Title: Nobuta o Produce (Producing Nobuta)
Kamenashi Kazuya as Kiritani Shuji
Yamapi as Kusano Akira
Horikita Maki as Kotani Nobuko (Nobuta)
Toda Erika as Uehara Mariko
Nakajima Yuto as Kiritani Koji
Okada Yoshinori as Yokoyama Takeshi
Daito Shunsuke as Tani (the kid who got beaten up)
And lots of other people.
A coming of age story set in high school. Two boys try to help out Nobuko, the grudge-like new student, by transforming her into a likable person. As Shuji and Akira set out on this seemingly impossible task, they build an unexpected friendship with Nobuko and learn about themselves and what kind of person they really are.
This is by far one of the best dramas that I’ve watched. Minus the ending. The acting was fresh. The depth of the story was heartfelt and the music was just beautiful. Every piece was chosen with care and perfectly complemented the arc of the story. I find that something that well balanced, but not boring, is rare.
Nobuta o Produce is a story that even five or ten years from now I’ll still be able to appreciate. To be honest, when I watched this drama five years ago, I was dumbstruck by its magic.
If I could only choose one drama to recommend, I would recommend Nobuta o Produce.
To be fair, JE actors take a lot of crap for their acting, among other things. I’m not saying it’s unfounded. I’m just saying that a drama’s value should not be based upon preconceived notions of Johnny’s Entertainment and their talents.
What makes Nobuta o Produce (which I’ll now refer to as NoP) so special is the chemistry of the three very distinct characters.
Shuji (Kamenashi) is the poster boy for cool. He is everyone’s friend, but he himself has no friends. He thinks of high school as a game, smiling on the outside but judging everyone on the inside.
Akira (Yamapi) is a my-pace type of guy, not caring about the latest fads or fitting in. He’s in his own little world, completely free from society’s expectations. He has no friends, but he doesn’t worry about it.
Nobuko (Horikita) is the transfer student with a ghostlike aura. She has no confidence and bullies flock to her like bees to honey.
Shuji and Akira, an unlikely pair, come up with the idea to transform Nobuko into a new girl, dubbing her Nobuta. From a horror movie star to an approachable human being, Nobuta finds her place in school.
As the story progresses, we realize that it was not Nobuta or Akira that was in need of help. It was actually Shuji. I think that introducing Nobuta’s arc allowed the audience to see change from the outside in. By changing her appearance, Nobuta gained confidence. She was essentially the same person, just more approachable.
Akira doesn’t change very much, but he’s important in that he represents lack of inhibitions. He always acts tipsy, off on a tangent. He’s fully aware of society and what it wants from him, but he’s focused on the here and now.
Shuji, on the other hand, supports himself with lies. As the fibs increase, the more he digs his own hole. Shuji has a supportive family, but he doesn’t feel the need to really connect beyond superficiality. It isn’t until he meets Nobuta and Akira that Shuji learns how to smile freely, to understand the fulfillment of friendship.
The cast was great. The chemistry was off the charts and the episodic arcs fit in perfectly with the story as a whole. The ending was bad, but the drama as a whole was so well put together. Kamenashi Kazuya stole the show, his portrayal of Shuji fantastic.
Final Thoughts: Watch it and forgive the horrible ending. This is truly a high school coming-of-age story, full of quirks, laughs, surprisingly poignant moments and lots of random Akira.
9: Where have you been my entire life? Powerful, memorable and almost perfect.