by mo on 11/23/2009

Last time we talked about the show Buzzer Beat, it was July, and Buzzer Beat was still airing. We talked about how Yamapi had strangely colored outfits and embarrassing team colors for his basketball gig. However, I went on an inadvertent two-month or so hiatus from jdramas, yet another sacrifice to the Reflections | Projections Conference Gods.

So in November, I returned to Buzzer Beat.

And I’m *SO* glad I did. Why? Because I learned something important; I learned that Love makes me strong.

I learned this mostly through the subtle yet moving symbolism between physical strength and romantic love throughout the show. And the billboard in one of the three main sets of the show that says, “Love makes me strong” in giant bold letters.

To explain the show. (Warning: some spoilers to follow. But I really doubt they ruin it.)

We have Yamapi the basketball player and Natsuki (Aibu Saki), his cheerleadin’, schemin’ soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend. And randomly, Riko (Kitagawa Keiko) the violin girl who happens to fall in love with Yamapi because she can’t contain her excitement every time she hears that damn basketball bounce on the court next to her apartment, where she lives with her awkward roommate, Mai. Riko’s supposed to be in love with the coach of the basketball team, though, Kawasaki-san.

The first few episodes portray the relationship between Yamapi and Natsuki as full of jealousy, insecurity, and a lack of passion, while Riko develops feelings for Yamapi that no one except her devoted roommate is aware of.

Devoted roommate and her questionable hairstyles:
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And then things heat up.

Natsuki cheats on Yamapi, and the middle episodes consist of Natsuki being a manipulative psychobitch, vying once again for affection from Yamapi, while continuing to shag his greasy teammate Yoyogi (until Yoyogi pseudodumps him for Nanami. Man I love those repetitive names.)

So let’s pause for a minute while I illustrate the middle couple of episodes with a mini-gallery of NATSUKI’S EVIL GLARE (juxtaposed with her charming smile, of course. She can flip between the two in under 3 nanoseconds.)

This is where Yamapi finds Natsuki macking on Yoyogi. THE LOCKER ROOM:
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But boy does she look PISSED when he says it’s over. Takes up smoking and alcohol so we know she’s the BAD GRRL of this show (Riko drinks once, but she can’t hold her liquor and adorably has to ride home on Yamapi’s back, where she passes out as he cleans up her apartment. Remember, vulnerability and innocence are becoming when paired with alcohol, and a girl who can’t keep her apartment tidy is just quirky enough to fly as a cute trait, as we learned in Hotaru no Hikari):
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Natsuki encounters Riko in the bathroom. But this is not a high school drama; she does not lock Riko in a stall. She pretends to befriend Riko.
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Bitchy look #34782017, courtesy of Natsuki
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Meanwhile (we are still in the middle three episodes), the coach Kawasaki-san proposes to Riko! What a catch.
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So I haven’t watched a jdrama with subtitles in a very long time. But I got my friend Matt hooked on this one, and he watched the subbed version to fill in the Japanese knowledge gaps. Apparently in one episode, the subber lost a little something in translation, and the line said that his aspiration was actually to become the best COUCH he could!

BUT, Riko is not wooed by his couch-ly ways. Instead, she takes to COMPLETELY CREEPING ON YAMAPI and his basketball practicing. In fact, she stoops to the level of cell phone photography WHILE HE IS SLEEPING. If she wasn’t so cute everyone would be running for their lives.
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Several episodes later, Riko has FINALLY figured out she likes Yamapi, and yet still seems to be perplexed at the whole situation. Things get even hotter when Yamapi runs up to her room in a post-Romeo-&-Juliet reference from balcony to basketball court. Riko’s just a deer in the headlights, and, honestly so is Yamapi.
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Now here’s where the theme of the show really comes in. Riko is off practicing at some violin boot camp. Yamapi and his uncoordinated-yet-cute teammate come to the basketball court. And here is the dialogue that ensues:
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Teammate: Ever since I moved here, I’ve looked at that billboard and thought, “love makes people strong”
Yamapi: Dunno about that.

REALLY? How ever did you get that message out of _that_ billboard?! Extremely perceptive. Also, why hasn’t Yamapi caught onto it yet?

Anyway, the drama has exactly the ending we all predicted from the first five minutes of the first episode, but it’s cute and it’s fun. I think one of the great things about Buzzer Beat is that while almost all of the characters are incredibly stupid, they still remain very likable and somehow you’re rooting for the ill-fashion-advised Yamapi and the creeper-violinist Riko.

Another great thing is Aibu Saki being a bitch. She’s always slightly annoyed me in her sugar-and-spice roles in the past, but I wouldn’t have guessed she could have such a brilliant mean streak. She sort of blew it by actually being into Yamapi, but I suppose it was actually more realistic to see why she was actually so vulnerable, jealous, and manipulative.

And the third major good point of Buzzer Beat over many other jdrama, is that the kisses were convincing. Whenever two characters were actually supposed to like each other, they looked like they were genuinely enjoying kissing each other (crazy!) A lot of jdrama has very stiff, awkward-looking kisses that just makes you go “I waited 9 episodes for THAT?!?” but Buzzer Beat got it right! Props.
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And a final bitchy look from Natsuki. Enjoy.
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