At some point I will have to stop calling the set-ups of these Japanese and Korean dramas odd. I’m sure a lot of my preferred English-language TV sounds just as strange when you summarise the basics. Maybe that’s just my taste in TV generally. But I did find the tone of Kimi Wa Petto (Fuji TV 2017) quite strange to begin with.
This show is based on Yayoi Ogawa‘s Japanese manga Kimi wa Pet serialized from 2000 to 2005. The comic won the 2003 Kodanisha Manga Award. It’s a largely predictable, slightly cheesy romantic drama, but enjoyable all the same.
Our heroine Iwaya Sumire (Noriko Iriyama) seems very serious and capable, but she is struggling to maintain a professional front after being dumped by her boyfriend of five years and then demoted after rejecting advances from her boss. Drunkenly stumbling home, she finds a young man (Jun Shison) on her doorstep who reminds her of her childhood pet Momo and offers to adopt him. He is homeless and has just been beaten up, so he gladly accepts.
Their relationship is initially cringeworthy (Sumire gets “Momo” to beg for food and other dog-like tricks) but when she learns that he is in fact Goda Takeshi, a ballet dancer of some renown, their relationship changes to…roommates? Friends? Siblings? They quickly become very affectionate and comfortable together.
Takeshi is 20 and his family doesn’t support his wish to be a professional dancer, so he left home and has been living with a series of friends and girlfriends. He’s not above using flirtation and even sex to keep a roof over his head, but he’s grateful that with Sumire he has a more stable situation. He’s also clearly falling in love with Sumire.
Sumire is 30, studied at Tokyo University and Harvard, and had been a highly successful foreign-affairs journalist until being moved to the lifestyle department. She’s also determined to marry a “high-class” man and still daydreams about her university colleague Hasumi Shigehito (Terunosuke Takezai), with whom she had a one-night stand nine years ago. So when he turns up at her newspaper office as a new editor, everything seems to be falling into place. But she is incredibly anxious and formal around Hasumi-san, while at home she is completely relaxed with Takeshi and doesn’t want to give up living with him.
Of course, gradually people in Sumire’s life find out about her “pet”. The first is Sumire’s best friend Yuri, a stay-at-home mum (to the adorable 4-year-old Ran) who reads Tarot cards and provides sage advice. Then there’s Takeshi’s ex-girlfriend and fellow dancer Rumi, who hasn’t given up on him and practices at the same studio in Tokyo. And most worryingly there’s Fukushima Shiori (Yurina Yanagi), a receptionist at the newspaper office who has her sights set on Hasumi and is willing to lie and cheat her way to his affections.
The relationships are for the most part very sweet, and even Fukushima is given a backstory to explain her wicked ways. But I did have a few issues with this show besides the odd premise of treating a human being as a pet. Although Sumire is intelligent and capable in her work life, she is also irritatingly passive. There are a disturbing number of sex scenes where she doesn’t actively participate or appear to enjoy what is happening at all. She seems to just let things happen to her, and then mull over afterwards how she feels about it. Thankfully the other women in the show do not adhere to this passive and obedient stereotype.
The acting in this show is excellent. I’m pretty sure Jun Shison must have professional dance training as the dance scenes are fantastic (but my attempts to confirm this led to a bunch of Japanese websites I couldn’t translate and an old Tumblr that I think was using Jun’s name and image as the basis of some pretty dark fiction). He certainly seems like an interesting actor to keep an eye out for.