It’s finally getting cold on my side of the world, so it’s about time to check in with the fall dramas. I missed the summer season while trying to catch up on spring, but I think I’ll just take what I can this season and not try to watch everything which might be doable since there’s only a few dramas catching my eye.
Gomen ne, Seishun! (Sorry Youth!)
Starring: Nishikido Ryo, Mitsushima Hikari, Shigeoka Daiki, Nagayama Kento, Haru
What it’s about: The Buddhist Tonkou Boys High School and the Catholic St. Mishima Girls High School (Sanjo for short) have always been at odds due to an incident fourteen years ago. However, because of Tonkou’s poor academic reputation and St. Mishima’s mounting debt (not to mention that they’re right next to each other), the two schools have considered merging, but there’s just too much animosity. Hara Heisuke (Nishikido Ryo), a teacher and alumni of Tonkou, proposes a trial merger through a class exchange, but the girls prove to be more than he can handle, especially guidance counselor Hachiya Risa (Mitsushima Hikari) who’s nicknamed “Black Tiger.”
Thoughts: Is it too soon after two episodes to say I love this drama? Because I love Gomen ne, Seishun. The girls’ constant hassling of the boys, the bickering between the school officials, Donmai-sensei impersonating students; everything’s just ridiculously funny. Writer Kudo Kankuro has a pretty good track record (he wrote the mega-hit asadora Amachan last year and older favorites like Tiger and Dragon and Manhattan Love Story), so I shouldn’t be surprised.
Heisuke’s the straight man in the room with a bunch of crazy people. He’s average and a rather hapless main character who gets stuck in bad situations (the bra in the classroom in episode two was hilarious) and generally gets pushed around, especially by Risa, so I was generally meh about his character until his past and his stakes in the school merger were revealed.
As a student, Heisuke had a crush on Hachiya Yuko (Haru), a Sanjo student. His best friend Satoshi (Nagayama Kento), encouraged him to pursue her, but on the night of the cultural festival, Heisuke discovered Yuko and Satoshi were secretly dating. Ouch. Did someone not teach Satoshi Bro Code? Heisuke set off some fireworks trying to catch their attention, but one of them set Sanjo’s chapel on fire, which happened to be where Yuko and Satoshi were having their rendezvous. The two were suspected of starting the fire since Tonkou and Sanjo students are forbidden from dating and both ended up dropping out of school due to the rumors and harassment. Heisuke feels guilty for never stepping forward, so he’s trying to atone for his past by mending the relationship between the two schools. I like that Heisuke has enough sense to realize that he’s not the only one to blame; half the problem is due to the stigmas and prejudices Sanjo and Tonkou have attached to one another, but of course, settling the differences between the school now isn’t going to change what happened in the past, so I’m very interested to see where the story goes as Satoshi has popped up at the end of episode two.
Risa is this very brazen and stern teacher that has a holier-than-thou attitude towards, well, everyone. Case in point: when she goes to teach at Tonkou, she announces that she’s a virgin and dares the boys to break her and her students’ chastity. I kid you not. She kind of got on my nerves in the first episode because she was so narrow-minded about everything, but I warmed up to her in the second episode though, mostly because she’s always having to clean up after Heisuke. Risa also happens to be Yuko’s younger sister (because you know, two degrees of separation in the rule in dramaland) and though the show hasn’t given us a lot of information about the two, their relationship seems to have soured after Yuko dropped out of school and maybe the cause for her uptight attitude.
Very funny, very interesting, I cannot recommend this show enough.
Starring: Oguri Shun, Mukai Osamu, Shibasaki Kou, Yamada Takayuki, Fujiki Naohito, Yagira Yuya
What it’s about: Saburo (Oguri Shun) is a high school student that always runs away when things get tough. He falls off a wall and through a time slip and finds himself in the Sengoku Era. He looks exactly like the famous warlord Oda Nobunaga and inadvertently ends up taking his place when the real Nobunaga runs away.
Thoughts: Yes, Oguri Shun is way too old to be playing a high schooler, but since he’s presumably going to live out the rest of Nobunaga’s life, this is totally acceptable. The adaption of Ayumi Ishii’s manga deviates quite a bit from its source material, but it’s working…sort of.
I liked the first episode because it mostly dealt with Saburo adjusting to the Sengoku Era and his conflict with his brother Nobuyuki. He’s forced into this high position that he doesn’t want or really seem to understand the weight of, so it will be a challenge for him to step up and carve out Nobunaga’s place in history. Thankfully, he’s got his loyal retainer Tsuneoki (Mukai Osamu), sticking close to him. I’m so ready for the bromance between Saburo and Tsuneoki; Saburo already calls him “Tsune-chan” and though Tsune doesn’t always understand or agree with Saburo’s actions, he’s always there to guide him or stand behind him.
I was less than enthused with the second episode which focused on Nobunaga’s sassy wife Kichou (Shibasaki Kou) and her dad. It was going somewhere interesting with the reveal of there being another time traveler, but it hit a rut near the end. I’m all for fleshing out characters and I already loved how Kichou, who was really meek and one-note in the manga, doesn’t take any crap in the live action, but it felt like the show was reaching when trying to explain her back story. I think it just could have been structured a bit better. One so-so episode can’t break a drama for me though and now that Saburo has his textbook, I’m hoping that Nobunaga Concerto will step up its game.
Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu (I’m taking the day off today)
Starring: Ayase Haruka, Sota Fukushi, Tamaki Hiroshi
What it’s about: 30-year-old Aoishi Hanae (Ayase Haruka) has never had a boyfriend, still lives with her parents, and works as an OL. She has no thoughts of dating until she ends up spending the night with her company’s intern, Tanokura Yuto (Sota Fukushi). This development leaves her so confused that she ends up not going to work the next day. She tentatively begins a relationship with Yuto, though he’s nine years her junior, while sparking the interest of a company CEO, Asao Yu (Tamaki Hiroshi).
Thoughts: The romance dramas this year have been lackluster, to put it mildly, but Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu might just save the day. After the trainwreck that was Last Cinderella last year, I’m sure many people were wary since Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu has a nearly identical premise, but the two couldn’t be more different. It’s a lot more realistic with everyone behaving like normal, functioning adults (except Naka Riisa’s character, she’s getting on my nerves) and gives off the same sort of vibe of romance dramas from the early 2000s with a modern flair.
Hanae shares a lot of similarities to another Ayase Haruka character, Hotaru from Hotaru no Hikari, who was also rather hopeless at relationships. Hanae isn’t quite as bumbling or silly as Hotaru was as she’s more withdrawn and serious, but Ayase has the acting chops to make Hanae just as endearing as she struggles to figure out how to proceed with her relationship with Yuto. Even though she worries over small things like paying for dinner or not receiving a text message, it feels like a very real challenge for Hanae so you can’t help but hope she over comes it.
The show has firmly focused on Hanae becoming confident enough to start a relationship, so I don’t have much to say about her two suitors. Sadly, Sota Fukushi is as bland as he’s ever been, but since Yuto’s role so far has been to smile and be supportive, I’m okay with that. Asao doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but Tamaki Hiroshi is really charismatic as Hanae’s love guru. There’s no clear end game yet, but the writing feels confident enough to make me satisfied with whoever Hanae chooses. Definitely a keeper for the season.