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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