Changing times in Japan are opening the door for a new style of television. About40 (Japanese site), aired on Tokyo network TBS for the first time on April 11th, has done something novel for a Japanese TV drama: aim at the age bracket of 35 to 45 year old women, and hit it big [ja]. The new drama, which registered an average viewer rating of 15.7% with its first episode, targets the late-thirties demographic of single childless Japanese women who entered the work force during the 80s bubble, captured in the newly-coined term “arafo” (アラフォー). While this first wave of 30-something “makeinu” have featured as the regular butt of jokes in the media, their rising numbers are turning the tables, with one of four women
above 30 now single remaining single after turning 30.
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About40 features actress Amami Yūki/橋部敦子 in the role of 39-year-old psychiatrist Ogata Satoko/緒方聡子 [ja], highly successful, single, and touchy about her age [ja]. Her friends include 35-year-old magazine editor Morimura Nao/森村奈央 [ja] (played by Otsuka Nene/大塚寧々 [ja]), who claims she will not marry, Okumura Natsumi/岡村恵太朗 [ja] (played by Fujiki Naohito/藤木直人), a 33-year-old male psychiatrist who has just joined the hospital where Satoko works, and housewife Takuchi Mizue/竹内 瑞恵 (played by Matsushita Yuki/松下 由樹). The show is produced by screenwriter Hashibe Atsuko/橋部敦子.
Around40 starring Amami Yūki
Blogger sugarvine82, who is herself single, reflects on the first couple episodes of the new show:
After seeing two weeks [of the show], I thought: “This really hit close to home.”
Of course I don't have such beautiful women doctors like that in my immediate circle,
and I don't have any celebrity friends either (I really hate that word “celebrity” [see translator's note below]), but
the remark that my husband made when he saw it, that:
“40 years, I guess that's the halfway mark, right?”
Right! Exactly. I guess I am approaching the halfway mark,
although I felt that I'm still young — it was that kind of complex sensation.
I've been racing along up to now, but then just to suddenly take a pause and think:
“Have I been doing the right thing?” — that was the feeling. I guess everybody gets [that feeling].
Although I guess my friends who have kids right now don't think about this yet, because the kids are still young.
Note: “celebrity” in Japanese has a slightly different meaning from the English word, signifying someone who lives a rich and extravagant lifestyle.
Blogger poncoco on the other hand, a housewife, related more to the character of Matsuhita Yuki:
Matsushita Yuki on the other hand plays the part of a housewife. She has settled down and is raising children,
and when she looks around herself at the friends of her generation, they are starting something new.
And what about me?… [she thinks this and] gets impatient.
I've also been thinking the same thing these past several years.
“Will it end here just like this, as a housewife?” “Is there something I can do?” “Have I been left behind by society?”
Then as of two years ago I started working part-time. That wasn't enough, so from a half-year ago I started also [working in a] general store…
This feeling of impatience and of anxiety that I never had when I went from my twenties into my thirties,
I wonder why I sense this so strongly as I become an “arafo”.
Not all bloggers were quite so moved by the show. Blogger Katsuragi Aoi (桂木碧) questioned points about the show's plot:
しかも 相談員のひとも コレ以上条件にあった方はあなたにはいません
Somehow I see that and I'm not satisfied.
And on top of that, the counseling staff tell her that she won't get anybody with better conditions than this
They say it straight out like that…
Blogger yomuchan2006, meanwhile, couldn't relate to the idea of “arafo” at all:
I probably won't watch it again in the future. Last week was of course the first episode,
and maybe it was just that I couldn't get interested in it…
I can't empathize with 40-year-old women, and also just the fact that they seem to be trying to make this word “arafo” a new fad, I can't really relate…