At Home Dad is a family comedy dorama that aired in the spring of 2004 consisting 12 episodes and a special. Abe Hiroshi and Shinohara Ryoko played the leading roles along with some fresh young faces that play the neighborhood’s children. The story revolves around the lives of two stay at home dads and the challenge to master the various household tasks that has to be done while holding on to a sense of male pride.
The interesting thing about this dorama is that it challenges Japan’s stereotypical gender role and the belief that a man should enter a good university, graduate from it and enter the workforce with a promising future to support his family. While the general storyline is about a stay at home dad, it also touches other society norms such as the belief that women should stay at home after marriage and being a housewife is a very simple task.
Yamaura Kazuyuki is a successful big time commercial director and also the sole money maker for his family. He has recently purchase a new house for his family and life just couldn’t be better. One day, he receives the news that he will be transferring to a new sub company to help set things up and put the company on track. Shortly after the transfer papers are complete, this sub company announce that due to its financial troubles it will have to layoff some of its employees. And unfortunately, Kazuyuki is one of them.
Meanwhile Kazuyuki’s wife Miki, gets a call from an old co-worker and is offer a chance to work for a new living style magazine. Miki rejects the offer right away, stating that her family is her priority and that Kazuyuki will never allow it. The Yamamura are in desperate need of money since they has just use up all their savings to buy and furnish their new home. So while Kazuyuki is looking for another job, it is decided that Miki will be working for the new magazine company. And although he is reluctant with the temporary arrangement, Kazuyuki becomes the homemaker. As he starts his new life inside the house, Kazuyuki realizes a stay at home life isn’t as easy as it seem and begin to change his perspective on life.
The Yamamura is a “typical” family where the father, Kazuyuki (Abe Hiroshi), is the bread winner while the mother, Miki (Shinohara Ryoko), stays at home to care for their daughter, Rei (Ando Sakura). That is until Kazuyuki loses his job and the husband and wife switches their roles in the family. The family struggles with this suddenly change, as Miki tries to have more say in family decisions (especially about her job) while Kazuyuki tries to remain control of the important family decisions. Although Rei is too young to understand everything that’s happening, she is very bright for her age and often does things that not only surprises her parents but also make their life easier.
The Sugio is the Yamamura’s new neighbor and in many ways, the two family are the exact opposite: the wife, Shoko (Nakajima Tomoko), has her own company and makes enough money to support the whole family. The husband, Yusuke (Miyasako Hiroyuki), used to work at a department store but quit after his wife gave birth to become a stay at home dad so his wife can focus on her company. Their son, Ryota (Yoshikawa Fumiki), is a shy boy who’s in the same class as Rei and the two often play together. In fact, the husbands of the two families support each other throughout the day and the wives often get together in the evenings. Though Sugio’s family structure has remain the same for many years, their family is also experiencing some conflict when Yusuke wants to have an income and stop relying on Shoko’s financial support for everything.
Marie Iwasaki (Kawashima Naomi) is a highly respected and feared woman who is head of the neighborhood association and does everything she can for her son Tsubasa’s (Kunitake Hiroshi) future, who is also in the same class as Rie and Ryota. The husband is rarely around, and Marie explains that her husband is a busy business man and travels a lot. Marie is always out to give Kazuyuki a hard time, but Kazuyuki only have himself to blame for this because he is always dismissing Marie and the other house wife’s complain that they have it hard as housewives.
Osawa and Kuramoto
Osawa Kenji (Nagai Masaru) is a swimming instructor at the local pool and a favourite among the housewives. He is good friends with Kazuyuki and Yusuke, and often asks them for advices on various topics. Kenji is secretly dating the children’s kindergarten teacher, Kuramoto Saeko (Takizawa Saori). Saeko is a strong, independent 21st century woman who wants to continue working even after she gets marry and believes in equality between husband and wife. Kenji thinks differently on this matter, but he is so in love with Saeko that he tries hard not to say or do anything that will displease her.
This dorama was made and aired in 2004, but it wasn’t until recently that I came across it. Four years later and after watching it for the first time, I can still understand why the dorama was so popular that a special episode was made.
Right off the bat Kazuyuki is introduce as a character who has a strong belief in gender stereotype norms and runs his family that way. As the story develops, we witness a change in this belief because of the various things he experienced as a stay at home dad. What I really appreciate about this dorama is that it took the time for each of the main characters personality develop slowly, and beautifully. By the end of the story they were more than just characters from a dorama, I really felt connected and happy for them.
The concept of the story was also a nice change for me, as I usually watch comedy dorama such as Hana Yori Dango. The dorama touch and challenge a cultural norm and depending who you are, it’s either something you can relate to or something that will make you rethink certain beliefs. And there’s more to the dorama than Kazuyuki’s struggle as a stay at home dad and how he changes. We also see Yusuke, an experienced househusband, strives for some independence and power in his family which is partly due to his new neighbour’s strong male ego influence. Then there’s Kenji who is a housewife magnet but just can’t seem to get his independent girlfriend to marry him.
The comedy factors for the dorama, was really something. I won’t say this is a dorama that will have you rolling on the floor laughing all the time but it does have its moments and will make you crack a small laugh every so often. The humor situations are usually about things that we experience in everyday life, like when someone speaks before thinking or say the wrong thing without even realizing it. True, these things aren’t funny when it happen to us but it sure is amusing to watch from a third person perspective!
Excellent choices for all the character roles! And it actually took me a while to realize Miki is play by Shinohara Ryoko, as I’m use to seeing her gloomy and serious face in ‘Unfair’. I don’t know if Yoshikawa Fumiki (who plays Ryota) is really a shy boy in real life, but he did a really good job portraying that character in the dorama.
My only real complain about this production is the character Rei. The actress that portrays her is very adorable and has excellent acting skills, there’s no question about that. What irk me from time to time, is how Rei is suppose to be this really bright and understanding child but sometimes I find her just a little too bright. There are times when I feel the screen writer was pushing it too far and I find it extremely hard to believe that a child at Rei’s age will do something so mature.
All in all this was truly an enjoyable and entertaining dorama, and I highly recommend it. Great plot, great actors. It’s a dorama that do more than just entertain and make the audience laugh, but it also make the audience challenge their own beliefs and society norms.