Finally!! I have finished watching Buzzer Beat! After having lots of hesitations even considering to watch it and I know this review might be a little late, but after the last episode I feel like it deserves a some space in this blog. Does this mean that “boozer beat-o” is slam dunk? Or should we call a foul?
The plot: Yamapi plays a professional basketball player named Naoki who seemed to have it all: good looks, the perfect girlfriend (Aibu Saki), and a promising career. He has what it takes to become a basketball star—if only he doesn’t crack under pressure. You know how some people have this ability to do really well at the last minute even though they were doing crap the whole time, Naoki is the complete opposite. He starts amazingly (in everything, even in his personal life), but only ends up failing halfway; which is why everyone is starting to give up on him. He then meets a free-spirited violinist, Riko (played by Keiko Kitagawa) who sees something in him that no one else does. Then there’s the head coach Kawasaki (Ito Hideaki) who falls in love with Riko, a situation which will endanger his and Naoki’s professional relationship.
Sound interesting? Hmmm… Not much. For me, it seemed a bit like “One Tree Hill,” which by hype was built up as a story about basketball, but will end up drilling teeny bopper love stories around characters who exchange boyfriends and girlfriends. Thus my hesitation. But this weekend I was on house arrest and was too lazy to move a finger that I popped in Buzzer Beat. The first episode didn’t really grab my attention, but by the second, third and fourth, I had to smack myself for not giving this drama a Halelujah Chance! (sorry lame pun)
Everyone and their grandmother knows how Yama-goldfish has these mannerisms when he acts (or lack thereof), so I started watching not expecting anything. I mean, why force the guy to be all expressive when it has been carved on stone that he is, and will always have dead fish eyes. He’s got like a total of three facial expressions: (1) When he’s angry = furrowed brows. (2) When he’s sad = staring into outerspace. (3) As for all the other emotions, he just does this (sometimes adorable, sometimes overdone) mouth thing, as though he’s saying chu!~
So I resigned to just focus on the eyecandy and stop whining. Hotdayuuum they had Yamapi and the rest of the basketball-playing cast walking around half nekkid for a good half of this drama and I just couldn’t peel my eyes away.
Pi and Ito in a tub of “strawberry bath.” I swear, there’s probably like 10 or more scenes were Pi was either taking a shower or sitting comfortably in a tub. Can’t say no to that, right?
Plus there’s this EPIC scene where Pi was being teased by his teammates for his manboobs for being bigger than a girls’ and he goes and touches it LOL
BUT. I have to say, in complete honesty and seriousness, Pi has very much improved in this drama. I know I may not be an expert in figuring out if an actor’s really good or not, but having watched most of his previous dramas—Nobuta, ProDai, Kurosagi, Stand Up—he’s definitely delivered more expressions and heartfelt scenes in Buzzer than any of his other works. Somehow, as I watch him, I felt a bit nostalgic and a little sad, remembering how he literally grew right before my eyes—from a scraggly, skinny, awkward boy to the man he is now. Maybe I should stop calling him Pi or Yamapi. He’s a man now and apart from his occasional fail/dorkiness, you can see that he’s really matured.
There’s this part where he had his heart broken by his girlfriend (Aibu) and he was trying so hard to contain his emotions (because he didn’t want Riko to hear over the phone), crying inside so much that it hurts. That scene was heartbreaking, it’s almost as if I felt his pain. He really played his character well. Naoki was insecure and always hesitates dilly-dallying at the most crucial moments; the type who would just shrug off annoying incidents for fear of confrontation. He was living in a bubble where all he had were his basketball and his dreams. Little did he know that the world outside of him is crumbling—his girlfriend is losing interest, his contract, team and company were not doing so good and he’s slowly realizing that maybe, just maybe he was not meant to pursue his dreams.
Saki Aibu plays Natsuki who is everyone’s dream girl. She’s nice, gentle, very pretty, prim and proper—but ONLY on the surface. She and Naoki had been dating for 2 years but as time goes by she gets unsatisfied with him and feels like there’s no stability between them. Little does everyone know that she’s a BAD GIRL smoking Seven and even going as far as sleeping with a guy who’s on the same team as her boyfriend. OUCH. But really, I LOLed hard at Japan’s association of “smoking” and being badass. Anyways, at first I didn’t really understand what the hell she was bitching about. Naoki has told her of his plans of marrying her and he’s an all around super nice guy. He sends her long, cheesy text messages with pictures of the sunset, he cooks and cleans for her… Yet she calls him a big “loser.” So what gives?
Then slowly I understood how she felt. There WAS something lacking in Naoki. His good point became his bad trait. He’s got no passion (see lame kiss above). He’s nice, but TOO nice. This scene was when Natsuki asked Naoki to kiss her again, and when he did, it was just plain flat. Pathetic to say the least. Bore. Not that she was asking for him to grab her by the hair and start making out with her hardcore (okay, maybe she was asking for it a little) but all she wanted was for him to put a little more feeling to it. She tried her best to feel something for him, to ignite her feelings from when they first met, but everything just fizzled. A girl can only do so much when all she and her boyfriend ever does are eating french toasts and playing video games…. at a sleepover. But that didn’t justify her cheating and lying to his face. Overall, Aibu gave a good performance, considering the fact that she’s always played goody-tooty roles.
Bad girl indeed. Caught in the act cheating.
Keiko as Riko Shirakawa. I’ve always been a fan of this girl, I think she’s not your typical cutesy actress. She’s chosen her roles pretty well and the characters she’s played are diverse. Here she plays a violinist who’s working part time while at the same time failing every other audition she goes to. So in a way she and Naoki had something in common—they were both at a crossroad where they had to decide whether to face reality or keep on going for their dreams. She’s really good in this drama, especially in the scene where she was saying goodbye to Naoki, she was crying like it was the end of the world. And she’s got this natural appeal that lights up the screen. Though her character is pretty stereotypical for a lead actress—free-spirited, a bit quirky, messy yet adorable at the same time. Oh and now I get how some people think she looks like Ariel Lin. But she’s a cross between Leah Dizon and Ariel for me.
Ito Hideaki was the cardboard character for the perfect guy who gets dumped for the lead who’s obviously more messy and unfit for the girl. Snore. I almost forgot he was even there. Sorry but Hideaki can do better. He’s done lead roles in other dramas, which is why I wonder he even considered taking this. Even his character as a former-player-now-coach was as dry as cardboard.
I did like the supporting cast though. Maya Miki playing Naoki’s mother? Felt like she was a bit young for that, but it kinda made sense. She was a divorcee and a cool mom who gives good advice. Though that’s always what Maya plays. Kanjiya Shihori who plays Mai, Riko’s best friend, was hilarious in this drama. If not for her (and Junpei’s) randomness and comedic relief the whole thing would’ve been one big sapfest.
Even though it’s a breakup scene, I like this part because the way they were sitting just told the whole story of how their relationship went.
Scenes at the park. A lovely setting. The “Love makes me strong” billboard is the theme of the story.
Signature goodbye salute.
Damn. Can you belive Pi’s waistline?
They kiss again. And again.
And again. I was surprised, Pi, or rather Yamashita kissed so good! It wasn’t the typical forced brush on the lips kinda thing but real, heartfelt deep kiss. They really had great chemistry. They are SO dating. Well, at least I hope the rumors are true!
And there’s a bed scene! Well, not really, but lots of cuddling involved.
Can’t go without the obligatory piggyback ride scene.
My fave scene of all! You should watch this part, it was really touching!
The bad parts: Some parts seemed a little too rehearsed, Idunno, like it just didn’t seem natural. While Pi and Keiko’s acting has improved, there were still parts where they lacked depth. The ending was pretty much disappointing. The part where the violin instructor goes “Love makes us strong” was a complete WTF moment for me. You know the drama’s gonna end cheesily when at the end either the title or some overused phrase will be mentioned at a crucial moment. And I’m not gonna deny, the drama is ridden with cliches. So many “so-near-yet-so-far” moments. Lots of missing each other by a fraction of a second. The basketball scenes were a little dragging (as some of the other parts) and I still find it difficult to believe that Pi as playing a professional basketball player. For a basketball drama there was little to no sports action. He did look like he worked hard on it, but his idol looks (and hair) were a bit distracting. Come on, he was playing basketball with trendy cropped pants and really nice polo/ plaid shirts! Loved his Nikes though. Anyways, I did like how they were able to connect basketball and music (with Keiko hearing Pi’s dribbles as the note “do”). Buzzer Beat reminded me of another coming-of-age drama “Orange Days” starring Satoshi Tsumabuki and Shibasaki Kou. But it wasn’t able to achieve the effect of youth standing at a crossroads towards adolescence, of the dilemma about growing up or sticking to ideals. Overall, the drama was good, albeit being a little forgettable. A must watch for Pi-Keiko fans. B’Z's OST is a killer! The way each episode ends was exciting, it’s just a shame that they had to resort to such an ending.