Love Story


Reviewed by: il_mare

March 29, 2004

Rating: four-point-five

TV Station: TBS
Telecast: 2001-04-15 to 2001-06-24
Duration: 11 Episodes
Script: Eriko Kitagawa ('Beautiful Life', ‘Long Vacation’)
Official Website: http://www.tbs.co.jp/love-s/

Soundtrack and Theme Songs (2)
1. Love Story [Cagnet]
2. Haruka ?? [Spitz]

Nakayama Miho as Sudoh Misaki
Toyokawa Etsushi as Nagase Ko
Katori Shingo as Nabetomo Kyoji
Yuka as Kobayashi Kano
Kato Haruhiko as Iketani Mitsugu
Hatano Hiroko as Kurata Yumi
Ono Takehiko as Kashiwabara Shujo
Kotani Kinya as Nagase Kenji

Synopsis:

Nagase is the highly successful author of a series of serious bestsellers, and he writes them all in pencil on special "genko yoshi" writing paper, each sheet bearing his name. Nagase is an oddball, he is cranky, fussy, serious, and unfriendly. He seems disconnected with the world. He does not have a computer nor does he own a cell phone. Having churned out bestsellers for the most part of his writing career, he is in the midst of a maddening 2-year long writer's block.

Into his life plummets Misaki Sudoh. She is a simple-minded, straight-talking person who has struggled to find a place in the publishing world for a decade and now, at 30, is about to have her one-year contract dropped if she cannot coax Nagase into writing again. Besides facing a professional crisis, Misaki is also facing a personal crisis as her boyfriend is breaking up with her.

Their first meeting is a complete disaster as the difficult and arrogant writer passes his usual curt remarks. In a fit of anger, Misaki tells Nagase plainly he has no right to make bitter comments about others when he has not been a producing writer for 2 years.

She is fired by the publishing firm for her rash actions, and brought to the writer to make her final apology. When Nagase agrees to write a trendy love story for his publisher just to get something in print, only Misaki is bold enough to tell him the truth: it is mediocre and completely out of character. At this point, Nagase realizes she is the editor for him. He requests to have Misaki assigned to him and henceforth starts their professional relationship.

Nabetomo is Nagase's neighbour across the hall. He is a successful DJ (and also a rich playboy; his father owns the building that Nagase lives in) who dreams of becoming a professional illustrator. Kana is a simple girl from the countryside who idolises Nabetomo. She runs away from home to be with Nabetomo. She chooses to work in the café in Nabetomo’s apartment to be close to him.

Nagase's grandmother runs an old-fashioned sembei (rice cracker) shop nearby. Unknown to Nagase, Misaki is also a devoted customer of his grandmother's shop. Grandma conspires to set up an omiai (arranged marriage) meeting between her favourite customer and her moody grandson. The eventual meeting is of course a shock to both individuals, and ends unsuccessfully.

Through her working relationship with Nagase, Misaki finds out that he was once engaged to someone 7 years ago. Unfortunately, Nagase’s fiancée died due to a terminal disease. Nagase was aware of her condition when he proposed to his girlfriend. However, what many did not know was that Nagase’s deceased fiancée was in love with someone else when she died. Nagase only found out about her secret lover when he inherited her diary after the funeral.

Nagase continues to see the family of his deceased fiancée. Her surviving sister Yumiko is in love with Nagase. She tries to get close to Nagase but her presence only brings painful memories to Nagase.

As Misaki works with Nagase, their relationship deepens on a personal level as well. Nagase slowly walks out of his writer's block, and begins to produce printable materials again. After Misaki was successful in coaxing Nagase out from his writer’s block, she is re-assigned by the publishing firm to another writer.

Unfortunately, Misaki's working relationship with her new writer does not go smoothly, and before she knows it, she is facing another professional crisis. She is eventually fired from the publishing firm, and disillusioned with Tokyo, she decides maybe it is time to return home.

Will Nagase walk out of the shadows of his ex-fiancée and share his life with Misaki?

Review:

I saw this serial after taking a long break from Japanese serials. I am not a Miho Nakayama nor an Etsushi Toyokawa fan and have not tracked their works. And I did not see “Love Letter” prior to "Love Story". The main reason for picking this up was because of the reputation of Kitagawa.

I was personally disappointed with “Love 2000” after they made me follow the entire serial only to have both leads killed at the end. I also found Nakayama’s performace boring in “Love 2000”, but I was pleasantly surprised with “Love Story”. I was absolutely in love with this serial. Having watched romantic serials about people in their twenties, it was refreshing to see the love story of people in their 30s.

I thought there was no way I would idolise Toyokawa, but I was so wrong as he had me smitten as the obstinate, yet sensitive writer Ko Nagase. I thoroughly enjoyed Toyokawa’s character, Ko Nagase. He seemed so out of touch with society (e.g. does not know how to use a mobile, the way he lectures others about manners etc), so aloof and yet so sensitive (e.g. he burned the manuscript of Misaki’s love story as he felt that the story should remain private to Misaki and he should not use the content to publish it; secretly writing a story for her in case she can't meet her deadline with her new writer). He uses his steely exterior to hide his fiery passion long buried because of the love he lost. His apartment is like a cave for a hermit, minimal with few furniture, and pristine from dust.

Nagase is always in black, walking with a slight frown on his face, but all these hide a lonely passionate character within. I felt that Nagase has a communication problem; maybe after holing himself up in writing for so long, he is so disconnected with others. He pours all his emotions into his writing as a form of relief for his pain and his loss. Toyokawa executed Nagase so flawlessly, and balanced the 2 (serious and passionate) faces of the character to perfection.

Nakayama has a less difficult role as the ditzy Misaki Sudoh. Her quirky and chatty character is quite a contrast to the serious Nagase. The comical chemistry both had (e.g. Nagase hugging Misaki when she found his missing manuscript) was amazing. I am not sure when her idolising became love. (She was Nagase’s fan before she became his editor). The genuine care and concern they showed for each other as the serial developed was touching, but I had difficulty classifying it as love.

The interruptions from the other characters (e.g. Nabetomo hugging Misaki, Misaki's brief union with Iketani, Yumiko's affection for Nagase) along the way seemed like intentional pawns to prevent the leads from getting together much earlier than expected.

Nabetomo and Kana's relationship was lovable and cute. It was interesting how their relationship contrasts yet mirrors that of Nagase and Misaki's. Regardless of age, both Nagase and Nabetomo had trouble confronting their feelings and making a commitment. While Nabetomo and Kana's relationship was much more volatile, Misaki and Nagase's love was developed much more subtly.

How Nabetomo ended up so completely in love with Kana is a mystery to me. I did not think she did anything outstandingly memorable or heart-wrenching. Interestingly, all the illustrations are Shingo's own work, not bad!

The storyline flowed quite well, I could not find many flaws with the overall structure except that a lot was packed into 11 episodes which made for a very enjoyable and entertaining serial.

My favourite scenes:
1) The games they play at the restaurant where Misaki and Nagase keep giving the same answers
2) Everytime Nagase gets irritated when his peaceful life gets interrupted
3) Everytime Nagase starts lecturing
4) Nagase hugging Misaki for finding his manuscript, and then coughing away to tell her not to misunderstand his action
5) Nagase's omiai with a 24 year old
6) Nagase reading the diary of his deceased girlfriend
7) Nagase kissing Misaki at the airport, awkward at first, but so natural in the end as you see Nagase open up his heart. I wish they had more of that!

I would rate this as one of the best romantic comedies I've seen for a long time. A MUST SEE!


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