Beauty or Beast

Reviewed by: Artanis

December 26, 2003

Rating: four-point-five

Bijo Ka Yajuu (Kiss or Fight?)

Production of Fuji TV
Duration: 11 episodes
Telecast: From Jan to March 03


Matsushima Nanako as Tamiya Makoto
Fukuyama Masaharu as Nagase Hiromi
Watanabe Ikkei as Kuze Teruhiko
Yajima Norito as Towatari Kantaro
Shiraishi Miho as Shirai Yukino
Kodama Kiyoshi as Sakuragi Kyoichiro
Sasaki Kuranosuke as Kote Hiroshi
Nagai Masaru as Yamamoto Takeshi
Fukaura Kanako as Akiyama Fujiko

Tamiya Makoto is a high flyer and amongst the society's elites. After earning an MBA from Harvard University, she worked at one of the "big three" networks in the United States. While covering a story on an international symposium in Paris, Makoto is scouted to work for JBC Television in Japan. Her main task is to help raise the flagging viewership ratings for the Evening News.

Meanwhile, Nagase Hiromi had been transferred from the Variety Department. Although he was a successful producer, his boss just could not could take any more of his behavior, which ranged from getting caught up in scandals with female artistes to punching assistant directors, and tells him to make a fresh start in the "hard-nosed" News Department.

So now the News Department has Makoto who thinks high ratings are the meaning of life, and Hiromi who values the success of a program as just a tool for the enjoyment of life. To further complicate things, these two co-workers seemed to have crossed path 9 years ago. Somehow, these completely different personalities must come to a mutual understanding and resolve the past.

The name 'Makoto' indicates Truth, and the character Makoto is a representative figure for Truth and ethics. It is further underscored by the character's claim "My father has never lied to me" and her insistence on reporting the Truth at all times. This I feel, is the core message of the serial -- that the duty of the newsroom worker must be to report the Truth, uncowed by external pressure.

There is also the need to be true to oneself and face up to our feelings and desires, which is what Makoto and Hiromi learnt to do, as well as the need to remain true to one's values and principles.

Storyline Review:
Bijo Ka Yajuu focuses, first and foremost, on the News Department and its struggles. When hard realism (the need to protect one’s career) clashes with idealism, how would the characters respond?

Next the drama brings out how work can interfere in your personal life, bringing your family closer or straining relations.

When the characters are made to choose between family/friends and work ethics, what would they do? There is also an romantic undertone throughout the entire serial that sometimes manifested through the tension and conflicts between the characters.

*Spoiler Warning*

Why I like the story:
While the seeming lack of romance may not appeal to some hardcore romantics, the subtlety where feelings are concerned is one of the things that attracted me to this drama. Of course the great on-screen chemistry between Matsushima and Fukuyama made this possible. They have shown that it is possible to convey romance without drama, tears or loving eye contact. In fact, their characters didn't even smile very much at each other. The serial is realistic. There is rivalry and one upmanship in the news department as well as the snobbishness of the privileged. The drama tackles societal problems ranging from water pollution, bribery and corruption, to flaws in japanese education system. I also loved how the story eventually lead to Makoto's confrontation with her father -- definitely a climax.

Gripes about the serial:
I have to rant about the board of directors Makoto has to answer to most of the time. All we see them do is to make unreasonable demands and snide remarks, belittling the efforts of their subordinates.

The storyline is also somewhat predictable. Makoto always ends up reporting news expressly forbidden by her superiors at the risk of her contract and reputation. I found it rather surprising for a woman so worldly. Also, many criticisms seemed to be resolved in the "right" way. A few more twists would've made it better.

Character Analysis:

She is your unflappable, strong-minded career woman. Nine years ago, her boyfriend failed to ask her to stay on in Japan and thinking that she had been ditched, she left for Harvard. Now she is back, more sophisticated than ever, but beneath the polished veneer lurked the same indomitable spirit and a fiercely stubborn streak. We often see Makoto smile and agree but at the turn of her heel, follow her own mind and pursue her chosen course regardless of opposition.

However, I do think that Makoto is a little deficient in interpersonal relations. Certainly, she is not lacking in social graces but her treatment of her co workers can be a little too callous sometimes.

Jovial, happy-go lucky, delighting in girls,drinks and cronies. Despite his joviality, when the issue at hand is important, he becomes dead-serious and is surprisingly effective at work.Nagase in fact, opted for a transfer in order to pacify the department due to an misunderstanding. It was an act of self sacrifice that mirror Makoto's when she later chooses to report the water pollution.

Tamiya & Nagase:
Both Nagase and Tamiya are more alike than anyone who sees them superficially would give them credit for. Both put up a front -- Tamiya, cool and business-like, Nagase seemingly jesting and uncaring. But deep down, both are warm people who abide by strong principles and work ethics. Both, however, do not adequately deal with their emotions -- Nagase is afraid of getting hurt and Makoto is too aloof. The interaction them is interesting to watch. Overtures made by Hiromi are typically snubbed and snuffed out but you can see Makoto’s uneasiness behind the cool facade.

He is the typical japanese salary man, constrained by the need to support his family, and social parameters. He may seem at times selfish but you will feel for him before the end of the serial. He and his wife married against family opposition. He promised to give her a glorious future by becoming a politician
but that did not come to pass and she is embittered. He is burdened with the need to keep up with appearances and in the face of practicality, he sometimes caves in to pressure, but he has a good heart.

A young weather girl, cheerful and softspoken, but inexperienced and not very confident. "Brother Hiromi" is very kind and takes her under his wing when she joins the department. Yukino is not very competent, prompting Makoto to proclaim “We do not need incompetent people in our team”. One of her function in the drama though, was to bring out the history between Nagase and Tamiya.

Notable scenes

1) The motel scene where Hiromi is locked out of his room and Makoto offers an extra bed in hers. You can see her vulnerability and uneasiness when she has to face him as an individual, not as his superior. I especially liked the bit where he offers her a mars bar knowing that she is hungry. He offers it to her as he would to a little girl...hahaha.

2) Hiromi’s confrontation with Makoto at the hotel -- it was an unprecedented show of emotions for both. Her answer really hurt him and its the first time her cold attitude cut him to the quick. Personally though, i think she was just being stubborn and hot headed, refusing to admit her mistake.

3) Hiromi’s struggle between betraying his Variety friends and concealing the truth. I think its a rather powerful segment considering that Hiromi has such strong ties with Variety and was always an oddball in News. I think it was the time where he finally realises that Variety is his past despite all his fond memories of it. Full of nostalgia.

4)The last episode. Makoto had to confront her father (which is a heartbreaking thing for both sides), parts with her colleagues and renewed her relationship with Nagase. It is an emotional high. You can finally see Tamiya struggling to suppress tears, smiling openly at Nagase and even kissing him.

Performance Review:

Matsushima Nanako
I have known that she was good since the days of Yamedeto Nadeshiko and now in Bijo Ka Yajuu, I must say that she is certainly versatile, talented and of course, beautiful. Her Makoto is all silk and steel.

Fukuyama Masaharu
The performance that really caught my eye was Fukuyama. The last time I've watched him was in Under One Roof (yes, horribly outdated, I know) and he surprised me this time. He's great...really humorous, but the catch was that he is able to show that underneath it all, Hiromi is really concerned about things. Very expressive eyes.

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