This article may contain *minor* spoilers
At first glance, this may look like your typical run-of-the-mill romance drama, and by most standards, it probably is, but there’s just something about it that captivates and hooks the viewer, to the point where the wait for the next episode is pure agony.
There are a lot of dramas lately that focus rather substantially on student-teacher relationships, and with the recent popularity of Chuugakusei Nikki and Love & Fortune, it was only a matter of time before similar dramas found their way on to the small screen. It’s hard to say where Hajikoi falls in terms of this, as it’s still early days with only 3 episodes aired at the time of writing. However, I do feel able to petition the fact that although (potentially) similar in context, it’s got its own unique strengths, style and presentation, of which I’m absolutely enthralled by. I’ve personally not read the manga (and believe it has yet to be translated or licensed) so I have no idea where the drama intends to lead, nor if they will stick with the original story itself, but so far I’m very taken in by this wonderful rendition.
A Story To Read When You First Fall In LoveThe drama was adapted from the manga that was serialized in Shueisha's Cookie magazine in 2016.
I do love my squishy fluffy romances, and boy I’d be wrong if this wasn’t, in fact, one of them, but this drama feels like so much more than that. I have to say with a fair warning, the drama does contain a love triangle (or maybe even a square?) but fortunately, it manages so far to keep things light-hearted and angst-free for the most part, with the main character completely oblivious to the feelings of all three potential love interests.
The story follows Junko, a 31-year-old private cram school tutor, who, despite being a model student during her high school days, failed to gain entry to the prestigious Tokyo University. She struggles in her day-to-day life, having difficulties finding a job, and is looked down upon by her parents for still being single. Things change when she meets disorderly delinquent Kyohei Yuri, a fiery student with fluffy pink hair, who is constantly given a hard time by his father. Upon his father's dismissal of his curricular abilities, Junko decides she will stop at nothing to help Yuri gain entry to Tokyo University and prove to him (and to herself) that the impossible can be overcome! While she tries to overcome her own insecurities, she is also approached by two other men who seem to take an interest in Junko.
In fact, part of me feels the romance in the drama isn’t actually the main focus here, with it being more of a life lesson for Junko, and an eye-opener of how different people can change your perspective and outlook, but more on that later.
Where Hajikoi shines is its wonderful cast and quick-witted comedy that keeps things fresh and entertaining.
Yokohama Ryusei as Kyohei Yuri, the stubborn yet soft-hearted delinquent, who Junko aptly nicknames “Fearless Pink”. Though he rebels against his father at every possible chance, he also becomes quite serious about studying in order to exceed his father’s low expectations and gain entry to Japan’s top university. The only thing he didn’t bargain for was falling for his cram school tutor!
Kyoko Fukada as Junko Harumi, a 31-year-old cram school tutor who is still dealing with the misfortune of failing to get into Tokyo University. Since then she's struggled to really find stability and has to also endure the disappointment her parents feel towards her. Despite her setbacks, when she crosses paths with new student Yuri, she becomes determined to support him to the end, at the same time as changing her outlook on life.
Nagayama Kento as Masashi Yakumo, the Todai graduate who is prone to overworking, exhaustion, and trying to prove himself to others. Despite graduating from the country’s best university, Masashi Yakumo still feels the need to justify his education and usefulness, by going beyond the call of duty. He’s also helplessly in love with his cousin Junko since their high school days.
Tomoya Nakamura as Kazuma Yamashita - A teacher of South High and one of Junko’s former classmates. Though regarded as a delinquent back then, when they were in school together she became his tutor to help stop him from falling behind in his classes. It’s a nice surprise to see how he’s progressed on to a career role that basically teaches students who are a mirror image of his younger self.
Other roles include Yuri-yuri's entourage, a group of students from South High who Junko ends up interacting with after helping them out, Yumi, Junko's friend and the owner of a cabaret club, and Eto-Mika, a student who is always following Yuri around.
It wouldn't be a 'catstreet' article if I didn't get the chance to endorse my admiration for Yokohama Ryusei in his role as Kyohei Yuri. It's not just the fluffy pink hair that manages to compliment his manga counterpart or Yokohama Ryusei's sex appeal, but it's not easy to find a character who is as compelling as Yuri in HajiKoi. He's definitely not one dimensional, as it becomes evident as the show progresses, his determination and drive are certainly worth rooting for. I see him as someone with layers, and personally, I'm still trying to figure out his agenda and why he's so dead-set on Tokyo University (besides trying to prove himself to his father). I myself feel like there's more to him behind his stubborn character and unorthodox appearance (and it likely has something to do with a certain female tutor who suddenly walked into his life). But I could just be horribly biased because of my love for Ryusei, and if it turns into your standard cliche rom-com, then I refuse to be held accountable. :P In any case, Yokohama Ryusei is definitely turning heads at this point, as he's recently had quite the career push.
Little Pearls of Wisdom
One thing I'm really loving about this series is its underlying meaningful messages and mottos about life, and being a 30-something college dropout, I kind of felt a sense of kinship between myself and this very relatable show. It’s taught me already that “I don’t have to listen to anyone who calls me trash.” I do feel a somewhat deep affinity between myself and the lead female character here, who herself has struggled with the continued criticism towards her lack of career, loveless life, and her own inadequacies. And likewise, many teenagers will likely feel an affinity for Yuri-yuri, having perhaps been in (or currently dealing with) his situation. As someone who constantly feels they have to justify their failures, and misfortunes to other people, I feel like this may be the show to address those insecurities that many people share, and show the viewer that the most important thing is living for yourself, and not letting other people's judgement bring you down (a lesson that took me many years to learn!)
It’s anyone's guess what the endgame is at the moment. This is likely the first drama I have watched with literally no clue who the female lead will end up falling for or what will happen. She herself is oblivious to all three of the perfect suitors who have considerably fallen for her despite the continuous reminder that she isn’t the perfect embodiment of the ideal wife. (Though the jury is still out on Yamashita). But I like the reminder that nobody is perfect, and that we all have our shortcomings. It makes me feel more human. As for Yuri-yuri, who can say whether or not he'll get into Tokyo University? I guess part of the fun is finding out.
WATCH THIS IF...
- You're a huge fan of Yokohama Ryusei (and if you're not, you will be!) :p
- You love relatable down-to-earth dramas that make you feel better about yourself.
- The idea of a love square excites you!
- You're into fluffy light-hearted romances with meaningful messages.
- You love the student-teacher relationship dynamic (regardless of romance or not!)
As of right now, this is one of my favourite currently airing series, and I can definitely recommend it to anyone who is seeking a rom-com that has a lot more to it than meets the eye!