I can't believe it took me 10 years to discover this jdrama. And I even took the long way around at that. I was watching some Korean-Chinese crossover movie on Red by HBO, which reminded me of Uhm Jung-hwa so I looked her up because I like her in Get Karl! Then I saw she starred in He Who Can't Marry (Korean version). So I started watching that when I read there was a Japanese version. I knew I had to see the jdrama first because IMO Japanese version is always, always better than Korean version. And now I'm here.
I really love this that I ended up binge-watching it right off bat. It's simple, funny, and allegorical. I saw one discussion thread about this entitled "King of Subtlety". This is so accurate since subtlety although intangible is very much present in this jdrama that I think it's a whole, well-developed character on its own. I mean, if you love Austen, you'll eat this up.
It has a very Japanese way of story-telling -- they present a theme and it plays out for the rest of the episode. And the theme is not the title, mind you. It's Kaneda's episodic allegory. Kaneda shows off his muscles to his revolving-door girlfriend, Kuwano shows up at a gym, gets injured, goes to see Natsumi where he says something like "personal physical development" but not for her to see when we all know he wants her to see. Kaneda says something about watching fireworks with the one you love, Kuwano invites Natsumi to watch fireworks with him complete with fancy meal, wine and opera glasses. Kaneda says something about protecting the one you love, Kuwano although seemingly forcibly recruited to protect Michiru, was really protecting Natsumi when he chased after her when he saw her running to confront Michiru's stalker at the restaurant.
I am also reminded of the anime, Sayonara Zetsoubo Sensei, as I think this jdrama employs subliminal messages as well. Case in point: starting episode 2, when they began developing the love angle between Kuwano and Natsumi, their scenes in the clinic were shot from across the examination bed. Except for one scene with Kuwano's mother, no other character interacting with Natsumi in that clinic had the same angle shot. Yet all clinic scenes between Kuwano and Natsumi showed the bed. Talk about subtlety they didn't even kiss in the entire series but sparks sizzled between them especially in those clinic scenes. There's also the movie that he eagerly awaited only to realize it was remake so he ended up not renting it. It's about that girl who was a facsimile of what he truly wanted, Natsumi. Then there's the spoon, which I haven't even begun to think about.
Everyone is lauding Abe Hiroshi's performance here. I think it is very much deserved. His Kuwano is on the thin line between being just a grumpy old know-it-all and being clinically diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. But as far as romantic leads go, the Kuwano character is not. That is why so many here question why he got 3 women attracted to him. To them, I venture to postulate that Kuwano brings out the nurturing nature of women; they want to take care of him. Still the thought of spending the rest of one's life married to Kuwano is like taking Sisyphus' place behind that infernal boulder, no thank you. My heart belongs to Yui Natsukawa. I l-o-v-e her! Her facial expressions are priceless. Her Natsumi is a great romantic lead, I wanted to give her a hug. If you don't fall in love with her in the end, "There's nothing I can do for you." Kuwano's mother is right, nobody will be good enough for her. Kuwano himself was right when he asked, "Am I good enough for you?"
All in all, this is a very good story, well-written, impeccably acted, artfully crafted, and aptly cast. No one overacted or underacted even the dog. They just did their job and it worked.