However, as it turned out unexpectedly, I was suddenly in the mood for something light which didn't require much thinking and decided to watch this to pass time. True enough, the first episode was a huge disappointment. There were many developments which reminded me of other dramas and the chemistry between Ayase and Fukushi was seriously lacking. To give them some credit, it was just the first episode so it was a bit too early to pass judgement. It was obvious that Ayase was trying to lead her younger co-star but the results were like seeing a lopsided table tennis match with one side clearly being outmatched. On the other hand, there was a hint that something more exciting was brewing between Ayase's and Tamaki Hiroshi's characters but there wasn't a lot of airtime showcasing that in the pilot episode so I carried on watching the drama in the hope for better things to come from this pair.
On Hanae's 30th birthday, nobody in the office knows about it and she seems destined to spend it in the same way as per previous years i.e. with her parents at home. However, during a company dinner, Tanokura Yuto (Fukushi Sota) happens to hear about Hanae's birthday and celebrates it for her. Out of impulse, Hanae asks Tanokura to spend the rest of the night with her and they eventually end up sleeping together in a hotel. However, when morning comes, Hanae is at a loss as to how she should react and leaves the hotel without telling Tanokura. Unable to face him in the office, Hanae even takes a day off from work for the first time by pretending to be sick as she tries to come to terms with what she had done.
From this point onwards, there will be spoilers so if you do not wish to know about the storyline and ending, you may wish to skip this review.
Right from the start, I got riled up over Hanae's way of handling the situation after the one-night-stand with Tanokura. She knew exactly what she was getting herself into when she asked Tanokura to spend the night with her. Although there were scenes of them playing games at the amusement centre or going for a ferry ride prior to the "main event", I'm sure both parties knew what was going to happen at the end when she made the request for him to stay with her. As such, her behaviour in the morning-after seems a bit too exaggerated especially when you compare it to what Shinohara Ryoko's character in "Last Cinderella" who was in a drunken state and did not knowingly ask to sleep with the younger stranger. On the other hand, Hanae knew for sure who she was going to spend her night with. As such, that kind of response seems to be overly exaggerated as if to emphasize how clueless Hanae is about relationships or dealings with the opposite sex. However, being inexperienced doesn't mean that she will be stupid or has no mind of her own. As such, her knee-jerk behaviour just seems not too realistic.
The ending of the drama also left much to be desired because it took such a drastic turn for the worst. Just as it seemed like Hanae was going to live her life independently and move on to other things rather than harp on Tanokura who was going away for further studies, I just didn't understand why Hanae had to be encouraged to look for Tanokura and pledge that she will wait for him. Duh! I mean, if it had been that there was no firm promise between them and yet they still ended up together, it would have been more palatable. However, in this time and age, such a promise rings hollow even in dramaland. I would have wanted them to both venture out and do the things they wanted and come together again rather than the "forced" expectation that they would be together at the end. Sometimes, things are better left unsaid so it feels a bit like the scriptwriter expected you to accept this ending which felt literally like it was shoved into your face.
The co-stars were also great in their own ways. Tamaki's role as Asao may not have a lot of airtime but he made an impact (by that, I don't mean his suave image as a CEO in this story) by his words which sound a lot like sarcasm but is actually the truth which is jarring to the ears. He served as a good wake-up call for Hanae to pull her back into reality and keep her grounded when she was getting too hung up or ditzy over her whirlwind romance with Tanokura. Sounds like a good friend who may speak harshly but has nothing but the truth for your ears? On the other hand, the banter between the two of them provided such timely humour in this sometimes overly sweet romance story. I cringed a lot when I saw Tanokura and Hanae being lovey-dovey on screen but I was enjoying the "quarelling" between Hanae and Asao and wished it would last longer. Likewise in Tamaki's case, he seemed to be having a good time as Asao rather than making an obvious effort to play Asao so the seamless integration of him into the role also made it more enjoyable to watch him in this drama.
Last but not least, Hanae's parents played by Asano Kazuyuki and Takahata Atsuko were such a joy to watch as parents who cared a lot but pretended to be nonchalant so as not to put pressure on their daughter. It was easy to see and understand where they were coming from especially as seen from the scene when the father got rather worked up upon hearing that Tanokura was much younger than Hanae and still in university. It is natural for parents to have certain expectations of their children's partners but even in Hanae's case, the parents who would have been quite happy just to see her dating, were taken aback by the huge disparity between the couple. I certainly didn't feel like the parents were being overly concerned or reacted too violently and I'm glad that the scriptwriter didn't try to make this drama become an unrealistic fairy tale by making Hanae's parents so welcoming of Tanokura without expressing their valid concerns about the relationship.
To sum things up, I think this drama had a lot of flaws especially in its story. It could have been that because the source material is a shoujo manga targeted at a younger audience that it fails to resonate with someone like me who's about the same age as Hanae. Or it could have been due to the fact that the manga is still ongoing so the ending may not have what the author had in mind. Anyway, despite all my grouses about how much I hated Hanae's relationship with Tanokura, the acting from the cast made it more palatable. However, be warned that you need a lot of patience to sit through the fluffy romance especially around the episode 5 mark which seems to be the turning point for most people as to whether to continue watching the rest of the drama. Frankly speaking, if you can't stomach another older-woman-younger-man love story which doesn't offer any new perspective on this issue, it is best to steer clear of this drama. Even if you are a fan of the leads and are in this for the eye candy, it's still best to be prepared in case you get really frustrated with the story.
And my ratings for this drama...
Story: 2 out of 10 (I would have given lower marks if not for the side story of Hanae and Asao. I hated the ending for being too hard-sell on the concept of "happily-ever-after" and the romance is too sweet for me.)
Acting: 7.5 out of 10 (Generally good acting from the cast but Fukushi needs to brush up his skills because the kabe-don effect wouldn't sustain his popularity forever)
Theme song/BGM: 7.5 out of 10 (A pretty light-hearted number from Makihara Noriyuki written especially for the drama and is a good description of Hanae's inner world)
Visual effects / Scenery: 8 out 10 (Yokohama is simply gorgeous and I can attest to that because I've been to most of the places featured in the drama. It's really a beautiful city and I can see why it's said to be a romantic city for lovers. The Minato Mirai area is definitely worth checking out if you are there but if you are going alone like what I did, be prepared to face the hordes of couples surrounding you. ^__^)
Teamwork / Chemistry: 6 out of 10 (This is mainly for Ayase and Tamaki but I had to deduct a few marks because of the lack of it between Ayase and Fukushi)
Total: 31 out of 50