Zettai Kareshi Episode 1 Recap

Hayami Mokomichi, Aibu Saki, Mizushima HiroSo this drama aired back in 2008, but Chani-chan wished to work on this drama as she has just finished the manga, so this will slowly be recapped and reviewed. This drama follows Izawa Riiko as she tries to find true love all while getting saddled with a robot who is supposed to be her “ideal” lover. (Chani’s note: I will be inserting my main comments at the end, but also will be including various cultural notes, in purple , throughout the recap. I spent a college semester abroad in Japan both studying (in school) and immersing myself in the culture, so when I note something that’s very ‘Japanese’ and could be explained further to English speaking audiences, I will do so. Enjoy!)

We open in a science laboratory with two men discussing the initial meaning behind a phrase. These two men are currently working on a project to produce the best boyfriend out there by creating a robot. The prototype is ready and now before mass production starts, they need to find a test subject, They hope that with the production of this series, there will be less sorrowful women in the world.

We then cut to a scene where temp office worker Izawa Riiko [Aibu Saki] is trying her hardest to confess to the guy that she likes, Ishizeki [Kyo Nobuo], however, he misunderstands her intentions and thinks that she only wants advice on work or love. Is he really that dense? Riiko goes to the bar Liberte that she frequents where friend and fellow coworker Mika [Ueno Natsuhi] scolds her for not being able to confess and already treating it like a rejection. Mika comments on Ishizeki’s kindness to Riiko at work and tries to get her to try once more, but Riiko keeps drinking and refusing to try once again. It’s already over. Mika then gets a call from her boyfriend and rushes out. Bartender Wakabayashi Fujiko [Maya Miki] tries to encourage Riiko as well, but the girl just is having none of it.

Riiko is then approached by Namikiri Gaku [Sasaki Kuranosuke] who offers her his business card. In the end, Riiko goes back with him to the Kronos Heaven office and ends up filling out an extensive questionnaire about her ideal boyfriend. When she has finished filling out all the questions and picking an appearance, Namikiri tells her that her life has just changed.

The next day at work everyone is preparing for a meeting about the latest dessert line for Asamoto. The meeting is about to start, but their chief is nowhere in sight. It must be nice to be a wealthy heir who does nothing. Riiko is then sent with a tray of the latest products to give to the chief, Asamoto Soshi [Mizushima Hiro]. She delivers the goods, but Soshi is on the phone with a very troublesome girl and tells Riiko to just eat it for him. Riiko protests at first, but does eventually try one. Soshi is surprised when she comments on the flavor and how it doesn’t seem quite right. Riiko then excuses herself and goes out. Once she does, Soshi immediately tries the same cake. Could Riiko’s criticism be spot on?

Back in her apartment, Riiko gets a rather odd delivery. This is followed up by a call from Namikiri. Looks like her boyfriend has a officially arrived! Riiko is shocked to learn that the “ideal lover” is a robot [Hayami Mokomichi who does a wonderful job portraying a robot]. To top it off, to boot him up, you have to kiss him. Riiko does eventually work up the courage to do it and … nothing happens. What a total let down. Before Riiko can do anything else, she realizes that she is running late for work and she rushes out just as 01’s bracelet flashes a light and his eyes open.

At work, they talk about the launch for their new dessert line. Soshi acts tired and bored through the entire presentation, but everyone seems to just ignore him, even when he makes bad comments about the famous French food critic they are getting to review their new desserts. Riiko only has eyes for Ishizeki who is giving the presentation and Mika tells her that if she doesn’t hurry, Ishizeki will get snatched up by another girl. Soshi goes to meet with his brother Masashi [Nakamura Shunsuke] who is nervous about the launch. Soshi tells him not to worry as there is very good people working for Asamoto. Soshi goes to leave and then asks his brother if he thinks the new line tastes good. This surprises Masashi who immediately says that he does. He then hands over the information to the president and leaves himself after complaining about Soshi’s irresponsibility.

Riiko gets home to have her landlady tell her that her neighbor was living with a man, so Adachi [Nekoze Tsubaki] chased the man out. Adachi then compliments Riiko by saying she doesn’t have to worry about Riiko doing something like that. Riiko goes into her apartment and is shocked to find it all clean. Why? How did such a think happen? Enter her robot lover [who is completely naked]. Riiko falls down, freaked out completely. 01 comes forward and processes that Riiko is his girlfriend and holds out his hand [the kitchen scale conveniently hiding his naked bits]. At this time, Namikiri shows up for the initial checkup. He repairs a tear in 01’s skin and goes to leave. He tells Riiko that she has a 5-day free trial and that she should have fun. Riiko tells him that there is a problem as she can’t be caught living with a man. Namikiri tells her that 01 may look like a man, but he is a robot – just an electrical appliance – so that should make it okay. Namikiri then leaves after warning Riiko that she will be in trouble big time if she divulges company contact information or tells people about 01 as it breaches the contract she signed.

01 then comes out wearing Riiko’s clothes. He asks if they suit him [of course they don’t – he’s so much bigger than Riiko]. Riiko then tells him her name and he calls her cute and tells her that she is exactly his type, well that is because he was programmed that way. Riiko, not wanting to have him around, tries to get him to go down the street to sleep in a park. She then rushes back to the apartment and locks herself in, only to have 01 break the doorknob! This brings out Adachi and Riiko has to quickly cover up that she has a “man” in her apartment. When bedtime comes, 01 asks to do ecchi things and Riiko banishes him to the bathroom, telling him he is not allowed to come out at all. (Chani’s cultural note: The word ‘ecchi’ here, is translated to ‘sex’ in the subtitles: ie. ‘Let’s have sex’, and this is in fact quite accurate. Most casual fans of Asian popular culture know the word ‘ecchi’ to mean ‘dirty’ or ‘perverted’, but there are more layers to the word than that. While it is often used in the broader ‘perverted’ sense it is also a slang term for sex itself. ‘Ecchi’ is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the English letter ‘H’, the capital of which they feel looks, physically, like a (very  stylized) image of two people having sex. Just think about it a little ~_^)

The next morning, Riiko is shocked to find 01 sitting on the toilet completely spaced out [he is recharging]. After she finishes getting ready for work, 01 begs for a name, but Riiko won’t give him one. She instructs him not to open the door or talk. In fact, he isn’t allowed outside the apartment whatsoever. Riiko then rushes out the door only to have 01 follow her and wish her a good day. Riiko quickly looks around and ushers him back inside. That was close.

At work, Mika again encourages Riiko to confess. Doesn’t Riiko have some hot guy friend she can use to make Ishizeki jealous? Soshi comes up at this time and volunteers to be the hot friend. Riiko quickly refuses and Soshi asks if she is the type of girl to knit a handmade sweater to a guy she’s not even dating. Caught! And then Riiko would get rejected, right? Caught again. Riiko then asks if he needs something from her. Soshi then asks if she was serious when she said something wasn’t quite right about the cake he had her try for him. Riiko apologizes for saying too much and then rushes off to lunch with Soshi staring after her. (Chani’s cultural note: Riiko here epitomizes the ideal of a polite Japanese worker. The fact that she took the initiative to taste and then criticize the food, even though Soshi told her to do so, would be to her and many traditionalists extremely presumptuous behavior. This is why she apologizes so much and appears highly stressed out by her behavior here. The ideal is to be completely professionally submissive to anyone above you on the corporate ladder.)

After work, Riiko is still smarting from Soshi’s earlier, accurate comments when she sees 01 waiting for her in his ridiculous outfit. She is at first horrified, but then she sees Ishizeki and remembers Mika’s encouragement to find a hot guy to make him jealous. Thus Riiko takes 01 out shopping for normal clothes and then arranges to meet him where Ishizeki and his colleague went. This immediately catches Ishizeki’s interest. That alone proves that he probably isn’t a good guy, ne? On their way home, Riiko wonders just what she did. 01 asks to sleep with Riiko as he wants to see her sleeping face, but Riiko calls him annoying and rushes off with him running after her and this is witnessed by Fujiko who wonders just what happened.

The next day Ishizeki shocks Riiko by asking her out for a date that very night! The shocked and happy Riiko quickly accepts and tells Mika the good news. During their date, Ishizeki compliments Riiko’s cream puffs, making Riiko really happy. Afterward, it starts pouring and Ishizeki tells Riiko to wait while he gets a cab since he invited her out to a bar he frequents. When he goes, up comes 01 with an umbrella! Of course, Ishizeki comes back and asks who 01 is and of course 01 announces that he is her boyfriend and of course Riiko denies this. She then goes off with Ishizeki and 01’s bracelet flashes blue, meaning that he has upset her. Apparently, the company is using the bracelet to track the moods of the clients for their research. (Chani’s cultural note: On her date with Ishizeki, and just generally when she’s around him, Riiko again displays very polite Japanese behavior. She speaks her words carefully, and includes a good deal of bowing after every compliment or suggestion. This may be considered as a feminine ideal by more traditionalists, but it is obviously not natural for her, given that the way she behaves in front of Night, Mika, and others is much more ‘easy’. It may be a feature of her desperation to be accepted by Ishizeki, and may also be a feature of the fact that he is also above her in the corporate ladder at work. Either way, it contributes to some later comments about her being too ‘heavy’ or perhaps ‘intense’, as you will see below.)

On his way back home, 01 is seen by Fujiko who invites him in to Liberte to talk about Riiko. She talks about Riiko and her habits and traits thinking that he is Ishizeki and that Riiko was rejected by him [the running scene from the previous night]. 01 says that he is not Ishizeki and this floors Fujiko. Then just who is this guy? 01 replies that Riiko still hasn’t named him yet and he then ends that with he loves her. This makes Fujiko laugh. This is really interesting. Riiko’s date ends and Ishizeki wishes to go up to her apartment, but recalling 01’s presence, Riiko quickly makes up an excuse about her parents being in town. Yep, he’s definitely up to no good to already be trying to get into her apartment.

After her happy date and Ishizeki talking about meeting again, Riiko is on cloud nine. She doesn’t need 01 anymore right? So she packages him up to return him. Meanwhile, Ishizeki goes and meets Mika who is apparently his girlfriend! He immediately complains about what a pain Riiko is and Mika tells him to just give her a bit of play time. With a friend like that, who needs enemies?

The next day, 01 is back at the company and Namikiri is gathering data from him. What a failure to have him returned already. 01 suddenly wakes up and walks out of the office! Meanwhile, the new product launch is underway. The guests are all arriving and the food still isn’t there. It’s stuck in traffic. Apparently Ishizeki gave the wrong address.Riiko tries to encourage him, but he is angry and argumentative. When Masashi comes to find out what’s going on and learns what happens, Riiko quickly steps up and says it was all her fault. Soshi overhears other workers talking about how Riiko is obviously covering for Ishizeki. 01 overhears all of this, plus the fact that Riiko will be fired if the desserts don’t manage to get there and he runs off.

Soshi cannot believe what Riiko did, but he does try to find a way to save her by having another batch sent from the factory. Will there be time? Meanwhile, 01 makes it to the truck and manages to get a cooler full of the product. He takes off running. He breaks his leg, gets hit by a crane, slamming his head, but he keeps going. While he is doing this, Soshi confronts Riiko who begs him not to tell about Ishizeki’s mistake to Masashi [the vice-president of the company]. Just as the special guest is getting angry and getting ready to leave, 01 shows up with the cakes, shocking Riiko. She is even more shocked when he shuts down. Namikiri then shows up and 01 comes back to life a little and we hear his broken story about worrying about Riiko getting fired. Namikiri assures Riiko he will fix 01 and she rushes off just in time.

The launch was a success. Ishizeki asks Riiko out for one more time and she gives him another batch of her homemade creampuffs that he said he liked. Riiko then remembers 01 and goes out to check on him. Namikiri assures her that 01 is on the mend and just needs a bit more work. Is she starting to like him? Riiko then says that she is going on a date. She then recalls that she lost the hand warmer that Ishizeki gave her and runs back into the building. She finds it and then overhears Ishizeki complaining about how much he dislikes her. Soshi comes and overhears this, too. He gets angry when Ishizeki discovers Riiko and calls her a stalker and begins saying the bad things to her face. Before he can rush in to to save the day, the reawakened 01 flies by and punches Ishizeki out. The ass deserved more than a single punch. 01 then grabs Riiko’s hand and runs out.

Riiko throws away her “treasure” and 01 vows to always be there by her side to support her. It makes Riiko feel good, but she does know that he is just programmed to be like that. Even so, she is wavering. Riiko then gives 01 the name Night Tennoji as he came to her rescue [the wrong version of night, should be Knight, but whatever]. Meanwhile, Mika breaks things off with Ishizeki as she was only dating him because Riiko liked him and Soshi tries Riiko’s creampuff and enjoys it thoroughly.

Hope you’re enjoying this series.  This is the 2nd time I am watching it and I still love it!

Chani’s comments:

I enjoyed it as well! It differs from the manga in many, many ways, too many to really address here, though I might address things individually as they come up in subsequent episodes. Suffice it to say that the massive change of converting the environment from High School to the workplace creates a plethora of other changes that must go along with it. I actually do think the workplace is more appropriate for this story anyway, as I’ll explain further in a moment. Another change that struck me here was that they put a lot more emphasis on Night being a ‘robot’ here than in the manga. In the manga, there are very few ‘sci-fi’ elements, and in one of her side notes author Yuu Watase explained that she left them out because she didn’t want to destroy the illusion of Night seeming human. Here we get to see more of his robotic side though. I don’t think one method is necessarily better than the other, they are just both different, and have value in their own ways. So it will be interesting to see how the different approach changes things.

One thing that they do very well here and that struck me also in the manga, is just how ‘broken’ poor Riiko actually is. I think it is really important to note this, because it really explains why she is attracted to the idea of Night, and why it is so easy for her to fall into some sort of relationship with him. Due to her intensity and apparent desperation, though it comes from sincerity, she has been rejected numerous times by men, and is clearly experiencing some deep-seated psychological, self-esteem issues because of it. She is quite lonely, feels worthless, and so when finally exposed to someone as devoted as Night, who fully accepts her and loves her, she sort of needs it, and it becomes easy to overlook the fact that he is a robot. This is illustrated beautifully in the final scene of this drama episode, where she cries in front of Night about her humiliation and rejection from Ishizeki, expresses her feeling that there is always something wrong with her and she’s always making mistakes, and finally reaches out to take Night’s hand, clinging to what she so desperately needs – someone who loves her. It’s quite sad, really, but also poignant. And here is where I think moving the setting from high school to the workplace makes the most sense. Yes, I felt for Riiko in the manga as well, but come on… she’s sixteen years old. All right, so she’s been rejected many times, but she’s still got a whole lot of life ahead of her. She’s still extremely young. Here, the older Riiko has been rejected for many more years and has had more time to develop insecurities due to it. Not that I dislike the manga, nor am trying to trivialize manga Riiko’s problems. I’m not, it’s just that it does make more realistic sense to me in this adult setting. Though I suppose teenagers do have extra hormonal issues to deal with 😉

All in all, I absolutely love this drama so far! It’s different enough from the manga to be a novel experience, but similar enough for me to make some interesting comparisons. The characters are done well – incidentally I like the addition of the bartender Fujiko, she just seems really cool to me, and was not a part of the manga, as of course we can’t have teenagers going to bars. Though you can apparently have them living alone… don’t even get me started on the prevalence of that in manga. I’m not positive, but I’m PRETTY sure real Japan has laws against children living by themselves, but whatever, don’t quote me on that. I was in the country for four months but I don’t know everything about it obviously. And I’m getting off topic. LOL. Anyway, I truly enjoyed episode one and look forward to seeing what the remainder of the episodes have in store . ^_^

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