Playing Single – Double Trouble or Troublesome Triangle?

Coming from India, one tended to assume marriage was a popular and natural transition for adults. However, I soon found that, in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia, many young women prefer being single. In any case, Japan is tussling with its problem of low rates of reproduction, a consequence of this reluctance to tie the knot.

It must surely be with this preoccupation in mind that there is a set of Japanese dramas which address the desire to forgo marriage and to embrace being single. Some are pure fun and some have elaborate stories. As with all J doramas, the point is never anything as paltry as the ‘story’.

Dokushin Kizoku – A Swinging Single / Noble Bachelor – is a 2013 Japanese drama that revolves around the world of film production with reference mainly to scriptwriting. Two brothers vie for the love of a mousy bespectacled girl whose script brings her into their world.

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Dokushin Kizoku

Two men and one woman – a classic recipe for the traditional love triangle. Who will win the lady? The real ladies man or the dyed-in-wool bachelor with no wiles? The girl is guileless and struggles to make sense of all sorts of mixed signals from her two eligible bosses.

Mamoru Hoshino (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi) is the president and creative director of Kinema Etoile, a film production company founded by his late father. He is brilliant and has a keen sense for talent, but he is also peculiar when it comes to his personal daily habits. He has strong beliefs in being single and has no desire to get married as he likes to spend his personal time in a way that he chooses. On the other hand, Mamoru’s younger brother Susumu (Hideaki Ito) was previously married, but is currently going through harsh divorce proceedings. Unlike his older sibling, Susumu is outgoing and has good social skills. He loves women, but is not interested in long term relationships. Yuki Haruno (Keiko Kitagawa) has struggled with previous relationships and recently declined a marriage proposal. She has dreams of becoming a scriptwriter and believes that marriage will hinder her efforts in her pursuit of that dream. She is not against marriage though, as a matter of fact, she strongly believes in it.

DRAMA KING

Let’s take Mamoru first because I adored the role. Tsuyoshi Kusanagi has the typical fascinating face that marks an actor of quality in Japanese dramas and films. We have to bear in mind that the Japanese industry appears to favour actors over ‘stars’. Though they have their share of those too in ample proportions.

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Tsuyoshi Kusanagi

He has a perfect life – from food to shoes. Yes, he worships his and wipes them with champagne. This perfectionism is what makes him sensitive in his role as editor as well. In that sense, he is obvious to us as the appropriate love interest for Yuki. Yet, his ingrained protectiveness towards his bachelorhood makes him a clumsy wooer. And that is exactly what makes him so delicious in the romantic moments. Some have found him expressionless which is tragic – it’s the subtle passing of emotions across his face, in his eyes, that charms as does the inscrutable sky with its swiftly changing moods. All this also combines to make him the key player in the drama where humour is concerned – is it not always thus? The more serious the actor appears the funnier it is where the comic is required.

However, his brother is the more acceptably cooler of the two. We see how women come and go in his life. He’s also struggling through a mind bogglingly costly divorce. Yet he knows the moves and now his heart is involved. The girl is so unlike those he normally dates. Who in their right mind is going to turn down this handsome articulate hunk for his odd looking tongue tied brother?

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Hideaki Ito

And what about the object of their affections?

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Keiko Kitagawa

Keiko Kitagawa has handled the role well – she flows easily from dumpy nerd girl look to deadly chic and she plays romance, humour and heartbreak to perfection here.

What the reviews say:

I love the movie leitmotif for this series. They talk about movies all the time, and they use famous songs from classic movies for the BGM. Even without the sensitive lighting of certain scenes, the carefully heartbreaking lines, and the sheer talent Kitagawa Keiko showed throughout the show’s run, hearing Audrey Hepburn singing Moon River straight from Breakfast at Tiffany’s is enough to break one’s heart. At least I think it was straight from the movie.

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Contrary to its title, Dokushin Kizoku is not really about the swinging single life. Yes, it’s a love story that takes root during the course of a movie production but, in its own way, it’s also a circumspect tribute to cinematic endeavors in general. It has protagonists who are certified cinephiles who share a strong belief in film, not only as a form of artistic expression but also as a medium that captures the imagination and opens up worlds that would otherwise have been out of reach.

RUNDOWN ZOO

 

From the Title song

The Episode titles are cute: 

  1. Cinderella for a night! The royal bachelor falls in love!
  2. The end of the royal bachelor life!?
  3. The night you stole my heart
  4. The night I decided to never fall in love again
  5. Love comes alive… I will get married
  6. A tearful proposal
  7. The things I can do for her
  8. I can’t go back… The scar of heartbreak
  9. Goodbye… Everyone has a choice
  10. Love’s Conclusion

I hope you find a way to catch this drama – Hulu or Netflix might have it – for it is well made and engaging. As usual, for me, it’s a struggle to read the subtitles – I loathe dubbing – as there is so much going on in the background and each frame is simply divine.

My favourite scene is one in which Yuki and Mamoru are stuck in a hotel in adjacent rooms. They are each in a hot tub and looking out at the moonlit sky – simply heaven. Take me there at once!

Yes, Dokushin Kizoku, as do many other Japanese dramas, makes you want to get your hands on everything you see – the clothes, things in the background – and, most of all, to visit the locales.

 

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Scandal, a 2008 Japanese drama – A Real Treat!

I can’t tell you how many doramas I’ve tried and given up half way and that’s mainly because I am a very fidgety person. Scandal has kept us gripped till now – we’re at the 6th episode.

The drama opens with a woman tending to her family. The elegant Kyoka Suzuki as Takako Takayanagi will remind one of who she was in Dakara Koya where she played a very submissive housewife who breaks free. Yet in this drama she is full of facets and we can smile at her wiles.  Here, as the drama begins, she is shown as an excellent housewife and mother with a careless husband who is probably cheating on her and a teenage daughter with attitude. She is in her forties.

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Next comes Kyoko Hasegawa as Hitomi Kawai. This one is also a docile wife and mother of two little children. She is always up to her elbows in household chores. Her husband is not sympathetic.

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 And then there’s a flighty young thing, Kazue Fukiishi as Mayuko Samejima. Well, frankly, she seems to be enjoying the ideal life – pampered wife of a successful plastic  surgeon.

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 Last but not least is Kaori Momoi as Tamaki Shindo. She works as lawyer while her lawyer husband looks after the house. And they have a son who’s shut himself up in his room. So far we’ve not seen him. We have had a glimpse that suggests that his father calls him when mom is out and he emerges. Also, mom has a ritual of going to his door with his food and talking to him about her day.

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All these ladies have been invited to a wedding. Naho Toda, Risako Shiraishi, is somehow connected to all of them.

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All these women get together on the eve of the wedding and it appears that a ‘game’ has been suggested! Each lady has to find a male drinking companion for the evening.

Naturally, our first girl is scandalised. She walks off. Her attempt to accost a passerby for the purpose is a hilarious failure and she returns to the group.

The younger ones have each found a young man – a hairdresser for the mother and a banker for the flighty wife. The lawyer returns with a most unappetising specimen – a great actor, though! Fumiyo Kohinata as detective Ryutaro Katsushima.

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Normally, he acts as a very unassuming man but here he is very macho and this results in a delightful performance – he looks down on these women!

Anyway, soon we find that the bride to be has disappeared. Her groom to be seems distraught.

However, all is murky. Everyone has secrets. The 4 ladies all dislike each other. The respective husbands become grumpy with the nightly bonding sessions of their wives.

Ikki Sawamura as Hidenori Takayanagi, the husband of the first lady, has done justice to his role but to appreciate his art I would suggest Gisou no Fuufu.

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We suspect that he is having an affair and so does his wife. But it emerges that more’s the matter than meets the eye.

Ken Mitsuishi as Yuichi Kawai is a rather crotchety husband to his dreamy wife. He works in the finance ministry and worries that her involvement with this scandal will harm his reputation but doesn’t he have more to hide than she does?

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And then is my personal heartthrob! Kenichi Endo as the doting Kenji Samejima but then I’d suspect him the first with his Yakuza looks.

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The lawyer househusband is runner up as husband material but let’s not get fooled because he sports an apron!

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Full of intrigue, with a twist at every episode end, Scandal is a delightful series.

I can see that the DVD is available on Amazon.com:

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It’s really worth the watch.

Unexpected Faces Of Death In Japanese Films

What if Death was not a Bogeyman?

What if Death was a cute little girl?

A down on his luck Samurai, one day, drunkenly invokes the gods. Inebriated, he does not realise that he has called on the gods of misfortune!

After a roller coaster ride through the many and hilarious things that befall him the hero comes face to face with the worst of them all. A film to be enjoyed again and again and again.

Sadly, the above trailer is not subtitled but do try to get your hands on this film!

Japan seems to have evolved a concept of shinigamis. There are many dramas about these beings who help humans through the time of transition between life and death.

In this film where God is possibly a cute dog and the hero, a most adorable Shinigami, could it be that a human has finally found a way to outwit Death?

Watch Sweet Rain if only for the exquisite beauty of Takeshi Kaneshiro.

Among dramas, I’ve watched and enjoyed the following:

Loss:Time:Life

Ryusei Wagon

One such is actually ongoing and quite cute

Omukae desu

Please do find a way to watch these films and dramas and if you’ve seen any of them I’d love to discuss them with you.