Hello, lovelies! Now that I have finished the second season of the Japanese remake of Itazura Na Kiss, I think it's time to discuss the differences and similarities of the Taiwanese, Korean, and Japanese versions of this show. I have always loved the original story, which has an impressive scope and a warm romance. Hence, two of these versions are in my top 10. Anyway, let's dive right in!
Source Material: Itazura Na Kiss - Manga by Kaoru Tada
*Note: Kaoru Tada unfortunately passed away before finishing her story, but her husband has informed shows of the intended ending so that each story can choose what they want to do with the ending of their story.
Taiwanese Version: It Started with a Kiss/They Kiss Again
Years Aired: 2005-2006, 2007-2008
Episode Total: 50
Stars: Ariel Lin as Ziang Qin, Joe Cheng as Zhi Shu, and Jiro Wang as Ah Jin
Korean Version: Playful Kiss
Years Aired: 2010
Episode Total: 16 w/ Several YouTube Specials
Stars: Jung So Min as Oh Ha Ni, Kim Hyun Joong as Baek Seung Jo, and Lee Tae Sung as Bong Joon Gu
(Recent) Japanese Version: Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo 1 +2
Years Aired: 2013-2015
Episode Total: 33
Stars: Miki Honoka as Aihara Kotoko, Furukawa Yuki as Irie Naoki, and Yamada Yuki as Ikezawa Kinnosuke
I think this one has to go to the Japanese version with Honoka and Yuki expertly cast in our leads. I think there's this comfort and teasing these two have off-screen, find some behind the scenes things if you can, they're adorable. Honestly, I was floored to find our there was such a startling huge age difference between the two of them because they're so well-matched. I honestly like the Korean and Taiwanese casting as well, but I think Honoka is our best leading lady. She's got a bit more personality than So Min and is a bit more put together than Ariel. I think a stronger case would have been made for our Korean couple if the story had gone on further.
Best Side Characters:
I'm going to split this one up.
I really love Kin in the Japanese version. I think he comes off as the least creepy/crazy of the three, if you can believe that. I think he comes through as a really solid friend. I love the scene where he goes to find Naoki when his brother is in the hospital. He puts his jealousy aside for the larger issue at hand. I love him.
As far as our Christine goes, I hate the Korean version (she's not cute and has no development), I'm OK about the Japanese version, though she's a bit of a caricature, so I'm going to give this to the Taiwanese version. I think her relationship with Ah Jin had the most time to develop into something real, so that she got to be a well-rounded character.
For that reason, I think the friends of our leading lady are also the best developed in the Taiwanese version, the immense length of that show lends itself well to developing side characters.
The family for me has to go to the Korean version. I love the baby Baek brother and think he was the best cast of the three by a long shot and I also think the mom in this version has the best balance of crazy and caring.
You get one guess. ONE. Duh, it's always the Taiwanese version. As with pretty much all Taiwanese versions, they don't kiss like they're made of glass. The Korean version is seriously lacking intimacy, the Japanese second season has a fair amount, but the Taiwanese version had me actually fanning myself through their honeymoon (whew! So hot.) Let's look at their first kiss, sweet and innocent in the Japanese and Korean version, but obviously tense and passionate in the Taiwanese version. It's pretty much the reason to keep going to that well. Lovin' it. I mean, It really started with a kiss ;)
So, I'm usually in favor of concise and brief shows. That said, I think the shortest of the three, the Korean version has the best pacing for the first season (except the Christine story-line) but really only tells half the story. Really, this story without the marriage is just not complete. Now, the Taiwanese version rounds out its characters well, but sweet Jesus, it is really long from start to finish. I'd say the end of the first season of the Japanese version is rushed, but the overall pacing and framework of the show is the best.
To me, this has to go to the Japanese version, no question. Essentially, the Taiwanese version doesn't end so much as stop, and the Korean version, even with the specials is still missing a bunch of the story. The Japanese version feels complete. Well done!
This has got to be a split between how awkward their wedding was (and the fact that the picture of it is literally hanging over the entire second season) and the total abrupt replacement of the younger brother with a terrible actor somewhere in the second third of this show.
Christine. I'm not going to go into this too much as I've touched on it already, but she is abysmally done in this version.
I'm going to make this a tie between the Rika episode and Kotoko's overwhelming incompetence as a nurse that just won't quit. We all know you can do it if you apply yourself Kotoko! Do it!
Since I can't really pick just one...
Best 3 Scenes of Each Version:
1. I mentioned the honeymoon before, but I actually really love the scene where Zhi Shu asks Ziang Qin's dad if he can marry her. I love this scene in every version, but this scene is the longest, where they are holding hands while Ziang Qin is actually processing what is happening to her. I think it's especially sweet.
2. I love the jealousy scene in the Japanese version too, but I think I like it better in the Taiwanese version. When Zhi Shu finally comes to term with the fact that he's jealous over her and pretty much proclaims his love loud and proud in their cafeteria. Touches my heart!
3. You know, I actually think Ah Jin and Christine's romance coming to fruition after her injury is probably my third favorite thing about this show. Christine is such a sidelined character in the Korean version and doesn't get full development in the Japanese version, that I'm going to give their confession my number 3 spot favorite scene!
1. I really love the moment when the brother is in the hospital and Seung Jo comes in and Ha Ni is rattled, trying to figure out where she left her phone and is clearly trying to hold it together with eerie calm. Seung Jo wraps his arms around her and says thank you. She just breaks down and it just warms my heart.
2. In that same vein, I love the balcony scene after Seung Jo essentially proposes. I think I just love when he has his arms around Ha Ni. Adorable.
3. I'm not sure why I love this scene so much, but I really love the scene where Ha Ni is trying to talk Seung Jo into taking the entrance exam, explaining about how he has so much to give to the world. It's a good example of what works in this one.
1. You have to read my review to know how much I love the coffee scenes. That very first coffee scene where Kotoko is pretty much glowing is actually one of my favorite scenes in all the versions.
2. I love the pillow-talk that Kotoko and Naoki have when she stays over after the hospital scene. I hate that Ha Ni and Ziang Qin make such fools of themselves in this scene in other versions. Kotoko holds herself with grace, they get to know each other better, and there's a nod to the coffee. At any rate this combined with the kiss back at the hospital make this one of my all-time favorite episodes.
3. Let's give this spot to the scene during the episode where Naoki accepts a medical internship out of town. It seems at first that he doesn't care that he's leaving Kotoko, but we overhear him talking to her father about how hard it's going to be on her to complete nursing school without the support of her friends when he's working all the time, but that he's about to break and bring her anyway. SHUT UP. I love the following scene where Kotoko explains how well she's going to do and be strong and Naoki just interrupts her with a lovey kiss. It's a great marker for how much their love has grown.
Let's finish up by saying the kiss in the rain confession works in every version. AH! Even though I know it's coming every time, I just squeal like a school girl. Wonderful!