OP: 「Happiness」 by 嵐 (ARASHI)
Watch the OP! Mirror 1, Mirror 2
Since Tarou and Takuya are played by ARASHI members Ninomiya Kazunari and Sakurai Sho, it makes sense that ARASHI would sing the theme song, and I’m rather glad they did because it’s a quite catchy and a fun song.
Yamada Tarou is a poor student who attends the prestigious Ichinomiya High School at the top of an advanced 3rd-year class. Today is the first day of school, and Tarou happens to arrive at the same time as the number two of the class, Mimura Takuya, to line of cheering fans. Everyone assumes that both boys are rich, but in truth only Takuya is; Tarou is attending this school as a scholarship student with a three million yen deduction in his tuition. After seeing what class they’re in, Tarou tries to introduce himself to Takuya, but Takuya ignores him. Tarou then smells dried fish and smiles at the person that it’s coming from, a girl named Ikegami Takako who happens to be in the same class and also happens to not be from a well off family. Takako is so charmed by Tarou’s smile that she thinks she’s found her prince. During the opening ceremonies, Tarou and Takuya are tapped to conduct and perform the school song with an orchestra, raising their profile among the students even further. Later, when it comes time to choose class representatives, their classmates want either Tarou or Takuya to take the position, but a boy named Sugiura Keiichi who is jealous of their popularity nominates himself. Since neither Tarou nor Takuya actually want the position, they let Sugiura have it.
As they start class, Takuya notices that Tarou is using an old chocolate box as a pencil case, and Tarou’s stomach growling startles Takuya even more. Takuya’s interest is piqued so much by Tarou that he opts to secretly follow Tarou home. Along the way, Tarou stops at a souvlaki stand and spends some time smelling the meat before sprinting home. Having lost track of Tarou, Takuya questions what he’s doing and decides to go home. That night, as Tarou and his six younger siblings eat a meager dinner, he tells them that if they need any money for the new semester, he has some saved up from his temporary job. However, it turns out that his mother accidentally spent it all on a painting, though her children don’t blame her. Since they have to be frugal, Tarou uses a technique where he imagines the meat he smelled earlier before eating. Still, since tomorrow is his little sister Itsuko’s birthday, Tarou promises her whatever she wants, so she says that she wants to eat croquette. Specifically, she wants the croquette from the Yokozuna supermarket, and although Tarou knows that they’re very popular and fought over, he tells Itsuko to leave it up to him.
After putting his family to bed, Tarou heads off to a night construction job where he tells his superior that he’d like to work extra this week. Laboring until daybreak, Tarou then goes to school and sleeps through class, much to his classmate’s surprise. He’s awake again by lunchtime and still thinking about the croquettes when some girls ask him to eat lunch with them. When Tarou turns them down because he didn’t bring anything to eat, one of the girls offers her lunch to him and the others quickly decide that they’ll bring him lunch tomorrow too. Once class is over, Tarou rushes out of school and heads straight for the supermarket, but there’s already a large crowd there. Tarou is barely able to get his hand on the last croquette, but challenging him for it is a fierce looking woman who’s already got several croquettes in her basket. This woman, who is actually Takako’s mother, snatches away the croquette after getting Tarou to lower his guard, meaning that he is left with nothing. He arrives home to find his siblings already celebrating Itsuko’s birthday, and although she is disappointed that he wasn’t able to buy croquettes, she claims that it’s fine and tries to eat dinner as normal.
Elsewhere in town, Takako is having a dinner of croquettes thanks to her mother, but afterwards she runs out of the house feeling that she doesn’t want to become like her commoner parents. As she stops to catch her breath, she is shocked to see Tarou working at the construction site across the street. When she gets a chance to talk with him, she assumes that he’s working so that he’ll realize the value of money, but before he can clear up the misunderstanding, he’s called back to work. Back at home in the morning, Tarou overhears Itsuko talking about croquettes in her sleep and he discovers that they’re out of toilet paper. At school, there is a mound of bentos waiting for him come lunchtime, but Tarou’s nose suddenly picks up on the smell of croquettes. It turns out that Takako’s mother gave her two leftovers for lunch, and since Takako doesn’t want them, she gives them to him when he approaches and asks about them. Tarou then finds the solution to his family’s toilet paper problem when he sees a stack in the school bathroom. He hides some under his jacket and tries to sneak through campus with them, but he accidentally bumps into his teacher, and one of the rolls of toilet paper unravels down the stairs.
Sugiura notices the toilet paper trail and wonders very loudly if Tarou was stealing it. Tarou’s reputation would have been tarnished if not for Takuya showing up and pretending that Tarou had gotten the toilet paper to help with Takuya’s pollen allergies. Afterwards, he thanks Takuya, but when Takuya tries to find out why he was trying to take toilet paper, Tarou never gets a chance to answer. The reason is because Tarou spots Sugiura taking the bento with the two croquettes in it and he gives chase. Seeing Tarou coming after him, Sugiura runs all the way up to the school’s rooftop before getting cornered. When Sugiura asks why Tarou is so desperate for it, Tarou questions if Sugiura knows how much feeling was put into that bento and declares that it’s precious to him, unaware that Takako is secretly listening in after having followed the two up to the roof. Takuya also arrives on the rooftop, just in time to hear Tarou say that he’ll protect that bento with his life. In the end, Sugiura pretends that he’s giving it back, but he actually throws it up into the air. Tarou dives after it, but it is fortunately caught by Takuya who returns it to Tarou.
When Tarou presents the croquettes to his sister, she first uses his technique to smell it and then imagines that she’s eating it. It turns out that Itsuko didn’t want the croquettes for herself, but rather for Tarou to eat because he had given it all to his siblings the last time they had it. Tarou can’t help but cry as he takes a bite of the croquette, though he quickly wipes his tears, and they celebrate a belated birthday for Itsuko. Unbeknownst to them, Takuya has found the run-down house and realizes that this is where Tarou lives. However, when he runs into Tarou’s mother, he excuses himself after confirming to her that he’s Tarou’s friend. As he briefly looks back at the house while walking away, Takuya smiles and decides that Tarou is interesting. Dinner for the Yamada family that night consists of the other bentos that Tarou brought home from all the other girls, and Tarou’s mother presents Itsuko with a new dress that she bought. Although he wonders how much it cost, Tarou thinks that it’s okay and figures that he’ll pay for it with more part-time work.
I watched the Hana-Kimi drama last week hoping that I’d see a good show since it seemed to have the right combination of actors and story material, but something about it fell flat with me – it just didn’t have the charm that I was looking for. It’s hard to explain what that charm is, but Hana Yori Dango had it, and now Yamada Tarou Monogatari has it. Maybe it’s the fact that I laughed through nearly the entire episode (except at the very end when Tarou cries while eating the croquette) or maybe it’s because this has a similar poor-student-at-an-elite-school premise and similar production qualities as Hana Yori Dango. Whatever it was, I really really enjoyed watching this, and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I should be blogging it.
This series usually airs on Fridays nights, and the only reason I’m writing this up on a Monday is because I didn’t get a chance to watch this first episode until now. In any case, I look forward to the next episode, which apparently has the characters dressed as maids.