Monday, 31 October 2011

JDrama: Blood Types & Romance Themes

Ketsuekigata Betsu Onna ga Kekkon Suru Houhou 血液型別オンナが結婚する方法
Director: Hayama Hiroki, Sato Genka & Tsuzuki Junichi
Writer: Nezu Rika & Kawashima Sumino
Fuji TV 2009

When I watched this 4-part JDrama recently it raised a couple of interesting thoughts about Japanese culture that I wanted to write about. I often watch Japanese films and dramas (or dorama/ドラマ as they are known in Japan) not only because they are entertaining but to help my Japanese studies. Hearing the vocabulary and grammer that I have learnt used by native speakers is very useful and I feel
that it has I really helped my listening and pronunciation skills as well as my general understanding of the language. The stories depicted on screen, though obviously not accurate portrayals of real life, can offer an insight into some interesting aspects of Japanese culture too.

The rather lengthy title of Ketsuekigata Betsu Onna ga Kekkon Suru Houhou translates to something like 'How Women of Different Blood Types Get Married' which brings us to our first insight into Japanese culture - blood type as a predictor of personality.

As many of you are probably aware the practice of assigning different personality and character traits to the four different ketsuekigata or blood types; A, B, O and AB is as popular in Japan as horoscopes are here in the west. Just as many people here in the UK believe that certain characteristics are common to all people of the same star sign, in Japan each of the 4 different blood types are assigned a set personality traits. People with Type A blood are said to be the most sensible, patient and responsible but they can also be stubborn and tense. Those with Type B blood are thought to be wild, creative and passionate but also selfish, irresponsible and unpredictable. Type O blood dictates an agreeable, sociable and optimistic personality but also a tendency to be vain, rude and arrogant. Finally, people with Type AB blood are said to be like Geminis as they have a split personality being both cool, controlled and rational and indecisive, forgetful and irresponsible. It is common for manga, anime and computer games characters to be assigned a blood type as part of their background information, even company mascots are sometimes given a specific blood type.

In each episode of the 4-part drama Ketsuekigata Betsu Onna ga Kekkon Suru Houhou a young woman by the name of Harukawa Sachie meets her future husband and falls in love. Each episode sees the character played by a different actress and assigned a different blood type resulting in 4 different stories.

In episode 1 Sachie is played by the actress Kato Rosa and has Type A blood. She plays an OL who works in the accountancy department of a small company who harbours a secret love for her colleague Watanabe Makoto. Just as her blood type dictates she is serious, responsible and fastidious.

Episode 2 sees Shaku Yumiko play Sachie as a writer of popular romance dramas with Type B blood who is struggling to write another hit script when she falls in love with Hozumi Akihiko, a TV prop man and artist. Typical to her blood type she is more focused on the creativity and passion of her ideas than the practicality of realising them.

In episode 3 Kashii Yu plays Sachie as part-time worker in a furniture shop with Type O blood who lives at home with her parents and floats aimlessly through life doing as little as possible. She fits to the Type O stereotype in that she is optimistic, loveable and friendly but veers more towards irresponsible and lazy than vain and arrogant. She falls in love with visiting Taiwanese designer Eddy Chan.

In the final episode Mizukawa Asami plays Sachie as a Type AB engineering student who finds romance with the widowed professor Gondawara Hitoshi. Her character is typical of the AB personality in that she is cool, controlled and focused on her work however, she reveals a warm and loving side when she begins tutoring Gondawara's daughter.

The second thought that I had whilst watching Ketsuekigata Betsu Onna ga Kekkon Suru Hoho was that, though some of the themes and story-lines are similar, Japanese romance dramas portray much more innocent and old-fashioned relationships than we usually see in the west. There is often very little physical contact with emotion and passion expressed through tearful admissions of love and marriage proposals sometimes preceding the first kiss.

****** Spoiler Warning ******
Do not read on if you don't want to know how Ketsuekigata Betsu Onna ga Kekkon Suru Hoho ends

In episode 3 of Ketsuekigata Betsu Onna ga Kekkon Suru Hoho, in a tale very reminiscent of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Sachie clashes with the arrogant Eddy Chan who berates her for her carefree and unprofessional attitude. After several attempts to prove him wrong he eventually succumbs to her happy optimism and asks her to marry him and move to Taiwan. After thinking over his proposal Sachie realises that she loves him too and sets off for the airport. And all this before any kiss or first date. This story's theme of Sachie being bullied and insulted by the socially elite Chan also reminded me a lot of the relationship between Makino and Domyoji in the very popular Hana Yori Dango.

Episode 4 too ends in a sudden proposal when the nervous and awkward Gondawara tearfully reveals his feelings to Sachie and asks her to marry him. Again, though a close friendship has developed between the two throughout the programme, we do not see them share a kiss or any physical intimacy.

Similarly the Sachie of episode 1 finally admits her love for Watanabe as he is leaving for a new job in Ōsaka asking him to take her with him. This comes after she unsuccessfully attempts to get him to notice her by becoming the more flirty and attention-grabbing girl that she thinks he likes. When another girl from the office, who has been aggressively flirting with Watanabe for weeks, declares her love by kissing him he rejects her telling her that flashy girls like her are not his type. Instead he choses the quiet, shy, natural Sachie.

Unusually Sachie and Hozumi's relationship in episode 2 develops after they get drunk one night and wake up in bed together the next day but, from what I have seen, this is not typical. As she has type B blood though it is expected that this Sachie is irresponsible and wild.

Watching Japanese romance dramas I am often reminded of the chaste relationships that you see in period adaptations or classic movies. I wonder if this is indicative of the way relationships develop in real-life Japan or if they are just a demonstration of what the Japanese want to see on TV.


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