After my cautiously optimistic impressions of the first three Buzzer Beat episodes, this Japanese drama continued to get better, transforming into a genuinely and surprisingly great show. The pacing in particular was impressive. Revelations that might take a few episodes to unravel in other shows were quickly addressed by the characters, forsaking much of the agonizing waiting found in stereotypical dramas. The plot was moving forward swiftly, the characters had great chemistry amongst them… this show was looking like a slam dunk.
But as the finale approached, Buzzer Beat lost its momentum and concluded with an utterly worthless final episode. Where did it all go wrong?
Refer to my first post about Buzzer Beat for the background and character introductions
What I loved about the first half of Buzzer Beat probably caused its downfall. The plot was advancing so quickly that I felt the complications introduced later in the show were thrown in just to fill out the remainder of the episodes. Sure, in the context of the storyline they weren’t completely unwarranted, but those plot developments carried a lot of angst and frustration that brought down the show. And were they really necessary? I say no.
The last episode in particular was plain awful. The bulk of that hour consisted of meaningless scenes plus a time-skip leading to a lackluster basketball match. I spent that episode wondering when something important was going to happen and asking myself, “THIS is the last episode?” Was there a different group of writers for the finale? Because it sure felt that way.
One point in the finale almost made me stop watching. The female violinist (Keiko Kitagawa) was practicing for an important orchestra concert and was going to miss her love interest’s (Yamashita Tomohisa) basketball game, so she stands up to ditch practice. What does the foreign conductor say in English? “Everything is ok. Love makes us strong.”
Never mind that one of the major settings in the drama is a park with the phrase “Love makes us strong” prominently featured on a wall. Hearing the conductor say it, which made no sense in that context by the way, made me grimace. One of the worst moments in a drama for me yet, only rivaled by the “Water! WATER!” screams early in My Boss My Hero, which almost made me quit THAT drama.
Despite the disappointing last few episodes of the show, one strong constant was the chemistry between Keiko and Yamashita (aka Yamapi). They play off each other well and have very natural interactions. At times, Yamapi seems slightly stiff and his hair is completely distracting, but Keiko is fantastic throughout. She probably made a lot of new fans with this drama. I can’t wait to see what’s next for her!
One final note: since Keiko’s character is a musician, she loves to watch Yamapi practice basketball and closes her eyes to breathe in the notes of the basketball hitting the ground. I wish they could have emphasized this clever connection a bit more, as there’s something beautifully poetic in how she can musically connect with his basketball play this way.
As a whole, I believe the stellar first 7-8 episodes withstand the damage done by the remainder of the show. Buzzer Beat is a feel-good story about having dreams and working hard. It’s a simple story bolstered by two strong stars and well-written dialogue. What a shame the show lost steam towards the end because this drama could have been superb.