Friday, September 18, 2009

Manhattan Love Story

From the writer that brough us Tiger & Dragon and Zebraman, Manhattan Love Story is a brilliant jdorama about triangles and quadrangles in relationships. Matsuoka Masahiro aka the drummer from Tokio is the Tencho of a coffee shop known as Manhattan. He is very rigid in his thinking and his main love is his coffee. Tencho doesn't speak but we get to hear his thoughts as he observes his customers and their love affairs.

Yes, the F word is uttered 3 times in this series.

The Tencho voice over works perfectly as the viewers' guide to the complicated relationships and also as a constant source of humour. Matsuoka Masahiro's overacting suits this show and is nowhere as bad as he was in Yasuko to Kenji. At the top of this ensemble cast is the lovely Koizumi Kyoko who plays the taxi driver Akabane Nobuko. Manhattan Love Story would not have worked without her. While the Tencho is the focal storyteller, Nobuko is the heart of the dorama and any lesser actress would have made Manhattan Love Story collapse under its own weight.

Worth watching just to hear Koizumi Kyoko say it.

The first half of MLS is really fast paced and exciting. New characters keep appearing and there are always interesting revelations to keep you watching. The 2nd half got a bit slow for me. All the twists and turns in the relationships just felt unnecessary. Like it didn't matter what was happening or who was now cheating with who because it wasn't about taking the characters through a journey but rather surprise the audience for the sake of surprising. There's a feeling that it didn't matter who ended up with who. Nothing was of consequence and therefore nothing was 'real'.

That's why Nobuko is the heart of the show. She's not a plot device like what the other characters feel like. Her humour comes from the fact that she basically acts like a schoolgirl. Nobuko and the Tencho are the only ones that really matter in the story. Maybe I'm analysing the characters too much because this show is more about providing as many laughs as possible in a coffee shop environment and I was basically laughing my way throughout the series.

Sentai jokes never get old.

The humour in MLS is top notch, especially episode 8 which had me wishing for more Cosmo Ranger scenes. I can see where the writer got his idea to write the Zebraman script. There are a lot of running gags in this series like Tencho always making coffee bets that he always losses or going to buy wafers. At times, it seems like the characters are going to break the fourth wall but they stop short of announcing their knowledge. Its like everyone knowing who the Tencho is but pretending not to notice.

Damn you Kogure-sama!

I really love Nobuko's final revelation and would have preferred if more emphasis was place on it. It sort of got lost with the flurry of activity at the end of the series. If they had cut down on the characters and twists and spent more time on the Kogure-sama tv show, it would have made the impact so much better.

I have to thank SARS for subbing this excellent jdorama and to Maiku for recommending it to me. This season has been pretty lackluster and Manhattan Love Story has been a godsend. I'd highly recommend it. Think of it as a faster paced Love Shuffle with a lot of jokes that work most of the time. I'm putting my life, my experience and my soul into this. Manhattan Love Story is really good coffee.


bframe5 (aka tUrtleAE86) said...

ε=ε=ε= ヾ(;´Д`)ノ Wafers!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for another great review. Will give this show a try.

maiku said...

Glad to hear you liked it. Tencho's internal monologue really made the show for me. His expressiveness reminded me of silent film acting. Brilliant!

I also thought the actor that played Doigaki did a good job. The phrase "gu ga ooi!" made me laugh out loud every episode.

Koizumi Kyoko is always great. Have you seen her in Suika? She doesn't have a lot of screen time but she still makes a lasting impression. Could be a little onnappoi for some, but Suika remains one of my favorites.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god! I need to watch this drama. (Just looking at the screencaps make me laugh) ^_^

Anonymous said...

Manhattan Love Story is hilarious and great. I've loved everything that I've seen from Kudo Kankuro. I don't think anything I've ever watched is as funny as Kisarazu Cat's Eye.

Even Ryusei no Kizuna was good. It's one of his weaker works, but it works once you get into the groove of it.

Akiramike said...

Ryusei is good? I dumped it straight after episode 1. It was so uneven.