I’m not entirely positive what was the first Asian drama I watched (I think it was Great Teacher Onizuka), but I’ve been addicted for the past few years. My favorites are the ones with at least some comedy in them because I can’t stand the stereotypical Korean melodramas that make everybody cry five times an episode.
My latest is a Japanese drama called 結婚できない男 or Kekkon Dekinai Otoko in Romanji (which translates into “The man who can’t get married”). It’s a 12 episode long series that aired in the summer of 2006 and is a favorite of both fans and critics alike.
The story centers around a successful architect named Kuwano Shinsuke (played by Abe Hiroshi), who designs beautiful houses but isn’t exactly a people person. He prefers to keep to himself and has an eccentric personality that makes it difficult for him to deal with others. He enjoys his freedom as a bachelor and scoffs at the idea of getting tied down by a woman and getting married (hence the title of the drama). Additionally, he isn’t afraid to speak his mind, which frequently rubs his customers the wrong way, much to the chagrin of his business partner and apprentice. He’s not a dislikable person but he does have some quirky traits which make him difficult to sympathize with initially.
That Shinsuke is such a believable character is testament to the acting abilities of Abe Hiroshi. In fact, this is the drama that introduced me to him, so I have a difficult time imagining him in any other role. He really does a perfect job in this series and was awarded a Best Actor award by the Television Drama Academy Awards (the series as a whole was heavily celebrated).
The action of the drama revolves around funny predicaments that Shinsuke finds himself getting stuck in, often as a result of careless speech and disregard for the feelings of other people. He manages to resolve these situations with the help of people who couldn’t bear calling Shinsuke their friend, yet who nevertheless find themselves intrigued by him in one way or another and are there to help him. As you might expect, Shinsuke finds himself getting somewhat softer as the series progresses and gradually becomes slightly more human. I added all those qualifiers because he does so very begrudgingly and is still cranky to the end, which just adds to the charm and the humor.
Shinsuke’s counterpart is a doctor named Hayasaka Natsumi (played by Natsukawa Yui), who is unlucky in love and often eats dinner alone at a ramen shop. She is Shinsuke’s doctor and has to deal often with his temperamental disposition. They get into frequent arguments (Natsumi is amazing in these by the way, she has a great deadpan delivery of verbal stingers), but as time progresses, these two start finding redeeming qualities in each other and fall in love.
Or do they? Wouldn’t that be completely obvious? I’m not going to spoil anything since that would just ruin everything. Let’s just say that there’s a few twists and turns.
Rounding out the cast of main characters is Tamura Michiru (played by Kuninaka Ryoko), who is Shinsuke’s neighbor and frequently finds herself reluctantly helping out Shinsuke. She is absolutely adorable and lights up every scene she’s in. I can’t get enough of her, she’s just too cute.
There’s one thing I didn’t like about this drama, and that’s the ending. By the way, I think it’s worth taking a digression for newcomers and explaining that the term “drama” is used as a general catch-all word to describe these shows. The genre of Kekkon Dekinai Otoko is very much comedy with a hint of romantic comedy. I just wanted to make that clear since I’ve been using the word “drama” frequently; you’re not going to be crying very much while watching this.
But anyway, the ending felt quite rushed to me. It was as if the producers happened to catch a glimpse of a calendar one day and gasped, “Oh christ, we only have two episodes left in the contract? How in the world are we going to end this?” Although there’s build-up all throughout the series so the ending isn’t unjustified, lots of events happen in the last 1.5 episodes and the pace was a little too fast. It could have used an extra episode for sure.
Still, even though the ending left a faint bitter aftertaste, the series as a whole is packed with comedic value, not only from the characters and the situations, but from completely random things like the 25 DVDs. The characters all become very endearing and as with many good shows, I hated to see it end. Kekkon Dekinai Otoko won’t change your life, but it’s great entertainment and I highly recommend watching it.
Aired Summer 2006
If you’re interested in trying out an episode or two, check the D-Addicts link above. D-Addicts is by far the best drama community on the internet. You’ll be able to see what new dramas have people buzzing, get some recommendations, and find English subtitles. If you have any questions about getting started watching this show or any drama, feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me: andy (at) protocolsnow (dot) com