Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bijo ka Yajuu (Beauty Or Beast) Review (2003)

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

Takamiya Makoto, a successful reporter with UNN, is scouted by JBC to lead and direct their Evening News programme. On the same day as her scheduled start date, the talkative Nagase Hiromi from the Variety Department at JBC is transferred to the news section to supplement their ranks. These two form an unlikely pair leading the the motley Evening News crew from the top and bottom, injecting them with a sense of pride and meaning in their work.

*Spoiler warning*

The smart, capable writing of this drama reflects well the hustle and bustle of the newsroom. The snappy verbal exchanges, tight timing and camera coordination gives an interesting glimpse into the world of news reporting. I especially liked the individual focus on each of the characters of the main cast during every episode to elaborate on the contributions of each of the team members. These inspirational storylines were very well done though they obviously required creating plot lines that sometimes felt a little concocted and idealistic, sometimes leaving one with a slight feeling of disbelief. Overall though, the storytelling was very well done, determinedly upholding the principles of reporting the truth no matter what.

Matsushima proves why she's the queen of jdramas with her brilliant performance as an executive producer. Nanako successfully depicted Takamiya as a seemingly cold and uncaring boss focused solely on getting the ratings and initially unconcerned with her subordinates welfare. This contrasted marvelously with Fukuyama Masaharu's relaxed Nagase, who was a great counterweight both intellectually and socially. Fukuyama's charm and talkativeness certainly put many of his colleagues at ease although sometimes it does feel a bit contrived. The drama followed through with some good character development and evolution particularly from Nanako but also from the rest of the cast, all of whom put up solid performances.

This drama really conveys a sense of fun and excitement with the music accompaniment. The overal soundtrack complements the ever-changing situation on screen nicely with a light-hearted and inspirational approach to give the drama some impetus. So it was a little bit of a surprise that the theme song for the drama was 'The Galaxy and Maze' by Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, which had a rather odd feel to it, more like something from a variety show with a Hawaiian flavor rather than something to do with the fast pace of the newsroom.

Despite the unusual name, this drama is pretty aptly named for its two main characters. Matsushima's Takamiya and Fukuyama's Nagase are certainly a strangely matched pair in their endeavor to raise the ratings of the JBC Evening News programme. Plenty of interesting challenges await the news crew that are all deftly handled and make for some great drama viewing. The only aspect of this drama that might be improved on is to make their storylines a little more believable and less idealistic. While its certainly good to provide good role models especially on television, its also a bit naive to create inspirational, feel-good stories that really stretch the boundaries of reality.

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