Itazura na Kiss ~ Love in TOKYO impressions

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I’m in looooooove, you guys. This drama adaptation is pure perfection and I love it so, so much. I’ve never been one for mangas or Japanese dramas in general, but I do pick up the occasional dorama here and there. What I like most about doramas is that they’re so much more compact then K-dramas so we cut out all the fillers and get straight. to. the. point. But because of its length, this also means less OTP time and less time for the two leads to believably get attracted to each other, get together, have cute moments together, etc. We’re five episodes into Itazura na Kiss ~ Love in TOKYO and while I (not so) patiently wait for May 10 to get my next dose, I thought I’d do a quick impressions post on how I feel about the drama so far.

When it comes to Itazura na Kiss, we all know it’s an adaptation that’s been done to death – with it’s original manga material, followed by a 1996 Japanese adaptation, then two seasons of the Taiwanese It Started with A Kiss (also the most popular version to date), an anime version and most recently, Playful Kiss starring Korea’s Kim Hyun Joong (ahh ol’ dead eyes) and Jung So Min (love her). I’ve only ever watched Playful Kiss as well as clips from It Started with A Kiss so I guess I’d say I’m pretty familiar with this particular story.

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For those who don’t know, it’s essentially about this girl, Kotoko (Miki Honoka), who’s fallen for this rather cold-hearted guy, Naoki (Furukawa Yuki), who’s highly intelligent and doesn’t care for trivialities like love and social relationships and any fun at all, for that matter. He’s sort of that bored, indifferent guy who’s tough to shake but somehow has hordes of girls after him. The drama starts with Kotoko plucking up the courage to hand a confession letter to Naoki, only to immediately be blown off. While she vows to get over him, her family’s new house ends up getting hit by a fallen meteor rock (lol right) and after seeing the news, Kotoko’s father’s best friend from school calls him up and invites the father-daughter pair to their house to stay and of course, this is also where Kotoko finds out that the friend’s son is none other than the Naoki she is trying to get over.

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I’m mostly making comparisons with Playful Kiss since that’s the only one I’ve watched in full, but right from the start, you can notice a big difference in the way the characters are portrayed. First of all, what’s always annoyed me about Playful Kiss was that Oh Ha Ni, she’s… well, kinda dumb, and her entire existence revolved around Baek Seung Jo, which just pisses off the inner feminist in me. She had literally no mind of her own and all her decisions in life were based on him. Jung So Min definitely acted her heart out and has this insane likeability factor that thankfully made a potentially grating and annoying character almost endearing.

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But when watching this 2013 Japanese remake, I just find myself going “OH MY GOD SHE’S SO CUTE” all the time because this Kotoko is the cutest ever. I love how she’s feisty and doesn’t hesitate to fight back and would actually shout at Naoki when he’s being a jerk and her facial expressions are so adorable and funny without going overboard. And best of all, she’s not dumb per se, but just happens to kinda suck in her studies, and she has so much heart. I can definitely see why guys would be attracted to her and why two end up fighting over her. Needless to say, I infinitely prefer this portrayal of Kotoko because it’s more palatable and realistic. Plus, Miki Honoka is absolutely winning in this role. I can’t believe she’s only 16!

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And oh my god don’t even get me started on Baek Seung Jo. Like as if the role wasn’t standoffish and robotic enough, you get one of the worst idols-turned-actors to portray him. I get that he’s supposed to be sort of a jerk, but he was so mean to the point that I really couldn’t see how anyone could even find him attractive and it’s really hard to watch a drama where you can’t understand how the two leads could possibly end up together.

What makes this Naoki work so much for me is the glimpses of humanity that always come through right from the start and Furukawa Yuki is a much more natural actor so he’s able to lend a little more heart to this role and goddamn whenever the guy smiles, my heart dies a little. And when he spoke his English lines perfectly… Apparently, the actor himself is also really smart and is fluent in both English and Japanese since he lived abroad in Canada and the States for over a decade or something to that effect. Like, hot damn, how perfect can you get?

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Finally, we have our second male lead… Ikezawa Kinnosuke. I enjoyed Lee Tae Sung‘s version well enough but Yamada Yuki is absolutely killing it as the bumbling sweetheart. His facial expressions and his reactions are comic gold without it veering into the slapstick territory and he has that vulnerability about him that makes my heart go out to him. While I liked Bong Joon Gu in the Korean adaptation, I was never really invested in his relationship with Ha Ni as it was always so, so one-sided, so when he got clingy towards the end, it got a little hard to watch. Here, while Kotoko isn’t attracted to Kinnosuke, they do have a sweet friendship where she’d go out of her way to comfort him and they actually have heartfelt conversations together. It’s really nice to see.

The supporting characters aren’t anything to shout about though they’re likeable enough. I always love the mum because she’s the biggest Kotoko/Naoki shipper ever and the dads are also really cute to watch. I do like the family dynamics but I think it’s something that’s usually done quite well in previous adaptations as well, if I’m not wrong. Also, I’m a little doubtful about the introduction of the meddling second female lead, only because Lee Shi Young played the role so well, I’m not sure if this one could beat that version for me.

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I know some people may be uncomfortable with the real life age gap between our leads (they’re 10 years apart), but personally, I don’t really have that big a problem with it since it is acting and as long as onscreen they can believably play their parts and look their character’s age and display some chemistry, I’m fine. And they really are pretty cute together and I don’t know about you, but I definitely bought the kiss in Episode 5 and may or may not have replayed it a couple of times. Besides, Furukawa Yuki has such a babyface he can pass off for much younger than his 25 years. The thing I like most about the relationship between Kotoko and Naoki here is that I already feel emotionally connected so early on and I can also clearly see how and why they’re drawn to each other. Some moments that were especially memorable were all the ones where she was teasing him about his baby photos of him dressed as a girl, their shouting match at the dinner table, the scene where she was running away and he found her and handed her a warm coffee can, as well as when she tried to cook him a meal and he ended up having to cook for her instead. So cute.

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And since we got our first major OTP interaction at the end of Episode 5, I’m really looking forward to the romance stepping up a notch. What I didn’t like in Playful Kiss was that though there were hints of jealousy from Seung Jo, those moments were always few and far between and there never felt like there was a proper rival for Ha Ni’s heart and Seung Jo was well aware of that. It was always Ha Ni who was constantly worried, constantly questioning herself if she was good enough and it got quite frustrating after the umpteenth time.

Here, there are already clear moments of jealousy from Naoki which I always savour, because serves you right for not telling her you like her when you so clearly do. And he does have something to be jealous about because Kotoko and Kinnosuke are always hanging out together and they’re pretty close. Kinnosuke isn’t shy about his affections, and he’s the sort who’ll give it his all. I like that while Kotoko is friendly, she also makes it clear to him that she doesn’t feel the same way so all the cards are laid out and it’s up to Kinnosuke to decide whether he still wants to pursue her anyway (which of course, he does). And it’s not like she’s leading him on, because they are friends in the first place.

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A scene I’m really looking forward to is the big confession rain scene between Kotoko and Naoki, and since I enjoyed the one in Playful Kiss a lot more than I should, I’m really hoping the one here delivers too. I have high hopes. Other than that, I would definitely recommend this drama to anyone who likes a good, cute fluffy story with super likeable lead characters who can actually act their way out of a paperbag. You can watch it here.

Here’s a lovely FMV that sets my shipper heart on fire. Is it May 10 already?! /flails/

(Photo credits: Facebook)

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