29 August 2008
So recently I (rather belatedly) finished watching another J-drama - Tadashii Ouji Tsukurikata (How to Produce a Perfect Prince). This one would fall rather squarely into the high school romantic comedy classification, which is the sort of genre that is usually either fantastic or similar to having your teeth pulled out. Tadashii Ouji is one of the few that manages to settle into the middle ground.
It's a twelve-episode long mini-series, each episode only half an hour. It begins with an all-girls school turning co-ed - they run a trial class where they introduce ten boys, and depending on the outcome of the experiment, the entire school will go co-ed. The class, being composed of normal high school girls, are naturally about as excited as a herd of puppies. However when they're introduced to their new classmates, the disappointment is crushing - ten completely dysfunctional boys who aren't even close to being boyfriend material.
Depressed by the situation, they eventually rally together and form a plan to improve the boys by assigning each of them a 'producer' - one of the girls in the class. At first, most of the guys don't really take to the idea, as they're pretty happy with the way they are. Since girls are involved, though, the first five guys in the class 'transform' with little prodding, which mostly involves tidying up their clothes some, changing their hair style, and getting them cut back on a bad habit or unusual hobby. The interest comes with the more resistant remaining five members, who are all perfectly happy with the way they are and whose habits are ingrained and not without cause.
It starts with the self-proclaimed egoist and spoiled rich kid pretty boy, who is slightly problematic as his good looks make him popular even though his personality and empathy is the worst. The aloof and scary, presumed gangster type is next, then the stammering, glasses wearing, crazy-haired guy who can only communicate through his cell phone, then the hyperactive childish monkey-like troublemaker. Last is Shinozaki, the standoffish, book-reading introvert, who initially needed the least transformation of all but wound up being the last one to change, instead choosing to sit back and critically watch from a distance as his classmates changed one by one. Naturally, most of the guys end up dating whoever their producer is. It's a rather simple story about girls getting their fantasies basically, but has a few genuinely emotional moments and some good laughs.
The thing about Tadashii Ouji, though, is that it starts out with an exceedingly interesting cast of characters, and essentially makes them conformist and boring. While you have the payoff of character development and what essentially equates to unlocking eyecandy, during the process you also lose a lot of the idiosyncracies that made these characters memorable. They were terribly flawed and complex individuals, and that was what made them interesting. Honestly, you could probably read pretty deeply into this relatively light-hearted show and find some startling insight into conformist culture.
Potenital subtext aside, it was a decent enough show if you want to rest your brain. The performances were reasonable, but there are a couple of cases (particularly with the teachers) where the overacting that is endemic to J-dramas is slightly cringe-worthy. The music performs its job in setting the mood without being anything special, and the production values were decent but naturally, given the setting, nothing amazing.
It does do a lovely job in fooling a whole new generation of girls into thinking that they can change guys into their dream man, which is a bit backwards from the usual 'guys thinking they can fool girls into thinking they are their dream man' shtick.
Overall Rating: 570,016/1,000,000