Thursday, January 4, 2018

ドラマ (Dorama) Time! 19

Happy New Year! For the last three Japanese dramas that I watched in 2017, I wanted to try something a little different by listing the main plot points of each one and then briefly filling in the gaps. In the order that I finished them:

セシルのもくろみ (Seshiru no Mokuromi/Cecile's Plot) - Fuji TV/2017
  • Nao (Maki Yoko) is a laid-back housewife from Saitama who gets recruited to be an amateur model along with other subscribers of a women's lifestyle/fashion magazine.
  • Nao's paired with a junior editor named Eri who thinks Nao sucks at modeling (because she does), but who coaches her so that they both can eventually earn long-term positions with the magazine.
  • Nao is befriended by the magazine's long-reigning top cover model Yukako, who also helps refine her modeling technique. Nao finally starts taking modeling seriously.
  • Some drama happens, Yukako quits modeling. Nao is in the running to become one of the featured models who gets to replace her.
  • More drama happens, both Nao and Eri almost quit their respective careers, and the magazine staff is reorganized. Eventually both women find their footing in the industry.
I watched this show for Maki Yoko ('Mondai no Aru Restaurant') and Itaya Yuka ('Haha ni Naru'), who are two of my favorite actresses. Though if Itaya Yuka's going to keep doing fashion dramas it'd be nice if she switched it up instead of playing the same super-serious exec each time (see 'FIRST CLASS'). I didn't really care much about the backstabbing involving models and other staff at the magazine, and I didn't care that much about Yukako even though she went through some difficult times and was instrumental to Nao's development as a model. What kept me watching was the camaraderie between Nao and Eri, where mutual spite transformed into a partnership, and then into a genuine friendship. And perhaps I'm also a sucker for a woman underdog story, I don't know. There's also an openly bisexual makeup artist who doubles as a wise sage, which is interesting, but the show doesn't really use him for much other than to give Nao advice.

カンナさーん! (Kanna-san!/Ms. Kanna!) - TBS/2017
  • Kanna (Watanabe Naomi) works as a fashion designer and is shocked when her husband Ryo asks for a divorce so he can be with his mistress/work colleague.
  • Kanna and Ryo both date other people for a bit, but as those relationships fizzle out they focus on co-parenting their young son as best they can.
  • Kanna's trifling mother-in-law is trifling the whole time. 
  • The design house that Kanna works for gets bought out and Kanna loses her job.
  • Kanna works in construction to make ends meet, Ryo stops being a dummy, and a choir sings "Joyful Joyful" from Sister Act 2 as they get re-married. Kanna still draws designs but her future in fashion is uncertain.
Watanabe Naomi (comedian/fashion designer) is literally the only reason I gave this show the time of day. I'm actually not that familiar with her work besides the clips here and there that I've seen online. I'm a fan of hers simply because she's a fat woman in Japan who's extremely successful in entertainment and fashion, and I just really want her to win. 'Kanna-san!' is a lot like 'Jimi ni Sugoi' in that the entire show rides on the lead actress. If anyone other than Ishihara Satomi had been cast in 'Jimi ni Sugoi' it would've been just a boring workplace show about a young woman who goes to work and dresses cute. If anyone other than Watanabe Naomi was cast in 'Kanna-san!', it'd just be a boring show about a single mom who designs clothes and keeps getting tried by her ex-husband and mother-in-law. Watanabe's enthusiasm and unique appearance are what make the show work. Thankfully, however, there are no fat jokes and no one comments on her weight at all. There are subtle references, like when the tub overflows when she settles in for a bath, or when she buttons two shirts together to make a skirt in her size. But her being fat is never the butt of a joke, which I can appreciate.

僕のいた時間 (Boku no Ita Jikan/The Time I Was Here/The Hours of My Life) - Fuji TV/2014
  • Takuto comes from a wealthy family and was expected to become a doctor and take over his father's hospital, but opts out. Consequently, his parents mostly ignore him in favor of his younger brother who's groomed to be the successor instead.
  • Takuto and Megumi go to the same university but only meet for the first time during a group job interview. At first bonding over their mutual failure at being able to secure a full-time job, they become a couple.
  • Takuto gets hired at a furniture company, while Megumi trains as a nurse for the elderly and disabled.
  • Takuto learns that he has ALS, a rarity but not impossibility for his age. He breaks up with Megumi, encouraging his senpai Shigeyuki to date her instead, and erases himself from her life so as to avoid telling her about the diagnosis.
  • Two years later Takuto still works and lives a decent life thanks to the support of his mom, brother, best friend, and caretakers. He and Megumi cross paths again by chance at wheelchair soccer practice.
  • Megumi leaves Shigeyuki to be with Takuto again. They stay together as he loses the ability to move, write, and speak.
When I checked the upcoming shows for the fall 2017 season I wasn't sold on any of the options, so I looked up some of the most popular dramas from the past 10 years for alternatives and found this one. My takeaway from the show, other than learning more about the progression of ALS, is that you have to acknowledge things as they are rather than getting wrapped up in how you think they "should" be. This is something I've struggled with basically my whole life, especially in 2017. Once Takuto accepts how his life has changed and will continue to change, he's at greater peace and is able to make the most of what his life has become. This show reminded me a lot of my grandfather (formerly very independent, now significantly less so due to certain medical issues) and the concessions people have to make when their bodies age or begin to lose certain functions. Humbling story with a sad but resolute ending.

'Seshiru no Mokuromi' was fun to watch, 'Kanna-san!' was cute I guess, but neither of them hold a candle to 'Boku no Ita Jikan'. That's my winner this time around.

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