I had such high hopes for NHK’s Mare まれ, the 92nd asadora from NHK, but overall it was disappointing. Tao Tsuchiya (土屋太鳳) is one of my favorite Japanese actors and the story of her quest to become the world’s best patissier showed promise, so I was really looking forward to watching. Unfortunately, the story got derailed by too many sub-plots and consequently never got too deep into the main plot, which was by far the most interesting.
The story had a solid start, establishing that the family “fled” Tokyo after going into debt, and was looking for a new home. We learn about Mare’s personality and her feelings about ambitions and having dreams. So far so good. The story got even better after Mare moved to Yokohama and started her apprenticeship at the patisserie. The relationships she had with the head chef, sous chef and assistant were interesting and fun, and just when it seemed like the the story was going to the next level, the silly sub-plot of the Wajima lacquer appeared and it got booooriiing! What an incredible and effective way to put the brakes on an interesting story – introduce the passion that is Wajima lacquer. Zzzzzz… It seemed like there were a few times when the story went back and forth between being intriguing (and returning to pastry-making), only to turn yet again into a snooze-fest. There’d be a glimmer of hope, only to disappear. Boy, the middle weeks of the drama were really a struggle!
Here’s a short list of the subplots that they should have cut from the script:
- Wajima lacquer
- Ichiko’s big-city experience and wan-wan blog
- Takashi’s weird crush on Mare’s mother
- Maki’s mysterious past
- Keita’s cold relationship with his father
- Mare becoming proprietress of the lacquer business
- The fisherman’s omiai
There were several other subplots that wasted airtime, but I’d rather not spend any more time thinking about them. On the other hand, here are the things they should have kept exploring:
- Mare’s apprenticeship (including France trip that never happened)
- Mare’s relationship with her estranged grandmother
- Mare and Toko’s professional rivalry
- Mare and the Chef’s apprentice/master relationship
- Mare’s pastry shop
- Anything else that has to do with Mare’s quest to become the World’s Best Patissier
My last rant has to do with the plot trying to span too much from a time-frame. For instance, Ittetsu gets married too quickly and has kids. Let’s imagine that he didn’t get married or have kids. The show would have been exactly the same! What a waste of screen time. And then, Mare also gets married and has kids. Too much.. too soon. I know that family is one of the main themes of the show, but really, they could have developed the family theme more quickly and strongly without bringing in kids. The theme of having both a career and being a mother seemed forced, especially since it was introduced so late in the show. They should have kept the theme simpler… sacrificing your career for your spouse’s, which was a theme from earlier on.
In the last couple weeks of the show (when the plot became interesting again), a couple of the characters point out that Mare has lost 8 years of her patissier life… I kept thinking that the show lost 8 years of plot development! That’s a real shame because I think the actors, particularly Tao Tsuchiya, did a great job.
If you take a look at the character chart below, you could pretty much keep the top row of characters, the Yokohama crew in blue, plus Mare’s grandmother, and you’d have a much better show.