Japanese Drama Review: Overprotected Kahoko/Kahogo no Kahoko (2017)

Thursday, October 12, 2017


CUTTING THE APRON STRINGS

Japanese coming-of-age series Overprotected Kahoko (Kahogo no Kahoko, 2017) finished it's relatively quiet run last month, without sparking much discussion online. The drama only came to my attention via Twitter and with nothing better to do at the time, I felt it was worth checking out.

The story follows 21-year-old university student Kahoko (Mitsuki Takahata) who lives an overprotected life with her parents. She's especially dependent on her mother Izumi (Hitomi Kuroki) to the point where mom even wakes daughter up in the mornings and picks which clothes she should wear each day. One day, Kahoko meets Hajime (Ryoma Takeuchi), an aspiring artist who has lived his life with no-one else to count on than himself. His brutal honesty and mature advice guides Kahoko to take charge of her life, much to the chagrin of Izumi.


From the start, Kahoko's complete reliance on her mother is rather frustrating to watch. Kahoko has an absurdly childlike personality, which is perhaps emphasized with the intention to make the series more funny, but it often has the exact opposite effect. It takes great suspension of disbelief to buy Kahoko's naivety at her age but, to her credit, she does set out to become self-reliant once she realizes the oddness of her situation. 

Even though her dependence on her parents is first pointed out by Hajime, it is Kahoko's endearing determination that makes it easy to root for her, despite her childish way of expressing herself. While she actively seeks out Hajime to ask for his guidance, Kahoko herself makes the decisions like a true adult, learning from mistakes and slowly growing up in the process. Kahoko's subtle growth doesn't necessarily happen in mammoth leaps, but by the end she shows herself as a more driven and capable variant of her previous self.


Izumi's character, on the other hand, is much harder to understand as she spends most of the series feeling offended that her daughter doesn't want to be treated like a baby any longer. Unfortunately, the series doesn't end up giving much of an explanation for Izumi's behaviour and why she coddled Kahoko in such an extreme manner in the first place. 

We can only assume that Izumi has enjoyed being in charge of family matters for such a long time that taking that away from her causes a sort of identity crisis. As a housewife without a career of her own, it is understandable that caring for her family is her daily job. It is also evident that Izumi wants to be in control, a position where she's admittedly very home at, and giving up even some of that power is extremely difficult for her. In the end, however, Izumi can't stop Kahoko from growing up and has to settle with dominating over her resigned husband instead.


Family matters, in general, make up a big part of the show. Much like Izumi, the extended family members tend to be quite difficult to understand/like. At times, they act more childishly than Kahoko ever has. In fact, Kahoko often proves herself to be more caring and mature than her grandparents, aunts and uncles. Most infuriating of them all is obviously Kahoko's cousin Ito (Sayu Kubota) who, even though going through an understandably rough time with having to give up her dreams, acts so ungratefully and cruelly that her rushed redemption arc in the end is frankly a load of bull.


The most enjoyable part of the entire series is, however, Kahoko's friendship (and romance!) with Hajime. In many ways, Hajime strikes as the most wise and mature character in the series. That title could also go to Kahoko's father Masataka (Saburo Tokito) if only he weren't so darn passive and cowardly. Yet Hajime isn't afraid to voice his opinion, and even through his honest comments he still remains respectful. The fact that Kahoko holds Hajime's opinion in such high regard throughout the series speaks loads for his personality. 


Truthfully, the romance between the two was a bit too juvenile and chaste for my taste but considering Kahoko's emotional immaturity it probably would have been wrong to go much further with it. Yet my biggest complaint about their relationship was the rushed decision to marry, which was the only time I entirely sided with Izumi who initially objected to the idea. As much as Kahoko and Hajime suited each other, jumping into marriage without properly dating seems completely outrageous and foolish in this day and age. Especially when the young couple hasn't actually touched lips yet! 


All in all, Overprotected Kahoko is an enjoyable but quite flawed family series. Mitsuki Takahata's endearing portrayal of Kahoko and Ryoma Takeuchi's expressive performance as Hajime are the drama's biggest strengths, while some of the characterizations and general persuasiveness of the story suffer from weak writing. Still, Kahoko's journey from a naive girl, who needs to be taken care of, to a much more purposeful young woman, who can take care of others, is rather nice to watch.

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