A-Z Drama Challenge: Jimi ni Sugoi!

So… it’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted about my challenge. I promise it hasn’t been forgotten. I just ended up getting distracted as always. I really am serious about finishing this challenge this year. The funny part about this particular title was that it’s one that I picked somewhat at random, and somewhat based on it’s popularity. While it’s pretty deep into the MDL Japanese high ranked dramas, it’s always one that’s been well received and I’ve always heard talked about fondly. So without further ado, I am back with my J entry Jimi ni Sugoi! or Jimi ni Sugoi! Koetsu Garu Kono Etsuko.

Kono Etsuko (Ishihara Satomi) is determined to join the fashion magazine of her dreams, Lassey, as a fashion editor. In fact, she’s spent the better part of seven years attempting to join the company being rejected every time. She finally makes it past the interview stage of the company Lassey is under as… a proofreader. The unglamorous, unrecognized job of proofreading other people’s work that isn’t even entirely under Lassey either! However, Estuko is determined to take this opportunity that within six months she’ll have done such a good job at proof-reading, that she’ll be transferred to Lassey. So she dedicates herself to the craft, often heading out of the offer to verify locations, facts, and inspiring her co-workers along the way.

I have to say that for going in blind; Jimi ni Sugoi! absolutely was a surprise smash hit with me. I’m not one to really marathon works, but this series was so dynamic and addictive that I couldn’t help myself. I managed to marathon ten, 50-ish minute episodes within three days. A true rarity for me. On top of my original goal of finishing the drama, I was desperate for more. So the drama special, and mini spin off drama were also completed along with the original story in just one more day. A rarity on top of a rarity for me since don’t seek out additional materials for dramas normally.

What I’m trying to say, more succinctly is that Jimi ni Sugoi! is a great series.

The first part being, is that I surprisingly learned a lot from this drama. I’m not suggesting that everything portrayed in Jimi ni Sugoi! is factually correct in the world of Japanese editors: it’s a drama after all. However, much like Etsuko, I really came to understand and respect the time, effort, and dedication that goes into editing anything. That different formats between novels, blogs, movie scripts, all require the same source materials for editing, but the process can play out completely different. That, and how many kanji can be used to form the same reading, but details like using one kanji over the other open different doors for meanings and implications. It’s also probably because I also do my own proof-reading, that I was able to connect with the story itself.

It’s part of the job to make sure what happens in the settling makes sense afterall!

It was also a nice touch that the series, while focusing on proof-reading, did break into other struggles within the printed media industry. This is explored through Honda Tsubasa’s portrayal of Morio, an editor at Lassey that struggles to come up with ideas to contribute to the publication. There’s Aoki Mentaka as Kaizuka Hachiro, an agent for various authors. While he knows his stuff, he regularly struggles with the when, where, and how’s to push his authors for their next publication, and when to back off and just let them write. Something that he and Etsuko, when she’s involved, regularly clash on. Lastly of course, being Yukito portrayed by Suda Masaki, the struggling young author who had one minor hit, but is also in the shadow of another author. The casting was on point for this series.

However, probably the most fun trio to watch was Estuko portrayed by Ishihara Saotomi and her fellow proofreaders, Fujiwa Rion (Eguchi Noriko), and Yoneoka Mitsuo (Wada Masato). Estuko breathes new life into the office, sprucing it up and making it a more positive space through physical changes and also her direct approach. Fujiwa Rion is the direct contrast to Etsuko both visibly and character-wise, having more experienced and a stricter self-policy in terms of what makes a good editor. Mitsuo serving as the balance between the two, often softening harder blows to Etsuko, and translating ‘young people’ speak to Fujiwara. The trio and their dynamics are a lot of fun to watch due to the actors having good chemistry in general, and how all their characters fit together at the end. In fact, it’s the special chemistry that allowed Fujiwara and Mitsuo to score a 3 episode mini spin off series!

Of course, it would be negligent to say that I’m not a bit biased since I have talked about Ishihara Saotomi before. Ishihara Satomi really is one of those actresses that despite her high profile, she really does become the character she’s playing. Etsuko being no exception. It was also refreshing to see that Etsuko be the Japanese equivalent of Elle Woods from Legally Blonde. At first glance, superficial, but once you see her in action Etsuko is more then just a fashionable editor but one who isn’t afraid to challenge those above her! Something that ends up causing the majority of the conflict throughout the story, but is a breath of fresh air when more ‘modest’ female characters are the trend.

Which baffles me how Suda Masaki, as Yukito ended up being… so boring in comparison. Don’t get me wrong; Suda Masaki in terms of delivery was on par with this prior and later performances. I’m probably just a bit over with his semi-type casting as ‘guy who looks scruffy at first, but cleans up well’ roles. We managed to dodge Yukito being a presumptuous asshat author troupe, by having him be so modest but he just didn’t really grow a real personality until nearly the end. It’s a factor that didn’t really stand out to me while watching, because Etsuko and the proofreader group are so dynamic, but post-watch reflection sticks out a bit.

It’s safe to Jimi ni Sugoi! is a story that will hook you in with it’s characters. But that doesn’t mean other elements are slacking. I really enjoyed how there’s a noticeable difference from how the proofreading department looks like at the start, verses the end. It’s subtle but does help build the story without being obnoxious. It was a really smart touch to have the scene transitions be Etsuko’s current outfit, a front and back photo of her posing, and then her next scene outfit. It really suits the theme, but doesn’t waste time with filler dialogue or montages.

The director knew who to highlight and when, and the scenes had a nice sense of balance to them. There were a handful of hallmark transitions and locations that kept the story in place, but enough variation to be really enjoyable. I really liked the use of a freeze frame and then 360 degree shot in the first two episodes to serve as a parallel. They were a bit comical as it fed more into the drama of the series, but still really clever in execution. I was a little disappointed in the final episode at a particular dip in the production value. There was a reasonable but still cheap looking technique used that made the scene, which has some beautiful dialogue in it, come across weird, but it wasn’t so terrible as to ruin my enjoyment.

You can’t tell me this isn’t clever.

For being a story I picked up on a whim; Jimi ni Sugoi! was a pleasure to watch. It was not only informative, but addictive and dynamic topped with a cast and chemistry you can’t easily recreate. It’s got some flaws, and imperfect moments but that’s what proofreading helps you iron out! It’s also the first in awhile where I can send my viewers to Viki to watch it officially!

With that I’ll be back sooner then you think with my next entry for this challenge. I’ll see you next post!



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