Summery, romantic Getsu9 dramas always manage to sucker me in. Always. Even if I don’t know about the drama beforehand I always end up watching it. So, I’m not surprised that I watched Zenkai Girl as much as I’m surprised that I liked it. A lot. The setup isn’t anything new, but the execution is interesting and the characters are fresh and likeable. Plus, there’s cute kids. And a Johnny’s boy. How could anyone resist that?
Ayukawa Wakaba (Aragaki Yui) is a 24-year-old woman fresh out of Tokyo University who has just joined the Smith and Clark prestigious law firm. Graduating at the top of her class and passing the bar exam on her first try, Wakaba is a force to be reckoned with. At the welcoming ceremony, she gives a lengthy speech about how she rose above the low standards her generation had set for themselves and emerged as a winner. Now that she’s set to be a top-notch lawyer, Wakaba has big plans which include: 1) making the Forbes Rich List, 2) owning a private jet, 3) owning a New York penthouse, and 4) to be named the Hawk of Manhattan.
It seems that Wakaba’s dreams will have to be put on hold however, because the Smith and Clark firm is pulling out of Japan. Today. Haha. No worries for Wakaba though. In less than a minute, she’s already calling up other law firms and has a job interview within fifteen minutes
On her way to the interview, Wakaba runs into a man who she mistakes for a pervert on the train. She quickly straightens him out by grabbing the offensive hand and twisting it, knocking out the contents of his bag which happen to be diapers and plastic boobs. Awkward. Naturally, this is our hero, Yamada Shota (Nishikido Ryo). Uninterested in Shota’s apology, Wakaba just tells him to count himself lucky that she’s not reporting him, spews more legal jargon about what the consequences could have been, and gets off at the next stop, leaving Shota with more than one suspicious stare and the railway police waiting for him. Poor guy.
Wakaba gets hired by the Samejima Sakurakawa firm and on her first day wastes no time in rating the guys around the office. Part of being successful, of course, is having an equally successful partner. The first two guys are too mediocre by Wakaba’s standards, but one guy stands out. Shindo Kyoichi (Hirayama Hiroyuki) earns a Aaa rating which is the equivalent of a gold star in Wakaba’s world and she immediately sets her sights on him.
So, what is Wakaba’s first case? Babysitting Chief Sakurakawa’s five-year-old daughter Hinata. Naturally, Wakaba protests, stating she’s a lawyer, not a babysitter, but Ms. Sakurakawa points out that Wakaba needs the money and could be easily replaced if she refused. Also, the job’s temporary, so Wakaba will become an official member of the firm after the trial period is over. Well, if only for a while, and if it will get her closer to that jet…
Now Wakaba is saddled with Hinata, a high-and-mighty girl who doesn’t even want to learn Wakaba’s name, since she won’t be in the position long anyway. Oh yeah, these two are going to butt heads.
On the way to Mitsuba Mori Preschool which, who else would Hinata and Wakaba run into but Shota. Shota tries to explain about the misunderstanding the day before, but Wakaba dismisses him as a pervert and a stalker until his son Pitaro shows up with some pillbugs to show his dad. Turns out that Pitaro and Hinata are friends and both attend Mitsuba Mori. Of course.
After the kids go in to school and Wakaba gets acquainted with the principal Hanamaru, Wakaba continues to hassle Shota about the train incident, pointing out that his son is too old for diapers. Of course, the diapers aren’t for Pitaro, but for baby Kobato, one of the children he watches as part of his Papa Club. And the fake boobs? Naturally, they’re to help the baby feel more comfortable. It’s funny that Wakaba seems totally flustered by all of this talk of diapers and fake boobs while Shota’s very calm about it as if it’s normal. Which it is since he’s a SAHD( stay-at-home dad) and a pretty good one too. Carrying diapers and fake boobs is all a part of the job. Wakaba merely sees him as unexceptional and dismisses him to go back to work.
With nothing to do at the firm, Wakaba decides to take some of Shindo’s work load. I guess that’s a way to kill two birds with one stone, impress your boss and the guy you want to date. Yet, she is interrupted by a call from the preschool saying that Hinata has a fever. Wakaba comes, but it is merely a false alarm. Another setback appears however, because Ms. Sakurakawa won’t be home until late and needs Wakaba to stay with Hinata until she gets home. Wakaba has to turn in her work today and the preschool will only keep Hinata until seven. Pitaro volunteers for Hinata to come to his house which Shota okays as it’s his day to watch some of the kids anyway as part of the rotation system, so one more can’t hurt. Wakaba is still wary of Shota, and only after some persuasion by the teacher Miss Urara and promises from Shota that he won’t pull anything strange on Hinata does she go back to work.
Wakaba finishes up the work Mr. Shindo gave her later that night and Shindo invites her to dinner. Wakaba wavers for a minute, but refuses, stating that she doesn’t want to sell herself cheaply and she has someone to meet. And she’s wearing cheap underwear. She tries to leave coolly but slips on her way out. “I can’t do this. I must be strong against temptation,” is what she tells herself as gets back up.
She heads to the restaurant where Shota works, a place called Ru Chateau that she expects to be a high-class French eatery. However, when she finds it, it’s in a run down neighborhood and the sign reads Beer-u Sato. Wakaba tries to leave quickly with Hinata, but Shota hands over Kobato, asking for her to change her diaper. Since Wakaba’s now part of the rotation, she needs to help out too. Wakaba is at a loss for what to do, having never changed a diaper before. Hinata, watching her helpless sitter, takes pity and changes the diaper herself. Yes Wakaba, you were just pawned by a five-year-old.
Shota fixes Wakaba a meal which is when the other SAHDs show up; Samao, Nishino, and Hiroshii. They try to show off to Wakaba, but she mentally gives them one point each. They try to appeal Shota to her, in which his circumstances are revealed. He was married for six months to a woman named Ririka, who then ran off to New York with a dancer. Shota was left to raise Pitaro, who he isn’t even related to, on his own. Aww, nice guys never have any luck. The guys praise him, but Wakaba just thinks he’s an idiot. For a moment she wonders what it would be like to be married to Shota. The thought gives her chills and she gives him negative 1000 points. They ask what type of man Wakaba likes and she says one with money, status, and who hates children, instantly ruling them all out.
Taking Hinata home after getting pasta thrown on her by the kids, Wakaba mutters in rage about how being a good guy won’t get you anywhere.
There are brief glimpses of Wakaba’s childhood and we see it is a rough one where she had little to eat and her dad was usually harassed by loan sharks.
Back to the dads. They’re still at Ru Chateau, drunk and bashing Wakaba. Except for Shota who says he doesn’t think she’s too bad. The fellow dads instantly think he’s fallen for her and warn him by reminding him of his past girlfriends such as a violent nurse and a woman tied to the mob. And of course, Ririka. Shota swears that he won’t fall for women like that anymore and that he doesn’t like Wakaba, but he looks over at Wakaba’s empty plate thoughtfully.
At the Sakurakawa household, Wakaba is trying to get Hinata to sleep by reading books and counting sheep, but nothing works. After two hours, Wakaba gives up. Hinata uses the lull to ask Wakaba if she has any brothers or sisters. Wakaba figures that Hinata must be lonely and offers her a doll to sleep with, but Hinata refuses it. Wakaba further diverts the subject by reading another book.
Shota looks at a package he received from Ririka back at home. It is filled with old clothes and toys of Pitaro’s. Pitaro comes in while Shota broods and ask if he likes Wakaba and will make a baby with her. Shota denies it again and the conversation turns to how babies are made. Shota starts out by saying you need a stamen and a pistil, then decides on the stork, but neither of these work out. Well, I guess it’s never too early for a birds and the bees talk, right?
Hinata is finally asleep when Ms. Sakurakawa comes home with a new doll in tow. After some small talk, Wakaba wonders if someone like Ms. Sakurakawa, with so many people working underneath her, could make some time for Hinata. But Ms. Sakuarakawa knows that’s impossible; if she left her job for a moment someone else would take her spot. It’s tough, but true, to find that perfect balance between your job and the relationship with your family.
Wakaba goes back to her home which is just a small apartment that has books all over the walls, a small sink for a kitchen, and a bed. She falls asleep in her red tracksuit, exhausted, and we get a bigger picture of what her life was like when she was younger. Even though she was so poor that she couldn’t even buy the custom red backpack for school, Wakaba never let it get her down and didn’t take crap from anyone, not even the loan sharks. After they mess with her on her way to school and throw her with some trash, she finds some law books that she starts reading. The next time the loan sharks come and see her, she sets them straight with the law, stating that her dad has filed bankruptcy and is exempt from loans and harming her would send them to jail. The boss orders his men to back off and approaches Wakaba. He tells her she did well and to study harder. Oookay. I guess not all loan sharks are bad.
Wakaba wakes up late the next morning and rushes to work where her co-workers dog her for being late. Ms. Sakurakawa is also upset and tells Wakaba that before she takes on other people’s work, she should take care of her own responsibilities.
Wakaba goes to the park to observe children when Shota passes by. Shota asks why she’s doing such a thing when she only has to baby-sit for three months. Wakaba responds that no matter what job, she will master it perfectly. She is Wakaba after all, there’s nothing she can’t do. Shota says studying and observing is fine, but doing things with the child is important too. You should just have fun, he tells her. Wakaba says, “And? Having fun doing what?” Oh man, this girl has a long way to go.
Shota is called away by some kids who recognize him, so he asks Wakaba to fold star decorations for the Tanabata Festival. Wakaba doesn’t want to but he leaves her with the box anyway and rides off. Back at Ru Chateau, Samao tells Shota that Wakaba will never make the decorations, but Shota believes in her. A phone call from the principal interrupts the conversation. There was an incident with Hinata and Pitaro and now Hinata is in the hospital.
Shota rushes to the hospital and meets Miss Urara and Wakaba. Apparently the kids kissed and Hinata fainted. The doctor comes out when Ms. Sakurakawa arrives and tells them that Hinata is fine and just went into anaphylactic shock. There was peanut butter on Pitaro’s lips and Hinata is allergic to peanuts. Shota apologizes for his son’s behavior, but Miss Urara clarifies that Hinata initiated the kiss, not Pitaro.
Ms. Sakurakawa goes to check on Hinata and try to get an explanation from her, but she gets no reason for Hinata’s actions and tells Wakaba to figure out the reason before leaving for a meeting. Shota apologizes again as she leaves and something about it reminds Wakaba of her father when he was being hassled about his debts. She asks why he’s apologizing when it’s Hinata’s fault. Shota says that this only happened because Pitaro had peanut butter around his mouth. Still, Wakaba asserts that apologizing only means that he has something to be guilty about and he’ll be made to pay for it later. Yet Shota feels bad, so he thinks he should apologize, even if he’s made to pay for it later, he’d regret it more if he didn’t apologize. Frustrated with his stubbornness, Wakaba tells him to do what he wants and leaves. As she goes, Ms. Sakurakawa’s secretary Soyoko tells Shota that she doesn’t think his way of thinking is wrong.
On the way home, Wakaba asks Hinata why she kissed Pitaro. Hinata won’t give an answer and we can see that she’s holding back tears. Shota goes to pick up a distressed Pitaro from the preschool and assures him that Hinata’s fine. While leaving, he sees the tree decorated with tanabata and notes the star decorations. The principal tells Shota that Wakaba dropped them off earlier that evening, saying that even though she didn’t want to, she might as well since Shota gave her the job. Pitaro shows his dad his tanabata, which says “I want to be a pillbug.” Shota catches sight of Hinata’s, which reads, “I want a baby.”
Shota calls Wakaba and tells her that Hinata kissed Pitaro to make a baby. When the baby conversation came up between Pitaro and Shota, Shota told him that babies were made by a man and woman kissing and Pitaro told everyone at school. Wakaba confronts Hinata about this before bed and tells her that kissing is not how babies are made and says that she won’t be able to make a baby until she’s an adult. She asks if Hinata understands, but Hinata just hides under the covers.
Wakaba calls Ms. Sakurakawa to tell her that she discovered the reason behind Hinata kissing Pitaro, but Ms. Sakurakawa has decided to fire Wakaba. Hinata didn’t tell Wakaba the reason herself, so the two aren’t connecting as well as she had hoped and Wakaba didn’t even warn her not to do it again. She supposes that it must be because Wakaba’s never kissed anyone so she couldn’t discuss something like that with Hinata. She hangs up, leaving Wakaba in a panic about losing her job.
Next thing you know, Shota’s running to find Wakaba, who’s waiting for him in the middle of a field, sitting down, positively drunk even though she’s never drank before. Apparently she called him out, challenging him to a duel. The other three dads show up and Wakaba slaps them, calling them useless before turning on Shota. Calling him a pillbug, she blames him for her getting fired since he was the one that told Pitaro babies were made by kissing. Now he’s cost her everything. What about the Forbes List? The private jet? What about being the Hawk of Manhattan? As she pushes him she says, “What so good about kisses? A kiss is just some contact between skin. Nothing happens if you kiss someone. Kissing won’t start anything.”
The other dads protest, saying kissing can lead to lots of things, but Wakaba doesn’t want to hear it. She’ll prove to them then that kissing doesn’t lead to anything. She throws down her drink, grabs Shota by his hair, moves in, almost throws up, but swallows it (eww), and kisses him. Already? But it’s only episode one!
Overall, a really good first episode, much better than I was expecting anyway. Having two completely opposite characters fall in love with each other is nothing new. However, when it’s two characters like Wakaba and Shota, it’s a match made in heaven. Not only are they completely different, but it’s obvious that Wakaba’s the alpha and Shota’s the beta, which adds on another dynamic not usually seen in rom-coms.
Aragaki Yui is usually a hit (Smile) or a miss (Code Blue, Koizora) for me, so knowing that she was the main character, I was hesitant to start, wondering if she would be able to carry a drama by herself. Luckily, Wakaba is probably the most likeable character I’ve seen her portray. I think Wakaba can be seen as superficial and stuck-up, but it’s not to the point that she’s annoying. What I like the most about her is that she’s straightforward about things like the jet and penthouse; she knows what she wants and she’s going to get it. Of course, this will come back and bite her later when she falls for Shota who doesn’t fit into her rich and luxurious future.
And Shota? He’s so cute. And that’s not just my Ryo-bias talking. He’s pretty much the nicest guy on earth with the worst luck with women and now he’s falling for Wakaba who I know he’ll win over in the end, but she’ll probably cause some heartbreak along the way. And yet he’s still happy, which is what makes him amazing. C’mon universe, give the guy a break. We can already see that Shota’s interested in Wakaba (which I love, because seriously, how often does the guy fall for the girl first?), even without the other characters constantly asking if he likes her (we get it, they’re the OTP), so I can’t wait to see how he wins her over. Add the cute Hinata-Pitaro couple who both have mommy troubles that Wakaba and Shota will need to sort out, and yeah, I think I love this drama.