The Gokusen formula

I spent the Christmas/New Year holidays watching Japanese dramas, among other things. I completed seasons 1 and 2 of Gokusen, which formed the bulk of what I has watched. Looking back, I had no idea why I chose Gokusen. Maybe I was tired of WWE (haven’t downloaded any WWE PPV since…. heck, I can’t even remember). Maybe it was a random click on a bookmarked page.

Anyway, I do not regret watching Gokusen. Sure, the show was formulaic and corny, but it was a funny corny show. Every episode made me laugh, though there were awkward moments. But I do have some beef with the show.

I know it paid handsomely to stick to the formula, but they could have deviated a bit from it. The formula consists of:
* Yankumi being hired to handle a difficult class. That is a given, and the root of all the plot points. Also, is she handling other classes?
* The students hate her. At first, of course. Would it be wacky if at least one student liked her immediately?
* A student (or group of students) will get into a fight and lose spectacularly. And from time to time, it’s the same set of students who got beaten to a pulp. I wonder if insurance companies would cover the expenses.
* Yankumi runs to the rescue. She was always running. That’s why she was always late: her kawaii students were already pulpy bits when she got to the scene. She should have invested in a motorbike. Poor handsome faces.
* No warm feeling after each rescue. The poor students have to have some shred of dignity left, you know. Besides, she came in late, when they were already vegetables.
* Yankumi gets into trouble at the end of the season. She is always forced to leave the school. Sometimes you have to admire her patience.
* The difficult class manages to graduate. The school closes down soon thereafter.
* She doesn’t get the boy of his fancy. Maybe the fighting’s her outlet for love frustrations.

If you are a nitpicker, there are loads to nitpick at this series, but hey, the series is fun. As a former teacher, the show validates some of my thoughts about teaching. And on watching the show, I was glad I left the academe – if I stayed on, I would have turned into an apathetic teacher.

Acting by Yukie Nakama and Katsuhisa Namase were excellent. Namase was wicked, and Nakama pulled it off playing Yankumi – dreamy and determined at necessary scenes. I don’t dig most of the student characters, like Kazuya Kamenashi. They just frown and shout and lie beaten down. Maybe that’s why out of all those actors playing students, only Tomohiro Waki managed to stay on throughout the series.

I love the music. You should go buy it, seriously.

Gokusen the Movie is available at Yes Asia.

Gokusen the Movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD at CD Japan.

Get the Gokusen 2002 DVD Box at CD Japan.

Get the Gokusen 2005 DVD Box at CD Japan.

Get the Gokusen 2008 DVD Box at CD Japan.

Get the Gokusen 2008 DVD Box at Play-Asia.com.

Get the magnificent Gokusen Original Soundtrack at CD Japan.

Get the magnificent Gokusen Original Soundtrack at Play-Asia.com.


Orthros no Inu

Orthros no Inu has an interesting premise, eye candies for the fan girls, and a slow start guaranteed to pique your interest regarding the characters.

The premise of the show was established on the first episode: basically, you have an “evil” person having the power to heal, and a good young man having the power to kill, basically reversing the roles of common archetypes. Aoi Ryosuke (played by Ryo Nishikido) was a teacher who, due to several events (an incident involving one of his students and a gang of drug pushers, and the same gang threatening to kill a detective) was forced to kill. Ryozaki Shinji (Takizawa Hideaki), a death row inmate convicted for murder, healed the wounds of the prison warden.

The seeming contradictions in the characters and their powers, and the inevitable conflict being brought about by their powers and circumstances, drive the story. It is an interesting study of human character and morality, of being forced by circumstances to do something against one’s convictions, and acceptance of what one has and what one can do. I am sure all of us have experienced doing something against our will by force of events not of our doing.

The character of Aoi is established in the first episode, but the same cannot be said of Ryuzaki. He is a convict, he is on death row, and he’s handsome as hell. So is he a bad guy? Takizawa is perfect for the role: he is handsome enough to give the character the benefit of the doubt. At first glance, there is no hint of evil in the man. Yet he has the power to heal. The contradictions in the character will confuse you enough to make you doubt your own prejudices.

As for the character of Aoi, Nishikido plays it simple – charming, conscientious – making his character likeable at once. You could feel the clashing thoughts in his brain as he was being needled by Ryuzaki to kill. In two episodes, Aoi has already killed three people. You’d wonder if there was even a conflict at all! Still, I so can relate by that internal conflict. Let’s face it – if it is not illegal nor immoral, we could have murdered a person or two.

What did I like about the drama? Yes, there’s the characters. There’s the story. The opening music and billboard’s blah, the acting’s mixed. And I am sure fan girls go for the eye candies. There’s Takizawa, there’s Nishikido, and there’s Yaotome Hikaru. Yaotome’s character development was kinda slow, and the fact that he gets billing for such a limited screen time, I wonder if he’s there for the acting, or he’s additional eye candy. This is unfair for Hikaru; maybe he’s role going to be expanded in future episodes (I had seen two, and there are 5 episodes filmed). But it was a surprising role, and he chews on it as if he’s been a bad guy since birth. His brawling is unconvincing – he does not have the build for brawling. Maybe they could have him do martial arts, instead?

And I am sure fan girls are waiting for Takizawa and Nishikido to go topless. Heck, both of them have rain scenes on the first episode, and they could have gone topless. They were waiting to see the two like these:

You are most welcome, ladies.

And to be fair to Hika fans:

You are most welcome, ladies.

Anyway, I have enjoyed watching this drama, and looking forward to new episodes. There are English-subbed copies somewhere, care of your friendly subbers. I am sure you know how and where to look. *wink, wink* For those in Japan or have access for Japanese channels, it’s on TBS every Friday, 2200 Japan time.

Buy the Orthros no Inu DVD Box Set at CD Japan.