Jdrama Review: Hotaru no Hikari
Romanized title: Hotaru no Hikari
English title: Glow of Fireflies
Broadcast station: NTV
Broadcast dates: 11 July – 12 September 2007
Cast: Ayase Haruka, Fujiki Naohito, Kuninaka Ryoko, Kato Kazuki, Takeda Shinji, Itaya Yuka, Yasuda Ken
Based on the manga ホタルノヒカリ (Hotaru no Hikari) by Hiura Satoru which was first serialized in Kiss from 2004-2009
Theme song: “横顔” by aiko
Synopsis: Amemiya Hotaru is a young, hardworking woman, at least when she’s at work. Every evening when she gets home she changes into jerseys and sits on her porch drinking beer straight from the can. She doesn’t cook or clean and often sleeps on the porch under a pile of newspapers. Even though she is still young, she is not interested in men or love, having basically closed herself off from the world around her, making her very naive and innocent. This kind of character is described as being a “himono onna,” basically a woman who is dried up and no longer resembles what it means to be female.
Amemiya’s himono onna lifestyle is changed forever when two men come unexpectedly into her life. The first is her boss, Takano Seiichi. He has recently separated from his wife and goes back to his parents’ house to live (not knowing that his father “rented” it to Hotaru before he left). He and Amemiya enter into a cohabitation agreement despite their glaring differences (he is a neat freak who likes cleanliness and can cook well) and with the agreement that both will keep this living arrangement from their coworkers. The second is Teshima Makoto, a furniture designer who just returned to the company from overseas. He has like Hotaru from the first moment he saw her sitting on the roof drinking canned beer. At first Hotaru doesn’t notice Teshima at all, but when he kisses her suddenly, she starts to fall in love for the first time. Buchou (what Hotaru calls Takano) helps and scolds Amemiya through the ups and downs of romance and dating, inevitably bringing the two housemates closer and closer together.
The storyline follows Hotaru’s progress from being a himono onna whose life has stopped to a young woman in love and trying to overcome her shortcomings. It also follows Takano’s progress of being the workaholic, unemotional boss, to a more open man.
Ayase Haruka as Amemiya “Ahomiya” Hotaru
Hotaru’s favorite things include lazing around the house, drinking beer, reading manga, and sitting on her porch. Even though she is only in her mid-twenties, she has no interest in men or love. Since she has been absent from the world for quite a while, everything she experiences in this series has refreshing and funny reactions. Hotaru is easily distracted and cannot usually do two things at once. She also prefers to put things off until it’s too late or so she does not have to deal with things she’s afraid of. Ayase Haruka does a great job of portraying the hard-working Amemiya she shows to her coworkers and the himono onno who lazes around in jerseys. It’s easy to see why she won a best actress award for her role in this series. Her constant bickering and bantering with Buchou is hilarious and helped make the series enjoyable.
Fujiki Naohito as Takano “Buchou” Seiichi
Takano’s favorite things include cleaning, ironing, and cooking. He hates the disorderly chaos that Amemiya leaves behind her and is constantly pushing her to do things that she dislikes (such as cleaning and reading her text messages). He is separated at his wife at the beginning of this drama and later ends up giving her the divorce she wants. He is upset with himself for always putting work before his wife, thus alienating her from him. He wants to make things work and Amemiya roots for him, but in the end he cannot salvage his broken relationship. He always complains about Amemiya’s ways and calls her Ahomiya, but he is the first person who knew about Amemiya’s himono onna ways and accepted her for who she really was. He eventually falls for this girl, but conceals his true feelings in order to help her succeed with her first love Teshima Makoto.
Kato Kazuki as Teshima Makoto
Teshima Makota is a furniture designer who inexplicably falls for Hotaru at first sight when he sees her drinking beer on the rooftop after being scolded for a mistake she had made. He seems as inexperienced as Hotaru when it comes to love and relationships. He is prone to misunderstanding Hotaru’s actions, as well as running away instead of trying to talk things through with her. He makes a lot of decisions without consulting her at all (especially at the end when they move in together), leaving poor Hotaru more confused than ever. Teshima is a reserved and quiet guy and seems quite shy. He is jealous when he discovers just how close Hotaru is with Takano as he wishes Hotaru could act as comfortably around him as she does around Takano. He is the strong silent type, which really masks his naivety and immaturity.
Kuninaka Ryoko as Saegusa Yuuka
Yuuka has always looked up to Hotaru, not knowing Hotaru’s true character. When Teshima comes back from abroad, this makes Yuuka happy as she has always had a crush on him. She goes to Hotaru for advice, not realizing that Hotaru likes him as well. When Yuuka finds out the truth, she challenges Hotaru whose attitude towards love she dislikes. Yuuka is a good girl, the epitome of the Japanese yamato nadeschiko, and can’t bring herself to hate Hotaru or make things really hard for her rival in love. Yuuka eventually bows out of the race for Teshima’s heart and finds comfort with another coworker, whom she always kind of treated badly even though he has made it no secret that he likes her.
Takeda Shinji as Jinguuji Kaname
Kaname is in love with Yuuka, but always denies it at first saying she is the type of girl he hates the most. He does, however, finally confess that he really likes her. He is unhappy that Yuuka, who knew Teshima before she joined the company, is in love with Teshima. However, he bucks up and does his best to help the woman he loves land her man. Kaname is good for jokes, but does have a serious side and has offered advice to both Yuuka and Teshima in regards to love. He is a lot more open minded than it would first seem and he is the first coworker who finds out about Amemiya’s himono onna-ness without caring and even scolding the ones who were talking about her behind her back. Takeda Shinji does a good job in portraying the childish and yet mature Kaname whose pursuit of Yuuka is a good foil for Teshima and Amemiya’s complicated love story.
Itaya Yuka as Yamada “Yamadaneesan” Sachiko
Yamada Sachiko is probably the oldest woman working in SW Build’s department (not saying she’s old, just that she holds the senior female position). Thus, all of her coworkers come to her for advice, work-related or love-related. She has many experiences in love and Hotaru follows her advices a lot (most of which the manager disagrees with). Kaname, Yuuka, and Hotaru often go to her for help and she is good at giving solid answers while also being vague. Her character is essential to the story as everyone goes to her for advice and comfort when things aren’t going right. It’s amusing seeing everyone going to her for love help as we witness how complicated her love life can be, but as she said to Hotaru, she’s still taking detours on the road to her final love destination.
Yasuda Ken as Futatsugi Shouji
Futatsugi is Takano’s best friend and fellow divorcee. Since his divorce, he has been against romance and women. He is always around Takano’s department whether he needs to be there or not, trying his best to give his good friend support during Takano’s separation and subsequent divorce. He learns that Takano’s wife is living with a college junior and has trouble keeping it from Takano. He is also the first coworker who learns that Amemiya is living with Takano. He is surprised to find out it is a platonic relationship, but he begins to realize that Takano is falling in love with Amemiya. As much as he was against Hotaru’s and Takano’s living together behind Teshima’s back to begin with, he wants Takano to be happy with the woman he loves, so he began rooting for Hotaru and Takano.
My thoughts: This show was hilarious. The two leads and their chemistry and bickering were great. I found myself laughing out loud at quite a few moments when these two were on screen together. And the supporting cast did a wonderful job as well. The department really did seem like good friends, and even more like a family (seen especially when Hotaru goes missing in a later episode). The other coworker couple and their fights (which didn’t get a lot of screen time) was cute and really did help Hotaru grow in her relationship with Teshima. My only complaint was about Teshima and his habit of running away and never explaining himself. He made things more complicated than they had to be
This is a definite must-see romantic comedy!
And for those interested, Hotaru no Hikari will be getting a second season! Two years after the series wrapped up, it is coming back to the small screen with Fujiki Naohito and Ayase Haruka reprising their original roles. I do hope that more of the supporting cast will be coming back as well. The storyline for the second season is said to revolve around Hotaru contemplating marriage (to Buchou!?). I am looking forward to its July air date and hope that it can live up to the original.