I was told that this drama is cute, but honestly, I really didn’t get why my Jdrama-watching friends were eagerly recommending this show to me. I mean, yeah, I could tell from the title that this show was going to be about some kind of contract marriage, and I figured there’d be associated hijinks.. blah blah blah. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be anything too different from all the other contract relationship shows I’d seen before. (Heh. Can you tell that this happened in the thick of my drama rut?)
But y’know, it wasn’t until I finally got around to watching episode 1 that I finally saw the light. Somehow, this show manages to be cute & quirky, and down-to-earth yet whimsical – and even thoughtful, all at the same time. Just, how remarkable is that? I was instantly smitten. So THIS was why my friends were so enthusiastic about recommending this show!
The very minute I was done watching episode 1, I was all, “Ahh! Cute~! And, sobs. Why are there only 11 episodes of this cuteness?? WHYYY??”
STUFF I LOVED
First of all, I must say that I found the actual premise a nice twist from the usual contract marriage shows I’ve seen. I mean, a contract marriage involving an actual employer-employee relationship, where the employee receives a salary? That in itself was already refreshingly different, I thought.
But there’s more, you guys. There’s more stuff that came together to make this show as delightful as it is.
I’m possibly taking a risk in deconstructing what I enjoyed about this show.. like maybe it might somehow ruin the magic? But here it is anyway – a quickish rundown of the stuff that I liked best in this charming little show.
1. The quirky OTP
A big part of why this show worked so well for me, is in the perfect casting of our two leads. Aragaki Yui as Mikuri is adorable without being cutesy, and Hoshino Gen is wonderfully square and stoic as Hiramasa.
I love how earnest Mikuri is, and how simple her deepest wish is – that someone would choose her. Her desire to feel needed is a universal one that I feel just about anyone would be able to identify with. That she takes that desire, and applies herself earnestly and cheerfully to whatever situation she finds herself in, makes her very appealing. I liked her a whole lot, right away.
While I typically prefer my male leads handsome and dashing, there’s something that I find very endearing about Hiramasa. He’s so serious, stoic and socially awkward, and is a perfect foil for our earnest female lead. The way he allows himself to enjoy the little touches of help and warmth that Mikuri peppers his home and his life with, has a pleased-bashful little boy flavor about it that I like a lot.
Together, these two are awkward, yet so earnest and sincere. It’s adorable to watch them bumble through things, in their logical, analytical, quirky manner, while their feelings get pulled in along the way.
2. The attention to slice-of-life everyday emotion and detail
As you guys know, my drama diet has consisted of mainly Korean dramas until fairly recently. The thing with the rom-coms that I’ve seen, is that they seem to be coming out with increasingly high-concept premises. From murder and crime to time travel and supernatural other-worlds, it feels like a simple, down-to-earth relatable rom-com is a rare thing these days. This show, however, manages to bring out the cuteness in the ordinary, in deft, expert fashion.
The events that occur in this show generally aren’t the big kind; everything is kind of slice-of-life and everyday, and yet, I feel like I’m following the characters as they experience life and make realizations, and as they make mistakes – &/or make progress. I love too, that we get insights into both leads’ emotions as they navigate their contract marriage.
Here are a handful of instances, where I really enjoyed the small moments brought to the forefront.
E3. The crossed signals between Hiramasa and Mikuri is quite amusing: He’s getting his emotions all up in a twist after becoming hyper-aware of her presence, and she thinks that he finds her a nuisance. Aw. I also do find it cute that after angsting over his feelings for a while, Miramasa basically decides that he would like to try enjoying their fake relationship, and try to become her real boyfriend. Aw. He’s so awkward and earnest, he reminds me of Pinocchio wanting to be a real boy.
E5. The sweet moments are so heartfelt. I love it when Mikuri hugs him and tells him that she’s on his side, and he just soaks it all in, with a tinge of wonder amid his bashful awkwardness.
E7. Seeing Mikuri collapse into a happy heap after Hiramasa leaves the house is very cute, but it’s even cuter when it’s Hiramasa collapsing into a happy heap on the other side of the door, thinking that he’s about to burst, she’s that cute.
E9. The gradual ease with which Miramasa and Mikuri fall into their hugs, is something I find very sweet to witness.
E10. Sometimes this show is painfully unflinching when it comes to portraying the awkwardness of Miramasa’s journey towards progress. His anxiety around potential sexytimes, his performance anxiety, and his urge to literally run away from the situation was all a little painful to watch, but it was equally rewarding to witness him making the decision not to run away. His newly sunny disposition as his relationship with Mikuri progresses, is also very sweet.
3. Brisk and unexpected plot movements
Part of what makes this show feel so refreshing to watch, is the unexpected ways in which the plot unfolds. More than a couple of times, I found myself catching my breath in surprise, because I had not expected what was going on, on my screen.
[SPOILER] A great example of this is in episode 4, when we see Hiramasa working himself up into a tizzy over how Mikuri is surely about to ask for a break in their contract – only to have that moment promptly turned on its head because what Mikuri is really asking, is for him to be her boyfriend. Ha. That deft switcheroo is just classic, and worked as a perfect cliffhanger for the episode too. [END SPOILER]
4. The thoughtful touches
One of the things that really lifts this drama head and shoulders above the average rom-coms that I’ve seen, is its thoughtful treatment of the details.
I love the up-close-and-personal glimpses we get into both Hiramasa and Mikuri.
[MINOR SPOILERS] On the amusing side of things, we get the misunderstandings – Hiramasa withdrawing because of his jealousy and feelings of inadequacy, and Mikuri seeing that as distrust, being official and distant, and to some extent, rejection as well. The little angsty moments in these areas are amusing.
But then we also get the deeper angst, where they each feel a fundamental measure of self-loathing and lack of self-worth. That feels raw and deep, and during their voice-overs, as the camera pans on each of them, I feel like I’m gazing upon open wounds. So heart-tugging.
In episode 6, there is a scene where Mikuri and Hiramasa are on the train, going home from their little arranged honeymoon. It’s a quiet, understated scene, but one that struck me as quite wonderful. There is so much thought and tenderness put into the execution of the moment.
Both Mikuri and Hiramasa’s deep reflections about the same things, coming to such opposite conclusions and assumptions about how the other person feels, feel so raw and real. He feels happily exhausted; content to have realized that he knows Mikuri better than her ex-boyfriend. She feels exhausted; all her efforts to get closer to Hiramasa feel futile, and she’s ready to give up. Neither of them wants the train ride to end, for such different reasons. How poignant and poetic.
5. The quirky touches
A nice foil to the earnest seriousness with which Mikuri and Hiramasa treat their contract marriage, are the quirky little fantasy sequences that we get, mostly born of Mikuri’s imagination – though Hiramasa isn’t exempt either.
Often, Mikuri imagines herself as a contestant on a game show about contract marriages, or as a guest on a talk show about contract marriages. We even see Mikuri as a tiny cheerleader yelling questions at Hiramasa in a tiny, tinny voice in episode 4, which is just bonus.
The secondary loveline
It takes a while for Show to really focus on this secondary loveline, but by the end, I was really digging the burgeoning connection between Kazami (Otani Ryohei) and Yuri (Ishida Yuriko). I liked the unlikely pairing of his playboy bachelor to her dignified, older career woman. (As a side note, I really liked how Yuri is portrayed as graceful and far from desperate, despite society’s expectations.)
I thought his deep, longing gaze definitely communicated his desire to be more than platonic with her, and her reaction was a perfect mix of discomfort at their age gap, and discombobulation at the hyper-awareness that was growing between them. I really wanted a happy-ever-after for these two, and rooted for them all the way to the end.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS – THE PROVERBIAL LENS
There’s a manga tinge to many of the side characters that’s important to keep in mind. In any other world, these characters’ behavior would be considered completely illogical and insane. In this drama world, however, it’s all par for the course.
I just thought I ought to give you guys a heads-up.
The wacky parents
Mikuri’s parents (Ukaji Takashi and Tomita Yasuko) are two such wacky characters.
From orchestrating the weird housekeeper arrangement for Mikuri without consulting her first, to looking at her surprised reaction as if she’s the weird one for not listening more carefully to the plan, to suddenly uprooting themselves, selling their house and leaving town, because it’s always been Dad’s dream to retire in the countryside, never mind that the new arrangement leaves their only daughter without a roof over her head, Mikuri’s parents are wacky hipster types that just don’t behave like normal parents, or even normal adults.
The weirdo colleagues
Even weirder, are Hiramasa’s colleagues Hino and Numata (Fujii Takashi and Furuta Arata, above). Certainly, Playboy Kazami is part of the crowd too, but he’s not quite nearly as weird.
I’d have to say that the weirdest one of the lot is Numata, who has a habit of lurking behind furniture and skulking behind his colleagues, to eavesdrop on their conversations and spy on their actions. A typical Numata thing, is crouching behind the sofa where his colleagues are having a conversation, then popping out of his hiding spot to chime in on the conversation like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
I suppose the thing that makes it so weird isn’t his behavior per se, but the fact that everyone else around him reacts as if this is rather normal human behavior. Like I said, it just helps to think of these side characters existing in a manga world. 😉
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
It practically hurts me to say that I didn’t love the ending of the show as much as I loved the beginning, but there, I said it. This show was a little less wonderful in its final episode, and even though it still means that Show’s finale is way better than many other dramas I’ve seen, it still makes me kinda sad. Ack. I feel like such a nitpicker. I guess this is what happens when you’ve raised expectations, eh?
Mainly, I think it feels like a downer because Mikuri and Hiramasa spend what feels like a lot of the episode in the thick of angst, trying to figure out how to make their marriage agreement work now that they truly do care about each other. It’s true-to-life that they go through various stages of trial and error, and experience setbacks and frustration, but it does also feel like precious minutes of the final hour are being frittered away on our OTP cycling back and forth.
On the upside, they certainly do work through their frustrations, and come to a happy – though still adorably awkward – middle ground where they both feel able to give and receive love and care. On another upside, Kazami and Yuri do get a happy ending after all, huzzah! As a bonus, even Weird Numata finally meets the boy of his dreams.
I do love that we end the episode in a fantasy-cum-flash-forward game show sequence, where we see Hiramasa and Mikuri playing for future milestones as a couple. Thanks to this, we get to see our adorkable couple get married and have a boatload of kidlets, and we even get a role reversal where Mikuri goes out to work while Hiramasa dons the apron to take care of the household chores, heh.
All in all, there’s a little less cute populating the final hour, but the earnestness and heart is still there in firm abundance, so I guess I can’t quite complain so very much after all.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A tiny bit underwhelming at the end, but very thoughtfully executed and still super cute overall.
FINAL GRADE: A-
Every episode wraps up with this cute dance by the cast, and watching the cheery goodness puts a smile on my face. Here it is, just coz.