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Based on a comic by Chikako Urano's comic of the late '60s - early '70s
of the same title, Atakku No. 1 is a masterpiece of a mini-series which
took nearly 40 years to appear on TV.
Aya Uyeto is a spot on casting for the leading role character Kozue Ayuhara. Since this is only an 11 episode mini-series, many of the details of the original comic has been compressed and has been rearranged. But the story plot is good even for someone who've never read the original comic. First the story starts Kozue as a high school student and skips the Jr. high school phase of her life. But the plot of being selected as all Japan's member under coach Inokuma is a graft from the original comic's Jr. high school days. Which is alright because that's one of the best episode of the original comic. Character of Kozue Ayuhara has been rewritten to reflect the more modern youth of Japan which is also great, and brings the best of Aya Uyeto's character. Another spot on casting is the role of Ayana Sakai as Midori Hayakawa. She actually has some semblance to the comic's character.
Kozue Ayuhara is a junior in Fujimi Gakuen high school. Her close friends are Midori Hayakawa, and Yuri Ishida (Ayaka Morita). All three of them are in Fujimi's volley ball team under the guidance of Shunsuke Hongo (Shunsuke Nakamura). One day a call to comes telling Kozue that she's been selected as member of the all Japan high school volley ball team. She embarks on the training camp headed by coach Daigo Inokuma (Eiichiro Funakoshi). There she meets the star members of the all Japan's team Kaori Yagisawa (Mao Miyachi), Yoshiko Kakinouchi (Elisa Akiyama), Satomi Yoshimura (Natsuki Katoh), Michiru Sanjo (Nagiko Tohno) and other members of the team. Coach Inokuma is bent on stopping at nothing to make the team into the best volley ball team in the world even going so far as using some questionable tactics to motivate (?) the team members. Kozue faces this challenge head on, and makes the captain of the team. The first practice match was set against none other than her own school Fujimi Gakuen which is part of coach Inokuma's plan. The training camp reaches hiatus due to inter-high school tournament, and each members of the team goes back to their school to compete in the tournament. Kozue becomes friends with Tsutomu Ichinose (Toshinobu Matsuo) who is a son of the owner of a ramen joint. Tsutomu supports Kozue through her ups and downs as a friend. Kozue must now face the challenges of Jidoin high school which is headed by Kaori Yagisawa and her two younger sisters, and Michiru Sanjo's Kanagawa Jissen high school. From here the excitement of the original comic are depicted pretty accurately, and each episode is packed with exciting volley ball matches, and story which keeps the audience involved.
For more accurate story plot (but not exactly the same as the comic), viewer can also watch all 104 episodes of original Atakku No. 1 anime series.
Original comic was reissued as part of the merchandising plan to coincide with this mini-series from its original publisher Shueisha, and is available from Amazon.co.jp.
What's great about this mini-series is fantastic character acting of Aya Uyeto as Kozue Ayuhara which is truly the best translation of original comic's character into today's modern high school girl, and the story which involves the people surrounding Kozue's character. This series was syndicated around the world by Tokyo Television Network which supplies Japanese TV drama targeted for Japanese people living abroad. You can also rent DVDs from a local Japanese video rental shops if you'd like to watch this program.
Great drama that will transport you in more ways than one.
I've been a fan of Aya Ueto since watching the excellent action flick
Azumi a few years ago. Azumi 2 turned out to be a highly entertaining
follow up. It seems that Aya has been a part of numerous Japanese
television series but for us Americans it is frequently very difficult
to find these miniseries on DVD with English subtitles. Luckily, I
found a website with some Aya Ueto stuff and was so excited that I
purchased Attack No. 1 with little to no knowledge of it.
Aya plays a highschool volleyball player selected to play for the Japan National Team. She really did an excellent job portraying a mediocre player who improves through hard work. Although this series would seem very light and fluffy, it's actually quite moving and dramatic at times as a result of Aya's realistic, charming performance. The other characters are very distinguished with their own obstacles and flaws, which also contribute to creating effective dramatic elements. Watch out for coach Daigo though, a total badass with a chiseled beard and an equally sharp attitude. Needless to say, the character development was a nice surprise here, and actually drives the entire series because it establishes awesome rivalries between the players and makes the viewing experience very exciting.
Another huge positive of Attack No. 1 is the storyline, which takes wildly unpredictable turns. It will be very difficult for anyone to predict what will happen from one episode to the next, which is a good thing. One reason for this is that the focus is not stagnantly pointed toward the Japan National Team, but also shifts to the individual high school teams from which the all-star players came. Another reason is that there are a dozen or so supporting characters that are given ample attention, so twists can be applied to them without hesitation. Basically, every episode has some shocking development that is rarely seen in sports-based cinema yet is frequently seen in reality. Good stuff!
The volleyball matches themselves are awesome, especially the first round match of the National Tournament, which has a triplet attack intended to disorient and confuse opponents. There are a lot of edits and camera cuts used to conceal the lack of volleyball ability of the actresses, but they are done in such a way that the characters look impressive while playing. In addition, the cuts are far enough apart that the viewer can clearly see what's happening. The only negative is that the volleyball action hits a peak early, which results in an ending that's good albeit devoid of volleyball action.
There's a ton of entertainment to be had here, and with a running time of only 9 hours this is a compact mini-series with breakneck pacing and perpetual excitement. I can't wait to buy more movies/series with cute little Aya Ueto.
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