Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Jdrama Review: Zenkai Girl (2011)

Zenkai Girl

Hardworking, ambitious lawyer-to-be Ayukawa Wakaba (Aragaki Yui), meet stay-at-home daddy Yamada Sota (Nishikido Ryo). Add some kids. Watch the sparks fly. Then fizzle. Then die away. Add more cute kid scenes, and you’ve got a Jdrama. Oh, Zenkai Girl, how I wanted to like you so much. You were sharp, fast-faced and totally fun for the first few episodes. You had a completely adorable nice guy who’s destined to get the girl. Why we gotta get so boring and episodic? Why must our lead girl be so silly and anti-love for sooo long? 

I jumped ships. 
Hey, take my hand and let's go make our own show!

Maybe this is just where Jdramas fail me. If there’s a hint of romance, it’s usually not enough – but when the genre is primarily rom-com, they always spoil it being lame and adding so many “plot twists” and backwards character development that I can’t stand it. Now I admit that this isn’t a fault found exclusively in Jdramas. But when it’s coupled with the standard set-back of the episode type storytelling, some occasional overacting, and wait until the very end love stories, I’m guaranteed to check out emotionally well before the end. 

Just what does Zenkai Girl have going for it though? 

How about an overall likable cast, both in the main leads and their backup cast. In fact, they’re what I liked best about the drama, aside from the kid OTP which was just precious. The premise behind our plot all starts when Ayukawa ends up babysitting the bratty daughter of her female-empowered boss and overall role model. This twist gives us a classic fish out of water storyline, as our lead girl can’t stand kids, and certainly can’t imagine having more to do with them than is strictly necessary to get ahead in her new career. 

Family Dynamics 

Mommy dearest Sakurakawa Noriko (Yakushimaru Hiroko) and her daughter Hinata (Tani Kanon) form one of this drama’s more satisfying and sentimental story arcs. Sakurakawa is work-obsessed and ignores her daughter, inclinded to believe that Hinata understands her and won’t be too upset about being passed off form one babysitter to the next. Hinata, for her part, abides to her mother’s illusion, but secretly yearns for a mother’s love. (Kid’s got depth! Incredible!) Fortunately, such love is temporarily provided by the pseudo-family: Ayukawa and her necessity-based partnership with single dad Yamada Sota and son, a grouping that might just impress upon our lead girl that her life could be sweetened less by her career, and more by a being surrounded by a loving family. 

I think this drama promotes family values or something... Just a hunch I have.

Did I mention our lead guy is a chef? Cooks food and everything. It’s a classic reversal in gender-character types: the kind that says it’s okay for men to be caretakers and stay at home dads, but not for women to be totally career-obsessed. To me this is a slightly hypocritical message, but maybe it’s alright if some balance is achieved from both ends? A good portion of our lovers’ obstacles is her career and his lack of ambition, and while both seem to make an effort to rectify this, it all comes back to the family and the wholeness it brings. Well, it’s a feel-good drama anyways. 

As long as the kids are happy, I'm happy.. 

I only wish Zenkai Girl could’ve maintained a better pacing throughout, instead of leaving all resolutions until literally the last minute. So much time wasted that I fast-forwarded through the entire second half. I’m starting to understand now that Jdramas just don’t quite understand how to do rom-coms completely. The same issues with pacing plagued both Buzzer Beat and Rich Man Poor Woman. I see a trend.


  1. I watched Zenkai Girl only for Ryo and his zillion-watt smile, despite my strong strong strong dislike towards Gakki. Gakki as Wakaba being anti-love (ie anti-Ryo) further escalated my rage LOL.
    I didn't notice the gender reversal thing until you mentioned it! Now that I think about it, it does feel a bit exaggerated, good thing they overcame the obstacle... in the very last episode.
    I was hesitating to fast forward it too, if only it weren't for Ryo. Sorry for spamming you with my shallowness X(

    1. Haha. I also like Ryo a lot, which is a big factor for why I started it. Sadly, I think he as an actor was just overshadowed by his (imo) dull-ish character. :(
      And I didn't like the girl either. For that matter, I can't stand it when girls in dramas spend 10.5/11 episodes ignoring such a perfectly good guy.. siigh.