Proposal Daisakusen

Reviewed by: Gunner

February 05, 2008

Rating: five

Proposal Daisakusen (2007) – 11 Episodes
Good site for detailed episode guides:

Iwase Ken: Yamashita Tomohisa
Yoshida Rei: Nagasawa Masami
Oku Eri: Eikura Nana
Enokido Mikio: Hiraoka Yuuta
Tsurumi Hisashi: Hamada Gaku
Tada Tetsuya: Fujiki Naohito

I must admit I have not been following Jdramas or Kdramas too closely for quite awhile, especially having encountered some pretty dull ones over the past few years. It must say a lot when I list Jdramas such as "GTO" (1998) and "Majo No Jouken" (1999) as some of my all-time favourite Jdramas. However, I recently ‘stumbled' upon "Proposal Daisakusen" and I must say I'm impressed. The title itself doesn't give away too much to the premise of the drama except that it revolves around a love story. However, having read a detailed episode guide (the link is given above) I instantly knew I had to watch it. The story sounds typical enough – A guy has a crush on his childhood friend for 14 years but never had the guts to declare his feelings for her and now he's a guest at her wedding to another man (their former trainee-teacher Tada Tetsuya). The twist is that at the wedding, after giving his speech, the guy is given a chance by a ‘church fairy' to go back in time and try to change history and salvage his romance with his friend.

Synopsis (contains minor spoilers!):
Yamashita Tomohisa is Iwase Ken, the lead protagonist, who has the unfortunate task of giving a speech at the wedding of his childhood friend and long-time secret love, Yoshida Rei (Nagasawa Masami). All this time, all he can think of is how close he has been with Rei over the years and how he somehow managed never to express his feelings for her once. Watching the following slideshow with photos that detail the significant events in her life, Ken can't help but notice how he is in each one of those photos and yet is not the one beside her now on her wedding day. Thinking of what could have been, he wishes that he could somehow go back in time and change the way he did some things. Miraculously, his wish is answered when a ‘church fairy' suddenly appears in a flash of light, halting time all around him. He offers Ken the chance of going back to the time of the events in the first photo and change things around (the first photo is a team photo of the college baseball team in which Rei was the Team Manager). It is an offer Ken cannot refuse and saying the magic words ‘Hallelujah Chance', his wish is granted.

Suddenly, he finds himself at the finals of a college baseball tournament that occurred 5 years ago. He remembers that they lost the finals because he stopped at an earlier base and the next batter (good friend Tsurumi Hisashi) was struck out. As a result, Rei was upset and it showed in the resulting team photo that was taken. Knowing this, Ken decides he has to make sure events do not unfold in a similar fashion and hitting the ball, he tries for a homerun instead. Despite his best efforts, Ken fails marginally and history is repeated when the team still ends up losing because of it. Later, Rei asks him why he did what he did, saying that it would have been better for him to stop at an earlier base which was what he had done in the ‘past'. Ken can only answer that it was because he wanted to keep his promise to her to bring her to the Koushien. Hearing that he did it for her, Rei is touched and her mood is lightened. While taking the resulting team photo, Ken is transported back to the present but this time the team photo shows a happy Rei. Despite this change however, Rei is still getting married to same man and Ken is disappointed. The ‘church fairy' wisely tells Ken that it is not so easy to change a person's feelings and the following episodes involve Ken getting more chances to go back in time to various significant moments that are captured in the photos being displayed and try to change things around, always with only minimal success.

I'm probably biased because I've always been a big fan of ‘time travel' themed shows. From ‘Back to the Future' to more subtle time-bending genres like Korean movies ‘Ditto' and ‘Il Mare', there's always been something about the time travelling concept that simply fascinates me. Perhaps it's because like the main character, I'm someone who often wonders how some things might have turned out if only I'd done some things slightly differently. In such shows, one does not really pay too much attention to the realism of the act of time travelling (which is pretty ridiculous even in this drama) because the time travelling is just a plot device. It is not meant to be realistic but rather to serve as a catalyst to bring across important themes.

Without doubt, one of the strong themes in the drama is that the little things we do now often have big impacts down the road on our lives and those around us. From the show, you will see that the little changes Ken makes as he goes back into the past do add up in the end despite seemingly having only a small impact at a particular point in time. Also, despite his indecisiveness and hesitancy, which can be extremely irritating at times, Ken is a character you can't help but sympathise with. He is stubborn, indecisive and even cowardly when it comes to his own feelings but despite all his faults, he has his strengths and you can see him really trying his best in each episode to do what he knows he ought to do. Often, we the audience will probably be yelling at him for somehow not summoning the courage or simply bungling the opportunity to say those simple three words to Rei despite being given all types of chances, but that's what makes the story so real for me. It's a story of about our lives and the little things we do not do. Putting myself in his shoes, I sometimes wonder if I would have done things differently if given such a chance.

What's more heart-warming about the drama is that it's not just a story about romance. There's a very strong theme on friendship where childhood friends Iwase Ken, Yoshida Rei, Oku Eri, Tsurumi Hisashi and Enokido Mikio experience many ups and downs together throughout the course of Ken's personal quest. Without them, Ken would not have done many of the things the way he did it and his experience is all the richer for it. If anything, their friendship is as important as the love between Ken and Rei and it is sad seeing that as they all mature into working adults, they begin to grow further apart due to new priorities in their lives. One poignant scene has them reminiscing about the ‘good old days' and how back then they used to see each other everyday and knew everything about each other. Now however, there is so much they don't know about each other and gradually they realise the sad truth that things will never be as they were again. Comparing this to my personal experiences, there is a striking similarity as it becomes increasingly harder to meet up with close friends from my school years. Even when we meet up, you get that feeling that things are not quite as they were – time has changed everyone.

I apologise however if I gave the impression that the drama is a sad melodrama because it is not. The drama could even be classified as a romantic comedy and is generally light-hearted with plenty of humorous moments, especially at times when the five friends simply muck around doing nonsensical stuff. It may not seem like much but in life these are the moments that give us the fondest memories. Of course there is the romance between Ken and Rei which is woven very well into the plot and in the end, what you get is a very complete story that covers many meaningful themes in a realistic enough, if light-hearted manner. Ultimately, it is a story of personal growth for Ken as he learns more and more about himself in each episode. The gradual shift from an enthusiastic and naïve time-traveller to a far more weary and mature one by the end of drama is obvious but yet is subtly conveyed and this is what makes the drama stand out from most other romantic comedies. Watching it is in many ways like watching a mirror image of my own life, thus making it so memorable.

Plus points:
Despite her age, Nagasawa Masami is a very good actress and she portrays the character of Yoshida Rei very well, easily conveying a wide range of emotions without resorting to over-acting. I first noticed her in the Japanese movie ‘Crying Out Love in the Centre of the World' and she has only gotten better since then. Perfectly suited to playing cute or vulnerable roles, it is her ability to say so much while doing so little that stands out. Her slightest change in expression tells a story in itself and this is used to great effect in showing the ever-increasing importance of Ken in her heart as he makes those changes in the past.

Yamashita Tomohisa, more commonly known as Yamapi, certainly seems a rawer actor than Nagasawa Masami and at times uses the same expression to convey too many different emotions. However, I feel he portrays his role well enough and he is sufficiently endearing to make you connect with his character. A stronger emotional performance in some scenes, especially those that portrayed his helplessness at his lack of control over events would have helped, but does not detract too greatly from the overall performance.

The supporting cast put a commendable performance and are the mini-stars of the drama as close friends of both Ken and Rei. Each of them plays an important role in the development of the plot and each has their own interesting subplots. Overall, their stories blend in seamlessly into the overall story and it is a bonus that the five generally have good onscreen chemistry, portraying a very believable friendship.

Finally there is the plot. There's nothing too ground-breaking about the story which is pretty simple without too many extreme twists. There is no super villain, no sudden cancer-outbreaks or deaths and no epic themes. Rather, the settings are generally mundane – the stuff you see in everyday life. This is what makes the plot so believable, since the scenarios depicted are ones that most of us can identify with. That is a point I like about this particular genre of Japanese dramas and movies which just generally depict everyday life because we face enough challenges as it is without having to be part of some big melodrama. A special mention goes out too to the theme song, ‘Ashita Hareru Kana', by Kuwata Keisuke which fits very well into the drama's overall atmosphere and is backed up by a solid soundtrack.

Despite all I said about the show's believability, the fact that time travel is involved means that some suspension of belief has to be involved on the audience's part. Also, the episodes may seem repetitive with him doing the same ‘Hallelujah Chance' time travelling mantra at the start of every episode and returning back to the present in similar fashion at the end. I actually don't find it a bad thing but I can see how it might not sit too well for some. The same goes for the ending which will probably divide viewers. I won't give away too much except that it is pretty open-ended and again requires some suspension of belief. Personally I liked how it was done especially since it had enough of a ‘feel-good' factor to it (I hate sad endings).With the news that there will be an SP coming out in early 2008, that could explain why such an ending was chosen.

For me, this drama is everything I looked for and deserving of a 5-star rating. Perhaps I'm easy to please but any show that is entertaining and has a complete plot which does enough to get you thinking generally gets a two thumbs-up from me. While I won't go so far as to classify this one as a classic, I think it comes pretty close and I was kept interested enough to actually re-watched various parts just to get catch some stuff which I missed out in the first viewing. I especially like how all the small things Ken does in the past are meticulously tied up to outcomes in the future and this is usually what makes or breaks a time-travel themed show. Overall, I was entertained throughout the entire drama and would recommend it for everyone, especially those who are nostalgic about their schooling years.

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