Atelier aka Underwear: New Original Series on Netflix

Have you ever looked at a Victoria’s Secret catalog?

Me? I’d love to but haven’t had the opportunity. And for those of you who might be intrigued and would love to wear those kinds of unmentionables, I’ve got a brand new TV series for you.

The folks over at Netflix have partnered up with Fuji TV from Japan and a new Netflix Original Series has just been released. The title of the series is called Atelier, which is a French word for workshop or studio, especially when it is used by an artist, artisan, or designer.

The Atelier of this series is an upmarket lingerie boutique called Emotion in Ginza, Tokyo. Their products are bras and panties sets of the haute couture variety – meaning custom-made, handmade, and very, very expensive.

They don’t know what the term prêt-à-porter (pronounced pret-a-por-tay and rhymes with holiday, or replay, or area way) means at this boutique. Actually it means RTW or ready to wear, or OTR aka Off The Rack. These term do not apply to Emotion.

The alternate title for this series is Underwear, a word more likely to be immediately understood than Atelier.

The series is about a young woman called Mayuko Tokito (dressed in the striped jacket and black skirt above), played by the gorgeous Mirei Kiritani, and she’s in fact just out of college where she studied textiles and fabrics (no fashion studies for her). She’s something of a country bumpkin, also known as a hick from the sticks. On her first day on the job, she shows up in standard Tokyo office lady wear, a gray suit, a white blouse, and flat shoes. It won’t take her colleagues very long to jump all over her (albeit gently) for her lack of fashion style.

In fact there’s nothing wrong with her clothes which would go over just fine in the corridors and cubicles of corporations. But here, at Emotion, she’s an eye sore. Initially, she’s asked to make coffee, do the dusting, keep the display counters sparkling, and organize the records, stock, and supply room. And as Mayuko learns about the bra business, we are drawn deeper into shop itself. The front room, meaning just off the street, is a show room.

Behind the double doors is the actual atelier where the designers and business side works, and then there’s a second set of double doors.

This is where the owner and founder of the business, the chief designer, and CEO works. She’s called Mayumi Nanjo. When the staff talks about her, she’s called The Boss, and when they address her, the Japanese word for Corporate President is used – shachou. She’s played by Mao Daichi. While she may be a bit of a tough boss, a la Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, she is in fact not nearly as severe or feared.

That's Mao on the left, and Anna on the right

That’s Mao on the left, and Anna on the right

Her look is apparently based on the long time doyenne of Vogue Magazine, Anna Wintour. And doesn’t the above picture tell that story.

Within the first few moments after Mayuko meets the shachou, Nanjo tells her that she’s tacky. Which is a pretty good indication that Mayuko will not only have to learn the ropes of this business quickly, she’ll also have to work extra-hard to get on the good side of her boss.

What lies ahead (there’s 13 episodes), is a coming of age story, as well as a Cinderella story lacking only a prince-charming. It is a story that mixes industrial espionage, corporate maneuvering, theft of intellectual property, jealousy between designers who some day may want to create their own brands and labels ( we can almost call that overriding ambition) along with insights about creativity, ageing, motivation, evolving as a creator, and determination – yet while all of this is happening we continue to learn about all the players – from the shachou down to the lowly summer intern.

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Miss Pilot

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On a, Jupiter and Mars…

In other words…

While Frank Sinatra made these song lyrics famous, he wasn’t the first to go public with it. That would be cabaret singer Felicia Saunders who introduced the song, known as In Other Words, written by Bart Howard in 1954. Singer Kay Ballard made the first recording of the song. But most of us know it as a standard for Old Blue Eyes. Strictly speaking, this song really isn’t about flying, rather it is about the transporting of one’s heart.

The reality is that most of us want the same kind of transport. But to get from point A to Point B, over a longish distance, most of us choose commercial airlines.

Have you seen that film clip about Air Tahiti Nui? Its on abc, yahoo. even on This clip has been described by some as ‘jaw-dropping’. It has also been called ‘possibly the best airline video ever.’

Have a look:

Now I’m not going to write about Air Tahiti Nui. In fact, I’ve never been to Tahiti. But this clip does give you a nice feel for what goes into flying besides just buying a ticket and parking your tail in a seat.

The thing of it is, that this little piece of Air Tahiti Nui magic came out while I was in the midst of watching a Japanese TV Series called Miss Pilot. The series began on October 15th, and the 11th and final episode was broadcast in Japan in prime time at 9:00 PM on Christmas Eve.

This is the story of a smart young lady who worked in an izakaya (a bar-restaurant) owned by her parents. Her name – Haru Tezuka. She’s played by the popular Japanese actress Maki Horikita.

A quick synopsis goes something like this: Tezuka Haru has been desperately hunting for a job, but can’t get her foot into any doorway. She gets rejection letters so often, that she went out and bought a personal paper shredder. On a whim, more like – the worst that can happen is that nothing happens – her employment agency sends her out to apply for a job as a pilot for ANA, All Nippon Airways, which is Japan’s second biggest airline. Haru attends a seminar, then she takes the necessary exam to enter the world of aviation. She is more surprised than anyone when she barely passes.

This is the beginning for Haru as she is now on the path towards becoming a female pilot. But it won’t be easy, and will take some time. The training is more far more severe than she expected before taking the exam.

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Dinner (2013)

The Ristorante Roccabianca is an upscale Italian restaurant. It is a small intimate place with limited seating – maybe a dozen tables. It has been a favorite for those who love Northern Italian cuisine for many years. The owner and head chef has just accepted an offer to compete against other chefs of international renown on the famed Iron Chef TV show.

However, on the way back from the TV studio he collapses in the street. A massive cranial membrane hemorrhage required surgery. He’s alive but likely will remain in a coma for an indeterminate amount of time.

The restaurant has not only lost its founder, owner and head chef, but has also lost an inspirational leader who not only oversaw the kitchen, but also created the menu items. Thirty years ago he had worked and studied at the famed Milanese ristorante Teresa’s, long a mecca and training ground for world-class cooks. Meaning not only were his credentials impeccable, but Roccabianca was a howling success. Want to book a table? Expect a wait of at least three months.

But now his daughter, the restaurant’s young manager is facing some problems. Business has fallen off, and to be honest, without the inspirational chef, so has the quality of the food preparation. Change is required or the restaurant, despite it’s reputation and success, will fail. Who will she appoint to take command of the kitchen? Would be it be the sous chef, the long time number two, or would she go outside of the organization for someone else.

She gets wind of another chef in town who not only specialized in the Northern Italian cuisine, but had also trained and worked at Teresa’s until two years ago. Through an agency, a meeting was set up for the next day.

Only this chef comes to the restaurant that night as a customer. It seems before he will discuss the job offer, he will audition the restaurant itself to see if it is up to his lofty standards. On this night, a big party of eight people, all good-looking Italian women, guests of the Ambassador’s wife and important clients of the restaurant, have requested a last-minute booking, changing from next week to tonight.

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Kekkon Shinai aka Don’t Get Married aka Wonderful Single Life

kAn article in the New Year’s Eve edition of the USAToday Newspaper had this headline:
Johansson: Marriage and Kids Not Important

With a by-line listing Arienne Thompson, the article quoted some of actress Scarlett Johansson’s views and opinions. Here is a link —> to the article:  Actually Thompson was quoting Johansson’s remarks made in the cover story for the upcoming February 2013 Elle UK Magazine which we will be published on Wednesday, January 2nd.

Here are some of Johansson’s thoughts:

On divorce and remarriage: “I got married when I was young and it was incredibly romantic and I liked being married, actually. But it is different. It’s hard to put into words. To me, being in a functioning relationship doesn’t mean you have to be married… I never think about marriage. Is that weird? The only time I ever think about it is when people ask me, ‘Would I get married again?'”

On motherhood: “It’s really not important to me. It has no relevance to me right now. I’m not having kids anytime soon, I’m in a nice relationship, I’m working a lot, and, like I said, it’s not important to me.”

On being considered a sex symbol: “I think any woman who is curvy and wears a gown to an event is, like, super sexualized. I mean, at the time I was 18, 19. I was young. I’ve always been curvy. It runs in the family. Throw on an evening frock and it’s like all of a sudden you have boobs and everyone is like: ‘bombshell!’ Instantly it was: ‘The new Marilyn (Monroe).'”

Normally, I would not have had any interest at all to read about how one stranger (man or woman – celebrity or otherwise), feels about the topics of marriage, family life, sexuality and whether they’re interested in having children or not. But they say timing is everything, and it was just yesterday that I had finished watching a dramatic TV Series on this very same subject (marriage or not). The series was called Kekkon Shinai and that is Japanese and the literal translation means Do Not Get Married. The English version of the series title was Wonderful Single Life.

Promo Poster for kekko Shinai aka Wonderful Single Life or Don't Get married

Promo Poster for Kekkon Shinai aka Wonderful Single Life or Don’t Get Married

Broadcast on Japan’s Fuji TV Network, the show ran 11 episodes (from October 11th, 2012 to December 20th, 2012) and was broadcast on Thursday nights in prime time at 10:00 pm. The synopsis for the series reads:

According to a national census, the number of unmarried women between the age of 30 to 40 has been increasing and is now at the highest. Compared to 10 years ago, the rate of unmarried women have increased by 6.7% and 8.5% for woman in their early 30’s and late 30’s, respectively. Why are they not getting married?

The women appearing in this drama are unmarried for various reasons including, they have high expectations, are not able to be themselves in front of men, become attracted to losers, think being single is much more easier, or they think men are unreliable. They’re almost about to lose all hope, however, it’s not that they don’t want to get married, it’s just…things just don’t work out, they don’t know if they’re getting married for themselves or to please others, or they question whether there really is a reason to get married. This drama will realistically portray the trials and tribulations of love, friendship, and work of these women. –Fuji TV

As the series opens what we see is a church wedding taking place. A quick cut takes us into a college lecture hall. The course is Contemporary Sociology, and the professor is telling his students about the decline in marriages, and the corresponding reduction in the birth rate. It’s a serious lecture, though it is presented rather light-heartedly, with graphs and numbers and questions from the students. Shortly after we meet the three leads for the series.

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Rich Man, Poor Woman

Start with a character a bit further along yet still like the one Jesse Eisenberg played in The Social Network (Mark Zuckerberg). You know, a savvy computer guy who struck gold. Blend in a character somewhere between Cinderella and the one played by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman – the point being a beautiful girl who will someday capture the heart of Prince Charming. Stir gently. Season with the computer wizard’s partner, and his sister, who wants Prince Charming for herself. Then serve it chilled over an 11 week period.

What you have is a Japanese TV Series called Rich Man, Poor Woman, that just closed its broadcast run a week ago on September 17th.

The series had decent if not great ratings. Maybe a romance isn’t everyone’s cup of tea in these difficult economic times. But from my perspective, I liked the show.

Here’s an amalgam of how Fuji-TV, the network that broadcast the show in prime time (Mondays at 9:00 PM), and  the Asianwikipedia,  described the show:

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Winter Anyone? Have a Look at Nankyoku Tairiku

December 22nd is the first day of winter …

Yeah, storms are on the way.  They’re heading east after spreading their usual havoc over the Plains states of the US yesterday. Down here in Sarasota, FL – I’m not worried about snow. But I am traveling to the Northeast in 9 days, so snow is on my mind.

It’s one thing to travel up to Connecticut for the New Year holiday. But would you sign on to visit Antarctica? Thought not. But exploring Antarctica is what a team of Japanese explorers did back in the mid 1950″s. The Tokyo Broadcast System (TBS) just concluded a 10 episode series this past Sunday (Dec. 18th) about that trip. This series, called Nankyoku Tairiku was produced to celebrate the 60th anniversary of TBS and was their most expensive project ever.

Nankyoko Tairiku means Antarctica in Japanese. The series full title – Nankyoku Tairiku ~ Kami no Ryouiki ni Idomunda Otoko to Inu no Monogatari translated to English is Antarctica: The Story of Dogs and Men Who Challenged the Field of God.

In 1956, Japan was still in what was called the Post War Era. The nation was still struggling and when an international scientific organization set up an exploration of Antarctica, Japan applied but was initially rejected. After a lot of bowing, scraping, and begging – Japan was finally allowed to participate. But the territory that Japan was assigned was considered inaccessible.

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Zenkai Girl aka Full-Throttle Girl

Yui Aragaki has finally achieved her first lead female role in a J-TV Series. After playing a series of high school sweeties, and ingenues, “Gakki’ has finally been tabbed for a starring role. The series is called Zenkai Girl or Full-Throttle Girl. As we meet her in the opening scenes, she has just graduated from law school and has landed a job at an international law firm.

Yui is cast as Wakaba Ayukawa, and she’s good at everything she does – she graduated at the top of her class, she’s multi-lingual, and she has what is takes to become an ace lawyer. Only her first assignment is to baby-sit her boss’s five year old daughter, who is five going on 30, or so it seems.

Wakaba is driven because as child she grew up in rather desperate circumstances – her father was in debt from gambling to the Yakuza loan-sharks.

Little Wakaba got them out from under this by studying and then filing a motion and getting a decree for Voluntary Bankruptcy. That set her on her path of wanting to be lawyer and for seeing anything that she took on to its finish. In her own personal lexicon, there was no such thing as not finishing anything to the best of her ability.

But she hadn’t counted on taking a smart-ass five year old girl to pre-school every day. However everything was not all bad. At the law firm every once in a while she got to do a project, or a report, or a translation of a law-brief, and people took notice of her skills. At the pre-school she ran into a single parent Dad whose step-son also attended this school. This was Ryo Nishido as Sota Yamada , a would-be chef.

His story was no picnic either. He married a dancer who came with a son, another precocious 5 year old. But that marriage ended with a divorce after his wife ran off to New York with another guy, leaving Sota with her son. He currently worked as a short-order cook in a little hole-in-the-wall neighborhood restaurant. Sota had formerly worked at the internationally acclaimed, world class restaurant, Paul Bocuse, in Tokyo – but had given that up to raise his step-son.

Wakaba tells little Hinata: "I hate children"

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The Bull Doctor

 You might think, after hearing about a TV Series entitled The Bull Doctor, that the series would be about a veterinarian whose medical practice included bulls, cattle, and the like. You might think that the setting would be out in the American west, and you’d probably consider that the show would include some cowboys. If you thought any or all of the above, you’d be dead wrong – emphasis on the ‘dead’.

The Bull Doctor is a Japanese TV Series about forensic pathology – or the study of why a person or people have died. We have  Makiko Esumi in the lead role as Dr Tamami Oodate (Oodate Sensei). She’s just been asked back to the Joto University Hospital to work as a forensic doctor – in short conduct autopsies. The last time I watched Makiko in a role, she played a brilliant surgeon who had the worst luck in finding a guy to be with. That show was called The Love Revolution (produced in 2001 but I saw it just a few years ago). This one is her first appearance in a TV series since 2007. Welcome back. ( Okari

Also on hand is  Satomi Ishihara (below). I’ve seen her in a high school baseball TV series called H2 <(2005), as a nurse in the TV Series  Ns’ Aoi (2006), as an athletic airline stewardess – sorry – cabin attendant/basketball player in  The0 Flying Rabbits film (2008), as a high school teacher in the TV series  Puzzle (2008), and one more – as a forensic medical student in the series  Voice (2009). This time she’s a homicide detective working with forensic doctors. Go figure.

So what is this one about, besides the overview of forensics?

It seems that Japan needed a distinct overhaul to the laws and regulations surrounding autopsies and forensic studies. This drama goes a long way in that direction because as you will see – autopsies that should be done are often refused, autopsies that have been done are not always accurate, and more often than you’d think or like – Death certificates are either false or forged to hide crimes. So in this series, the guidelines for medical procedures and methodologies involving autopsies, the hospital administrative side to forensics, and the police investigative techniques are all put under the microscope

So the series is at once important and topical. Yes, that does mean serious. But this is not say that the series is all work and no fun. The series has romances, issues about raising kids, work related stress intruding on home life, some comedy, conflicts between the police and the forensic doctors, and some office politics. So it works as not only a medical series, a police procedural, but also as a family series. There are some fine actors and actresses who round out the ensemble cast making the series quite entertaining.

While the stories and cases are interesting yet somehow, they all manage to not get solved, or explained, until we are almost at the end of each episode,  in sort of a brief summary. While the settings/locations are mostly in the forensic department itself as well as in the lab where the actual autopsies are done, often we go out to a crime scene. I liked the look of the series which involved lots of location settings, and employed a good many long lens zoomed close-ups which gave us the kind of very attractive facial images with indistinct, or blurred backgrounds due to the reduced depth of field settings.

I thought Makiko Esumi (above and below) showed a strong screen presence as the tough minded truth seeker who wore either the Doctor’s white lab coat, or the surgeon’s blue gowns most of the time. When she wasn’t wearing those, it was mostly jeans or slacks with that cute hat that see most often while she’s pedaling a bike to work.

On the other hand, Ishihara’s (below) role was more difficult. She’s good in the role, but she’s playing a young female homicide detective, who has some issues to solve away from being a cop. Meaning we buy into her as a character involved, a woman seeking to find her way, but not so much as a homicide detective. Of course she has a tough boss who never wants to see things correctly, or fairly, or even go along with her theories which could impact the department’s budget takes a hit each time the police command an autopsy. Oh those bureaucrats who complicate matters for her.  Besides that,  she’s involved with a doctor in the forensics department – Nakura Sensei, played by Goro Inagaki who played his role, through all 11 episodes in a manner that was so low-key that it was off-putting . While his character arc improved greatly by the end of the series, his acting did not. He was the weakest part of the series.

It had 11 Episodes and the broadcast period was from July 6th to September 14th in the Wednesday Night 10:00 PM slot.

I’ll close by telling you why the series was called The Bull Doctor. As I said up top, it was not about veterinary medicine. Instead think of the fact that Dr. Oodate was so concerned with finding the truth, and overcoming any barriers to the truth, that she operated like a human bulldozer steamrolling through the office, the lab, or over or through her colleagues. The terms stepping-on-toes or following orders were somewhat foreign to her; hence the title: The Bull Doctor.

Shinzanmono – Red Finger

Imagine this: After a long, tiring day at the office, you’re ready to go out for a couple of tall, cold, Asahi beers with a few of your mates at work. However – they decline. Just then your wife calls. Can you come home right away? We have a problem. It’s serious. When you ask her is everyone okay, she says, Just come home right away. It’s very serious….

When you finally get home, all the lights are out. Tadaima! (I ‘m home!), you say but there’s no answer. When you turn on a lamp – your wife jumps out and says turn it off. You’re dumbstruck – you have no idea. What’s wrong?

She directs you to get a flashlight, and to take a look out in the courtyard. And it is out there, in your own courtyard, which is your enclosed back yard – a young girl lies dead in the moonless night. Hel–lo…!

Not quite the Okari (Welcome home) response you expected. This is how the latest entry from the producers of Shinzanmono which I reviewed last year here, begins. This time, the series has returned to the broadcast medium in the form of a 2 hour Special Movie. The title is Red Finger.

Hiroshi Abe returns as Detective Kyouchiro Kaga

Detective Kyoichiro Kaga, portrayed once again by the wonderful Hiroshi Abe, returns to TV. This SP is a prequel to the series and takes place two years earlier. Kaga is still a great detective. And the beautiful Meisa Kuroki is once again on hand as a local reporter named Aoyama.

Meisa Kuroki as Ami Aoyama

As the DVD cover tells us – when Maehara returned home to find a corpse on his property, this average salary-man and his family, were looking at just the beginning of a tragic chain of events.

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