Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kaseifu wa Mita!

A tale of  festering greed and deceit in a renowned family, Kaseifu wa Mita! is a dramedy that is told through the eyes of a housemaid whose services are engaged by the underdog of a household that's in the midst of a power struggle. As a one shot special, it operates on the conceit of having the story rest on not just one but two premises, both of which are, unfortunately, not strong enough to warrant the suspension of disbelief. In fact, one can even go as far as to say that the end product is downright ludicrous.

Sawagura Nobuko (Yonekura Ryoko) is a beautiful and statuesque woman who prefers to disguise herself as an awkward, shabby creature when performing her job as a housekeeper. Clad in black and hiding behind large-rimmed glasses, she catches the eye of Nakamura Akemi (Kitano Kii)---the professed illegitimate daughter of patriarch, Uehara Hidemitsu (Shito Ito), who's about to lose her standing in the Uehara Family after her paternity and status as an heir is challenged by her so-called brothers.

Nobuko enters the Uehara household after being offered an exorbitant amount of money and becomes witness to Akemi's quick wit and use of feminine wiles to secure her place as the reigning queen of the family. And though Nobuko frowns upon Akemi's choice of tactics, she can't help but play the part of confidante and ally to this desperate and shunned child.

Despite attempts at gravity, Kaseifu wa Mita! is a highly predictable drama that is tonally defective, as if it never really made up its mind on whether it's a comedy or a tragedy. It awkwardly shifts from one mood to another in the same way that Nobuko transforms herself from a condescending goddess to servile housekeeper. There's a lot of physical comedy in it that serves no actual purpose, neither does it derive any laughter. The characters are prone to sudden outbursts and all the scurrying about gets old quite fast after the first half hour. It can't even be classified as a parody since it's too serious about upholding dignity and justice as virtues, nor can it be considered an allegory since the characterization of the Uehara household is too cartoonish to demand further reflection.

But perhaps the biggest hurdle to the enjoyment of this special is that it requires a wide latitude for artifice. For example, viewers are asked to believe that to be born beautiful can be a tragic curse, such that a woman so blessed with good looks would go through great lengths just to hide herself on the supposition that her appearance has brought her nothing but trouble. This irrational contempt that the main character has for her natural beauty is utilized not only as a comedic device but as a major plot point which would allow her to become an unwitting participant in a scheme that would decide the standing of members in the said family. Much like Kaseifu no Mita, it posits an extreme explanation for why its main character behaves a certain way, the only difference is that this special does not have the same consistency as the former, having Nobuko change both her looks and demeanor at her own convenience.  

Second, and the cardinal of the two premises offered, is the suggestion that housemaids are duty bound to keep in confidence everything that they see and hear in the exercise of their occupation. This is invoked as a matter of principle; a given, that is forced upon its viewers as a source of conflict. The apparent dilemma created by this tacit agreement between master and servant, however, is later shown to be inconsequential as it is negated and dispatched with ease by the show's resolution.

To make matters worse, none of the characters are likable. Akemi is both victim and perpetrator, while the head of the family is a sleazy old fart who does not pay his taxes. The members of the household are money grubbing sycophants and the law enforcement officers are bungling idiots. Even Nobuko is a hard pill to swallow---she's prone to pontificate about how superficial and materialistic people can be while she herself is leading a life of duplicity. In the end, all the talk about beauty being skin deep and the confidential nature of housekeeping is nothing but a useless pretense to get Yonekura Ryoko to look dowdy, perhaps in a futile attempt  to demonstrate her range (or lack thereof) in acting. 


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