After two long years away from the urge to recap a J-dorama, the arrival of the romance-centric love triangle Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu (Today I Take the Day Off Work) flips the dormant switch right when I was mourning the lack of cracktastic offerings from Japan. Thanks to the collective charisma of Ayase Haruka, Fukushi Sota, and Tamaki Hiroshi, KwKY is way better than the story ought to be and anchored with a sweet and funny touch. I like all three lead characters (and performances), not to mention the chemistry is off the charts already with Haruka and both male leads. RAWR.
Before I dive into the recap, let me dispel all notions that KwKY is simply Last Cinderella v.2. It’s not at all, not by a long shot. The story is completely different despite the love triangle between one woman choosing between an older versus young man. KwKY is adapted from the same name manga by Fujimura Mari which started its run in November of 2011, a full year and a half before Last Cinderella aired. If anything, LC cribbed off KwKY and failed whereas I sense so much potential here I can’t wait for this dorama to really get going after this set up episode. Japan appears to love it as well as episode 1 earned a 14.3% rating.
Episode 1 recap:
Narrator Aoishi Hanae tells us that she’s really this close to losing all her feminine aspects. It’s a busy morning at the company where she works for the last 10 years dutifully without ever missing a day of work. In the hustle bustle we briefly glimpse a handsome part time employee Tanokura Yuto going about his business. Chirpy young female coworker Ookawa Hitomi gossips with the office about running into a gorgeous man in the elevator who she thinks might be working at the company one floor above them.
The work day ends and Hanae goes about her usual routine of tidying up the office kitchen and even going up to the roof to make sure the plants are tucked in for the night. As she’s leaving the office, Hanae asks if Hitomi is going to yet another singles meet-and-greet dinner. Hitomi is going to dinner with college friends who want to make up her birthday from last month, but she figures its really a bunch of still single loser ladies meeting to complain about the lack of a love life. Hanae compliments Hitomi as being lovable to anyone who meets her. Hanae is impressed at Hitomi’s go-getter nature when it comes to dating since Hanae is painfully awkward around eligible young men.
Another coworker Ooshiro So bounds over to ask Hanae to come with him to a dinner where he wants to introduce her to a friend. Apparently the friend wants to meet an older woman that fits Hanae’s near thirty years old profile, someone to settle down with. Hanae blurts out a lie that she has a boyfriend to extricate herself from this set up which shocks her two coworkers since she’s the epitome of asexual at work.
Hanae goes about her scheduled evening plans, buying a pretty wooden bowl at a shop before going to watch an old movie alone but enjoying the experience. Her coworkers gossip about the fuddy duddy Hanae actually dating and hear that her boyfriend is named Mamoru (to guard) and works in security. When she gets home, we see that she still lives her with doting parents and a pudgy bulldog Mamoru, whose name Hanae appropriated to describe her fictional boyfriend. She gives her dog the wooden bowl as a new food bowl and apologizes for making him her boyfriend and we see Mamoru as the guard dog to the house. Cute. Her coworkers hear that boyfriend Mamoru’s hobbies are to take walks while eating snacks. LOL.
Hanae sits down at the dinner table with her mom while dad reads a paper on the sofa. She gets a text from best friend Sasano Ichika who is not only married but just had her second baby. Mom coos over the picture sent of the newborn but doesn’t nag Hanae to get married or have kids. Ichika sends another text urging Hanae to get a boyfriend as she’s about to turn the big 3-0 but Hanae not only doesn’t have a prospect but she’s still a virgin with zero dating experience.
As Hanae prepares for bed and the clock ticks towards midnight, she wonders what her life would be like had she had dating experience. Back in college, there was a senpai who liked her and one night made it clear he wanted to take her to a love motel. Hanae turned him down with the excuse that she had a curfew and the boy didn’t pressure her but that was the end of that almost relationship.
Hanae gets out of bed and makes a phone call to arrange a birthday treat for herself as a spa, remaining ever frugal and organized to ask for a birthday special. Hanae gets ready for work and muses that she doesn’t even need an alarm clock to wake up anymore. Her routine is so well-worn she wakes up naturally and goes about doing the exact same things every day. She has breakfast with parents and admit things are stagnant, whether it’s because she is too close to her parents and doesn’t want to leave them or they love her too much to push her to leave and get married.
As Hanae waits for the bus to work and gets on, she admits to daydreaming that a prince on a white horse would ride up and whisk her away when she first started working. But now she doesn’t have any dreams anymore and the bus ride is just the mode of transportation to get her to work.
Hanae arrives at the office much earlier than anyone else and efficiently takes care of all the little chores such as preparing coffee, watering the plants, wiping down the conference room, putting paper in the copy machine, etc.
The next person to arrive is her boss Tachibana Takaaki, a nice guy who nevertheless is quite a talker when he gets started. Boss has heard the latest on-dit about shy reserved Hanae actually having a boyfriend and is very happy for her. Turns out he dated his now wife when she also worked at this company even though it was against company policy. Boss sighs that loves comes unexpectedly and even he never imagined he would have a work place romance and end up honeymooning in Hawaii.
So arrives at work next and Hanae softly chastises him for telling the entire office about her (nonexistent) boyfriend. So is pretty dense and doesn’t think he did anything wrong while Hanae voiceovers that So is the resident sunshine boy who is always outgoing and has none of the Japanese reserve and stoicism. Hitomi swans in openly kvetching about how she’s totally hung over while Hanae thinks to herself that Hitomi is the resident cutie that wheedles all the men for attention and they happily give it.
A few more coworkers arrive – newbie ice prince Kagami Ryusei who Hanae hasn’t seen do anything impressive yet at the job but seems quite self-absorbed, a nice guy who always subtly takes advantage of others to do his busy work, and a manly ace performer at work who shattered all the ladies expectations when it turns out he acts very feminine once he gets drunk.
Finally there is part time employee and third year college student Tanokura Yuto, the resident go-to guy for all the office little things but he works hard and does everything meticulously so everyone likes him.
Hanae heads out for lunch and goes to a noodle restaurant nearby to slurp down a bowl of curry udon. A handsome man in a suit walks in and the proprietor asks if Hanae minds if the customer shares her table since the restaurant is packed. The man, Asao Yu, sits down across from Hanae and she immediately tenses and keeps her head lowered to eat her noodles, not to mention wiping sweat from her brow with a handkerchief since the arrival of handsome eligible men is Hanae’s big fear because she doesn’t know how to interact with them.
Yu notices Hanae’s discomfort and tries to break the ice with his charm, asking for the same noodles as her and complimenting her nails as being very pretty despite bucking the trend of having nail color. He recognizes her as working in the same building as him and explains he works at the company a floor above.
Hanae continues to not look up at him so Yu keeps on going, sharing a story about someone he knows that reminds him of Hanae. That person was also very ordinary and didn’t wear nail color but she embezzled funds from her company to pay off her housing mortgage. Could Hanae be secretly an embezzler?
Hanae finally can’t take it and retorts that she lives with her parents and doesn’t have any debt! Yu smiles to finally have Hanae make eye contact with him and laughs that he was just joking is all. Hanae glares at him before grabbing her check and running out of the restaurant, declining Yu’s offer to pay for her meal since he ruined her enjoyment. She leaves her handkerchief behind which Yu picks up.
Hanae goes up to the rooftop to tend to the plants and regain her composure only to overhear Yuto on the phone telling his ex-girlfriend to stop calling because they’ve broken up, and she needs to focus on something more in her life other than romance. Yuto sees Hanae and figures she knows what he’s going through with a messy break up. Hanae thinks to herself that she has no clue since she’s never dated despite the entire office now thinking she has a boyfriend.
The office heads out to a new employee welcome dinner together and a drunk So announces that he knows a secret about the cool aloof Ryusei. Everyone guesses wrong until So reveals that Ryusei is still a virgin which gets Hanae’s rapt attention. Ryusei doesn’t care what anyone thinks, he’s a virgin by choice not because he can’t get a girl to sleep with him but because he only wants to sleep with the woman he wants to marry. Hanae’s opinion of Ryusei changes right there with how confident he is with his own dating inexperience.
Hitomi then asks Yuto if he’s dating and Yuto lies that he has a girlfriend. For some reason that gets Hanae’s goat up that he’s using the same lie she recently used and the normally non-confrontational her blurts out that Yuto is lying because he recently broke up with his girlfriend. She heard him say that earlier. Yuto turns and stares at Hanae for calling him out on his fib which then makes everyone laugh that Yuto was clearly lying to make himself unavailable to the boy crazy Hitomi.
After dinner talk turns to round 2 with karaoke but aloof Ryusei declines to join since he doesn’t like to sing. Hitomi spots handsome debonair Yu chatting on the street with another person. He looks over with a smile to spot their group and saunters over cool as can be. Hitomi readies herself to greet him when Yu slices through the group straight for the hunched over Hanae.
Yu returns Hanae’s handkerchief to her and when all the other coworkers gape he explains that she left it behind when they had lunch together today. Hanae quickly explains that they just shared a table is all and asks Yu not to keep joking with her. Yu apologizes to the other coworkers for interrupting their night out and strolls away. Everyone crowds Hanae asking if that guy is her boyfriend and she dispels that suggestion since she doesn’t even know that guy’s name!
Hitomi grabs both Hanae and Yuto from the rest of the group going to sing karaoke and makes them go to a bar with her to hang out and explain to her satisfaction what exactly is going on. Hitomi is satisfied with Hanae’s explanation about how Yu got her handkerchief and vows to win the man over eventually. Hanae is impressed with Hitomo’s determination in landing a man but Hitomi thinks she’s being sarcastic since Hanae already has a boyfriend.
Hanae explains that her good friend is still single and hasn’t dated because she’s too shy and is waiting for the right man to come along. Hitomi chews out such women for being too scared to take initiative in the dating pool while bemoaning the lack of a good man in their lives. Such women are self-absorbed and stuck up to Hitomi and have no one to blame but themselves for their dating woes.
Hitomi is pretty drunk by now so when Yuto comes back into the bar after stepping out to take a call, he offers to take Hitomi home. Hanae sits alone in the bar brooding over what Hitomi just said about women too scared to date.
Hanae is surprised to see Yuto return shortly and hears he put Hitomi in a cab and she’s an adult so should be fine. Hanae calls out Yuto for being cold hearted but he returns it to her for the way she just outed his earlier lie about having a girlfriend. Hanae is also cold and doesn’t explain things either since she never told Hitomi about running into Yu at the restaurant earlier despite knowing Hitomi has her eyes on him.
Hanae claims it’s different but it’s the same to Yuto, sometimes a person just doesn’t feel the need to explain everything to others. That’s why he lied about having the girlfriend so he doesn’t get asked all about the break up. He finds it better to keep a certain distance with others so it doesn’t get too exhausting.
Yuto smiles at Hanae who he finds quite similar to him. That triggers a nerve in Hanae and she chews him out because they are nothing similar. Yuto just broke up with his girlfriend and probably had many girlfriends before that one so he knows nothing about what Hanae is like. Yuto reads between the lines and asks if Hanae lied about having a boyfriend? He asks why she would lie about something like that but it only makes Hanae start to cry in earnest. Yuto apologizes for probing but Hanae runs off to the bathroom.
Good friend Ichika sends a happy birthday text to Hanae and Yuto reads the scrolling text on her phone left at the bar. When Hanae comes back to quickly take her leave, Yuto asks her to stay for a moment which is when the bartender comes out with a slice of birthday cake and a candle on it.
Yuto wishes Hanae a happy birthday and she is so touched as she blows out the candle. Hanae takes off her glasses to wipe away the happy tears and Yuto compliments her as being much prettier when she doesn’t wear glasses.
Yuto and Hanae are walking home and he’s rather taken aback at how happy Hanae was with the birthday celebration at the bar. He wonders if she’s fine with him being the person to celebrate with her? Hanae nods which makes Yuto break into a giant boyish smile. He takes her hand and asks if she can hang out with him until morning? That freaks Hanae out and she pulls her hand away from him and says that’s not appropriate.
Yuto apologizes for making her feel uncomfortable or he overstepped his bounds and walks away. Hanae remembers ten years ago when the college senpai wanted to spend the night with her and she pulled away. She makes up her mind and runs after Yuto, taking his hand and indicating she wants to hang out with him.
The two run off together, first to the arcade where Yuto catches a mommy duck with ducklings from the claw machine for her and then they play video games. They go to the batting cages to hit some balls before ending a night cruise enjoying the view.
Hanae takes out her cell phone to snap pictures which Yuto takes from her hand and uses his longer arms to take selcas of them together with the night view in the background. He then takes off Hanae’s glasses and tells her that she looks better not wearing it. Shy Hanae lifts her eyes and the two of them stare at each other.
Hanae wakes up the next morning next to a still sleeping Yuto. She’s frazzled and quickly grabs her glasses before dressing hastily. Yuto wakes up and greets Hanae with a smile but she refuses to look at him, leaving money on the table for the hotel room and running out of there. Man, if I woke up next to Yuto I would lock the hotel room and order room service for a week.
Hanae wanders through the streets completely out of sorts. She gets a call from her worried mom about staying out all night and we see her dad was sleeping on the sofa waiting for her to come back. Hanae lies that she drank too much and spent the night as a friend’s place.
Hanae arrives at work and runs into Yu outside the building. He immediately sidles up to her and notes that she’s wearing the same outfit as yesterday which means she spent the night out. Hanae’s weak denials fly right over him and he wonders if the guy works at the same office as her? If so then he’ll also show up in the same clothes and the other employees is sure to notice. Hanae freaks out and then walks right past the office building without going inside.
Hanae calls her boss to take the day off work which is so unusual her boss immediately tries to suss out the reason. He belatedly realizes it was Hanae’s birthday yesterday and thinks she is upset that no one in the office celebrated for her. Yuto arrives at work and hears that Hanae took the day off. He’s asked if she said anything yesterday and Yuto brings up hearing that it was her birthday. That further confirms for the others that Hanae is mad at them for forgetting which is why she’s not coming to work today.
Hanae pays a visit to her best friend Ichika in the hospital to see her newborn and also to get some advice. Ichika is naturally impressed that Hanae hooked up with a young 21 year old college student and finally lost her virginity on her 30th birthday. Ichika thinks Hanae shouldn’t be frazzled and instead should be thrilled like a heavy weight has been lifted.
Hanae is considering quitting her job because she doesn’t know how to face Yuto at work. Ichika calls her an idiot since all she did was sleep with the boy. Hanae is so embarrassed because he’s seen her naked body now but Ichiko sasses back that he didn’t just “see” it. LOL. Ichika wonders if the boy might be serious but Hanae can’t believe that since he’s still in college. Ichika asks if Hanae likes the boy but she says that’s not it either. She’s just so confused.
Yu waltzes into Hanae’s office looking for her and hears from Hitomi that she took today off work. Yu then notices Yuto at his desk and pointedly says Yuto is wearing the same outfit he wore yesterday. Yuto asks why it’s even worth noting and Yu just smiles and says Yuto looks good in that outfit is all.
Hitomi stops Yu by the elevators asking if the two offices can have a meet-and-greet dinner since they work in the same building. Yu agrees knowing what Hitomi wants and agrees to it before offering her his business card finally. She reads that he’s actually the CEO of the company on the floor above.
Hanae goes home and soaks for a long time in the bath. Afterwards she finds a birthday cake on the counter from a place where her dad waiting in line to buy it for her. She eats the cake while her dad quietly wishes her a sweet happy birthday which makes Hanae cry.
Hanae is back to her usual routine of arriving at work early and setting up the office. She walks by Yuto’s desk and practices saying good morning casually when the real Yuto arrives at work. Hanae tries to make a quick escape from his company but she’s so nervous all the papers in her hand goes flying when she trips. She books it for the conference room and pulls down all the blinds to hide form Yuto.
Hanae peeks at Yuto sitting at his desk like nothing is out of the ordinary and eating his breakfast. She wonders how he can be so composed under such circumstances. Hanae keeps trying to avoid Yuto but her plan is immediately scuttled when her boss comes by to give her a belated birthday present and to take work off her plate to hand to Yuto. She offers to keep doing it but the boss wants to train Yuto and asks her to directly supervise him.
Hanae and Yuto end up in the conference sorting pistachios together and she makes it clear it’s all business between them when she writes “no talking about personal matters at work” on the white board. When Yuto tries to bring up yesterday she cuts him off repeatedly until he abides by her request to keep it professional.
Hanae is exhausted by lunch time with all this tension and quickly runs out of the office. Yuto follows her into the elevator since this is lunch time and her rules don’t apply anymore. He wants to know why she left yesterday so abruptly and is avoiding him now. He doesn’t go to a hotel casually and he’s serious about her.
Yuto asks Hanae to date him which shocks her to the core. Yuto pins her against the elevator and asks why can’t it be him? Yuto leans in and kisses Hanae who takes a few seconds to push Yuto off her. Hanae reminds Yuto that it’s still work hours and then runs out of the elevator once the door opens.
Yu gets out of the other elevator when he sees Hanae running out of the elevator like it was on fire. He stares in shock before turning to look into the elevator that Hanae ran out of and sees Yuto inside. The two men make eye contact briefly before the elevator door closes on Yuto.
Hanae is eating lunch at the same noodle place when Yu walks in and this time he goes directly to sit down across from her. He points out that she seems stressed and offers to hear what is bothering her and give her advice. It must be her very young boyfriend from work that is stressing her out, right? Hanae finally looks up at Yu.
Thoughts of Mine:
Until now, the only dorama I loved this year was Border with Oguri Shun, a thrilling and sleek supernatural police procedure that was great to watch but not all that compelling to recap or blog about. Even earlier this year Shitsuren Chocolatier pretended to be all romantic but was just a pile of stinky poo with unlikable characters in lame romantic entanglements. I have to look all the way back to Rich Man, Poor Woman to experience the rush of a nicely rendered renzouku. And no, Last Cinderalla sucked donkey balls IMO so it doesn’t count and I want to erase it from my memory other than for the forever hotness of Fujiki Naohito. I love that Ayase Haruka followed up headlining last year’s Taiga Yae no Sakura with this light romance dorama. KwKY is less comedic than Hotaru no Hikari, and she does need to break away from the goofy Hotaru image, nor is it as wistfully melancholy as Tatta Hitosu no Koi with the class love illness struggles. If anything KwKY is low key and rather mundane with the conflicts, but within that ordinariness is a lot of heart.
The screenwriter for this dorama did Summer Nude, Honey and Clover, and Operation Love, all doramas I watched and mostly liked but didn’t love. Having this story adapted from a manga source gives the characters the room to build upon already established foundations that are well received. The leads are all good people and no one behaves abominably in any way. The conflict and tension is the regular stuff that comes from dating conflicts, different expectations, inexperienced confusion, and incremental fears. As Hanae starts to interact with the two men that dropped into her life when she turned 30, she blossoms realistically but it’s not because of the men but because she doesn’t want to stick with the status quo due to fear of the dating unknown. She wants to change and she makes the effort, that’s why she’s a very easy to like leading lady despite her overly fearful attitude when it comes to romance. My only quibble so far with the dorama is the awkward soundtrack, this show could be so much better if the music was better and used judiciously. The cinematography is also rather dull but that’s not a deal breaker, especially when the three leads compensate by being the eye candy.
I’ve read all the manga chapters out already which is currently at chapter 17. The dorama differs quite a bit from the manga right from the beginning so I’m assuming the deviations will continue and that works for me. For starters Yu’s character is much more prominent in the dorama, he meets Hanae and also gets involved in her romantic life earlier than in the manga. The manga is really the romance between Hanae and Yuto with Yu as the distant third wheel, yet with Tamaki Hiroshi playing Yu I can’t see him being put in the corner which would be a waste of his smirky manly charisma. I love Fukushi Sota and having him play Yuto is a stroke of brilliant casting. I like Yuto as a character because he’s so direct and sincere towards Hanae, but in the manga it was Yu who was way more interesting. Fukushi Sota is all sorts of ridiculously adorable it’s easy to buy that Hanae would actually take a leap of faith with him. Hitomi actually represents the quintessential modern woman, she can spot, identify, and appreciate sexy men whether it’s the mature Yu or the fresh-faced Yuto, both of whom are prime catches all around. Unfortunately it’s Hanae that both of those guys have their eyes on and for good reason. She’s really a lovely person inside all that bundled up hesitation.
Hanae comes off as overly naïve and inexperienced in the first episode and that is exactly the way she’s written. She has a lot of voiceovers in the manga to explain her thought processes which helps flesh out her character whereas in the dorama we have to rely on Ayase Haruka to convey Hanae’s anxiety and awkwardness. The good part is that she’s not dumb or clueless, being inexperienced and a naturally shy person explains why she’s gone so long with being single and okay with it. In all other respects she’s a functioning normal adult, good at her job and casual friends with everyone she works with, able to carry on conversations and make excuses when needed to extricate herself. Seeing the juxtaposition of mundane Hanae with flustered Hanae after she slept with Yuto was a nice moment of seeing just how her first romantic tryst really rocked her world. Yuto is doing all the right overtures if he’s really serious about dating Hanae. He probably has a straight shot with her except for that mysterious all-seeing Yu that keeps showing up around Hanae. Which guy will win Hanae’s heart in the end? Even I don’t know and that’s what makes this dorama a clincher for me to follow.