The daily grind.
We’ve all been there working hard for something when the only return we get for it is nothing more than a night at home reading a favorite book or watching a favorite television series. The exciting things that happen to us take place in our daydreams, and while this may not be the kind of existence thrillseekers would enjoy, it’s the reality for much of the general population. This ordinariness is the reason why the Japanese drama Ano Toki Kiss Shite Okeba immediately spoke to me. It showcases this mediocrity, the plot revolving around the life of Momochi Nozomu, a man with little ambition who spends his day working in a supermarket and his nights reading manga.
Portrayed by actor Matsuzaka Tori, Momochi is relatable. He represents those who work every day before finding solace in their fandoms. He represents the excitement felt over the simple things in life rather than the extravagant. From the moment Momochi appears on screen, I found myself wanting to tell him to be stronger, braver, and more outgoing. I found myself wishing he could find the courage to stand up for himself, to fight the small injustices he deals with at work. But then I realized everything I wanted him to do is often what I say to myself when stuck in similar situations. Instead of taking action, I look for superheroes and extraordinary people I can relate to inside imaginary worlds, which is precisely what Momochi does.
Cue the entrance of Yuizuki Tomoe, a woman with an energetic and vibrant personality who puts up with none of the annoyances Momochi avoids. She isn’t afraid of confrontation, which is why her high-kicking explosion onto the scene and into Momochi’s life is such a breath of fresh air. A manga artist/writer who writes under a male pseudonym, Yuizuki Tomoe is the author, Kanikama Joe, Momochi idolizes the most.
Like a whirlwind, Yuizuki Tomoe swirls in, and after revealing her true identity to Momochi, invites him into her life. She is drawn to his passion for her work. As a female author, I found myself wholly invested in their strange but somehow satisfying relationship. I’m certainly not as famous or as rich as Tomoe’s Kanikama Joe, but I understand the reason behind Yuizuki Tomoe’s attraction to Momochi. It is beautiful connecting with people who understand and honestly care about the stories and words you put out into the world, especially when creating characters you hope will connect with the everyday reader, readers who want a mediocre hero instead of a larger-than-life savior. Momochi believes Yuizuki Tomoe is a genius, and it is addicting being around someone who views you with such high regard. He respects her career and her creations. That’s a rare thing to find, especially if you are a female in a male-dominated profession.
Although Yuizuki Tomoe keeps their relationship superficial by hiring Momochi to work for her, the growing affection between them and their odd dependency on each other is apparent.
But fate has other plans.
In a freak turn of events, a plane Momochi and Tomoe board to head to Okinawa crashes. Listed among the dead is Yuizuki Tomoe. After the startling revelation, a shell-shocked Momochi stares stunned at a television screen when a sobbing man in a hospital gown suddenly stumbles into him. Tears streaming down his face, the man insists he’s the dead Yuizuki Tomoe inside someone else’s body. This declaration is the beginning of a crazy body-swapping adventure that is as emotional as it is humorous.
Body-swapping is not a new trope. If anything, it’s overused, and yet I never find myself tiring of it. For me, if it’s done right, body-swapping isn’t about baiting viewers. It’s about walking in someone else’s shoes. It’s about showing how unimportant appearance is. In this case, it’s about caring for someone because you care about that person, not because of the gender or the person’s countenance. The soul inside doesn’t change. We are all vessels of flesh and blood and bone walking around on this planet, but what makes us special and unique are our souls. It isn’t the package our souls reside in. No matter how well or how awful a gift is wrapped, the real gift is what you find inside the box.
If executed well, an excellent body-swap book/drama/film can convey this in a truly significant way. Time will tell if Ano Toki Kiss Shite Okeba has the potential to pull this off. So far, it’s succeeding. But what this drama is undoubtedly doing right from the get-go is the deeper fan/mentor relationship it’s displaying alongside the comedic moments. We are all searching for a reason to live, a deeper meaning to our lives. No one wants to leave this Earth without feeling like they’ve accomplished something. In the event of a tragedy, the best motivation to stay alive despite any possible changes or injuries to our bodies or pain we may have to endure is knowing we have a reason to exist still. For Yuizuki Tomoe, that reason is the kind of dedication she has discovered in Momochi, the unerring devotion he has to the world residing inside her head.
Their story intrigues me. I want to know how Yuizuki Tomoe’s physical death will affect her and Momochi’s future choices, the life of the man she now resides in, and if Momochi’s dedication is enough to carry them forward.
Japan has a way of telling in-depth stories using light, comedic formats. No matter how cringe certain Japanese rom-coms feel, I’m always overwhelmed and impressed by the profound sense of meaning that overcomes me when it ends. I believe Ano Toki Kiss Shite Okeba will be no different.
Rating- 4 out of 5
[Links for this show- You can request RX·ザミリア/ Twitter @RXzamiria for the episodes]