To break it down: “jimi” means plain, “sugoi” means amazing, and “ni” is a particle. Simply put, “jimi ni sugoi” means simply amazing, though in this case, it means something along the line of “more amazing than expected” as explained in the first episode. So, does this drama live up to its name? Alas, for me it doesn’t.
If i were to connect it to the drama’s premise about proofreaders, the title suggests that it’s a seemingly plain but unexpectedly awesome job at the same time. That’s a fact that doesn’t require 10 episodes to figure out, though it seems to be more emphasized in the latter half. In fact, i got it only after the first few episodes that i was disappointed that we arrived at the same conclusion at the finale.
Jimi ni Sugoi is a workplace drama about the proofreading department of publishing company Keibonsha, which isn’t the niche Kono Etsuko (Ishihara Satomi) is eyeing for. Her sole career goal is to be an editor in its fashion magazine section, Lassy, that she keeps turning up for the yearly interview even if there’s no opening for her dream post. At her seventh try, her eye for detail impresses one of the interviewers, which successfully lands her a spot in the bleak basement office. The interviewer turns out to be proofreading’s department head who believes Etsuko’s a perfect fit for the team based on her name alone (if shortened, it becomes “koetsu” meaning “proofreading” in Japanese. Heh.) That this placement is news to her is utterly ridiculous (don’t they tell her what they’re hiring her for? Doesn’t she read the contract?) but she’s determined to use it as stepping stone to Lassy.
After being briefed on the drill and her responsibilities as a proofreader (to check for typos, correct word usage, clarity, and consistency, as well as to cross-check all necessary facts), she is assigned to scrutinize Hongo-sensei’s newest novel. It may be too big for a practice project, but she’s ready to give it her best shot, wanting to be acknowledged and thus transferred out to Lassy pronto. Frankly speaking, she needs not try hard to stand out; she already does, from her OOTDs alone, which earns her an OshaKawa moniker* — a combination of “oshare” (stylish) and “kawaisou” (pitiful), indicating the futileness of being overly chic given the job’s boring nature. However, it is of course nice to see her putting a lot of effort into not only her daily outfits but also her work. Fortunately, her hard work pays off immediately. Her thorough proofing impresses the seasoned author, and while her awfully probing fact checks may lead to unsolicited breach of privacy, everything ends well at the end of the day.
*) She has four in total. The other three: Koetsu, Konocchi, Ecchan.
The above paragraph(s) summarizes the first episode, which also serves as the fundamental plot to the entire series. You can play any episode at random and that’s what you’re gonna get. Employing the usual episodic format, JimiSugo gives us author-of-the-day to deal with. However, none of the stories interested me, and the lather-rinse-repeat trajectory only helped to kill my enthusiasm for the show faster. What i thought was fun at first soon became uneventful and eventually boring by halfway point. I hung on but the plot never picked up till the very end, that you could very well skip the middle episodes without missing out much.
What draws me to workplace dramas is the chance to get a glimpse into the profession or industry it’s portraying, no matter how dramatized or simplified it is. I expected JimiSugo to be as insightful and comprehensive as Juhan Shuttai!, but either the job scope is too small or it fails to pace properly, that’s all there is to it. It certainly has the potential to explore the workings further (e.g. differentiating between the first, second, and final revision), show other aspects of the job, or develop the side characters, but it chose to focus so much on Etsuko that the rest matters little.
For example, there are five other proofreaders in the team, but only humorless Fujiwa-san (Eguchi Noriko) and effeminate Yoneoka (Wada Masato) had proper roles and lines. Show did try to pass the baton to Fujiwa-san, Morio (Etsuko’s Lassy editor friend, played by Honda Tsubasa), Kaizuka (aka Tako the haughty literary editor, Aoki Munetaka), or even the Buchou (Kishitani Goro) for an episode, but it felt half-assed at best — Etsuko still dominated the screen even then. She’s also the one getting most of the attention, recognition, and appreciation from the authors she’s proofing that i felt bad for her colleagues, as if they weren’t (working hard or) good enough to receive one themselves. Not to mention the poorly developed loveline(s) to the point of nonexistence.
Honestly, i didn’t start JimiSugo for the romance, but given the super cliched first-bumps between Etsuko and Orihara Yukito (Suda Masaki) and how fast they were falling for each other, i somehow expected more to their relationship. But after going on multiple lowkey dates, blurted out confessions from both parties, and possible love triangle, the romance didn’t took off. It just never progressed. And at the end, they agreed to keep it platonic. Like, seriously!? It wasn’t disappointing per se — i enjoyed Etsuko/Tako’s scenes better — but not gonna lie, i felt cheated.
I don’t think Show has nice flow and coherence sequence either. It introduced potential conflicts, but let them solve themselves. Case in point: Yukito and his dad. There seemed to be serious rift between them that a mention of dad’s name was enough to sour the writer-turned-model’s mood. But there was nothing, really, that i was left wondering why the heck they lost contact for 20 freaking years, then. Or how Lassy could fire its first exclusive model just because of one missed photoshoot. The same goes for Morio. After being painted as someone with no interest in fashion, who’s unhappy and uninspired at work and stuck in an unhealthy relationship with a married man, she transformed into an uncharacteristically excited editor overnight due to one compliment.
That Etsuko is the magic fix to everything doesn’t sit well with me. That her way of work is the best and everyone needs to copy hers to ‘succeed’ is something i can’t get behind. She does bring color to the department, but it isn’t as if others hated their job before her arrival. Everyone has their pace and work style (e.g. Yoneoka and his mock-up houses) that it contradicts itself by making everybody take off-site trips and field surveys like Etsuko at the end. I don’t mind her inspiring Yukito to write about invisible support workers like her, though. It’s great and moving, especially since it touches on the fundamentals of those professions, that i wish JimiSugo didn’t wait until the penultimate episode for that.
My biggest issue probably stems from Etsuko’s characterization itself. Her spirited, assertive, and plain-spoken nature may make her a refreshing character to watch, but i’d most likely hate to have a colleague like her in real life. Proofing requires high level of concentration, and her loudness and strings of complaints would definitely come off as annoying and distracting. It’s funny that she dissed her colleagues for the things she’s been doing herself. I also didn’t appreciate the rude or disrespectful way she talked to the writers while pointing out their ‘mistakes’ — she even dared to ‘correct’ the titles! She oversteps her role over and over again yet never learns her lessons. She missed a glaring typo on a book’s cover once, but it’s a mistake on a fashion brand’s text style that sent her into depression.
Lastly, her grand plan to transfer to Lassy. It’s been her long-time dream, so i can’t fault her for keep asking Buchou for an opening, though i hoped she’s grown affection for proofreading along the way to stay. Thus, when the opportunity finally came, i expected her to make a career-defining decision, and was utterly disappointed when she let it pass just like that. Granted, there’s an urgent issue surrounding Hongo-sensei’s plagiarism, but i knew it wasn’t that dire or hard to crack. It took the team several days to figure out when the papers were copied, but she still had enough time to prepare the presentation. She could turn down Tako’s call to tail Hongo-sensei. She could present Morio’s idea as hers till the end. There were ways it could work, yet she sabotaged her own dream.
My list of huh moments goes on, but i’ll stop here.
Nevertheless, i still marvel at the great lengths proofreaders in this drama go to check the scripts, sometimes unnecessarily so. How much time (and money) they spend on a galley if they research and confirm the data by experiencing them themselves? Why are proofreaders the ones responsible for cross-checking the facts for the writers? If proofreaders are doing all the work, i wonder what do editors do (besides looking down on and taking credit for the former’s work)?
Director: Sato Toya
Production: NTV, 2016
Cast: Ishihara Satomi, Suda Masaki, Aoki Munetaka, Honda Tsubasa, Eguchi Noriko, Kishitani Goro
Genre: Workplace, Comedy, J-dorama (10 Episodes)