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First Love (2022) Review


What's a better way to celebrate Valentine's Day other than to watch your favorite love story movie or series? You know, a typical sit-down-on-the-couch film or series that will tug your heartstrings out with emotion. Make you cry a little, but the ending will genuinely pay off.


Now, if you combine it while listening to some Utada Hikaru classics, I think that will be the best. You cannot deny her voice as one of the best in the Japanese music industry.


Netflix sure does have some outstanding and popular series like Breaking Bad, Stranger Things, Emily in Paris, and many more. There were also some Korean series, but I am still trying to catch up to them, so I am unfamiliar with them. Other than Alice in Borderland, I didn't know if there were other popular Japanese series on Netflix until I found this one.


The Plot


Inspired by two of Utada Hikaru's songs, First Love and Hatsukoi, we follow the story of a man, Harumichi Namiki, and a woman, Yae Noguchi. The two met when they were still in high school and fell in love. Harumichi lives with his overly supportive family and is very close to his deaf sister, while Yae lives with her single mother.


The couple went on separate ways to pursue their dreams in college but promised to trust each other. Yae wanted to be a flight attendant, while Harumichi wanted to be a pilot. Things fell in disarray when the two quarreled, which resulted in Yae getting into an accident and losing her memory.


Fifteen years later, Harumichi now works as a night guard in a building while Yae works as a cab driver. He lives with his current girlfriend, but the two have a problematic relationship. Yae lives alone but has a son, an aspiring musician, who lives with her ex-husband and visits her once a week. The two met again unexpectedly, hoping they would rekindle the past flame they experienced a few years back.


Review


Harumichi Namiki is played by Takeru Satoh, while Hikari Mitsushima plays Yae Noguchi. Taisei Kido and Rikako Yagi play their younger selves. You may have immediately recognized the one who portrayed the male lead is the same as Kenshin from the Rurouni Kenshin film franchise, except here, he does not have his signature long hair and sword.


The acting is a little bit in the middle. I am not totally blown away by it and also not disappointed as well.


The series span nine episodes, and the story is told in two different timelines in Harumichi and Yae's lives. The first is during their younger days when the two characters met, how they get infatuated with each other, and the promise they shared. The second is the current timeline when they both have different jobs but struggle in their day-to-day activities. The story is not told linearly. There are bits of flashbacks in between when they recall their past or if something happened that is similar to the one they experienced before. I honestly like this kind of storytelling. It makes you pay attention to the characters and how the story is structured.


Other characters, such as Yae's son, Tsuzuru, and Harumichi's sister, Yu Namiki, also play a role in the story, which is explored as it progresses. They also have their share of character developments integral to the plot. Their roles are like the supporting pillars of the series.


There are some tear-jerker and comedic moments in the series. Some scenes would make you punch the wall because it just doesn't make sense. What I like most is that almost every sequence is down-to-earth and easily understandable. If you are going to make a romance film or series that tackles ordinary people, you should stick to the script and not make a lot of twists.


I like the locations where this series is shot. It's stunning and picturesque. I haven't been to Japan, but I can tell those are beautiful places.


Of course, there is the killer soundtrack. Just having Utada Hikaru's music is already a delight. She is probably one of the best female Japanese singers of all time, and her songs are legendary. It's easy to incorporate her classics into any romance film or series.


Final Thoughts


If you are browsing through Netflix and want to watch a one-shot series with a lighthearted concept and feel, I recommend giving this a try. Every episode is just around 50 to 60 minutes, and it's not a lot, so you can just quickly browse through this series.


An almost perfect 4 out of 5 stars.

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