Monday, July 20, 2015

Tatakau! Shoten Girl [Fight! Bookstore Girl]

In my last j-drama blog post where I reviewed the drama Sunao ni Narenakute, I mentioned that I was watching 3 dramas. Tatakau! Shoten Girl [Fight! Bookstore Girl] is the second of the three that I have completed. To be quite honest, I finished this drama a while ago - about two weeks ago? Yeah, that sounds about right. However, I was unable to find the time to write about it. But luckily I found some time this week, so lets get on with it! 

Aki Kitamura [played by Watanabe Mayu] has just begun to work at the Pegasus bookstore where Nishioka Riko [played by Inamori Izumi] works as the vice-manager of the store. Aki comes from a wealthy family and rumors immediately begin to swirl around her, however, what really surprises the staff about Aki is her fervent love of books and her desire to make sure each and every customer is satisfied. Nishioka shares the same goal as her subordinate but Aki's ideas to attract and satisfy more customers often causes burdens on the other workers of the bookstore. Their different approaches to obtaining the same goal, has the two women often butting heads. 

I will not lie that the first reason I was drawn to this drama was due to it featuring Watanabe Mayu, of the pop group AKB48. Mayu is one of my favorite members in the group and I saw this as a HUGE opportunity for her to finally move into acting, as her main goal is to become an actress. However, I would be lying if I said that this was the only reason I picked up the drama. To be quite honest, the whole idea of following two women who worked in a bookstore was fascinating to me. First of all, there is the age difference between the two: Aki is 23 while Riko is 40. They both have very different priorities in life and it directly affects their work. Aki's main focus is her job and she will sacrifice almost anything for it. Riko quickly sees a younger version of herself in Aki and tries to alert Aki that work isn't always the main priority in life, as Riko is now 40 years old and her boyfriend (who she believed would soon propose to her) has broken up with her. In the first few episodes, Riko is unsure of whether or not she has made the right decisions in her life and seeing Aki head in the same direction worries her. 

Aki, left and Mita, right discussing another of
Aki's innovative ideas.
Over the course of the drama of course, the two women grow to understand each others point of view and work well together. I loved being able to see how a bookstore worked behind the scenes, especially a bookstore in Japan, where they take great care to organize and package books. It was also fascinating to see that each employee was in charge of a certain section of the store (as opposed to doing a bit of everything) and were therefore encouraged to learn as much as they could about their genre. For example, Aki is assigned to comic books, so her job is to check sales stats and also know about the upcoming artists and the most popular manga. Another worker, Mita, is put in charge of picture books, and he spends much of his time reading through classics and picking up newer books, trying to figure out how to best recommend certain books to customers. It was great to see people so dedicated to providing the best service and reminded me of the times I was in a bookstore in Japan and how nice everything was laid out and provided. The workers are definitely as polite and hardworking as they are portrayed through this drama.

Of course, aspects of the publishing companies and distributors were also brought into the storyline. Events (mostly put on by Aki) also came up, which I believe were all great ideas to boost sales. I would love to create pop art like Aki made for the comic book section, but it wouldn't work as well in my library, since signage has to be official. Anyways, everything related to the managing of the bookstore, publishers, sales, etc I found extremely interesting and fascinating. But I will admit that there was one aspect that I found really disappointing about this drama and almost made me drop it altogether. 

The. Unnecessary. Romance. 

Blurry, but this is Aki's apartment! Look at all those books!
Ok, I'll admit, there was one romance that I didn't mind because it didn't seem forced at all and did not overshadow the plot. Like, there were moments here and there that focused on the relationship but it tied in nicely with the plot. However, other romances, particularly those of Riko were just so...weird? Like, there is a huge part of the drama focused on one of her romantic interests which turns out to be working for another company but he works in the same overall business (bookstores...). But, other than that I found like this character brought nothing to the plot. Near the end he played a larger role but I still feel like it was a horrible attempt to try to give Riko another love interest after her boyfriend broke up with her. Like, can we just focus on the fact that she's a strong and independent woman and that she doesn't need this guy to play games with her for the drama to be interesting? It totally ruined a good portion of the drama for me. Like, once we began to focus on this, the drama began to go way off the tracks. All of a sudden, the main plot was trying to save the bookstore from closing and Riko's fight against the executives with Aki suddenly becoming a supporting role. What happened?

At the end, Aki suddenly became a main character again, but I felt like overall the drama did not live up to my expectations. I expected to see less romance and more book-related goodness. This is not a drama I would rewatch, personally. I did enjoy certain parts through. Would I recommend it? Um, I'm not sure I really would. I mean, it just kind of fell apart and while the writers tried to save the plot at the end, they really didn't. I really appreciate certain aspects about it and I think it could have been great (especially for book lovers like me) but I can't say I have a very positive opinion of it overall. I guess I had hoped it would be like Library Wars too much xD (I'm kidding, I knew it wouldn't be like that but the Library Wars manga has the perfect balance of books and romance, so I thought, y'know, why not?) 

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