picture credits to: http://asianwiki.com/File:Rich_Man,_Poor_Woman-p1.jpg
Move over Kdramas, maybe, just maybe – Jdramas rom-coms are making a comeback.
Rich Man, Poor Woman is currently being raved and lauded by the many drama bloggers that I follow. At last, I caved in and decided to give it a go last Saturday night. The first episode hooked me from the start and by the end of it, I was excitedly clicking for the second episode despite knowing an early start was required the following day. As of this review, I am up to 1/3 of episode 5 and have plans to continue up to episode 6 tonight.
What exactly are the charms of this incredibly straightforwardly-titled Rich Man, Poor Woman?
If I may, I’ll answer the above question via four aspects below:
1) Pitch-Perfect: Tonally Breezy & Humorous
You know you’ve got a good one going when a show isn’t afraid to make fun of itself whether in terms of its casts and characters, storyline or overall flow. In Rich Man, Poor Woman‘s case it’d be all of the above. I love the show’s sense of humor; it doesn’t try to disguise itself as something it’s not. It’s a romantic-comedy and the tone is completely apt. It’s one of those dramas with a breezy, summery feel – the sort that doesn’t take itself seriously, but is still solid in what it aims to execute and for that: yessir, more and more please.
2) On Fire: Casting & Crackling Chemistry
Koala puts it so apt when she said that watching Oguri Shun as Toru Hyuga induces weird internal feelings and somewhat risque emotions; I completely agree because OMG, who knew? If you’ve been frequenting this blog or my old Jdrama rants, you would’ve realized that like plenty others, I have such a soft spot for Oguri Shun and even during periods of Jdramas-disconnect, he stayed under my radar however mildly. I’ve watched a significant number of his projects and apart from thinking he completely owned the role of Hanazawa Rui in Boys Over Flowers, I’ll also openly admit that he never once crossed my mind for the hotness factor.
Then this one came along and hot damn, are those… butterflies and flutters in my stomach?
Let’s cut to the chase and be in consensus that he’s one hell of an actor when he wants to be – he just tends to play roles that don’t quite unleash and justify his talent. He’s always playing awkwardly random or coolly aloof too-cool-for-school characters until… now. Toru Hyuga is PERFECT for him; the eccentricity, the nonchalant shrugs, the up-on-airs facade and most of all: the (adorable) raw honesty and vulnerability beneath the incredibly-talented-and-successful-programmer-prodigy persona. Oguri Shun plays him naturally that he doesn’t come off as annoying to me, rather that well – looks can be deceiving.
Then there’s Ishihara Satomi as Makoto Natsui who frankly, I adore the moment she appeared on my screen – who would’ve guessed? I know of her, but have never watched her in action until Rich Man, Poor Woman came along. Again, Koala puts it so apt: she’s able to channel either cute or sexy so naturally without seeming fake or pretentious. I find her character especially, so adorably hilarious but most of all, extremely endearing that I can’t help but love and root for her, both professionally and personally. She’s a little lacking in self-confidence I agree and am overtly aware, but here’s where Ishihara is absoutely winning: she plays the character with enough spunk and sincerity that moments where she would’ve come off as pathetic, I find myself either empathizing or rooting for her instead.
Now, the two of them together? Quite frankly, they’re so adorable that I’d love for them to make babies together and live happily ever after. Okay, that’s nutty and out of context but seriously – sparks, hot damn they’re flying. In a Jdrama no less, which makes it especially amazing because Jdramas are known for their methodical and dry love stories presentation, particularly present day ones. So here’s one where not only does sparks fly – rejoice in the fact that the writer and director are allowing and letting the natural chemistry translate onscreen and embedded into the storyline!
The side characters are worthy of mention, too – Aibu Saki in her nth annoying role, ha plays the character so winningly and so full of confidence that I’ll give her credit and applause for that. The other guy I’m not familiar with but I like his portrayal of Asahina and the obviously darker route he’ll take, venturing further and I just know it, breaking the friendship between the two men.
3) Tight & Snug: The Storytelling
When comparing Jdramas and Kdramas, I have always appreciated the consistency in the storytelling that exists in Jdramas. The writer has a story, a thematic element or a few, in mind and remains unperturbed by ratings and such. Kdramas tend to swing wherever is popular (or not) and heavily lean towards viewers’ reactions – sometimes they’re really nothing more than spazzing, which is extremely unfortunate – especially where ratings or restrictions are concerned, so consistency is typically more common in Jdramas. Interesting storytelling however, is 50/50. In the case of Rich Man, Poor Woman – props to the writer for executing a story that is engaging, from both broad and side views. For example, frankly the company backstory could’ve been so boring I’ll skip it thanks very much, instead it’s incorporated so heartily and with added emphasis into the storyline that it co-exists with the romantic comedy aspects; my interest in the love story isn’t skewed greatly one side resulting in other stories falling by the wayside. I always think that’s a good thing and appreciate writers who are able to ignite this sort of feeling in their viewers so kudos, definitely.
4) Concise & Apt: The Execution
Often, one can’t get the entire package: the writing will be wonderful but the directing is funky. Sometimes the two are okay, but the background music leaves an annoying aftertaste. In Rich Man, Poor Woman‘s case, I’m so happy to report that I thought all three complement each other well, resulting in a drama that’s a visual feast, yummy to digest contextually and a joy to the ears. I love that the dramatic barometer of the backstories are handled and executed concisely; addressed in a scene and then wrapped up just as swiftly. That, to me, is exactly why Jdramas are typically tighter in execution versus its counterpart the Kdramas – they don’t waste airing time with fillers and unnecessary dramatic moments. This drama’s a good example.
Conclusion? If you’ve missed the Jdrama romantic comedy gems of 90s and early 2000s, you’ll be happy to know this one carries the nuances of said-eras! However, it brings the freshness of the present with it, so there’s an added layer of forming a new concoction altogether.
Rich Man, Poor Woman – you’re totally my (surprise) end-of-summer crack!