*Note: This was written before I discovered Chiaki Shinichi, but the sentiments remain largely the same.
Suga Eiichiro is, hands down, my favourite drama character. That he’s played by Fujiki Naohito is a huge bonus, but there are a lot of Suga’s character traits that resonate with me, that I find particularly attractive, and can understand why Kyoko fell so hopelessly in love with him. How to resist that smile? How not to love a man who is handsome, charming, has a strong sense of justice, hardworking and doesn’t want children? Sign me up!
Growing up, Suga had been affected by his father’s taking the rap for his boss’ mistake, and his mother having an affair. Those two events combined to fuel his strong sense of justice and desire for the truth, and also his general distrust of women, seeing them as mere tools to ferret out information. I like that while he’s obviously the sort of “man with a past” character that most ladies would swoon over and want to heal, the drama didn’t hit us over the head with it. Instead, we got to know Suga for who he is, how he works, the values he espouses and so on and so forth. It wasn’t until episode 11 when Katagiri Kenzo revealed Suga’s past (in a most undramatic manner that I appreciated) to Kyoko that we all got to understand Suga a whole lot better. Even then, the drama had already shown us the many sides of Suga, so that the information Katagiri revealed complemented nicely what we already knew of Suga both as a reporter and as a person. It was very neatly done.
I really like how naturally charming Suga is. He doesn’t come across as sleazy or slimy, or arrogant because of his good looks, and he usually has some sort of witty reply to either render the other person speechless or break into smiles. I love how he teases Kyoko since she’s so uptight and needs to loosen up a bit. He has that sort of easygoing manner that makes you want to banter with him and crack jokes together, and simply have a good time. But when he’s working, he’s really serious about earthing out the truth, strongly believing that the people have a right to know the facts – it’s idealistic, but the sort of ethic that every journalist should have. Since his overarching purpose and desire is for the truth, he has no qualms about seducing the ladies, and in the very first episode, we already see his cynicism – after wresting some vital information from a politician’s secretary, he tells her pleasantly that he doesn’t like women who can’t keep secrets. Which is why Kyoko’s professionalism impresses him, for she not only refuses to tell him what he wants to know (except that one time when she was feeling super pissed), she won’t tolerate interference with her work even though they’re in a relationship. For him and for her, work is always a priority and he can appreciate that.
And I believe it’s this knowledge and appreciation that leads Suga to eventually make the decision for Kyoko that her doctorate comes first. This, of course, has to follow drama logic that there has to be some angst in the relationship, but it’s also pretty believable that Suga would do what he did. Kyoko had been waffling over whether to go to Washington with Suga or stay in Tokyo and earn her doctorate, and of course if she’d told Suga about it when he first brought up the Washington job offer, we wouldn’t be watching a break-up. But this is a couple that can’t communicate properly – Suga is very guarded despite his easygoing manner, and Kyoko is so inexperienced in love and the ways of men that she’s got to keep running to Mariko for advice. And Suga took the job offer for Kyoko after she raved about wanting to go to America for their honeymoon and live in a nice house with pets. So we can empathise with her dilemma – despite not wanting all the trappings of a wedding ceremony and conventional marriage, Suga was prepared to give her what she wanted, and she’d also be fulfilling her childhood dream of being a beautiful bride.
But Suga had also simply expected her to follow him to Washington, thereby quitting her job and giving up all she had worked hard for. His realisation of this meant that even though he’d taken the job offer for her, he also understood how selfish he’d been to expect her to give up her work and life just to move continents with him. He’d viewed marriage as just two people living together but continuing their separate lifestyles (probably a view he gained from seeing his parents), but knowing about the doctorate really helped put things in perspective for him. He told her he didn’t want her to hide things from him or compare him with her job, but he also realised he’d not been particularly open with her either and that she’d really be giving up more if she went with him. And he’d already interfered enough with her job prior to this, so it all added to his determination that he shouldn’t be the reason Kyoko gave up her dream and job. In that point where he was forced by Mariko to realise how much he really loved Kyoko, I believe Suga did his own bit of growing up and realised he couldn’t just take all the time and not give. If it meant letting Kyoko fulfil her doctorate dream and not be an unhappy, lonely wife stuck in Washington, he’d do it for her. He’d play the bad guy, even let Yabuki woo her if it meant she’d be happy, because he finally realised just how much he loved Kyoko.
I really like how this grand gesture was understated yet heartbreakingly beautiful. Someone had to play the noble idiot, and that it turned out to be Suga was all the more bittersweet. He could have pretended no knowledge of the doctorate and just gone ahead with the engagement ceremony, but being Suga, he couldn’t do that. He did harbour a tiny hope that she’d really go to Washington with him, as her phone message had promised, but he knew too that it’d do neither of them any good in the long run. So he let her go. Even if she’d turned up at the airport to board the flight with him, I’m pretty sure he’d have stopped her from giving up just like that. The message he left her was so poignant, it gets to me every time I watch it. I love how even when he was suffering heartbreak, he didn’t fail to inject a bit of humour in it, such as teasing Kyoko that their not having made love was “a big mistake”. Although Kyoko worried that he was just playing with her, it turned out that he loved her enough to give up his job and come looking for her. As far as fairytales go, this one is perfect.
Even though the love of Suga’s life is Kyoko (and vice versa), I enjoyed watching his friendships with other characters. I particularly like his interaction with Mariko. They first met in Kanazawa over drinks at a hotel bar where, after being introduced by Yoshida, Mariko asked Suga straight off the bat how the kiss with Kyoko went. Suga was stunned, but recovered enough to say that it was impressive. Mariko warned him not to toy with Kyoko, to which Suga replied that guys only play with action figures. It was the sort of instant, mutual understanding that made this particular friendship really interesting, because they’re like-minded people and they hit off so well even though they’d just met. A later meeting at another hotel lounge saw Mariko and Suga commiserating over their love woes, Mariko exposing Suga for the nice guy he really is underneath. I really like that she can see him for who he is, and he does likewise for her, comforting her when she’s at her most vulnerable and in a way that Kyoko probably couldn’t. Again, it’s that sort of connection between two people who’re too alike to be in a relationship but who have the potential to be really marvellous friends because they can recognise their own type, which is how Mariko had first sussed out Suga.
But of course, the best moments are with Kyoko, they’re just too adorable together. There are so many squee-worthy moments and plenty of kissing – these are adults here, and they can kiss as much as they like, thank you very much. Notable ones include the initial kiss at the hospital, the one in the rain, and various others along the way. Kyoko and Suga’s almost-lovemaking session was wonderful in its build-up – unable to properly comfort each other even though they wanted to, it turned into something that was tender and near magical. And it had me cursing Yoshie for her untimely return. It was really too bad that she came home at the wrong time, because she interrupted a really tender moment between Suga and Kyoko – I thought it was really sweet how, after undressing, Kyoko and Suga held hands, as though he was reassuring her and asking her to trust him at the same time. The way she gazed at him as he was preparing to kiss her… whoa there. Kyoko should have just shoved Yoshie out and done the deed with Suga!
The kissing scene at the aquarium is really special, showing them kissing each other to oblivion and obviously lost in their own world. I really like that scene, no matter how many times I watch it, I always smile like an idiot seeing them so kissy. I think Fujiki Naohito and Esumi Makiko probably told themselves to just go for it and have fun – after all, how often do you get to kiss the hell out of your sexy co-star? And the squee is made all the more evident by contrasting it with Mariko and Yabuki’s rather tepid kissing – it was obvious that Yabuki wasn’t really interested and Mariko was doing all the kissing – but Suga and Kyoko would have been happy kissing each other senseless until the aquarium reopened for business the next day, haha. It was really funny how Suga was urging her to answer her mobile phone since it was ringing, but he was like “what the hell” when it turned out it was Yoshida asking Kyoko if she liked Otafuku sauce with her okonomiyaki.
But that led to a really adorable scene at the restaurant with the gang – Mariko, Yabuki, Yoshida and Fukuda – where Kyoko was teased about her kissing Suga, who wondered if there was leftover lipstick on his lips, and Kyoko dissolving into giggles at that. It was really too cute for words. It’s just so funny how Suga always teased Kyoko and she never quite wised up to his teasing – she’d get huffy and be curt with him, he’d laugh at her reaction and she’d be all embarrassed about it after realising he was just teasing her. For example, he teased her that she was skinnier than she looked because he saw her wet in the rain, and that got her all embarrassed. Three times he teased her that she’d not been out with a man for a long time, and in an earlier aquarium date, he’d innocently asked if she watched the news he reported on and she’d snapped that she watched the news because it was news and not for him, and he was so amused. I thought those were really golden moments which showed a much lighter, sweeter side of Suga – not quite playboy, but definitely flirty and working that charm effortlessly. Such moments really helped endear Suga to the audience. Seriously, how could you not like a man who makes you laugh, and your insides warm with sweetness?
In the latter half of the drama, Suga was a little angsty, but still able to turn on his smiley, charming self when needed. Partly because Yabuki was being an ass, surprising Suga into saying that he didn’t realise Yabuki had such a mean streak (thanks, drama, for that lobotomy). But I like to think that while the first half of the drama gave us a look at Suga being charming, flirty and all kinds of wonderful, the second half gave us more insight into him as a character. Kyoko wasn’t the only one suffering the effects of the split, Suga was too – staring forlornly out of his hotel window reminiscing about the aquarium date is so sad. There was insight into his family background and how it shaped him (courtesy of Katagiri), and also Suga’s determination to go to any lengths to right the wrongs done to Yoshida and other victims – which was why he wasn’t content to just go back to Washington and interview boring people, he wanted to do real work to help the people who mattered. Even Fukuda was surprised, saying Suga was really nice to be helping Yoshida so – finding out the truth behind his going to jail, and sending Akiko his way. Never expected Suga to play matchmaker for that one! So for all his efforts, I’m really glad that Suga and Kyoko got their happy ending.
Acting-wise, I think Fujiki Naohito really nailed the role to a T – be it suave reporter or earnest teacher, he was Suga through and through. I don’t think he’s had another role quite like this (Takano Seiichi is adorable, but definitely not in Suga league). Fujiki just seemed so relaxed as Suga that you forget he’s acting, I think that’s the hallmark of a really good actor, to make you believe wholeheartedly that he is that character. Besides, he had such wonderful chemistry with Esumi Makiko, it was off the charts! I’ve seen some of his other dramas and in none of them did he have the sort of chemistry with his other leading ladies that he’d had with Esumi Makiko, so in that regard, Love Revolution is special. And I like to think that he had a lot of fun with this role. He was only 28 when he played Suga, so there was a lot of youthful charisma packed into it. Like fine wine, Fujiki is maturing really nicely, and Suga is a role that stands the test of time, that is endearing and will forever remain as one of the most memorable drama characters out there. Just as there is only one Fujiki Naohito, there is only one Suga Eiichiro.