■This review contains no spoilers
「偽装の夫婦」(Gisou no Fuufu, Fake Marriage) is the story of Kamon Hiro (Amami Yuki), a 45 year old, single, misanthropic bibliophile. But she wasn’t always this way. 25 years ago, she had found her true love in Himura Chouji (Sawamura Ikki), and they dated until he abruptly dumped her. One day, their paths cross once again, and Hiro finally gets her chance to ask what really happened back then…
As it turns out, Chouji realized that he was gay. And if this revelation weren’t shocking enough, he also has a request for Hiro. Chouji, who has never married, asks Hiro to get into a sham marriage with him in order to please his mother, who has developed cancer and only has six months to live!
As one might expect, Hiro initially refuses, but various circumstances lead them to inevitably go through with the marriage, which, over time, profoundly changes how they see and value each other, and also forces them to grow and reflect on how their own behaviour and choices affect the people around them.
Gisou no Fuufu is a comedy, so of course, some of the situations that the characters find themselves in or actions they take require a suspension of disbelief. Other times, the series can be extremely realistic and dramatic. It’s easy to find yourself in the characters, and once you bond with them, you’ll find yourself either cheering for them or wanting to console them when things go wrong.
A running gag in the series is Hiro’s “inner voice” which is sharp, blunt, and bitter, versus her stoic facial expressions and polite, formal and cold way of speaking.
Actress Amami Yuki excels in her role. Every cutaway to Hiro’s “inner voice” followed by her uncomfortable smile and polite reaction is a laugh at loud moment that borders on breaking the fourth wall; Hiro is aware of how ridiculous her life and the people around her are.
Hiro also has some…erm…heroic…tendencies, seen not only in her physical strength but also in her knowledge. All of those years reading books has given her immense wisdom, and regardless of the situation, you can be sure that Hiro will have a quote from one of her favorite authors on hand to help the people around her see their problems from a new perspective.
Chouji contrasts with Hiro in that he is flamboyant and cheerful, but also a bit impulsive and short-sighted. He’s also blissfully unaware of how self-centered he is, even though it doesn’t come from a malicious place. His catchphrase, “Hiro! Can I hug you? Ah, but I’m already hugging you”, pretty much sums up his character. He’s basically going to do what he wants, when he wants.
However, even the overly chipper Chouji and aloof Hiro know when to act more grounded in order to deal with the situation at hand or the consequences of their actions. Both characters are deep and introspective, having faced a number of struggles in their lives.
Other characters include Shiori and Yuu (Uchida Yuki, Inoue Rinna) a mother and daughter who frequent Hiro’s library, Tamotsu (Kudo Asuka), a handsome young delivery man that works in the neighborhood, Hiro’s aunt and cousins, and Chouji’s mother. Each character offers additional comedy, drama, or both.
Gisou no Fuufu is a drama with an agenda. It comes from screenwriter Yukawa Kazuhiko, and reminded me of other dramas I’ve watched recently like Gakkou Jya Oshierarenai (also written by Yukawa) and Gomen ne Seishun, where the climax of each episode features a character (in this case, usually Hiro) bursting into an insightful monologue that serves to school the secondary characters and sum up all of the positive lessons you’re supposed to get out of the episode.
However, because Hiro is written as a very wise and thoughtful character, it doesn’t feel as forced as in other dramas. She’s a well read and well spoken woman, and is drawing from what she’s read over the years. This is opposed to other Japanese dramas where the characters deal with a problem for a few days and suddenly know everything about the human condition. When Hiro quotes an author, she usually leaves the people around her (and the viewers) thinking “huh?”, after which she promptly explains her analysis of the anecdote. It’s a formula that not only feels fresh, but also adds depth to Hiro. Did she spend all of these years reading books looking for answers to her own problems?
A big part of the series is its discussion of sexuality, a fact which I am sure has piqued the interest of a lot Japanese drama fans. After viewing Gisou no Fuufu, I feel that it handled the topic of sexuality respectfully and realistically. There are characters that accept it, and characters that don’t. There are also some cases of anger and complete misunderstanding. There are also characters who “evolve” their opinions. The series follows the same line as a lot of other media featuring gay characters in Japan, where “love is love”, gender and sexuality are seen as fluid, and the ultimate takeaway is that people should be free to be who they want and love whom they want.
While the queer themes in the story push the plot along, the main theme is not only its queer one. Gisou no Fuufu is, first and foremost, a story about family.
Chouji was raised by his single mother and could never come out to her, because he didn’t want to disappoint her. Hiro, on the other hand, was raised by her aunt after her parents perished in an accident, but she still carries the pain of the tragedy. A single child, her cousins are like her brother and sister. One of Hiro’s cousins is divorced and is having a hard time raising her two kids. Shiori, a single mother who frequents the library, divorced due to domestic violence and is struggling to raise her daughter Yuu.
While these “non-traditional” families might be a throwaway plot point in many other dramas, in Gisou no Fuufu, themes such as loss, filial piety, and the idea of what even constitutes a “family” are the driving forces behind the character’s motivations, the bonds that they share, and the relationships that grow throughout the series.
For those of you unaware, in Japan, there is quite a bit of prejudice against those who divorce. In addition, children who are born out of wedlock or who are not raised by their birth parents can face bullying from peers, and there is also a strongly embedded idea that these children will eventually become troublemakers or otherwise not reach the same level of success as children from “traditional” households with two parents.
Gisou no Fuufu not only tackles these negative stereotypes head on, but goes even deeper by raising the idea that a family is something that is based on mutual love and support, rather than bloodline, gender roles, or sexual identity. This depth makes it perhaps the most progressive drama on Japanese television. And it comes at a time where women’s and LGBT rights are gaining steam, in Japan, and in the midst of Japan’s shrinking population crisis, where less and less traditional family units are being created.
Though my fondness for the series went through some ups and downs while watching it, I ultimately came to love not only the characters, but the positive message of the series as a whole. I highly recommend it, even if just for Amami Yuki’s facial expressions and reactions.
Have you watched Gisou no Fuufu? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.
*If you write any spoilers, please be courteous and include a warning.
■Gisou no Fuufu originally aired from 10/7/2015- 12/9/2015 on Wednesdays at 22:00 on NTV.