Monday, September 17, 2018

Review of "Confidence Man JP" - Spring 2018

Without Waku Waku Japan, I probably would have given this drama a miss.

That's not to say that I dislike comedic dramas in general but it was more of this: I did think that this might be really silly and a waste of time to watch. As the story was by the scriptwriter Kosawa Ryota who also wrote "Legal High" and the trailer suggested that there was a huge amount of exaggeration (even more than what "Legal High" had), I was wary even though the three leads were quite an interesting and refreshing combination. The biggest bugbear I have about dramas like "Legal High" is, it was enjoyable while it lasted but often, the aftertaste or rather satisfaction level after watching it was almost non-existent.

Luckily, Waku Waku Japan decided to show it and I went ahead to watch it. Although I wouldn't say that it was extremely good, it definitely exceeded my expectations, if there were any to begin with. ^__^

First of all, let me introduce the three main characters and describe the story briefly. Nagasawa Masami plays Daako, a woman with many faces literally. She is the leader of this group who picks targets to cheat and has such a loud and vivacious character. Being extremely smart and able to learn things quickly, she is adaptable and can change her plans as soon as there are problems or uncontrollable variables thrown into the situation. As such, whenever something appears to have gone off course, Daako always seems to be able to save the day. Despite being seemingly perfect, the only weakness she has is that she can't do honey traps because she sucks at seducing guys and as Boku-chan puts it, it sends shivers down his spine whenever he sees Daako trying to use her feminine charm or rather the lack of it. Actually, I don't think Daako lacks sexiness as a woman but rather, her trying too hard to be sexy often backfires as it is awkward and extremely unnatural.

Higashide Masahiro plays Boku-chan who seems to have known Daako for some time and is brought into this scammers group somewhat against his own will. As he is always bothered by the things he does which goes against his morals, he keeps threatening to quit the group but ends up coming back each time. At times, he even gives up his share of the takings from the scam to the victims rather than keep it for himself. Owing to Boku-chan's flip-flop stand due to his constant internal conflict, Daako always teases him for crying wolf about quitting and even keeps count of the number of times he has threatened to do so. And because of Boku-chan's soft-heartedness, Daako sometimes excludes him from her alternative plans because she knows that his sympathy for the targets can derail the scheme. Boku-chan may squabble with Daako all the time but he is somewhat unable to say no to her for some reason and even has to do some crazy things at her orders.

Rounding the trio is Richard played by Kohinata Fumiyo who for some reason, dresses like an English gentleman and uses an English name. Little is known about him just like his partners and how the three of them actually came to work together. Richard who is always smiling, acts like a lubricant between Daako and Boku-chan who are always squabbling and he's very accommodating towards Daako's unreasonable demands while trying to pacify Boku-chan at times when the latter gets really riled up at her.

Throughout the entire drama, the viewers will never get to know the real names, ages nor backgrounds of the trio so their names are actually nicknames. It is not known how much they know about one another though but it looks like they have this mutual understanding that they don't need to or wish to know that much about their partners.

In a nutshell, the three of them engage in fraud, sometimes in Robin Hood style rather than for financial gain through gaining the trust of their victims i.e. this is why they are called confidence men. Through playing various characters to fool their victims, they assume different identities in a variety of occupations thus the need to learn and do many things, sometimes at very short notice.

One of the biggest highlights in this drama is checking out the numerous images Nagasawa sported in this drama. One minute she could be a gorgeous actress and in the next, a dorky weirdo. Higashide and Kohinata also had their fair share of impersonations though, perhaps not as varied and drastic as Nagasawa's. Nonetheless, you could see the actors seemingly having fun as well when they took on different images so as a viewer, you could feel the same enjoyment and energy as they did all these role plays.

In situations where the targets are considered baddies, seeing the trio succeed at deceiving them is bound to make the viewers cheer for their success. What's rather unusual in this drama is that, there are times when the baddies actually get some salvation or redeem themselves after they get cheated so it's not always a clear-cut conclusion that the baddie will be worse off at the end.

Another key difference this drama had as compared to other similar-genre dramas was how the scam hardly ever runs smoothly after Ep 1. There would be lots of twists and turns during the process which suggested that the trio could fail but Daako's foresight usually saved the day. This is probably more realistic than having a story where the trio succeeds every single time that can be really boring to watch over 10 episodes.

Although Daako may seem really money-minded most of the time, there are glimpses of a kinder side of her in some of the episodes. The three of them each have their strengths and weaknesses so when put together, they work very well as a team. However, as with any episodic dramas, this also suffers from an inconsistent pacing and quality so there were some episodes which I didn't really like. In fact, the first few episodes were rather bland to me but thanks to the fast tempo of the story and lots of comedy and parodies of other dramas such as "Iryu", "Rookies", "Doctor X" or even the manga "Slam Dunk", these episodes were still enjoyable enough to sit through. Especially if you had watched any of these dramas which they did a parody of, you should be laughing at at how they "messed" with these classics.

Just before the last episode, I thought that the drama was likely to end in typical fashion i.e. the trio having justice catch up with them. However, the clever twist in the finale made the aftertaste of this drama way more gratifying than I expected so I can see why there is room to make a movie version since the story is far from finished. The scriptwriter dangled a really big teaser in this drama only to deceive the viewers in the end with a huge turnaround. Despite the not-so-ideal ratings, this drama seems to have gained a decent following and was quite talked-about during its run.

Talking about the three leads, Nagasawa was definitely the most eye-catching. Other than her myriad of image changes for each scam, I feel that what really made the drama so good was how she immersed herself fully in the role of Daako. All along, I tend to feel that Nagasawa seemed to be quite held-back in her way of acting as if she couldn't go all out and was somewhat image-conscious to go to the extreme. However, Daako's cheerfulness and daring ways in this drama meant that Nagasawa had to let go and be more relaxed in her acting and it was great to see how she managed to pull this off. If things go well, this role might be the new breakthrough in her career especially if the series becomes a long-running one.

On the other hand, Higashide surprised me in a way because I didn't really see him as being capable of doing comedy due to his image. However, his portrayal of Boku-chan who was a somewhat unwilling fraudster, was rather spot-on and very different from his appearance. Although he didn't have as many image changes as Nagasawa, I must say his K-pop guy look was probably the most hilarious I had seen from him so far. The only thing which really bothered me was how he looked and sounded exactly like Matsumoto Jun of Arashi. I have nothing against Matsujun in particular but it didn't strike me until this drama how similar the two of them are even though there had been talk about this for a long time. Even the two of them admitted that they felt the same way too. As such, it was sometimes difficult to concentrate on watching the drama because I had to keep reminding myself that this was Higashide I was seeing, not Matsujun.

As for Kohinata, he was steady as usual and had great chemistry with his co-stars but there was really nothing in particular which really stood out. I guess that's the difficult of surpassing your usual performance if it's already at a pretty good level.

In conclusion, I would recommend this drama to those who want to have some fun without taking things too seriously. Don't come expecting lessons in morals, good vs. evil or justice. And don't come looking for "meaning" because some of the developments here do make no sense. However, there are some parts which will mean something only until you make it to the end so don't give up halfway if you can. It does take a bit of patience to get through some of the episodes but once you get to the end, the big twist will probably make it feel worthwhile. Especially for those who have never really taken to Nagasawa or Higashide, you will most likely see them in a different light after this drama.

And my ratings for this drama...

Story: 7 out of 10 (Like any episodic drama, consistency is always an issue so some episodes may not be as interesting. However, the comedy and cos-play should be enough to keep you engaged until the finale which is really what makes this drama less silly than it could have been.)

Acting: 8 out of 10 (Nagasawa literally went through an amazing transformation this time and was very convincing as Daako. Higashide did pretty well too while Kohinata was at his usual level. Pity about the guest stars though because they didn't impress me too much.)

Theme song/BGM: 6 out of 10 (The main BGM had a carnival-like uplifting mood which suited the general atmosphere of the light-hearted story but it wasn't something I really liked or left a deep impression on me.)

Visual effects / Scenery: 8 out 10 (There were a lot of things to look at such as the costumes and sets thanks to the cos-play and various situations in each case. In terms of scenery though, there wasn't anything that really stood out.)

Teamwork / Chemistry: 8 out of 10 (It was quite enjoyable to see the trio having fun together and this gradually became more obvious as the story progressed from the great chemistry. However, the so-called showdown between them and the guests was rather muted and bland at times.)

Total: 37 out of 50


Sunakoyue said...

WOW my thought about this drama were the same as yours, and my review kinda similar although you are much better at expressing yourself than me! (A veces cuesta expresarse en inglés pero sigo intentando para promover mis doramas favoritos). I wasn't hooked till ep 4 or 5 and with each passing episode it was getting better and better. My rating was 9/10 at the end (that final ep!). Very good review!

Chiaki said...

Hi Sunakoyue, thank you for your comments and glad that you enjoyed watching this drama and reading my review!

Rupayan7 said...

I really liked this drama. Watching it weekly made the pacing okay for me.