by Aisha, July 6, 2021

Hello all! I am actually writing for MDL for the first time ever, I used to be a content creator in an old drama forum (yeah, that old, lol), but it’s been quite a while, so I am sorry for all the inconveniences that could cause.

So, I decided to write an article about a Japanese drama (instead of my master’s dissertation, priorities, duh), because why not for an amazing drama like this? How can I be okay about dramaworld people knowing so little about a gem and let them pass through it without giving it a chance? 

That's why I will be getting directly into why I think you should give Renai Mangaka (The Romance Manga Artist) a try!

(Beware of mild spoilers from the drama, but I will try to make them not really spoil anything. ^^)

Sooo... Let’s get in the world of Renai Mangaka, shall we?


One day, Aiko, who works at a funeral service center, finds out the funeral is for her first love from high school, Karibe Jun. Then suddenly, Jun's big brother, Karibe Seiichiro, approaches her with an offer, he requests her to be his pseudo-romance partner.  (In a little wild way, lol)

Things happen, and they start to work together for the sake of the manga "Ginten".

A very popular romance manga, Ginga Tenshior Ginten for short, has been published for 11 years now. It follows the main female character Mizusu's adventures throughout times and spaces and her romance journeys as well.

Karibe Maria is the genius artist of it.


People think she is.

The fact is Ginten is the art of a socially awkward, introverted, crumpy and almost shut-in man, Karibe Seiichiro, a big, tall, bulky middle-aged man.

Ginten is his manga and his whole world.

He hides his identity as a mangaka and uses a pen name as Karibe Maria to make people think the artist is a woman, and it can be more relatable for the readers.

Karibe Seiichiro image

Karibe Seiichiro was someone who closed the doors of his house and his heart as well. Will we witness him wanting to open the door and even get out of it willingly?


When I first read the summary of the drama, mentioning Karibe asking Aiko to be her “pseudo-romance partner”, I was confused. Pseudo romance? As in a fake relationship trope? Or does that mean a romance but a lighter one? What does that mean??? 

So let’s make it clear for you! (maybe it was already clear for you tho, sorry for assuming you are me, lol) 

The pseudo-romance in the drama is referred to something like this:

Create the occasion, meet the guy, experience the romance for real, and then report it all to the manga artist for reference. Very professional and absolutely normal, right? No?? Lol

If we want to make it super simple, we can say it is kind of a modern version of Beauty and the Beast, with less drama. But the story has a lot of elements in it that are conducted nicely; it has comedy, romance, drama (gladly not so heavy), psychological elements, relatable daily concerns, eccentric characters, strong bonds, and so much more^^

So let's meet the characters for a deeper look!



Karibe Seiichiro (Suzuki Ryohei) is a 33 years old romance mangaka (manga artist). He thinks romance is not something to experience but to draw, for him. So he draws about romance for 11 years without experiencing it. He is very anti-social, has very few relationships, well, almost none and his manga is the only thing he cares about. He doesn’t go out of his house if it’s not necessary. And as you would guess, this "necessary" covers very few occasions.

Suzuki Ryohei, who is new to rom-com, says, “I accepted this, thinking I don’t look like a very romantic person myself, and I don’t create an atmosphere like that as well, so it would be a good starting point for the character, and it would awaken the romance inside both me and Seiichiro.”


Kuon Aiko (Yoshioka Riho) is a woman at her late 20s. She thinks giving her all doesn’t always give the results she wants, and she starts to lower her expectations from life, her long-desired “life-partner”, and herself. She is fairly tired of her life, had been in bad relationships, so she also has given up on her love affairs a little too. As a result, she is called a "bad guy magnet". But deep inside, she hopes to find her one and only partner in life.

I loved Aiko as a character and found her relatable and unique from time to time, and also, she is just so simply beautiful! And something about her smile is just so genuine and warm? I don't feel like this often, and I think this is a real talent to make me feel like acting is genuine.

Yoshioka Riho also shares that the growing bond representations of this drama were really on point as well.


Kogo Tatsuya (Kataoka Ainosuke VI) is the editor of Ginten and he has the only privileges Karibe ever gave, he can enter Karibe’s house, touch his drafts, talk to him (privilege life at its best!), etc. He has a little different personality as well and he can do everything for Ginten and its genius artist, Karibe.

(Also I just read his biography and I am confusion, is he a royalty or something lol)


Kinjo Karen (Kinami Haruka) is also a romance manga artist who can be considered as a rival to Karibe. She has a big curiosity about Karibe Maria’s identity. If we get to see her in an episode, she will most likely mention Maria-sensei.


Nikaido (Maeda Gordon) is the deputy manager of a café bar that Aiko often goes to. They are like close friends, but also not really. We can see he sees Aiko as a special person. He is also playing in the spin-off of the drama Renai Kakutoka.


Ren (Iwata Ryusei) loses his only parent, his father and now he is supposed to live with his eccentric uncle who is unable to communicate properly. He starts a new life and this new life has ups and downs for him.

Usually I am not that person who finds every child actor cute and praise them, sorry, but this kid has a huuuge potential I mean it’s a rom-com yet this kid is able to make me teary so easily wth??


   YOUNG SEIICHIRO                            KARIBE JUN                       YOUNG JUN
   (Matsudai Koya)                              (Shiraishi Shunya)            (Okudaira Daiken)

Karibe Jun is someone who can break a women's heart yet leaves a good impression. He is introduced as someone who gets love no matter what.

There are cameos, secret cameos and also some more other casts as well but I would like to introduce the cast that has an impact to the story so that this won't be boring for you~~

So... Let's make these characters act and talk a little about the story!


The story seems cliché at first glance, but it only seems so when you just read the summary of it. The storyline is wrapped beautifully. It has so many unique elements and yet has some welcoming familiar elements but yet again, most of the time in different ways we always see!

The structure is interesting and attractive, with a composition in which two seemingly incompatible people, a manga artist and a woman who is tired of her own life, are connected through pseudo-romance.

“What.. What is this?

It’s love!”

We see them trying to create stories, sometimes Karibe being completely immersed in it to the point of ignoring Aiko all the way, and sometimes Aiko being the one who teaches simple gestures to our awkward genius artist! We laugh, we get second-hand embarrassments, we laugh again, we get teary, we want to give them a hug and so on.


This story is originally from a manga, so naturally, there will be a comparison. I haven't read the manga myself, but the information I have collected through some comments on the internet says; the manga is darker and edgier. It has less romance, more conflict, less humor. Well, hearing all this, I am glad how they made it lighter yet warm and relatable for the live-action. I would like to see if anyone feels different about it, though!


So I decided to list reasons to give this show a chance and talk about all the necessary points on the way.

Would I be too much if I start with how I love their bickering? I just kept rewinding their bickering scenes as if they are some big milestone scenes lmao Their dialogues have such a good rhythm that you can't get enough! Almost like a rapping battle with a slight slow burn romance game going on!

Karibe's awkward yet sarcastic ass, lmao! Do you like socially awkward geniuses? Or charismatic geniuses?  He is big, tall, looks grumpy, wears the same loosy and uncolorful clothes, has messy hair, keeps dissing people unpleasantly YET he can be cute. How to deal with that? Seiichiro is a big man who overflows with cuteness while being clumsy, and that is just really enjoyable to watch!

On the other hand, Aiko's warm yet another sarcastic ass, lol!… Being in a rather given upstate, she meets Karibe Seiichiro, she gets the energy to try again and says, “Let’s do our best!” She is just really cheerful but not that unrealistic "smiling all the time and making everyone love her because she is extremely nice female lead" kinda cheerful, she just has an energy that uplifts the mood and makes everyone feel her sincerity. She is good at finding a way to lighten the mood, but like I said, not at a level that seems unrealistic. She is not the one to get scared to say a thing to Seiichiro, give him sarcastic nicknames or challenge him.

Their connection growing little by little! I get this kind of feeling very rare that two characters find the space to be with each other and fill a hole in each other's hearts and souls.

(Gif source)

Yes, slow burn, my friends but the process until the slow burn going to official, they always find a way to make us enjoy their exchanges, be it bickering, be it building trust or some other trivial thing.

They just accept each other’s weird selves. They bicker all the time but just accept and never try to change each other, rather they make the other one want to change without even realizing it. For instance; Karibe willingly going outside for Aiko, or Aiko insisting on her relationships rather than giving up

It can be like woah that’s some real connection there and you can just feel the “love” bonding day by day but it’s not becoming cheesy at all, it's so smooth and naturally done and I loved that pace so much!

Their acting is good! They were so real, omg! Yoshioka Riho, who plays Aiko, impressed me a lot. I watched her for the first time, yet she did a great job, and that is by little things, with small gestures, with a look, it's just the little things, and the character felt so real.

Suzuki Ryohei, who plays Karibe, was truly amazing, I was shocked to be able to find him intimidated and intimidating at the same time! He also somehow managed to make himself look cute, which could be seen as hard for a man at his size lol.

Also, I want to highlight how Iwata Ryusei, who plays little Ren, was perfect at his role. He just made his scenes bigger and made everyone want to hug him or pat him or something! I expect so much from him in the future, and I hope he would have a great career!

And their chemistry! Oh, man! They just become more and more of a "made for each other" kinda couple. And don't imagine some big legendary love story kind of picture here, but they just have this aura that makes it tense and warm at the same time and with each episode, you start to want them in the same scene more and more. Be it a fight scene, a little petty argument, or a serious problem to be solved!

(Gif source)

I should add the chemistry between Aiko and Ren, Ren and Karibe and them as a trio!

With time, you will find a small happiness when you see these three in the same frame. It’s just their energy. Nothing big has to happen for you to love these three as a set!

Also I want to say that the younger versions of the characters fit so well, they were never the main focus so I wouldn't expect much but they were so spot-on, especially the younger Seiichiro was an amazing choice! Also he is very handsome and talented too so I will keep my eyes on him hehe^^

And Karibe Jun is played by Shiraishi Shunya, and even though he didn't get a big role, if there are any Good Morning Call fans out there, you might love seeing him in this!

The manga creating process is displayed beautifully, showing us the manga world slightly, touching the manga every time but not making it like a documentary yet presenting an amazingly aesthetic world! If you have any interest in manga, you will love to see the processes. Personally, I even like to see the pens mangakas use! However, even if you are not quite into manga, you will witness the efforts one might put into it.

The humor! The main focus for the director, according to actors, is making the dramas comedy part strong. So that it really can make your day a little more bearable! I find it really fun, and it was a great point for me. It has some anime-like moments but not overboard (unlike some J-movies where people fly over with a punch and such, lol), and that made a good amount of dynamic to the show.


Finally, I am concluding! I wish my studies would be this fun to write so that I could commit myself like this... 

I have tried to summarize my appreciation of this drama, and I hope I could have made it right.

When I had the worst mood for a day, watching an episode of Renai Mangaka made my day so much better and put a smile on my face, and that’s why I decided to introduce this drama to you all, hoping it would have the same effect on at least one more person.

I hope I was convincing enough and now you want to watch it, well have fun!

Some Notes And Resources

Official page Official Instagram Page:| Official Twitter Page

The drama was subbed by eveychooeyand I would like to say I am really grateful for the effort!

You can check the full trailer from the official Instagram account of the drama here (it happens to have some spoilers).

I will add this Tumblr source which has some scenes you can see the acting and the chemistry, also has spoilers in it~~.

Edited by: Nymphadora (1st editor), YW (2nd editor)

drama recap bickering couple jdrama reccomendation jdrama romantic comedy manga related socially awkward protagonist

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