Someone heard my cries for a decent romance and gave me Fukuyado Honpo. This must be it. Episode 2 carries on in the right direction. The clichés are in sight, but they’ve managed to change things up in the plot so that everything happens in a different order than what you would expect. A drop of pathos and a dose of beauty also help to elevate this manga-to-TV adaptation.
One of the more satisfying aspects about watching this show is how naturally it weaves Japanese traditions into its plot. Kyoto has long been known for being able to hold on to traditions and yet be a modern art hub. Traditional culture, here, exists just as it was meant to be – without all those camera lugging tourists. For me, it’s the Kyoto I wish I could have seen when I visited. But instead it was just a lot of irritated service personnel, no doubt overwhelmed by the swarm of Spring tourists (like myself, whoops).
I’m glad I’m learning sado, because it really helps me to appreciate the details that are in this show. Like how Kenji bows and says ‘お点前頂戴いたします’ then turns the tea cup twice before he drinks.
Sado is incredibly detailed (which explains why I’m pretty hopeless at it), and it’s a beautiful art I didn’t expect them to pay such attention to in a romcom. There’s also kabuki, wagashi-making plus an assortment of other traditional elements.
It’s hard not to fall for the Japan as portrayed in the show, and it is a perfect backdrop for the romance that unfolds.
And the reason why I say this is because it becomes increasingly clear that Arare and Kenji’s lives and love for each other are tied tightly to Fukuyado.
Arare, having left Fukuyado in a huff, finds herself feeling bored, restless and completely disappointed at store bought wagashi.
She finds a place to stay (such a beautiful 1LDK in Kyoto that an office worker can afford?! Only in Jdrama universe). She calls her long-suffering younger sister Hana to bring her stuff over, but Kenji appears at her door instead, declaring that he can’t stand how she takes advantage of Hana. Then two seconds later they are having a heart to heart talk. This happens again towards to the end of the show. He comes by tempting her with wagashi (I love that he knows her weaknesses so well), and just as we expect him to confess to her after looking her deeply in the eyes, he slams the table accusing her of having no manners because she hasn’t made him tea.
This is why the friends to lovers trope, when done right, really tugs at my heart. These two are like a bickering old couple. On the surface they can’t stand each other, but they accept their idiosyncracies anyway. What’s more fun is that unlike many friends to lovers show, instead of showing how these two slowly fall for each other, usually with the introduction of some third party, these two already have feelings for each other and they both know it. It’s just that stubbornness prevents either of them to articulate this properly. And while I am all for slow realizations of romantic feelings (it’s mostly why I love this trope) I find myself really enjoying this reverse situation too. I like how the show tactfully reveals how they got to this point in their relationship.
So far, it’s Kenji’s feelings that have taken centre stage. In one of the most beautiful lowkey confessions of love ever, Kenji reveals to Arare’s mother that for a long time, he would always find one piece of wagashi missing whenever he made a batch. Eventually he came to find that the wagashi thief was Arare, who would carefully admire each wagashi before tasting them. Arare’s reaction is the determining factor of whether he puts the sweets out or discards them.
The way he describes his nervousness as he watches – his admiration for heradmiration of his craft, just melted my heart. He has so much respect for and dedication to his art, and it informs his love for Arare, just as love for Arare keeps him striving to be better.
I also love that this confession is also his way of assuring the proprietess that there is one daughter who is clearly invested in the business even though she thinks that none of them are.
Arare too, spends half the time insisting that there’s nothing that she likes about Kenji and trying to make him reconsider marrying her sister. But she’s the one that would stay up hoping for a call from him when he suddenly upped and left to Paris for 2 years. She’s the one that is ill at ease with him being pushed from one sister to another, thereby revealing how much his happiness means to her.
Agency is important for Arare, so she thinks that it is unfair for Kenji to have his future casually decided by her mother. How is it that he could agree with being treated that way? How could he so easily agree to marry her when it’s his future on the line?
I must admit that at first the age difference between Hayami Akari and Ichihara Hayato concerned me a bit. By looks, their age gap is pretty clear, and I was afraid it would have an effect on their onscreen chemistry. But seems like my fears were unfounded. Hayami portrays stubborn, passionate Arare well. Meanwhile, Ichihara’s relative maturity is an asset because Kenji is supposed to be older (and slightly wiser, though no less stubborn) anyway.
Speaking of stubborn, it seems like this is a streak that runs in all three of the sisters’ blood. Hina, beautiful Hina, is proposed to by Soujuro this episode, and we quickly get to see why she said last episode that her first love didn’t make it because “they were too similar”. As much as Hina has feelings for him, kabuki is also a business tied down by traditions – the very thing that Hina wants out of. She tells Kenji that his time in Paris allowed her time to think about her future, and though her rejecting her inheritance would mean that Arare carries the burden, she decided to do it.
I love how Hina is portrayed in this show. She is not an unfeeling villain. She loves her family, and for years she quietly accepted her duties. It’s clear that she’s still in a lot of inner conflict, but encouraged by Fukuyado’s elderly head patissiere, she takes courage and places her own freedom over everything else.
In a way she’s going the opposite direction of Arare. Arare seems to hate Fukuyado on the surface, but is secretly devoted to it. Hina tries to feign devotion as best she can, but she has built-up bitterness towards it. Both sisters want agency and choice, but Hina is the one who would follow through with what she started. She is equal parts vulnerable and steely and I can’t wait to watch how her relationships unfold. I find myself really wishing for her happiness. Sasaki Nozomi is also surprising me a lot with her acting.
Next episode we’ll get to see what happens after Kenji’s surprise confession to Arare. Can’t wait – we’re only two episodes in and he’s already confessed that he likes her! Where will we go from here?