[May contain spoilers]
I first watched Takeuchi Yuko in PRIDE with Kimura Takuya. It took me a while to get over that drama and the next time I saw her was in BE WITH YOU. Fast forward many years later when she co-starred with Matsumoto Jun in NATSU NIJI.
I can’t blame producers if they cast Yuko in hapless female roles. Her features are so fragile that she’s perfect for the damsel in distress roles. But that’s the problem seeing her as the romantic lead, I can’t see any growth in her work.
However, it’s a different story when the genre is action or suspense. I read good reviews about STRAWBERRY NIGHT and though I haven’t watched it, I am not surprised that Yuko is after all capable of acting beyond just the hapless female in dire need of her prince charming. This is very true in DANDA RIN, where she plays a labor inspector who is feisty and gungho.
There are many reasons to love this drama and I list them below:
- the ensemble cast; I love ensemble dramas! The cast include Kitamura Kazuki (BAMBINO), who plays the divorced, lousy dresser section chief; and Ookura Koji (CHANGE; HIDAMARI NO KANOJO), who as usual offers some comic relief.
- Matsuzaka Tori; he played Tsubaki Kyota in KYOU KOI WO HAJIMEMASU, the famous manga-turned-movie and while the live action was disappointing, Matsuzaka-kun saved the film from being totally unforgettable. He is the male lead but since I haven’t read the manga, I don’t know if romance will develop between his character, Minamisanjo, and Yuko’s Danda.
- the big band OST; one has to listen to it, it is so in sync with the action. Also, one has to watch the scene where the labor inspectors do morning calisthenics to the tune of Radetsky March. Hilarious.
- so not boring; the good thing about thematic dramas, it offers a variety of issues and not just love, love, love or revenge, revenge, revenge. Episode 6 for instance focused on the foreign workers’ law so there were cameos by Thais, Filipinos and Vietnamese in a factory. It was actually amusing to hear phrases like “Arooy maak (very delicious)” and “Anong lasa? Paki-explain! (How does it taste? Please explain!)” and familiar food like tom yum goong, lechon and pho.
- it’s funny. ‘Nuff said.
The first episode opened with the whole team going to Danda’s apartment. It’s empty except for a fish swimming in a tank, a pretty dark blue Siamese fighting fish that sort of matches her feisty character. Based on their conversation, it appears that something happened to Danda. Dead? Kidnapped? Hospitalized? I have no idea and I don’t know if reading the manga will clear things up.
Then the drama goes back to when Danda was reassigned to the Tokyo office. She is totally the anti-thesis of the stereotype we know of government employees: lax, lazy, laidback. She’s strict, meticulous and uncompromising. It’s interesting to see the dynamics develop between her and Minamisanjo, who is calm and sometimes detached.
One doesn’t have to be Nino to appreciate this drama. Plus you need to see Yuko’s Danda Rin growl like a dog.
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