Rich Man, Poor Woman Episode 1

The last thing I need to do is add another drama to my watch list, but seeing how people were raving over the first episode of Rich Man, Poor Woman, I thought I’d at least check it out. Even with Oguri Shun to stare at for an hour, I doubted the drama would have too much to offer plot wise. Luckily, I was wrong and pleasantly surprised by the first episode. This may be the summer romcom I was looking for; a fun Cinderella story with a few twists.

 

Oguri Shun plays Hyuga Toru, a billionaire owner of the IT company Next Innovation that he runs with his friend Asahina Kosuke (Arata). Well regarded as a young genius, he has a few quirks, one of which is that he has a disorder that makes it impossible to remember names or faces.

 

Toru is presumably at home and does an Internet search for Sawaki Chihiro with no results. He appears dejected and rolls over. An icon pops up about stocks and he clicks on it. One certain company’s, India Power Trunk, stocks are falling and he looks excited about it.

At the International Digital Trade Fair in Las Vegas, Asahina and one of his colleagues are looking for Toru. They decide to go to his hotel room, but find no sign of him. Asahina decides to text Toru again when he catches sight of the computer. Toru hasn’t been texting him at all, but using the auto-text software on the computer to avoid him. Asahina realizes that Toru must be back in Japan.

 

Just then Toru calls with another co-worker on the line. Toru tells them that he plans to buy Power Trunk. Though the other co-worker’s against it since he thinks it’s too much money, Asahina supports Toru. Outmatched two to one, he gives up and Toru buys the company. As soon as that happens, Power Trunk’s stocks go back up.

 

Meanwhile Sawaki Chihiro (Ishihara Satomi) is at another job interview and is having a mental breakdown. The job hunting season is almost over and she hasn’t had a single offer from any company. She graduated from Tokyo University with top grades and has an excellent memory, so she can’t understand why no one will hire her.

As she leaves, she almost gets run over by Toru on his motorcycle. She completely loses it and yells at him that she really needs a break right now, though he doesn’t hear her. She sits outside of Next Innovation, watching the employees that come out. She wonders what the difference is between them and her.

 

Toru begins to brief Asahina and the other employee we saw earlier on his new idea for a project. He wants to create an online national census with people’s personal files so they can gain quick and easy access to their pension. Ah, so that’s why he bought the cloud company. It’s risky and it will be difficult to get government approval, but Toru waves aside any concerns. It’s his company that he’s risking and he’ll do what he wants.

 Asahina talks with the unnamed employee after the meeting, and though he backs up Toru, he agrees that he’s spending too much money. Still, he likes that Toru has finally decided to take on larger projects and seems excited by the idea of doing something so ambitious. The employee wonders if Toru remembers his name and Asahina assures that he does and he doesn’t. He explains that Toru has a condition called prosopagnosia so that’s why he doesn’t remember people. Asahina wonders to himself why Toru wants to create a census.

 Toru does another search for Sawaki Chihiro and actually gets a result this time. Though the result doesn’t give him any useful information, like a picture, he looks hopeful.

 

Chihiro’s friends, Kuga and Haruka, are trying to comfort her about not getting a job yet, but Chihiro still sulks. Kuga jokingly suggests she start her own company like Toru. He tries to show her the magazine featuring Toru, but she’s not interested. It isn’t until Haruka starts to look at the magazine that Chihiro decides to take a look. There’s a flash of recognition on her face when she sees Toru’s face and she seems slightly out of it as Haruka tells her that maybe she should go to Next Innovation’s recruiting session.

 

Chihiro is looking at Next Innovation’s site when her brother calls. Their mom hasn’t heard if she’s received a package so he’s calling to check in on her. He asks her how her job hunting is going, assuring her that since she’s smart, she’ll definitely get a job. Chihiro, seemingly in her own world, says it will probably be a failure. Before her brother can ask any more questions, she tells him she’ll call him back.

 Chihiro looks through the package her mother sent her and finds an envelope of money. She cries, grateful to her mother and maybe a little disappointed in herself. She decides to watch the video on Next Innovation’s site to cheer her up. It’s a video of Toru encouraging viewers to do their best to find something new and do something others have never thought they could do.

 Chihiro goes to buy a new pair of heels for her interview. The employee that helps her wishes her luck, saying she wore out three pair job hunting herself.

 

Toru’s typing an email to Sawaki Chihiro and we finally discover why he’s so obsessed with this name; Sawaki Chihiro was his mother’s name. She had abandoned him when he was little and now he wants to find her. He tries to send the email but it keeps bouncing back. He finally gives up and crouches by a window in his office, disappointed with his failure.

 

Toru goes to visit a temple to clear his mind, only to be slapped by the priest who runs it for falling asleep. The priest can’t complain too much though, since Toru pays to maintain the place. It’s not clear what their relationship is, though the priest obviously knows Toru well since he opens up about looking for his mother. Toru: “Is it self-centeredness to search for one’s birth?” The priest doesn’t think so, since everyone wants to know who they are.

 Next Innovation’s recruiting session arrives and Chihiro, along with the hundreds of other applicants, are gathered into an auditorium. The lights dim and Toru appears on stage.

 

Asahina watches from backstage as Toru speaks, but he gets distracted by the arrival of his little sister Yoko (Aibu Saki) who’s ready to drag her brother on stage too. He helped create Next Innovation too, yet why does Toru get all of the spotlight? Asahina manages to stop her and points out that Toru has something he doesn’t: charisma. Asahina: “Charisma, only an eccentric can pull that off.”

Toru finishes up talking and decides to start asking the applicants why they came here. He’s dissatisfied with all of their answers, quickly dismissing them or laughing in their faces.

 

He catches sight of Chihiro, who is in the front row and looking like she doesn’t want to be called on. He asks her how many job offers she’s received. Chihiro honestly answers that she has none. Toru assumes she must have graduated from a no-name university, but Chihiro pipes up that she has a degree from TokyoUniversity. Toru doesn’t stumble though; people can’t get good jobs just by going to a good school nowadays. He asks if she has any fundamental flaws and Chihiro doesn’t answer, only looking down at her feet.

Toru jumps back on stage and asks everyone that hasn’t received any job offers to leave. The job hunting season is almost over; if other companies hadn’t seen any potential in them, why should they? He adds that only applicants that had been accepted by more than two companies should stay. Many people sound upset at this sudden change in qualifications, but Toru remains unaffected by the insults they hurl at him. Yoko comments that Toru is “that kind of man.” Asahina agrees; he’s the man he believed in.

 

Many of the applicants leave, but Chihiro doesn’t move an inch. Toru notices and calling her Miss Tokyo University, asks her to leave. She gives a glare before turning to go. Before she can even make it up the steps, Toru points at her and says she is a living example of the failure of the education system or rather a victim. Chihiro trips and falls, losing one of her shoes.

Toru: “She has been studying as she’s been told, yet she’s grown to be a redundant person.”

Chihiro thinks back to when she had sat in front Next Innovation and noticed how worn out her shoes were. She sees the lost shoe and remembers her brother’s words about how she is smart and brave. She grasps the shoe in her hand before slipping her foot back in it. She turns around and starts to recite all the information she knows about Next Innovation, from its founding to the jobs of the employees supervising the session. She goes on and on, as everyone watches in shock until Toru cuts her off. She’s spent a lot of time memorizing a bunch of useless details, so what?

 

She memorized all of these details because she truly wanted to become part of this company. Chihiro: “You’re right, no one hired me. But it’s not because no one hired me that I’m useless to your company.” She starts to walk towards him, asking if interesting applications and the ability to talk well in discussions are the only way to discover if someone has potential. “Sure I’m clumsy; I’m an oddball with strange thoughts. When I’m in a group I bump into people, but doesn’t even this create energy?” The remaining applicants think she’s just being a sore loser, but Chihiro stands her ground. She thinks that Toru should look at each applicant carefully, even if thousands apply.

Toru remains unmoved and says that even if he did so, the result would be the same. However, he praises her for going against him since rebellious people are the ones that change the world. He steps off stage and approaches her, saying that her rage is not a bad thing, calling her Miss Tokyo University again. Chihiro says that’s not her name and he asks what her real name is. Chihiro clasps her hands tightly before answering.

 

Toru is genuinely speechless this time as remembers how many times he’s searched for Sawaki Chihiro and how he had always ended up with nothing. Asahina clocks his reaction. Toru eventually pulls himself back to the situation at hand , heaves a disappointed sigh and says, “So, you’re Sawaki Chihiro?” Chihiro asks if there’s something wrong and Toru says no. “I memorized your name, although I’ll probably forget your face.”

 Toru is typing in Sawaki Chihiro’s name into a search engine again, though he doesn’t click enter. Asahina notices that Toru still seems out of it and tries to find out what’s wrong, but Toru says he’s fine and they start their meeting.

 In order to create personal files for everyone in Japan, they need to work with the government. They decide to target the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications first. Unfortunately, Toru has a bad relationship with the vice-director so it will be difficult to get her on their side. Toru decides that in order to get the vice-director to agree, they need to send someone like her to pitch their idea. He catches sight of Chihiro’s application and says she’s perfect for the job.

 

Chihiro comes in, not sure if Toru is planning to hire her or not. She walks around unnoticed, mostly in awe of the office until Toru loudly welcomes her, calling out her name. All work in the office stops as everyone is shocked to hear Toru recognize anyone, let alone know their name.

Toru gets straight to the point; he only needs her to attend the luncheon tomorrow to persuade the vice-director to support their project. He gives her a gigantic binder with the details of the project and asks that she memorizes it all by tomorrow. Chihiro, slightly in shock, then asks if he only wants to hire her for tomorrow. Toru fakes a gasp and asks if she thought that he really called her here for an interview. He laughs at the thought before sending her away. Chihiro studies the entire night and practices how she’s supposed to act at the luncheon as she’s supposed to be a former worker at Power Trunk.

 

Asahina helps Toru move a refrigerator into his house which is unusually empty for such a wealthy guy. Apparently it’s taken him six years just to choose the right furniture. Asahina asks why he didn’t just pay someone to do it. Toru’s tried, but no one seems to understand him. They finally settle the refrigerator and Asahina says he’s the only person that seems to understand Toru. He feels that Toru exploits his trust though; he proposed the personal file project because he knew Asahina wouldn’t go against him. Toru asks if he wanted to keep making cell phone games forever and Asahina admits that he did want to try something bigger.

 Still, Asahina’s worried; if this doesn’t work out then they’ll be homeless. Toru’s upset that even Asahina’s hounding him about money, but Asahina says he believes it will work out, since its Toru’s idea. Toru says he’s performing miracles. We flashback to when Toru and Asahina had just started the company. On the wall where people wrote their hopes, Toru had written, “This is where we build our own future.” Asahina had written, “To us, nothing is impossible.” Asahina says that when he wrote that, he meant nothing for Toru was impossible. If it was Toru, he could do anything.

 

Yoko shows up when they’re about to eat. She’s waiting anxiously outside and seems nervous when Toru invites her in. As she follows him in, she says to herself that this is what it’s like to meet him again. Interesting, since Asahna says this is the first time Toru and Yoko have met.

 Yoko’s a traveling chef, but for now, she’ll be working in the restaurant at Next Innovation. Yoko stares at Toru the entire time he’s filling up the refrigerator before coming over to help. While looking through the fridge, she tries to bait him and says there’s a lot of food that he doesn’t eat. Toru still doesn’t remember her though and she just says that he has a lot of vitamins.

 Yoko goes over to her brother, asking for his patronage with her restaurant. Asahina promises, but he says not to bother Toru too much since he can’t remember people. Yoko seems genuinely surprised by this information, but Toru says that he’ll remember. Suuuure.

 

Chihiro comes in the next day, certain that she has memorized every last detail concerning cloud storage and the personal file project. Even so, Chihiro still doesn’t look the part, so you know what that means. Makeover montage time!

 Asahina arrives to take them to the luncheon and is amazed at Chihiro’s transformation. She even has a smile on her face. Or you know, a smile in progress.

 

Chihiro is amazed by the sheer number of people at the luncheon and hunches over, clutching her stomach. Asahina asks if she can’t do it and Chihiro looks at Toru. He says that for her, nothing is impossible. Encouraged by his words, Chihiro straightens up and follows behind them. Asahina whispers to Toru that he stole his line and Toru says he got him.

Asahina watches from a nearby table as Toru introduces Chihiro to the vice-director. The plan seems to be going smoothly as the vice-director takes a liking to Chihiro. It’s going well until the vice-director says they should also talk over the project with the Ministry of Economy. She calls over another director and Toru begins to silently panic because he doesn’t recognize the man.

 

Asahina notices and is about to go over, but Chihiro’s one step ahead of him, whispering to Toru the director’s name. Crisis averted, Asahina sits back down, now looking at Chihiro in a new light. He thinks she could be very useful to Toru.

Before the vice-director leaves, she invites Chihiro to the briefing for the project next week. Chihiro gladly accepts and says that using the cloud system, accidents such as erasing pension records won’t happen again. The vice-director says that incident was partly her fault, since she was working for the Social Insurance Agency at the time. Uh-oh. Chihiro stumbles for a way to rectify her statement, but Toru steps in and says that managing so many records cannot be an easy task for one person and that their technology will make such a task easier. The vice-director, still looking displeased, says she hopes so in order to erase her past guilt and leaves.

 

Toru tears into Chihiro later for almost ruining their plan. Was she trying to show off? He knows the only things she can do well are the things she’s told to do, so why try to think and act on her own? He reminds her that his company doesn’t need her. Asahina finally steps in and tells Toru that he’s overstepped his boundaries. Toru only glares at Chihiro one more time before yelling that he’s leaving.

Asahina tells the crying Chihiro to go home and rest too, since it’s been a hard day for her. Chihiro thanks the other employees for the two days they’ve worked together and leaves. An employee hands Asahina some confidential envelope that Asahina says is the new software.

 

Toru is driving home when he spots the shoes that Chihiro left in his car. He thinks about how he’s been giving her a hard time and how she helped him out at the luncheon. Toru thinks he should at least praise her a little before turning the car around.

 Toru’s too late though; Asahina has already cheered Chihiro up, praising her for helping out Toru when he was in a tough situation. He offers to buy her a meal and they leave together. Toru watches Chihiro until she gets into Asahina’s car before he speeds away.

Now that he has Chihiro in a good mood, Asahina decides to ask her a question. Who is she? Sawaki Chihiro isn’t her real name. He pulls over and pulls out the envelope he received earlier. Sawaki Chihiro is just a fake name she’s using, but before he can reveal her real name, Chihiro says it doesn’t matter, since Toru can’t remember anything. Asahina realizes she chose her name to get close to Toru. He asks who Sawaki Chihiro is and why it’s important to Toru. Most importantly, he asks how she knows that name.

Toru reaches a light and stops, glancing down at Chihiro’s shoes in the front seat. He picks them up and throws them in the back before driving off.

Some Thoughts:

Damn you cliffhanger, just when it was getting good. I was ready to write off Chihiro as a typical female lead that has one extraordinary skill, but she’s definitely more than that, as the ending proved. She’s not the one-dimensional Cinderella character that she initially seems. Re-watching the episode, I appreciate the scene where she’s watching Toru’s video.  It’s not just a scene where she regains her confidence, but rather where her desperation wins out and her moral values are pushed aside in order to survive. It adds a darker aspect to Chihiro that I hope will be expanded upon as the drama continues.

What I also like about the lie is that it makes Chihiro’s situation seem more real. I mean, you sympathize with her to begin with because I think these are circumstances people are worried about being faced with or have been faced with at one time or another. The fact that Chihiro’s supposed to be Cinderella almost negates that sympathy though because you know that somehow her pluck and courage will help her through because she’s Cinderella. Even when she reaches her lowest point, you’re certain that eventually she’ll find that job. However, when her lie comes to light, it paints a more realistic picture; people with good grades from good schools don’t always get good jobs, no matter how hard they try. When Chihiro asks what the difference is between her and an employed person, the answer isn’t as hard to find as you’d think. When you’re dressed the same way as hundred of thousands of people who have all gone to a school that is the equivalent of the one you went to or better, being smart is no longer a viable way to stand out. You need coveted skills and abilities, things you can’t learn at school and something Chihiro obviously doesn’t have. In the end, Chihiro realizes this and while I don’t think she thinks all her hard work was for nothing, the fact that she resorts to deliberate deception instead of depending on her credentials to get her a job does say a lot about how the economy is changing.

Toru was hitting all the right buttons for me as soon as he appeared. A tried and true popular character is the eccentric genius. It requires some sharp dialogue and a good actor to be able to deliver such a character and we’re lucky enough to have both in this drama. Yet what I really like is how Toru’s disability is being played with. Unlike similar characters that isolate people just because they have outrageous personalities (though I’m not saying his attitude doesn’t have something to do with the way he interacts with others), he has a legitimate reason that he doesn’t interact with people. Add his mother abandonment issues and it’s no wonder that he’s socially isolated.

That being said, I’m really interested in the past connection between Toru and Chihiro. Due to his disorder, Toru can’t keep a lot of people close to him. Even Asahina, who seems to be the person Toru is closest to, doesn’t seem to know as much about Toru as Chihiro does. She knew exactly how to manipulate him into remembering her and we can already see that she’s getting under his skin. It will be interesting to watch him slowly open up to her and possibly remember her as their relationship continues.

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