Have you never wished to be able to go back in time just to prevent something you bitterly regret having said or done? Well, though Proposal Daisakusen (ProDai, for fans) deals with what was never said nor done, the magic is just the same.
I know I’m tackling one of those mania dramas, loved or hated by thousands of drama fans, and I was kinda apprehensive about recapping it. But the news about the Korean adaptation made me rewatch the original and the nostalgia power was enough for me to do more than a review. Now, it’s my turn to time-travel back in 2007, the blessed year I discovered Japanese dramas. Care to come with me?
Song of the Post:
「Rising Road ~Main Theme~」– from the OST
Episode 1: If I make it to the Koshien Championship, can we marry!?
We begin with wise words offered by a mysterious man: the key opening the door of miracles is in everyone’s hands. It’s just that only few people realize it, and you have to patiently wait for that miracle to come change your fate. And maybe this door will open if you simply wish for something to change, if you take that very first step.In a church’s bridal dressing room, YOSHIDA REI (Nagasawa Masami) prepares. Elsewhere, IWASE KEN (Yamashita Tomohisa) soundly sleeps until the incessant ringing of his phone abruptly reminds him of the Big Day. Images of Rei and the wedding preparations display as he races to make it in time. OKU ERI (Eikura Nana), Rei’s best friend enters to help her, and whines that she was supposed to marry first. Ha, too late girl.Ken is quite plagued with bad luck, as the taxi he’s in is forced to stop because of a marathon. He decides to get out and run while his best friends ENOKIDO MIKIO (Hiraoka Yuta) and TSURUMI HISAISHI, better known as TSURU (Hamada Gaku), desperately try to call him. Ken finally picks up his phone and assures them he’s coming, running on the same level as an international athlete. They soon eye each other, competing in what looks more like a sprint race than marathon. Men.The wedding ceremony starts and Ken finally arrives, exhausted. Mikio can’t believe he’s late on such an important day but Ken collapses, unable to make one more step. Ken, come baaaaack!The church’s doors open, and Rei makes her entrance with her father. Ken waits for her to come as he remembers when he first met her, back in elementary school. She smiles and walks to him, reaching out her hand for him to take, but, but…..Tsuru rudely grabs him, bursting his bubble. He’s pushed to make place for the real groom: TADA TETSUYA (Fujiki Naohito).Helping filming the ceremony, Ken watches from the side as he narrates in voice-over that since Rei was always near him, he had a large amount of time to express his feelings. Maybe he’s where he is because he has always been looking for the “perfect moment” to confess. God, that’s like the lamest excuse you could have come up with.
The mysterious man watches the church from afar, thinking how it’s precisely when someone is about to part with his most beloved person that he realizes this person was the only one. But it’s just too late, and Ken keenly feels it as he listens to Rei exchanging vows.He can’t help but gape when comes the kiss moment and bitterly thinks that today is the day the person he loves most in the world will marry an other man. His emotional whirlwind is clearly showing on his face, though no one notice it except the mysterious (stalker) man, who smiles knowingly.
The guests throw flowers to the couple as they leave the church and Eri is the lucky one catching the bouquet. Everyone gather for the group wedding photography, which forces Ken to witness another sweet moment between Rei and Tada.The dynamics of Ken’s group is explained through a fun scene. Eri swears to be married this year, prompting Tsuru to remind her he proposed to her while Mikio sighs, already knowing where’s it going. Eri completely ignores Tsuru (which isn’t difficult, given their height differences) but when Ken notes that she has no one to marry, she gleefully exposes her planning: 1. Look properly – 2. Date properly – 3. Marry within the year!
Tsuru runs and jumps to enter her sight and promise he’ll fulfill all of her requests, but she won’t marry out of pity, thankyouverymuch. Aw that hurts!She has prepared a secret weapon: a business card introducing her as a food coordinator (read: look, I’m such an accomplished lady!) and won’t be deterred even when Mikio points out that she’s only working part-time in a family restaurant or when Ken adds that she never goes in the kitchen. What’s a little lie when the wedding of your life is at stake?
Tsuru’s love is put to the test when Eri says she wants the teddy bear falling from the Love Parachute (pfft) and runs to catch it, unknowingly provoking Mikio and Ken to join since both don’t want to let him get it, even though they mocked the whole thing few seconds ago.Rei comes to Eri, commenting that seeing the three of them running makes her feel nostalgic. Images of Ken running in his baseball uniform comes to her mind, as she watches him wistfully.
It’s a little boy who gets the coveted bear, and he won’t hand it over even when Tsuru prostrates himself to beg him. Mikio criticizes him for not trying the candy or money bait but the boy isn’t stupid and declares that it’s precisely what he dislikes with adults, giving them a moral lesson while he’s at it. Enough with the wise-asses, where are cute kids these days?Itou Matsunori, their former high school’s homeroom teacher, now a ceramicist, gives a long speech not listened by most of the audience, including the newlyweds. Ken and Mikio go smoke outside, the latter depressed at the thought of the inevitable weddings to come in the future. Wearing a suit again and stuff, that ain’t free! Tsuru rushes to get them and says that people are already piling up after eating Tamo-chan’s (their mutual friend) burgers. Knowing that, he complains while eating his own burger, though he backflips as soon as he hears Eri stating that she helps making them. By now, poor Tsuru must have turned schizophrenic.
Rei shows her dress to Ken, waiting for praise and unaware of Ken’s mental struggle. He finally says that though the dress is undeniably beautiful, the same thing can’t be said of the bride. Argh, kindergarten times are over, dude! No wonder you’re stuck like that. Rei chides him, saying that he’ll never marry at this rate, but soon switches to speak about the speech he’ll give, thanking him in advance before joining her groom.The time comes, and he goes onstage. He begins by saying that Rei and him were together for most of their school years, and he recently opened their elementary school graduation album to read her dream for the future: becoming a cute bride. He doubts the cute part (that again?), but feels glad she fulfilled her old dream. Bully guys stay bullies as he reveals shameful memories of her, until he focus on how she always thinks of others first, not letting her smile fade even during hard times.
It seems as if he’s speaking to himself as he says that he really enjoyed this time spent together. And indeed, he confesses in voice-over that he feels like crying, overwhelmed by Rei’s beauty in her wedding dress. Unable to properly finish his sentence, he turns and bows to the couple, congratulating them and wishing them many years of happiness. His words touched Rei, who wipes a tear while Derby Hat Stalker looks at Ken, as if disappointed by his attitude.Everyone turns to watch the slideshow prepared by Eri and Mikio, displaying Rei’s pictures starting from her birth. Ken gulps when comes the elementary school days, as he remembers when she joined his class and sat next to his seat. He’s now present on some of the following pictures, tangible evidences that they shared the same moments. She was right next to him all this time, but he’s not the one next to her today. Even beers can’t soothe the distance separating them now, and he sinks deeper in his self-loathing as he watches the pictures projecting his weak-willed self.A photo of their highschool baseball club appears, revealing a bunch of long faces, and he recalls that day when he stopped halfway again, and first saw Rei cry out of frustration. He wonders if things would have turned out differently, if he clearly had shown Rei his good side, and surprises himself wishing to return to that time and do it over. Closing his eyes, he prays: “One more time” and the lights suddenly turn off. A ray of divine light strikes him, accompanied by bells and a Hallelujah chant.Ken nearly jumps out of his skin when the mysterious man finally appears, among the time-frozen guests, quoting Oscar Wilde: “Men always want to be a woman’s first lover – women want to be their last.” He sarcastically notes that Ken shares the same desire as women and can’t give up on Rei even on her wedding day. Speaking Ken’s mind, the man recites: “If I could, I’d return to that time and redo my life”. In a lightly tone, he offers to give him a time-travel ride through that picture so that Ken rights the wrongs and has no more regrets.
Ken doesn’t quite get it, but the man goes on, warning that there are two limits. One being the time-limit: so whether this opportunity ends up being effective or a waste is up to Ken. The other is that neither the past nor the present will be affected. Smelling his beer, Ken asks if he’s from the church staff. The man scoffs and says that you could say that, since he lives here but isn’t an employee nor a human. He’s a fairy, you see.
He truthfully confess that he didn’t understand a word the fairy said, and the latter sighs that most humans don’t understand the reality of something until it’s over anyway, pointing at Ken and Rei as examples. Hmm, Rei too? Now isn’t the time to think too much! Does he want to go back or not? Of course Ken wants to, but when the fairy whispers something in his ear, he refuses. The fairy insists: he has to perform his request that way! How, you ask? Resigned, Ken mumbles: “Hallelujah Chance.” That isn’t good for the fairy. Where’s the motivation? The pose? One more try and Goooooo!Waking up with the Hallelujah chant, Ken realizes he’s in his baseball uniform when a big fat fellow teammate comes running and crashes into him. The whole team is ecstatic, but Tsuru has to throw a water bucket at Ken for him to stand up. Tsuru drags him to join the rest of the team, and galvanizes them. Looking around him, Ken recognizes the place, the day: it’s the Tokyo preliminary round of the National High School Baseball Championship (better known as「夏の甲子園」- Natsu no Koshien).A quick glance at the score board informs him he still hasn’t played, which means….he turns his head and searches for Rei, who’s enthusiastically cheerleading their team. Ken is pushed to let Mikio enter the field but it seems he still can’t allow himself to believe it. What follows is a funny「漫才」- Manzai (Japanese comedy)-like moment, him being the clownish「ボケ」- Boke while Tsuru plays the straight「ツッコミ」- Tsukkomi , smacking him on the head when Ken says nonsense. Yes, it hurts, there, there, don’t cry.There’s only one-point difference with the rival team, so everyone’s nerves are on edge and each team cheers as loud as they can. Mikio misses his swing and Ken is sent by Coach Itou (a complete 180 from his 2007 ceramicist self) to give him advices. But when Ken goes there, he can’t resist making Mikio do the Ina Bauer element, thus proving that he’s in the past since Mikio has no idea what he’s doing (the term became a household word in Japan after skater Shuzuka Arakawa won a gold medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics).Ken has to go back to the bench, and Mikio soon joins him there after missing another point. Coach Itou calls Ken to be the pinch hitter, making him wince as he remembers how the game turned out. Rei seems surprised and a bit anxious at the news, but smiles anyway. Her sight revives the fairy’s words in Ken’s mind. Now is the time to show Rei his qualities, though it’s been ages since he held a bat. Feeling his nervousness, Rei shouts at him to relax, but says to Eri that they shouldn’t get their hopes up. Eri doesn’t reply, smiling at the「お守り」- Omamori (Amulet) Rei is squeezing.The opposing pitcher evokes something in Ken’s memories, but he can’t clearly pinpoint it until he misses two balls and finally recalls how the third pitch will be thrown. Hitting it, he dashes to reach first base, thinking that running is all he did since morning (Haha). As Tsuru enters his vision field, he belatedly remembers that eventually, Tsuru struck out and their team lost. He knows that running like that won’t change Rei’s crying face nor his worthless self but he chooses to keep going even when the other team grabs the ball. Desperately sliding headfirst, he’s touched by the fielder’s glove and the referee screams: “OUT!” Aw, all that slow-mo for naught.In the locker room, Tsuru takes it out on Ken for not giving him the chance to bat and get to the major league! Yeah, as if. Mikio swiftly separates them but Ken has a secret to share and reveals that they’d have lost the game anyway. Being all serious, he shouts: “I come from the future, dammit!” ☆Hello Doraemon☆
Tsuru’s face screams: “Crap, he’s gone nuts”, so it’s with a guilty heart that he pats Ken and cries as he apologizes for driving him crazy. Bwahaha, I love this little man.Washing the team towels since she’s the club manager, Rei smiles at Eri who managed to get the mail of the rival pitcher she got a sudden crush on. Teasing her, Eri wonders if Rei shouldn’t go cheer Ken up since she looks so worried about him. Putting an indifferent face, Rei points out that they’re just childhood friends, nothing more nothing less. For once being wise, Eri states that if only Rei was as straightforward as her, she’d be a hundred times happier.The boys are still on the field, Tsuru crying as he makes a pyramid out of the dirt which puzzles Mikio. He’s told to look at Socrates (pffft), their classmate, busy sieving the sweat and tears of young baseball players. Explaining his philosophy, he looks in the distance, soon followed by Tsuru, moved by his pearls of wisdom. Mikio is like: How the hell did that moron become my friend?Lying alone on the bleachers, Ken muses that even if he returned in the past, he’s still as useless as ever, getting the same result. Or is it? Rei comes and to make him feel better she cheerfully plays the part of the sports reporter. Too bad he’s not in the mood and curtly answers her questions.
One sounds ironically prescient as she asks if he’ll ever have a happy ending in his life. Hearing that, he sighs and avoids her gaze, making her get the wrong idea. She stops her interview with “the taciturn and unsociable Iwase-san”, and goes untie the cheering banner she’s made.Realizing he’s wasting his golden opportunity, he joins her to help. She says that as the manager, she was the one looking hurt because today was the end of their Koshien dream. She confesses she went all the way to Chiba to pray for their victory and buy an amulet, but nothing worked in the end. One thing surprised her though: why did he run? The Kenzou (her nickname for him) she knows would never have moved at such a critical moment.
Mustering his courage, he says that he promised he’d take her to the Koshien. A flashback shows us a frivolous Ken, promising without thinking, but the Ken currently looking at Rei looks so serious that she laughs at the guy who went all out but failed in the first game. True, true.He shushes her, reciting once again their humiliating moments, and as she asks how long will he keep on saying that, he promises it’ll be forever. Smiling, she tells him that when he ran, she really believed he’d make it, without a doubt. With a tiny bitter twist, she adds: “Even though you’ve always betrayed my hopes since we were kids.” Ouch, that one was hard. But deserved.
Turning to him, she says that she’s withdrawing from her baseball club manager post, but has no regrets. Looking at him straight in the eyes, she sincerely thanks him for all his hard work up to today. Moved, Ken tries to gulp down some tears but is saved by Eri, coming to get them for the commemorative group picture. Coach Itou hilariously welcomes back Ken with a swift smack and an “OUT”, prompting Tsuru and Mikio to jump and stop him, since that would damage Ken’s brain even more. HAHAHAHA, these boys are gold. Everyone gather, and when the photographer presses the shutter button, Ken is suddenly brought back to the wedding hall.
The slideshow displays once again, making him wonder if everything was just a dream, but he realizes that something has changed with the baseball club photo. No more long faces, and Rei shows now a wide smile.But she’s still married to someone else, and he’s dubious about the whole thing when the lights get turned off again. With a mocking tone, the fairy asks him if he really thought everything would change simply by changing a crying face to a smile. Berating him for how he managed his time-travel trip, the fairy points the picture, questioning: “Was that your best performance?” Ha, now that I’m watching it again in 2012, it sounds just like a certain Kim Joo-won in Secret Garden (Is this the best you can do?)Ken tries to defend himself, but the fairy cuts him short. Humans sure have gotten very good at making excuses. Hee! He walks off and Ken begs him to give him an other chance. The fairy says it’s impossible, even when Ken insists, because one can’t fly into the same picture twice. Oh oh!
Ken wonders if it’s possible with a different picture then, but the fairy only smiles enigmatically before disappearing. Left with his question, Ken looks at the slideshow, revealing a new picture with Rei’s face being particularly annoyed and sad. Modern Rei watches it with wistful eyes as Ken eagerly scratches his brain, trying to remember that day.Impressions:
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! 2007! A pretty fine year for Japanese dramas, I’d say. But back to the topic: ProDai!
It’s one of the few popular dramas which hadn’t been adapted from a manga, or a book, though it made me think of the American movie My best friend’s wedding when I first heard about it. After seeing it, I realized it wasn’t remotely close at all, and loved each version separately.
Those who already watched ProDai and liked it (or not) would agree with me when I say that this drama has its share of frustrating moments. Yes, the hero is wimpy and weak, as well as the heroine in her own way. Yes, there’ll be lots of times when you’ll scream at your screen and throw everything in your vicinity at it. Yes, the acting of the main couple isn’t stellar, but despite all these points, I dare say that in the end you’ll be rewarded.Japanese dramas have sometimes this undeniable magic to capture slice-of-life emotions and make you feel all nostalgic with sweet heart-tugging moments. You’re witnessing the growth of a man-child, who may wake up a bit later than most people but is still very earnest in his desire to change. In that light, ProDai fulfills the traditional coming-of-age story you can find in so many Japanese works. This show may be playing with a lot of clichés, but it also surprises you with unexpected twists to carry the plot. No Angst Road here, my friends, rejoice!
But truthfully, the reason why ProDai rocks and why I still remember it 5 years later is certainly because of the friendship. Here you have 5 individuals, sticking together throughout high-school, college and adulthood. Now, that’s something we all wish we could boast about. The times I laughed my head off were due to the group’s interactions and banters, and I was the first surprised to realize at the end of the show that my favorite character was (is) Tsuru.The drama owes a lot to this youthful group and it’s to its credit that it hasn’t forced the main couple onto the viewers, but instead gave us lots of different settings for us to discover our hero’s feelings. And you soon will find yourself feeling to be part of this group, being comfy as if you knew them since high school (which is the case, since we’ll have a lot of high school times).
And what about our resident Stalker? Now we know that FairyLand world must be one hell of a boring place for him to have time enough to become immature Ken’s (Hairy)-Fairy Godmother.This time-travel trip wouldn’t be complete if I forget to mention the excellent ending sequence (and song by 桑田佳祐 – Kuwata Keisuke):
「明日晴れるかな」- Ashita Hareru Kana (Will tomorrow be a clear day?)
It may sounds stupid, but I thoroughly enjoy the way the camera turns to reveal or hide the characters and how we have a little summary of the story, harmonized with Kuwata’s lyrics. Kitsch, me? Never!