Rich Man, Poor Woman Eps 5-7

*SIGH*

Okay, so my words have returned to bite me in the you-know-where. In my earlier post, I said this was a promising series and made a bunch of predictions about how the story would develop. It looks like the jinx is working again because no sooner had I hit the “publish” button than I found my face meeting my palm.

Whatever mild spots this drama had in the first four episodes have basically developed into full-blown warts. I’ll probably watch this till the end but dear lord, why is Kosuke turning into a K-drama second lead? And I’m not talking about the Moon Jae-shin variety either. All that’s missing is a pair of hairy eyeballs and a Laser Glare of Doom…*eyebrow twitches*

Arata, you are a better actor than that. DO NOT GO THERE. *mild spoilers ahead*

Now I’m aware that people are watching this drama for different reasons. Some are watching it for the romance while others are watching it to see how Hyuga is going to recover from being stabbed in the back. I’ve always been more interested in the business aspect of this drama, which isn’t to say that I don’t like the chemistry that Shun and Ishihara have together. I do but whatever interest I had in the romance between their characters petered out around episode 6. At this point in time, even if these two do end up together at the end of the drama, I can’t see their relationship being a happy or healthy one simply because they (especially Makoto) both have a lot of growing up to do.

Of the two, Hyuga presents less of a problem for me. He’s your arrogant, love-dense romantic hero who bullies the girl that he likes because he doesn’t know how else to express his affection (Sorry, I don’t buy the argument that he’s the way he is because of his medical condition.) He likes her but isn’t willing to admit it for god knows what reason. It’s nothing that duct tape and some chains the right girl can’t fix.

Question is: Is Makoto that girl? Were she a few years older and more worldly wise, I’d probably think so. I won’t deny that she and Hyuga have their cute moments together and I can see how she could be a positive influence on him. However at this moment in time, I find it increasingly difficult to get behind these two because of Makoto’s lack of self-esteem. Not only is she putting Hyuga on a pedestal, she is constantly putting herself down, which is starting to grate.

Let’s not forget that Makoto is a Todai grad. Even with the economy being in the dumps, surely it still counts for something. The University of Tokyo is consistently ranked the best university in Asia and it frequently places among the top 20 worldwide. I can think of a number of companies that would welcome a Todai grad with open arms, if not in Japan then overseas. But to listen to how Makoto constantly denigrates herself, you’d think she graduated from the University of Bumfuck with a diploma printed on toilet paper.

That said, I’m glad that episode 4 showed her taking the initiative to survey the people living around her. Sure, she was doing it for Hyuga but at least she was making use of her skills and education. She wasn’t just sitting around making moon eyes at him, which appears to be all that she’s been doing lately.

Episode 7 makes me really disappointed with the way this drama has been developing her character. Makoto’s rationale for wanting to turn down the other company’s job offer so she can continue working at Next Innovation is frustrating because it turns her into that girl — you know the one who is content to follow her man around and do whatever he does because as long as he is happy, she is happy. The one who is willing to forego her own personal growth so she can be with the man she likes. I hate to sound like I’m turning into one of my parents but seriously girl, did you go to college just for this?

All throughout this show, we’re never told what she enjoys doing or what her dream career really is. At the start of this drama, she’s willing to settle for any job she can find because of the poor economy — this I can understand. Now however, she’s willing to settle for any job that Hyuga will give her so she can be with him. And mind you, he hasn’t even told her that he likes her. Wouldn’t you say that she is getting ahead of herself here? [ETA: Though I will say that both Ishihara and Shun were lovely in this scene. I just wish that Makoto had been able to substantiate her reason for wanting to stay with Next Innovation by telling him how she could be an asset to the company.]

If she actually enjoyed programming or she had always wanted to work in a start-up, fair enough. However she’s doing it so she can be at his beck and call whenever he needs her — the fact that she’s willing to drop whatever she’s doing so she can take his calls is just terrible. Being supportive doesn’t mean you have to glue yourself to that person 24/7. Why bother getting such an expensive education if all you’re going to do is follow your crush around like a puppy? Come on, Makoto. What would Priscilla Chan do? This drama makes me appreciate Ouran High School Host Club even more because Haruhi would never give up her dream of becoming a lawyer just to be Tamaki’s personal support system. And best of all, neither he nor the rest of the Host Club boys would ever want or expect her to do that.

Haruhi = Forever Perfect

That said, I am glad that Hyuga called Makoto out on her immaturity and told her to concentrate on building her own career in that episode, though having seen the preview for episode 8, I don’t think that is going to happen at all.

I can’t say I’m hoping these two end up together, not when Makoto is confusing hero-worship with love. I think this girl needs to go for self-esteem classes before she starts thinking about finding herself a man.

***

I maintain that Rich Man, Poor Woman had a promising start with Makoto’s deception and Hyuga’s mother issues, as well as Asahina’s ambiguous intentions, giving the drama an element of mystery and intrigue. However these last three episodes have exposed the weaknesses of this drama, which I feel lie with the writing and execution more than the cast.

Arata, for example, is an actor who is capable of delivering a much better performance. He is at his most effective when he’s playing murky characters that you can’t really read and I wish the drama had capitalised on this and kept the identity of Hyuga’s betrayer a mystery till the seventh episode instead of revealing his grand plan all at once. It’s been a little painful for me watching him ham it up as a (quite possibly unhinged) megalomaniac. Maybe he’s making up for all the restraint he’s had to show in his movies by picking the most melodramatic TV roles he can get his hands on. His last drama was Mitsu no Aji, otherwise known as the uncle and niece incest drama. All I can say is I hope it’s been a cathartic process for you, Arata.

It goes without saying that his confession to Makoto makes me want to throttle something. And to think that I had initially praised the writer for not turning him into a typical K-drama second lead. Are you doing this to spite me, Show? Or is this your way of saying that Tokyo has run out of eligible women?

Speaking of eligible women, I think it’s really sad that Yoko is wasted in this drama. She’s a much stronger character than Makoto and it’s too bad that she’s been relegated to playing the third wheel in Hyuga and Makoto’s relationship. If you ask me, she should just cut her losses and move on instead of clinging to her Before Sunrise fantasy. She deserves better, anyway.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I like Yoko and I don’t get all the hate she’s been getting. Is this some kind of Pavlovian response that viewers have towards female second leads? She’s confident, she knows what she wants and she’s a problem solver — what’s not to love? I also appreciate the fact that she isn’t hesitant about going after what she wants in her career as well as her relationships. She isn’t afraid of laying her feelings on the table, unlike Makoto who’s just content to wait for Hyuga to toss her a few crumbs of affection.

The problem with Yoko is that she’s a sketchily drawn character who doesn’t really belong in a drama that’s set in a tech start-up environment. There’s already so much going on with Next Innovation that Yoko’s restaurant problems just seem superfluous and out of place. I do wish she was the lead character in another drama so her back story could be fleshed out in more detail. As it is, I still think her encounter with Hyuga sounds dodgy and I find it difficult to believe that a woman with Yoko’s disposition would spend nine years waiting for someone who has difficulty remembering people’s faces. Not only has Tokyo run out of eligible women, apparently all the eligible men, with the exception of Hyuga, are either gay or married.

Sketchy character development aside, another major problem this drama has is that it has quite a few loose threads hanging about. For example, what ever happened to Hyuga wanting to find his mother? And how severe is his medical condition exactly — is it something that he was born with? Was it triggered when his mother left him? How is it that he can remember some people’s faces but not others? Or is it a gimmick that the writer came up with so the drama could make a case for Hyuga and Makoto being fated for each other? I would have thought that Hyuga’s medical condition would play a bigger role in this drama but it’s been shunted to the background and probably forgotten while the writer plunders K-dramas for more clichés.

Imma refrain from making any more predictions lest my hopes for this drama plummet any further. Though having said that, I will stick my neck out and say this: Makoto, you’re a fricking Todai grad. Please start acting like one.

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2 comments

  1. Ehhh, yeah, I have to say the middle portion of RMPW has taken a dip for the worse. I liked the kdrama touch in the beginning but it’s way too ham-handed now: Asahina the mustache-twirling villain, Asahina going after the girl, yadda yadda been there done that.

    But episode 8 at least seemed *semi-spoiler!* to close one arc and open another.*end spoiler*

    Like you said, Makoto’s feelings for Hyuga seem to operate on hero-worship more than actual love as an equal, but curiously I’m willing to see where that goes because it’s off the beaten track: as a squarely in-the-box thinker, her association with Hyuga opens up her world. So her desire to follow where he goes comes from a willingness to expand her worldview (which I like in a heroine), as well as of course the love part. This is far less well-written than your review, but I hope I’ve got the point across. I do think that Makoto will have to step up and get a stronger spine now, like you said :)

    1. Thanks for the tip, Diorama. I haven’t watched ep 8 yet because I’m waiting for this drama to finish its run so I can watch the remaining episodes at one go and give myself one big collective facepalm if I have to.

      I’m willing to see where that goes because it’s off the beaten track: as a squarely in-the-box thinker, her association with Hyuga opens up her world. So her desire to follow where he goes comes from a willingness to expand her worldview

      Hmm…based on the seven episodes I’ve seen, I think this drama could have done a much better job of demonstrating how meeting him changed her or caused her to achieve some degree of self-realisation. I wouldn’t have a problem with RMPR if Makoto had, through her stint at Next Innovation and her interactions with Hyuga, realised that there was so much more she was capable of doing. I would have been behind Makoto if she had shown Hyuga that she had the skills he needed and that he’d be a fool to ignore her abilities but that wasn’t what this drama had her do, which is why it annoys me so much because it’s turned her into a generic drippy heroine.

      Let me explain what I mean by way of another drama. In Nodame Cantabile (don’t know if you’ve watched this one), Nodame latches on to Chiaki pretty early on (much to his dismay) and follows him everywhere. Their relationship might seem one-sided at first but as the drama progresses, you see how they actually help each other face their fears and become better musicians. Among other things, Nodame helps Chiaki overcome his phobia while he pushes her to realise her potential as a pianist. I am all for self-improvement and I loved that he wanted Nodame to give herself a chance and see how far she could go as a musician instead of becoming a kindergarten teacher right away.

      Hyuga, on the other hand, has some kind of complex towards university grads and keeps calling Makoto an idiot (and the irritating thing is that she keeps agreeing that she is one.) Apart from making use of her ability to memorise large volumes of data in the first few episodes and using her as a sort of PR rep for NI, he doesn’t really think she can do anything else, and Makoto certainly doesn’t seem to be doing anything to change his rather dim view of her. I am aware that the final arc of this drama might see the dynamics of their relationship changing but atm, she really needs to grow up and stop getting all teary-eyed whenever she watches him from afar.

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