Share House no Koibito Eps 1 & 2

SnK

The story so far: Mizukawa Asami plays Tsuyama Shio, a 30-year-old singleton way too obliging for her own good. Because her boss knows she won’t kick up a fuss, he has her transferred to an ailing branch office that no one with any career preservation instincts would dream of walking within a 10-mile radius.

Owing to her personality, Shio is forever alone — but not for much longer! Deciding to take charge of her life, she moves from her small lonely apartment into a shared tree house with Kawaki Tappei, an alien (yes, you read that right and no, she doesn’t know Oizumi Yo is from outer space) and a brooding ex-salaryman (Tanihara Shosuke) who may or may not have feelings for said extra-terrestrial. So cue lots of hilarity and hijinks, right?

Well, not exactly.

I’d love to tell you that this drama is pure crack and that you should bump it up your To Watch list asap. However despite the fact that I like Mizukawa and her roomies, this drama confuses me and by the end of episode two, I was starting to get really bored.

Where’s your focus, drama? 

When I first read the synopsis of this drama, I thought it was going to be about Shio finding her groove back. The set-up in the first episode certainly doesn’t disabuse this notion, with Mizukawa turning in a sympathetic portrayal of a woman whose aversion to causing offense and fear of getting hurt have caused her to lead a safe albeit lonely life.

shio2

Early on, we’re also introduced to Sakurai Yukiya (Tanihara Shosuke), a man in the throes of a personal crisis. As we soon find out, his wife wants a divorce and has taken to raising their son on her own in the countryside. Whether this has anything to do with him quitting (or getting fired from) his job is unclear at the moment but what is obvious is that Yukiya is not the happiest camper around.

sakurai

Because breathing costs money, he takes up a job as a cashier at the supermarket that Shio frequents. She is instantly smitten (partly because she hasn’t talked to a living male specimen outside her work place in ages.) He is oblivious to her existence.

All this might make Shio sound a little pathetic but it’s precisely this sad state of affairs that makes her realise that she needs to do something about her situation, which she does when she comes across a mysterious tree house that happens to be looking for tenants. So yay for taking that first step forward.

treehouse

Of our three leads, Tappei is the one that requires you to suspend your disbelief the most. He’s basically an alien who can hear/feel the distress in people’s hearts…how he manages to get any sleep is beyond me but there you go. But I am willing to accept this fantastical scenario as long as the drama is able to make an adequate case for his decision to crash land on earth to help Shio out. I know she’s unhappy but given that she is living in a country with one of the highest suicide rates in the world, I’m pretty sure that there are other people who are having a rougher time. So why Shio?

encounter

As you can see, we have three characters, each of whom has an interesting story to tell. Unfortunately, Share House doesn’t seem to realise the potential it has in its hands.

The problem begins after Shio moves into the tree house and the tone of the drama changes. I get the feeling that it’s trying to be a wacky sitcom about the things that happen when you have a bunch of strangers living together. That’s the only reason I can think of to explain all the talk about house rules and why it’s spending so much time on peripheral and secondary characters that I could care less about. Case in point, the housemate with the hangup about her age in episode 1. Apart from wailing about her age and creating a lot of unnecessary noise, the only other thing she managed to do was make me wonder why she was taking up so much screen time when it could have been put to better use.

At the end of episode 2, I don’t feel like I know these characters any better. If anything, I’m finding it difficult to remain invested in them, which is frustrating because Mizukawa, Tanihara and Oizumi are capable of delivering much better performances. Tanihara, in particular, is being wasted in such an egregious fashion that it’s like watching someone mix Coke with a single malt Scotch. This drama seems intent on having him give a masterclass in brooding — that more or less sums up what he’s been doing so far in these two episodes.

On the up side, there is this…*_____________*

Well, that and getting touchy feely with Tappei.

kiss

I can guess what you’re thinking but I wouldn’t get too excited about this. At the rate things are going, I doubt Share House is going to offer any meaningful explanation of Yukiya’s attraction to Tappei. I could be wrong but I don’t think this is the kind of drama that wants to peer too closely at the issue of gay married men in Japan.

Still, even without delving too much into this issue, I think there’s a lot the drama could do with the three main characters without the need to include the majority of the other sub-plots. I don’t really care about Tappei’s extra-terrestrial colleague at the supermarket or (at the risk of sounding unfeeling) Yukiya’s young son, who I feel is a manipulative addition to the story.

Your Sister’s Life, Her Choice

And while I find Nakajima Yuto kinda cute (I can’t believe that he played Kame’s little brother in Nobuta wo Produce. Kids these days, they grow up so fast T.T), his character gives me a major case of eye rollage.

nagi

I can understand his concern for his sister but I just want to shake him every time he tells Shio that she should move out of the house because a) she’s 30 and single and b) she’s not going to get married if she keeps staying there. I’d be more inclined to close an eye (or rather, ear) to this if he belonged to an earlier generation but the kid is a college undergrad — shouldn’t his views be, I don’t know, more progressive? *palm shades forehead* Maybe this is one of the reasons why Japan’s economy is in the doldrums? Because it keeps clinging to these outdated ideals about women’s roles in society?

kaoru

And then there’s his girlfriend, Kaoru, who I think has the potential to be an interesting foil to Shio. While the older woman tends to be meek and cautious, she’s assertive and confident. Kaoru knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to do what it takes to get it. The only thing is that Kawaguchi Haruna just isn’t the right fit for the role. Look, I think she’s very pretty and I’d like to see her do well in the entertainment business but in order to do that, Ken-On really needs to send her for acting classes first. Kawaguchi may be photogenic but she doesn’t have much range and this is becoming very apparent as she gets cast in more mature roles. There’s not much depth in her portrayal of Kaoru and it’s like watching a kid play an adult.

On a side note, I am actually a bit concerned about the trajectory her career is taking. If you compare her with her agency mate Shida Mirai, it’s clear the latter is being cast in more dramatic roles while Kawaguchi is getting the trendy disposable popcorn franchises. Also, I find it a little disconcerting that she’s just going to devote herself to her entertainment career after graduating from high school. If that’s really the case, I hope whoever’s her manager does a good job of guiding her because acting isn’t just about being cast in as many projects as possible and looking pretty in front of the camera.

***

I’m going to give this drama another episode or two to see where it goes but suffice it to say that I’m not getting my hopes up for this one.

[9 Feb 2013]: After watching episode 3, I have no qualms about dropping this drama. I feel sorry for Mizukawa that her first starring vehicle is such a boring-assed one; this story is not going anywhere and the acting is generally quite pedestrian across the board. It pains me to see Yo Oizumi overacting this much and every time I see Kawaguchi Haruna try to dead-fish-kiss someone, I cringe. It’s so awkward and clearly, she has no idea what she’s doing. Ken-on, can you please give her time to grow up and get comfortable with her sexuality before pushing her into these roles?  

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5 comments

  1. WIth all due respect, I think you’re looking at this wrong. Are you familiar with Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City”? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tales_of_the_City) “Share House” is, I suspect, mining some of the same territory. (Minus the sex, drugs and politics, of course!)

    There are already goals and motivations for the characters set up in the show by Episode 2. The “extra” characters are giving the show’s world more depth and narrative variety. The share house itself is a wonderful set. Yes, things move at a leisurely pace but I don’t feel that’s a bad thing. (Look at the British sitcom, “As Time Goes By”.)

    I don’t think Tappei is actually an alien. He’s just another of his generation who feels left out and left behind by society, as Shio and Yukiya do. This show seems to be about finding and building a community of your own, where you feel valued and welcome, and can thrive. So, in that sense, I think “Share House” is doing a good job. I like the characters and the situation it it. I plan to keep watching it.

    1. Hi Michael

      Thanks for dropping by and letting me know what you think of this show. It’s always great to have a different perspective on a drama, especially for one that doesn’t seem to have that wide an audience.

      I must confess that I have not read Maupin’s Tales of the City though I have heard of it. I do understand where you’re coming from though and I accept that this drama might, as you say, be “mining the same territory.” This could very well have been the writers’ intention but as is sometimes the case, good intentions don’t always translate well into reality. The concept of the share house is an interesting one, I don’t deny that, and as for the supporting players in this drama, well, I agree that they have the potential to provide depth and narrative variety to the story. Thing is, for this to happen, the characters need to be written with a certain degree of depth as well. You are welcome to disagree with me but I maintain that the supporting characters, especially Shio’s brother and his girlfriend, are rather flat though this might have something to do with the actor and actress playing the roles, as well as the directing. I do find Shio’s colleagues an intriguing bunch though and I’d be interested to know whether she succeeds in turning things around there.

      Contrary to what this post might suggest, I don’t have a problem with slow-paced dramas. Saikou no Rikon and Itsuka Hi no Ataru Basho de, which are currently airing as well, are not exactly speeding along but that isn’t an issue because I am emotionally invested in the characters. Soredemo, Ikite Yuku , which is incidentally also by SnR’s writer, is another one that takes its time to develop but that’s okay because the story draws you in right from the start. With Share House no Koibito, I just feel its execution is missing the mark. It has things it wants to say but it doesn’t say them very well. I think one of the reasons for this is that it tries too hard to be funny (eg. the scenario where Shio and Tappei were trying to find Yukiya a job in episode 3. It’s a sweet gesture no doubt about it but the whole setup and execution felt forced to me.) At this point, I’m just indifferent to their characters even though I have an idea where the story is going with Shio and Yukiya. Or to put it another way: I empathise with their circumstances but can’t muster up enough enthusiasm for the characters themselves.

      Your take on Tappei’s real identity is an interesting one though I have to ask: how does his colleague at the supermarket factor in to this equation?

      On another note, as I’ve mentioned to a few other commenters on this blog before, my opinions are not meant to diminish anyone’s enjoyment of a drama and they should not stop a reader from checking it out if they want. I’ve watched loads of shows that were panned by other bloggers — what fun would it be if we all liked the same things? I’m no Roger Ebert and I certainly don’t consider myself an arbiter of taste. Case in point: I didn’t like what I saw of the Korean drama Can We Get Married? but apparently, a lot of people thought it was very well-written and true to life, so there you go. That said, I’m always chuffed when readers write in with alternative views — we may not always agree but differing opinions make for more interesting reading, no?

      1. “We may not always agree but differing opinions make for more interesting reading, no?” Yes indeed. I take no offense at all with your opinions. I can see where you’re coming from, and it’s not wrong. Just a different point-of-view.

        I think with Tappei (whom I recognised from “Lucky Seven”, a fun show where he was in similar acting mode) he’ll have a crisis moment later in the series (just a guess, no spoiler!) where his belief in his alien-ness will be confronted and broken, to reveal the real, hurting man inside. His coworker, I suspect, is just screwing around with him. That’s a common theme for older women in Japanese dramas, yes?

        I’m also watching “Saikou no Rikon”, “Itsuka Hi no Ataru Basho de” as well as “Shotenin Michiru no Mi no ue Hanashi”. All are, as you say, introducing big casts quickly and quite well. I see “Share House” as more in common with “Biblia Koshodou no Jiken Techou”, a small cast slowly explored. That’s not a problem for me, as I sometimes feel that story elements get dropped in some Asian dramas because of the speed they use in moving the narrative forward.

        If you’ve seen the Hong Kong drama “Friendly Fire”, that show had that problem. I don’t normally like overtly soapy dramas like that, but the storyline and story-telling were fun. HUGE cast, too, but they moved through the narrative with such speed that some story points got left behind. And the final two episodes tried to wrap the entire series so quickly that is was a disappointment!

        So, I’m willing to cut shows like “Share House” some slack, because it’s not the Asian drama norm. Plus, they are only two episodes into the story! I mean … c’mon! :-) Although your point about Shio’s brother and his girlfriend being one-note people is true.

        BTW, I read through your “Crack List” and have only seen one of those shows, “Soredemo, Ikite Yuku”. My favorites have been “Kekkon Shinai”, “BOSS” 1 & 2, “Around 40” and “The Queen’s Classroom” (Big Amami Yuki fan here!). Also “Perfect Report”, “The Quiz Show 2” (Boy, was that series weird!) and “Mr. Brain”. I loved “Shinya Shokudo” and Kodomo no Gurume” 2. (The Japanese are non-pareil with cooking dramas, like “Dinner”.) I’m watching “Ad Genius Lee Tae Baek” with high hopes and liked “A Gentleman’s Dignity” and “Coffee Prince” a whole lot, among Korean dramas. And lots more! Just so you have some idea of where I’m coming from.

  2. How well put. You hit this drama’s flaws nail on the head. I also was expecting much for Mizukawa first “starring” drama, and was sorely disappointed. This drama isn’t awfully bad (that would be hilarious on its own, like so bad it becomes good), but is just so bland. The characters and the way they’re written, are so shallow, I feel nothing for them, even though I tried. Thing is, you shouldn’t try to feel something or else it already shows that something important is missing.
    There’s nothing worth writing about the directing or the music, so even there you’re left with mediocrity.
    I didn’t know Tanihara Shosuke before starting this drama, so I’m not as disappointed as you seem to be, but boy if he (or rather, his character) isn’t booooring AND annoying, I feel like jabbing a fork in his head to wake him up! Man, what I signed for when I heard about it was precisely what you said it wasn”t: hilarity and hijinks. Boo.
    Oh, and you’re so right about this little bro’s thing. God, that was exasperating to watch. I know that most people will watch this for Nakajima Yuto (really, he was Kame’s little bro in NWP??) but really, his character is a turn off. So far. I mean, I only watched two episodes.
    At least, that makes one less drama to see this season. I feel sorry for Mizukawa, but I have to take something where I can.

  3. @Michael: I do hope Share House is working out for you and I’d love to know whether you’re right about Tappei and his co-worker. Though considering the kind of projects this production and scriptwriting team has worked on in the past, my inner cynic is telling me that you’re giving them a little too much credit in the creativity department :P But I’m always happy to be proven wrong.

    Ah yes, the Queen’s Classroom. I’ve been meaning to watch that drama forever. Amami Yuki is an actress I’ve always wanted to like but I do wonder about her range as an actress because it seems like she’s made a career out of playing variations of the same character (though granted, it’s a very attractive one.) I’d like to see her play against type one of these days. That would be really interesting to watch.

    @himonogirl: Tanihara Shosuke is basically recycling his character’s angst from Tsugunai (except in that drama, he’s doing the things that he does as a form of self-punishment.) Tanihara is capable of doing better but I guess when you have five kids, you’ve got a lot of bills to pay and can’t be too picky about your projects…

    I was going to write Share House off completely but its recent spike in ratings is making me wonder if the story has picked up its pace. I might just check out one of the later episodes to see if this is true.

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