dokushin kizoku: the first two drafts

This year especially, has been disappointing on the love story or rom-com sect of Jodorama, for neither Last Cinderella or Summer Nude were for me and I find this unsettling, for Japan and love, has a tendency to resonate with me more often than any other yet, to be honest, it hasn’t really hit home in since Soredemo

Then a drama comes along that I turned on just because. Because I give courtesy to certain actors, because I liked the concept, because I had nothing to lose and now, well, because I really,really, really like it.

The Aristocratic Bachelor (Dokushin Kizoku)was on my “to watch” list but I didn’t have any idea what to really expect. Would it be a “real” rom-com where a couple that makes sense survives in the end or at least has a romantic follow through? Is it a testament to singleness? A company drama? A good old fashion romance?
And it seems Dokushin Kizoku hits all of the above, yet still manages to satisfy.

And I have to admit, I’m beginning to think this year is my year for this drama holds the first of two characters (though this one is male) that is so much like myself and my thinking, sometimes, I have to pinch myself.

Official Synopsis here

Episode Rewrite:  Bachelor Hoshino Mamoru indulges in fine wines and cuisine, treats his shoes like children and even enjoys  the pleasantries of dating but affirms, marriage is a no-go, for “you have to live with the person. So when his aunt comes to him with an ultimatum of marriage in order to save his failing production company, he likens the act (of marriage) to seppuku (suicide by stomach stabbing).

However, this doesn’t deter Auntie Akiko and Mamoru agrees to date loquacious Genozono Reiko (Hiraiwa Kami), and puts his grandfather’s advice into practice (counting the Yamaonote train line as a woman rambles),  in order to garner time for acclaimed author Takakura Yuuji to turn in his manuscript.

The only problem is, while Mamoru’s been waiting patiently for a draft, Takakura has had no intention of turning one over, believing Mamoru to be less talented and accommodating than his father, which leaves Mamoru crying by a river, readying himself for a lifetime of marital seppuku.

Then enters aspiring scriptwriter Haruno Yuki, who jetted out from hometown Aomori to the big city to make a splash in show biz. But after a mountain of rejections, she’s forced to take a part time job to make ends meet. So when roommate and bff Saori (Nishihara Aki) offers her a cleaning gig she jumps at the chance.

Once, she’s there she realizes he’s a movie buff and immediately begins to wonder who this mystery man may be and finds it strange the evidence of his playboy ways don’t match his  interests and his hobbies. But when her friend mentions he’s the managing CEO of one of the most popular production companies (Kinema Etoille), she takes this as her last chance and leaves her screenplay on his coffee table.

Later that night, as Mamoru mourns his singleness, his younger brother, partner and playboy divorcé, Susumu, spots the script and the brothers’ call stops Yuki before her bus leaves town.  The boys offer her a job and after permission is granted, Susumu rushes the script over to their partners but instead of offering it as  a consolation (as Mamoru had requested) Susumu passes it off as a Takakura original. For like his brother, Susumu needs their business to flourish, not only to fund his swallowing divorce but to carry on his father’s legacy.

The deal goes through smoothly but Auntie Akiko refuses to relent until the film is underway, therefore Mamoru continues meeting Reiko— and counting trains.

Meanwhile, Yuki has “first day blues” for her ignorance and inexperience irritates starring actress, Kanzaki Kyomi who decides  to be uncooperative  to sabotage her efforts. On the way home she runs into Mamoru bidding Reiko goodnight with exasperated relief and they set out to eat together, but their meal ends abruptly when he compares her to an elephant.

At work, she’s let go for the day after another mishap but determines to smile until, she overhears Chief Mizushima discussing Takaura’s new script and puts the pieces together. Livid, she rushes over to confront Mamoru for duping her, who insists he did no such thing and brushes it off as a misunderstanding. But when he receives notice of their new production budget costs, he demands the truth from Susumu, who confirms the shoddy deal.

Mamoru tracks Yuki down and takes full responsibility. However, a little time and cooling off, and a pep talk from Saori has left Yuki content with her work being used, no longer feeling bamboozled, she’s grateful for the opportunity instead.

Noticeably moved, Mamoru returns to Nippon Eiga , comes clean about the script, and begs to reclaim ownership. Meanwhile, Yuki returns to work just as a hand shot is delayed by Kanzaki-san’s diva moment and Susumu ushers in Yuki to take her place. Just as they setup the shot, Yuki transformed from rumbled to ravishing, Mamoru looks on, script in hand.

The Premise: Set in the world of film making, this drama is an ode to all classic dreamy romance films and the loose retelling of 1954 Hollywood classic, Sabrina starring Humphrey BogartAudrey Hepburn and William Holden. And this realization, elated me, for Sabrina is one third of the only Audrey Hepburn films I actually like unequivocally, without the bias of my undying love for Bogey.

Sabrina is the story of a gawky chauffeur’s daughter, Sabrina Fairchild, with a crush on the boss’ youngest “playboy” son, who goes away to cooking school and returns a beautiful sophisticated lady, hoping to finally get a chance at romance with her childhood crush. But when she returns, she has an immediate connection with her crush’s older brother and lands herself in a love triangle between both men.  Thankfully, Dokushin Kizoku begins with three individuals living their lives, without inborn crushes or parental entanglements.

It’s odd because, it took me a couple solid episodes to come to this conclusion even with Sabrina being my cornerstone for rom-com adoration but I hate comparing projects, therefore, I suppose it’s not too unreasonable. And with the drama virtually selling the classic film approach, with recognizable scores from AnnieMy Fair LadyBreakfast at Tiffany’s, even a couple Chaplin ditties, one can’t help but settle on the nod. However, though this drama is unabashedly an attempt at classic romance amidst modernity, it doesn’t smack foreign, lofty, or reaching, though it’s certainly nostalgic and whimsical.

The Characters

Haruno Yuki (Kitawaga Keiko)

Haruno Yuki is a 21st Century woman, but not the savvy businesswoman but a small town girl with a dream. She’s polite and sensible, hardworking and determined and gives across a very easygoing girl next door quality, without seeming overly boyish or naive. She’s been inspired by those raw classic films or yore that stirred the heart and satiated the mind and desires to create her own niche with her talent. What is great about her is, though she’s single, she’s not overly obsessed with changing her status nor oblivious or forlorn about her future, she’s on the cusp of 30 and stepping into her dream and that’s her untethered focus. This fact for me, makes her feel more tangible and relatable than most rom-com heroines, for she’s just ordinary, not extraordinary talent or opinions just plain, simple but not dour or demure.

The Hoshino Brothers 

Mamoru Hoshino (Kusanagi Tsuyoshi)

Mamoru, on the other hand, is meticulous and forthright, but averse to women as a species.  For to him, they add nothing substantial to his life. He sees no need for romance and views love and its effects as a mild but common fever. Therefore, his bachelorhood is self-motivated and preserved, making room for lavish home-cooked cuisine and a closest of prized, perfectly polished shoes.

Susumu Hoshino (Ito Hideaki)

Much like the original screenplay, this drama has two brothers that are polar opposites, the player in the midst of a divorce settlement Susumu and his older brother (aniki), the diehard bachelor Mamoru. Susumu is attractive and impulsive but a businessman at heart, determined to keep his father’s production house afloat, all the while wining and dining as many women a week as there are days. He fancies himself unattached, though he’s still in the negotiation process of his divorce settlement, where each indiscretion affords him more financial loss.

These boys are equally lovable but it’s evident, even before their meeting that Yuki and Mamoru are the best match. But the question is how long will it take for them to realize they could be the perfect partnership Yuki describes over their dinner bomb?

Overall Thoughts: I enjoy so many aspects about DK but it’s most endearing asset is that it’s a delightful watch. There’s not “too much” of anything and just enough of the things we love about a good romance stories. I like that DK isn’t trying to be too filmy yet, it doesn’t deny it’s attempt at reminiscence.

All three characters have room for growth, for the experience of their meeting will shift their ideas and preferably make them stronger, wiser people. For me, the best romantic drama characters are those that are equally independent, reasonable and content on their own, without a partner. Where neither person needs fixing, but rather their hardest edges and dullest spots are rounded and brighten by their interaction with others. I definitely see that happening here.

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