Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Shiroi Haru ep 10 and economy of characters

Love the subtle humour in this show. Better than stupid slapstick anyday.

I was rewatching Shiroi Haru ep 10 and this whole freaking article just popped into my mind. Its easy to have ideas swimming in your head and its another thing to articulate it properly in an article. Gotta write this down before I lose my ideas. What really struck me in ep 10 of Shiroi Haru was how well written Yoshitaka Yuriko's character Shiori was. Specifically how she fulfilled so many roles in the show and also managed to be a full fledged character.

If this doesn't melt your heart, nothing will...

In the beginning of the show, I just couldn't see Shiori's role in the series and thought that she needed to have a history with one of the characters to be interesting. So far she has turned out to be an alternate voice for Sachi. Shiori grew up without knowing a father's love and she is the voices that urges Haruo to build on his relationship with Sachi. The conflict in Shiroi Haru is between Sachi and the baker Murakami Koji continuing their father-daughter relationship versus Haruo revealing he is the father and thus disrupting the current status quo.

Shiroi Haru is fun because there is no right answer though one can say that the baker family is sort of incomplete. Koji and Kanako (Shiraishi Miho) play the father and mother roles and yet there are not Sachi's real parents. Koji and Kanako have a mere platonic relationship. Kanako wants desperately to be Sachi's mother and yet she cannot be more than an aunt. Both are always concerned that they are trying to fit into their unnatural roles and always second guessing themselves. Because of that, they put a lot of effort to make it work and they are probably happier than most families. It would explain why Koji and Kanako are too nice to each other and don't fight over trivial stuff that real couples do. They need each other to build their 'fake' family and don't want to see it crashing down.

Shiori is the voice that says that Sachi would want to know Haruo. She is the voice that says it is all right to damn the consequences of Sachi knowing who her real father. That it is all right if Sachi's relationship with Koji will never be the same again. That it is all right eventhough Haruo will never be able to provide Sachi with a life as good as what Koji can give her. That it is all right to take away Koji's reason for living the past 9 years. Shiori is the voice that tries to convince Haruo and the viewers that Sachi would regret not knowing Haruo and her past of not having a father gives her right to claim this. However, Haruo cannot bring himself to destroy Sachi's family. 9 years of living together is a greater bond than blood relations. Characters who make hard decisions = instant empathy.

Before this, Shiori was pretty much a plot device. A way for Haruo to reconnect with the world and at the same time mirror his search for a new beginning. That sort of explains Shiori's rooftop shouting rant in ep 1. That scene has always bothered me and now I finally see what Ozaki Masaya was doing. Shiori was voicing out Haruo's and her desire to find their own place in the world and forget their past. In ep 10, Shiori finally makes peace with her past and is finally able to movie forward. Pretty good for a character that seemed to have been created just to give Haruo some interaction and be a plot device. Its no surprise given that Ozaki Masaya wrote KDO as well.

I was skimming through and episode of Hancho before and fuck, the characters were boring as hell and after watching Shiroi Haru 10, I realised why; the writers of Hancho do not follow two very important rules. Firstly, every character must have a distinct voice or purpose. Secondly, be economical with your characters. The number of character should not be more than what is necessary to facilitate the story. Why have six characters when everything they do is interchangeable? Its is better to be efficient and not waste characters. I think writers who cannot even follow such a simple rule should not be allowed to write. It is a huge problem for jdoramas as seen from the excess characters in Hancho and Mr Brain. We've all heard of efficient storytelling but someone needs to tell Japanese writers about efficient character usage.

Shiori as a character accomplishes so much. All the things Hancho's 6 subordinates did in the series could have been done by two characters. Nevermind the fact they are all boring and interchangeable. The other advantage in not having excess characters is that the writer then can flesh out the character more. Slowly build the supporting character up instead of doing a simple one episode backstory and then relegate the character to plot device status. Jdorama writers need to put as much effort as Ozaki Masaya does to his scripts and it clearly shows on the screen.


Anonymous said...

I agree. Shiori's character is very well fleshed out; I wish the same was also done for Kanoko's character though.

Just saw some screen caps for the finale; hard to say but some people on other boards are already screaming 'bloody murder'. Expect flame throwers in the Shiroi Haru thread on d-addicts.

Jung said...

This show wouldn't have been the same without Yoshitaka Yuriko. I knew Abe Hiroshi was a good actor, so I expected nothing less. But Yoshitaka really excelled in the show.

Anyway, to answer your question about Imouto, yeah, after the main suspense is resolved, the subsequent storyline and plot devices revolving around the aftermath is just so typical and ordinary; like someone falling in love, someone getting sick, someone running away from yakuza and crippling debt, birth mystery... oh geeze, I feel like i'm describing a bad Korean drama... The villain guy sucks too. He's responsible for 50% of the things I don't like about this show.

I do recommend BOSS though, just like someone else said. I hate to say this, but it's one of the better done j-cop shows. There is no ridiculous reality-suspending twists. It has the right blend of humor, and it's not overdone. Pretty high moe factor to boot too.

Anonymous said...

Just watched the finale. That the ending was rushed, I don't think many people can argue against. It would definitely have been benefited w/ an extra episode, or even an extra 15 min. for the finale.

I'll add my take after you've watched and written a review about the whole show.

ニタちゃん said...

My favourite for the season! Abe-chan is a very good actor...:)

Anonymous said...

It's because of little 'essays' like this that I like reading your blog!

And yeah, wow @ the ending. If someone had told me what the ending to Shiroi Haru was even as late as episode 10, I wouldn't have believed them...

Still, one of the best jdramas of late and shows like Shiroi Haru are why I still watch jdramas amongst the muck like Konkatsu and Yako no Kaiden...