- Three people are already renting the other extra rooms in Kouko's house: a reclusive visual artist named Ayaka (played by Nakamura Anne from 'Grand Maison Tokyo'), a psychiatrist named Haruto, and Haruto's cousin Shun, a young chef specializing in Spanish cuisine who was once a wunderkind in Spain and tried to run his own restaurant in Tokyo but flopped. Still bruised from the failure and disappointment, Shun has made nonchalant his middle name. Except for the food truck he runs to make a living, he maintains little to no attachments to anyone or anything; his minimalist room is nearly devoid of furniture, he only has a few sets of clothing, and he's lost track of his smartphone that he no longer uses. Shun often dismisses Kurumi's social media-obsessed lifestyle as superficial, which leads to numerous petty arguments between them.
- But then late one night, Kurumi and Shun brush a little too closely when retrieving items from the fridge at the same time, and they share a kiss. And as the housemates go on more group outings, Kurumi and Shun's growing attraction for each other becomes undeniable. Can they become something real, enough for Kurumi to forget about her crush on Hayama? When Hayama moves into the sharehouse temporarily and Shun peeps his interest in Kurumi, will that be enough to make Shun step up, stop pretending he doesn't care about anything, and get both his love life and career back on track?
Also... is 'Kikazaru Koi' about Kurumi and Shun's love story? Is it about Kurumi realizing her dream of becoming a product buyer of stylish, handcrafted, and eco-friendly home goods? Is it about Shun overcoming his past failures and learning to care about things again? Is it about the housemates' collective friendship? One could argue it's about all of those things, but at various points it seemed like the show couldn't make up its mind, and none of those plotlines got enough airtime for me to feel them out the way I would've liked. The love story is what drew me in, but once I got into a groove with that, the show would shift focus, come back to the romance, then shift focus again, gradually getting less romantic as the show went on. 'Kikazaru Koi' ends with a solid, standard 10-episode run, but I genuinely believe the story would've benefited from two additional episodes. Episode 10 speeds through too much trying to tie up the remaining loose ends.
恋なんて、本気でやってどうするの？(Koi Nante, Honki de Yatte Dou Suru no?/Who Needs True Love?/What Do You Really Do About Love?/How Do You Love For Real?) - Fuji TV/KTV/2022
- Around the same period that Jun's crush/co-worker/former high school classmate marries one of her subordinates (i.e. not her), she and her two best friends become regulars at a new French bistro called Salut. Salut is extremely popular with women because of its handsome waiter and sous chef named Shuma. After closing time he'll basically sleep with any woman who asks, and even offers to let brokenhearted Jun use him as dating practice, but he avoids serious relationships. Jun accepts Shuma's offer but of course ends up falling in love with him anyway, and after confessing her feelings and being sufficiently d*ckmatized by Shuma, they enjoy the beginnings of their new, no-longer-pretend love.
- That is, until Shuma's gambling and alcohol-addicted mother leaves her rehab facility to live with him and begins sabotaging his relationship with Jun. Both Jun and Shuma's careers are threatened, with Jun being demoted due to lackluster sales of the latest plate collection she's designed, while Shuma's dad who owns Salut plans to shutter the restaurant. Jun and her friends collaborate with Shuma and the head chef to help save Salut, but our lead couple eventually breaks up because of Shuma's mom. Meanwhile, a different high school friend of Jun's (Otsu) offers her a loveless but stable and drama-free marriage. In the midst of all this chaos, can Jun and Shun be convinced that true love is worth taking a chance on each other again?
This is a fantastic watch if you don't like neo-noir or crime thrillers (or you don't think you like neo-noir or crime thrillers) but are interested in Japanese stuff. A bilingual production shot between Japan and the UK is no easy feat, but the team behind 'Giri/Haji' pulls it off with stunning precision. William Sharpe's performance as Rodney was my absolute favorite aspect of the entire show. His brazenness, his sarcastic humor, his inner demons, his one liners? Perfection. That moment in episode 1 when he's at a bar, the bartender informs him, "Your boyfriend's here," and Rodney replies flatly, "I don't have one of those," with disgust and feigned confusion as if he doesn't know what species of creature a boyfriend is but he's certain he wants no parts of it? Oh, from then on I was all in! Regardless of the other plot developments to follow in the series, wherever Rodney's character was going, I was willing to follow.
Last year I was a guest on a podcast about multilingual people called Speaking Tongues, and after recording that interview the host Elle Charisse recommended 'Giri/Haji' to me, but I didn't get around to it until late last month. And as I told Elle, I'm still unsure about the filter that makes everything (especially the Japan scenes) look like it takes place in some bygone decade. I don't know if it's because 'Giri/Haji' is a BBC production, or because a lot of Western people's frame of reference for Japan is the 1980s, or if it's a purely stylistic choice, but it threw me off. Besides that, overall I'm very glad that I finally watched this series! So imagine how disappointed I was to discover that there'll be no season 2; the show ends on multiple cliffhangers and creator Joe Barton had plans for a second season, but then the BBC cancelled the show altogether in 2020.
Part 2 of this J-drama review coming soon!