Disclaimer: be forewarned–spoilers scattered throughout.

jDorama feeds my web addiction in a different way from kDrama. kDrama sinks its fangs into the jugular of emotions; you end up craving cliffhanger after cliffhanger episodes of the k-series. jDorama goes for experimentation: different plot lines, unexpected characters, out of this world silliness–you just don’t know what to expect which makes for a mind rousing time spent. The only thing you might count on is a reasonably happy ending and a moral lesson learned. Enough said–I’ll just get to the review of a jDorama I’m currently watching.

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Iki mo Dekinai Natsu 息もできない夏 / trailer (a Polish commercial preceeds the trailer)

The premise of this kDorama is the Japanese family register (koseki 戸籍) which may seem weird to western eyes. How can something as innocuous as a family register wreak havoc? Well, for Tanizaki Rei (Takei Emi 武井咲), a young budding patisserie chef wannabe, it becomes a harrowing journey when she finds out through an unfortunate chain of events that she’s not in her family’s register. It means she can’t apply for full-time work, access medical services (unless she pays full price on her own), get loans; she can’t even claim citizenship of her own country. All sorts of everyday existential amenities are now no more than pies in the sky for Rie.

I like this dorama because I get to learn new things about Japan–the bomb that drops on the koseki in this jDorama is an antiquated Civil Code 772 enacted in the Meiji Period in 1898, that says any child born to a woman within 300 days of her divorce, legally belongs to the ex and consequently, his family registry even if the woman remarries and her new husband is the biological father. In order to get the child entered into the new family’s register, the divorced woman has to go to court with the ex’s blessings to make this request.

Domestic violence perpetrated by the ex, Ayukawa Hiroki (Kaname Jun 要潤), drove the mom, Tanizaki Yoko (Kimura Yoshino 木村佳乃), to flee; she never told Hiroki about Rei, birthed after the breakup. She never registered Rei because the birth fell within the 300 days and keeping Hiroki out of the loop was crucial to Yoko’s new life, but now she has to get him to agree to come to court or waive his paternity “rights” beforehand?

Yeah, right…

Japan’s controversial Civil Code 772 has bounced in and out of the courts with plaintiffs trying to take out the discriminatory practice propagated by government old fogies that deter women from divorcing; the code attempts to constrict women into a narrow and unrealistic concept of sexual morality that preserves patriarchal order (shades of Confucianism!). I’m always hating on the predominant portrayals of meek Asian women but apparently, you can’t get away from it–not only is it deeply ingrained in the culture, it’s institutionalized.

Like I said earlier, I can’t stomach meek Asian women so I really can’t stand Rie at first but she adds sprinklings of spunk to the mix, increasingly so, as the story goes on so I’m slowly appreciating her character. Yoko plays right into the stereotype and more so under the brutal hand of domestic violence. It’s hard for anyone to know how they will react under violent circumstances but you can’t help to want so much for Yoko to face her fears for the sake of her daughter.

For those of you who know Kaname Jun, it’s intriguing to see him villanous (the only other time I’ve seen Jun play bad boy was in Ashita no Kita Yoshio, あしたの、喜多善男, a really good dorama about a man on a journey to meet his maker). Jun’s scenes of actual physical violence seem awkward but he pulls off the bad guy scheming/sneering/I’m-gonna-get-you-my-little-pretty personas as needed (still, I prefer him playing fun and frivolous).
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Another victim of the Civil Code 772 debacle, is Kusano Kota (Nakamura Aoi 中村蒼). He pops in and out of this dorama playing the darker, pessimistic flip side to Rei’s more optimistic take on their off-the-koseki-radar status. He gets just enough screen time at strategic points of the story–bowing down to the darker side of his tenuous existence in society–that makes you think that he’s gonna have some sort of impact when things are bound to go south for Rei.
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A lot of the blurbs about this jDorama mention the May-December romance but that’s neither here nor there for me, since that’s so prevalent everywhere, not to mention the guy, Kiyama Ryuichiro (Eguchi Yosuke 江口洋介), doesn’t look that old and Rei doesn’t look that young (despite her babydoll dress in the dorama poster). Speaking of the guy, Ryuichiro is supposed to have some mysterious background as a top notch journalist gone wrong; you only know this when his previous colleague brags about it but so far, we see him only in the role of the government paper pusher who helps Rie through the family register process and ending up as the apple of her eye (did I mention Rie’s specialty is apple pie? By the way, there’s more to the apple than meets the eye as you will see if you watch this dorama). I haven’t finished watching the whole series so I dunno if his previous life resurfaces or if the two really get it on but honestly, his story and the romance don’t do much for this dorama. The more interesting angle is Civil Code 772’s impact on koseki, but since Iki mo Dekinai Natsu is only 11 episodes long, I’m not really complaining.

[1]Philip Brasor, “LDP fuddy-duddies’ social engineering hits women and the birthrate,” The Japan Times
[2]Yoshio Sugimoto, “Gender Stratification and the Family System,” in An Introduction to Japanese Society, 159
[3]not_shikibu‘s photobucket still photo of Kaname Jun
[4]boonorbane‘s tumblr photo of Nakamura Aoi

[1]Iki mo Dekinai Natsu 息もできない夏 / trailer (with the Polish commercial)
[2]Ashita no Kita Yoshio, あしたの、喜多善男

00 – introduction
01 – pick your ePoison
02 – plug in or be obsolete
03 – eJunk in the trunk
04.1 – once upon a time in YouTube/episode 1: IN THE BEGINNING
04.2 – once upon a time in YouTube/episode 2: STRANGE MISSILES
04.3 – once upon a time in YouTube/episode 3: HUNGER
04.4a – once upon a time in YouTube/episode 4a: ANOTHER DIMENSION
04.4b – once upon a time in YouTube/episode 4b: SPOTTED!
04.5a – once upon a time in YouTube/episode 5a: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS
04.5b – once upon a time in YouTube/episode 5b: SEE WHAT I SEE?
04.6a – once upon a time in YouTube/episode 6a: DARKNESS
04.6b – once upon a time in YouTube/episode 6b: LIFE AND DEATH
04.7a – once upon a time in YouTube/episode 7a: LIFE IS SUFFERING
04.7b – once upon a time in YouTube/episode 7b: FREE WILL
04.8 – once upon a time in YouTube/episode 8: LAY IT ALL OUT/FINALE
05 – kDrama: Arang and the Magistrate/Reply 1997/The Great Doctor
06 – jDorama: Iki mo Dekinai Natsu
07 – the evil that lurks behind the web curtain
08 – back to the future: The King of Dramas 드라마의 제왕
09 – of turkey and vampires: Let the Right One In vs Twilight