Because we all have a Cinderella little heart hiding somewhere deep down, I decided to recap Rich Man, Poor Woman. Ok, not really, but I was surprisedly pleased by the first episode, and kinda wanted to soothe the wait by writing about it. Are you (successfully or not) searching for a job? You can leave your resume behind, DramaLand accepts everyone.
Song of the Post:
Rich Man Poor Woman Main Theme ~ miwa –「ヒカリヘ」(Towards the Light)
Episode 1: (The worst possible meeting between a man worthing 25 billion and an unemployed woman)
In a Zen temple, a man ineffectively searches on his phone a woman called Sawaki Chihiro. Giving up, he is brought back to more material matters when his Real Time Stocks app rings. He, HYUGA TOHRU (Oguri Shun), isn’t the president of the IT firm NEXT INNOVATION for naught!
But in Las Vegas, his Vice-President ASAHINA KOSUKE (Iura Arata) quickly finds out that he left his team behind, thanks to the e-mail auto-reply software Hyuga set up. Haha, clever! I want one of those!
At Narita Airport, Yamagami Yoshiyuki (Sano Shiro), NEXT INNOVATION’s accountant, answers a three-way call, putting him on line with Hyuga and Kosuke. Right off the bat, Hyuga tells them he wants to buy an Indian cloud company, valued at 900 million, to Yamagami’s horror. But Asahina is interested, and backs Hyuga, who loses no time and completes the transaction. Err, right, millions are just numbers, eh.
Riding his bike, Hyuga zooms by the screens displaying his deal, patting himself on the back for his move. Yasuoka, an employee, comes to greet him, but catches his helmet instead. Not deterred, he still reports to his boss all the recent data but Hyuga stops him: “You, who are you?”
Following him in the elevator, Yasuoka sobs that Hyuga never remembers the faces of those not deemed interesting but is countered by a smile. What follows is a smooth introduction to the coolest company around. NEXT INNOVATION can boast of employing the cream of the crop of engineers (males) and beauties (females. DUH.), or having awesome facilities (seriously? Oxygen capsules?). Everyone looks fabulous and you know you want to work for them. Well, if you don’t mind the chauvinism, that is.
At the top, Hyuga, who at the age of 29 has a personal capital valued at 25 billion yen. Converted into an hourly wage, he earns 6M ¥/hour. Sheeeesh, sometimes, time really IS money. A screen displaying the sales of each team encourages competition among them, while Hyuga supervises every project, turning some into big scale deals.
Interviewed by journalists, he sums up his business philosophy: what they sell (virtual game items like clothing for avatars) costs nothing.
We are selling imaginary experiences, nothing is real. There’s no risk of not having enough stocks, and even if an item fails, you aren’t stuck with a warehouse full of unwanted products.
Welcome to the next generation. Embodying the Japanese version of a Mark Zuckerberg, he is the personification of a successful Internet entrepreneur. Having co-founded NEXT INNOVATION with Kosuke at the time when you’re supposed to enter university, a picture shows us how insecure and dull he looked like back then. But a lot happened, and he’s now confident in himself and in his company.
Confidence isn’t really the first word coming to mind, when it comes to our heroine (Ishiraha Satomi). Totally lacking in that department, she remembers how excited and hopeful she was, when the dreaded「就活」- Shuukatsu (abbreviation of 就職活動 – Job Hunting) period began.
To better understand her situation, keep in mind that you have more chances to land a job if you start searching for it while still in school. The shuukatsu season is more or less fixed (spanning from Autumn to Spring) and if you fail during this period, you’re doomed. Like so many other third-year college students, our heroine attended numerous companies’ seminars, bought the job-hunting reference books and pitied those left only with the choice to repeat a year to get a second chance.
But as the months flew by, she grew more and more anxious, as writing endless entry sheets and resumes didn’t help. Both her friends Kuga and Haruka faced the same predicament, and they all blamed the whole system, forcing them to sacrifice their precious time for study. Add to that juggling with a part-time job, and soon exhaustion took its toll on our poor girl.
April came and she scored not even one offer. Now the one to meet a councelor, she desperately grabs her reference book:
I was told it was better to follow the book, so I thoroughly studied it!
Depressed, she doesn’t get the hiring process, having sticked to the rules and failed. As calm as she’s disturbed, the counselor advises her not to worry so much. To which I want to say: “You have a job, man. You can’t understand.” Looking at his badge, she seems to think the same.
Trudging lifelessly (as in “life-has-been-sucked-out-of-this-corpse”) in the streets, she almost gets hit by Hyuga’s bike, and that’s the last straw. She screams full-force, asking for a break, but he’s already far away. That incident makes her pay more attention to his company’s skyscraper and she sits close by, watching the employees.
They’re all dressed fashionably, and have a nice job. What is so different between them and her? As she slumps her head, she notices her worn-out shoes. There goes your divine answer, girl. Just as she dejectedly walks away, Hyuga flies off. Well, kinda, since he’s in the glass elevator, but the contrast is telling.
Meeting privately with his associates, Hyuga informs them of his new, ambitious project: a connected system taking a census of the whole Japanese population. This would avoid the numerous pension system scandals Japan had to face these recent years. Detaining unorganized information is useless, and that’s why Hyuga offers to turn that into an opportunity. Yamagami asks for more details, so he reveals with a grin:
I want a personal file on each citizen.
Yamagami sees the practical advantage (not having to go to the city hall anymore) but his inner accountant gains the upper hand when he realizes that they’ll have to come up with the investment. That gets on Hyuga’s nerves, who doesn’t trust the government to change the current unfair system. And indeed, there are cases of people dying before receiving their pension while others still get it even after their death. I know, crazy.
Yamagami brings up the risky aspect, but Hyuga has had enough. If it were his company, he wouldn’t do it, right? But they will. A glance at Kosuke quickly confirms that he has at least one partner on his side.
When Yamagami confidentially complains later, Kosuke agrees that Hyuga has spending issues, but that such a large scale project is exciting. As he said when he recruited him, this work will never be boring. That convinces Yamagami, who wonders if Hyuga remembers his name. Kosuke tells him that he surely remembers it, but not quite his face, as he suffers from Prosopagnosia, a face recognition disorder. He wonders: does that has a relation with his new project?
In their university lab, our resident job hunter seeks some comfort, without misplaced pity, thanks. Kuga points to Hyuga, featured on the cover of Genie magazine (snort), suggesting her to set up her own company. She won’t, though she grows interested in this 29 y/o guy racking in cash, and who dropped out of high school.
But she freezes the second she sees his picture, and needs to be pushed to hear Haruka, who found on the net that NEXT INNOVATION is soon setting a recruiting session. It could be her destiny, Kuga says, before learning about the conditions required to be hired: fashion model types, taller than 165 sm. “You don’t stand a chance”. Nice having you as a friend, buddy.
Our girl is lost in thought after that, and visits the website once she’s at home but is interrupted by a phone call. It’s her brother, who after scolding her for not giving any news, worries about her well-being. He tries to encourage her, saying how her future is assured after all the hard work she put into her education.
Everyone is behind her, agreeing that she’s brilliant, so what’s the matter? Looking at all the unsuccessful job offers, she depressedly mutters that it may be a failure, but hangs up quickly. Err, you certainly mean well, big bro, but you’re adding even more pressure on her.
Checking the package sent by her parents, she can’t help but tear up when she spots the allowance envelope put among the regional snacks. My heart, it’s tightening. Guilt, shame, gratitude, love seem to mix in her tears as she smiles and decides that she really needs someone to cheer her up. Not Kuga, ok?
Instead, she (virtually) turns to Hyuga, watching his presentation video. Ironically, he says all the words she needed to hear:
Even a single person can change the world. Make the possible, possible.
Taking her allowance with her on a shopping trip, she sees that she hasn’t enough to buy a new model of shoes, and choses to stick with a pair of the same brand she’s wearing. Wanting to try them, she goes to the clerk who asks if she’s job hunting. Smiling in complicity, she says『がんばってくださいね』- Gambatte Kudasai Ne (Do your best!), and adds that she herself wore out 3 pairs last year. Imma cry, Show, Imma cry!
Alone in the dark office, Hyuga writes a mail to “Sawaki Chihiro”, with the question “Could you be my mother…” hanging as a memory takes over. His mother (whose face we can’t see) abandoned him and went away, leaving him crying his heart out. But when he tries to send the message, it doesn’t get through, no matter how many times he stubbornly clicks the icon.
As if that wasn’t enough, he’s being striked later by a Zen head monk using his『警策』- Keisaku (Warning Stick). Concentrate, will you! Though Hyuga successfully changes the monk’s attitude as he casually asks where the temple finds its maintenance fees. Keh, questionable move, but well played. Before leaving, he tells the monk that he found a person with the same name as his mother, even if she may not be her. Hesitating, he wonders if he’s being self-centered, searching for his birth, but the monk states that everyone wants to know who they are.
D-Day for NEXT INNOVATION’s recruiting session. Hundreds of job hunters swarm in the building, almost scaring away our little girl, but a quick look at her shoes revives her will. Walking through the sea of black suits, she finally sits at the first row, which is just the perfect place if you want to see your (potentially) future boss from up-close.
And indeed, her eyes sparkle when Hyuga appears, looking all dapper in his suit (but the shoes ruined it). Watching from the backstage, Kosuke is joined by his sister, ASAHINA YOKO (Aibu Saki), coming straight from the airport. She grumbles about Hyuga being the only one going on stage but Kosuke retorts that he’s better alone. Taking a good look at her brother’s face, Yoko throws herself in his arms: “I’m back!”
Repeating himself, Hyuga speaks about the impossible becoming possible, and how the old values everyone once thought unshakable can be destroyed by one person in one day. Taking his own life as an example, he tells the crowd to make their choice; are they considering themselves as the unlucky ones, giving up and watching from the side or are they deciding to change the world?
Enough with the speeches! Hyuga scans the room, and points at one guy: “What did you come here for?” Ugh, I hate this kind of public interrogation. Eager, the man replies that he wants to work with him but Hyuga quickly brushes him off: “So, once you’re with us you’ll be fulfilled and will belong to the passive crowd.” Eeeeeeeeh. Slashed. He designates someone else, who readily springs up: “If I enter NEXT INNOVATION, I will do something new.” Geh, ass-kisser. Hyuga bursts out laughing, amazed at the man’s cocky attitude. Are you saying that you’ll loaf around, waiting for “something new” to fall on your lap? That won’t happen. NEXT!
Doing exactly what I’d do in the same circonstances (namely, trying to merge with my seat) our girl is Hyuga’s next pick. She stands up, petrified, as he asks how many job offers she got. Hearing that there’s none, he scoffs and guesses that she’s coming from an obscure university. In a spurt of pride, she counters that she’s from Todai (Tokyo Daigaku – University of Tokyo), read: elite. But that only proves his point, and he notes that they’re living in an era where even those who graduated from illustrous universities aren’t rewarded. Argh, cringe, cringe, cringe!
Jumping back on stage, Hyuga declares that those who didn’t get any offers should go. After all, they’ve been scrutinized by various companies for the past months, which means that only those who managed to get through are suitable for him. Peace sign ♥
NOT. Only those who scored more than 2 offers can stay. The room loudly protests, as Kosuke comments that now he sees the Hyuga he believed in. Enjoying the moment, Hyuga reminds the “Todai Graduate” that she should go too. Shooting him a weak glare, she proceeds to but he’s not finished. Pointing at her, he states that she’s the living example of the Japanese educational system’s failure. OH NO, you didn’t you jerk.
That makes her trip and fall, losing her brand new shoes in the process, which leads Hyuga to add: “Scratch that, she’s more of a victim.” Reciting what he knows about her, each of his words hits her in the gut, materializing her inner fears.
She has been studying as she was told, and yet grew to be such a useless person.
Remembering her brother’s words, she pulls herself together and stands up, putting her shoes back on. Yeah to the Cinderella who picks her own slipper and stands for herself. Turning to Hyuga, she suddenly talks super fast, tracing his company’s history, from the humble webpage to the Tokyo stock exchange. She switches to his employees, displaying her incredible memory but Hyuga stops her short. While everyone has been impressed, he says that he perfectly understood that she has a huge memory filled with useless details. GROOOAAAR!
Voice trembling, she tells him that she studied about NEXT INNOVATION in every detail because she sincerely wants to enter it. Sure, other companies didn’t select her, but that doesn’t mean that she’s not suited for his company. Entry sheets aren’t everything, and having communication skills doesn’t equate being a good employee.
Yes, she’s clumsy and feels awkward when she’s in public but doesn’t a group need diversity? From behind, a voice yells at her loser ass to go home, but she digs her heels in. Hyuga should pay attention to each person carefully, even if a thousand people apply.
Flashing her a smile, he agrees but adds that even if he does, the same people would stay in the room today. Her rebellious spirit is a good thing, because those who change the world are rebellious by nature. He repeats that as he comes closer, calling her Miss Science Graduate.
Gyaaaaaaaaaaah! Finally! To tell the truth, it’s only at that moment that I realized that I didn’t properly hear her name! Man, it was tough, racking my brain to keep the surprise and manage to not make a nameless heroine look too strange.
Transfixed, Hyuga’s brain tries to compute the news and he deduces that what his phone found was her informations. Still, the picture in his head remains blank, as his face currently is. He confirms her name and tells her that he remembers it, though he’ll surely forget her face.
Being harsh and cold is fine, but even before his strategy meeting, our pretty boy can’t refrain from searching about Sawaki Chihiro again. Kosuke leads the meeting, highlighting that they need a contract with the government. Yamagami, ever the killjoy, notes that it’s not an easy task but Kosuke has set his mind. They’ll meet the representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
But there’s a catch: Hyuga hates the vice-director, Fujikawa Masako, the epitome of the government official. With such a person, they need a girl like her, enjoying homework. Hmm, I wonder who that’ll be.
Walking to their office, Chihiro looks at the building with apprehension, before giving herself a pep talk and enter confidently. That lasts like two seconds, though. Once inside, she’s greeted by Hyuga himself, who stuns everyone by calling her name. They all turn to see the face of the lucky girl, and Yasuoka even congratulates her. Thing is, she remembers him as the wasted guy from her waitress part-time job. Keh.
As soon as she enters Hyuga’s room, he says he needs her for 48 hours and asks about her price. Haha, that’s not misleading or anything. Clarifying things, he motions for her to take the HUGE binder. This is her homework. Say goodbye to sleep, girl. He explains that they’ll meet a ministry official the next day for their new project and want to make a perfect first impression.
They chose her because they’re sure she’ll completely hit it off with the official. Chihiro is more suprised by the fact that she’ll only work two days, pretty much giving ammunition to Hyuga: “You thought I called you for a final interview?” You cheeky bastard.
At home, she proceeds to read at the speed of light thousands of pages about SNS and cloud computing, as she’s supposed to pose as a chief programmer. Meanwhile, Hyuga and Kosuke are busy moving a giant refrigerator in Hyuga’s empty house. This guy knows his priorities. The conversation drifts towards their company’s future, Hyuga saying that surely they don’t want to be stuck at the level of cellphone games.
What amazed people yesterday leaves them listless today. What was rare yesterday is taken for granted today.
Oh, those are true words. What excites Hyuga is thinking that in maybe 5 years, a retired old woman would have access to her pension in one click. Kosuke mentions their need for a governmental backup, prompting an annoyed Hyuga to wonder if he’s scared. He’s not, and quotes himself: “If it’s you, you can do it.”
These are the magical words that encouraged Hyuga back when they started the company, as he fondly remembers what they both wrote on the office wall. Hyuga:『今ここにない未来は自分で創る』- loosely translated as “Create your own future if it doesn’t exist right now.” and Kosuke:『お前ならできる!!』- “If it’s you, you can do it.”
But the “You” Kosuke used wasn’t a general one. It was destined to Hyuga. “I can’t do it alone. But YOU can do it.” Aww, I really like their bond. A bit embarrassed, Hyuga suggests eating when the door rings. It’s Kosuke’s sister, Yoko, and she’s surprised to see Hyuga open the door. He greets her with a smile, but she disappointedly remarks to herself that he doesn’t recognize her.
As a cook, she’s impressed by his modern refrigerator and hands him some appetizers she prepared. He turns to take a sniff, and grimaces, which she notices. Ha, what a kid. Kosuke comments that he succeeded in snatching her away from her California restaurant to promote her as the regular Chef of the restaurant owned by their company.
She comes closer to Hyuga, to help him, and casually observes that there are lots of food he doesn’t eat. Puzzled, he looks at her but she laughs it off and doesn’t press further. Instead, she goes to her brother, who tells her not to associate too much with Hyuga, because of his Prosopagnosia disorder. Hearing that, Hyuga assures him with a smile that he’ll remember her. Seems more like self-persuasion, though.
The next day, Chihiro defiantly warns Hyuga not to underestimate her, as she perfectly remembers all she read. All boss like, he counters that he’ll agree if the mission is a success. A quick look at her, from head to toe leads him on an other topic. Their challenger is a very sophisticated woman, and Chihiro’s fashion just won’t do it.
Ready? Time for a Pretty Woman montage! He’s aiming at a refined and beautiful look but pauses. “Am I asking for the impossible?” Pffft. I was about to groan at the use of such a hackneyed scene, but Show proved me wrong. Right when you’re supposed to be caught up in the moment, Chihiro enjoying the different outfits she tries, the music stops abruptly. Hyuga leaves with a sigh: “It’s taking some time.” Hahaha, men.
Cinderella is brought back to Earth when she realizes it’s not over, as Hyuga heads to an Armani shop. Having come to pick them up, Kosuke’s jaws drop at the sight of After Chihiro. A proud
Pygmalion Hyuga retorts that they needed this much for someone supposed to represent their company. Who knows, Chihiro may even offer a smile in exchange! Pfft.
But for the moment, girl gotta get used to her heels. Tough work, honey. Our trio arrives at a fancy mansion, the men fist bumping before going on the battlefield. Seeing the garden party, Chihiro suddenly feels nauseous when a wave of stress hits her. Kosuke asks if she wants to quit and she glances at Hyuga who immediately looks away. But he says the magical words: “If it’s you, you can do it.”, bringing a smile on her face, while Kosuke mutters under his breath that it’s his line! Go patent it, buddy!
Revived, Chihiro confidently converses with Vice-director Fujikawa, mentioning all those little details about her work that only someone knowledgeable would understand. Obviously, Hyuga doesn’t get a thing but Fujikawa is amazed by her mind and happily notes that at last there’s someone with who she can hold a conversation.
Riding on the good mood, Hyuga smoothly introduces the system Chihiro supposedly developed, but Fujikawa wants to be sure of the security aspect and calls over an office chief. Hyuga grows anxious, not recognizing this coming face and Kosuke stands up to help him when Chihiro comes to the rescue. Quick and discreet, she presents the man’s name and position, reminding Hyuga that they already met. That saves him, as he can now greet the chief without difficulty. Examining the scene, Kosuke sees that she’s quite useful.
About to leave, Fujikawa reveals that she’s more comfortable about the project if Chihiro is onboard. Delighted, and getting carried away, Chihiro guarantees that with their system, there won’t be any pension records blunders again. With a forced smile, Fujikawa assumes the responsability, as she worked at the Social Insurance Agency. Chihiro’s face: Oh. Crap.
Fortunately, Hyuga takes over, declaring that it’s certainely extremely difficult to manage 120 million records but that thanks to their technology, people’s life will be radically improved. Playing along, Fujikawa wonders if that will also erase her feeling of guilt, making Chihiro feel even worse.
Once alone, Hyuga lets his anger explode, barking at her that she wants to ruin the company, by acting all complacent. He then rips into her self-esteem, yelling that he toooootally gets that she can only do what she’s been told, and that nobody asked her to think or act on her own. Insisting on how well he figured her out, he adds insult to injury as he growls that she should keep in mind that she’s unnecessary to them.
A little drive effectively cool off Hyuga’s head, and he spots the shoes Chihiro left in his car. That triggers a flash of their confrontation during the recruiting session followed by the shopping interlude. Her face, as she helped him in the garden party, comes up, and he decides to deliver some words of praise. Oh, you think?
He goes back just in time to witness Kosuke gently comforting Chihiro. He can’t hear them, when Kosuke reassures her that she did well, and not only on what she was told to do. Thanks to her, they started a new business. She doubts it, but he playfully pokes her, saying that she should. Offering to treat her to a restaurant, he lets her get in his car, while Hyuga watches them from afar before (frustratingly?) driving away.
In the car, Kosuke promises she can order whatever she wants, but has to ask her one thing: “Who are you?” Huuuuh?
You’re not Sawaki Chihiro.
What did you say? Omo. Pulling over, he produces an investigation notice made on her, and says that she’s using a pseudonym. He’s about to say her name but she cuts him off. “Who cares about my name. He doesn’t remember anything anyway.” Kosuke conjectures that she changed it to get closer to Hyuga and questions her about the real Sawaki Chihiro. Why does she know that name?
Damn, you got me, Show. I totally didn’t see that coming.
Rich Man Poor Woman (RMPW) suffers from its insanely trite title, and I confess I conceived some prejudices about this drama even before reading the premise just because of that. I mean, can you do more cliché and uninspired than that? I decided to watch it anyway after reading more, because I was curious to see how their depiction of modern young adults would turn out.
And it was good! I was completely taken by surprise, as I never thought this drama would have such a tone and flair, and with such a swift pace, I didn’t have time to get bored. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed what happened to be a pretty strong first episode. Not only did the show present us our main characters in their surroundings, but we also got to have a look at the Japanese system and the (real) situation of its youth.
We have here some interesting characters, and a promising foursome who already shows signs of nuances. So far, the writing balances a fair proportion of humor, emotion and suspense, the acting is good, and the execution is quite deft. You can have an idea of it simply by watching the opening below, which also provides a clear presentation of the characters. But what really decided me to recap it was those little moments with Chihiro, as we follow her in the harsh job hunting world. Long story short: I believe in the story.
I believe in it because I know what Chihiro is going through, as I experienced it myself. I certainely don’t share her personality, but I can emotionally relate to her as I know how hard and mentally exhausting job hunting can be. Ishihara Satomi perfectly plays this somewhat naive yet socially awkward character. I like it that she shows signs of a strong personality, despite her insecurities, as she can be obstinate and hot-tempered when time calls for it. I loved it when she appears to be less innocent than we thought, in how she managed to worm her way into Hyuga’s picture. We still have no clue about her real identity, as even the opening doesn’t give her a name, but a question mark.
I’ve never been a fan of Oguri Shun, even though I watched both his Hana hits: Hana Yori Dango (Hanadan) and Hanazakari no Kimitachi E (Hanakimi), but I must say that he really impressed me. I didn’t see an actor playing a role. I saw a man called Hyuga Tohru, stat. His character was obviously written after famous entrepreneur names like Zuckerberg, but the way it entwines with the story was particularly well-done. He dropped out of high school, which is extremely rare in a country boasting 98.9% of school enrollment in secondary school. Even Chihiro gasped when she heard that. Despite that (or rather, because of his bold personality), he built a successful business, shaking the old beliefs.
I found particularly interesting how he’s set to represent the new generation, born from the failing of the Japanese traditional business models, which just aren’t effective anymore. Pitted against him is Chihiro who, with her prestigious education, is a perfect product of the elite class. How ironic that what “should be” is being reversed: she has the diplomas, but he (literally) owns the job. His background is purposedly mysterious (as well as “Chihiro”), so I’m looking forward to see it unveil.
Beside our main couple, Asahina Kosuke also made a strong impression on me. I’m smelling a bromance, and I love it. Well, technically, it’s supposed to already be there, but I won’t complain. His sister doesn’t look like she’ll play Bitch-san anytime soon, so no problems here. Well, except the hair. Together as siblings, they’re awfully cute.