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Series / Oshin

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Oshin (おしん, Oshin) is a TV morning drama (asadora) aired in 1983 by NHK. It lasted 297 episodes, each one 15 minutes long. Its script writer, Sugako Hashida, said that the story's based on the real life of a woman named Katsu Wada, the mother of the Japanese entrepreneur Ryouhei Wada, founder of the Yaohan supermarket chain.

The series itself was this close to not be aired since it included a not very flattering view of Imperial Japan's classism, lack of free speech and increasing militarization through the first part of the 20th century. The head of NHK, however, gave it his seal of approval, which turned out to be a great idea since it was a hit in Japan and in many other countries, specially in the Middle East, some parts of Latin America, and Hawaii.note  The actresses Ayako Kobayashi, Yuuko Tanaka and Nobuko Otowa (little, teenage/adult and old Oshin, respectively) portrayed the main character.

Shin "Oshin" Tanemura is the youngest daughter of a farmer family, who has to start working at age 7 because her father Sakuzou can't make ends. She, however, can barely make it through her first work and almost dies in a snowy day, and only forging a sort-of Intergenerational Friendship with an ex-soldier saves her. Oshin's second work fares much better and she bonds with her employer's granddaughter, Kayo, plus gets something similar to an education and decides that someday, she will forge her own future. However, since her story is set in Imperial Japan plus she's a humble Country Mouse, it will NOT be an easy task... The story itself is marked as a 83-years old Oshin, now a very successful entrepreneur, explaining her humble origins to her teenage grandson Kei, while traveling across all the places in Japan where all the most important events in Oshin's life happened.

There's also an anime version, released theatrically by Sanrio in 1984, directed by Osamu Tezuka associate and Space Battleship Yamato veteran Eiichi Yamamoto, and adapting the early part of the story. Unlike the live-action series, the film bombed, and plans for further anime adaptations were scrapped. Ayako Kobayashi reprised the role of Oshin for the anime version.

Oshin includes many tropes, including these:

  • Actual Pacifist: Oshin is this, thanks to her friendship with Shunsaku and its tragic end. Not only she's increasingly disturbed as Imperial Japan becomes more militarized, when Yu is drafted into the military itself, she breaks down in tears and thinks that she's failed to her first friend.
  • The Alcoholic:
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Kayo was in love with Kouta, but he could never return her feelings, mostly because he was dedicated to his cause and because he was in love with Oshin. While she eventually gives up on him, it strains her marriage during its first years.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Oshin gives one to Ryuuzo after the incident with Genji, perfectly aware that even when they love each other, they can't get married since they're from different worlds. Ryuuzo gives her one of his own, saying among other things that he's willing to leave his family if it's needed... and they pretty much exchange those as they finally reach an agreement and decide that they'll marry anyway.
  • Arranged Marriage:
    • Kayo runs away from her first one, but ultimately accepts getting into a second one to a Tokyo University graduate from a rich Osakan family. It ends badly.
    • Hitoshi intend to get his sister Tei married to his best friend and Number Two Tatsunori in order to enforce ties with the Tanokura Supermarket business. She ends up marrying him, not for the business, but because she realizes that he is the type of man she wants to be with.
  • Benevolent Boss: Kuni Yashiro, Oshin's second boss, is a Cool Old Lady who recognizes Oshin's potential and encourages her, personally training her to be a useful asset to her business.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: At the same day of Hitoshi's birth, Fuji starts feeling the symptoms of the disease that would eventually kill her.
  • Break the Cutie: The plot bends over and down to break the characters and specially Oshin herself. It fails in her case (coming very close to succeed in Saga and during WWII), but she does come close and so do many others like Oshin's sister, best friends, eldest son, and husband.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Ryuuzo finally tells his mother to shut the hell up and that he won't ditch Oshin, when his sis-in-law Tsuneko tells him that Kiyo was hiding Oshin's letters.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Oshin suffers one in Saga, which hinders her from retaking her initial hairdressing work. With hard effort, she becomes a restaurateur instead.
  • Childhood Friends: The friendship between Oshin Tanokura and Kayo Yashiro starts when they're little girls and lasts for many years, until Kayo's death.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Kouta suffers this after being arrested for his communist ideas, in order to abandon them, to the point that he's permanently crippled.
  • Cool Big Sis:
    • Haru to Oshin
    • The girls from the café at Tokyo, especially Someko, to Oshin.
    • Oshin herself to her younger siblings, judging by their reaction after meeting her at their father Sakuzou's deathbed.
    • Hatsuko, even in her near fifties, is considered this by Hitoshi, Nozomi and Tei. With Yu it was a different matter.
  • Cool Old Lady:
    • Kuni Yashiro, Kayo's grandmother as descibed above.
    • Hisa, Kouta's aunt, who helps Oshin to establish her fish market business in Ise, to take care of her children when she had to leave her home and after Oshin and her family were ditched from their house after the war.
    • Eventually Oshin herself; Kei adores her too much to the point that he prefers to travel with her and listen her story than return to university or to call his girlfriend.
  • Darker and Edgier: According to Mrs. Sugako Hashida herself:
    "I felt that the telling of her hardships while serving as an apprentice and being sold at a brothel was an obligation our generation needed to honor. However, the themes were so harsh and dark that the show was rejected by every television network. Even NHK opposed it. I was told "'We can't confront Meiji issues.'"
  • Fallen Princess: Kayo.
  • Fatal Flaw: Ryuuzo isn't a bad person, but he is incredibly proud and that causes him and Oshin enormous trouble.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling:
    • From the Yashiro sisters, Kayo, the eldest was the foolish to her little sister Sayo. She outright told her parents and grandmother that she prefered Sayo to inherit Kagaya.
    • Hitoshi and Nozomi, respectively. Ironic, considering who their respective mothers are, who also fitted this trope in a Childhood Friends way.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Used as Foreshadowing. While telling Kei about her encounter with Kayo in Tokyo during ther time as a hairstylist, a very drunk Oshin cries while lamenting never telling Kayo that Kouta indeed went back to Tokyo and blaming herself for it. Over a hundred episodes later, it's revealed that said event was the catalyst of the fall of Kagaya and Kayo's subsequent disgrace and death and the reason she is telling him all this story.
  • Framing Device: Most of the series is framed by an 83- year old Oshin telling the story to her beloved grandson Kei.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: In anger, Someko, one of Oshin's beloved customers essentially tells this to Ryuuzo when she sees him having an affair with another woman at the bar, after a "The Reason You Suck" Speech lecture.
    • Oshin also tells this to Nozomi when he runs away after getting mocked and scorned for being an adopted child.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Genji dies protecting little Yu in the Kanto earthquake, shielding the boy with his own body.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Oshin believes that Ryuuzo has dumped her when she stops receiving letters from him after moving to Sakata. It turns out Kiyo intercepted their correspondence, however, so Ryuuzo didn't even know Oshin had left Tokyo.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: A seven year old Oshin strikes one with an already adult desertor of the army, Shunsaku, who saves her life when she almost freezes to death and lets her into his hut, teaching her how to write and read. But Shunsaku is later found and shot dead for desertion, and while Oshin survives the encounter with the Army, her reputation is initally tainted and she's broken for it.
  • Kick the Dog: Almost anything that Kiyo does to Oshin during her time in Saga, until Oshin miscarriaged her baby beacuse of said treatment.
  • Kimono Is Traditional: Oshin, as a Yamato Nadeshiko and Country Mouse, always wears kimonos and arranges her hair in the traditional Japanese style. This also offers a contrast with her Love Interest Ryuuzo, who almost always dresses in Western suits.
  • Love Triangle: The teenaged Oshin and Kayo fall for the same guy, a Troubled, but Cute young man named Kouta Takakura.
  • Look Both Ways: The cause of death for Nozomi's wife/Kei's mother Yuri.
  • Married To The Cause: Kouta, which was one of the reasons he didn't pursued Oshin even when he was in love with her and had the chance. He had to be tortured to abandon his ideals to even consider marriage.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: A big part of Ryuuzo's mindset seems to come from this trope, as he's the third son of the Tanokura family and feels that he needs to prove himself to his parents.
  • Missing Mom: Kei's mom Yuri was killed by a car when he was four.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: When Oshin is working in a Tokyo food stall with her yakuza friend Ken (who secretly loves her), Ken's girlfriend mistakenly believes that she's his lover. Oshin decides to leave since she doesn't want to get in trouble again.
  • The Mourning After: Hatsuko decides to never get married after Yu's death
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: While Ryuuzo's father Daigoro eventually warms up to Oshin, his mother Kiyo really hates her and makes her life VERY hard when Ryuuzo and Oshin are forced to live with his parents in Saga and work the fields to earn their keep. She later goes as far as hiding Oshin's letters to Ryuuzo when she works on her own in Tokyo and Sakata, which leads Oshin, Kouta and Kayo to believe that he's abandoned her.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Two of Oshin and Ryuuzo's kids, Yu and Ai, perish through the story.
  • Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome: Oshin and Ryuuzo's marriage is rather rocky, specially at first.
  • The Ophelia: Oshin spends a short time as this, after her and Ryuuzo's second child Ai dies soon after birth, as the corollary to the terrible times spent in Saga. She gets better when Kiyo allows Oshin to breastfeed her daughter's own newborn.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Ryuuzo's parents Daigoro and Kiyo didn't like their son marrying beneath his station, whereas Oshin's dad Sakuzou didn't approve of her marrying Ryuuzo as he feared to lose her economic help and later got very angry on her behalf when Genji badmouthed Oshin in the middle of his visit.
  • Polyamory: Discussed by Ryuuzo and the family retainer Genji, who tells Ryuuzo to marry two women as a way to dodge the Parental Marriage Veto. Ryuuzo refuses, however, as he considers it immoral. This is actually what causes Daigoro to approve of Oshin.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • Kouta offers to be one for Oshin's son Yu, believing that Ryuuzo has ditched the two of them. Oshin isn't too kin on the idea, and later it turns out Ryuuzo has not ditched his wife and kid.
    • After Kayo's death, Oshin and Ryuuzo take Kayo and Masaru's orphaned son Nozomi into the Tanekura household. Nozomi doesn't learn his origins until later.
    • Ken is intending to sell a little girl named Hatsuko into cleaning work to work off her parents' debts, but the Tanokuras take her in and with time she pretty much becomes Oshin's protegèe and an honorary daughter.
    • Hatsuko herself ends becoming this for a while for Kei after Yuri's death, until Nozomi decides take care of his son by himself.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat / Politeness Judo: Almost all Oshin's interactions with her mother-in-law Kiyo in Saga and with her daughter-in-law Michiko.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Oshin's relationship with Kouta evolves from romantic love into this with the pass of the years.
  • Plucky Girl - Silk Hiding Steel: Oshin became a sort-of symbol of determination in Japanese society and media, as she's shown to never give up and to stand up and start again whenever she fell.
  • Rebellious Princess: Kayo is this since she develops a interest in the arts, doesn't intend to take over the family business, and wants to Marry for Love. It doesn't work well for her, sadly.
  • Red Light District:
    • Oshin and her yakuza friend Ken find Kayo in one of these, working as prostitute after her husband has gambled the family's fortune away and killed himself and her parents have died, leaving her destitute.
    • Hatsuko works in one of these after the war, as a way to cope with Yu's death. Oshin gets her out of it, too.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Kouta admits to Oshin that he never really loved Kayo, and saw her as a replacement for Oshin. Understandably, Oshin isn't happy but she doesn't tell Kayo anything.
  • Runaway Bride: Oshin's best friend Kayo runs away from her (first) Arranged Marriage to be with her first love, Kouta. Oshin is heartbroken since she loved Kouta too and doesn't want to get Kayo in even more trouble, so she leaves her work.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: How Hitoshi's wife Michiko interprets Oshin's attitude towards her.
  • Self-Made Woman: Oshin's biggest desire is to be an independent woman and earn a happy life for herself.
  • Shipper with an Agenda: As said above, Hitoshi ships his little sister Tei with his Number Two Tatsunori because he wants to make the family business stronger through their marriage. They get married, but that's because she does like him.
  • Shipping Torpedo: Not only Oshin and Ryuuzo's parents oppose to their wedding, but the Old Retainer Genji also thinks she's not worthy of his "young master". He even gets into a hug verbal spat with Oshin's father Sakuzou when he insults Oshin to her face. Fortunately, he warms up to her later.
  • Shrines and Temples: There's a scene where old!Oshin and Kei pray together at a Shinto shrine.
    • Ryuuzo and Oshin's marriage ceremony is symbolized by them happily praying together in a shrine, the same one that old!Oshin visits with Kei.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Ryuuzo feels very undermined as he turns out not to be as good as business as he thought, whereas Oshin is a natural at such things and becomes their family's breadwinner. It's not until they almost starve in Tokyo while Oshin is pregnant that he starts changing his mind.
  • Seppuku: Ryuuzo's suicide counts as this since he stabs himself dead after the death of his and Oshin's son Yu and his definitive economic ruin at the end of World War II, believing that he has failed to Oshin in absolutely unforgiveable ways.
  • Spanner in the Works: Kiyo's plan to break up Ryuuzo and Oshin by intercepting the letters she has sent him is undone by Kouta (who writes to Ryuuzo intending to tell him that he'll look after Oshin, which leads Ryuuzo to suspect something weird's going on) and Tsuneko (who manages to find and reconstruct Oshin's letters and show them to Ryuuzo.)
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Yu and Hatsuko fall in love, but Ryuuzo isn't exactly approving of their relationship and Yu enrolls in the Army, dying some time later.
  • Stock Shoujo Bullying Tactics:
    • Little Oshin is subjected to this when she tries to go to school in Yamagata, since she's a farm girl who also has to take care of her boss's baby.
    • Oshin's adoptive son Nozomi is heavily bullied at school when it's revealed that he's an orphan.
  • That Man Is Dead: Hatsuko declares to Oshin after she finds her in a brothel at Tokyo that the woman she used to know died along with her son Yu, but as Oshin can see Beneath the Mask (while removing her makeup), the Hatsuko who came to her home when little and considers her own daughter still exists.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: One of Oshin's many works is as a seamstress, and she's seen both sewing normally and using a Western sewing machine. In one scene, Genji is shown sewing next to her.
  • Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe: Surprisingly averted, since the series does have Tokyo as one of its scenarios but also features places like Yamagata (Oshin's home prefecture), Saga (Ryuuzo's homeland) and Ise (Mie prefecture, where Oshin's family finally settles down)
  • Tragic Dream: Oshin's dream to become a hairstylist was originally her older sister Haru's, and when Haru dies Oshin decides to fulfill it for the two of them.
  • Undying Loyalty: Oshin to the Yashiro family, and Kayo particularly, even after stop working in Kigaya, to the point she adopts Kayo's child Nozomi after she dies and hopes to raise him to rebuild Kagaya.
  • Uptown Girl:
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The series is more or less set as one, since it begins in 1983 with an old Oshin who's now a very prosper entrepreneur and tells her beloved grandson Kei about the story of her life...
  • Yakuza:
    • One of Oshin's friends and strongest supporters in Tokyo is a "noble" yakuza named Ken.
    • When Oshin and Kayo work together in a small eatery and bar, the local yakuza threaten them. By this point, though, Oshin has become rather Genre Savvy about Yakuza habits and uses that knowledge to defuse the crisis, winning the guys over.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Oshin is seen as a classic incarnation of the archetype, as she's strongwilled and plucky but also kind, sweet and duty-bound.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: When it looks like Ryuuzo is finally going to succeed in his Saga business, a typhoon ruins the land he's been working so hard to claim. At least he decides to finally stay with Oshin and help her wholeheartily.-