Kuwano Shinsuke is a successful architect with a knack for building nice houses, even though he has absolutely no interest in the people who will live in them. At 40, he is a contented loner, living a solitary lifestyle in a nice urban flat where he indulges his taste for rich food and classical music. One night, Tamura Michiru – the lovely young woman who is his next-door neighbour – marches over to complain about his loud music, only to find him writhing on the floor in pain. She accompanies him to the hospital, where the kindly Dr. Hayasaka Natsumi does her best to treat him in spite of his rudeness and his uncooperative attitude.
The neighbour and the doctor become friends, and with the other people in Kuwano’s life they start to wonder among themselves: Can this man who thinks only of himself ever find someone who will have him as her husband?
An acquaintance of mine recommended this series a few months ago, claiming that the lead character reminded her of me. She wasn’t far off the mark, either. Like Kuwano-san, I enjoy being alone (although I’m not quite as anti-social as he). I like cooking for myself. I wave my arms about like a conductor whenever I listen to classical music. I have a habit of tapping my fingers on walls, balustrades, railings – in short, pretty much anything I pass while walking. I even have a model of the Titanic (see Episode 08) in exactly the same scale as his (1/450). Uncanny.
Anyway, back to the show. Kekkon Dekinai Otoko (‘The Man Who Can’t Get Married’) is a lighthearted romance that delivers humour in small doses, relying less on physical comedy and more on character interactions to maintain viewer interest. A lot of this show’s entertainment value is generated by the side characters as they embark on an on-and-off, seemingly futile quest to make sense of the indecipherable enigma that is Kuwano-san. For his part, the central character delights the viewer with his quirks and odd habits – many of which, as I’ve already pointed out, I happen to be guilty of – and by his sheer hopelessness. The question of whether this man who isn’t interested in love, much less marriage, can ever take a wife nags at the people around him in the show and also dances around in the head of the viewer, who is kept guessing, quite literally, up to the last minute.
The series isn’t short on good acting: for one, Abe Hiroshi’s turn as the eccentric Kuwano was superb. Abe’s performance wasn’t entirely perfect – he really didn’t come across that well as an architect – but as far as characterisation goes I’ll give him top marks. As someone who (apparently) behaves a lot like the title character, I can certainly attest to his having convincingly captured Kuwano’s strange, lone-wolf, probably OCD-afflicted personality.
My final assessment: a refreshing show with an emotionally engaging story and lovable characters (minor ones included!). Probably not a “must-watch”, but I can guarantee that anyone who gives this one a pass will miss out on one of the best Japanese comedies of recent years.
My Overall Rating: 9/10