Since it’s up on Silent Regrets [edit: well, it was while Silent Regrets was there...], why not write about it again?
This show from 2008 is a twelve part series containing four stories based on the theme of Lies. It’s the same concept as Ueno Juri to Itsutsu no Kaban, and perhaps is similar to this year’s Tofu Shimai, starring another upcoming actress, Yoshitaka Yuriko. I don’t know for sure because, despite my efforts, I can’t find it on the web anywhere. Sad face.
The format of each episode is that there's a short drama section which is between some interviews and specially comissioned photos. It’s a bit like watching the DVD extras of something before you’ve watched it.
Story one (episodes one to three) is great. It begins with the death of a boyfriend, and tells three stories based on the events that follow. Episode two, in which Yu’s character keeps herself asleep with pills so she can dream about him, is a favourite of mine and is an episode I keep coming back to. So is episode three, with Nukumizu Youichi as her cat who takes on human form.
While the first two are filmed in a naturalistic style, the third part is performed on a stage and filmed as a theatre piece. It neatly finishes the narrative, with the story explaining, from a cat’s point of view, the basics of being happy. I love these episodes – they’re beautifully shot and acted, and it’s interesting to note in the interview bit afterwards, Aoi Yu says she hasn’t acted in a theatre setting before so she was quite nervous.
Story two (eps four to six) has quite a different feel. It concerns itself with unrequited love – the boyfriend being unable to tell Yu how he feels about her. Meanwhile, Yu has a hobby (Is that the right word? How about “fetish” or “compulsion”?) of running as far and as fast as she can for ten minutes while inventing stories about why she’s running. The stories she comes up with are quite funny, and so is the bumbling boyfriend, but after the comedy the story ends on quite a tragic note. Or does it? I’m not sure I understand the ending, so I can’t really say.
Story three (eps seven to nine) is one of those pieces of drama which you don’t really like until you watch it again, and then you remember the good bits about it. The story is about three sisters who share an apartment. Episode seven is shot in the style of a sitcom, episode eight in the style of a daytime soap opera, and episode nine is supposed to be the final episode of a long running series.
It’s difficult to write about this one. The sitcom bit is funny, and the soap opera bit is over-acted (and why do they have such shiny faces in that episode?) which leaves the third part to be the sensible one, and it focuses on a confession about one of the sister’s love life. It doesn’t have much of an identity, and so it’s a bit forgettable. Until you watch it again.
Story four (eps ten to twelve) is almost as good as story one. From the same director as “One Million Yen Girl”, this is a sort of semi-sequel, as we see more of Aoi Yu’s character in the film. The first part is about a college student who is caught out on her constant lying. I really like this, not least because Aoi Yu does a bit of cosplay (as a raccoon).
The second is a real gem, and tells the tale of two of Yu’s co-workers who fall in love and, being poor, both try to sacrifice too much for the other’s happiness. The third is a tale about Aoi Yu splitting up with her unfaithful boyfriend, and not being believed when she tells people she’s not that upset about it. It’s shot in such a style that you can only Yu’s face when she's talking to others - they're shot from behind, or are standing up while she's sitting down, etc. It's quite disconcerting.
This series is certainly among my favourites. So much so that when I went to Japan, picking up a cheap (relatively speaking – it was still about £75!) DVD box set of this was on my list of things to do. By the way, that’s where I got the scans for this review from. This show is inventive and original and it's one that I often come back to, and it never gets old.