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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5 thoughts on “[drama] the funny, bizarre and heartwarming in FUBEN NA BENRIYA”
Happy to see your post about it! Happy also that this drama is still making people laugh long after it finished airing! :3
thank YOU for blogging about it!
I was considering this drama after finishing Okitegami Kyoko no Biboroku (loved Okada Masaki and his myriad of expressions there, thus i could imagine his WTF face you mentioned above) but the bizarre plot and dismal ratings put me on the fence. Plus i’m rarely amused by j-dorama’s humor. But maybe it doesn’t hurt to give a couple episodes a go — nice to know each episode is only half-hour long! 😉
oh FNB rated poorly? how sad. maybe the Japanese already have enough of their variety shows lol
the scenes in this drama really reminds me of those gags they do in Shiyagare. but maybe I just have shallow humor hahaha
do give it a try!
I stumbled upon your blog post while looking up the theme songs to Fuben.
I went into this drama following Okada Masaki, since I’m currently marathoning his dramas/movies/etc., but I came out missing Takeyama Jun so much that I randomly hum the theme songs to the drama wherever I go. Even when I’m at work, I’m whimpering to watch him again when I get home… despite just having finished watching the whole drama a few days ago. I don’t know what is it about this character that makes me like him so much… but I love the journey he goes through from a Jun who is always sure about himself and where he’s going to the Jun who lets things happen and enjoys the process, then writes about it. The evil smirk he has at the end of the episode makes me wish they’d do a second season of this drama.
I was also impressed that the drama actually managed to break a Guinness record (the snowmen episodes). I have no idea how the production crew put everything together as seamlessly as they did and still managed to have so much fun filming.