Monday, July 8, 2013

JDrama Review: Nobuta wo Produce

The Gist: Shy girl Nobuta (Horikita Maki) has a rough time at school. Constantly teased by her classmates who are alarmed by her ghoulish appearance – think Sadako in Kimi ni Todoke, Nobuta needs some friends. Those come in an unlikely pairing: Kiritani Shuji (Kamenashi Kazuya), popular but secretly apathetic to just about everything, and Kusano Akira (Yamapi), an outcast odd ball with a warm heart. The two of them take on the task of making over Nobuta, so that her life can be easier, while simultaneously getting more comfortable at being themselves. 


1.The Cast

Considering this was one of my first dramas, the actors weren’t familiar faces the first time I watched, but I loved them all the same. Now that I know them pretty well, the Johnny’s boys and Hana Kimi vet, I am ever more impressed. Their chemistry works together remarkably well for such well-known actors and their characters let you get right at their hearts. Of course, it’s a little bit old hat for Kazuya to be playing Mr. Hot and Popular who hates it, but he does it well, so we’re letting it go. Also, love seeing Toda Erika pop up every now and then.

2. The Makeover

Or I guess I should say I’m glad that the makeover wasn’t really a makeover. It would have been disappointing for this show to turn into “let’s cut her hair and change her clothes,” but it never really does and I appreciate it for focusing more deeply on the emotional. Really the makeover Nobuta needed was just some support and a few good friends and she gets that in Kiritani and Kusano. It does what Yamato Nadeshiko Henge does, but I’d argue Nobuta does it a little better and a lot less campy. 


1.Little Boring

While I appreciate the nuances of this show, it does drag on a bit in the middle. Since there isn’t really an end goal when they don’t really makeover Nobuta, the show sort of wanders without purpose for a while. I would have appreciated a few more subplots to spice up the friendship development. That said, I did like the progression of growth between the characters, which stays decidedly fuzzy for a while, but I wouldn’t have minded seeing a bit more.

2. Will They/Won’t They 

I spent a good chunk of NWP, trying to figure out if it was supposed to be a romance. When you’ve got a group of friends with two guys and a girl, everybody’s got to be crushing on everybody else. NWP hints at it, sometimes strongly, without ever really going full blown romance. The problem with this is that I couldn’t decide if I liked that decision or not. Pairing off our characters would have left someone in the lurch, which would have been tragic, but not doing anything when they keep bringing it up makes the duration end a little anti-climactically. I’d say this show is probably appreciated more on a second watch through, when you already know what to expect from it.


1.The Ending

**SPOILERS** I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a thousand times. I hate shows that cart off one of their main characters at the end. It’s played out and just frustrating. While I appreciate Nobuta learning to be happy on her own, it sort of left you with a hole in your heart as you see her left alone…again. While obvious they would have had to separate for college or jobs or something, it was just a sad note to end on to leave Nobuta alone again. That said, I did find it a nice touch that Kusano went with Kiritani, speaking volumes about their friendship. I just wish it didn’t come at Nobuta’s cost. 


So…I’ve been putting off this review for months now and I don’t know why. I feel as if I should like this show more than I did. The actors are great and it’s a much loved, if not very original, premise. Still, I feel like the writers didn’t give our characters enough to do and ended up on such a heartbreaking ending that I could never re-watch it. Still, the emotions are written well and it’s a great tale of friendship, just don’t expect much romance out of it. 

Final Grade: B-


  1. I think your analysis of this drama is fairly similar to my own. I liked the friendship that developed between the three leads and was kinda iffy on the will-they-won't-they. I remember reading that in the original book or manga the show was based on that Nobuta was a boy, so I wonder whether that played a role in the waffling on the matter of romance by the writers. I didn't really care for the girl that was the fake friend - they dragged her arc out longer than necessary. And, like you, I found the ending frustrating. I couldn't quite work out why they had to be separated in the end. I mean, I get that the point was that Nobuta had begun to move out of her shell, but still - it's so disappointing that when she finally has friends she has to say goodbye to them. It was a very bittersweet story. I really liked the soundtrack, though! It was one that stuck with me.

    1. I am so glad to hear you say that! Honestly, it's been a few years since I watched Nobuta last and I worried that maybe over time my impression had been warped. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who felt this way. That's interesting about the gender thing, I might have to look into it!

    2. I do the same thing, where I look back on a drama and wonder how I felt about it in the moment, and if I'm giving it too much credit or not enough. I try to write down my thoughts now after finishing dramas while I have the ideas fresh in my head, but I haven't always done that so it's mostly puzzling over how I felt about certain dramas earlier on. I think I watched Nobuta maybe two years ago or something like that. So you have to figure if multiple people have similar lingering impressions there must be something to that.

  2. Good review. I don't ever look up jdrama reviews, but after that ending I just had to.

    I really didn't expect it at all, and I dont mean that in a good way.
    I was waiting through the last few episodes to see how they were going to fully develop the Akira / Nobuta romance, but it just didn't happen... I have no idea why either. If Akira had stayed with Nobuta, then sure, I can grasp that because I would know that it wasn't really the end of their relationship. But man, I just dont understand the writers thought process.

    Ah but I'm ranting. I think the only reason I'm a bit annoyed is because I focused way too hard on that romance developing and I was just left hanging.

    Loved the 3 main characters though. Friendship stories are always good

    1. I agree! It's very confusing. I love a good romance and nobuta definitely left me wanting!

  3. I loved this drama. It has funny parts and also meaningful ones. This drama mostly is about friendship. I really, really like the three of them together. They're so adorable <3

  4. I loved this drama. It has funny parts and also meaningful ones. This drama mostly is about friendship. I really, really like the three of them together. They're so adorable <3