Friday, 10 February 2012

Just finished: Yasashii Jikan

I take my hat off to any drama where the opening episode has a shot lasting forty-five seconds in which nothing happens except a slow zoom in on someone at a window in total silence. In fact, this series (from 2005) is so quiet, I found it difficult to find times to watch it without being interrupted by noise from the neighbours next door or upstairs. But it was worth making an effort for this slow-paced and thoughtful series.

The story tells a tale of a father (played by Terao Akira) who runs a coffee shop in Hokkaido, unaware that in the neighbouring town his son (Ninomiya Kazunari) is an apprentice at a pottery kiln (I have no idea what the right term is for "a place where they make pottery"). The two haven't been in touch for years. This estrangement was caused by the son and mother being in a traffic accident and the mother dying.

During the eleven episodes we see the two of them go about their every day lives while slowly coming together for the final episode. Nagasawa Masami stars as the waitress who befriends the son and discovers the connection. She tries to get them to meet, while struggling with problems of her own.

While all this is going on, other stories weave in and out. Most of these are light-hearted distractions to the deep emotions of the main plot, and are welcome since they're so well written: A snowstorm causes havoc in the area; a customer slips and gives himself amnesia; two people sat looking out of the window don't move for hours so that the staff begin to suspect they've died.

During this time of year in England, when even a dusting of snow can make the news ("City unaffected by light snowfall" was a genuine headline on the BBC site recently), it's instructive to see what real snow looks like. Every exterior shot looked like a Christmas card and thanks to the slow pace, peaceful music and wintry scenery, the series had a dream-like quality. Very restful and relaxing. I'm not sure I'd want to watch it during the summer, though.

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