The Queen of Asian Drama is Back with more Irreverent Reviews and Snarky Commentary.

Friday, October 09, 2009

アラウンド40 / Around 40

注文の多いオンナたち / Chumon no Oi Onna-tachi / Demanding Women



A 2008 TBS broadcast from Japan that aired between April 11 and June 20 and starred Fujiki Naohito as Okamura Keitaro, a mid-thirties psychologist, and Amami Yuki as Ogata Satoko, a psychiatrist on the verge of turning 40.

This was another offering, and again, with flawless subtitles. Normally, I read the posts before I watch a movie or drama there, and a majority of the time, I agree with what people had to say, good or bad, about the show.

This time, it got mixed reviews, but most people said the ending was too predictable, and I have to agree. It's never fun to sit through things this long only to have it not end the way that you would hope.


That is no reason not to watch Around 40, because it was another of Japan's finer moments, IMHO.

The story is mainly about the trials and tribulations associated with Japanese women going through what might mildly be deemed as a 'mid-life crisis', but in this case, that would be getting married and having a child before it's too late.

Satoko's friend, Takeuchi Mizue (Matsushita Yuki) had a mid-life crisis, being married and with a teenage son, thinking that life was swiftly passing her by and that once the boy was gone, she would have nothing.

Her other friend, Morimura Nao (Otsuka Nene) didn't, necessarily suffer because of her age, but because of her inability to let go of the past.

Satoko, though, wasn't suffering anything more than the constant nagging of her relatives & friends - always curious to know when and if she intends to get hitched, and if so, to whom and how soon?

Satoko had it together, enjoyed her job, and had no trouble being single, much less worrying about it. She lived in a nice apartment surrounded by nice things, and she frequently treated herself to relaxing nights at a local Hot Springs resort to unwind. She was particularly fond of a certain comedian, and she didn't mind attending his live performances by herself. She may have been stuck in a routine, but it wasn't a routine that affected her mentally or even started to drag her down.

The only reason she decided to visit a marriage service is because she got the feeling her father might be upset about dying before she gave him a grandchild (even though her younger brother was married, had a little girl, and lived happily together with his father, his wife, and their child).

It was hinted at a few times that because Satoko tended to frequent her father's home for evening meals, then it was presumed to be her subconscious desire to have a family of her own - when in reality, she was simply tired of eating fast food and wanted home-cooking instead.

But, then our darling and quite clueless Okamura arrives on the scene to turn Satoko's world upside down by helping to further encourage her friends & family to grind into her pretty head that she isn't getting any younger.

After coming from Yako no Kaidan, it was hard for me to wrap my head around Fujiki's character in this one. He dressed down (actually, he wore the same outfit day after day after day until I thought I would go nuts), he smiled a ton, and he had an aire of confidence about him entirely unlike his character in Yako. He was also a clean freak and a tree-hugger, annoying everyone in the hospital with his demands that they unplug unused appliances, sort their recycling properly, and bring their own set of chopsticks to restaurants. He even claims to be in bed by 10:30pm each night in order to cut down on electricity after dark.

"It's not being stingy!  It's being ecological!"

It was refreshing, too, when the antagonists SOON became friends and then lovers - instead of spending 9 out of the 11 episodes total fighting like cats & dogs.

However, the ubiquitous twist came when Satoko's ex-lover returned out of the blue, and though it pissed her off at first, Satoko falls back in love with the man who said he had to 'step out'' for a minute, only to end up in Afghanistan for more than five years.

He's a photographer named Kanasugi Kazuya (Kato Masaya), and naturally, he went through something traumatic in that part of the world, so when he told Satoko he would never, again take up photography, red flags began to wave inside everyone's head except for Satoko's!

Okamura has a natural talent for getting psychologically unstable people to open up, and since he was one of the first to spot something wrong with Kazuya, he invited the man to meet with him at a nearby park, to 'talk'. Eventually, he gets Kazuya to spill his guts, and when he's not suffering internally anymore, he knows he has no intention of giving up on his career as a photographer.

Satoko's friend, Morimura Nao, is pursued from the start by this guy:

Maruyama Tomomi as Shinjo Takafumi

Guys like him really piss me off, hiding their true intentions while lying, cheating, and shafting an innocent woman until she gives in, thinking he truly loves her - only to discover his true character AFTER she's said 'I Do'. Probably because I was once married to a guy with that mentality, it rubs me the wrong way when I see it portrayed on the big screen, I don't know. Shinjo doggedly pursued Nao, and she kept blowing him off, but then something happened at work, so she went to Shinjo for comfort and the next thing you know, - 'we're married!'

That falls apart rather quickly when she finds out about him, her true worth at the office, and so on. At least she has a guy looking out for her (something rather common in the dramas yet not, quite so in real life, I think).

Tsutsui Michitaka as Ohashi Sadao

Sadao is an outstanding chef in a restaurant I wouldn't mind dining at on occasion, and yet he rarely has any customers aside from his good friends (the girls). They frequently meet at his 'raunt, eating his delicious food while talking (actually, they do a lot more arguing) about their lives. Sadao is mild-mannered, civil, and quiet - but the more he hears about Nao's loveless marriage, the angrier he becomes, until he decides to confront her husband at his office.

totally cool office

アラウンド40 is a good story - and I highly recommend it.

Now for the imagery:

awesome apartment

gorgeous apple blossom shot



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