Series Review: Tokyo Tarareba Musume (NTV)

tokyo-tarareba-musume-tokyo-daydreamer-girltokyo-what-if-woman

(L-R) Tetsuro Hayasaka, Kaori Yamakawa, Rinko Kamata, Koyuki Torii, and Key

I don’t know that I’ve ever reviewed a Japanese drama on here (I just checked, I haven’t), that’s not to say that I don’t watch them, because I occasionally do. I used to watch them a lot more, but haven’t recently. This is for a number of reasons, the primary few being jdramas have a lot of overacting and I usually only want to watch a certain few actors (Hiroshi Tamaki, Kazuki Kitamura, and Takeru Satoh) but I have a friend who loves jdramas and I’ve started watching stuff that she recommends to me. Tokyo Tarareba Musume (Tokyo ‘What If’ Girls) was one of those and man, I’m so glad I watched it!

 Tokyo Tarareba Musume (henceforth known as TTM) is based on a manga of the same name and is the story of three women (Rinko, Kaori, and Koyuki) in their early 30s. Here’s a brief summary:

30-year-old Rinko Kamata works as an unpopular screenwriter. She doesn’t have a boyfriend, but she has two female friends Kaori and Koyuki. They meet regularly at a bar. There, they complain about their situations and go through what if scenarios. One day, Rinko Kamata decides to go for happiness at love and work.

That is sort of right, but the show is actually more about growing up than anything else. The “What If” girls of the English title basically mean girls (women) who daydream “what if such and such happened” which, to be honest, is something we’ve all done (myself included). It’s one of the things that makes this drama so good and relatable.

When I started watching TTM, though, I wasn’t convinced I was going to like it. I tend to like more serious dramas, ones without a lot of romance and TTM seemed like it was going to be lighthearted and have a ton of romance. In spite of myself, though, I found myself looking forward to each new episode and enjoying it quite a bit.

Rinko, as we know, is a screenwriter. Her best friends Kaori owns her own nail salon and Koyuki works in her dad’s bar/restaurant. Rinko, Kaori and Koyuki hang out at Koyuki’s restaurant and much of the show takes place there. In many ways, these three women reminded me of my friends. We don’t necessarily drink a lot, but we always have these conversations about love and life and work.

At the heart of the drama, though, are the three friends and their quest for husbands. It sounds silly, but it’s not. Rinko falls for a cute model/actor (Key) but also dates a movie-obsessed man as well as Hayasaka (one of her editors, though not when they’re dating) who she has a history with. Kaori tries to do match making/online dating, but keeps coming back to her ex-boyfriend, Ryo, who is now a famous rock star with a model girlfriend. And Koyuki ends up having an affair with a married man. These are all real stories — dating people you don’t fit with, being the other woman, dating your exes. They all felt far more real than expected.

tokyo-m-ep1

Rinko, Kaori, Koyuki, and, of course, Key

There are two things, though, that tie this drama together. The first are the three woman. Their friendship is the heart and soul of the drama and there are so many moments when you feel that and when I see, as I said above, myself and my friends in them. The second thing is Key. He has his own tragic backstory (which I won’t spoil in case any of you want to watch it) which explains his rather rude behavior to the women. He shows up in the restaurant during one of their girl’s nights out and proclaims that Rinko is a “What If” woman and sort of goes off on her.

While his delivery is bad and I don’t necessarily forgive him for the way he says it, he always has good points. But what makes it okay in the end is how Rinko, who does fall very much in love with him, stands up to him. Key tells her to grow up, to stop hanging out with her friends and she confronts him. In what is probably my favorite scene, Rinko tells Key that he’s wrong. That she’s been friends with Kaori and Koyuki through so much — that even when things are terrible, they’ve been there for her and if they weren’t around, things would be that much worse for her.

This was probably the moment when I most saw myself in the drama. My friend H and I have hung out on Wednesdays since 2011 and hung out even before that semi-regularly. There were days, back before we both had full times jobs and were working two jobs (sometimes in one day), when the only thing getting us through the week was the fact that we were hanging out. I know what it’s like to have friends that make your otherwise shitty life that much better and brighter. I looked at Rinko and I understood her.

tumblr_ojgzcaLs931sj2b9to1_500

Koyuki, Kaori, and Rinko

Of course, things sort of work out in the end, but TTM isn’t a true romance. There’s no weddings at the end, no one is completely happy and that’s the message of the drama. Rinko comes to realize, and us with her, that what makes her happy isn’t having a boyfriend, a relationship, getting married. It’s not one thing that makes her happy. Instead, the fact that she’s happy — that’s happiness. It doesn’t matter if it’s because she’s dating someone or eating great food or just hanging out with her friends. Being happy is happiness and it was nice to see that in a TV show.

It takes 10 episodes to get to that point and the journey is completely worth it. I loved TTM and I cannot recommend it enough. If you’re interested in watching it, let me know and I can point you to the videos.

Advertisements

Self-Care Friday (Week 7)

I finished another kdrama this week! My friend N and I, who saw SHINee together on Sunday, finished Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo on Sunday (before our concert, actually). It premiered back in August of last year and took us until now to finish it. It was 20 episodes and I plan to write up a review for next week. Suffice to say, we both enjoyed it for the most part.

I did not watch any new movies this week, alas. I was too busy with other things (like traveling!) but my dad is coming to visit me this weekend and I have a bunch of movies (including a musical) to watch. Anyway, onto the good stuff.

What I’ve Been Reading:

Reader Harder:

  • Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  • Read a classic by an author of color: Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Completed:

  • Black Panther: a Nation Under Our Feet. Book One by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
  • Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire (audio book: October Daye, Book 6)
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday volume 9 by Fumi Yoshinaga

Reading:

  • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book – on hold)
  • Chapelwood: the Borden dispatches by Cherie Priest
  • Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino
  • Black Panther: a Nation Under Our Feet. Book Two by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
  • Chimes At Midnight by Seanan McGuire (audio book: October Daye, Book 7)
  • See You In The Cosmos by Jack Cheng

What I’m Watching:

I haven’t started any new kdramas yet, but that’ll happen soon. Next week some time, I’m sure. I will also include the movies I watch in next week’s update.

Completed:

  • Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (kdrama)

Currently:

  • Tokyo Tarareba Musume (Japanese drama)
  • Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu (Japanese drama)

Upcoming:

  • Oh My Ghost (kdrama)
  • Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (kdrama)

What I’m Listening To:

I’m going to try a bit of a different format this time, so bare with me (similar, but also different).

SHINee of course! I saw them on Sunday night and it was fantastic! I feel very lucky to have seen them live. It was so good. Hopefully they’ll release a DVD and album of our concert, or at least one of the North American ones. Anyway, to listen to SHINee now, check your favorite streaming sites or go to Spotify:

Next up: BLANC7 as usual! I can’t get enough of them. Listen on Google Play.

And last up, one of my most favorite groups EVER: Monsta X! First of all, check out the music video for their new song, Beautiful (off of their new album, more about that below):

I love them a lot, y’all! Anyway, you can listen to their new song on Google Play or on Spotify and I cannot recommend it enough! Their new album is by far and away the best of their releases (and their stuff is pretty good all around). It’s 10 songs (!!!) and it makes me so happy. I’m really excited about this album and I hope they do well. I also hope they come to the US, because they’re one of the few groups that I want to see and haven’t yet seen. Please, Starship!

Anyway, give it a listen on Spotify (since it’s not embedding right now).

And, lastly, a photo to get you through the day. I went to the SHINee concert with Taemin as my favorite, but left with the guy below as my favorite. What are you going to do? It happens. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

tumblr_on4pejFSEK1sznxh3o1_1280

Choi Minho in Toronto (3/19/2017) (c) FATAL (sources: here and here)

Falling in Love with Robots

Notes: There are spoilers for basically everything I mention in here, but if you haven’t watched Big Hero 6, you may want to skip that section, which is toward the end.

In college, we had to do a big senior thesis project and I did mine on what it means to be human — if you’re not actually human. Among other media, I wrote about Blade Runner and Marge Piercy’s novel, He She & It and in both of those novels, there are characters who fall in love with robots (androids/etc) and I find this to be endlessly interesting. I’m not exactly sure why, but I seem drawn to this theme. I’ve written a couple of short stories along these themes and somehow end up reading/watching shows with this same theme.

A year or so (maybe more?) ago I watched a good (though not great) Japanese drama called Q10. Takeru Sato plays a teenager who falls in love with a robot-girl named Q10. I actually really loved the show up until the end (which was really dumb, but if you want to watch it, I recommend the show). I like the idea that in spite of the fact that Q10 isn’t actually human (as in flesh and blood), Takeru Sato’s character still falls in love with her. The same applies to the main character of He She & It (which everyone should read). The novel takes place in a far flung future where Shira falls in love with an android named Yod. But, like most of these stories, the love cannot ever really be. This is also true for Deckard in Blade Runner (the movie — the novel is a different issue).

Loving robots is never easy or acceptable — unless the universe you create makes it so. The friend who recommended Death Note to me also recommended a lovely manga series named Chobits which is about a young man who falls in love with Chi, an android. I really loved this series, so I’m not sure if my review can be unbiased (though is it supposed to be?) because I think that as soon as I knew what the story was about, I was going to like it. While Chobits is about more than just Hideki and Chi’s friendship and eventual relationship, it’s really central to the storyline. Like He She & It, there are two stories within the manga. In Piercy’s novel, Shira’s grandmother  (one of Yod’s creator) is telling Yod the story of the golem of the Warsaw ghetto as a parallel to his existence in Shira’s world. In Chobits, one of Chi’s creators is telling Chi’s story to her in the guise of a children’s book.

I find these parallels compelling for two reasons, one because creators take an interest in their creation — you see this in Blade Runner and, a little bit, at the end of Q10 (when you find out why the robot exists). But also because it gives the androids history and background, perhaps not of their creation, but a history that they can relate to. Yod’s not made of mud and Chi cannot remember her life before Hideki found her, but the stories they’re told define them all the same.

But as much as I love these stories about humans falling in love with robots/androids, it does ruin me for other things. For example, a few weeks ago I watched Big Hero 6 and when I should’ve loved it, I didn’t like it at all. There’s nothing wrong with the movie, not really, but instead I disliked the way the movie treated Baymax at the end of the movie. One of the things talked about in Chobits is the idea that the androids in that world can be reset and there’s character who fell in love with an android and she basically dies. Her husband (they were married), instead of having her reset, decides to treat her like you would a human and allows her to die without coming back. He doesn’t care that she could, in theory, have had all of their shared memories because he’d know she wasn’t the same. Hideki, toward the end of the series, has to decide if he really loves Chi and he has this same through process.

How does this relate to Big Hero 6i? Well, at the end of the movie Baymax sacrifices himself to save people’s live, including our main character, Hiro. It was clear that Hiro loved Baymax (who belonged to Hiro’s late, beloved brother) as if he was a real person (as far as a cartoon aimed at kids can go with that theme) and so when Baymax died, I was really, really upset. Even though I knew he probably wasn’t going to stay dead — and he doesn’t. In fact, we see that he passes along his chip full of memories to Hiro so that he doesn’t even die at all. Except to me, I felt cheated. You killed off this character who was an important character and who had developed into something of a person. Why kill him off at all? I know that I read too much into it and I shouldn’t care, but it’s hard not to when there’s this whole genre out there that I adore so much.

That being said, Big Hero 6 isn’t bad and everyone should watch it. I just hated it for very personal reasons.

And, with that, I’ll take any recommendations for people falling in love with robots/androids novels! And maybe one day I’ll finish reading David Levy’s book Love + Sex with Robots.