Series Review: Tokyo Tarareba Musume (NTV)

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(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.

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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.

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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.

Self-Care Friday (Week 8)

You’ll notice that I haven’t listened to a lot of music this week. That isn’t strictly true, most of my music has been from my YouTube Watch Later playlist. If you’re not a regular YT user (I am and ever since I subscribed to Google Music, I use it even more — it comes with YT Red, which means no commercials) you may not know what it is. When you’re logged into your Google account and go to YT, as you browse videos you’ll see something in the upper right corner of the thumbnail that looks like a clock. That’s the add to watch later button. You click that and then you can save it for later. I have been doing that a lot and I had a ton of videos in there. But in preparation for hanging out with N this weekend, I wanted to clear them out so it’s just filled of English subbed videos. That meant most of the stuff I listened to (still kpop, of course) was on YT and not Spotify or Google Music.

Anyway, onto the fun stuff.

What I’ve Been Reading:

No new read harder books this week, maybe something next week, we’ll see. I’ll hopefully be reviewing the Jack Cheng book at some point.

Completed:

  • See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
  • Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels, book 8)
  • Black Panther: a Nation Under Our Feet. Book Two by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday vol 10 by Fumi Yoshinaga

Currently 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
  • Chimes At Midnight by Seanan McGuire (audio book: October Daye, Book 7)
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday vol 11 by Fumi Yoshinaga

What I’m Watching:

Completed:

I’m hoping to write up a review of TTM sometime soon, too.

  • Tokyo Tarareba Musume (Japanese drama)
  • Flash Point (HK film)
  • Brigadoon (1954)
  • The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years (documentary)
  • The Three Musketeers (1973)
  • Logan’s Run (1976)

Currently:

  • Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu (Japanese drama)
  • Oh My Ghost (kdrama)

What I’m listening to:

Mostly a bunch of new groups. I can’t help it. It’s one of the best things about kpop, they’re the gift that keeps on giving. On Spotify, though, just two different kpop groups (one new, one not) and a great jazz musician.

Joey Alexander – Countdown

Seven O’Clock – Butterfly Effect

Monsta X – The Clan pt. 2.5 [Beautiful]

And a picture. Monsta X (above) is going to make their Japanese debut soon and their Japanese company has been releasing photos. Have one of my favorite member of Monsta X, Kihyun. I’ve shared him a lot, but he is my favorite, after all!

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Yoo Kihyun of Monsta X

Self-Care Friday (Week 1)

Since the election, and then especially since the inauguration, I’ve read a bunch of articles, tweets, and tumblr posts about the importance of self-care. As someone who tends to get obsessed with things (think: kpop, sports), the constant news cycle has really taken it’s toll. It turns out that I’m not the only person who is suffering from this — especially since every day it seems like some new horror has been thrown upon the United States.

If you google “self-care election” you find a slew of articles, including this Wired article, published 2 days after the election. They all discuss how important it is to take time to make sure we’re okay even as we worry about the US and all it’s (my/our) people. This is something that I’ve tried to do myself and it’s hard. So hard, in fact, that I’ve made use of one of my daily tasks on Habitica as a way to reminding myself to stop and take care of me.

I’m going to try to spend a few minutes, each Friday, talking about some of the stuff I’ve done, even if it’s just what I’m reading and what music I’ve been listening to. I hope this helps people remember that you can fight for what’s right but also try to enjoy life a little, too. You’re (I’m) no good to anyone if you’re (I’m) stuck in that low point. Don’t give up the panic and the fear and the protesting and donation of time and money. But take a moment or two to breathe.

Here’s what I’ve been doing this week.

I finished my first book for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge:

Read a travel memoir: The Places In Between by Rory Stewart

I finished a book outside of the challenge:

  • Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels series)

I’m reading these books:

  • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book)
  • A Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino (Detective Galileo)

What I’m watching:

  • Exiled (movie)
  • Voice (Korean drama)
  • Squad 38 (Korean drama)
  • Kaitou Tantei Yamaneko (Japanese drama)
  • I Am Not Your Negro (documentary)
  • John Wick Ch. 2 (film)

Music I’ve been listening to:

  • BTOB – New Men
  • Seventeen – Going Seventeen
  • CLC – Crystyle
  • Fiestar
  • Block B
  • Taemin