I’ve sort of been in a drama slump lately as I’ve mostly been watching anime, but I resolved to do a write-up for each season this year because somehow or another, I always manage to miss at least one every year. It’s inevitable that there will be a bad drama season and while spring 2015 is certainly not the worst season I’ve sat through, it is the most lackluster I’ve seen in a while.
Yokoso, Wagaya e
Starring: Aiba Masaki, Terao Akira, Sawajiri Erika, Kasumi Arimura, Yamaguchi Sayaka
What it’s about: Based on the book by Ikeido Jun (Hanzawa Naoki, Roosevelt Game) Yokoso, Wagaya e follows mild-mannered Kurata Kenta (Aiba Masaki), a freelance designer that never stands up for himself. However, after stopping a man from cutting in line at a subway station, he and his family are targeted by a stalker. He teams up with journalist Asuka (Sawajiri Erika) to find the culprit, but discovers secrets about his family in the process.
Episodes watched: 2
Thoughts: Part family-themed, part mystery, and part corporate drama, I think Yokoso, Wagaya e has a little too many things brewing in its pot and they’re not all melding together. Unsurprisingly, the strongest part of the drama is the company corruption storyline with Kenta’s dad and Yamaguchi Sayaka. In fact, if this whole drama was just about these two trying to stop Chief Mase, I’d say it’s pretty decent. But we also have the rest of the Kurata family and their stories, which frankly, aren’t that interesting. Nana’s (Kasumi Arimura) ex-boyfriend is stalking her, but I don’t know anything about their relationship so I don’t really care and ditzy mom Keiko (Minami Kaho) is also being pursued by her pottery instructor, but there’s really not any tension there either.
There’s supposed to be a tense relationship between Kenta and his dad and I thought that maybe the stalker problem and the company problems would lead to some sort of interesting dynamic, but so far these two are traveling on opposite ends of the spectrum. Though maybe that’s the point, with both Kenta and his dad finally getting out of their comfort zones and standing up for themselves, but the stalker storyline is just too weak. There’s no significant motivation for the stalker, whoever it is, and the family isn’t really that shaken up about it. I expected for there to be at least be some relationship problems among the family, but so far, they’re all fairly normal. It’s too bad because I feel like Yokoso, Wagaya e has all the right ingredients and just really sloppy execution is holding it back from being engaging. At least make me care about these characters and why they’re being attacked. The only ones I care about so far is Kenta’s dad, Yamaguchi Sayaka, and to a certain extent, Kenta.
What it’s about: Young screenwriter Takeyama Jun (Okada Masaki) decides to go to Furano to get his mojo back, but gets stranded in a no-name town in Hokkaido during a snow storm. Unfortunately, Jun’s stay in Hokkaido becomes prolonged once he loses his phone and wallet at a restaurant. He starts working as a handyman with Batsu (Endo Kenichi), a 3-time divorcee that initially mistakes Jun for his long lost son, and Matsui (Suzuki Kosuke).
Episodes watched: 2
Thoughts: Watching the first episode of Fuben na Benriya, I did wonder if this was going to be one of those dramas that I would have to turn off my brain to enjoy. It’s so off-beat and weird like TV Tokyo dramas tend to be, but they usually manage to be somewhat introspective while Fuben na Benriya…is not. It’s nonsensical without being stupid with some on the nose writing, but it is fun, and with each episode only running about twenty-five minutes, I find it easy to watch. I do hope we get some more interactions between the three main characters; they were stuck together for most of episode one, but were doing their own things during episode two.
At first I thought Jun was going to play the straight man as he gets dragged around by the town’s residents in the first episode who keep calling him Batsu’s son, even though he’s not (but he might be?), and he just wants to find his stuff, but he gets really carried away in episode two leading to hilarious results. He does seem sort of puffed up on his own ego, I guess because of the initial success he had in his career, and he whines a lot since things never go his way, but since no one really pays attention to him, it’s funny more than annoying. Endo Kenichi was the serious cop all last year, first in Border and then in Kazokugari, so it’s refreshing to watch him play a stubborn character like Batsu. Matsui handles all of the benriya’s operations and basically keeps Batsu in check; surprisingly, he’s the the only level-headed person in the town. All the characters seem to have some type of secret past, which will probably be explored more as the series goes on, but Fuben na Benriya is never really serious, so I’ll take any clues the show throws at me with a grain of salt.
What it’s about: Divorced, jobless, and homeless, Kojima Haruta (Abe Sadao) is scraping at the bottom of the barrel when he meets Otake Shin (Fujiki Naohito) who lets him live in his house and gives him a job. As he gets back on his feet, Haruta swears to never fall in love again, which is of course when he meets Miyako (Mizuhara Kiko), a strong-willed woman that obsesses over a man once she falls in love with him. On top of that, Shin is dating Haruta’s ex-wife Shizuka (Yamaguchi Tomoko), who moves in with her boyfriend unaware that her former husband is living there as well.
Episodes watched: 3
Thoughts: Okada Yoshikazu is somewhat of an uneven writer; more often than not, he’s good (Beach Boys, Oyaji no Senaka, Saigo Kara Nibanme no Koi), but sometimes I get the feeling Fuji is forcing him to write something and we get stuff like Starman, so suffice to say, I was a little apprehensive about rom-com Kokoro ga Pokitto ne, and while it started off promising, it’s kind of slowed down. This mostly has to do with Miyako, whose loud, selfish character has begun to grate on my nerves because she’s like an overgrown child that always has to have everything her way and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon, but I like everyone else enough that I can ignore her most of the time. They’re all a little broken, from the worry-free, benevolent Shin to the OCD Shizuka, but Abe Sadao’s the real MVP as the emotionally insecure Haruta. In spite of wanting to live as far away from people as possible, just about everyone he knows is butting their nose into his life, from his co-workers to Miyako, and even Shin to a certain extent. Of course everyone’s told him that cutting himself off from people isn’t the answer to not returning to his old ways, but he needs to learn that himself and with all these people around him, it’s only a matter of time before he voluntarily steps out of his comfort zone. I think I’ll give Kokoro ga Pokitto ne another episode to see if it can pull itself out its rut and really dig into these characters, but my hopes aren’t high.