I make no secret of my love for Dear Sister. It’s one of the few female-oriented dramas that have been satisfying on all levels – plot continuity, commitment to factual details, prioritising of female familial relationships, great acting (I love you Ishihara Satomi), tons of fun, and most of all a refreshing portrayal of women.
I’m a long time jdrama fan who also happens to be big on romance as a genre. The thing about romance dramas is – I like them, I really do. I am very much aware that there are so many released every season specifically catered to female audiences like myself. My first instinct is almost always to pick a romance over a detective drama. Another dark thriller? Meh, give me fluff. I would even say that I’m really generous when it comes to accepting cliches (every genre has their own after all), but good heavens does it take time and effort to sieve through to get to a good one.
Sure, Dear Sister isn’t a romance drama, but it is targeted at females and does have romance storylines embedded within it. I also bring up romances because so often I feel like these shows make an effort to make a statement about women and how they are like, and most of the time I just don’t identify with what is being presented to me.
This is why this scene in Episode 7 of Dear Sister surprised me so much. I’d watched so many romance sub plots leave a bad taste in my mouth with their misogyny or lack of realism that I couldn’t believe I was watching a Japanese female character say the following:
I’ve always wanted to get married. I just wanted to get married in my 20s, and it didn’t matter to whom. I thought I could fill a void if I got married. I thought I could fill up whatever it was in myself that I didn’t want to see. I thought getting married would make me whole. But I finally realised that that’s a mistake. If I don’t change myself, even if I get married, nothing could ever fill that void. That’s why, I’m so sorry.
The background of this is that Hazuki, a government worker who resigned from her cushy job the moment her boyfriend proposed to her because she’d always wanted to get married grows and matures after she finds out that said guy cheated on her. Afterwards, she decides not to withdraw her resignation, but only after discovering her true passion lay in another career path. She also starts dating a cafe owner by the name of Yohei, who eventually proposes to her. In this scene, she rejects his proposal after thinking through it for some time.
Get this, it isn’t the fact that she rejects his proposal that is the great thing (in fact I strongly rooted for them to be together), but the reason behind it. She wasn’t saying ‘Sorry because I don’t like you’ (which is a valid reason but not always applicable). Neither was it, ‘Sorry because I like some else’ or ‘Sorry because I’m a high strung workaholic’ (let’s be real, this is the underlying message of so many dramas). Instead, it was ‘Sorry I can’t marry you right now because accepting your proposal would be ignoring the fact that I need to work towards making healthy changes in my life’.
Maybe it’s because I’ve watched so many jdramas blame women for falling birthrates or place them in arbitrary love triangles, that a frank confession like this really struck my heart. In order to have a healthy relationship, a woman should be allowed to give herself time to be emotionally healthy on her own. When we first meet Hazuki, she was so burdened by societal pressures to marry before her 30s and her own desire to start a family. Here, she doesn’t reject marriage as a good thing, but she realises that marriage cannot complete her if she herself doesn’t feel whole.
And Yohei, hearing this, doesn’t push his proposal. He simply tells her he will wait for her, and the matter is left alone till, in due time, it can be broached again. That too, was refreshing to watch.