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Ikemen Desu Ne (2011) Episode 1 Recap

It’s You’re Beautiful season around here, with the alternate pairing of Go Mi Nam/Shin Woo getting the lead in Heartstrings, and now our Japanese remake, titled Ikemen Desu Ne. I was curious about how they were going to preserve the adorable crazy antics of the original, not having the Hong sisters writing, and of course, not having the great Jang Geun Seuk. Ikemen Desu Ne started out pretty faithful to the Korean version, but just as I was getting bored, it added its own twist. It looks like a fast and fun ride. Let’s go!

Note: This recap will be a long one because of the format of Japanese dramas – usually 11 45-minute episodes, with the first episode being twice as long as the rest.

Episode 1

Two small children sit on the stairs of a wooden cabin. They’re our twins, Sakuraba Mio and Sakuraba Miko. Miko reaches for a star, wondering wistfully if she’ll be able to catch one; Mio reassures her in his elder-brother way, even at this age. (Even though they’re twins, being Japanese, they’ll observe the proper honorifics. Thus Miko calls Mio Nii-san, older brother, presumably because he was born first.)

Flash forward to years later, where a grown Miko (Takimoto Miori, playing Park Shin Hye’s Go Min Nyeo/Mi Nam) awakens with a start at her desk to find that she’s slept in too late. Hastily donning a nun’s habit, she races pell-mell out the door to make it to morning service. She slides in breathless (getting a glance from the Mother Superior) and starts to sing the hymn.

Mother Superior catches her outside with a gentle admonition and we learn a few things: Miko is headed for Rome to become a nun, and very excited about it; and that Mio is abroad pursuing his singing career. Fingering her ring, Miko looks at the stars and thinks about her brother.

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The stars in the night sky turn into glow-sticks of a huge crowd of fangirls, cheering for the three famous members of A.N.Jell. They’re the hottest band of the moment, and poised to become long-term heavyweights in the pop-music arena. The concert begins (the song is “I Will Promise You” from the original OST, in Japanese here) and we see our trio: Katsuragi Ren (Tamamori Yuta, playing Jang Geun Seok’s Hwang Tae Kyeong), Fujishiro Shu (Fujigaya Taisuke, playing Jung Yong Hwa’s Kang Shin Woo), and Hongo Yuki (Yaotome Hikaru, as Lee Hong Ki’s Jeremy).

We see more of their personalities after the performance where the band celebrates over food, fussed over by their manager Mabuchi (Yanagisawa Shingo). Shu composedly asks for vegetables instead of meat, Yuki happily eats whatever’s in front of him, and Ren sulks in a corner, giving out criticisms of their performance tonight. He’s not gracious, but he has a point, and it seems like he wants to be taken as a serious musician.

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He’s even less happy when the agency President Ando Hiroshi (Takashima Masanobu) announces that he’s finally got a fourth member for their band. Ren immediately protests that not just anyone can sing his songs, but it looks like the plan’s final. The new member shows up tomorrow to sign the contract.

Which brings Mabuchi to the convent to stalk Miko. She’s currently daydreaming after spotting a newly-married couple (really, nun? lol), when she’s interrupted by Mother Superior with a warning to look out for suspicious persons wandering in the area. This of course makes her overly nervous on the walk home, as she hears Mabuchi following her less-than-stealthily. She starts to run, grabs a stick and hides behind a pagoda. Mabuchi walks around and… *CLOBBER*. He gets the stick right the head, but manages to eke out that he’s here with news concerning her brother.

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This has Miko properly apologetic, and Mabuchi continues after he recovers. Mio has been chosen to join A.N.Jell! Miko squeals in happiness, then, “What is that?” Mabuchi is appropriately flabbergasted that she doesn’t know the famous A.N.Jell, then hastens to explain that it’s a VERY big deal and a big step up for Mio. There’s one problem though – he’s in surgery in America and the contract is being signed tomorrow. And being a twin…

Mabuchi gets down on hands and knees to beg, and next thing you know, both are in front of the agency, Miko with a bag, agape at the crowds of fangirls clustered outside. The cheers intensify as a van pulls up and the trio does a slow superstar strut, in beautiful slow motion and highlighted by sparkles.

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Miko stands there stunned as they pass her one by one with their characteristic reactions: Ren ignores her while Shu and Yuki offer a kind smile. Mabuchi breaks her reveries as he hurries up with her bag of clothes and ushers her into a bathroom.

Out comes Miko as Mio, dressed in rocker gear and short wig. Mabuchi’s surprised at how perfectly she resembles her brother, and happily shoves her in to meet the President. Ando really resembles the original agency president, butchered English and all. There’s a moment when he leans in close…and then declares that Mio’s skin has gotten even better since last time they met!

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Miko and Mabuchi sigh in relief, and then the contract comes out. Steeling herself, Miko signs. With a relief, she’s about to exit when Ren storms in followed by Shu and Yuki. Ren: “He isn’t a member yet. I need to hear him sing first. If I can’t accept his voice, this contract is void.” Everyone looks expectantly at Miko as Mabuchi chickens out of the confrontation. The seconds pass, and Ren holds up the contract, ready to tear it…and Miko breaks into a hymn. Her voice is pure and falsetto, odd for a boy, but I suppose it all fits in with the ‘angel’ theme and they all applaud her vocals.

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Well, this settles Ren’s last opposition, but he’s less than gracious as he slams down the paper and stomps out of the room. The rough reaction is tempered by kind Shu, who welcomes Miko to the band, and by Yuki’s cheery “Let’s do our best!”

Outside, Mabuchi wonders at her voice, remarking that with a composer father and singer mother, it must be in the genes. This remark brings Miko to another flashback, where Mio had given her the ring. It had actually been their mother’s, given to her by their father. Mio had promised to one day find their lost mother, their father having died. Miko’s sadly reflecting on this memory when Mabuchi implements phase two of his plan by taking her out in the car.

In the agency building, President Ando’s busy planning a tour with the rest of the band. A beautiful older woman approaches them, and the way Ren studiously ignores her is pretty convincing that they share a painful relationship. Ando identifies her as Misuzawa Reiko (Manda Hisako), a singer pretty famous back in the day.

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Mabuchi and Miko arrive at a beautiful spacious house, and she gapes appreciatively at the pretty interior. Now that she likes the place, Mabuchi gets down on his knees with a confession:

Turns out, Mio had gotten into a fight and broken his nose. He’s in the U.S. for surgery, but it’ll take 3 months for him to recover. And the schedule’s packed, starting from Mio’s planned debut later in the week. Can Miko please pretend to be her brother for a few more months?

Mabuchi lays it on thick, talking about how he’ll be thrown to the fishes if she refuses, and how the agency’s staking everything on the new member, etc. The other three members bounce in and Yuki cheerfully greets her, telling her the house is big enough for four.

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Miko lets out a yelp as she realizes that she’ll have to live with three other boys and that does it – she absolutely refuses to listen any more to Mabuchi. The next few days has Mabuchi desperately staking out the convent as Miko prays inside, deeply conflicted about her own dreams and her brother’s.

It’s the day before the press conference, which is also the same day Miko’s supposed to leave for Rome. Mother Superior finds the young nun praying hard in the chapel, and sits down to tell her gently, “This world is much, much wider than you think it is. It is full of many different kinds of love and hope. Miko, from now on, no matter what, don’t feel afraid. Take the path you believe in.”

The big day arrives, and Miko is steadfastly heading into the airport even as her face looks conflicted. Mabuchi follows her with one last plea: “Mio had wanted to become a singer so that he could find your mother. For you.” This stops her short, and she remembers Mio promising to find her mother, even as children in the orphanage taunted them for having been abandoned.

Mabuchi hands her a bag and leaves for the conference. It’s getting late. President Ando is foaming at the mouth that Mio isn’t here yet, and Mabuchi hides himself in fear. In the airport, Miko lifts an iPod from the bag and plugs in the headphones to listen to the demo song (“Without Words”), thinking, “Such a nice song.”

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At the venue, the event gets underway as the three A.N.Jell members are introduced. With a flourish, Ando announces the new member, “Sakuraba Mio!” Silence, as no one walks out the doors. Elsewhere, Miko looks resolutely at herself in the mirror and raises a pair of scissors to her hair.

The silence continues, as the reporters sit up and begin to mutter about a group fallout already…and the doors open. Miko, as Mio, steps out to applause. (Note: I’ll be referring to Miko as Mio from here on out, as it will be the most convenient.)

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The new Mio brings her luggage into her new home. Mabuchi introduces her to her lovely new room, and then wheels straight out to go. Mio runs up to him in alarm, just as Yuki bounds in shirtless with a “Mio! Let’s go sunbathing in the garden!” Now in a panic, Mio can only sputter as Mabuchi heads out.

Taking his chance, Yuki drags her out to the garden to join Shu, where our poor little nun is confronted with the sight of not one but TWO shirtless boys, both of them encouraging her to ‘take your clothes off.’ *snicker*

Luckily Yuki turns the garden hose on her at that moment, and she’s let off the hook. Ren, sitting inside composing, purses his lips to see them both frolicking outside. Mio’s safe – until she realizes that she’s all wet and that her chest bindings are visible. Heading inside sopping wet, she runs smack into Ren, who looks livid that his clothes are now damp.

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Taking a deep breath, he grits out, “Let me tell you one thing. I will never accept you.” Shu and Yuki come up and sympathize, though Yuki is a bit wary: Ren’s a genius, but he’s obsessive about cleanliness and perfection, doesn’t like carrots, allergic to shrimp…Shu interrupts with a kind reminder about the welcome party tonight. Yuki cheerily leaves her with a “Well, do your best!” and a manly punch in the chest – not exactly the thing you’d do to a girl.

Yuki examines his fist curiously as Mio’s eyes bug out and she retreats to her room.

The welcome party’s at a club, where everyone except Ren seems to be having a good time. Cameo by Koda Kumi as herself, congratulating Mio with a toast. One toast after another come from the ladies (who are especially taken by the cute new member), and our nun is forced to sip drink after drink.

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Another congratulations comes from pop star Nana (Kojima Haruna), a popular singer with an innocent, fairy-like image. Yuki’s absolutely gaga over her, but she has eyes only for the stoic Ren. Despite her best advances though, he remains unresponsive to her girly gushes.

Result – Nana storming out into the garage, seething; how dare Ren NOT fall for her? Looks like fairy isn’t so cute underneath.

Back at the club, Mio’s reached that stage of tipsiness where everything is beautiful and so much fun, and she staggers around until she spies a sign for the rooftop. Stars! She heads right up and interrupts Ren getting some peace and quiet. He’s grumpy at her, so she comes right back and tells him “Your face is always like this” and makes such an angry face that he actually jumps back, startled.

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Then she spots the stars. “I wonder if I can catch them…” Ren turns around to find Mio climbing up onto the bench and then onto the roof railing, far above the road below. Suddenly she sways, feeling sick, and begins to fall…
Ren sprints forward just as Shu and Yuki emerge from the doorway. Blurrily, Miko makes out the three poised to catch her as she falls.

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She dreams that she’s lying with three beautiful boys in a white room. She asks, “Mother Superior, is this a dream?” Mio’s dream choir sings as she awakens smiling, then realizes that she’s actually lying in the living room with the other three. With a yelp, she runs for her room, where she curiously examines a cut on her lip. Puzzled, she tries to remember what happened last night – and remembers that she’d fallen onto one of the boys, lip to lip!

Which was it? She emerges from her room to find an uncharacteristically upset Yuki. He immediately tells her to go and apologize to Aniki (older brother). It isn’t Yuki, so Mio figures it must be Shu. He’s far more composed than she expects, and offers her tea. She wonders, “So was it Shu?” and imagines a fantasy sequence where he’s dressed as her prince, offering her a rose. Not so – Shu tells her that Ren is the one she should apologize to. He continues that it was a pretty serious thing for a clean freak like Ren. Mio’s still thinking it’s the kiss that upset Ren, but Yuki comes up and breaks it to her, and she remembers – she’d fallen straight onto Ren, and then vomited straight into his mouth. (Oh, EW. I think I stand with Ren for this one.)

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Subdued, she enters Ren’s room to apologize just as he’s getting out of the shower, frantically trying to scrub himself clean. She skips out immediately, then approaches more slowly with the tray of lemon water and candle that she’d prepared. Spying a desk, she puts the water on it, then leans over to examine the sheets of music written by Ren. Suddenly she realizes that the candle’s dripping wax onto the floor, and she frantically tries to scrub it with her hand. Of course it’s hot, so she backs into the bookshelf…where her shirt gets caught, and as she tries to move, the bookshelf goes with her and all the CD’s topple off…also dislodging a remote, which turns on a fan…which blows the music sheets off the desk…and onto the lit candle. Which is what Ren sees as he emerges from the bathroom.

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Despite Mio’s frantic blowing, one of the sheets has caught fire and only Ren’s quick dousing saves it, but with a huge hole in it. Uh-oh. Ren of course blows his top just as Shu and Yuki walk in to witness the carnage: “Definitely, I’ll never forgive you for all my life! Now get out!”

He amends this later in the living room: he’d meant ‘get out of the band’, not just ‘get out of my room’. Mio miserably thinks about her brother’s dream, and this gives her the courage to stand up to Ren: “I’m really very sorry. But I can’t quit.” Ren listens, then promptly decides that if Mio’s here, he’s going to a hotel.

Unfortunately, as soon as he enters the hotel he runs into Misuzawa Reiko, whom we now learn is his mother. She’s friendly, praising him for his (inherited) talent. But Ren is cold – now he’s a celebrity too, and he doesn’t want any relationship with her. Still, there are clues that he is (or had been) attached to her; Miko, apologetically cleaning his room, comes upon several Misuzawa Reiko CD’s.

Mio’s debut has reached far. The twins’ long-lost aunt smokes in a bar, having got the news of her now-famous nephew. She’d dumped the kids in the convent orphanage back then, but now seems prepared to renew the ‘family relationship.’

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The tension between Ren and Mio has leaked to an extent, with reporters wondering if the group is having difficulty adjusting. President Ando is less concerned, knowing that Ren will calm down in time. He’s now focused on a children’s charity concert for A.N.Jell. Mabuchi notes that Ren hates the hypocrisy of these things; it’s why he always donates privately. Ando, however, is determined to go through with it – “Our job is to give people dreams.”

But it looks like the orphanage director is of the same mind as Ren. He’d once invited a singer for a concert here. The kids had been so excited, but the singer had only been pleasant while the cameras were on. As soon as he was off the air, he ignored the kids. The president refuses to have any more of these ‘hypocrites’ at his orphanage.

The bad walks out dejectedly, where they’re swarmed by a bunch of very excited kids. Excited, that is, until the director tells them that there will be no concert; those people there are not cool at all, in fact they’re liars.

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It’s the kids’ disappointed faces that get to Mio and she shouts out: “That’s not true! A.N.Jell are not liars. Please take back your words.” She’s so sure of it that she agrees to the director’s proposal: to prove their sincerity, the band comes here every day to play with the kids. Only then will he consider granting them a concert.

Back at the agency, no one is really enthusiastic about this. Their schedule is already packed; on the other hand, bad press will result if they break their promise with the orphanage. Ren is downright against caving into the angry orphanage director, but Mio comes right out and promises to stick to her word no matter what.

At the house, Mabuchi asks if she’s really willing to stake her schedule on this. Mio’s determined to do the best for A.N.Jell: “This is the band my brother got accepted into. Until he heals, I will do my best for him.” Hidden behind a screen, Shu murmurs, “So that’s it…” Secret’s out!

Mio’s first day at the orphanage is a disaster, with the kids disappointed that only the least-famous member of A.N.Jell came to see them. Ouch. She ends up late for practice, and on her way bumps into Rina (Katase Nana), the team’s stylist and the only one besides Mabuchi who knows the secret. Rina holds up the last bit of her disguise – balls.

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Practice has its own hazards, though. When the boys go off to shower downstairs, Mio takes the upstairs bathroom. But the hot water downstairs isn’t working, and guess where the troupe of boys is heading. Mio, still in a towel, panics to hear them coming and dresses hurriedly. Too late – the boys find her in the locker area, and casually begin to strip down. As she boggles, Yuki slings an arm around her and tells her to shower with them from now on, haha. He lets go of her, thinking, “Why is he so soft? Urgh”

Mio’s eyes are tightly shut as she prays to Mother Superior for help – and a towel lands over her head. Kind Shu ushers her out.

The next few days has her worn out: spending time each day with the recalcitrant kids, and then rushing off for idol duties. The only bright spot is that the kids gradually warm up to her, but she’s still the only one going. Late at night, Shu finds Mio sitting up making posters for the picture theater. Gently, he tries to explain to her that she can’t please everyone; in this job, there are people who will misunderstand you no matter what (referring to the director.) But Mio says, “I want the kids to believe in A.N.Jell.” Shu ruffles her hair like a puppy and sits down to help her, saying, “I may not look like it, but I’m good at drawing. Probably better than you.”

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Yuki (in mismatched slippers) comes in the next morning to find them both asleep amid the papers. Shrugging, he wonders, “They’re both men, so why do I get this weird feeling?”

The A.N.Jell trio gather in a practice room, where Yuki wonders at Mio’s tenacity. Shu tells them about her words last night, and even Ren looks privately impressed. Yuki: “I thought he was a weakling, but it looks like he has balls.” (lol)

Mio wakes up to find herself alone and the time late. She hurriedly grabs the papers to go, but then her head spins and she collapses. Ren gets this news in his car, in a phone call from the President. Ando outlines the situation: because Mio collapsed and couldn’t come, the director’s called off the concert. There’s one last chance to save themselves, and that’s if Ren goes. Ren considers this as he drives, thinking back to Mio’s fervent belief in the band. He makes his decision, as he pulls a screeching U-turn across the road.

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Mio awakens to Mabuchi, who’s telling her the news. Director called off the concert, but he’s promised not to create bad press. Mio’s upset nonetheless, because her concern is for the kids: “That way it’s meaningless, all of it.” Despite Mabuchi’s protests, she gathers up the posters and runs off to the orphanage.

She rushes in with an apology, but is stopped short as she hears the strains of a song – Ren holding the kids spellbound with his guitar. The Director also seems touched, and then (finally!) promises them the concert. Outside, Mio thanks Ren for coming, and he replies with less frost than usual, “I didn’t do it for you. I did it for the kids to believe in A.N.Jell.” Yeah, that and you’re a big ol’ softie.

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The day of the concert is a big success; Ren, Shu and Yuki are cheered all the way through by the kids and Mio. She doesn’t notice that, while jumping, she’s dropped her balls. (Haha, sorry, I couldn’t help it.) The kids begin to chant for her to go up on stage. Her bandmates smile encouragement at her; even Ren manages a tiny smile. Up on stage with A.N.Jell for the first time, Mio cry-laughs as she sees the kids’ posters, with her on them.

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Later on, Ren gets a video call from Ando, instructing him to come back to the house. Ando has to scurry off on an errand, and Ren is about to walk away – when he sees Rina and Mio sneaking furtively into Ando’s office. It gets even better (or worse), as Rina shoves Mio into the bathroom and says, “Quick! Take off your pants!” She’s actually just replacing the balls, but of course it sounds like something else. Ren’s eyes bug out, and he quickly presses the record button.

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The two emerge, and Rina says in satisfaction, “Now no one will know you’re a woman.” Shock!

He stalks right in as a practice session is ending. Stepping close to Mio, he gathers her in a hug – and feels the truth for himself. Right then, Ando walks in with the reporter, and everyone assumes it’s a photo op.

Ando brushes Ren off outside, as he’s prepared to tell him something important. Mio comes up at this moment, and Ren holds up his recording to her: “You’re a woman…aren’t you?”

Mio: “Mother Superior, what do I do now?”

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I’m tentatively liking this adaptation. Most of it is a scene-by-scene replay of the original, but there are unique plot twists, like Shu’s realization and the orphanage storyline, that keep things interesting. So far I’m liking Takimoto Miori, who packs a lot of innocent heart without veering into the (overly) dumb. Tamamori Yuta is no Jang Geun Suk, but I think I’ll get to like him. It helps that the format will make it fast and zippy, and hopefully cut out the slow angsty bits. Now to see what they’ll do with the rest of the source material. On to Episode 2!



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