Who doesn’t love a story about a person who gives 100% in what they do? These books, movies, and shows are always inspiring to me and I wish there were more of them. One of my favorites of these is Morning Glory, starring Rachel McAdams, and I think the girl power version of this 100% dedication could be its own sub-genre.
The Japanese drama Pretty Proofreader is the second J-drama I tried on Viki and this was a hit! What a show! Perhaps I’m a teensy bit biased as I used to proofread for a codebook (city and county ordinances) company and often miss doing it. Proofreading is one of those unsung heroes types of jobs, especially as the reality is that very few of one’s suggestions are often taken. It requires dedication in the face of that.
Etsuko Kono, played by the petite Satomi Ishihara is a bubbly, vivacious fashionista in her late 20s. Ever since graduating, she’s applied every year to the publishing house that owns Lassy fashion magazine, hoping to get hired as an editor. She is the magazine’s biggest fan, having kept all of their copies over the years and reading them cover to cover. To her surprise, I think this is the 7th or 8th time, she is finally hired! But it’s to the proofreading department in the basement.
At first Etsuko is disappointed, but she quickly rallies, delving into the proofreading with a relish she probably didn’t know she had. Her greatest skill is checking the facts of the novels she proofreads, and soon she’s taking off at all hours of the work day to confirm things. This isn’t so unusual, fact checking is a part of proofreading, but the proofreaders usually just stay at their desks. Some of her colleagues previously built model houses, acted out sword fights, and the like, but soon all of them are out and about, checking the facts and getting to know more of their countrymen in the process. If only real proofreading jobs were more like this! Perhaps there are some, but it may take persistence to find them. Etsuko’s blatant questioning of some of the novelists choices would probably normally get her fired, but here, they quickly warm to her and are encouraged by her to do even better jobs at writing.
Yukito, the love interest, becomes so fascinated by the proofreaders that few know about, that it inspires him to write a whole book on all of the unsung heroes in Japanese civilization, the people who keep the electricity going, the trains running safely, and so on.
If one knows Japanese, the show would be even more enjoyable, because there’s a lot of play on words–much to her chagrin, Etsuko Kono, or Kono Etsuko is shortened by her colleagues to koestu, which literally means copywriting, and I know I likely missed a lot of that not knowing much of the language.
As is traditional with these stories, there is a romance, but it was kind of meh. Yukito (Masaki Suda) is a college student and magazine model who runs into Etsuko by accident. They click right away, but over the course of the show there didn’t seem to be real chemistry. She had more chemistry with the editor for the proofreading department, Mr. Kaizuka (Munetaka Aoki), who she calls Octopus. Perhaps because Yukito is quieter and more blasé, and the other two are loud and dynamic, that’s why I thought they got along better, but, honestly, I just found Mr. K to be more manly and attractive and was hoping they would change course and make the romance with him. Oh well. Etsuko and Yukito support each other well in their work and lives, and maybe that’s more important than a lot of passion.
Etsuko lives above a neighborhood Odon restaurant owned by a friend of her dad’s, and her apartment is cute, but she spends at least half of her time there in the restaurant. Odon is a hot pot or soup that’s popular in Japan and the show inspired me to try and make it sometime. I find most Asian foods from whichever country to be delicious, so it’s always fun to try new ones. Odon is from the Kantu region in Japan, and the broth is made of dashi, or fish and kelp stock, and miso. The main ingredients in the soup are usually fish cakes, boiled eggs, and daikon radishes. Not sure how I’m going to find or make fish cakes.
Pretty Proofreader is only 11 episodes, but the time is used well, and it’s a warm blanket type of show as there’s really no outright villains, and almost every character is caring and caring of others. It’s very, very sweet and comforting to watch, even if it is fantasy. I have noticed with K-dramas and now this J-drama that the characters are often more caring and kind to each other on American shows. This is maybe because most American shows are plot driven, but really it’s probably our independence here. We take much pride in doing things ourselves, and bottom lines often override everything else. The characters in this show are workaholics also, but it’s portrayed as work uplifting and meaningful to their souls, not a lot of talk about making money. What talk there is, is portrayed as troublesome and missing the mark of both connecting with people and doing a good job. It’s a refreshing perspective, though I’m not sure how much of it is true of either Korea or Japan, having never lived there.
Unsurprisingly, this show is based on a book of the same name. There is a Chinese version, and I do know a smidgeon of Chinese, but I’ll have to put getting this book out of my head as I’m trying to learn Korean enough to read their novels. It’s very slow going: Never have I fluently learned another language.
Have a great Labor Day weekend, everyone!!