I just finished Kanojo Wa Kirei Datta, or She Was Pretty, the Japanese remake. It’s like I lost another friend after watching it, but I’m thinking of watching it again (and yes, I also rewatched the Korean version).
So She was Pretty, which started in Korea, is definitely one of the best dramas ever. While it’s not as overrated as other dramas, it has one of the unique plots in rom-com, not just in Asia, but in the whole world, in my opinion.
Kanojo Wa Kirei Datta / She Was Pretty Review: Synopsis
The story is about two childhood friends who have been separated for 16 years. As a kid, Ai Sato was the perfect girl. She was pretty, intelligent, and talented. On the other hand, Sosuke Hasebe was an outcast. He was bullied because he was overweight and shy. However, Ai was always protecting him, and they became the best of friends until Sosuke left Japan for the US. They had not heard from each other for 16 years until Sosuke looked for Ai, and they decided to meet.
After being separated for many years, the tables were turned. The once beautiful Ai would inherit her father’s looks, and her family would eventually become bankrupt. Sosuke, on the other hand, has grown to be an eligible bachelor. Since I was insecure with her looks and career prospects (she had a hard time getting a job), she didn’t have the confidence to meet him upon realizing that she wasn’t the woman Sosuke was expecting. She asked her best friend Risa to pretend she was Ai for a day. And so the story commences. As luck would have it, Ai’s first job would take in Sosuke as her boss, with him just thinking that she was just his childhood friend’s namesake.
When I watched episode one, I remembered all the things that happened in the k-drama. When Ai was first meeting up with Sosuke, and Sosuke didn’t recognize her, but a different girl instead, it dawned on her that she wasn’t the same pretty girl anymore. I wept a lot. I pitied Ai, or in the Korean version, Hye Jin. The character is a loveable one. She is optimistic and caring, despite her unfortunate circumstance. However, what I like in the plot is that the writers also show that at some point, it’s Ai’s fault for being content with her looks and not improving herself.
The Jdorama spawned ten episodes, mostly 45 minutes each, compared to the Korean version with 16 episodes. At first, I found the Korean drama better, but I decided to rewatch the k-drama. I cannot say which is better in terms of the drama, but in terms of the scenes, the Jdorama did a great job in weeding out unimportant events while still bringing out the plot as it is. The Japanese production made very few angles to the drama, and they followed almost 100% of the Korean scenes.
Kanojo Wa Kirei Datta / She Was Pretty Review: Characters
Let’s compare the drama to its original version based on the characters.
As loveable as the character, Ai Sato, played by Fuka Koshiba, gave justice to the character. She was energetic, lively, humble, caring, and loveable, just like her Korean counterpart Hwang Jung Eum.
However, the jdorama left out some of the craziness of Kim Hye Jin’s character. Perhaps it is also because the episodes were limited, and that they can no longer accommodate the character’s quirks like in the Korean version (e.g., when Hye Jin tried to get her boss in the General affairs’ pants down, so he won’t let her work with Most magazine).
I haven’t thought of a point of comparison between the two, except that, in my opinion, the Japanese Ai Sato was more realistic in terms of the look department. The Korean version has exaggerated Kim Hye Jin’s looks so much that it was nearly impossible for a person to not take care of herself, specifically her hair like that, and land an office job.
It’s easy to compare Kento Nakajima’s Sosuke Hasebe to Park Seo Joon’s Ji Sung-Joon. Although both of them did a great job in portraying the character with respect to their culture, I thought that at some point, Park Seo Joon had more gravitas as compared to Kento Nakajima. They were almost the same age upon playing the young deputy editor-in-chief (Kento is 27, while Seo Joon played the character at 26).
Sosuke Hasebe / Ji Sung-Joon is one of the most interesting characters because he had his gravitas, but deep inside, he was honest and child-like. When it comes to his other side, like his sweetness and candor, I believe that Kento Nakajima offered more in this department.
The main reason for these two differences varies on both actors’ personalities. I’m a fan of both actors, but I’m mostly exposed to Kento Nakajima because of many of his variety shows and appearances that I’ve seen and still watching on cable TV. Kenty is funny and childlike at times.
There were a lot more non-serious and even funny moments of Sosuke as compared to his Korean counterpart.I think the Japanese writers had pushed this to suit Kenty. Kenty has had more to get in the cuter side of Sosuke than his strict side. Apart from that, this expansion made the character more vulnerable, complex, and loveable.
Another thing that made more sense in the Japanese version is that, unlike Song Joon, Sosuke rarely drove. It might be a matter of Tokyo VS. Seoul, but I think it made more sense, especially since the character was a bit clumsy and that he had trauma with rain + motorcycle + ambulance.
The character rekindled my attraction to Kento Nakajima.❤
Takuya Higuchi is an interesting vlcharacter as well. Unlike the two main characters, Takuya Higuchi differed in many ways from his Korean counterpart, Kim Shin Hyuk. And I think this is more about culture than it is with the portrayal.
The character was playful but is not as much as the Korean counterpart. Korean rom-com sensibilities tend to be on this side of the fence. Some characters are oddly coy and sometimes brazen but still loveable (see Sassy Girl). And this is a strong, distinct Korean trait that other cultures cannot emulate. Hence, while I think that Choi Siwon made this character a bit more interesting, I considered the cultural aspects of the character’s audaciousness.
Eiji Akaso’s version was charming and prince-like, which I believe also added to the love triangle at the first half of the drama when Sosuke was still unknowingly hurting Ai.
There is very little point of comparison between Risa Kiriyama (played by Yui Sakuma) and Min Hari (played by Koh Joon-Hee). In the Korena drama, it was shown that Min Hari was a party girl and perhaps a bit liberated. However, Risa is tamer. However, both actresses have shown the character’s good nature and how they genuinely loved their friend Ai Sato / Kim Hye Jin the most, despite the hurt inflicted upon her.
Even if the character of Junichi Satonaka (Yuto Takahashi) isn’t part of the main roster, I want to include him. What the other characters lacked in the funny department, Yuto stepped in and made up for them. I’ve first seen the Hihi Jets member Yuto in the drama Koi no Yamai to Yarougumi, and he is hilarious. I look forward to more of him in the future.
Kanojo Wa Kirei Datta / She Was Pretty Review: Soundtrack
Like many Japanese dramas, the soundtrack for Kanojo Wa Kirei Datta / She Was Pretty was on point. It is quirky, lively, funny, but at times heavy. The music accentuated each of the scenes’ depth. Kanojo Wa Kirei Datta was more comedic and less heavy than its Korean counterpart, and the musical score did its job.
What I love more about Kanojo Wa Kirei Datta’s instrumental OST is its sense of hope and liveliness. It also intensified the drama’s heartwarming sensibilities, Ai Sato’s optimism, and even Sosuke’s quirks. I was listening to this playlist while writing this review, and my mom was beside me. She loved the music and even asked me what it was. The musical score is a great standalone, and even if it has some heavy instrumentals, it isn’t as weighty as other drama scores.
The opening song is Natsu no Gogo wa Colbalt, by the Japanese funk band Awesome City Club. I’ve been a bit of a fan of the band since my boyfriend introduced them to me. They did a fantastic job in delivering the dancy and hopeful tune for the drama.
Japanese dramas with pop star leads are not without the idol’s group singing the theme song. For Kanojo Wa Kirei Datta, it’s, of course, Kenty’s band, Sexy Zone. Sexy Zone has one of the best and most powerful vocals in Johnny’s and Associates, and the group showcased their abilities again in Natsu no Hydrangea.
Kanojo Wa Kirei Datta / She Was Pretty Review: Overall Thoughts
The Japanese drama was more realistic, perhaps maybe because of its time constraints. In all fairness to the writers, they were able to collate the important scenes into only 10 episodes, but they did it well.
Japanese Adaptation Changes
The Japanese team only changed a few scenes in the drama. However, one of the few tweaks made was on episode 6, where the Most magazine team was entertaining this huge designer for one of their issues. In the Korean version, it was Sung-Joon (Sosuke in the Japanese version) who fired Hye Jin (Ai in the Japanese version) himself, even before knowing the whole truth of the problem.
In the jdorama, Sosuke’s mistake was not protecting his employee from their client’s ridiculous demands. Although both versions were sad, I felt heavier in the Korean version (yes, it was one of the scenes that made me tear up the most). Hence, I believe that at some point, the Korean version had more grit.
The Actors’ Chemisty
Even if we say that the Korean version is better, one thing that made the Jdorama stand out and contested to be better is the main characters’ chemistry. Yes, I felt giddy in many of the scenes. They look good together. Compared to Kenty’s leading ladies, Fuka is the one he has great chemistry. I’ve seen both actors with different partners, but they exhibit a different chemical reaction.
What’s more exciting about this drama is that since they’re remaking it, they adopted more intimate scenes that are rarely seen in Jdoramas. Culturally, Japanese lovers are not so showy and touchy with each other. They differ a lot from Korean or American rom-com.
Japanese rom-com dramas’ new lovers are usually awkward. While there is some awkwardness between Sosuke and Ai at first, the Japanese creators adapted the closeness of the Korean drama actors to Sosuke and Ai. I was shocked that both actors have a torrid kissing scene. I tell you, that is quite a rare sight in mainstream Japanese dramas.
Kanojo Wa Kirei Datta, the Japanese adaptation of She Was Pretty, did a great job adapting this beautiful story. Despite its time constraints, the jdorama was able to collate the essential scenes to produce an outstanding drama. It is less heavy than its Korean counterpart, but it didn’t fall short on how entertaining, lively, and inspirational rom-com that it is.