- Title: プロポーズ大作戦
- Title (romaji): Proposal Daisakusen
- Tagline: Operation Love
- Genre: Romanc
- Episodes: 11
- Viewership ratings: 17.3 (Kanto), 17.2 (Kansai)
- Broadcast period: 2007-Apr-16 to 2007-Jun-25
- Air time: Monday 21:00
- Theme song: Ashita Hareru Kana by Kuwata Keisuke
Dramaworld rating: 4/5
One-line review: A sometimes slow but mostly deeply compelling and well-written drama, with quite possibly the BEST final episode(the special) of any drama I’ve ever seen.
Iwase Ken and Yoshida Rei have been friends since elementary school. On the day of Rei’s wedding to another man, Ken watches her, coming to the full realization for the first time that he’s in love with her and always has been, and that he was simply too stubborn to admit it. Fortunately for him, a fairy who lives in the church has been observing him, and decides to give him one last chance(or two) at a happy ending. He sends Ken back in time, giving him the chance to remake the past so that he can chance the present.
Proposal Daisakusen is that rare story of childhood sweethearts-turning-into-grown-up lovers done right. Most stories such as this have a couple falling in love as children and then being split up or separated by fate and losing track of each other until they magically meet again later, at which point they either don’t immediately recognize each other or other obstacles arise(usually both). The most difficult part of this plot – the aspect which almost all films that I’ve seen with this theme have screwed up on – is showing the two falling in love all over again as adults. The entire weight of the romance tends to rest on their childhood feelings for each other, usually shown mostly in flashbacks, and quite simply that’s not going to cut it. For one thing because we rarely experience their childhood with them – it’s shown almost invariably as a first meeting followed by a few pretty images of them together and then a flash forward to the present, so we as the audience never really empathize with it or are convinced by it. Proposal Daisakusen, thankfully, doesn’t follow this theme at all – Ken and Rei remain solid and close(in proximity at least) friends their until lives, and know each other as well as two people in that position could be expected to know each other(by which I mean they have as many misunderstandings and fumblings as any couple fighting toward love would have) so their feelings for each other are both convincing and constantly before our eyes. Ken doesn’t need to love some childhood memory of a girl because he loves the girl standing right before him.
Having said that, the drama does have some flaws – the format of Ken’s returns to the past ensures that the drama is very(and unusually, for a drama) episodic and lacks much of the forward momentum of most dramas – there is an overall thread which runs through everything, but the drama’s movement rests on single events which happen one after another, rather than on one overall result of those events. This slows it down quite a bit, especially as Ken so consistently fails, so the drama can drag and be more than a little frustrating in the middle. To make up for that, however, I will admit that in amost every episode there is at least one(actually, usually just one:) delicious scene with either him and Rei or him and their group of friends. (It also doesn’t hurt that Yamashita Tomohisa, better known as Yamapi, is so gorgeous that I could stare at him ALL.DAY. So whenever you get bored, just focus on his absolute perfection of features.)
Which brings me to another strength – the friendship theme. Ken and his 5 friends stay together their whole lives, and each of Ken’s interactions with Rei are blanketed and shaped by the actions and sometimes commentary of those friends. In a really beautiful way, the friendship in this group is so strong that it informs and shapes the romance. More importantly, however, there are times when the relationships between the 6 as friends is more important than their romantic entanglements, and I found this one of the most compelling things about the drama. The bond between these 6 is one of the deepest motivations of their lives; they’re keyed to each other’s lives, each other’s likes, dislikes, loves, jokes, etc. They have a set of traditions as set in stone as that of a family, and if a member of the group cannot be a part of that tradition, they find themselves unable to go through with it. They are there for each other in non-obvious but profound ways through thick and thin, through arguments and inter-group romantic struggles, through mood swings, financial crises, and all the changes that come their way. The story of this group’s enduring friendship is one of the most resonant and memorable parts of the drama.
That is not to downplay the romance, however, which is still the heart of this drama and what keeps me going through it even when the pace sags. Rei and Ken make an absolutely adorable couple, and Yamashita Tomohisa and Nagasawa Masamai are both revelations as their characters, in completely different ways. As actors, they have a poignant, subtle, shining chemistry, and as a couple, the drama reveals gradually through the course of 11 episodes, that they do belong together, not necessarily because they are the only people who can make each other happy(at least for Rei) but because their feelings have forged too strong a bond to be broken by any outside influence. I also loved the romance, despite all of Ken’s frustrating fumblings and the ridiculous coincidences which keep them apart, because the drama portrays them as genuinely insecure people, with odd foibles and ways of dealing with things, which in turn reflects on their relationship. Which both rang true and was a refreshing change after a surfeit of dramas filled with uber-confident boys and plucky girls who either have no insecurities at all or who hide them to the point of absurdity. The ending of this romance is one of the most beautiful ones I’ve seen – the moment when their story, painstakingly told over the arc of those episodes, comes to its resolve, when the two childhood friends can finally confess their love and be together as they’re meant to be, as they belong to through that bond built up over a lifetime. Also, the final episode, the special was amazing beyond all reason; virtually all dramas have their climax in the 3rd-or-fourth-episode before the end, and after that just lose steam. Proposal Daisakusen has possibly the best, most satisfying finale I’ve ever seen, chockful of delicious moments and even, yes, I will say it, brilliant scenes. Even if you’re not ever going to watch the rest of the drama, watch the special – you’ll still enjoy it. So amazing.
I definitely recommend Proposal Daisakusen overall. It won best drama, special award and best theme song at the 53rd Television Drama Academy Awards, and there’s a reason why; even though it has all the flaws of most jdramas, it’s still overall a very well-written and compelling story.
Particularly good episodes: 2,8-11
Torrent download, as usual, from D-Addicts