미녀 공심이 (Beautiful Gong Shim Ep.1)

Beautiful Gong Shim takes over the weekend 22:00 time slot previously occupied by Mrs. Cop 2. It’s directed by Baek Soo-Chan and written by Lee Hee-Myung who both worked with Namgoong Min in the 2015 drama, The Girl Who Sees Smells.

Namgoong Min has played good characters before but we all know that he leaves the biggest impression whenever he does villainous roles. He was the main reason I looked forward to watching Remember: War of the Son even though its story line was a tad depressing. He’s so good at being bad but you just can’t NOT like him because his acting is flawless and he’s hot as hell. Beautiful Gong Shim‘s Ahn Dan Tae is Namgoong Min’s first lead role in a major broadcasting station and yay he’s not a ‘psycho in a suit’.

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He used to be in constant battle against lawyers in Remember but this time he’s playing one. And he’s not a lawyer for money. He has his own law firm, charges his clients with low rates so he still has to work part time as a substitute driver to make ends meet. In his go-to sweater-capri-flip flops outfit, Dan Tae frequents convenience stores looking like a neighborhood slacker but of course it’s just not possible to shake-off Namgoong Min’s manly,elegant vibes making it obvious from Day 1 that he is the missing son of a chaebol.

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Gong Shim’s role was reportedly offered to Baek Jin Hee first, but she declined so it ended up with Girl’s Day MinAh. I don’t usually set high expectations for idols turned actors so as not to disappoint myself but Bang Min Ah performed surprisingly well and even managed to make me cry in her “I’ve had it!” moment with her pathetic family.

Wearing a fringed bob wig to hide her speck of baldness, Gong Shim grew up being second fiddle to her gorgeous sister who works at a big law firm to financially support their family. I like Gong Shim’s clear perception of her personality. She knows what she wants and what she’s good at. She gets angered but doesn’t allow herself to wallow in self-pity despite the fact that her parents favor her sister more than her. She dreams of pursuing an art career abroad and she’s taking baby steps to achieve it. Attending the Italian academy is a step towards her goal but since no one in her family can support her or even care, she decided to sell her rooftop room to pay for her admission fees. And hilarity ensues when the buyer is the hot lawyer who doesn’t change the door passcode. lol.

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The two lead characters got off the wrong foot but running into each other all the time and living in the same building certainly provides a huge opportunity for warming up to each other. The rest of the characters are stereotypical and some elements are rife with makjang. I just hope that the unraveling of the not-so-mysterious missing grandson arc won’t ruin this budding bromance.

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Gong Shim’s older sister Gong Mi is admirable in the way she works hard for her family and endures the difficulties in a sexist workplace; but she does have an air of being ambitious and manipulative so there’s a possibility that Seo Hyo Rim, who is good at playing ‘spoiled man stealing’ roles, will probably go full time bitch in the succeeding episodes. I hope not. We’ve seen too many dramas with awesome bromance, it’d be refreshing to see some pretty strong sisterhood too just like Kim Hye Jin and Min Ha Ri’s lovely relationship in She Was Pretty.

Aside from Ahn Dan Tae’s ability to process images faster and react to them with Spiderman-like reflex, the first episode did not really introduce anything that goes beyond the usual romcom formula; but for now, watching swoonworthy Namgoong Min and adorable Min Ah’s chemistry is all that matters to me.

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ニーチェ先生 (Mr. Nietzsche in the Convenience Store)

Mr. Nietzsche in the Convenience Store (Niche Sensei) is an episodic comedy series based on the manga, Niche Sensei: Konbini ni Satori Sedai no Shinjin ga Maiorita, by writer Koma Matsu and illustrator Hashimoto. Released in 2013, this manga is adapted from a collection of popular Twitter posts that chronicle the real-life experiences of convenience store workers.

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The 2016 live-action follows the story of Buddhist student, Tomoharu Nii (Shotaro Mamiya), who works part-time at a convenience store. His senpai Matsukoma (Kenji Urai) trains him with the how to’s. In this small establishment called 3-7, a group of oddball characters come together: the quirky Manager (Jiro Sato), lottery-obsessed Watari (Jiro), Nii’s crazy stalker Kaede Shioyama (Rena Matsui), rich kid Takeshi Shibata (Ryo Matsuda), former idol group member Megumi Tatsuzaki (Rio Uchida) and late-night part-timer Kuroda (Yusuke Suga).

The show is written and directed by Yuichi Fukuda who is known for his reference-filled, anime-like, exaggerated style of comedy. His previous works include Hentai Kamen, all three seasons of the Yuusha Yoshihiko series, and Aoi Honoo. 

It’s not easy to pull off Yuichi Fukuda’s trademark comedy as it relies more on delivery than content. An actor should be able to give just the right amount of intensity in his performance or else, it will fail. Overacting will make the scenarios cheesy but acting half-heartedly will simply make things lame.

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Shotaro Mamiya’s handsome features and strong charisma is perfect for the stoic titular character, Nii. Nicknamed “Mr. Nietzsche”, his character is like a less silly, more serious version of Takayuki Yamada in Yuusha Yoshihiko. They both come off rather strange because despite their earnestness, they have a way of speaking too straightforwardly and accomplishing things deadpan.

At first glance, deuteragonist Kenji Urai may look like someone who would easily get typecast as the nerdy and loser-type of character but he’s not. Though he doesn’t have that many films and dramas, he is an accomplished stage actor. He starred in well-known productions such as Sailor Moon, My Fair Lady, Flowers for Algernon, Titanic, Henry VI, and most recently, in Death Note as Yagami Light, no less. Theater actors like him who are wonted to large expressions are perfect for this kind of comedy and he proved it when he played Yano Kentaro in the 2014 retro-style, manga-inspired series Aoi Honoo. 

Jiro Sato as Tenchou (Manager) is a consistent scene stealer in Fukuda’s comedies. He’s one of my favorite Fukuda regulars (alongside Tsuyoshi Muro who had a cameo in one of the episodes).

The biggest challenge for the cast of Mr. Nietzsche is to keep a straight face whenever Jiro Sato delivers his lines. Shotaro Mamiya tried his best to not break character but he failed several times. He’s so adorable in his attempts to suppress his laughter and the director decided not to edit out the supposedly-NG scenes which give this show an impressive sitcom-like atmosphere.

Running at around 23 minutes per episode, Mr. Nietzsche in the Convenience Store is one of the dramas that I liked so much, I finished the series in one sitting. It doesn’t have any complex plot but it is full of eccentric characters and their konbini high jinks make me laugh.