“Minato’s Laundromat” Series Review (Ep.3 to 12)

Growing up, no matter what generation a person is from, is full of joy, pain, success, and rejection. Regrets follow us like heavy weights pulling at our ankles, holding us back from the potential future we dream of stepping into.

Adapted from the manga Minato Shouji Coin Laundry by Tsubaki Yuzu, the Japanese BL Minato’s Laundromat is as much about the regret and dreams we carry with us as it is about love.

Two generations meet with Minato, Shin, Asuka, and Hiiragi, pulling viewers into a series emphasizing age while erasing the line dividing it. In a world where the years move too swiftly forward, we focus much on what we want to achieve and let the things we don’t drag us down.

In retrospect, rather than a number, regret is the most significant thing separating generations. The older we get, the more regrets we carry with us, the more we question our choices, and the more we look back and wonder about the “what ifs?”. This line between generations always seems much more vast than it is, because the more regrets we carry, the more divided we feel from the people just starting their journey.

Minato’s Laundromat focuses much on this divide and the regrets that stand between us.

The series follows Minato Akira (Kusakawa Takuya) from the burned-out lifestyle he’d made for himself in Tokyo to the coastal hometown and laundromat he left behind. He steps into the family business his grandfather handed down, the move bringing peace into his life. Until high school student Katsuki Shintaro (Nishigaki Sho) walks through the door, shaking up his world and reminding him of his regrets.

Shin has been in love with Minato since Minato saved his life as a child, the hero worship becoming larger-than-life as he matured, transitioning into something deeper as he pursues the cheerful but sometimes melancholy man who runs the local laundromat.

In essence, Minato is a healing story that bridges the gap between generations while sparking a love story between those same generations. The older we become and the wiser we tend to think we are often causes us to overlook the wisdom of youth. While growing up means accumulating experience and being aware of that experience, it also often means jading us into believing the young have nothing to teach us. But wisdom doesn’t just come with experience, and Shin is proof of this.

In many ways, the actual teachers in Minato’s Laundromat aren’t the older characters, Minato or Hiijari; it’s the younger characters, Shin and Asuka. And I found this switch in mentorship to be wildly appealing. It’s nice to step into a story that shakes preconceptions up.

While Minato’s Laundromat contains much of the over-the-top, exaggerated feels and fun that attract many viewers to Japanese BLs, it also includes the subtle wisdom that draws the same viewers. No matter how light a Japanese BL feels, a more profound, nuanced message is almost always lurking in the depths. It’s one of my favorite things about Japanese dramas. They are like fortune cookies, sweet on the outside with a fortune hidden within.

In Minato’s Laundromat, Minato has one regret he’s never been able to move beyond: a quick kiss he gives his sensei (teacher) the day he graduates high school before running away in fear. The unrequited kiss left him wondering too much and hoping for something he never fully resolved. This regret, along with age, is the immediate obstacle standing between Minato and Shin when the daring and determined younger man starts pursuing Minato.

When the drama opened, I was impressed with Shin’s straightforward and persistent personality. He was on a mission to seduce the older Minato, and nothing was going to hold him back. While he came on a little strong, there was something attractive about how he pushed while never actually crossing the line. And there was something equally attractive about how Minato remained wholly staunch about keeping the line between them.

While, for many, the dragged-out push and pull between Minato and Shin got a little tiring as the drama eased forward, the bigger picture behind their story kept me invested despite how often Minato pulled away from Shin.

Shin became Minato’s teacher, guiding him back in time to a youth Minato never fully let go of. As much as we like to stay young, letting go of the regrets of youth is one of life’s ways of accepting the youth we can also find in aging. Minato’s free spirit is weighed down by the youth and love he carries with him. Shin taught him how to let go.

I wasn’t turned off by Minato’s frustrating need to pull away. He’s lived life on the run, and once a person falls into the habit of running, it’s hard to stop. I understood Minato’s fear of slowing down and facing what he ran away from, which made the younger Shin even more appealing. Shin is a fascinating, multifaceted character with serious mental fortitude. He goes after the things he wants but realizes that encouragement can be as meaningful as love. He’s a breath of fresh air, and Minato needed that.

On the flip side, Minato’s Laundromat also offered us a dual look at what Minato’s past life must have looked like with Hanabusa Asuka (Oku Tomoya). Shin’s young, extroverted, and easy-going classmate is almost a mirror image of Minato, from the way he hides his true feelings behind a cheerful, carefree exterior to the way he runs away from his fear of rejection by the older teacher/convenience store owner, Sakuma Hiiragi (Inaba Yu).
I was drawn to the dual storytelling, to the way I got to watch Asuka play out what Minato’s past love story must have been like, while also watching what Asuka’s future would look like if he made the same choices as Minato. Minato and Shin’s push and pull relationship became the teacher Asuka needed to teach him to slow down rather than fall into the habit of running away the same way Minato has.

This dual storytelling proves that the level of frustration we feel over the older Minato now is equal to the level of affection we would have felt toward the younger Minato, in the same way we feel for Asuka. This kept me drawn to the man Minato became. Shin sees the younger Minato inside the regretful older version because he’d once known and been saved by the younger man Minato was.

Minato’s Laundromat is longer than many of the Japanese BLs that have already aired, but the path of regrets we make in life takes some time to retrace. And the patience certainly pays off in the end.

For a drama about patient love full of encouragement and loyalty, check out Minato’s Laundromat on Gagaoolala.

Rating- 4 out of 5

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