I’ve actually thought long and hard about this entry (what’s taken me this long to post) and still I’m not convinced I actually have one. Therefore, I’ve chosen one of my most “memorable” I love you moments.
I consider Tsuki no Koibito a melo portrayal of love and what love means, what type of love you choose and whether attraction is love at all. The main characters all experience and express love (romantic, familial, and filial), however, being in love wasn’t their motivating force and I actually respected this drama for that fact. Maemi, Xui Me, and Ren lived and worked and strove for goals beyond their feelings or the impulse of the moment.
Maemi sacrifices a lot in the drama but she does it from a place of wisdom and compassion, not out of blind devotion to Ren. She was her own person, practicing her own craft but a graceful, caring companion and support system to both Xui Me (a Chinese expat model) and Ren (a longtime college friend). Therefore, when Ren gets the opportunity to reunite with Xui Me, a woman who loves him and he deeply cares for, Maemi steps in again to help nudge him in the right direction.
TNK was one of the most enjoyable dramas for me when it aired, for I found the interactions and emotions between characters rather adult, though stunted. Maturity comes with practice and desire and in love, it can be rather elusive, but not impossible. That is something Maemi proves when she chooses to confess to Ren.
Maemi speaks with Xui Me over the phone and realizes she’s leaving town, then she notices the words “I love you, Rensuke” written on the window in front of her as Xui Me hangs up. Ren walks in and asks after the others while Maemi begins to clean. He tells her he’ll clean when he returns and picks up his shades and keys. She figures he’s going to meet Xui Me and pushes him along, encouraging him not to be late. Rensuke turns around, with something on his mind, but Maemi stops him, “Don’t turn around!”
Maemi: Don’t turn around. Just listen like that. You see…
Ren: Hurry up and say it.
Maemi: I love you, Rensuke.
Maemi: I’ve loved you. All this time. You probably never realized it but… How dense can you be? Well, if you have realized it, it would’ve been awkward. This feeling was kind of comfortable I guess. Kind of like being in a warm bath. Rensuke, you’ve somehow always been running ahead of me.
Maemi: Looking at your back, I really loved it. That’s why from now on too, keep on running, okay?
Maemi: That’s what I really wanted to say. Okay, the end. Go on. Rensuke. Hurry and go!
Personally, I don’t like to see women pine over unworthy men, nor do I encourage or like to witness female love confessions but this is one of the very few that haven’t made me cringe. Maemi, from the beginning, was a woman in love and committed Ren, regardless of the outcome of the relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe she ever thought Ren would meet and fall in love with some other woman, but she wasn’t holding her breath that they’d end up married eating rice together every morning, either. She enjoyed her work and accepted their relationship for what it was. It wasn’t until she saw her friend giving his heart away that she became greedy and decided it was time she let him go.
Throughout the series, she makes a few moves to get over her feelings but it isn’t until she sees Ren struggling with his own feelings and loyalties that she makes her final move. When I first saw this moment, I wasn’t pleased, I took it in but wished it played out differently, believing she should hold on to her pride forever. However, with further thought, I realized her action wasn’t selfish or self-promoting, it was her way of releasing them both. Maemi was being the best friend she could be in this moment, giving Ren the freedom to make an informed choice about his romantic future, no ties, no pressure, no games.
I usually feel that love confessions are a way to burden and pressure another person to love you back, to say it back. A type of selfishness that burns me to my core each time I hear or see it. But this moment– Maemi’s moment– was both heartbreaking and heartwarming because she isn’t confessing for personal gain or to just get it out there in the open but to wash them clean and start anew. As Ren’s friend she got him, she knew he was waffling and felt he wanted a safe place to fall. She thought that place was Xui Me and she didn’t want him to miss out on real love and companionship because he was loyal to her or their work or their friendship. Or out of spite, fear or complacency. Her confession, to me was more than just words, like most I witness, it was an action. Her final bold expression of love.