Revisiting Romantic Comedy Done Right, Love Revolution: A Review.

Here’s another go at revisiting, though I must admit this one was not as successful as the earlier walk with Beautiful Life.  But I’m really attempting to spotlight the awesomeness that is previous dramas – oldies but goodies need some love too, definitely – and still in my Jdrama-revival mood, I aptly challenged Love Revolution to wow me again, as it has done repeatedly in the past twelve years.

Love Revolution (2001)
Love Revolution (2001)
picture credits to: http://wiki.d-addicts.com/Love_Revolution

1) The Premise

The story opens with perhaps one of the most memorable analogy, “Love is like waiting for the taxi.”

Briefly, Love Revolution tells the story of Asaoka-sensei, or really Asaoka Kyoko – 32, physiologist, single and… quirky. She is naively hilarious, that’s for sure. Within her circle – coincidentally or not – are the following: best friend Endo Mariko who’s sassy and sexy, younger man Yabuki Mamoru who fell for her at first sight, comedic-relief twosome Fukuda Takuya and Yoshida Kiyoshi and of course, her one true pairing Suga Eiichiro, affectionately called Suga-san throughout the show.

The show mainly chronicles the lives of the two twenty-, thirty-something ladies and the men in their lives with a tonally modern-day, trendy romance feel. Along the way, there’s plenty of crisscross and not-so-crossed friendships, which provide more room for thoughts. In some ways, I guess it’s sort of a take on Bridget Jones and while that may be true, personally, I think it’s really more of a romantic-comedy-slash-love-story done right. When I remember that this show was produced and released in 2001, I’d grin even wider – it’s tone is definitely apt to the times then, but still relates today, evident of successful storytelling.

2) The Characters

Truthfully, I really do enjoy watching and getting to know Kyoko. She’s honest in her desires of wanting to love and be loved, but is also constantly aware of reality pulling and ensuring that she stays within its realms. She’s lonely yes and it’s shown in glimpses, but I like that in all other aspects of her life, she’s functional, in control of herself and her life’s directions. She’s ever-hopeful in that completely innocent, almost virginal-like way despite being 32 though, such that when she finally meets and falls for Suga-san – who is a whole different spectrum altogether – long-yearned for dreams and reality collide repeatedly, plus adulthood and growth take center stage in a most engaging portrayal. Esumi Makiko effortlessly embodied this character and breathed Kyoko to life in a way that is natural, honest and thus, easily relatable.

I used to really love Suga, played by the ever-awesome Fujiki Naohito, like no other.  In Kdrama-lingo he’s basically the bad boy with the gooey heart, but in Jdrama-fashion he’s simply a typical man who’s highly driven and dedicated career-wise. He appreciates women in the way one does a beautiful art piece – basically, he’s that blurry line of a gamer and it doesn’t help that he’s definitely got game. When he met Kyoko, I think he purely intended to kiss her (literal!) into giving away the information but because she’d have none of that despite his persistence, curiosity eventually grew into interest.

The result? A really, really realistic glimpse – or so I believe – at modern-day romance of thirty-somethings career-oriented characters, learning to meet halfway through realization of stakes and sacrifices which are part and parcel of the longevity of their relationship. Is this love? If it is, is it sufficient? All that romantic notions and such – are they enough? At the crossroad between professional development and personal desires, can the two marry in peace – can one really have it all?

Then there’s our second leading lady, Mariko played by Yonekura Ryoko who’s the opposite of Kyoko – sassy, confident, attractive and always with a steady flock of men around her, though the latter is both her blessing and crutch – who’s friendship with Kyoko thus provides for an interesting juxtaposition. They’re both seekers of love … but also searching at all the wrong places and people, I think. For Mariko particularly, it’s super cute how her story turned out and more than that, whenever I look back at her story line, satisfaction washes over me. Her arc showed clear maturity and growth – she needed the roundabout ways, the fallout and the distance to learn what she’s made of, plus realize the real roses masked by the plentiful thorns already present in her life.

The rest of the ensemble – the three remaining guys – enriched the story further; I’m not too sure if it’s right to classify them as side characters to be honest, but regardless what they may or may not be, one thing is certain: each actor did well with their respective roles. This was my first and last time watching Oshio Manabu, who played Yabuki. Personally, all along I thought his acting in the show was pretty flat, but I admit that he possesses a particular charisma that makes him so winsome and engaging to watch. Unfortunately, he has since retired (or okay, maybe kicked out?) from the entertainment world due to – if I’m not mistaken – drugs and womanizing scandals in the past.

3) The Storytelling

Writing-wise, I know it’s been 12 years since this show first aired but legit, the storytelling feels very relatable even today. I think it’s because what it really captures is the sentiments which are felt the world over, universally, by women – perhaps men too – everywhere and anywhere, whoever we may be.

What Love Revolution does right is definitely in portraying loneliness, desire for romance and adulthood conflicts very honestly: none of this skirting the issues or whatever, simply the modern-day typical take on these matters. I’m uncertain to call the writing stellar but it is without a doubt solid. For a romantic comedy, it’s genuinely one that’s done right – equal dose romance, equal dose slice-of-life and equal dose of realistic sentiments.

Plus, the funny moments are genuinely hilarious and while the conflicts may sometimes be overplayed in an exaggerated way, the messages which are being conveyed still hit home very pointedly that the execution merely serves as a medium. In other words, I can deal and accept some over-the-top moments in this show rather easily because the Big Pictures are the real bread and butter.

4) Afterthoughts, Twelve Years Later

I love Love Revolution and I love it’s portrayal of these lonely souls and varied adults as they love and lost, break up and make up, find themselves internally challenged and most of all, grow – it’s a stark reminder that even as adults, we don’t and won’t always know our ways. If I may stretch it further, I’ll even go so far as to say that Love Revolution also presented this clearly: the things our younger selves thought we knew or have always wanted eventually morph with time and are dynamic; what and how then? Also, when it comes to love and life – can one really have it all, without the expense of sacrificing something or either-or? Who you are versus who you are when you’re with someone also provides an interesting topic for conversation, as reflected in this show.

While my early tune-ins of this show always left me somewhat frustrated at Suga for his reluctance to break his guard, repeated watching as I grow older has enabled me to realize that my perceptions of him about this were incorrect – his walls, they slowly break as their relationship progresses. I love until today, that scene and voice-over of the voice message he left for her in the halfway point of the show – to me this particular scene was that one, pivotal moment where he finally put his heart on his sleeve and admitted his feelings for her.

However, I admit that this particular revisit has not been a successful one. All throughout the past twelve years I have loved this show to pieces, but upon this watch, I found myself constantly puzzled about the basis of their relationship. I am all for love at first sight and whatever, but when I look back at their relationship, I scratched my head in confusion; which were those moments of connections which translated to longing, love and the like? There is no doubt that they are compatible for one another, but being older now – I realized that the basis of their relationship is missing and thus, though their passion and romanticism for each other are adorable and heart-tugging to watch, by episode 4 I zoned out. By episode 5, I had to call it a day with this revisiting; it ignited nothing but more pessimism and disbelief from me.

Perhaps I’m being too critical … but perhaps I am not, too. After all, I did first tune in to this show as a wide-eyed ten-year old, one I no longer am and here’s the tricky thing with re-watching: sentiments change. Though I am attempting to think as objectively as possible right now, I am equally aware and realize that perhaps the reason why I can’t seem to butcher Love Revolution completely is because I’ve grown a soft spot for it by default – it is after all, one of my earliest dramas ever. Watching it as a 22 year old, I realize the absurdity of certain scenes and moments but as I’d said earlier, the Big Picture messages to me, are still relayed that I can live and let live, and simply enjoy the show.

In a nutshell, despite this recent lackluster revisit, I will attest that Love Revolution, while nothing revolutionary, is indeed a thoroughly enjoyable Jdrama romantic comedy which is yes, seemingly far and few these days. You’ll also come to understand why it’s titled so upon completion of tuning in, I’m sure.

If you’re looking for a rather intelligent romantic-comedy-slash-love-story Jdrama – here’s one I do recommend! Oh, the OST? Absolute gem! Give this oldie-but-goodie a go, you might just fall for it.

Final Verdict: 7/10.

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4 thoughts on “Revisiting Romantic Comedy Done Right, Love Revolution: A Review.

  1. Like youself, I re-watched Love Revolution recently; I first watched it when I was 15, haha.

    It still remains my favorite Japanese drama to date because as you so aptly pointed out it is still so relatable. It doesn’t hurt that the music and cinematography were so beautiful:)

    I differ from you regarding the basis of Kyoko’s and Suga’s relationship; where I found myself wondering whether love is absolutely random, from the pair’s chance meeting to them eventually falling in love, when I first watched it, I actually “found” the basis of their attraction on my revisition.

    My two cents worth goes like this:

    The reason Kyoko was attracted to Suga was actually revealed by herself in her conversation with Mariko., in the first episode. She very much longed to be in love (to the extent that she would fly to Rome because of a misleading message). Her ideal love was a chance meeting (versus introduction through friends/relatives etc) resulting in love at first sight followed by passionate love. Though Suga’s motivation was not love at first, Kyoko who was thirsting for love and/ romantic attention was undeniably attracted due to all the attention not to mention persistence he showered on her. I believe she totally immersed herself in Suga’s attention and later affection as this could very well be her first romance.

    As for Suga, I believe Kyoko was like a breath of fresh air in her honesty and vulnerability and most important in her principled approach to things. He mentioned in the first episode that he disliked people who cannot keep secrets in the face of temptation. Kyoko apparently gained his respect in this area. When she risked a suspension to reveal the false hospitalization as it resulted in an patients being transferred out without regard to their safety, I believe it made Suga see her as someone who shares his views on justice and someone whom he can face as an equal, rather than a source of information. So this naive oddball which he found fun to tease, gained his respect and threw in a wild card by initiating a kiss had him curious and hooked before he knew it. And because as you rightfully pointed out that they are two very compatible individuals. All they needed was a starting point and the rest as they say is history.

    What I couldn’t get was Suga’s handling of the engagement. That really was not very mature. And since he loved Kyoko deeply and was going to Washington because of her, couldn’t he have handled the issue a little more responsibly? Like actually talk to Kyoko about it. But in the age whereby brides can vanish the night before thir weddings, that behaviour is not all that unbelievable.

    1. Hello :) Aw why are you anon, I don’t know what to address you as! But thanks for dropping by and leaving this wonderful, insightful commentary about the show and our two central characters :) I appreciate it very much :) (pssst it’s totally not worth just two cents!)

      I totally agree with you on your thoughts about Suga’s perspectives about Kyoko more than I do about your Kyoko thoughts, but only because I had the same opinions some years ago. Also, my sister pointed that out – that he was drawn to her because she was different than the women he was used to: she was principled, modern, independent and yet all-woman.

      What you pointed out about the engagement though – ha! Thank you for pointing that out. I love this show to pieces that I’m obviously partial towards it, i.e. trying hard not to criticize it but you hit the nail in the head with that. I honestly thought so too at some point during my many rewatch – definitely wasn’t mature, but fortunately, not out-of-character. I say this because I thought that he did what he thought was best, knowing that they’re both two highly career-driven individuals and already realizing that she’s sacrificing a lot more for him than he is for her. In other words, he thought he was doing her a favor and perhaps later down the line (like yunno, the day after) it hit him it was a dick move and he regretted it, but his pride would never allow him to admit it so he held to his decision, walked away from her (literally, remember the scene when she came looking for him) and eventually left the country. That’s my take at least, or maybe even my justification aha so as to not scream murder at this show and swear off of revisiting. I will say that although this was douchey and poor plot plodder (on the other hand, I also did entertain the thought that perhaps the writer momentarily lost steam and needed something dramatic enough to build up tension), I actually enjoyed the aftermath of the time jump. I thought everyone (Mariko included) really needed the timeout and intermission, away from each other after a dramedy relationship-oriented year.

      All in all, Love Revolution is definitely not without flaws but I think the pluses add up more than the minuses. I figured, I can live with that :)

      1. Hi Jan,

        Thank you for your kind reply :) Glad to know someone likes this drama as much as I do. It is so very underrated!

        Mei Ci

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