A drama is special when it can combine comedy, heart, and deeply felt emotions in an intricate balance that connects viewers to the story while also moving their hearts. Japanese BL Kieta Hatsukoi does just that.
A live-action adaptation of a manga written by Wataru Hinekure and illustrated by Aruko, Kieta Hatsukoi (Vanishing my First Love, My Love Mix-Up) is full of heart, loyalty, and loads of laughs. Centered on a misunderstanding that soon grows into a beautiful relationship between our two male leads, Kieta Hatsukoi weaves an interesting tale about falling in love while also managing to teach viewers about friendship and accepting one’s sexuality.
The compassionate, worry-ridden, and over-the-top protagonist Aoki Sota (Michieda Shunsuke) is easy to root for. In a bid to protect the secret of the girl he likes, Aoki pretends to be the one crushing on fellow classmate Ida Kousuke. The misunderstanding leads to Aoki developing real feelings, and the connection that grows from this takes viewers on a fun, memorable, and even deeply thoughtful journey.
There are many things this drama did right. From non-toxic supportive friends to dealing with sexual confusion and homophobia in a way that manages to make the viewer think without losing the light, comedic quality it strives for.
The real standout moments, however, are the friendships, the character growth, and the issues that are tackled.
Hashimoto (Fukumoto Riko) and Akkun’s (Suzuki Jin) supportive friendship even as they dealt with their own complicated feelings for each other is the type of friendship we all hope for. True friendship is defined by acceptance, loyalty, and trust, even if that friend is confronted with something new and unfamiliar. Hashimoto and Akkun not only take Aoki’s feelings for Ida in stride, they also loyally support him. I am particularly fond of how they portrayed Hashimoto. Kieta Hatsukoi doesn’t fall victim to the over-used BL “let’s make women vindictive” trope. Instead, our female supporting character, Hashimoto, is one of the strongest female characters I’ve seen in a BL drama. She’s sweet and compassionate but also fierce, loyal, and protective. She doesn’t mince words, and she firmly stands up for what she believes in.
Most notable is Ida’s (Meguro Ren) growth from a person who doesn’t like to hurt people by saying no to realizing the truth in his heart. I’ve said this in a previous review, but it’s worth repeating, Ida Kousuke is one of the most non-toxic leads I have ever had the pleasure to watch. The way he lifts Aoki up while also easily accepting his feelings is, quite frankly, beautiful. Even with the easy acceptance, Ida also doesn’t lead Aoki on. Although it hurts Aoki throughout the drama, Ida doesn’t admit his feelings until he’s sure of them. Ida is the type of person who doesn’t say no easily, the kind who can’t walk away from someone in need. For him, Aoki is as much someone in need as he is a potential boyfriend. Ida doesn’t understand what it means to truly love someone, but he keeps himself open to learning. While Aoki is battling his own fears of being in an open relationship, Ida is learning what it means to be honest with himself. While Aoki’s fears are valid and a hurdle they must overcome with time, it’s Ida’s growth and honesty with himself that left the deepest impression on me.
Episode 8 delivered eye-opening moments when Aoki and Ida are faced with Mr. Okano’s homophobic prejudices and preconceived ideas about the gay community. One of the hardest things in the world to see is a person who’s known for smiling suddenly frowning. Aoki wears his heart and his thoughts on his sleeve, and because of this, it felt even more personal to me when Mr. Okano automatically assumes Aoki is hitting on him as well as having sex with others for money. Simply because he’s gay. This episode clearly portrays what prejudice looks like and how one man’s preconceived ideas about same-sex relationships can hurt those around him. In this case, his own students.
All in all, Kieta Hatsukoi delivers in a big, big way. If you are looking for a drama that will make you laugh but also make you feel, this is the one for you. Michieda Shunsuke and Meguro Ren deliver believable performances full of chemistry. Check it out on Viki.
Rating- 4.5 out of 5