Friday, 22 July 2016

Toshiie to Matsu (2002)

Time to review another popular taiga drama, this time dedicated to Maeda Toshiie, one of the Nobunaga's vassals servicing him since the young age, and Matsu, his legendary wife (mostly because she produced him a good amount of kids, even if this drama tries to imply otherwise), Toshiie to Matsu.
The scriptwriter of this sort of Sengoku-flavoured family sit-com is Yō Takeyama, who tried his hand with jidaigeki first on 1994 with the movie 47 Ronin directed by Ken Ichikawa.
Apparently he also authored a novel on the same subject by the same title, but I don't know if it comes before or after the taiga drama itself.

I was really looking forward to watch this series because it looked quite historically accurate, and I have a soft spot for Toshiie, that I imagine as one of the most loyal vassals of Nobu, expecially since they knew each other since they were kids.
Unfortunately this is one of the most unnerving taiga drama that I happened to watch and the fact that it's quite popular, even among Western so-called scholars, leaves me a bit worried about the good taste of my contemporaries...

Even if the series is about Toshiie and Matsu, let's start with what's important for us, Nobunaga!
He's played by a handsome Takashi Sorimachi, from his ootsuke days to Honnoji events.

I read a lot of reviews were the Nobunaga portrayed by Sorimachi-san is considered the best ever. In my opinion, it's just another two-sided parody. What does this Nobunaga do during the series after all? Repeating "Dearu ka" during almost all of his screentime, and praising Matsu randomly.
He's pretty much an inexpressive man with a temper that needs some delicious miso soup or some biwa chirping featuring Matsu to make it all better.
There are indeed lots of memorable moments about him, though, and some interesting (but maybe a bit too apologetic) interpretations behind his acts.

For example I liked his Atsumori here.
Rather than using Okehazama or Honnoji, here the moment of choice is the death of Toshiie's father, Toshimasa (Bunta Sugawara); Toshiie asks Nobunaga to dance Atsumori for him, without giving an explanation and Nobunaga does, using a little branch covered with leaves rather than a fan.
Another time when we see tha Atsumori dance is during Nobunaga's visit to Odani Castle, during a visit to Nagamasa and Oichi.
Here Nagamasa (Shingo Katsurayama) dances it to entertain a pleased Nobunaga.
In the development of the story with Nagamasa 'til his fall we're shown that Nobu made an intensive use of spies/shinobi.
The same happened with the "Tsukiyama accident".
Both Tsukiyama (Rika Tsuchida) and Nobuyasu (Howa Sekine), the treacherous wife and son of Ieyasu, looked quite meek during their meeting with Nobu, but he got to know that the whining of Toku (who's never shown in the series T^T) had a foundation in reality, as he got to know that both of them wanted to overthrow Ieyasu as the head of the family thanks to the faithful reports of his shinobi.
Again Nobu made use of spies during his vassal purge of 1580 to justify the removal of many of his senior vassals, including Mitsuhide, at a first moment.

In this series there's an exaplanation for the banishment of Toshiie happening around 1559: in a fit of rage as he belittled Matsu and his love for her, Toshiie killed one of Nobunaga's brothers, the idiotic Juami(Shuuichiro Idemitsu), serving as tea master:
"Is your love for a woman superior to your loyalty towards me?" and thus ended a relatively easy life for Toshi & Co.
Of course Matsu would do her best to place her hubby back in Nobunaga's arms: she's the one who promised that he would kill one of the most dangerous foes to make up for his misbehaviour.

Then, a touching, yet quick, Honnoji incident, featuring a moved Ranmaru (Eiji Wentz) facing his moved Nobunaga during his last order, the one to burn everything down, including his bones.

I liked how the whole scene jumped from the blueish tones of night to the bright warm colors of fire.

Going back to the drama itself, we can sum it all up with this:
I was like AAAAAAARGH!!!
Ok, I already mentioned almost in every series featuring some female character of sort (from Go to Nohime) how little I stand this throwing the titular character into EVERY FREAKING IMPORTANT SCENE of an historical event... Of course since this series dates 2002 here you can enjoy the full glory of this unbearable tendency: Matsu being compared to a Buddha, Matsu that should become the ruler of Japan, Matsu that makes the most delicious miso soup of Japan, Matsu that is consulted whenever, even when Nobunaga decided to kill Nobuyasu and Tsukiyama... PLEASE! Show some decency!!
Oh, by the way, Matsu was played by hyper-popular Nanako Matsushima. Of course you can't get enough of her perfectly round face and dark, deep eyes!

Toshiie (Toshiaki Karasawa) left me with a sour impression too.
He's shown as the "hooligan for life", the rowdy type with a big heart and a tiny brain.
Of course with such a stupid guy you need a Matsu to compensate, to turn all those fiefs into goldmines...
I assume that the "big-hearted fool" is one of those stock character that make sense next to a "Do-it-all" female character... Both actors were pretty good though, even if both of them were relegated to a minimal scope of expressions to make sure to represent their stereotypes to a T.

Shibata Katsuie (Ken Matsudaira) was pretty intense!
The guy was pretty intense, and well-rounded.
He showed the sweetness of a father, the roughness of a warrior and the rage of a revenger... He didn't show on screen very often but when he does you remember him.

Imagawa Yoshimoto was played by an inspired Mutsumi Sasaki:
A little vapid during his first appearances, I was sooooo glad to see him fighting back during the Battle of Okehazama!
definitely a breath of fresh air compared to the usual "OMG, bring me my palanquin, I need to escape, kyaaah!"... Here it took two guys to bring him down, just like the real thing.

Speaking of the girls, Kitsuno was played by Yoko Moriguchi:
As I said above in this series she's alive and well, and didn't die on 1566.
If anything, she just suffered a little fever, had to move to Kiyosu where Matsu took care of her 'til her recovery (AAAAAARGH!!!).
I assume that Takeyama-sensei is a romantic at heart and wanted to grant Nobunaga and Kitsuno their happiness, even if it was horribly stupid, given how nicely exposed is the historical accuracy of the work... Maybe he just decided to recognize Nobunaga's Midaidokoro with Kitsuno.

As Kitsuno is the "real love of Nobunaga", Nouhime (Natsuo Ishido) had some brief appearances, and at a certain point she disappears from the screen:
Usually acting as Ichi's duenna, she's shown around being silly and pretty much without a proper personality.
On an interesting note, after the victory over Yoshimoto she said "Now Nobunaga can conquest Mino and avenge my father", implying that he didn't divorce her after Dosan's death, after all.

Ichi is played by Misato Tanaka:
God, I'd slap her anytime XD She kept making that expression with her eyes that made her look stoned rather than smug!

Besides Matsu and Toshiie though, the protagonists of the series were One (Noriko Sakai) and Haru (Yuki Amami), the wives of Hideyoshi (Teruyuki Kagawa) and Narimasa (Yuichiro Yamaguchi) respectively, two of Toshiee's biggest friends.
Again, the duality: both of them Matsu's good friends, both of them the opposite of each other, with One being strong-willed and assertive and Haru being devoted and proper, yet with her own temper.
It must be said that both characters, despite their flaws, were definitely more entertaining than Matsu anyway.
The scene with Haru playing the taiko in Atsuta to cherish Narimasa 'cause she couldn't join him on the battlefield was pretty cool.

After all this drama is all about "the neighbourhood": the whole thing is punctuated by stupid fights among women, chit-chat and rumors. Not sure if this thing has any value to watch, after all.
It's the case when the historical part is pretty good, and the rest is plainly stupid.


  1. What? Juami is Nobunaga's brother in this drama? Whaaaaatt?

    1. Yeah, Nobunaga calls him "little brother" XD

    2. Ahaha, I have to watch this too someday.

    3. It's actually pretty stupid and unnerving.