by JojoOnDatBeat, September 9, 2020
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[Writer's Note: This article is best enjoyed in dark mode. This is a creative liberty taken according to the mood of the drama in question. Happy Reading!]

Watashitachi Wa Douka Shiteiru (Native Title: 私たちはどうかしている) also known as Cursed In Love, or as per its direct translation (my personal favourite): There's Something Wrong With Us, is an eight-episode Japanese drama that aired its first episode on NTV on August 12, 2020.

Based on the manga of the same name, WWDS (yes, we're using the shorthand now) is a drama I had been anticipating for a while. I was elated after watching the first episode full of interesting events that I couldn't help myself and here we are; the rest is history.

There's a mystery, a strange thrill, past trauma and a strangely messed up romance, all thrown in the mix against the colorful, sweet, radiant backdrop of the loving world of Japanese confectionery. It's a ruthless contrast, almost a cacophony and yet, the harmony rings truer than the most soulful music. If I have your attention, we shall now proceed into the meat, or rather, the sweet red bean paste of this article, while making sure that we remain completely SPOILER FREE.


So without further ado, let's just jump into it, shall we?


Hanaoka Nao is a beautiful 20-year-old artist who specializes in making the classic traditional Japanese sweets, a talent passed on to her by her mother, who was a talented craftswoman working for Kougetsu An (lit. Moonlit Cabin), a generations-old store run by the Takatsuki family, where both mother and daughter also lived. 

Young, five-year-old Nao was a shy child until she befriended the young master of the house, five-year-old Tsubaki, whose lively and infectious nature even swept up Nao along with his shenanigans. All's happy until one fateful day, when the head of Kougetsu An, Tsubaki's father, is found murdered, and five-year-old Tsubaki points fingers at Nao's mother. Convicted of first-degree murder, Nao's mother is separated from her child, and Nao is kicked out of Kougetsu An.



Back in the present, 20-year-old Nao receives a proposal to participate in a sweet-making competition against the master of Kougetsu An, Tsubaki himself. Fifteen years since the wrongful conviction of her mother, Nao's thirst for revenge is born, as she sets out to right all wrongs done to her mother by the Takatsuki family, not knowing that she is equally in for a surprise as her targets.

My Thoughts: If the name wasn't clear enough, I'll be the bad guy here and say it, there's a lot of questionable actions being taken here by every single character to an extent. The story isn't hard to follow at all, quite the opposite, in fact. However, I believe the triumph of the story lies in its soap-opera esque, dramatic and to an extent, even pompous nature. 

There are tons of dramaland clichés, villains who are there just to be villains, and good guys who cannot for the life of them decide what they really want, and are lying to themselves, while we as the audience look on gleefully at their antics. It's a wild wild ride, and normally I'd say there's something really wrong with me to get this attached to a story like so; however, it is within reason given how well-executed and paced the plot of the drama is.


Hanaoka Nao 

Hamabe Minami

Takatsuki Tsubaki

Yokohama Ryusei

Hanaoka Nao is smart, beautiful, ambitious, cheeky, manipulative and unpredictable... when she wants to be. 

Blessed with the natural talent of sweet-making like her mom before her, Nao is truly a master craftswoman in bloom, a force to be reckoned with, giving the industry professionals a run for their money.

Her one weakness, however, is the man she absolutely hates (or does she), that dastardly, good for nothing Tsubaki, always meddling in her business and foiling her revenge plans, sigh.

Hamabe Minami is a queen in every sense of the word. Acting since she was a child, Minami has blossomed into perhaps one of the finest young Japanese actresses, an absolute girl crush and dare I say even someone I look up to (being of a similar age.) Having watched almost all of her works, I can safely say that Nao is a character completely different from the ones she's portrayed in the past, and WWDS is a project, unlike anything she's ever been in.
Tsubaki... oh Tsubaki. I don't know if it's the character, or if it's Yokohama Ryusei, the man himself, but there is something so enticing, so alluring, so captivating about this man that it's no wonder Nao falters time and again in her quest to take him down. 

Not an episode went by where I wasn't swooning over Tsubaki, the anger beautifully swimming in his eyes behind his calm, unaffected façade, or the little bursts of childlike happiness and infectious energy tugging at the corners of his mouth in a magical smile. You got me, sir.

Is Tsubaki really the thorn in Nao's side, or is he an ally? Is he a ruthless young man out to reclaim everything his family has owned for generations, or is he just someone looking for a sense of belonging? 

Nao is of course very much drawn to him but does she actually trust him? This is a question I remind myself of every time I fall a little more for Tsubaki (and Yokohama Ryusei of course.)


As far as Nao and Tsubaki's dynamic goes, 'intense' and 'dysfunctional' doesn't even begin to cover it.

The People at Kougetsu An
Jojima Yusuke
Yamaguchi Koichi
Tomioka Masaru
Abe Daigo
Sugita Ayato
Takatsuki Sojyuro
Takatsuki Itsuki
Takatsuki Kyoko
The Outsiders 
Hasegawa Shiori
Takigawa Kaoru
Miyabe Yuko
Okura Yuriko


For the sake of keeping the article spoiler-free, I shall not go into the details of how our supporting cast members add flavour to the story. However, it would be amiss to not mention the stellar efforts of everyone; newbie and veteran, towards portraying their characters with the utmost depth and conviction. A special shout-out to Yamazaki Ikusaburo and his character for becoming my favourite in the entire drama.








 

I believe this particular section very well deserves a standalone article. Rich with metaphors and visual motifs, WWDS is a feast for the eyes, with both food and scene-setting. 

One of the recurring motifs in the drama is the Camellia, a bright red flower almost reminiscent of blood and quite interestingly, the name of our male lead. Yes, for those who might not be aware, Tsubaki means Camellia. Since most of the drama is in Nao's perspective, the Camellia flower and the color red appear time and again as a reminder of what Nao fears most in the world. Since 5-year-old Tsubaki found joy in addressing 5-year-old Nao as 'Sakura' (Cherry Blossom), there is almost always a contrasting motif of Cherry Blossoms vs Camellias prevalent throughout the drama, and this rivalry continues to make appearances throughout, sometimes as patterns on a dress, other times through the sweets that are made etc. It's heaven for literary fanatics like myself.








As a subset of the cinematography section, I'd like to point out how absolutely beautiful the costuming is. Everyone looks splendid, and Hamabe Minami, in particular, is a goddess who looks stunning in every dress she adorns. Kudos to the wardrobe department.


What a masterpiece! Upbeat, mysterious, action-packed and even strangely melancholic, incidents TOKYO's OST (to be more precise, a featured soundtrack) titled Alianza de Sangre (Blood Alliance, what a fitting name huh) is just absolute perfection, adding so much more drama and spice to the already dramatic story. Much like every single episode in succession, the song too sweeps you right up with its flowing, tempestuous currents and transports you to Kougetsu An, a world of peace and treachery. Once you step in, there's no going back!

[Post fangirling note: Can we just take a moment to appreciate how beautiful the MV is? Sheer perfection according to the mood and theme.]

 







Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets that are made from rice flour and filled with sweet red bean paste filling, carefully carved and shaped into ornamental beauties that are typically reminiscent of the time and season of the year. Paired with tea and popularly served at ceremonies, these sweets are delicate works of art that are both a manifestation of the beautiful Japanese culture and an indication of their makers' refined palates. 


Wagashi are the treasure trove of WWDS, the reason the story began, the reason characters got together and later fought over, and the object everyone's lives revolve around.  It couldn't get more poetic than this. 

Watching the sweets being crafted on-screen has been an absolute delight and a learning experience. It is also very appreciable to note that the cast learned how these sweets are made and experimented themselves prior to shooting.  Some of the many amazing sweets shown throughout the drama are:


Oh my, here we are at the very chaotic final section of the article where I desperately attempt to organize my thoughts and withhold myself from going off on tangents. I'm unsure as to what else remains to be said in order to convince someone to watch the drama. Nevertheless, here we go!

The Chemistry: When I say that the two leads cannot keep their hands off off each other, I truly mean it! Not an episode has gone by where the audience was deprived of some of the most natural skinship I have ever seen. Yokohama Ryusei is known as quite the ladies' man, and I'm glad he doesn't hold back here either. Minami of course, is equally badass, stealing every scene she's in, and therefore does not back down in this regard either. Together, these two are fire on-screen. *Nervously fans self*


The Drama: This refers to the genre and not the drama itself. WWDS is a drama in every sense of the word. It is intense, romantic, theatrical and just plain entertaining. I am genuinely upset at there being only eight episodes dedicated to this story, and the week-long wait for each new one to be released is gruelling and a test of patience, but I have to say it's been a while since I've felt this way for a Jdrama, almost basking in the indulgence of it.

Blitz Fansub: It would be a crime to not mention the person/people who are the reason international fans get to enjoy the content. A note on the site stated how the subber picks projects based on their idea of how challenging it would be, and whether they'd get to learn something from it. I have never been more thankful to a subber for doing this. Not only do they provide excellent subs, but they also provide helpful descriptions and trivia about each episode that just increases the viewer's enjoyment tenfold. Without them I'd probably never realize that Hamabe Minami is from Ishikawa Prefecture, the same location Kougetsu An is set in. Go show them some love!

Parting Comments: While obviously not the most original story there is, (far from that in fact) and quite eye-roll worthy dramatic in various parts, I still highly recommend this to fans and non-fans of the romance-drama genre. Watashitachi Wa Douka Shiteiru is a cinematic delight, which masterfully and instantly grabs its viewers' attention, having them swoon over the most  mundane of interactions, gasp at the overdramatic turn of events, making them want more, and prompting one to say:


There you have it! A fan's serenade to a currently airing drama that seems to have swept up her life lately. This is the first time I've written a 'Currently Watching' article for a Jdrama, and I hope to continue doing so. Thank you so much for reading! To those who haven't watched it, did I succeed in piquing your interest? To those who have, please leave your opinions regarding the drama in the comments below. Until next time. 

Love,
Jojo


 GOODBYE 

All GIF Credits to the amazing movielosophy on Tumblr.


Edited by: Yuanwei (1st editor),  BrightestStar (2nd editor)

hamabe minami yokohama ryusei watashitachi wa douka shiteiru 私たちはどうかしている cursed in love

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