The Live Action adaption of my favourite manga leaves me feeling conflicted.

The Live Action adaption of my favourite manga leaves me feeling conflicted.

Hello. I’m Benjamin Wagner, this is my blog and today I feel a little more empty inside. Shinmai Shimai no Futari Gohan is probably my favourite manga to just sit down and read. Sometimes I feel a little stressed and just want to relax, so I read some. Sometimes I want to practice some fairly simple Japanese, so I read some. Sometimes I wish I was more attractive, so I read some. Then cry.

There is something a little special about the manga to me. I don’t know if it is the art style itself or the way the characters speak to one another. Is it the beautiful food they create or the awkward way in which we see the characters grow? It is all those things and more and, as you can probably expect, this leads to me having incredibly unrealistic expectations about what a live-action adaption could provide. On the whole, I’m not negative about what I experienced but it did lead me to thinking that it could have been so much more. Find out why as I attempt to review Shinmai Shimai no Futari Gohan.

Synopsis

Sachi and Ayari have both lost a parent and, following a rapid joining of their remaining guardians in matrimony, are now step-sisters. Ayari is shy and awkward around strangers; pulling a face that could scare a criminal good from her unquantifiable anxiety. Sachi shares in this anxiety and is initially fearful of her new sibling. However, after receiving a gift from their parents, who have gone to live abroad together without their children (because it’s a manga?), Sachi and Ayari manage to start bonding over a shared love; food. The show follows the sisters and their blossoming relationship and the meals they make and eat along the way.

Yes. I am commenting on another Japanese drama that involves eating or cooking. What can I say, I have a type. Regardless, this is a perfectly acceptable slice of life setup and the manga itself does a splendid job of introducing the characters that this story relies on. Instead of a monster of the week setup that many anime rely on, this J-drama relies on a meal of the week setup and the stories that are told around them. The meals themselves are the stars.

As normal, I’m going to go over how I feel the story was adapted from my beloved bedtime story and how the characters have been brought to life by the actresses. And, as I said in the title, I was left a little hollow by this one so I will try and explain why I think this didn’t click with me and anything else besides. Good? Let’s do it.

Story-How successfully has it been brought to the stage of real life?

It’s a mixed bag if I’m honest. Episode to episode, most of the early storylines are taken from the early chapters of the manga and make it over in spirit. The first episode is almost frame for frame a perfect adaption of the awkward teething period of Ayari and Sachi’s relationship. Each episode tries

One thing that the story has got very right is the food and recipes themselves. The manga was always very detailed when it came to the meals they were producing; each having a recipe that you could follow at the end of each chapter and they have been reproduced in stunning detail in this live-action adaption. The roast beef in episode 2 looks better than any beef I have seen in my life and it is simply food pornography from start to finish. Some of the dramas I have seen sort of skirt over the food aspect but Shinmai doubles down on this aspect and it makes it feel a little special. All of this food would look excellent on a standard Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver cooking show; truly beautiful.

Most of the storylines that are told are pretty decent. Episode 2 shows Ayari celebrating Sachi’s birthday and the awkward kindness she shows here is very endearing and is a good equivalence to the manga. Episode 3 shows the sisters spending time together outside of the kitchen and growing closer and Episode 4 introduces Sachi’s friend Eri to the dynamic. For most of the run, the show takes the little story snippets from the manga, mixes them up a little and then does its best to bring them to life.

So that sounds great, right? Well. No, actually. Even though the storylines are there, the way they are brought to life is a little rigid and it just feels so, so bland. I loved reading this manga but watching the drama felt like a chore. But that’s nothing compared to my main complaint.

The whole thing is a bit… gay? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy yuri manga and shows a great deal and I am not homophobic. I just don’t understand why this drama has opted to take a fairly pure relationship and add a little bit of lesbianism to the mix. I actually re-read the manga again to check and there is no real hint at yuri action there. I do think some things in the manga should have changed (which I will mention in the character section) but I don’t think it needed a half-baked yuri-love plot that taints the stew for me. If you want a good Yuri anime, watch Yagate Kimi Ni Naru and Sakura Trick. They are designed to tell this sort of story from the original work and I just really don’t like this change here. The sexual tension between our two step-sisters left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Whilst I’m complaining, the ending is also a bit naff. The story at the end takes something from the manga ( a storyline where it is teased that Sachi and Ayari could be leaving) but instead changes it to amp up the drama a little by sending Sachi away to pursue something to do with her career. This leads to a little bit of moping, a lot of padding and a sort of melancholy that is in direct contrast to the homely feeling the original manga radiates. For somebody who hasn’t read the manga, this probably doesn’t feel that egregious to you and I suppose that adding a little more drama to a relatively low pace story can work for some people. Those people aren’t me, however, and I just left very disappointed. This adaption just didn’t feel like the manga, and that’s what hurt me the most.

Characters and acting

Yep. I don’t think that the actresses are all that bad but… I mean, I get that Ayari is supposed to be nervous and shy and that the manga gives her a mean look but, transitioned to real life, it seems very odd to me. Ayari opens up a great deal when she is cooking and spending time with her new older sister and this allows her actress (Otomo Karen) to show her skill a little bit. I think that she is a little bit screwed by the direction here as, the beauty of a good drama adaption is that you have the freedom to change a little bit about the original work to make it work in the new medium. Showing a more reserved, shyer Ayari instead of the anxious, almost aggressive Ayari makes the drama seem a little more cartoonish than it really needed to.

Sachi’s character was pretty perfect. It’s nice to say something good again as her actress (Yamada Anna) absolutely nailed the slightly silly but always kind Sachi and was a believable high school girl. Yes. Some of the yuri sections sexualised her a little egregiously but I can’t really knock this too much. The director wanted sex and romance over pure fun and comedy. It was the wrong choice but I have to accept that choice and it is no fault of Anna who put in an excellent shift.

I didn’t like Eri. She was a good addition in the manga as a fourth main character but she just seemed far less likeable here. Eri seems to compete a little bit with Ayari for Sachi’s attentions. This does dull a little but the friendship that Ayari shares with Eri in the manga never felt as natural here. The same can be said about Ayari’s school friend. In the manga, she is called Shinoda but she seems to be a completely different character in this adaption. I don’t know why though. Shinoda was a very interesting character there and here the female bookworm (who I don’t care enough about to research her name) just adds yet more yuri-bait and detracts from the wholesome and heartwarming tale the original manga wanted to tell. Both actresses seem competent enough and I don’t want to jump on them for doing what their director asked but I can’t really praise it either. Eri’s actress in particular feels stiff a lot of the time. I have never been a high school girl but it also feels like she hasn’t either. Which is just weird.

So, unfortunately, the characters and the acting was a mixed bag as well. Which doesn’t bode well for my final rating.

Why didn’t it click?

In short, the characters didn’t feel right, the story had some odd changes and the whole show seemed to edge closer to yuri-bait as it went on. If I wasn’t a manga fan, this adaption would have been okay but it just isn’t as faithful as I wanted.

Anything else?

The ending song is good. Oh. And according to MyDramaList, Yamada Anna auditioned for her agency because she wanted to win a 3DS. That’s adorable and I want to shake her hand.

Shinmai Shimai no Futari Gohan is like finding out your wife wants an open relationship. No matter how much you love the base content, you just know that she isn’t faithful and will never give you what you want. I implore everybody to read the manga, if you want something relaxing and heartwarming to read but for those of you who want unnecessary sexual tension… Try this out I suppose.

Shinmai Shimai no Futari Gohan: 6/10- I can see the quality of the source material but it is tarnished by an unfaithful adaption and changes that rub me the wrong way.

Thanks. I’ve been Benjamin Wagner and I endorse this message.

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