December 2, 2022

First Love, (L to R) Hikari Mitsushima as Yae Noguchi and Takeru Satoh as Harumichi Namiki Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2022

First Love is an epic love story that spans over 20 years with marvellous visuals and heartfelt performances from a stellar cast. It will make you cry, melt your heart and go through so many different emotions.”

I had the chance to watch all the episodes of First Love last week. This new Japanese series arrives on Netflix November 24. It is based on two songs by Hiraku Utada – “First Love” and “Hatsukoi.”

STORY

First Love, Hikari Mitsushima as Yae Noguchi Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2022

First Love tells the story of Yae Noguchi and Harumichi Namiki, two highschool students who fall in love in the 90s. As the years pass, they try to stay together while also pursuing their dreams. However, life doesn’t always go the way we want. They end up following their own separate paths. Two decades later, we find these characters with very different lives. Yae is a single mom who works as a taxi driver. While Harumichi is a security guard engaged to another woman. Nevertheless, they soon find out their love story is not over yet.

This series spans over 20 years to tell what I would describe as the most epic love story. There are no others quite like it. During this saga, the characters are affected by the same historical events that we have lived through for the past decades. As a kid who was born in the 90s, it especially hits closer. Flashbacks and the present storyline succeed one another throughout the 9 episodes, unveiling the different layers of this spectacular story little by little.

First Love, Takeru Satoh as Harumichi Namiki (Right) Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2022

And I am glad that it is Netflix releasing this series because I think it would have been impossible to wait every week to see what happens next. This story is so enthralling and genuine. And I firmly insist on the word genuine. First Love makes you cry a lot, different kind of tears, not just the sad ones. It also melts your heart. In fact, it makes you go through so many different emotions, just like the characters. You really feel for them and root for them all the way. From an epic love story to compelling characters, Yuri Kanchiku has created a masterpiece. There are no other way to describe this series. With Heartstopper that means a lot to me, First Love is the best series of 2022.

CAST

First Love, (L to R) Hikari Mitsushima as Yae Noguchi and Takeru Satoh as Harumichi Namiki Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2022

This series has a stellar cast. Whether it is the younger versions of the characters or the adult versions, the actors and actresses picked are the right ones for the roles. Each brings something to these characters while also making the transition between the teenager and adult versions so seamless. Hikari Mitsushima, Takeru Satoh, Rikako Yagi and Taisei Kido all deliver heartfelt and deeply touching performances. With their work on this series, Rikako and Taisei definitely have a great career ahead of them. Moreover, Hikari and Takeru on-screen chemistry feels so natural. Undoubtedly, these four leads deserve to be awarded for their incredible work especially Hikari and Takeru. It is a career high for these two. The awards in Japan will surely recognize them. But, I think the American Emmy Awards need to pay attention to this series as well.

VISUALS

First Love, (L to R) Rikako Yagi as Yae Noguchi and Taisei Kido as Harumichi Namiki Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2022

Furthermore, First Love has marvellous visuals. The wide shots of Japan and the different places we encounter are absolutely striking. You can feel the vastness of the scenery. In fact, it just feels like you are there. On top of that, the lighting is as realistic as it can be, showcasing all these sets in their best light. But, it’s not just that, Yuri Kanchiku also films her cast with great sensibility. Indeed, it brings a certain level of intimacy to the story. She really gets into the souls of the characters, capturing their raw emotions. I think it is in these moments that Kanchiku’s past with documentaries is the most helpful.

In addition, with Japanese works there is this desire to share with the audience what the characters eat. So, we have a few beautiful shots of food too. It is important. As someone who eats Japanese food on an almost daily basis, I am always pleased to see these shots.

SOUNDTRACK

First Love, Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2022
First Love, Takeru Satoh as Harumichi Namiki Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2022

Obviously, the series features both songs that inspired it – “First Love” and “Hatsukoi.” They are used in beautiful ways to accompany different scenes. “First Love” is not just a song we hear in the background. This one also plays a major role in the story. It is incredibly touching.

Moreover, the series uses a variety of songs from international indie bands and singers. These are mostly calm songs that fit the tone of the story. The score is brilliant as well. Actually, this soundtrack is a perfect mix of songs that help tell this tale of love.

VERDICT

First Love is an epic love story that spans over 20 years with marvellous visuals and heartfelt performances from a stellar cast. It will make you cry, melt your heart and make you go through so many different emotions. Simply put, Yuri Kanchiku has created a masterpiece. Undoubtedly, it is the best series of 2022 (with Heartstopper).

Make sure to watch the end credits of the final episode as there are two additional scenes. 

First Love starts streaming on Netflix, November 24.

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