Review: Date – Koi to wa Donna Mono Kashira (2015)
Date was lurking in my plan to watch list for some time now and i am really glad i decided to start it after some fellow drama addicts’ tempting voices made the urge to watch it even greater. I’ve been dwelling inside the world of South Korean dramas for way too long while neglecting my Japanese thirst and after the emotionally fortified and captivating Ghost Writer a romantic comedy felt more than essential. However, is Date really a romantic comedy? At first glance, yes, it is, but the more you wander inside its universe the more you notice the different air it breathes and the depth it possesses amidst enormous waves of laughter! So the answer is still yes, it is a romantic comedy, but not your ordinary one and this is another reason to embrace it even more since it’s bound to reward your senses in multifaceted ways!
Date unveils the story of a 29-year-old woman and a 35-year-old man, Yoriko Yabushita (Anne Watanabe) and Takumi Taniguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) respectively, but as you might have already guessed they are not your ordinary couple around. Yoriko lives her life as an immense careerist and a prototype working model. She’s a strict rationalist embracing the world of science as the absolute universal truth and she has a number obsession that is apparent pretty much everywhere in her life. Takumi is a hikikomori (an isolated adult or adolescent who has withdrawn from social life) and inevitably a NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training), but he refers to himself as an educated idler, a passionate one dare i say since he pours himself into his lonely entertaining world where he finds comfort and completion.
Their diagonally opposite personalities meet on a dating crossroad due to their common goal. Both of them want to get married, but for different reasons. Yoriko wants to get married before her 30th birthday because it’s something everyone does and she shouldn’t delay it anymore. Takumi lives off his mother’s money, he knows that her health isn’t at its best and since she’s getting older eventually she will pass away. Finding a woman to marry and leech off her money feels essential in order maintain his very own lifestyle. Yoriko is devoid of feelings and she’s not searching for love, marriage is a necessary societal evil to keep the system’s cogwheels rotating and the world moving. Takumi lives in his own fictional world and his ideal woman is a mixture of movie stars and two-dimensional characters, but he feels safe inside his humble castle which is none other than his room. Their conversations are the personification of ultimate opposition with Yoriko explaining pretty much everything in a scientific way and Takumi presenting a myriad of quotes that depict perfectly well his point of view under the circumstances.
Date is an anti-journey in the world of the absurd. Everything starts making sense as episodes pass by and we get to know the characters’ background. Yoriko lives in the real world, but her internal world has been resealed, along with her emotions. Takumi lives in his very own world overwhelmed by books, manga, anime, movies, etc, rejecting the real world. You can’t help it but feel deeply for them. Compassion? Sympathy? Nope, these feelings are not for these two different types of unconventional figures, the more you get to know Yoriko and Takumi the more you understand them and you start adoring them and their interactions. Yoriko and Takumi are a whole lot more underneath the surface and the paths they chose to walk upon were their own defensive mechanisms.
They are not alone in this journey, there are many figures partaking in this drama, but the most distinctive ones have to be the people closest to them. Rumi Taniguchi (Jun Fubuki) is Takumi’s mother and even though she never actually accepted Takumi’s way life she can’t do otherwise but pretend as if she has already accepted the fact that he’s a hardcore NEET and a hikikomori. Even though it hurts her on the inside, she understands that he has his own reasons. She doesn’t approve it, but she understands and tries to support him as much as she can. A wonderful figure filled with logic and emotion, shattering on the inside, but strengthening her own shell so that the cracks won’t be apparent. Toshio Yabushita (Yutaka Matsushige) is Yoriko’s father, he lost his wife when Yoriko was very young and all he ever wanted was his daughter to live and grow up like all the other girls, normally! Now that she’s about to enter the third decade of her life he still hopes she will find out how it feels to love and to be loved; another brilliant and hilarious figure!
Sotaro Shimada (Satoru Matsuo) and Kaori Shimada (Ryoko Kuninaka) are brother and sister and they’ve known Takumi since childhood. Sotaro is hilarious and feels like a puppeteer arranging the moves of people around him like a plot twist official moving in the shadows yet without being afraid to express his opinion openly. He’s a deus ex machina on a satyr yet insightful mode offering many comical moments and heartfelt confessions. Kaori lives in the wild side of life and she’s an artistic spirit. She literally stole my heart with her energetic yet tolerant and caring attitude, her internal world has always been pointing towards one direction. Yutaka Washio (Yuto Nakajima) has everything a woman would ever ask for, he’s got the full package. He’s successful and hardworking, logical but in search of utter love, athletic and humorous and on a sincere mission at the same time. A special figure has to be Yoriko’s mother, Sayoko Yabushita (Emi Wakui) who appears only in front of her as the voice of her restrained subconscious world trying to nurture the seeds of emotion inside her strictly rational point of view. As for the child actress and actor playing Yoriko and Takumi’s childhood figures, both of them were exceptional, specially the girl, she was simply unerring as Yoriko’s younger self!
Date, even if it is a romantic comedy, deals with important aspects of nowadays society and criticizes indirectly the Japanese societal structure by presenting its two edges. The first one is being represented by Yoriko who lives straight in the heart of relentless careerism having been absorbed my numbers and raw logic. The second one is withdrawal from society and a hikikomori’s way of life. They are not so different aspects, they are just the two sides of the same coin with the difference that Yoriko is productive for society and Takumi isn’t. Eventually the drama dwells in corridors that explain how easy it is to be traumatized in nowadays society as another victim of mental abuse with its own extensions on every individual’s soul and how much easier it is to isolate yourself inside your ivory tower where you feel safe and sound, far away from where life blossoms and withers everyday. Nobody wants to become a NEET, a hikikomori or an emotionless careerist, there are always reasons. However, society is always ruthless and judgmental without taking a closer look, nobody cares about the reasons why, all that matters is the outcome without taking into consideration one’s background that led to this outcome.
What is love? Is it a chemical reaction? Is it what poets and litterateurs wrote about? Is it teargas or bliss? It’s a very important question the drama tries to approach through its quirky, beautifully crafted and among plot twists storyline as it was presented by screenwriter Ryota Kosawa . The answer is always different and depends on each and every one of us, it’s always a personal matter and that’s why there’s no absolute answer to this seemingly rhetoric question. Love isn’t something you can necessarily explain or portray, it’s something you feel at first and then try to depict by approaching the contours of your feelings. Only Japanese dramas deliver this overwhelming kind of feels to the fullest amidst utterly humorous moments without seeming pretentious or deep just for the sake of it.
Date had many humorous moments and countless priceless scenes that made my lungs vibrate like jackhammers and my jawline ache! Yoriko’s duck face will haunt me until the day i leave my final breath and Takumi’s frightened yet inquiring stare will remain a powerful memory! Anne Watanabe and Hiroki Hasegawa’s chemistry was stellar and they never ceased amazing me through their interactions, they are the epitome of “we can’t be together, but we can’t be apart either!” All characters had strong chemistry and their bonds were apparent through the whole duration of the drama to the extent that when all eight figures were together the drama was possessing insuperable dynamics! A powerful card up the drama’s sleeve was its multifaceted cinematography. It was a balanced drama between indoors and outdoors scenes and Hideki Takeuchi alongside Junichi Ishikawa managed to capture everything the drama preserved through angles and perspectives without neglecting the importance of the lighting factor. On the contrary, depending on the emotional charge, the echoing silence, the neurotic explosions of laughter under the moment’s specified characteristics and the people partaking in the scene the lighting factor was always representative of Date’s visual aspects. And let’s not forget the musical factor which completed the overall journey’s background in a like-minded way!
Concluding, if you haven’t done it already, i urge you to watch Date for all the reasons in the world as a highly intriguing, laughter-evoking, thought-provoking, deeply heartfelt and eventually captivating romantic comedy that was brave enough to differ and shine. If Yoriko and Takumi will be together and discover the meaning of love and what impact the people around them will leave upon their non-compromising personalities is up to you to find out!