Before Million Yen Women start, I had seen the trailer on Netflix and I thought: “ah, ok, it looks interesting. I will remember to watch it!”. However, let’s be sincere, I just forgot about it completely.
Fortunately, I have some good friends on the internet who post about their good/bad experiences. One of these amazing people watched this series and tweeted about how good the series was. Then I immediately remembered the series and, of course, I decided to give a chance to this co-production between TV Tokyo & Netflix in order to see what happens. And I must say: I loved it!
Finish reading my review (it’s spoiler free!) and go to Netflix watch it as soon as you can! When you finish it, come back here and tell me if I wasn’t absolutely right?!
Before I start to explain why you should see Million Yen Women, I will explain the drama and I will talk about the production, actors and their characters.
The series is about Shin Michima, he is a novel writer not known to the public who really loves his work. However, he is not very successful, because he can’t sell his books.
One day, Shin had to start living with 5 women strangers. They appear in his life without any notice. They simply received an invitation to live with him in his house and, to do so, each one had to pay him one million yen.
Except for paying the rent, the only rules are: he can’t question the women and enter their rooms.
[Yes, it’s a little more than 45 thousand US dollars per month].
We will start to see how their routine is, how they are and how their life will change during their cohabitation.
Except for animes, Japanese audiovisual productions (i.e. dramas and movies) aren’t recognized for their high quality.
However, we don’t have much to complain in that sense here. the entire drama bets on simplicity and things that could not go wrong. The strategy worked.
The drama is visually very simple. The scenario for most of the scenes was Shin’s house. The other backgrounds were part of the daily life so there were no problems filming them and they looked ok.
The costumes weren’t creative and I should say they were quite repetitive and very basic. However, there wasn’t anything wrong with it. Like I said, they chose the safest way.
There wasn’t any memorable soundtrack, it was simply background music.
I liked it because this kind of production made the series a very simple one but the images didn’t look fake, amateur or aesthetically ugly. So, we could focus on the story and performance without being distracted by a flashy or poor production.
The main actor, who plays Shin Michima, is Yojiro Noda. He is a Japanese musician, singer, songwriter and record producer. Noda made his debut as an actor in the film Pieta in the Toilet. He is not very experienced as an actor, but I don’t have any complaints about his acting. I think his performance was very coherent with the character.
To be completely sincere, I wasn’t in love with Shin since the beginning. I believe that I started to really like him after episode 4 or 5. Before that point, he was a very shy and passive guy. Also, I only could see him living in an eternal crisis, which sounded a little bit boring. I was much more interested in Minami, about whom I will speak below.
However, the plot made us start understanding him little by little after the second episode, so when the episode 5 came I was already fond of him. At the ending, he made me cry a lot because I could understand his pain, his problems, his other emotions and his behavior. The character made complete sense to me and I love how I could feel engaged about him during the development of the series.
The women are:
Shirakawa Minami she is the oldest, and she is one of the most mysterious characters. She is strong and one of my favorites. I think you will start to like her first instead of the other girls, because she is the focus of the first episodes, so it makes it easier to connect to her since the beginning.
The actress who played Minami is Fukushima Rila, and she was very good in this series, but she – as Noda – is a beginner in the movie/drama industry. Previously, she had made 3 series and 3 films.
Suzumura Midori (Takeda Rena) is a high-school student and she is the youngest among the women. I found it very difficult to start to like her. Maybe, I only began to connect with her from the middle of the drama on. However, at the ending, I liked her very much and I think the end for her character was good.
The other three actresses are more experienced and their characters had more weight in the development of the story.
Seki Nanaka (Araki Yuko) is the funniest and happiest among them. She is always playing with their cat or taking a nap on the sofa. She will be important for the story and, in the right moment, we will feel connected with her. I would say that she is the second female role in this story, together with Minami.
Tsukamoto Hitomi is the woman you will see doing yoga in the beginning of the series. She is quiet and worried about Shin.
I should say that Matsui Rena is the weakest among the other actors in the cast and her character almost vanishes during the drama.
However, it’s good to know that all characters were very important to the development of the plot and they had their time on screen to do what they were supposed to do.
So, I just want to say that her performance and her character’s personality was less exciting than the others. However, at the right moment, I think she could show what the director needed from her acting and I should say that she made me cry when this moment came.
Kobayashi Yuki (Wagatsuma Miwako) is the most mysterious character here because she is the most introspective among the girls, but she is very objective too. So, you’ll have to watch it to find the details about her life and personality.
In short, you will like all the characters, whether in the beginning or during the drama. All of them were relatable at some point and all the actors were amazing.
I think the supporting actors were less brilliant in their performances.
The exception is Takashi Yamanaka, who played Mr. Sakurai, the editor of Shin Michima. His acting was very on point. It wasn’t a big role, but I think he was comfortable in it, so he could convince me about his friendship and devotion for Shin. We can see his 12-year career on the screen. He could escape from this “exaggerated” and unnatural acting that is much more common in dramas. So, this is a point for him.
Ikeda Tetsuhiro (who played Ryuichi Moriguchi) and Tomoya Nakamura (Yuzu Hanaki) have a lot of experience. The lists of dramas in which each one has worked are long. They often play supporting roles in dramas and here they did the same. However, their performance was too caricatural. It’s true that their roles were more common than the others, but their performances were too caricatural so the bad impression couldn’t be minimized during this series. Especially, because I couldn’t see naturality in their skills.
The reason, for me, is that Million Yen Woman was filmed more like a movie than a drama and the impression I had was that their acting was much more appropriated for dramas than for this kind of series.
I strongly recommend this drama.
First reason: It’s great for a marathon!
If you’re resting at home on Sunday, you can watch all the episodes in a single day (as I did!).
It’s 12 episodes with 23 minutes each. So, it’s not long at all.
Second reason: We should all try new kinds of production and different narrative styles. So, I think this drama is a good form to give Japanese culture a try. Sometimes we want to try something new, but we don’t know exactly how to start. This is a good beginning.
Netflix can be similar to checking Foursquare when you are in a new city, looking for a place to have lunch. I’m standing here, as a local, to say exactly which of those options are better. Trust me.
Third reason: The plot is very well written, the story had good rhythm since the beginning and the plot developed with consistency and coherence during the episodes.
Moreover, the narrative has a different structure and logic than we’re used to, as westerners and addicted to US series. So, the surprise element here will be a plus for you.
The cliffhangers, at the end of every episode, will keep you motivated, so don’t worry: if you can watch it until episode 4, you’ll not give up or regret.
Fourth reason: All characters are very nice in their own way. You’ll feel connected with them and feel as they were your acquaintances. The actors are competent at doing what they should do!
Fifth reason: When the plot shows us Shin, the author makes us think about a good subject, which is the passion for your profession: what is your real motivation to do what you do despite the obstacles? Why can’t you just quit doing something?
Also, at the last two or three episodes, the author makes a final but very important question: why do the people do what they do? Sometimes, the others can’t see your reasons, especially if they’re altruistic.
The entire drama is about people growing into more mature people or fulfilling their own needs and expectations. It’s a journey about those 6 characters and I bet that you will be intrigued, attracted and amazed by everything about them.
Watch it and come back to tell me!
My score is an incredible 10/10. [You will watch this drama and come back here to tell me that there’s one dramatic event that could be avoided. I will agree with it, but I don’t think this detail affects my rating. The drama is mostly very consistent and coherent.]