So that’s how Tarareba ends: the exact way i hoped it would NOT go, going down the exact road i prayed it would NOT take. As if it’s mocking me.
Granted, i did wonder about the whole Rinko/Hayasaka coupleship, if it was possibly too soon a happy ending for the lead girl, cuz anything could happen in the remaining two episodes. But i decided to have faith in the drama for once — that at least one of the three girls would make the right decision and end up with a worthy guy — largely because it put me in an utter bliss. Who would have thought Tarareba would be cruel to snatch that long-awaited contentment away after only one and a half episodes? That’s the rudest awakening i’ve ever experienced in dramaland.
I wasn’t deluding myself into believing they were the perfect pair. Hayasaka has stayed in the background for most of the show’s run that him stepping up to the front and sweeping Rinko off her feet seems unthinkable, but he did it anyway. In the best way possible at that. In retrospect, this development could be the most natural friends-to-lovers progression, also the one that came full circle to the girls’ earliest rue about passing a plate on the revolving sushi bar thinking it would surely come back. Hayasaka was picked up along the way, but he’s also the one who returned.
Furthermore, it was Rinko who made a move on him first, found him cute (which appears to be quite a big statement when it comes to a potential significant other in J-dorama world) in many ways, and decided to not let him get away the second time. Spending time together brings comfort and joy to both parties, who deem this kind of ordinary relationship suit their age and dating style. And most importantly, it makes Rinko genuinely happy that Tarareba combi barely pop up before her since then, and when they do, it’s to point out how boring life is when she isn’t spouting what-if situations and thus the easy prey for their flak.
Everything is heading toward them riding off into the sunset that i didn’t expect the sailing ship to tank at a moment’s notice.
Well, i did have a bad feeling when the couple’s happy moments are intercut with KEY’s brooding. I also wondered what his purpose is if he weren’t the endgame. But as he commemorates the 7th death anniversary of his teacher-turned-wife and is told to end his ‘loyalty’ there and move with his life, i thought it’s probably for him to realize that he’s been stuck in the past and a what-if person himself, then to learn to let go. Boy was i so wrong. All he needs to do is gets wasted, drunk-blabs his true feelings behind his cynical and nosey nature toward the what-if stories the girls are discussing, and gets teary-eyed to shake Rinko heart.
“The truth is that I wanted to tell you guys: that life is too short to waste time like that; that if you keep doing that, someday you’ll regret it and just like that you’ll die regretting things. That’s why, the more I watched you guys getting all hyped with “what if” stories, the more annoyed I got. I was annoyed and jealous.”
To be fair, i wouldn’t blame her for prioritizing Kinpatsu during his rare fragile moment if she didn’t make it look like she chose him over Hayasaka by blatantly ignoring the latter’s calls to hug the former. That felt so wrong on so many levels. Worse, she ends up taking Kinpatsu home and merely spares her boyfriend a text, lying about the entire ituation. Ugh. For better or worse, words get out anyway, and the expressions on Hayasaka’s face were hard to watch. You can tell he’s doing his damnedest to be understanding and taking Rinko’s
excuses explanation at face value, which made his eventual resignation the more heartbreaking.
[Angel vs. Buddha? Heh]
This last-minute turn effectively led to the bitterest aftertaste i’ve sustained since School 2015. I’m not being salty just because my favorite guy doesn’t get the girl. I’ve had my fair share of boarding the wrong ship and getting my heart broken into pieces by the show’s end, but in most instances, i could see why the lead girl chose the lead guy, and why the second-lead was doomed. But in that high-school drama and this romcom, the final choice simply made no narrative sense.
In the beginning, it’s rather clear that Rinko/KEY was the endgame. He didn’t have the best personality, but i expected his cold attitude to thaw in the span of 10 episodes. Nope; he continued to get on my nerves thanks to his unchanging condescending bearing. Moreover, he offered to sleep with her then thrashed her the next day. He had all the time and chances to turn the tables, especially with his ubiquitous presence, but nothing happened. Their interaction simply ran in circles, and they never engaged in a confab that didn’t devolve into a squabble or end up in either of them leaving in a huff.
Sure, there were times she’s awed by his other side, the warmer one, still how come she’s swayed by a single sob story, or his confession of being jealous of them? How could she fall for a guy who only drags her down and never treats her nicely even once — not to mention the biggest hypocrite of all? He scoffed at Rinko’s reluctance to express her true feelings before knowing what the other person feels/says, when he’s exactly that kind of person. He is a man yet never takes the forward step with the girl he’s interested in. I won’t even call his behavior around Rinko and her two besties pigtail-pulling; it’s downright contempt.
Oh well, tarareba onna ends up with tarareba otoko ain’t that big of a surprise, i guess? If anything, i can’t imagine the kind of relationship they’ll build and thus don’t think it would last, if only for the fact that Rinko is the most wishy-washy and fickle heroine ever, who falls in and out of love easily. Besides, a man who answers a woman’s confession with “I may like you too” and leaves right after? Sorry, i can’t.
I’m not only frustrated with these two. The other two tarareba girls are no different. I cheered hard when Kaori finally — finally! — left Ryo-chan for good. That she doesn’t break it off cleanly — she simply deletes his contact info and pictures from her phone and believes he’ll get it — still receives a dramatic side-eye from me but at least she stands her ground when he drops by to check on her. She also goes on dates arranged by the matchmaking agency. I began to salute her determination… until Ryo-chan comes for another visit, this time to ask her out and date her properly since he’s broken up with his girlfriend and the other flings. Oh crap. I was afraid she would cave, but after a long pause, she rejects the tempting offer, saying he won’t change. I was ready to phew when she turns around and says she’ll reconsider it.
AAARRRGGGHHH, GIRL, WHYYY?!?!
What’s the point of your series-long struggles and eventual commitment to stay away from the good-for-nothing player if at the very end you fall right back into his arms!? I don’t even know which incensed me more — Rinko’s or Kaori’s final choice.
But let’s not forget there’s still Koyuki, the equally stubborn and opaque girl. Not only does she totally disregard her father’s plea for her to end things with Marui provided that she still wishes to marry down the line, regardless how slightly, but she also readily commits another grave sin by staying over at his place and blames the rain for her weak heart, then gets all uncomfortable seeing all the furniture which is likely the wife’s selections. WTF, Koyuki!? Not only did you just cross another forbidden line, but that’s also a new low for you. You too, Marui!
The moment Tara & Reba popped up before Kaori, i knew they would do the same to Koyuki. Neither was i surprised that they blast her the harshest, asking point-blank if she has no pride. Ouch. Which serves as the ultimate wake-up call for her to open her eyes at last. While i still cannot fathom her resolution to withdraw from the affair only now, when his second child is born, or her reasoning behind it (because he’s finally become a father) when it is his second child, i was happy she did it directly and firmly.
After spending 10 episodes watching these girls navigate their love lives, i could see why they’re still single past their 30s. It’s not because of their regular girls-night-out sessions. Their unwillingness to give single men a chance, their unwillingness to break free from unhealthy futureless relationships (with taken men) — it’s their dumb choices that hold them back. They know it’s a cul-de-sac yet refuse to turn back until they arrive at the dead-end.
I still can’t believe Kaori (and to a certain extent Koyuki) believes her man is an honest person, and actually likes that part about him, when he’s capable of cheating. Cheating means lying about his other flings to the ‘official’ partner he’s currently seeing, no? If anything, i was kinda glad these liaisons weren’t found out by people at large so they could move on with life relatively unscathed, cuz i bet the reveal would’ve been ugly.
It also took them forever to realize that fairy-tale love stories aren’t realistic, that men (alone) aren’t going to make them happy, that you can’t force your heart to love someone, that someone will not change that easily, that happiness of being the other woman is fleeting. Even then, i doubt they truly learned their lessons since their final decisions arguably didn’t reflect that. But at least they arrived at the right conclusion — that regardless of their marital status in three years’ time, they could still watch and enjoy Tokyo Olympics together.
“”What happiness is” is different for every person. There are as many answers as people. Happiness is something that you decide yourself.
We don’t know what the future holds. I’m sure that from now on, we will worry about a lot of things, and we will struggle with life. But that’s okay. Because, the heroine of the long long story called life is yourself.”
I was okay with the closing narration, though the same can’t be said about the finale. I couldn’t recall the last time i detested a finale as much as Tarareba‘s. I knew the ending wouldn’t be what i expected after episode 9’s twist, to the point i didn’t feel like watching 10. I was so bored throughout, waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the ending to roll in, for the drama to end already. They say last impression matters more, and this is the perfect example for why it’s so. I still liked the closing scene, but the bitter taste provided by the endgames was enough to completely wash away any fondness i have of the drama.
On the technical sides, i liked the directing, editing, and scoring. I had no major issues with the acting, either. Some were better than others, but everybody did okay. My favorite gotta be the Tara/Reba tandem. Their CGs were really good and their animated expressions were a blast to watch. Though until the end i still wonder what they really are: imaginary friends? An inner voice? A (guilty) conscience?
Verdict: Tarareba tells a series of what-if stories of three Tokyo women with what-could-have-been ending.
Director: Nagumo Seiichi, Suzuki Yuma, Komuro Naoko
Production: NTV, 2017
Cast: Yoshitaka Yuriko, Eikura Nana, Oshima Yuko, Sakaguchi Kentaro, Suzuki Ryohei, Hiraoka Yuta, Tanaka Kei, Kaneda Akio, Kato Ryo (as Tara) and Perfume’s A-chan (as Reba)
Genre: Romance, Comedy, J-dorama (10 Episodes)
Check out my quotes compilation from this drama here.