One of the best dramas in recent years31 March, 2013 by Chad
There was a time when drama reviews made up a significant portion of this site’s content. It’s not that I’ve stopped watching dramas, but rather, there just hasn’t been that many dramas really worth introducing. Rich Man, Poor Woman has intrigued me enough to take the reviews out of hiatus.
Got the heads up about this drama from the folk over at basugasubakuhatsu! and was definitely glad to have watched it. Despite a simple premise, it’s easily one of the best dramas in recent years.
On the surface Rich Man, Poor Woman is your typical work-romance Japanese drama. It does draw some elements from shoujo manga-esque dramas but otherwise doesn’t stray far from convention. Many of the plot points in the show will seem very familiar to those who’ve seen at least a romance drama or two. However, in its simplicity, the producers may have struck gold. And save for its uninspired name, the minimal cheese in Rich Man, Poor Woman is the show’s greatest strength.
Rich Man, Poor Woman stars Oguri Shun, Ishihara Satomi, Iura Arata and Aibu Saki. The title of the show sums up its concept quite clearly. Its theme seems to have been inspired directly by GREE’s founder Tanaka Yoshikazu. Oguri Shun returns as a more fleshed out version of role in Densha Otoko, as an eccentric and somewhat narcissistic programmer who has accumulated tremendous fame and fortune through his social media enterprise.
I must admit that I’ve never been much of a fan of Oguri. He fits as basically the Japanese equivalent of Keanu Reeves, with an utter lack of emotion. But the producers have done a good job casting him in the drama. Oguri’s straight face actually lends itself well to the character, who is shown to be vulnerable, despite a strong front. He is also shown to be hardworking, doing most of the actual work around the office. For a 300 billion yen company, there are way too few staff in Oguri’s company and they spend most of the time goofing off. While Oguri’s character is blunt, he is shown to only have good intentions for the people around him. It doesn’t take much to like the charismatic character played by Oguri.
Ishihara Satomi, takes a break from appearing in crime shows to play Oguri’s love interest. Despite being well into her late 20s, she takes on the role of a normal student who inevitably crosses paths with Oguri. She isn’t quite poor as the title suggests, but is meant to contrast Oguri’s character with her unextraordinary life. Ishihara and her character come across as overenthusiastic, so it takes a while to get used to her acting.
The show shines in the scenes where the two leads come together. Oguri Shun and Ishihara Satomi work amazingly well together, with some great chemistry on set. It’s enjoyable to see the two actors play off of each other. Story-wise , it’s nice how the two characters complement each other. The producers breaks convention by having Ishihara well capable on her own, filling up for the flaws in Oguri’s.
A rare sight in dramas, Iura Arata plays Oguri’s business partner and opposite. For better of for worst, the interaction between the two characters takes a backseat to the romance aspects of the show, but nonetheless, Iura adds an interesting dynamic to the drama. Iura, who is more often seen in art films, is also one of the cast’s better actors.
For a romance drama there are surprisingly few sappy scenes in Rich Man, Poor Woman. In fact, most of the drama is devoid of such scenes, with the story preferring to focus on the characters growing as individuals. Many other dramas in the genre tend to throw in trivial conflicts on a weekly basis to challenge the couple. But in the case of Rich Man, Poor Woman, there are enough inter-character plots to not have to rely on such. Oguri and Iura keep busy with their business ventures, while Ishihara tackles her problems job hunting.
Rich Man, Poor Woman, isn’t groundbreaking by any means. But it doesn’t have to be. The plot delivers on all viewers expectations and is a joy to watch. There’s no sidetracking and every scene contributes towards progressing the story. They’ve even resisted the urge to throw in tacky plot twists, with all of the key points being introduced within the first few episodes. Where there are changes, it’s usually slight and positive. The small tweaks and an old, successful formula makes the drama an amazing guilty pleasure.
Both Oguri Shun and Ishihara Satomi have won a couple of best actor and best actress awards in recognition of their work for Rich Man, Poor Woman. A movie special, “Rich Man, Poor Woman in New York” is also scheduled to air tomorrow at 9PM on Fuji TV.