I have always preferred romance as the side dish of an interesting action or suspense plot. But jdramas did wonders for my romance appreciation and I am able to enjoy dramas where romance is the dominant genre. I enjoy the pacing and the subtlety of jdrama romances. So I figured I would compile a list of my absolute favourite jdrama pairings. I limited myself to five choices and it was tough to leave out some of the others I adore. Then I struggled with ranking them and changed my mind a few times. Ultimately, it came down to which couple messed with my emotions the most.
Okay, enough babbling. Here are my top five jdrama couples:
5. Kotoko Aihara & Naoki Irie (Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo 1 & 2)
Played by Honoka Miki & Yuki Furukawa
Eternally optimistic Kotoko has eyes for no one but the stoic and handsome Naoki who is the top student in their high school. When fate intervenes in the form of a meteor destroying Kotoko’s home, her family moves in with her father’s best friend who is none other than Naoki’s father. From the start I found Kotoko quite adorable despite her super stalkerish actions towards Naoki. I liked that she would stand up to Naoki even though she loved him. Naoki initially finds Kotoko a nuisance and dismisses her. But as the years passed, he comes to love and need her.
Their relationship spans many years from high school to university and then to their jobs in the medical field. What I love the most about them is the changes they caused in each other. Naoki is a tough love sort of fellow. He doesn’t coddle Kotoko. But her presence is his life makes him feels emotions and he becomes more human. He has some really sweet moments with Kotoko in the second season. For Kotoko, her relationship with Naoki allows her to find what she wants to do with her life and she actually becomes a competent nurse.
4. Mare Tsumura & Keita Kontani (Mare)
Played by Tao Tsuchiya & Kento Yamazaki
Keita and Mare are like chocolate, absolutely sweet. They brings loads of adorableness with their funny face competitions and cute arguments. Their relationship also spans several years. The couple meets as children then reunite in high school. Keita’s crush on Mare is obvious from the start but pragmatic and dream averse Mare initially wants nothing to do with this lacquer obsessed kid. The timing is bad; Mare falls for Keita when he has already moved on. Yet years later, even with a new love prospect before her, Mare realises she still loves Keita and confesses. And this was the moment I cried happy tears with Mare. It was like a dream come true. The music, the setting, it was all perfect. Soon after comes marriage and twins.
These two are on my list for three main reasons: (1) I really empathise with Mare and feel her emotions keenly. They just make me really happy. (2) Keita is like a kid which I find adorable. This makes him more suited to Mare who is level headed. (3) This made me ship Kento and Tao so much in real life. In fact, they are the only couple I ship outside of dramaland. The drama also gifted me with more interactions since it is longer. Thank you dear producers!
3. Makoto Natsui & Toru Hyuga (Rich Man, Poor Woman)
Played by Satomi Ishihara & Shun Oguri
Makoto is the poor university student with a photographic memory who is simply trying to find a job. Toru is the rich CEO who can’t remember peoples’ names or faces. Makoto manages to catch Toru’s attention by using his mother’s name to identify herself and so begins this Cinderella story with her as a trainee at his company. What I love about these two is their amazing chemistry. Their interactions had me dying for more. Please producers, give me a season 2!
Apart from their chemistry, Makoto changes Toru for the better. Toru was an arrogant yet attractive jerk with a social circle of consisting of only his business partner/best friend. But he grows and comes to appreciate his employees and Makoto. Makoto also helps him to learn how to remember names to faces. Makoto matures throughout the series as well. I will always adore these two.
2. Toshiko Takahama & Tokuzo Akiyama (Tenno no Ryoriban)
Played by Haru Kuroki & Takeru Satoh
This is the couple of my favourite Japanese drama. Tokuzo Akiyama’s is the stupid son who can’t stick to anything for more than three months but at just 26 years old, he manages to become the Emperor’s cook. Toshiko and Tokuzo’s relationship was tumultuous yet beautiful and tear-jerking. Just thinking about them makes me tear up. Toshiko is married to Tokuzo in an arranged marriage when Tokuzo is 16. The bliss lasts the usual three months for Tokuzo then he runs away to pursue his new dream of cooking. While everyone is angry at the useless Tokuzo, Toshiko maintains some hope in him. But because she loves him, she sets him free so that he could further his cooking skills in Paris.
The years pass, he returns to Japan and fate brings them together again. Now wiser and mature, they remarry. I really loved the timeless feel of their marriage. Their love didn’t need words or passionate displays. It was evident in their actions. I was really moved in the later episodes when there was a disaster. When they reunited, the meeting of their gazes and the emotions in their eyes had me crying with them. They were definitely an unforgettable duo.
1. Aki Murase & Halu Satonaka (Pride)
Played by Yuko Takeuchi & Takuya Kimura
These two were amazing. For me, Halu Satonaka is the alpha male of jdrama heroes. Two episodes in and I was a total fangirl. I was making his signature pre-match move and considering watching ice hockey. Anyway, Halu is the smooth and confident ace of his ice hockey team swaggering around with a lollipop in his mouth. Aki is a typical office lady who has been waiting for her boyfriend for two years even though he has not contacted her since he’s been abroad.
For Halu, relationships are just a game with like-minded women. His next target is Aki who is intrigued by Halu and agrees to his game. Halu’s heart is surrounded by strong walls stemming from abandonment issues and his hockey devotion. As they get to know each other, Aki succeeds in tearing down his walls. They fall in love and just when everything seems to be perfect, the absent boyfriend returns to end their bliss. Aki and Halu’s chemistry wins hands down. It was so good that when I see fan vids of them I tear up in a few seconds. I enjoyed how their relationship takes its time. When they were finally in love, I truly believed it. Though, I was quite frustrated by Aki’s actions after her boyfriend returns, they do find their way back to each other.