Ah, there’s been a unsurprising amount of stories centered in Tokyo for dramas. I can’t think of many that I’ve watched recently that don’t take place in Tokyo and pan at least once to the Skytree and Tokyo Coin Laundry is no exception.
The premise is simple. A young man Yuto Kurashima is a magazine writer that reviews cafes deemed to be trendy date spots. Unfortunately his photographer ends up being re-assigned and Yuto has to find a new partner. After that blow at work, he goes to his local coin laundry, where he runs into Kotone Terazaka, a somewhat eccentric photographer in training whose just moved to Tokyo. Together they embark on a new adventure that may or may not involve a mystery of a laundry wizard.
Well, it’s a five episode series that aired on GYAO! online in Japan for free and it does a remarkable job of telling the story of human connections. Tokyo Coin Laundry really explores the idea of chance encounters, and what happens when those encounters extend beyond their means. At first it seems all is well with both Yuto and Kotone, but both have their own emotional baggage and pasts.
These are explored via each character’s motivations for moving to Tokyo and the locations they go to. Additionally, flashbacks and more chance encounters occur furthering along their stories and how sometimes, a chance encounter should just be that. Not every chance is one that needs to be pushed to the fullest, and unfortunately our characters find that the hard way.
Which does not mean this story is completely somber. The laundry wizard, is both a real person and a fun character that lightens up the mood of the story. He also adds some guidance in the main plot by furthering the duo’s relationship.
It’s a real story told about things that could happen in real life. On top of that, it does something few dramas set in Tokyo dare to do; make Tokyo seem quiet. It’s a strange thing to admit, but the one things I noticed was that there’s no Shibuya/Harajuku scenes. There’s never a sense of urgency to the location aside from when the duo are running late to an appointment. Yuto and Kotone’s Tokyo, while not too far from the tourist district of Asakusa and the Tokyo Skytree, shows the real life.
Real people own quiet cafes that might never grace a popular date spot magazine. Yuto’s work is fulfilling but his office is clearly small and at times seems a bit under-staffed. Kotone gets picked up by chance, but she knows that it rarely ever works out and thus hesitates with Yuto and his offer. There’s no element that’s truly jarring about the series that makes it’s dramatic like it’s TV counterparts.
It shows Tokyo how it is to people who truly live there, verses the glamour of popular tourist locations.
It’s a quiet drama that lets you watch comfortably without getting over eager for a bomb to drop. Realistically, looking back at my description of the series, it’s probably not for a lot of drama viewers since the juicy moments are much more… humble. Less over the top, big plot point reveal and more like watching someone else’s life as a fly on the wall.
It helps that both Katayose Ryota, and Shimizu Kurumi act so damn well. It was really believable to me that Kurumi as Kotone, accent and all, had just come to Hokkaido and met Yuto by chance. For as pretty as Katayose Ryota is in real life, in this series he really did seem more approachable. I could run into Yuto on the street anywhere in Japan, not just Tokyo and brush the encounter off. The selling point of the fine line between being relatable but just enough different to be engaging for me, was a major highlight.
As with many productions with an LDH actor, LDH Productions had a hand in producing this short series. From the location choices, clear that it’s Tokyo (given the name of course) but not so obnoxious that you feel isolated. Aside from the landmarks of the Skytree and Tower, it really felt like the series could take place anywhere. The choices in how scenes were filmed really shines, even if I’m not the biggest fan of the jostled camera at times for effect.
This is a quieter drama, that most certainly will be overlooked by many watchers due to availability issues. It’s a story that’s presented with a small but solid cast, simple premise, and an intersting take on Tokyo. If you get the chance, give the drama a watch. At only 5 episodes long you won’t regret it.