Wednesday, March 30, 2022

ドラマ (Dorama) Time! 27 - pt. 2

You know what we're here to do. It's time for part 2 of my J-drama review! (Check out part 1 if you haven't already.)

いりびと-異邦人- (Iribito/Stranger/The Stranger) - WOWOW/2021
  • Naho is pregnant and comes from a wealthy family of art curators (the Ariyoshis), the most venerated of whom was her now-deceased grandfather. Her family even owns an art museum in Tokyo (Ariyoshi Museum), but she's been spending her pregnancy in Kyoto at her husband and mother's insistence due to the calmer pace of life there. Supposedly Kyoto is better for Naho's health.
  • While in Kyoto, Naho becomes entranced by the paintings of an unknown newbie who turns out to be Tatsuru, the young, mute, female apprentice of a highly-respected artist named Shozan. Shozan repeatedly blocks Naho's attempts to showcase Tatsuru's art in public, and Naho gradually discovers that Shozan is holding Tatsuru hostage and is jealous of his mentee's fresh and visionary talent. This makes Naho determined to free Tatsuru from Shozan and jumpstart Tatsuru's career.
  • Meanwhile in Tokyo, Naho's husband (Kazuki) and her mother (Katsuko) have a romantic history that briefly gets rekindled when Kazuki's gallery needs to be saved from bankruptcy; Katsuko agrees to let Kazuki handle the sale of a painting from Claude Monet's "Water Lilies" series—a masterpiece that Naho has treasured the most since childhood thanks to her grandfather's loving influence—on the condition that he sleep with her. Katsuko and Kazuki then attempt to sell more of the Ariyoshi collection when the family decides to shutter the museum behind Naho's back, only to learn that the most rare and valuable pieces are all in Naho's name. If they wanna cash in, they're gonna have to go through her.

I chose this drama because I enjoyed Takahata Mitsuki's previous performances in 'Mondai no Aru Restaurant' and 'Boukyaku no Sachiko', and I knew I could rely on WOWOW to deliver something dark and/or messy since it's a cable channel. Luckily for me, 'Iribito' is both dark and messy! I sensed that Naho's husband had something going on with her mom from the moment in episode 1 when Katsuko walks into his gallery and smiles at him in a "Hey babe" sort of way, and I sensed correctly! 

And if that weren't enough intrigue to kick this show off, there's an ominous feeling that surrounds Naho and Tatsuru's connection from the very beginning. When Naho is first mesmerized by Tatsuru's artwork at a Kyoto gallery, neither the gallery owner nor Shozan want her to have it. As if she would be crossing a line by buying it, offending Shozan by taking more interest in his mentee's work than his own, and therefore putting herself in danger by getting on Shozan's bad side. Granted, Naho probably should be scared! Shozan was involved in the death of Tatsuru's father whose success he envied—which Tatsuru witnessed and was so traumatized by that she lost the ability to speak for the next 17 years—he "adopted" Tatsuru and took over her father's house, and he trained her to be an artist just to force her to paint pieces that he can sell as he loses hand function in old age. But Naho is as stubborn as she is curious, so she buys the artwork anyway. Thus commences a battle of wills between Naho and Shozan that she's unlikely to win; the Kyoto art community is small, and Shozan's influence is wide-reaching. But Naho doesn't back down, even going so far as to give the $1 billion worth of masterpieces that she inherited from her grandfather over to a different Kyoto gallery owner in exchange for holding Tatsuru's first solo exhibition there.

Now, apparently 'Iribito' is based on a novel of the same name by Harada Maha, so I don't know if the potential lesbian vibes between Naho and Tatsuru are from the original source material or made up for the show. Either way, those vibes are clear and evident... up until the show changes its mind. Naho does seem oddly fixated on Tatsuru, and that fixation is immediate even before she knows who Tatsuru is. There's a moment in episode 1 where they lock eyes in an art museum as complete strangers, and Tatsuru becomes lodged in Naho's mind for the remainder of 'Iribito' after that. Naho's husband later has a dream about Naho sharing an intimate embrace with Tatsuru which made me think of 'Killing Eve'; you think Eve and Villanelle are drawn to each other simply because they have murder in common (Eve investigating them, Villanelle committing them), but then you realize they're actually hot for each other too! So I thought to myself, That's where we're going with this? Alright, bring it on! But the show teases the lesbian idea only to reveal in the final episode that *SPOILER* Naho and Tatsuru are sisters who didn't know of each other's existence until now. (Or at least Naho didn't.) But even if the two women weren't related and Kazuki's suspicions were correct, the bigger issue is that he doesn't truly understand Naho's gift for discovering masterpieces and the genius artists who make them. It's a gift that, as an art curator, requires profound dedication on Naho's part. So when Naho refuses to leave Kyoto and even insists on giving birth there and remaining there permanently, he accuses her of having an affair with Tatsuru because what else could make her so stuck on being in Kyoto? It couldn't possibly be Naho's appreciation for Tatsuru's craft, right? He couldn't possibly be projecting onto her for something he himself did WITH NAHO'S MOM, right? Right?

Believe it or not, Naho and Tatsuru being sisters isn't the only sordid family secret that gets revealed in 'Iribito', but I figure I've already spoiled enough of the scandalousness of a show that's only five episodes long, so I'll just leave it at that. On a lighter note, it's such a powerful moment when Tatsuru finally stands up to her mentor/abuser, regains her voice (literally), and escapes from him once and for all! From then on she and Naho get to live in peace, raising Naho's baby in Kyoto together, building up Tatsuru's art career, and living at a famous female calligrapher's residence that's full of other women too. So yeah, 'Iribito' is kind of sombre and understated, but it's also a surprisingly wild ride. Come for the stunning shots of Kyoto and its traditional arts, stay for the drama between high society art folks.

群青領域 (Gunjou Ryouiki/Ultramarine Area/Indigo Area) - NHK/2021
  • Kim Junhee is a Korean woman and the pianist of a popular Japanese band called Indigo AREA. The band started out as an instrumental one, but then vocalist Haruki was added to help the band gain more mainstream success, and Junhee and Haruki are now a much-publicized couple. 
  • But then, Haruki suddenly announces in the middle of a live-streamed performance that he's going solo, and afterward he tells Junhee that he resents her talent and has been dating another woman behind her back. All of this becomes a huge scandal, attracting extremely relentless media attention that Junhee can't handle.
  • Overwhelmed, Junhee escapes Tokyo and hides out in a seaside town, where she stays at a boarding house befriending the elderly woman who owns it and a man named Ren (the only other boarder there, who also saved Junhee from accidental drowning when she first arrived in town). She works at the local supermarket until her real identity is exposed by customers who record her defending her co-worker from the store manager's sexual harassment, and the altercation goes viral on social media. Junhee then returns to Tokyo to try to pick up the pieces with her bandmates, but winds up going back and forth to the seaside town when more scandals arise that make a successful Indigo AREA comeback seem impossible.
I mostly chose this show because the premise reminded me of 'Nagi no Oitoma'. A young woman is dumped/double-crossed by her boyfriend and has her career abruptly upturned, so she escapes to the countryside so she can heal in solitude, with the help of a few friendly new neighbors. 'Gunjou Ryouiki' sounds delightfully similar to that, right? Itaya Yuka ('FOLLOWERS') playing the band's manager also didn't hurt. And apparently I've seen lead actress Shim Eun Kyung in the Korean film 'Sunny', but I only saw it once when it was first released in 2011 and I didn't know who she was back then. Her Japanese is excellent by the way, at least from what I could tell, and in terms of what the role of Junhee required. Assuming it's not someone else's vocal stylings dubbed over hers, she even does some singing by herself in the final episode! Also, I realized that I somehow managed to watch two shows at the same time that both star relative newcomer Sumire in supporting roles; she played Tatsuru in 'Iribito', and in 'Gunjou Ryouiki' she plays the girl Haruki dumps Junhee for. She's styled so precisely in both shows that it didn't click for me that she was the same actress until I noticed that both characters had the same set of  hazel (grey? green?) eyes. 
The show keeps hinting at Junhee's traumatic past, memories of which cause her to have severe anxiety during an important performance. It turns out that Junhee had a little sister who died in a car accident when they were both very young, and Junhee always blamed herself for not being there to prevent it. This is set up to be this big emotional reveal, but she and Ren discuss it when they're alone together by the sea a couple of times and then that's it. I'd sensed that there might be some residual tension or even a confrontation between Junhee and her mother, but in the last episode she calls her mom to invite her to watch what's ultimately Indigo AREA's final performance, and then that's it. So the buildup to and revelation of Junhee's traumatic past is actually quite anticlimactic.
I definitely thought 'Gunjou Ryouiki' would focus more on Junhee's personal breakthroughs than on the ensemble as a whole, and the last few episodes did seem to drag a bit. But overall I thought the show was solid. Most notably from the ensemble, Reiji the guitarist is revealed to be gay, which becomes an unexpectedly significant subplot and actually doesn't end tragically! His roommate is in love with him but Reiji basically uses him as a sex buddy and substitute for the drummer Takuma, whom Reiji actually has feelings for despite Takuma being straight, having feelings for Junhee, and not even knowing that Reiji is gay. Reiji's roommate gets tired of being used and outs him to the press, which nearly breaks Reiji and throws another wrench into Indigo AREA's comeback plans. Nonetheless, all of the bandmates accept and support Reiji, and after hiding out at the boarding house with Junhee for a while, he finds it within himself to return to music and even apologize to this roommate for using him. (I didn't agree with Reiji apologizing to the person who outed him, but I suppose it's important for that character to make amends in order to demonstrate that he's not the user he always feared he was.) Reiji's arc impressed me, and also, the actor who plays Reiji (Hosoda Yoshihiko) is an excellent crier! 

By the end of 'Gunjou Ryouiki', the other band members decide to continue on without Junhee. Not because Indigo AREA is unsalvageable as is (it's not), or because Junhee has an outwardly-arrogant-but-fundamentally-insecure-hence-going-solo diva moment like Haruki did (she doesn't). Rather, it's because Junhee realizes she's always been motivated to play piano for other people's benefit, so she wants to explore playing piano for herself for once. And because her bandmates support her decision as a friend, they decide to split amicably. Everyone is beginning new journeys, which reminded me of 'Nagi no Oitoma' once again (where each member of its ensemble embarked on new paths as summer came to an end). Viewers are left with the theme that the boarding house obaachan puts forward in the beginning and that other characters repeat: Life doesn't necessarily have to be grand or complicated. Just be an honest person, do the things you really want to do, and make sure to eat and sleep well. Everyone has the right to live life as they please. Literally, 「楽しく生きたってバチなんて当たらないんだから」(Tanoshiku ikitatte bachi nante ataranainda kara; "Living in a fun way isn't a sin," or, "It's not like you'll be punished for enjoying your life").

All of the four shows I watched this time around were pretty chill; none blew my mind, but none greatly disappointed me either. So as far as favorites go, I guess I'll pick 'Iribito' for going in the most unpredictable directions. It's not an "in your face" type of show, but still I was on edge the whole time and never quite knew what to expect. Now, off to watch more J-dramas I go!

Friday, March 25, 2022

ドラマ (Dorama) Time! 27 - pt. 1

Look at me taking less than four months to write a new J-drama review after my last one! I guess it helped that I chose to only watch four shows this time around. This review is comprised of my selections from the autumn 2021 broadcast season in Japan, plus two shows on Netflix that I felt like watching just because. For part 1, I'm focusing on the Netflix shows:

全裸監督2 (Zenra Kantoku 2/The Naked Director Season 2) - Netflix/2021

  • The year is 1990, and after edging out his largest competitor in the 1980s porn video industry (see my review of season 1), Muranishi has even loftier goals than before. This includes rebranding Sapphire Pictures as Diamond Visual, getting access to satellite broadcasting rights, and massively expanding his roster of actresses and production staff so as to film and distribute new videos quickly and constantly. (Think of Berry Gordy's assembly line approach to talent development at Motown Records, except it's porn.)
  • However, Diamond Visual's frantic pace of production means Muranishi's not interested in creating pornographic masterpieces anymore, and his now-girlfriend Kuroki Kaoru, the former university student whose stardom sustained Sapphire/Diamond in its early years, has been relegated to spokesperson when all she really wants is to make a new video with Muranishi again. Meanwhile, Muranishi finds another muse in one of the newer, younger, more doe-eyed actresses, and Kaoru senses she's about to be replaced. All the neglect drives her to drink. A lot.
  • At the same time, the billionaire who owns the satellite channel Muranishi wants access to doesn't take Muranishi seriously and refuses to do business with him at first. Muranishi eventually gets his way, but the bubble economy in Japan bursts, resulting in massive debt that tanks Diamond Visual. (Getting scammed by two fake accountants also doesn't help.) Diamond Visual can't be salvaged, but as Muranishi crashes and burns, he risks also destroying his relationships with all of his friends/staff in the process. Oh yeah, and that same cop from last season (played by Lily Franky) is still collaborating with the yakuza to destroy Muranishi too.
This season was aight. They ruined the theme song (in my humble opinion) by adding a loud and unnecessary choir to it, but otherwise this season was aight. I watched it because I enjoyed season 1, and I watched season 1 because I was intrigued by the brazenness of an entire series being made about the Japanese porn industry in the first place. This time, I wanted to see what new directions the story would go in, and those directions were aight. While 'The Naked Director' has always about more than just porn (the yakuza, government policies on obscenity, and corrupt policing all feature heavily in both seasons), season 2 broadens the show's range of social commentary. For instance, in episode 1 Muranishi appears to be running for political office, claiming in a public speech that Japanese society should embrace sex and the distribution of porn because giving people that outlet to satisfy their lust actually reduces sex crimes. That's an interesting argument, but I'm also sure he's not considering sex crimes that may happen within the porn industry itself when he makes this argument. And what he's saying isn't meant to be taken seriously anyway, because in true Muranishi fashion, he's simply doing whatever he can to push the boundaries of what's socially or legally acceptable, thereby boosting his video sales. In short, his supposed political aspirations are only a publicity stunt.
The show also gives a brief nod to idol culture, with Diamond Visual making a series of thematic videos that supposedly recreate sexual encounters that women report having had with famous male pop stars. Even religion comes up too, when Muranishi tries to buy a religious organization's (cult's?) satellite broadcasting facility in an attempt to get ahead of the death of VHS that he correctly assumes will come one day. Ever ready with a sales pitch that makes porn sound like the most necessary thing in the world, he likens sex to religion in this way: both can be addictive, but they also help people prosper by giving them an escape and making them happy. The cult representative bluntly explains to Muranishi that, on the contrary, the less happy people feel, the more converts the cult gets, which means more revenue for the cult. But since Muranishi has made porn seem so profitable, and since the economy is on an upswing at that point and the cult's business isn't doing well anyway, the rep accepts Muranishi's offer.
Since 'The Naked Director' is loosely based on real events and real people, the 1992 economic bubble burst practically requires that this season be more somber than the previous one. But I wasn't prepared for how dark (like, DARK dark) Kaoru's storyline would become in particular. As I mentioned, Muranishi shelves Kaoru as an actress and she self-destructs in response to that, quitting Diamond Visual after Muranishi finally sets up a new video shoot for her but misleads her into thinking he'll be performing in the scene with her (he will not). She then moves in with a female friend, the longtime makeup artist-turned-assistant-director who leaves Diamond around the same time as her. After the bubble bursts and Muranishi basically runs everyone off of the Diamond compound, Kaoru returns and offers to start a new, non-porn-related business with him. (This is an olive branch; the idea she proposes isn't as important as simply being his collaborator/partner again.) But he rejects her, and that's the last straw. She returns home and attempts suicide by jumping over her apartment's balcony as a Billie Eilish song plays in the background (no joke). All is not lost, however! Kaoru eventually recovers, moves back in with her unwaveringly Catholic momI definitely did NOT see their reconciliation comingand studies art in Italy like she previously intended in season 1, so she does get a relatively happy ending. But she never receives the apology she deserves from Muranishi for how he mistreated her. Then again, maybe that would've been too out of character for him, no matter how wrecked he is by seeing her unconscious in the hospital.

There's also a love story between young gangster Toshi—who worked for Muranishi in season 1 but went a little overboard with his dirty work and got fired before ending up in jail and joining the yakuzaand Sayaka, the yakuza boss's favorite sex worker. I found that arc to be compelling but it does feel somewhat random in hindsight. Toshi rescues Sayaka from being the boss's plaything (pimped out to him by her mother of all people), but messing with the boss's girl is the biggest no-no, right? Especially when that boss is played by Kunimura Jun! You don't mess with that man! In all seriousness though, the show uses that conflict between Toshi and the boss to push Toshi toward finding refuge with some of his former Sapphire/Diamond friends, and eventually protecting them by severing any remaining influence that the yakuza has on them. So I guess that love story arc isn't so random after all. Anyway, the real reason I mention any of that is because I was so surprised and excited to see Nishiuchi Mariya playing Sayaka! The last production I saw her in was 'Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu' in 2017, and I didn't recognize her in 'The Naked Director' at first. I just assumed she was an up-and-coming actress who happened to look very familiar for some reason I couldn't ascertain. But then I googled the cast list and saw that it was in fact Nishiuchi Mariya! Apparently she's been focused on modeling all this time and this her first J-drama appearance (her first new acting role, period) since 'Totsuzen Desu ga', so good for her! I say watch season 2 of 'The Naked Director' for curiosity's sake to find out how the story wraps up, or simply watch it to witness Nishiuchi Mariya's comeback.

金魚妻 (Kingyo Tsuma/Goldfish Wives/Fishbowl Wives) - Netflix/2022
  • Sakura (Shinohara Ryoko from 'Otona Joshi') runs a high-profile hair salon business with her abusive husband. In their ritzy apartment building where social hierarchy is reflected by floor number, they live at the very top. Sakura used to be a gifted hairdresser, but since getting injured, she mostly just does what her husband tells her to do. This includes handling the management and PR aspects of their business, playing up their "perfect couple" image for the press, and not saying anything about him sleeping with other women (one of whom is their neighbor). 
  • Sakura visits a goldfish shop and becomes acquainted with Haruto (the shop owner) when he accidentally sprays water on her. He's young, kind, and passionate about nursing sick or wounded creatures back to health. Haruto is actually connected to Sakura's past injury, but neither of them realize this at first. Later, when Sakura's husband attacks her one night, she flees to Haruto's place and they carry on an affair while Sakura helps him run the goldfish shop.
  • But Sakura and Haruto can't live in their own world forever. While her husband tracks her down and tries to manipulate her into coming home, Haruto's wealthy family pressures him to quit both Sakura and the goldfish shop so he can take over his father's corporation. Meanwhile, five housewives from Sakura's building start having or considering extramarital relationships of their own.
I planned to watch this show once I saw the trailer for it on YouTube and found out about its February release date. I recognized Shinohara Ryoko in the trailer, assumed the show would be like 'Hirugao' (a 2014 J-drama about cheating housewives and why they cheat, which was groundbreaking at the time), and when I began episode 1 the floor-number-as-social-status element immediately reminded me of 'Suna no Tou' from 2016. So even though I didn't recognize anyone other than Shinohara Ryoko at first, 'Fishbowl Wives' had more than enough to retain my interest. And I actually did recognize more actors as I watched more of the show. Yuriha, the neighbor who brazenly sleeps with Sakura's husband and smirks in her face about it (played by Hasegawa Kyoko) also appeared in 'Cecile no Mokuromi'. Haruto (Iwata Takanori) was also Ishihara Satomi's baby daddy in 'Dear Sister'. And the man whose wife is a former runner and current alcoholic (Inukai Atsuhiro) was the object of the heroine's unrequited love in 'Oh! My Boss!'. 

It might merely be a convention of this show and not a reflection of real life, but I had no idea that goldfish could be such a big deal (especially not the small kind that Haruto sells, when koi fish also exist and are more impressive-looking to me). In the States, unless you're some kind of aquatic nerd like Haruto, fish as pets are basically living, breathing decoration pieces. In my mind they've always been rather inconsequential. But so many characters in the show are interested in having goldfish in order to feel less lonely, or hold onto a remnant of their estranged family, or repair their childless marriages, and so on. (The child thing is actually why Sakura goes to Haruto's shop in the first place, because this mysterious fortune teller/feng shui expert in her apartment building suggests it... while at the same time encouraging Sakura and the other women in the building to cheat on their husbands? As if cheating is the key to their personal growth and spiritual well-being? Because women pursuing their true soulmate or "twin ray" is more important than staying loyal to their unfulfilling marriages? Well, I honestly can't say I disagree with that last part.) I was genuinely surprised by the show's ability to use goldfish not only as a metaphor for how stifled and vulnerable these wives feel, but also as a believable vehicle for multiple characters' wishes and healing journeys.
Cheating is not merely a tawdry or simple thing in 'Fishbowl Wives'; each instance of cheating is given its own context. And not all of the wives follow through on their impulse to cheat, either. The one exception is Saya (the aforementioned runner-turned-alcoholic, also "Bansou no Tsuma"/"The Chaperone Wife" from episode 4), who is almost seduced by Sakura's husband. That is, until she receives a call from her own husband that makes her realize that they both just want to slow down the pace of their life, spend more time together, and get their relationship back on track (no pun intended). The rest of the wives featured on this show, though? Oh, they're getting busy and they've each got their own reasons! Episode 2 ("Gaichuu no Tsuma"/"The Outsourcing Wife") frames cheating as "outsourcing" sex when a woman and her husband aren't sexually compatible. Or, in Yuka's case, when the wife wants a baby but the husband isn't interested in sex at all, and her chaotic trash bag of an ex-boyfriend is aggressively making her feel wanted again. Episode 3 ("Bentou no Tsuma") centers around a cuckolding fetish, which surprised the heck out of me! Noriko's husband pressures his co-worker and her to touch each other in front of him so he can get aroused, only for Noriko to leave him for the co-worker when she realizes that the co-worker cares about her comfort and appreciates her homemade bentou lunches more than her husband does. And as much as I hated Yuriha's stank attitude toward Sakura and how she flaunts her affair with Sakura's husband, I was deeply intrigued by what episode 7 ("Kaisou no Tsuma"/"The Renovation Wife") sets up between Yuriha and one of the carpenters working on her overbearing mother-in-law's house. Two people with perceived blemishes on their bodies—both Yuriha and the carpenter have large dark spots on their faces, and the carpenter has a gigantic owl tattoo on his back that his wife resents—finding intimacy and acceptance through each other. That's a beautiful story, and I wish I could've gotten more of it. Yuriha's story gets less runtime than each of the other featured wives, and it felt like something was missing.
Hisako ("Zutsuu Tsuma"/"The Headache Wife") from episodes 5 and 6 is probably the wife I felt for the most besides Sakura, since Hisako and I have constant migraines in common. Unlike the dull ache I deal with on the daily, however, Hisako's migraines are frighteningly sudden and debilitating, striking whenever she gets stressed out or feels guilty about something. Her arc also illustrates how even the most principled or uptight person needs sexual gratification and tenderness, and sometimes attaining those things involves wrongdoing that they supposedly despise. Which would be, in Hisako's case, spending afternoons getting railed by a man she met in a park. However... PLOT TWIST (it's too good not to spoil, I'm sorry)! Her paramour is really her own husband! He cheated on her and she kicked him out, but the ordeal was so traumatizing that she disassociated to the point of erasing all memory of him from her mind. So when they first run into each other again in that park, she doesn't recognize him and thinks she's meeting this man ("Baba") for the first time. He eventually comes clean, sincerely apologizing to her and asking to reconcile, but I can't help but wonder what their tryst means in terms of consent because he initiated their sexual relationship under false pretenses. (Hisako consented to doing the do with "Baba", not with her estranged husband.) However, she accepts his apology and also wants to give their relationship another try, claiming that he always felt physically familiar to her but she couldn't figure out why until he revealed the truth. So I guess it's okay? Maybe?
'Fishbowl Wives' gave me much to think about, but at the risk of sounding too simplistic, I thought the ending was so dumb! Once Haruto's family learns that Sakura is a battered woman who previously did a huge favor for them in the past, then they (especially the family lawyer, who's also Haruto's ex-girlfriend) stop treating her like scum and help her get a divorce. Haruto also rejects his dad's offer to take over the corporation once and for all. So there is literally nothing keeping these lovers apart. All obstacles have been removed. And what does Sakura do? She breaks up with Haruto because she wants to work with her now ex-husband on reviving their business, which has fallen into disrepair since she initially left. But I don't understand why she couldn't have done that and continued to be with her new man at the same time! It's not like she wanted to get back together with her ex-husband in a romantic way. Besides, she ends up cutting ties and opening her own salon two years later anyway; that's two years that she and Haruto could've been enjoying their relationship on non-adulterous terms! Ugh! So yeah, 'Fishbowl Wives' has a steamy premise and an anthology-esque approach to exploring women's adultery that I found smart and engaging, but the conclusion made the show just aight to me overall. As for our lead actress, Shinohara Ryoko's acting was brilliant as usual, and I don't know why she was giving me Jennifer Lopez vibes with how she played Sakura, but J.Lo definitely kept coming to mind. Maybe it was some of Shinohara's facial expressions when delivering certain dialogue? Or because the initial meekness of Sakura combined with her arduous attempts to escape her abusive husband reminded me of J.Lo's performance in the movie Enough? No clue, but even now I can't shake the thought.

Am I feeling just "aight" about my remaining J-drama selections as well? Gotta read part 2 of this review to find out!