Wednesday, March 25, 2015

JDrama Review: Mischeivous Kiss 2: Love in Tokyo

The Gist: Kotoko's (Miki Honoka) dream has finally come true now that she has married her long-time love, Irie Naoki (Furukawa Yuki). There's still work to do, though, as Kotoko and Naoki essentially jumped the dating stage and hopped straight into marriage. With Naoki working through medical school and Kotoko working hard to support him by becoming a nurse, they have to sort out not only what it means to be husband and wife, but what it means for them to be a team. The two of them have never been on even footing when it comes to their relationship and in Kotoko's worst nightmare, marriage hasn't changed much. Naoki and Kotoko aren't the only ones struggling with romance. Kin-chan's (Yamada Yuki) one-sided love takes an unexpected turn when foreign exchange student Chris (Nakai Noemie) arrives and little brother Yuki (Miyagi Yoshiaki) looks like he's going to keep up the family tradition, potentially making all the same mistakes as his brother.


1. Kotoko and Naoki

This pair is once again, the heart, soul, and everything about this show. Now that Noaki is finally mostly on board with their relationship, you can really see their chemistry sparkle. What I love best about this show is it continues to bring out the best in our leads. They essentially have to learn to depend on each other in opposite ways. Kotoko needs to learn to have some independence. Her entire life up until now has been singularly focused on Naoki and while that doesn't change, she comes into her own and learns to be her own person. Naoki, on the other hand, really has a lot to learn about being a husband. He always says that Kotoko can do the things he can't and let's face it, Kotoko was a born wife. It takes a lot for Naoki to realize when he's jealous, when he needs to communicate, and when he should verbalize to his wife that he loves her.

Again, although they lived together, there's a lot that changes with marriage. I really appreciate that this show didn't shy away from talking about sex in that opening episode/honeymoon special. Kotoko barely feels comfortable holding Naoki's hand and she's about to go on her honeymoon! It's a great moment when Naoki finally breaks down because it finally shows Kotoko (and the squealing viewers at home) that he wants this too. When he gets jealous about Keita, Kotoko's nursing classmate, he handles it so poorly. I love that Kotoko finally speaks up, something to the tune of "I'm the only one in love here." It stings, but to me, I felt it was perfect. She needed to stop feeling like Naoki was doing her a favor by being with her and start working on their marriage together. Now, Naoki is still going to be Naoki - cold and a bit dumb in love - but I liked this moment as a turning point for them.
And wow, that's a lot to say. Also, they kiss a lot and it's glorious. Definitely fills the void from last season.

2. The Ending

Spoilers coming at you. So, I was super curious what they were going to do with the end of this show. Fans of the manga will know that unfortunately, the mangaka died before she could finish the story. Every adaptation has to make a choice about where they are going to end this show. The Taiwan version sticks completely to the manga and stops mid-story. The Korean version stops about halfway through the manga, with a few teaser specials afterwards. The anime has a made-up ending that's pretty solid, but I mus admit, this version ending was in my book goddamn perfect.

I was worried we wouldn't get back to the pregnancy after the initial scare and while I'm sad we didn't get to see more of it. There was this lovely balance of seeing her telling all her friends, how the family excitedly prepares, and then it jumps ahead, just for a glimpse. You see Naoki and Kotoko walking with their little girl between them. They each call the other's name, before smiling and saying "nothing." It's perfect because you can just see how fulfilled and happy they are and they've moved into knowing each other so well that "nothing" really says it all. Naoki is simply beaming in this scene and it's adorable to see him finally so comfortable showing his emotions. The glow in the scene reminds me of that first coffee scene in season 1, which closes the book nicely. I'm usually not a huge fan of an overly perfect ending, but this show has always been the exception in my book. I loved it. Wow, that was also really long. Sorry.

3. Yuki

While this story is definitely focused on Kotoko and Naoki, there's this adorable subplot where Yuki is finding his own Kotoko. She is dumb but determined and Kotoko instantly takes her under her wing. Fans of season 1 will definitely enjoy this as Yuki gets roped into tutoring her and then rejecting her. Yuki gets replaced with another solid actor about halfway through the series as years are flying by in this season to grow him up a bit. Honestly, one of my favorite scenes is when Yuki comes to Naoki and asks him why he chose Kotoko. It's nice because not only does it get Naoki to open up about his romance, but it shows some brother bonding, which is actually not that prevalent this season. Yuki's still hard on Kotoko, but he's able to learn from Naoki and accept that he doesn't need to be a snob when it comes to love. Minor spoilers, but it was also a nice moment to see Yuki and her shopping for baby clothes for Kotoko, which makes them all seem like a happy family already.


1. Doesn't Kotoko have friends?

According to a lot of the comments on Viki, this show got chopped down a lot and the DVD's have a much fuller story. I think Satomi and Jinko suffered the most from this. Even though one of them gets pregnant and has a baby, we really don't see any of it. I'm a little sad all of this happened off screen because they were always a good support for Kotoko. This happened again to a smaller effect with her nursing friends, even though they're all at the same hospital. I get that we had to cut a lot to focus on Naoki and Kotoko, but it still makes me a little sad.

2. Kin-chan and Chris

Kin-chan is alone no more! I think my biggest beef with this part of the story is that the middle of their romance is cut out. Now, this show isn't really about them, but I feel like you get the beginning of their story and then he's proposing. With what a good friend Kin-chan is, I had hoped to see a bit more of him consistently through the series. That said, I think this is actually sort of realistic. Once you get out of school and married, you only see your friends once in awhile and they get engaged to people you may not know that well. Again, fans of this story will not be surprised by Chris' appearance, but I'm glad Kin-chan got his due as she was shoehorned into the last episode of the Korean version that fell really flat.


1. Kotoko as Nurse

Now, don't get me wrong, I love that Kotoko is working hard to support Naoki in his profession. What I really disliked is that they continued to make Kotoko so inept. I get that it's in her character, but it's also in her character to work hard and get it. I had hoped that they would be kind to her and once she struggled through school and actually made it on the job, she'd at least not be causing harm to patients. But seriously, who hands a scalpel blade down to a surgeon or knocks all the surgical instruments to the floor? This moved beyond cute-dumb to down-right dangerous and I don't think it was fair to her character to write her that way. I appreciate that they give us a few moments of her excelling at it and a chunk of the final episode is dedicated to them working together and she does well. I was cringing for several episodes, but it still doesn't really taint my overall enjoyment. 

2. Naoki's Super Creepy Cousin

If I could just delete this episode from this season, I probably would. This is probably my least favorite storyline. First, they're related so that's creep factor one. Second, I am amazed at how many of these characters just ignore the fact that Naoki and Kotoko are married. This happens in a lot of dramas and it freaks me out every time. Marriage is a big deal and to come up to someone and be like, hey, you should give your husband to me means that you should get punched in the face. Really, even though this ends with Naoki reassuring Kotoko and them being adorable, it's kind of ridiculous that it was a problem to begin with. 


So... based on the fact that I've written about a small novel of why I love this show, you can probably tell that I really loved this show. I'm going to say this kicked the crap out of the Korean version and was just a joy every step of the way. This show finally lives up to its title (seriously, so many kisses, yay!) and it was a real delight to watch Naoki and Kotoko grow together (finally). It's impossible for me to list all of my favorite moments and all I really want to do now is start over with season 1 and watch the story all the way through.

Final Grade: A+

Thursday, March 19, 2015

TDrama Review: In Time with You

The Gist: Cheng You Qing (Ariel Lin) and Li Da Ren (Bo Lin Chen) have been friends ever since Da Ren insisted that he would never fall in love with You Qing in high school. After following her to college and remaining a steadfast confidant throughout the years, they've managed to maintain a close friendship, much to the chagrin of their respective boyfriends and girlfriends throughout the years. The story opens on You Qing's 30th birthday, where she is having a crisis about her age. This also happened to be a rare window where both You Qing and Da Ren are both single. Though this phase doesn't last phase, it prompts both of them to examine their unique relationship and wonder if their feelings really do stop at friendship.


1. The Chemistry

No wonder You Qing and Da Ren keep pissing off their significant others. They have great chemistry together and you can really feel the familiarity bubbling beneath the surface. It's not just that they know each others' favorite ice cream flavors, but that they are totally relaxed around one another. It's amazingly obvious to everyone who isn't them that they're clearly destined to be together, but I think that rings true about life. It's hard to see what's right in front of your face until there's the prospect of them not being there anymore. Nicely done.

2. Nic (Xu Hao En)

I mean, what a jerk for playing around with You Qing's feelings, but I honestly just love this character to death. He is so spectacular at being a flirt that I just really felt for You Qing/I would have crumbled way before her. Yet, I love that they didn't just leave him as a phoney working to climb the corporate ladder. It's a bit sad that he felt the only way he could get anywhere was by seducing his way to the top, when he's obviously very attentive and good at his job. I really love that You Qing put him up for the open position and that he came back around to be a good friend when she was needing an ear to talk to about Da Ren. Honestly, there's just something refreshing about this character that I can't get enough of. I choose him over Ding Li Wei every day. Yes, even then.

3. The Ending

Spoilers. Obviously. So, of course You Qing and Da Ren end up together. What I really liked about this ending is that it wasn't just a fairytale ending. You see that they fight and disagree, much like they always have. It was a delight to see that moment when You Qing calls Da Ren as her best friend to complain about Da Ren as her husband. He handles it marvelously and it shows the balance to their relationship. Also, I think it's funny to show that for how many years they've been friends, there is definitely some awkwardness in progressing their relationship. It was nicely done. Also, I love the dog.


1. Pacing

I was so overjoyed when I realized that these episodes weren't an hour and a half long in the hopes that I might actually get through this show in a decent time period. Still, the pacing of this show moves right past leisurely and into dragging on. I feel that once Da Ren and You Qing start to recognize their feelings, it takes way too long to get any results. I think if I re-watched this show, I would honestly jump episodes in batches of five. I appreciate a show taking its time, but I feel like tha sheer time spent on just quiet reflection was way too much. The overtly melancholy tone of this show dragged the pacing down a bit as you just want a brief reprieve at some point. I get that it is sweet and slow, but come on. Give me something I can work with here!


1. What is up with that logic?

Ok, minor spoilers ahead. So, You Qing has the most warped, forced logic of anyone I've ever seen. She essentially realizes Da Ren loves her and when he moves to Singapore decides the best way to keep him is to stop talking to him all around and marry some other guy. Yeah, that keeps the relationship alive. Why even bother preserving a friendship you can't use? Basically by the time someone falls in love, it's sink or swim. Either get on board or cut your losses. Anyway, that's enough mixing metaphors. The point is, You Qing keeps willing herself not to love Da Ren and it's so pointless. It's obvious from space that she'll regret her decision, but she keeps pushing it anyway. If I was friends with her, I would have just punched her in the face. Be in love, woman!


So.... I liked this show, didn't love it. I think it's sweet, but a little quiet and drawn out for my taste. Also, it was just so obvious that Ding Li Wei was a bad idea, I just wanted to smack You Qing. I'd say this is good for a single watch through when you have a lot of time, but it's going to drag out the rewards for quite some time.

Final Grade: B-