Rec of the Week: イタズラなKiss~Love in Tokyo

When you’ve seen an adaptation several times, the significance and steam spurts out pretty quickly. The initial fervor and meaning, from its conceptual medium gets squashed and it’s forever remembered as the horrible drama or film, that makes you wish there was a Rumpelstiltskin potion you could acquire that makes you “unsee” things. Therefore, no one can help but be a little jaded and skeptical when yet another adaptation of Kaoru Tada‘s mega popular manga, “Itazura na Kiss” was announced.

Itazura na Kiss ~ Love in TOKYOPersonally, there’s no love lost between myself and this story, for, though I found it cute, I never made the time to actually read it and the adaptation I sat through (Japan’s first outing) made me want to slap a few people. There have been two other remakes, the Taiwanese version, It Started with a Kiss, (which had two separate series) and the Korean version, Playful Kiss, that ran a couple years ago. ISWAK shot Joe Cheng and Ariel Lin to the most adored couple of millions and is perhaps the most watched, preferred and popular version around. Unfortunately, for me, though I’ve grown to truly appreciate Ariel as an actress, her portrayal gave me hives within the first few seconds and I’ve never turned back nor regretted never seeing that drama. The latter PK, did what Korea does best to manga remakes— tamper and destroy. The only performance that was at all memorable was Lee Tae-sung‘s (Rooftop Prince, Time Between Dog and Wolf) Bong Joon-gu. His vulnerable portrayal of high school unrequited heartbreak, created pools in my eyes during the recaps I skimmed.

Now there’s the latest addition, Itazura na Kiss: Love in Tokyo. I didn’t debate as to whether I was going to catch this one, nor did I throw out the option as quickly as the monstrous mistake of HanaKimi 2011. Rather, I decided to give it a try, for the simple fact that I was cautiously hopeful, this time someone would get it right (for me).

And let me tell you, I was right!!! Yes, finally there’s an Itazura na Kiss adaptation that I can claim, without shame, I am enjoying and appreciate.

Love with a shooting star*Official Synopsis:At a high school entrance ceremony, high school student Kotoko Aihara , who isn’t that smart, notices pretty boy Naoki Irie. She falls in love with him immediately. Kotoko initially doesn’t express her feelings to him, but finally has a chance to tell him how she feels. Unfortunately, Naoki turns Kotoko down, saying “I don’t like dumb women.”

One day, Kotoko Aihara’s house is severely damaged by an earthquake. Until the house is rebuilt, Kotoko Aihara and her father decide to live with her father’s friend. When Kotoko Aihara moves to her new temporary house, she is surprised to learn that Naoki Irie lives there as well.

CastMiki Honoka, Furukawa Yuki, Yamada Yuki 
This casting works wonders for me. Honoka is the physical love child of Sato Aiko and Ariel Lin, which furthers my notion that the other versions were on the right track concerning the look of the character. Also she’s very young, the youngest portrayer of the character coming in at only 16 years old. And to be fairly honest, I believe this bumps her favor up just that much more. Everything about Miki screams innocent, harmless, lovesick teenager and for a character like Kotoko, there’s no other way to be. I won’t pretend that she’s a seasoned actress but she brings a freshness to this character that I’m digging. Furukawa on the other hand, is like a younger, cuter, sadistic Joe Cheng and that also brings a little shine to Irie. There’s a significant age difference between the leads, therefore, hopes of seeing the married years should remain in pipe dreamland. Though it’s not impossible, it might a tad squicky. The age difference also highlights the shortcomings in range between the actors that at times is an eyesore, for I find that Furakawa remains the straight man to Miki’s OTT, which hints toward a layered effect in Irie’s portrayal but can stunt and hollow Aihara. Overall, this pairing mashes up everything I applauded about the previous series, without the asinine uncouth antics.

Recommendation: The hardest thing about watching this series with so much exposure is that there’s no way around comparison. Like or loathe it, there have been 4 remakes of this manga and though I didn’t see half, I’ve seen enough and heard or read more. For me, the comparison creates an interesting dichotomy, for I spend each episode, in apprehensive appreciation, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Honestly, I partly expect this drama to tank in the later episodes, making this raving post obsolete. So if you are anything like myself, take this drama on an episode by episode basis. Don’t invest too much time and for those Taiwanese fans, certainly don’t believe it will live up to your ISWAK dreams. But for the newbie to this series, this is the adaption to watch. Forget the classics, forget the cult followings and view the brand spanking new, cause surprisingly, sometimes bright and shiny, lives up to the packaging.


Introduction of love testThoughts
: The major drawback to this story has always been the characterization of Aihara Kotoko. Therefore, I am greatly enjoying this venture, for the simple fact the Kotoko actually seems like a living breathing, sane human being (with appropriate home training). The story has a substance that I felt was hinted toward in the original version but I’ve never seen (or heard) appear in the others. At the core, this is a story about a girl that loves a boy, enough to wait until he loves her. However, she doesn’t sit idly by but rather sprinkles his life with joy and laughter, to the point that he realizes his life is fuller with her in it. LiT gives this story the life and sincerity that was invariably waiting to be tapped, and for now, hits that cute maturation vibe, I’ve always believed Aihara Kotoko deserved. This interpretation of the manga keeps the inherent truth of Kaoru’s story alive but streams in substance that makes the characters modern and story relatable. When episode three came to a close, I knew this is what was missing in the other versions; a love story. Never before was I convinced these characters sincerely loved one another but somehow, with a few minor changes, the outcome is monumental.

Knowing the history of the manga, places this version as the closest to reality, in my book, for it creates characters that are manga-like,  retelling real life events. Aihara isn’t supposed to wear Irie down in a negative sense but remain in loving cheerful pursuit. This drama embodies that to the degree that Kotoko doesn’t comes across as desperate or stupid, just determined and jejune. InK has always stood on the shoulders of it’s heroine for me and finally I’ve met a Kotoko I can root for, not because her focus isn’t love but because there’s more to her than her obsession. This is what makes she and Irie’s love story believable and that, I can watch unfold for many episodes to come.

[images courtesy FujiTV]

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5 Replies to “Rec of the Week: イタズラなKiss~Love in Tokyo”

  1. I totally agree with you. I personally did like the other versions but I did feel they were over the top when it came to the female lead characters. I loved the story better with ISWAK but wasn’t fond of how Ariel Lin portrayed the character. PK was cute and had some good casting but I felt the story was lacking, and maybe not as much so as ISWAK but the girl was still a little over the top in PK. This version I was excited to hear about and I just hoped it would be better or at least good. At first I wasn’t sure as I began to watch it but it was definitely a breath of fresh air and it felt more real. I hope they continue with how the girl is portraying the character because it is more toned down and not all over the place. I even like the guy. Even though he is still in character, you can actually see his feelings coming through, unlike the other versions where they seemed to be just cold through and through. Like the coffee scenes, that is what I’m talking about, and its not a huge go to feeling but it’s something. I mean even the looks he gives her sometimes is an improvement from what the other version guys did. At least that is how I’m seeing it. So I’m excited to continue to watch this show and I really believe this is going to end up being my fave. I know the age difference is a factor but it wouldn’t be right if they didn’t follow through with the wedding or something.

    Also, the 1st Japanese version, I didn’t care for that one at all and it just didn’t sit well with me and so I couldn’t finish it. It was way out there for me with the girl. But with this show they aren’t putting up the episodes fast enough for me…LOL!!!

    1. Kambria, it’s so kind of you to stop in and comment! I am so glad that there are others who understand exactly where I’m coming from.
      I truly believe this is the best version so far and hope it continues to be as fantastic as it began. Right now, I’m actually waiting until later in the week to view the latest episode to shorten by viewing gap. Lol.
      Uh!!! And I am so glad you mentioned those coffee scenes. They are a perfect example of what we never got from the earlier dramatizations. My drama buddy and I have been cooing over those moments. I give kudos to Yuki for making Irie a character I actually find adorable.
      I’m still not sold on them going as far as married life, but it’s still early days. The drama is moving pretty quickly so, you never know. It’ll actually be nice if they do choose to include something of the sort, cause I missed out on all of that, bailing from the T/K versions almost immediately.

      1. You never know at the speed they are going but whatever happens I don’t doubt it will be great. The girl is definitely taking a refreshing take on the character she’s playing and I find the guy doing an exceptional job doing his character with actual hints that he does have some liking toward her. In ISWAK, like midoridorama said below, I don’t see how Joe Cheng’s character was in love with Ariel Lin’s character at all…I would have to say there were moments but not enough for me to see that he truly loved her until the very last two episodes of season 2 TKA. It was like he was more annoyed with her being in his life and they totally did not act like a married couple once they tied the knot. Like I said, there were married couple moments but it was like she never grew up. So that was annoying but I also watched it for Joe and because they made it out into a full story instead of cutting it short. In the anime, they went as far as them having a baby, and their baby growing up to be a kid before it ended, but the episodes were short and there were 24 or 25 of them. But anyways, like I said, I am LOVING this take on the drama and I’m hoping for even better as it goes along and I can’t wait until the next episode! EEEK!

  2. I have to agree with this review as well. I have seen ISWAK mainly because of the hotness that is Joe Cheng. Half of the time however I was yelling and face-palming at how “Kotoko” was characterized in that version. It was a long drama but with its over 25 episodes plus Season 2, I couldn’t see how the lead guy ever fell in love with the girl. Granted I did not read the original manga so I was not sure whether they were faithful to source. I tried watching PK but stopped midway because of KHJ’s acting or lack thereof.

    This version however, I must say, is a wonderful surprise for me. I know I heard a lot about how people are concerned about the huge age gap between the two leads but after watching 4 episodes, its something totally not apparent at all. I love the gentle chemistry between the two which hints at further build up. I also love the fact that they show little moments where Kotoko slowly chinks away Irie’s armor. One of my favorite scenes was when Irie asked Kotoko what do people do in College. It hints that no matter how perfect Irie seems to be be, something integral is missing in his life that you just know Kotoko might be the person who helps him figure it out. How Kotoko is portrayed mixes the right amounts of naivety and optimism that doesn’t border on stupidity. She loves Irie but she’s not too clingy and annoying. Like you said, she’s actually a living, breathing sane human being not as cartoonish as the ISWAK version.

    I’m probably gushing too much here but I’m happy to see an adorable and naive character is portrayed the right way not the usual cliche of naive = stupid, clumsy, clingy fool. I hope the drama continues on the same tone.

    1. I have watched all versions except I only watched the first 3 episodes of the first Japanese drama that aired in 1996 I believe. It was torture and I couldn’t finish it and so I just looked of youtube video’s to see how it all went. PK could have definitely been better and I expected more from KHJ acting in it. Plus instead of just finishing the story out…they did webisodes. That was very disappointing. ISWAK was all about Joe…Joe…Joe but I agree with you that I couldn’t see how they were really in love with one another. There were moments and then the last two episodes of season 2 which made me feel that I guess he did. I just always felt through most of the show that he put up with her or just married her because he just gave up and decided that was what he was suppose to do. No clue. If I would have been in that kind of relationship and treated that way I don’t know how much I could take. I understand he was “trying” to make her push herself but he couldn’t find a different way of doing it. Anyways, going on the deep end with this one and now moving on. I have also watched the anime and like I said above they take it all the way to them having a baby and then the baby becoming a kid. So all versions are definitely different and stop at their own places. I am loving this NEW Japanese version and I agree about what you said about the girl. It is a delight to watch and not so much cringing as the other girls who portrayed the character. I also have no problem with their age gap. I think it blends well with the show as well. So I’m excited to continue watching it. I sooooo can’t wait until the next episode…will he kiss her or won’t he???? LOL!!!

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