Mischievous Kiss: the Review

mischievouskiss photo mischievouskiss_zps0462efe5.jpgMischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo
Romaji name: Itazura na Kiss ~ Love in TOKYO
air date: 3.29.2013 through 7.19.2013
number of episodes: 16
I watched it: three mini-marathons while it aired

In a nutshell: An absolutely delightful drama that manages to take a plot so standard you’ll know how it ends as soon as it begins, but tell it with such a light and careful touch it feels like a restrained coming of age tale. (Well — relatively restrained. There’s enough comedy to tie the drama firmly to its shoujo-manga roots.) It’s filled with characters drawn so broadly they verge on caricature, but given emotional beats so honest they feel real and relatable. It’s an easy watch, a fun watch and, most importantly, a satisfying watch. Based off of a hugely popular manga, several drama-versions have already been made. But, even if you’ve seen every other version out there, do not miss this one.

The Plot: Girl sees Boy. Girl falls head over heels for Boy. Boy doesn’t realize Girl exists. But fate is quite mischievous and pushes photo1 photo photo1_zpsd5ebbb07.jpgBoy and Girl onto a pathway towards each other. (This isn’t a spoiler, by the way; I’ve pretty much outlined the opening credits.) In many ways this is a fantasy-tale custom made for any girl who’s ever had an impossible crush. (So, pretty much all girls ever.) It’s a universal story that the drama keeps compelling by keeping it simple.

There are a few big twists of fate but it’s not the plot-twists that bring the viewers to the yard. On the contrary, the plot slips quietly past moments that could have tangled into melodramatics, photo3 photo photo3_zps61b0f791.jpgfocusing instead on the simpler, more human aspects of the story. It’s our two main characters and their journey into love and adulthood that create the pull.

The simple directing style is a great help there as well. The camera stays on our characters as they go through big emotional beats — keeping our focus on their faces. So we get to fully witness and feel their realizations and resolutions, their pains and their joys.

The Girl: The heart of the drama is Aihara Kotoko — a bright and friendly girl. She’s not the best student, more for lack of discipline than lack of ability, but she’s refreshingly optimistic, amusingly enthusiastic, and deeply caring of her circle of friends and her widowed father. kotoko photo kotoko1_zps5cee33fd.jpgWe’re with her as she grows from high school student to college student, transitioning from child to adult.

It’s easy to relate to Kotoko and the challenges she faces: nursing an impossible crush, stressing over college entrance exams, figuring out her place in the world. Each challenge brings its own mix of laughter and tears, struggle and growth. Actress, Miki Honoka was sixteen at the time of filming and she brings a clarity and honesty to her role. Even at her silliest Kotoko felt real. It was that realism and honesty that made her failures hit so hard and made her victories feel so sweet.

The Boy: A much less forgiving role is that of perfect student and ice prince, Irei Naoki. He begins the drama as more an ideal than an actual person. topstudent photo topstudent_zpsce357da4.jpgAll of his achievements come easily — he’s a top student who doesn’t study, a top athlete who doesn’t train. And he’s apparently without goals or dreams or attachments. Where Kotoko is all too human, Naoki is all too divine. It’s easy to see why he’s desired but it’s harder (at first) to see how he could be loved.

Meeting his family is a giant first step. They are completely unlike what you’d expect: a jolly and friendly father, a delightfully ditzy mother, an adoring yet snarky little brother — they provide the personality Naoki lacks himself. glimmer photo glimmer_zps82923f97.jpgBut as Kotoko wriggles into Naoki’s life, his personality begins to shine through in little bursts and glimmers.

Actor, Furukawa Yuki, helped provide the next steps. Self-contained with quietly restrained reactions we only get brief glimpses beneath the mask, but Furukawa makes the most of those little moments. Which build into bigger and bigger moments as Naoki melts into a real live human being. When he does have emotional scenes it feels like it’s Naoki relaxing into his true self, rather than Furukawa jarringly breaking character.

Fate’s Path: In many ways, the larger journey is Naoki’s as he transitions from icily perfect to warmly human. A journey he’s only able to make because Kotoko is there nudging and challenging him on. date photo date_zps0cab2b54.jpgBut the central journey is definitely Kotoko’s as she begins to figure out who she is and what’s important to her.

It’s a common journey in that it’s one we’re all on, but it’s not a simple one and the drama treats it with the care and respect it deserves — not dressing it up with unnecessary flairs and flourishes. It can, however, be a warm and empowering journey as fun as it is frightening, and the drama doesn’t forget that either. There’s much more laughter than tears to this story.

Love Triangle: There is, however, a love triangle. It’s a common aspect of this kind of tale, something I consider a (sometimes un)necessary evil. I didn’t love it’s inclusion here, mainly because it means someone’s heart will be broken. However, I can (begrudgingly) see why it was necessary. kandk photo kandk_zpsf63560f9.jpg(If any boy needed sexual jealousy to prod him along, our ice prince was that boy.)

Ikezawa Kinnosuke (or Kin-chan) is the forever friend-zoned leg of the triangle, crushing on Kotoko as hard as she’s crushing on Naoki. Yamada Yuki plays the part with a clownish brashness but also a deep and abiding loyalty. He’s a male version of Kotoko and he’s a wonderful friend and support to her and, at times, a much needed kick in the ass for Naoki. His character is neither wasted nor forgotten — but he could possibly break your heart.

In Conclusion: Beautifully written and directed and excellently cast, Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo is a fun and fluffy coming of age, romantic comedy that manages to root itself into something earthy and substantial. The story is nothing new, with characters that could easily slip into stereotype. But the journey is refreshing and the characters remain real and relatable. It’s easy to digest but it’s a story that will stick with you. Definitely one to watch.
studying photo studying_zps1e26f8c5.jpg

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13 thoughts on “Mischievous Kiss: the Review

  1. Lovely review! Such a fun and enticing read! 😀 I’d forgotten about this one.. although now I do remember viewers going ga-ga over it while it was airing.. Perhaps the perfect little drama to take with me to Tokyo in October? For the.. language immersion & all, y’know.. ;D

    • Yes! 😀 I whole-heartedly recommend it because it’s fun and easy — so it can be a nice relaxing watch but not an insulting one (if that makes sense). Plus! The dad is a really good chef so there are some shots of yummy looking Japanese food and you’ll be in the perfect place to indulge (if that sort of thing moves you).

      And also… yeah — language immersion. Lovely, lovely language immersion. 😀 (But we’re totally talking about ogling Naoki, right?)

  2. I read this while in transit yesterday and didn’t get the chance to reply. I really love the way you’d interpreted the show through this review, love love love how you separated and discussed Boy,Girl and Fate’s Path. Some points are stuff I didn’t even think of and with a show like this that’s pretty much been done to death, so refreshing to see if from different perspectives which you did here. I’m assuming this is 1 review down and … Was it 3 more to go? Looking forward to them! 🙂

    • Thank you! And, yay! I’m glad I was able to bring a different perspective. 😀

      This was 1 down, 3 to go — and now I’m 2 down, 2 to go, which I’m pleased about. I hope you had an uneventful trip and are getting well settled. (I think we’re in the same time-zone now!)

        • I’m in California. 🙂 Glad you’re creeping towards settled. The cool thing about being somewhere new is looking around at things that seem so unfamiliar and strange and realizing in a couple of months they’re going to be old hat. (At least, I’ve always enjoyed pausing and thinking, “this will all be familiar soon,” and getting that little mind-bend that goes with it. Might just be me, though. ;))

  3. Your review reminds me that I need to rewatch this in marathon form. I couldn’t handle how awesome it was when I live-watched it, and I can’t handle now having any more of it to watch now it’s over. ='(. I’m thinking Monday sounds like a good day xD

    • This is so marathon-worthy. As I skipped through the first episode to grab some screenshots I got very strong marathon-temptations. So I’m thinking you’re in for an awesome Monday! 😀 (It would be so, so cool if they did a second season on this — so cool.)

  4. Pingback: A Passing Existential Question of the Blogging Kind | The Fangirl Verdict

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