There are times I have no idea why I pick the show, I had to go back and look at the description and I might understand what I thought I saw in it, but after starting the first episode, it really isn’t what I thought it might be. Of course, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I’ve seen shows that I thought would be bad and really enjoyed, but this turned out to be totally outside of my wheelhouse.
But those are the chances you take sometimes, so let’s delve into the 9-episode 2013 J-drama, Otome-san.
Otome-san is a term for mother-in-law and doesn’t usually have a positive connotation. Mizusawa Asako lived in a mother-in-law induced hell until the death of her husband’s mother two years before. She was determined never to be evil when her son married, but when he suddenly brought home an older woman and announced their plans to marry, regardless of the wishes of his parents, her resolve was tested. It was made worse by the fact that her son, Yuta, has no steady job, so the young couple is going to move in. Asako is immediately suspicious of the new bride, Ririka, although you’d be hard pressed to find anything wrong with her. She’s helpful, respectful and tries very hard to be the perfect housewife. When a local businessman disappears on the very same day Ririka moves in, Asako is suspicious and so too is the head detective investigating the disappearance. Is Ririka really guilty of the crime, or is it a big misunderstanding.
This is more of a family drama than a mystery, it’s defined as suspense but there isn’t a lot of suspenseful elements in it. Essentially, Asako spends her time trying to find out more about Ririka’s background and does find out that she’s been lying to the family about several very important parts of her past. We find out that she wasn’t employed in a cafe, as she said, but was a hostess in a nightclub. We find out that she really did know the missing man quite well, even though she initially denied it to the police.
Most of me really liked the series, even though it was outside of my typical comfort zone. The acting was mostly good, there were red herrings galore and I never knew exactly how it would turn out in the end. Was Ririka guilty or not? What was her angle? They did an excellent job keeping me in the dark. Unfortunately, while the acting was great, the characters were not. This was a series where not only was nobody as they seemed, most of the characters were terribly flawed, to the point that I had very little respect for any of them by the end. You had Ririka, who was only too happy to lie to her new husband and his family and keep secrets, you had Asako, who would go behind everyone’s back and spy on her family and keep her own secrets, you had Hiroyuki, the husband, who had an affair and took what looked like bribes from his work and Yuta, the son who had no backbone at all. Some of these things did improve over the course of the series but in retrospect, so many of the conflicts in the show could have been fixed with a little honesty. I hate shows where all of the characters are reprehensible and while they weren’t that bad, they certainly weren’t shining beacons of honor.
So onto the actors. Kuroki Hitomi, who plays Asako, has a long list of credits to her name, I didn’t think I’d seen her in anything but she was one of the suspects in Saigo no Bansan, which I reviewed here. Aibu Saki, who was Ririka, has done bit parts in several shows I’ve liked, from Triangle to MR. BRAIN to Kagi no Kakatta Heya. Even though Kaku Tomohiro, who played Yuta, was my least favorite of the main cast, I knew he looked familiar, he had been in shows such as Kagi no Kakatta Heya and Nanase Futatabi.
This wasn’t bad, it was actually a decent series, things moved quickly and the writing was tight and mysterious. I spent most of the series convinced that Ririka actually was up to something sinister. The ending came out of left field and even though I thought the last episode was problematic, the way they wrapped up the missing businessman was fantastic. It’s not a genre that I’m particularly fond of, I tend to avoid family drama, but I’m glad I spent a couple of days watching this one.