A highly diverting romantic comedy in eight parts, centered on an upscale lingerie boutique and the expert male fitter who knows better than his customers how the undergirding makes the woman.
Satsuko Kunieda, 32, is an account executive at a struggling ad agency in a regional city. The work is very demanding, and rumors that the company will soon go belly-up persist. One day, she is on her way to a meeting with a real stickler of a client when she realizes she isn’t wearing a bra: she’d gone back to the office after an evening of drinking with colleagues the previous night, hadn’t gotten home until three, overslept and had to get dressed in a frantic rush that morning. Remembering that she’d seen a lingerie shop sign on the way to this client before, she finds the place and stops in. Called “Toujours Ensemble,” it is in the musty-smelling basement of a seedy-looking building, and she opens the door with some trepidation. She is surprised not only to find the interior bright and inviting, with all manner of beautiful lingerie on display, but to be greeted by a tall young man named Yō Isaji, who says he is the fitter and proceeds to take her measurements with practiced efficiency. When done, he tells her that she sleeps on her right side, habitually crosses her legs, has never lasted three months on a gym membership, has suffered from stiff shoulders since her teens, has irregular periods, subsists mainly on ramen and beer, has gained five kilos since she turned 20, and hasn’t had a boyfriend in at least two years?and then asks her how many of his guesses are correct. She says they all are and decides she’ll follow his advice in selecting a bra. He presents her with a number of options of the correct shape and size, and in short order she walks out a new woman with a stylish figure. Buoyed by the knowledge of how much better she looks, she proceeds to her appointment with an entirely new confidence, and holds her own so well in the meeting that she completely wins the client over. The right bra has changed not just how she carries herself but her entire outlook.
In subsequent chapters, Satsuko not only returns to Toujours Ensemble for her own needs, but also brings a number of people there for Isaji to work his magic on: a subordinate on her team at the agency; a woman who joined the agency the same year she did, but quit to get married and is now the mother of a young son; a company president, one of her biggest clients, who, she has discovered, likes to cross-dress; and so forth. Whether the person is looking for a bra to win over her true love, a bra that will prevent stiff shoulders, or a bra that supports changing body contours during pregnancy or after weaning, Isaji always comes up with just the right recommendation. With the fitter’s help, Satsuko herself gains enough confidence to start a new relationship, and then to call it off when she realizes the guy isn’t right for her.
A year later, even as Isaji praises Satsuko for her improved posture and physical condition, her annual checkup reveals a tumor in her breast, and follow-up tests show it to be malignant. She takes a leave of absence from work to undergo a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Then, before she has fully recovered, her company goes bankrupt, leaving her with no job to return to. A year and a half later, she screws up the courage to go to Toujours Ensemble again. She realizes that Isaji is the man she has wanted all along, and discovers that Isaji has been longing for her to return as well. The story comes to a happy close with Satsuko and Isaji getting married.
From the earnest Satsuko, so determined to put her best foot forward in spite of her insecurities, to the always professional Isaji, reminiscent of a first-rate butler, the characters are masterfully drawn with both dimension and subtlety. Complemented by the breezy style, it makes for a most satisfying read.