Linggo, Mayo 3, 2020

Review: A Girl and Three Sweethearts Dorama

A Girl and Three Sweethearts is the first, in a long time after Nodame Cantabile, Dorama or J-Drama I watched. It’s also the first one that is a non-fantasy drama, that makes me rethink my view about Japanese actors and makes me feel kilig again because of its actors' real-life romance. 

Growing up, my familiarity with anime and supersentai metaseries has been influencing my perspective about Japanese entertainment. It matters whenever I watch TV and film adaptations or anime-like acting. I prefer drawings or animations if it's anime-like story. 

These are the reasons why A Girl and Three Sweethearts is cool and a tastefully done drama series for me. In addition, it inspires me to discover more DORAMAs. 

Photo linked to
It also contains interesting cast interviews and show details 

The Good points in A Girl and Three Sweethearts

It took me 3 to 4 video clips, thank you Asian Crush! before I was convinced to watch this J- Drama. If the title is not interesting enough, the plot and characters were intriguing—not to mention—that straight away I am charmed by Mirei Kiritani’s and Kento Yamazaki’s good acting skills. 

But here the strong points why this series is good:

  • Characters are not outrageous. Okay fine, the overly sunny and emotional Misaki Sakurai's characters are close to anime-like. But perhaps, some Japanese girls are really like that?! I found the female lead character similar to other Asian drama female heroines that I usually appreciate like Jang Nara’s Bright Girl role (K-Drama/Korean Series) and Ariel Lin’s It Started With A Kiss (Idol Drama/Taiwanese Series). 

I also commend the writer(s) because all the characters, especially the four in the title roles, are well- established. I can’t remember a single moment that I was disoriented or lost in the track of their journey. For example, the older brother Chiaki (Shohei Miura) is clearly a genuine kind-hearted and charming. Even if he’s confusingly like Kaede Takasuki (Nanao) and didn’t notice Misaki’s admiration, you’ll understand that it’s part of his personality. It is the same with Toma (Shuhei Nomura). It didn’t need that he has to have long exposure to establish that he’s envious and trapped with his imaginary competition with Kanata (Yamazaki Kento). I didn’t hate him for that and in fact, understand that sibling rivalry is possible knowing his brother's talent.

  • Most actors are good in their portrayals. My favorite among A Girl and Three Sweethearts’ characters would be Kanata Shibasaki. The big part of it is because of the superb acting of Kento Yamazaki. Gee, I thought I was fine with the action-packed acting of Takeru Satoh (Rurouni Kenshin) or mind-blowing portrayal of Kenichi Matsuyama (Death Note movie). Kento, who incidentally played L in the TV adaptation of Death Note, is sugoi as a dramatic actor. He’s 100% in character in the way he walked, talked, stared, and expressed his feelings.

I checked some of his photos and videos online, I think his looks in this Dorama was intentionally street-like islander when he’s off duty as a Sea Sons Restaurant chef. Kento's appearance also added flavors in Kanata's character, but of course, Kanata is interesting and lovable because of his portrayal. I like his cold-hearted expressions whether those have meaning or not and whether those were about Misaki or his cooking. If I were Misaki, I am clueless also if he’s in love with me. And I would also fall in love even if his stoic. Because at least, he's honest in his feelings. Kanata is not your typical prince charming, but a man worthy to love. Ganern! And Kento in his Kanata (with matching cute sungking ngipin smile) is handsome. 

Miura Shohei’s Chiaki. Chiaki Shibasaki is a typical goody-goody third-wheel or second leading man character. But this didn’t matter, thanks to Miura Shohei’s acting and charm (as well as because of the writers’ plot twists). Shohei made me feel that his Chiaki is worthy to be loved and admired. His care, sympathy, concern, and love for his brothers and Misaki registered genuine on screen. This is not to mention that he’s also a believable business-minded man with a heart. It's in his getups, manners, and facial expressions. He really embodied a heartthrob modern version of a knight shining armor for a p√Ętissier. 

Okay, he was a heartthrob in his sweet moments with Mirei. But now that I know that they eventually get married (in real life) after they met in the show, I feel extra kilig whenever I recall their moments together. The moment I found the real score, I felt elated. It feels good to know that finally, I find foreign actors in the series I like are a couple in real life. This even more satisfied my thoughts that Miura and Mirei took their acting genuinely. Love it!

Mirei Kiritani’s Misaki Sakurai. Of all, so far, rom-com female actresses I have already watched (including my classic favorites) I am automatically convinced that Mirei Kiritani is kawaii, if not kirei. There’s something about her face or the combination of her eyes, lips, face shape, hair, and nose. Her eyes usually look serious but those serve as the window of her feelings. I felt the frustration, sympathy, admiration, kilig, or sadness by just looking at her eyes. Her lips and nose are quite flexible and they complement her eyes’ messages. I am amused by how the show used her lips to make meaningful scenes. Just check Misaki’s presentation cake for her interview and every time Kanata held and kissed them. Overall, Mirei’s face and smile exude sunny vibes. 

As for her acting as Misaki, Mirei Kiritani is believably funny and lovely. It’s not so stunning in the heavy dramatic scenes but you can relate to her emotions. I can’t remember any flaws, except perhaps of her too much smiling. Those affected the realness/ authenticity of those situations. Good thing nga Mirei is kirei. naka-naks!

The rest of the cast members also delivered good acting, but I have a few additional comments:

Nomura Shuhei (played Touma). Given the exposure he had, Nomura gave justice to his role. You’ll hate his easy-go-lucky and insecure side, but you’ll appreciate his playful aspect.

Marie Litoyo (Fuka Ninomiya). It took me a few minutes before I appreciated the dialogue of Touma that he only liked Fuka because she’s cute. Well, Marie’s beauty is not my type of cute. However I am could attest that her Fuka’s character is indeed good and cute, really girlfriend material. 

 Kenta Hamano (Nobuyuki Himura). At first, I found Kenta’s acting corny or not that funny. His jokes were not that funny, but definitely, he added heart and feel-good vibe in the show. 

 Hinako Sano (Mikako Okuda). Hinako’s Mikako complement Kenta’s Nobuyuki

 Kotaro Yoshida ( Ryo Higashimura). Well he’s a good villain.  

  •  The backgrounds in telephone conversations. Nowadays text messaging, answering email, or phone conversations are commonly exploited in TV dramas. Visually they are not appealing unless someone needs to endorse a smartphone or communication company ( I respect the advertising value) or there's a need for it in terms of build-up/ twist. 

Here in A Girl and Three Sweethearts, I like the idea that the writer (s) Sayaka Kuwamura (some sites credit Haruka Okita) made a point that whenever Misaki needs to have conversations, her friend was in various interesting places/situations. It’s a nice idea because, yes, you are not always in one place whenever you have a conversation with your friend. Two, it’s an opportunity to show features of a character or other elements. As for Misaki’s friend, I could easily point that she’s bubbly, vain or into pampering services, and event-goer. I even learned from those conversations what popular businesses or what are the type of mass gatherings in Japan.

  • Run till you achieve something.  I read before that Japanese actors are good runners, I see that in this Dorama. Chiaki, Kanata, and Misaki had their own running times. In fairness, they were all good runners and they didn’t run for no strong reasons.

  • The Story flow. Generally, I like the simple but astute flow of A Girl and Three Sweethearts. This is just a 10-episode drama series (compare to 15+ episodes and almost 7 years of Ang Probinsyano hehe). And in spite of that, I didn’t feel something is missing or too fast. In the first episode alone, I am amazed how the writer(s) manage to concisely and artistically tell the journey of Misaki from Tokyo to Shounan (sic), from her solo life to her life with her three sweethearts, from her bad encounter with Kanata to their blossoming rapport. Even I rewatched it one to two more times, the continuity is there and everything is clear. Perhaps, I should also thank the subtitler(s) hehehe. 

  •  Some settings. Most probably the Shibasaki residence was not exactly a whole house, same with Sea Sons Restaurant. At some points, I even wondered about the layouts of those places because of the exits and entry points. But never mind, because even they looked small spaces they’re cozy and complement the characters or the story. 

  Chiaki’s room had a computer and a lot of books—so good for a young business-minded lad.

  Misaki’s room had a noticeable small table with lots of pens. And thankfully those were not just displays because Misaki did some writings and plannings inside or outside of her room.

The so-so points of A Girl and Three Sweethearts

I reiterate that I like this Dorama, but it could possibly deliver more if the following don't have so-so parts:

 Kanata’s room wasn’t exactly fit for a chef, but it complemented his street-like casual boy side. But I wonder why it looked messy when Kanata was clearly a picky and almost perfectionist lad personally and professionally. 

  Sea Sons’ interior (including kitchen) area is visually cool, particularly from the top view. Its terrace is also magnificent, particularly when the camera pans the sea. What I don’t appreciate much is the facade. I can’t imagine how it’s connected to the main door, kitchen, or dining area. I didn’t see customers flocking in and out. Well, of course, it didn’t matter much somehow. But it would be a testament to Kanata’s cooking popularity and business promotion-prowess of Chiaki. Did he really handle five restaurants? 

  • Nanao (Kaede). Actually Nanao’s beauty matters in her character Kaede. She’s voluptuous and pretty that I think Misaki’s only edge is her eyebrows. But I think Nanao’s acting needs some level of internalization or consistency. She’s not a believable pianist for me. 
  • Sakurako Ohara (Manami Nishijima). I am fine with the timid and apologetic approaches of Ohara. But sometimes I think she showed too much of it in her facial expressions that she looked not genuine. I didn’t see her rapport/ connection with the people she talked with.

Rate: 9/10 

By the way, I found this Fuji Television features interesting

Lunes, Abril 6, 2020

TV Series Review: The Sand Princess of Baifern Pimchinok, Dan Worrawech

The Sand Princess is one of the Lakorn / Thai series  I already watched while we’re in enhanced community quarantine and I am working from home. This made my breaks more relaxed and entertaining. Today, I will share my insights and review of The Sand Princes starring Pimchanok “Baifern” LuevisadpaibuDanuwong ” Dan” Worrawech, and Chutavuth ”March” Pattarakhumpol.

note: please forgive me if I misspelled their names, (I find them challenging to memorize and spell hehehe)

The Sand Princess: A Taste of Modern Produced Lakorn 

The last Thai Series I watched were Luerd Kattiya (half) and Roy Leh Sanae Rai that both top-billed by Aom Phiyada Akarasenee and Tik Jesdaporn Pholdee. These two series, which I watched last year, were broadcasted about 17 years ago so I adjusted my expectations in terms of production quality. But they were good (acting-wise of the leads) that’s why I get excited to discover more interesting Lakorn. Fast forward, I saw a video clip of The Sand Princess in GMMTV Youtube Channel, recognized Baifern ( because of the Crazy Little Thing Called Love which also starred Mario Maurer), and thought its an interesting story.

A love square story that revolves about lies. In general, The Sand Princess is about Kod (Baifern Pimchanok)’s journey to survive her poor orphan life through earning money from Ji’s ( March Chutavuth). Ji is her rich friend and employer, who is an easy-go-lucky guy and impregnated one of Kod’s friends. Kod agreed to take care of Ji’s daughter (named Moji) because of money and she wants the kid to experience the love of a mother she's deprived to have. 

Their story becomes more colorful because of Ji’s shotgun engagement with Aff (Gina Virahya Pattarachokchai), daughter of a family business investor and an old flame of his older brother Ki ( Dan Warrowech). To cover Ji’s secret and to protect their family business, Ki decided to marry Kod. From there, you know where the story possibly revolved and who’s in the love triangle err love square (or love pentagon).

The Sand Princess has a predictable modern complex tweak of Cinderella’s storyline, but full of heartwarming and nakakilig moments. It has a smooth blend of comedy antics, romantic gestures, and punchy dialogues. Okay, not all the parts are convincing, but the majority of them contribute to the idea that The Sand Princess is a feel-good series to watch.

Some weak spots though. Perhaps what’s noticeable here is it seems that it’s easy/ convenient for the male lead (Ki) to fall in love with the female lead (Kod)--but not so unconvincing like in the Boy for Rent. Yes, nakakakilig and I understand (and even appreciated it as a viewer), but that’s what I observed as a reviewer. Ki marries Kod for practical reasons and it’s clear that he’s not ready to fall in love (at least for the reason that his younger brother and ex-girlfriend just got engaged), but why it’s easy for him to care and caress Kod. Or just let’s resolve this by describing him as a busy businessman with a lot of time and a big heart to be romantically involved with a woman--who’s the (fake) mother of his brother’s daughter. #SanaAll ! 

But the good thing about it is it shortened the love attraction between Ki and Kod and made The Sand Princess a feel-good na rom-com pa series. #TripNaTrip

I would like also to commend the love triangle among Kod, Ki, and Ji. It’s strong especially with the present of Aff in their life. But I think, even if it’s nakakilig, Chot’s angle weakened the love triangle err love square. Should I believe that Kod’s is the most beautiful (fake) single mom? #SanaAll

The Sand Princess’ Love Story

In my opinion, the gems of this series are
  1. Baifern’s acting
  2. The chemistry between Dan and Baifern
  3. Duangta Toongkamanee's effective comedy antics 

Baifern’s acting. Aside from Crazy Little Thing Called Love, I also happened to see other Baifern’s acting performance through video clips of Friend Zone (trailer), Yuttakarn Prab Nang Marn ( Wicked Angel in the Philippines), Secret Garden, and Bai Mai Tee Plid Plew. Based on these varieties, I can say she’s not only an effective but versatile actress. She has a wide range of acting skills that she could be good in rom-com, heavy drama or something else. Here in The Sand Princess, her Kod’s is the wacky and relatable heroine you are looking for. Baifern delivered what was required for her character, and in effect, affects her strong on-screen chemistry with Dan and made The Sand Princess even more dramatic.  

Dan Worrawech. I watched the whole The Sand Princess I guess almost three times. The first time is to complete this 14-episode series, the second time is to rewatch the interesting episodes, and the third time is to rewatch the interesting/ entertaining scenes. In the first run, though I feel kilig, I felt the awkward/ unnatural/expressionless Dan in some scenes, examples: 
  • his flower base arrangement  
  • the way he looked ( while holding a guitar) at Baifern from afar while they’re camping in Chiang Mai 
  • when he’s on the beach to convince Kod to comeback. 
  • At the bar when Kod confessed her love to Ki     

Dan is good in facial expressions and body movements. Except in the few times that he looked not serious or is it because of his charming dimples. Sometimes he (seemed) about to laugh like when Ki’s auntie caught Ki and Kod fighting for the pillow/ where to sleep. He’s looking, intensely, in Baifern’s face to exude romantic feeling ( when Kod accidentally tripped him on the bed). But his expression is like he’s about to laugh.   

Dan and Baifern’s chemistry. Overall, Dan’s acting is good. Because if not, his chemistry with Baifern is not effective. In a way, he exuded cold and yet, soft-hearted Ki that perfectly matched with Baifern’s chatty and pretentious Kod. And he’s an effective young vibrant businessman. My top favorite Ki/Dan’s scene is when he shows a frustrated look when Ki is questioned by his auntie, who just found out that he has (fake) daughter and wife.

March Chutavuth. I just finished watching Kiss Me Again ( thank you again GMMTV!) so I have another reference in terms of March’s acting. He’s effective as annoying, irresponsible and funny Ji. You hate and love him for making Baifern’s Kod life stressful, if not miserable. I have no particular favorite Ji's scenes and perhaps it's because he’s portrayal is consistent. 

Unlike Dan’s few underacting performances, he tends to do a little bit overacting in some scenes and showed same-face reactions for different situations. But again March Chutavuth effective as annoying, irresponsible and funny Ji.

Duangta Toongkamanee’s serious comedy. Three of my favorite scenes in The Sand Princess include Ki and Ji’s auntie Krongthong. The actress is superb in her portrayal of a loving, but teasing auntie. She delivered the dialogues well enough that even if she’s acting seriously she would make you laugh. My favorite scenes of her are
  • (as mentioned above) when she sermoned Ki for being irresponsible (fake) father
  •  (as mentioned above) when she caught Ki and Kod on the bed. Her surprised reaction is the best!!!
  • When she teased Ki when he informed her that Kod is sick

   Other good and bad points in this Lakorn

  • Gina’s good Aff acting. Aff is really the beautiful villain you hate for being intimidating. Gina is good in this role. And the only Aff’s scene that is ineffective for me is when she interrupted Ki and Kod’s argument the morning after She went to their condo. It’s in the walk and delivery. Se’s not an actress there but a fashion model trying to act something.
  • Narumon Phongsupan’s Ladda. Ladda’s side story is a subplot and a good arch. I think the writer(s) established the character well from earlier dialogues of Kod. But IMHO, Ms. Phongsupan’s acting is not impressive enough ( except for that one heavy scene when Kod talked to explain why Ladda abandoned Kod). 
  • Ae Maneerat Kam-Uan’s Puang Petch. If there’s another funny character and effective portrayal in The Sand Princess, it would be Puang Petch ( Ki’s secretary) of Ae Maneerat Kam-Uan. The beautiful actress is natural in her punch lines and facial expressions. You would feel as well how concerned she is to Ki.
  • Alice Tsoi’s Meaw is a little bit good particularly if her Meaw is teasing Kod. But I think her role ( bff of Kod) and Mek Jirakit Thawornwong’s character ( bff of Ji) are too plain. 

Overall I really like The Sand Princess and I recommend you to watch it. It’s entertaining, feel-good and full of wisdom. It reminds us that making and raising a kid should be something we take seriously. It recognizes the sacrifices of single moms and the importance of parenting. It encourages you to value your self-worth even if you have a poor background.