Fishbowl Wives Season 1 Review – An enjoyable but flawed romantic drama

Season 1

Episode Guide

Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3/5


Fishbowl Wives is somewhat of an enigma. On the one hand, it’s a cautionary tale about marriage and not neglecting your partner in favour of money or materialistic wealth. On the other hand, it’s a show that champions the idea of infidelity and cheating. Quite the strange cocktail.

Split across 8 episodes, this Japanese drama is based on the manga of the same name and essentially revolves around six different women and their turbulent marriages. The main arc centers on Sakurta Hiraga, a popular woman who’s married to high-flying businessman Takuya Hiraga.

Unfortunately, Takuya is controlling and abusive, eventually leading to Sakura leaving and finding comfort and solitude in a kindly goldfish shop owner, Haruto. Their relationship eats up the lion’s share of the run-time, with plenty of dramatic moments and a couple of nice twists late on.

Structured around this though are various other couples and their individual marriage woes. Some of these work quite well – including the rather marvelous episode 4 which features a couple that have become disillusioned with one another. Saya and Sota used to run together but now they don’t. I won’t spoil what happens but this is easily the best episode of the entire series.

On the other side of the coin though are chapters like episode 3, which features an enthusiastic husband who has a fetish involving his wife cheating on him. Only, she too has a fetish which she’s been keeping from him. This chapter attempts and fails to inject some comedy relief in the show, but it feels like tonal whiplash when we continuously jump back to Sakura and Haruto’s trying relationship.

The episodes are a bit of a mixed bag and it doesn’t help that Sakura and Haruto’s relationship stagnates quite a lot during the middle chapters. There’s really not a lot going on between them until late on when Takuya makes his move.

The biggest problem this show has is with its large cast. This is something that can forgiven with Korean dramas that have an equally daunting ensemble, given their episodes clock in between 60-75 minutes. Here though, we’ve got nearly 10 different characters all thrown into a series with sharp, pacey episodes that range from 38 minutes to 50.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the characters are quite enticing to watch, especially a wife who suffers from nasty headaches, but at the same time there’s just not a lot of depth to any of them. This makes the final montage flatline rather than feel like an emotionally charged segment that’s been earned. However, this also has an adverse effect of highlighting one of the biggest problems with Fishbowl Wives. It’s message.

I mentioned before about the infidelity issue and this montage actually celebrates the idea of cheating on your spouses. I appreciate that some of these women have been through hell and that in Japan it could be that divorce is stigmatized more than in the West, but is it stigmatized more than being unfaithful and cheating on your partner? I’m not so sure.

Visually, the show looks great and there’s a really nice soundtrack accompanying this too, with a mixture of J-pop and more somber piano-driven instrumentals. There’s certainly an effort to make this look aesthetically pleasing and Fishbowl Wives absolutely nails that.

The goldfish metaphors are perhaps a little on the nose, although there’s a consistent effort to keep everything feeling organic, with a shaman instilling her wisdom to each of the wives across these episodes.

It’s just a shame then that the series takes such a questionable stance on the idea of infidelity. The show lacks a lot of emotional depth for the characters outside the central couple, and alongside the short episodes, gives this a somewhat rushed and surface-level appeal. While there’s enough here to whet the appetite, there’s not quite enough lasting appeal to see you returning for more in an hurry.

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  • Verdict - 6/10

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