Title: Zettai Kareshi aka Absolute Boyfriend
Director: Hijikata Masato, Sato Genta, Kitagawa Manabu
Format: 11 episodes
Dates: 15 Apr 2008 – 24 Jun 2008
Synopsis: Izawa Riiko came to the city with dreams of becoming a patissier and finding love, but her dreams have become stalled, and she is now a temp, working at Asamoto, a famous pastry company. One day she is approached by a man who forces her to complete what she believes is a survey discussing what she wants in the ideal boyfriend. It’s only later that she finds out she’s been selected as the test subject for a love robot, which is promptly delivered to her door. At the same time, Asamoto Soshi, the youngest son of the Asamoto company, begins to take an interest in Riiko. Romantically caught between Soshi and the robot Night, Riiko may have more on her plate than she bargained for.
Characters: Strong, sympathetic, and likeable.
Plot: Silly manga plotline somehow works quite well in the translation to live action.
Ending: Tries too hard to please everyone.
The plot for Zettai Kareshi is typical shoujo manga fluff. What would happen if a love robot who looks and acts just like a human suddenly came into a girl’s life and started wreaking havoc? Several years ago, I read a volume or two of the manga, but was completely unimpressed. Somehow, though, the live action version of this manga takes this underwhelming story and turns it into a rather compelling and fun romantic drama.
What saves this series are the characters and the actors’ performances. Every character in this series is one you can sympathize with, even the nominal antagonists. The three leads are charming and it would almost be impossible not to like them and cheer them on. The performances by all the actors were quite believable. Aibu Saki as Izawa Riiko and Mizushima Hiro as Asamoto Soshi in particular were outstanding; they both did a brilliant job of portraying their characters’ subtle – and sometimes not so subtle – feelings without straying into overacting, and their characters felt very real.
But of course the most applause must go towards Hayami Mokomichi, who had the difficult task of bringing life to the robot itself. He perfectly reflected the stiff mannerisms of a machine while still managing to bring a warmth to the role that made Riiko’s feelings towards the robot understandable. Every movement and facial expression was carefully controlled, and it was amazing to watch and imagine how difficult the performance must have been.
Overall, Zettai Kareshi is well produced, with obviously high production values. The direction is tight with little time wasted, yet the series does not feel rushed at all. There is some use of CG and special effects, particularly where Night is concerned, but none of it looks out of place and it all works quite well. Music-wise, the opening theme of the series could definitely use a lot of work; it sounds more like an opening for a news show than a romantic drama. However, the perfectly utilized background music and the closing theme (“Okaeri” by Ayaka) more than make up for the dull and very short opening.
The largest drawback to this series was the ending. The director must have fallen as much in love with these characters as the audience is meant to, because instead of a decisive conclusion, we get a wavery attempt to please everyone. Both the fans of Soshi and the fans of Night should supposedly be happy with the ending, but I found it to be a very bitter and anti-climactic way to finish off what was otherwise a delightful comedic and romantic series.
The Rating: 8
Reviewed by: dheu