Review – Watashitachi wa Douka Shiteiru (Cursed in Love)

I’ve got something a little more fun and laid-back for you today. Over the past few weeks I’ve been dragged into an addictive j-drama called Watashitachi wa Douka Shiteiru, the story of Nao, a young wagashi artisan. As is typical with j-drama, especially ones based off manga, the story is quite convoluted,

Fifteen years ago, Hanaoka Nao and her mother lived in the staff quarters of Kogetsu-An, the famous wagashi shop. Young Nao grew close with Tsubaki, the heir to the shop. Everything seemed perfect until Nao’s mother was framed for the murder of Tsubaki’s father.

Nao currently has the chance to solve the mystery that threw her life into shambles by concealing her identity, rejoining Kogetsu-An and marrying Tsubaki. But can she keep her secret and guard her heart?

The manga and live-action adaptation both go by the full title of 私たちはどうかしている or Watashitachi wa Douka Shiteiru. It’s often shortened to Watadou, due to the title being a bit of a mouthful. Things get complicated when it comes to English translations; the most common translation is We Are Not Ourselves and most fansites will refer to it as such, but the official title on the English NTV page lists it as Cursed in Love, and the English manga is published under the name Something’s Wrong With Us. So if you see any of these titles and get confused, don’t worry, it’s all the same thing! This show has too many names, I swear.

I was initially drawn to this series because so many of the characters are always (or nearly always) in kimono. But once I started watching, I was hooked. Do you enjoy any of the following?

  • Delicious wagashi.
  • A dying patriarch.
  • A scheming oujo-sama matron.
  • Beautiful kimono.
  • Unhealthy but passionate romance.
  • Murder.
  • An enigmatic and fashionable gentleman.
  • Angry ikebana.
  • Hilarious secondary characters.

If so, you’ll find something to love about Watadou. This show really does have it all!

It’s definitely on the more camp/soap-opera side of j-drama, with plenty of intrigue and overblown drama (the aforementioned scheming oujo-sama matron literally throws a flower vase at Nao, fans herself with money while bribing someone, and even does the ~ohohoho laugh at one point). You can tell it was adapted from a manga, due to the level of theatrics and even the way many of the scenes are framed. Does that mean it’s bad? Absolutely not. For some reason I was expecting a more “serious” drama at first so it took me a few minutes to get into the swing of it all, but once I did I was hooked.

Of course, my fascination with it is helped by the fact that the show is steeped in traditional Japanese elements. Not just the wagashi, although that is the most prominent, but also tea ceremony, and most important to me – all the gorgeous kimono. Nao’s wardrobe is split between her Kogetsu-An uniform, western-style clothes, and kimono, and the Kogetsu-An kitchen staff are shown almost exclusively in their uniforms, but nearly everyone else is always in kimono. Whether it be Tsubaki and his family, or the traditional clients who patronise Kogetsu-An for their delicious sweets, the show never lets you forget that this is a world slightly removed from modern, bustling, urban Japan. The show is massive eye candy for anyone into kimono.

The show’s official page on the NTV site is all in Japanese, but it is a treasure trove of imagery worth exploring. There are separate pages for all the beautiful wagashi, as well as individual kimono fashion pages for Nao (the protagonist), Tsubaki (the love interest), Kyoko (the matron), Grand Master (the patriarch), Shiori (the jilted fiancée), Takigawa (the enigmatic gentleman), and even Yuko (the restaurant owner). You can use your browser’s translation features to read information and stylist thoughts for each outfit.

I also tried to grab a selection of screenshots that showed off the lovely aesthetic of the show without spoiling anything! There’s one feature wagashi from each episode, and a ton of kimono. You can really see how gorgeous the wardrobe is.

Typically, I don’t like to suggest piracy but currently this show has no official English subtitling or distribution, so the only way to watch it is through fan-subs. I’m following the ones over at Blitz Fansub and so far they’ve been quite fast and reliable (if you don’t mind the occasional typo). However, if the show ever does receive an official translation I do urge you to check it out. I just hope they don’t try to adapt and re-localise it, because it’s so dependent on the magic of traditional Japanese industries. I feel like it would lose too much if they changed the setting.

Movie Review – Batman Ninja

If you know me, you’ll know that aside from being a big kimono geek I’m also a big comic book geek. So when I saw that DC Animation was collaborating with Kamikaze Douga (an anime production studio known for some very bizarre cult titles) on Batman Ninja I knew I was going to have to watch it. I had zero plans to review this movie, I initially just thought I’d watch it for fun, since it combines two things I’m very fond of. But then I started watching it and realised I had A Lot Of Thoughts that called out to be shared.

First off, let me say, this movie is a trip and a half. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just be prepared for ninety minutes of utter ridiculousness. The animation studio are the same folks who put out some of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and all of Pop Team Epic, so if you’re familiar with either of those shows you’ll have an idea of the flamboyant craziness to expect. If that intrigues you, click through to read on! Continue reading

Anime with kimono eye-candy

Recently, I shared a couple of cute movies with kimono eye candy, and I thought it would be fun to share a few anime as well.

As I’ve gotten older, I’m watching far less anime than I used to but every so often a little gem comes along, and sometimes these have some great kimono ensembles. Certainly, there are scenes in nearly every long-run anime that involve one or more characters wearing a yukata to a summer festival, or a kimono on a holiday, but the ones I am sharing here have regular appearances, different outfits, and lots to ogle!

Kuragehime

Kuragehime (Jellyfish Princess) is an adorable recent anime about a group of young female otaku living in a boarding house together. The primary story is about the protagonist, Tsukimi, coming into her own and standing up for herself while the girls in the house band together to protect it from the Big Bad Real Estate Developers.

For me, however, one of the main draws was the character of Chieko, whose obsession is with all things traditionally Japanese. In each episode, she wears a different kimono ensemble, and they’re all really cute and inspiring. She also dresses Tsukimi up in kimono at one point, with lovely results. One of my favourite moments of the show is when the “stylish” Kurako gives all the girls makeovers, but changes virtually nothing on Chieko because she looks like “a celebrity who wears kimono because she’s rich” once she’s framed by all the other girls in their stylish new looks. How fab is that?!

Kuragehime on IMDB
Kuragehime on Wikipedia

Taishou Yakyuu Musume (Taisho Baseball Girls)

I’ve just started watching this, despite it being a few years old, and it’s absolutely adorable. Set in the Taisho era, there’s an interesting juxtaposition of traditional Japanese clothing and modern western-inspired wear. The main character, Koume, dreams of wearing a sailor-style fuku uniform, but her parents insist that the Meiji-style kimono and hakama are much more suitable for her. Several of her other classmates also wear the traditional outfits. The outfits don’t seem to change from episode to episode, but they’re still nice to look at.

Taishou Yakyuu Musume on IMDB
Taishou Yakyuu Musume on Wikipedia

Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to make it clear that I have not yet seen this anime. It’s on my list of “things to watch when I have free time”, but the main reason it’s even on that list is due to the kimono. Not only does the main (male!) character always wear kimono and hakama, they vary from episode to episode and are seasonally and formally appropriate for the weather and events. For a kimono dork like myself, this sounds really fun and exciting.

Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei on IMDB
Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei on Wikipedia

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée

This is the beautiful story of a young Japanese girl named Yune who finds herself in Victorian-era Paris. It’s mostly a slice of life show about Yune’s adaptation and confusion, and there is no particular over-arching story or dramatic climax, which makes it absolutely lovely to just watch an episode or two and enjoy the combination of late Taisho and fluffy Victorian aesthetics, combined with lovely Art Nouveau designs and architecture.

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée on IMDB
Ikoku Meiro no Croisée on Wikipedia

 

These shows should all be available for purchase by this point.

Movies with kimono eye-candy

So, 2011 is off with a bang. I started the year with one of the worst bouts of stomach flu I’ve had in years. I couldn’t hold down food, at one point I was delirious with fever to the point where I was hallucinating. That finally dissipated and I was able to relax a bit and have some fun in kimono, which led to the outfit in the previous entry. Unfortunately, I let my guard down too soon. Last Monday we had some guests over and I suppose I got a bit too animated during dinner, because I managed to scratch my cornea with a heavy silver fork. Yes, that truly is as painful as you’d imagine. It’s also as hilarious as you’d imagine. You are welcome to laugh. At least I managed to make my eye patch pretty. It has pearls, rhinestones, and sakura on it!

In any case, it seems like the world is against me so far this year, and we’re only a week in. I’ve had several things I’ve wanted to write about, but I just don’t have the energy. My right eye is totally covered, and my left eye has to do all the work. My vision in my left eye is very weak, at best, so it tires very easily. However, I love you guys and rather than just not post anything until this nonsense is over, I thought I would share two movies I really enjoyed both for the content and the gorgeous, luscious kimono in them. These are not going to be in-depth reviews, just suggestions if you’re looking for something fun to watch and ogle costumes in.

Sakuran
Based on a comic book by Moyoco Anno, this is the story of a young girl who is sold to a pleasure house and works her way through the ranks to become the most popular and most desired oiran (courtesan) in Edo-era Yoshiwara. It is by no means historically accurate – first and foremost it’s a drama and romance. Visually, though, it is a stunning, breathtaking movie. It was translated incredibly well from comic framing to live-action, with the addition of vivid, borderline psychedelic colours. The kimono, of course, are to die for. There is a scene where the main character wears a zebra-striped obi that made me weak in the knees when I first saw it.

If you’re looking for a lush romp through sumptuous settings, by all means, check Sakuran out. However, please bear in mind that this is after all the story of a high-class prostitute so there are scenes of nudity and sexuality.

Sakuran on IMDB
Sakuran on Wikipedia

Maiko-haaaan!
This movie is in a completely different vein. It’s a comedy set in modern-day Japan. Onizuka-san is a salaryman stuck in a dead-end job and his dream is to play drinking games with a maiko. When he gets transferred to Kyoto he goes through a rather ridiculous series of events in an effort to make his dream come true. While the slapstick aspects of Japanese comedy wear thin on my nerves at times, the movie does have some more serious and introspective moments that serve to break up the frivolity. And of course, since it takes place primarily in Gion, the geisha district of Kyoto, there are tons of beautiful, fierce kimono.

This movie, while still dealing with some mature themes, is probably a little more appropriate for a wider audience. Onizuka spends a fair bit of time in his undergarments, but that’s about the worst that happens.

Maiko-haaaan! on IMDB
Maiko-haaaan! on Wikipedia

Now, generally I do not actively encourage illegal acts, but neither of these movies have been distributed outside of Japan, and even if you were to purchase Japanese DVDs there is no guarantee they would work on your DVD player or computer, due to region codes. Currently, the best way to watch these movies is by downloading torrents off of a site like The Pirate Bay. However, if these are ever officially and legally released in your country of residence, I implore you to support the actors, directors, and of course the costume departments, by buying a legitimate copy.