Yui Aragaki has finally achieved her first lead female role in a J-TV Series. After playing a series of high school sweeties, and ingenues, “Gakki’ has finally been tabbed for a starring role. The series is called Zenkai Girl or Full-Throttle Girl. As we meet her in the opening scenes, she has just graduated from law school and has landed a job at an international law firm.
Yui is cast as Wakaba Ayukawa, and she’s good at everything she does – she graduated at the top of her class, she’s multi-lingual, and she has what is takes to become an ace lawyer. Only her first assignment is to baby-sit her boss’s five year old daughter, who is five going on 30, or so it seems.
Wakaba is driven because as child she grew up in rather desperate circumstances – her father was in debt from gambling to the Yakuza loan-sharks.
Little Wakaba got them out from under this by studying and then filing a motion and getting a decree for Voluntary Bankruptcy. That set her on her path of wanting to be lawyer and for seeing anything that she took on to its finish. In her own personal lexicon, there was no such thing as not finishing anything to the best of her ability.
But she hadn’t counted on taking a smart-ass five year old girl to pre-school every day. However everything was not all bad. At the law firm every once in a while she got to do a project, or a report, or a translation of a law-brief, and people took notice of her skills. At the pre-school she ran into a single parent Dad whose step-son also attended this school. This was Ryo Nishido as Sota Yamada , a would-be chef.
His story was no picnic either. He married a dancer who came with a son, another precocious 5 year old. But that marriage ended with a divorce after his wife ran off to New York with another guy, leaving Sota with her son. He currently worked as a short-order cook in a little hole-in-the-wall neighborhood restaurant. Sota had formerly worked at the internationally acclaimed, world class restaurant, Paul Bocuse, in Tokyo – but had given that up to raise his step-son.
Anyway, Wakaba and Sota become part of a rotating cooperative of five or six single parents who watch the kids in a group after school each day. There’s lots of friction as well as attraction between Wakaba and Sota. It’s hate at first sight, or is it? Beyond that, Aragaki’s character may be a whiz at law, and she might know what she wants in life, but she’s beyond haughty. You just know that she’s going to find the road to romance, a difficult journey, because she lacks an understanding about how to get on with other people. For her, it has always been a struggle, and she’s overcome every obstacle – but the cost of that is her utter lack of social skills.
Meanwhile, back at the law-firm, Wakaba is working her tail off, as she sets her sights on finding what she calls a AAA+ guy – who in this case is Shindo, a terrific and successful lawyer, a good looking guy, a guy with goals and ambitions, and on top of all that – he is very wealthy.
Poor Sota has none of those qualities or perks – but he is great with kids, and he’s sincere and honest. There’s your set up – Shindo sets his sights on Wakaba as well. So Wakaba wants a guy like Shindo, or Shindo, she wants to be a successful lawyer, and she envisions herself married to the man of her dreams forever and ever.
Only, she can’t quite get over the bump in the road that turns out to be Sota.
They did a fine job with this production. I’m sure that the budget was quite high. You can see the high production values in every one of the 11 episodes. You can easily tell that this was not a TV series made on the cheap. The series began in the Monday night 9:00 PM slot and ran from July 11th, to September 19th.
While billed as a romantic comedy – it is quite a bit more than. Wakaba herself undergoes a transformation. It is obvious from the jump that she knows what she wants and she’s going to go after it – and any intrusive feelings about a man without a higher education, without money, and without any future goals (other than being a great Dad) will have to be dealt with.
Aragaki was great in her role. Ryo Nishido also had to go through plenty of difficulties. He started out as a good guy, who got steamrolled and taken advantage of by his wife. But no matter what kind of setbacks he had to deal with, he remained a good guy.
The supporting cast included a trio of single Dads, a great performance by Hiroko Yakushimaru as Sakuragawa – the big boss of the law firm, and a sparkling turn by Misako Renbutsu – who played Soyoko, who was Sakuragawa’s assistant, and a woman who wanted Sota as a boy friend.
There are many bright and comedic moments, and then there are some Yoda-like statements by the two five year old children, who nearly steal the show. But as it turns out they are inspirational kids who one way or another work their magic on Wakaba and Sota. As for the two leads, each week we will watch them learn about work, relationships, and love, in this rewarding, funny, and ultimately heartwarming series. The DVD of this series is scheduled for a January, 2012 release.