Soredemo, Ikite Yuku: Episode 1

There are some dramas you can’t get out of your system no matter how many times you watch them. Dramas that are so wonderful you hate to see them go or wish everyone you knew were watching as well. Soredemo, Ikite Yuku (However, I’ll continue living) is one of those dramas for me. I couldn’t stop watching when it began and recently revisited. Now, I wanted to share it with those who love it too, or never gave it a chance. If you didn’t, I hate you missed such a wonderful project but here’s an opportunity to check it out.

Episode 1: The Forbidden Encounter

Summer 1996

Fukami Aki (Shida Maki) is on a hilltop near a lake, flying a kite joyfully with an older boy (Sasaki Ryosuke). Nomoto Kyoko (Otake Shinobu) arrives at a local beauty salon ready to begin her shift. When asked about her daughter, she answers that she’s safe, “She’s with her brother.”

Two capped young boys barely scraping adolescence toss an adult film on the video counter and turn their backs anxious and ashamed to face the cashier. Fukami Katsuhiko (Emoto Akira) is playing at a gaming cafe remarking that young girls are changing, referring to his daughter’s request for red shoes for her birthday.

The two boys, Fukami Hiroki and his friend, ogle over their rental outside a friend’s house, when Futaba (Yamamoto Maika) bikes up. They inquire after her brother but she ignores them and walks inside. The boys decide on another venue as not to be disturbed.  Futaba runs upstairs to find her brother but his room is empty. She spies his card pyramid by his window and steps to get a closer look.

On the hilltop, the young boy pulls out a hammer and calls Aki by name. Her kite falls from the sky into the water. Across town, the card tower crumbles to desk.

It’s night time when Hiroki (Kisaichi Yuta) arrives home for dinner, but without Aki. However, his  parents assume Aki she’s with a friend. The next morning the police arrive with photos to confirm Aki’s belongings and  report that Aki’s body was found at Mikazuki Lake.

Kyoko collapses to the ground in denial.

Summer 2011

At a fishing lodge,  Katsuhiko busily makes lunch as his patrons connect him as Fukami Aki’s father, the girl killed at Mikazi Lake. He reminds Hiroki (Eita) of Aki’s birthday (the next day), but Hiroki grunts and takes his food outside and watches the men on the lake as they fish. Sitting there, he remembers a moment with Aki musing over the importance of The Dog of Flanders.

Aki: What is the point? He was lied to and bullied. In the end he and his dog died. What is the point in having such a sad story? Wouldn’t it have been better if Nello were never born? Nii-chan, what do you think?

In a café, Toyama Futaba (Mitsushima Hikari) returns her couple ring to her boyfriend, to which he asks her to delete his number as well. On the way home, she takes out her frustration on an empty can. She meets her dad sitting on a bench outside and announces with a smile– “I got dumped today, you?” He was fired.

Over dinner, Misaki Shunsuke reveals his company received an anonymous phone call, therefore, they’ll be no pension. Futaba’s boyfriend did as well. Moving again is the only option but Shunsuke suggests separation to lessen the burden. Now that they are no longer considered  a legal family (they changed the family registry), it would be harder to connect them. However, Mom (Fubiki Jun) disagrees and stands firm citing their divorce was to avoid separation, not perpetuate it; wherever and whenever they move, it’s together. Unfortunately, this time, Obaa-chan(grandma) won’t be able to travel. She’ll have to be transferred to a retirement home/hospice.

Disheartened by this news, Futaba goes in to look after her grandmother. She figures it’s the Fukami family behind the continuous anonymous calls and promises her she’ll figure out another solution.

At the hospital for treatment, Katsuhiko tells Hiroki the state of their business; no savings, no debts. He asks him to take of everything when he’s gone. But he’s glad he’s nearing the end, for he’ll now be able to be with Aki.

Hiroki arrives home alone and sees a strange vehicle in the yard. Futaba is out on the dock looking out across the lake, Hiroki startles her when he approaches. And they engage in an extremely awkward first meeting; he thinking she’s there to drown, she convinced he’s stalking her family.

Hiroki: Is that your car?

Futaba: Oh. I’m so sorry.

Hiroki: No it’s fine. Don’t worry about it.

Futaba: Oh.

Hiroki: What is it?

Futaba asks if he’s from around here and he is. Awkwardly, Hiroki makes a gesture and tries to turn and leave but Futaba sighs at the short interaction and Hiroki stops– “What?” She stutters but sheepishly admits, that she’s hungry.

Inside, Hiroki hands her some packaged noodles and struggles to find an outlet. Futaba spies one and Horiko stands holding the kettle as it heats up. To keep herself busy, Futaba fumbles over the noodles adding the sauce atop raw noodles, which Hiroki catches as a grave faux pas. She insists she’ll eat it anyway but Hiroki suggests to find something else to serve her.

This discussion is cut short when Hiroki’s brother pulls up, Katsuhiko drunk  in the backseat. He showed up on Kohei’s (Tanaka Kei) door step wanting to see his ex-wife but Kouhei intercepts, not wanting to cause trouble for his in-laws.Hiroki figures he’s bounding from the effects of cancer but then still wonders why he’d want to see their mother after ten years of separation. Kohei explains he wanted to celebrate Aki’s birthday— “But we don’t do that anymore.” And hands him a boxed cake.

Hiroki gets Dad upstairs and Futaba offers to help by getting the bedding out of the closet. She opens the wrong door first though, and an old box filled with papers and old relics tumble to the floor. After Dad is down, Futaba rushes to pick up what dropped and Hiroki notes it’s all old stuff and snatches his old porn cassette from her hands.

Dad rustles awake and Futaba excuses herself to get him some water. Hiroki explains she’s someone that wants to commit suicide and Dad directs him to the emergency number near the phone. “Why did you visit Mom after all this time?”

This sends Katsuhiko into a memory, sometime after Aki’s death, where he burned all memories of her, pictures, toys, letters. Kyoko storms out trying to save what’s left of her little girl but he holds her back, “She’s never coming back. We can just have another child.” Mom stiffens as tears cover her cheeks and watches her sons through the flames; Kohei crying hysterically, Hiroki silently looking on.

Downstairs, Futaba spies the disregarded cake; decorated for Aki’s birthday.

For food, they decide to go to a local diner. Hiroki proceeds to share his own insecurities with Futaba. How he’s twenty-nine and never dated, how she must think he’s creepy. Repeatedly, he begins a sentence and refuses to continue his thought, while Futaba pleasantly welcomes him to continue. “You saw the video I had back there right? My sister was murdered as I was renting that. Back then, all I cared about was naked boobs and things like that.” He stops abruptly sensing that she didn’t want to hear his story but Futaba isn’t put off by the story but more so why he was sharing it so suddenly.

He apologizes but she soothes that he can talk about whatever likes. He then immediately changes the subject, asking about her whereabouts during the earthquake. Futaba stays on topic, though, curious to why his sister was murdered. With that Hiroki retrieves a pen from the waitress and begins to sketch on a napkin. He draws a picture (a rough map) of locations; his house, the video store, then the mountain and Mikazuki Lake.

He relays a memory that he ditched his sister that day, who wanted to fly her kite, for a visit to the video store, “That was the last time I saw her.” He explains that the perpetrator was a friend from his school, therefore it wasn’t odd for them to be together. “And there the perpetrator hit my sister over the head with a hammer and killed her.” Futaba can barely contain herself, fidgeting, uncomfortable and remiss with Hiroki’s flippant expression of events. He even demonstrates of the number of times Aki was hit. Futaba lowers her head and closes her eyes.

Unable to hear anymore, she interrupts before he can continue. They’re food arrives. Hiroki shifts and remarks on how well the food looks and hands her silverware but Futaba is clearly shaken and sweating. She digs in her purse pays and runs out.

Outside she buckles over, breathing in fresh air as if she had been suffocating. But Hiroki juts out behind her, confused, as she takes off running. Again, he catches up to her and he pulls her back, when she erupts– ” What is your problem? Do you expect me to be able to eat after that? It’s a little too much. Normally, that’s a lot to take in, right? It’s too much to bear, don’t you think?”

Hiroki  is stunned but quickly explains, “I’m not normal. My sister was murdered and I’m not normal. I can’t even recall her face. I was always cold to her. For every thousand times maybe there was one I was kind. But despite that Aki always ran up to me calling, “Onii-chan. Onii-chan.” But I can’t remember her face.”

Hiroki turns to leave but Futaba wonders why he shared his story with her and he simply says he feels they are the same. “Like you’ve experienced something similar. Like you’re a victim too.”

Back at home, Hiroki gives Futaba a room and pajamas and says goodnight. “But you still hate them, right? The perpetrator and his family?” With his back turned he shakes his head. He has no idea what Fumiya is doing with his life, but the one he blames is himself. He drifts off in thought and mentions The Dog of Flanders, believing the kid in the book to be pretty unlucky. “Wouldn’t it have been best if he’d never been born?” Futaba takes this in reference to his sister’s existence but Hiroki brushes it off and says goodnight again.

The next morning Dad is missing. Through a phone call Hiroki is informed Katsuhiko boarded a train with a knife and is being detained at the local police station. Turns out, Dad found Boy A (Misaki Fumiya) and wants to return to their former home in Matsumidai. The house is dilapidated; nothing changed since their move, debris and dust still clutter the floors and walls. Like they left in a hurry.

Once inside, Dad collapses on the stairs and reminisces, feeling  close to Aki there but Hiroki isn’t sympathetic but irritated. He argues that Katsuhiko was the one that pushed to forget Aki but Dad counters he now realizes he was wrong. For, he saw he kite that day and there’s never a time he doesn’t remember it dropping from the sky. “That white kite flying in the summer sky. And when it fell, my heart began to race somehow. I wanted to go up there but it really hot that day. Really hot…”

Hiroki sees no need to rehash, for even he bears some blame. Dad apologizes for his tears but perks up that now, with his cancer, he can meet Aki again. However, there is still one thing he needs to do. He needs to find Boy A and ask him ‘Why?’— “I need to know the truth.” Hiroki is skeptical to finding him but Dad has already done his research through an acquaintance at a juvenile facility. He even got his hands on a picture Fumiya drew before he was released (after serving only 8 years).

Hiroki looks over the crumpled picture, drawn with rays in beautiful blues and purples of the sky and the lake. In the lake is a ripple, movement, a person, to which Hiroki recognizes and whispers, “Aki.” At this Katsuhiko explodes, screaming and hitting the mattress, then the floor, raging why Fumiya gets to live, why he gets to grow and become an adult when Aki has no future? Though he isn’t remorseful and he will kill again.

Finally, Hiroki realizes his Dad’s motive, why he had the  knife, why he was on the train, “I was thinking of killing him.” Dad plans to seek him out at a funeral the next day, but Hiroki is against it. Katsuhiko flails and begs, before him, then collapses.

All the while Futaba stands in the hall, sobbing uncontrollably, unable to register her fear, her remorse, her empathy. In the end, she makes a run for it, to distance herself from the pain they all share.

Hiroki drops Dad off at the hospital and returns home. As he cleans, he finds the shoes Katsuhiko bought Aki ten years ago and finds he’d purchased a pair each subsequent year, coinciding with her growth and age. He spies Aki’s old school bag and pulls out her self-portrait and a drawing of herself flying a kite. And then, like defogging a mirror, he sees her face. What was once blurry he sees sharply, replaying his previous memory.

Hiroki rushes downstairs and sees her cake, as memories of her past birthday celebrations and happier times flood back to him. He clamors to compile some materials and makes a white kite, all the while awash with fresh glimpses of Aki’s smiling, joyful face. He drives up to the mountain and runs to the lake, kite lifting to the air behind him.

As he watches, Aki appears beside him mesmerized by his kite flying skills, “Onii-chan is amazing!” At first he smiles but then takes a deeper look, grief washing over him and collapses crying in the grass.

Later, he swims in the lake wondering how it felt that day, “Were you  scared Aki? Was it cold?”

The Misaki’s ready for another move; packing and purging. And Futaba sits at her Grandmother’s bedside regretful she got no answers. “He wasn’t the one. He didn’t tell anyone about us. I’m sorry, I couldn’t do anything.”

Hiroki returns home, with new purpose, awake for the first time in years. He washes and cuts his hair, liberated, as he takes in the view from his window, as if seeing it for the first time. After he eats, he locates a blade in a utility drawer and the phone rings.

Kyoko steps out on her way to the market and Hiroki stops her, scaring her. “Dad died.” Without blinking she steps by him and tells him his brother is inside. She does however, blankly offer to have dinner with him from time to time. Hiroki wonders why there’s no reaction from her, stating Dad should at least get a tear but Mom begs to differ, “All my tears are gone. For there’s nothing sadder than that (referring to Aki’s murder). Nothing.”

Hiroki doesn’t understand but adds, “I’m still going to live.” Mom just turns and walks on, as he finishes out of ear shot, “So I can think of her.”

Futaba’s parents pack Grandma off to the retirement home. Shunsuke watches the van drive away, concerned how she’ll fare, believing he’s failed as a son. Takami comforts that he did all he could, “Now your priority is to protect the family before you.”

Hiroki shows up at the funeral checking out the guests looking for Fumiya but it’s Futaba he runs into. She apologizes for eavesdropping but asks, “Are you planning on killing Misaki Fumiya?” Hiroki thanks her for her concern but tells her this has nothing to do with her and tries to step passed her. She stops him saying, she knew Aki and about her death and that she understood her. These words register with Hiroki but he’s puzzled at her point.

Futaba: You said the other day that you were always cold to your sister. But I think, that if a brother does a thousand terrible things to her, if he is nice to her once, then for some reason she will feel he’s her brother. Like she still wants to play with him, she’ll play with him again. Because she thinks her brother is kind and knows he’ll be kind to her again. That’s why she won’t hate him.

Hiroki digests her words and wonders who she is, when he sees a man on the bridge just behind her. He recognizes him immediately and bolts toward him, sliding the knife from his jacket. Futaba follows quickly behind and yells ahead, “Run! Onii-chan, run!”

Fumiya looks up from the lemon he’d placed on the bridge ledge to see Hiroki making his way up the steps to him. Futaba grabs Hiroki’s ankles but he kicks her away.

Once to the top, the bridge is vacant, Fumiya down below catching a cab. Futaba makes it upstairs and properly introduces herself, “I’m boy A’s younger sister. I’m Misaki Fumiya’s sister, Futaba.”

Fumiya returns to a garden nursery and an older man greets him inquiring if he’d conveyed his gratitude properly. His granddaughter, Yuri runs up to Fumiya (who now goes by Amemiya Kenji) wanting to fly her kite. Later as she plays, he draws (the product eerily similar to the one now in Hiroki’s possession) and her mother, Maki (Sato Eriko), muses about her daughter’s question regarding The Dog of Flanders. “What is the purpose of such a sad story?”

Fumiya: Perhaps because humans are sad living beings.

Reactions, Ramblings and Remarks

Ok so if you’ve read my recaps before, you know I can be long-winded in this section and since this is the first episode, prepare thyself!

それでも、生きてゆく Soredemo, Ikite Yuku is an interesting title because of the message it sends. It speaks towards continuing life almost in spite of tragedy or regardless of trials. Now, that of course, is the way we all should live our lives, but given the circumstances in this drama, it comes as no surprise that no one has truly done so. At least not yet (well save one perhaps). The title itself can translate in several ways, mostly due to the purpose of the phrase. I find that the word それでも is translated: “yet,” “therefore,” “even so,” “however,” “still.” And all these can apply to what the drama seeks to convey. The phrase is a little truncated in English because it’s wordy and then subject to subtext. Overall, the meaning in it’s entirety (for this drama) is– regardless of the past, I will live. I will survive and move on. I won’t allow circumstances to destroy and stunt me.

I actually love this title because it’s rather audacious in a way. Even when Hiroki says it to his mother, you can feel the tension in the moment, for it’s not something that one wants to hear. This statement comes from Hiroki directly off the discovery that he’s spent the past decade doing the opposite. His epiphany is also something that makes the statement hit harder and penetrate all the more, for this is his goal now. To find a way to “continue” and to “live.” Hiroki’s moment at the lake was equal parts beautiful, bittersweet and heart-wrenching, for it’s the first time that he’s actually come face to face with his grief. Within this episode, we see that Hiroki has tucked Aki away, far away, without even knowing it. He lost her and had forgotten that he’d done so. Personally, I’m sure it’s because of his guilt, then his loyalty to his father and perhaps his disillusionment with his mother, however, his emotional choices were his own. He chose to just box her up and put her on a shelf (with his porno tape, no less).

His disconnect with Aki is expressed wonderfully in his dinner with Futaba, because he speaks about the events as though he read them in a newspaper or was relaying an episode of Law and Order: SVU. He drew a map, banged out the blows to her head and wasn’t shaken once. Of course, everyone deals with grief differently, but in his case, (as the audience) it’s evident he hasn’t confronted Aki’s murder on an emotional level, only intellectually or factually. And Futaba is disturbed by his nonchalance, which again, I look at in a couple ways. She seeks out Hiroki,  looking to find an angry bitter, family member and is met by an emotionally stunted bum. Someone who hasn’t grown too much since the incident, someone who is a recluse, who then speaks about his sister in such simple terms, it’s jarring. She also has a personal stake in the incident, therefore, her reaction reflects that. I’m not too clear on how much Futaba knows about what happened but most likely, she did read it in a newspaper or hear about it second hand, therefore, listening to someone that knew the victim describe it, is unsettling. To imagine her brother taking a hammer and hitting a child repeatedly, then throwing her in a lake? Yeah I’d lose my appetite too. And then who could blame her for being put out by Hiroki? Who would want their brother to speak about their death in such a way?

Because I believe this drama is a beautiful story about love, comfort and healing, I can’t ignore my favorite statement this episode: “I believe we are the same. It seems you are a victim too.” I love that Hiroki thinks and feels this before he knows Fumiya is her brother, for he already has a sense of who she really is. Both characters have this vibe or inerrant sadness, that it’s hard to separate that cloud from them. Though he believes she showed up to end her life, he recognizes her pain. It’s not a weariness that comes from being fed up with choices made by oneself but more by the weight of life; a hollowness that has been dealt to them both. That is why when he makes the conscious choice to breath new life into his world, it’s revolutionary. Ah and don’t you just love the fruit separating Futaba and Hiroki (in their last scene)? A representation of Fumiya, what connects but also separates them. Love it. Proximity is enhanced several times during this episode. I’m not sure exactly what that means, whether it’s their inability to interact with people normally or their self-consciousness. I guess we’ll have to find out.

The families in this drama are drawn with great detail and I am very interested in the dynamics of both. For the Fukami’s are severed but the Mizaki’s have stuck together. I wonder if it’s all a façade on the latter’s part or is there genuine and concrete love and loyalty among them. The circumstances of the families intrigues me, for I would naturally assume, the roles of the families would be switched, however given the Fukami flashback, it was inevitable for them to end up where they are now. Fukami Katsuhiko is such a pitiful character when we meet him, it’s hard not to identify with his feelings on the matter because he appears to be the most broken. For he’s spent the past ten years with such a mountain of regret. But with that said, I find his current state pathetic. He may shout and scream and cry but one never knows what is beneath the surface, in someone’s heart or mind. Not to say that he’s not being genuine but more so that his actions don’t prove him to be in greater anguish. Katsuhiko above all, is tortured by his past, what he didn’t do, what he did, the lack of justice, the unanswered questions. It’s like he’s punishing himself until he gets the opportunity to be “cosmically” punished by his failing health. His daughter is murdered and he proceeds to make mistake after mistake from that point on, now he’s sick and dying. I’m not sure that he’s entirely sympathetic for he made some insensitive statements and carried out some mindless actions, (spurred by grief) but he’s not a bad man.  I can’t forgive him entirely (for the past or his current request) but I can see his rationale. It’s Kyoko I have a harder time identifying with at this stage. Her indifference towards her son and apparent consumption with her daughter’s death. I truly can’t wrap my mind around.

Lastly, I suppose there should be some discussion on the novel reference to The Dog of Flanders. I won’t got into detail but basically, I assume the reference is kind of a theme for the characters in the drama and perhaps humanity at large. The novel tells a tragic story of a little boy who never experience joy or true happiness and then dies. I do believe it offers up the idea of the meaning of life and one’s purpose in the universe, etc, therefore, it’s worked into this drama in the same way. The general discussion about the purpose of the story or more specifically, the purpose of Nello’s existence comes up several times, with Hiroki applying his thoughts to Aki and then Fumiya to humanity at the end of the episode.

I don’t believe that Hiroki actually means to say that Aki should never have lived but more that he’s trying understand Aki’s line of thinking from his memory. When thinking in those terms, he addresses the question towards her existence as well, but I don’t think agrees with the conclusion. While Aki, in her child’s mind, makes total sense. Why live if life is full of so much pain? What good did Nello’s life serve when he never had a happy moment? Why was he born if he was never to experience goodness? To an adult those questions hold much more weight than where I assume Aki is coming from as a little girl. In my understanding, she should be thinking of Nello as a kid like herself,  but without family and friends. Why live if you don’t have those? Aki is remembered as a very fun loving, pleasant personality, therefore I can see her thinking in those terms, instead of a deeper meaning, which we as the audience and then Hiroki may place her statements. Her questions get us pondering and considering but I doubt basis for her conclusions mirror our own.

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3 Replies to “Soredemo, Ikite Yuku: Episode 1”

  1. Wow! Will you be recapping the full series? This was brilliant. Easily one of the best jdoramas ever produced. Ever.

    1. I absolutely adore this drama! I’ve been toying with recapping it for awhile now and when I turned it back on about a month ago I knew I couldn’t be lazy about it anymore. Not sure how regular the recaps will be but I will post the entire series.
      Glad you loved it too. Hopefully we’ll have much to chat about 🙂

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