So… cat’s out of the bag.
Yessir, whaddya know? I’m actually watching this show!
picture credits to: http://wiki.d-addicts.com/Itazura_na_Kiss_~_Love_in_TOKYO
I know what you’re thinking – this one, really? Like, REALLY? But… (slightly embarrassed) yes.
To be completely honest, I never intended to watch this one, having watched the Kdrama-version Playful Kiss (see The Kdramas Collection – it’s under Snoozefest, ahem) and the TW-version It Started With A Kiss (and it’s sequel, though in glimpses) years ago. DramaFever’s first Jdrama-venture and it’s this one – oh boy, was what I’d thought. The story is cute in general, in that manga-esque, don’t-think-too-hard mental capacity way but not so much as a full course meal. In fact, my drama-writer friends are even part of the weekly drama club at DramaFever blog for this show (*waves to Rosie and Heisui*) and though I do skim through their entries there, somehow it never crossed my mind to actually give this show a go.
Then of course, the unimaginable happened… what can I say, never say never is true, indeed.
A couple weekends ago, totally randomly, I came across the video the cast had recorded especially for their DramaFever audience. It was perhaps, 1 or 2 minutes? I was indifferent to be honest, my interest not at all piqued, but I pressed play anyway. Yawning, I was about to hit stop… but in that last few seconds, the actor who plays the hero… he closed this brief greeting with fluent American-English! Okay I’ll be honest and admit… Swoon. Yes I can be so incredibly shallow, ha. Needless to say, my interest level piqued to 99% immediately and quick minutes of background check on the actor, Furukawa Yuki – FYI if you’re curious, the long story short is his family migrated to Canada and he went to Keio University’s private school in NYC for high school before moving back to Japan to complete his undergraduate degree at the university – and just that easily, into the rabbit hole I went, clicking the first episode with the pretense of “Oh, I just want to check out this remake.”
The thing I love about Jdramas is their ability to condense just the right amount of humor, romance and plot in 45 minutes weekly. Really, it’s amazing that when compared to Kdramas, Jdramas can tell the same story in half the amount of time and effort spent. Not that this is a bad thing for Kdramas per se, since their bread and butter is often the emotional sentiments which Jdramas tend to lack, the latter being very formulaic. Having said that though, here’s a reason why that one-episode attempt easily became two, three and oh hell, all six that were available then. We’re not quite at the halftime point to be honest – my quick Wiki search tells me it’s slated for 16 episodes – but I figured it’s a good time as any to be writing about it, simply because well, I can’t believe I’d actually jumped on board this wagon, after swearing off on this story line following the completion of the Kdrama-version.
More unbelievably, I can’t believe that I’m actually… enjoying this show.
As aforementioned, the original Mischievous Kiss story – from the manga, which interestingly was actually never completed due to the sudden death of the creator – is one of those shows which you must leave your brain at the door. Think too hard about it and you’ll come out either pissed off at the hero’s cold demeanor, doozy at the silliness-borderline-stupidity of the heroine, the lack of depth in the plot or… all of the above. However, if you can bring an open mind and lots of heart, I trust that like me, you’ll enjoy the experience.
1) The Premise
The Mischievous Kiss premise, as I’m sure most if not all of us are well aware by now, is about the love story between the innocent, not-very-bright heroine and her one-track love sentiments for the hero, a super-smart-but-lacking-in-personality guy in school. After her painstakingly written love letter to him was openly rejected, she decided to quit loving/crushing on him once and for all, having spent the past couple years doing exactly that… except a crazy turn-of-event – literally, not even kidding – and a particular six-degrees relationship resulted in bringing the two of them under the same roof. Naturally, hijinks, hilarity and love ensue – not necessarily in that order, aha.
2) The Hits – Bring in The Yay!
Seven episodes in and there are a few things I’m surprised to find myself loving about Mischievous Kiss ~ Love in Tokyo:
Hit #1: Miki Honoka as Aihara Kotoko
I love her! I love her portrayal!
This may just be a coincidence, but seriously, this casting is totally age-appropriate. Let’s be honest here: the heroine character – regardless whether she’s Oh Ha Ni, Yuan Xiang Qin or Aihara Kotoko – isn’t the brightest bulb and her one-track feeling of love/adoration/insert-suitable-adjective towards the hero sometimes borderline pathetic, other times stupid and when neither, naively sweet. It’s likely my own personal quibble and thus, prejudice, but frankly I can’t stand girls like her in Real Life who’d give their all, come hell or high water, risking pride and everything just for the sake of a guy. A guy. My brain… does not compute. The move is perhaps justified if the guy reciprocates but if the guy is an ass, a robot or continues being douche despite her attempts then I’m all the more rattled. This is exactly the case in this show…
…but surprise surprise, Miki Honoka‘s portrayal of Aihara Kotoko is endearing! I appreciate it so much that she’s fully aware of what she lacks without having others point ’em out to her. However, rather than feel ashamed, she’s instead actively trying to overcome that and thus, puts in genuine effort and drive to succeed. Small achievements, but her 100% go-getter attitude is absolutely winning and one of the many reasons why I love her. In general, I love characters like these because rooting for them to accomplish their goal is such a natural response; they deserve it.
While it’s true that her one-track love sentiments towards Naoki boggles me especially when he continues to be his cold (sometimes mean, which rattles me even more) robot self, I appreciate that she realizes it herself that it’s like she’s helpless of her feelings towards him. Perhaps she isn’t trying hard enough, but then again, she really is a simple girl – having him acknowledge her is enough to make her happy, for instance. I can’t say I personally agree or like this, but this isn’t about me, ha.
In short, I like the fact that although Kotoko is simplistic in her emotions, rather than this being a weakness, it’s instead her winning card – she’s a character who is true to herself and her emotions and no one, not even myself, can deny her that respect.
Hit #2: The Pacing
Very easy to digest – each 45-minute episode passes by so breezily. It’s weird how we’re really only at episode 7 and they’re still in the college years, but at the same time it feels like so much has taken place! The plot is moving swiftly, but in true Jdrama-fashion, it doesn’t feel rushed or convoluted at all.
Hit #3: The True-to-Manga Depiction
Yes, I doubt that people in Real Life act like these characters – if they do, uhm, can I call a psychiatrist on them? I know one in the form of my Eldest Bro… – and yes it’s very gimmicky at times, tonally and story-wise, but here’s exactly why it’s fun – like Nodame Cantabile‘s live-action dramas, this one also stays true to the original manga. I’m therefore fine in not having to think or analyze so much when I’m watching the show, i.e. trying to justify and scrutinize their every move and decision.
Hit #4: The Big Picture (Heart)
For a show that’s very gimmicky tonally what’s with the manga-vibe and the no-brainer premise, it is surprisingly so full of heart. By that I mean, yes the central conflict is this love story that’s incredibly one-sided but in this Jdrama-version, the humor and sentiments, they resonate. The plot and characters can be wacky, but underneath all that… Kotoko’s forever-crushin’ on Naoki feels real, the friendships between her and her schoolmates feel true-to-life, the growing familial love between Kotoko and Naoki’s family is very much a natural transition and the (still not quite there, but hinted) blossoming romance between our lead couple is… putting Naoki and his robot-emotions aside, indeed palpable.
I love whenever shows give me this surprisingly real reverberations emotionally, especially coming from shows which are touted as romantic comedies or those on the lighter fare. They often almost automatically make me think lesser of them in terms of depth, but when I sense something stirring… I’m moved, and nothing feels more real than that.
3) The Miss – Tone Down the Nay!
Miss #1: Naoki’s Cold Demeanor
So I think the actor is oddly hot, in this growing-on-you way. To be honest, I don’t think this character is a difficult one to pull through – there’s hardly any need to emote, for instance – so I can’t say what I think about his acting, but the fact that I don’t outright, straight-up hate or am irritated by Furukawa Yuki‘s portrayal is a definite plus. Unfortunately, Naoki as a character… Sigh. I get it that he’s super-smart and so otherwise perfect that his lack of personality is therefore his handicap, but… he’s like that boy in the playground who teases the girl he likes, sending mixed signals and making fun of the girl repeatedly when in truth, he really actually likes her. It’s cute, but it’s annoying after awhile. I can only put up with your cold, uppity demeanor towards Kotoko for so long buddy!
I’m not saying you need to do 180 degrees and pull a Kin-chan, but does it hurt to say something nice to her at moments when she really needs that? Does it hurt to be straightforward about what you feel, however minimal, without the you’re-so-stupid tone or expression? She practically worships the ground you walk on – okay, Kotoko’s no Oh Ha Ni, but close enough – and you smugly know it, so dude… that’s just douche.
Miss #2: The Mean Kid Brother
What is with this kid, seriously? I want to smack him every time he appears on my screen saying, “Stupid Kotoko!” in that smug tone of his. I get it this show is sourced from a manga, but manners are manners and being mean to another is unacceptable, period. Someone needs to knock some sense into this kid, for real. I don’t care if he means it as an endearment – it’s not okay to belittle another, especially calling them stupid.
Miss #3: The Lack of Character Maturity
It’s like… I see it, but I also don’t. Or perhaps it’s more like it’s not at levels I’d thought they would be? As of this halftime pseudo-review, the show’s in the college phase and one would think our leads have matured some, but… I’m not really getting this growth. It’s kinda almost-there, but it doesn’t quite cut it because Naoki is still hard to connect with and Kotoko is still so bumbling and blindly in love with him. The one character I thought I saw some degree of maturity though, is second-lead-but-don’t-stand-a-chance Kin-chan played by Yamada Yuki. It would be epic if Naoki shows character growth, but I don’t know if this is mere wishful thinking on my part.
4) Afterthoughts – Current Verdict
I know I can sound like such a drama-elitist, wanting all dramas to have depth and intelligence and condemning those that don’t. I promise it’s not my intention to be mean, rather to keep it frank and real that life’s too short for bad dramas. Where this show is concerned, I don’t dig the premise manga-wise but ironically, I am incredibly invested in the execution through this show! I think this is a good thing, because once I leave my prejudice and whatever else at the door, I find Mischievous Kiss ~ Love in Tokyo to arguably be the best adaption when compared to it’s neighboring versions.
As a side note, I find it rather interesting that there’s ongoing murmurs about the actors’ age difference – Furukawa Yuki is 10 years older than Miki Honoka, who is only 16 and thus a minor. I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s disgusting as some people on the world wide web seem to think so – it’s not like they’re even doing anything R-rated here, geez even a kiss is hard to come by in this one! They’re being totally PG-13 and personally I don’t find this age difference an issue, whether on- or off-screen, physically and most importantly, morally. She’s a minor in Real Life yes, but nothing fishy is going on here premise-wise and for goodness sake, he’s only 26, not some shady old man!
In conclusion, if you’re looking for something light and funny, I do suggest giving this show a go. You can be incredibly hard-pressed about self-worth, gender equality and the like as I am and still enjoy this show, give and take – I’ll be the success specimen story, aha. I strongly think it’s because there’s something inexplicably endearing that’s brewing in Mischievous Kiss ~ Love in Tokyo and I can’t help but return for my weekly dose.
Halftime Verdict: 8/10.