With dramas premiering every five seconds, there are some that fly under my personal radar. Mostly because, the brain is filled with too much distraction. But right on the cusp of the Spring season I ran across this drama by Takahashi Maki (Fuyu no Sakura, My Girl) based on a series of novels by Nonami Asa. The premise immediately intrigued me— Two ex-convicts who become friends in jail and once released rely on another to try to rebuild their lives.
And since, my Heartless City partner is off vacationing and then readjusting to non-vacation duties— (Have fun Ripgal! Eat some delicious goodies for me!) I thought I’d share a taste of this drama while those posts are on a mini preemption.
The Two Convicts
Komoriya Hako (Ueto Aya) steps out of a taxi and ends her telephone conversation with a smile and an “I love you,” then takes in the beautiful day. Behind her, a man calls her name and flashes his badge. She takes off running but stops short when the gate to her house is locked and her family stands watching her from the porch. She falls to her knees, crying, repeating, “I’m sorry.”
SEVEN YEARS LATER.
Hako stands outside the prison gate and bows, saying her courteous regards. Head down, she walks briskly, shoulders coning inward, willing to be invisible, when a woman yells her name and runs toward her. It’s Eguchi Ayaka (Iijima Naoko), released only three months prior. She remembered how she’d felt on release day and didn’t want Hako to feel as hopeless as she. But Hako is worried it’s dangerous being there’s a no convicts fraternization rule, but, Ayaka brushes this off and raises her hand to her brow, “Thank you for your service.” With that, Ayaka grabs her bags and whisks away as Hako muses to herself, “I wonder if I will ever see it again, that bright light of hope.”
On the train, Hako wonders aloud what she should do now that she’s released and Ayaka announces she’s moved to Yanaka, which happily surprises Hako. Ayaka thought it’d be a good idea and Hako agrees, now having an ally. Ayaka tells her to buck up and look to the bright side, she’s free, but Hako doesn’t feel that way at all.
Komoriya Takayuki (Daito Shunsuke) double checks the food offerings displays for the day, then encourages everyone to get back to work. He hands over the daily report to his mother, Komoriya Yukie (Fujita Tomoko) and mentions Hako’s release and makes sure he can visit her the next day. Unphased, Yukie gives her consent without looking up from her work. But once he’s gone, she sits stiffly, staring into her blank computer screen.
Ayaka rambles cheerily at the nostalgic quality of Yanaka as she and Hako make their way to her house. Though she’s been there for such a short time, she already feels at home. And as if on cue, the “fish guy” Jiro offers her his latest catch but she declines, then whispers cheekily, “He’s just my type. I could fall in love with that gentle smile of his.” Hako wonders how she can even be thinking such things, when a siren blares somewhere in the distance and Hako halts, clutches her bag, closes her eyes and drops her head. A few steps ahead, Ayaka walks back and places her hand on her shoulder, “You don’t have to be afraid any longer. You can live a normal life here.” She tells her to work and eat and bicker like everyone else, then she points out the bakery where she works. She has the day off tomorrow and plans to help her get what she needs to furnish her new life. Before they part, Ayaka encourages her to cheer up and Hako smiles in acceptance.
Alone, Hako makes her way to her grandmother’s house and lets herself in. The house is older but spacious, possibly been empty for years. She looks around with a sigh at all the space, and crouches with her luggage in the doorway of the main room. Memories flood her mind; of her boyfriend Ryo telling her he’d taken a job in a host club, then her arraignment before the court for ten counts of theft. She was sentenced to seven years in prison for arranging dates through an on-line dating site and spiking her patrons drinks, in order to rob them when they passed out.
At work, the head baker rags on the manager to Ayaka about being a cheapskate, concerned that she won’t ever raise Ayaka’s wages. The manager overhears this and they apologize jokingly. Her bosses believe she’s a hard worker and decide it’s time to begin teaching her to bake bread on her own. That night, Ayaka busies herself studying but finds herself thinking about one of the last times she saw her small son.
He was screaming for her as she and her husband scuffled around their small apartment. Her husband threw her on the ground then tried to make his way to little Tomoki but she blocks him and takes the kicks herself. Later, as her drunken husband slept, she snatched his tie from the table nearby, straddled him and wrapped in around his neck.
Hako is laying on the floor in the dark, when her buzzer sounds. She thinks it may be Ayaka or her family so she runs to greet them but it’s her neighbor Oishi Setsu(Matsukane Yoneko), excited someone has finally moved in. She chides that she understands Hako has been overseas but doesn’t hesitate to point out that it would’ve been nice if she’d coming sooner, when her grandmother was alive —“She was so proud of you.” Hako’s face stiffens but kindly inquires after her visit. It’s trash day and Oishi has come by to show her the ropes. Hako is hesitant but Oishi is insistent, so she follows her. They meet up with Oishi’s husband, Shigeo(Ryu Raita), a grumpy scowling type, who scolds Hako for not separating her trash. Her face lightens when Ayaka calls her from afar, until Hako notices she brought a police officer.
However, this beat cop, Takaki Seidai ( Fukutoku Shusuke) is a friendly young chap delighted to meet her, for her grandmother was his biggest advocate. They make nice until he mentions the town artifact was stolen and all eyes clap on Hako, who hangs her head but insists she didn’t take anything. Confused, Takaki redirects that he’d only wondered if she’d seen any suspicious persons lurking nearby, as Ayaka snickers over his shoulder.
Inside, Ayaka chirps over how large Hako’s new home is, with a veranda and a roomy kitchen but Hako is nonplussed. She was arrested directly after college, therefore, she never got a chance to live on her own. Thoughtfully, Ayaka concurs, perhaps Hako was a very innocent sort, having been sheltered enough to be conned and infatuated by the tantalizing words of a male host. Then concedes— “I might even call you pure.” But Hako doesn’t agree, the word for her is “stupid.”
Out shopping, Aya-chan haggles for a discount voucher and Hako wonders if they even have the right to ask for discounts. But Ayaka reminds that they can’t stop living because they are convicts, as they pass a game they played while imprisoned and Hako is aghast. She pulls her away and begs her to never remind her of there time behind bars, but Ayako feels it’s time for a release party instead.
Hako savors every bite of her dinner and thanks Aya for the treat, then apologizes for relying so heavily on her. She promises to return the favor once she finds employment, but isn’t too hopeful that will occur anytime soon. For, she has no relevant experience and can’t afford a background check. She inquires after Ayaka’s bakery job and Ayaka confirms the work is hard but she’s elated she’s been given more responsibility and now one step closer to her dream of running her own shop. Hako revels a dream but when asked, can’t remember ever having one of her own. Though it doesn’t actually matter now, for from now on, her life is only about survival. Then confesses when Oisha came to house earlier, she still held hope, it was her mother, but she knows that’s impossible. For her mother is a very strict, stern individual.
At a convenience store, Hako picks up a few items. When she readies to leave, she notices the rain but decides to brave it, umbrella-less. Fortunately, the cashier follows her and hands her one, kindly informing they get left all the time and it’s common place to take one if needed. He tells her she’s shouldn’t walk in the rain and smiles widely. Hako shyly smiles at his gesture, all the way home, until she finds her brother on her stoop waiting.
Hako and Takayuki sit awkwardly to tea and rehearse small talk. She’s shocked to hear that her father’s dead and he enlightens the stress of being in a continuous apologetic state over Hako’s crime, took it’s toll. Hako begins to sob but her brother cuts her off, not wanting to witness her tears and would rather speak about why he came; his wedding.
Hako’s delighted to hear about his marriage but Takayuki continues that his fiance doesn’t know he has any siblings and he’d like to keep it that way. He pulls out some documents and asks her to sign. One is relinquishment of any financial association with the Komoriya family, and the other is to remove her from the family registry. Hako never believed she deserved a stake in her family fortune, therefore she has no problem with relinquishing but it’s the registry she’s reluctant to pin. She wonders if her mother knows what he’s come to ask and he answers reservedly that it is she who told him to come. Tears stream down her cheeks, as she pleads for him to reconsider, for if she signs, she’ll be losing everything but when he bursts in anger, she at least owns them him this much, she dries her tears and smiles—- ‘I want you to be happy.”
As he’s leaving, she’s asks if perhaps he remembers if she ever had a dream when she was child. But he only smirks, wondering if she wants to follow her dreams now. At home, Shunsuke’s mother and fiance are having tea when he walks in and hands his mother the document he collected. Mom remarks that it was quick and beams it was easy but Mom doesn’t seem as elated.
Ayaka burns her first batch of bread and ruins the oven. She gets scolded by angry baker as head baker and his wife look on. She decides to spend the day with Hako, instead and Hako updates her on her family woes. She thinks back to when Hako praised her for singing and remarks it was the first time in life, that’d happened. Though she’d always enjoyed music, her mother wasn’t a fan and she could never please her. Therefore, she’d often wanted to change herself in some way, so when Ryo came along and told her she was fine the way she was, she was putty in hands.
She has come to realize, she was so naiive concerning her boyfriend, because she’d never felt special before. Her parents had never praised her, she’d never pleased them. Ayaka thinks, however, now isn’t the time to dwell on the past, but to take hold of the present. Whatever her dreams are or were, now is the time to make them happen, discouragement isn’t an option. Hako tells her that she can’t even begin to be as strong and wise as she, and hasn’t a clue to how she’ll survive from now on. She mentions how well Ayaka is doing at the bakery, and Ayaka diverts her eyes, then reminds her to buck up and returns to work. However, along the way, she sings a lullaby and she’s a mother with her son. And thinks back to the last time she saw her own little boy.
Hako tries to fill out a few applications and practice for interviews but she has no experience and no skills. Therefore the next day, she gets turned away from several positions. On her way from her last disappointment, Hako steps into the bakery to and overhears Ayaka apologizing profusely and begging for her job. That night, Hako phones Ayaka on her way home just to gossip about the moon and they end up making a cooking date for the next day. Hako takes the opportunity to apologize and promises to work hard as well.
A package arrives from her family in the morning, with all the belongings she left behind. Inside, she finds a note written by her brother who remembers she once wanted to a hairdresser but their mother felt it didn’t suit her. He thinks though Mom was hard on her, it wasn’t an action devoid of love and shares Mom only smiles at work where it’s expected— “I just wanted you to know, you aren’t the only one who’s lost something.” He closes that they will live in their way, and hope she does the same. Tears fall from her cheeks as Hako remembers her family didn’t just stare sullenly as she was arrest, they cried. Her mother cried too.
Ayaka trots in with bags of food, to find Hako sobbing over the empty box. For she’s realized, her family didn’t abandon her, she abandoned them.
Hako: I wanted to runaway from my hopelessness with a host and did things that can’t be undone. I’ve never thought about my family’s feelings and only felt they were cold and blamed me for everything.
Ayako listens solemnly as Hako confesses and cries, then shoots up and begins to sing into a carrot. Hako looks up and sobs harder but Ayako sticks out a leek — “You need to sing too. We’re both idiots that can’t change, but you’re trying to start anew.”
And with that, they spend the afternoon choralling about their desire for a better future and pushing onward.
Rants, Ramblings and Remarks
Itsuka no Ataru Basho de [translates: Some place, Someday the sun shines] has never promised to be a happy drama and it lives us to that impression. Everything about this story begins gloomy and melancholic. Both women serve their sentence and are released back into the a world where they have to start again. One overacts in order to achieve her goals, while the other chooses to wallow in her disillusionment.
I find Hako and Ayako intriguing, not necessarily for who they are now, but more for who they may be as the drama progresses. They are both women that were used by men(one abused, the other swindled), but they also make their own choices to commit a crime. Of course, they have their reasons and rationalizations and though this drama gives us their background, I don’t believe it seeks to justify their actions. But in this small community(and over the course of this drama), these ladies will have to pick themselves up, learn to forgive themselves and continuously forgive those that will judge them based on their past.
Hako spends this first episode self-loathing and self-deprecating, to the point I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it nine more episodes. She did a horrible thing and there’s no doubt she hurt people, including her family, and do fault her for being silly, naive and gullible, nothing good comes from rehashing and rehearsing. Several times throughout this episode, Aya-chan tells her to cheer and look forward and honestly, that’s all she or anyone in her situation can do.
I actually like that we have two women with the same experience for it’s only they that can truly be of considerable support and encouragement to the other. Aya-chan can say those words without seeming unfeeling or condescending, for she knows the depth of Hako’s despair and situation. For now, it’s Aya-chan that my heart breaks for, because she made a decision that not only hurt herself but she and her child’s future. There’s no turning back from murder, whether she succeeded or not and the victim being her child’s father creates an extra barrier. However, I’m glad that she puts on a cheerful, optimistic demeanor, no matter how “fake” it maybe because I’m a strong believer in the “fake it, till you make it” slogan. My only hope is that she’s honest with herself and doesn’t breakdown somewhere in the near future.
For Hako, it’s her family that is the burden, for I already have a strong distaste for her brother. He comes across entirely too self-righteous for me at the moment. I would love to believe he was just pretending to be demanding, delighted and aloof but I’m not convinced, not yet. I won’t say that there aren’t two sides to a story and though I appreciated that Hako had the guts to face the reality of her memories, instead of sticking with the easier “victim” recollection, I still can’t get over how nonchalant and entitled he came across. I think the situation itself is sticky but Mom seems to be the only one who sees the issue for what it is. We don’t hear anything from her this episode, though we hear a lot about her. Hako viewed her as stern and uncaring, while Takayuki describes her as loving but strict. I guess we won’t really know until we do, but from what I gather, she’s a mother that loves her children but isn’t very open or forthcoming about her feelings, perhaps a little dispassionate and distant but never meant for any of those things to be interpreted as lacking in devotion and deep regard. But even with all that said, she doesn’t lift a finger to stop Takayuki from purifying the family or chastise him for having no remorse or courtesy in asking Hako to accept these terms.
Going into the future episodes, I can’t help but wonder how the concept of family will factor into these ladies’ lives, now that their blood ties are gone? Will they venture to redefine family? Will drama try to redeem the ones that have been lost, broken and torn? There’s definitely a love interest in the making and several hurdles ahead for these ladies, and I don’t know about you, but I am very interested in finding out what is in store for these women and if their struggle will be worth the journey.