I have come full circle from a year ago – from Japanese TV dramas to Korean shows and now back to Japanese ones. Aside from confusing myself language-wise (I had just started to pick up some words in Korean), I found it really interesting to watch a similar teen drama to many of the K-dramas I binged last year, but set in a city I have actually visited.
Good Morning Call originally aired in 2016 on Fuji TV and a second season Good Morning Call: Our Campus Days was made a year later by Netflix. It’s a light-hearted romance set in Tokyo, where teenagers Yoshikawa Nao (played by Fukuhara Haruka) and Uehara Hisashi (Shiraishi Shunya) are both looking for an apartment to live alone for their last two years of high school. They are scammed into leasing the same apartment and, realising that they could not possibly afford such a nice place individually, agree to secretly live together.
Nao is a sweet, scatty, popular girl who feels things deeply and is incapable of hiding her volcanic emotions. Hisashi is a distant, clever loner who is good-looking enough to be fawned over by all the girls at school but has no patience with most people. They are not an obvious pairing and initially they fight a lot. But of course they learn each other’s virtues as well as flaws, not to mention their secrets. Enmity becomes friendship becomes…romance?
On TV every romance must be a love triangle. In this case it is the universally beloved Nao who has numerous other suitors, but only one who is a serious candidate: her childhood friend and school jock Shinozaki Daichi. I appreciated that when Hisashi and Daichi were getting jealous of each other and even fighting over Nao, they made a point of saying that neither of them could “win” Nao – it was her choice alone who she loved.
Hisashi, meanwhile, has been carrying a torch for the same unattainable older woman for eight years and it takes him a long time to realise that he has finally moved on. He means well but his lack of real friendships, let alone previous girlfriends, means that he can be very inconsiderate of others. Thankfully, this is not depicted as strong and manly, but instead numerous characters call him out on it throughout both seasons of the show.
Good Morning Call is based on a shōjo manga series created by Yue Takasuka, which perhaps explains some of the cliches, such as Nao’s exaggerated innocence (which can be irritating). Like all the K-dramas I’ve seen, there is very little physical demonstration of love – a few pecks on the lips, a few hugs and one or two hand-holdings. But thankfully there were no forced kisses and there’s no power differential between the characters. It might not be groundbreaking original TV but it was sweet, enjoyable and not even a little bit misogynist.
One other big difference between this and all the K-dramas I’ve seen: it looked much lower budget. Every shot wasn’t glossy and shiny and crammed with designer brands. Yes the leads are attractive, of course, but this did feel more down-to-earth and set in a real place than any Korean show I have watched. So far.