Monday, May 09, 2011
Kita no Kuni Kara 18-24
24 episodes is a lot and not once during the series did I think uh oh, this show is losing its way. Partly because its more of a character dorama rather than a story driven one. The only end goal that the audience is anticipating is Goro building the new house but even then its not done as a climax but matter-of-factly. Characters remain flawed, some improve but there's no generic I have become stronger generic speech stuff. I finished watching the last episode the day before and had a day to try to organise my thoughts on how to write this review but I have no idea how to structure it because there is so much to say and multiple ways to look at the series.
Let's start by asking the question; who is the heart of the series? Is it Goro, the earnest hard working dad with communication problems and somehow manages to live for a year with his hot sister in law and not lay a hand on her? It is Hotaru, the daddy's girl who is in some ways the most mature one in the household or is it Jun, the annoying brat who keeps making stupid decisions but you just can't hate him because he's just being a kid? I think the answer is that the heart of Kita no Kuni Kara is the journey that this family takes over a year in Furano.
Goro connecting with his children and proving his woth to them the only way he knows how, by teaching his two city kids how to survive and thrive in Furano. Jun getting a different perspective on life which is most evident when he meets his former teacher at the end of the series and asks himself why he doesn't like his teacher anymore. That's because he has had lessons in life that cannot be gained from textbooks and going to cram school. And dear Hotaru, how touching was that scene in ep 23 when she finally confronts her hatred for her mother. When she tells her father she want to remember the bad because there are only good memories and that makes her sad. This little girl surviving on this hate for 23 episodes.
One thing I really want to point out is while Kita no Kuni Kara masterfully juggles multiple storylines, it never milks the climaxes more than necessary which is surprising. A nice payoff happens, I go 'wow' and it quickly moves on to the next story. Its as if its saying 'life goes on, let's not dwell on the moment because there are more to be had'. Some of my favourite moments in the series are: (gotta start from the end cause it harder to recall the series from the beginning)
Ep 23 - Seikichi ojisan, the old dude from Golden Bowl giving those bitching mourners a piece of his mind with grace and humility. The courteous way he did it was better than any putdown the Rock could ever do.
Ep 24 - Goro finding out Kogomi was actually who his friends had told me she was. It was so funny and so sad because he had chosen to believe in her and not the rumours. All they needed to sell it was this 1 second look on his face when Goro saw Kogomi. That's it, 1 second WTF look instead of a overacting gestures of despair accompanied by an idoru pop song to close a sub story that had been building up the final quarter of the series.
Ep 20 - To me the purpose of the UFO storyline wasn't about the teacher or the UFOs. It was about Hotaru telling the truth to the whole country who laughed at her and Goro telling her as at the dinner that it didn't matter what other people said because the people that matter believe in her. On the other hand, what was the point of going through with the rest of the UFO story anyway?
Ep 19 - Ginza no koi no monogatari karaoke. Man, that was such a sad and depressing scene as befitting Goro's character. The fact that Kogomi is attracted to Goro type characters just makes it worse. Goro should have gone after Yukiko.
Special mention must be given to Sota for being the comedy relief/idiot of the dorama. He spends most of the series unable to make up his mind whether to go for Yukiko or stick with Tsurara. He tries Tsurara like shit, feels guilty about it but doesn't even have the balls to break up with her only with her to run away to work at a Turkish bath. After getting beat down in the worst boxing match ever, Sota decides that as penance, he will not see Yukiko for 2 years and 8 months, the length of time he was with Tsurara. Talk about a self induced tragic hero pretender! In fact, if I had to choose between Yukiko and Tsurara I would .... o for the one who was a better cook.
I don't really see Kita no Kuni Kara as a country values vs city values dorama but rather its about this family of 4 living in a place where the priorities are different Tokyo's. Where people are at the mercy of the weather. Where people actually depend on each other to survive. Where things actually had to be done by hand. Its the type of lifestyle that for a few minutes make urban dwellers like me think, 'wouldn't it be nice' and shamefully dismiss the notion because I'm too scared all the trappings of urban life.
Good news is, looks like Chuks is translating the first special. There are nine SPs in total with the 1995 special already translated. Please do give this dorama a try and recommend it to any d-addict you know. A big thank you to Chuks and Phoenix for subbing 9-24 and xploring for eps 1-8. It is thanks to your efforts that dorama addicts like me could have watched such a classic.