Back again to talk J-dramas! Truth be told I would've had this review out weeks ago; at first I only found one J-drama that stuck with me this time around, so I also watched a couple Japanese films to beef up the rest of the review, and was ready to write. But then, I happened to see someone post about 'Rikon Shiyou Yo' in a Facebook group that I'm in, saying it was legitimately funny, touching, and probably the best J-drama she's ever seen (because it's the first one that's ever held her attention all the way through). So I figured, Alright, bet. I set aside time to watch that show as a last-minute addition, and now I'm here, ready to get to reviewing!
(I don't think she'll ever read this, but thanks for the spirited recommendation, D.T.!)
エンジェルフライト 国際霊柩送還士 (Angel Flight: Kokusai Reikyuu Soukanshi/Angel Flight: International Casket Repatriators) - Apple TV Plus/2023
- In almost every episode, Rinko and Nami are dispatched to a different country to retrieve bodies. Along with repatriation, Angel Hearse's work includes preparing the bodies for burial and helping the deceased's loved ones understand the circumstances surrounding their death. (Not in a forensic way, but in a "This is why your loved one went to this country, what being in this country meant to them, and how they were living" way.)
- The Angel Hearse team (and the show itself) repeatedly asserts the need for every dead person to have a proper burial, regardless of how tenuous their relationship was with their loved ones, because at least then those loved ones won't regret not saying goodbye. Meanwhile, Rinko is estranged from her abrasive and ailing mother while also being her caretaker, and Nami refuses to believe that her fiancé (who was lost at sea in Cuba eight years ago) is truly dead.
- Tokyo Dokushin Danshin' and 'Fruits Takuhaibin') is a beloved TV and commercial actress. Taishi (Matsuzaka Tori from Her Love Boils Bathwater) is a spoiled politician, representing Ehime, who holds the same seat in the National Diet that his family has held for generations. Taishi doesn't care about his job despite being groomed for it, and he relies on Yui's popularity to keep him in the public's good graces.
- Outwardly they're the perfect couple, but behind closed doors they ice each other out, and have been estranged since Taishi cheated on Yui with a newscaster named Sakurako (Oda Lisa, 'Company: Gyakuten no Swan') three years ago. Taishi secretly rekindles his affair with Sakurako, and after Taishi and Yui agree that it's been time for them to divorce, Yui starts having her own affair with a sculptor and frequenter of pachinko parlors. Yui and Taishi also each find divorce lawyers, who, of course, are bitter law school exes.
- But Yui is wary of the penalty fees she might incur if divorcing sullies her wifely image enough to be considered a breach of her many commercial contracts. And ultimately, when a special election is called and Taishi has to campaign against an aggressive new opponent, the couple agrees to play nice and delay their divorce until after the election is over. Can Taishi get his head out of his behind enough to maintain his Diet seat and potentially win Yui back? Can Yui get the divorce she desperately wants so she can finally move on with her life? What happens when Yui comes up pregnant? Are Yui and Taishi truly over? (Spoiler: Yes. They are. The show stays true to its title.)
Most of all, I love how grown this show is. Yui's mother has seven children by multiple baby daddies, and she's consistently unashamed because she had the children she wanted to have without letting any one man overstay his welcome. Yui and Taishi do each other dirty during their marriage, but in the end they manage to be co-parents who are still somewhat in love with each other, would still let each other hit, but won't go that far because they're better off as friends. Taishi uses Sakurako as his sexual plaything (while she uses him to boost her media career, and then her political career), but in the end they're colleagues at the Diet who don't need to interact because they can leave each other in the past with no hard feelings. Yui similarly uses Kyoji as an outlet and claims to be madly in love with him only to discard him for Taishi during the special election, but in the end Kyoji and Taishi are allies, with Kyoji helping him win his Diet seat back after losing it. Taishi and his opponent Soda become fierce political rivals, and Taishi eventually gets Soda ousted from office by leaking his kickback corruption to the press on the low, but in the end Soda and his wife don't hesitate to give Taishi free sweets and beverages from their bakery when they spot him having a public dad-in-distress moment with his and Yui's son.
Like I mentioned earlier, 'Rikon Shiyou Yo' stays true to its title: despite the will-they-won't they moments that the show teases us with,
Yui and Taishi don't get back together because they truly don't need to
be together anymore. And the show has a happy ending because this couple, and everyone else around them, learns to grow and move on.