Thursday, December 25, 2014

Pinjo no Merry Christmas

Pinjo no Merry Christmas is a three-part miniseries that came out in 2012. The production itself is primarily light and colorful; lending a sense of frivolity even if the story is yet again about a woman desperate to find love in time for the holidays. It incorporates an array of materials that can be found in your local stationery store, being a cleverly disguised ad campaign and a wistful tribute to writing paraphernalia that, of late, seem to have been consigned to the use of a limited segment of the market (i.e. the random scrapbook enthusiast). The mini-series offers an interesting marriage of product placement and metaphor, ultimately drawing on the idea of how falling in love---like greeting cards---can be a hard sell past a certain age. 

Holidays can be doubly hard for singletons. It's the time of year when they're forced to reexamine their solitary existence, when joyous festivities heighten the need to share one's life with someone, and with the cold winter comes the need to hold that special someone close. With Christmas just around the corner, Matsubara Kaede (Kanjiya Shihori) is experiencing both an emotional and professional slump. It's been years since her last relationship and she terribly misses the giddy feeling that comes with being in love. To makes matters worse, she's been tasked by her superior to come up with a promotional slogan that would set hearts aflutter and boost sales of greeting cards at a time when she's devoid of inspiration. 

During a routine dinner hosted by high school friend, Irie (Tsukamoto Takashi), fellow guests and confidants, Rinko (Hiraiwa Kami) and Akari (Tanimura Mitsuki) come up with a plan for Kaede to fire up her love life. They send an email blast to all of her contacts, informing them of a change in address, hoping to come up with a list of prospective dates, if not an actual love match. The scheme works and soon enough Kaede's forced to explore the possibility of establishing a new relationship with either a dapper business associate (Hirayama Hiroyuki), whom she's worked with a year earlier, or an extremely friendly office courier (Nakao Akiyoshi), six years her junior. 

Taking the advice of her friends, Kaede ventures into the dating scene but turning on her "love switch" proved to be difficult when the seemingly perfect gentleman fails to make her heart skip a beat and when polite pleasantries are misread as an indication of romantic interest. She genuinely wants to find love but finds the whole process tedious and bothersome. She's not even sure if she'll ever fall in love again. In an effort to recapture that elusive feeling, she accedes to an invitation from an ex-boyfriend (Kaneko Nobuaki) to meet and catch up, maybe even rekindle an old flame.  

Like any romantic comedy intended for the holidays, this mini-series has its Christmas elements and love dilemmas down pat. Sets are awash with lights and festive decors, while all the characters are warmly clad in cardigans and sweaters. The ceaseless push of stationery and writing paraphernalia as egregious metaphors and narrative pieces are a mixed bag---at times amusing and thoughtful but likewise disagreeable when utilized repeatedly without direction or purpose. Nevertheless, during its most dismal turn  (with the heroine drowning her sorrows in wine and crying her eyes out) such devices secure audiences into thinking that no ending for this mini-series would suffice except a happy one.

The uncertainty and embarrassment that comes with Kaede's purposeful search for love is depicted through plausible scenarios and though her misadventures can feel rather tedious, at least they're resolved  without excessive drama. The mini-series ultimately resorts to the trope of having Kaede find Mr. Right under her nose with the resulting match (though not totally convincing) being an acceptable outcome. Pinjo no Merry Christmas rightly dodges the need for a big romantic reveal, opting for quiet moments that exhibit genuine affection, expressed through comfort food and constant companionship. It would have been more winsome had the one true pairing been more apparent from the very first episode, but the third act does try to make up for the lack of gumption.

Overall, Pinjo no Merry Christmas is interesting in the way that it forces the use of office and art supplies, including related merchandise, into the thick of the drama. Its very premise seems to argue that love, as all other things of personal importance, is worth all the fuss. And what's the best way of showing that you care? Well, the message is simple---take the time to send a greeting card!


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