Jdrama Review: Lunch no Joou
ランチの女王 / Lunch no Joou
English title: Lunch Queen
Broadcast station: Fuji TV
Broadcast dates: 1 July – 16 Sept 2002
Cast: Takeuchi Yuko, Morita Go, Yamashita Tomohisa, Eguchi Yosuke, Tsumabuki Satoshi, Ito Misaki, Yamada Takayuki
Theme song: “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night
Synopsis: When an orphan takes on the role of fiancee in order to get a promised delicious meal, things take an unexpected turn when the man she was supposed to meet takes off with the restaurant’s money. Thus she decides to live and work at the restaurant to keep it going and finds herself becoming a part of the owner’s family.
I watched the first episode and thought it was funny, but I really wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to finish watching this twelve episode series; however, as the story progressed, I couldn’t help but be drawn into the drama.
Takeuchi Yuko stars as Mugita “Nat-chan” Natsumi, a young woman who was abandoned by her father after his company failed and who is obsessed, quite literally, with lunch. The series opens up with a childhood memory of Natsumi’s and soon we meet her as her adult (24) self, working in a coffee shop. She dislikes anything that will get in the way of her lunch, from complaining customers to her boss. It is her actions that draws the attention of one of the customers who follows her on her journey to lunch. Nat-chan has a detailed diary of all the restaurants, what she likes and how much they charge. She uses this as a guide to decide where to eat.
While on her lunch break she is approached by the following stranger begging her to pretend to be his fiance as his father is in poor health. He eventually manages to get her to agree by promising one of the most delicious meals she has ever eaten. Natsumi’s greatest weakness is her love for food. Natsumi shows up at Kitchen Macaroni as promised where she eats and falls in love with their omurice [essentially an omelet filled with some type of fried rice and either topped with ketchup or a special sauce]. Then Nabeshima Kenichiro [Tsutsumi Shinichi] shows up introducing her to the family who runs the place as his fiance. It turns out that his father was not ill and that the family are all mad at Kenichiro for stealing the restaurant’s earnings and then skipping town. Kenichiro swears he has come back for good. His brother Yujiro (2nd eldest) decides to test his sincerity by having him discern which demiglaze sauce was their father’s, which Kenichiro fails and again runs off with the restaurant’s earnings, leaving an unsuspecting Natsumi behind.
And thus the family drama begins.
Having fallen in love with the restaurant and fearing that Yujiro (played by Eguchi Yosuke) may make good on his threat to close the restaurant, Natsumi quits her job at the coffee shop to come and live with the Nabeshima family (who are all still under the impression that she is the eldest son’s fiance). She is welcomed by the youngest brothers, Junzaboro (3rd son) and Koshiro (4th son), but Yujiro doesn’t want his good-for-nothing brother’s fiance around.
His younger brothers and father eventually guilt him into letting her stay with the family as she is Ken’s fiance and he abandoned her. This right here showcases the importance that the Nabeshima family really does place on family. Since Natsumi was supposedly supposed to be Ken’s fiancee, then that means that in spite of him abandoning here, she’s a part of their family now. Natsumi feels guilty for lying about being Kenichiro’s fiance, but figures this way she can make amends while also working at a place that serves good food, and this way she can try her best to protect the restaurant she has come to love in such a short amount of time.
As far as plots go, this one is actually quite original. I guess you can say one of the biggest complaints is the typical every guy must fall for Natsumi. First, the 3rd son Jun (played by Tsumabuki Satoshi) falls for her, then the 4th son Koshiro (played by ex-NEWs member Yamashita Tomohisa), and lastly the 2nd son Yujiro. While the rest of the males at Kitchen Macaroni love Natsumi, it is the platonic, familial kind of love. Especially in regards to kitchen help Minoru (Yamada Takayuki) who held Natsumi in high regards as a sempai/older sister in away.
This is a great family drama. It really does focus on the inner-dynamics of the Nabeshima family and their adopting Natsumi into the family as a daughter, as well as keeping a small family restaurant open and all the hardships that can entail. It is heart-warming to see how the restaurant touches it’s customers and how it can brighten up people’s days.
The most annoying thing, perhaps, is Natsumi’s past. You pretty much have it figured out that she was some kind of troublemaker when she was younger, but you’re halfway through the series, or maybe even past halfway when you finally learn the truth. Near the end of the series we are introduced to her ex-boyfriend Shuji (played by V6 member Morita Go). She seems equal parts terrified of him, mad at him, and drawn to him. Morita does a good job at playing bad-boy Shuji, but I wish that the writers had written him into the plot a little earlier because the plot line surrounding him still confuses the heck out of me. At the end of the day, I don’t know if he did indeed betray Natsumi five years ago or if that was all a mistake (i.e. someone in the group they ran with doing it instead). In the very last 2 episodes, we do find out that Shuji is a lot like Natsumi in regards to their past lives and you can tell that he does love her, but like I said, the plot with those two really needed more expansion to have it make sense.
I liked how at the end the Nabeshima family overlooked Natsumi’s lie (it took til the final episode for everyone – besides Jun who already knew halfway into the series – to find out she isn’t Ken’s fiance) and her troubled past and welcomed her as a part of the family. In fact, Natsumi is like a sister-mother-wife all rolled into one. I must say I am glad that they didn’t have Natsumi settle on any of the brothers and left it open. Truthfully, if I had to choose between Jun and Yujiro, I would say the Jun actually suited Natsumi better than Yujiro, although throughout the series Natsumi seemed to prefer Yujiro. Towards the end, it also seemed like Natsumi was starting to lean more towards Jun. I will always be a Natsumi-Jun fan.
If you are looking for a heartwarming family drama with lots of comedy and delicious food, then Lunch no Joou is for you.