Well, this is a series I’ve already mentioned before about being pretty excited about. Now that it’s officially wrapped I can post up a review! For being a premise that certainly reeks of many tried and true troupes, I had a surprising amount of thoughts. Aka, this is an unintentionally long review, so be sure to grab a drink and a snack. Without further ado, just what is 3B no Koibito about?
Kobayashi Haruka, i.e.Haru (Baba Fumiko) fell in love with man she shouldn’t have, and then was dumped. After that breakup, a regular at her job says that she will meet three men who are romantically interested in her. As predicted, she ends up meeting, Shintaro (Nakahara Hiroshi) a beautician specializing in hair, Yoshi (Sakarada Dori) a bartender, and Yu (Kamiya Kenta) a bandman. Of course, Haru’s trusted friend and co-worker, Asami informs her that none of them are viable since they are the three B’s not to date! Despite that warning, Haru finds herself their landlord and interacting with them regularly…
I feel like this drama needs to come with a bit of a cultural context before we get too far in. The 3B phenomena in Japan’s dating scene has existed from around 2014-ish. The three B’s in stand for 美容師 (Beautician), バーテンダー (Bartender), and バンドマン (Bandman), i.e. the three occupations least likely to be faithful if you date them. They tend to be grouped together due to the nature of their job, and how many women they’re likely to encounter verses actual statistics of alleged unfaithful natures. In 3B no Koibito, these three occupations aside from the alleged unfaithful nature, also have the problem of being perpetually broke.
With that footnote over, what does 3B no Koibito have to offer? Surprisingly from the superficial nature of the story, there’s a lot of subverted expectations. The first being that Haru isn’t an incompetent protagonist. Don’t get me wrong she has her moments and faults (a few of her choices made me cringe though) but at her base she’s a well-built protagonist. She has meaningful relationships with both Sugisaki, her regular customer, and Asami her co-worker and friend. She balances her duties of dog groomer and landlord evenly. Knowing that she’s been hurt before, she isn’t so quick to think that any of the 3B are going to be interested in her despite their proximity in age.
As you can expect, even with Haru being more competent there are a lot of expectations of a reverse harem at play. Each guy has an episode dedicated to him and his relationship with Haru, where some connections are genuinely made. Other times Haru calling out the superficial nature of what they’re doing. The biggest part at play, the ‘who will she pick’, is actually brilliantly subverted. Something that made me mad, because I was emotionally invested in having that sort of ending, but also pleased since the drama decided to break away from the expected ending. It’s not a story where you’re going to get too much of substance from it, but it is enjoyable to watch unfold.
The main reason for that is none other than casting. It’s pretty needless to say that I liked Baba Fumiko’s performance as Haru. Being a more realistic heroine, it can be hard to deliver a performance true to character, but still engaging. For me, it was more rewarding to see a grounded character, be challenged to grow as the rest of 3B interacted with her and changed her opinions on them and their characters.
Following that up was Sakurada Dori as Yoshi. He’s a crowd favorite in the JDrama scene and I can see why, as he has a knack
or perhaps a type-casting for playing more aloof male love interests. It took us as viewers a bit longer in comparison to Shintaro and Yuu, to really see Yoshi’s full potential. By the end, he gets some really nice growth where I found myself going against the set up and cheering for a HaruxYoshi final pairing… but you’ll have to watch to find out about that. However, Yoshi being so somber and matching Haru in a more practical nature, got overshadowed a lot character-wise. In acting, no other male character can compare, which almost makes me wonder how this story would have played out if he had been cast as Shintaro or Yuu instead… but I digress.
This now leads into Shintaro played by Nakahara Hiroshi. I still think there was a bit of a missed opportunity to have the lead singer of FIVE NEW OLD, be the beautician instead of the band man. I mean, the band sings the ending theme anyway, why not just go all in? For this being his first endeavor in acting, it was the better choice for him. Overall, I have to give Hiroshi a not bad for a first acting gig. He didn’t under or over emote in most cases, and when we finally hit some key character growth moments he pushed just enough to give it some real depth in comparison to earlier scenes but not much more. I reiterate a solid start for someone’s first role, but nothing that really won me over.
Lastly of course, is none other then Kamiya Kenta as Yuu. This will undoutbly be the most biased section of the review, since I the only reason I watched this drama was for Kenta. An 11 year gap from acting is a long time, and I have to say that I was pleasently surprised, but no blown away by his portrayal. Yuu was admittedly, you can tell by episode 3, set up to have more screen time due to his relationship with Haru, and larger subplot with his band.
Which for someone like me, was more then welcome, but for the non-biased watcher might seem a bit forced. Personally, on reflecting this role seems a little under tailor made for having Kenta come back into acting. He has experience with playing instruments, and he does sing in MA55IVE a sub-unit of The Rampage. It’s hard for me to tell if I really felt my heart pounding due to his delivery as an actor, or if it’s because I’m a fan of him specifically. Admittedly, the jury is still out for how good of an actual actor Kenta is. I have to give him a similar rating as Hiroshi, that for this being his return to acting it wasn’t bad, just not particularly impressive unless you’re a fan.
With all that said and done, is there anything else that makes 3B no Koibito worth watching? And the answer is yes, yes there is and that is due to camera angles. 3B no Koibito has a surprising amount of really interesting camera work. The series isn’t afraid to have two characters in a scene, and transition the focus between the two without changing the angle, even if it means the forefront character isn’t in focus. This is a neat touch that I picked up throughout the series and thought it was a nice change of pace from the usual, switch perspectives but everyone is in focus the entire time.
Additionally, the perspective of the viewer is really personal. There are a lot of shots that are filmed where you are right over someone’s shoulder watching it all go down. Other times, shots will be framed so that you feel like you’re a fly on the wall or a co-worker down the hall overhearing a conversation. There was a lot of consideration for how to frame each 3B’s job as well. A lot of scenes were Shintaro is doing his job, utilize mirrors especially in the latter half of the series. With Yuu, you feel like you’re part of the audience, watching a music video of the group, or that you’re the live house manager filming from just off stage. It was most noticeable with Yoshi, when he’s presenting drinks. It’s often from the perspective that you’re sitting across from Haru, watching her get a drink first, verses a direct first person perspective. It’s the little details that make this drama more intimate.
It’s also worth noting the various lighting changes. Each location has it’s own unique mood lighting, that’s both natural in execution, but noticeable in retrospective. It’s clear that the share house has it’s own soft lighting, given it’s age and location. Compare with with the live house or Yoshi’s bar, and each has similar lighting styles but completely different moods, which help highlight the emotions of the events taking place at each location. Similarly, the use of smartphone’s and message was effectively used throughout as well. Some messages were read over a character’s shoulder, other times text appearing on screen, and still other times, the whole screen would be occupied by the conversation at hand. Really interesting stuff in the series that gave it some nice pops of personality.
So I have gone on long enough about the premise, excution from the core cast, and some nice technical points. Now to answer the important question: Is 3B no Koibito worth watching? Resoundingly, I have to say yes. It’s not a perfect drama as the cast is a little shaky, but endearing to watch through. It’s enjoyable, troupes and all, to see where it leads to. For something to pass the time with and having you fan-girling over your favorite 3B, maybe yelling at Haru about a few choices, or scheming with Asami, 3B no Koibito is a fun short drama to enjoy.