Jdrama Review: Ito-kun A to E

Ito-kun A to E [伊藤くん A to E] is a 2017 Japanese drama starring Kimura Fumino, Sasaki Nozomi, Shida Mirai, Ikeda Elaiza, Kaho, Yamada Yuki, Tanaka Kei, Nakamura Tomoya, Amano Nazuki, and Okada Misaki. The plot revolves around a 30-something script writer who wrote one hit television show only to be bitten by a four year case of writer’s block. Now she haphazardly teaches screenwriting. During a book release event for her collection of essays on love, participants were given questionnaires in hopes of getting romantic feedback from her. Going through the questionnaires, our screenwriter notices four women all talking about a man named Ito…could it possibly be the same one? Encouraged by her producer, the screenwriter sets out to learn the truth and turn it into her next hit.

Ahhh…this drama needs a second season. First…we only really learn the stories for girls A – D. E’s story is not included. Interestingly enough, even though episodes are rougly 20-23 minutes long, the story does capture your attention and keeps you watching until you hit episode 8, the final episode, and start yelling at your TV about the ending. How could they end it like that? And by that…again…a cliffhanger. E’s story is not yet told and our “mysterious” Ito finally approaches her. But…I guess we should be happy. I’ve seen the trailers for the movie and it looks like we’ll finally get to see the mastermind Ito and his relationship with E. Ah, so complicated.

Kimura Fumino stars as screenwriter Yazaki Rio. After her megahit Tokyo Doll House and her failed relationship with her producer Tamura Shinya [Tanaka Kei], she’s been in a slump and cannot write. Throughout her investigation of Ito and women A, B, C, and D, we do get glimpses into her own past and failed love life. Yazaki does not always come off in the best light. In a way she appears to think herself above others and you can see her rolling her eyes and saying snarky things in her head about the women she is dealing with. However, as she delves deeper into these four women’s stories, something begins to change in her as well.

Shida Mirai

Shida Mirai as Aoyama Sho in ST

Woman A is Shimabara Tomomi [Sasaki Nozmi] who works at a handbag shop. She is a woman who smothers the man she loves desperately, but receives nothing back in return. Woman B is Nose Shuko [Shida Mirai] a woman who dreams of being a museum curator, but is stuck as a receptionist in a cram school and has a severe negative reaction to love and relationships. Woman C is Aida Satoko [Ikeda Elaiza] who works at a pastry shop and who goes through men quite fast. Woman D is Jinbo Miki [Kaho] who is currently a graduate student who has never been in a relationship and who pines for a sempai she met three years ago.

Each of these women have their bad qualities as well as good. In her chats and interviews, Yazaki actually instigates them to produce a more dramatic outcome which would captivate audiences more…what Tamura deems “poison.” However, as the outcomes with Ito and friends take unpredictable turns, it begins taking its toll on Yazaki. While Tamura praises some happenings, she begins to worry over these women. Despite unfortunate incidents, these flawed women do start to realize their own shortcomings and try to move on in their own ways. I won’t break down the stories of these women for you. Some are worse than others in their personalities, but it really is just facing down their weaknesses and finding the courage and strength to move on and to change—to realize what is so bad about themselves.

I will say that the worst of the women really ended up being the awkward virgin for me. Because Ito complained that a virgin was too burdensome, she asked another acquaintance to deflower her for Ito’s sake. The tragic part is that man was sincerely in love with her and she stomped on his feelings by revealing to Ito in front of him that he was just a tool to keep her and Ito together. Seriously. Ouch. Her “easy” friend actually turned out to be better in certain respects despite all of her wrong moves she made due to her unhappiness and loneliness.

Tanaka Kei as Komaki in Library Wars

The interesting thing to note is that these four women, in some aspect, represent a part of Yazaki herself. The end of the series sees her cold personality coming out (the one that lectured the girls inwardly during their stories) and turning its icy and acerbic eye towards herself. Just like how Nose’s final words to Ito were really words to herself, Yazaki gives herself a huge scolding and needed lecture. She decides that she also needs to confront her own demons like Ito’s four women. She assures Tamura that she will write and while their personal relationship did not last, she wants their professional one to continue after all.

Of course, with her declaration comes the arrival of the infamous Ito…who also happens to have a connection to her. And that is where the series ends. Sigh. Cliffhanger. Can’t wait for the movie’s release to tie everything back together.

Okada Masaki

Okada Masaki as Yurine Tomohisa in ST

Ito, who is played by the awesome Okada Misaki, is definitely a very queer character. He is different for each of the four women. Even though they can ascertain he is the same Ito, he did things very unexpectedly. He is eventually revealed to be one of Yazaki’s students who also works part-time at Tamura’s company. He also wrote a screenplay…but instead of four women, there were five!

The interesting thing is that for this, while the women were telling the story, Yazaki fits their descriptions of Ito to the men she knows her in life. The cocky Ito of Woman A is played by Tamura. The stalker Ito who forces his feelings on Woman B is played by popular screenwriter Kentarou Sumi [Nakamura Tomoya] who also works with Tamura and knows Woman D.  The easily tempted Ito of Woman C is played by Okita [Yamada Yuki – can he get a leading male role yet?]—the star of Yazaki’s hit drama. Woman D’s Ito is where we are finally introduced to the real Ito.

I think it goes to show how different Ito was and how with those four women, he did not seem to be the same man even though he was. If Ito portrayed the same characteristics consistently, it would not seemed planned out (especially since he wrote that script based on those experiences), so we don’t get to see his true personality too much. Although, from what little we see of the real Ito, you can gather he is a self-obsessed man who is into theatrics.

Overall, it is a good drama and I did like to see these women grow up and move on in a more positive direction. Even Yazaki tries…but her trials with Ito are far from over and we’ll have to await the movie for the resolution. Hopefully it is handled a lot better than the resolution for MARS. I really did not like the movie that ended the story. It just didn’t work for me, but that is for a later day. I highly recommend checking out Ito-kun A to E on Netflix, minna-san.

As a side note, The Drama Unnie threw out a challenge of drama-watching for 2018 and I have accepted it. Let’s see if this will keep me on track! Are you up to the challenge?

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