Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Shitsuren Chocolatier (JDrama) * * * *

I eagerly waited for this drama, because I'm a huge fan of MatsuJun. I also noticed that he happens to be extra cute when cooking or eating, and since he was going to play a Chocolatier in this drama, I hoped for many scenes like that. It didn't disappoint.

The drama itself was very interesting. It was in a way centred around making chocolates, but not the technical side of it, rather the artistic one. As someone with an artistic disposition myself, some of the things discussed in it gave me thought. The other theme of the drama was relationships. Friendships, friends with benefits, love, marriage, unrequited love. The drama examines how relationships develop, and how people are in them. Learning to get out of the relationship what you want, and letting go when reality clashes with your hopes.
This is more of an adult drama, as it has sex in it. Casual and non casual, and it's even discussed, which is pretty uncommon in Japanese dramas. However, I never did feel that the sex was there just to see people naked. It wasn't even explicit. Instead, the sex was always an important part of the relationship.
If I were to draw up a relationship chart, it would be pretty complicated. It's hard to say how the drama discusses relationships, because it covers so much. You just have to see it. What I can say is that as a woman whose 32 and never had a serious relationship, I learned a lot from this drama. I even recognised myself in one of the characters.

Matsumoto Jun plays a chocolatier called Koyurugi Sota. He had been in love with Takahashi Saeko (Ishihara Satomi) since he was 15. She was his inspiration to become a chocolatier. There are flashbacks, but we actually pick up the story when he opens his own shop 11 years later. Their relationship is the main driving force behind the story. There are many cringe-worthy moments, where you really just want to give the guy a hug. Being the main character, his story is the most complex one. He grows up as it proceeds, and comes to understand more about himself and his feelings. Saeko is the centre of his world, but he himself knows deep down that it's not a healthy position to be in. Through the drama we see him resolve the situation.
Saeko is an interesting character. On the surface she's this bubbly, carefree, chocolate loving person. She's the type of girl who is never without a boyfriend, whom all the guys fawn over, who can make them do whatever she wants. However, we do uncover some of her deeper layers. I also came to realise about her that maybe she wasn't so sure of what she actually wanted. We do see a growth in her. She also gives some great relationship advice.
Inoue Kaoruko (Mizukawa Asami) is the character I could identify with. She's a 30-year-old woman, who has a difficulty in establishing relationships with men. She's very serious, hard working, and a bit frustrated. Her character clashed with Saeko a lot, but we could come to understand that it was because she only saw her surface, and misjudged her.
There were many more characters, and most of them played an important role in the story, but I won't go into it, since this is a spoiler-free review.

This drama got a lot of negative reviews, which I was surprised about. I loved it a lot, but it wasn't just because of the fangirling over Jun. One point that people bring up is that it's a lot like Bambino. Well, not really. It has been a while, but there are some major differences. In Bambino, he's at the bottom of the kitchen in someone else's restaurant. It's more about work ethics, perfecting a craft, than about a romantic angle. In Shitsuren Chocolatier he's the owner, at the top of his game. He does make chocolate in it, but the drama isn't really about that. So the first one is a work drama, the second is a romance.
Another major sore point with people seems to be the ending. In a way it is very unsatisfying, but I have come to appreciate such endings. In Hollywood, everything has to have a happy ending, which is predictable and boring. One thing that I love about Japanese dramas is that they end in reality, not fairy tale. The ending had a very important lesson to teach. I think that instead of moaning about it, people should rather examine the lesson in that. Without trying to spoil too much, the question Sota should have asked himself in the beginning was "Who am I really in love with?". By the end, he finds this question, and comes to answer it in his own personal journey.

Overall, very good drama. In fact, it came at the right time for me. Sometimes, you come across a story, and it feels like the right thing at the right time. This was that for me. Don't expect it to be a light hearted, fun thing. It's not. However, be open to learning from the story, to maybe coming to painful realisations while watching.

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