Harashima Shuichiro (Sanada Hiroyuki) is a wealthy but lonely businessman who succeeded his father's company after his death. Reputed to be cold, merciless, and corrupted in his dealings, he seeks only to expand his company and profit at the expense of others. One day, he experiences some painful seizures and decides to secretly visit a clinic. To his horror, he finds out that he has an incurable case of cancer and only has three months left to live. There, he is asked by a working-class man, Konosuke Shimodaira (Tamaki Koji) to lend him 30 cents. Unknowing of Harashima's plight, Konosuke cheerfully promises to pay Harashima back. Happy yet poor, Konosuke is the direct foil of Harashima - a man living an empty existence with money.
From this moment onwards, Konosuke invites Harashima into his world - a world without money, but brimming with compassion and friendship, alien concepts to Harashima's cold heart. Although Harashima at first resists Konosuke's attempts to become friends, he eventually gravitates towards Konosuke and his friends' warmth, even finding love in the innocent Kaori (Matsushima Nanako). However, they have no idea that Harashima is the same man who is planning to demolish their homes in order to build a business center. How will his newfound friends react, and what will Harashima do with his last remaining months left to live?
Like a breath of fresh air, Konna Koi no Hanashi (A Story of Love) extends beyond the usual boundaries of a typical love story and seeks to define the true meaning of happiness. Although the premise of the story involves the clichéd story of a rich, cold businessman and a poor girl who captures his heart, it uses the concept of impending death to trigger a momentous change that evolves throughout the drama. Unlike many older Korean melodramas, death is interweaved into the storyline, and not thrown in as an afterthought.
The crux of this drama is the heartbreaking realization from the very beginning that Harashima Shuichiro will die in the end. In 14 episodes, we learn through his jaded eyes the meaning of friendship, love, and happiness. Because Harashima Shuichiro has grown up disenchanted with the notions of loyalty and dedication in the business world, he never takes these things for granted, and the wonder apparent in his eyes when he sees these things for the first time makes the viewer's heart tingle.
Because the drama's theme refers constantly to the reflection of one's own life near death, it is often interlaced with many "life lessons". I was thus surprised when I did not find Konna Koi no Hanashi cheesy and overbearing, a trap the directors and actors could easily have fallen into. Perhaps it was the brilliant acting done by Hiroyuki, Koji, and Nanako, or the equally talented script-writing, but the drama felt genuine. Although I knew I was merely staring at my computer screen watching pictures move, I escaped for a brief moment in time, into a world where I actually envisioned the characters to be real. I wanted Harashima, Konosuke, and Kaori to exist; I wanted to experience with Harashima the pure, unadulterated vision of love and friendship, knowing that death was only a few moments away.
Koji Tamaki's performance as slightly goofy, carefree Konosuke Shimodaira brings a bit of comic relief from the otherwise serious, thought-invoking aspect of the drama. Dressed in sandals and a pair of shorts, he looks ridiculous next to a poised, well-dressed Harashima. Even the minor mannerisms in the way they sit and walk are polar opposites. Yet, towards the end of the drama, Harashima begins to adopt these minor mannerisms, a clear indication of his changing demeanor and character. It is also ironic to note that Harashima is the one who ultimately helps Konosuke find his source of happiness. Although Konosuke was first to initiate a relationship with Harashima, their friendship is deeper and more complex than it first appears to be. Konosuke and Kaori are not the only ones helping Harashima realize what it means to be happy, but Harashima draws light where Konosuke was too blind to see.
The only minor complaint I have about this drama is the casting of the secondary cast. Although several actors are well-fitted to their roles, namely Misao, one particular actor (Yosuke?) stuck out like a sore thumb and it detracted from my enjoyment of the series. He was perhaps the most minor of all characters on-screen, having only a few lines to deliver, yet even his actions seems awkward at best. Meant to be nothing more than a background friend of Kaori's and Konosuke's, I was always distracted by his poor acting and even poorer attempts to remain unseen and unheard. Frankly, it would have been better to leave the poor guy out, as with every scene I saw him in, I was disappointed.
Overall, I loved this series, but it may not be for everyone. Even romance is secondary to the theme of redemption and the meaning of life. However, I do highly recommend this to everyone who is looking for a drama that may not have the best-looking of actors, but a genuine pure story that will leave you breathless.
Rating: See it (4/5)
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edc3038374d2c29c4cd09c8c7492fae5 - January 15, 2021 - 12:07:46 pm