Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mitsu no Aji (J-Drama 2011)

I hate myself. That has to be the only reason I sat through all 11 episodes of Mitsu no Aji (蜜の味). Okay, not the only reason, as I'm a big fan of Kanno Miho, but my God...sometimes being a fan can lead you down a dark road. Set your sails for incest (yes, you read that right)!

Naoko (Eikura Nana), is a young woman living in the rural town of Ushimado, eagerly awaiting her entrance exam results to Towa medical university. Her uncle, Masato (ARATA), a surgeon at the university, rushes to find out the results and ends up giving her the good news; she's in! Naoko is incredibly excited by the news, not only because she's been admitted to one of the top medical universities in Tokyo, but because she'll soon be by her beloved uncle's side; something she's been pining for. See, the two of them shared a moment in the rain back in Ushimado; a moment where their relationship changed, at least from Naoko's perspective. She stopped looking at him as just an uncle, but as a man that she's in love with. I know, weird right? Thank the heavens I'm not the only one that thinks this is weird, as Naoko knows that she can't tell anyone, especially Masato, about the way she really feels about her uncle. So she goes to Tokyo and begins her schooling, happy to be closer to Masato and seemingly content to adore him in secret. However, her dream to be by his side is soon disrupted as she's introduced to Aya (Kanno Miho), the woman (and fellow doctor at Towa university), that Masato has been dating for years. Naoko is crushed to know that Masato has a serious relationship and her uneasiness about it begins to show itself through her behavior. She becomes more distant with Masato and has an attitude whenever dealing with Aya. Naoko tries to seek comfort and distraction amongst her friends at the university; Norisugi (Mizobata Junpei), and Rai (Kimura Fumino), to name a few. Naoko's change in behavior does not go unnoticed by the ever-cunning Aya, with Aya soon taking steps of her own to ensure that Masato is her's and her's only. She pushes Masato towards marriage, even though she had rejected his proposal weeks earlier, and put's it on the fast track. Aya even invites Naoko and her friends to her home for dinner, all of this in an attempt to send Naoko a message that she better back off. Eventually, Masato begins to take notice of Aya's spiteful behavior towards his niece and the amount of time she focuses on work research, as opposed to him and their marriage, and he's had enough. He wants to call it quits with Aya and realizes that the only way for him to find some comfort in his life is to leave the country when an opportunity to study in Pittsburgh comes about. The news is sudden and heart-breaking for Naoko, but it's a necessary move for Masato and he leaves her with a memorable goodbye.

Aya refuses to file the divorce papers, thinking that Masato will be a different man when he comes back from studying abroad; even though he's given no indication as to when that will be. It's now 8 years later and Naoko is a doctor at Towa and in a relationship with her former classmate Norisugi. Her best friend Rai is dating another doctor, Yuji (Yamazaki Shigenori), who just so happens to be married. (This is a side-story that annoys more than anything else). Ah, good ol' fashioned adultery! Mind you, she's completely alright with this, but continues nudging him to divorce his wife. Everyone seems to have moved on from the mess of 8 years prior, but Masato has made his triumphant return to Japan in order to operate on head professor at Towa, Professor Takinohara (Masu Takeshi). Masato is a well-trained pro at this point and Takinohara needs him to keep the operation a secret because he's up for the position of medical director and he can't be perceived as weak or he'll never get the votes. Takinohara teams Masato up with Naoko and uncle and niece are once again together after all these years. All of those past feelings begin rushing through Naoko's head, even though she now shares a home with Norisugi and he wants to get married. Needless to say, things are getting complicated again. Masato still has no plans to get back together with Aya but they make a tentative plan to get along as professionals. No one knows about Takinohara's operation but Masato and Naoko, but that just lends itself to a perfect opportunity for Aya when it appears that things are looking a bit too familiar; 8 years ago familiar to be exact. Even if Masato wants nothing to do with her, there's no way Aya plans to let Naoko get so close to him again. Can everyone coexist without letting the past interfere after all this time? Will Masato and Naoko throw everything away to finally answer their true feelings for one another? And will Aya just relax and ease up from all the nasty back-stabbing and sneaky maneuvering?  

Mitsu no Aji is a Japanese drama that definitely has no shortage of drama. Before you get too excited after reading that, realize that it's not necessarily a good thing. This drama was so over-the-top in it's presentation, acting-wise, music-wise (oh that dramatic music whenever something "bad" was gonna happen, sigh), and even direction (flashbacks and effect-shots ahoy!) that I spent most of the time either laughing at what was happening or just angry. Angry at what was going on in the show but angry at myself mostly for sticking with this mess. The characters in this drama are incredibly unlikable and it's a fairly big cast to be annoyed with. I do mean all of the characters when I say this. I really had a hard time with Eikura Nana as Naoko; finding her extremely annoying, immature, and to be frank, just easy to dislike. That being said, anytime Aya had something nasty planned for her, or any of the other characters for that matter, I thought, "get on with it. these are the only interesting parts". Is it wrong that I only perked up in times when Aya's character had something nasty planned for the others? So be it. While we're on the topic of annoying character's, Rai, Naoko's best friend, was near unbearable for me. I think there were a few moments where I'd literally talk to my screen, wanting her to shut up. She's there to lend an ear to Naoko, but she spends the series sleeping with a married man, so she's better off keeping her mouth shut. Norisugi was actually a decent character until the end of the series when the powers that be suddenly decide to change his character completely. His behavioral change, while not unwarranted, seems to come out of nowhere. Last, but certainly not least, let us not forget that this story centers around a niece falling in love with her uncle. I'm talking blood relation here. To say it's taboo to engage in such a relationship would be putting it lightly, but hey, who am I to pass judgement. That being said, I just had an incredibly hard time rooting for incest to happen, thus making our protagonists unappealing. Hey, maybe you're cool with that and want to see what happens with such a story line, but trust me, Mitsu no Aji is a hard series to sit through and not just because of the subject matter.

I'm not going to soften my words here; I hated this drama. I didn't like any of the characters. The storyline, while at first intriguing, became uninteresting by the way it plays out, and the overall presentation made me laugh in an, "oh this is embarrassing", sort of way. Mitsu no Aji, or "A Taste of Honey", left me with a taste in my mouth, but it sure wasn't something as sweet as honey. (Lee)

Grade: F
Official "Mitsu no Aji" site (Japanese)

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