A Girl and Three Sweethearts is the first, in a long time after Nodame Cantabile, Dorama or J-Drama I watched. It’s also the first one that is a non-fantasy drama, that makes me rethink my view about Japanese actors and makes me feel kilig again because of its actors' real-life romance.
Growing up, my familiarity with anime and supersentai metaseries has been influencing my perspective about Japanese entertainment. It matters whenever I watch TV and film adaptations or anime-like acting. I prefer drawings or animations if it's anime-like story.
These are the reasons why A Girl and Three Sweethearts is cool and a tastefully done drama series for me. In addition, it inspires me to discover more DORAMAs.
The Good points in A Girl and Three Sweethearts
It took me 3 to 4 video clips, thank you Asian Crush! before I was convinced to watch this J- Drama. If the title is not interesting enough, the plot and characters were intriguing—not to mention—that straight away I am charmed by Mirei Kiritani’s and Kento Yamazaki’s good acting skills.
But here the strong points why this series is good:
- Characters are not outrageous. Okay fine, the overly sunny and emotional Misaki Sakurai's characters are close to anime-like. But perhaps, some Japanese girls are really like that?! I found the female lead character similar to other Asian drama female heroines that I usually appreciate like Jang Nara’s Bright Girl role (K-Drama/Korean Series) and Ariel Lin’s It Started With A Kiss (Idol Drama/Taiwanese Series).
I also commend the writer(s) because all the characters, especially the four in the title roles, are well- established. I can’t remember a single moment that I was disoriented or lost in the track of their journey. For example, the older brother Chiaki (Shohei Miura) is clearly a genuine kind-hearted and charming. Even if he’s confusingly like Kaede Takasuki (Nanao) and didn’t notice Misaki’s admiration, you’ll understand that it’s part of his personality. It is the same with Toma (Shuhei Nomura). It didn’t need that he has to have long exposure to establish that he’s envious and trapped with his imaginary competition with Kanata (Yamazaki Kento). I didn’t hate him for that and in fact, understand that sibling rivalry is possible knowing his brother's talent.
- Most actors are good in their portrayals. My favorite among A Girl and Three Sweethearts’ characters would be Kanata Shibasaki. The big part of it is because of the superb acting of Kento Yamazaki. Gee, I thought I was fine with the action-packed acting of Takeru Satoh (Rurouni Kenshin) or mind-blowing portrayal of Kenichi Matsuyama (Death Note movie). Kento, who incidentally played L in the TV adaptation of Death Note, is sugoi as a dramatic actor. He’s 100% in character in the way he walked, talked, stared, and expressed his feelings.
I checked some of his photos and videos online, I think his looks in this Dorama was intentionally street-like islander when he’s off duty as a Sea Sons Restaurant chef. Kento's appearance also added flavors in Kanata's character, but of course, Kanata is interesting and lovable because of his portrayal. I like his cold-hearted expressions whether those have meaning or not and whether those were about Misaki or his cooking. If I were Misaki, I am clueless also if he’s in love with me. And I would also fall in love even if his stoic. Because at least, he's honest in his feelings. Kanata is not your typical prince charming, but a man worthy to love. Ganern! And Kento in his Kanata (with matching cute sungking ngipin smile) is handsome.
Miura Shohei’s Chiaki. Chiaki Shibasaki is a typical goody-goody third-wheel or second leading man character. But this didn’t matter, thanks to Miura Shohei’s acting and charm (as well as because of the writers’ plot twists). Shohei made me feel that his Chiaki is worthy to be loved and admired. His care, sympathy, concern, and love for his brothers and Misaki registered genuine on screen. This is not to mention that he’s also a believable business-minded man with a heart. It's in his getups, manners, and facial expressions. He really embodied a heartthrob modern version of a knight shining armor for a pâtissier.
Okay, he was a heartthrob in his sweet moments with Mirei. But now that I know that they eventually get married (in real life) after they met in the show, I feel extra kilig whenever I recall their moments together. The moment I found the real score, I felt elated. It feels good to know that finally, I find foreign actors in the series I like are a couple in real life. This even more satisfied my thoughts that Miura and Mirei took their acting genuinely. Love it!
Mirei Kiritani’s Misaki Sakurai. Of all, so far, rom-com female actresses I have already watched (including my classic favorites) I am automatically convinced that Mirei Kiritani is kawaii, if not kirei. There’s something about her face or the combination of her eyes, lips, face shape, hair, and nose. Her eyes usually look serious but those serve as the window of her feelings. I felt the frustration, sympathy, admiration, kilig, or sadness by just looking at her eyes. Her lips and nose are quite flexible and they complement her eyes’ messages. I am amused by how the show used her lips to make meaningful scenes. Just check Misaki’s presentation cake for her interview and every time Kanata held and kissed them. Overall, Mirei’s face and smile exude sunny vibes.
As for her acting as Misaki, Mirei Kiritani is believably funny and lovely. It’s not so stunning in the heavy dramatic scenes but you can relate to her emotions. I can’t remember any flaws, except perhaps of her too much smiling. Those affected the realness/ authenticity of those situations. Good thing nga Mirei is kirei. naka-naks!
The rest of the cast members also delivered good acting, but I have a few additional comments:
Nomura Shuhei (played Touma). Given the exposure he had, Nomura gave justice to his role. You’ll hate his easy-go-lucky and insecure side, but you’ll appreciate his playful aspect.
Marie Litoyo (Fuka Ninomiya). It took me a few minutes before I appreciated the dialogue of Touma that he only liked Fuka because she’s cute. Well, Marie’s beauty is not my type of cute. However I am could attest that her Fuka’s character is indeed good and cute, really girlfriend material.
Kenta Hamano (Nobuyuki Himura). At first, I found Kenta’s acting corny or not that funny. His jokes were not that funny, but definitely, he added heart and feel-good vibe in the show.
Hinako Sano (Mikako Okuda). Hinako’s Mikako complement Kenta’s Nobuyuki
Kotaro Yoshida ( Ryo Higashimura). Well he’s a good villain.
- The backgrounds in telephone conversations. Nowadays text messaging, answering email, or phone conversations are commonly exploited in TV dramas. Visually they are not appealing unless someone needs to endorse a smartphone or communication company ( I respect the advertising value) or there's a need for it in terms of build-up/ twist.
Here in A Girl and Three Sweethearts, I like the idea that the writer (s) Sayaka Kuwamura (some sites credit Haruka Okita) made a point that whenever Misaki needs to have conversations, her friend was in various interesting places/situations. It’s a nice idea because, yes, you are not always in one place whenever you have a conversation with your friend. Two, it’s an opportunity to show features of a character or other elements. As for Misaki’s friend, I could easily point that she’s bubbly, vain or into pampering services, and event-goer. I even learned from those conversations what popular businesses or what are the type of mass gatherings in Japan.
- Run till you achieve something. I read before that Japanese actors are good runners, I see that in this Dorama. Chiaki, Kanata, and Misaki had their own running times. In fairness, they were all good runners and they didn’t run for no strong reasons.
- The Story flow. Generally, I like the simple but astute flow of A Girl and Three Sweethearts. This is just a 10-episode drama series (compare to 15+ episodes and almost 7 years of Ang Probinsyano hehe). And in spite of that, I didn’t feel something is missing or too fast. In the first episode alone, I am amazed how the writer(s) manage to concisely and artistically tell the journey of Misaki from Tokyo to Shounan (sic), from her solo life to her life with her three sweethearts, from her bad encounter with Kanata to their blossoming rapport. Even I rewatched it one to two more times, the continuity is there and everything is clear. Perhaps, I should also thank the subtitler(s) hehehe.
- Some settings. Most probably the Shibasaki residence was not exactly a whole house, same with Sea Sons Restaurant. At some points, I even wondered about the layouts of those places because of the exits and entry points. But never mind, because even they looked small spaces they’re cozy and complement the characters or the story.
Chiaki’s room had a computer and a lot of books—so good for a young business-minded lad.
Misaki’s room had a noticeable small table with lots of pens. And thankfully those were not just displays because Misaki did some writings and plannings inside or outside of her room.
The so-so points of A Girl and Three Sweethearts
I reiterate that I like this Dorama, but it could possibly deliver more if the following don't have so-so parts:
Kanata’s room wasn’t exactly fit for a chef, but it complemented his street-like casual boy side. But I wonder why it looked messy when Kanata was clearly a picky and almost perfectionist lad personally and professionally.
Sea Sons’ interior (including kitchen) area is visually cool, particularly from the top view. Its terrace is also magnificent, particularly when the camera pans the sea. What I don’t appreciate much is the facade. I can’t imagine how it’s connected to the main door, kitchen, or dining area. I didn’t see customers flocking in and out. Well, of course, it didn’t matter much somehow. But it would be a testament to Kanata’s cooking popularity and business promotion-prowess of Chiaki. Did he really handle five restaurants?
- Nanao (Kaede). Actually Nanao’s beauty matters in her character Kaede. She’s voluptuous and pretty that I think Misaki’s only edge is her eyebrows. But I think Nanao’s acting needs some level of internalization or consistency. She’s not a believable pianist for me.
- Sakurako Ohara (Manami Nishijima). I am fine with the timid and apologetic approaches of Ohara. But sometimes I think she showed too much of it in her facial expressions that she looked not genuine. I didn’t see her rapport/ connection with the people she talked with.
By the way, I found this Fuji Television features interesting