A few Japanese dramas have popped up with the theme of government trying to cope with a falling birth rate. A new one on the light and fluffy side is called Marry Me! I checked it out because I quite liked the older one, Choosing Spouse by Lottery, which was more serious. How would you react to the government pushing its nose into your business like that?
Both of these dramas are about new (fictitious) laws that aim to get more people to marry and have babies. In the case of Marry Me! the law targets people who are classified as NEET, that is, anyone Not in Employment, Education, or Training. They are typically recluses who live with their parents, never go anywhere, and are unlikely to marry. Mr. Morikawa has been made director of a secret pilot program to pair the NEETs with government officials, which he thinks is ridiculous. He’s possibly my favorite character.
Shin is one of Morikawa’s employees. He is sweet, unassuming, and hardworking. More to the point, two years ago he broke up with his girlfriend and announced he would never get married. He is chosen (by higher-ups, not Morikawa) as the first test subject of the NEET law, and told he will never get promoted unless he cooperates. He is handed an envelope of paperwork and told to go introduce himself to the woman he was paired with.
That woman is Himari, who dropped out of high school and all social activities to take care of her grandparents. They have since died and left her alone, but in the meantime, she has become painfully shy and can hardly look anyone in the face. She knew her grandmother had signed her up with the NEET matchup program, but had forgotten about it.
These two are put into a terrible position, but were paired better than we expected. Watch for the snoopy neighbor and for something to happen that will break the ice. They go through baby steps in their relationship, and are very sincere. They are actually very sweet together. The show is so short that it seems to move fast, and most problems we think we see coming are resolved before we know it.
Choosing Spouse By Lottery
Choosing Spouse by Lottery is a more wide-ranging story, depicting a matchmaking system that affects single citizens from age 25 to 39. Minister Onodera is wrangled into the position of running the marriage lottery, even though she knows it’s just a trick to divert attention from a big scandal. The lottery rules let you veto a proposed match two times, but at three you have to serve in an anti-terrorism unit.
“Just because you are there everyone’s heart is at ease. I want to become someone like you.“
We are introduced first to Tatsu, who has obsessive-compulsive disorder. He takes his own chopsticks and straws to restaurants and wipes down everything before he touches it. He’s too weird for most women and keeps getting rejected. He has a blog where he publishes a wistful poem that describes the main characters for us. (Lines from the poem appear in italics under the pictures.) He writes about people he meets who he feels are victimized by the law, and attracts readers who want to protest.
“There are times when I get sick of living.“
Ranbo is charismatic and widely admired at work, but appears arrogant. He’s my favorite character for this show, but his story takes the longest to figure out. There is one woman who likes him, but he rejects her. And even though he is good-looking, he keeps getting rejected by other women. Minister Onodera comments that too many women are opting for the anti-terrorism unit rather than getting married, and it’s straining the budget!
“There are people in the world who are struggling even more than I am.“
If you are a medical professional you can serve in a remote clinic somewhere instead of the anti-terrorism force. Yoshi is a nurse and thinks she could deal with a remote clinic. Her father was an alcoholic, and she rejects possible partners because they drink. She is shy and has a hard time standing up to her mother, who is needy and demanding.
“There are people who carry their frustrations and continue living.”
Nana has a lot of pressure from her grandmother, who is concerned about status and controls her life. As a result, Nana puts on a false front and is calculating in the way she treats people, but she comes off as stuck up. Men like her because she is pretty, but she uses all her vetoes and desperately tries to outwit the lottery rules.
All of our characters grow up a little, and we get some unexpected twists. Tatsu meets someone who makes him realize he won’t throw up if he uses restaurant chopsticks, and pushes him to relax his compulsive actions. Our people become more confident, though not everyone quite pairs up. We get a sweet love story that is not without stumbling blocks.
Which one is better?
Both dramas show us that you can’t tell what a person is like the first time you meet them. They are different than you thought. The first few episodes of Marry Me! are maybe too fluffy, but then it gets more settled. Himari realizes she is happier with Shin than she is alone, and happier with his family around. It’s a cute watch and you don’t have to think much while you watch it.
I really enjoyed Choosing Spouse By Lottery. The story is complex, makes you think, and sometimes gets a little preachy, but again the characters become happier when surrounded by family and friends. We meet many victims of the marriage law. Some, like Tatsu, have problems that most people will not accept in a spouse. Some have health problems or issues like infertility. Some with same-sex attraction do not want to be roped into a hetero marriage. Men and women both are turned down because they are not considered attractive.
Both of these shows can be found on Viki. Let us know in the comments if you watch, and what you think of this kind of government-related plot!
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi