Saturday, March 30, 2013

TDrama Review: It Started With a Kiss

Note: Most of this review will be comparing to the Korean series Playful Kiss. It is strongly recommended that you read that review or watch that show first. This review will cover both seasons 1 and 2 of this show.

The Gist: Yuan Xiang Qin (Ariel Lin) is not good at much of anything, especially studying. That doesn’t keep her from falling for the school brainiac Jiang Zhi Shu (Joe Cheng), who immediately rejects her because he doesn’t like dumb girls. There’s no hope of getting over him, though, when a minor earthquake destroys her house and she, along with her father, move into the Jiang family home. This change irks Zhi Shu, who finds Xiang Qin terribly annoying and distresses classmate Ah Jin (Jiro Wang), who is totally obsessed with Xiang Qin. It’s not long before Zhi Shu realizes that Xiang Qin might have some good qualities, though he is desperate to hide his feelings for her. As they both try to move on, it becomes apparent that they need each other. 


1.The Scope of the Romance

While I have an undying love for the Korean version of this show, I’d always felt it was too short, especially when the manga and even the anime go on for so much longer. With two seasons, we get to see far into Zhi Shu and Xiang Qin’s relationship, farther than any other show I’ve watched before. I love the portion of the show where Xiang Qin is trying to be a nurse to accompany Zhi Shu as a doctor. These episodes only get a brief after the fact special vid in the Korean version. As much as I love getting to the proposal and the wedding, I want to see what happens after too! ISWAK delivers this spectacularly, letting you spend plenty of time with all the characters.

2. Christine

Played by Larisa Bakurova, who I believe is a Russian actress, Christine shows up in the second season as a romance for our dear Ah Jin. He has been thoroughly rejected by Xiang Qin at this point, but it takes him some time to warm up to Christine. Again, the Korean version only squeezes Christine into the last episode, but ISWAK delves into the entirety of their relationship. It’s not as great as the central romance, but it’s still cute and you feel a bit better about where we leave Ah Jin. While you know he wasn’t meant to be with Xiang Qin, you still want him to be happy.
3. The Kiss Scenes

**SPOILERS** I think that ISWAK does its kiss scenes much better than PK. Their first kiss comes after their graduation party. In PK, the kiss is cold and calculated, but in ISWAK you can see Zhi Shu getting frustrated and looking rather perplexed after the fact. I think this show of emotion is a smarter reflection of what is actually going on. Secondly, ISWAK puts a kiss at the hospital after Xiang Qin saves Zhi Shu’s brother. I loved this change. I thought that this moment really was a turning point in how Zhi Shu sees Xiang Qin and a kiss was an appropriate expression of that.


1. The Wedding

**SPOILERS** Ok, actually saying that there's a wedding is probably a spoiler, but whatever. I love that they get married and I love that they're unconventional about it. I don't love the dress swap. It's tacky and weird, detracting from the seriousness of the scene. I feel like I could have moved past it, but then there's this giant picture of them in their room for the entire second season, serving as a constant reminder of just how weird it was. Still, got to love that there is a wedding. It's more than we get out of most dramas. 

2. Production Value

As I said on my Devil Beside You review, Taiwanese dramas tend to be a bit lower budget, so the audio/visual quality is generally pretty low. It's a little jarring when you're not used to it, but you can adapt pretty quickly and ignore it because the show is good. 


1. Zhi Shu's Brother 

Played at first by Zhang Bo Han, Yu Shu isn't nearly as likeable or cute as his Korean counterpart. He seemed sort of spacey and mean, then didn't have the redeeming qualities to balance it out. Then, when maybe you are getting used to it, the actor switches to someone totally different in the middle of season 2. I have no idea why and no one says anything about it, so you're watching thinking, "who the heck is that random guy in their house?" It's bizarre and I didn't really like either actor, so it wasn't exactly a plus. 

2. The Ending

**SPOILERS** Lots of spoilers in this one, I know. For those who don't know, It Started with a Kiss is based on a Japanese manga - Itazura Na Kiss. The author passed away before she finished the story, leaving things hanging awkwardly. That hasn't stopped the popularity, but the writers took honoring that too literally and stop the show exactly where the manga ends. That means, there's a lot of unanswered questions. Xiang Qin is grappling with a serious medical issue and they're having a baby! You never get to see the resolution of either of these things, which I think is a major mistake on the writers' parts. You'll love how much you get to see, but want to actually finish with an ending. 


So... while I wouldn't say I like this installment better than PK, it definitely does quite a bit better than PK. I love how long the story goes on for, getting to see well into their married lives and giving you way more intimacy between our leading characters. There's a few wonky moments, but overall it's a great show.  

Final Grade: A- 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

JDrama Review: Ikemen Desu Ne

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.

1.The Chemistry

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.
2. Genius Rewrite

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.  
3. The Ending

**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!
4. Jang Geun Suk’s Cameo

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.
5. Pacing

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.
1.The Music

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.
3.So Much Glitter

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.
1.The Brother Issue

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.
2.Miko’s Fame

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+

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

KDrama Review: Secret Garden

The Gist: Gil Ra Im (Ha Ji Won) enjoys her life as a stunt woman, getting chances to work on bigger and bigger movies. Her life is complicated when she meets a bizarre, incredibly wealthy man named Kim Joo Won (Hyun Bin). Immediately, the two are at odds as Joo Won has a tendency to look down on Ra Im, as fascinated as he is by her. They can't seem to keep apart as an unlikely phenomenon causes them to switch bodies. Now they have to work together to make sure no one notices something is amiss, gradually learning more and more about each other. That understanding of one another plants the first seed of something more between the unlikely pair.


1. The Stunt Work

Honestly, as little as I really enjoyed the characters in this drama, the role of a stunt woman is definitely something different. I think the moments we get to see Ra Im and others practicing are some of the more interesting because it adds a little bit of intrigue to the situation. There's also a level of irony here because Ji Won is probably using a stunt woman for her stunts, which somehow I find kind of hilarious. Either way, it's an interesting profession and causes a special kind of problem for someone imitating her without her skills.

2. Oska

Yoon Sang Hyun plays Joo Won's cousin, an egocentric star. Ra Im has a great admiration for Oska and her fandom makes Joo Won angry. Now, while I feel that pretty much all the characters have some things to work through, I really liked Oska's development throughout the show and thought he was portrayed excellently by Sang Hyun. Really, at the end of the day, I think Oska was my favorite character with the right balance of sentimentality and comedy.


1. The Romance

Any show that has me putting the romance in the meh category isn't on a strong foot. While I think the acting was fine, I really disliked both of our leads. I don't know if that is only bad writing or a combination of bad writing and not really liking the actors. I'll hold judgment on the second until I see them in other things and just say that I found both characters pretty obnoxious. Ra Im is slightly more redeeming, but she still is overly stubborn and kind of mean. Joo Won is supposed to be haughty, but I found him completely infuriating for almost the entire show. He really has little regard for how Ra Im thinks of him and keeps pushing himself on her. It's a little concerning. That said, I do think that when they put their differences aside, they are a good pair, but it definitely could have been better.

2. The Side Characters

Aside from Oska, this show didn't really have any memorable side characters. Actress Park Chae Rin (Baek Seung Hee) is more like a stereotype than an actual character, the director (Lee Philip) had a sort of one sided love but not much development, and the disapproving matriarch is so overdone I just can't take it anymore. Seriously, can we have someone who's wealthy who's mom/aunt/grandma just wants them to be happy? It's not so bad in a show with lots of good qualities but I feel like the character well on this show is so shallow that I just don't think it makes up for it. 


1. The Body Swap

Reading the synopsis for this show, I thought that the body swap was the most prominent feature, but it really isn't. Honestly, it was more like a totally out of left field side thought. Even though it forces our leads to work together, it was done so haphazardly and ended abruptly that I felt the show didn't really need it. The major revelations come when the two of them are back in their normal bodies. The whole thing felt weird and I wasn't sure exactly what I was supposed to be getting out of it. I felt either that the show should have committed to it more fully or done away with it. Instead it felt like a hiccup to the progression of the normal show.

2. Length

If I'm hunkering down for a 20 episode show, it better have a slamming plot and some great characters. In my opinion, Secret Garden has neither, so those 20 episodes felt way too long. It's not good when in the middle of the show I just want to get to the end and the end is so far away. I think the pacing of this show could have used a little speeding up and it would have benefited from being cut down significantly.


So... I'm surprised by how little I liked this show. The plot wasn't that entertaining and the leads were pretty far from likeable. The body switching, while not original, had some good moments, but was overall kind of like a bizarre side plot than anything else. Would not watch again. Generally unimpressed. I have no idea how this show rated better than Mary Stayed Out All Night - you should definitely watch that instead.

Final Grade: D

Note: Once again, this is just my opinion and considering it's been on the front page of dramacrazy's most popular list, someone must like this show. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

JDrama Review: Bloody Monday

*Note: This review will be rife with spoilers as the show is built on plot twists*

The Gist: When Japan is threatened with the release of a deadly, contagious virus, anti-terrorism unit Third-I calls in skilled hacker Falcon to help catch those responsible and stop the attack. Falcon is actually Takagi Fujimaru (Miura Haruma), a high school student and son of one of Third-I's members. When his father is accused of being part of the terrorism group, things get personal for Takagi as he tries to protect his sister, a weak link the terrorists are happy to exploit. Flanked by overly supportive friends at school, Takagi is called up again and again as the terrorists start to release the virus into Tokyo in preparations for their ultimate attack: Bloody Monday.


1. The Action

The whole reason to watch a drama like this is to enjoy the suspense and the quick pacing. The structure of the show harkens other crime show formats, making me think of CSI or Criminal Minds. The threat is looming from the beginning and with the constant reveals, every episode keeps the tension running high. There's never a dull moment for Blood Monday and each moment builds smartly on the one before it. The plot keeps you wondering what's going to happen next, so I watched the show pretty quickly, luckily it's not that long.


While the villain in this drama is really every changing, Narimiya Hiroki's J was particularly striking. Many of the others were kind of difficult to understand, but I thought J was developed nicely with an interesting charisma. I like that the ending left a little wiggle room for J. Really, J was the only person who seemed to win at all at the end of the show and I'm ok about it.


1. The Friends

I really wanted Takagi's friends to be more involved. Otoya (Sato Takeru) helped out with the teacher/terrorist, but until about episode 7, Takagi's pretty much dealing exclusively with agents and terrorists. I thought when we got to the episode when they were all held hostage at the school, that was one of the best episodes and it got much better after that. Also, Hide's (Hisano Masahiro)death was strong and Anzai's (Tokunaga Eri) betrayal, then death were also poignant, but I thought they would have been more striking if they had been more consistently involved. I also felt that Aoi (Fujii Mina) was underused. So ultimately, I would have like to see more of all of them. That said, I thought this role was one of the best I'd seen for Sato, much better than Mei-chan.

2. Plot Twists

Ok, Bloody Monday seemed to have a quote of plot twists it was trying to fill. While that keeps the story very interesting, when there's a plot twist an episode, you start to expect them and not trust anything, which I think takes some of the punch out of the later episodes. For instance, the leader being killed by Maya (Kichise Michiko) and K's identity being revealed were not as shocking as say Hosho's (Katase Nana) betrayal because we weren't really expecting it yet. So really the interest of the plot twists dulled just as they should have been more shocking. Still, the show is by no means predictable.


1. The Fundamental Problem

I don't know if this is an over arching issue or if this is just me, but I really wanted to see some widespread panic. I think that if the show had opened with a terrorist attack rather than leading up to one, the tensions would have been better because I knew the terrorists wouldn't succeed. Watching eleven episodes of a show building up to Bloody Monday, I just wanted to see some damn Bloody Monday and I felt that the level of containment that Third-I was able to keep on the situation was kind of boring. The show did it's best, killing off some people and infecting key characters, but you never get to see the massive Bloody Monday. Of course, I might just be a little vindictive. It's sort of a problem when you kind of want your protagonists to lose for the sake of entertainment.

2. Miura

While I love Miura as an actor and he was generally a good fit for the role, I felt you could really see his limits as an actor in this show. Takagi needs to have pretty intense emotional scenes over and over and while I applaud the attempt, opening your eyes wide every episode doesn't convey a real meaning of shock and terror. I love Miura, but I think someone else may have been able to add a bit more depth to the character.


So... Bloody Monday is all about action and it's definitely a well thought out story with a bunch of plot twists, but the story lags a lot in the middle. When your main guy's skill is hacking, his key scenes are a little boring, consisting of watching him hammer away on a computer and a poorly animated falcon. I thought some character development would have helped a lot, so we cared more about too many characters. Also, you never really get to see Bloody Monday, which is good for our protagonists and kind of sad for the viewer.

Final Grade: C-

Thursday, March 21, 2013

KDrama Review: Mary Stayed Out All Night

The Gist: Wi Mae-Ri (Moon Geun Young), energetic college student, is trying to keep a positive outlook as her father deals with massive debt, often sending loan sharks after her. He thinks he's solved their family problems when he runs into a wealthy old friend and decides to marry Mae-Ri into their family. The groom in question, Jung In (Kim Jae Wook), agrees at first to keep his father's investment in his drama production. When Mae-Ri finds out she's being sold off against her will, she pretends to marry a guy she just met, front man and rocker Moo-Kyul (Jang Geun Suk). Moo-Kyul and Jung In quickly get protective over Mae-Ri as their parents are trying to force the marriage with Jung In and force out Moo-Kyul. The situation becomes ever complicated as real feelings begin to develop out of the lies.


1. Kang Moo-Kyul

I must admit that I was not a huge fan of Geun Suk in You're Beautiful, but I love his character in MSOAN! He has a genuine warmth that makes it endearing when he's on screen. Now, let's not forget that voice. Holy cow, the intro scene with him on stage singing My Bus! immediately hooked me on him. I grew to love Jung In too, but at first, all of the scenes with Mae-Ri and Moo-Kyul were by far my favorite. Love him. He adds a lot of talent to the show and steals most of the scenes.

2. Wi Mae-Ri

At first, I thought Geun Young was totally annoying. It takes a while to get accustomed to her voice, but I found it adorable by the end of the show. Also, I am totally in love with her hair. It's long and beautiful. Mae-Ri and Moo-Kyul are like good hair partners. As bizarre and complicated as the plot gets, I found Mae-Ri to be a drama heroine who's actions I actually understood. For instance, when Moo-Kyul is kissed by Seo-Jun that would have turned into this whole thing in any other drama, but Mae-Ri gets upset but moves on quickly. She's reasonable in a fairly unreasonable situation. Love her!

3. Poignant Scenes

MSOAN does a good job of expressing a lot of things in a concise scene. For example, there's one scene where Moo-Kyul's mother comes to him, distressed over a recent break up. When they go for ice cream, her boyfriend calls her to make up and she ditches Moo-Kyul without saying anything. That sets the groundwork for their complicated relationship and does so seamlessly. Another good example of this is when Moo-Kyul and Mae-Ri go to the place where Mae-Ri was kidnapped. So sweet and short. Excellent writing!

4. The Music

I am obsessed with this OST. I have listened to it over and over. My Bus! is my favorite, but all the music is well done, ranging from rock to pop and back again. It fits the tone of the show perfectly.

5. The Love Triangle

Let me start off by saying I am not a huge fan of love triangles, but I found this one to be totally awesome. It goes from no one wanting to be involved with anyone to everyone loving everyone. I thought it was a smart choice to make Jung In likeable, instead of someone it would terrible for Mae-Ri to marry. It really meant that her bond with Moo-Kyul needed to be way strong. This show is really all about the romance and I loved every scene. It was a fantastic love story that was a bit different.

6. The Ending

***SPOILERS*** I was going to be so disappointed if we didn't actually get to the wedding after all this build up and I was not disappointed. I thought it finished perfectly. Jung In is such a good person to let her go, even when it gets him in trouble. I love that the three of them can sort of be friends at the end. It was a nice touch. I worried that they were going to break up Moo-Kyul and Mae-Ri, but I loved that it didn't end in a perfect marriage. When she said "we broke up twelve times, we're dating for the thirteenth," I thought it rang so true. Smart ending!


1. The Parents

 OH MY GOD! Who tortures their children like that? I get that you don't want them to suffer, but if you just let them alone, I'm sure it'd be fine. When Mae-Ri seems to miserable and her dad just insists on moving things along, I was mortified. I did get good insight when I realized that Jung In's dad was totally hot for Mae-Ri's mom. When Jung In said Mae-Ri would turn out just like his dad, pining for someone he wasn't married too, I thought OH SNAP! but that still didn't change his mind. Bad parenting all around.

2. Seo-Jun and Mae-Ri

Seo-Jun, played by Kim Hyo Jin, is Moo-Kyul's ex girlfriend and an actress in Jung In's drama. I thought for how intertwined their lives were, Mae-Ri and Seo-Jun would end up friends. I really wanted that, but they didn't quite get there. Close, but not quite. Seo-Jun ended up being pretty harsh and bitter for most of the show. I wished they let up on her obsession with Moo-Kyul a bit sooner.


You can't hate this show. It's just not possible. It's all so good!


So...I'm almost considering knocking something out of my top five, this drama was that good. Moo-Kyul and Mae-Ri are amazing protagonists and I thought the story would get to complicated, but the plot was perfect. I powered through this show and can't wait to watch it again. Everyone's saying Secret Garden was better. THOSE PEOPLE ARE LIARS. This show is amazing.

Final Grade: A+

Picture Credit: Dramacrazy

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

JMovie Review: Kimi Ni Todoke

The Gist: Kuronuma Sawako (Tabe Makako) has the bad luck of bearing a resemblance to Sadako, a character in the horror movie, the Ring. This earned her the nickname Sadako so unanimously, that almost no one knows her real name. Despite the fact that Sawako is friendly and kind, her quiet demeanor and reputation makes it impossible for her to make friends. That is, until popular boy Kazehaya Shota (Miura Haruma), asks her for directions to their high school and shows her some actual kindness. Sawako is inspired by Kazehaya and wants to be bolder like him. Pretty soon she picks up some new friends, tomboy Chizuru (Renbutsu Misako) and Ayane (Watanabe Natsuna) who realize her true nature and help her grow into a more confident person. After spending more time with him, Sawako starts to wonder if her feelings towards Kazehaya are purely admiration and if he’s just being nice.
1.The Casting

Having just finished Gokusen 3, I am stunned that Kazama Ren and Kazehaya are both played by Miura! His look and general feeling are just so different in each project that I doubt without doing these reviews that I would have put that together. As always, I am impressed when exaggerated cartoon characters translate well into live action. Sawako is a bizarre part to play, equal parts nice and scary. Makako does a fabulous job bringing a creepy vibe with all the right notes of sincerity. Same of Chizuru and Ayane, who are both just off of reality, especially physically, that I’m surprised how naturally the chemistry felt. The casting was done smartly, that you get the same feeling from the anime, without so much surrealism.
2.The Feel Good

I would definitely categorize KNT as a summer movie in that laid back, slow moving but comforting sort of sense. There’s no great sense of action or urgency, but the plot is wonderful in its simplicity and is just generally very adorable. Sawako is the perfect protagonist as someone you can really get behind and root for. Her growth isn’t super expansive over the course of the movie, but she’s obviously jumped over a big hurdle by the time we hit the end.
1.The Misunderstandings

The crux of the issues that come up in KNT is that Sawako cannot express herself clearly. That means that most of the problems are things that could have been cleared up easily, if Sawako was just determined to make people understand. Obviously this is intentional, but it does get a little annoying when the problems are so fixable. Still, that makes it that much better when she has friends who trust her despite the misunderstandings.
1.Where the Romance Stops

Kazehaya and Sawako are obviously destined to be together and while I wouldn’t say this movie is strictly speaking all romance, it’s definitely a central feature. The anime is just as slow moving, but since it gets a few seasons and the manga gets a whole mess of chapters, it doesn’t matter because you get what you want in the end. KNT seems to end just before you get what you actually want… which to me, is at least one damn kiss. The end leaves you with a good possibility, but I would have really liked for them to realize their feelings more fully and actually get somewhere. In this regards, I think the anime is far more successful.

Played by Arata, Pin is our little buddies’ homeroom teacher.  I wouldn’t say this is so much a casting mistake as much as Pin just doesn’t translate as well to live action. He’s ridiculous in the anime, but he’s just not really that likeable as a teacher. Not to mention with Kurumizawa (Kiritani Mirei) as a central antagonist, we don’t really need him to stir the pot and with Chizu and Ayane, we don’t really need him to push Sawako and Kazehaya. If I was doing this, I would have just written him out.
So … Kimi Ni Todoke is a pleasant movie. It’s enjoyable to watch Sawako make some improvements in her life and get some real friends. The romance stopping short is a major hindrance though and sort of leaves you dumbfounded at the end of it. I’d say fans of the anime won’t be disappointed, it’s a good adaptation, but the anime has a lusher storyline.
Final Grade: B-