2010 showcased a lot of hot young talent: Jin Akanishi, Yui Aragaki, Osamu Mukai, Aya Omasa to name a few. It was also a year for non-Japanese actors to break through film and television in movies like Darling wa Gaikokujin and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac. The doramas were mostly lackluster; there seemed to be a heavy reliance on sequels to former big hits like Code Blue and Bloody Monday. There were several manga adaptations, ranging from shounen (BECK) to shoujo (Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge) to even classic series (Space Battleship Yamato). For those, the movies seemed to fare better on the whole, and there are more to come for 2011.
Best appearance in an overseas production – Tatsuya Ishii as the head of the Tokyo Sanctuary in Sanctuary
While Ken Watanabe in Inception would have been the obvious choice, the appearance of musician Tatsuya Ishii in the Canadian sci-fi series Sanctuary was a pleasant surprise. It made sense too. Where else could a supernatural being with silver eyes blend in but Tokyo, especially when he’s dressed as a mysterious J-rocker? Very fitting.
Best line – “For me, though you hate yourself, I love you.” (Yamato Nadshiko Shichi Henge)
We’re always being told that you must first love yourself before having another love you, but sometimes these are the words we need to hear. While Kyohei’s speech may be a typical dorama confession, it’s him at his most genuine.
Best pairing – Saori Oguri and Tony Lazlo (Darling wa Gaikokujin)
Mao Inoue and Jonathan Sherr both have cute mannerisms. Throw in a little chemistry, and you find yourself smiling at them doing chores and running late. They show that while cross-cultural relationships pose great challenges, the love is worth it.
Best theme – “Love Yourself ~Kimi ga Kirai na Kimi ga Suki~” (Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge)
“The part of you that you hate is the part that I like.” This is not your typical romantic song; it’s about being yourself and being loved for it. It’s a breath of fresh air from lyrics about beauty and promises of eternal love.
Biggest disappointment – Yankee-kun to Megane-chan
I thought the dorama would be cute like the manga, but it became a second-rate Gokusen with a teenage protagonist. The acting and fight scenes were ridiculous, and Hiroki Narimiya looked way too old to be a student.
Breakthrough role – Aya Omasa as Sunako Nakahara (Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge)
Aya Omasa proved that she could be both a leading lady and a versatile actress. In a role that could have become a caricature of goth stereotypes, she was endearing and vulnerable, even when kicking ass and obsessing over blood.
Most memorable character – Junichi Kitami (Hanamizuki)
Although I was always rooting for Sae and Kohei, part of me wanted Sae to wind up with Junichi. His joie de vivre and charitable soul made him an inspirational figure for both Sae and the audience.
Most memorable scene – Beach scene in Bandage
There is often a single moment in a dramatic film that causes all hope of a happy ending to be shattered. The beach scene was this moment. I got goosebumps witnessing a scene that could have been romantic but was too full of loneliness and heartache.
Actor of the year – Yui Aragaki
2010 was Yui Aragaki’s coming of age. Code Blue returned with a sequel, and she got the lead in Hanamizuki. The role of Sae not only demanded a speech in English, but it also required her go from a naïve teenager to a 28-year-old who has experienced love and heartache. She pulled off both tasks splendidly.
Dorama of the year – Nihongo no Nihonjin Shiranai
This was quite a unique series, as it contained a large number of gaijin tarento (foreign talent). In addition to the lessons about Japanese as a language, every episode contained a positive message about understanding differences between cultures.
Movie of the year – Hanamizuki ~May Your Love Bloom a Hundred Years~
This movie ran through a gamut of responses from me: awws, smiles, sighs, and tears. It had a great cast of hot young actors and diverse locales that included Hokkaido and New York. I felt as though I was accompanying Sae on her journey of self-discovery. This is a must-see for anyone who loves romance and drama.
Most anticipated show/film for 2011 – Paradise Kiss
I have always thought Paradise Kiss should be made into either a dorama or film. It has romance, tears, quirky characters, and best of all—amazing clothes. Finally my wish has been fulfilled, and the cast looks great.