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TV reviews: J-drama Final Fantasy XIV Dad Of Light, K-drama Hospital Ship

Final Fantasy XIV Dad Of Light is a whimsical comedy about a father and a son bonding through a video game

The father and son in the Japanese drama Final Fantasy XIV Dad Of Light aren't exactly estranged, but, well, their relationship may accurately be classed as non-existent.

Although they eat at the same table before and after hours, they move in different generational orbits - the father (Ren Osugi) is a corporate samurai for whom work-life balance is a myth, the son (Yudai Chiba) is a sales representative by day and a video game fan by night - and have long stopped talking to each other.

It's a familiar situation, till the son finds a heroically whimsical solution.

After the father abruptly and inexplicably quits his job, the son sees an opening. He will get his old man his favourite role-playing game, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, and they will get to know each other better through the game - which the younger man plays as a female feline character.

As he explains to his buddies in the virtual world: "My father will meet me, Maidy, a beautiful blonde woman. As we go on adventures together, we'll talk a lot and learn about each other. We'll build a relationship where we can talk about anything."

The plan hits a bump almost immediately. He forgets to throw in a keyboard and his oversight turns his father's game character, Indy Jones, into a goofy Neanderthal who expresses himself by running around in circles.

A father (Ren Osugi) and a son (Yudai Chiba, both above) reconnect with each other through an online role- playing game in Final Fantasy XIV Dad Of Light.
A father (Ren Osugi) and a son (Yudai Chiba, both above) reconnect with each other through an online role- playing game in Final Fantasy XIV Dad Of Light. PHOTO: NETFLIX

Small, fluffy and special - like a perfect snowflake - this comedy comes from a place of love and little judgment.

At no point does it wonder about the weirdness of a young man approaching his father in the digital guise of a girl. Instead, as it toggles between two worlds - the drab existence of an office worker and the inviting splendour of a virtual landscape - it illustrates with sensitivity and clarity how a game can add dimensions to lives and relationships.

For both father and son, the game instantly transports them to a place far from their daily worries, a magical land of forests and snowy cities.

However, there are also enough tasks and monsters to give the men a sense of purpose and precious common ground.

Yet, a gap still exists between the real and virtual worlds, which is where the jokes kick in.

On the rare occasion the mother takes an evening off from housework to attend a high-school reunion, the son suggests having a night out with the father. But later, Indy confesses to Maidy - whose real identity he hasn't guessed at - that he just had a dinner that was "boring as hell".

Meanwhile, Maidy is so committed to fighting epic battles with Indy against a virtual villain that, back in the real world, the otaku has no time to entertain the idea of dating a young woman from work.

What about the mother then, the poor woman who has essentially become a video game widow? Don't cry for her. As it transpires, she, too, has a fantasy world to retreat into - K-dramas.

Actress Ha Ji Won and actor Kang Min Hyuk (both above) are doctors on board a vessel in Hospital Ship.
Actress Ha Ji Won and actor Kang Min Hyuk (both above) are doctors on board a vessel in Hospital Ship. PHOTO: VIU

Speaking of which, she probably wouldn't mind the South Korean escapade that is Hospital Ship.

At first blush, the drama looks like Descendants Of The Sun on water, a gathering of an A-list actress (Ha Ji Won) and several A-minus actors (including Kang Min Hyuk) who will have a romance-packed adventure on a sailing hospital plying to and from remote parts of South Korea.

  • VIEW IT /FINAL FANTASY XIV DAD OF LIGHT

  • Netflix, any time on demand

    3.5/5 stars

    HOSPITAL SHIP

    Viu the website and app, new episodes available on Thursdays and Fridays Oh!K (StarHub TV Channel 816 or Singtel TV Channel 525), Thursdays and Fridays, 7.50pm

    3/5 stars

A couple of episodes in, however, the itinerary seems heavier with guilt trips. Some characters have regrets about their mothers and mild, weepy moments arise.

This is the sticky stuff that neglected housewives' dreams might be made of.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2017, with the headline 'Family trip to fantasy world'. Print Edition | Subscribe