Taking time off not only throws my drama watching schedule off but also affects my enthusiasm in a way that sometimes the feels won’t be the same. This time, my little break was enough to kill my interest in the Korean dramas on my roster that i started looking for alternatives in the Japanese counterpart. Moonlight Drawn by Clouds was the only drama i resumed while the others were quite over-the-top that i craved for something (more) grounded, the quality doramaverse seems to have aplenty of. I’ve checked several Fall J-doramas and so far i’m enjoying Jimi ni Sugoi and naturally Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu.
(I hardly refer to J-doramas by their English titles, but decided to do it here as the original title is too long. I will however use its shortened name, NigeHaji, going forward.)
Premise-wise, NigeHaji is a contract marriage drama, which honestly isn’t a trope i’m a fan of. However, i was intrigued by the spin in the story, that the leads wed for business. Not in a merger kind but in employment kind. So, the ‘contract’ signifies an agreement between them as full-time employee and employer. Subsequently, this is the first contract marriage drama i’ve watched where both parties enter the union willingly — nobody feels forced, no side-eye made during contract signing — and the rules/conditions are impersonal, which is refreshing, to say the least.
How did it come to be? Simple — it’s through the basic principle of supply and demand.
Moriyama Mikuri (Aragaki Yui) is a 25-year-old who proudly claims to be old on the inside. Despite her postgraduate degree in psychology, she has trouble finding a full-time job and ends up a temporary staff doing admin work and things like washing her superior’s cup. Mikuri, however, manages to stay positive and fulfills any task dutifully. Even then, her contract isn’t extended while the other less capable temp colleague’s is.
Tsuzaki Hiramasa (Hoshino Gen) is a 36-year-old system engineer, a self-proclaimed “pro-bachelor”, whatever that means. He hires housekeeping service to clean his apartment weekly since he is too busy for chores, much less dating. Marriage is the furthest thing from his mind. The last agent he used breached his privacy and so he’s currently looking for another one.
This is where supply meets demand — Mikuri who’s good at cleaning is recommended by her father to fill the vacancy at Hiramasa’s place, which he OK’s.
Her meticulousness pleases him, so she continues to be the weekly housekeeper until another issue arises: her parents decide to move out of town following Dad’s retirement. Not willing to let go of the first employer who recognizes her work and appreciates her presence, Mikuri proposes that Hiramasa hires her full-time by means of contract marriage. That seems like an absurd idea, but an event crops up which propels him to reconsider her proposal, which after weighing the pros and cons appears to be a good idea after all.
The thing is, the plan may not be acceptable to others, so they agree to push it forward as a normal union, for which they have to convince respective families, and then act the part for their circle, about it. That’s what happened in the first two episodes. The second was more interesting the first, and i’m eager to know what’s next.
Albeit considered a rom-com, NigeHaji feels a lot more serious, probably because it employs dry humor than the slapstick kind — i did chuckle at some of them, so i guess it works? — also because the beginning serves a pretty cold social commentary on workforce, Mikuri’s sanguine disposition notwithstanding. Furthermore, both leads are straightforward, level-headed, no-nonsense individuals that those around them shall pull their weight to provide the lighter moments.
We get the usual upbeat parents and rather caricature coworkers, which i don’t mind for the most part although i began to dislike Hiramasa’s older colleague Numata-san (Furuta Arata). His nosiness can be a turn-off. There’s a line between curiosity and prying, and he crossed it in episode 2. But there’s also the good-looking fellow, Kazami (Otani Ryohei). He seeks a partner with merits and deems Mikuri fits the bill. Hmm, i can hear love triangle sizzling in the background. How will our herbivore male win against a womanizer??
I have yet to feel chemistry between the newlyweds although they have certainly built good rapport as employee-employer. I can’t see a need for them to tie the knot over that, since her role essentially is that of a live-in maid, but maybe domestic workers aren’t common in Japan? I can totally buy their rationales though, so no problem there.
What i’m most curious about is how the romance will take off since the interaction between Mikuri and Hiramasa are quite stiff and formal. (I bet they will continue to call each other by surnames if Yuri-chan (Mikuri’s maiden aunt, played by Ishida Yuriko) didn’t point that out.) They have also been careful to stay within the status quo that i wonder when the little sparks will fly. Turns out, it happens quicker than expected. Naturally, there’s a happening which forces them to sleep in the same room, but that’s not it — it’s through smelling the other’s lingering scent on the futon!* Hee. I love that NigeHaji manages to dodge the obvious trap yet reaches the intended effect through a twist like this. Keep it up, team!
(*if i were them, i would just change the linens instead of enduring a sleepless night, though. 😉)
Above all, the views presented around work and marriage deeply resonate with me. E.g. the feeling of being wanted and needed by company or society is what drives me to work every day; putting in our best efforts even when no one’s watching, even if no one will notice it, is something a professional will do — that’s the way i work, too; holding wedding ceremony isn’t exactly a must-have since it’s usually done for others, for prestige only, and the money is better spent elsewhere; and the role of a housewife is no joke. As per Hiramasa’s calculation, the number of unpaid working hours a housewife has adds up to three thousand hours a year! Mikuri may see it as a runaway plan from unemployment and endless job hunt, but housework is serious business!
Lastly, i’m completely digging the ending song. The upbeatness sort of offsets the drama’s dryness. The Koi dance performed at the closing sequence is adorable as well! Is Hoshino Gen that rigid or is he dancing as his character? 🙃