So I checked out this show because a number of you had mentioned this to me as a drama that you enjoyed, and, I’d also seen a fair number of positive remarks and a good amount of assorted squee about it as well. Since I’ve said that I’d like to include more Japanese dramas on my drama plate, I felt that it would be quite remiss of me to not check this out.
Now that I’ve emerged on the other side, I think it’s quite safe to say that overall, I didn’t manage to enjoy this one as much as everyone else did. But, for the record, this show did eventually grow on me towards the end, and I ended my watch enjoying the cozy-swoony feels that everyone else seemed to be talking about.
I think that this show would appeal to quite a niche sort of audience, which is why I’m here to help you figure out if you’ll like this one – before you invest the drama hours. I know; I’m so helpful that way, aren’t I? 😉
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, if you’d like to listen to Show’s easy-breezy, mostly cute and winsome tunes as you read the review.
WILL THIS SHOW WORK FOR YOU?
I’ve come to the conclusion that if any (or more) of the following apply to you, that you’d have a good chance of enjoying this show.
1. Do you like the Mischievous Kiss sort of set-up?
On the surface, Show looks and feels like it’s an amalgamation of so many of the classic shoujo manga tropes that invaded Dramaland, at one point. Warm, ordinary, unremarkable girl falls for an aloof high-flying, genius type boy, and plans her career around him. The thing about becoming a nurse to his doctor, is particularly reminiscent of Mischievous Kiss.
But, as Show’s fans have pointed out to me more than a few times, this one does feel a little different, in that the Aloof Genius is not as carelessly cruel and cold, and our Warm Girl isn’t blind to his personality flaws.
On that note, I almost feel like I’m describing Chinese youth drama A Love So Beautiful, coz the same description applies. But I’d also say that ALSB worked for me more overall, because the Warm Girl has more noticeable spirit, sass and independence about her.
2. Are you into tsundere male leads?
Do you like the cold male lead who gets transformed by his One True Love? Coz Show serves up the distant jerky male lead in spades. If you’re ok waiting until Show’s last quarter for the cold male lead to shed his prickly outer layers a bit, to show glimpses of the marshmallow heart on the inside, then this could work for you.
3. Do you like Sato Takeru’s brand of smolder?
I do believe that a great deal of Show’s appeal rides on Sato Takeru’s smoldering looks. If you’re into it, there’s lots to flail over; it you’re not into it, there’s.. not a lot to flail over.
Note: Show’s got a pretty strong manga vibe about it as well, that comes from the general exaggerated reaction faces of our characters, and the slightly eccentric quirks of our characters. Logic gets stretched on the regular, and you need your anime lens on, for it to work.
WHAT TOOK SOME GETTING USED TO, FOR ME
Generally speaking, I found that I had a fair bit to get used to, even with my anime lens on. It’s probably partly because I’m still finding my feet with J-dramas and how they typically vibe as a whole, and partly because I feel like I’m not quite into the Mischievous Kiss sort of set-up anymore. Perhaps if Show’s balance leaned less Mischievous Kiss and more A Love So Beautiful (ie, less tsundere, with a sassier warm girl), this might’ve been an easier watch for me.
I found that for each major character or relationship, there were things that I liked, but also, stuff that I struggled with, and it wasn’t until Show’s final stretch, that this became a more comfortable watch for me. As a silver lining, Show does show lashings of heart, often via Sakura’s interaction with its patient-of-the-day.
PS: I’ll be focusing on just the OTP characters and relationship in this quick review. For the record, the side characters were mostly pleasant and mildly amusing, but didn’t quite get under my skin in a big way.
Right away in episode 1, instead of being repelled by Tendo (Sato Takeru), I am intrigued by him. Apparently, there’s a backstory that explains his current state of distant aloofness; legend has it that he used to smile more. And, his bedside manner is impeccable; he seems genuinely kind to his patients. And, he doesn’t couch it as an act, either. He tells his section chief that he only has a limited amount of kindness, and chooses to use it in service of his patients. That’s a level of self-awareness.
Additionally, he does notice Sakura’s (Kamishiraishi Mone) efforts and progress, and isn’t too proud to concede her winning traits, even though she’s still got lots of room for improvement, overall. Despite Tendo’s prickly demeanor, the silver lining is that he sincerely cares for his patients, and that often is the driving factor that causes him to lose his patience with Sakura. Altogether, this makes him a lot more tolerable than Aloof Geniuses who just seem to revel in their superiority, just for the sake of it.
There are times when I do think Tendo looks quite nice. Often, this is when he’s dressed down in a hoodie, or fresh out of the shower, because that’s when he looks softer and less stern.
I generally don’t find myself swooning over Tendo’s charms. I feel like he looks the part of an anime character, with the sharp features and the wild hair, but I mostly just don’t feel it, especially in Show’s first half. To my eyes, Takeru looks like he’s a manga character moving from frame to frame, and so, it appears like he’s arranged just so, for each frame. On the upside, he looks like a manga character to a T; on the downside, Tendo comes across as a poseur, at least to me.
Tendo’s brusqueness and general aura of disdain comes across pretty strongly for much of Show’s run, and I found myself growing tired of his gruffness, particularly when it’s shown in response to something warm or sweet.
Essentially, I think I needed more of Tendo’s warmth to peek through.
Sakura’s determinedly sunny disposition
I like that right away in episode 1, Sakura is quickly disillusioned about her dream guy, and questions her entire career choice as a result. At the same time, she bounces back quite quickly, when she’s told that he’s kind, underneath it all. It’s sweet that she blossoms at the chance to see him in a good light, and it’s quite cute that she’s generally hard to get down.
Her enthusiasm isn’t quite matched by her performance on the job, but I like that she sincerely wants to do well. Tendo might be the reason that she chose to be a nurse to begin with, but that doesn’t mean that she’s content to do a shoddy job of it. She genuinely wants to help people, and works hard in order to achieve that goal, and that’s definitely a plus in my books. She has a genuine interest in people, and takes the time to get to know her patients, which is always a good thing as well.
I find Sakura’s sunny disposition a bit forced at times, like she’s smiling too hard and trying too hard to be cheerful and happy; it comes across as rather unnatural. But I’m rationalizing that she’s probably supposed to be uber smiley in the manga. Also, this could be a cultural thing.
Despite Sakura’s desire to do well, she doesn’t seem to have much self-confidence, and seems to suffer from a case of low self-esteem. There are more than a few occasions when we see her berate herself or cry or feel discouraged or apologize profusely, for being stupid, or not quick enough, or not good enough, and it’s a bummer to see.
This self-deprecating behavior is possibly a cultural thing as well, so I tried to roll with it, but I have to admit that it did wear on me at times.
The OTP dynamic
Over time, we see Tendo softening towards Sakura in small degrees, which is a step in the right direction. He’s comparatively less impatient with her, but he still demands excellence from her. And, when she does well, he does praise her or at least acknowledge her.
E3. Tendo taking the time to let Sakura practice her needle skills on him is a big deal. He hasn’t said it at this point, but he’s acknowledging her potential. That’s encouraging.
E3. Tendo’s backstory, of having lost his girlfriend to heart disease, is sad. And while I find it an overstepping of boundaries for other people to tell Sakura this kind of personal stuff, I do like how Sakura processes it.
The tipsy stuff that she says at the end of the episode is very empathetic and compassionate. “If you lost someone precious to you… And worked so hard… that people call you a devil… And you’re always making a stern face… It must be hard.” And then she promises to make him laugh. It’s sweet. And I can see why Tendo would look a little startled, to have her actually see through him like that.
E5. It’s fun to see everyone’s jaws drop, when he casually announces that Sakura is his girlfriend and therefore he’d like her to have Sunday off, so that they can have dinner together.
Even when Tendo and Sakura start dating, Tendo looks like he’s a reluctant participant being dragged around against his will. This just isn’t the kind of stuff that floats my boat, and I was not quite prepared for just how grumpy Tendo can be as a boyfriend – at least on the surface.
E6. I’m not too hot on the idea that Sakura tails Tendo to Osaka when he’d told her to wait for him. It implies a lack of trust, and honestly, Tendo’s never given her reason to doubt him. Although, I can also understand her feelings of insecurity, since Tendo’s not been a very affirming boyfriend, in the short span of their relationship.
E7. We’re starting to see that Tendo cares more for Sakura than he’d like to let on, but I do struggle with how gruff he is. This show’s idea of romantic is when Sakura goes to him feeling insecure, and he responds by putting a hand on her head, leaning in really close, and then delivering a big smooch, as she looks surprised. It’s typical manga stuff, and should be received as such, but I have to admit that it’s not landing for me the way it’s intended to. I find Tendo too scowly and squinty, though I think that’s supposed to be part of his appeal.
Even when he lets on that he cares, or is jealous, it’s washed over by a heavy layer of gruff denial. “That’s enough, go home.” This might get some women’s hearts racing (I guess? Since this show is popular?) but it certainly doesn’t do anything for me.
Sometimes you need to suspend disbelief a whole lot
You really need to suspend a lot of disbelief to enjoy this show. I’ve heard people say that this is like watching fan fiction. I’m not super familiar with fan fiction, but I imagine that’s a pretty good analogy. I was semi-successful at closing both eyes to Show’s lack of logic. Sometimes I thought it was hilarious and funny, and at other times, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at it.
Here’s a great example of how Show tosses logic out the window in service of its flagrant anime tendencies.
She sustains a head injury, and he, a proper doctor, freaks out when she loses consciousness in the ambulance, as if he think she’s dying – and it turns out she just fell asleep? Which is ridiculous, since she’d been earnestly confessing her big love for him just prior. And he barks at her that if she gets through this, he’ll do everything she asks; kiss her, take her on dates, whatever. HA.
And when she wakes up, she remembers, and asks him to keep his promise, and he tells her she’s an idiot and that she imagined everything – before doing an about-face, grabbing the back of her head, and kissing her. And then informing her that it’s for treatment.
HAHA. The facepalming ridiculousness of it all. You either accept it or you don’t.
WHEN SHOW STARTED GROWING ON ME
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, Show is slow to melt away Tendo’s cold outer layers, and at the episode 7 mark, I was halfway tempted to drop out, purely from tsundere fatigue.
However, I’m glad I hung in there, because by the episode 8 mark, Tendo shows more tenderness towards Sakura, and that helps. In fact, as we get deeper into our final stretch, Tendo becomes increasingly overt about his feelings towards Sakura, and it’s quite gratifying to watch.
I guess this is a case of patience paying off; this show would’ve left a very different taste in my mouth, if I’d opted to drop out just before the gruff turns to sweet. I guess the lesson here is, if you’re going to watch this one, go into it with a view to finish it – or don’t get into it at all, if you don’t think you can wait for things to turn around in the last quarter.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
This episode is so secondhand embarrassing to watch. Tendo visiting Sakura’s family, only to have the entire family grill him about a potential wedding, and then setting up a shared bedroom for them, and then spying on them to check if sexytimes were happening as hoped for. Shudder.
And then, it’s even harder to watch Sakura nervously try to seduce Tendo. Egad. Who decided this was a good plot point?
I concede though, that Tendo murmuring to Sakura about how much he’s been enduring not touching her, is quite alluring.
That accident is so random and also, so implausible. How did that one car – which skidded to a stop – result in so many injured people splayed all over the road? HAHA.
The mirroring of Tendo angsting again, over potentially losing the woman that he loves again is heavy-handed. I am also not terribly pleased that the words spoken by Tendo that seem to trigger Sakura to her waking senses, are things like “idiot,” “stupid” and the like. That seems highly dysfunctional to me.
However. The scene of Tendo telling Sakura all the reasons that he likes her, while his back is turned to her, and the tears are falling from his eyes, is satisfying to watch. He’s been acting all cool and aloof all this time, that it’s high time he learns to wear his heart on his sleeve a bit, and tell Sakura that he loves her, and not just assume that she knows.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
For someone who found large chunks of this show uninspiring, I’m pleasantly surprised by how satisfied I felt, coming away from this finale episode.
Ryuko (Karina) takes Sakura with her to see her parents, and Tendo shows up and announces to his parents that Sakura is the woman he plans to marry. (Tendo stands up for his love! Yes!) Sakura turns down an opportunity to study abroad, feeling that it’s too much for her, and also, that it would also be too hard to be apart from Tendo for a year. But Tendo encourages her to go anyway.
In typical Sakura fashion, she gets her departure time wrong, and Tendo barely makes it to the airport to say goodbye. He breathlessly whips out the ring he’d bought, and proposes, saying that they’ll get married when she returns. Sakura practically bursts with joy as she accepts.
One year time skip later, Sakura returns, and we catch up with our various characters as everyone congregates for the wedding. As is typical of the Tendo-Sakura pairing, the wedding doesn’t go as planned, when Numazu’s brother (Kousei) collapses and everyone jumps into emergency care mode.
Back at the hospital, after Numazu’s brother is declared stable and safe, Tendo remembers that Sakura never did give her answer at the wedding ceremony, and so, pulling his jacket back on, he asks her again, and this time, she smiles as she says, “I do.”
Tendo smiles a gratified, satisfied smile, and then pulls her in for a kiss – and then another. His contented, pleased expression, layered on top of the smolder, as he grins-smooches his wife, is absolutely squee-worthy to see, and – shallow me that I am – I feel like this was absolutely worth sticking around for.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Fun for a whirl, if you’re into tsundere male leads &/or Sato Takeru’s brand of smolder.
FINAL GRADE: B-