I would like to first clarify this: this seemingly steady release of entries – this isn’t a common feat.
I know, I know, it seems like I’m totally contradicting myself too, saying I’m so busy …then new entry, one after another, keeps showing up. I love this statement, because it totally applies: bad news makes for good stories. In other words, my mind tends to be on overdrive whenever I am upset or extremely stressed out – both of which applies right now – and hence, writing becomes an outlet and distraction.
To be honest, just the other day, I was caught – well, sort of – by a friend here. We were discussing the latest batch of Kdramas – she’s not watching anything due to her internship – and I’d of course, gushed about Jang Ok-jung, Live in Love. Minutes later, she said, “I thought you said you’re so busy with school… There’s still time for drama-watching?” Ooops. In truth, I typically watch dramas near or past midnight, up until about 3 AM – giving up sleeping hours basically, ah the things I do for dramas!
Last night I’d finished this show, so I thought it’s a good time as any to write about it. Let’s begin, shall we?
picture credits to: http://wiki.d-addicts.com/File:Love-Shuffle-banner.jpg
Love Shuffle is like the Jdrama-version of Flower Boy Ramyun Shop for me; no, they’re nothing alike thematically. Rather, it’s because similar to the latter, it’s a show I’d attempted repeatedly to watch but could not seem to get past the first episode. Since it’s premier in 2009, I’d heard and read plenty about this show – most were positive, despite the unconventional premise. I’d tried giving the first episode a go then and obviously failed and this went on a few times until I’d basically sworn off on watching this – it’s just not my cup of tea, let’s just say that – until I came across Rosie’s review about it.
Something clicked and thus, I retraced my steps and about two weeks from that night when I’d finally gotten through the first episode, here I am, feeling accomplished because I’ve finally watched Love Shuffle to completion!
1) The Premise
Let’s start with getting the premise out of the way, because I do believe it’s something that may turn people away. The show’s about eight individuals who agreed to take on this relationship-experiment-of-sorts: shuffling partners weekly. Although mostly they are strangers to each other, there are 4 original pairs; the first is a formerly engaged couple Usami Kei or Usa-tan (Tamaki Hiroshi) and Kagawa Mei (Kanjiya Shiori), the second pair is used-to-date-each-other Aizawa Airu or Ai-Ai (Karina) and Oishi Yukichi (DAIGO), the third is in-an-affair couple Sera Ojiro or O-chan (Matsuda Shota, looking ridiculously good-looking as always) and married older-woman Kamijya Reiko (Kojima Hijiri) and finally, the fourth is the psychiatrist-patient pair Kikuta or Kiku-rin (Tanihara Shosuke) and Hayakawa Kairi (Yoshitaka Yuriko). It’s also noted that Kiku-rin is the one who’d suggested this shuffling and brought everyone together.
How did they end up agreeing to this anyway? In an elevator headed to their respective apartments one night, the four – Kiku-rin, O-chan, Usa-tan and Ai-Ai – discovered that they’re actually tenants of the same floor, the 28th; neighbors. A sudden and brief electric outage resulted in them being stuck in the elevator for a few hours together and basically, in letting down their guards with each other, friendships were formed and not long after, they agreed to try out the shuffling. Typical of Jdramas, the show wasted no time in getting the premise kick-started and the love shuffling in motion; each episode featured a different pairing, though of course with twists and revelations at almost every shuffling.
So this is where I say that you’ve to be open-minded and just… open about the premise, because more than it sounding seemingly scandalous, it’s really just the zany – again, very typical of Jdramas – tone and antics of these characters that sometimes take some getting used to. Once you get any sort of judgment, notion or discomfort you may have had about the premise out of the way, I dare say that Love Shuffle will turn out to be an interesting and surprisingly insightful watch, as it did for me.
2) The Big Picture and Underlying Messages
To be honest, I don’t love it as much as other reviewers I used to read way back when do, but I really, really appreciate the creativity and freshness of the show, tonally and writing-wise. Love Shuffle in my opinion, is a show that requires multiple watch in order to really catch the big pictures and underlying messages. The premise is zany, I agree, but honestly, that’s mere placeholder and distraction. I say this because in my opinion, the shuffling isn’t so much about exploring romantic love, rather it’s about exploring emotions and sentiments such as loneliness, human existence, friendship and of course, love.
This is perhaps most obvious through the character of Kairi, who is determined to die at 20, which is only a few weeks away. They’d explained this as her natural state – most people strive to ascertain their presence and feel alive, while a small fraction, perhaps 1%, of the rest of the human population are driven by deathly thoughts, simply because. So by having her participate in this human experiment, her psychiatrist Kiku-rin hopes that she will be able to learn about fundamental human emotions, byproducts of engaging in relationships with people. Once this truth is made known to the rest of the crew, it’s incredibly adorable how each Love Shuffle member tries to teach her that living’s even better than dying. Of course, along the way, she falls in love with one of the men, which calls for a reassessment of her life post-20 years old.
Throughout my run, I was never rabid or addicted – yet funnily, I found myself clicking the next episode, one after another; curious. I will say that I thought the mystery behind Kiku-rin’s lover – who does the person resemble, among the Love Shuffle members? – was a most interesting and engaging conflict. It was well-introduced, revealed and dealt with overall. I’m basically satisfied with the turnout of this sub-story.
3) The Characters
As for the characters, let’s first give a round of applause to the team because though there are eight main characters, each was relatively well-fleshed out. There’s no doubt that some are more central than others, but as an ensemble I would say that they did not disappoint. I did not take interest in anyone in particular to be honest, but I loved the friendship between the 28th floor tenants. Their pajamas-sleepovers-ergo-chilling-out-at-the-hallway scenes in each episode were the highlights for me. In a premise so zany, many things felt real and none were stronger than this friendship circle, I thought.
As a relevant side note, I also really loved the bloopers they’d show at the end of each episode. These bloopers ascertained to me that the actors knew exactly how ridiculous and over-the-top the story and at times, their characters’ behaviors were, but everyone was so game anyway! They looked like they had so much fun on-set when they shot this drama and if anything, I love knowing this because it meant that their dynamics as observed onscreen weren’t fake. The funny were really funny, basically – kudos to them.
Did I have a personal pair or character? To be honest, no. However, I really did like O-chan’s cool demeanor, Usa-tan’s kindness and Ai-Ai’s sass. I could honestly do without Mei and Yukichi, but I realize their significance in the show – necessary to propel the show, as well as to complete the ensemble – that therefore, I can easily make peace with their presence.
4) Final Wrap
Regarding the ending, was it too red-ribbon perfectly-tied? Somewhat, yet I’ll argue that it worked because those final relationships felt very organic and to a degree, like a long time coming. I appreciated how each relationship was played out thus, no qualms or complaints.
Love Shuffle, who knew I’d be writing about you, adding to the already-growing list of reviews and such?
But no hatin’ here, just love and peace. Yay, panda!
Final Verdict: 8/10.