Oh ho ho! It’s not A I’m starting with, but rather a number. Well, at least that’s how MDL sorts series. The series English title is “From 5 to 9”, and from the wonderful year of 2015. I can blame this series entirely for the reason that one of my closest friends got sucked into JDramas, as well as the main actor and singer, Yamashita Tomohisa.
She watched it as it aired, and entirely in Japanese and told me it was a must watch. I waved her off and plunked it on my list. Some say “PTW” lists are were series go to be forgotten. I never really gave this series much thought until considering my A-Z (plus numbers!) picks. Thus, another reason to do this challenge. It was fun to watch and send out of context screen shots to my friend, and have her roped in once again.
That’s all well and good, so now it’s time to talk about the plot. Sakuraba Junko (Ishihara Satomi), is a well-liked private English school teacher who dreams of working in New York. She lives with her small and lively family, is happy with her career although at age 29 is being told to consider marriage. While attending a funeral service with her family, she has an unfortunate accident of spilling all the incense ashes on the main monk. Junko laments her bad luck, considering it only happened because her legs fell asleep. She believes the incident is over. Her family insists on attending a date, a few days later, since she is single. Her partner for the date? The monk she spilled ash on, Hoshikawa Takane (Yamashita Tomohisa), who insists they are to be wed.
Which, leads the question of how original can this series be? We have arranged marriage, a young woman being pressured to be wed, early implied love triangles, just troupe, after troupe after troupe. It works. These troupes work really well for this series. For two reasons, the first and largely due to the very fine lines of characterization thanks to some amazing casting.
Seriously, as the new characters were introduced I kept going , “OMG X is in this series?”. It’s a star-studded cast, with some very seasoned actors and actresses helping it along. I want to call out some attention to the secondary cast first, because I undoubtedly believe they’re what pushed this drama from okay, to excellant.
First was Junko’s younger sister, Sakuraba Nene played by Tsunematsu Yuri. I recognized her from her appearances in other dramas I’ve watched. Always a good sign, since those dramas were really good too. She’s made it as a staple support/guest role actress and it works. She works off the other cast members energy and emotions incredibly well, especially with her older sister Junko. Having her around added just enough of that ‘young and sweet’ energy, without forcing it on Junko’s character.
I’d be at a lose to not mention Mishima Satoshi played by Furukawa Yuki, and Kiyomiya Makoto played by Tanaka Kei. Both characters add to Junko’s love options as co-workers but with long standing feelings. I have to say that unlike “Love Rerun”, Yuki gets a more stoic character that actually has some personality to him. Mishima is much more relatable, and while he has enough attention brought to him, never takes the spotlight longer then necessary.
Similarly, Tanaka Kei is the opposite. The older interest of Junko, also her former lecturer, Kei is a natural. Although I did have the following message to my friend, “HOLY SHIT THEY GOT TANAKA KEI FOR THIS??!!?”. Which after sending said message, Kei became Makoto to me. Loveable, very much the second lead you root for as the relationship pendulum swings, and walks the line just right. For the immaturity and naivety that Mishima gives off, and contrasts nicely from the somewhat stiff and unconventional of Takane, Makoto serves as the perfect middle. He adds a level of maturity, not only in how he pursues Junko, but in how he approaches all the various situations within the series.
It would also be ignorant to not acknowledge, Kaga Mariko, or Hoshikawa Hibari, Takane’s overbearing and controlling grandmother. Many will recognize her from “Hana Yori Dango” as Tsukasa’s mother, and has her niche of being the elegant and refined grandmother/mother. I’m not a fan of type-casting myself, but you can’t deny that she is amazing at that niche character. Every scene she was the living embodiment of Mrs. Hoshikawa, from gestures, way of speaking, and her absolute elegance even in her most cruel moments. She’s a character that you will absolutely despise for keeping Junko and Takane apart, but you will also applaud her on her performance.
Of course, we then have our main love birds, Junko played by Ishihara Satomi and Takane Yamashita Tomohisa (Yamapi), two veterans of the industry. What can I say? Even when you look at them, knowing how they are off screen; they sell their individual roles. Satomi, while her accent as a English teacher is just a touch debatable, knocks it out of the park being the self-motivated and driven Junko. As someone in a similar position, I felt for her and her goals genuinely. Her struggles reflected my own, and I could connect with her in a lot of ways I never thought I would.
Yamapi, what can I say? He might be Johnny’s and Associates resident womanizer
(rumored to have been dating Ishihara Satomi after then drama concluded) but the man can act. Looking at his character dead in the eye, knowing what I know about his actor, he still sold becoming Takane to me. The awkward formality in both speech and gestures at the beginning, which gradually began to change as the series progressed was incredibly impressive.
Our two leads the chemistry was… surprisingly slow-burning. With something as laden with troupes as this is, the sparks didn’t fly until the last few episodes. There was an impressive amount of investment from Takane to Junko to convince her one, to date him at all, and two for her to take it seriously especially after the fiasco of a ‘first meeting/date’.
Takane did come off as awkward, and at times downright creepy in his pursuit of Junko, which is something that does not go unacknowledged in the story. While her co-workers joke about Takane’s determination, Junko stands her ground. She won’t bar him from attending class, but makes the expectations clear that in class they will be student and teacher that’s it. She consistently reminds him of her boundaries, which are a bit lax at times. The fact that once he’s aware they exist, he respects them and her, regardless.
While it never quite recovers the awkward but earnestly trying vibe, Takane grows thanks to Junko opening up his world. He gains more respect for her dedication and worth ethic, especially after he knows he wronged her. Something that Hibari is pissed Junko is altering her perfect future chief preist.
Aside all that, the second factor is the readability of the series but still surprising elements. There’s nothing ‘new’ throw in to the expectations of this 10 episode, manga adaptation. There is enough humor and odd quirky changes in direction to keep you on your toes. The story is laid out enough for you to follow, but not fully anticipate everything that happens.
Another thing that got me going in this series was how much it made me cry. I am not a crier by any means. I rarely shed tears while watching films, but while watching this series I cried on at least six separate occasions. Not that there is any particular scene that is especially heartwrenching, but rather the circumstances of events.
Like I said before, I feel for Junko, I really identify with her pursuing her dreams of living and working abroad, and her drive (not so much the romantic issues). So, without spoilers there were several scenes that hit hard enough where I stopped the drama to blow my nose and wipe my tears. Where the cruel words said by Hibari got under my skin because of how it related to me and my line of work, and reflected a bit too close to things my own family has said. I also have to tack on that even Takane, regarding his birthday, really got to me. I watched this series very close to my own birthday and his feelings towards his day of birth… resonated well with me.
So, “From 5 to 9”, is nothing new when it comes to shojo adaptations. There’s not reason to expect some revolutionary new take on a familiar story. However, it’s incredibly well done that it makes seeing it all with real people worth while. The cast not only has the star power, but also the skills and chemistry to make an average story extraordinary. I didn’t even touch on how well the mood transition between scenes, locations, aactual plot twists and side stories in there too!
Honestly, I’m kinda mad I missed the initial hype for this series. It’s well-deserved in my late-to-the-party opinion. As an added bonus for Yamapi fans, and I guess a… ‘fun’ fact, is that Yamapi is shirtless at least once per episode, every episode, for at least 30 seconds. So there is that ‘thirst quenching’ element as well, which I had to tack on for last.
My first drama down in this challenge! It only took three days for me to finish too! Talk about starting strong! Have you seen or heard of “5ji Kara 9ji Made”? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I also just watched this drama last month but dropped it around the fifth or sixth episode. I don’t have a problem with tropes as long as the drama is entertaining, but after like three, four episodes, the story became quite repetitive and the second leads also didn’t pose as much competition as they should have.
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