Utsukushii Kare (My Beautiful Man) the 2021 Japanese series is about a 17-year-old loner who falls in love at first sight with a classmate. Directed by Sakai Mai, the show stars Hagiwara Riku as protagonist Hira Kazunari, while Yagi Yusei plays his love interest – the beautiful Kiyoi Sou.

For someone who started watching the series without even seeing the trailer, it was hard to say which way this show was heading. Hagiwara Riku as Hira is one heck of a weird chap. He is a loner, but not the “cool” types, he stammers, has very little interest in anything around him and occasionally takes photos of random things. His world spins around when he sees Kiyoi for the first time. His love/adoration/obsession with the classmate borders on stalking. Kiyoi however exploits Hira’s feelings, by bossing him around all the time. And Hira is fine by it, viewing their relationship as a sort of king-slave equation, where he is happy to serve. This outlook stems from the belief that someone as popular and beautiful as Kiyoi is way of out his league.

Hagiwara Riku is exceptional in his role. In episode one, there is a scene where he looks at a photo and says “I like you… Kiyoi” as if he is parched, exuding a desperate need of longing, tinged with a tone of defeat. It makes the viewer wonder if it’s all going to get out of hand eventually. But as the show progresses, there’s an almost brilliant reversal of plot-line. While for the first half of the series we see life through Hira’s eyes, towards the second half, we finally get Kiyoi’s perspective.

Yagi Yusei has an almost typical stock character, that of the good-looking, vain person everyone covets. But his character sees a lot of growth, and thankfully the makers don’t make everything too easy for him. Even the king has insecurities.

How the lives of these polar opposites (Hira and Kiyoi) characters converge is the heart of the series. Will they be friends, lovers or strangers in the end? The conflict comes in the form of Koyama Kazumi (Takano Akira) who adores Hira and complicates things. One wishes that Kazumi’s sub-plot could’ve been a little stronger, but there isn’t enough time for his arc.

Director Sakai Mai has made an entertaining tale that blends the madness of teenage love with the more practical realities of modern adult relationships. It’s not your typical fluffy teen romance everybody else is making, but neither does it get too dark or twisted. Everything is smoothed into an emotional climactic episode, where the leads finally confront each other and talk things out. If only they had talked before!

It’s a 8/10 from me. Watch it for the lead actors.

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