Tokyo Tarareba Musume is a 10 episodes japanese drama, that aired on NTV, in 2017. It stars Yoshitaka Yuriko, Eikura Nana (watch N no Tame Ni), Oshima Yuko, Sakaguchi Kentaro, Suzuki Ryohei, Hiraoka Yuta, and others. It tells the story of three 30 year-old single women that spend a lot of time drinking and wondering “what if”. “What if I’d gone out with that guy ?” “What if we hadn’t broken up ?” “What if this one is the one ?”. It’s mostly about guys. Because 30 and not married, in Japan = not good, for a woman, apparently. One night, a young man gets angry at them for being “Tarareba onna”, or “What if women”, and it seems so really shake them.
After watching Kounodori, I was in the mood for more Puppy, aka Sakaguchi Kentaro.
Let’s call him Sakappy, shall we ? Yes, let’s.
So: I was in the mood for more Sakappy, and Tokyo Tarareba Musume happens to include a BLEACH HAIRED Sakappy !! *enthusiasm levels going up* Also, I’m slowly trying to watch the 2017 dramas I missed in the first half of the year, and I recalled Ara talking about this one. She’d seemed to enjoy it, so since she’s my Sakappy guru *bows* now, I decided to just go for it. Especially since I really like the rest of this cast, have a weakness for female friendships in fiction (and in real life too… friendship is magic people, and you know it’s true, because My Little Pony said so) and I thought Odagiri Joe was in this. Spoiler: he isn’t. But I still liked the drama. Mostly. I won’t lie: I did feel it got a little draggy at times, and I wasn’t 100% happy about the ending either. That said, there is something I 100% approve of in this ending: 1/ there’s a nice monologue about how there are as many ways to find happiness as there are different people in the world 2/ it leaves us on a shot of the REAL OTP of the show, the three friends (so One True Trio, really), Rinko, Kaori and Koyuki, who not only are the real strength and main interest of the show, but are only that when together. I don’t think they would work separately, neither as people or likeable characters.
See, the things is, a lot of the time, I really couldn’t support their choices and actions. Which is fine, I don’t need to agree with a character’s actions, as long as those actions make sense for this character (which they mostly did, here) and are interesting to watch (which they were, at least 70% of the time), but if a drama asks me to root for the happiness of characters, well I do need to want to root for them.
OK, so, Rinko, Kaori and Koyuki are freaking out. They’re not getting any younger (although the drama made them younger than they were in the manga… what’s up with that ?), and clearly this is NOT a good thing, because they’re in their thirties now, and they’re single, which (according to their society) is a huge thing, and not a good one. Problem being that the older they get, the harder it is to find someone, because, as they once again find out in a goukon: young women are the most desirable. So it gets harder and harder, they’re freaking out, and getting lost in regrets and what ifs, feeling the loneliness and the ever growing pressure to GET!MARRIED!ALREADY!DAMN!IT! Thing is, that kind of pressure rarely helps making good decisions, and yep, they end up doing stupid things because they don’t want to be alone. When, really, they don’t even have a clear goal in mind, because they’re kinda aiming for marriage, but not really, it’s just that they’re supposed to, and really, none of them have a clear picture of what marriage actually is, and why they should get to that. In episode 6, they start to really wonder about this, as Koyuki starts to think maybe she could be happy without getting married (answer being yes, as again: different people = different happiness, and I did like that theme of the drama). Marriage is just this thing people told them will make them happy, and if they don’t get married, they’ll be looked down upon, but that’s all they know.
– I wonder what marriage is.
– I don’t know. I have never done it before.
– You’re right..
– When we get married we get blessings from everyone… When we are adult enough but haven’t gotten married, people see us pathetically. That’s the only thing I know.
Pressure to reach a goal you don’t even understand = not good. And a lot of the drama is them trying to get there, but also trying to find comfort in whatever ways they can, to ease the loneliness, by dating people they… probably shouldn’t be dating. We’re talking affairs. Two of them, at some point, end up in relationships with guys that are married/have a girlfriend. To be honest, although I know some of my friends are immediately turned off by “affair stories”, it’s not my case. But here, yes, it did make the characters look bad/selfish a lot. Because they’re not considering the women that are being cheated on. No, they’re instead wondering “is it okay to be the second woman ? can I do this ?”, while I’m going “sure, but what about the first woman ?” in my mind. At some point, one of the characters also declares that her mom shouldn’t have left her dad “just” for a one-time affair, and I facepalmed a little. As I said, I can get emotionally invested in a fictional affair, and I don’t need characters to be likeable either, but they are supposed to be likeable in Tokyo Tarareba Musume, and it’s kinda hard at times, when they’re shown lacking empathy for the victims of their actions. There’s a clash between what the drama wants me to feel, and what I feel, which is the issue. At times, I wanted to be like Keynpatsu and just scream at them.
(Note: Keynpatsu is Sakappy’s character. He’s actually called Key, but the female characters mostly call him “Kinpatsu” (kinpatsu = blonde), and calling him Key feels weird to me, because SHINee, so Keynpatsu it is.)
Ok, so I wasn’t 100% behind them at all, at least not all the time. But they did have each other’s back 99% of the time, and that’s what made me like them. That’s why I say they can only be likeable characters (well, at least two of them…) together: they’re redeemed by their friendship (and so I did like them, mostly). Their individual decisions might suck at times (or most of the time), but the decision to always stick together (despite disagreeing with the others’ actions at times, and voicing that opinion) was the best thing about this show. Which is why I liked that the drama ended on them, and why it was SO satisfying seeing Rinko (in episode 4) stand up for “girls night”, and telling Keynpatsu that no, her friends are not holding her back but helping her stand. Go, go Rinko ! You tell that smug puppy !
So, yes friendship = good.
I was less into the romance aspect of the drama, sadly. I got more into the work stuff than the romantic parts, even.
I can’t say I was very moved by the drama. I was amused, entertained, interested, and I fangirled at times too, but… okay, Sakappy broke down at some point and it did make me a little sad because no puppy should ever be sad. Ever. But the only moment that really stood out, for me, emotionally, was one scene of professional disappointment for Rinko. And I think Keynpatsu agreed with me, because it was the first time he truly seemed to feel sorry for Rinko, and seemed to want to apologize for being so harsh. I tend to really take to heart these “you worked your ass off, you did everything you could, but your best just isn’t good enough” moments. Failing when you didn’t try too hard, or failing because you were unlucky is one thing, but failing when you actually tried, and gave it your all but maybe you hit your limit, and that limit just isn’t high enough… I empathize with that a lot, and it always breaks my heart. And so, it did a little. Work-wise, I was very much rooting for Rinko.
But yeah, the romantic side of the drama, I didn’t get quite as into as I hoped I would.
First of all, some of these relationships, I feel, couldn’t be rooted for. Not so much because of the moral implications, but because rooting for these relationships to succeed was rooting against the characters’ well-being, which we were supposed to care about. For example, Kaori does find herself in a relationship with a man who’s got a girlfriend, and she keeps going back to him because she clearly has low self-esteem. A lot of her story is about her finding the strength to break it up, because she wants to be more than that, because the relationship is hurting her. So obviously, if I’m supposed to root for her to find that strength and self-esteem, I can’t really get invested in the romance, right ? A few relationships are like that: they’re not making the characters happy + the drama tells me I should want them to be happy = I can’t support the relationships.
And then there are the relationships I actually should root for but… it never quite happened for me either. Basically, we have two: Rinko/Hayasaka (her long-time colleague who’s always had a crush on her) and Rinko/Keynpatsu (she has another suitor, but he doesn’t count in this).
“Human-wise”, my favorite was Hayasaka, because he was the nicest, but it never felt right. I kinda wanted he and Rinko to get together, but that wasn’t really because I felt much about *them* .It’s just that… I liked him, he seemed to want to be with Rinko, and I wanted him to get what he wanted. But I liked their dynamics more as friends, to be honest. As for Keynpatsu… well, all my instincts were telling me he was endgame: he is a jerk to her at the start (and in the middle too… and at the end, sometimes), they bicker all the time, he has a mysterious and sad past (btw, I had a hard time taking it seriously, somehow… I was never quite convinced)… obviously: lead. But to be honest… okay, I did like him, but I can’t say I fell for him. I mean, Sakappy is cute, I like his height, his voice, his hands, and his face, I was sad when he seemed to be, but the character himself … maybe it was because he seemed so closed off, and because his backstory didn’t do much for me, but yeah, I didn’t fall for Keynpatsu, just for Sakappy. Which would be okay if I felt Rinko and him fell for each other, since after all it’s THEIR romance, not mine, but their interactions felt very limited. It didn’t seem to me they communicated much, and when they did, they basically just argued. I kept waiting for the turning point, the moment where it would click, and I kinda felt it in Keynpatsu, but not so much in Rinko, probably because, while he learns a lot about her, she knows almost nothing about him for the major part of the show. So yep, didn’t really get into any of the romantic plots.
But it’s okay: I had the friendship and the fun to keep me going.
That said, there were times I did feel the drama got draggy, yes. And by the end I couldn’t stand Tara and Reba, the two spirits/hallucinations/zombie pieces of fish that kept appearing to Rinko. I’m all for puns, but the animation on them was repetitive, they annoyed me, and the fact that they had to have their (similar) scene in each episode made the whole thing look artificial. I feel it’d have worked better if they’d maybe appeared twice in ep 1, then once in ep2, none in ep3 and 4, maybe three times in ep5, etc… you get my point (I hope). Here, it felt very forced, and repetitive. But really, if I have two other big issues with this drama it’s that:
1/ I felt like the show was a little half-assed about the physical aspect of relationships. Here we have female leads who have sex with their partners and don’t make a big deal of it, unless of course there’s a real reason to (but it’s not so much about the sex, and more the partner/circumstances/what it means) which… great ! And yet all the physical stuff that wasn’t off-screen felt very “rigid”, and lacked passion (and I really think it’s a drama thing, not an actors thing). Now, I’m not asking for super hot and steamy scenes, but I guess it was frustrating to me, because I felt like the drama was trying to “fool me” (“yeah, they’re sleeping together… but their lips still won’t move when they kiss, omg, no”), and also because in some cases, mostly Keynpatsu/Rinko, since I didn’t see the “connection” between the characters, I was hoping there’d be a physical one, something that’d explain the attraction.
2/ The ending. There were things I liked about this ending, as I already said, but also, I was frustrated with some stuff. Mostly two.
[spoiler, highlight to read] First of all, I didn’t like the Rinko/Keynpatsu conclusion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I feel she ended up with the wrong guy (tbh, for her, I don’t feel there was a right one at that point). I just don’t like the way it was done, because (1) her confession didn’t ring true to me since, as I already explained, I never really saw her coming around to really liking him (2) I hated the smile and stare o.o He kinda confesses, then they look at each other and smile, without taking even a step towards each other. I’d be okay with this if I’d felt the connection between them before, but here, it just felt so lukewarm. “Oh a couple I never felt actually fell for each other is telling ‘I kinda like you’ while smiling at each other from afar… yay ? :s” AT LEAST if they’d hugged each other and/or kissed, there’d be some passion to sell me on this conclusion, but … nope. So meh.
Secondly, I was frustrated with Kaori going back to Ryo. It felt like such a step back ! I’ll be honest, I actually liked Ryo… I know he cheats on his girlfriend(s) and that he’s a jerk for it, but I couldn’t help but find him cute a lot of the time, and so… yeah (sorry… I also may have a thing for Hiraoka Yuta). But the drama has a very happy-end kind of vibe, while implying that Kaori goes back to Ryo, hoping this time he’ll be faithful, and I kinda felt cheated. Because, to begin with, Kaori starts going out with him again because (1) she’s lonely (2) she’s full of what ifs and jumps on the opportunity to actually live her “what if I’d never left him” (3) he makes her feel special. Until he doesn’t. And then, as previously stated, her whole thing is to find the strength and self-esteem to leave him… not to get him all to herself ! I feel like the drama gave me a happy-ending to another arch, and I got cheated. tI’d be different if the tone was less “yay”, but here, it’s telling me “oh yeah, the whole point was to get them together” when… no, Drama, that’s not what you told me before, so here, she struggled, almost succeeded but ultimately failed, which you’re telling me to be happy about, and nope, sorry. [/spoiler]
But it did leave me on Tokyo Girl by Perfume.
And I like that song.
And don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this drama. My post comes off more negative than I actually felt, because I know what precise things I didn’t like, whereas the things I did like (apart from the female friendship, and “happiness comes in many forms” message) are more a general and vague “It was fun”. But… yeah: it was fun. Although yes, I do still resent the show for its lack of OdaJoe. Promising some OdaJoe and not delivering is just plain wrong. Of course the show promised me nothing, my brain just sucks, but I’m still mad, I don’t care. The next drama I talk about WILL have some OdaJoe in it, I promise. And I, unlike some, keep my promises. Most of the time. OK, sometimes. OK, almost never. But this time, I will. Probably.
So to conclude, Tokyo Tarareba Musume is a fun drama that didn’t really exceed my expectations but entertained me + offered a nice-looking puppy and a cool female friendship at its core, which we need more of.
What happiness is… is different for every person. There are as many answers as people. Happiness is something that you decide yourself… We don’t know what the future holds. I’m sure that from now on, we will worry about a lot of things, and we will struggle with life. But that’s okay. Because, the heroine of the long long story called life, is yourself.
Also, OdaJoe rules.
Raws: furransu @ jdramacity
Translations: MaRGa_ps, sora_cantabile & Waoow
Timing: Jpsubbers and sora_cantabile