming in the U.S. on Netflix, is the Japanese “Real World”-style reality show watered-down to be as polite and PG as possible. Absent are the sensational, over-the-top, media-career-minded personalities we’re accustomed to on U.S. TV — nobody throws a drink in someone’s face, nobody trashes the house or gets caught in a drunk “Oh my god what did I do” late-night affair. Instead, Terrace House offer lots of subdued conversation, repressed emotions, and episodes full of frustrating indecision.

The “Terrace House” of the title is huge by Tokyo standards, crafted from immaculate stone and glass architecture. If you think this is going to be your typical shared apartment in Japan, think again. It’s got a game room, spacious kitchen, private pool… a paradise in central Tokyo. But instead of being impressed and energized by their new environment, the house guests all seem terribly intimidated, and the shyness and reservation inspired by the home never seems to go away.

Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 09 2016

Hanzawa Naoki – Episode 3 (Review)

Hanzawa Naoki
Episode 3

Review by David Cirone


Even though Hanzawa failed to grab Higashida’s property, the determined banker is causing too much trouble for his scheming superiors, and they order a surprise three-day inspection to keep him off balance and prevent any more surprise moves.

Led by Tokyo Chuo Bank’s Deputy Manager Ogiso (still steaming from losing face at the disciplinary hearing), a team of auditors marches in and demands a “random” list of records, and it’s obvious that the list has been designed to focus on the bank’s most troublesome loans. The auditors pick apart the records, finding fault after fault, chastising both Hanzawa and his team for careless errors. Hanzawa takes it on the chin, and his subordinates are guilt-ridden for adding to Hanzawa’s already perilous position.

Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 07 2016

Kasha (Review)

Review by David Cirone


Kasha, based on the mystery novel by Miyuki Miyabe, is a disappointingly flat adaptation, packed with thematic missteps and lacking both the heart and intrigue of the original story.

Set in the early 90s, Kasha (superbly translated by Alfred Birnbaum in the U.S book version as All She Was Worth) follows injured Tokyo police detective Shunsuke Honma (Takaya Kamikawa) as he reluctantly investigates his nephew twice-removed’s missing fiancee. Honma’s feeling useless at home, benched indefinitely after a robbery shooting, and the chance to get out of the house and do something useful is too tempting to refuse.

Honma soon discovers that the missing woman, Shoko Sekine, has been leading a double life, secretly taking over another woman’s identity and wooing Honma’s nephew into marriage. Shoko’s credit card application reveals a bankruptcy in her past, and she’s fled Tokyo without a trace. Honma puts together the pieces of Sekine’s dark past, leading him toward a fateful confrontation with the woman who may have committed murder to start a new life.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 08 2016

Hanzawa Naoki – Episode 2 (Review)

Hanzawa Naoki
Episode 2

Review by David Cirone


In the aftermath of Hanzawa’s face-off with the bank’s disciplinary committee, his superiors scramble to do damage control and put a swift end to Hanzawa’s unpredictable plan. Moreover, the longer they wait to put Hanzawa in his place, the more they’ll risk damage to their own fragile reputations.

Hanzawa (Masato Sakai) finds an unlikely ally in the bank’s Executive Director Owada (Teruyuki Kagawa), who’s watching Hanzawa’s actions from headquarters with wariness and amusement (and also, from a strategically safe distance). He’s intrigued by Hanzawa’s spirit and ability to one-up his superiors, and he refuses to step in, urging branch director Asano and his comrades to clean up their own mess.


Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 03 2016

Hibana (Spark) (Series Review)

Hibana (Spark)
Series Review by David Cirone


Netflix’s latest Japanese series Hibana (Spark) is a deeply-felt, intelligent character drama about the highs and lows of the “manzai” comedy world, viewed through the complex friendship of its two lead characters, the shy but driven Tokunaga (Kento Hayashi) and the abrasive wild man Kamiya (Kazuki Namioka).

Based on Naoki Matayoshi’s award winning novel, the story spans 10 years, beginning with a bombed performance by Sparks, the young comedy duo of Tokunaga and his schoolboy partner Yamashita (Masao Yoshii). The newbie Sparks is bumped for time at a low-paying beach summer festival and forced to deliver their cerebral act against the tide of crowd noise and loudspeaker announcements. Feeling sympathy for their plight, Kamiya, the leader of the following act, Ahondara (or “airheads”), swears he’ll get revenge, and launches a fierce tirade against the exiting audience, condemning them one-by-one to go to hell.


Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 28 2016

University of Miami to screen Enoshima Prism and Wonderful World End


The University of Miami will present free screenings of 2 Japanese films on September 16th and 23rd, 2016.

September 16 – The time-travel friendship drama Enoshima Prism, directed by Yasuhiro Yoshida, stars Sota Fukushi (Kamen Rider film series, Bleach), Shuhei Nomura (Litchi Hikari Club, Flying Colors), and Tsubasa Honda (GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, Full Metal Alchemist) as high school friends bound by tragedy, and their journey to change to the past.

September 23 – Wonderful World End, directed by Daigo Matsui, is a teenage friendship drama rooted in modern-day digital communication, starring Ai Hashimoto and Jun Aonami and based on pop singer Seiko Oomori’s music videos.


The film screenings are free and open to the public. Information at the Consulate General of Japan in Miami’s official Facebook page:

Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 25 2016

Death Note – Light up the NEW world (trailer)


The trailer for Death Note Light up the NEW world, the sequel to the immensely popular manga, anime, and film series, features the return of Erika Toda as Misa Amane, along with newcomers Masahiro Higashide, Sosuke Ikematsu, Masaki Suda, and Rina Kawaei.

Aug 20 2016

Hanzawa Naoki – Episode 1 (Review)

Hanzawa Naoki
Episode 1

Review by David Cirone


Hanzawa Naoki‘s opening shot, a slowly-zooming close-up of the title character’s confession of beliefs, instantly brings to mind comparisons to The Godfather. Like Michael Corleone, mild-mannered banker Hanzawa is a man who transforms because of a duty to family, a dedication to his father, and ultimately, a singular focus to right the wrongs that have been done to him. Like Michael, Hanzawa is also capable of lying to those closest to him, even to himself, and his desire for revenge brings out his strength at the same time it brings out darker sides of his nature.

We’re rooting for Hanzawa from the start because he’s a little man who’s underestimated — we can all identify with that — but we’re accomplices, too, because right from this opening scene, Hanzawa Naoki is lying, and we know it.

Starting with the 1991 flashback to Hanzawa’s job interview, we see his determination to do things his way. “Surely there are other banks,” his interviewer prods, but Hanzawa insists. “It has to be this bank.” At the new hire orientation, he makes a veiled statement to the two men who will become his lifelong friends, Kondo (Kenichi Takito), his university kendo partner, and the management-minded Tomari (Mitsuhiro Oikawa): “I’m going to make it to the top,” Hanzawa proclaims, “and then there’s something I have to do.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Older posts «