Drama Review: Proposal Daisakusen / Operation Love (Fuji TV, 2007)
Back to the Future: Tokyo Drift
by Ender’s Girl
Yamashita Tomohisa, Nagasawa Masami, Fujiki Naohito, Hiraoka Yuta, Eikura Nana, Hamada Gaku
In a Nutshell:
On the wedding day of his best friend Rei, Iwase Ken realizes that he has let The One get away. But a magical twist of fate grants Ken a unique opportunity to go back in time and try to win Rei’s heart.
(SpoilLert: Very spoilerish.)
[Recommended companion track: The Mongol800 cover of Chiisana Koi no Uta, used as the insert song of the drama. This version sounds a lot like Green Day’s Basket Case, but maybe that’s why I like it so much.]
Really, I would’ve watched this even without YamaPi (heh heh) in it because I liked the CONCEPT. The premise is really a vicarious expiation of sorts for anyone who’s ever loved and lost, and who secretly yearns for that One Chance to go back and redress a wrong, or a series of wrongs. And what better way to do this than by the finger-snapping and heel-clicking of a benevolent *cough* meddlesome *cough* fairy taking an interest in mortal affairs? (Waiiit… that saturnine looking, bowler-hat-wearing dude’s a fairy? Looks more like an oversized leprechaun to me…)
But oh — a twist! Our hero Ken has to do it all within the time it takes to frame one day’s events in a single snapshot! Does he have what it takes to win his One True Love back? Can he finally pull off… that buzzer beater and win? (Heh heh) Can the Leprechaun of Love single-handedly outwit, outplay and outlast the Cosmic Juggernaut of Fate? And in the end, will it all have been in vain? Everything will be illuminated in due time… Hallelujaaaaah… CHANCE!!!
Proposal Daisakusen marks Yamashita Tomohisa’s official debut as a Romantic Lead after years of playing various permutations of his, er, weird spacey self. (And well well well… I see someone’s been working out since Nobuta wo Produce, ehh? *hentai leer*) Not to say that I don’t like YamaPi’s early work; on the contrary, IMO he was at his best when he played these flaky (but refreshingly uncomplicated) adolescents in his past dramas. Maybe all he can do really well is be a vacuous little fluffball, but he’s the BEST damn fluffball in town! Lol. So it was for this reason that I felt apprehensive about his reinvention as YamaPi 2.0, Romantic Leading Man. Although his woodenness as an actor is… legendary, YamaPi is actually… not bad in Proposal Daisakusen. The boy can carry a romantic drama. While he did have his fair share of wooden moments, overall I thought he connected well with his character’s inner struggle.
Ken goes back into the past thinking that the advantage of hindsight has made him wiser and more percipient, but he still ends up doing and saying the same hurtful things. And as the chronological divide between the photographs and the present becomes ever briefer, the precious window of opportunity gets ever smaller. You understand that it is Ken’s fault that Rei slipped away, but at the same time you feel his mounting frustration and crushing sense of failure as each time-slip backfires, and you root for him and hope that things work out for the best. Win or lose, I was Team Kenzo to the (bitter ?) end! As the heroine Rei, Nagasawa Masami is pretty and pleasant and… bland. (I’ll bet in real life, Nagasawa Masami is also pretty and pleasant and bland. Oooh, coincidence? Lol.) While I didn’t think much of the YamaPixNagasawa chemistry (*cough* YamaPixKame 4vr *cough* hahaha), the characters of Kenzo and Rei share the most meaningful and poignant moments in the drama, where regret and heartbreak and hope intermingle afresh with each revisited snapshot.
Fujiki Naohito as Tada Tetsuya completes the love triangle — but what the eff, man? All that charisma and Buchou mojo from Hotaru no Hikari — where’d it all go??? In Proposal Daisakusen, Fujiki’s just this creepy, phlegmatic teacher who hits on his student (Rei) — then dates her, then waits for her to graduate so he can marry her, ugh! An F for you, Fujiki! F is for Fail Fail Fail!!! F is for Faculty Members Who Apparently Forgot to Read the No!Screwing!Of!Students! Clause in the University Ethics Manual!!! (Oh Buchou, where are you when I need you… *swats randomly at fireflies between swigs of beer*)
The unusual spin on the narrative structure of Proposal Daisakusen is promising enough, though rather dicey: all that zipping back through time and ending up at the same wedding reception, where the Leprechaun of Love gives Ken yet another pep talk before zapping him back again into the next photo, is a loop that gets tedious after just a few episodes. This drama feels like a pseudo-procedural, except that on procedural shows, you’re assured of a resolution (no matter how pat) after every episode. Still, bear in mind that this isn’t your typical love story, and props to the writer (Kaneko Shigeki) for taking the risk. If only the production team had found a way to keep the whole thing fresh.
But this drama’s fundamental weakness is that it operates on the assumption that time is still essentially LINEAR, and that each “pit stop” that Ken makes through time, in which he Does Something that incrementally alters his relationship with Rei, has no bearing on other events involving themselves or the people around them. In the Proposal Daisakusen chronological framework, one snapshot (or pit stop) invariably leads to the next, even when Ken does manage to change a few things with each completed time-slip. It’s conveniently reductionist of the writing to disregard the “ripple effect” that a single (and seemingly inconsequential) action makes on future events. In contrast, take for instance the 2006 anime film The Girl Who Leapt through Time, where the eponymous heroine goes back to “tweak” the past, only to discover that one altered action can have more far-reaching consequences than initially thought. Oh, well. Time-pretzel plots always have that intrinsic mind-screwy quality to them anyway, and the sooner you stop vivisecting your brains thinking of how changing the past alters the future and all that, the better for you. Well, whatev, man. Proposal Daisakusen is better enjoyed if you just take it at face value.
My beef with the drama’s final episode is that The Way Out of the shoulda-woulda-coulda-been-lovers’ predicament came by way of Tada Tetsuya’s Final Act of Selfless Love, and not from Rei’s personal decision to call off the wedding (after realizing she didn’t want to be some stuffy professor’s Lab Assistant with Matrimonial Benefits after all, hehe). But what if Fujiki Naohito’s character were… a different sort of man, who instead had said, “Screw it, woman (lolll), I’ll fight for your love!!!”? Game over, baby. So I felt that the resolution was too conveniently placed for Nagasawa Masami’s character, who seemed powerless to change her own fate. But but BUT I did love the drama’s final moment on that deserted road, when the camera zooms in on YamaPi’s face as he looks off in the distance. This little scene doesn’t exactly spell out What Happens Next, but it leaves no room for ambiguity, either. No open ending here in my book.
That said, IMO the renzoku’s finale did NOT necessitate the 2008 special — which wasn’t a BAD tanpatsu, just rather… superfluous. The story focuses more on their friends’ (Funny Hobbit Boy Hisashi and Pretty, Popular Girl Eri) impending wedding about a year after the drama’s events, and if you’re a fan of the drama as a whole (which I’m not), you’ll probably enjoy these added scenes. The SP also tackles the inevitable fallout from the renzoku’s finale — i.e. earning the Parents’!Approval!, dealing with the Jilted!Groom!, Rei and Ken’s clumsy, tentative attempts at a Serious!Relationship!, etc. That’s all very… admirable, and the final declaration of love on the beach is very… Happy!Ending!-ish, but the SP somehow diminishes the original drama’s afterglow (as most SPs inevitably do).
I didn’t LOVE Proposal Daisakusen, and this drama isn’t something that’ll stay with you long after the end credits have stopped rolling, but it’s still an entertaining watch, and not a bad way to spend a few idle hours. And the soundtrack is catchy, particularly the insert song Chiisana Koi no Uta as covered by the J-Rock trio Mongol800. Proposal Daisakusen also has this sweetly pertinacious way of sending home a few simple truths: Life’s too short to waste on missed opportunities and regret. And a picture really does paint a thousand words. And — to recall an old movie tag line — NOTHING will ever be as big as your First Love. Hallelujah, chance!
Artistic & technical merit: B
Entertainment value: B-