Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kekkon Dekinai Otoko Review (2006)

Drama Rating: *****
Personal Rating: All time favourite!!

Kuwano Shinsuke is a 40 year old architect and somewhat of a hermit, preferring to keep to himself and generally avoiding social contact. His regular routine consists of eating steak and meat nightly and listening to classical music. Due to his unbalanced diet, he suffers from stomach pains one day and his neighbor Michiru ends up accompanying him to the hospital where he sees Dr Hayasaka. After that fateful incident, their closely knit group of acquaintances gradually become part of Kuwano's life as they share their bemusement of his eccentric lifestyle. In particular, they begin wondering if anyone would ever be interested in marrying 'The Man Who Can't Get Married'?

*Spoiler warning*

Unquestionably one of the most brilliantly written dramas I've ever seen. The choice to go light on plot material and focus more heavily on character development rarely goes well as screenwriters generally end up  creating less than stellar stories. Slow Dance would be one example where there is a general lack of good plot direction while providing making the character development slow, meandering and boring. Happily, this drama was the exact opposite. With an extremely witty script that really builds out and reflects Kuwano and Hayasaka's characters, there is never a sense of slowness as their relationship steadily grows. Side stories are appropriately woven in to provide a nice distraction but never overwhelming the main story arc. In fact, I was most impressed by the way the writers were able to turn routine, everyday tasks into punchlines and memorable moments.

Abe Hiroshi and Natsukawa Yui really outdid themselves as the curious, enigmatic pair of Kuwano Shinsuke and Hayasaka Natsumi. Their humorous, continuous jabs at each other were brilliantly delivered providing the drama was much hilarity. Delivery of many of the punchlines required excellent timing and their performance in this regard was truly impeccable giving viewers hours of great entertainment. Abe Hiroshi in particular gave a most convincing performance as the socially awkward Kuwano with excellent interactions with the dog Ken-chan. While I'm usually not overly impressed with Tsukamoto Takashi, his light, talkative portrayal of Murakami Eiji was dead on. Similarly with Kuninaka Ryoko's Tamura Michiru, I'm generally not overly enthused by her acting but her performance wasn't bad in this series. I should also point out that including Ken-chan, the dog, was a brilliant, inspired addition. Ken-chan's expressions and 'chemistry' with Kuwano added another layer of richness to the drama impossible to emulate anywhere else.

I almost burst out laughing when I heard the fourth movement of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 being used by Kuwano-san early on to counter his neighbor Michiru. That turned out to be just the first of many other classical tunes used throughout the series to both help create an atmosphere and also develop Kuwano's character. Generally, the musical soundtrack used throughout the series is quite underwhelming, more often used to supplement the developments in the drama in an effort not to detract from the acting performances. For example, the whistling used with some of the melodies gave it a subtle and very lighthearted feel. Sound effects, such as gurgling of liquids, were also used plentifully to enhance many of the scenes.

This was one of the most best jdramas I have seen in recent years. While I'm generally a more plot-driven person, I love it when character development, which is generally more difficult to tackle, is done right. Abe Hiroshi brought to life a truly marvelous caricature of Kuwano-san with him and Natsukawa providing great on-screen chemistry with their well-timed verbal jabs. The tightly scripted lines were extremely witty and humorous and sparkled with the perfect execution of the two leads. Despite the lack of significant plot events, I was fairly stunned that the scriptwriter was able to turn the mundane lives of everyday people into such rich drama material.  Hats off to a brilliant drama!

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