Drama review #1: “Sunao ni Narenakute”

This is my first drama review, and I should preface by saying that I’m completely unqualified to be reviewing any dramas considering that a) I haven’t watched that many to begin with; b) Sunanare was my first J-drama, and c) I primarily watched this because of Jaejoong. But I have a free weekend and lots of internet space with which to freely rant in, so goshdarnit, I’m gonna write me a drama review.

That being said, I know that I mini-reviewed this drama in my last post prior to finishing up the last episode. And although the last episode was nothing stunning, it did change my perception of it a bit. I’m satisfied with the ending, and that’s about as much as I can ask for.

Spoilers ahead.

If anything, the five characters in Sunanare reminded me of a short lived, screwed up version of Friends, where Chandler commits suicide and Rachel is a poor substitute teacher and Ross is a lot cooler than Ross is. But most importantly, Sunanare is your typical, lonely-singles-in-a-big-city story with your typical, screwed up, WTF-worthy J-dramaness thrown into the mix. It’s a story about connections–trying to find companionship and love in a city where one is lonely. The five main characters simply aim to not be alone. As cliched as it is, I’ll admit that I liked this premise a whole lot, but the problem with having a good premise is that the plot usually ends up lacking.

Most J-dramas don’t last for more than 11 or 12 episodes, but there were enough potential subplots set up by the second episode to make for a potentially multi-season, sickeningly long drama. There was the obvious Haru-Nakaji pairing. There was Peach’s self-mutilationness and habit of sleeping around. There was that drama between Rinda and his boss. There was the business between Nakaji’s dad and Haru’s mom. There was the business with Doctor’s workplace. There was the business between Nakaji and Kiriko. And there was that random bit about Haru’s brother being a druggie. Throw in the stuff that develops with Doctor and Haru, Rinda and Nakaji, and Doctor’s relationship with his family in Korea in the following episodes and you’ve got the makings of a drama that could potentially air (and thrive) for at least 20 episodes. The main design flaw with pairing Sunanare with a 11 episode lifespan is that it’s built on a situation, not a plot.

Ultimately, most of these grand, dramatic subplots closed themselves up quietly and quickly, and what the audience would’ve thought to have been integral parts of the ultimate conclusion of the series ended up being relatively unimportant events that kept the audience entertained for one to three episodes at a time. Kiriko peaces out halfway through the series without much effect–the only significance of her departure is that Nakaji is now single and–what? free to invest his interests in Haru. But why was Kiriko even there in the first place? She doesn’t affect or change Nakaji’s character in any way. Her only purpose is to prevent Nakaji from being single, and thus prevent him from getting together with Haru. Which, to me, is just an effort to draw out the length of the series, because the series will have to end once Haru and Nakaji get together. (Or maybe not. I’ll explain this later.)

Also, the whole bit with Shu and his drug using buddies? Yeah, whatever. The only purpose of that was this:

And the only purpose of that is to make the Jaejoong fangirls scream with delight. This scene was completely out of character and, as much as I enjoy angsty!Jaejoong, I detest angsty!Doctor that much more.

So basically, the only plotline that actually mattered in Sunanare was the Haru-Nakaji relationship, which wasn’t flawless, either.

Everyone knew that the Doctor-Haru relationship would never work out and everyone knew that Haru and Nakaji would eventually get together. And that’s exactly what happened. That’s exactly what would’ve happened even without all the crap in between. Nakaji and Haru were destined to end up together since the beginning of the series, which, in retrospect, makes the majority of their exploits for much of these series fairly pointless. Did Haru draw anything from her relationship with Doctor? No. Did Nakaji draw anything from his relationship with Kiriko? No. It was mostly to kill time and to try to build anticipation for Nakaji and Haru’s eventual relationship. The only excuse that the writers offered for Nakaji and Haru to ultimately seal the deal is…what? A message left behind from a dead character? Why, of course. >_>;;;

I wish that Sunanare could have aired sitcom style….like, a really dramatic, darkly themed sitcom where character depth comes through not with plot twists but with time. The Nakaji-Haru pairing is not perfect enough for it to be the pinnacle of an entire series. It’s too interesting. I think the couple would have been better off being played out like the Ross-Rachel relationship on Friends–who, of course, get together by the end, but only after nearly a decade of airtime and more breakups and makeups than one can count. But then again, I suppose that’s just not how Asian dramas work. Fairy tale endings are best, no matter how illogical.

Overall, I felt that Sunanare was rushed, especially near the end. Episode 11 turned out to be better than I thought, and it tied up most all of the subplots cleanly, and without cliche. The reunion at the very end was charming, and even I’ll admit that the Haru-Nakaji reunion at the very, very end was adorable:

But I can’t help but have the feeling that Sunanare was supposed to have aired for quite a few more episodes, and the producers just got the chop around Episode 9 or so and were forced to close up everything quick in the next two episodes before the series ended. Rinda’s spontaneous death made things a little bit too obvious.

Eh. It had its moments, but even for 11 episodes, it’s not something I’d want to rewatch. I don’t have much to say about the acting nor the style of screenwriting–both were good, but nothing stunning–but the plot structure just kind of killed it for me. Not everything was predictable, but once you know that Nakaji and Haru are going to end up together, then you’ll have no choice but to wade through the pointless crap in the series that ultimately only serve to deter the Nakaji-Haru relationship from actually happening.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Jaejoong’s acting. Yeah, I know someone’s going to ask. Doctor was THE most annoying leading character I’ve ever encountered. Doctor is just a naive, idealistic fellow who doesn’t really know how life works, and often ends up acting like a twelve year old boy. Which, surprisingly, makes for a difficult role to act, especially since he’s not meant to be a crack character. Jaejoong pulled it off surprisingly well–not well enough for me to find Doctor completely endearing rather than irritating, but well enough. I liked his character (and, consequently, his performance) in Heaven’s Postman a heckuva lot more, but the fact that he’s able to pull off both roles with relative finesse is quite impressive. I hope he gets another acting project soon, because I’m very curious to see what else he can do.

And to end this on a good note…the OST for Sunanare is amazing.

Stereophonics: “Maybe Tomorrow”

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菅原紗由理: “素直になれなくて”

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The Ting Tings: “Great DJ”

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The Holiday Soundtrack: “Maestro”

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WEAVER: “Hard to say I love you ~言い出せなくて~”

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