I keep writing and rewriting this post because I can’t decide if it’s going to be a first impressions or a recap. Who’s watching Rich Man, Poor Woman, the latest Getsuku (月９ or Monday@9) to hit our radar. Twelve minutes in, I was squarely on the fence. And then the “it” happened. The magic moment in any drama where a wavering attention span clicks to full alert because something captivating happens onscreen. She…..is standing outside his building, completely depressed and staggering off. He…..is riding in the glass elevator zipping up right behind her. The title song comes on in full force as the camera joins him inside the elevator. He turns and smiles, like he’s excited about the unknown and what’s to come. He’s the rich man, she’s the poor woman, and I’ve become pretty much addicted to my first dorama of the Natsu season. Perhaps the reason is because Oguri Shun has decided to stop playing weirdos and freaks and realize he’s actually a good looking guy with serious acting chops. Or maybe it’s rising young actress Ishihara Satomi reminding me of a young Horikita Maki. I have to confess the reason likely is I love the theme song and can listen to it all day, plus the story is really strange in an intriguing way. Come check it out with me.
Getsuku’s no longer have an automatic must-watch appeal for me, or for most viewers in Japan. Recently I dropped Lucky Seven after a few episodes because I lost interest, and really the last Getsuku to keep me riveted was Zenkai Girl. But a few of my fave J-doramas have been Getsuku, such as Pride and Buzzer Beat, but so have some major turkeys like Tsuki no Koibito. Long story short, Getsuku no longer guarantees ratings, but the curious in us still checks in, ne? Which is why my reaction to RMPW leaves me so discombobulated. This dorama marks Oguri Shun’s return to romantic leading man status, and he’s literally playing the J-version of Mark Zuckerberg, but with a unique mental affliction. I kid you not, this dorama feels like The Social Network mashed together with Imouto wo (i.e. Tokyo Cinderella Story). I can’t say it’s good, only that I am right and hooked. With leading lady Ishihara Satomi playing beautifully off Shun’s spastic and random performance, plus Arata being all cryptic and cool with Aibu Saki finally not playing the leading lady to annoy me, two episodes in and this feels like the good ole days of dorama crack addiction all over again.
Check out the awesome trailer first before going any further:
Nice, right? Oguri Shun plays Hyuga Toru, a 29 year old IT wunderkind who started a company in his dinky apartment with friend Asahina Kosuke (Arata). While Hyuga’s got a few wires uniquely aligned in his brain that makes him super smart but also socially devoid of boundaries and niceties, his relationship with Asahina and their company Next Innovation is clearly a rip-off of Sergey Brin and Larry Page and the Google origin story. Suffice to say, Hyuga is the CEO, butt loaded, and has a secret affliction called prosopagnosia (face blindness) whereby he cannot put a name to a face, To make matters worse, Hyuga is secretly looking for a woman named Sawaki Chihiro which is even harder when he doesn’t know what she looks like. Pretty quickly we also learn that Hyuga has serious mommy and abandonment issues. Don’t they all?
Ishihara Satomi plays a Todai college student facing the cruel realities of modern day job hunting in Japan for the soon-to-be minted graduate. Armed with a top-notch education, she’s nevertheless rather timid and lacking in self confidence. Her claim to fame may be her crack memorization skills that doesn’t necessarily translate to the needs of the modern corporate workforce striving for innovation. In other words, Hyuga thinks and acts outside-the-box, this girl is squarely locked in one. Oh, and she identifies herself as Sawaki Chihiro the first time she meets Hyuga, when he’s denigrating her abilities and personality in an auditorium full of job seekers at Next Innovation. No wonder the title for episode 1 is called “The worst way that the man with 250 billion yen in assets and the woman in employment search hell met”.
So far the two leads are carrying the show, though Arata’s character Asahina is intriguing by how much he seems to know but is keeping close to his chest. Aibu Saki plays Asahina’s younger sister Yoko, who is an overseas trained chef just arrived to run the Next Innovation restaurant. She doesn’t annoy me, though her hairstyle makes her forehead seem insanely huge, and so far her presence in this dorama feels superfluous. All she does is try to make Hyuga remember her name and pop in to make a quip or two. It’s weird that this is a Getsuku because the production values feel all over the place. In some places its pretty epic, and others it feels chintzy. Oguri Shun has a dreadful hairstyle, but those of us who are familiar with Shun’s oeuvre know that dreadful hairstyles are his trademark by now. This dorama actually reminds me of a K-drama, what with the Cinderella elements (complete with her losing her shoes – I know!), makeover sequence, the birth secrets, and the upcoming love square.
I’m all caught up on both episodes aired so far, and if episode 1 was intriguing, episode 2 ramped up the intensity factor until suddenly everything clicks. I’m dying to find out if Hyuga ever finds his mommy, which is clearly the driving reason he wants Next Innovation to convince the Ministry of Internal Affairs to allow it to create a personal file registry on every single person in Japan. I’m pretty certain I know why Chihiro knew Hyuga’s mom’s name, and I rather believe her reason that she blurted out the name on-the-spot. But now she’s backed into a corner, though with Asahina in the know, I’m curious if that will bring them closer together later. To be honest, normally I want a dorama to bring more romance, and while RMPW is clearly a rom-com, one of rare ones at that, for some reason I’m not cheering for Hyuga and Chihiro developing feelings for each other yet. I rather like their crackling chemistry and the way he can’t seem to get her out of his mind. In short, this story is like an odd little duck and I’m amused by its weird waddle.
RMPW Opening Title Sequence:
So the million dollar question is: shall I recap it? I’m seriously debating whether folks want to discuss it, but worried the dorama will turn into a train wreck or be all illusory rom-com and end up with zero romance or comedy left. When I have trouble making up my mind, I just stop thinking about it and toddle off to do other more fun things. Such as watching the title sequence over and over again.