Greetings again on the first day of spring! I apologise for the lack of posts recently, been really busy and had no time to write anything. Now that I have a bit of time, here’s a look at a lovely gem from last season’s dramas.
Suteki na Sen Taxi is time travel with a twist: Edawakare (Takenouchi Yutaka) is the driver of Sen Taxi, a vehicle that will take passengers back in time to make changes to their lives. So long as they can afford the fare, which is a little pricey, they can go back in time more than once to make things right (but not too far back in time as to change their entire life). The outcome isn’t always the desired one, but along the way, both Edawakare and his passengers learn a few lessons on how to approach various situations as they come…
I’d gone into this for Yutaka, because it tickled me that he would be this oddball taxi driver and in a somewhat passive role to boot, since it’s his passengers doing most of the time travelling. I haven’t been particularly keen to check out any of his recent dramas, but then Sen Taxi came along and I am glad I gave it a shot. The first episode sets the tone and formula for how things will unfold – a passenger will unwittingly get into Edawakare’s taxi, thinking it’s just an ordinary one. Edawakare will engage the passenger in conversation, thereby drawing out the issue of the day, and the passenger then opts to go back in time to fix the problem once he figures out just what kind of taxi this is. There are little twists along the way, some of which are pretty clever and neat.
Right from the get-go, the acting and storyline are solid. Yutaka is perfect as Edawakare, right down to the mellifluous voice and deadpan delivery, which makes his performance so enjoyable that you wonder why he doesn’t take on more oddball characters. This taxi driver is talkative and a little meddlesome, always ready to chat with his passengers (and remind them that no siree, he’s not a go-fer!), and also offer them a bit of advice regarding the situations they’re in. He’s perpetually indecisive and always informing us via voiceover that life is all about the choices you make, right down to mundane things like what you’ll have for dinner. A running joke in the drama is that Edawakare takes just about forever to decide what he wants to eat, which drives the waitress in Cafe Choice, which he frequents, up the wall. But the cafe staff are fond of him even if they don’t always show it, and end up helping him out in one of the episodes.
The meaty stuff arises mostly from the passengers trying to put things right again, although another running joke is Edawakare doing his utmost providing his passengers with that “time-slip sensation” – he’ll play up the weird sound effects, make them put on goggles, offer them candy etc just so they feel they’re going back in time. It’s pretty hilarious how Edawakare thinks he’s doing something extra for his passengers, only for them to realise all these gimmicks don’t really contribute to anything, hahaha. The cafe staff also follow this drama called “Criminal Detective”, which is about a cop who is also a criminal, and it’s pretty hilarious how this fictional drama ties in with the actual one. I also love that the drama featured pretty solid guest stars every episode – I was pretty tickled to see Nakamura Toru and Kuriyama Chiaki among them and their storylines were good. This was also probably the first drama where I did not dislike Kanjiya Shihori as much (loathed her in Love Shuffle and her character in Jiken Kyuumei was a complete yawn).
I don’t recall this drama getting a lot of buzz during its run, but it being so low-key is also part of its charm. The episodes keep getting better and the last one ends with the viewers getting Edawakare’s side of the story, which is kinda cool. I like that he remains as indecisive and full of explanations to justify his hesitant nature as ever, but when the situation really calls for it, he makes the decision like a man and just moves on with it stoically.
The drama is penned by Bakarythm, who also starred as Cafe Choice’s boss. I thought the writing was witty and tight, there wasn’t any superfluous scene and nothing felt slow or dragged out, even though characters go through at least two attempts per episode to put things right. And the writing was such that I usually ended up rooting for the character to get it right and derive important lessons learnt from the experience. The title of the drama is a play on the Japanese word 選択 (sentaku, which means choice) and タクシー (taxi), also neatly reflected in the name of the cafe, and the various choices the passengers make throughout the drama. I love wordplay like this.
Given that the drama offerings these days aren’t particularly exciting or fall short of expectations, it’s lovely to be able to indulge in a gem like Suteki na Sen Taxi. I heartily recommend it!