Originally I was going to do like I always do with my J-drama reviews, but then I kept procrastinating on this one and now the fall broadcasting season in Japan has already started! I haven't even made my selections yet for this season! So I'm going to make my synopses a little more succinct this time around. I love to give y'all as much of the goods as I can about these shows, but sometimes it's best to keep it short. If you'd like to watch any of the following shows for yourself, you can find them at DramaCool.io.
好きな人がいること (Suki na Hito ga Iru Koto/Having Someone to Love/A Girl with Three Sweethearts) - Fuji TV/2016
âtissier in Tokyo, and a chance run-in with her high school crush Chiaki has her living with him and his two brothers for the summer as she works in their restaurant. Chiaki's the owner/manager, his brooding and no-nonsense younger brother Kanata is the chef, and cheeky baby bro Touma is preparing to be sous chef. The "Girl with Three Sweethearts" English title is misleading, as Misaki is only caught in a love triangle with Chiaki and Kanata; Touma is simply there to throw in some angst, reveal secrets, and provide comic relief. Basically Chiaki is dumb to Misaki's feelings until finally he isn't, Kanata doesn't like her until eventually he does, and there's an ex-girlfriend thread and an extortion thread thrown in there for good measure. Yes, it has the same exact formula as 'SUMMER NUDE' and 'Koinaka' (young pretty people + love triangle + secrets + revelations + seaside location + "follow your dream/heart" + directed by Kanai Hiro). Yes, I fell for it just like I did last year and two years before that. And yes, I loved 'Suki na Hito ga Iru Koto' just as much as the others. When I studied abroad in Japan it was during the summer, so breezy dramas like this one always make me feel lighthearted and nostalgic. The show might be slightly predictable, but it's still a great ride!
せいせいするほっど、愛してる (Seiseisuru hodo, Aishiteru/Love Catharsis) - TBS/2016
はじめまして、愛しています。 (Hajimemashite, Aishiteimasu./Nice to meet you, I love you.) - TV Asahi/2016
While I'd been intrigued by its premise when I read about it, I watched this show solely for Ono Machiko ('Saikou no Rikon'). She is such a smart actress. Not only is she excellent at what she does (she can literally become anyone you want her do be, and is so convincing that you almost forget that she's played any other characters in the past), but if you look at the roles she's chosen over the years... gah, she's just so smart! I don't know how else to describe her. Anywho, time is running out for Mina's (Ono Machiko) dream of becoming a professional piano player, and she's given no thought to starting a family until she and her husband Shinji find a scraggly-looking boy hiding in their bushes. They learn that the boy was abused and abandoned and wandered to their house when he heard Mina's piano playing. With Shinji's enthusiasm and a social worker's guidance they go through the steps to adopt the boy, whom they name Hajime. But when they're not coping with Hajime's post-traumatic behavior, fielding skepticism from their respective families, or reconciling their own insecurities about their ability to be successful parents, they face the threat of losing Hajime for good. Bloodlines and family registries are still extremely important in Japan, and adoption is not as common or celebrated as in the States. Given that, this drama taught me so much about what making another human being part of one's family truly entails. Watch 'Hajimemashite, Aishiteimasu' if you want something informative that will also tempt you to cry.
"Honorable Mention" (haven't finished yet): Kenja no Ai/A Wise Person's Love - WOWOW/2016
Naomi, a Pygmalion-eque tale in which a man grooms a young woman to be his ideal wife, only to be pitifully controlled by her in the end. The Japanese title of the novel is 痴人の愛 (Chijin no Ai/A Fool's Love), and as a nod to the book, this show is titled 賢者の愛 (Kenja no Ai/A Wise Person's Love). Mayuko is an editor whose childhood frenemy Yuri has always taken from her what she wants for herself, including the love of Mayuko's life and her future literary client, Ryoichi. Yuri gets knocked up by him and becomes his wife, and once the baby's born Mayuko names her godson Naomi (you got it, in reference to the novel) and sets in motion a plan of ultimate revenge. She'll make her godson her plaything and toy with his heart, eventually throwing it in Yuri's face (or at least I assume that's the goal, I'm only 2 episodes in so far). Mayuko waits to make her move until Naomi's grown, and she's not actually attracted to him in any way, so I wouldn't call the show pedophilic. But it definitely has some unsettling predatory vibes... that's probably why it's on a cable channel. And making viewers uncomfortable is probably the point of it all anyway. 'Kenja no Ai' is shot like a movie, the minimalism in a lot of the scenes heightens the tension, and who doesn't love a vengeance story that hits below the belt? If you're a petty person who dreams of seeing moochers and users get their comeuppance, then Kenja no Ai is for you.
As far as my favorite drama from this summer goes, I have to choose 'Suki na Hito ga Iru Koto'. What can I say? The formula still works.