Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sengoku VS Sangokushi

13th January 2009, Tuesday

Men are bestiary creatures and the yearn to engage in wars had been testament of that point for thousand of years....
Lately the Israeli army had been displaying new tricks against the tacky Hamas militants at the Gaza strip which the entire world seek a ceasefire real soon.
Personally I am thoroughly anti-military, and if there are no wars, there might be no need of self defense thus no army..Yoohoo...but you and are know it'll never happen.

However I do like to watch military movies...not really for the large scaling killings or genocides but during such turbulent times, we tend to see extraordinary people risen to prominence, some even as martyr...

Over the weekend, I managed to whet my appetite for some romantic (not in terms of actual romance but more like spicing things up) take of some ancient history of both Japan and China.

First up, the new taiga dorama "Tenchijin" from NHK...
2008's "Atsuhime" was a huge success and saw the meteoric rise of main actress, Miyazaki Aoi. The tale which told the main patriarch who oversaw the bakumatsu and the end of the Tokugawa shogunate reign ended rather bleakly after the 50 episodes run with many main characters passing away at such tender ages...
Tenchijin brings us back to the Sengoku jidai closely associated to 2007's "Furinkazan". chronicalizing the story behind Naoe Kanetsugu, a loyal retainer serving 2 generations of the Uesugu damiyo, most notably Uesugu Kagekutsu who he was made to grow up with.
The opening scene was set at the familiar Osaka Castle (which we had been of course) when one of the great damiyo, Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried to woo Naoe who he had great admiration for to join his camp only to be rejected boldly as he pledged his allegiance to his donno, Kagekutsu despite the lure of wealth and even the threat of death.
Episode 1 mainly started with his youth as in the regular fashion of previous taiga doramas when he was forced at the age of 5 to assist Kanetsugu, himself only a few years older in grooming to become a competant sucessor to Uesugu Kenshin.
The 5 year old boy had a great performance and one surely felt for him to made to leave his parents at such tender age. but we all know this is the making of another great man.

Once again NHK managed to gather an ensemble cast to make this series a must watch. Great actors of various generations were selected to build a chemistry on screen perhaps for once in a lifetime opportunity.
Tsumabumi Satoshi, the other half (or ex) of Shibasaki Kou, who renowed for his acting ability since "Water Boys" and stepped into the lead role of Naoe comfortably.
The 2 Uesugi damiyos he served are heavyweights themselves. Abe Hiroshi was truly convincing as Kenshin while Kitamura Kazuki (of Akihabara@Deep and Yaoh) fame was a solemn Kanetsugu, the latter would be a crucial cast for most part of the series for sure.

Even within the first episodes you'll see many familiar faces from the doramas you had watched ut just can't link the name to, for example Naoe (or when he was young was known as Yoroku)'s borth mother was reprised by Tanaka Misako, who was a great actress as a mother in shows like "2nd Chance" and "Brother Beat".
Many top tier young idols were roped in for his series including Oguri Shun (no intro needed), Shirota Yu (Tezuka in Prince of Tennis, Rookies), Koizumi Kotaro (former PM son, Gokusen 3) and Tamayama Tetsuji (Brother Beat).
Surely such masculine series need some gentle feminine touch how about the likes of Tokiwa Takako (20th Century Boy, Beautiful Life), Fukuda Kyoko (To Heart, Kamisama Mou Sukoshi Dake), Aibu Saki (Zettai Kareshi, Triangle), Nagasawa Masami (Proposal Daisakusen, Last Friend) and Kimura Yoshino (Over Time, Perfect Love).

Such eye candies make a history lesson less sleep inducing for sure and of course very eager to see how these characters get out of the predicaments during war and rise into prominence...

IN the 1st episode, there was a mention of Zhuge Liang is the Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper to Liu Bei's Big Dipper.
It truly was a surprised that they drew a referance to the Three Kingdom history of China which is coincidental that on Sunday I caught the 2nd part of the epic film "Red Cliff" (has it been half a year already?!).
It carries on where the story ended the last time with Cao Cao's troop managed to build in strength at the base across the red cliff with his naval forces looking decent despite they hailed from the inland North.
The weaker alliance between Sun Quan's army and Liu Bei's feeble force had to plot whatever means to fend off the arrogant Northerners who claimed to be carrying out the Court's orders.

For a good hour or so, there were more tactical on the paper with Zhao Yun and Zhuge Liang working their wits which is perhaps the best part of this 2nd half.
The part with Sun Shang Xiang infiltrating the Cao's camp and report everything via doves to the allies was a bit far fetched; she even made friend with this blockhead who was promoted as a commander because he can kick soccer well (and he looks uncannily like that blockhead hubby of Faye Wong).
Of course, my most hated involvement of Lin Zhiling as Xiao Qiao was pretty okay in the end as she played to the main outcome of the war as John Woo had wanted it.

Overall the actual breakout of the battle was what people anticipated and with the help of CG, it didn't fared too badly at all.
I like the part when John Woo put the light that Cao Cao was a motivator to his army and he showed compassionate side when talking about his youngest offspring.
I also fancy the intensity the Sun Quan's army felt when their commander asked them about their will and not to fear death
The aftermath of the battle with the field covered with perished soldiers and Zhao Yun mentioned, "There was no winner, everyone lost" was quite relevant to the context of why there shouldn't be war but those with powers just don't give a hoot.

Think John Woo did the best he could with an endearing piece of literature based on an important part of Chinese history.
He jazzed things up which might led to some frowns from avid fans of the story...
Kudos to the cinematic exposure with the CG, the massive battle ensemble and the details of the costume, backdrop and weaponry, but I really don't think this is a classic...

Anyway still good to catch up abit on how people of great importance of the past rose to the occasion when situation requires them....

Japanese word of the day: 戦士 ~sen-shi~(Warrior) Who is your favorite actor to be a notable warrior of the past? I would think Abe Hiroshi more than Tony Leung

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