The Gist: 26 year old Hirose Michi (Matsushima Nanako) is feeling trapped: still living at home with her parents, including a strict father, trying to impress the high school students she teaches, and accepting a proposal she feels like she’s supposed to from a guy she doesn’t care that much about. That all changes when 17 year old Kurosawa Hikaru (Bessho Tetsuya) hits her with his motorcycle, sparking a moment that gets the chance to grow when he transfers into Michi’s class. They realize a mutual attraction fairly quickly, which never ceases to stop problems as society refuses to understand them. They try to hold fast together, but everyone from family to coworkers is determined to break them up.
1. Forbidden Romance, what else?
Obviously the draw of this show is the we-really-shouldn’t factor. I’ve never watched a drama with a student/teacher romance at the center of it. I’ve enjoyed a few mangas that deal with this storyline, but all in all it’s a pretty unique perspective. I was really curious to see where this show was going to go and while I didn’t love all of the choices it made, it was certainly a fascinating plot point.
Loved him. Tetsuya is not a familiar face for me (which isn’t super surprising considering this drama is around 15 years old), but I felt like he handled the role very well. He was actually cast young, which makes the audience feel the age difference between our main duo. So at 25 years old myself, I can’t even sort of imagine choosing to be with a 17 year old, but if it was someone genuinely caring like Hikaru, I might make it work. I though he was going to be a reckless bad boy - stereotyped to death, but Michi wasn’t really looking for excitement in her life, she was looking for freedom!
This show does an excellent job at making you feel the claustrophobia of Michi’s life. After the pilot episode, I wondered what I would do in her shoes. Most characters it would be easy for me to say “she should have turned down a proposal from a man she doesn’t love” but you could feel the expectations. Is her fiancé the lesser of two evils between him and her father? Of course as the show went on, she made some less than brilliant choices (not including loving a young guy), but I have to appreciate how well the setting opened up Michi’s life, so that we could all understand the rough spot she’s in.
1. The Pacing
I never put a JDrama’s pacing in the Meh category! At eleven episodes, this should have been a pretty quick ride. Initially, things move very quickly. The confession, kiss, sex all happen in the first few episodes, which is delightful, but then the rest of the show is left sort of floundering. I really wanted to focus on the relationship building, not watch them on the run for eight or nine episodes. I feel like for all the drama that happens, the audience isn’t really rewarded. I think you only get one kiss after the first one, which is odd. It’s bizarre watching this on the heels of Gentleman’s Dignity because I have the same thought about the age difference romances of the two shows. It’s almost condemning them by not showing their affection on screen. That said, that first kiss is pretty dynamite.
1. The Obvious
Michi and Hikaru are very distraught because everyone thinks they’re doing something wrong and you know what, they are sort of. Seventeen is really an adult, but the laws are in place for a reason. While Michi wasn’t taking advantage of Hikaru, there are teachers in the world who do. Not only does she have the age advantage, but as a teacher, she has power over Hikaru in a very real way. Of course the teachers are all upset at her, that’s a betrayal of what they’re trying to do. If they waited until he graduated and started dating them, no problem. But while they’re still in this unbalanced power dynamic, the age isn’t the only issue. So when she declares he love for Hikaru in front of the school, I was groaning so hard. It was trying to be a sweet moment, but ended up just being dumb. Just the dumbest.
2. The Ending
Michi went from a character I really respected to one I just had enough with. *SPOILERS* OK, when Michi is pregnant and goes off, I was fine. When she pushes herself way to hard, I’m starting to worry. When she refuses to abort because … of what? I was like this is dumb. Is the idea that she loves Hikaru so much that she’d rather die and leave him alone rather than “kill their baby” and then leave Hikaru alone as a teenage father!? That’s the worst plan ever. EVER. She kept insisting her body could handle it when she’d already passed out. HINT. That’s your body saying you can’t handle it! Dude, I know it’s a touchy situation, but it’s better to keep the mother safe and try again. So heartbreakingly dumb.
3. Hikaru’s Mom
This is another character I had respect for at first and then she just devolved into total nonsense. Of course if your son starts dating his high school teacher, you’re going to be mad. I would yank my son out of that class so fast, he’d get whiplash. It’s understandable for her to be unhappy. What is not understandable, is that he forcing her will just makes it worse. Hikaru dating someone (even a teacher) doesn’t mean she’s all alone. If she was supportive, they could all be a big happy family. It’s only because she’s freaking out that he keeps running away. THIS SEEMS SO OBVIOUS. So when she becomes suicidal over her son falling in love and being an adult, it just kills me. Yes, the hospital thing is stressful, but if she wasn’t such a neurotic maniac, she could have kept her son around. That’s how it works. You’re nice to him, he doesn’t want to go far. It’s just insane for me that after Michi saves her life, she’s still so unwavering. I felt similarly about Michi’s dad, but I actually liked the resolution they gave that character at the end of the show.
So…I actually enjoyed this show pretty well while I was watching it, but the more I reflect back on the experience, the less satisfied I am with what the story ended up being. I think it squandered a lot of potential. It was nice to get a JDrama back into rotation - I picked this one on a review over on Outside Seoul (one of my favorite Drama blogs). It’s not without merit and will be enjoyable, if not a little heavy, for a once watch through, but nothing more than that.
Final Grade: C-