When I was walking in Roppongi Hills last spring, I came across the poster for Chīmu Bachisuta FINAL Keruberosu no shōzō [チーム・バチスタFINAL ケルベロスの肖像, Team Batista The Movie: The Portrait of Cerberus] .

The reason I took notice was that the lead was Itō Atsushi (of Densha Otoko fame) and one of the supporting cast was Kuriyama Chiaki (GoGo Yubari, baby!)[1]. I was not gonna watch it then anyway as firstly they wouldn’t have subs, let alone me having enough time to spend two hours indoors for a film! I finally got to watch it on the way home to KUL for Raya. It transpired that Team Batista (no Eikō) actually had been made into two films previously, and was a drama series which completed its fourth season at the time the 2014 film was released. The original films had Takeuchi Yūko playing the lead role of Taguchi Kōhei. However, the Fuji TV drama series had Taguchi-sensei, who was the hospital’s neurologist/psychosomatic physician[2], changed to a male character played by Itō.

The film’s premise centres on the murder of the health minister and his guests (bar one survivor in intensive care) in the basement of the minister’s private abode. The autopsies were inconclusive and together with Shiratori Keisuke (the hospital admin played by Nakamura Toru), Taguchi-sensei’s only hope to find the answer may lie the power of the new MRI machine, code-named Leviathan operated by Todo-sensei, the maverick radiologist played by Namase Katsuhisa (you’ll recognise him if you’ve seen enough J-dramas). During this period of investigation, a young reporter named Betsuku (Kiritani Mirei-chan <3 ) helped provide information on the background of the men who died which appeared to be related to the pharmaceutical industry.

The story’s not too bad but you get to figure out who the bad guy by yourself by the time you’ve watched 2/3rds of the whole thing! There were references to events in previous installments of the series but these are minor and you’ll get to enjoy the film anyway.

Kiyosu Kaigi [清須会議, The Kiyosu Conference] is a film by Mitani Kōki which I have to admit feeling like I was kinda scraping the barrel when I chose to watch it. I kinda like jidai geki[3] but more of the Kurosawa or Rurouni Kenshin variety. The way they did the film’s poster implied a star-studded cast but this was the film that brought my attention to one Gōriki Ayame. But, that aside, this film surprised me.

During the Sengoku era in the 16th century, the feudal lord (or daimyo) Oda Nobunaga died at Honnō-ji. The film is based loosely on historical events and revolved around a conference held in Kiyosu to decide the heir to Nobunaga who was considered a man who was able to unite the whole of Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate. It is actually a drama-cum-comedy, and I find it hard to believe that the main character, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (played by Oizumi Yō), is portrayed somewhat lightheartedly, considering what Toyotomi was really like in historical records. The conference is filled with a vast amount of politicking in order to sway the votes to the candidates suitable to lead the Oda clan. The film ends with the decision finally being made on who the new leader of the clan is, and it was plain clear that the result would later mean Toyotomi will later be able to be the next daimyo. Nope, this ain’t a spoiler – it’s in the history books. As I alluded earlier, the supporting cast is pretty solid and even boasts Matsuyama Kenichi. For the observant, watch out for the cameo by Toshiyuki Nishida as the same samurai commander in Once In A Blue Moon, also directed by Mitani.

Despite all these, my attention was mainly on the two leading ladies of the court played by Suzuki Kyoka and Gōriki-chan. Beautiful period costumes as well as the way their faces were made up – face painted with white powder (oshiroi), shaven eyebrows and ‘butterfly’ smudges high up on the forehead (hikimayu) and black teeth (ohaguro), which I find kinda eerily attractive[3].

Ayame-chan *sigh*.

Lastly, Seiten no Hekireki [青天の霹靂, A Bolt from the Blue] is a pretty nice going-back-in-time film about an unassertive down-and-out magician named Haruo (Oizumi Yō again!) who works in a crappy magic-themed bar in Asakusa. After being told that his estranged loser of a dad had died, Haruo was struck by lightning and was somehow brought back to 1973 Asakusa. He finally found refuge at a theatre house where he manage to persuade the owner to employ him as the resident magician. At the theatre, he then unwittingly met his pregnant mother (Shibasaki Kō) who became his onstage assistant, and subsequently the younger version of his loser dad, played by Hitori Gekidan whom I recognise from Densha Otoko.

Whilst initially flabbergasted when facing the younger versions of his own parents, Haruo began to take steps to know more about his mother (for reasons you will know when/if you watch this film) as well as being more assertive hence paving a better future for himself.

I thought the story was not bad for one with a simple storyline, more so when I later read that Hitori is actually the author of the original novel and director of the film!

[1]Never mind the support included the likes of the delectable Kiritani Mirei.
[3]Imagine MAMIchan in this get up. What? WHAT?!