Utada Hikaru’s First Love was released at the end of the 90s. The song was a mega-hit, and it was certified a double-platinum for 800,000 copies in Japan alone. The song is now considered a classic and has become Utada Hikaru’s most famous song and masterpiece.
Decades later, the J-Pop Ballad hit was adapted by Netflix into a 9-episode drama series. It tells the story about the reminiscence of first love and the thrill of reconnecting with the first love again after years gone by. The two decades timeline in 9-episodes shows the multistage of a first love relationship. Either it’s an adolescent romance, a breakup phase or a second chances in the 30-something adulthood.
With the setting of Hokkaido in 1998, the young Yae Noguchi (Rikako Yagi) is a bright and smart high-school student with dreams of becoming a flight attendant. In her high school life, she crosses paths with a rascal, the high school bad boy, the young Harumichi Namiki (Taisei Kido). They soon become a couple. Fast forward to 20 years later, in the current time, the couple is no longer an item.
Trailer courtesy of Netflix.
The current Yae (Hikari Matsushima) is not a flight attendant and Harumichi (Takeru Satoh) is not a Force Pilot. Yae is now a taxi driver working in Sapporo, meanwhile Harumichi is a retired Japanese Force Pilot who is working as a security officer for an office building. The pair who had long parted is coincidentally reunited through Yae’s son, Tsuzuru (Towa Araki). But their meeting is complicated in many ways, Yae was married and lost some of her memories while Harumichi is engaged to someone else.
That’s basically the plot of the series. In a nutshell, it is a story of a couple who are reunited with their long-lost first love after going through so many challenges. The series is one of a kind, the storytelling, and plot is amazing, and the story is beautiful. It is flirtatious but it is pure and charming.
The plot uses the back and forth of past and present with such ease and excellence. The back-and-forth is not confusing at all, it is packed in an easy way to follow and understand the main storyline. The plot is also charming in many ways as both in the old times and present times. It is refreshing to see the couple of Yae and Harumichi keep being drawn to each other irresistibly.
To be honest, such plot and concept of first love or youth romance that reconnected again is very predictable and not twisting at all. Nevertheless, the series proves that plot twist sometimes is not that matter to the whole storyline. There is no twist in this series, but it feels original and fresh despite the predictable storyline.
The story develops at a good pace, slow, fun, and intimate as we can develop an understanding toward the main character. The youth time is full of passion with a beaming ray of light and freshness of the youth. The current time is lowkey, friendly, and romantically memorable.
The attention to detail is mesmerizing. The solo camera scenes of the female lead and male lead are able to capture those emotions through eye gazes, smiles, and tone.
One thing that is quite disappointing is when the adult Harumichi suddenly decides to not come to Yae when they agree to eat Pasta Politano. The story suddenly turned into a lower beat when everything was already looking a little bit hopeful. It might be to highlight that charisma of tsundere in the male lead character development but it’s just a little bit wasted.
One mesmerizing scene it’s when Yae listening to Utada Hikaru’s First Love with her son on the balcony. Her old memories suddenly come back after many years of having amnesia. It was beautifully crafted, and the actress is very on point with her micro-expression. We can see as how the song progresses during that one scene. Yae slowly remembers her forgotten memories and develop more and more familiarity toward her memories before the cry. That scene is the best mixture of emotions. It’s heartbreaking yet it is beautiful.
First Love is an endearing slow-paced love drama that is beautifully crafted. It shows a roller coaster of emotions by seeing the back and forth of the timeline in many forms of relationship development and reconnection. Sometimes it is passionate, sometimes it is lowkey. It is predictable but captivating. It is flirtatious but it is pure and charming.
Our Score (9/10)
Title: First Love
Production: C&I Entertainment
Director: Yuri Kanshiku
Screenwriter: Yuri Kanshiku
Episodes: 9 Episodes
Casts: Hikari Matshusima, Takeru Sato, Rikako Yagi, Taisei Kido