Sawajiri Erika’s comeback drama after 8 years is either a miss or a fail. As LiLiCo, the narrator, have said, “First Class” is like a woman’s own battle royal.
Here is a quick recap of First Class: Episode 1
Yoshinari Chinami (Sawajiri Erika) is like a woman in love, who can’t stop smiling (her crook tooth is fixed?!), as she enters the First Class Editorial office. First Class is a fashion magazine and Chinami (I’ll be using her first name) have always loved reading it.
She immediately introduces herself to Editorial-in-chief, Osawa Rumi (Itaya Yuka), who gives her an “once-over” before calling assistant editor, Yamaki Konatsu (Miura Reiko), and introduces her as the intern.
Yamaki is all-smiles as she introduces Chinami to other staff of the editorial department starting with Shirayuki Kimura (Tabata Tomoko) and Kawashima Remie (Nanao). All ladies welcome her with a smile but deep inside, they are measuring Chinami from her looks, clothes, personal items, house, and relationships. Seeing that Chinami doesn’t have anything worth wanting, the staff deduced that she’s “beneath” them in the so-called “mounting” scale.
Yamaki directs Chinami to Shirayuki who can only smile while gritting her teeth on how she’ll crush Chinami.
Flashback 2 weeks ago, Chinami happily works at a fabric store called Tokai. News is ripe that the store is closing due to land dispute, and Chinami is the cause of worry among those older than her. In one of her shift, Chinami helps her senpai, Misae-san, who had lost consciousness while a work. She rushed her to the hospital and while Misae-san is recuperating, Misae-san’s daughter arrives who happens to be Osawa Rumi.
Osawa hands her calling card to Chinami and she can’t help but gush upon learning that Osawa is the editor-in-chief for such a high class magazine. Seeing her delight, Misae-san asks her daughter if she could take Chinami in her magazine, Chinami graduated from a fashion school after all.
Osawa then accuses Chinami that she purposely got close to Misae-san so she can use her. Somebody slapped her.
Chinami, ofcourse, denied it and Misae-san also defended her. Osawa then said that she’ll take Chinami as an intern and if she fails, then its goodbye.
Back at present, Shirayuki is playing the sweet and friendly senpai as she runs the gist of the work they do at the magazine. While Shirayuki discusses some details, Osawa passes-by and tells Shirayuki to give Chinami something to work on. Shirayuki asks Chinami how she got to know the editor and Chinami says that she knows Osawa’s mother. After learning that, Shirayuki is more intent on crushing Chinami.
From the editorial office, Shirayuki brings Chinami to the photo shoot where Mina (Sasaki Nozomi) is being her pretty self. Being the fangirl, Chinami excitedly introduces herself and gets reprimanded by Shirayuki that there’s no need for her to introduce herself. Mina sweetly defends Chinami and even says that she likes cute girls like her. Mina actually speaks to Chinami as if she’s 5 years old. Anyway, Shirayuki gives Chinami an assignment, which is to call-on 60 reader models that they’ll need for a photo-shoot.
Chinami feels giddy as she does her first assignment. She calls and confirms every reader model on their database. However, from the 60 reader models that made a confirmation, only 34 arrive. Shirayuki is expecting this and uses this as a reason to show her dominance by chiding Chinami.
Shizuka Matsuda (Yuui Ryoko), surprisingly takes Chinami’s side and Shirayuki pretends to be sorry for blowing her fuse. She then orders Chinami to look for 26 others while they shoot the 34 models.
Chinami spends her day asking every female passer-by if they can be a reader model on such a short notice. Chinami might be sweating outside but Shirayuki is all cool back at the photo-studio. Even if Chinami fails to gather 26 models, if she adds the shots taken from previous photo-shoot, she will still have 60 models in total.
As the shoot ended with model no. 34, Chinami arrives with 26 reader models behind her. Shirayuki isn’t too happy with this development and drops the bomb at Chinami by saying that Shirayuki will do her a favor by apologizing to all of them since they can’t be used for the shoot.
Chinami can only stare as Shirayuki pretends to be sorry to one model after another. Feeling betrayed after Chinami literally begs them, all of them starts ganging-up to Chinami.
Shirayuki feels proud from bullying Chinami as she has a dinner with Mina who is also aware of Shirayuki’s tactics. Shirayuki praises Mina that she can eat anything and not gain any weight. Unknown to her, Mina is not only a bulimic but she drinks lots of pills to maintain her figure.
While Mina pukes her way in the washroom, Shirayuki is having a grand time reading tweets of praises and jealousy after she posted her picture with Mina as the two have dinner. I thought that only teenagers get satisfied with that kind of attention.
Elsewhere, the two men in this female-dominated industry are having a chat of earlier events. Fashion stylist Isogai Takumi (Hirayama Hiroyuki) drinks with Nishihara Itsuki (Nakamaru Yuichi), assistant photographer, as they contemplate how someone must be crush someone else’s dreams to come true.
Nishihara receives a text from “the queen” and he can only groan in frustration that he will do THAT again. What is THAT?! Isogai can only empathize with him as he has also done things just to get to where he is now.
Feeling gloomy, Chinami returns to the editorial office where Osawa is doing finishing touches to the magazine’s draft. Chinami apologizes for the hurdle that happened during the shoot but Osawa is quick to let it go that everyone makes mistakes on their first try.
Chinami feels relieved with this until Osawa gives her a much-needed advice, “the only one on your side is you”. Chinami thinks that it’s impossible that everyone else is against her when they are working to make one magazine every month.
Osawa retaliates that there are no such thing as friends in their world, Chinami will only survived is she helps herself. For that reason, only those that can win will be able to obtain their dreams.
Chinami can only cry after listening to Osawa’s words but after a while, she looks at Osawa’s desk with silent resolve.
First Class is most likely to be voted as “most non-ideal workplace”, and it’s also a good example how vicious women can be when they are thrown in one place. When I first heard about “First Class”, I thought that this will be like “Devil Wears Prada” but instead of having one Miranda Priestly, everyone in First Class magazine is Miranda Priestly. However, I think it would be insulting on Miranda Priestly because unlike the girls in First Class, Miranda is more straightforward with her criticisms than the endless back-stabbing in the drama.
At first glance, Sawajiri looks miscast for the role of pretty, nice, and naive; but the look she gave at the end is just fitting. She’s perfect to play someone who looks innocent on the outside but rotten in the inside, which is exactly like everyone in this drama. Though Chinami is not rotten yet, it’s good to see how she will rise above the ranks, whether she’ll play dirty or she’ll prove that goodness has its rewards.
Acting-wise, I love Sawajiri and she’s a good actress whatever negative feedback she receives. From all the magazine staff, Shirayuki looks out-of-place because she’s not good-looking and glamorous enough compared with others. Nozomi Sasaki is so-so, after all, her role is not demanding aside from modeling is what she really does. Nakamaru looks odd to be Chinami’s boyfriend and judging from the preview, is he doing S&M stuff? LOL.
Despite the trite plot, it’s good to see how the writers will make this one interesting and refreshing. Overall, I’ll definitely watch more of this series because I’m interested to see Sawajiri’s transformation, but if I get too annoyed from catfights, I might just drop this.
Usual disclaimer applies.