[Jdrama] LIFE

November 4, 2007 at 6:32 pm 5 comments

Starring
Kitano Kii as Shiiba Ayumu
Fukuda Saki as Anzai Manami
Seki Megumi as Hatori Miki
Hosoda Yoshihiko as Sako Katsumi
Sakai Miki as Hiraoka Masako
Hojo Takahiro as Sonoda Yuuki
Seto Asaka as Toda Wakae
Maya Miki as Shiiba Fumiko
Hoshii Nanase as Hirose Nodoka (Hiro)
Osawa Akane as Shinozuka Yuko
Katsumura Masanobu as Sako Toshikatsu
Nakamura Tomoya as Kano Akira
Suenaga Haruka as Iwamoto Midori
Ono Takehiko as Anzai Daijiro

LIFE is a Japanese drama that aired during the summer of 2007. It was broadcasted by Fuji TV and is 11 episodes long. The average ratings were 12.2%. It was adapted from Suenobu Keiko’s manga of the same name. Its theme song is LIFE by Nakashima Mika. Fukuda Saki won Best Supporting Actress and Tanimura Masaki won Best Director for their work at the 54th Television Drama Academy Awards.

LIFE focuses on bullying in a prestigious high school, Nishidate. In particular, it chronicles the story of Shiiba Ayumu’s bullying and her subsequent fall and rise. It starts when Ayumu is in junior high. Her best friend, Shinozuka Yuko (whom she calls Shii-chan), is a much better student than she is and is aiming towards Nishidate. Ayumu, on the other hand, isn’t very smart; she tries, but her test scores are always quite low. But Ayumu doesn’t want to be separated from her best friend, so she begs Yuko to help her study to get into Nishidate together.

They take the exam together, both hoping to pass and get in together. However, there’s a surprise in their plan. Ayumu’s score gets her into Nishidate, but Yuko doesn’t. Yuko is crushed and blames her failure on Ayumu. She breaks off her friendship with Ayumu and refuses to see her.

Ayumu starts her high school life listless and with little to no self-confidence. She is approached by Anzai Manami and they become friends. Manami has everything: the #1 student as her boyfriend (and handsome, too!), Sato Katsumi; money, her father is ridiculously powerful and has serious connections; beautiful and popular.

However, through a series of misunderstanding and manipulations, Manami comes to believe that Ayumu betrayed their “pinky promise.” Manami and her little gang lead the class in bullying Ayumu and her self-esteem falls lower and lower. Not only that, but she is struggling at school as well, ranking close to last place. One of Ayumu’s classmates, Hatori Miki, reaches out to her. Hatori is different from everyone else, she is not afraid to be by herself and is content being alone. She is very strong-willed and from her Ayumu gains the confidence to begin fighting back against her classmates.

LIFE was definitely one of the best dramas this past season. The acting was excellent; everything felt so real. Most of the cast are not well known, so it really surprised me how good the acting was. But I think it was better to have a relatively unknown cast, so it’s not your favorite actress being bullied or your favorite actress leading the bullying. Isn’t it scary how sweet some people can appear to be, only to suddenly turn into something so horrible?

It’s really a little horrifying to watch sometimes because of just how bad the bullying was. Like you hear that bullying is bad in Japan, but I don’t think people who grew up in the West can really understand. I mean, yeah, bullying is mentioned in some popular stories, most notably being Hana Yori Dango, but you don’t really see the effects of the bullying. Especially because the main character, Tsukushi is so strong-willed that she immediately fights back and continues to fight back. In LIFE, you really see how it can drive people to suicide. Plus, people who are bullied don’t have many friends around them and have little self-confidence, so they won’t fight back. It scares me to think how real this situation could be.

Another point that LIFE brings up is how everyone has their problems (well, pretty much). They can seem one way at school, but in reality they have a lot of things going on in their lives. And just because you know how they are at school doesn’t mean you really know how they are.

I really like the portrayal of people who have power. Take Manami, daughter of one of the most powerful men in town. A complete daddy’s girl and spoiled brat, her father completely fawns over her. I don’t want to say that it’s all her father’s fault, because it was Manami’s decision to do all this. But why does she think she can do this to begin with? Because even though she is the daughter, she has her father completely wrapped around her finger. Her father is super rich and super powerful, but he can’t raise a modest girl and he can’t see how dense he is.

A lot the problem also lies in the mindset of the people. The bullies in LIFE actually think they are right. That Ayumu deserves to be punished and they’re serving justice. But it’s so hard for me to believe that almost all the other classmates that participate think they are doing what’s right. Or that when it comes out into the open, they will say that it’s not their fault and that they were just innocent bystanders. I think one thing the drama wanted to point out is that everyone who witnesses the bullying is participating in it.

And then there’s the school administration. It sickens me that teachers either can’t see the bullying, don’t want to see the bullying, or see it and don’t do anything about it. And that if there is a teacher for attempts to solve it, they’ll be ostracized by the other teachers. It’s just so hard to wrap my head around it; how can they just turn a blind eye?

The series also briefly touches on the cycle of bullying. That point is especially interesting to me; I’d think that all the students who were bullied would eventually team up against it. But perhaps, they are too afraid of being bullied again that they wouldn’t do anything.

Now, if there’s a show that spurs me to write (much less think!) this much about the subject, it has to be a good drama. It is hard to watch at times, seeing Ayumu’s pain and wishing you could do something about it. But it’s so amazing to watch her growth and in that same way, maybe you can gain more confidence in yourself as well. Plus, the drama points out all the different aspects in bullying; it’s super thorough. I don’t know what more I can say to recommend this drama. It deals with a tough subject in an amazing way; I loved it.

Buy the boxset: Japan Version

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Entry filed under: dramas. Tags: , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mal  |  November 5, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    i love LIFE also , i loved your review i was never able to finish LIFE. I think the acting was just FLAWLESS , the characters were really good for the role playing. even though it was really intense i would mind buying it on DVD , if i does come out?

  • 2. Mal  |  November 5, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    sorry for all the typos o_o

  • 3. Eden-Avalon  |  December 15, 2007 at 1:03 am

    D: I can’t find it anywhere.

  • 4. Karu  |  April 11, 2008 at 12:25 am

    I absolutely loved the manga to life, but I neve knew that there was a drama to it! o.o
    Your review was very helpful, I must check the dorama out asap ^^

  • 5. aikorin  |  May 31, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    LIFE was amazing, for sure. I started watching it a while ago but stopped because it felt too intense, but came back and watched it over.
    You’re right, it’s a little hard for Western people to understand because bullying doesn’t commonly happen on this scale. Great review~

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