The Queen of Asian Drama is Back with more Irreverent Reviews and Snarky Commentary.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Koi ga Shitai (x3) - Where is Love?

A July - September 2001 release from Japan that asks the simple yet complex question,
"Why am I alive?"

Before I go on, let me say how much I appreciated the fact that this drama affected me in a GOOD way, and that I feel better, more alive for having watched.

It stars Watabe Atsuro as Akai Ryosuke, a thirty-something educator and swim instructor at a local high school.
The drama begins by showing us that he's been dumped by his fiance, who ran away to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a model, though she, too, is in her thirties.

and Kanno Miho as Nagashima Mikan, a supposedly unattractive wallflower who works as a maid in a ritzy hotel cleaning up after the many lovers who frequent the place for sex, intimacy, or a honeymoon stay.

Tokoro George as Midorikawa Bunpei, a divorced Beef Bowl shop owner in his mid-forties,
and Yamada Takayuki as Aoshima Wataru, Midorikawa's estranged son.

Wataru is a high school sophomore who is disgruntled with life and in search of the meaning of true happiness.
Midorikawa has no idea that Wataru is his son, but Wataru is aware that Midorikawa is his biological father.

Kohda Orie (Okae Kumiko), is a forty-something housewife in desperate need of a change.

(...I loved SO much that the writer and/or director seemed to make it a point that we -the audience- not, even pay any mind to Orie.
Or maybe it was just me, who knows, but it's so important later on in the story that it nearly brought me to tears.)

Mikan-chan discovers on her 23rd birthday that the coveted, red sandals she's had her eye on for awhile now are no, longer on display in front of the store, and when she goes in to inquire about them, she finds out that the last pair have just been sold.
She strolls sadly into Midorikawa's restaurant, where Ryosuke, Wataru, and Orie are already eating.

It's a quiet and clean place, and the food looks delicious.

Midorikawa asks about Ryosuke's bad mood, and he dismisses it quickly by stating that he's been dumped.

Orie asks Midorikawa about a handsome, young man sitting at a table across from the bar the rest of them occupy.

He is Shimura Ichiro (Oikawa Mitsuhiro), a famous novelist and talk-show host known especially for his acidic barbs and cut-throat honesty.
He is also smoking a cigarette when there are NO SMOKING posters taped to the walls, but whatever.

Then a beautiful, young woman named Haneda Ai (Mizuno Miki) enters the shop, and she walks up to Ichiro, creating a scene by insisting that he take her back, that she loves him eternally and will always be there for him.

While the others look on, Ichiro proceeds to humiliate Ai by telling her directly that she is useless and that the only thing she can do is love a man, which according to him men find boring.

She asks why he is afraid to be honest about his feelings, and what is it that he is hiding.
He asks what is she good for, and is there anything that she can give a man other than her love.

Ichiro shoves her hard enough to knock her down, and while she clings to his ankle, begging him for another chance, he kicks at her, insisting that she go away and leave him alone.

Midorikawa and Ryosuke intervene, and before anything bad can happen, Ichiro begins to laugh and Ai gets up, off the floor.
They then both explain that it was all an act done to gauge the reactions of the people in the shop.

Orie thanks both men for helping to intervene, regardless of the reality of the situation, and then Ryosuke thanks Midorikawa for the food before he gets up to leave.

Mikan-chan shouts at him that he left a shopping bag behind, and after a brief moment of hesitation, he says she can have it, that he doesn't need it anymore.

In the bag are the red sandals and a note that says Happy Birthday, let's stay together forever.

Naturally, this sets the tone for the rest of the drama, and it is where Mikan-chan decides that Ryosuke is her destiny.

Meanwhile, we have Orie, who has a cheating husband and two, shiftless teenage children, which accounts for her boredom, sadness, and restless nature.

She and Wataru both answer an ad for true love that they saw on a free tissue packet that are apparently handed out the same way that leaflets or fliers are, but oh well.

They both, happen to have the same, Manet print, and it is their common interests that bring them together via the phone.
He claims to be a college grad in the Design field, and she claims to be a twentyish air hostess.

It's cute but embarrassingly uncomfortable to watch.

Ai and Ichiro are lovers, but he is flippant and cold, which leads Ai to run away.

She's from a wealthy family, and she ran from them as well, knowing that her father is only interested in marrying her off.

Ai meets Ryosuke at a gentleman's club, and he's desperate to fix her, which annoys her, but as they are ready to part on bad terms, a few of her father's men try to kidnap her, so they speed off together in Ryosuke's tiny, yellow car.

They end up on a beach, where they remain together until dawn.
One thing leads to another, and they end up living together.

During the day, Ai works as a beauty consultant at a fancy day-spa, where she meets up with Mikan-chan again, and Orie, who is trying to shave ten years off her face & body after lying to Wataru about her age.
Both Orie and Mikan-chan discuss love with Ai, yet none of them really has a clue.

Ryosuke finds out that Midorikawa has always had a crush on Mikan-chan, but he is too shy and he feels too old to run with his true emotions.

Personally, and maybe because of my age, I adored Midorikawa the most in this drama.
He was warm, sympathetic, and quite resourceful when dealing with the characters around him.
He had the answers, and they were quite informed.
He knew what was best for each of them, and his generosity knew no bounds.
Yet, he was trapped in the past, unable to move forward or take care of his own issues as a result.

DAMN, can I relate!

Koi ga Shitai (3) wasn't slow, contrived, or even predictable, which was refreshing.

The bonds that formed between all of the characters was perhaps a bit far-fetched but no, less credible in my eyes.
It worked, THEY worked, and the story kept me interested from episode 1 through episode 11, the end.

The voice-overs, done by different characters throughout the drama, and usually with one character talking over another character's scene, was insightful and helped to draw the viewer in even more.

Though there were quite a few characters in the story, it didn't bog down the drama in the least, and unlike Korean drama, there were no, annoying pauses where we are forced to have to watch the character contemplate a situation for five minutes or more, with silly music droning in the background.

The Japanese know how to tell a story, and what struck me most was that it TRIED to be a sentimental, predictable, and even contrived drama!

The opening song, Rainbow Connection, was done by The Carpenters, for crying out loud!

When I first heard it, I groaned inwardly and cringed, thinking that I made the wrong choice by selecting what I thought would turn out to be something similar to what Korean drama insists on forcing down our throats.


It was intelligent, it was thought-provoking, and most-importantly, it had substance throughout.

Apparently, the message was: Life is what YOU make it, and that to pursue your own dreams is much, more fulfilling than to wind your way through a life someone else has created or destined for you.

Again, without religion to guide your way, or to give you a greater purpose without having to 'go it alone' ... it's hard for me to grasp this concept.

It's a shame that there are that many desperate, frightened, and confused people in the world, and I think because of the lack of faith, a majority of them live in Japan.

If they knew or believed that this life is intended to be superficial, bland, and meaningless ...
If they understood that it's eternity that matters more than the here & now, things might be different for them, who knows.

I feel the same way about my life, and I'm a Catholic.

There are hundreds of times I've wanted to know why God put me here, and what is my talent, exactly?

At least I know that despair is an evil thing, and that to give in to it is wrong.

That's my only hope, though.

Existence is futile, and love comes to those who least expect it, I think.

TRUE love, that is.
The love a majority of us want, seek out, or hope to obtain at some point in our lives.

Orie made a big mistake, and she paid dearly for it, but she had the strength to overcome her fears about change, and in the end, she pursued her new destiny.

Ichiro DID have a secret; a big one, and when it finally came to light, his old life ended and a new one began.
The fake life was grand, prosperous, and fashionable while his new life was the exact opposite, and he struggled to overcome his fears, but he still did the right thing by admitting to the world that secret.
He got what he deserved, and yet he continued to live on MINUS the fear.

Midorikawa ... well, I'm super happy to say that HE, of them all, got precisely what he deserved.
His beauty surpassed them all as far as I'm concerned, and I was never happier for an 'imaginary' personality to get what he truly wanted out of life.


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