Drama season has started; in fact I’m a little behind already. I’ve been trying to cut down on my drama load lately, but the drama that caught my attention most this season was Yamashita Tomohisa’s new vehicle Saikou no Jinsei no Owarikata. While the premise might seem a little iffy at first, I haven’t seen Yama-pi in a while. So I checked out the first episode, and I’m happy to report: it’s not too bad.
Saikou no Jinsei no Owarikata follows Ihara Masato, played by former NEWS center Yamashita Tomohisa. Ihara starts the drama as an area manager for a less than stellar bar chain. Over the course of the first episode, Ihara is forced to confront his past and the family business he loathes: The Ihara Funeral Parlor. The first episode mainly deals with Ihara and how he comes to terms with the death of his father, something that would undoubtedly change anyone’s life. Ihara’s father has been running the funeral parlor with no help from his family except his daughter, played by current AKB48 center Maeda Atsuko. Calling his children useless, the Ihara patriarch urges them to shut down the business since none of them will be able to handle running it. After holding his own father’s funeral, Ihara decides to keep the business open for one last funeral, that of the subordinate he may have caused to commit suicide. There’s also a subplot of a budding romance between Ihara and Sakamaki Yuki, a young police detective played by Eikura Nana.
The plot of the first episode is really only a framework for the rest of the series, the setup for the next 10 episodes. What I envision for this series is pretty predictable, as far as overall structure goes. Ihara will get a new client each episode by way of Sakamaki’s investigations. The two will work together to find out what really happened to the deceased and ultimately fall for one another. On the other side, the Ihara family will bicker and argue and basically just be a family, culminating in the reunion of love and understanding that is the ultimate payoff of all soft-hearted human dramas. Not a bad premise, I’ll be watching for now.
Yamashita seems pretty smartly cast as Ihara Masato. The last time I really saw Yama-pi was in the magnificent Buzzer Beat (seriously, go watch that sh*t). And I think that he plays these kinds of characters rather well, these normal guys. And that’s all Ihara really is, a normal guy going through a change in his life. Maeda Atsuko’s acting reputation will probably rest on this role for me. She’s been in plenty of mediocre dramas, playing highly stylized parts, but this is her first big drama playing a normal person. If she can pull this off without me scoffing too much, I’ll give her her dues. The character seems flawed and emotional enough for her to really shine, if she can. Eikura Nana plays every character the exact same way, so I don’t have a lot invested in her turn as Sakamaki Yuki. Nana is cute, can pass for a nice girl or a bitch—she’s a decent actress. The Sakamaki character will play a big role in the series for sure, but with the type of character it is, I’m not worried that she can handle it (anything will be better than Mei-chan no Shitsuji, god she was so out of her depth in that).
The drama seems pretty well written so far with even handed direction to go with it. The pacing in the first episode was breezy. The mixture of heavy and light was balanced very well. The tension of overarching story didn’t bog down the fluffier and more comedic parts of the show, and likewise these softer bits in no way seem to tarnish the severity and gravity the production is going for. If they can keep this balance for the entire series, I’ll be impressed.
Overall, Saikou no Jinsei seems like it will be a good watch; a well produced, light hearted (despite the framing subject matter) human drama with big star draw. Unless the show takes a really unforeseen turn or just becomes drivel, I’ll keep with it through the season. If for nothing else, I haven’t seen Yama-pi in quite a while and I kind of missed him (nohomo). If you’re looking for something light and easily watchable, I would recommend Saikou no Jinsei. I don’t see it winning any awards, but it won’t be at the bottom of the bin either.