Happy Birthday Sakurai Sho. You're still giving me courage.
arashi, cheshire_grin
I cannot believe it is now January 2016. And Sakurai Sho's birthday. It has been a year or perhaps a little less since I have been able to watch a new Arashi show. Since I've downloaded something subbed. Since I've taken pleasure in my own life. It is not their fault. It is me. I have stopped my life. I refuse to live. I refuse to move on until my life is fixed. I refuse.

When I got sick, it was last winter. The pressure to get married was becoming unbearable. And my body finally broke. And I thought, now they will stop. But they didn't. And so I prayed. And prayed. And I thought that the answer to my prayer had come. But it turned out it hadn't. And so now my heart has broken too. And so has my mind. I am completely broken in every way it is possible to break.

But in all of that I remember you, Sakurai Sho. I know you and Arashi and many, many people have broken all odds and won. I know that you all faced challenges that I could never bear to face. I know that you have made decisions that I should make but have not the strength to.

And so I remember you on this day. And I say: happy, happy birthday. If I have had the strength to live this long, you have given me some of that strength. And it is with the memory of your strength that I keep living, keep pushing, keep hoping for a new day.

Some day, I will watch you smile on TV again. I will watch your shows, and your dramas. I will watch all the concerts I have missed, all the music show appearances, all the jokes I have missed. I will use you to heal me again and I will remember again what it was to be purely joyful because you and Arashi exist.

Next year, on this day let us meet again and I will tell you then, has life changed? Is it better now? Have I fixed? Has my life fixed? Am I healing? But one thing will not have changed. I will still wish you the happiest of birthdays on that day as well.

A Review of Kamisama no Karute 2 and how it Compares to Kamisama no Karute 1
arashi, cheshire_grin
Ok so I watched Kamisama no Karute 2 (KnK 2) a few nights ago and ever since, I've been writing this post in my head. So, I'm just going to get it out of the way and just say it. Part 2 did not live up to Part 1. There. I said it. I was so unsure about whether I had made the right judgment that I went back and watched the first part again. And then parts of the second part again. Just in case I'd changed and didn't like the first part anymore either or that I just hadn't given the second part the right kind of attention. But, no as soon as Kurihara-sensei's face filled up the screen in the first movie, I knew. The first movie was magic...and the second movie was just a movie.

That's right. It's not that the second movie is actually bad. It's actually pretty good as far as movies go, but it wasn't the masterpiece that KnK 1. This is not because the movie is inherently flawed but because it lacks the personality of the first one. If there is a fatal flaw, it is that the makers of the movie focused too much on "What Happened" and "The Point". Each and every scene is an action point for the next of three different stories. And maybe that's the problem. There were three different doctors with different stories that were entwined and therefore they were unable to focus on any one of them. Actually the focus ended up on the doctor that I believe should have had the minor story because he was a new character...but because of that they had to spend more time telling us who he was and that just took away from the characters we knew before and had come to love. Throw in a ton of back stories that had to be told about the three different characters and there was simply no time left for anything but "The Story". What happened next was all they could manage to fit into the allotted screen time. As a result, "The Point" of the story was highly belabored. "The Point" being that doctors have a hard time balancing between family and patients and that the decision can often be highly crucial to a patient's life and that doctors need supportive families but should occasionally remember that they have a family as well and give them time too. Got it. Simple. You didn't need to make all three doctors go through the same exact process to make the same exact point!

See, the thing is, it's realistic that every doctor, in fact all people passionate about their work will have to probably make this sort of decision at every step of the way. But because, they almost made these characters into models of a virtue or a characteristic rather than a human being, it lost the personality of the first movie. And that's it really. In and of itself, the movie was rather nice with a good lesson and a good story. However, it wasn't anything special.

Warning: Spoilers ahead!!

Let's compare it to KnK 1. As I said, KnK 1 had personality. And it had personality because the characters had personality. Kurihara-sensei (Sakurai Sho's character) was the most endearing character I've come across in a while. From his habit of quoting archaic literature with a twinkle in his eye, to talking to himself in his sleepy gravelly voice, to his eyes lighting up when something medically interesting came up, he was one of the most alive people, I've seen on TV. The makers of the movie spent time making him into a real person. He had this wonderful relationship with his patients that consisted mostly of confusion on his part at how to deal with people but real stubbornness as well about making them better again. He had an excellent relationship with the nurses as well, in which he cared for them and valued them a lot but in which if they ever showed any concern for him, he'd very seriously thank them for their concern but didn't they know he was married? And can you believe they took this out of the second movie! I don't think he addressed any nurses in the second movie except for the two main ones and only then for a medical reason or because they talked to him first. He had this habit in the first one, of reading a book as he walked the halls between patients. His love for books was important, so important that they'd sometimes show the book without him even in the scene. They had this scene in which the landlord describes Kurihara-sensei as a crybaby in the past who used to cry as a student when a nurse yelled at him or a patient died or they had to kill animals for experiments. And Haru is wife says: He still cries. He just does it on the inside now. These little scenes made the character. The worst part of the second movie was that they'd throw in these little scenes like one random scene where Kurihara-sensei says the "I'm married" line or one scene where he's walking with the book. But you felt the oddness of that because it was clearly thrown in for the entertainment value that the makers obviously knew it gave but that they couldn't bother to give more attention to.

One of the terrible parts of the second movie was that they totally sidelined Haru!!! It's like they told her: you're role is to be pregnant and pretty. No, literally the two best scenes in the whole movie were like this: Haru's been gifted a yukata which she she looks gorgeous in much to the admiration of the landlord and second tenant of the inn where they live. Kurihara comes home after receiving some harrowing news and seeing her says: "What happened?" much to the disapproval of the landlord and the tenant who don't hesitate to express their disapproval. He changes it to "It suits you." but by now Haru knows something is wrong and the scene changes to him holding her tightly. The second scene is when Kurihara-sensei finds out that his baby was born upon which he immediately dissolves into a bumbling mess. When the nurses immediately pack him off to the maternity ward, he walks off dazedly and then grin slowly spreading across his face, he begins to run. That last scene didn't even HAVE Haru in it.

But in the first movie Haru wasn't just the pretty wife. Oh no. She was a photographer with a real job that involved her scaling mountains to take wildlife scenery photos. She'd go to the temple every day, rain or shine, to pray. She had a beautiful wardrobe which the couldn't show as much in the second movie because she just wasn't in it as much! She had ideas and philosophies and goals which she shared with Kurihara and he with her. He'd send her the longest texts about what he thought about work. Sometimes he'd come back and she wouldn't be home because she was off on a shoot. They actually talked to each other and they had this habit of sharing the same humor and biting back grins over the same thing. Once, Kurihara called her from work just to ask her to identify a song that one of his patients was singing in her delirium. That scene was not necessary to the story but the makers put it in there and it was good. They also, made sure the movie was not just Kurihara and the hospital but depicted his home life too with the inn and the tenants all cooking together, even scenes of just Kurihara and the landlord or the just landlord and the second tenant. But the first movie just didn't have much Kurihara-Haru interaction at all, maybe to hammer in the "busy doctor who can't give his family time" model. Sakurai Sho and Miyazaki Aoi did a good job though and you could feel the chemistry but they can only do so much without dialogue and little screen time together.

There were other little tricks that were used to make the first movie better. For example camera angles. There were three separate scenes (yes, I counted) showing Kurihara-sensei's face upside down, including one in which is head was dangling off of a chair as he slept. As I said, he and his perpetual sleepiness were endearing and these little ways of showing him from different angles made it more so. (Can you believe by the way, that in the second movie, his trademark perm was flat? WHAT?? How could they do that??) They had a ton of breathtaking scenery too in the movie, just lovely shots of beautiful nature and shots of the quiet streets of the town, panoramas of the rooftops of the town, the way they love to do in Japanese film. They made the most effective use of soundtracks of birds chirping, making you almost able to feel the coolness of the early, early morning that it must be. The movie was slowly paced, and they focused less on plot, letting Kurihara's voice narrate what they didn't feel like was necessary to show. (They should have done that in the second movie. They got rid of the narration device completely and that might have helped them remove so many of the "what happened" scenes.)

The soundtrack in the first movie was great too with warm, quite music and sometimes even just silences or the sound of nature or the wind. The perfect soundtrack for the movie. I was horrified when the second movie ended with a high tenor, opera sounding song in English! I still don't understand why they did that.

The second movie did have two more scenes that I enjoyed greatly. One was when Kurihara and Haru were walking up the winding pathway back to their inn holding hands while their tenant friend, who I suspect was enamored of Haru and felt that Kurihara didn't value her enough, stumbled on behind them loaded down with baggage. He was silently glaring at their hands in resentment for being alone, struggling with all the baggage,and the injustice of the wacko doctor holding hands with pretty Haru. Another funny scene was when Kurihara-sensei's patient's blood sugar has gone out the roof but he insists that he only ate the hospital food that he was given. They go back and forth going: I didn't eat anything. Yes you did. No I didn't. Yes you did. And then Kurihara gets the most gently stubborn look I've ever seen on anyone's face as he stares probingly at the patient and he says: "Well there's a recent blood test that's come out that I'm going to do on you that immediately tells me what you ate." The patient immediately blurts the truth. Hilarity is added to the story when we find out later that the patient is actually a doctor himself and must have obviously known that no such blood test exists. Those were two scenes well done and the second one wasn't even necessary to the overall plot. See? Depth and breadth makes any story good.

I looked up the makers of both movies afterwards and there is no difference except in producers. The author who wrote the two parts of the novels is the same and the scriptwriter and director were also the same. The actors were all the same except for the new ones. Only the producers were different but as far as I can tell, the producer role is very dynamic and prone to being different for every movie so I'm not sure how much of an effect the change of producer had on the movie.
There are rumors that the novel author is coming out with a third part to his story and that a third movie will be made. If that happens, I would not be averse to it. As I said the second movie wasn't horrible. It just wasn't as special as the first one and what makes good movies special IS that they are rare. And who knows, maybe with another chance, the makers will be able to make the third movie just as special. If they need someone to advise them, I volunteer as tribute. Otherwise, go for it. I know now that no sequels can ruin the first movie for me and that I'll always love it and that's good enough for me.

The Digitalian Review and on Arashi in General
arashi, cheshire_grin
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World Cup Anyone?
arashi, cheshire_grin
  I'm not obsessed with soccer but I have big fans in my family and friends so it's impossible not to be mildly interested. Japan bombed big time. I notice that team more because I'll see the players on Arashi shows so I can recognize faces and I have a sort of passing affection for them. They lost to Cote de Ivoire 1-2, tied Greece at 0-0, and lost to Columbia 1-4 (in my opinion they never stood a chance to Colombia anyway). What happened Japan? You can do better than that! Apparently their coach has quit over this disaster. On the other hand Spain went home so early it's unbelievable so Japan shouldn't be so dejected. The good news is Algeria's still in. The cheers in Arabic floating in from my backyard have gotten exponentially louder since the World Cup started... 

The Last HnA
arashi, cheshire_grin
So I finally watched the last HnA episode. I was waiting for it to come out subbed so that I could fully relish this last episode and funnily one subbed version came out yesterday and then another one today. I'm grateful for them ending the show in this way. I was really sad about this show ending because I learned a lot about Arashi from it and it was one of their shows I originally got really hooked to. But they did an excellent job of wrapping it up. I thought I was going to cry and be really sad, but I think hearing about it from so many people and getting glimpses of it here and there eased it up for me.

Something that surprised me was the ranking in VIP Room. It showed who had been picked most at the end of the VIP Room segment. Basically the results went in age order with Ohno-san being the most popular and Nino and Matsujun being the least often picked. It's not that I don't think Ohno-san would be high in ranking but I definitely thought Matsujun would be high too. It makes me think that really TV doesn't substitute for actual presence and interaction. Because from my understanding of how popular the individual Arashi members are among fans, Matsujun and Nino might have been higher. I think. As for me, you know I can't rank them or pick just one I like, so this age order ranking suited me just fine.

The end was the really sad part. It really hit me when Matsujun said, "it's been a year in Sharehouse" and Nino said yeah and then sort of just glanced around the house. He looked at all five doors and it probably wasn't conscious but it really looked like he was taking in his full of the room for the last time. I don't see Nino as that sentimental type but I insist I saw that on his face. The ache began then.

Of course, Aiba-kun got teary-looking right away. Surprisingly, Nino and Ohno-san looked very sad too. Matsujun and Sho-kun dashed out of there so quickly that I couldn't tell how they were feeling but I suppose them being so allergic to showing intense emotion is exactly why they left so quickly. I also was quite surprised at how much of an impression the Chiba trip made on Aiba-kun. He has it saved on his hard drive! (So do I!)

When Ohno-san was leaving, and he turned off the lights, that's when the ache really began to deepen. It's really over isn't it? As Aiba-kun said, this means a new beginning, but the darkened room was so sad. I really appreciate Ohno-san's gag at the end. I don't know if he realized that many people were going to be very sad but his attempt to lighten the mood was very kind. The end graphics though where all five met up again made me feel better though. They're together and happy. That's all that matters. I just wonder what that end part with Sho-kun closing the album page that said, "This is the best day of my life" was meant to mean. Why Sho-kun? Why that phrase?

Overall, it felt like the end of a concert. A beautiful interlude ending but with promise that it would happen again. It left you feeling a little lonely and sad and sort of missing them, but at the same time with more support for them than ever. I'm glad that it ended well. I hope they go on to do even greater things.

People are Golden
arashi, cheshire_grin
When I got into Arashi it started from Beautiful Days from Ryusei no Kizuna and led up to other dramas/songs/concerts. So I didn't really see their variety shows right away until my friend introduced me to Mago Mago Arashi. Now that I think about it, MMA is a weird show to start off a new fan with, isn't it? I mean it isn't their usual fare. Most of their shows portray Arashi as cool, funny, handsome, entertainers, right? They're cute and witty, silly and funny. Which I don't mind. I love them and their coolness/wit/humor/good-looks.

But MMA is the only show that I've seen of theirs that is Arashi as just people. You can imagine that if Arashi hadn't gone into Johnny's, that they would be like this with their own grandparents and working everyday in the family business. They would work alongside their grandparents and occasionally sneak off and ditch work for a little while, or tease their grandparents, get yelled at by them or even smacked. They'd hug them or go to sleep next to them.

Seriously, if you haven't watched this show, watch it. Now. Drop everything and go watch this show. If I could describe it in a color, it would be golden. Whenever I watch this show, I feel like I begin to see everything through a golden haze.

As I said, it was the first show of theirs that I saw and I actually sobbed in the first one (which is still by far my favorite episode). Given, I was going through some tough times at that point and I was really emotional about everything, but...watching them really reaffirmed my faith in humanity and the goodness of people and their ability to be good just by being human. I had stopped thinking that people, that humans were good. I had started thinking that most people were bad and only a few were good. But seeing Aiba kiss an old grandfather that he'd never met before, and Sho-chan for the first time ever in his smooth-talking life become awkward with a grandmother because she was quiet and had heart problems and actually sat their trying to talk to her until she was comfortable with him. To see both of them lift a grandmother off of her knees, because she bowed to them, probably shocked that she would ever see celebrities in her lifetime, much less be on TV. To see them receive pocket money (Arashi! who makes more money than I could imagine ever making!) and to accept it so that Jii-chan would be happy...yeah ok, I'm going to go off and cry again. But seriously, even if I'm wrong and people aren't as good as I think they are, I am happy just because I am in the same species as Arashi.

If I can say one thing and only one thing about Arashi, I will say they are good people. That is the biggest compliment I can give them.

********Onset of tears and emotion and all this mushy stuff is entirely
ao_no_michi's fault. They subbed a new Mago Mago episode and that's what made me get like this.**********

arashi, cheshire_grin

Good lord what did I used to do with my life before I got on LJ?????

Let's hope it stays up now!!!

arashi, cheshire_grin
 my goal: to find something that sana hasn't watched yet...not gonna happen...but if anyone knows of anything start sending it my way!!

(no subject)
arashi, cheshire_grin
So...this is my first entry after my intro. What should I start with? How about how I found Arashi? Well, I messaged Sana a while ago asking her about manga and anime. In college, I had taken a Japanese literature course randomly (which had nothing to do with my Biology degree but I had a scholarship so I was like hey what the heck, it's free anyway). The professor was awesome. She was this tiny old Japanese lady that had married this white guy who also happened to be a history professor at my school. It was cute...Cook and Cook. Their offices were right across from each other. Anyway, she made it really interesting. I mean we took the normal Tale of Genji and all that other stuff. But she had us watch Japanese movies too and anime and stuff. We didn't quite read manga but she talked about it. I always thought I'd try to figure out what the hype about manga and anime was about but then I graduated and normal life problems pushed it all right out of my mind.

So anyway, about a year after that class, I message Sana asking her about what manga was and she sends me a list of Japanese drama and manga that she loved best. She was so excited...and I was kind of overwhelmed. Like what is this?  I'm not sure why now, but I opened the drama list first. And Nobuta Wo Produce was the first one on the list and the first one that I watched. At first I was like what is this? I don't even watch normal TV and I'm going to watch Japanese drama? Hmmm...don't hurt Sana's feelings, just watch an episode. Haha. I finished the whole drama in what? Three days, Sana? Hehe I fell in love with Yamapi and Kame right then and there.

My interest kind of sped up after that. Kind of like a snowball rolling down a hill and getting bigger and faster. What was it after that? Oh yeah, Ryusei no Kizuna. My first meeting with Ninomiya Kazunari. If only I knew how fateful that meeting was. (lol) Sana mentioned something about Arashi at that point because I loved the theme song so much. It gave me chills. But names were still unfamiliar to me. Keeping character's names straight was hard enough because the names are so unfamiliar sounding and so adding the actor's names in was impossible. And I don't think I was able to figure out why the actors were also singing. 

Hotaru no Hikari 1 and 2. Lunch Queen. And then...dum dum dum...Hana Yori Dango. Sana absolutely forbade me to watch it. She's like NO. You aren't ready for that. Hehehe I think she wanted to keep the best for last or something like that. But I'd read so much about it in different forums and I couldn't help it. I was so tempted. One night, I guiltily finished the whole thing. THE WHOLE THING in one night!!!! I started around 3 or 4 p.m. that day and I stayed up all night watching it. I had the worst headache when I went to sleep around 5 or 6 a.m. But it was so worth it. Then Hana Yori Dango 2 in  the following three nights. And Hana Yori Dango Final the night after that. They were like my most tense nights that I've ever had, besides the nights that I was going through a botched up engagement lol. The whole time I was thinking: Omg omg omg what's going to happen? Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!

And so I met Domyouji Tsukasa aka Matsumoto Jun.

P.S. This is my only public post. After this they will be friend locked. Just for privacy :)


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