Friday, February 3, 2012

Change Review (2008)

Drama Rating: ***
Personal Rating: Loved it!

Asakura Keita was just working as a regular elementary school teacher when his father, a member of parliament died in a plane accident.  Kanbayashi-sensei, a powerful and influential member of the ruling Seiyu party, suggests Asakura to run in his father's stead and sends his secretary Miyama to persuade and aid him.  With the help of election planner Nirasawa, Asakura ends up unexpectedly winning his seat.

Not long after, the Prime Minister was forced to resign and Kanbayashi-sensei conceives a plan to have Asakura run for the leadership of Seiyu's party, thereby becoming Prime Minister of Japan.  Kanbayashi's planned to be the real power behind the PM and simply wanted to use Asakura as a puppet.  However, once Asakura took office, things start to go awry for Kanbayashi as Asakura begins to realize the power he wields for change.

*Spoiler warning*

When I first started this series, my hopes were pretty high for an interesting drama performance by a relatively strong cast.  The beginning episodes opened fairly innocuously, introducing us to grade school teacher Asakura, Kanbayashi's secretary Miyama and election planner Nirasawa.  But once we got into the meat of the story when Asakura became PM, I got a sense that some of the issues were more staged and contrived to suit the script rather than truly delving into the human interest aspect of the story.  One glaring example of this would be the incident with the US Trade representative and Nirasawa's daughter coming by.  It's one thing to add comedy to the story but a wholly different thing to pretty much ridicule the office of the PM.  Another issue I had with this series was that there was really a stretch in keeping Nirasawa around.  While Abe Hiroshi is certainly a good actor, his character's role certainly felt like it was unncessarily but forcibly kept into the script after the election ended.

Kimura Takuya's endearing and principled Asakura-sensei was a definite draw for the series.  His generally relaxed manner and calm, poker-faced demeanor definitely made you want to cheer him on.  Terao Akira's Kanbayashi-sensei provided a perfect counterbalance and contrast in the series, highlighting their vast differences in terms of values and outlook. Miyama's character was reasonably well handled although I did feel she was slightly underused and came across as a bit of a pushover as the senior presidential aide/chief of staff.  In this, Nishimura Masahiko's Momosaka was a much stronger fit and certainly played his supporting role exceptionally well.

This drama was also a case of having too many cast members with too little to do, which was truly unfortunate as I felt Abe Hiroshi could certainly have handled some meatier material.  His character Nirasawa's role didn't make much sense after the election and keeping his character in the story felt a bit contrived at times.  I had a similar feeling with Horiuchi Keiko's character Dr Tsukioka Rumiko, who's outsized role felt a tad forced.  Kato Rosa was the biggest flop to the drama and it was painful watching her act like it was a high school play instead of a high quality television production.  The same goes for the SP who was covering PM Asakura, who's performance was of similar quality as that of Kim Nana in City Hunter.

The music was fine for a political drama and the main theme had a very clean, majestic sound to it, evoking thoughts of clarity and righteousness, which suited the Asakura's character quite well.  Otherwise, the music complemented the story quite well with appropriate sound effects used whenever possible to enhance the atmosphere.

Whimsically inspirational and principled are likely the best adjectives I have for this drama.  Although there were certainly points when the story got serious, especially those involving Kanbayashi, generally, the drama took a light, humorous tone in approaching the series and Kimura Takuya was a perfect fit as Asakura for this role.  The main strength of this drama probably lay in many of the work-related scenes where we see Asakura and his staff continually struggle to get taken seriously but then gradually gain acceptance of those working with him.  However, this was marred somewhat by his 'off-hours' when the ludicrous, slapstick comedy really seemed a bit over the top.  I generally did enjoy the series a lot but if you start wincing every so often, don't say I didn't warn you! =)

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