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[REVIEW and RECAP] HIMITSU NO HANAZONO: Episode 1
by bluelaw

In between its A-list cast, led by top actor Tsuruga Ren and one of the most promising rising actresses today, Kyouko, and the hitmaker director-scriptwriter tandem, Shingai Seiiji and Nakamura Midori – Himi no Hana (as fondly called by fans) is probably the most anticipated and most hyped-up drama of the year. So, when I was asked to do a recap and translation of its pilot episode – I felt conflicted. I was deeply honored as I was entrusted to do the task, but wary as well – I'm not really a fan of soul-swapping plot device, and I might just dish out a lot of narcissistic references and jokes that I'm afraid will make fans throw tomatoes at me.

But, lo and behold! After watching the first episode, I think it is safe to say that there was nothing for me to worry about. To say that I love the drama is an overstatement. Love is such a strong word, and it is too early to say at this point. But with the first episode's great pacing and solid acting coming from the cast, Himi no Hana is off to a promising start.

The drama achieved a premiere rating of 19.2%, a testament to the star power of its cast (despite dramaland experiencing some sort of viewer's slump and the recent identity scandal of Tsuruga Ren). But perhaps, the drama is tapping into an overlooked audience – after all it's been a while since a romantic comedy series aired during the weekends.

EPISODE 1 RECAP

The drama started with a panoramic view of a picturesque landscape straight out of an Austen novel, zooming across well-kept grounds towards an extravagant mansion where our hero, Tadatoshi Akira (Tsuruga Ren), lives. A female voice-over can be heard, lecturing about Indian summer. The voice was revealed to belong to a female weather reporter on television. And while Akira - dressed in his usual business attire, ready to begin an ordinary day - walked down the stairs into his vast living room, we see the female reporter wink at him at the end of her lecture. But, seemingly, everything happened in our hero's imagination, since in a blink, everything was normal.

His rich, successful celebrity cousin, Tadatoshi Ryuu (Matsumoto Jin), lives on the same grounds, and as Akira-sama drives off to the city that morning, he can't escape witnessing Ryuu make out with his actress girlfriend, Li Emiko, at the side of the road. Not batting an eyelash at his cousin's typical behavior, he continued driving out. But that wasn't the only typical Ryuu behavior. After Akira drove past them, we see how he cavalierly broke-off with his girlfriend, with a "It's been good while it lasts!" and a goodbye kiss.

Akira apparently went to an omiai* in an art gallery, and Mai (Inoue Riko) tried her best to impress him with her looks, her intelligence and her background – after all, who would be able to resist a pretty lady who is a granddaughter of a cabinet minister, a daughter of a hotelier, and a commercial director. Oh, Akira would. He was not at all impressed, and continued spouting comments which she was not entirely sure whether she's being insulted or he's saying something she doesn't understand. Any other
woman would be offended, but she pressed on.

As they finished their walk through the gallery and sat down for coffee, Mai noted how he seemed disconnected all throughout their meeting, and remarked that she's not that interested in an arranged marriage, so if he's uncomfortable, he's free to leave.

Akira, instead of being impressed at how liberated and free-thinking she sounded, scoffed at the idea of a love match, especially if people-such-as-himself would end up marrying a person beneath his level. Mai, who is used to men falling for her 'modern woman' act, found Akira's rejection interesting.

After the marriage meeting, we find Mai chatting with one of her lackeys inside the posh lounge of Akira's hotel. We also find out that she was once involved with Ryuu, and this fact, she intended to hide against Akira. Meanwhile, Akira's rejection did not matter to her, as she imagined herself as his wife, and proceeded to rudely comment at all the other people in the lounge – generally, calling them social climbers.

Suddenly, murmurs broke into the lounge, as a rugged, tomboyish woman entered. The rich ladies were indignant at how the woman can so blatantly offend their sensibilities by walking inside their lounge and having coffee wearing unbranded clothing. At this, Mai stood up and confronted the woman who was revealed to be Aida Rin (Kyouko). Mai scolded the waitress for being lax in the implementation of the hotel's VIP policy. She snatched the waitress' name tag to have her reported.

Rin, who was a friend of the waitress, instead of talking back to Mai, stood up and offered to leave. She tried to approach Mai outside the hotel and asked politely that her friend's nametag be returned, but Mai's friend was mugged before she even had a chance. Rin wasn't inclined to help, but realizing that it might help her, went after the mugger. The mugger had jumped inside the car of his cohorts, but Rin who was determined to try to get the bag back, went after them in her bike, going into a series of BMX stunts. She fought off the band of thieves, retrieved the stolen handbag, and returned it to Mai. Mai, true to her form, did not even give her thanks – even a grudging one. Instead, she asked her companion to check if there is anything missing. Rin let it pass, instead, she asked Mai to return her friend's name tag. Mai told her she threw the tag on the trash can near inside the hotel, near the door. Fed up with Mai's snobby attitude, Rin ordered Mai to get the same in the trash, since she was the one who threw it.

Mai was lying, however, and pulled the tag out from her purse and declares that they're now even. Rin did not respond, instead, she grabbed the used tissue from Mai's friend and threw the same inside Mai's purse, saying that she's just putting the trash inside the trash bag.

A change of scene, and now we see Rin in her workplace. She's currently working as a stunt double for Ryuu's ex-girlfriend, Li Emiko, in an action flick. Emiko is a perfect example of a diva – and continuously picked on Rin.

Rin listens to Ryuu's songs to console herself while she waits beside the action school's service van, The action school director, Shin, noticed her distress and tried to console her, but Rin insists that she's fine. The other stuntmen teased her instead to lift her spirits, saying that Emiko is just jealous because Rin is prettier, to which, Rin cutely responded that such is the burden that people who are born beautiful must bear.

Director Shin gave her tickets to Ryuu's concert to cheer her up, knowing that she's a huge fan, and knowing that she would decline if he gave it personally, he left the tickets in her locker with a note telling Rin to bring a friend. Rin, who was left with no choice but to accept, attended the concert but instead of bringing someone else, she came with Director Shin. While she enjoys the concert, Shin looks at her adoringly.

Akira's there too (under penalty of death) with his sister, and was bored out of his mind. He goes on complaining how bad Ryuu is as a singer. His sister shushed him and told him to behave, and if he didn't she's going to tell Ryuu-nii to not renew his endorsement contract with the hotel.

Mai was also there, looking somewhat wistful and melancholic, as she watched Ryuu from afar.

The scene transitioned to show Akira's arrival at his hotel – which is quite a scene to watch. He opts to take the escalators, instead of the elevators, to reach his office at the top floor. His employees complain at this, since they were directed to bow respectfully to the CEO whenever he deigned to cross their paths. Another source of complaint is his rather lax work schedule – only coming to work twice a week, and yet demands that each and every employee from his executive staff down to the lowest rank to give his best.

He came to the office to discuss Ryuu's renewal of his endorsement contract with the hotel. He doesn't want to do it, knowing how conceited his cousin had become since he had risen to A-list ranks. But all must be set aside for the sake of business.

The two discussed the matter over drinks. Aside from his attitude - which Akira didn't like - was the contract fee. He doesn't want to give Ryuu a fee increase pointing out that it's not a matter of money, but of pride. Ryuu, however, refuses to lower his rate. While discussing the matter, Ryuu's attention was diverted to a singer, whose performance on stage mesmerized him.

Another scene change. Emiko was still put off at how she was dumped by Ryuu. She tried calling Ryuu, but the latter refused to take her calls. When he still refuses to pick up, Emiko threatened to reveal their relationship to the reporters who were there to cover the film.

Rin was nearby, waiting for Emiko to finish her call so that they can practice the upcoming action scene, which was a sword fight. Since the latter was still in a foul mood while practicing, she made an angry swipe in the air with her sword – straight at Rin. Both were thrown off-balance, and to break Emiko's fall, Rin lurched forward to grab her, but instead of putting the actress out of harm's way, they both fell into a pile of props.

Emiko shrieks over a scratch on her thumb, while Rin, who felt the most of the impact and cut her upper arm when she landed on glass, suffered silently. She covered the wound with a jacket and apologizes for the accident. Yet, the director did not accept her apology, and yelled at her instead for injuring Emiko. Director Shin defended her, and when the director threatened to fire the stuntmen, he angrily declared that he'll just call off his crew from the movie since his crew will not be safe on a set like that. He then ordered his crew to pack up.

Ryuu, who had now learned of Emiko's threat, called Akira to ask the latter to find Emiko and to delay her for a few hours and to get the photos of their time together which the actress threatened to release. He can't go because he's about to record an appearance on Yappa Kimagure Rock. Akira doesn't want to do it and tried to hang up, but Ryuu, who was so desperate, agreed to sign the contract renewal – and for free! - just to get Akira to do him a favor. Akira agreed, and cut short his session with his personal psychiatrist. We discover that he's currently taking pills to deal with his claustrophobia. From what we gather, just riding an elevator makes him unable to breathe.

Akira arrived at the set, and asked one of the staffs for Emiko. The staff sleepily pointed at Rin – who was at that moment, pleading with the film director to let her continue filming – instead, since the actress and Rin were dressed the same.

He approached Rin, and instead of asking if she's Emiko, asked her with, "You know Ryuu, right?". When she answered in the affirmative, he drove them to the hotel where she first met Ryuu. Akira assumed they were going to a lover's hotel, while Rin remembered the first time she actually met Ryuu in a hotel for filming.

They arrived at the hotel, and upon hearing the suite number, Akira cursed, and eyed the elevator warily. He started making up excuses, proclaiming that he's not that sort of guy who can be seen riding the elevator with a woman going up to a hotel room. Rin gave him an 'oh-really' look, and closed the elevator doors. He then took the stairs.

While waiting inside the suite, Rin thinks back to her first meeting with Ryuu, when she was playing the double for Minami Yuuko, in Tokyo Crazy Paradise. Akira arrived, exhausted from his flight up the stairs. He told Rin that they'd have to be alone for another hour, and proceeded to engage her in a conversation – curiosity getting the better of him.

Akira's questions were ambiguous enough that Rin misunderstood and answered each and every one of them at face value, not noticing the
former's increasingly scandalized (and really hilarious) reaction.

For instance, when Akira asked how much she usually makes from seeing a top star such as Ryuu, Rin clarified if he was asking about a guarantee or appearance fee. Akira smirked, thinking that it was just a classy way to put it and dismissed her question, telling her to call it what she like and just answer since he was just curious. He was, however, taken aback when she answered: "I don't get paid more for doing it with a top star. I do get a little more if it's in the countryside or out in the open, though, since those are the trend these days." HAHAHAHA.

Everything gets even better when Rin told him that he pay is best for car scenes, probably because they are difficult to execute, to which Akira responded: "Of course, it's hard. Uncomfortable and cramped. But, men like it." *JUST DIED LAUGHING*

He was amazed when she boldly agreed and readily admitted: "Of course. Men like speed and excitement." HAHAHAHA. PRICELESS.

Rin finally caught on that he thought she's Emiko and called him baka for making such a silly mistake. She then received a call from the filming director about their afternoon shoot, so she offered to bring Akira to Emiko. But if they want to make it in time, he'd better let her drive.

This is another scene worth watching. We see Rin speeding down the highway with Akira, screaming like a girl and holding on for dear life, in the passenger seat.

They reached the filming site just in time for Akira to stop Emiko from revealing anything in the press conference. He was able to persuade her to keep her silence by threatening further scandal. On his way out, he caught a glimpse of Rin practicing a fight scene with the other stunt men, and he was impressed with her skills, and even a bit infatuated. He waited for her to finish filming and started talking to her in his blunt, inquisitive way. He asked her why she's doing physical work and wondered if it's because she's not smart. The question came out rudely than he intended due to his lack of tact, and she kicked him in response.

He tried to keep the conversation going, like a little boy. He thought she's faking her arm injury until he saw the blood trailing as she walked away. She tried to shush his reaction, as she was trying to hide the injury from the crew, but he's not having it. He insisted on bringing her to the hospital, seeing how she's feverish and weak. On their way in the hospital, Akira made it clear that he's not interested in her, and that it was just a good deed, out of basic ethics of society leaders. He called his personal doctor to look after Rin, which amazes the doctor since that was so unlike him. Plus, she's his psychiatrist.

Rin's phone rang, a call from Director Shin, and Akira answered. Shin rushes over after hearing what happened to Rin from the doctor. Meanwhile, Akira noticed that Rin was wearing Ryuu socks. Affronted, he pulled them off her feet and threw them into the trash.

Shin arrived just as Rin starts waking up. He was furious because she ignored her injury – but also annoyed that another man was there. He was further annoyed when Akira was the one to catch Rin when she swayed in dizziness. But not to be defeated, he shoved Akira aside and carried Rin out.

Akira followed outside and watched as Rin maintained strict formality with her boss, and politely refused his offer for a ride home. She promised to take a taxi, and Shin finally relents. Akira took this all in, he drove slowly and he watched as Rin walked slowly. Unable to resist, he finally pulled over.

He asked her, in his blunt way, if she was hoping the director would come back for her. Then, asked her if it's because she has no money and offered to take her home. He even offered to put up the convertible top which he'd refused to do earlier, to get her to agree.

She was glaring at him, but before she was able to answer, a van screeches and stopped near them, and out comes Ryuu. The latter did not notice Rin and proceeded to ask Akira what happened with Emiko. The cousins started their usual bickering, until Ryuu took notice of Rin. His playboy side took over, and he told Rin that he remembered her, especially her eyes and the way she tucked one foot behind the other in that classic shy little-girl pose.

Akira sighed at his attitude, thinking that Ryuu's at it again, but it seems he really does remember her. He remembered she was the double for Minami Yuuko, who was playing the lead role, for Tokyo Crazy Paradise. And in a eureka-moment, he declared: "You still look cool, Miss Aida Rin!"

Rin all but melts at his feet, happy that her celebrity crush remembered her. Ryuu smiled at her charmingly, while Akira gaped at them.#


EPISODE REVIEW

The first episode did an excellent job of introducing the characters and establishing character relationships between the four leads and supporting characters.

Tsuruga Ren had played his character, Tadatoshi Akira, well. Honestly, for an actor who's public image is a 'gentleman' (though, recent events bring doubt to that) he had nailed the portrayal of mainstream shoujo manga male leads – rich, arrogant, handsome, and a perfectionist – among other traits to list. He manages the family hotel, despite the employees grumbling behind his back due to his two-day-a-week work schedule. But he was so successful, and an exacting employer, shown by his, "Is this the best? Are you sure?" line, delivered to his executive team as he shot down each and every suggestion they make for the hotel's promotional activities.

Although he seems to be stereotypical, half-way through, we learn that the haughty-attitude and his refusal to go to work regularly were just a façade, a mask to hide his weak spot – his colossal fear of riding an elevator. He is also a very frank person, first shown when he told Mai that the reason they were doing their marriage meeting in the art gallery was because he need not waste his time since: "From the distance she walks, her temperament shows. From her appreciation of art, you can see her level of culture. You can see if she's a woman that would go to an art gallery or a club. If she prefers perfume that's overwhelming or subtle. The answers come out more quickly."

And consistently shown with his interactions with Rin, most especially when he told her he wants to drive her home and that he doesn't need a reason to do it other than because he wants to.

Kyouko continues to grow in an amazing pace as an actress, with her portrayal of Aida Rin. She had managed to create a new breed of kick-ass heroine – not too tough, but not too soft, either, and feminine enough to steal hearts. Like Akira, her personality has very interesting sides to it. She is hardworking, acts like one of the guys, since she works as a stuntwoman for action movies and most of her co-workers are men. She's assertive and strong-willed in her personal life, but at work, she often says "I'm sorry", and accepts insult from the actress she's doubling for and sometimes, a harsh reprimand from the director, even when those are undeserved. She's shy when she's complimented, and doesn't put an effort into looking feminine, but she had looked on longingly when the director told Emiko that all she has to do is to look pretty.

MatsuJin had also played his part well (though I think he's typecasted) as Tadatoshi Ryuu. He is Akira's cousin, and the two have a very competitive relationship. He is a successful singer and have a very strong fanbase, even outside Japan. Although he is older than Akira, he acts really spoiled and childish.

Last, but definitely not the least, we have Inoue Riko portraying Makino Mai. Inoue did a very believable portrayal of a socialite, with attitude problems we are sure to hate. She comes from a very prestigious family, a CM director, and had a past relationship with Ryuu. The last bit would not stop her from having a relationship with Akira, though.

Aside from the excellent acting skills showcased by the actors in this episode, I really do love the abundant sense of humor written in the drama, and how the actors are really going for it.

I love Akira's sparkly blue tracksuit (though, I admit, I had criticized it before the drama aired), or rather how he defends the tracksuit when he wears it, and yet nobody cares. Hahaha. I loved that scene where he refused to ride in the elevator with Rin, and he thought that he was being looked down because of the tracksuit, and he started saying, "This jacket isn't what you think it is! This is made, stitch by stitch, by a master craftsman in Italy!" and proceeded to pull out the label. His indignation was made funnier, because nobody cares about his tracksuit except HIM.

I've been Ren's fan ever since he started, but no one had ever sold to me the image of an indignant spoiled, rich heir quite like Ren. And the faces he made here were really priceless. Who ever said that Ren only knows how to act gentlemanly roles can go watch this episode. On repeat.

And let me not forget, the hilarious sexual innuendos in that mixed-up and messed-up conversation and Akira's girlish screams when Rin was speeding down the highway. That. Was. Priceless. And would go down as one of the golden moments in drama history. Hahaha.

I am also in danger of acquiring Second Lead Syndrom because MatsuJin is HOT.

For an excellent first episode, I'm giving the drama a 9 rating, and expect that I'll tag along till the end of the ride.


NOTES:

[1] I would like to remind everyone that Himi no Hana, Ren and Kyouko's drama in this fanfic, is based on Korean hit-drama, Secret Garden. If you want to see how this episode played out, I suggest you watch the drama. Haha. Shameless plug. Fufufufu.

[2] I was torn between doing an episode highlight kind of chapter or a recap chapter or a full-episode kind of chapter with complete dialogue. I opted to do the latter since this is the first episode, and I want to lay a better foundation. For the next chapters, I'm planning to do an episode-highlight kind of chapter, unless you guys prefer a recap chapter. (You can tell me in the reviews. ;)

[3] Lastly, thank you to everyone who left a review for the previous chapters. And thank you to those who followed and added my story to their fave list. I LOVE YOU GUYS, TO THE MOON AND BACK! Please leave a review for this chapter, too! :)

[4] I'm planning to publish a 'Lover's Dictionary' kind of story. Yep, I just read David Levithan's book, and I thought it could work with Skip Beat! Please watch out for my new story! And leave a review, too! :)