Netflix’s Good Morning Call: Series Review

goodmorning01I stumbled upon Japanese drama “Good Morning Call” as I was browsing through Netflix the other night and found myself unsurprisingly hooked to the series. Before I knew it, I was done with all 17 episodes, a relatively long series compared to other Jdramas. By its end, I found myself wanting to see more of Uehara Hisahi and Yoshikawa Nao. It was so good.

Synopsis: “Good Morning Call” is a Netflix original series developed in partnership with Fuji TV as an adaptation of Japanese manga “Guddo Moningu Koru” by Yue Takasuka. The story revolves around high school students Yoshikawa Nao (Haruka Fukuhara) and Uehara Hisahi (Shunya Shiraishi) who were scammed into renting a common apartment and are forced to live together in secret. Starting out as enemies, they find themselves eventually falling in love with each other.

It will come naturally for Jdrama fans to immediately compare “Good Morning Call” with another popular manga adaptation — “Itazura na Kiss” (It Started with a Kiss) or it’s updated version “It Started with a Kiss: Love in Tokyo.” It does have similar concepts — high schoolers living together under hostile circumstances and eventually liking each other. However, I could safely say that I loved “Good Morning Call” far better than I liked the live adaptation of “Itazura Na Kiss.” I may get flak from the hard core “It Started with a Kiss” fans but for me, this live action was far better.

I’ve watched a couple of Japanese dramas before and I must say that the Japanese pull off some of the most faithful to anime/manga adaptations. Characters are over the top just like their fictional counterparts. Situations are blown up and character reactions are not what one would expect in real life. However, “Good Morning Call” found the perfect balance between fiction and reality, delivering a faithful adaptation without compromising realism to come up with characters that are relatable to the viewers.

I loved the character of Uehara because he was cool but he was not cold. He had a proper backstory that justified why he was aloof and independent and it was a plausible one. They did not oversell the drama of being orphaned as a child but rather dwelled on his unrequited love for his sister in law as a relatable conflict that a teenager had to deal with. Like I said, he was cool but not cold. He didn’t deliberately do anything to hurt Nao and their misunderstandings were mostly attributed to his inability to communicate his feelings and his tendency to want to solve problems on his own.

With that being said, let me just say how much I loved the character of Nao. I really didn’t doubt the possibility of everyone just seeming to fall in love with this character because of the pureness of her heart. Halfway through the second or third episode, I already found myself crying with her when she found out that she was falling in love with Uehara, and in almost every subsequent episode, I felt myself drawn to her.

Daichi, Icchan, Abe and Hisashi — I understand all of their feelings for Nao. She was kind. She was thoughtful. She loved without expecting anything in return. She was loyal to a fault and she takes a look at people and understands their heart. She was the girl who made people smile even though her heart was breaking and while she was not the world’s best student or the most mature teenager, she makes up for her shortcomings by sheer willpower and extra effort. And while many people worry about her, she was mostly the only one who saw Uehara for who he really was. And she always stuck up for him and saw his pain. ALWAYS.. even if it meant that she was the one who would get hurt.

One of the strengths of the series was how it took its time to introduce and develop the characters to establish their role in the series — Yuri, Marina, Daichi, Abe (who funnily ended up as Uehara’s closest will if for nothing but sheer will), Issei, Takuya and Nao’s parents. The characters really made the story come alive. Sure, some of the trouble were caused by their hit and miss advice but at the end of the day, their support really made for a heartwarming and fun to watch series.

While I have issues with the fashion (the Japanese should really take a page from the Koreans’ book in this aspect), I appreciated the fact that “Good Morning Call” delivered a solid series that was character centered yet also plot centered. Characters were always evolving. By the series’ end,  everybody learned something about love, honesty, openness, friendship. While most of Uehara and Nao’s issues were mainly about jealousy and insecurity, they overcame it with the help of their friends (mostly Marina and Issei) and the audience felt invested in the outcome because they witnessed a genuine effort for the characters to overcome their flaws to become better parts of the unit.

All in all, I loved the contradictions —  how mature and childish Uehara was at the same time. I loved how innocent and giving Nao was. They were polar opposites but when they came together, they worked. I loved their friends and their family. I felt like I was part of the house party at the end. Speaking of which, I loved the ending — in particular and how Hisashi took charge to speak with the landlady to resolve their housing problem and what his final request was. I loved that the ending could herald a second season but become a series ender as well with no regrets. On the technical side, I would still give cinematography and style to the Koreans but as a manga adaptation, I feel like this is one of the best for the Japanese. Can you tell how much I loved it? If you’re new to Jdramas, “Good Morning Call” is a definite must.