Posted in Drama Series, Review

Love that (supposedly) makes you cry

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“There’s a difference between being kind and being too kind.”

This statement perfectly sums up the people in this drama. Never have i watched any other drama where the main characters, not only the male or female lead, are all super kind to the point of being exasperatingly unassertive. Of course there’s exception, especially seeing what happened in episode 5, but for the most part they are so considerate and afraid of hurting other’s feelings that they choose to remain in status quo; even when the uncomfortable truth is thrown in their faces, things are left up in the air.

I was pretty much aware of what i was going into after finishing the first episode: simmering slice of life moving at a snail’s speed. Seriously, i don’t think i’ve ever watched another show as slow-paced as this one. A lot of screen time is filled with silent stares and long pauses i often waited rather impatiently for them to finish their sentences lest i’d lost track of what they’re saying. It would be a lie if i claimed to never feel the urge to fast-forward those scenes or up the playback speed. The time the scenes moved the fastest was when they were at work, as working as Mr. Mover and Ms. Carer required quick movement of the hands and feet.

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This is a drama that paints its characters through nuances. Naturally, there are times i got it and there are times i didn’t. When it’s the latter, the lack of clarification usually frustrated me as i couldn’t make sense of their behavior and decision. This is the case if the show uses third person point of view and we are not omniscient viewers. Add to that the sluggish ride, which unfortunately isn’t exactly a slow burn, many may find it boring. The sedate quality didn’t bother me too much probably because i watched this series before bed. In fact, it probably prepared me well for the night as the ending song was so soothing it served as my weekly lullaby.

That aside, what prevented me from bailing out after only one episode was the curiosity to see if the story would live up to its title: Itsuka Kono Koi wo Omoidashite Kitto Naite Shimau, a mouthful whose literal meaning is “Someday when we recall this love, we will surely cry.” To see if this young adult love story would move me to tears at the end, and more importantly if i’d cry when i recall it some time in the future — provided it’s memorable enough, that is.

And i did tear up on more than one occasion, albeit not from the romance but from the familial relationship, particularly that between Soda Ren (Kora Kengo) and his Jiichan (Tanaka Min). It’s the bittersweet bond that gets you in the heart, the more if you ever moved away from home intending to come back all successful and prideworthy…but isn’t quite there yet. However, whether or not the situation resonates with you, this getsuku offers something akin to a hot bowl of soup on a cold night; it may not be enough to fill you up but is enough to warm the heart and soothe the soul. While it didn’t have me waiting for the next chapter, it did make me come back for more.

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Judging from the official synopsis, there are six main characters here, although the focus is naturally heavily on the male and female lead who are both exceptionally meek and honest to the point of being doormats to the people around them. Meet Mr. Mover, Soda Ren, and Ms. Carer, Sugihara* Oto (Arimura Kasumi). The other four consist of two males and two females. Given the even number, ItsuKoi could have come up with three heartwarming, tears-inducing love stories; instead, it chose to make every girl fall for Ren. So much for being slice of life, huh?

(*she has another surname but goes by Sugihara for most of the show’s run.)

Ren is our resident nice guy, who can’t leave a lonely person alone, who goes out of his way and drives from Tokyo all the way to (Tomakomai?) Hokkaido to return a bag, a letter, and 2,060 yen (to Oto). Uncle Google informed me there lies around 1,107 km or 15-hour 30-min drive between those points, which he covers using company’s truck without an overnight stay. Amazing, right? We soon learned not only is he a guy with a big heart but also limitless patience meter and endless supply of perseverance. Such a person is hard to come by yet it didn’t warrant every girl’s affection.

Despite those ‘perfect’ traits, Ren is arguably a plain guy, a contrast to his friend, Nakajo Haruta (Sakaguchi Kentaro). Among all six, Haruta is the one whose background and line of work eluded me. Due to his tall and handsome features, as well as rather fancy clothes, i thought he was a model, but in retrospect, i had no idea of what he did. He has a glib tongue and appears to be a playboy, but compared to the other personas in the show, he’s refreshingly frank. He likes Ren’s childhood friend, Ichihara Konatsu (Morikawa Aoi), an aspiring designer, and agrees to help her win Ren’s heart although i never saw him trying to make that happen.

Then there’s Ibuki Asahi (Nishijima Takahiro), the typical rich spoiled brat at the outset but soon is revealed to be caring, sincere, and hardworking. He’s Oto’s fellow carer despite his status as the son of the nursing home’s president. Hinata Kihoko (Takahata Mitsuki) rounds out ItsuKoi’s main cast as Ren’s lover. She dresses the part as someone working in an advertising agency. Despite their differing social and economic status (the time Ren couldn’t ‘afford’ to pay for the tea they had in a posh restaurant was hard to watch) and her two-timing reveal, Ren stands his ground and stands by her side. Therefore, at the end of episode 3, after Kihoko bares her soul, i thought Oto didn’t stand a chance and genuinely favored the idea of Ren/Kihoko and Oto/Ibuki as the final pairings.

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[Spoilers ahead] But then 4 came along wherein Ren declares his true feelings to Oto in a way that starts as a confession and ends up a rejection. This got me questioning if he’s with Kihoko out of sheer compassion. Why hanging onto the relationship when both hearts aren’t in it? This whole requited-yet-unrequited love affair comes to a head in episode 5 as Konatsu unforthcomingly loses her temper and disturbs everyone’s peace, at which nobody says anything and attempts to shut her up, not even Baachan (Yachigusa Kaoru), which… augh! Granted, she doesn’t say anything wrong — stating the facts and how messed up the situation is — but she has no right to meddle in it. Everyone’s okay with it, so why she’s the one getting overly agitated? Furthermore, she doesn’t even practice what she preaches! This disclosure hits Kihoko the hardest and worse thing is, Ren does nothing to console her. Gawd, i hated Konatsu right there and then.

That said, the exposé could very well be the chance to set things straight once and for all. Alas, all we got was Ren’s moments with Jiichan back in Aizu before 2011 earthquake hit, then we jumped to 5 years later. Which gave me a strings of i-dun-geddits: Why Oto opted to look for him only now, after being in a two-year relationship with Ibuki. Why she actually went to see him if only to check if he’s alright. Why losing his treasured grandpa prompted Ren to become a cold indifferent person and work for a scam recruitment agency. Why he felt responsible for Konatsu’s post-traumatic stress disorder when he was neither the cause nor the catalyst and she was doing fine.

In many ways, Ren and Oto are mirror images of each other. They may know each other that well but they get each other. They have an inexplicable way to the other’s heart. Problem is, they aren’t in sync; when one steps forward, the other steps back thus the endless push and pull between them. She loving someone else’s man was the theme in the drama’s first half which became he loving someone else’s woman in the second half. There’s always someone between them and their too kind-hearted nature just won’t allow them to cast the wall out. In this situation, the solution is easy as pie: either turn the wall into a jerk or make it step back on own accord. I disfavor both options any day. Portraying someone who’s been more than a decent person in bad light in the last stretch as if to drive home the point that he isn’t the one for the lead felt really contrived, whereas giving the wavering lead an easy out only shows what a bigger person he actually is. What’s the point of making her weigh in her options and decide which path she’ll take if she doesn’t even get to tell either man of her choice?

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While the writing and acting are nothing to write home about, i did enjoy the overall pretty cinematography and beautiful dialogues. Plot points were at times too coincidental and/or random whereas the characterizations did not give the actors much room to show their range. Everybody did fine, but my favorite performance was Takahata Mitsuki. Kihoko wasn’t as impeccable as Oto although personality-wise the two weren’t that different. I however felt more depth and rawness from the former, and she eventually made her character more likeable than the latter.

Oto: “Exit here, turn right, then left.”
Ren: “A shortcut?”
Oto: “No. The long way round.”

It doesn’t take long to discover where the OTP’s hearts are but it sure takes them the long winding road to be on the same boat and finally make the ship sail. If you have the patience to sit through the entire series watching them walk on their own ways, crossing paths occasionally to cheer the other on or save the other from him/herself, before being together at the very end, this may the drama for you. If not, ItsuKoi may end up being The Love that Frustrates You instead of Love that Makes You Cry. Heh.

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Rating: 3/5
Director: Michiko Namiki, Yusuke Ishii, Mai Takano
Production: Fuji TV, 2016
Cast: Kora Kengo, Arimura Kasumi, Nishijima Takahiro, Takahata Mitsuki, Sakaguchi Kentaro, Morikawa Aoi
Genre: Slice of life, Romance, J-dorama (10 Episodes)

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I blog sometimes, gush ofttimes, snark all the time.

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