Subs are out for the first episode of the new drama “49”, and I couldn’t resist checking it out since it’s premise, while having been done before, is still fairly difficult for a young actor to pull off.

The basics of the story are laid out in the first few minutes of the drama, and this first episode does a good job in general of answering the viewer’s most immediate questions. We meet our main character Kagami Dan (Sato Shori) as he is led to a meeting with his father.

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We never see his father’s face (for a good reason) . . .

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. . . and it’s pretty clear that the relationship between father and son is somewhere between tense and nonexistent. His father seems very nervous for some reason. Dan delivers an envelope to his father and then leaves after the barest exchange.

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After his father opens the envelope and sees divorce papers, he runs after Dan, wanting to have a more substantial talk with the boy.

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That gets Dan riled up and he explodes with anger at his absentee father.

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Unfortunately he does so in the middle of a crosswalk . . .

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. . . and only his father pushing him out of the way saves him from a driver who apparently has no regard for zebra crossings.

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After a somewhat strange opening title sequence that I’ll probably make a point of skipping in the future, Dan wakes up in a hospital . . .

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. . . and finds the spirit of his father standing beside his bed.

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His father has a favor to ask – he needs to borrow Dan’s body to save ‘Ran’. He can apparently possess Dan for a 49 days, hence the title.

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And there you go – that’s the premise. Dan, a kid who is reclusive and otherwise underachieving, gets possessed by a father who doesn’t really know him, but is so obsessed with straightening certain things out that his soul cannot be in peace until he does so. The question we have to ask is – will Dan come out of this for the better somehow?

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From here on out in this episode, when I refer to Dan, it’s with the understanding that his father is the one doing the actions. So, Dan is predictably awkward when speaking to his mother/wife in the morning, and even more startled when he finds out about his sister/daughter being pregnant (the real Dan knew about that, of course).

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Already, I was pleasantly surprised with Shori-kun’s acting, which was realistic, but also had a humorous touch to it. He has a great startled expression – it has just the right amount of subtlety, and he gets to use it a lot in this episode.

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At the bus stop . . . wait . . . haven’t we seen this girl somewhere before?

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Ah, it’s Yamamoto Maika. She was in Kamen Teacher as the girl at the café, and here she plays Takami Sachi, who we’ll learn more about later.

Despite the fact that others say he doesn’t have a friend, it seems Dan does have a buddy in Inoue Satoshi (Jinguji Yuta). Sorry I didn’t get a good screenshot of him here, but I’m sure I’ll get plenty of chances during the course of the series.

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In the bus, Dan tricks a guy (Yashiro Kenta played by Yasui Kentaro) into giving up his seat to a woman with a baby. Kenta seems to think of himself as someone important (he at least has a sort-of gang in tow), but even though he grabs Dan’s collar, he doesn’t pursue the fight.

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Afterward, Dan looks proud of himself in a way that put a smile on my face. I think we’re on solid ground with his character at this point (in other words, he’s someone that the audience can care about).

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Entering class . . .

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. . . he once again does the awkward thing and says ‘good morning’:

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It’s interesting that, even though one of Real Dan’s supposed failings is that he’s not sociable, Possessed Dan also has trouble reading the atmosphere. We also see him studying alone on the roof:

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I guess it’s because he’s still getting his feet wet on his first day at school in decades.

Anyway, this turns out to be fortuitous because as he decides to lie down for a bit . . .

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. . . he sees a worrying sight.

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It turns out that even though Sachi was getting bullied, she wasn’t planning to do anything hasty – she just needed somewhere to change into a tracksuit (preferably somewhere the bullies wouldn’t continue to make her life miserable). Glasses aside, Yamamoto Maika-san seems to be playing the same sort of hard-headed character she does in Kamen Teacher. I prefer it to the soft-headed characters, at least.

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During their conversation, Dan comes up with a very dubious psychological definition of bullying which seems to be more of an excuse for it, and one that pretends that bullying is only a teenage phenomenon. Otherwise, it was a good scene where we learned a lot about the two characters.

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For instance, Sachi is the one who tells Possessed Dan about what Real Dan is like – noting that he’s friendless etc. so he shouldn’t be pretending to be superior to her.

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Learning this . . .

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. . . Possessed Dan also discovers that Real Dan isn’t involved in clubs and scouts them out as if thinking about rectifying the situation.

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In the process, he meets Minaduki Mana (Nishino Nanase), who doesn’t play much of a role in this episode. For some reason, though, Dan says “You are welcome” in strained English. Umm . . . why? He says it again in a later scene, and I can only assume that it’s some sort of catchphrase for him. Mana’s response to this sudden change of language was indeterminate, but I’ll give Possessed Dan one thing – he doesn’t care about seeming awkward, and rather embraces his strangeness.

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At this point, we turn back to Kenta, and find out that his gang is actually supposed to be the basketball club.

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In a delightfully humorous scene, he laments the fall of the club, which is on the verge of being abolished. He wonders how he can tell his children about his school experience if the basketball club fails this way, but his cohorts aren’t particularly interested because they’re going to graduate anyway.

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This might be Yasui-kun’s best moment in acting so far, so don’t miss it! Anyway, I think you see where this is going – Dan needs to join a club to turn from underachiever to overachiever, and Kenta needs something to revive the basketball club.

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There are some awkward scenes between Dan and his mother/wife – just the fact that the slash is there should tell you why. That is, they were understandably and realistically awkward.

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Before the end, we get answers to a number of questions, including why Dan’s father needed to save Ran, not to mention the greater significance of Ran. I’d say that Ran contributed a great deal to our appreciation of who Dan’s father (and therefore Possessed Dan) is.

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This was surprisingly excellent. While the story so far is pretty much as expected, there were some nice touches. The real selling point so far is the humor and acting. Shori-kun did a very good job with the key role – much better than I expected – behaving credibly like an older person inhabiting a kid’s body, including the fact that he wasn’t self-conscious around students because he didn’t view them as peers. He also showed a good range of subtle emotions – he was never over-the-top but he was able to make clear what he was thinking without saying anything. You could see him wanting to say certain things to his wife but holding back out of necessity. As a result, I think Possessed Dan is one of the better characters we’ve seen in the dramas in this time slot.

Yasui Kentaro-kun was thoroughly amusing as Kenta, and I have high hopes that he’ll provide some much-needed comedy relief in this show. The whole basketball subplot should be great to watch.

They seem to have started a bunch of promising threads, but it will all be pointless unless Possessed Dan’s actions really have an effect on Real Dan, and we don’t have any clear indication about that yet. Are we going to get parts where Real Dan takes control? Or will the writers just attribute his prior behavior to the fact that he didn’t have a male role model, so that the simple fact that he had his father run his life for 49 days will be enough? If it’s the latter, I’m not going to be as happy with the series – I want a more dynamic situation.

Still, this is a strong start, and I look forward to finding out what happens to Possessed Dan and Real Dan.