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Otomen

Otomen (Screen Capture)

Otomen, aka オトメン(乙男), is based off a romantic comedy manga by Aya Kanno, and just began airing as a drama recently, with only 4 episodes (both raw and subbed) to its name.

Although not a fan of the usual shoujo manga or anime, or yea even drama, in an epic moment of boredom, I decided to have a shot at this drama, and found to my surprise that it surpassed my expectations of the usual shoujo drama – probably because the gender-bender here is unlike other gender-bender shoujo mangas where the protagonist(s) are trying to hide their “real” gender (cue: Hanazakari no Kimitachi e).

Instead, here, the two main protagonists are more or less comfortable with their genders, except that Masamune Asuka (played by Okada Masaki) has a charmingly soft spot for all things feminine, whether this be cooking, sewing, shoujo manga, sweets or indeed stuffed toys. His counterpart, Miyakozuka Ryo (played by Kaho), on the other hand, is excruciatingly helpless at all things feminine – but can take down 5 men in the space of minutes.

Asuka

Asuka (who looks kinda gorgeous in that light, and with his chin oh-so-slightly tilted towards the sun)

Ryo

Ryo (who has a luscious purple kimono that I am in deep lust over, not to mention that paper umbrella)

The beginning of the drama was rather off-putting – it begins with Asuka’s reminiscence of his father, who did not “tease” him about liking stuffed animals and other “girly” things, but told him to “follow his heart”. Although seemingly selfless, his father then proceeded to admit to both Asuka and his mother that he, too, was going to follow his heart and become a woman – whereupon Asuka’s mother (the poor woman) let out a shriek and fainted dead away. She was then carted into the hospital with the usual hullabaloo and Asuka trailing behind begging her not to leave him behind. A doctor appears (by magic!) in the hallway just when it looks like she’s not going to make it (I rather she didn’t, actually) and right there in the hallway pulls out that iron-thingamajig that doctors use to restart the heart (really, now, the hallway, where is he getting all this electricity from?) and….the introduction then finishes off showing a young Asuka packing away all his feminine loves in a box as he bids them farewell and mournfully tells the audience, “Since that day, I have promised….”

Despite my desperate wishes for the mother to have disappeared for good, it seems as though unfortunately, she is here to stay for good, as you will see in the upcoming Episode 1. I was thinking of writing an Episode Guide for the whole drama but was getting a bit lazy typing just the 5 minute introduction, so may put it off for a while yet. Will give a bit more detail about Episode 1, however, which is where Asuka and Ryo meet – in the usual boy-meets-girl kind of way.

Asuka grew up proficient in “manly” arts such as kendo (he is in fact the school’s reigning champion), since he wants to be moulded in the likeness of what his mother believes in (such is the power of upbringing!) and it all kicks off at a kendo tournament where Asuka’s proficiency is revealed in a series of fights where he goes on to win all of them (without a break. Seriously).

After his win, as he leaves the tournament doujo, he sees his junior, Ariake Yamato, a cute little puppy thing, being pinned against the wall by several bullies who are trying to extort him for money.

Yamato with his puppy dog face, and the 3 bullies (I think Yamato's kinda good looking, in a very effeminate way)

Yamato with his puppy dog face, and the 3 bullies (I think Yamato's kinda good looking, in a very effeminate way)

Just as he is about to go to Yamato’s rescue, Ryo turns up yelling at the bullies to leave Yamato alone (their exchange here is rather brilliant but I shalln’t spoil all surprises). Of course, to no surprise, the bullies aren’t happy that Ryo, who looks just like the typical Japanese girl, has interrupted their lovely money-making scheme and just when it looks like they are about make mincemeat out of her, Asuka strolls up and asks them, “So…what’s going on here?” Awed by his awesome kendo prowess (….really) the bullies turn tail and escape, and Ryo turns to Asuka with a sweet smile and thanks him prettily for saving her (and Yamato, who eventually becomes the sidekick in all of these events). Typical, right?

…So, it turns out that Ryo is a transfer student in Asuka’s class (yet another stereotypically shoujo thing to do!) and Tachibana Juta, Asuka’s classmate, finds out by accident (actually, he trailed Asuka in the hopes of finding some material for the manga he is secretly publishing; apparently he’s a new mangaka) that Asuka is an Otomen (it’s a supposed bilingual pun: “otome” is “young lady” or “mistress” in Japanese + men in English). Seeing that Asuka is falling for Ryo, Juta decides to nudge the both of them along and use them as inspiration for his manga.

There are some absolutely hilarious running gags here, such as how both Ryo and Asuka are apparently completely clueless to the fact that Juta has been spying on the both of them – on the occasions that Juta trips over something and viewers wait with baited breath for them to find him, Juta desperately lets out a, “I am a cat!”…and the both of them go, “Ah…a cat…” ……I fell over laughing; the expression on Juta’s face as he hears them is absolutely priceless.(Sorry this only happens in Episode 2 or 3 I forget which, but something to definitely look out for!)

Juta trips, makes a noise, Asuka opens the window, Juta clutches his fists and goes, "Nyyyya" and Asuka goes, "...Cat, huh." ...Juta's face = PRICELESS (Asuka, you major fail you dork)

Juta trips, makes a noise, Asuka opens the window, Juta clutches his fists and goes, "Nyyyya" and Asuka goes, "...Cat, huh." ...Juta's face = PRICELESS (Asuka, you major fail you dork)

Obviously he thinks they’re retarded (I can’t think he’s too far off the truth) but nonetheless their cluelessness makes them great material (since they’re obviously never going to find out that he’s really following them around and nudging them on to great progress).

The bullies are then seen together with yet another kendo aficionado, Tonomine Hajime, who acts as Asuka’s foil and apparent rival in kendo (apparently they have some back history together which no one is revealing now, and since I haven’t read the manga I’m all being kept in suspense here help!).

Bullies & Hajime

Bullies & Hajime

Together with the bullies, he decides to “finish” things with Asuka, which then leads to the scene where the bullies arrive in school, Hajime in tow, and head straight for the kendo club. On the way they managed to threaten 2 senior members of the kendo club into telling them where the doujo was, while Yamato who originally thought his kendo seniors would hold up, then runs off to inform Asuka that the doujo is in trouble. In the meantime, the kendo seniors accidentally send Ryo a text message to meet at the doujo, only realising afterwards that the number they had sent the message to was not Asuka (whom they had originally intended to message). The bullies completely trash the doujo just as Asuka arrives, followed by Ryo. Asuka tells Yamato to close the doors of the doujo and not let anyone in.

Just as Hajime and him are really going at it with their kendo swords, Asuka is attacked from behind with a kick from Bully 1 (I don’t recall his name, and don’t care to recall it either) and lands belly-up in a rather miserable looking position on the floor. Just as he is tugged up for a good old beating by Bully 1, there is a flash of movement and as Hajime looks up, he sees Ryo running across the doujo to Bully 1 and landing a kick to his side that lays him out flat as a fish. With her other leg, she lands a jack-kick to Hajime’s nose, which means he goes comatose as well. The other bullies rush her, but with a few well-timed punches, she manages to knock them all out in a matter of seconds.

Juta, who was watching the whole scene from one of the sliding windows at the bottom of the doujo, just goes, “…EHHHHH????” when he sees Ryo, whom he had thought was just a cute transfer student, bringing down the 5 guys. The disbelieving expression on his face just absolutely made my day. (Juta is quickly becoming my favourite character in this drama!).

Juta's jaw-dropping scenes are just AWESOME (again, Asuka, you major fail dude, you let the girl save your butt!)

Juta's jaw-dropping scenes are just AWESOME (again, Asuka, you major fail dude, you let the girl save your butt!)

Then Ryo turns to Asuka, who also has this “what-just-happened???” look on his face, and tells him, “Asuka-san is so cute, I just want to protect you.”

End of Episode 1.

Episodes 2 and 3 are just as funny, although I’m learning it’s best to skip the introductions as the mother is beginning to grate on my nerves. I haven’t seen Episode 4 yet, but am looking forward to a promising 40 minutes since Juta has already begun prodding Asuka to confess to Ryo, who as yet remains completely clueless to the fact that Asuka likes her! (By the way, Asuka has managed to sew, and bake a cake in the first episode with Ryo, and he looks uber cute with his pink apron on, so that, if nothing else, is incentive to watch the drama).

I leave you all with tentalising screen captures of the ending song of the drama (please excuse the low-res, I’m really not good enough with technology to fiddle with such things):

Being chased by random samurai brandishing swords (although, WHY, I will never understand!)

Being chased by random samurai brandishing swords (although, WHY, I will never understand!)

Close up as they exchange meaningful looks (like, shall we kick their butts or make a run for it?)

Close up as they exchange meaningful looks (like, shall we kick their butts or make a run for it?)

Storyline: 3.5/5

Acting: 3.5/5

Recommended: Watch for the comedy, and please leave your brains behind. It’s called suspension of disbelief!

The drama airs every Saturday (up until Ep 9 whereupon they are switching to Tuesdays for some odd reason – don’t ask me to fathom the minds of the Japanese entertainment industry when I can barely understand the Taiwanese or Korean ones myself), but unfortunately I only get my Chinese subtitles on Tuesday, so stay tuned for more updates and the such.

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