The Gist: Miko (Takimoto Miori) is all set to go to Italy to finish her training to be a nun, when her life is derailed by her brother’s manager (Yanagisawa Shingo). He begs her to fill in for her twin, Mio, who has just signed on to be the fourth member of the mega famous pop band, A.N.JELL, but got into a fight and needs surgery overseas. Learning that Mio wants to be famous to help find their long lost mother, Miko agrees. However, that puts her in the same house, working closely with the three existing members: the strict and icy leader, Ren (Tamamori Yuta), the sweet and kind Shu (Fujigaya Taisuke), and the ever cheerful Yuki (Yaotome Hikaru). Many obstacles threaten to expose Miko’s secret identity, especially with the harsh Ren refusing to accept her as a member. As she works for his approval, she realizes for the first time, she might be developing real feelings for someone. She’s not the only one, as the boys discover who she really is, they find themselves more drawn to her and more frustrated with each other.
Sitting here, fresh off of watching this show, I’m amazed by how much more I liked this show than You’re Beautiful (the original Korean version). When trying to figure out why, I think it comes down to two things, the first of which is the natural chemistry between our leading actors. I was skeptical at the casting at first, as A.N.JELL just seemed to be knock offs of their Korean counterparts, but I grew to really appreciate the smart choices for each of their roles. Johnny’s boy Yuta is a new face for me, turns out IDN is only his third show! JACKPOT! Same with Miori, but IDN is only her second! I am uber impressed with both of them and I think their pairing works much better than Tae Kyung and Mi Nam’s. The scenes with the two of them have a natural energy that makes this romance surprisingly engaging.
There’s a real fine line to walk when remaking a show – balancing keeping the things that people love, while trying to add something new and exciting. IDN hits this out of the park. The first and last two episodes stick pretty close to the original, but the middle wanders all over the place into new territory and I love it. Obviously keeping the same premise and character profiles, this show adds in some nice new moments. For example, the part at the orphanage was random, but totally endearing and really set a nice tone for the show. Also, when Miko is sick, but won’t let Ren take her to the hospital - I can’t remember if there’s something comparable in You’re Beautiful, but I was so taken with that scene. The script has just the right amount of new and old to make for a smash hit.
**SPOILERS** So, the ending of this pretty much matches You’re Beautiful exactly. Ren proclaims his love for Miko in front of 15,000 fans in concert in an effort to keep her from leaving him forever. Of course, Miko melts and loves him too and everybody’s happy. You get a lovely scene before she goes to Africa for a bit to volunteer, as was her original plan. Now, this is where You’re Beautiful stops, but that’s not where IDN stops. Brilliantly, we get an extra minute that pans across Ren’s room, showing the postcards and pictures Miko’s been sending him before seeing her return to Japan. We close on Miko meeting Ren at the airport, reuniting at the end instead of separating. This is the best part of the rewrite and leaves me feeling totally satisfied. Side note: the moment with Miko and the director was a nice touch too!
This is the actor who originally played Ren’s character in the Korean version and I thought it paid a nice homage to the show to have him appear. I had no idea that Geun Suk spoke Japanese and am ever impressed with him. It didn’t really add much to the plot, but it was a real treat for the fans of both versions.
IDN has a feature length pilot episode, but is still 5 episodes shorter than You’re Beautiful, meaning that things move at a pretty incredible clip. There’s not really any downtime and things build quickly. Again, the scriptwriters nailed this though because it doesn’t feel too rushed, but rather just doesn’t feel stilted. Yes, I wish there was more for me to watch because I love this show, but I think if this show tried to cover the same ground in more episodes, it would have felt too lengthy. They should make a season two, though. They probably won’t, but they really should.
I think part of my displeasure is that I’ve been spoiled by good music lately. This show has the disadvantage of me watching it on the heels of Mary Stayed Out All Night, which has a killer soundtrack. The songs weren’t great, but I really liked the score, that is to say the non-lyrical background music. For whatever reason, the accompanying piano to the serious scenes stuck out to me as key to the mood. Also, the final song, Miss You, was lovely and there’s no shortage of talent on either Ren or Miko’s part.
I feel very perplexed about Yuki, who is the least observant observant person. He has feelings for Miko and realizes there’s some chemistry between her and his band mates before he realizes that she is a girl. Obviously the situation’s so bizarre that it shouldn’t be anyone’s first, second, or third thought, but I felt like he was so observant, that he should have put something together sooner. Also, Hikaru needs some serious dental work. For real, did he even know he was going to be on TV? Bless his heart though, he’s still a freakishly likeable character.
Ok wardrobe people, I understand the ridiculous outfits that stars wear when they’re put out on stage – they’re supposed to be over the top, but I have the hardest time believing that Ren would lounge around in a glittery silver hoodie just at home. No straight guy wears that much glitter. It’s a minor thing that kept me a bit quizzical. I got over it though because Ren just looks so damn good no matter what he’s wearing.
Now I’ve mentioned in my You’re Beautiful review that it ticks me off that they won’t hire a different actor to play the brother. The reasoning for this is obvious: they need them to look so alike that they can be interchangeable. This causes a whole mess of problems for me, though. The first is the same complaint, when Miori actually has to be a boy, they do all these weird camera tricks and keep her mostly out of the scene, which is awkward and weird. Second, there’s never a scene between Mio and Miko, who love each other and have been separated for so long. It just doesn’t make sense plot wise! You want them to meet at the end, but they really can’t because they’re the same actor. It ends up feeling like they don’t really care about each other because they never get together and talk – even though they have a bazillion things to talk about (i.e., Miko’s relationship with Ren, their mother’s story, Ren’s mom, any necessary info to fill Mio in). Again, I understand it, but I think it would be better to hire a different actor and just take a little less believability for switching them out, for the reward of having a scene with the two of them together. Wow, that was ranting.
So, of course, Miko needs to step aside for her brother to fill her place in the band, which was his place to begin with. Still, did anyone else notice how naturally Miko took to fame? She was stellar on stage, a quick learning dancer, and a natural model. All of her problems weren’t with being famous, but personal with the members of A.N.JELL. Obviously, she has the talent of an amazing voice. This isn’t a really big problem, but I still feel like Miko’s a natural at this and should have pursued her own career in showbiz anyway. There’s nothing to say she doesn’t, but there’s no proof she does – so I’m going to just choose to believe that’s what happens after the fact.
So… I am unbelievably impressed with this show. I enjoyed this way more than the original version, which is not the conclusion I thought I’d come to when I started this show. The script adds a lot of things I love to the show, while keeping the things the fans hold dear (little pig nose!). The major win, though, is the great pairing of Yuta and Miori, whose Ren and Miko are infallibly romantic and meant to be. Rock on everybody! You did the almost impossible with this show and made it better :)
Final Grade: A+