Friday, 2 December 2011

Memories of Matsuko vs Memories of Matsuko: FIGHT!

I’m used to there being two versions of each story in Japan (whether it’s anime, drama or film) but I did not expect to discover a TV drama version of Memories of Matsuko. Trying to find it on the internet is impossible since searching for it brings up results for the film version. I did, however, find one user on YouTube who had put up some parts of the early episodes.

The riverside is a recurring theme in both versions (film, left. TV right)
Both were made in 2006, with the film coming out several months before the drama. Watching the TV series is a bit like watching an amateur production of the film. Gone are the dazzling bright colours and cinematography. Instead, we have what is a very mundane retelling of the same story. According to Wikipedia, the TV drama is more faithful to the original novel’s story, and I suppose over eleven episodes, it’s able to go into more detail but at the same time it loses a lot in emotional impact.

The scenes introducing Matsuko as a school teacher (film, left. TV, right)
The big problem with the TV series is that you can’t watch it without comparing it to the film. Nakatani Miki is sorely missed, and there are no musical numbers to illustrate certain scenes. And I think the screengrabs I've posted demonstrate the difference between Nakashima Tetsuya’s directorial vision, and the flat, muted greys of an average television drama.

The same argument (film, left. TV, right)
I do wonder if I had never seen the movie would I like the TV series, and I think I would. But I found it difficult to sit through the drama version without wishing I was watching the film version instead.


  1. I think comparing a jdrama budget to a jfilm budget might be a bit unfair. It's true that television as a medium has leap giant steps and now watching a tv movie or a miniseries or a cable show is as good as watching a movie...

    I think watching Matsuko as a tv show would be too much to handle, and it would have definitely put a barrier in me watching the movie. But then again, I watched the movie because Yu Aoi was listed on the credits and she wasn't in it xD

    Happy mistake!

  2. You’re probably right. Out of all the FIGHT! comparisons I’ve made, this is the most one-sided: a big-budget film watched on DVD compared to a bog-standard TV series watched on YouTube. Both the small budget and the regulations of what you can show on television probably didn’t help, but even taking that into account, it’s a flat version of the story.

    They couldn’t really win, though. If they’d tried to emulate the look of the film, it would have come across as a bit desperate.