VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE

A must read, if you don't already know ...








Written by Funn Lim




"He (Fukuyama Masaharu) is charismatic no doubt, very handsome of course, he can act dead serious very well but in here, in this series after watching it in full I realise this may be his best performance todate."








SPOILERS ... SPOILERS ... SPOILERS


Japanese title
美女か野獣

Interestingly I used a rather reliable online translator which translated the title as "It is a beautiful woman or it is a brute" which I suppose does mean Beaty Or Beast. Alternate title is Kiss Or Fight? which I was hoping for KISS KISS KISS. Spoiler alert; there is ONE kiss at the almost very end. But plenty of fight.

Released in
Way back in 2003

By
FujiTV

No. of Episodes
11

Language
Japanese with English subtitles thanks to MediaCorp as the version I watched was a TV rip from MediaCorp

Average Ratings
Pretty high, 18.5%

Cast-Character
To those unfamiliar with Asian way of names, family name comes first, then family name. But as demonstrated in this series, Japanese does seem to favour calling a person by their surname than their given name.

Matsushima Nanako as Takamiya Makoto
Fukuyama Masaharu as Nagase Hiromi
Watanabe Ikkei as Kuze Teruhiko
Yashima Norito as Towatari Kantaro
Sasaki Kuranosuke as Kote Hiroshi
Shiraishi Miho as Shirai Yukino
Nagai Masaru as Yamamoto Takeshi
Papaya Suzuki as Kacchin
Fukaura Kanako as Akiyama Fujiko
Kodama Kiyoshi as Sakuragi Kyoichiro
Shimizu Shogo as Tamaru Reishi
Shiga Kotaro as Tsurumaki Yukio
Yamamoto Ryuuji as Sakamoto Daisuke
Morishita Tetsuo as Todo Seichi
Okada Tadashi

For those unfamiliar with Japanese stars as in acting point of view, some of the names above are familiar names. You know who is Fukuyama Masaharu. No? He was the lead in Galileo and also was in the mega hit, Under The Same Roof. Watanabe Ikkei, his frequent co-star was the assistant in Galileo as well as in Ryoma-Den and To Daisuke In Heaven. Kodama Kiyoshi looked so familiar until I checked and realised he was Ryoma's father in Ryoma-Den. I have no idea who is Papaya Suzuki but his name is very cool! Imagine that, Papaya! He's the guy with the afro in the series. As for Matsushima Nanako, she was the lady lead where she I believe she met her future husband, Sorimachi Takashi in the hit series, GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka). For international audiences, you might recognise her from The Ring (Japanese version) movies. The rest I may have seen them before but frankly I do not know.

Plot Summary
Taken from Wiki

After graduating from the Tokyo University School of Law, Takamiya Makoto (Matsushima Nanako) goes on to Harvard University where she earns an MBA. She later works at one of the "big three" networks in the United States as a news reporter. While covering a story on an international symposium in Paris, Makoto is scouted to work for JBC Television in Japan. The news producer at JBC wants to use Makoto to help raise low viewer ratings. He persuades her to work for him for an absurdly high salary, and also gives her the right to hire who she needs.

While Makoto is being brought in to be the savior of the News Department, one man gets transferred from the Variety Department. His name is Nagase Hiromi (Fukuyama Masaharu). Since joining JBC Television, all he has done is variety programs. Although Hiromi has done everything he possibly could to ensure his programs are a success, his boss just could not take anymore of Hiromi's behavior which ranged from getting caught up in scandals with female television personalities, punching-out assistant directors, to taking kickbacks from production companies. His boss finally tells Hiromi to make a fresh start in the "hard nosed" News Department.

So now the News Department has Makoto who thinks high ratings are the meaning of life, and Hiromi who values the success of a program as just a tool for the full enjoyment of life. These two totally different personalities mix it up and somehow reach a mutual understanding, creating a delightful "light comedy" for adults.

For More Info
Like the themesong, screencaps and download links, click here.

Comments
It took me quite a long time to finish watching this series because it took me a long time to download the only known subtitled copy in the internet and then remembering I haven't watched it yet, I finished the entire series in about 2 days. It is not difficult to finish even in one day since it is only 11 episodes, and each episode isn't exactly a full hour. The synopsis above is pretty accurate except for one point,  that both main protaganists of the story knew and were lovers 9 years 3 months before the meeting at the beginning of the series where the series will slowly reveal the nature of their relationship and why and how they parted. The past does explain why the present they is a bit playful and serious (for the man and the woman) respectively.

First thing first, may I proclaim my undying love for this series for several reasons, first and foremost is of course it stars my favourite singer/actor or rather my current obsession, Fukuyama Masaharu, henceforth Masha. But those who knows me by my reviews will know I don't always favour a series simply because I favour the actor(s) in it. So the other reason for my proclamation is because I really do like the story. If you read the synopsis, it does remind you a bit of Korea's All About Eve but it stops at the similarity being news. Nothing else is similar. Whilst All About Eve which was excellent in performance and story wise was after a while meandering and slow, Beauty Or Beast is not as meandering or wishy washy when it comes to love. It isn't even about love, but centres on a department of JBC (Japan Broadcasting Channel - should have been Corporation) that broadcasts the Evening News. Just the Evening News mind you. And with 11 episodes and if unfamiliar with the Japanese way of storytelling, I won't blame you for thinking "Isn't it a little short?". It is, but what the Japanese are good act which Koreans and especially HKTVB aren't is brevity. In 11 episodes, they can tell the entire backstory of this small TV crew, with each episode dedicated to one character of the crew whilst managing to relate it back to the 2 leading protaganists and also put forward a moral of the story, even if the moral is somewhat shoddy. In 11 episodes, I knew the back story of the characters without being shown a flashback scene and the ending is pretty definite in my opinion. These are reasons why I really like this series. It is just 11 episodes, and complete and done with compared to TVB's Gem Of Life which took more than 80 episodes to tell a story worth 20 episodes and even that the characters were poorly written and sometimes poorly portrayed. The actors were well chosen, each just right for their role even if you at first may think "No way! Not suitable at all!". I will talk more on this later.

First, the story. It is by no means perfect. As stated earlier, it is about the Evening News department of JBC whose ratings were falling so badly that the management decided to hire a hotshot young news reporter, Makoto as the new chief who paid her dues in credentials in America with news on terrorists, riots, etc so you know she's good at what she does. And she will be highly paid as well. Once she returned to Japan, she found herself working alongside a shady character that is Hiromi who was transferred from variety channel to the news channel for reasons we shall find out later. This series explains being in variety channel which is ratings driven and news channel which is news driven is very different but Hiromi, however much he flirts or jokes his way around does know his job as a producer generally. And for 11 episodes, we get to see how Makoto tried to win ratings at all cost whilst it was Hiromi who acts as her conscience but towards the end Makoto herself helped Hiromi gained his integrity by dealing a bit with his mysterious transfer to the news department whilst at the same time having to choose between her principles and her father which is the big finale. In the middle of it all we see stories of retrenchment, the battle between 2 rival stations where Makoto realises sometimes ratings isn't everything, the worth of her colleagues and the value of integrity when it comes to news reporting.

Of all the episodes, I really enjoyed the story about Sakuragi the aging but legendary anchor of Evening News and one more whose name I didn't catch, the small sized reporter with glasses who instead of capturing news actually dropped the camera to held save a construction worker's life. These 2 stood out because the stories are touching. In just simply less than 1 hour each, the entire story of these 2 men were told in straightforward manner. Sakuragi was about to be replaced by a much popular, handsomer and younger anchor hired from another station to boost ratings, as usual by the management whose meddling often harms the department rather than helps. Sakuragi was given no choice but to leave for cable TV which has less audience but needed his expertise. And in that episode we will find out why Sakuragi is a legend and how he calmly reported on a bank heist with coolness and ease, and why Evening News isn't the same without him. In fact somewhere towards the end Evening News was in the danger of becoming less about news and more about variety show! There was one very good scene where the cocky new anchor said the success of a show is the anchor so every details must centre on the anchor that is him and him alone. But in the end when faced with the same question by Makoto who feels the way that the cocky anchor does, Hiromi simply said the success of a show is teamwork. No man can operate alone, it is all about team work and again another lesson for Makoto who strives at nothing but ratings.

The other story of the bespectacled colleague who was also on the verge of being fired and questioned his own self worth as a reporter taught Makoto a lesson in life; sometimes news reporting isn't everything and winning awards certainly isn't. She was slightly ashamed of her crew when she saw how efficient the Diamond News Channel crew was and was often told the obstacle to her success are her crew but in the end she told the bespectacaled subordinate to do as he deems fit in future, that she trusts his judgment and that gave him a confident boost and tells us Makoto isn't such an ice queen after all. These 2 stood out for their performances and storytelling.

Another stand out episode was the one dealing with a snowstorm and the Morning News crew couldn't report back in time and Makoto is tasked with doing the Morning show as well, something she didn't expect to do. She pushes her fellow subordinates who complain to no end but did try their best to work under dangerous and tiring circumstances. I love the scene where Makoto, Hiromi and gang thought everything was in place for the morning show until they realise the anchor that is Sakuragi is missing. They ran to find him, and found out he was stuck in a lift. But when they pry open the lift, to their astonishment there stood the old Sakuragi, cool as a cucumber, fixing his time, and cooly running several floors up to make it to the front of the camera in time. They were amazed at his age, he could run that fast. That was a genuinely funny scene and did opened their eyes to their fellow colleagues, who each have their own weaknesses and in the end strengths and thus each contribute to the Evening News in their own way.

There was an episode which deals with Hiromi's transfer from Variety dept to News dept and how he dealt with one of his long time friend's silence when one of the assistant was badly beaten up by the hotshot host. I really believe that could really happen, more so in Japan and even in Korea. The scene between Hiromi and his friend and their heartfelt talk with his friend asking "Are you bitter Nagase?" because he thought Hiromi revealed the news and is pushing him to admit the news out of spite when Hiromi said something which kinda admits he is bitter because he always felt his friend was more talented than he is, without this show, there will always be new ideas from him to form another show where his friend can be the top producer. I find that scene and Hiromi's honesty heartfelt and that opened his friend's eyes how foolish it is to protect such a host who treats them like dogs.

We will see also personal lives of very few characters but the major one has to be of course the showdown between Makoto and her father whom she respects and love deeply. When she found out he may be doing some dirty job for his employer (his father is a high ranking secretary to a high ranking minister) which involves bribing witnesses and hurting the credibility of not just the Evening News but the entire crew, she thought for a while and then didn't hesitate to expose her father who probably ends up in jail or as a star witness in the end. Why did she do it? As she said; "Principles". She was hurt her father ignored his principles and he taught her well, she stood by her principles even if it meant hurting her father, which is something Hiromi didn't understand. In the end her father was rather pleased it was her and no one else who exposed him and he stood before her, prouder of his daughter than he has ever been. That scene was rather touching even if a bit dramatic. But then news can sometimes be very dramatic, even more dramatic in real life than in fiction so there is a believable aspect in all those drama.

I also like the slow reveal of the relationship between Makoto and Hiromi. I thought at first what they had 9 years before during their university days were just a fling. But as the series went on, it was quite possibly Makoto's first love and a serious enough relationship where Makoto once knitted him a scarf, he was concerned enough about her to say he didn't like handmade stuff, that she liked him enough to want to introduce him to her father and he liked her enough to have rushed to the airport to try to stop her from leaving Tokyo for Harvard University. The way they met again in the beginning were like strangers but there was more, with the way she stole glances at him, he stole glances at her but 9 years is a pretty long separation although we all know they still have feelings for each other.

What surprises me was for such a playful character Hiromi actually graduated from Tokyo University! You would think he is academically poor but he is just playful.

Which brings me to the point why this series isn't perfect.

Some parts are downright sexist and ridiculous. I know it is supposed to illustrate some cultural thing or perhaps Hiromi's character but the audition for a weather girl with young girls wearing 3 piece bikinis to audition is of course a very sexist scene. But Hiromi's reaction was funny. Then the weather girl who was hired not because of her bikini body but because she does have cute factor was for most part relegated to making coffee for her seniors and in the beginning so afraid of losing her job she herself proposed to wear shorter skirts. That is very telling on what sort of society we are dealing with. Then there's Hiromi visiting an all girls' school and how he oggled at teenaged girls who may I remind is younger than 18? We all know Makoto is one power woman because she had to deal with an all male management team but I wonder to what purpose does it serve to show her bottom being pinched even if playfully and then to show her willing to sleep with a minister to get his exclusive interview. She may be intelligent but she can be stupid sometimes.

And what is even more ridiculous is that that horny minister dared ask her to sleep with him! Why? As we know later, her father is high ranking guy working for an even higher ranking guy, she knows a lot of high ranking people, one high ranking guy working for the PM wanted to date her, she has her connections and here this horny corrupt minister dared ask her to sleep with him for a scoop. I mean she is no ordinary woman. I find that part utterly ridiculous. She should have just said "Touch me one more time and I will have your credentials stripped" not because as a newswoman she can do that but because of her family connections. The fact she didn't say that was disappointing.

And some may be quite offended by the fact that such an intelligent women need saving by a brute like Hiromi again and again, like a damsel in distress. But I will disagree on this. It just shows Hiromi may be capable but sometimes even a capable person makes wrong choices. You learn from your mistake. Hiromi's mistake was not listening to her subordinates and Hiromi, a crowd pleaser teaches her the value of teamwork. She in turn teaches Hiromi certain things as well.

The ridiculous part is sometimes I wonder is Evening News a news show or a talk show or a discussion forum show? Because towards the end with the Top 50 Ramen and what nots, it was dangerously becoming a variety show. I thought it was a news reporting like Bulletin News or CNN so I was very confused as to what is Evening News and I suspect so were the characters towards the end.

Which brings me to the characters. Well written and well performed, each character contributes to the story and I don't believe there was a moment wasted in storytelling even if some parts do drag on a bit, like the relationship between Hiromi and Makoto itself. Other than that I find the story well paced and the characters serves the story rather than the other way around. Which of course means the actors did a great job.

Fukuyama Masaharu is in no doubt my current obsession and he is a mighty fine singer/songwriter but as an actor? I loved him in all of his works I have seen, even if he was sometimes criticised in Suspect X the movie, I could explain why I love him so. But having seen some of his works fully and a few with a bit here and there, and him being less an actor and more a singer, I could lament the fact that if only he concentrated on acting more. He is charismatic no doubt, very handsome of course, he can act dead serious very well but in here, in this series after watching it in full I realise this may be his best performance todate. Hiromi can be quite a disgusting character with his flirtatious and sometimes sexist nature but Masha made him adorable, and with a bit of heart and integrity. After all Hiromi was the first to see the worth of his fellow colleagues when Makoto failed miserably. Masha played him very animatedly, in fact his most animated performance todate. I love his interaction with his fellow co-stars and the way he portrayed his character with his exagerated hand movements, body language and some rather signature greeting styles. And during the more serious moments, he toned down and showed us a serious or mournful looking Hiromi who has more on his thoughts than he lets it out. He plays Hiromi as a more relaxed and warm person rather than Makoto who is dead serious and cold. I was quite amazed by his performance and some part of me suspects this may be the real Masha at that time. He may have been Hiromi, except I suppose he won't wolf whistle the young girls in bikini. An excellent performance by Masha.

Matsushima Nanako whom I quite like but rarely watch isn't some stunning beauty but her hair in this series fits her perfectly. I am thankful she wasn't wearing an apron in this series but she does speak in an infuriatingly soft spoken small voice which much later I realise is her real voice. She is very soft spoken in real life and in this series she was also soft spoken. She can't even shout and so I wondered how can she be some fearless iron lady but she proved she can with her steely eyes and her body language which means no funny business. She always stand with authority and exerted a certain how shall I put it, authority and control in the scene she is in. Yes she did raised her voice a bit but not shouting. However I find her effective as an iron lady, even if her English sucks. A great performance in my opinon and her chemistry with Masha is one of the best of all Masha's pairing with other actresses, and sometimes quite intimate without a single hug or kiss. They're always several feet apart and yet you feel the closeness between them. However that being said, why is it Hiromi is always out of breath when speaking with Makoto? Why was he always running after her?

I will not elaborate on the other cast but I could very well say all performances are excellent. The acting animated and the voices just right even for some girls again that kittenish voice which is the staple of Japanese culture. I can't fault their performances really, and a special mention goes to Watanabe Ikkei who can play serious and comic characters. All versatile actors that elevated this series from good to excellent.

I keep forgetting about this aspect which is understandable because when done well, it is not to be noticed, and I am talking about consistency in scenes. I wasn't paying much attention to this aspect until one scene Motoko was in her house wearing a shiny looking straight skirt. Few scenes later she is in office and the same skirt. Now that is consistency, she woke up in morning getting dressed for work and at work same dress. And we are talking about 2 different scenes.

A note on the subtitles of this series. I know they're hardcoded into the TV rip, probably provided by MediaCorp themselves but I am curious why they kept getting Makoto's name wrong. It is always Tamiya instead of Takamiya and then it is never Sakamoto but something else. One part I couldn't believe "Yamete, kudasai" could translate to "Please respect me ..." which is longer than I remember because the original words should be "No, please" or "Stop, please" which makes me wonder did they translate from Chinese subtitles? How can 2 words can become a full sentence? But apart from that I am just happy there is a subtitled version. It does seem credible to that of the story so I will take the essence of the translation rather than the literal meaning.

Verdict
I know it is suffering to download the entire series because it is slow but if you're a fan of Japanese series or Masha or Nanako, this is the series to watch. I absolutely enjoyed the story and I believe even if Masha is not in it, I will still enjoy it. It is fun, funny, touching and serious, all at the same time and since it is only 11 episodes, what can you lose?

Interesting Themesong
I love the opening sequence and I love the themesong called Ginga to Meiro which translates as The Galaxy and Maze (some may translate it as The Milky Way and Maze) sung by a band with an even cooler name, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. You can find the opening/ending sequence, the original MV, the MP3 and Romaji lyrics here. If you know where I can find the English translation for the lyrics, do tell!!

Interesting Download
Can you still buy this series? Fear not! You can download this series. Quality is bad but at least subtitled. All here.

Interesting Screencaps
You will see the exact same sets in my other posts about this series and is reposting here because I really like them!




P/S THE ENDING
Spoilers.

Evening News is not cancelled. Makoto leaves for America, starts her own production company and goes full time into news reporting like she did before. But she maintained contact with Hiromi although we are not told if they're an item but can safely deduce they will be since their parting scene was a hug, a kiss and a smile from Makoto. Life goes on in the JBC Evening News dept with Kuze as acting Chief and they continue to put news integrity first, management wishes last.









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