Aside from watching Itazura Na Kiss 2 early in the year, I’ve taken a fairly long hiatus from the J-drama world. After my Japanese tutor prescribed J-dramas for familiarity with the flow of the language, I happily obliged and went out on a hunt for new dramas. This is one that was recommended to me by a twitter follower. I think Ishihara Satomi is the cutest thing alive, so my interest was peaked. I was initially turned off, but it turned out to be a really cute and entertaining story!
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Starring: Ishihara Satomi as Sakuraba Junko and Yamashita Tomohisa as Hoshikawa Takane
Frequently Used Vocabulary:
- Otera (お寺) – Temple
- Eigo (英語) – English language
- Fuufu (夫婦) – Married Couple
- Bousan (坊さん) – Monk
- BL (ビーエル) – Boys’ Love
Synopsis: Sakuraba Junko dreams of living and working in New York, but for now she’ll have to settle for teaching advanced English at a language learning center in Japan. After an embarrassing incident with a monk at a temple funeral service, she must face him once again when they are set up on a matchmaking date by her parents. He declares his love and Junko must figure out how to get rid of this clingy monk and realize her true dream of moving to America.
Review: A glance at the synopsis will give you an idea of just how kooky this drama premise is and how over-the-top it can become. The leading man, Hoshikawa Takane, was a stalker and a monk! But if you’re a seasoned drama watcher like me, you’re no stranger to a wacky premise. It’s all about execution. And this drama gets it… partly right. The issue for me was getting past the first few episodes . It started out crazy and I found no justification or motives for the way the lead character was acting. He was doggedly and creepily persistent from the get go and while a leading lady’s rejection is not an oddity in the world of dramas, the story did not provide a sufficient motive as to why THIS girl was the one. Other actions the characters took during the course of the drama were baffling. There was one incident where a mistake that was made was so grave that I could not see myself supporting the main pairing, but in the end it was explained away by something that was completely avoidable. The way this pairing treated each other was frustrating.
It sounds like I hated this drama, doesn’t it? I couldn’t believe it myself, but I was able to ignore all of the pitfalls in the first few episodes and eventually fell in love with the main pairing. I don’t know if I should credit the character development or the actors, but I was shipping the main two against all odds. One of the main elements that kept me around was the theme of family. Takane’s way of expressing his love was to cherish everything and everyone that was special to the one he loved. The instant bond between Takane and Junko’s loud, but loving, family helped the relationship between the leads move along (and helped me tolerate all the rest of the disjointedness). I’ve also been turned off by manga elements in dramas before, but it worked for this drama! I loved all the crazy back-and-forth bantering between Junko and Takane or her parents, a type of dialogue that would only make sense in a manga but worked like magic on screen. Her friend Momoe’s BL obsession also made for hilarious, but manga-like, scenes.
Aside from some of the perplexing behavior of the leads, one major criticism I have is the pacing. The problem with a manga adaptation like this one is that you squeeze a story that took volumes to develop into about 8 hours of airtime. The plot was rushed. Perhaps I should be thankful that I was not left in agony for too long during any fall-outs due to misunderstandings, but everything was simply moving much too quickly and I believe this drama would’ve benefited from 2 more episodes. I was also not given enough information to fall for the supporting characters and their side-plots and I ultimately did not care. The BL lover’s obsession gave me quick laughs, but I wasn’t invested in her story or love life. I guess I’ll thank my drama stars that proper time was not given to develop the other love story between a HIGH SCHOOLER AND A GROWN CAREER WOMAN. But I digress.
Thinking back on the plot, it really was frustrating and riddled with holes, but I spent almost the entirety of the last 2 episodes in tears. I eventually gave in and let this drama take hold of me and give me a much needed escape.
What I learned about Japanese culture: I know so little about temple culture that while I’m sure those elements were exaggerated and/or filled with inaccuracies, I was given a bit of a primer and a starting point to do further research. The Hoshikawa temple was most likely what is referred to as a “檀家寺” (danka-dera), or a temple for supporters that provides religious services for ancestor and Buddha worship. I loved watching the temple prepare for big events and witnessing the rituals performed on routine days. The kimonos were stunning. And of course, I did not know that monks could get married! I would like to do more research on the chief priest position and the training it requires.
Recommend?: In conclusion, I recommend this drama to lovers of rom-com. If you’ve watched as many as I have, then you’re ready to handle the irrational actions of lead characters in love. The reward for sticking around through some of the crazy is the eventual pay off that is an adorable love story with a touching family element. It is the perfect guilty pleasure drama. I personally wouldn’t recommend this to someone as their first J-Drama or rom-com.
I will add that I began watching this drama as Japanese listening practice, but there is a surprising amount of English spoken. Even though I knew going in that Junko worked at an English school, I really didn’t think entire dialogues between Japanese characters would take place in English. So just a bit of a warning to those watching for the same purpose.
I’m eager to hear what you thought about this drama! Leave a comment.
For further reading on the monk/temple life: http://www.tofugu.com/2015/05/21/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-japanese-monk/