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TV Review: Please Love the Useless Me

Year: 2016
Episode: 10 episodes. JDrama series adapted from a Josei manga series (English sub version)
Other Names: Dame na Watashi ni Koishite Kudasai
Online: Wikipedia (Re: Manga)MyDramaListAsianWikiIMDB
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Slice of Life, Drama

Yes, I know that it has taken me close to a year to finish this series. A lot has happened over this time. I’m not saying that it was aliens… but it might have been aliens. 😉 Anyway, I watched the last two episodes this morning and felt compelled to post my thoughts on the series.

Michiko Shibata (Kyoko Fukada) is a 30-year-old unmarried virgin that is heavily in debt due to some poor choices. When her former boss Kurosawa Ayumu (Dean Fujioka), comes to the rescue with a room to stay in and a part-time job at his new restaurant, Michiko is forced to reevaluate her life. In the process, she makes a bunch of new friends, adopts a cat, and must come to terms with her feelings towards Kurosawa. Also, she has to deal with her fascination with meat.

This series is a live-action adaptation of a manga series that I read several months prior to watching the show. It can be easily described as a romantic comedy but is a lot more than that. I won’t go into such silliness as “it is a way of life” or other such nonsense, but the series leaves a lasting impression long after you’ve finished an episode or read a chapter of the manga. It is a warm and fuzzy feeling that you get when you recall a pleasant memory or spend quality time with a loved one.
The casting was excellent. Fukada and Fujioka were spot-on for the roles of Michiko and Kurosawa. They were backed up by a host of other talented actors and actresses, such as Ono Takehiko as Koida Kazuo, Suzuki Takayuki as Terui “Teruii” Manabu and Nonami Maho as Ikushima Akira. Director Hayato Kawai had a lot of talent to draw from during the filming of the series, with the cast of veterans having a fun script to work with.
To characterisation, I liked each character. Sure, each has their flaws, but these flaws also add to their charm and often contribute meaningfully to the story. It isn’t very often that I can say that. In Please Love the Useless Me, characters aren’t demonized or made to be villains just so that we would root for one of the characters. Being a “love rival” doesn’t necessarily make your competition a bad person. And sometimes a character creates their own problems by making poor choices such as not being sceptical of what another person is saying. This approach worked for me.
Whilst there were noticeable changes in the live-action version, these changes were meaningful and managed to hold true to what made the manga a compelling and entertaining read.  One character that appeared in the manga is deceased, creating some interesting opportunities for storytelling which were taken advantage of. Whilst I initially thought that this change was for the sake of brevity, it offered something meaningful to the story. Whilst some changes were actually for the sake of brevity, they still held true to the spirit of the manga, making this one of the better live-action adaptations that I’ve come across in recent years.

Whilst there is likely to be a few things that I missed out on during this review, I have to say that it is one of the best Asian drama series that I’ve seen to date. I haven’t completed Goblin yet but I am guessing that the two series will be on par as far as entertainment value is concerned. In any case, I recommend this series to anyone with a love of romantic comedy and slice of life stories.

Have recommendations for other series? Feel free to drop me a line via the contact page or by commenting. I look forward to hearing from you guys.

 

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TV Review: Please Love the Useless Me Episode 05

Year: 2016
Episode: Episode 5/10 of completed JDrama series adapted from a Josei manga series (English sub version)
Other Names: Dame na Watashi ni Koishite Kudasai
Online: Wikipedia (Re: Manga), MyDramaList, AsianWikiIMDB, KissAsian, DramaCool
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life, Drama

I decided to watch another episode of Dame na Watashi ni Koshite Kudasai this evening because it has been a while since I watched the show and it never ceases to bring a smile to my face whenever I watch it. We are now around the halfway point in the series and I am also somewhat curious as to how the live-action adaptation will deviate from the source material. Up until this point, the major deviation has been in the older brother of our male lead being deceased for several years which has no doubt changed the dynamic between Ayumu and his brother’s widow Haruko.

The fifth episode saw Michiko Shibata (Kyoko Fukada) share her first Valentine’s Day with her boyfriend Daichi Mogami (Shohei Muira) after getting some cooking tips from Ayumu Kurosawa (Dean Fujioka). The Valentine’s Day date scene played out wonderfully but it also foreshadowed something that will no doubt play out in future episodes. (I have my suspicions based on the manga but the live-action may deviate slightly.) We saw some adorable interactions between Shibata and Haruko leading to Shibata wanting to help Kurosawa with his romantic attachment to Haruko; as well as some wonderful moments with Akira Ikushima (Maho Nonami) as Akira continues to offer Shibata relationship advice as self-appointed “Big Sis”. However, we also see some lingering doubt on the part of Mogami over Shibata’s relationship with Kurosawa in spite of her denying anything romantic between the two.

I continue to look forward to each new episode of this series and cannot help but wonder why I haven’t simply binge-watched the entire show already. Shibata and Mogami’s relationship is very cute but is somewhat complicated by her own inexperience and subtle questions about how she feels for Kurosawa. We also see her learning a lot about the various characters, especially Kurosawa, through her meals with other people. However, we still see the appropriate amount of doubt from Mogami over her relationship with Kurosawa. Though the scenes played out slightly different from the manga, we see the spirit of the manga intact. To me, this series remains one of the better live-action adaptations of a manga that I have seen to date.

I will return with another review of the show soon.


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TV Review: Please Love the Useless Me Episode 04

Year: 2016
Episode: Episode 4/10 of completed JDrama series adapted from a Josei manga series (English sub version)
Other Names: Dame na Watashi ni Koishite Kudasai
Online: Wikipedia (Re: Manga), MyDramaList, AsianWikiIMDB, KissAsian, DramaCool
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life, Drama

I decided to get in one last show before I turn in for the evening.

In lieu of Daichi Mogami (Shohei Muira) asking if she minds dating with the view of marriage, Michiko Shibata (Kyoko Fukada) considers what it means to date given that she has limited experience in the matter. She becomes a little concerned because of Ayumu Kurosawa (Dean Fujioka) suggesting that Mogami might be a marriage swindler but her general good nature leads our female lead to cast aside most of her own self-doubt. We also learn that Haruko, the woman that Kurosawa is in love with is the widow of his older brother. After Shibata confirms to Mogami that she is willing to do the whole courtship ahead of marriage thing, he sees her eating with Kurosawa, the other employees, and two customers after hours, we see some foreshadowing of things to come.

This episode kept with the same feel as the rest of the series so far but deviated from the source material somewhat. In the manga, Kurosawa’s brother is very much alive and has been engaged to Haruko for an extended period of time. We get to learn a bit about the two brothers in the manga, including the various sacrifices that Hajime made for Ayumu in lieu of his little brother wanting nothing to do with the family business. We also get to see some closure for Ayumu when he finally confesses. The manga did a lot to tie these things together in a meaningfully way and I am beginning to wonder how the death of the older Kurosawa brother will impact the overall storyline. I suppose that I will have to continue to watch the series to find out. 😀


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TV Review: Please Love the Useless Me Episode 03

Year: 2016
Episode: Episode 3/10 of completed JDrama series adapted from a Josei manga series (English sub version)
Other Names: Dame na Watashi ni Koishite Kudasai
Online: Wikipedia (Re: Manga), MyDramaList, AsianWikiIMDB, KissAsian, DramaCool
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life, Drama

We are now up to the third episode of the rather adorable Please Love the Useless Me. I know that it has been a few weeks since I watched the second episode but I figured that it was time to get stuck into the show again. Yes, I will attempt to watch some more Asian drama series in upcoming weeks. This will likely cut into time that I would have spent watching anime. However, I think that it will be worth the effort, especially given that anime and live-action tend to make use of different storytelling techniques. Yes, this will likely include both Love O2O and Goblin.

In the third episode, Michiko Shibata (Kyoko Fukada) goes out on a date with Daichi Mogami (Shohei Muira). She also purchases her first bit of lingerie at a shop where Kurosawa’s ex Akira Ikushima (Maho Nonami) is manager after Ayumu Kurosawa (Dean Fujioka) comments on the granny panties that he saw hanging up to dry in her room. Michiko’s coworker Yuki Kadoma (Hinako Sano) gets stuck into her about not chastising Misaki Nakajima (Risa Naito) for slacking off and shifting her work onto other people. Michiko finally puts her foot down after a pep-talk from Kurosawa the night before. During their second date, Mogami asks Shibata to go out with him from now on with the intent to marry.

This series continues to hit all of the right notes for me and I have to admit that I like it a lot more than Something About One Percent. We see the odd friendship between Ikushima and Shibata, with Akira willingly taking on the role of “big sis”. I really like the rapport between these two characters as I did in the manga, along with how the live-action adaptation continues to deal with some of the other relationships from the manga.

There is not much to add beyond what I have said already. Seriously, if you are looking to watch a cute comedic drama then you really should consider giving this series a watch. It is freaking adorable. While you are at it, feel free to check out the manga.


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TV Review: Please Love the Useless Me Episode 02

Year: 2016
Episode: Episode 2/10 of completed JDrama series adapted from a Josei manga series (English sub version)
Other Names: Dame na Watashi ni Koishite Kudasai
Online: Wikipedia (Re: Manga), MyDramaList, AsianWikiIMDB, KissAsian, DramaCool
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life, Drama

I am back with my review of the second episode in the Please Love the Useless Me live-action TV adaptation.

After Ayumu Kurosawa (Dean Fujioka) mistakenly kissed Michiko Shibata (Kyoko Fukada) while drunk at the end of the last episode, our heroine wonders about the woman that he whispered the name out in his groggy state. Encouraged by Ayumu who is completely unaware that he kissed her, Michiko begins to push forward with her job-hunting and lands an office position. Though she falls back into some self-destructive people-pleasing habits, Michiko manages to gain the attention of a young man that she’s met by chance several times before, Daichi Mogami (Shohei Muira).

This episode might have changed a few scenes here and there, but we see it staying close enough to the manga to hold the charm and adorableness of the original. I was happy to see some more iconic scenes from the series also be added to the script for the live-action. Then again, most readers of the series would have got upset if they’d been dumped.
I have been waiting for the meat pillow not-a-date sequence since I first discovered this adaptation existed, and I wasn’t disappointed with how it played out in this second episode. It is one of those sequences in the manga that sums up the characters of Ayumu and Michiko so well. It is that energy and a seemingly simple act of kindness that also shows what the two characters offer each other as human beings and friends. Ever since I read the sequence in the manga, I’ve wanted one of those damned meat cushions as well. I might have to convince my hubby to get one.
To Mogami, it was evident from the first episode who he was. Shohei Miura does an awesome job of capturing his youthful enthusiasm and naivety as well as his openness about his feelings for Michiko, an appropriate opposite for Dean Fujioka’s Kurosawa. We know from the start that his relationship with Michiko is not going to work out, but we still root for him because the character is a nice, hardworking guy.
We get to see more of Ayumu’s ex-girlfriend Akira Ikushima (Maho Nonami) again. She was a staple in the manga as well, and it is really nice seeing how well Maho Nonami portrays her character. The more that I see of her acting, the more inclined that I am to check out more of her roles. In this episode, we see her friendship with Michiko developing nicely. Michiko’s own life also puts her own into perspective, making their friendship make a lot of sense from a psychological point of view.
We got to see more of the two friends that Michiko had back when she was Ayumu’s subordinate. Aki Yoneda (Kinako Kobayashi) and Erika Fujimoto (Izumi Fujimoto) are such wonderful, supportive characters that offer a lot of insight into Michiko’s past. Without them, we wouldn’t get to see more of Michiko’s life beyond her dealings with Ayumu.

This episode did a good job of reaching important milestones in the life of our heroine. Whilst it might deviate ever so slightly from the manga, such as change of setting seen in the drunk kiss sequence, it still manages to hold true to the original. As such, I will be happily continuing this series.

 


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TV Review: Please Love the Useless Me Episode 01

Year: 2016
Episode: Episode 1/10 of completed JDrama series adapted from a Josei manga series (English sub version)
Other Names: Dame na Watashi ni Koishite Kudasai
Online: Wikipedia (Re: Manga), MyDramaList, AsianWikiIMDB, KissAsian, DramaCool
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life, Drama

I first came across Please Love the Useless Me via the manga version mid-July of last year. It was a quirky little tale of a 30-year-old woman looking to change her life after spending much of her adult life making bad if good-hearted, decisions. I had to stop reading because I was up-to-date with the chapters available online and look forward to catching up with the last few volumes that recently became available. If you aren’t already familiar with the manga, I highly recommend that folks check it out online.
When I first heard that there was a live-action adaptation of the manga series Please Love the Useless Me several months ago, I brimmed with anticipation at the possibilities. After all, I really like this good-hearted, quirky, romantic comedy. The first episode well and truly surpassed my expectations.

Michiko Shibata has some problems. On top of being fired from her last job, she is also unknowingly being scammed by a younger, attractive man. With funds quickly running out and debt growing due to her poor decisions, Michiko comes across her former boss, the stern Ayumu Kurosawa whilst attempting to steal cat food from under a park bench. And with a simple noisy declaration about her desire for meat, Michiko is taken under the wing of her old boss in his newly purchased family restaurant. So begins a grand adventure for a woman, wherein she meets new friends and learns a lot about Ayumu in the process.

From the outset of the show, I was extremely impressed with how closely it follows the manga. Many of the scenes are nearly word-for-word and play-by-play. Apart from a few irrelevant scenes being chopped, this first episode does a really good job of conveying the style and emotion of the manga.
The casting is spot on, with the leads of Dean Fujioka as Ayumu Kurosawa and Kyoko Fukada as Michiko Shibata. Some of you might be familiar with Dean Fujioka from a number of other dramas and full-length films. He also has a lengthy music career, recently having his song History Maker popularised in the anime sporting drama Yuri on Ice!!!. Yes, that was him. After seeing Kyoko Fukada’s role in this episode, I will likely track down more of her own work as well.
As for the other roles, I was very impressed with the other choices, with a special place in my heart for Takayuki Suzuki who plays the tall and gruff former Yankee Manabu “Terii” Terui. In the first scene that he appeared, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how well he channelled the character. I doubt that there are many actors that could have managed the character’s posture, vocal mannerisms and expressions anywhere near as well as he did.

All in all, I really enjoyed the first episode and look forward to watching the remaining nine instalments of the series. I highly recommend this series to anyone that enjoys comedies with a slight romantic bent, that feature characters that are in their late 20’s to early 30’s. If you do check out the series, be sure to let me know what you thought of it.


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Anime Review: Maid-Sama

Year: 2010
Other Names: Kaicho wa Meido-sama, Misaki is a Maid
Episodes: 26 (English dub version)
Maid-Sama Online: Wikipedia, MyAnimeList, IMDB, Hulu
Genre: Shōjo + Romantic Comedy + School Life + Drama + Gender Bender

Due to issues with my internet over the last week, the anime review for this week was slightly delayed. Given that I was going to watch the intended series online, I also had to change to a different series that I already had available. Hence, Maid-Sama, the series that was second in the review list. I would point out before I get stuck into the overview and review section that I watched a little bit of the English subtitled version a few years back. However, I am not familiar with the manga apart from light research that I did after I completed this series late last night.

>insert usual warning about spoilers here<

Seika High recently became co-ed after being an all boy’s school for many years. After clawing her way to the position as the first female student council leader, Misaki Ayuzawa, has a lot on her plate. To help out her mother, she works a maid at the Maid-themed cafe in a nearby town. Her life gets complicated when she is discovered by serial confession-rejector, Takumi Usui, along with three delinquents from her school. So begins the rather odd relationship of strongly independent Misaki and a rather bizarre young man.

So, where to begin? This anime is one of the more unusual Shōjo series that I have watched, for a number of reasons. Off the bat, the series gives me an Ouran High School Host Club vibe, because of some of the elements. Admittedly, this might be a tenuous connection at times, but these connections are noticeable nonetheless. I will discuss the male and female leads of both series for the sake of comparison.
Both Misaki from Maid-sama and Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club are poor and have single parents. Misaka’s father left her mother and his two daughters when Misaka was little, giving the girl a negative view of men. She becomes somewhat dependent and hesitant to trust males as a result. Contrast this with Haruhi’s situation, wherein her now cross-dressing father lost the love of his life when their daughter was young. Unlike Haruhi, Misaki didn’t get a scholarship to a prestigious school like Ouran and somehow get roped into the whole host thing. Instead, Misaki went out and got a job in a neighbouring town in order to help out her mother that works long hours at a hospital. Misaka has friends at school and work compared to Haruhi’s social life being nearly completely related to the host club. Haruhi is oblivious to her romantic feelings, whilst Misaki tries to push them away. Unlike Haruhi, nobody has an issue identifying that Misaki is female.
Both Usui from Maid-sama and Tomoe from Ouran High School Host Club are blonde and have developed odd interests as a result of being lonely. Both are popular with the ladies, though Usui is tired of the numerous confessions. In contrast, Tomoe sees his interactions with females (predominantly as the club) purely as a part of his host game. Both come from rich families, the product of relationships that are frowned upon by the head of their family due to how it might affect the reputation of the family. Tomoe’s dad had a relationship with a commoner and the Matriarch loves to pile on the bitchy guilt over it, but both parents are alive. Usui’s married mother had an affair with the butler, dying in childbirth. Unlike Tomoe, Usui’s rich family is trying to hide his existence from the world for some weird reason. Maybe something to do with protecting their potato chip fortune. Okay, maybe I made up the bit about the potato chip thing. Usui lacks a circle of friends, unlike Tomoe. Usui doesn’t have an issue identifying and showing his feelings for Misaka, unlike the rather daft Tomoe. Both are idiots.
With that bit out of the way, it is time to discuss the plot. The premise itself feels somewhat generic, the Tsundere Versus Prince. However, it twists those character archetypes and tries to explain more about the psychology of the characters compared to some other Shōjo series. Whilst the series itself doesn’t extend past the point where Misaki finally accepts the fact that she is in love with Usui. This doesn’t feel as impactful as it could have been and doesn’t resolve the issue with Misaki’s childhood friend Minata either. It felt abrupt and left things up in the air, perhaps in the hope of there being a second season that never arrived. The end certainly was a big let-down for me as a viewer.
Back to the characters, the series did manage a growing list of characters quite well. Most contributed to the story in some meaningful fashion as well. Take the trio known as “The Three Idiots”. The lads were an issue to begin with but soon transformed into starry-eyed reformed delinquents that went above and beyond comic relief on several occasions. That being said, one character in particularly irked me, Tora Igarashi, the head of the school council for nearby snob-school Miyabigaoka. He is a character that never really suffers any real consequences for attempting to rape Misaki around the eighth episode. That was a simple enough problem, but when we see him again later in the series, it is via a lame plan that never really goes anywhere. It felt weak story and character wise. I have a few other pet peeves, but that is one of the more notable ones. I also had some issues with some of the story being disjointed at times as well. Also note that the series does not follow the manga progression all of the way through, hence we don’t see some of the characters from the manga in the manga adaptation.
To the art, the mix between watercolour style backgrounds, chibi and the angular faces was oddly appealing. The bright colours for the characters contrasted well with the other elements such as environments such as the school. However, I did have issues with some of the characters looking way too similar to each other. This wasn’t anywhere near the issue that I had with the art in the Biyaku Cafe manga. You can also expect slight changes to the representation of characters such as Misaki, in line with the growth of her character.
To the audio, the intro and outro music struck me as somewhat odd and better attached to other series as the single intro and two outro songs didn’t feel like they fit that well with the series. As for the voice acting, that was a little strange as well. Initially, I found the choices for Misaki and Usui off-putting, but the two voice actors slowly began to grow on me. I suspect that some of the dialogue wasn’t necessarily the best, even cringe-worthy at times. The cast tried to make do with what they were required to read for the English adaptation. I feel for them. That being said, I did hear a few familiar voice actors and actresses in this English dub version. An example is an actor that played one of the two “Brotherly Love” characters in Ouran. That dude sure does get around. Could the casting have been better? Yes. However, it was still quite good.

In conclusion, the anime was enjoyable in spite of the numerous flaws throughout. I can say that I did enjoy Ouran High School Host Club more because of how well the story held together comparatively. However, OHSHC is more of a parody of a sort-of-harem drama rather than the romantic comedy of Maid-Sama. Apples and Oranges? Perhaps. In any case, if you are willing to overlook the flaws of the series, then jump on in and give it a watch as it does have some genuinely funny and surprising moments.