I do think this is a case of “your mileage may vary.”
I’ve had this show highly recommended to me (thanks Lynette!), and I’ve also seen lots of positive comments about this one, so Show is clearly quite well-loved. Which is why I went into this with pretty positive expectations.
However, I’m gonna hafta say that aside from Show’s first episode, which I loved, this one was.. just ok, for me, in the end.
That said, just because I didn’t love this one, doesn’t mean you won’t (this show has lots of fans after all), so hopefully this review will help you figure out whether this one’s for you!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
High schooler Nonomura Hana (Takeuchi Aisa) is roped into standing in for her older sister for a marriage meeting with rich heir Saibara Takane (Takasugi Mahiro), in order to save face for her family.
Things develop in a rather unexpected manner, at the marriage meeting.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a couple of things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. This story is adapted from a manga, so do not expect realism in any way, shape or form.
2. The acting can lean exaggerated in this one, particularly from our male lead. It makes sense within our drama world, though (refer to Point 1).
3. Yes, it’s perplexing in principle, that our female lead is only 16 years old, and her love interest is a 26 year old man. Importantly, Show makes it work, and it manages to land as not squicky (or mostly not squicky, depending on your personal taste and tolerance for such things).
This is also largely thanks to our male lead coming across as quite naive and young at heart, and our female lead coming across as much more mature and self-possessed than the average 16-year-old. Again, refer to Point 1.
4. Mostly, it would be useful to give the ol’ brain a vacation, while you’re binging this one.
STUFF I LIKED
Here’s a quick spotlight on the things that I did enjoy in this little show.
1. Episode 1 is fantastic.
I found it silly, tropey and ridiculously entertaining, and felt ready to slurp up this entire series in a single sitting – if only Show managed to maintain the blithe fun tone throughout. Sadly, it did not, to my eyes. More about that later.
2. Tropes often get subverted.
Even though our story world is chock-full of tropes that feel somewhat old-fashioned, in the vein of classic Shōjo manga, those tropes often get subverted, or get a bit of a twist, to make it all feel fresher.
For example, I like that Takane, our typical rich, arrogant guy, is actually quite dorky and awkward underneath his rich heir persona. I also like that our supposedly innocent, vulnerable 16 year old female lead is a lot stronger and more grounded than one might expect.
3. The development of the OTP relationship is teased out quite well.
What I mean is, even though Takane and Hana spend a lot of their shared screen time bickering, there are moments where they really do help each other, [SPOILER] like in episode 7, where she makes sure he gets a hot dinner, and he tutors her as she prepares for her exams. [END SPOILER] I found those wholesome and very pleasant to watch.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
I figured I needed a section to talk about this, since, as I’ve mentioned, this one didn’t really work for me as much as I’d hoped. Honestly, though, I think it all boils down to Show and I not quite being on the same wavelength.
For one thing, I wanted Show to be as blithely bizarre as it was, in episode 1, but instead, Show dials it down in subsequent episodes, and I felt like I was on a middle ground with Show, where Show was neither weird enough, nor normal enough, for my taste.
Also, I might also not be used to the Japanese flavored quirk anymore. After all, it’s been a loong minute since I’ve loved a manga-inspired Japanese drama. Maybe it’s simply time to admit that I’ve outgrown them?
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this finale, neither did I know what I personally wanted or hoped for, from this finale.
After all, the relationship between Takane and Hana isn’t that well developed, and Hana is, after all, still a teenager in high school. In the end, I think the ending that we did get, fits in quite nicely with the parameters of our story.
We get a confirmation of mutual care from Takane and Hana, even if it has to be forced out of them, separately.
I do think Okamon (Endo Kenshin) deserves an MVP award, for being so cool and matter-of-fact about his own love confession to Hana, and being so clear-headed, that his confession has nothing to do with Hana’s feelings for Takane.
In fact, I love that Okamon’s the one to urge Hana to be brave and own her feelings, even if Takane’s said that any admission of affection on Hana’s part, will signal the end of the marriage arrangement.
I like this idea that Okamon’s nudging Hana towards, that she should be confident enough in herself, to not have to be untrue to herself, just to hold onto the marriage agreement.
On this point, I agree with Okamon. If the agreement is the only thing that’s binding Takane to Hana, then it’s not worth holding onto. Through it all, I do love how Okamon manages to be caring, but not clingy. He’s a good guy.
It does feel rather convenient and cliched, that Grandpa Chairman (Shinagawa Toru) would get all amused by how Takane and Hana are fighting to protect each other, and tell them that they’ve passed the first checkpoint, as if they’ve been participating in some kind of elaborate game.
To be clear, though, this wasn’t some huge set-up by the Chairman, and Awful Uncle (Okada Koki) really had been trying to get rid of Takane.
It’s not clear what happens on the work front, but I’m assuming, with Grandpa Chairman approving of the compatibility between Takane and Hana, and telling them that it’s up to them whether to continue with the marriage arrangement, that Takane doesn’t have to lose his job after all, and Grandpa Chairman will make it possible for Takane to keep on working at the company, despite his associating with Hana.
Given that Hana’s still in high school, I thought the open-ended but positive ending, where we see that Takane and Hana will likely continue with the marriage arrangement, while sticking with their bickering, teasing ways for a long time to come, very fitting.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Light and fluffy. Not bad for a mindless marathon, if you’re into manga-inspired shows, &/or arranged marriage tropes.
FINAL GRADE: B
You can check out the trailer on Viki here.
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out this little drama on Viki here.
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@BE – I’ll pick it back up but that means restarting for a 3rd time. I’ve started it twice and stopped around the same time each time. Not that show was boring, it’s just I start it whenever there’s a lull in anything new that I want to watch but then when things come along that I’ve been waiting to see, I let Sandglass go. The same with Road No. 1.
True it was fortunate for me when all shows I am watching while good B level shows paled by contrast with the epic nature of SG. Still, my favorite show this year has been Youth of May, and to be honest, you could fit that show into one corner of this one.
@BE – I did feel sorry for Mr. Steadfast because Bad Boy just waltzed right in and walked off with his girl…instantly.
Did you find somewhere “safe” to watch Sandglass?
It was a bootleg site, googlable, mediocre subs, but nothing happened to me for watching, except one night for a brief time show froze and forced me to reboot my computer.
And actually what went down between them all was not nearly so simple, and not wanting to give away too much, but Mr. Steadfast was already disillusioned with the girl, Go Hyun Jung as Hye-Rin a devastingly well portrayed as well, for reasons one readily understands. All the relationships among main characters given each his or her individuality, was, say Daegil starcrossed to the nth in some but not all ways and yet also far less one sided. Very touching and Kang Tae Soo, the most beautifully, horribly starcrossed among them really, as I say, an iconic K Drama antihero. Their story against the sweep of history both so well told, good support characters, including the villains of various degrees and the flawed heroes of various degrees. Great and moody OST saturates show’s atmosphere.
@BE – Is Kang Tae Soo the bad boy on the motorcycle or the studious steady character? I think I only made it to around episode 8 of Sandglass years ago. (I did recognize bad boy actor (can’t think of his name) and the newspaper mogul/ samchoon from Healer).
P.S. I’m sure you know my tastes well enough by now to guess which one I’d pick. 😆
Motorcycle guy, a real heartbreaker of a character. And yes I absolutely know which one you would like. As series develops he becomes one of those iconic characters that one finds in the best K Drama dramatic series.
@BE – A+++? our better pick it back up
If there ever were an archetypal beez antihero Kang Tae Soo, the character, would be the one. Whether he is physically your guy, do not know, but who he is in that drama, dear, a lead pipe cinch. Heavy Weight Classic!
@BE @Trent – I think of it like this – 5 is average and every show is graded going up or down from there. *shrug*
@Trent – or the worst of the worst, the show hasn’t even aired not-one-single-solidarity episode yet but it has 10 stars (usually the case) or one star. 😠 Although that emoji isn’t even fully red because the truth is that I long ago stopped caring about the ratings on Viki as there’s no way to truly get any gauge of a show’s value from them.
@beez Yeah, that’s always kind of funny to me, the pre-air hype-or-pan ratings. It’s like, okay, I get that your bias is starring in this, but hold on there Nellie, wait until it at least starts airing!
The manga is amazing, I will not risk messing it with a not-so-great adaptation.
dear fangirl, i do enjoy to read your posts as well as comments of other people. i also follow your recommendations, and find some enjoyable, some not so much. it does not look like this particular show is anything of interest to me, but i do want to ask you, if it’s ok, for some recommendations for me. my biggest interests are historical period chinese dramas, like “the rise of phoenixes” and “nirvana in fire”. i also enjoyed “the perfect couple”” – mainly because of acting of wallace huo and tiffany tang (she’s such a fire cracker). i do go for interesting, inspiring acting, the likes of ji sung, chen kun, ni ni, wallace huo, zhou xun, hu ge, tiffany tang… you get the idea. and i like heady, thought provoking but well done shows like “like me if you dare”,”kill me heal me”, “the devil judge”. i would also welcome comments on such recommendations from the people who follow you – some of them have quite interesting observations, so i trust them. thank you in advance.
@Trent – no truer words. I can only assume that it take very little to please the fans on Viki. I mean, it doesn’t take a whole lot to entertain me but I’ve rated quite a few stinkers with 1 star on Viki with my review starting out with “If I could rate this lower than 1 start, I would…”
@beez I mean, it’s clearly a phenomenon of massive grade inflation, which happens fairly commonly in rating systems, I think, so not like it’s a surprise.
I can get behind your “truth in ratings” push when it’s for legit reasons, like you’re doing (i.e. the show actually is terrible); I think it’s unfortunate when people do it for reasons that aren’t a show’s fault or are beyond its control (examples I’ve seen when I’ve bothered to dig into the individual ratings: people mad because the subtitle translations are slow in coming; people mad because the show is slow to show up on the site, etc.).
Personally, I admit I’ve kind of caved to the whole grade inflation phenom…I only give 10s to really good/great shows, 9s to decent-but-not-great, 8s to average/meh…below that, I usually don’t finish. Recent examples of 10s: My Mister, Melo is My Nature, Money Flower; of 9s: Pinocchio, The Witch’s Diner, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho; of 8s: Doom at Your Service, Taxi Driver, Sell Your Haunted House.
So everyone understands my grading curve as someone who graded for a living once
9A=excellent, first rate, tops of the pops, and so on (10=A+)
8 B=good, cannot emphasize that enough, a B is a good show
7C=okay, adequate, not bad
4-6D=Nope, not up to snuffs, sorry
0-3F=Sisyphus, no…that is an example only, an abject bust, a failure, a gargantuan waste of time
+/- = exactly what they say
However, I tend to be picky. I do not usually stick with shows I think will be less than B’s in my grading system, and eschew others for personal taste that might rate a B or higher, though I have been gulled into shows that start off in the B- range that finish off lower than that.
During my ill-fated grad school days, lo these many years gone by, I had a stint as a TA for an undergrad sort of “East Asian literature” survey course, and one of my duties was to grade the weekly short essays from the class. I quickly learned that grade inflation is a thing when, much as I wanted to assign lower grades, my professor wouldn’t let me give lower than a C+, and that only on really really bad papers….
FYI on my grading scale, if you can find it, Sandglass would be an A+++.
I actually hadn’t heard of it until you started talking it up recently, so I went and looked into it, and it sounds like it was quite the phenomenon at the time. Going to be tough to hunt down a viewable copy, but worth poking around at least, sounds like.
It would be the new leader of the “oldest ‘classic’ on my to-watch list,” supplanting Winter Sonata (and possibly Stairway to Heaven).
Hi Fangurl – I wrapped this up last night. It is very manga. I made two observations – first, the ML should wear his hair back off his face all the time and second, the FL wore great lip gloss.
I can see where this would appeal to a young crowd.
No matter how much I love Japan, it’s culture and its people, I have yet to watch a japanese TV show I really liked. This one was the same for me, well, meh.
It is quite difficult to find subbed Japanese shows online. So, I settle for whatever is available on Viki and Netflix. This show has 8+ ratings on Viki so I gave it a try. I dropped it after Episode 3 because I found no point in going on. I’ve watched a lot of manga adaptations but this one was too much to take. I don’t understand the high ratings.
I haven’t seen this, but my experience with Viki and its viewer ratings leads me to conclude that anything outside the “9” range doesn’t actually qualify as that high. In fact, when I see a “9.1” on a show with a fair number of raters, I’m already giving it a bit of side eye…
That may not hold so much for J-dramas, which I’m not familiar with but do appear to sport slightly lower ratings in general, but when I see a K-drama with an “8.x” overall rating, my reaction is either that I must be kind of bad, or else it’s really outside the wheelhouse of the usual Viki viewer (Viki does seem to have an overall viewer gestalt, it seems to me….)
To me, it seems that viewers ‘ ratings on Viki depend on how hot these viewers find the male lead to be. So they are basically worthless and if a show has a below 9 rating it mostly means “avoid watching”.
I mean, I’m sure the hotness of the male lead plays some part. The basically worthless is probably true at a high level of generality, and by all means, if you want to watch a show, ignore the rating.
My view is that the ratings have some slight informational value as long as you’ve calibrated them (adjusted your lens, as KFG might put it) and take into account the prevailing Viki viewer gestalt.
So like, for example, as far as I can tell, viewers tend to like romcoms, and also to gravitate towards stuff with hot or popular leads (probably more, but not exclusively, the male leads, yes). So we see DAYS, which KFG eventually dropped and we all had fun dumping on over on Patreon, with a 9.6 from 67K raters. A 9.6 is what I’d consider a really quite good rating; they don’t get much higher than that over the long hall (you’ll see a 9.8 sometimes at first, but such ratings usually settle back a tick or two over the long haul. Devil Judge is currently at 9.8, but I guarantee it will drop back some once it finishes its run and more people finish it…)
(You’ll also see the opposite, shows recovering somewhat from an initial hit: River Where the Moon Rises took a serious hit from the whole Ji Soo being replaced fallout, and was down in the upper 8’s for awhile, but it’s back up to 9.3 with 18K ratings; Backstreet Rookie just became available a few weeks ago, and was initially also flirting with the upper 8’s (rightly so, in my opinion; I dropped it back when it was first out on iQIYI), but has since inched up to 9.1 with 15K ratings).
As for my point that you can still sort of get useful information: I think viewers also reward worthwhile non-romcom shows, they just tend to have fewer ratings, usually by an order of magnitude. Examples: Beyond Evil at 9.6 but only around 7K ratings; Lie after Lie also at 9.6 with just under 9K ratings. Interesting sort of counterexample–Flower of Evil at 9.7 with a big 127K ratings (power of Li Joon-gi? Draw of the central relationship?)…
Anyway, not sure why I find this topic so interesting….
I would say that it is very likely that On The Verge of Insanity is not rated more highly is that its male lead actor is somewhat homely, despite being just perfect for the role and the show cracky and wonderful.
You and others keep singing its praises, and albeit it is not at all the sort of thing I would normally glance at twice, if y’all keep it up, I may have to cave and check it out…
After Takane and Hana I learnt my lesson and will not take Viki ratings seriously. Even their collection of JDrama is limited with hardly any good dramas. I wish more of these sites took up JDramas because I love JDramas <3.
Fangurl – now I have to finish this tonight…it should be easy-peasy as they go by fast. It is a very Manga drama. My favorite line above is – Mostly, it would be useful to give the ol’ brain a vacation, while you’re binging this one.– which made me burst out laughing! I’ll be back as Arnold said, and let you know what I think.
This sounds okay, but I have put this one on my “not interested” list, kfangurl. There are at least two other Takane/Hana named jdoramas out there. One is very good and the other is dorky, but loveable.