She’s a dreamer with her head in the clouds. He’s an apathetic genius living his life on autopilot. They’re the last two people you’d ever expect to fall in love with each other…
But once in a while, something unexpected happens to bring two very different individuals together and open their eyes to possibilities that they never considered before.
Their journey together is far from easy though (in part because one of them is an emotional retard). As they navigate the minefields of the heart, they experience for the first time, the highs and lows of falling in love.
And so, after years of fervent prayer and wishing upon falling stars…
after much resistance and denial…
and a few awkward confessions…
And for all of us watching at home, after months of spazzing and flailing, and two weeks of wishing we could laser beam some sense into Naoki, it has finally come to this.
*sniff* Hold me?
Before I start spazzing in earnest though, let’s get the issues I have with the last episode out of the way first. If you’re here just for the ASDQFDSJFSDHJK, please scroll all the way down:
1) The Promenade Scene
OMG, Naoki. Are you still pretending to go along with this fool idea of yours? You must be a bigger sucker for pain than I thought.
Okay, I am … confused. This scene makes it seem as if Naoki is still not aware of his feelings for Kotoko, which is just plain bizarre when you consider everything that has already happened between them. It makes you wonder if someone rebooted his memory, causing him to go back to being the Naoki of episodes 1-6. Or if he is suffering from temporary amnesia.
If this adaptation is really from Mr Mangaka’s point of view, I would like to know what input he had here. By right, assuming that he loves Kotoko and has zero feelings for Sahoko, this encounter with Kotoko and Kin-chan should have put an end to Naoki’s attempts to suppress his emotions and convince himself that he is Doing the Right Thing™. However much he may want to convince himself that he can marry someone he doesn’t love, this meeting shakes his resolve. Although he knows that she’s been going out on dates, this is the first time he is actually seeing her on one and it is unsettling to say the least. What Naoki is feeling here is not simply jealousy; there’s also a sense of unease as he watches Kotoko, who’s always been content to trail after him, walk away.
He might not be able to put a finger on his feelings at this moment but this is an encounter that sets off something in him. Seeing her with Kin-chan makes Naoki realise that he can no longer be complacent about her feelings for him. And if, as he keeps telling himself and everyone around him, that who she goes out with doesn’t matter to him, why does it hurt to see her walk away with another man? (I know this isn’t apparent from Yuki’s expression but let’s just go with it, okay?)
We are down to the last episode and by right, this should have been it for Naoki. He might like to think he’s cool and rational but he is no Ootori Kyouya. If he were the type to do things based on merit and cold hard logic alone, he would have gone to Todai, married Sahoko yesterday and arranged for Kotoko and her father to move out of his house a long time ago. And the scene below would never have happened, not in a million years:
So why, dear Writer, does Naoki still insist on continuing with the engagement at this stage of the story? Is he deliberately being STUPID, or what? He’s had two entire episodes to be an emotional retard, could we have him come to his senses already, please? If you’ll humour me, this is how I would have tweaked the conclusion of the promenade scene:
Sahoko: It’s not like you to tell Kotoko-san such a mean thing.
Naoki: It’s not like me?
Please don’t worry. I would never talk to you like that. (Naoki should have remained silent at this point.)
You are a great businessman and you know everything. But you don’t know your own feelings, Naoki-san. (This is the line that bugs me most. How is it possible that Naoki isn’t aware of his feelings when he’s confessed to her twice? Three times if you consider his ass-backwards reason for going to Tonan. If you ask me, he’s just being incredibly stubborn about the whole situation. It’s as if he’s trying to prove to himself that he is above matters of the heart.) You’ve been very nice to me, Naoki-san but there is someone else in your heart, isn’t there? (This would have been totally consistent with what she told Kotoko in ep 15. It’s obvious from that conversation that she’s always had a vague suspicion that he likes someone else.) I’m going home today.
In my ideal world, this adaptation would have had Naoki call off his engagement to Sahoko on his own instead of waiting till after the rain scene to do it. He’d have met up with her privately to apologise and tell her he can’t go through with it after
angsting thinking things over on his own, and then he’d have gone to look for Kotoko in school, where he finds out about Kin-chan’s proposal. Cue panic and dismay as he realises that he might have screwed up for good this time. You’d still be able to have your rain scene and its impact would have been so much stronger in this instance, imo.
I’m not crazy about the way Jinko and Satomi hammer Kin-chan’s proposal into Naoki’s head. It’s as if everyone knows that time is running out and they’re all yelling: “WAKE UP, YOU FOOL! SHE’S ABOUT TO MARRY THE OTHER GUY!”
Look, even the celestial beings watching from above are getting antsy and have started to cry on your behalf, Naoki. STOP BEING A MORON AND GO GET THE GIRL, OKAY?!
2) The build-up to *that* scene
Just to put things into perspective: It takes Naoki two and a half episodes to get to this point. Yes, I know all good things come to those who wait but this is a wee bit long, no? Unless you are planning to start a riot by offering us an alternative version of events (as painted by all those AU fanfics on Baidu), everyone already knows what the conclusion is, Director Nagata-san. We just want to see our babies kiss and make up, go on dates (and god knows Naoki owes Kotoko several), and act sickeningly cute with each other. Am I right, girls, or am I right? XD
3) The dialogue in the rain scene
I know the rain scene is a very big deal to ItaKiss fans and while the hugs were A++++ (to the power of infinity), the dialogue dampened my squee somewhat. I know it was probably lifted verbatim from the manga but it could have done with some editing, especially in light of what happened in episodes 14 and 15.
I have gotta be honest here. The first thing that came to my mind when I heard this was: “Go to hell, Naoki.” I’m sorry but I just couldn’t help myself. If he had been less of an ass in the previous two episodes and/or had broken off his engagement with Sahoko prior to this scene, I wouldn’t have been so indignant.
That said, having watched this scene again, I do think Naoki actually sounds contrite and hesitant here, and I would like to believe that he is aware of how horrible he’s been to Kotoko. I would have appreciated it if the script writer had woven in an apology or at least an acknowledgement of his behavior; it wouldn’t have been out of character for this particular Naoki to apologise to Kotoko. If he can thank Kin-chan in episode 10, I am pretty sure he can find it in himself to say sorry to her.
I think this would have been a good place to add an extra line of dialogue, something along the lines of “I know I’ve been a complete idiot but please don’t ever say that you love any man besides me.” If they had included this in the script, there would be no room for argument: this would have blown all the other adaptations out of the water.
You are so incredibly lucky that Kotoko is *so* easy, Naoki. If it were me, I would have made you grovel a whole lot more … Oh, who the hell am I kidding? My brain would probably have combusted if he had held me in the rain like that and I think you’d have to surgically remove me from his embrace as well. Yes, I haz no shame.
What he’s whispering to Kotoko is for our two lovebirds to know but in my inner mind theatre, Naoki is saying this: “I’m sorry, Kotoko, and thank you (for loving me/for not giving up on me/for being in my life/insert your own reason and repeat EVERYTHING ad nauseam).”
4) Best. Scene. Ever.
Right now, my squee can only be heard by small animals. Look at the way he’s cradling her face in the first gif! And you don’t even need to see his face to know that his facial muscles are working overtime in the second one. AND OMG THE THIRD ONE … SCREW KISSING. NAOKI, I WANT A HUG TOO!!!!!!!!!!
5) The rush to the wedding altar
Frankly, I would have been fine with it if Naoki and Kotoko had not gotten married in this adaptation. They are both very young and can afford to spend a year or two getting to know each other better before making things official. I’d have been chuffed if the drama had ended with them on a date, enjoying each other’s company — that would have been my perfect ending. However I do know that the ItaKiss fans were expecting a wedding and I don’t really have a problem with it, except that I wish Naoki’s mother had involved Kotoko in the planning process instead of making all the decisions on her own. I felt really sorry for our girl — it’s not as if you get married to the man you love every day. Which woman wouldn’t want to choose her own gown or make her own wedding preparations? Personally, I’d be beyond pissed off if my mother did the same thing to me (hence the reason I don’t blame Naoki for being grumpy), but this is what happens when you spend so much time on the omiai arc.
But despite my annoyance with the way this wedding was planned, it disappeared when I saw how happy Kotoko was. If getting married to Naoki is what sends her over the moon, I am not going to rain on her parade.
*holdingbacktearsholdingbacktearsholdingbacktears* DAMMIT. I WILL NOT CRY!!!!!!!
I know I am terribly easy (*hangs head in shame*) but if you promise to smile at Kotoko like this for the rest of your life, Naoki, I’ll forgive your momentary lapse of sanity in episodes 14 and 15.
AWWWWWWWW … look at the way he keeps sneaking glances at Kotoko! It’s like he can’t take his eyes off her. If this isn’t ASDGFGHKJHKJHSDFKJ, I don’t know what is. It’s all right, Naoki. You two are man and wife now. You can gaze adoringly at her as much as you want without hiding it anymore. Feels good, doesn’t it? XDDDD
Watanabe-kun, it looks like you were right, after all. I hope you got Naoki to buy you a drink at the bar. He owes you one *wink*
My ItaKiss~Love in Tokyo Journey
As I mentioned in my previous post, I have never been an ItaKiss fan and the reason for the enduring appeal of this series is something that has always eluded me.
Over the years, if the various drama adaptations did anything, it was to reinforce my very dim view of this series. All of them seemed hellbent on proving that Kotoko was good at only one thing: being
an idiot Naoki’s satellite. In an attempt to be open-minded, I watched the Korean remake and to be fair, I actually found Jung So-min charming, but dropped it after five/six episodes because it got boring as hell watching her do nothing but stalk her crush.
So when I found out that Japan was coming up with yet another remake of this series, I decided I needed it in my life like I needed a shot in the head. (Also, when I saw the posters, I was like, “Hang on, isn’t the guy she’s in love with supposed to be hot?”) At any rate, I was making good on my promise to steer clear of it until I saw this:
[via Mookie. Credit to original Baidu poster]
There are a few choice words that I have always associated Kotoko with and “adorable” has never been one of them. Yet, this gif was making me reassess my long-held opinions. So after spending a few more weeks wrestling with my Inner Snob (who sniffed at the drama and sneered something about “braincells” and “dying”), I finally got round to watching it and before I knew what was happening, I was dredging up my long-forgotten language skills, camping out at Baidu (prior to InKLiT, I wasn’t even aware of its existence) and reading Chinese fanfiction (with the help of a dictionary.)
Going Where No Other ItaKiss Adaptation Has Gone Before
Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration but the fact that I actually managed to watch all 16 episodes of ItaKiss ~ Love in Tokyo can’t be overstated. I know it’s only August but I’m willing to stick my neck out and say that this is, for me, the biggest surprise of the year. Never in two million light years did I ever think there would come a day when I’d actually be rooting for Kotoko’s happiness but it has finally happened with this adaptation. (Btw, I should mention that this drama has in no way made me an ItaKiss convert. I have no desire to revisit any of the earlier adaptations and I lasted all of ten minutes when I tried watching the anime the other day.)
With ItaKiss ~ Love in Tokyo, it’s like someone found a way to distill the shoujo crack and filter out 80 percent of the *facepalm*-inducing elements from the original material. (Let’s face it. This is ItaKiss. I don’t think you’ll ever be able to find an adaptation that doesn’t make you go WTF at some point in time.) Is there anything I would have liked to change about this drama? Of course. However I also realise there are certain constants that you cannot, like it or not, alter. Once you do so, it is no longer ItaKiss. So just as how Naoki and Kotoko accept each other, warts and all, I have also come to terms with this drama’s limitations.
With ItaKiss ~ Love in Tokyo, you do not think. You just feel.
Embrace the doki doki.
Really, it’s best not to think too hard when watching this drama. If you do, you’ll realise that most of the characters would be diagnosed with mental problems if they actually existed in real life. As it is, I think Naoki’s mother is missing a few screws in her head.
For me, this adaptation is a full-blown wish-fulfillment shoujo fantasy set in a world where everything is pink and fluffy, and nothing hurts so much that you cannot mend it with a kiss and a hug. Anyone who bitches that it is over-the-top blah, blah, blah is completely missing the point.
The Kotoko Factor
That said, what distinguishes this adaptation from the earlier ones is Honoka Miki’s Kotoko. I don’t care what the snobs and haters say. For me, she is the heart and soul of this drama. You can get the world’s hottest actor alive to play Naoki but if I can’t get behind the heroine (and I have never been able to do so with any of the previous Kotokos), it matters little to me.
I don’t have an issue with the 10-year age gap between the leads but I always wondered why they chose to cast such a young actress in the role. It couldn’t have been an arbitrary decision and the answer finally occurred to me after listening to Miki and Director Nagata describe the character in the BTS interview:
Director Nagata: When she walked into the audition room, the whole atmosphere turned bright. There are many aspects of her, such as her energetic character, that match the role … so that’s why we chose Miki Honoka-san.
Honoka Miki: She has a white image, just like an angel — she’s a very cute girl.
Miki’s answer puzzled me at first because from what I could remember of the previous adaptations, Kotoko was no angel. She was always presented as someone who was loud and brash, mindnumbingly dumb or a sweet-natured nobody. And then it hit me: Of course! If this story is being told from Naoki’s/Mr Mangaka’s perspective, then what we are seeing is his image of Kotoko. The person he sees is not someone who’s plain, stupid or woefully helpless. In his eyes, she is this (adorable) little thing who appears out of nowhere, turns his life upside-down, and in so doing, brightens it up as well.
If you look at it from this angle, this particular adaptation is no longer about an average girl who snags her dream prince. I don’t know about anyone else, but it reminds me a little of WISH, a CLAMP manga about a sweet (if somewhat ditzy) little angel who comes to earth and ends up living with (and falling for) an extremely stoic doctor after a chance encounter. (The official MV for this manga is just too cute for words.)
At any rate, with the earlier adaptations, you get the sense that Naoki falls in love with Kotoko in spite of her stupidity. In the case of this one, he does so, realising that there’s more to her than what her less than stellar grades suggest. Instead of playing up her flaws, InKLit focuses on her strengths, and Miki’s Kotoko is someone with many positive traits. One of the things that attracts Naoki to her is her perpetual sense of wonder and enthusiasm for life; when we first see him, he’s jaded and a little lost. He thinks that his future has already been pre-determined for him — he’ll graduate from high school, go on to Todai and then succeed his father at the latter’s company. In a sense, everything that he has ever done (playing tennis etc), he’s done with an end goal in mind. Kotoko, on the other hand, lives fully in the moment. With her, there is no calculated agenda. Whatever she does, she does with all her heart, regardless of whether she has a chance of succeeding or not.
Even though he tries to resist it at first, her enthusiasm is infectious and it is because of Kotoko that he eventually decides to take the entrance exam for medical school, even though he has no idea whether he’ll succeed or not. It’s a sign of how much he’s changed — the old Naoki would never have done this because it would have been too much of a risk (remember his favourite Philip Chesterfield quote: “It is important to have the ability to distinguish between the impossible and possible”?)
With the other adaptations, you get the sense that Kotoko doesn’t have anything else except “Naoki” between her ears. In this one though, while she is in love with him, she is not so far gone that she lets her feelings define who she is. Sure, there are instances where she stalks him (I don’t think you can have an ItaKiss drama without at least one stalking scene) but the important thing is that this particular Kotoko is capable of introspection. She knows when to draw the line and say, “Enough is enough.” I have no doubt that she’d be able to quit Naoki and move on with her life if she made up her mind to do it. She’s attempted to do so at least twice in the drama and would probably have succeeded both times if he hadn’t interfered with her plans.
Because of the way she expresses her feelings for Naoki, Kotoko is often seen as someone without a mind of her own. However I have never regarded Miki’s Kotoko as a spineless doormat. On the contrary, I think she is incredibly spirited and made of far sterner stuff than she lets on. Once she makes a decision, there’s no swaying her to do something else. We get a glimpse of this in episode 2 when she decides to get her name on the final year exam scoreboard. I especially like the look of annoyance on her face when her friends laugh at her, as well as the way she shakes off Kin-chan’s hand when he tells her to “forget this nonsense” and have fun with them instead — this is definitely not someone who caves to pressure easily.
Another of my favourite moments is when she decides to continue with tennis practice even after she’s no longer living with the Iries and has no chance of ever playing on the same court as Naoki. This is actually my favourite episode in the drama and what I love about it is that it shows Kotoko picking herself up after having a good cry and carrying on with her life. A lot of girls in her shoes would have quit the tennis club because there would no longer be any reason for them to hang around but she keeps at it because that’s just the way she rolls, yo. I also love that she doesn’t go out of her way to avoid the things that remind her of Naoki because that would be allowing him to dictate what she can or cannot do.
The way I see it, Kotoko is someone who loves unconditionally, and when it comes to Naoki, all she wants is to be with him. She doesn’t expect him to buy her anything or take her anywhere. Just being in his company, whether it’s walking with him to school or sitting at the same table as him, makes her happy — it’s as simple as that. She has a very innocent (and low maintenance) view of love. And this is why I think they chose Miki for the role. You need someone who’s able to pull off the character’s innocence and childlike view of the world convincingly because she is someone who is mentally younger than her peers. Not every 16-year-old can do this. Cast the wrong person and Kotoko comes across as a retard.
When she talks about what she wants to do after graduating from college, again it’s with a childlike sensibility. Many of us have issues with this scene because it makes it look like her whole life revolves around him, but I don’t think that’s entirely the case, not with this version at least. In InKLiT, she is aware that something’s not quite right with her vision of bliss and it frustrates her:
Kotoko: I dream about what I want to be in the future. But there is a problem with those dreams. Depending on what the person I love wants to do, my goals keep changing. That’s not what I really want to do, is it? I can’t call it my life’s dream.
Even though this drama doesn’t resolve the issue of her future vocation, I love that she takes the initiative to go to the library and do something about it. Personally, I think she would be fantastic in a people-oriented role just because she’s so intuitive and sensitive to people’s feelings. Heck, she’d make a great restaurant proprietress — I have no idea why she has to marry Kin-chan in order to do so though. Can’t he be her employee?
I would never have said this about the other adaptations but with this one, you do feel that Naoki should consider himself lucky that Kotoko loves him. He isn’t the easiest person to get close to and Matsumoto and Sahoko wouldn’t be half as smitten with him if they knew what he’s really like. And that’s precisely the point: With Kotoko, he doesn’t have to pretend to be someone he isn’t. She knows what he’s like behind that perfect facade that everyone else sees and even though some of us might wish she’d focus her energies on someone more deserving, she accepts him wholeheartedly for who he is.
This scene in episode 12 is another one of my favourites because it shows how she’s able to reach out to him in a way that not even his own family members can. Naoki is a very stubborn person and the more you insist that he does something, the less he wants to do it. (Of course, there’s also the fact that he’s becoming an adult, and needs to feel that he is in control of his own choices.)
We see how he’s locked in an impasse with his mother, who keeps insisting that she wants him to marry Kotoko. For someone who claims to know her son as well as she does, I do think she is quite clueless about how to handle Naoki. Perhaps it is because in her eyes, he will always be the little boy she used to dress up in girl’s clothing, but Naoki is no longer three. During the argument he has with his parents, what I hear is not that he doesn’t like Kotoko, but that his mother has never bothered to take his feelings into consideration. Instead of asking him how he feels about her, what she keeps telling him is this: “I’m your mother. I know what’s best for you. This girl is perfect. I want you to marry her.”
Kotoko, on the other hand, has a very soft approach and she’s able to broach sensitive topics with him without bruising his ego. It’s an innate skill that not many people have (it goes without saying that Naoki is a total failure in this regard) and it’s one of the things that he grows to appreciate about her.
Do you think Matsumoto would have this much patience to humour him? Things would never have worked out between them because she is way too blunt and aggressive for his taste; It would be like dating the female version of himself and I don’t think Naoki could put up with that. He can dish it but he can’t take it.
Which brings me to Sahoko. I am forever going to be frustrated about the way this drama resolved the omiai arc. Apart from manufacturing a megaton of angst, what exactly did those two-and-a-half episodes accomplish? I can accept Naoki seriously considering Sahoko as a potential marriage partner but what this drama should have shown us is why she is no longer the ideal match for him. I say “no longer” because if he were the old Naoki, he would have married her without any hesitation. But he has changed. All the qualities he lists of his so-called ideal type — “beautiful”, “a good cook”, “smart” etc — are the kind of superficial things you’d expect of someone who’s never known a woman. This is what a pre-schooler or elementary school student would tell you. But what about the intangibles? Like someone who can make you laugh? Someone who will be there for you even when you’re at your lowest point? Someone who inspires you to take chances and truly live?
If you’re going to spend two-and-a-half episodes on this arc, then make it worth the audience’s while. What I got from this drama was that Naoki would have been fine marrying Sahoko except for the fact that he couldn’t stop thinking about Kotoko. You got it wrong, Show! I wanted to see, in his interactions with Sahoko, his growing realisation that he no longer cares for all these ideals. If he had actually married her, he would have had to spend the rest of his life pretending to be someone he’s not. I have no doubt that she’s a nice girl and all but she’s the kind of person, owing to her family background, who would be very mindful of keeping up appearances and doing what society thinks is right. Naoki, on the other hand, doesn’t give a crap about how others perceive him but he’d have had to start doing so once he married into her family. This is what I wanted to see, Show. If you had done this, InKLiT would have been perfect. #iwillbeforeverbitteraboutthis,Show
ItaKiss ~ Love in Tokyo Part 2: Yay or Nay?
I know fans have been petitioning for a sequel and frankly, I’m in two minds about it. I’ve always believed that you should quit while you’re still ahead and InKLiT has surpassed all my expectations. It has been an absolute blast and the characters will always have a special place in my heart.
If there’s going to be a sequel, I want the production team to sit down and really think about where they’re going to take the story. I don’t want them to churn one out for the sake of placating fans. If it’s going to be another 10 episodes of Naoki being an ass before he finally grows up emotionally, then I’d rather pass on it. I love Miki’s Kotoko to bits and I have no desire to watch him be cruel to her all over again. In my inner mind theatre, they are already living happily ever after. The end.
Time to Say Goodbye
Originally, I wanted to split this into two posts but knowing what I’m like, I figured it would be better to put everything into one mega entry. As you can see, it’s taken me forever to get this up. Without much ado, it’s time to bid our ItaKiss darlings farewell (or if you’re still in denial, hit the ‘replay’ button all over again XD)
Goodbye Kotoko. If love is a battlefield, you deserve a Medal of Courage for daring to love someone as impenetrable as Naoki with all your heart. Many of us would have turned our backs on him a long time ago but you knew what you wanted and you never gave up. You were adorable from start to finish and I loved your screwball antics as well as your tremendous generosity of spirit. And before I forget, thank you for proving that an ItaKiss heroine doesn’t have to be a twit.
Goodbye Naoki. You proved, if FuruYuki’s fanbase is anything to go by, that the ability to speak English as a first language is an aphrodisiac in its own right XD I know warm, fuzzy emotions are a little foreign to you but it doesn’t take a lot to make your wife happy. And god knows you owe her BIG TIME. You could start by saying “I love you”. Better yet, why not show instead of tell? I’m sure that with your 200 IQ, you’ll have no problem coming up with a few creative solutions ~~
Goodbye Kin-chan. Except for that little stunt you pulled in the last episode, you were a complete sweetheart and oftentimes, the better man than Naoki. Unfortunately, the heart wants what it wants and you cannot force someone to love you. Thank you for being such a great friend to Kotoko and I hope it won’t be too long before you find that special someone who’ll appreciate you for the awesome human being that you are.
Goodbye Papa Aihara. You win the award for “Best. Dad. Ever.” in this drama.
Goodbye Jinko and Satomi. Every girl needs friends who’ll be there to help her pick up the pieces and call the guy she likes out for being an ass. Thank you for always being there for Kotoko and being besties in every sense of the word.
Goodbye Mama Irie. I didn’t always agree with your methods of bringing our two ItaKiss darlings together but you meant well and I’m sure you’ll be the best mother-in-law a girl could ask for to Kotoko.
Goodbye Yuki-kun. Try not to give your sister-in-law a hard time, okay? XD
GOODBYE, MY BABIES. STAY HAPPY FOREVER!!!!!!!!!! *SOBZ*
Goodbye ItaKiss ~ Love in Tokyo and thank you for the memories!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
ETA: OMAKE (Because I am obviously having trouble letting go of this drama…=.=;;;)
2. 欧尼酱~其实你很早就喜欢琴子勒~哈哈别装了 (Oni-chan, actually you liked Kotoko right from the start, didn’t you? Haha, don’t bluff): If you know how to read Chinese, this is pretty hilarious stuff. Then again, analysing Naoki’s fall from his ivory tower will never fail to be amusing to ItaKiss fans XD
3. duck408.pixnet.net: Another Chinese site. I wish I had found out about her recaps earlier because they are funny as hell. She’s also included a review of the first DVD box set and posted lots of goodies from the BTS segments ♥