Now that I’m on this side of the world, I keep forgetting I’m so behind in time zone compared to the rest of the world. By that I mean –
SEASONS GREETINGS & MERRY CHRISTMAS!!
Since I don’t celebrate Christmas, honestly the magic that’s been brewing has no effect on me personally. However, the very air is undoubtedly saturated with a festive, cheery vibe that’s pretty darn infectious; it makes me happy. I hope each of you have a wonderful and jolly Christmas celebration with your family and friends!
picture credits to: http://wiki.d-addicts.com/File:Saikonorikon.jpg
Now onto the show I wanted to write about – so I finished Saikou no Rikon last night after a quick 48-hour marathon. To be honest, I don’t know if I want to, what more even write about the show because the show turned out to be more than it seemed – not horrible, not in the least, just… unique. It feels too much like a waste to let this show go unnoticed though, so here’s my incredibly loose pseudo-review. Just in case… an early apology: I’m sorry if I’m not contributing anything insightful or weighty about the show and its overall thematic message!
I came across the show towards the end of its run, but English subtitles were halted for many months. I waited until all 11 episodes were subbed before jumping in and I’m glad I did so, because this show is so much more fun and more fitting to marathon than live-watch, I think.
In my opinion, Eita is one of the most underrated Japanese actors out there – have you seen his filmography? It is massive and more importantly, diverse like crazy – who’s really only now receiving more recognition on a mainstream level. I may be wrong, but I find him to be one of those actors that for many years I kept seeing in just about every drama ever, stealing everyone’s thunder until someone finally gave him – or he finally accepted, depending on how you look at it – a leading role. I’ve watched him in too many shows to name them all, but his most memorable performance and also the turning point for my opinion about his acting chops came in the form of the last year’s richly layered, complex and heartbreaking Jdrama Soredemo, Ikite Yuku written by Sakamoto Yuji. I did review that show which you can find here, and it was just brilliant. So imagine my surprise and excitement when I found out that the writer and actor reunited for this show, Saikou no Rikon which also starred one of my now-favorite leading ladies, Maki Yoko as well as current eye candy favorite, Ayano Go. Rounding out the cast is Ono Machiko, whom I encountered for the first time through this show and thought she was awesome here.
What’s amazing about the writer and consequently, this show is the fact that it is so tonally different than Soredemo, Ikite Yuku. If I were to sum up Saikou no Rikon simply, the words I’d probably use are… zany, quirky and thought-provoking. For one, it is incredibly dialogue-heavy; oi, the nonstop chatter and banters between Eita‘s intentionally awkward but unintentionally hilarious character Hamasaki Mitsuo and his wife/ex-wife Hamasaki Yuka (Ono Machiko) are enough to keep you hooked from the get-go, I promise. One might argue that too much went on especially in the dialogue, but I thought Sakamoto Yuji nailed the coherence, flow and depth. Kudos definitely to Eita and the other three (but admit it, mostly Eita) for such strong and impacting delivery, each time. Also, one might point out that Hamasaki is annoying as hell and I won’t deny that because he’s so talkative, anal and seriously awkward, but here’s where I thought Eita demonstrated just how awesome an actor he really is. He’s so… spot on as Hamasaki not just in being annoyingly matter-of-fact and honest to a fault, but also in portraying the awkwardness of the character that I found him to be an endearing and harmless chatterbox.
To be honest, partly why it’s so difficult to write about Saikou no Rikon is that while there’s no doubt it’s an intelligent and solid show, I find it hard to relate not because of an age gap, but more so lifestyle and experience gap. It’s incredibly entertaining and insightful in my opinion, as the show tackled the intricacies and reality of marriage and divorce through the lives of two couples, but the relatedness is lost to me because I’m uh, single and unmarried. Despite my inability to relate, to the show’s credit, I still thoroughly enjoyed Eita‘s portrayal of the socially awkward Hamasaki and his dynamics with not just the women but also the free-spirited Uehara Ryo played by Ayano Go (such a hottie!).
My favorite aspect is definitely that all four of them are humanely flawed and I love them even more for reflecting upon and then taking ownership of their own mistakes, pessimism and personality traits. I love the dynamics between each couple, as well as when they form an unlikely two-couples unit. I love how easygoing and generally accepting they are – sans the ex-wife, but only because she put up with his obsessive compulsiveness and insensitivity for years – with Hamasaki’s awkward demeanor. While I won’t say he’s a favorite character, I love that he just seemed incredibly real and kind-hearted – he just has less common ways in demonstrating or more specifically, verbalizing kindness.
Yoko Maki has yet to disappoint me in the shows I’ve watched her in and her deadpan delivery works like a charm here, as it did in Osozaki no Himawari. There’s something about her that comes off as nonchalant and can’t care less, which makes her character that much more interesting when the layers are peeled off because we find out exactly how much she cares. The more I got to know her as the story progressed, the more I realized that she’s actually the female-version of Hamasaki, albeit less awkward. There’s a kind of detached way in which these two characters exist and function in their respective worlds, loving people but holding them at bay and at the end of the day, preferring their own company as opposed to others. The reacquainted friendship and kinship between her character, Uehara Akari and Hamasaki is also something I enjoyed, not only because I thought the back-story of their old relationship was interesting (especially when observed from such opposing point-of-views) but also because in present-day, they balance each other in a way that’s unexpectedly moving.
I can’t say that the chemistry between the quadruplet was anything to write about but this is a Jdrama after all, and these things tend to matter less. Eita and Ono Machiko honestly had more friendly vibes going on more than anything else but the colorful personalities of their characters more than make up for the lack of organic chemistry; they made it work through their daily interactions and easy familiarity, as much as they love (and hate) each other. I admit I actually thought Yoko Maki and Ayano Go were extremely cute together, but his character was flighty and immature so that took some points off on the chemistry and sticky factor; he needed to grow a backbone which he never quite did, but his redemption arc stayed within character and I accepted that. What’s funny though, is that I thought Eita and Ayano Go had palpable chemistry! Their bromance was so… random, for lack of a better word, because their characters are so different, but they surprisingly matched each other well.
Additionally, I admit that tonally it’s really offbeat and quirky which might throw off some folks, but I enjoyed the unexpected awkwardness and even the hilarious turnabout of events like when the four of them gathered together after so much drama had just taken place between one of the two couples. It’s wacky, but Jdrama-style wacky that you could either try to reason or simply accept and play along; I suggest doing the latter.
In a nutshell, Saikou no Rikon is in my opinion, undoubtedly a solid show from directing, casting to writing. My only quibble is that while the writing, as evident through the snappy, zippy and a-mile-a-minute dialogue were thought-provoking and nuanced within the context of each scene or conflict, none of them related to me on an emotional level that had me sit up and pay attention. However, I think a re-watch a few years from now will easily change this so I’m not worried. Plus, as an added bonus for brownie points – the ending was wonderfully executed and played out. I thought it was heart-warming, true-to-character(s), organic and most importantly, all four central characters deserved and earned their respective outcomes. An overall interesting and engaging watch – I’m really glad I tuned in.
Final Verdict: 8.5/10.
PS An SP was recently announced, to be aired in February 2014 – you can bet I’ll be watching that!