[Jdrama] Last Friends

June 29, 2008 at 12:23 am Leave a comment

Starring:
Nagasawa Masami as Aida Michiru
Ueno Juri as Kishimoto Ruka
Eita as Mizushima Takeru
Mizukawa Asami as Takigawa Eri
Nishikido Ryo as Oikawa Sosuke
Yamazaki Shigenori as Ogura Tomohiko
Nishihara Aki as Hiratsuka Reina’
Baisho Mitsuko as Aida Chinatsu
Nagashima Mitsuki as Kishimoto Shogo
Shibuya Takeru as Higuchi Naoya
to Yuko as Shirahata Yuko
Tanaka Tetsushi as Hayashida Kazumi
Asaka Mayumi as Kishimoto Yoko
Hirata Mitsuru as Kishimoto Shuji

Last Friends is the story of people who have been hurt and continue to be hurt. They try to escape it, but they can’t. The only thing they can do is try to cope. Michiru is a budding hairdresser with a careless mother and a father she doesn’t ever speak to. She has a kind boyfriend, Sousuke, but when she moves in with him, he begins controlling and abusing her. Ruka is Michiru’s friend from high school and the two coincidentally met again. She’s a motorcross racer but holds a deep secret. Eri is a flight attendant who is friends with Takeru, a hair and make-up artist by day, a bartender by night. Through Eri, Takeru and Ruka become friends, and through Ruka, Michiru and Takeru become friends. Like Ruka, Takeru holds a secret from his childhood.

Last Friends is one of those dramas that evoke so much emotion from you while you’re watching. I think this is because the drama attempts to talk about a lot of serious issues in an up-front, not beating around the bush manner.

If we look at Michiru’s story with Sousuke’s abuse – why does she put up with it for as long as she does? Her father was an alcoholic and abused her mother; she knows what happens, she knows it’s wrong. Sousuke is also the product of an abusive household. By day, he is a kind child welfare worker, but his life is so paradoxical because he goes home and abuses Michiru. But Michiru stays with Sousuke because she says that she has never felt like she was loved until she was with Sousuke. Because she feels loved for once in her life, she continues to stay in this dangerous relationship. Anyone who has learned about basic family sociology knows that the percentage of people from abusive households that become either abusers or victims of abuse is quite high.

The things that Sousuke does to keep Michiru in line are so ridiculous that I just don’t want to believe that stuff like this happens. For example, when Sousuke sees Michiru cutting a man’s hair at her workplace, he asks her to cut his hair. She agrees, but when they set everything up, he grabs her scissors and attempts to cut off his ear. It’s only when Michiru cries that she won’t cut a man’s hair again that he stops. Most people would just say let him cut off his ear, who cares? But Michiru is so deep in this relationship that she just can’t. So, she suffers at her workplace because of his new rules for her life.

I think one thing drama wanted to express is how difficult it is to get out of this situation. It’s not just getting her away from him; it’s not as simple as that. First off, Michiru has to want to be saved. You can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. Even if Michiru was taken away from Sousuke by her friends, if she still loves him and wants to be with him, she’ll just go back. And then even after knowing that he’s bad for her, she cant help but still feel a connection because of their similar backgrounds and their history together.

Getting away from that, both Nagasawa Masami and Nishikido Ryo were great in their roles. It’s amazing how Ryo can look so kind and second later be beating her up. It’s also interesting that a Johnny’s guy was cast as the wife beater; I suppose this gives him a new depth. There is also a very interesting interview he gave regarding his character.

Onto to Eita’s character, Takeru. His backstory isn’t revealed until over half way into the series, and even then it’s barely ever mentioned or explained. I don’t know what the writers were trying to accomplish with this, especially since everything else doesn’t seem to be hidden to the viewers. Generally, it seems that his story takes a back seat to Michiru and Ruka. I’m not sure I understand the point of making him a main character while his back story is barely discussed. Even at the end when it’s finally explained, it seems like a bit of a cop out. On all the short teasers, it says that Takeru has a phobia of sex. I don’t want to spoil things for people who haven’t watched (even though the nature of reviews makes it impossible to have no spoilers at all), so all I’ll say is that the explanation makes no sense to me.

As for his character, Takeru is the kind of friend that everyone should have. Do people this kind and gentle actually exist? While others are worried about their friend, Takeru goes the extra mile to see how they are doing. I was impressed with Eita’s portrayal, though I have to admit that the stylist choices for his clothes are kind of strange. I can understand why they wanted him to be a little more feminine in his wardrobe, but wouldn’t it actually be more realistic if he were a little better dressed? He is a stylist after all and works in the fashion industry.

As good as Nagasawa Masami and Eita were in their respective roles, I have to say that Ueno Juri blew me away with her portrayal of Ruka. A lot of the time when you see actors and actresses in different roles, it’s not always the character you see but the actor. In Nodame Cantabile, Ueno Juri was perfect as the spacey Nodame. And here, she takes a complete 180 turn with the boyish Ruka. Her voice and mannerisms were completely in synch with this new character. Before this, I didn’t really follow Ueno Juri’s career, but now I think I’ll have to go back and watch some of her previous works, because that’s really how much she impressed me.

It was also a treat to see Mizukawa Asami as Eri, though like Takeru, Eri didn’t seem to have much of a back story. It seems to me that she is type to bottle up her feelings and not always tell people what’s bothering her. She puts on a happy face even though she feels lonely or sad. In the end, I don’t think this was dealt with completely, although her ending is pretty happy.

I also have to talk about the opening theme sequence. Is it amazing or what?? The white backdrop with the red strings of fate whirling around everywhere was really interesting. A couple of other observations: in the promo image, Takeru is the only one with his eyes open. And in the ending images of the opening sequence, everyone is completely in white except for Sousuke’s black tie. It would be nice if the Prisoner of Love PV that followed this same concept. Or if there was a Last Friends version of the PV.

Overall, Last Friends was an amazing series. Not only was the storyline very well written, the acting was also top notch. I was a bit disappointed in how some of the loose ends in the some side stories weren’t tied up properly, but this was definitely the best drama of the season for me.

Buy the boxset: Japan Version

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

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