Does the world need another drama adaptation of Itazura na Kiss? No, definitely not. Is the world about to get another drama adaptation of Itazura na Kiss? Yes, definitely yes. I thought the next country to remake this story would come from China since it hasn’t been done yet, but lo and behold its from the original granddaddy of adaptations having another go at it. Seventeen years after Japan adapted the popular manga to the small screen in 1996, producers are dusting off the stupid-girl-loves-genius-boy story from the shelves and updating it for the modern viewers. It’s called Itazura na Kiss: Love in Tokyo, and stars newbie 16 year old teen actress Miki Honoka in the role of stupider than a sack of potatoes Kotoko, while 25 year old Furukawa Yuki tries his hand at playing the role of robot perfect boy Naoki (if he looks familiar, he played Makoto’s college guy friend in Rich Man, Poor Woman). I have to confess that I’ve loved both the iconic Taiwan adaptation It Started with a Kiss that launched the careers of Ariel Lin and Joe Cheng (which spawned legions of ArJoe shippers as well as a terrible sequel They Kiss Again), as well as the low-rated Korean version Playful Kiss starring the charming Jung So Min and decent-enough Kim Hyun Joong. Honestly the story never ever sounds good on paper since it offends all my female pride nodes – the basic premise centers around a very dim high school girl and her all-consuming crush on the school’s smartest and hottest jerk, winning his heart in the same way a turtle wins the race by perseverance alone. By the stroke of a house accident and their dads being BFFs, they end up living under the same roof and Kotoko gets chance after chance to worm her way into Naoki’s cold cold heart. Yet whenever I’ve watched ISWAK and PK, whether its the undeniable onscreen chemistry of those two pairings or the little touches thrown in that make the OTP seem so made-for-each other, I end up thoroughly won over by the story in the end. This new adaptation will have a larger role for the second male lead of Kinnosuke, here played by 22 year old Yamada Yuki. The dorama premieres on March 29th and airs every Friday on Fuji TV2.
I think lead actress Miki Honoka (above celebrating a birthday on the set) fits the role of Kotoko age- and looks-wise, but that isn’t enough since this is a very difficult role to portray. Kotoko has to come across as endearingly bumbling, sweet in her devotion as opposed to stalkerish and stupid. Both Ariel Lin and Jung So Min put their stamp on their respective versions, so I’m a little skeptical a newbie teenage actress has the chops to pull this off. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised before so here’s to hoping she was chosen for her innate acting talents. I have to give Joe Cheng credit where credit is due – there is no way any male actor will ever make Naoki come alive the way he did, with the aloof disdain mixed with the sliver of acceptance. I’ll probably watch this one as a pleasant diversion when there is nothing else available. Or else I’ll just watch the legions of PK and ISWAK MVs out there.