We have subtitles, so let there be comedy and mystery! In Yorozu Uranaidokoro Onmyoya e Yokoso (よろず占い処 陰陽屋へようこそ), Nishikido Ryo-kun plays Abeno Shomei – a psychic with zero actual psychic power who nevertheless manages to solve the problems of the people who come to him. He used to be a host, so being able to charm people and get clients is certainly one of his talents, but how does he manage to help them once they’re his customers?
We meet Abeno in a bath house, where he shows his charm when speaking to the attendant there.
He then dons a costume from the Heian period (794-1185) and visits a temple where he prays. The female attendant there (who we will eventually find out is Ayukawa Tamaki played by Kashiwagi Yuki-san) wonders if he’s doing cosplay.
So, we know the way he’s approaching his work as a fortune-teller isn’t at all conventional. Good – what’s the fun in watching people who behave in the way everyone expects them to?
While he’s on his way to his shop, we meet another of our main characters – Sawazaki Shunta (Chinen Yuri), who is dozing off during a parent-student-teacher meeting.
Shunta is so unmotivated that he wants to drop out of school. His mother (Sawazaki Midori played by Minamino Yoko)made excuses for him during the meeting, and claims that the day’s fortune was bad (so we know she’s the susceptible one), but when he suggests dropping out she tells him to stick with it.
She spots the sign for Shomei’s fortune-telling . . . I guess I’ll just call it a shop, since he’s certainly selling something.
Midori seems to get a lot of her information from TV – so she’s seen fortune-tellers doing exorcisms there, and doesn’t find Shomei’s shop unusual even though her son does (because he thinks it’s a relic from a bygone era – wait till he sees what Shomei is wearing!).
To Shunta’s dismay, his mother decides that, given their family’s recent streak of bad luck, she’s going to give Shomei a try.
And so it begins . . . .
At least Shomei has done some homework on divination – he explains his methodology (if you can call it that).
The music so far has been excellent – very atmospheric, carefully tailored to what’s going on, and amusing.
Midori asks Shomei if there’s some evil haunting her family, considering the bad fortune they’ve been having . . .
. . . and he asks her to give a full and specific account of the troubles.
There are three particular situations (things always come in threes, right?). Midori’s mother-in-law broke her leg and taking care of her has forced Midori to quit her job as a nurse. Soon after that, her husband’s company went bankrupt and because of his age, he’s having trouble getting an interview. Last but certainly not least, there’s the matter of Shunta’s grades and lack of motivation in school.
We quickly see that Shomei has not abandoned his hosting skills in this new line of work – he’s practically seductive towards Midori right in front of her son – but then he also turns around and shows he has strong observational and deductive skills.
So what’s up with the divination tub with the bubbles?
Well, apparently it showed that an evil spirit has possessed Midori’s mother-in-law.
Keep in mind that, at this point, the audience has been given no concrete reason to think that Shomei lacks the psychic power he claims to possess.
But Midori isn’t the only one who needs help. A little girl holding a manga (I think it’s related to psychic stuff) sees the shop and stops. The man outside asks if she needs help, but she runs off.
Back to the exorcism of the evil spirit inhabiting Midori’s mother-in-law, I thought exorcisms usually required the presence of the possessed, but apparently not. Shomei takes care of it in the blink of an eye.
Here’s the kicker, though – he says that the spirit might try to possess Midori’s mother-in-law again. Shunta warns his mother that Shomei is probably going to try to sell her some amulets.
Instead, Shomei tells Midori to have her husband do the nursing of her mother-in-law (his mother, of course).
Midori objects that he knows nothing about nursing and needs to find work, but Shomei shoots back that Midori should go back to working as a nurse and just teach her husband what he needs to do for his mother.
The price for this admittedly excellent advice? 10000 yen ($100). And that’s a half-price discount because of the shop’s opening. Shunta, of course, objects and tries to prevent his mother from paying. But honestly – it’s her fault for not asking the price beforehand, right?
Interestingly, Shunta figured out the trick with the bubbles, and that impresses Shomei.
Then, surprising us again, Shomei turns and gives Midori an extra dose of truth, which results in . . . well, that’s a bit of a spoiler, so I’ll have to ask you to watch to find out what happens there.
It’s enough to say that I’m liking both Shomei and Shunta as characters, and that the interactions between them are already interesting.
Instead of taking the fee owed to him, Shomei asks to have Shunta start working at the shop at an hourly rate of 700 yen (a low wage, but he’s just going to be cleaning and serving tea and stuff like that).
Shunta doesn’t want his mother to pay the fee, so he agrees to Shomei’s terms reluctantly.
On the way back home, they encounter the little girl who wants to know if the fortune-teller is legit. Shunta says no, but Midori says yes.
Midori points out that even though the last dose of truth was harsh, it helped her and she has a better grasp of the situation. Like I said, Shomei did give good advice.
For some reason, the shop also serves as a restaurant and everyone there knows everything about Shomei, Shunta, and Midori, talking about it like they had watched the first part of the drama with us.
Ayukawa Tamaki is sitting at a table by herself, says that she saw Shomei at the temple and that he was good-looking, and that sparked the other women present to . . . agree enthusiastically.
The male customer advises Genjiro (Sugi Ryotaro), the guy in charge of the restaurant, not to allow Shomei as a tenant. But Kenjiro isn’t the owner of the place.
When Shomei walks in, they all treat him like scum because they feel he’s been charming women then ripping them off. He even has to open his own beer.
Tamaki recognizes Shomei as ‘Sho’ – the number one host at a particular host club she went to. This is the first time the viewer learns about his past (assuming the viewer didn’t bother to read the description of the drama before watching).
Meanwhile, we get a glimpse into the very serious trouble at the little girl’s house before turning back to Shomei, who is being actively opposed by Michiko (Kurashina Kana), Genjiro’s granddaughter. Michiko also happens to be Shunta’s teacher (the one at the parent-student-teacher conference earlier) and she wants Shomei gone.
Can he manage to charm her? Isn’t this the natural romantic connection in a drama, with her despising him with such fervor so quickly?
Well, he at least turns the tables on her reasonably well here, giving her pause. At the same time, he sheds a little light on his methods (though the idea that any palm-reader uses statistical data to derive their conclusions is laughable). There’s a definite Sherlock Holmes air to Shomei, including the lack of restraint when delivering his conclusions about a person, and I like that about him.
The next day at Shunta’s school, Shunta’s friends talk about the fortune-teller and that he used to be a host (so that the writers could make sure Shunta knew).
Shunta and his friends all have an eye for a fellow student named Mitsui. Could Shunta learn how to court Mitsui from expert host Shomei?
The shopping district council is concerned about the fortune-teller bringing down the reputation of their neighborhood, and wonder if it isn’t just a host club in disguise. Genjiro isn’t enthusiastic about the whole idea about petitioning the owner of the property (who he is also a tenant of), but doesn’t oppose it, either. It’s more like he already knows it won’t work.
But really, what we’re interested to see at this point is how Shunta does as he begins to work for Shomei, and I’m not going to give any details of that away. From here on, you’ll have to watch the episode to find out what happens, and there’s about half of the show remaining.
Remember, there’s a lot of conflict still to be resolved. First of all, there’s that little girl with the serious situation at home:
There’s Shunta’s own development – he lacks all the charming qualities Shomei has and doubts his employer at every turn.
There’s the conflict between Shomei and Michiko (not to mention all the other people who want Shomei to leave). How will she react to him hiring her student Shunta?
We still have a lot to learn about Shomei’s character . . .
. . . and what’s up between him, Genjiro, and the owner of the place.
So far, this drama has fine pacing – not fast, but okay for the story. There are many interweaved plots, so that made the episode feel richly textured – we would catch glimpses of characters long before we knew what they really had to do with the story going forward, and get hints about what they might need Shomei’s services for.
The particular plot around the little girl was excellently done and in some ways unexpected. I also enjoyed Shomei’s solution.
The highlight, though, was the characters of Shomei and Shunta, and the excellent acting from Nishikido-kun and Chinen-kun. In Nishikido-kun’s case, we learned as much about him from his silent expressions as from the dialogue. Shomei is a solid Sherlock Holmes character – the first one I’ve seen of the type in a Japanese drama I’ve reviewed – and I love Sherlock Holmes. Shunta is a good sidekick character, and his expressions regularly drew chuckles from me. As for the other characters, the acting was overly comical – not difficult to enjoy, but also not impressive. The character of Michiko gets a tad annoying.
This looks like it’ll be an excellent series. Don’t worry about the superstitious aspect of it – the writers take pains to demystify everything, and Shomei explains the logic behind his conclusions in true detective fashion. If you like any of the classic detectives, this is an interesting twist on the genre that you might want to check out.
Let’s hope the rest of the series continues like this first episode.