Jdramas Winter 2015 Sampling: Ryuusei Wagon Eps 1-3 [First Impressions]
Ryuusei Wagon (English translation: “Falling Star Wagon”) is a winter 2015 jdrama starring the popular duo Nishijima Hidetoshi & Kagawa Teruyuki. This is Nishijima & Kagawa’s 3rd time collaborating together; unlike their previous action/thriller jdramas, this one is a very emotional, family-oriented fantasy story. Nishijima Hidetoshi plays the lead role as Kazuo, a salary man whose life is spiraling out of control. In episode 1 he gets laid off from his job, his wife Miyoko (Igawa Haruka) is cheating on him, and his son Hiroki (Yokoyama Kota) is a shut-in. On top of that, Kazuo’s father, whom he has a bad relationship with, is on his deathbed. Kazuo reaches his breaking point and wonders why everything in his life is going wrong when he had done all that he could to make things ‘right’. Suddenly a ~MAGICAL TIME-TRAVELING CAR~ appears in front of him! Kazuo gets in and the car takes him to random points in his past. I kid you not, Kazuo time travels with a magical car, in other words, the “wagon” that the title refers to.
Yes, this is another time-traveling drama. I feel like there are at least a few time-traveling dramas per year. O_O So what makes this time-traveling different from the rest? First of all, it seems like the drama is not about Kazuo simply going back to the past and fixing everything. Even when he tries to make changes to the past (and thus, to the future) they don’t always last when he time travels to another point in time. For example, during one of his time traveling trips he tears up his divorce papers. But when he time travels again to a later point in his life, he finds out that the divorce papers are still intact! So tearing up the divorce papers didn’t affect the future. On the other hand, some small changes do happen. So…Kazuo’s time-traveling ventures are pretty much hit-and-miss. Some of the things he does could make changes to the future, others may do nothing. That raises the question of why Kazuo is time-traveling in the first place, if he can’t change his outcome in the future. I think the point of his time-traveling is to open his eyes to all of the things he was unaware of during the past, in order to change his future self. In the first few episodes we already see that Kazuo actually doesn’t really know his wife and son all that well; he missed a lot of the warning signs along the way to his wife’s cheating & his son’s deteriorating mental health. Perhaps Kazuo doesn’t have to change the past, but rather his own mindset.
And while we’re on the topic of Kazuo, a quick comment on Nishijima Hidetoshi; I had this drama on my anticipated list for the following reason:
“NISHIJIMA HIDETOSHI. Unfortunately the promo poster doesn’t have his face on it. 😛 I’m looking forward for a change of pace in Nishijima Hidetoshi’s acting since I’m so used to his batman mode from MOZU.”
Well, it’s confirmed, Nishijima’s character Kazuo is totally different from his kick-butt characters in MOZU and Double Face. It’s great to see Nishijima tackling a role that is not so stoic and strong. On the other hand, Nishijima fans may be disappointed to find out that his character is the total opposite of the confident, ‘cool’ image that some of his other characters have. Kazuo can be a very frustrating character especially when it feels like everyone EXCEPT him can see the obvious warning signs in his life (i.e. signs of his son getting bullied, etc.)!
Surprisingly, Kagawa Teruyuki plays the role as Kazuo’s dad, who is nicknamed Chuu. In the present day, Chuu is on his deathbed but somehow his younger self gets to go time-traveling with Kazuo. At first I got a kick out of Chuu and Kazuo’s interactions because the two of them are total opposites. Chuu is a spit-fire while Kazuo is more of a meek–yet very bitter–guy. Kazuo resents his dad because he worked as a loan shark and apparently wasn’t a good father figure. Well, it turns out that Kazuo’s dad issues are alllll big misunderstandings. T_T I actually really enjoyed episode 1 because of the Chuu-Kazuo father-son duo and the time travel element. Plus the first episode has a strong emotional impact that made me want to keep watching. But by the time I got to episode 3, I had already gotten tired of Kazuo’s constant dad issues. Each episode starts with Kazuo’s misunderstanding and each episode ends with him realizing “Oh, I guess my dad wasn’t as bad as I thought he was.” I realized that the drama is more about dad issues, less about the time traveling itself. This is the major drawback of Ryuusei Wagon; dragging out dad issues for the rest of the story is just not going to cut it for me.
Bottom line: Ryuusei Wagon is a miss for me. At first, episode 1 drew me in with the interesting concept of the story and the casting. But episodes 2-3 made me realize that the drama focuses way too much on Kazuo’s dad issues.
Will I keep watching? No. I don’t like the casting/story enough to sit through 10 episodes of watching Kazuo & Chuu resolve their misunderstandings.
More about Ryuusei Wagon
- Nishijima Hidetoshi and Kagawa Teruyuki previously worked together in Double Face and MOZU Seasons 1 &2.
- The original novel Ryuusei Wagon was written by the same author who wrote the novel Tonbi (also adapted into a jdrama).
- This drama’s director also directed Roosevelt Game and Hanzawa Naoki.
- The title is also listed as “Ryusei Wagon” on other sites. However, the correct pronunciation/spelling in romaji is in fact, “ryuusei” with 2 u’s.