Million Yen Woman is the latest Japanese Netflix Original to cross the seas. A tale about five different women and a single man who live together in the same house. They have seemingly never crossed paths in their lives before until one day, five women offer a million yen each month to live with Shin (Yojiro Noda, Vocalist of Radwimps). There are rules in this household and there are rule breakers. This drama is based on a manga and is one the best adaptions to come to life in 2017. It was thrilling, exciting, heart wrenching, funny, and at its very core, a beautiful experience.
(Beware, spoiler-ish review below)
Each of the main cast performed wonderfully. Hesitant at first of Yojiro as it was hard to figure out what was beyond the hard poker face. However, his uncannily calm performance made all the contrast against everyone's. While the plot was interesting to begin with, the characters were the most engrossing aspect of the show. The last time I saw this strong of a female cast was probably years ago, in Mondai no Aru Restaurant. This five female main cast was simply incredible. Literally whisked away my heart and a bit of my soul.
Minami (Rila Fukushima) was the golden light above all. You couldn't help but be attracted to her character. In the first few seconds, it was her that captured my attention immediately. Her nude figure, so strategically blended, was a fierce reflection of her soul. Unafraid to bare all, yet hiding so much inside. Nanaka (Yuko Araki) was a very realistic, charming character. Yuko casted the perfect blend of sweet demeanor and solemn curiosity. Then we have Midori (Rena Takeda), a high school student. Innocent at first but becomes wiser beyond her years, stronger with the great burden she carries. Hitomi (Rena Matsui) was a recognizable face, as a ex-member of the AKB48 family and interacted naturally with the other actresses. Last but not least, there was Yuki (Miwako Wagatsuma). I was surprised to find out Miwako is in her mid-twenties when she plays a character with so much personalization, depth and experience.
All the supporting characters were amazing as well. They each have a storyline that will keep you entertained and guessing until the very end of how all these people came to live together. The end is satisfying, tying the important questions up. Some answers, the audience would have liked to know, left only to their imaginations.
Million Yen Women is a short series of twelve 24 minute episodes. You can binge all in a night, if you don't need much sleep. Not speaking from personal experience. To be honest, it wasn't the perfect drama, there were problems I had with the plot and characters. But it made me think and it made me feel.
I guess why this drama spoke to me was because here was a main character: Shin, who didn't want to do anything else except do things in the he believed. He wanted to write a book his way. He only knew how to write like that. Here I am, just another young adult in a world of conflicting values. I want to do so many things and I'm stubborn in my beliefs in how to achieve them. Similar circumstances in two different worlds of fiction and reality.
But hey, this isn't a drama blog. It's supposed to be a music blog. Let's move on to the soundtrack!
The music to Million Yen Woman was written by Yusuke Tsutsumi and Shinco of Scha Dara Parr. Not much is known about Yusuke. As for Shinco. His real name is Shinsuke Matsumo, born in Kanagawa prefecture. He's a part of a 90s Hip Hop trio. Shinco has a bunch of works under his belt, mostly in the late 90s and sporicidal afterwards. Having sampled a limited selection of Scha Dara Parr's works, the production appears fun and their sound is party-like. On the other spectrum, Million Yen Women's soundtrack can described as electronic and striking. Fast and chaotic to drive heart-pounding scenes. Calm guitar plucks and quirky piano taps to move quieter, dialogue heavy scenes. For me, the softer, slower tracks that built on repeated melodies, pulled out emotions more distinctly and were overall more memorable. It's disappointing this soundtrack will probably never be released and available on its own.
The main theme, sung by Kotlingo, was a dancing breeze of warm strings, bouncing keys, and tender vocals. Drifting Feelings, very appropriately named. An ambiguous description is fitting for the title of a book yet to be concluded. Where does the wind take the song? Where do feelings go as they drift across people, across time? To a place where all seems serene and peaceful. Somewhere the characters of this story are living in, Maybe in an alternative universe.
All in all, I can't recommend this drama enough. It's rare for a show that combines mystery, thrills, romance, comedy, and slice of life. There's death and there's justice. There's love and intimacy and broken hearts. There's blood and fire and tears. There's jealousy and envy and empathy and solace. Plus there's a cat. What more does it need?
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