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Wakamonotachi 2014: First Impressions + Episode 1-6 Review

I recently asked the question: Can Wakamonotachi compete with the best Asian drama during its broadcast? After watching the first six episodes, I have to say the 2014 version of the 1966 original FujiTV drama has a lot of good things to offer – particularly in the acting department – Hikari Mitsushima, Yu Aoi, Eita and Shuhei Nomura were standouts. There are also some dramatic scenes that tug at the heart and an equal measure of fun and comedy to keep the drama interesting.

But some scenes may appear incredulous – particularly those involving Satoshi Tsumabuki’s character as it seems to be someone drawn from yesteryears. Nobody wants to watch a moral, idealistic, highly-strung character in the majority of the episodes.It’s the first time I felt disappointed with Tsumabuki as an actor.

While I may seem critical of the drama, I highly recommend it. Our reviews have been performance oriented since the beginning, and there are a lot of acting highlights here.

The preachy-intrusive yet good-natured Asahi Sato (Tsumabuki) and his antics are matched by the deliberately understated acting of Hikari Mitsushima (who plays Tsumabuki’s sister), bringing a sense of balance to the overall appeal of the series.

Mitsushima who was unforgettable in 2013’s drama series Woman proved she is the actress to beat – delivering yet another remarkable performance as the young Hikari Sato. Her character is both tragic and flawed. Working as a Nurse in the ICU department for pediatric patients, she empathizes too much and cannot distance herself from her young patients and their suffering parents. She is also having an affair with a married man.

My favorite scenes, so far, almost always feature Mitsushima:

1. The scene when Hikari says “thank you” to Tsumabuki after learning from his soon-to-be-wife (Yu Aoi) that her brother cares more about her than his girlfriend. On equal ranking is when Tsumabuki enters Hikari’s room and ask her if anything is wrong.

2. The hospital scene where both doctors and nurses searched for the missing Mom-baby. Hikari sought desperately and pleaded with the mother to keep the baby safe.

3. The apology to the children of the old Yashiro who was swindled by Satoru, Eita’s character. The scene where both Eita and Masami Nagasawa remember the old lady as he watched from the digital camera and she puts on the old skin lotion.

4. The confrontation between Hikari and the Doctor’s wife as the secret affair is laid out in the open.

5. The theater act as Eita sees Kazumi Nagahara (Ai Hashimoto) as his dead lover played by Ryoko Hirosue.

Yu Aoi has enough dramatic scenes to keep up with Mitsushima, but this is Hikari’s show!

I also find Shuhei Nomura to have matured tremendously in the acting department. The hesitant and amateurish younger brother of Haruma Miura in Boku no Ita Jikan (The Hours of my Life) may play a similar character, but Nomura shows he has enough confidence to come up with a more interesting characterization – packed with both dramatic and comedic qualities.

The Sato family – without the parents – are all fiercely independent, yet rely on each other for comfort and support. Asahi is slowly revealing a lot to his younger brothers and sister as he is forced to tell them the truth about their parents since Satoru has been released from prison and threatens the somewhat unstable equilibrium inside their home.

I can’t wait to watch the remaining five episodes as this drama is supposed to end on its 11th episode. While some reviewers and viewers find the following episodes to be a big letdown, I love the pacing of the drama and the development of the characters.

Watching my favorite Japanese talents together in one series may not happen again (shortly), so I am savoring each and every episode! Where can you find Japan’s acclaimed actresses together? Where can you watch an exciting up and coming actor like Shuhei Nomura doing his best as he shares the screen with Japan’s most prominent leading actors like Tsumabuki, Eita, and Emoto?

 

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