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Aug 20 2015

Last Cinderella (Series Review)

LAST CINDERELLA
Series Review by David Cirone

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Last Cinderella piles on the cute. As much a fantasy story as its namesake, the series trips over itself time and time again as it overtly panders to a middle-aged female audience. Despite its talented and earnest cast led by Ryoko Shinohara and featuring Haruma Miura and Naohito Fujiki as her dueling love interests, Last Cinderella never found it balance and took itself too seriously. Played for straight comedy, it might have been more successful.

Sakura (Shinohara) has no confidence, no dating experience, no fashion sense, no clue about makeup, and no radar for judging how the people (especially men) around her feel. One month shy of 40, she’s become androgynous, a point hammered home by the beginnings of a beard sprouting from her chin in the first episode.

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All-too-quick introductions put Sakura at the center of a contrived love triangle that’s set up to please the show’s female audience, if for no other reason than to keep them glued to the TV for cosmetics and dieting commercials. “Yes, you too can be 40 and have a selection of hot men desiring you with no effort at all. Just drink beer, eat ice cream and pizza, and pay no attention to the hunks losing their minds around you. Why? Because you’ve got a good heart.”

Ridiculous plot aside, Last Cinderella is worth watching for its collection of fine actors. The amazing cast pulls off a small miracle and and saves Last Cinderella from its cardboard script, elevating it past what could have ended up as a bargain-level Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Sex and the City.

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Haruma Miura as BMX racer Hiroto is just off the charts hot in Last Cinderella. His stride toward the unsuspecting Sakura in the first episode is all animal-sexy, and poor Sakura (dressed like a train wreck at an upscale dating party) doesn’t stand a chance. Throw in some shower-scene fan service and Miura’s warm smile, and he’s way too good to be true. No one seems to question that too sharply, so why should we?

Nanao as Chiyoko is a beautiful little stalker, capital-O-obsessed with Rintaro. She’s effective and convincing as a spoiled rich girl, but her character spends too much time pouting and skulking around for me to care. The real challenge here would have been to give Nanao some genuine warmth instead of making her a selfish victim for 11 episodes.

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Naohito Fujiki as Rintaro has the confidence to lead his salon staff, but the script constantly corners him into acting weak, conflicted, and insecure about his suddenly-awakened feelings for Sakura. Of all the characters, he’s the one most equipped to actually take action, and it was disappointing to see him just back down so many times. Rintaro gets the best line of the series, capsulizing Sakura’s character as “too nice, to the point of being childish”.

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Sub-plots involving Sakura’s friends Shima (Naoko Iijima) and Miki (Nene Otsuka) are interesting distractions, and give the actresses the opportunity to branch out from just playing confidantes to Sakura’s plight. Shima’s plight involves an affair with her best friend’s husband, and Miki is nearly the victim of an investment scam at a host club.

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Overall, the show rides on Shinohara’s performance. Her comedy chops are sharp, and her ability to instantly switch to dramatic material is remarkable. She’s the glue that hold the series together, and after a few episodes, I truly didn’t care about the plot anymore. Just like this Cinderella might stop waiting for her Prince Charming, I stopped waiting for the plot make sense and just enjoyed the ride.

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Check Out Last Cinderella: Episode 1 on Hulu.
http://www.hulu.com/watch/572321