Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jdrama Review: Love Shuffle (2009)

Love Shuffle

After reading endless praise-worthy reviews, and reading the synopsis, Love Shuffle seemed to be offering up something unique.  Four strangers who live on the same apartment floor meet one day in a stalled elevator, and after this plus a few other chance meetings, decide that each of their respective love lives are something of a mess.  Borrowing their own partners, they devise the ‘love shuffle’.  Each week a different couple is paired together, compatibility and chemistry are measured, true and fake loves abound, and everybody seems more confused about their destined partners than when they started.  It’s a true OTP-guessing drama, fun and sexy, with a healthy dose of quirky characters and plot twists.  All that, and I still couldn’t love it. 
"Say it ain't so.. Joe!"
Maybe I’m hung up on the idea that there is, or should be, something wrong fundamentally with casually switching partners every week.  Or maybe this is too much fiction for me to be able to accept that a psychiatrist would really put his suicide-prone patient into the mix.  Not that these are even serious flaws for a TV drama, but something from the get-go was telling me, “I don’t like it.” I nearly dropped the show at only two episodes.  A week later, and after some serious consideration, I picked it up again. 
I’m happy I did so, because there are good themes to this drama.  For one, it doesn’t hurt to analyze what’s at the heart of a basic human relationship.  These are not your typical marriage-obsessed characters.  Indeed, some of them are quite the reverse, and some don’t seem to care one way or the other.  In Kdramaland, everything seems to scream of that one fated lover.  Miss your OTP, and you might as well resign yourself to a lonely, sad existence.  Here is where Love Shuffle breaks a few boundaries.  These are human beings yearning for one other, yes, but not necessarily or exclusively via typical romantic outlets.  If I loved anything about this drama, it’s in the friendships that were forged and honed throughout.  The foursome that live on the same floor, drinking wine each evening in the hall in their PJs.  The women who come together, alternately snarky and supportive.  The men who bond both in jealousy and in commonality.  The couples who are not destined, but can still inspire. 

Where I think Love Shuffle misses the mark though is in the fairly grey area of delivery.  It’s as if the drama can’t decide if it should be a comedy or a melodrama, an inspirational tale of life over death, or a social commentary of the emasculated young male figure in a patriarchal country.   Sure, the drama tries to tackle some issues in fairly creative ways.  The most relevant would probably be Matsuda Shota’s character Sera Ojiro, introduced to us as a former wartime photographer who had become disgusted at his own insensitivity. In a turnaround moment, Ojiro purposely starts a fight with a gang of men, who had just the day before beaten him senseless. Reinvigorated, he knocks down the greatest offender, looks around with satisfaction, and then calmly snaps a picture of the man’s bloody face.  
Not that I’m making too much of this parallel (or am I?), but Ojiro is also adept at using his camera to maneuver his models into the exact position and level of vulnerability he wants them in. 
Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Love Shuffle is commendable in its uniqueness, and multiple-plot driven storylines. It's even at times hilarious, though be sure to watch with decent subtitle translations, as oftentimes the jokes are Japanese-specific. I’m not sure why, but every now and then I find myself walking around thinking, “Yay, panda...” Sadly, that’s about as much enthusiasm I had overall, though that is not meant to be a discouragement.  I thoroughly recommend Love Shuffle, as I don't doubt that I am one of the few people out here too picky for my own good. So what do you think?


  1. I haven't yet watched this show, and I don't think I will be anytime soon (with my already endless watch next-list), but I have several times wanted to. However, every time I try the "suffle" aspect seems kinda distant to me. I do think it is an interesting take on the usual trendy dramas, but I still prefer shows that don't have everybody dating everybody (like most American drama series usually do). It gets too complicated and makes me think that none of them should date at all if they don't know who they want.
    But maybe I'm wrong, and maybe if I finally watch the show then perhaps I do like it. You never know, right?

    1. The shuffle thing was also a big turn-off for me. I stared at this drama for a few months, before I even queued it, and then waited another month or so before deciding to watch.

      The fun this is that while yes, everybody is dating everybody, it has this weird methodical twist to it, as opposed to American dramas where everybody suddenly wakes up in somebody else's bed and drama ensues from there. Still, it's a little strange overall. And there were a few characters I seriously wanted to strangle for their complete idiocy and immaturity about "do I like him? don't I like him?" attitude. It takes being a good mood to handle this one at times (which sort of defeats the purpose of drama-entertainment?), and I was never aching to watch the next episode. I finished out of obligation mostly, and a desire to at least see what happens to my favorite characters.

  2. This sounds really really interesting!! I am definitely intrigued and am now going to have to watch it!!