It’s been a while since I checked out a Getsu9 drama, and the last couple of years haven’t had particularly inspiring offerings. Gone are the days where a Getsu9 meant a ratings hit (Hero and Love Generation both hit over 30%, for example) or at least moderate success with average ratings in the late teens. The previous three seasons of Getsu9 dramas this year failed to break the 10% mark and Cain and Abel looks unlikely to turn the tide. Still, the premise seemed interesting, so I gave it a shot.
Since he was a child, Takada Yu (Yamada Ryosuke) has always lived in the shadow of his more capable elder brother Ryuichi (Kiritani Kenta). Yu longs for his father’s approval, but dad doesn’t really give him the time of day. Yu gets to know Yahagi Azusa (Kurashina Kana) by chance one day and begins to have feelings for her, but Azusa turns out to be Ryuichi’s girlfriend…
Countless dramas have explored the sibling rivalry theme, so I wasn’t expecting anything new when I first read the drama synopsis, but was rather intrigued by the use of the names of the characters in the Genesis narrative for the drama title. If the drama followed the usual trajectory, and it seems to be by the end of episode 4, Ryuichi (Cain) would be the one to turn evil on Yu (Abel) upon realising his younger brother was gaining the upper hand in both love and work. I would have preferred it to be otherwise, since that would have made for more intriguing character development – even better if fratricide was involved, though I doubt the drama would go that far.
The story is nothing outstanding so far, but still watchable. Yu is thrown into a project team developing mall outlets in Shirakawa-go, and together with Azusa they work to overcome the obstacle of the week, thereby earning respect from their team members. Meanwhile, Ryuichi suffers repeated setbacks when a project development in Bangkok starts bleeding funds and while he manages to rescue it with some “unwanted” help, the cracks are beginning to show in Ryuichi’s perfect persona. Having been taught from young to rely only on himself, he’s bought into his own illusion that he’s capable of solving any problem without help and Yu secretly giving him a leg up in episode 4 is enough to start Ryuichi’s downward spiral. The drama has hinted at Ryuichi’s envy of his younger brother and with Azusa now realising she doesn’t have to suffer in silence about her boyfriend shutting her out emotionally in times of a crisis, things are just going to get worse for Ryuichi.
Yu’s growth mainly comes from him being more aware of what he can achieve and putting in effort at work when previously he just skated by. Initially inspired by Azusa, he is beginning to take charge of instead of just sitting back – this is the case in episode 4, where Yu manages to convince his aunt’s fiancé, Kurosawa Kosuke (Takenata Naoto), to invest in the Bangkok project in order to help Ryuichi. While Yu’s small successes have had an element of luck involved (Kurosawa is a rich investor, for example), the drama has also taken pains to show how his flexibility and willingness to go beyond conventional business methods have helped in his problem-solving. I wish something similar had been done for Ryuichi instead of the audience being repeatedly told how awesome he is – the problem with this is that I can’t quite buy Ryuichi as some capable entrepreneur who can eventually lead a large corporation when he’s pretty much been floored by one project.
Kiritani Kenta is a pretty decent actor and I do like his low, husky voice. So it’s unfortunate that I don’t feel his Ryuichi, when usually I gravitate towards such characters. The writing isn’t great, and I feel Kiritani can’t quite capture the character’s inner fragility and brittle calm with the sort of finesse and nuance that would come more naturally for actors along the likes of Matsuda Ryuhei or Eita. The scene where Ryuichi, in his desperation to secure a ¥10 billion loan, has a near breakdown in front of the bank president was unbecoming and distasteful instead of making me sympathise with him. Ryuichi could have been a fascinating study of a seemingly guarded and self-assured man gradually unravelling and realising to his horror that he too has his limits. I’d rather liked Ryuichi, but his desperation in episode 3 and foolishly believing he had “miraculously” saved the Bangkok project just made him look inept and a touch delusional. Also, this is subjective, but to me, Kiritani doesn’t have that leading man presence and can’t quite lift the character to the next level regardless of the writing quality. In contrast, I’d been sceptical about Yamada Ryosuke but have been pleasantly surprised by how he’s made Yu likeable and a character you can somewhat root for – it’s not a difficult role, but is so far portrayed decently. The rivalry between the brothers is skewed in favour of nice, self-deprecating Yu coming out tops, which is bleh – I’d have liked it better if Yu’s feelings towards his brother were more ambivalent and he was more active in wanting to gain dad’s approval and be seen and heard.
Kurashina Kana is doing fine as Azusa although she’s stick thin – I don’t remember her being so skinny in Zannen na Otto. I actually like Azusa with Ryuichi and wish the drama had explored more of their relationship before driving a wedge between them. There wasn’t much of a parental hurdle to speak of, and she’s clearly known about his inability to share for quite some time, enough that she was prepared to marry him despite his issues. Azusa and Yu will probably be end game, but they just look like a pair of high-schoolers in dress-up mode and unless the story builds up the switch in affections real good, I’m not sold on the potential romance along these lines. It was a pleasant surprise, however, to see Otsuka Nene among the supporting cast. She’s the proprietress of the eatery frequented by Yu and his colleagues, and it was lovely seeing her in a kimono (she looked gorgeous). I do wonder if she’s just the friendly store owner or perhaps has secrets of her own.
While watchable, Cain and Abel is unlikely to break the recent trend of mehhh Getsu9 dramas. It’s a pity since it has a pretty decent cast, but unless it picks up steam in the remaining episodes, it’ll be another of those struck by the Monday blues.