Start with a character a bit further along yet still like the one Jesse Eisenberg played in The Social Network (Mark Zuckerberg). You know, a savvy computer guy who struck gold. Blend in a character somewhere between Cinderella and the one played by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman – the point being a beautiful girl who will someday capture the heart of Prince Charming. Stir gently. Season with the computer wizard’s partner, and his sister, who wants Prince Charming for herself. Then serve it chilled over an 11 week period.
What you have is a Japanese TV Series called Rich Man, Poor Woman, that just closed its broadcast run a week ago on September 17th.
The series had decent if not great ratings. Maybe a dot.com romance isn’t everyone’s cup of tea in these difficult economic times. But from my perspective, I liked the show.
Here’s an amalgam of how Fuji-TV, the network that broadcast the show in prime time (Mondays at 9:00 PM), and the Asianwikipedia, described the show:
Shun Oguri plays Toru Hyuga, an affluent man whose personality is contrary to most of us. He’s speckled with flaws. He also has a problem remembering names and faces. Despite that, he is a CEO of an IT firm. His personal wealth has been published in Forbes and he’s listed as a billionaire. In fact, as we will learn, he makes as much as $60,000 an hour. Toru attained his fortune through chance and pure luck. What was it where they started – a college dorm room or a small apartment over a garage. Either way – with the smarts, and the know-how, and the drive to succeed – he and his partner/roommate found a way.
A woman who meets Toru and eventually becomes attracted to him is Makoto Natsui, played by Satomi Ishihara. Chihiro is a hardworking college student at Tokyo University who has prepared for her future as much as she possibly could through studies and obtaining licenses. Despite her efforts, she has yet to land a job. She lacks confidence, is a bit clumsy, and more than anything – she needs a better pair of shoes. Oh yeah, she’s got a photographic memory too.
Upon meeting Toru, she begins to unravel a genuine pureness inside him and solitude resulting from such pureness, which eventually draws her closer to him. The two repeatedly have conflicts with each other, making the romance an on and then off situation. But little by little, they each will learn about one another to grow and develop together at least that’s what we hope for. Or will they? That is as good question as this one – Will the two of them be able to compromise their values and lifestyles to become a happy couple? Maybe and maybe not.
This is indeed a Cinderella kind story of the real world (that’s assuming a lot as most of us will never work for Microsoft, or Google – at least at the level of CEO).
The story goes for 11 weeks with fortunes made and lost, government contracts won and lost, and, as you might expect – true love is as ephemeral as the wind.
I first saw Shun Oguri (30) in the wildly popular and successful series – Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers). This series originated as a graphic novel published back in the early 90’s. Then came an animation, then this story was made into films and TV series in Taiwan, then in Japan where it ran for two seasons followed by a movie, and then in South Korea. Oguri, right now, is as close to the top of the Japanese TV actors list as can be.
As for Satomi Ishihara, I first saw her in a baseball series called H2 which aired in 2005. She played a student manager of a high school baseball team. I followed her career and saw her in Nurse Aoi, in Puzzle – she played a teacher/detective, in Voice – she played a student of forensic medicine, in Bull Doctor – she was a homicide detective, and this one – which we can call a romantic lead role for Satomi. Only 25, Ms Ishihara has stardom looming before her.
The satisfaction comes from not worrying or fretting too much about the outcome. After all, this is a romance, and you know how they usually end. But watch for the supporting roles, and the impressive performance by Saki Aibu, as a beautiful chef and restauranteur who sets her sights on Shun’s Toru Hyuga.
As expected there will be ups and downs – you can’t run a romance for 11 weeks without problems appearing. But the leads are quite dynamic and attractive even if Ishihara’s tantrums were a bit over the top. But I got a big kick out of the scene they lifted from Pretty Woman when the super-rich guy takes the female lead on a shopping spree.
No word yet on the DVD, but it should be out later this fall.