Drama Review: Asunaro Hakusho (Fuji TV, 1993)

Sex, Lies, and Shoulder Pads

by Ender’s Girl

The Cast:
Kimura Takuya, Ishida Hikari, Tsutsui Michitaka, Anju Suzuki, Nishijima Hidetoshi

In a Nutshell:
Five college students play musical chairs with each other’s hearts amid the sexual revolution and sociopolitical tumult (mwahahahahaha yeah right) of the… early 1990s.

(SpoilLert: Major plot revelations!!! Not that you should care!!!)

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Good friggin’ grief. Am I the only one who thought this drama SUCKED more than a giant monster lamprey? No? Good.

You take a sordid soap opera like… Melrose Place, situate it on a Japanese college campus, and contort the main cast into this SLEAZY LOVE PRETZEL where they do nothing but sleep with each other, then cheat on each other, then sleep with OTHER people, then cheat on other people, then break up, then hook up, then KNOCK another person up, then get outed as gays and DIE. Oh, and not to mention they engage in a few token “let us study because we are college students” scenes thrown in for good luck.

Sheesh.

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Never mind the atrocious fashion and even worse hairdos — this was the early ’90s, after all, so all that’s forgivable. It was how the main characters and situations were written (why, Kitagawa Eriko? why why WHY????) that made me want to wring their necks. Okay, maybe not ALL of them (well… helloooo, KimuTaku Prototype, lol). Come to think of it, all I really detested were the Female Lead, Narumi, and the Male Lead, Tamotsu the Little Sh*t-boy. But because the other three friends are, like, IN LOVE with either of the two, they inevitably get sucked into this web of codependent relationships, a black-hole-cesspool of doom and masochism. So, Tamotsu is supposed to come across as a sympathetic hero character because he’s poor and hardworking and has to put himself through college and has a money-grubbing hoe for a mother? And as a corollary, we’re supposed to adore Narumi because she’s this “winsome ingénue” who secretly pines after Tamotsu? Well, let’s add “World’s No. 1 Virginal Little Skank” to her epithets, because that’s exactly what she is!!! She BREAKS UP Tamotsu and his girlfriend but keeps acting like the aggrieved party, strings along Geekboy Osamu (well… hello again, KimuTaku Prototype, hehe) when Tamotsu cheats on her (and later breaks up with her), but doesn’t even have the frikkin’ DECENCY to ACT REMOTELY HAPPY around Osamu whenever they’re together. Argh!!!!! Countless times I prayed that Narumi would get hypothermia and DIE during the 1,876 times she waited for Tamotsu to meet her under the starlit winter sky or whatnot, and of COURSE he never showed up because the Laws of the Dramaverse decree that intensifying the heroine’s misery will make her a more sympathetic character (well, it DOESN’T; it just makes her a STUPID one).

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And Tamotsu… it defies basic logic and believability that 3/5 of their little college clique are head-over-heels in love with him, overtly or otherwise. He’s a horrible, horrible scumbucket, and half the men that Sensitive Geekboy Osamu and Rich Gayboy Junichiro are. Again, he does nothing but cheat (on his psycho girlfriend and on Narumi) and sleep around and he has the GALL to act SAD and GLUM about the mess he’s just created, which makes Virginal Skank Narumi and Studious Best Friend Saeki AND Rich Gayboy Junichiro FALL for him even more, which creates an even BIGGER mess than before. Aieeeee!!!!!! *tears out hair*

Ishida Hikari (as Narumi) and Tsutsui Michitaka (as Tamotsu) cannot act for their lives, nor do they elicit an iota of sympathy from the viewer; no wonder I couldn’t bring myself to feel anything for their characters except hysterical, eye-rolling contempt. Anju Suzuki who plays Studious Best Friend Saeki is much better in the acting department, and she’s way prettier than that cretin Narumi, who uncannily resembles… SMAP’s Inagaki Goro wearing a mop, hahaha. Saeki appears to be the most sensible one of the lot (and it isn’t just because she has the most study!study!let’s!study! moments), and you really do feel her pain, her unrequited love for Tamotsu. But somewhere along the way (and it isn’t very clear just when), her character develops feelings for Gayboy Junichiro, and one fateful night, while wallowing in their Tamotsu-centric love woes, the two share an Extremely Weird Moment… that magically spawns New! Life! Oh wow. (Parthenogenesis? Immaculate conception? Self-pollination? Mwahahaha) Now you’re REALLY watching a soap opera.

Nishijima Hidetoshi as Junichiro is unremarkable; a better actor would’ve done more justice to such a relatively small but interesting role. But killing him off was such a disservice to the character and to the story (AND to the viewer), because it was just so frigging SENSELESS. So, homosexual men who are secretly in love with their best friend don’t deserve to LIVE in this world? Because that’s the point the drama seems to make, and it’s a supremely idiotic one at that. Oh, let the sad little f@g boy DIE, because there’s no other way for him to be happy in the story. Gaaaah.

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But oh, Osamu. You loved and you lost, and you went to Kenya to “find yourself” (lol), and in so doing you grew up and became a man. You’re too good for Narumi, you always were. That being said, I’d recommend Asunaro Hakusho only if you’re a Kimura fan (which I am, obviously) and/or wish to complete his body of work (again… guilty as charged!). Because he really does shine here, with a role better fleshed than any other character in this pretentious, drippy farce, and he does have the best lines (i.e. the iconic “Won’t I do?” spoken at that playground early on in the drama). And instead of letting his character become this geeky, lovesick caricature of a second-fiddle-best-friend-sidekick, the one left holding the bag as the Hero and the Heroine ride off into the sunset, Kimura keeps it REAL. So that you feel for Osamu, but you don’t feel SORRY for him. There’s a difference, you see. Kimura’s a natural, and that’s more than I can say for the two lead actors, ugh.

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It was a bit strange at first to watch Kimura as this scrawny, prepubescent (lol, ok not really), deglamorized dweeb… a mere 3 years before he exploded with that SexLoveMojo in the sublimely romantic Long Vacation. But then I look at how much he’s aged (and I mean really, REALLY aged) in the past 4 or 5 years, and I’m thankful that with Asunaro Hakusho, I’m just one DVD away from revisiting KimuTaku in his early years in the business, before the ravages of celebrity and chain-smoking and cosmetic “enhancements” and sustained exposure to Old Man Johnny Kitagawa slowly siphoned off all the youth from his face.

Watch this if you’re:

1) A Kimura completist
2) In a dysfunctional relationship (hahaha)
3) A fan of daytime soaps — from every clime and country
4) You were a hairspray-and-shoulder-pad-wearing teen in the late ‘80s to early ‘90s… T______T

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Grade
Artistic & technical merit: C-
Entertainment value: D
Overall: C-

Explore posts in the same categories: J-Drama & Film, The Kimura Project, Young Kimura

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9 Comments on “Drama Review: Asunaro Hakusho (Fuji TV, 1993)”

  1. km Says:

    Believe it or not, only after reading your blog, did I actually start watching Asunaro. The review is just so intriguing. lolz. Back then, the first time I touched Asunaro, it was the feeling like “eww, this dorama is such a pain”, but since I’m too much of a fangirl, there’s no way I can leave out a drama with the super kawaiii nerdy image of Kimura Takuya. Anyway, even after watching, this dorama is still much of a pain. Frankly, the story plot, filming setting, even acting are just mediocre, nothing fantastic comes out of it, not to mention the funny fashion of the late 80s and the low quality video. Sometimes, it’s so frustrating to watch, like the scene that Tamotsu walked on Narumi in the club room and found out that Narumi slept with Osamu ( anyway, in the dorama, they called the guys by their surnames if I’m not wrong, like Tamotsu = Kakei-kun, Osamu = Toride-kun, only the ex-gf of Tamotsu called him Tamo-chan, but somehow on the subbed videos, the names are just first names). Love your reviews though, very funny and thought-provoking indeed.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Uh-oh, I guess that ruined things for you, with the spoilers and all. But lol, “super kawaii nerdy image” is a perfect description for Osamu’s character. I’d totally fall for Kimura even if he came in horn-rimmed glasses, a bow tie, suspenders and short pants. Hell, I’d bear him all the little nerd babies he wanted–and I don’t even want babies, lol. I kept hissing at Narumi, “You stupid cow. Give that dweeb a few more years and he will ROCK YOUR WORLD. Return on investment: a thousandfold!!!”

      ZOMG, that “Morning After” scene was the WORST!!!!! Hahahahhaha I just died watching it. I just howled with laughter–so hard that my neighbor’s stupid dog started howling back. (Well, this was around 2 am, so I guess it had good reason to…)

      And you’re right about the names used, although I didn’t even notice that at first. *salutes* I think the first names just stuck with me because I’m more of a visual than an auditory learner.🙂

  2. km Says:

    ehh, actually I don’t buy the overly melodramatic plot of this dorama so the spoilers are not actually spoilers but kinda encouraging factors. Like because it is so annoying and controversial that I really want to watch and then snap on it. Plus the main point * no, its actually the whole point* is Kimura was there. Haha.

    Anyway, just step out of the fandom for a while, I really could not get the Sekai/Matsuoka couple at all, what’s with the I’m-gay-and-if-there’s-a-woman-I-love,-it’s-you and okay-you-might-be-gay-but-i-just-love-you(what the heck)-and-sleep-with-you-and-have-your-baby. This is when I think this dorama is way over the top. You dont actually need that much of drama to create a dorame ne?

    And didn’t I mention that I hate the Narumi character + actress to the max. I will definitely vote for her if there’s a poll for The character you want to kill off the most. Acting all naively and pure and then sleeping around, and then crying like it’s everyone’s fault, not hers, she’s so kawaii (like hell) and kawaii-sou ( a big no no) ne? How sensible is that?

    Sigh, I think I ramble too much here, gomen =.=
    But it’s been since forever that I found a place to pen down these kinda things and have a soul like you to share those with so bare with me, haha.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      I think the actress who played Narumi was some kind of pop starlet who enjoyed middling success in the early ’90s, which would explain why they cast her in the drama.

      “You dont actually need that much of drama to create a dorame ne?” – Lol, I’m with ya. (And you’re welcome to ramble/rant away anytime.)🙂

  3. kimkun Says:

    lol i remember this drama. i actually watched this in the early 90’s when it first aired and back then it was a great drama to watch, that time this kind of plot was fresh (i think we have too much drama now). but watching this again now really the fashion and hairstyle kinda make it really hard to watch again.It was a good drama for that time and it’s always a pleasure to see kimutaku’s drama (older or latest ones)

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Yeah, I see what you mean.😉 They don’t make dramas like this anymore, do they? ^^,,

      This is the oldest Kimura drama I’ve seen so far. Gotta unearth his older ones so I can answer the question that’s been weighing down on my mind: Was he always THIS hot??? lolz🙂

  4. Ellen Says:

    Hey E.G.

    I’m not sure but I think I may have hated this drama almost as much as you did. To be fair I think it was adapted from a manga and not Kitagawa’s original work. Where to start the hatin’ is the hard part…

    First, I couldn’t tell when it was taking place as the costumes were so completely whack! But that would have been beside the point, if the story or characters (and when I say characters, I am, of course, not including Kimura – I could never hate Kimura) were at all likable. Being passive, Kakei-kun’s only character trait as far as I could see, is not equivalent to sainthood. And, no, he is not fit to wipe Kimura’s ginormous glasses. I found Narumi initially annoying and then, yes, I ended up hating her and wishing that KT would slap the crap out of her. I was going to say it wouldn’t be the first time he hit a woman in a dorama, but I guess it would have been.

    Everything I said about Kitagawa’s work in THNK is the opposite here. You name the crappy drama cliche and it’s gonna’ happen. I mean, Seika sleeps with a gay guy and has his love child! And then he, too, attains sainthood.

    But I stuck with it because, well, you already know why! Could he have been any cuter?? And when he asks the girl from the record shop if he isn’t handsomer than his pal and takes of his specs, well, I got the usual heart pounding. And he got at least a couple kissies in. By that time I was so starved for some KT lovin’ that it seemed WAY more exciting than it was. And, more logically speaking you root for him because he is the only one with even a trace of common sense. He is the only one who does not seem to be drowning in the sea of melodrama lapping up at every episode. And – duh – he is just a natural actor and yes, a jillion times better than the rest of the cast. It was so hard to finish this drama and I just kept repeating please let Kimura have another scene because otherwise, there is just emptiness (to put it, yes, melodramatically).

    My word for this drama is pathetic but… we did get to see 21 year old Kimutaku so… I was hoping you had some insight into his popularity after this drama. I can only imagine that people (right thinking people) preferred him to his male costars.

    Have you still not seen Gift? I only have a couple more KT dramas to watch and then I guess I will start all over again (watching the good ones, of course)! And, no, I’m not suggesting a race.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Agree with your comments 100% *nods vigorously* I’m so glad to see a more lucid and rational analysis of this drama, so yay! Super thanks!😀

      “Where to start the hatin’ is the hard part…” << LOL hahahaha I know right? x_O

      “Everything I said about Kitagawa’s work in THNK is the opposite here. You name the crappy drama cliche and it’s gonna’ happen.” >> THIS. Just goes to show that melodrama is one of the trickiest genres to do, and the one most open to abuse depending on the treatment given the story and its cliches. But I’d like to think that the finer, more nuanced treatment given THnK indicates Kitagawa’s maturing as a storyteller, that she has indeed come a long way since Asunaro Yuck-usho.

      “I just kept repeating please let Kimura have another scene because otherwise, there is just emptiness (to put it, yes, melodramatically).” << Heh heh heh this really made me smile😉 It seems the popularity of this drama really boosted Kimura's stock as a potential leading man — and in many ways, primed Japan for Long Vacation and the Age of Kimura.🙂

      Oh boy, Gift is something I haven’t even downloaded yet. *facepalm* I wanted to finish reviewing the Kimura dramas I’ve already seen before finishing the rest of his dramaography.

  5. vtnvixen Says:

    Do you know where I can get a DVD of this or a torrent at least?


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