Posted in Commentary, Drama Series

Tokyo Tarareba Musume: first impression on episode 1~2

Marriage isn’t a new premise in dramaland. It is in fact an age-old, timeless theme that’s unlikely to die down no matter what. So, while it isn’t entirely correct to call it a trend, i notice there are more doramas centered around a heroine seeking a life partner for various reasons in recent seasons. And while never really big on this particular genre, i found myself drawn to it lately. I followed NigeHaji religiously last season to the point i’d watch the RAW episodes, and am currently watching two this season: Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu and Tokyo Tarareba Musume.

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Fortunately, they all offer different setup and plot that they hardly feel repetitive. NigeHaji was more of a contract marriage wherein both parties enter the agreement as an escape plan. Totsuzen Kekkon seems the opposite of that, with anti-marriage douche hero and dreams-to-be-a-full-time-housewife heroine. Tarareba‘s premise is in line with Totsuzen Kekkon‘s. Here, we have a 30-year-old heroine (or three) who’s desperately looking for a partner by the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. Age is one reason, but the quadrennial event is the more pressing reason: they can’t afford to stay single by then. The why has yet to click with me, but with the deadline in place, the urgency feels more palpable, especially since the girls women have been single for years.

That doesn’t mean the trio are desperately/actively throwing themselves at any guy to reach the goal this instant. If yes, they’d be all over the blond ikemen they bumped onto in the new year. They all have nice, likable personality, though they can get a bit loud when together. They are certainly not inexperienced either; they owe their singlehood to mistiming or missed opportunity. Likening love to a revolving sushi bar, the plate you pass might be taken by someone else. It’s thus futile to expect it to come back to you some day.

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Kamata Rinko (Yoshitaka Yuriko) turned down then-gawky Hayasaka Tetsuro (Suzuki Ryohei) eight years ago, only to see him transformed into a fine man and promoted into a producer while she remains a struggling screenwriter. When he asks her out for a nice meal in a fancy restaurant, she gets excited thinking he’s still nursing a crush after all these years… only to find out his intention is to consult her about his current crush, a much younger woman. Oh well, i suspected the whole invitation plus important talk was a red herring, but ain’t he a bit extravagant in his approach?

Yamakawa Kaori (Eikura Nana) left her street-musician boyfriend Sameshima Ryo (Hiraoka Yuta) after realizing love alone wasn’t enough to overcome everything. Ryo-chan does become a superstar years later, lights up upon seeing her and jumps to hug her, getting her hopes high thinking he’s waiting for his break break before returning to her… only to find out he is taken, obviously. Nevertheless, he attributes his success to her and invites her to a literal stroll down memory lane, capped off with a promise fulfillment which effectively leads her on.

The last woman in the trio is bespectacled Torii Koyuki (Oshima Yuko). If Rinko is a webdrama screenwriter and Kaori a manucurist, Koyuki helps run her father’s eatery. We have yet to learn more about her history with men or any backstory she has in the love department, including how long she’s been single, so hopefully Tarareba will focus on this aspect in episode 3.

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Rounding off the main cast is the aforementioned blondie who goes by KEY (Sakaguchi Kentaro). Most likely that’s a stage name, though he’s been referred to as “Kinpatsu” (Japanese for blond hair). The model runs into the trio in the eatery, and despite being bothered by their noise and what-if babbles, he continues to frequent the place. There’s something fishy about his presence around them. For one, they cross paths too often — probably because he also lives in the vicinity — but that he always looks back upon leaving suggests that their encounters aren’t entirely by chance.

After the dazzling first impression, however, he quickly gets on the girls’ bad side due to his scorn and cynicism. He definitely gives off a douche vibe, or in j-lingo, DoS tendency — or is it tsundere? Regardless, his snides are matter-of-fact and spot-on every time, adding insult to injury. It’s obvious there lies a tragic backstory behind his cold demeanor and scathing remarks though, so let’s if it’s good enough to up his likeability factor.

Judging by the current dynamics, it may take a few more episodes for sparks to fly between him and Rinko, so the development in the end of episode 2 was quite shocking. Sure, the no-longer-girls rue their singlehood and vow to be more proactive in partner-hunting, but does it mean it’s okay to sleep with a taken man or a man she barely knows or likes? Are they that desperate to welcome any advances only because they wish not regret the chance? Are they fine with any man as long as they won’t be alone by the time Tokyo Olympics rolls in?

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Tarareba has been quite reflective and relatable in addition to this plaintive undertone that i like… until that escalation. I definitely prefer things to not escalate that quickly, and like Rinko and Kaori, i don’t know where the story would go from here, which could go either way.

I’m checking this drama for the cast, all of whom i’m familiar with, and the performances don’t disappoint. What i like the most thus far is our what-if girls (okay, they’re technically women, but so what?). They look, feel, and act like real people, which i love. Sharing a tight friendship to have fun together but also to lean on for support, these girls easily show the funnest and best girlfriends in a j-dorama. I’m also enjoying the comic humor, dramatic CGs and all, not to mention the animated “tarareba” combi* and the many expressions they make as they prod Rinko or tear her down mercilessly.

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_
*) taken from “tara no shirako” (cod milt) and “reba” (liver). “Tarareba” in the drama’s title, however, means “what if”.

p.s.
the lines in this drama can be hitting home a bit too close at times that i’m considering another quotes collection post like that of Age of Youth. Expect it to be up by the end of series if i managed to compile enough of them 😉

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