I’m constantly looking for a drama that I could watch without dropping it on the first episode or even midway (to this day, I have not watched the finale of She Was Pretty). Oh My Venus was the only drama I watched to the finish line last year though many criticised it for lack of plot. But I liked it because it was breezy for the most part, and really, I watch dramas to de-stress, not to stress myself.
Fuben na Benriya (literally Inconvenient Handymen) has all the ingredients of my ideal drama: Japan, specifically the winter wonderland of Hokkaido; travel, adventure, comedy. What’s more, this is a Japanese drama so it’s 12 episodes, and even better, only half an hour each. This format made me realize that you don’t need an hour to pack a riveting story, and it makes me think of how much time is wasted in other dramas trying to get emotional close-ups while a tear falls and the theme song plays in the background.
Sure, there is drama in FNB, but most of the time it’s played out matter-of-fact or with the bizarre humour that characterizes it all throughout. But for those used to Japanese variety shows, FNB would look like a series of manzai sets.
The cast is composed of familiar–though not necessarily famous actors–that is if you watch a lot of Japanese dramas, like Endo Kenichi (Crows Zero), Suzuki Kosuke (Liar Game) and Tanaka Yoji (one might remember him as the bartender who seldom talks in Kimura Takuya’s Hero; well, in FNB, he also plays a bartender but with more, um, character). Cameos also include child actor Suzuki Fuku and Oizumi Yo (I enjoyed his brief appearances). Okada Masaki plays the lead role, screenwriter Takeyama Jun. It is Jun’s name that becomes a source of misunderstanding, and is the thread that holds the story together.
Jun left Tokyo after a run-in with his producer and is on his way to Furano to look for new writing inspiration when his bus is stranded by a snow storm. He wanders into the unknown town (the theme song of the drama is The Place Has No Name by The Straightener) and walks right into a cosplay bar where a “Welcome Jun” sign and his “long-lost father” with his friends are waiting for him. He ends up drunk and wakes up the next morning in a strange house and in strange clothes. Thus begins his reluctant adventure in the town with its strange residents. For most part of the series, he attempts at leaving the town but for one reason or another (he lost his down coat, then he lost his backpack, he unknowingly dyed his hair while drunk etc), always ends up staying, helping out as a handyman that he eventually started easing himself into the town and getting involved in its goings-on, including the finale where they attempt at a Guinness record by building snowmen.
Okada really nails his character perfectly. He has this–as heisui called it–WTF face in most part of the drama and it’s just so hilarious to watch. His character also has the tendency to be over-imaginative (he’s a screenwriter after all) and cooks up all sorts of scenarios in his head that often results in hilarious misunderstandings.
The comedy is boosted by the presence of seasoned performers that even with the lack of popular actors and absence of a romantic interest for the lead, it made the drama such a fun watch. (I marathoned it for two nights, including a repeat of random episodes.)
My favorite episodes have to be #4 and #5 where Jun wakes up to a newly permed hair and, later while he was having it done to black again, lost an eyebrow. I’m laughing just thinking about it.
While Okada is very good, sometimes I couldn’t help wondering what if Eita played Jun. Okada has certain facial expressions that remind me so much of Eita. But in that last frame in the finale, I briefly thought of Matsumoto Jun (now, wouldn’t that have been meta to have Jun play Jun) in the role.
I’m three seasons late into this drama but I’m just glad I found it. Thanks to heisui for writing about it, otherwise I wouldn’t have even known there’s such a wonderful gem of a drama (more like a sitcom in my book). I should also visit my blog neighborhood more often so I would be up-to-date with what’s happening in the drama world and not just depend on Twitter.
This post from jdramaconfessions says it all:
Oh and as the opening credit states: It’s just fiction.
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