Tokyo Tarareba Girls (東京タラレバ娘) is a josei, romantic comedy Japanese live-action drama adaptation of the josei manga of the same name. It was originally released in 2017 and stars Yuriko Yoshitaka, Nana Eikura, and Yūko Ōshima. It follows a young woman named Rinko and her female comrades as they navigate their 30s. After spending their youth trying to establish their careers and having some carefree fun, their current lives have plateaued, and they are feeling the dread of being utterly single and alone. Then one evening while they’re getting pissed at a local pub, they encounter a young, handsome blonde man who labels them as the tarareba, or “what if” girls, sending them into a frenzy of insecurity and self-doubt.
My meeting with the series began with the manga. I stumbled upon it at the library and after binge-reading the first two volumes, I became wholeheartedly obsessed with it. If you’d like, you can read my gushy-as-hell First Impressions and experience that love. I had no idea there was a live-action drama adaptation of it until one evening while browsing the contents on Viki, specifically their Japanese dramas, I came across it! You can probably imagine the level of hysteria that I had felt upon seeing it. After watching the pilot, I feel the drama may be a decent variation of it, especially since the casting is so positively perfect.
All of the girls look pretty much just like their counterparts from the manga, especially my favourite Koyuki Torii (played by Yūko Ōshima). Their mannerisms and expressions are beautifully authentic, and it did an excellent job of transporting me back to my reading of the manga. When they gather together at the pub to drink and whine about the things they don’t have or feel are passing them by, I received the same sense of relatability and discomfort as well. When you hit your thirties, it can be extremely frightening, particularly when you haven’t accomplished all of the things you hoped to. As a person hitting 32 later this year, I battle these feelings quite often. I have gotten better at dealing with it, but it still likes to sneak attack my face every now and again. This was the biggest thing that drew me into the story to begin with. Seeing these actresses bring that sense of fear and anxiety to life on the screen is as endearing as it is alarming.
Even though I adore the ladies, I must say that the absolute best casting goes to Sakaguchi Kentarō, who plays the character Key, or the blonde douchebag dude. I swear, he’s fucking clone from the manga. Everything about him is positively spot on and it made me fanhuman quite a bit. I have a love-hate relationship with the character of Key. His honesty and bluntness are something I respect, but he’s also such a fucking asshole that I also just want to shake him until he passes out. Yet, that is a part of his charm, oddly enough. When he non-chalantly calls the girls on their crap in the pub, I may have died laughing a little bit… or a lot a bit.
Even with the excellent acting, I feel there is something missing from the series. An essence of sort that really creates this rounded comical yet genuine narrative experience. I’m not sure if I can place my finger on it yet (I know, so helpful) and I’m hoping that whatever it is shall be fulfilled as the series moves onwards. If I had to take a guess, I would say that maybe the music doesn’t fit the show or there’s some lacking emotional depth to the acting overall, which is creating a sort of barrier, if that makes sense.
As far as content, all of the basic things are true to the original thus far. It cut out the titbits of transitioning scenes and some other minor conversations the ladies all have independently, which is due to time constraints. The first episode also felt like it unravelled a bit slower than necessary, which is another aspect that I’m wishing shall improve a tad bit with the following segments.
If I had to pick a specific shortcoming, it would have to be the talking pub food. In the manga when Rinko drinks a bit too much, the pub food comes to life and talks to her. They taunt her with her own insecurities about her getting old and not being able to experience love or acquire a husband because no one will want her, amid other things. These chats eventually cause her to make some salty decisions later on. The reason I would call them a shortcoming specifically in the drama is because they look rather creepy and slightly gross. The animation for them is also kind of awkward.
Overall, I’m very curious to see how Tokyo Tarareba Girls shall fair as a drama adaptation. The first episode was not mind-blowing or special, but it was good and has me interested in it enough to keep watching. Since I’m waiting for the next manga volume to release in English over here in the States, it’s also all I have to help maintain my impatience and obsession until then. Let’s hope the show doesn’t turn into a downer!