When you read the title ‘Rich Man, Poor Woman’, the image that immediately conjures up is the typical Cinderella or Chaebol meets Candy story, but this drama couldn’t be very different from that image. Sure, the male lead is rich but in no way is the
girl woman poor – her parents own an inn (although from the limited scenes shown, business doesn’t seemed to be thriving), she’s living and studying in Tokyo fine, so at best she’s just middle class. It’s not even straight up romance drama… so the explanation for the wrong choice of title is probably they’re too lazy to think/care.
Now, given my somewhat rant above, you would think I don’t like this drama. No, no, I’m just upset at how the title could turn off and does nothing to raise interest for potential viewers to tune in to this AWESOME drama. Well, not to say that it doesn’t have any flaws: inconsistent characters coming from the Asahina siblings, not to mention assigning Asahina as a love interest late in the game (and it was so sudden). I mean, there’s no such thing as a perfect drama. You can always find something to nitpick on.
Hyuga Tohru (Oguri Shun) is the successful CEO of Next Innovation (the coolest place workplace in the world), an IT company that mainly dabbles in making mobile games, which he co-founded with Asahina Kosuke (Iura Arata). Unlike most CEOs, he prefers to come to work wearing an unbuttoned casual shirt over a white tank top, comfy pants and loafers for his feet. If he is forced to wear suits, he will complete his look with sports shoes. It’s comfort over style for this man. He is diagnosed with a condition called Prosopagnosia (don’t worry, he’s not going to die from this… oh, wait, just thought of a way) a.k.a. face blindness – he can’t associate names to faces. There is a running gag in the drama in which his employee keeps dropping hints for him to guess his name, but it always ends in failure. Hyuga comes up with an ambitious project for every citizens to have access to their personal files via web, where they can check their pensions and whatnot. Unbeknownst to anyone, the project is a tool for him to connect to Sawaki Chihiro, the mother who abandoned him.
Next, we have the heroine played by Ishihara Satomi. She is a final year student (doing a biology major, I’m guessing) in Tokyo University. Despite coming from a prestigious university, she struggles with juggling between job hunting and her remaining university work. It’s already her 30th interviews, yet she has not receive any offers from the companies she applied to. You can imagine how depressing it is and how every rejection has exponentially affect her mood. Her weariness is wonderfully mirrored by the condition of her job hunting shoes. Even the phone call from her brother reassuring how she is definitely going to make it (because people have been praising her intelligence) does nothing but instil more pressure to the poor woman (okay, maybe the title kinda works). Her character is one I could connect to right off the bat since I am currently unemployed and I graduated from the world’s top 10 university.
After watching an inspirational video message from Hyuga, her determination is reignited and armed with a new pair shoes, she marches on to attend Next Innovation’s recruitment session. However, all is not well as she gets chosen by Hyuga (see, this is why I never sit on the front row) and is asked of how many job offers she holds. Hearing her answer (nil), he assumes that she comes from an obscure university, which she corrects. But this is only met with negative reaction as he reasons that there must be fundamentally wrong with her then (OMG, flashback to my interview). He immediately weeds out the applicants by adding a criteria that only those with at least two offers are qualified.
Instead of leaving though (her confidence must be coming from the new magic shoes), she rattles on the company’s history and the board of directors, demonstrating her amazing memory, the amount of effort and research she has done as she really wants to work here. She points out the flaw in the application process – it is in no way a good indicator to show she is useless to the company – that he should carefully look at each person. Hyuga counters that in the end, the result would be the same but commends her dissatisfaction because that is the catalyst for wanting to change the world. He jeers at her, calling her Rigakubu-san (literal trans: Miss Faculty of Science). To this she retorts that she has a name and it’s Sawaki Chihiro.
Okay, I was only supposed to just give the plot but ended up writing a recap of the first half of episode one. Whoops!!! I was never good at summarising anyway. It probably is not a spoiler to say that Sawaki Chihiro is not her real name, it’s actually Natsui Makoto. She only did it to get his attention and it works; Hyuga is able to remember her not-her-real name (to the surprise of his employees) and she even lands an internship at Next Innovation. The fact that she knew his mother’s name is because the two shared a brief encounter when he was on a search for his mother, but due to his condition, he does not remember it.
The thing I love about this drama is that you actually get to watch Hyuga work. You ask me me why that’s a huge deal for me. That’s because I’ve seen many dramas where the supposed-to-be CEOs spend their all time stalking their crushes instead of working. No wonder there’s always someone wanting to take over your companies. Granted, those dramas lean more towards the romance genre, but still at least do some work. You can do your stalking after working hours. Anyway, back to the topic, because we are privy of Hyuga’s work ethics, you can understand why Hyuga is respected and held in high regard among his employees, and Natsui is also not immune to that and those feelings gradually turn to love.
The OTP is super cute and their chemistry is just amazing. People who are used to the amount of skinships shown on Kdramas might feel the scenes are lacking but they are nonetheless still squee-worthy. Especially the scenes from the SP, when they have progressed from courtship to officially dating. So much cuteness that it’s cavity-inducing. Them falling in love with each other also makes sense as they are each other’s support when they are at their lowest points. Him inspiring her to grow to be someone who can contribute to society and her unwavering loyalty and faith in him, even when everyone turned their backs on him. She also exudes so much positive energy with her bumbling personality that it’s bound to find its way through his walls.There is an issue with him that a lot of people find off-putting: his sharp tongue. For example, he keeps referring her as an idiot. Well, he does it without bad intentions. I’m not trying to defend him, this is from what I picked up from the drama. It’s just the way he tends to state the truth, albeit in harsh words, in a-matter-of-fact way that rubs people the wrong way. He’s gradually learning to grow and change, so that’s always an okay in my book.
As for the second leads, Asahina Kosuke and Asahina Yoko, they actually started out great but somehow their characters became meh (more for the brother than the sister) towards the end of the second half of the drama. Asahina Kosuke… I really don’t know what to say about him… because I don’t really understand him. I think of him as the ultimate supporter of Hyuga and he fully trusts that whatever Hyuga does will be a success. So I don’t understand what he is trying achieve by pushing out of the company (using underhanded methods no less). I know he feels inferior to Hyuga (who wouldn’t?) because everyone always thought he was the number 2 but given their good relationship, it’s still ugh. The company takeover plot is the weakest in my opinion because it happened too late and by then, they only have few episodes to resolve it so a lot of things are compressed to tie everything up.
Asahina Yoko is the complete opposite of the bitchy, psychotic second lead. She is genuinely nice and never manipulative (except for that one bitchy move she pulled). She even scolds Natsui for not wanting to admit that she has feelings with Hyuga and acknowledges her as a rival. She also shares a past with Hyuga, which he again has forgotten. The problem is with her is because she works in different place from the other leads, her restaurant plotline is boring and brings nothing to the main story, so it’s hard to care for her character.
All in all, it is a wonderful watch and definitely deserves a re-watch. To end this too-long post, I will leave you a fanvid by one of my favourite fanvidders, 92AyachanMVxx.