Monday, April 23, 2012

Haken no Hinkaku Review (2007)

Drama Rating: ***
Personal Rating: Loved it!

Disappearing after each three month contract, Oomae Haruko reappears at S&F in the newly formed Marketing department after her most recent hiatus. Satonaka Kensuke has just been asked to head the group and immediately has to deal with leading a ragtag group of full-timers and temporary employees. Oomae herself, a super-competent, straight shooting 'haken', adds further tensions as she doesn't mince words, especially with the adjoining Sales department chief Shouji Takeshi. Will Oomae be able to help unify the group or will she divide them further?

*Spoiler warning*

The screenwriter Nakazono Miho pairs up once again with leading actress Shinohara Ryoko with a role quite similar to their previous collaboration in Anego. The overall premise of using a so-called A+ temp worker to highlight the struggles of ordinary haken was definitely great for generating natural tensions and conflicts but certainly felt similar to Anego in a sense. I also quite liked how she is sometimes portrayed in her overcoat as the positioning of it makes her look like a giant onigiri which was rather amusing.

The general episodic plots were reasonably well thought out to ensure plenty of material to develop the characters. However, one thing I do find is that some writers tend to use marketing/sales departments to gloss over their own lack of domain-specific knowledge. While this wasn't hugely evident, it did seem to be the case here although this was largely masked by the focus on character conflicts. Also, one sore point that did bug me a little was the rather contrived subplot to save Ogasawara-san as it really didn't make any sense to keep a worker around just simply for his knowledge on where boxes are placed. I know this is oversimplifying it a bit but perhaps they could have found a better, less superficial way to emphasize his usefulness.

Shinohara Ryoko clearly dominates this drama as the competent but somewhat robotic Oomae Haruko. She  puts quite a lot of effort into creating Oomae's persona and this was largely successful. Her antagonistic bouts with Oizumi Yo's Shouji Takeshi were definitely the highlight and draw of this drama as they have great onscreen chemistry. Koizumi Kotaro certainly suited his role as the nice but easily pushed around Satonaka Kensuke. The only thing that bothers me about that situation is why their boss Kirishima would see fit to promote Satonaka to the role of department head in the first place - very puzzling. As for the rest of the cast, Kato Ai feels quite childish as Mori Miyuki and really begs the question - 'what exactly did she learn in her undergrad years?' Katsuji Ryo and Komatsu Masao were pretty average in their roles of Asano-san and Osagawara-san but Yasuda Ken clearly was overacting in his groveling portrayal of Hitotsugi Shinya to the point where it was a bit of a turn off.

The music soundtrack and sound effects for this drama were superbly done, giving off a light, relaxing feel overall. Comedic moments had appropriately bouncy and humorous tunes, sadder moments were covered by simple sentimental melodies while tense situations were given an injection of nervous, fast-paced rhythms filled with energy. I also particularly liked their incorporation of Andalusian and Spanish rhythms to the drama as it gave it a very unique flair. While the drama itself wasn't spectacular, the soundtrack certainly was very well done, enhancing the drama's general tone and feel.

If your expectations aren't too high, which I suspect they wouldn't be for a drama about temporary workers, this drama is a great distraction to have some fun with. The arguments between Oomae Haruko and Shouji-shunin are a delight to watch and savor and you can't help but cheer Oomae on as she takes on the full-timers. And while this drama has its issues with various contrived situations and acting, its hard to get too bogged down by that in this enjoyable, feel-good drama.

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