No one wanted this but we got it anyway – Mairunovich (JDrama Review)

Where to really start with this drama? It’s a hot mess that no one was asking for, but we got anyway. The one and only reason I watched this is unapologetically because of Kamio Fuju as future super star hair and makeup artist, Kumade Tenyu. That’s getting a bit too far ahead of myself, so let’s start as usual about what this drama is about.

Mairunovich is the story of Kinoshita Mairu (Sakurai Hinako), whose cursed with an adorable name but ‘ugly’ appearance, and bullied mercilessly for it. One day she is tricked into a fake confession where she is trapped in a pit. While lamenting her existence and even apologizing for it, Kumada Tenyu (Kamino Fuju) happens upon her and offers to transform her exterior. Mairu accepts, and with her new found appearance to match her name, sets out to transform her life by gaining the affection of a boyfriend, and maybe a friend or two as a bonus.

This story has a feel-good appearance, but is actually is one of the most superficial dramas I’ve seen.

This story also doesn’t make sense given it was published from 2010 to 2014 and wasn’t picked up then, indicating low if no popularity. As far as I’m aware there’s no cult following or even a demand for a live-action adaptation. But against the odds and better choices, Hulu Japan made it happen. It’s also apparently a new set of production projects, taking average shojo stories from the recent past, and adapting them into dramas as next on the list is A Devil and Her Love Song. So that’s fair enough and explains why this was put into motion.

Normally, I’d be all for a previous looked over title getting a new audience, but Mairunovich deserves to be left in the past. There’s a lot of problematic storylines, troupes, and events that got a pass back in the day and in manga, but in a 2021 drama really have not aged well. Mairunovich isn’t a story where Mairu comes to love and accept herself with friend’s she’s made along the way. She’s so poorly adjusted that she only finds validation through dating and has no other moments of growth. Anytime you think that Mairu is going to change, it’s tossed aside for some cheap, shoe-horned teenage drama. It really makes this drama look like something from 2005 or later and that’s a shame.

Because, actually one of the few redeeming qualities of this drama was the cast and their acting. There’s such a good mix of new emerging talents, and older more nuanced ones. Sakurai Hinako at the time that this was released right on the cusp of new and seasoned. She’s got a short, but steady set of work and this isn’t her first time as a shojo protagonist. Mairu was awkward the entire series, something refreshing since transformation shojo tend to forget that appearances don’t change personalities overnight. Mairu’s most cringe-worthy moments gave me some strong, but not pause-worthy secondhand embarrassment. This hurts me to say, but Hinako managed to give Mairu’s most superficial moments nuance and solid delivery. In a shitty plotted story like this, that takes some serious talent!

Of course, as stated my main man to watch was Kamino Fuju as Tenyu. He absolutely carried the show for me. In terms of literal seasoned star power, and the fact that Tenyu’s the only character whose growth is visible and realistic in the story. I might be biased in stating that, but in a story where everyone else is over the top, having the very calm if not cold Tenyu to balance it out helped tremendously in being able to watch this beginning to end.

Additionally we have the supporting cast, who actually did well supporting our two main leads. Otomo Karen as Mairu’s romantic rival and only female friend, Ayano was a joy to watch. She knew what she wanted (Tenyu) and wasn’t afraid to step on some toes to get there. She may have been misguided, but she too actually grew as a character, and even grew fond of Mairu along the way. I finally now understand the appeal of Ito Asahi, who I’ve seen before but didn’t really appreciate his performances until here. He was solid portraying Mairu’s first “love” Naru. As for the very fresh talent, Akutsu Nichika was a treat. I loved how he portrayed Mairu’s childhood friend and neighbor Mirai. It’s a shame he got overshadowed between Asahi and Fuju, but he held on fairly well. His scenes were a bit to be expected, but otherwise showed a lot of promise.

Last in terms of acting, is a bit more contentious but needs to be talked about a bit, because it highlights some larger problems with Mairnovich. This being how the character, Kinoshita Fuwari was handled. The biggest point is that Fuwari is a transgender woman, whose also a fashion designer and Mairu’s primary caregiver. Fuwari was portrayed by Miura Ryousuke who is a cisgendered male actor. There are some conversations to be had about this choice, but despite this, I thought that Ryousuke did an excellent job with Fuwari especially considering how she was written for the series. Fuwari never comes off as over-bearing or a caricature. I genuinely think after Fuju as Tenyu, that Ryousuke as Fuwari is the second best performance of the series.

That being said, Mairunovich put forth harmful ideas about transgender women. Something that I’m not sure was directly sourced from the manga, or poorly written by the screenwriter. Nonetheless, harm is harm and I won’t gloss over it. Multiple times in the series Fuwari switches between feminine pronouns, to masculine pronouns. I can’t tell if it was intentional or not, but given the harmful original material I’m chalking this up to poor writing and bad scripting. I don’t believe Ryousuke would intentionally misgender their own character. Additionally, Fuwari is regularly misgendered by other characters, especially Mairu, her own niece. I found this was often brushed over in the action, but left a foul taste in my mouth post-watch.

So with the most harmful, and the best Mairunovich has to offer: what about everything else? Honestly, everything else is about average. Nothing about the action, direction or execution really stands out. No scenes in particular stick out of linger in a positive way. The music was fine, if not annoying especially the opening song. About the only interesting aspect is that I believe most of it was filmed in Kyushu, based on Mairu being a huge wota for LinQ. So that was a nice little twist I suppose.

At the end of it all, Mairunovich is another run of the mill, dated and superficial shojo manga turned drama. This series is very much skippable, and has very little entertainment value. Even if you’re a die hard fan for anyone appearing in this series, do yourself a favor and re-watch something else they were in. All that being said, thanks for reading and see you next post!

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