It’s a pity that I wasn’t able to write more consistent posts for Zannen na Otto during its run, so here’s a wrap-up post on the rest of the episodes. It was a fun and zany ride, and I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that it ended well for all concerned. It won’t go down as a classic, but for Tamaki Hiroshi fans who enjoy watching him flex his comedic chops, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Yoichi’s growth was nicely charted throughout the rest of the episodes. I thought it was done fairly realistically and in logical, reasonable steps that viewers would be able to relate to. The bulk of the episodes dealt with how Yoichi and Chisato clash over issues such as parenting methods, work vs home, friends’ problems etc. I like that although Yoichi does most of the maturing and learns to appreciate his family more, Chisato also learns to see things from her husband’s point of view.
In particular, I liked how episodes 4 and 5 were complementary in a way. Episode 4 centred on Yoichi and how in having to rush out sketches for an important architectural project, he realises (after a quarrel with Chisato, prompting her to stay at Miwako’s place for a bit) that he actually draws strength from his family in order to do a good job at work. He’s able to deliver what the client wants for a model house not by playing up the strengths of the client’s company, but actually incorporating what he himself feels is necessary for the residents living in such a house. I thought it was such a lovely way of tying in Yoichi’s job and his own realisation of what is truly important – he designed the house with Chisato and Hana in mind because a home is where they should be happy and healthy. It was also adorable that while Yoichi was slaving over the sketches, he wore the bandana Hana and Chisato had made to motivate him. And I love how the model house project and bandana made a return in the last episode to show just how far Yoichi has come, allowing Chisato to see her husband at work and realise some things – such a neat way to link back to a previous story thread and provide some moving emotional beats.
Episode 5 was interesting in that it focused on Chisato for once and her dilemma of whether to return to work full-time or continue being a stay-at-home mother for the foreseeable future. I liked that it showed Chisato was also great at her job before she gave birth, and I loved the detail about her changing her footwear for work and picking up Hana at daycare. However, I wish the drama had more consistently depicted Chisato as a woman who has interests and ideas beyond her mother role. Being a new mother pretty much eats up all your time and energy, so I do understand why Chisato eventually decided to put off returning to work full-time until Hana is older, but I wish the drama had also allowed her to consider options such as freelancing or part-time work – with a little help from the parental units or even friends who have the time to babysit, surely that would not be too difficult. I thought the pair of episodes were nicely done, even if I wished Yoichi had been more supportive initially of his wife going back to work – that would subvert the usual husband disapproval plot and maybe explore other facets of this dilemma.
Getting involved with other people’s problems also aided the growth process. I liked how Yoichi, while dealing with Miwako’s opposition to Mika’s dreams of becoming a professional pianist, was firm in his belief that Mika should be given the chance to try even if she doesn’t succeed. He even used phrases from basketball stars to back his points up, which was kinda awesome – and again the drama did a lovely link back in the last episode when Miwako repeated those same phrases to encourage Yoichi to patch things up with Chisato. When it came to advising Toshiya and Yui on their domestic violence issues, Yoichi and Chisato learnt to practise what they preached and became more honest with each other. So the learning and growing went both ways – Miwako began to understand Mika more, and Toshiya and Yui started actively working on their own problems.
Which was why I felt the Kaori segment totally unnecessary. I understand it’s part and parcel of rom-coms that some third party must attempt to wreck the relationship between the main couple, but in the first place, Yoichi only had eyes for Chisato, so an affair was out of the question. Nothing against Fueki Yuko here, but Kaori as a character was just so annoying and 2D that nothing would have been lost if she hadn’t existed – perhaps the storytelling might even have improved as more time could have been spent on Yoichi and Chisato’s issues (or even just sweet moments between the couple). Getting Yoichi transferred to the sales department so he was within reach of Kaori was a tired, pointless plot device. Then the drama played it such that the “affair” was a catalyst (along with the loan to Yoichi’s subordinate) for Chisato wanting to divorce Yoichi because she’d had enough of his uncaring, indifferent ways… this was a turn I found quite difficult to believe. In the first place, Yoichi had been making small improvements and he does care for his daughter and wife, though he has a real lousy way of showing it. I just don’t think any or all of it built up convincingly to wanting divorce. If anything, the “affair” should have been first and foremost the reason for wanting divorce because everything else could have been solved with time and maybe an upside to Yoichi’s head. But once it was confirmed there was no affair (was it even in any doubt in the first place?), Chisato’s righteous anger lost steam, traction and believability. The way the whole matter was resolved was also rather unsatisfactory – it just felt like Chisato was being unreasonable and throwing a tantrum, when more attention could have been paid to her issues as a new mother, wife and woman. But I guess that would be another drama for another day.
I suppose the comedic bent was so strong that I shouldn’t really have expected a more in-depth look at marital issues, and to be fair to the drama, it never marketed itself as such. However, comedy can definitely co-exist with more serious issues, though it requires a deft touch to get the balance and focus just right. This drama wasn’t it, since it’s mostly comedy and heavily focused on Yoichi’s growth as a father and husband, though there was that potential for a while when it explored a little the domestic violence situation involving Toshiya and Yui (I wasn’t expecting the DV issue in such a light-hearted comedy, so that was a good surprise). I did enjoy the over-the-top humour and Yoichi’s over-active imagination, and was glad for the chance to laugh at the characters’ silly antics every episode. The nabe party in episode 6 deserves highlighting because it was such an awkwardly hilarious gathering of the three couples, with Yoichi doing his best to be invisible and Hosoi-san shooting his mouth off, haha. And although I dislike Kaori, the drama added a “wowww” voiceover every time she appeared and smiled mysteriously, which was kinda funny for a bit. It’s not easy keeping the crazy humour consistent throughout the drama, and although I wanted more meat to the storytelling and characterisation, it was nice how the drama handled the more serious issues with a lighter touch but knew when to pull back for the really emotional scenes.
Tamaki Hiroshi was certainly having a blast, from all the crazy outfits and outrageous expressions to getting into weird situations thanks to his imagination working overtime. This is the kind of comedy he can do with his eyes closed, so I wouldn’t say it was anything breakthrough-worthy, but I always appreciate actors who go the whole hog and aren’t afraid to look silly on screen. His interpretation of Yoichi made me want to root for the man to get things right, which is always a good thing. I thought the scene where Yoichi realised just what a rotten husband and father he’s been all this while was particularly moving, and I felt for the man. Tamaki had good chemistry with Kurashina Kana, they were believable as a couple and I enjoyed their scenes together (especially without the baby in tow). I thought Kurashina’s exaggerated “hahhhh?” every time Yoichi does or says something stupid was pretty funny, and she also had decent comedic timing. Kishitani Goro was hilarious as Hosoi-san with his hangdog expressions and silly advice – love the sauna scenes of Yoichi and Hosoi-san – and I like how he belatedly started acting all fatherly and supportive of Mika’s piano ambitions. The parental units – Yoichi’s mom was played by Asada Miyoko and Chisato’s dad by Ishikura Saburo – were also great fun and I enjoyed their silly bickering. Once in a while, they also acted as the voice of reason, which is a nice beat given their experience in raising children. I was also happy seeing Tanaka Kei appear as Chisato’s ex Kazuyuki – pity he and Yoichi didn’t get round to developing a friendship, that’s a bit of a missed story thread.
Overall, Zannen na Otto is nothing outstanding or groundbreaking, but it does have a lot of heart, so that can go quite a long way sometimes. Some scenes, such as when Yoichi’s mom thanked Chisato for being a wonderful daughter-in-law, and when Yoichi and Chisato patched up in Niigata, do tug at your heartstrings, and the bulk of the characters are pretty likeable. If you are in need of a good laugh and don’t mind chucking your brains at the door, the zany antics and yummy Tamaki will keep you entertained. The warm fuzzies will also keep you smiling for a while longer, and the bonus snow scenes of Niigata in the last couple of episodes were a treat! By the end of it all, you’re just glad it’s a happy ending for Yoichi and Chisato, because they’re really too adorable and funny not to deserve one.