Greetings after a spot of radio silence! Real life kept me busy for a while, but I’ve finally had the time to sit down and work through a drama. Thankfully, it’s of the nice and slow variety, and I found it difficult to resist the combination of Odagiri Joe and Ono Machiko in a genre the Japanese tend to excel in.
Sakurai Taro (Odagiri Joe) lives with his grandmother Akiko (Yachigusa Kaoru) and cat Mii-chan in an old part of town, where they run an old-fashioned candy shop called Sakuraya. The shop doesn’t make much money and has only a few customers. Grandma is worried that keeping the candy shop running is holding Taro back from a brighter future, but Taro wants to keep it going for Grandma’s sake. One day, Taro gets a surprise visitor when his childhood friend and now single mother Reiko (Ono Machiko) returns to the neighbourhood…
Okashi no Ie is a very slow-moving drama. It’s so slow that nothing of note really happens, much like how real life is a lot of routine and small moments for the average Joe. Every day, Taro opens up the candy store noting that it only makes an average of ¥40000 a month and it’ll probably go under in no time. He spends his days in the backyard of the house/store with childhood friend Saegusa Hiroki (Katsuji Ryo), bathhouse owner Shimasaki (Shima-san, played by Shimada Kyusaku) and Gou (Maeno Tomoya), who are also the shop’s regular and, most of the time, only customers. Kids have abandoned this old-fashioned candy store for the more modern konbini (which, to be fair, is pretty neat and sells an amazing variety of things). Occasionally Taro goes off at night for his part-time job at a construction site. His days are uneventful but peaceful, and even Reiko’s return is but a mere ripple in the pond that doesn’t upset Taro’s stride for long. He does get flustered by Reiko’s interest in him, but decides eventually that he does like her anyway.
Each episode introduces a small theme where Taro and his friends come to terms with the lemons life throws at them, and sometimes they manage to make lemonade out of them. For the most part, these scenes are thoughtful and also hit close to home about the small beats of life. In one episode, Taro and Saegusa decide they have to take an interest in the weighty issues plaguing the world, and pore through books on war, economic issues, poverty etc. They’re all big on doing something to change/save the world, until Gou reminds them of a harsher reality facing them – Shima-san has to close his bathhouse due to a lack of business, while Taro’s candy shop is facing the same fate. Later on, Saegusa struggles with his dream of becoming a professional scriptwriter, while Shima-san has job-hunting woes. Reiko is a single mother with a young son Haruma, and she’s shown trying to make ends meet working a part-time job and sending Haruma to nursery, while dealing with her mother’s disapproval for getting divorced. There is no big romance between Reiko and Taro, they just sort of fall into it naturally (although Reiko is more forward than Taro about it) and it’s kind of nice for once to just have a placid relationship without shrieky mothers-in-law or hissy ex-girlfriends.
The drama is fairly light-hearted, though it gets a little heavy in the last few episodes. There were a couple of silly things, such as Saegusa and Taro thinking they were bitten by an angel, or Taro getting involved in a dumb lawsuit and having to sell his house to compensate the plaintiff. I say dumb because the lawsuit was really of the vexatious kind and the drama handled it sloppily. I’m pretty sure there’s a better way to get Taro out into the “real world” since the candy store is depicted throughout as a nostalgic refuge and people must eventually “grow up”, although I really wonder why he couldn’t just have been left alone to work at his dreams, especially since he’d already taken the first solid step forward. Taro’s relationship with Grandma was heartwarming, so it’s all the sadder how things turned out for them after the lawsuit. The final scene, however, gives me a bit of hope.
Overall, it was an enjoyable watch and I liked seeing Odagiri Joe and Ono Machiko pair up onscreen. I don’t recall if they’d worked together before, but they had decent chemistry and it was fun watching their interaction. The supporting cast was excellent as well and the drama definitely had a nostalgic touch to it – a lot of the toys and sweets in the candy shop were the kind you and I would have been familiar with as kids. Even the theme song Sora ga Mata Kurakunaru by Baby a Go Go is this side of quirky. And there’s a cat! One of the sweetest scenes was of Taro, Grandma, Reiko and Haruma enjoying a New Year’s Day meal, with Mii-chan tucked snugly under the kotatsu, and snow falling outside. Who says life cannot be simple and beautiful?