You remember your first love? Of course you do – however it ended up, that person will always leave an indelible mark on you. This is how I feel about “Attention Please”. It was the first Japanese drama I really sat down to watch, and therefore it will always remain a little special to me. With the recent news of the Japan Airlines bankruptcy, the show has a little contemporary poignancy.
Let us get the obvious stuff out of the way. This is another manga adaptation, and yet again stars Aya Ueto. Just like Aim for The Ace. And I am afraid just like another drama I am going to cover soon. Such is like in TV I am afraid!
Ueto plays Yōko Misaki, a young girl who fronts a somewhat unsuccessful local Rock Band. The band breaks up, and her best friend (with whom she obviously wants more) goes off to train to be a Pilot. She misunderstands something he says, and is soon also off to train to be a Cabin Attendant. Of course she is not classic Cabin Attendant material, and the story follows her struggles with the rather intense training, her interactions with her fellow students, along with a really subtle little love story.
Ueto is obviously the star here. She shows a perky personality that is sometimes lost in the other work I have seen her in. For some it may be a little extreme, but I find her character never less than adorable, and you always are backing her to succeed.
The rest of the cast are great also, from Maya Miki’s stern and proper Instructor, to Yōko’s other friends Yayoi Wakamura, Yūki Sekiyama and Saori Hirota (Saki Aibu, Chihiro Otsuka, Misa Uehara). All are beautifully drawn and unique – some are nervous, some are confident, and all interact with Ueto in a realistic way.
At its heart, “Attention Please” is a comedy, and whilst it does not supply many belly laughs, it certainly produces a constant smile. It also never shies away from bringing the tone down a little (as in the first episode when Ueto realises she has followed this guy, changed her life, only to find he has no interest in her other than as a friend). There are a couple of love interest plots, but it is all so subtle. I really liked that, as it stopped the show descending into the mawkishness that usually happens.
Beautifully filmed in widescreen (the difference in picture quality with “Ace Wo Nerae!” is something to behold), each 40 minute episode just rushes by effortlessly. There is also a really nice mix of the real and hyper-real – some of the more comedic characters are drawn in very broad strokes, but the show does well to keep this to a minimum, so it never grates.
Of course the show was very successful – so a couple of extra long specials were made. The Hawaii special is the less successful one – concentrating too much on new characters and shuffling most of the regular cast to the side. However, the Sydney special is fabulous, and serves to provide some closure on a couple of storylines.
If I was going to recommend a single J-Drama from this list to anyone, I think this would be the one.