It’s the beginning of the year which means its time to take a Taiga temperature check. Last year’s Taiga Taira no Kiyomori (平清盛) with Matsuyama Kenichi was a huge bust ratings-wise since it was rather boring and blergh, but this year’s Taiga Yae no Sakura (八重の桜) with Ayase Haruka is off to a rollicking start premiering with a solid 21.7% ratings and great critical and popular reception with solid word-of-mouth. Sweet. I love Haruka and a female-led Taiga always makes me happy (the last one was Go with Ueno Juri in 2011 and before that was Atsuhime in 2008 so NHK is really tapping into the female Japanese historical figures lately). YnS chronicles the life of Nijima Yae who lived in the late Edo period born in the Aizu Domain. Skilled in gunnery, she helped defend Aizu during the Boshin War earning her the nickname of the “Bakumatsu Joan of Arc” and later helped found Doshisha University in Kyoto.
Is this woman kick ass or what? Considering she’s holding a shotgun and a sword on her waist in the poster above, I’d say she’s a feminist ahead of her time. 2014’s Taiga has been confirmed a few months ago already as Gunshi Kanbei (軍師官兵衛) starring Okada Junichi of the group V6. That story deals with the life of Kuroda Kanbei, a master general and tactician serving under Toyotomi Hideyoshi during the Sengoku period. But it’s the rumors of the 2015 Taiga that has me frothing at the mouth. Apparently Kimura Takuya will finally headline a Taiga (which is a year long dorama production commitment) playing Oda Nobunaga (who unified Japan in the 16th century and was succeeded by Toyotomi Hideyoshi) with a cast consisting of Kitano Takeshi as Tokugawa Ieyasu, Oguri Shun as Toyotomi Hideyoshi, along with Horikita Maki, Ishihara Satomi, and Yoshitaka Yuriko. Holy momma I want I want I want!
KimuTaku as Oda Nobunaga makes so much sense since he played the younger version of that famed historical figure in the 1998 SP on NHK which garnered him a lot of praise. KimuTaku was offered the role of Sakamoto Ryoma in 2010’s Taiga Ryomaden which his agency turned down because SMAP was planning a new album and tour. The role eventually went to Fukuyama Masaharu which ended up revitalizing his career and was a ratings success for NHK. Ryomaden was about Ryoma’s movement to overthrow the Bakumatsu led by the Tokugawa shogunate and modernize Japan. I’ve watched one episode of Yae no Sakura and I can safely say its awesome so far! I’m not interested in 2014 but if 2015 comes true with that cast I will be cloistered somewhere burning incense to the dorama gods and flailing uncontrollably. Make it happen, NHK!
Back to Yae no Sakura for a moment, let us marvel at the real life personage that is Nijima Yae – when she’s not reading to improve her mind, she’s wielding a shotgun and heading into battle to protect her clan. Yeah, totally nothing strange about that other than CAN WE PLEASE HAVE MORE STORIES ABOUT WOMEN LIKE HER. I also want to know where I can buy her fashionable finger-less leather shotgun handling gloves. Way to make a fashion statement AND a dont-mess-with-me statement.
New child actress Suzuki Rio playing the kid version of Yae was adorable and awesome wrapped up into one. Way to make a first impression Rio-chan. Also, her resemblance to Ayase Haruka is uncanny. They even make the same determined chin look. Seriously, where did NHK find this cherub? I wub them both!