Pride Review. (Spoilers. Big Love. Big Rants.)

Posted by Stephanie on March 4, 2014


pride2This is the first time I’ve done a review for a drama without more pomp and circumstance. I just can’t stop thinking about it. I was chatting last night with Cherry Cordial and Thea and when I told them about it, I basically hijacked the entire conversation with my rants. That’s when the thought struck me. Dur. This needs a post. Stat. (Stat being actually two weeks ago when I first started writing this post. I’m such a slacker…)

Completely by accident, I spent this weekend watching Japanese dramas. Now if you know me you’ll know I’m not a huge fan of the J-dramas, so the fact that I found one I enjoyed so much was a complete surprise. However, the fact that I loved the first part of the drama and hated the last few episodes? This, unfortunately, did not surprise me. What up, J-dramas? Why you got to be like that?

But the thing is, when I went to go put a rating for Pride on my Mydramalist, I was torn. As much as I hated where the story went, I loved the beginning just as much. Can I discount the ending for the beginning? Or the other way around?

I get ahead of myself.
Lets take the drama in two parts, so I can squee my head off before getting to the hair pulling.Screenshot 2014-02-18 at 8.54.59 AM

Pride is the story of Halu, a professional hockey player or ‘iceman’. He’s the captain and most talented player of his team, and as such, he’s dedicated—and cocky. Unlike a lot of heroes out there, despite this, he is not an ass-hat. He has amazing insight into people—people relating to hockey that is. He expects a lot of those around him and looks down on those who don’t push themselves to the limit—he can do this because he does the same thing to himself. He’s willing to say the unpopular, harsh truths because he knows that in the end it’s best to face up to your fears and have pride in yourself.

Seriously guys, I’m describing this badly, I should have my blogger credentials stripped from me.

Halu is a great character. His one goal in life is to play hockey despite the fact that hockey is one of the lesser popular sports in Japan, no matter how good they are or how injured they get, they are never going to be famous, they are never going to make lots of money as other sports players do.

The person Halu most looks up to is his coach, who dies during the first episode. On the upside, this coach was able to lead Halu out of his unfortunate circumstances and into the great player he is now. On the downside, his coach has also ingrained into him that he should never fall in love or get married because women see the shine of the hockey player he is now, but when that’s gone? The love will end too.
So Halu is determined to treat love like a game and keep everyone (even to a point, his teammates) at arm’s length.

Halu, and I guess in turn the actor, is so incredibly magnetic both on and off the ice. This actor, Kimura Takaku really did a great job portraying a character who, while on the surface a charming iceman, is underneath an insecure person trying to do his best to protect the people he’s taken responsibility for.

On the other end is Asi, a common office worker who works for the company who sponsors the team. She’s been waiting for a boyfriend who left for the states two years ago, a boyfriend who has never, in all the time he’s been away, contacted her. She’s strong with a sense of humor, a girl who is able to call Halu out when she thinks he’s gone too far.Screenshot 2014-02-20 at 8.02.26 AM

After their first meeting, Halu proposes a ‘game’—the two should date and have fun until her boyfriend comes back where they will both walk away, no hard feelings.

Throughout their relationship, the fact that this started out just as a game is brought up many times. You know that both characters wish to step outside of their own fears and insecurities and accept the fact that the relationship is real but neither of them can make the first move, so they use the ‘game’ as a shield to protect themselves. While it’s fatalistic, putting an expiration date at the start of a relationship, it’s also because of this mask that they are able to be their true selves with each other.

Halu and Aki are so freaking cute together. And you just want to yell at them “get together all ready can’t you see you’re perfect for each other?” (This gets especially worse during the latter part of the drama.)
It’s interesting to begin the drama with the hero and heroine deciding to become a couple. We got to experience the daily life of this couple and the adjustments you have to make to yourself and the relationship to make things work out.

This story also has a whole lotta bromance going on. The episodes are pretty much swimming in it. The team is like a giant extended family who love, fight with, resent, and admire each other. The main bromance is the one that Halu has with his childhood friend and goalie, Yamato. Yamato is the only one who truly knows Halu and what he’s thinking—sometimes better than Halu himself. I love the fact that Yamato also becomes such good friends with Aki after they turn out to live in the same apartment complex. He’s able to let her in on some of the harsher parts of Halu’s past, trying to explain why he’s reacting certain ways in situations.

Wouldn’t it be great if all relationships came with that sort of guide?

Yamato gets his own storyline within the drama, and he’s saddled with a girl, Aki‘s friend, who only wants to date rich guys. Oh, but that’s okay, it’s not that she’s a gold-digger, she just grew up in a poor family and doesn’t want to live that way anymore.
No that’s not okay. This girl is such a…expletive. And I wanted better for this super-nice guy. Yes, by the end she comes around, but by then it was too late for me.

I didn’t realize I liked sports movies/tv shows so much before watching Pride. It may be that it was just really well done here, but I was invested in the team and their championship. As the new coach manipulated and pushed just to make Halu a better player, sometimes at the expense of the team, I really began to hate him. Both coaches pushed their own wishes and unfulfilled dreams onto Halu, manipulating him into yes, being a better hockey player, but at the expense of his humanity. Halu was more than an ice man, and they couldn’t see or accept it.

And if you get in the way of my super cute couple? I’m going to have an issue.

I got sidetracked. The sports aspect of Pride was really well done. When I saw that this show aired in 2004, I certainly didn’t expect such a high quality production value. The game shots are exciting and fast-paced. Halu, again, was magnetic, and whenever they thumped their sticks on the ice, it even got me pumped, and—of course—during the championship game when Yamato comes back from an almost certain career-ending injury (all thanks to his expletive girlfriend) and scores one final goal? Tears.

What can I say? I’m a sucker.

It’s not just the quality of the sports scenes that caught me by surprise. The script, the characters, the filming was so real. It wasn’t goofy or over the top, it was about these regular guy characters who played hockey. I remember saying to Cherry “It’s like a movie, or American television!” It had a sense of reality that I certainly haven’t found in Japanese dramas and are very sparse in Kdrama as well.

I want to say I heartily recommend this drama. I want to say “Go out, right now! Watch it! Report back here!” and am so bitter to say that I can’t. As much as I loved the first 6 episodes the last 4 made me just as angry and bitter.

Begin Rant.

What the fudge show. What. The. Fudge?

I guess we had to have expected that, as the couple got together from the very first episodes, something was going to happen to break them up before the end. I also guess we had to expect, since they kept talking about this boyfriend who she was or was not waiting for, that he’d have to come back. What I didn’t expect is that it would happen so soon and that it would FUCK UP MY SHOW. (Sorry for the expletive, but it had to go there.)

Boyfriend comes back after two years away and managed to take a show I loved and bring it down to a show I almost hated.

First off. If a boyfriend leaves for two years and doesn’t contact you at all? He no longer has any claim to you. I can understand if this was two hundred years ago and you had no way of communication, but these days the mail works pretty regularly. There are phones, email, and fax (this was 2004 when fax was still a thing). There is literally no excuse for a boyfriend to leave for more than a week and not contact the people he left behind. After a month—two months even—if he hasn’t contacted you? YOU ARE NO LONGER BOUND BY HIM. And for him to just expect her to have waited for him reveals him to be the ass-hat that he is.

However, the fault doesn’t really lie with him, does it? Aki could just have easily met him again, told him off (as nicely as she’d like) and tell him she’d fallen in love with someone else. But no. She went back to him. She left the person she really loved and needed her because she wasn’t strong enough to move past her insecurities and say “this is what I want.”

That’s the thing—both characters couldn’t reach out and be honest with each other, still hiding behind the pretense of their relationship being a game. Even Haru, with his brash attitude, thought she’d choose the old boyfriend over him. But why? Why was he so self assured during the beginning episodes only to lose himself from episode 7 on? I know the writers were setting it up that his spiral downwards is necessary for him to find his “pride” and eventually come out on top. I just thought that this wasn’t true to the characters.

Yes, Aki pretended to be wishy-washy about the boyfriend, but she was a strong woman. She stood up to Halu whenever she needed to during those first 6 episodes. It’s almost as if she becomes a weaker version of herself in the last half of the drama. There were actually some episodes where I wasn’t actually sure she had gotten back with him. I’d half convinced myself that she convinced Halu that she was with him because she’d seen how willing he was to let her go. While still dumb, that would be more understandable, and would have worked better with the character.

Why couldn’t this have actually happened??

But for her to actually run back to the boyfriend as soon as he gets back on the scene? Gives me a pair of cranky-pants. And the cranky-pants don’t end there. So the boyfriend, who has no right to call himself a boyfriend, gets jealous of Halu and goes to him to find out about the relationship. Halu tells it like it was. Jealous boyfriend gets irrationally jealous and ‘accidentally’ hits Aki. Hard enough to draw blood, and when she tries to leave, pins her to the ground, refusing to let her leave, begging her to stay with him.

Okay then, I thought to myself, that was horrible. But now she’s goingto leave, right? But no. SHE STAYS WITH HIM!! Come on stupid show, come on. This character who once slapped someone for acting dumb over a guy and wanting women to have more respect for themselves would not have stayed with this man.Screenshot 2014-03-02 at 11.08.59 PM

This of course was just to force Halu to beat the crap out of boyfriend and get put in jail. It’s like the writers forced the characters to act in ways that were against how they were written in order to get the story to move where they wanted it to be.

Well, except for the part about Halu beating the crap out of the boyfriend—he’d totally do that. But they needed Aki to swap marriage to the abusive boyfriend for getting Halu out of jail. Haru needed to hit his lowest point with everyone looking down on him to rise out of the ashes—and want to push forward to reach the dream of getting to the NHL.

Why are shows that are about teams or bands, things like that, ultimately about them all learning together and then going their separate ways? I know there was no future in Japanese hockey, that Halu had reached the ultimate level he could there, and if he succeed in the NHL he’d get the money, acclaim and respect he wouldn’t get in Japan, but he had to leave the team to do so. But for me? I loved the bromance and hated, hated to see it end.

I did love the montage of his rising fame in Canada and how that brought him giant fame in Japan. You know—because I have big, giant love for this character.


The writers did bring the couple back together in the end and they were just as cute as the beginning. I wonder though, at that point was it too late? Three years had passed. And during that time we didn’t get to see why he came back for her. Had he given her up (after her boyfriend broke off the wedding and she went to Halu and they STILL couldn’t get their heads out of their butts long enough to admit their feelings) for real and actually tried to find someone new? In the interview he said he always carried her picture with him. But what made him come back at this time (THREE years later) to get her?

But you know what? Maybe it was worth it. The way they reunited was so cute. The writers brought the couple back together, brought our hockey team back together, showed that Yamato had fully recovered from his injuries and then ended with the hockey game? It managed to end on a bright note for me. I love this couple (when they are together), I love this team, I love this hero.

It just leaves me to mourn those 5 episodes and what they could have been. Bummer.

So, do I recommend you watch this? I’m not sure if I’m any closer to an answer here. If I want to say is it a good drama? With almost half of it making me very angry? I’ll have to say no. But then you’d miss out of what was an awesome beginning. How about this? Watch it. Watch the drama until the end of the 6th episode and then watch the last half of the last episode. Cheating, yes. Worth it? I’m going to say yes.pride

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