30 December 2007 | ebossert
Awesome Miniseries With Cute Japanese Schoolgirls and Volleyball!
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.