He Who Can’t Marry and Tokyo Bachelors: A Thematic Exposition of the Bachelor Life in Japan

It should come as no surprise to anybody that the Japanese is at the forefront of showcasing societal commentary in their media. In particular, the themes that they like to explore are those surrounding generational issues, mental health issues, the aging population, and bullying, the lost and shattered dreams of their youth (due to a deflationary economy), just to name a few. Naturally, singlehood is also one of its problems, resulting in low population growth which further exacerbates the economy’s impending dearth. The prevailing narrative that is used to described singlehood is that of a personal lifestyle and a personal choice, shaped by personal circumstances. However, what is not often mentioned or shown is how much the development of society and its culture has very much a part to play in shaping that personal choice.

He Who Can’t Marry and Tokyo Bachelors just happen to be two of such Japanese dramas where the single life is featured as the core theme of the story, featuring bachelor(s) as the main character(s). He Who Can’t Marry (two seasons in total) tells the story of the life of bachelor Shunsuke Kuwano, a renowned architect who has built up his career and his name with it (as the pioneer of the “open kitchen” concept), but whom in stark contrast to his accomplishments, is socially awkward and unaware and often blunt to the point of being offensive. Proud of his solitary life and having a multitude of hobbies, he relishes being alone and often occupies himself with his various interests, and scoffs at the idea of marriage and the idea of building human relationships.

Tokyo Bachelors
Source: https://www.wakuwakujapan.com/en/program/detail/wj0000005533/

Tokyo Bachelors features three main characters, Taro Ishibashi, Reiya Miyoshi and Kazuhiko Iwakura, known affectionately as the “Bachelors by Choice”. If these bachelors are credit ratings, they would be the equivalent of the triple A standard amongst the eyes of all females – accomplished, high income professionals who own swanky bachelor pads in the middle of downtown Tokyo. The main protagonist, Taro Ishibashi, works as a analyst at Tokyo “Daiwa” Bank; Reiya Miyoshi is a divorced dentist who has opened his own clinic in Tokyo and curiously, manages to sustain his business amidst the stiff competition and sky-high rent; Kazuhiko Iwakura is a partner of his own law firm and the oldest of the trio.

Through daily happenings and the people whom each of the main characters in both stories meet, such events and their relationships with these people eventually begin to impact their mindset and views on marriage.

Singlehood vs Marriage, Logic vs Emotions?

In both series, the starting premise is similar. All the bachelors enjoy the freedom of singlehood, relishing the freedom to do whatever they want and the lack of financial responsibilities and being the sole breadwinner of a family (which is practically synonymous with “settling down” in Japan). The question is whether there will be events that happen and/or people they meet that would change their minds.

In Japan, the historical cultural baggage that accompanies marriage and the start of a family has long often been criticised to be archaic. The progress of gender equality and women’s empowerment has surprisingly been slower paced than most of its developed country counterparts and even arguably, its Asian counterparts as well. As such, women’s role in society is still largely confined to the household – the glass ceiling at work is still pretty much in place for ladies in the workplace, and marriage spells the end of her career trajectory as she is expected to give up her job and devote all her efforts to maintaining the household and taking care of the children. The workplace and family time becomes a binary choice for her, and this also creates a disproportionate burden on the husband, who suddenly has one or more dependents on him to care for (loans on top of a few people’s daily expenses). It is no wonder that as much as women would not like to get married, the men have equally lesser incentive to get married.

He Who Can’t Marry (Season 1)
Source: Netflix

It is within this context that our main characters thrive, as marriage becomes an increasingly senseless decision. All the main characters are self-righteous in making this choice at the start of the story, and tout various – logical – reasons why their choice for the bachelorhood is the more intelligent way of choosing to live one’s life. In He Who Can’t Marry, Shunsuke often repeats this mantra and analysis to his gaggle of starry-eyed lady friends who often rebuke his analysis and criticising his ‘wet-blanket’ approach to life. In Tokyo Bachelors, the trio often reiterate this to each other, using Reiya Miyoshi’s nightware of an ex-wife as an example, to justify their lifestyle of partying (replete with plenty of wine, lack of real commitment with women).

Roles of the Female Characters in a Story About Men

He Who Can’t Marry
Source: https://www.marieclaire.com.tw/entertainment/tvshow/45525

The story also introduces potential love interests for the main characters. Interestingly, most of them are women who are on par with these main characters from a socio-economic sense, meaning they are equally as accomplished in their careers as these male characters and are high earners as well. For example, in He Who Can’t Marry (Season One), we have Yui Natsukawa, a female doctor who is Shunsuke’s equal in every way and who challenges him to let people into his life and to interact with and build relationships with the people around him instead of keeping to himself. In Tokyo Bachelors, one of the female romantic interests is a fellow lawyer in Kazuhiko Iwakura’s firm. Again, this is a realistic portrayal of the dating scene in Japan and arguably modern Asian society in general – where individuals of similar socio-economic status are inevitably drawn to each other as they would be equals in every manner. Moreover, the inclusion of such female characters also offer a glimpse into the female psyche of being highly accomplished, career women in their 30s to 40s and why they have remained single – mainly because they chose to prioritise their careers in a society where the choice between career and family seems to be mutually exclusive.

For the other female characters in the story, their existence is purposeful – usually as a catalyst that enables growth and self realisation for the main characters, whether in terms of their views and opinions on romantic relationships and human relationships. In He Who Can’t Marry, it is clear that through Shunsuke’s repeated interactions with these women, he learns to relate to and interact with other people in a more socially aware manner. Even though he rubs people off the wrong way at the beginning, the people (including these female characters) gradually learn to appreciate the kindness underneath his gruff exterior, and Shunsuke in turn learns to be more empathetic and more sensitive to the emotions of the people around him. Such character development is noticeable though subtle, and masterfully worked upon each episode. There is no sudden change, but it enables the audience to look back from the last episode and feel a swell of pride for Shunsuke for having come so far since the first episode.

On the other hand, Tokyo Bachelors takes a decidedly more romantic approach to the life lessons that the bachelor trio learns. Taro Ishibashi has an ex-girlfriend to contend with, Reiya Miyoshi has an ex-wife with unresolved issues, and Kazuhiko Iwakura is thrown into a very real life situation which forces him to look at the concept of marriage seriously. As they realise their past mistakes, they grow to realise what they truly need from life and what they are really looking for in a lifelong partner, which overturns their previous convictions on the matter.

Tokyo Bachelors – the trio and the younger sister
Source: https://k.sina.cn/article_6770237875_19389a1b300100gmy6.html

While both dramas are comedies, He Who Can’t Marry arguably tries harder in incorporating characteristics in its main character which explain, logically, why he is somebody who “can’t get married, ever”, and those characteristics are also a very realistic portrayal of some of the single men in their thirties and forties and the kinds of people they inevitably come. Nevertheless, He Who Can’t Marry somehow still manages to make its main character lovable as his kind side gradually shows. In contrast, Tokyo Bachelors doesn’t take itself as seriously, and focuses more on drawing out the comedic dynamic amongst our three adorable main characters, on making its audience laugh, and following the spirit of the show – of being a ‘feel-good’ sitcom.

Interestingly, the fates of each of these bachelors are very different in the stories. Some find romance, some don’t. It is interesting how each of their endings serve to portray different grains of the same truth. The truth is when it comes to romance as with life in general, it is a bit of a Russian roulette. Some relationships don’t work out and there is nothing wrong with being single that way, some relationships enable one to find what one really cares about (which may not be finding a partner), and some relationships enable one to find who one really cares about and/or the qualities of a partner one is really seeking. The point however is that all of them end up achieving a better understanding of the self and what he is seeking from life, and essentially that is what the stories are really trying to show.


Both stories send very powerful messages of some realistic reasons and justifications for singlehood, and presents both the case for singlehood and marriage as evenly as they can and in as light-hearted a manner as possible. While one can easily breeze through both series, it definitely does yield more if one sits down to think about the messages behind each of them. Whether you are looking for a series that is a fresh breath of air from the usual rhetoric, or you are a happy single who wants to find something that finally does not advocate marriage as the predominant end goal of one’s romantic life, do give any of these two series a go, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Charlotte: The Controversy

Surprises come when you least expect it.

I am shackled to this aspect of story-telling called ‘plot unpredictability’. The way it throws me in a loop and delivers yet another conclusion that is almost entirely unpredictable and unexpected thrills me to no end. Caught up in the adrenaline of the moment as my stomach drops, I throw away all inhibitions, all objectivity, and all logic, and I just let the excitement consume me whole.

I become but a slave to the story, as the control over my own evaluative, otherwise relatively discerning mind, slips from my fingers, dropping to the ground below with a clumsy ‘splat’.

Charlotte was that roller coaster, and its major plot twist was that split second you hover before you plunge down into the darkness, the words which had started to form in your mind dissolving into sheer exhilaration, a blinding flash of white.

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Cross Ange: Where First Impressions Don’t Determine It All

Whether one should watch Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo (“Cross Ange”) or not is a particularly difficult question to answer. It is a series that crosses too many boundaries of tolerance for the average anime viewer with its exploration of themes that cannot be stomached by many anime watchers, especially those who take a strict pro-feminist stance or have zero tolerance for blatant fanservice. Consumption of the series should also come with a massive warning label as its content features a smattering of trigger-warning content and controversial themes like yuri-rape, sexual glorification, misogyny, large servings of fanservice and certain atrocious acts of violence, just to name a few.

Now, who immediately closed this window, thinking that this is definitely not their cup of tea? At the very least, I urge those who stay to continue reading to understand why the ability to enjoy Cross Ange is not confined to fanservice lovers or yuri fans, and can actually be enjoyed by the rest of us, including females, who are looking for a good story, relatable characters, or just a nerve-wracking, entertaining ride in general.

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Kemono no Souja Erin: Evocative, heart-warming, and my brief salvation in the anime desert

The edge of the world looks like a vast landscape with no end in sight. Mountains in the distance line up on the parameters of my vision but between me and them there lie hundreds of miles of parched ground, with visible cracks starting to appear on the surface. The occasional gust of wind picks up sand and it blows into my face and eyes. My throbbing pain in my throat has subsided into a dull ache that barely registers, and I feel a sense of desolateness as I stare across the endless plains of sand dune undulations. I begin to dry heave as a ragged cough tears its ways through my windpipe, and I kneel down on the hot ground, waiting for it to pass.

That is how I have always imagined the anime desert to look like. And it certainly feels like it now.

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Kiseijuu Sei no Kakuritsu: An Effective Habinger of the Environmental Conservatism Message

Societal responsibility’s integration with media has always been a less than seamless process. Most attempts at value activism has only been able to reach a target audience that already echo its views. However, incidences of reaching out to a potentially wider audience who are not conscious, vehement supporters of such views are few and far between. This is even more unheard of in the realms of fictional media.

Kiseijuu, however, is a rare exception that has managed to deliver an engrossing, addictive story together with meaningful, ponderous questions on identity and human nature. Scoring high on both the entertainment factor and depth of thought, Kiseijuu is a gleaming gem in the dust of most post-2006 anime.

Perhaps it is not entirely surprising, given the shining track record of its production studio, Madhouse, and the quality of its source material, a manga authored by Iwaaki Hitoshi at the dawn of the 90s’ era. Even so, the effort put in transforming source material to make it relevant and remain enticing to the crowd known for a reduced attention span, immediate access to a whole host of novel ideas at the click of a mouse is surely no easy feat.

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100% Perfect Girl: the destructive potential of obsessive love

So, it has been ages since my last manga review. Somehow I find that I am more interested in reading manga precisely during school term and I gravitate towards anime and other things (like books, movies, tv series etc.) when I am having an actual holiday. I have no idea why but I guess it has more to do with the precise reason that I have learnt to associate manga with the endless drone of studying so I feel less inclined towards manga as a whole.

Anyway, enough with the frivolous rambling and let’s get on to my first real manga review in quite some time.

100% Perfect Girl is a manhwa that is not really new, and yet it has always managed to occupy a corner of its audience’s thoughts in the shoujo manga community. By reason of the combination of ‘shoujo’ and ‘mature’ tags, this seemingly thoughtless way of categorisation actually belies a more fundamental characteristic of the story being told that is rather different from what we see in a typical shoujo manga (which tends to be told in a lighter palette of colours, even when it contains realistic aspects in the portrayal of behaviour of young people in love). And it is simply this: 100% Perfect Girl is a very heavy read. It probably should come with the tags *warning: not for the faint-hearted*

Now, that’s not to say that 100% Perfect Girl deals with dark and depressing topics like discrimination, treating humanity as a means to an end, war or military. 100% Perfect Girl deals 100% as its title suggests, with love, but yet it is of a love that is so possessive and full of jealousy that it turns into a rather vicious, ugly animal, destructive of life and people in its path.


100% Perfect Girl mostly tells the story of an extremely rich and powerful young King, who falls in love at first sight with a beautiful, ethereal young girl who comes from a a very poor, commoner family. Before I launch into a rant about how unrealistic the entire ‘love-at-first-sight’ trope has been overplayed to the point that teenage girls who are overtly exposed to such media develop fitful, flighty dreams about The One, let me just state that it is very characteristic of Korean media to take people from the dire opposites of the income spectrum and spin a love story. Its part of a reason why I am not particularly fond of Korean drama series and manhwa, but this is a topic which I will expound upon on another day.

So anyway, guy falls in love with girl and then pursues her to the ends of the earth (literally). Girl doesn’t actually fall in love then, but succumbs to the temptations of good looks and money anyway …. is what I like to say, except that said girl should probably be given more credit than that. Jay Jin may be so, but she is headstrong in the sense that she still manages to keep her head on tight. It is however, too bad for her, since with the melodramatic flair atypical of a story where the author seems set on pushing that elusive fairytale ending further out of reach, the poor girl has to suffer through a series of unfortunate events: jealousy, kidnappings, assassinations, multiple accounts of semi-rape, familial revenge, physical violence, depression and suicide. All because she falls in love with this one guy whose idea of love translates into massive suffocation and restriction of personal freedom due to his inherent flaw of possessiveness and obsession.

What was commendable was the effort made in drawing out certain realistic issues and in portraying how a fairytale set-up may not necessarily end in a happy ending (by saying this however, I maintain a neutral position as to whether this series contains a happy or sad ending). That unfortunately does not mean that the protagonist’s life can be anything short of unrealistic. There seems to also be a larger focus on drawing out flaws in characters though the positive traits surface somewhat that helps to round out their personality.


The art style can certainly said to be unique, with broader strokes on the characters’ facial features and with notable emphasis on the eyebrows and lashes. Characters’ faces are also relatively long and pointed, and Jay Jin’s more ethereal yet down-to-earth beauty has been captured quite well in the way she is drawn.


100% Perfect Girl was addictingly fascinating, but I only devoured it in an effort to stop that growing feeling of dread as the series progressed and to see whether a happy ending is actually possible for this bunch of unfortunate characters. I actually felt emotionally drained after the entire series though I wasn’t exactly smiling in delight, crying or even being excited at all, simply because I was just shaking my head throughout at how unlucky the characters had to be.

All in all, this series was a tad too dramatic for me. Though it had a good plot, I felt very personally removed from the characters, and it didn’t manage to touch me unlike its shoujo counterpart Haou Airen (which I think did a better job than this) or its Chinese live action drama counterpart (Summer’s Desire, which portrays more three-dimensional characters and an extremely interesting female protagonist and which I highly recommend). It is still well worth a try though for those who prefer darker, more serious shoujo stories along the lines of Haou Airen.

Please feel free to share your thoughts below about this manga, whether you have read it or not 🙂

Shoujo Manga Updates and Thoughts :) (Part I)

‘Sup people! I have been on a shoujo manga roll recently despite many valiant efforts to finally quit and focus on my studies *ahem* so there’s really been a lot of manga I have read since my last manga related post! So I decided to just do mini reviews for some of the manga I have read so far – no spoilers ahead, so read on! xD

Cat StreetCat Street

This is a coming-of-age story which focuses on a group of friends. Keito Aoyama is a famous child actor who retired from her career early due to a traumatic incident and she has been passing her days without purpose since then. One day, she meets a stranger who brings her to El Liston, a free school for students like herself who don’t think they have a place in society. There, Keito finds new friends and slowly grows to accept and open up to others, as well as confront her childhood fears. This is a story about finding yourself, and I really liked the concept of El Liston – I wonder why there aren’t more of these institutions in real life! There is a lot of character development in here – and for the romance part, its not conventional because Keito doesn’t choose the first guy she falls for, though its possible you’d pick up some clues right at the start about who she’s gonna choose in the end. Though because I have seen so many great reviews on it I went in thinking that it will blow my mind – it didn’t, but it has a very unique story and likable characters nonetheless.

My rating: 8/10, recommended! Contains drama and psychological themes.

Stardust Wink

This is a romance comedy between three childhood friends: Anna, Sou and Hinata; and Anna’s love journey to see who she actually likes. This is a typical high school fluffy shoujo manga, but its also not so typical after all. The characters are not superficial though Anna is really really confused all the time about who she really likes – in fact, I think its hard to tell who she’s going to end up with – there’s so many twists and turns. Even when she’s confused, Anna is not fickle-minded and that’s a relief. The English translation is not fully scanlated yet, so I finished this in Chinese. However, I think there isn’t a real difference between stopping at where the English chapters end and the ending; its essentially the same though there are other certain revelations about the relationships of one of the main characters.

My rating: 7/10, recommended if you are looking for a light, entertaining but not superficial shoujo read with a confused girl (I personally love these things, haha!)

Hiren TripHiren Trip

A story about an aspiring mangaka who meets her school’s student council president – one of the less seen male sempai-female kouhai relationships out there. The girl falls for the guy first, but thankfully it wasn’t too cliched. The art fits my taste and the feelings explored weren’t superficial to say at the very least. Too bad it was really too short (8 chapters) but it was a pleasant read.

My rating: 7/10    

Renren Zakari - SO ADORBS <333Renren Zakari

The story screams love triangle alert! But make up that with gorgeous art and gorgeous lines and it really makes those very short 5 chapters worth it. I like love triangles a lot anyway so there isn’t anything that would dissuade me from reading this. Plus, the main female is not an annoying character so that’s a gigantic plus. Check out the screenshot, how is that not enticing? xD

My rating: 7/10 

Hana to Rakurai

Hana to Rakurai

The language is truly beautiful, whether its spoken or written, it’s able to make others feel emotions 

That’s most likely what love is.

A story about helping people and passing that kindness on to others. These themes are not uncommon, but its rare that they are explored subtly and able to elicit a emotional response from its audience. This story deals with characters’ past and the challenges they face in interacting with others, and it also deals with friendship in a very meaningful way. This is a very heartwarming story about reaching out to people, and possibly tearjerking too when we get to know about their backstories. Its amazing how all these are explored in merely 8 chapters.

My rating: 8/10, highly recommended!

That’s all from me for now; thank you for reading and hopefully you are persuaded at least to check out these manga. Look out for Part 2 of this series 🙂 (having completed so many manga that I can’t fit everything into one post :p)

*All images belong to their respective owners and do not belong to me.*