Showdown between two housekeepers

BETTER PORTRAYAL: Japanese actress Nanako Matsushima plays Akari Mita in the Japanese drama, I Am Mita, Your Housekeeper.
Showdown between two housekeepers

LESSER PORTRAYAL: Choi Ji Woo plays housekeeper Park Bok Nyuh in The Strange Housekeeper, the Korean remake of the Japanese drama.


    Oct 22, 2013

    Showdown between two housekeepers



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    SHE'S an unlikely leading lady for an Asian drama. She's not a damsel in distress, nor a fiesty girl-next-door in search of love.

    Meet the unsmiling housekeeper Akari Mita, who cooks, cleans and obeys every command of her employers.

    The household she serves is equally atypical: a family of four children, whose mother was driven to suicide by their father's adultery.

    Mita's eccentric character, steeped in a dark storyline, made the Japanese drama, I Am Mita, Your Housekeeper, a runaway hit when it was first aired in 2011.

    Ratings skyrocketed to 40 per cent in the finale, and sealed the drama's spot as one of the third-most-watched series in Japan's television history.

    Riding on the immense popularity of the original drama, the South Koreans are giving their melodramatic take with a remake, The Strange Housekeeper.

    My Paper checks out how the Korean and Japanese housekeepers fare against each other.




    The original series enthrals with its delivery of a tight, fast-faced plot unfolding over 11 episodes.

    Focusing on the main characters, the show revolves around Mita's extreme robotic ways and how the family sort out their messy relations.

    Shock value is high as the production team has no qualms pushing the boundaries with edgy scenarios. Think a young child threatening suicide to students having sex.



    It's typical Korean melodramatic fare designed to get the waterworks flowing from the first episode where the family is seen grieving at their mother's funeral.


    Extending the drama to 20 episodes, the scriptwriters have fleshed out subplots and supporting characters, such as the dad's scheming mistress and a gossipy neighbour.

    Though the Korean interpretation largely follows the original story, it pulls its punches and serves up family-friendly fodder.

    For instance, a scene where the eldest school-going daughter contemplates sex with a fellow student turns into a lecture on values.



    The star power of the two leading ladies - Japanese actress Nanako Matsushima (who plays Akari Mita) and Korean actress Choi Ji Woo (who plays Park Bok Nyuh), is on a par with that of A-list veterans.

    Both fair maidens make for stunning domestic help, and have the icy demeanour and appearance to pull off the role.

    The housekeepers sport the same padded jacket and a cap, and tie their black apron strings in the same precise manner.

    However, Matsushima's consistent straight face and deadpan portrayal edge out Choi's more compassionate and humane expressions.



    The original Japanese drama is a thriller that keeps audiences glued to their seats with a fast-moving plot.

    And though critics may find the Korean remake a tad too draggy, the extra theatrics - from the over-the-top crying to the juicy gossips - are likely to keep K-drama followers hooked.

    Kudos to the Japanese scriptwriters for dreaming up such an unconventional narrative and character. That alone is enough to keep me tuned in to the Korean version.

    Besides, a second shot at the housekeeper's story has some fans rooting for a twist in the ending of the remake.