THE SHORT VERDICT:
This show feels like a very well-done homage to classic melodramas of the early 2000s, boasting characteristics that I would associate with iconic dramas of the era, like Winter Sonata, for example.
The difference is, Show is given a more polished, modern touch, and is also infused with what I feel is an indie movie-esque sensibility.
It’s very thoughtfully conceived and executed, and alongside that sheen of polish, and the general air of restraint, there is oodles of heart, and altogether, this one grabs me, so much.
It honestly feels like the answer to the question, “What would happen if we took 2000s melodrama and gave it a modern makeover, while retaining its essence – and just, overall, made it better?”
Really nicely done.
THE LONG VERDICT:
This is one of those shows where you really only know whether it’s for you, after you’ve watched it for yourself.
What I mean is, I’ve seen big love for this drama (which is why I decided that I had to check it out for myself), but I’ve also seen underwhelmed reactions, where folks are all like, “But I expected more..?”
Maybe this is a case where, if you’re a J-dorama connoisseur, you might be familiar with the way J-doramas tend to do things, and therefore, you might have higher expectations of this show, for the positive buzz that it’s received.
I’m not sure.
All I know is, I was very, very pleasantly surprised by this one, and I’m so glad that I didn’t miss out. ❤️
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
I thought the music in this show was very well applied, including but also, beyond the inspiration tracks for the drama itself.
I thought all the music helped to amplify and lift the watch experience, and the somewhat eclectic selection added to Show’s indie film vibe, I thought.
That said, I was actually quite surprised by the restraint that Show uses, towards First Love, which, being a big part of the inspiration for this drama, I’d imagined would be played almost ad nauseum.
But it isn’t, and y’know what, while I appreciate the restraint, I also kinda wish that I’d gotten to hear more of First Love, during my watch, because that’s the biggest, most definite earworm of this show, for me.
So, here’s First Love on its own as well, in case you’d prefer to just listen to that on repeat. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. There are quite a few narrative tropes at play in our story.
Interestingly, though, I never held this against Show. These landed as “classic” rather than “old-fashioned” to my eyes, and I honestly think that’s the best lens to use, for this drama.
Because it uses such classic songs as its inspiration for its very existence, it feels right to think of everything it does, as being in the vein of Classic, early drama.
2. Show toggles two timelines through its entire run.
This can feel a little disorientating at first, but hang in there, because it only takes about an episode or so, to find your bearings with the set of characters peopling the two timelines.
3. Show’s got an earthy, muted look and feel about it
..which might feel disorientating, especially if you’re more used to the bright Spring colors of k-romcoms.
I’d say, hang in there, and allows your eyes to adjust, like you would when first entering a darkened room.
After a while, your eyes adjust, and you begin to be able to see the beauty in this drama world.
4. Show pays attention to the details
..so it will pay off, if you make an effort to pay attention to details too.
Everything will feel that much richer, in your watch experience.
5. You might well feel like binge-watching this one.
Lots of people mentioned on Patreon, that they checked out this show, and ended up binge-watching it in just a couple of days.
I didn’t binge-watch it, only because I had a schedule to keep to, and couldn’t afford to drop everything to just inhale this one. But I would’ve, if I could’ve, is what I’m trying to say. 😉
You might want to carve out some time to do that. 😁
STUFF I LIKED
I’m going to do a quick macro look at what I liked and liked less in this drama, before doing a selective dive into characters and relationships.
If you’re curious about what I thought at each juncture of our story, you can check out my Patreon notes, for a blow-by-blow account. ❤️
The sense of polish
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve watched a J-dorama, but coming into this show, the earthy, muted tones and the relatively straightforward camera work gives off that down-to-earth, this-is-part-of-everyday-life sort of vibe that J-doramas tend to give off.
At the same time, I can’t help but notice the traces of Netflix polish about it, where everything looks a little extra glossy, in spite of Show’s mainly earthy vibe.
It’s in little details like the overhead shot of the roundabout in episode 1, which, when paired with the voiceover from our female lead Yae, lends a touch of thoughtful whimsy.
Additionally, some of the scene transitions between the present and the past are very nicely done, which also makes this show feel more carefully and tenderly handled than average.
E1. As we close out the episode, Harumichi’s just gotten a glimpse of Yae driving her cab – and then promptly loses her again, because of – ugh – traffic rules, and his cab driver’s insistence of abiding by them.
As we get that aerial view of their cabs going off in different directions, we hear Yae muse in voiceover (while First Love plays in the background, no less), that every moment is a unique jigsaw puzzle piece in our lives, so what happens when we end up losing an important piece of it?
That is such a great blend of visual and audio impact in one, to bring home that message, that Yae and Harumichi are important pieces in each other’s lives, but have each gone their separate ways, after a fork in the road.
Very nicely conceptualized, I thought.
The way Show toggles the past and present timelines
When a drama decides that it wants to toggle two timelines simultaneously over an extended period of time, there’s always that danger of losing viewer engagement.
Because, viewers might very possibly disengage during one of the timelines, or grow tired of keeping track of two different timelines, for example.
Overall, I was very impressed with how Show managed its dual timelines and the piecemeal approach that it took, to giving us the full context, in either timeline.
Somehow, in Show’s deft hands, the juxtaposition of the two timelines felt very manageable, and our story felt richer, even, from that juxtaposition.
Very nicely done, I thought.
E1. Right away, the way Show is toggling the past and present timelines, really does capture my imagination.
For example, when we meet Yae, she’s a taxi driver in her 30s, musing about the lost opportunities and people in life, and then, when we see her in the past, she’s a bright-eyed teenager who dreams of becoming cabin crew.
Immediately, that gives me a sense of poignance and loss, because when she talks about her lost dreams, surely she’s also thinking of her dream of becoming a flight attendant.
And, it also makes me start to wonder what had happened in her life, to have put an end to that dream.
The flashbacks to the past, where Yae and Harumichi first notice each other, are sweet and full of the effervescence of youth, and I really enjoyed watching them steal looks at each other, and try to make sense of their feelings.
At the same time, in the present, it’s poignant and quite intriguing, to see that they are no longer in each other’s lives, but are, individually, still thinking of each other, and in distinctly wistful ways.
And, there’s also the difference in vibe in both characters, comparing their present day selves and their high school selves.
Back then, they’d both been bright-eyed and they’d seemed full of hope and promise. In particular, I found young Harumichi very irrepressible, in his happy, chaotic energy.
Yet, in the present, both Yae and Harumichi are much more subdued, though I would say that they’re not quite in the region of jaded, either, since they are both individually reminiscing about the past, and seem to have some hope for the future.
Harumichi, in particular, seems very determined to find Yae again, which is why I get the impression that he’s hopeful.
And Yae still shows interest in travel and other cultures, like we see in that snippet of her watching that documentary at home, and that gives me the impression that she’s still got a zest for life, even if it’s mostly subdued, in her daily life.
Altogether, this all makes me wonder what had happened to them, that they would have been separated like this, while still missing each other so strongly.
E5. I am loving how Show toggles between the past and present timelines in ways that feel significant and meaningful.
That makes the toggling feel worthwhile, even though it requires my brain to keep track of different sets of events in two different timelines.
Maybe it’s because Show uses a somewhat thematic approach to toggling the timelines, that makes it feel less effortful than I imagine it would otherwise be?
This episode, the focus on sign language feels meaningful in a layered sort of way.
In the past, Yae wanting to learn sign language, so that she would be able to communicate with Harumichi’s younger sister Yu, shows us how sincere and serious she is, about embracing Harumichi and the world around him, and also, how warm and considerate she is, as a person.
Because, I’m sure that part of it is because she wants to help Yu feeling heard and included, like in the way she notices that Yu’s asking for the tartar sauce, but no one’s paying attention to her signed requests.
And then, in the present, what a great way to make a chip in Yae’s ability to remember her past, because muscle memory really is a powerful thing.
The fact that her hands remember how to sign, feels like a very significant thing, as does the fact that Yu remembers Yae, and says so, albeit in sign language.
It doesn’t appear that Yae clues in to what Yu is saying, though, so it does feel a bit like a missed opportunity, but.. this could be a seed that Yae revisits soonish, to piece together her past?
Show’s use of classic narrative devices
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, Show uses a classic narrative devices quite liberally, and I didn’t even mind.
In fact, I got completely sucked in by them, and I felt all the feels – and that’s the most important thing, right?
Here’s a glimpse at my reaction to the classic tropes in this show, during my watch.
E1. One of the big things I noticed, pretty much right away, is that Show is using the just-missed almost-meet narrative device quite liberally.
Even in the first few minutes of this first episode, we already see Yae and Harumichi cross paths without noticing each other, with him walking on the road, and her driving past him, in her taxi.
This just-missed almost-meet thing happens several times in this first episode, and what I find interesting about it, is, I don’t find it tropey, even though this is a trope that’s been in Dramaland for literal decades.
Perhaps it’s because Show is built around a classic song from 1999; to my eyes, this trope, which might otherwise make me roll my eyes in another drama, is landing more as classic, than tropey.
And somehow, even though part of my brain registers that this is a trope that is often used to manipulate audience emotion, I still feel my heart clench in disappointment, when they don’t actually meet – because they had been so close!
Like, when we see that the pregnant lady, to whom Harumichi gives up the cab, is actually being driven by Yae, it’s like, AHHHH!! If he’d only gotten into that cab instead of giving it up, he would have met her!
E4. This episode (well, and last episode too, actually), I’m starting to see a handful of similarities between this show and Hallyu classic Winter Sonata (we’re having a group watch of this soon – join us! 😉).
[HIGH LEVEL SPOILERS FOR WINTER SONATA]
There’s the snowy landscape, and earnest, hopeful young love; there’s also that fateful accident that then ends up separating our young couple.
And then, there’s the reconnection, years later, where one party still suffers from amnesia, and therefore has no clue that they have any history with the other person.
[END WINTER SONATA SPOILERS]
Of course, there are differences too, in the story, and also, importantly, in the vibe of the two shows.
Where Winter Sonata vibes much more melodramatic, this show vibes more low-key and earthy, despite the classic drama tropes in force.
I don’t mind this, actually.
I find that I rather do enjoy this feeling that I’m watching a classic drama that just happens to have shinier, newer packaging than actual classic dramas out there.
E4. Y’know, the moment Show introduces us to the young doctor treating Yae, my drama senses jumped on the idea that this had to be Tsuzuru’s father, and that Yae would end up marrying her doctor.
And then I talked myself down from that, thinking, “Hey now, you’ve just watched too many dramas, to be jumping to that conclusion just like that” – ONLY FOR SHOW TO PROVE ME RIGHT!
Pfft. Hahahaha. I was very amused by this, honestly. 😁
Like I said, Show is not shy about using tropes. But, somehow, I don’t mind it at all; it just all lands as part of Show’s “classic melo” sensibility, for me.
The way Show pulls narrative pieces together
Show has a way of pulling narrative elements together in a way that feels very deft and thoughtful, and I liked that a lot.
Here’s an example from episode 5, that I thought was particularly well done. 🤩
E5. The truth is, Tsunemi (Kaho) likes Harumichi on a whole different level than how he likes her, and that mismatch feels mirrored by the different types and levels of regard and affection between Uta and Tsuzuru (Aoi Yamada and Araki Towa).
While Tsuzuru clearly adores Uta as an icon and a source of inspiration, there’s clearly romantic interest mixed in there. Unfortunately for him, Uta clearly only sees him in a platonic light, even though she genuinely appreciates his talent.
It’s so poignant to see Tsuzuru’s heartbreak mirrored in Yae’s own heartbreak, as they both roll around restlessly in their respective beds.
The irony here, though, is that while Yae might perceive that she’s made a fool of herself for liking someone who already has a girlfriend, the truth is, Harumichi’s heart is more with Yae, than with Tsunemi.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave, as they say.
But Show isn’t at all tangled, as it weaves its various themes and timelines together.
I’m impressed that the various flashbacks, which feel a bit random to start with, actually make for such a cohesive story, by the end of the episode.
The throwaway detail about the theft in Northern Lights Building had felt a bit random.
And, I’d wondered at the flashback, showing us Yu and Bonji’s love story, but then, it all makes sense in the present, when we see that in Harumichi’s wedding speech, he’d talked about wanting to be Ultraman, and being able to protect the ones whom he loves.
..Which is exactly what he does, when Yae starts to fall down those stairs, when she’s pushed by that white collar thief that Harumichi’s after.
Ahh. See, that’s Show pulling those two random-feeling details together, in a manner that serves our main story.
While I’m sure the writers had had it all mapped out ahead of time, and had then planted those narrative seeds, in order to arrive at this moment, of everything coming together, it still feels rather thrilling, to feel it all collide in my head, in a way where all the various pieces suddenly fall into place.
Very nicely done. 🤩
STUFF THAT WAS OK
The disorientation of finding my bearings, sometimes
This only happened to me twice in 9 episodes, so it’s not a deal-breaker, nor even that big of a deal.
But for the record, I did feel a bit of disorientation, twice, because I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to know about what was happening on my screen.
It took me a while to find my bearings, both times, but like I said, it’s not a big deal, and was probably done on purpose, so that the disorientation was part of the intended watch experience..?
Here are the two times that I felt a bit disorientated, just for the record.
E1. I have to admit that it took me a fair while, to gather that the scenes of Tsuzuru, are actually in our present timeline. 😅
Because he’s in high school, and because our flashbacks of Yae and Harumichi also take place in high school, I’d assumed that he was a classmate of theirs. Which is so not the case, oops. 😅
I do wish that Show could have been clearer about that, but again, the sense I get from J-doramas like this, is that they’re just focused on providing the window into their characters’ worlds, and that it’s part of the viewer’s responsibility, to find their own bearings, and that it’s ok, if that takes a while.
At least, that’s my very non-expert impression; feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!
E3. The way this episode opens, after an unannounced time skip, into unfamiliar territory (Yae suddenly living in the big city, and Harumichi suddenly a fighter pilot trainee) feels very much in line with Show’s indie movie sensibilities.
I felt rather confused for a while, wondering where we were in our timeline, and why our characters were in different places compared to when I’d last seen them. 😅
I feel like that’s the sort of thing indie movies tend to do, but also, it’s very probable that that’s also just the sort of thing that J-doramas tend to do, like I mentioned in our first set of episode notes. 😅
The thing with Tsunemi [SPOILER]
Quite quickly into episode 1, we learn that Harumichi has a girlfriend, and that he’d been on his way to meet her father, when he’d tried and failed, to get into the cab that Yae was driving.
While the relationship appears rather stable (he’s going to meet her father, after all), it also appears that Harumichi’s heart isn’t quite in it.
After all, when he hears that song over the radio, which clearly holds memories of Yae for him, he tells the cab driver to turn around, instead of going to his original destination to meet his girlfriend’s father.
Clearly, Yae is still very much alive in his memories, enough to influence his current decisions.
While that’s romantic when viewed from Yae’s corner, I couldn’t help thinking that this isn’t great for his girlfriend, y’know?
And, that was a layer of discomfort that I felt through most of my watch, because, for a long time, Harumichi pines for Yae, while still in a relationship with Tsunemi.
The drama fangirl in me kinda wishes that this wasn’t a thing in our story, so that I could have been free to just blithely root for Harumichi and Yae to reunite.
But, I do think that this is, again, not unusual in J-doramas of this sensibility, where real life complications exist, unvarnished, in the midst of our characters’ lives.
..Which is why this is in the “ok” section.
CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
Mistsushima Hikari as Yae
I just wanted to say that I really liked Yae, as our female lead.
Whether she’s a teenager or an adult, she remains earnest, kind and goodhearted, and whenever she’s happy, that makes me smile.
As much as this story is about the first love shared by Harumichi and Yae, it’s also a story of Yae’s journey of healing, and finding herself, and I was 100% in her corner, to the very end.
Here are just a couple of Yae highlights; I talk a lot more about her in relation to other characters, in other sections.
E2. It’s heartwarming to see Yae feeling so happy to be out on a date with Tsuzuru, while wearing the sweater that he’d given her.
What a great mirror and contrast, to see her twirl in front of the mirror, wearing that sweater, compared to how she’d twirled in front of the mirror, back in the day, while getting ready to meet Harumichi for their first date.
It’s poignant to see how things have changed in Yae’s life, and yet, how some things haven’t changed, at her core, like the way she twirls in front of the mirror, when she’s excited about getting ready to meet someone important to her.
E6. This episode, I appreciate the glimpse that we get into Yae’s marriage, because it helps me understand why she got divorced, in the first place.
She must have felt so stifled and helpless, with her mother-in-law disapproving of her, and her husband being disinterested and condescending, when she’d tried to talk to him about it.
I can imagine how difficult it had been for her to live like that, and I can understand why she would have wanted to get out of that marriage.
Sato Takeru as Harumichi
I just wanted to say that I very much enjoyed Sato Takeru as our male lead, Harumichi.
First of all, Sato Takeru just has the strongest, most effortless sort of smolder, and that alone makes his onscreen presence quite a pleasure, not gonna lie. 😁🤩
Beyond that, did I think that Harumichi was always right in his decisions and actions? Well, no. Unlike Yae, Harumichi is a more overtly gray sort of character.
However, I appreciate that Show paints him as completely human, from start to finish.
In every situation where I think that he could have decided something differently, or done something differently, I felt like I could understand why he might have acted that way.
That humanness in Harumichi is definitely something that I count as one of Show’s strengths.
Teenaged Yae and Harumichi together
I have to say, the young love between teenaged Harumichi and Yae, really captured my heart.
Not only are they very cute together, they legitimately seem good for each other, in the way they support each other and help each other.
Which is why I felt their impending separation so much, even though it’s built into the premise of our story.
Yagi Rikako and Kido Taisei do excellent jobs of the roles, and in particular, I loved Kido Taisei’s interpretation of Harumichi’s irrepressible grin. I couldn’t help smiling too, every time he flashed that grin. 😁
E1. I thought the love confession, first from Yae to Harumichi, and then later, from Harumichi to Yae, around asking what the other person’s favorite food was, was very cute.
I’d definitely expected Harumichi to be faster on the uptake, but I rationalize that it had probably had been so out of his expectation, that Yae would like him, that that’s why he wasn’t able to connect the dots.
The snowy mutual confession is super cute, and full of young love feels, when Harumichi finally gets to see Yae, and it’s sweet in a particularly nostalgic way, even though I’ve never had a love confession moment like that, in the snow. 🥰
E2. The flashback to the Titanic date is cute, especially when Yae and Harumichi dorkily replicate that classic scene, at a railing in the mall.
But what strikes me more, is that “First Love” turns out to be the soundtrack of their very first kiss.
Ohhh. No wonder this song has such a visceral effect on Harumichi, when he’d heard it in the cab!
E3. Once I realized that our young couple was committed to each other in a long-distance relationship, I couldn’t help but root for them – even though, with perfect hindsight, I know that they end up getting separated. 😥
In particular, I love the earlier scenes, where we see Harumichi’s irrepressible grin light up his face, every time he speaks on the phone with Yae. It’s adorable and precious, and I want to protect this young love, so much.
It’s just all very bittersweet, and when them starting to lose that sense of being present in each other’s lives, despite their best efforts, I couldn’t help but feel a sharp stab of wistfulness, on their behalves.
I mean, it’s not for lack of trying, or lack of commitment, on either of their parts.
It’s just their very different lives causing the distance to grow between them, in spite of their best efforts, and that’s just really sad, because that’s how a lot of real-life relationships dissolve too.
Back when all my male friends enlisted for their mandatory military service at age 18, and their girlfriends went on to university, many of these relationships broke up in ways that are strikingly similar to what we witness in this story.
With different experiences in their lives, it’s just hard for either party to really understand the other.
The way Harumichi’s joy at coming to visit Yae faded quite quickly, once he realized that she was living in a very different world than he, and that he didn’t fit into that world, is just so heartbreaking and wistful.
Communication’s also tough, when all you’re allowed in the military, is a short phone call every week.
Of course that’s how Harumichi ended up hearing about Yae’s student exchange opportunity from someone else other than her. 😥
And of course that’s how he ends up storming away from her, and that’s how Yae ends up in that accident.
Oof. It’s awful, how this all happened. 😭
With Yae suffering from retrograde amnesia as a result, and not having any memories from the past few years, I can see how Harumichi got dropped from her life, as a result.
Gah. It’s altogether just tragic and sad, and the only silver lining here, is that Yae survives the accident.
E4. My heart really goes out to both Harumichi and Yae.
It sucks to be Yae, because, overnight, she’s lost so much of what made up her life, and has to start over, from scratch.
And it sucks to be Harumichi, because there’s really so little that he can do. Yae’s mom is keeping him at a distance, for Yae’s sake, and all he can do, in the meantime, is write her letters – which, unbeknownst to him, never actually reach Yae.
On that note, I do want to say that I don’t think Mom is keeping him away from Yae out of malice or spite.
It’s just that Yae’s got so much to deal with, and it’s hard enough for Yae to come to terms with the fact that she doesn’t remember her best friend. It would be even harder for Yae to try to grapple with the fact that she has a boyfriend whom she has no memory of.
I do think that Mom keeps Harumichi away from Yae, to spare Yae the stress and heartache. And, I feel that it’s understandable, really, given Yae’s delicate condition, post-accident.
Watching Yae trying to navigate her world, after having lost big chunks of her memory, and feeling a deep sense of alienation about it, reminds me of how Harumichi had felt a sense of alienation, as a military person, finding it awkward and strange, while trying to fit into a social world.
In that sense, it’s same-same, but different?
It’s quite poignant, really, to think that they can actually identify on something so deeply personal, but are so separated, that they can’t actually commiserate with each other.
E4. I feel so sad for Harumichi, when he earns that time off, and is so happy to be able to visit Yae, only to find out, when he gets to her house, that she’s already engaged to someone else – and pregnant with that person’s child.
What else can Harumichi do, really? This situation is out of his hands, and I can see more clearly than ever, why he’s never been able to move on from his feelings for Yae.
He’d been cut off from her, because of a random accident, and he’s probably also felt a lot of guilt over how his anger and his storming off like that, had been the reason Yae had even been there, at the time.
I can also imagine how this would eat away at him, over the years that have passed.
And, I can imagine that Harumichi feels like this is his chance to reclaim the love that he and Yae had lost, against their wills.
Yae and Tsuzuru
I wanted to give the quick spotlight to the relationship between Yae and Tsuzuru, because not only does it grow and evolve over time, I also found Yae’s motherly instinct towards him very selfless, pure and beautiful.
Here’s a quick spotlight at some Yae-Tsuzuru moments that stood out to me, during my watch.
E1. It’s really quite poignant, to see Yae relating to Tsuzuru.
At age 14, he’s reticent and distant, which is pretty normal for that age, but it still makes my heart pinch, to see Yae try so hard to be friendly and cheerful around him, to coax him out of his shell.
From the looks of it, she doesn’t get to see him all that often, so it feel extra sad and wistful, to see him go off in a hurry so soon after dinner, leaving Yae all alone at home, again, when she’d been clearly looking forward to celebrating his birthday with him.
This makes my heart go out to Yae, because she’s obviously leading a pretty lonely life, and doing her best to keep a bright outlook, in spite of it.
And then, later, when Tsuzuru’s late in coming back as promised, the way she rushes out to where he is, after tracking his location through social media clues, and then just sits with him, without judgment, is very poignant too.
She’s just so.. selfless and giving, as his mom.
I do love that this causes him to open up a bit, and let her listen to his music, and I do love that she gets all excited and happy over it, and instantly becomes his biggest fan. Aw.
E2. It’s heartening to see that Tsuzuru’s more mindful about being considerate to his mother, now that he’s in a better mood generally, so much so that he would give up going to see his idol, because it’s time that he’s put aside to spend with Yae.
Plus, it’s really good to see them connecting on a whole new level, because Yae appreciates his music so much.
But how typically considerate and sacrificial of Yae, to shoo him off to go enjoy himself, while making up an excuse that she’d like to see a movie on her own, and doesn’t need his company.
Aw. But the truth is, she looks really wistful and lonely, on her own, without him. She’d let him go, to make him happy, without taking into account her own happiness. 😭
Tsuzuru and Harumichi
I just wanted to say that I liked the unlikely friendship that blossoms between Tsuzuru and Harumichi.
Not only is it great that Tsuzuru now has an older male role model whom he trusts and can talk to, it all lands extra poignant, given the background that we know, that Tsuzuru is actually Yae’s son.
Tsunemi and Harumichi
I wanted to have a section on Harumichi’s relationship with Tsunemi, because the existence of this relationship added a layer of complication and discomfort, to my watch.
Again, that’s not by accident, but by design, I’m sure, so I was just feeling the things that Show wanted me to feel. 😅
Here’s a quickish spotlight on my thoughts around Tsunemi, and her relationship with Harumichi, during various points of my watch.
E2. I feel bad for Marumichi’s girlfriend, Tsunemi, whom we glimpse for the first time, this episode.
It feels like everything around them, seems to remind Yae and Harumichi of each other.
Whether it’s questions about what event in her life caused her to end up as a cab driver, or the movie Titanic, which happens to be on TV, Yae and Harumichi can’t seem to escape memories of each other.
This is the classic Fated Love that is celebrated in so many dramas, and y’know, I just can’t help but buy into it, despite the complications this would cause, in Yae’s and Harumichi’s lives.
E3. It’s easy to see that Harumichi’s hugely distracted by Yae, and the thought that she’s married to someone else (which, like I said before, is a natural conclusion, after Tsuzuru introduces her as his mother).
Through it all, I feel bad for Harumichi’s girlfriend, because she’s honestly being very understanding, supportive, and non-intrusive, in her behavior towards him.
I’m sure she can tell that he’s distracted, but she doesn’t press him for a reason, and the way she presents the idea, of him applying to be a commercial pilot with Skyair, is as a very gentle suggestion; nothing pushy about it at all.
Honestly, there’s nothing that I feel she should do differently, and so it sucks to be her, because while she’s being this wonderful example of gentle support, Harumichi’s consumed with thoughts of Yae, his first love.
This is why I feel that Harumichi should do the right thing by her, and either break up with her, if he’s that intent on reconnecting with Yae again, or, give up on reconnecting with Yae, and commit himself – including his time and attention – properly on the woman who’s in front of him.
AND YET. I can’t stop myself from rooting for Harumichi and Yae to reconnect, despite how I feel bad for Harumichi’s girlfriend. 😭🙈
E5. I don’t love, but am not at all surprised by, the fallout of Harumichi’s girlfriend Tsunemi coming upon Harumichi and Yae by the vending machine in the park.
Tsunemi’s been so quick to speak up for Harumichi to her parents, and has been so intent on focusing on their wedding preparations, that it’s not much of a surprise to realize that she’s basically in denial that there’s anything wrong with their relationship.
And y’know, that is a very relatable place to be, at least from my perspective.
That feeling, of not wanting to admit that there’s something Quite Wrong with the relationship, and therefore, marriage and wedding plans might benefit from being re-examined, is very poignant to me, and I do feel sorry for Tsunemi.
She probably feels that she’s invested so much in this relationship with Harumichi, that it would be too humiliating to back away from it now. I mean, she’s already planning the wedding in earnest!
I also think that there’s likely a layer of thought in there somewhere, that it would be hard for her to find another potential husband, at her age (not that she’s old or anything; she’s just.. not in the prime marriage material sort of age bracket).
All that to say, Tsunemi’s desperation to ignore any evidence that points to Harumichi maybe-possibly losing interest in her and their relationship, to the extent that she would literally run into another room, to avoid talking about it, feels real and organic to me.
I do think that it says something about Harumichi too, that he doesn’t attempt to force the issue.
It’s almost like he’s resigned to a future with Tsunemi, even though she’s not the one who makes his heart sing, and is willing to keep going down that path, as long as she’s willing to keep going down it too – never mind if there are glaring issues between them.
I’d wondered about this, really, like, why wouldn’t he make a different choice, now that he’s found Yae again, and there is definitely a special connection between them, even though she doesn’t remember him?
Especially since he remembers, all over again, this episode, that Yae had been his whole reason for wanting to become a pilot in the first place.
At this moment, I’m thinking that Harumichi feels a sense of duty to Tsunemi, to fulfill the promises (spoken or unspoken) that they have between them.
But in episode 6, he also talks to his co-worker about how he can’t offer Yae anything better, in terms of a future, so there’s that too.
The fangirl romantic in me is undeniably slightly deflated that Harumichi wouldn’t do anything to pursue his first love, even though he’s definitely got very strong feelings for her, but I have to admit that this kind of reaction feels very true to life.
Present day Yae and Harumichi
I suppose it’s abundantly clear, by this point, that I was fully on board with the loveline between Yae and Harumichi, despite Show throwing in some inconvenient life circumstances, to complicate things between them.
Although the romance is a slow-burn sort of deal, I couldn’t help but sigh, and swoon, and get all excited at every little indication of growing closeness and connection between Yae and Harumichi, in the present.
Here’s a sprawling look at my thoughts on this loveline, up till episode 6, after which I have individual episode spotlights on episodes 7, 8 and 9.
I hope you enjoy. ❤️
E2. Y’know, because Harumichi’s shown getting into several cabs in these opening episodes, I’d imagined that when he finally met Yae again, it would be related to her work as a cab driver.
But, instead, he finally sees her again, when she comes to pick up Tsuzuru, and Tsuzuru introduces her as his mom.
Well. That’s only going to cause Harumichi to assume that Mom is in a marriage with Tsuzuru’s dad, isn’t he?
Which would likely break his heart and dampen his determination to reconnect with her, wouldn’t it?
E3. Yae is so lovely and sweet and kind, with how she interacts with the world around her (like how she goes out of her way to drive Tsuzuru’s crush Uta during her break), and at the same time, she’s clearly lonely, and so, I can’t help but wish for her to find Harumichi (and possibly their lost memories) again.
And, Harumichi’s so, well, obsessed, really, that he’s running across town in order to protect her at the laundromat, because there are often sly lecherous types passing through.
Put together, I feel like it’s almost inevitable that they reconnect – well, connect, as far as Yae knows.
I really liked watching Harumichi and Yae hang out in her apartment, with him fixing her washing machine, and her getting all excited and thrilled at having her washing machine back again; her offering to make him dinner, and him getting all excited and overwhelmed at how delicious her pasta was.
It’s small and simple, and yet, it lands as significant and special, for the both of them, and that somehow makes it all extra precious.
The way Yae casually opens up about how she feels about the sound of airplanes also feels significant; I feel like this would go a much longer way in persuading Harumichi to consider flying again, than all the efforts that his girlfriend has made so far.
I honestly can’t help hoping that it’s not too late for Harumichi and Yae to reconnect, after they got separated like that (and she lost her memories of him) on that fateful day.
E4. I find that I am getting all the feels, from watching every little indication that Yae and Harumichi are growing closer.
Like, I got all excited when I realized that they’re on texting terms. Somehow that feels pretty significant, because this means that they’re personally connected now, and not just through Tsuzuru (well, officially anyway).
And, it’s so cute that Yae looks for opportunities to contact Harumichi, like when she goes to eat at that pasta restaurant, and texts him because she feels that he would really enjoy their version of Napolitan spaghetti.
Or like, when she’s in line to the observatory, and calls him to tell him about how Mars is making a close approach that night, and that if he could, to take a look at the sky in the south, that night.
That’s a sure sign that you like someone, when they’re the first person you think about, when you have something that you’d like to share, and that’s clearly what’s going on with Yae, in regards to Harumichi.
It’s adorable, and gives me young teen love vibes, even though she’s now a grown woman.
The way Yae and Harumichi end up on that “date,” because he’d happened to be in the same park where she was in line for the observatory, feels so much like destiny, like, “Ahh! Look at that, they like the same things!” 🤩😁
I do love the low-key, earthy vibe of their “date,” and the various moments of awkward hyper-awareness, like when they’re at the observatory.
I also like that way they sit together and talk for a bit, afterwards. It feels both personal and philosophical at the same time, which makes the connection feel deep and meaningful.
It’s no wonder that Yae’s reluctant to leave, at the end of the evening, and runs off from the taxi, making an excuse that she’s thirsty and needs to get a drink.
..Which is when Harumichi’s girlfriend suddenly appears.
Ahhh! It feels like this was bound to happen at some point, given how Harumichi’s getting more involved with Yae by the day.
And, with Harumichi mentioning that he lives nearby, it’s not that surprising, that they would run into his girlfriend.
The big question now, is, what now?
It honestly feels like no matter what happens, this is going to upset the connection that Yae and Harumichi currently have.
Even if he makes things clear to his girlfriend and breaks up with her, for another chance to make things work with Yae, I feel like Yae’s not the kind of person who would be able to live with herself, for breaking up another couple.
I think Yae would put distance between Harumichi and herself now, regardless, which means that once again, the decision has been taken out of Harumichi’s hands.
Augh. Is there no way that Yae and Harumichi can work things out between them..? 😭
E6. I can see that Yae really wants to do something to show Harumichi her gratitude, for saving her and getting injured in the process.
And really, her offer, to drive him to work and his physiotherapy sessions, is a reasonable one.
It’s just that we know that there are a lot of feelings hidden behind that offer, which Yae is probably doing her best to deny the existence of, as well.
Because Yae’s offer is so reasonable, Harumichi doesn’t have a good reason to decline either, and this gives them an excuse to have that bit of time together, on a regular basis, at least for a while.
But of course, the first ride that Harumichi accepts from Yae, just has to be the one where he’s on his way to meet Tsunemi’s parents.
That’s such a poignant, painfully ironic contrast to the flashback that Show gives us, where Harumichi had gone with Yae, to meet her father, isn’t it?
It must be such a complicated feeling for Harumichi, to remember that trip now, thanks to how Yae’s cab is fully stocked with everything he could ask for, but realize how different things are, because presently, he’s on the way to meet Tsunemi’s parents, and not Yae’s father.
I feel wistful on their behalves, just thinking about it.
Beyond this scene, though, this transport arrangement also affords Yae and Harumichi space to be on regular texting terms again, because of the pretext, that Yae needs to arrange suitable pick-up times with Harumichi.
Of course, it feels almost inevitable, that their conversations would slip into something more important and personal.
Like the way Yae asks Harumichi what it’s like, to fly, and that causes him to go into a headspace that he seems to rarely allow himself, where he relives the magic of flying, and relates it to Yae, stopping short only of telling her that he wished he could have shown her.
That seems to be a thing, between Yae and Harumichi, where being around each other, just seems to lead them to open up about very personal things.
Like in the flashback where Harumichi suggests that they go see her father, and Yae ends up telling Harumichi about her complicated feelings towards her father, who had made another woman pregnant even before she was born.
It’s clearly a very painful, difficult memory for Yae, but somehow, it all comes out so naturally, as she talks with Harumichi.
This trip is also significant, because, as it turns out, Harumichi and Yae miss the last flight, and end up spending the night together; something which Show mirrors at the end of the episode in our present timeline, in a very retro melo sort of style.
Which, to be clear, I don’t mind at all, with this show, somehow.
I could see it coming from a mile away, that Yae and Harumichi would somehow end up missing the last train like they’d missed that last flight so many years ago, and yet, I was still completely absorbed in the moment.
Finally, the flashbacks to Yae participating in the English speech contest make sense, because that’s how Harumichi sees her, even now: radiant, and full of promise and hope.
And, as Yae talks about her dull and insignificant life, in that self-deprecating manner that she tends to take, Harumichi grabbing her and kissing her, with such tenderness and ardor, seems to be his way of letting her know, quickly and without doubt, that she is not at all dull and insignificant, in his eyes.
Melt. Faint. Daze.
It’s a very heart-wobbly sort of moment, I have to admit.
As I look back on it, though, I’m very curious to know what this kiss means to Harumichi, beyond what he wants to communicate to Yae, in the moment.
Like, is this him choosing her, over Tsunemi, or is this him, embracing her, in spite of Tsunemi..?
This feels like a very important question, and right now, I’m not sure, really, that Harumichi actually knows the answer.
SPOTLIGHT ON EPISODE 7 [SPOILERS]
Well, as can be expected, Harumichi and Yae both back away as politely as possible, from the kissing thing, this episode.
That’s honestly not surprising at all, taking into account how considerate of others Yae is, and how duty-bound to Tsunemi Harumichi feels.
I do appreciate, though, that Harumichi doesn’t just ghost Yae, which I feel like a good number of people might choose to do, in his shoes.
Instead, he seeks her out at the taxi company, so that he can apologize in person, for the other night.
And of course, Yae brushes the whole thing off, and states for the record, that she never had special feelings for Harumichi, like, at all.
Oof, that’s gotta hurt, not just for Harumichi to hear, but for Yae to say, because we know how much she likes him, even though she hasn’t regained her memories of their time together.
And so, I find it very bittersweet, to see them share this time at twilight together, when most of the world is asleep, and eating ice cream, and sharing conversation that manages to feel inconsequential, yet deep and personal, all at the same time.
It also must hurt them both, to talk about Harumichi’s upcoming wedding, because it’s clear that both their hearts are not in it.
This alone time feels so precious, for the both of them, and yet, it also feels painful for them both, at the same time, because of the social lines that they’ve drawn, and the decorum that they’ve decided to abide by.
It’s.. heart-achey stuff to watch, honestly.
It’s also difficult to watch Tsunemi continue to be in such deep denial about the state of her relationship with Harumichi.
It’s clear that she knows that something’s very wrong, but it’s also clear that she’s not ready to face it, and the potential consequences that come with it.
She’s clinging to the semblance of a life where everything is as it should be, and that is sad, really, because she deserves more than a shell of a partner.
I appreciate, though, that Harumichi not pressing the issue, seems to be coming from a place of wanting to give her time and space to be ready for that conversation, rather than him actually being too much of a coward to talk about it.
I also appreciate the context that Show paints in for us, this episode, for both Yae and Harumichi.
We see that the straw that had broken the camel’s back, had been her mother-in-law’s disdainful attitude towards Yae’s mother, rather than anything else that she might have said about Yae herself.
That feels in line with Yae’s character, in that, I can see her swallowing all kinds of insults, if it were just about herself, for the sake of keeping her little family together – for Tsuzuru’s sake.
But when it comes to her mother, Yae is a lot less able to tolerate the insults, and I can believe that her strong desire to protect her mother, would be the thing that would have driven her to broach the subject of divorce.
In particular, we spend a lot of time exploring Yae’s decision to give custody of Tsuzuru to her ex-husband, and that’s another level of heartbreaking to watch, honestly.
It’s clear to see, that Tsuzuru is Yae’s whole world, and that she’s willing to push herself to her physical and mental limits, if it means that she can provide a good life for him.
But, it’s not as feasible as it might first sound, and as the cracks start to appear, I really feel for Yae, because this is, essentially, her coming to the realization that she isn’t enough for Tsuzuru, no matter how hard she tries. 😭
At this point, I just wanted to say that while I thought that Tsuzuru’s father Yukihito had been a pretty lousy husband to Yae, he actually is a much better ex-husband than I’d expected.
I mean, he’s polite and considerate of Yae, and not pushy, when it comes to suggesting any changes to their arrangements for Tsuzuru. I’m pleasantly surprised by this, and to my eyes, this is a legit silver lining to Yae’s difficult circumstances, for sure.
It really sucks for Yae to lose her job that she works so hard at, and I can see how she basically feels backed into a corner, and with nowhere else to turn. That’s how she ends up giving up custody of Tsuzuru.
Augh. That last meal that she shares with Tsuzuru in their home, with Tsuzuru all happily clueless, and Yae trying to hold back her tears, is so precious and so bittersweet.
And then, the scene where Yukihito comes to take Tsuzuru with him, and Tsuzuru bawls because his world as he knows it is ending, and Yae runs after the car in tears, just hits me right in the heart. So, so hard, truly. 😭😭
The scene that we get a little later, where Mom reminisces wistfully about Yae’s achievements, is really poignant as well.
Yae had been such a promising bright star, before that accident had changed her entire life. Who would have imagined that that young, bright Yae, would now be a single mom who’s back living with her mother, after being let go from work, and giving up custody of her son?
It’s no wonder Yae doesn’t like talking about it; it’s no wonder there’s bitterness in Yae’s voice, as she asks Mom, “Are you done?”
Yae’s original dream of being a flight attendant feels so far away, even though she seems to literally incorporate the airport into as much of her life as possible.
She’d once dreamed of walking the halls in her flight attendant uniform, shining brightly as the center of attention, but now, she’s the cleaning lady who cleans those same halls, and whom no one takes a second look at.
It’s heartbreaking to be so near your dream all the time, and yet feel so far from it, I’m sure. 💔
That moment, when Yae decides to live her dream, if only for a little while, by putting on that flight attendant costume, as she walks the halls to work, is so bittersweet.
She glows in the part, and is even able to help that little girl, in the few minutes that she allows herself to revisit her dream, but at the end of it all, it’s still just an unattainable dream, and that somehow hits with more finality, after her little diversion, than before it. 😭
Also. It’s completely in Show’s retro melo spirit, to make it such that Harumichi had been on a flight back to Japan after serving in Iraq, and that he’d managed to catch a glimpse of her, in her flight attendant uniform, before losing her.
Augh. This show and its classic melo tropes; I just can’t seem to hold it against Show, somehow.
We don’t get to see a whole lot of Harumichi’s backstory, this episode, but it makes so much sense to me, that he’d met Tsunemi when she’d been his assigned counselor for after his Iraq stint.
Of course. I mean, given his feelings for Yae, I can’t see him spending any significant amount of time with Tsunemi, unless it was literally forced upon him.
I’m curious to know more about how their relationship develops, and I’m sure that Show will give us some of that context, in our next episode.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Gosh, I do love that squirrel and acorn story which starts this episode. Not only is it cute, it brings across this idea, that something useful and beautiful can come out of forgetfulness too.
Given that Yae is suffering from amnesia, and can’t remember large chunks of her teenaged life at this point in our story, this feels like a very hopeful sentiment.
And, in a manner of speaking, that time capsule that Yae and Harumichi bury, is kind of like Yae’s acorn, isn’t it, since she spends years not even remembering that she’d ever buried it, and where.
I love the symbolism of that.
We do spend more time exploring the relationship between Harumichi and Tsunemi, this episode, like I’d hoped, and it’s pretty heart-tugging stuff.
Mainly, I find it so sad to see how deflated Tsunemi is, in the present, as she tries on her wedding gown, and prepares for a wedding that only she seems to be interested in.
And that’s such a contrast to her happiest times with Harumichi, which we get a glimpse of, this episode.
When they’d been at their closest, Harumichi had thought of her fear of the dark, when the power had gone out in that massive earthquake, and he’d run to her, to help her feel safe. AND, he’d told her that they would start getting serious, in their relationship.
At the same time, when we look at how this relationship had started in the first place, with Harumichi and Tsunemi sleeping together without even defining their relationship, and Harumichi going quiet when Tsunemi would attempt to talk about it with him, I’d call that a Big Blinkin’ Red Flag.
I know Tsunemi’s really into him, and therefore is willing to take whatever he’s willing to give, but honestly, girl’s shortchanging herself, by ignoring her own needs, and throwing herself into being with Harumichi wholly on his terms.
Don’t do that, y’all, ok?
The thing that strikes me about Tsunemi, is how readily she gives up everything, for Harumichi.
Which, y’know, would be fine and good, if Harumichi weren’t so evasive when it came to making a proper emotional commitment to the relationship.
I’m not even talking about marriage, necessarily; I just would feel better about Tsunemi giving so fully of herself, if I knew that Harumichi was equally invested in and committed to the relationship.
When Harumichi’s transferred to Hokkaido, which is his home ground, Tsunemi drops everything and moves to Hokkaido to be with him, which, honestly, feels like a huge deal.
Importantly, this is where she learns about Yae, from Yu, and so, it dawns on me, that all this while, from the moment that Tsunemi ran into Harumichi with Yae at the park, Tsunemi knew that Yae had been Harumichi’s first love.
Woah. That literally changes so much, doesn’t it?
At the very least, it adds a much deeper layer, to Tsunemis’s angst, and her denial as well. She fully understands how Yae is to Harumichi, and that’s also why she’s fighting against the truth, so hard. 💔
I feel terrible for Tsunemi, when she finally decides to face the truth, and let Harumichi go.
The way she insists that she’ll be fine, then shoves him out the door, before collapsing to her knees, really makes my heart go out to her.
She’s trying so hard to be strong, but I already know that she’s going to be suffering from quite a long period of heartbreak, after this. 💔
Over on Yae’s side of things, I find myself unexpectedly taken with the friendship that blossoms between her and Otaro, after he makes one last ditch effort to confess his love for her, and gets rejected.
The way they manage to become friends, after that, with Otaro being a bit of a loyal wingman to Yae when she needs some backup, is really very pure and sweet.
Also, I do love the words of wisdom that he declares (well, yells) to her, as he wraps up his romantic feelings for her:
“Don’t run away, Yae Noguchi! Look forward! Take a breath and go! Even if you get hurt, or embarrassed, in life, you have to take leaps!”
Such needful words for Yae to hear, that they literally make her cry. Aw.
And so, Yae texting Harumichi that she’ll be at the restaurant waiting for him on pasta day (and she wears the special blue sweater that Tsuzuru had given her, and which she’d decided to save for a special occasion!), is her taking a leap forward, and refusing to be afraid.
But, given how much heartbreak Harumichi has caused Tsunemi, I can see why Harumichi would feel that it’d be inappropriate for him to have a lunch date with Yae, let alone pursue a future with her.
He’s doing the right thing, but it still sucks, y’know? 😭
I’m glad, though, that Yae takes another leap, even in the face of Harumichi’s final goodbye, and tells him that she really does like him.
That’s Yae being true to her heart, even though she doesn’t see a future in it, and I’m proud of her for that.
And then, just as Yae starts to try to move on with her life, her memories are finally triggered, from hearing the soundtrack to their first kiss, on Harumichi’s CD, which he’s given to Tsuzuru, no less.
Oh. My. Goodness. She REMEMBERS. EVERYTHINGGG.
Augh. Just, where will we go from here, with Harumichi leaving the country, and with them having already said their final goodbyes? 😭
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Listen. With the way Show was going, I wasn’t even sure that we would get a happy ending, y’all.
For a while there, I was half convinced that what we would get, would be something more in the line of bittersweet poignance.
OH THANK GOODNESS that wasn’t where Show was going, after all. 😅
I love how, even though we’re already in our final episode, Show is still filling in empty spaces in Yae’s context, with the memories that she’s regained.
It feels so meaningful, to witness Yae going to retrieve that time capsule that she finally remembers, and read that letter from Harumichi, that reveals that he’d actually first seen her on the train, when she’d been on her way to the mock exam – and then had worked hard, to get into the same school, to be near her.
Awww. What an endearing story, and how precious, that Yae finally learns the truth, all these years later. 🥲
It actually feels fitting, that Yae doesn’t just up and go look for Harumichi straight after recovering her memories, because, more than her first love, Yae needs to find the parts of herself that she’d lost, first.
And, I’m glad that Yae finds an unexpected confidante in Uta, who’s just the sort of bold, “chase after your dreams” sort of role model that Yae needs.
It feels fitting too, that the eventual lesson that Yae arrives at, which Uta does contribute to, is something that she passes on to Tsuzuru, even as she becomes his wingwoman, and rushes him to the airport, so that he can say goodbye to Uta before she leaves for her world tour.
In a sense, this feels like such a positive cycle, doesn’t it, where Uta positively impacts Yae’s life, and Yae then is able to pass on a positive, freeing, emboldening lesson to Tsuzuru, which eventually directly impacts Uta’s life, as Tsuzuru finally tells her how he feels about her.
It’s very heartwarming, life-affirming stuff. 🥰
It’s a bummer, and yet, so true to life, that just as Yae decides that she’s ready to take time off from work, to follow her heart, the pandemic hit, and put that – and the world at large – on hold, indefinitely.
I’m sure that hits home for many of us, since just about everything came to a grinding halt, when the pandemic hit. We had to put many things on hold, as we grappled with finding a new way to live, and that’s exactly what we see Yae do, as well.
It’s so great though, to see Yae finally get on that plane to go to Harumichi, with that letter from the time capsule in hand – complete with a post-script that adult Harumichi had clearly added later, when he’d gone to visit the time capsule.
Ahhh. I LOVE that Harumichi had gone to the time capsule, and I LOVE that the way we know that, is because he’d written a post-script to his original letter.
It’s hard to say whether he actually had any expectation or hope that Yae would ever read the letter and its post-script, but I just love the idea that he went there, and did that. 🥰
Y’know, I’d wondered at the significance of Show splicing that scene of younger Yae sitting in that train station, in the winter, and then leaving a thank you note, as she left, but on further thought, I feel like it could be a metaphor for Yae’s life.
What I mean is, younger Yae spends that period of time, taking shelter from the cold, and gaining warmth from that stove, and receiving help from that kind stranger, until it was time for her to leave.
Isn’t that kind of a mirror for Yae’s life, from the time of the accident, until this point in her life, when she feels ready to go, again?
While she’d been in recovery and feeling lost without her memories, she’d taken a pause, and taken shelter from everything, and gaining warmth from the people around her.
And now, as she readies to finally take a leap forward, to go make a return to Harumichi and the memories that they share, she feels gratitude, for everyone and everything, that’s afforded her shelter, warmth and kindness, while she’d waited for the right time.
Ahhh. Isn’t that pretty great? 🤩
I love how, in this show, every scene has an intentional purpose.
And, I love, just as much, that we get our happy ending, right on cue.
It’s so great, that the moment Harumichi hears Yae’s voice, he rushes over there, and embraces her. There’s no hesitation; no “should I or shouldn’t I?.”
There’s certainty and joy in their reunion, and I love it, so much. 😍
Also, isn’t it so perfect, that even as Harumichi and Yae start a new life together, at the same time, Yae finally gets to fulfill her lifelong dream, of being a flight attendant? 🤩
YESS. I love that in our story, Yae doesn’t have to choose between her dream and her love. She gets to have both, and l am so happy for her.
AND, I’m so glad that Show gives us an extended glimpse into Harumichi and Yae’s happy ending, as the credits roll, because it’s just really nice to soak in their happy bubble with them, for just that little bit more.
All in all, this felt like an excellent homage to classic melodramas of the early 2000s, but infused with an indie, art film sort of sensibility, and with a much more overtly happy ending than most classic melodramas used to be willing to give us.
Win, win AND win. Thank you, Show, for everything. 🥰
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Richly thoughtful; earthy with touches of whimsy; very worthwhile.
FINAL GRADE: A
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of First Love: Hatsukoi, is The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House [Japan]. My E1-2 notes on The Makanai will be up on Patreon on Tuesday, 17 January 2023, because the show only drops on Netflix on 12 January 2023.
In the meantime, I’ve posted my first impressions on E1-2 of Lesson In Love [Taiwan], which had been a contender show. You can check that out on Patreon here.
Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!
Foundation Tier (US$1): Entertainment tidbits + the first set of notes of all shows covered on Patreon (2 eps for kdramas, 4 eps for cdramas)
Early Access (US$5): Recipe For Farewell [Korea]
Early Access Plus (US$10): +The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House [Japan]
VIP (US$15): +Unchained Love [China]
VVIP (US$20): +New Life Begins [China]
Ultimate (US$25): +Alchemy Of Souls: Light And Shadow [Korea]
April 2023. Thanks, KFangurl, for your wonderful review. You put into words all of my feelings why I LOVED this drama so much–my first Jdorama ever! Thanks KFG fans, for sharing your thoughts, especially Sean’s list of classic Jdoramas.
I have to admit that I avoided Jdoramas because in general, most of them are rated lower than Kdramas on VIKI. In fact, it seems that there are more Kdramas with higher ratings than other dramas (China, Taiwan, Thailand, etc.) on VIKI. I’m still surprised at how much I liked this drama and agree that it’s muted tone and retro/indie feel makes it unique.
I enjoyed the entire series and ended up binge watching it over two days. I like the music, the inspiring story of two individuals, the visuals, the incorporation of modern events, the plot and ending, the characters and settings, the last scene at the end of the credits, just all of it–even all the snowy scenes in Hoddaido and Iceland.
Yes, this is definitely an A class drama and an A class review.
So . . . was anyone else disappointed in the final episode? Besides me? So . . . did anyone else have 2ndFL syndrome? Besides me?
@DesiFanGirl – Oh! I didnt even think about the juxtaposition of the joy of the young couple vs the sadness in the adult version of them. Thank you so much for pointing that out!!!
What a wonderful gem of a drama. KFG did a fabulous job of catching all my thoughts and feels on it, so I’ll lazily let her speak for me. 😉 It was my first start and finish of a show in 2023. What a great beginning.
Thank you so much for this review. I read it after watching the show. I thought this was an absolutely beautiful story. I did find out that Uta means song, so how lovely that a dancer’s name meant song, which connects everyone in this story!
Does anyone know the meaning of the names of our OTP (Yae and Harumichi)?
Such a gem of a drama! Enjoyed watching (and rewatching) it and reading the review and comments.
I simply adored this show. I thought the story was poignant, the interweaving of past and present timelines was expertly done, the level of acting was impressive, music, tone and “look” of the show was gorgeous.
My favorite drama of 2022. So glad you loved this one as well, KFG <3
Fangurl – I binged it in one day and turned around and binged again the following day. the re-watch unraveled some of the threads for me as I picked up a lot more. I really loved this. The music was fascinating. I heard some songs I had not heard in years and they brought back a ton of memories. I just loved it. 💖💖💖
Twice I did.
First love was very loving drama no doubt.
@phl1rxd – I am trying to find the full OST for some of those English songs that were not Utada’s. Have you found it?! I found the instrumental OST.
Not yet Jennifer – some of those are really old songs. For example, there is one song in there by an English band that once I heard it, all kinds of memories came rushing back. I would have to explore the YT OST song names and go song by song. I will get to it eventually and I will follow up with you.
@phl1rxd – Found it !!!!!
Thank you so much for the link JJ!! I managed to only find some of those songs on YouTube, but your link brings us to all the music of the soundtrack organised by the episode. Awesome!
I do enjoy the music so much. So appropriate for every scene and as good soundtracks go, they add to, while they complement the tale. 🙂
@GrowingBeautifully – What a neat handle! I love it 🙂
You are welcome! All thanks to phl1rxd mentioning about recognizing some of the English songs. Phl1rxd finds the best stuff I had to find something for a change 🙂
I agree so much! The music is so well used in this Show and brings the story even more to life. Which is one of the reasons I love the Show so much.
Thank you so much for these links!!! This is awesome 🥰
The YouTube link to quite a lot of the pieces in the soundtrack is this:
I’m listening to it now and loving it.
This is a link to the OST instrumental pieces, by Taisei Iwasaki
I only watched this show because KFG gave it an A.
I usually only watch Korean dramas because I understand the language, but this time I wanted to get out of the comfort-zone and wow….I watched a lovely show! 🥰 ❤️ ❤️
The actors are great, both adult OTP and teen OTP. The kind of story I like, the way it is shot, with depth and poignancy….
It was interesting to revisit the tropes of 2000s dramas in a contemporary way, I found it moving.
the sound of Japanese language is so nice, and by the way, am I wrong or do many words resemble their Korean equivalents? Is it a delusion of mine?
Because I thought I understood some words…..
@Martina YAY that you decided to give this a try and that you loved it! ❤️ And no, you’re not delusional, there are definitely words that sound almost identical across both languages, just with slight differences in pronunciation. I believe this is due to the fact that Korea and Japan have some shared history; languages do tend to evolve and absorb some of the context they’re in.
Even i have also decided and started first completing all those dramas with A++, A+, A from the list of kfgurl.
This site has really set the standard.
One can follow it blindfolded .
No harm assured. (Harm = viz. time waste)
this is an excellent plan LaVieEstBelle!!
I was so happy when I found this blog and KFG’s reviews/ rating system is a fabulous guide through dramaland!
DITTO! I have an excel spreadsheet. I’m completing all of the A rated dramas, and the “iconic” dramas.
Excellent review written 👌(ofcourse as always)
I liked the drama.
Why? (Can’t express in words. But still would try)
Earthy muted colour pallet – i feel it imparts ‘serious-deal kinda, classic, intelligent (no-nonsense kinda)’ nature to the drama.
(There is this old indian-hindi movie from Bollywood with title “Izazat”, it also has this earthy muted stuff u were discussing about.
The reason I had liked this movie, well lotta credit goes to this.
Voiceover – it makes u think. Which I like. It connects u with the drama, with what is happening in realtime. It also I feel as if you are reading a novel/ (or listening over audio format in this case.)
Showing Close knit family (Be it friends or siblibgs) always tells you, dude this story is going to take you on some serious ride.
Like here with his sister, nephew/niece, friend.
Things like ‘cigarette flvr’, ‘which is your favourite food’, squirrel-acorn, love-song, hits the spot for me.
Keeping up with different timeline,- well drama ‘someday or one day’ trained me in that department. I literally managed not to lose the last screw of my brain while watching Someday…
But yeah you are right, this drama holds your hand and takes-guides you without u needing pausing-tumbling.
Amnesia – I did not see it coming. I literally jumped when present day ML FL see each other for the first time.
The pics you pasted along the length of the review, it takes you to the whole journey of the drama.
E.g. with the pic of young ML speaking on the phone with flashing his teeth is very lucid in my memory.
I like to read your reviews.(everything about it – writing style, the way you enjoy writing it while equally enjoying watching the drama-one can sense it , efforts behind each review)
Please keep on writing for people like me.
One small feedback (ofcourse a very very humble one) – it would be a better reading experience if you could make the page a bit user friendly – like for searching purpose.
The story in itself is really nice. And the actors did a wonderful job.
My problem is the back and forth in the timeline thats a bit annoying. So I kinda out this one on hold.
Also how is it possible that FLs younger version is so pretty`?
I find present day FL equally pretty. Look at her eyes, her smile, hairstyle, bodyframe, teeth. Noway any lesser than younger FL.
Having said that, ofcourse defn/perception of beauty varies frm person to person.
But really, in neutral judgement, I find present FL equally pretty (i am nt saying -er).
And also time/age gonna take its toll.
I didn’t say FL wasn’t pretty. To me the younger version stands out more. Probably because the age of the actress herself is closer to my own age.
Oh! I might have misinterpreted then when u wrote,”how is it possible that FL younger is so pretty “.
Learn to read
@anonymous Please be kind in your comments. This comment is not kind, and not the type of comments I wish to see (or cultivate) on this blog. Please note that I am taking a “3 strikes and you’re out” approach to managing comments. You may consider this your first warning.
Edited to add: You may refer to our commenting policy here.
Everyone is so whiney
@Anonymous – No, we are not whiney. Please stop.
We strive to be kind and thoughtful with our comments while welcoming everyone if we if have different views about Shows.
@anonymous – come on! Dont be like this…
It even took me a moment to understood what you wrote and I know how to read very well, thank you very much.
Oh my god!
I was so so polite in writing what I read by pasting exactly what you wrote, without letting others know.
Sometimes, when you say, A is so pretty in the presence of B, at that time even though you haven’t said anything about B being not SO pretty, it indirectly implicates that you are comparing B being not SO pretty with A being more pretty .
When you said, “how is it possible younger version was So pretty”, indirectly you were saying present version is not so pretty.
You replied with ‘that’ remark even after my saying, “definition of beauty varies from person to person”
Strange to know.
Anyways, I like kfangurl’s reviews and like intelligent discussion happens among serious drama watchers fans like us.
Sites like this are very hard to come across.
So, I am gonna continue reading your reviews kfangurl , even though some people think I should first learn to read.
You people make my blood boil.
Did I use “prettier” or any word to compare them?
No I didn’t.
How else am I supposed to address this character if not with “FLs younger version”? They play the same character but that doesnt mean I will automatically compare them.
So I cant call A pretty without calling B pretty?
And as you said “the definition of beauty varies from person to person” so why can’t I think A is more my style than B? Everyone has the right to pick but me?
And how was your comment nice? You questioned my taste and indirectly said what I think doesn’t matter. It might not matter to you but it does to me.
@anonymous – Then why are you here making comments if we upset you so much? How can you not see telling someone “learn how to read” is not rude?
How is not possible that the way you initially phrased your initial comment was not clear to everyone?
You most definitely can call the younger FL pretty without addressing the older FL.
We are not picking on you. You made a very rude comment by telling someone “learn how to read”. Are we all supposed to sit back and let that type of comment stand when someone was trying to understand what you meant and replied to you nicely?
How is anyone questioning your taste? Whats in question is how you decide to speak to some of us on the blog the way you do at times. Not always. This comment though was uncalled for, in my opinion, telling someone to learn how to read.
Reading this I almost laughed
I am out
@Anonymous – Is it really necessary to be this rude? What in my comments made you almost laugh?
Can you not take responsibility for making a rude comment and apologize ? Or explain yourself if it was not a rude comment and we misunderstood you?
I wrote something that was easy to understand but because of peoples twisted view of the world they interpret complete nonsense into my words.. why would I apologize?
If you are used to people comparing other people then is that my problem? No it is not. I don’t compare people. Why do I have to explain myself?
If you see Henry Cavill standing next to me. Your first thought would be “How is it possible for Henry to be this hot” and would definitely not even register me standing there right? Which is perfectly fine and makes sense. But that doesn’t mean you think of me in a bad way.
Just to visualize freakin simple thoughts to you guys.
@Anonymous – I am asking you to take responsibility for your comment about telling someone “learn how to read” which was viewed by me and other as rude.
How can you justify telling someone “learn how to read” not to be rude?
Because they interpreted random stuff into my words. So no it is definitely not rude. I write what I mean and I mean what I write.
Which means my response was appropriate bc people need to learn to read what it says without adding their stuff. My words are not a mystery novel.
@anonymous I disagree. Your remark was rude, and I don’t appreciate that kind of attitude here on this blog.
In short, my house, my rules. And I am the one who determines if you have abided by the rules or not. Because, my house. If you disagree with my rules, then you don’t need to come to my house.
Any further rude comments from this point onwards will count as your 2nd strike.
If you would like to continue to be able to comment on this blog, then please play by the rules that I have set.
Sigh… you can block me right away.
anon, you told someone “learn to read”, that is why we replied to you. You can like or dislike whatever you want but not be rude, that’s the point. And no, we’re not whiny, we’re the adults in the room.
I simply explained why your wording was understood the way it was to enlighten you since you fail to grasp why you were “mis”understood. That’s all. Find pretty or not whoever you want. Frankly, I do not care nor do I wish to continue this pointless discussion.
wow so rude!
FWIW, I understood it exactly the same.
When you write “Also how is it possible that FLs younger version is so pretty`?” the word in that sentence doing the heavy lifting is “younger”. That implies the older version isn’t because your sentence starts with “how is it possible”. Meaning you’re incredulous that younger actress is THAT pretty (since older version isn’t). That’s not a reading deficiency on our part, that’s exactly what your wording implies.
But apart from all that, telling someone to “learn to read” is just plain rude and condescending. Yikes. Please be polite? Rude and disrespectful forums abound on the internet, but KFG has created a wonderful place where people come together for interesting discussion and treat each other with respect. I love and cherish this place, please be kind here!
Sorry, but for those who do not follow, who is FL and ML or even KFG?
KFG = Kfangurl who runs this blog
FL = female lead
ML = male lead
I used “How is it possible” because she is that pretty. I didn’t even mention FL or talked about her. And yes the younger girls beauty stood out to me. Can’t it?
she looks like a dude sometimes and has a terrible profile with bumpy nose and jowls. older FL is much prettier imo, even though i suspect she’s had her nose done
Good for you
@LaVieEstBelle22 – please pay anonymous no mind…..
“But what strikes me more, is that “First Love” turns out to be the soundtrack of their very first kiss.”
Quick trivia: When Yae casually mentions ‘it tastes like Cigarettes/ Tobacco‘ after the their kiss… Harumichi responds ‘call it ‘flavor‘‘. And they both giggle. It becomes sort of like a running gag in the show?
That’s cuz the first line of the song “Saigo no kisu wa tabako no flavor ga shita” literally translates to “our last kiss had the flavor of tobacco‘. Hahahaha, teenage Harumichi is so cheesy! 🤣
@CarpControl – Thank you!!! I missed this little trivia one, but I remember them giggling about flavor 🙂
Oh thanks for that little tidbit. He is cheesy indeed, but so endearing in his earnest and passionate way!
Just to be super clear, the epilogue I’m referring to is the one at timestamp 1: 01:30 when we get not 1, not 2 but 3 kisses in quick succession and obvious smiles of contentment from our OTP. 🙂
So glad you gave into the peer pressure and picked this one up to watch! To my eyes, it really did tickle a lot of sweet spots very well indeed. A very well-constructed drama offering.
For me, I rate this very high (also not perfect purely due to some small issues I saw towards the end that made no sense for me). Eg I felt that they should at least use Yuu in the plot to show how Yae reconnected with her. Did Yae and Harumichi managed to get that family Yae mentioned in episode 9. These were unanswered I felt and hence why I agree with Sean that it is not full score.
Thanks Kfangurl and Sean Fletcher as always for your insightful thoughts. This was one show that really hit me in the heart over and over, and I’m still not over it.
As Sean mentioned, I was wondering if all viewers are aware, that there is a little epilogue right smack in the midst of the ending credits? It’s so sweet. Just a minute or two, showing Yae and Harumichi’s life as staff in the little Icelandic airport, and how they are so happily, at ease together as a couple.
GB, the show was worth watching just for the epilogue alone 😉
JJ warned me ahead of time to “watch to the very very end”. And boy was I glad I did. That tiny scene at the end put the biggest smile on my face! 🙂
There are so many interesting facets to First Love including how it came about as a drama (inspired by the two theme songs), the use of some big guns in the cast, and the transition from old world (past dramas) to new world (Netflixing).
A number of things grabbed me re this show. First, I liked how the story just followed its threads, as you would in real life. Second, it had many of those classic jdorama ingredients. Third, an ending and post scene that I was fully onboard with. Fourth, I’m a fan of both leads.
I very much enjoyed the flashback process. Our young couple were superb. It really leaves how kdramas in the dust, in this respect aka 25 21.
My heart did break for Tsunemi, because she thought she understood Takeru. The realisation in the end that she should have faced the reality of the situation sooner, finally emerged from her car sliding sideways moment when she comes to a screeching halt in the shape of Takeru not wanting to be anything other than be himself. If you watch Kaho (Tsunemi) as Nana in Silent, it doesn’t even occur to you that they are the same actress.
In the end, I rated First Love quite high. It does fall short of the eleven jdoramas I have given a 10 to, but it was very much worth watching in the two sessions (lest, JJ be on my tail once more on getting on and watching it 😂)
@seankfletcher – GAH! FALLS SHORT…sorry I am not yelling…promise….just um yeah.well, let me find my inside voice 🙂
How can this fall short?!?!!?? 😢 I must know.😬 And must know what eleven Jdoramas received 10 from you?!! 🧐
Ah yes! The power of persistence. Just think if I take it upon myself to pester you for a rewatch!!!
On a very serious note, I am surprised this did not make a 10 for you! I give it an A++ for so many reasons even with the few things that didnt work for me so well. Now I am a relative novice to Jdoramas maybe 6 under my belt? Soooooo Ill concede that may have something to do with it 🙂
@JJ – 😂🤣😂 inside voice is good. So, before I list the 11 jdoramas, your points above are on the money.
If First Love is an A++ for you, that’s a good thing. And, it has nothing to do with how many jdoramas you have seen. You clearly know what you like and also adore.
A Life – Medical drama. Just outside my all time Top 10
BG: Personal Bodyguard – title gives a big clue. This is in my all time Top 10
Boku no Ita Jikan – about ALS – breathtaking
Good Luck!! – airplane drama – nearly 20 years old
Ishitachi no Renai Jijo – medical research
Mada Kekkon Dekinai Otoko – a grumpy, single architect. The kdrama version is quite good too
Manpuku – how instant ramen was invented. 151 – 15 min episodes spanning 50 years. It’s a wow
Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu – contract marriage that KFG also likes
Saigo Kara Nibanme no Koi – really down to earth, funny. Yae’s mum is the star of this show. I loved the kdrama version as well.
Saigo kara Nibanme no Koi 2 – see above
Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu – crackle, crackle, crackle. News anchor vs career woman who wants to get married.
A rewatch isn’t necessary. Anyway, there might be one or two above you might want to look at one day 😉
@seankfletcher – Thank you for this amazing list AND adding to my never ending might not happen in this lifetime watchlist 🥰
😂 – “A rewatch isn’t necessary” 😂 One never knows which way the wind will blow 🌬
@JJ – Yes, the wind is quite fickle 😂 I do have a list like this too 😉
@seankfletecher – 😇
Lol @ never ending might not happen in this lifetime list.
i bet we all have such list (s).
I have segregated something like this –
Fav actor’s drama (he/she),
On recommendation by so n so,
Must watch 1,
Must watch 2,
@LaVieEstBelle22 – 🙂
Yes! I think everyone has that list 🙂
Oh I never thought about categorizing them. Such a great idea I might have to attempt to do one day 🙂
LOL – must watch 3,4,5 🙂
Sean – How fast can I copy and paste these? 😅
I did see Boku no Ita Jikan – as real as it gets and so well done. I also saw Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu so that is 2 out of 11. This list is almost an well deserved homage to Kimura Takuya. In some of these he is so young! My goal will be to get these all in in 2023.
Phl – like lightning, I reckon 😆
Kimura Takuya, is perhaps my favourite actor. So, I will dive in and watch – even if, like his last drama with Mitsushima Hikari, was a bit of a miss.
I’m hoping you will enjoy at least A Life, as I thought it was wonderful 🤩🤩🤩
Sean, thank you for this list, I shall also copy and paste to my never ending list of things to watch. I am a total newbie with only 2 Japanese shows so far (Silent and First Love), 3 if we count Alice in Borderland (season 1). I dipped my toe into 2 random Japanese shows on viki but ended up dropping them, so I am really happy for your recommendations! 🙂
I adored “First Love” and I think it’s my fav show of 2022 <3
My absolute pleasure, Kate. The amazing thing about Japanese shows is they make a show about anything – no subject is taboo. So, it can be difficult to find a good one.
Some of the more interesting topics I have come across are shows such as futuristic dramas where marriage is compulsory, or impact of developments on the environment, or then when they do a drama about an actual event that happens – there is always a touch of realism.
I do think it’s true to say that their historical dramas are superb. Anyway, see if you can track down this movie: A Tale of Samurai Cooking – A True Love Story. It’s a different kind of historical drama – it’s quite delightful.
I am into jdramas since the movie of ryusi yokohoma ” your eyes will tell”.
Then watched dramas like,
Hajimete koi wo shita hi ni yomu hanashi,
pretty proofreader (i got to know loads of information about how this proofreading world works, very interesting),
Hotaru ni hikari (s1) I laughed like anything at some scenes,
My love mixup.
Some of many pluses of J drama I find are, no. of episodes, fun to watch.
@LaVieEstBelle22 – Pretty Proofreader was 9/10 for me.
I would like to know about jdoromas classic ingredients.
In the Japanese context, LVEB22, the protagonists from jdoramas must solve issues of a financial nature, or family trouble, or personal problems (especially love-related). Here is a list of jdorama genres for you from:
Mixed in between all these genres we have a long list of doramas based on the manga and/or anime, not to mention those taken from successful novels or books.
I love this Show ❤️
I am so glad you loved this Show, too, and gave the Show an A ❤️