Hellooooo people ! Remember me ? No ? Well, I don’t blame ya. So allow me: my name is Mila, and more than a year ago, I wrote two posts (that, considering the length of them, you probably finished reading right about now, so it all works out in the end, yay) on this website, talking about older dramas, from 2001, and from 2002. Though I only wrote part1 of the 2002 post. Because then life got in the way, I also fell in a drama hiatus that lasted a long, LONG, OMGTHATWASSOLONG time. But I’m back, and being back, I’ve been wanting to write in English again, abusing Kakashi’s and all the good people of PotUp’s hospitality, because I was poorly brought up that way, I guess (no, I kid, my parents were great, I just failed them a lot). But while I wanted to write, I needed a theme, and I wasn’t quite ready to start on 2002 again since I needed to rewatch quite a few dramas before I was able to tell you about them. “Okay” I thought “you could just jump ahead, and go to a year that’s fresher in your memory”. BUT THAT’S CHEATING. And don’t get me wrong, I love cheating, I do it on a daily basis and bathe in the glory of it, but cheating only works if you don’t get caught, and I knew I would get caught this time. So I wondered “what else can you do, Mila ? What are you good at ?”, and stared into the void
But then I found an answer. Kinda. This website is wonderful, full of cool welcoming people, and what do they write? Well mostly very funny recap posts on K-C-dramas. So, in an effort to bring a little something to that website, I decided to write the opposite of that: an unfunny non-recap post on a Japanese drama. And it has nothing to do with the fact that recaps are hard, and that I don’t have enough commitment/am too lazy to write them (I mean, I can’t even write a part 2 to my 2002 post, so !). No, it’s all about balance, and my concern for the ying-yang of PotUp. Obviously. And because I’m not one to half-ass a job (although I am), I went super-unfunny, and chose to talk about Soredemo Ikite Yuku (I guess the title of the post spoiled that a little bit), because that’s one very unfunny drama. It’s also so beautiful and perfect it made my heart grow three sizes. And then explode. It was a bloody mess, my roommate wasn’t too happy with me (it's okay though, I threw some Eita's adorableness at her, and we made up).
Full disclosure: I actually AM one to half-ass a job (told ya), and so I already wrote two French posts about that drama for my French blog, and yes, this one’s gonna be very similar in terms of content. I mean, it kinda makes sense, since my opinion on the drama is very similar to, well, my opinion on the drama, but yeah I’m basically plagiarizing myself. I’ve made my peace with all that, though. Because I’m shameless, but also because, even if I had watched a new drama, I’d have written a French post on it so… same “problem” again. Truth be told, I just really want to type stuff in English, and also make you watch Soredemo Ikite Yuku, because I’d like to redecorate my kitchen and I’m too stingy to buy red paint.
The thought occurs to me, though, that threatening you with a violent, messy (albeit quick) death, might not be the best way to convince you… Guuuuuyyzze I was kidddiiing, Soredemo Ikite Yuku is all fluff and harmless fun. Once you get past the dead little girl, that is. OKAY. So maybe it really isn’t a FUN drama. But it’s also not hopeless. At all. It”s quite full of hope even: the drama is called “Still, we live on”, after all.
So what are those characters “living on” after?
Well, here’s what happened: when Hiroki (Eita) was a kid, his little sister got killed by one of his friends. And fifteen years later, Futaba (Mitsushima Hikari), the murderer’s little sister, comes to see Hiroki, as (understandably) neither family has really been able to move on.
Now, for those of you who want a quick review of the drama, here’s basically what you need to know: it’s great. The cast is living those characters, and the drama, which is beautifully directed btw, delves into tragedies and how we react to them in a way that rings very true to life, and feels sincere and very heartfelt. I won’t lie to you (well… not right now anyway), it’s not an easy watch, because it has heavy themes, and it won’t be for everybody because the drama takes its time, which means some people will think it’s too slow. But this is a well-crafted, well-written, super well-acted drama, and although, yes, there’s a chance you might not like it, or even hate it since we’re all different people, I can only tell you: give it a chance. Because I feel it’s well worth it. And you value my feelings. Right ?
And now, for those of you that have time to waste or are bored in class/at work, and want to be bored on the internet instead (tss, wae so not serious ?), here comes the long version of this unfunny non-recap (so basically it’s a review) post about a Japanese drama.
My short synopsis only named Hiroki and Futaba, because they are the main focus on the show, true, but before watching Soredemo, Ikite Yuku, you should know that, first you made the right choice, congratulations, and second, they’re not the only focus of the show, and you also shouldn’t expect it to be a full-on romance. Love is very much part of the equation, but romance-lovers looking for a tragic love story between two people on opposite sides of a crime will be left frustrated. The main theme of the drama, as one would expect from the title, is that people can find a new hope, a new will to move on, and continue living after the worst of tragedies.
Both Futaba’s and Hiroki’s families are victims of the same crime. Not in the same way of course: Hiroki’s family has been in mourning since Aki’s death, with the mother in particular feeling guilty, like she’s “let her daughter get killed”, while Futaba’s family still can’t process that they raised a murderer, and also has to face the blame of the whole world, that holds them responsible for the son’s crime. In the end, both families live in the shadow of what happened, and they’re both wondering why it happened, and how they’re supposed to deal with it. Hard questions, and that “why” may not even have an answer (life does that sometimes… that’s why I fail the test all the time), but the first step, the drama says, is to talk about all of it, stop running away by blaming the wrong people, or literally running away, and just take it all in (the horror, the hurt, the guilt, the hate, the anger, etc), so that it can be processed. And Futaba takes the first step when she decides to meet Hiroki. And yes, I know I said the drama is not only about them, but again, they’re still the focus, and I love them so, so much. As soon as they meet, there’s this connection between them, like something just “clicks”, because they understand each other so well. And that understanding is what gets the healing going.
Futaba is a guilt-crippled character. She feels very responsible (way too responsible) for what her brother has done, and that has been holding her back her whole life… but at the same time, she’s also been holding on to the hope that maybe, just maybe he didn’t do it (a very human thing to do…. I’ve been saying the same thing about Gong Yoo and BIG. I’m still not convinced he did it. Might have been a collective nightmare). Maybe there was a mistake (well, yeah: BIG). And again: you start healing the day you admit there’s something wrong. Which means Futaba never started to heal, living in that constant state of false hope and crippling guilt. The day it all changes, happens after she goes to see Hiroki. I won’t tell you the details, but Futaba and Hiroki take a walk in the woods, and at some point, after having angered Hiroki by saying maybe her brother didn’t do it, Futaba stumbles upon poppies, dozens of them. And those poppies are the proof she needed, for reasons I won’t unveil, that her brother is guilty. That’s the moment she lets go of all her illusions. And it’s a beautiful scene, with the image of Futaba, sitting in this pool of blood-red flowers and crying over the destruction of her last hope, being obviously heartbreaking, especially since Mitsuhima Hikari puts everything she has into that scene (as well as in the rest of the drama… I don’t have enough words to say just how perfect Mitsushima Hikari is in Soredemo, Ikite Yuku). The realization hurts even more because those poppies are so… obvious, in a way. What I mean is, they’re out there, easily spotted, the whole world can see them, and she’s the only one who didn’t. It just reiterates how she’s been trying to fool herself. And finally, I like the use of poppies in that scene, because I think they’re mostly a happy flower. They’re pretty, and light, and associated with summer and warmth. They shouldn’t be associated with murder. They shouldn’t be associated with blood, and pain. And Futaba shouldn’t as well, she should have had another life, a happy one, but her brother made those flowers a sad sight, and he “stole” the life Futaba deserved away too.
Anyway, that’s the moment where she lets go of her illusions, and the moment that she starts healing, but that’s a slow process, obviously: as I said she feels so much responsibility for what her brother did, that it can’t just go away like that. Actually, she goes to see Hiroki because her family is being harassed and she thinks he knows something, and I don’t think she’d have gone if she’d been the only one getting harassed. In that case, she’d probably have just accepted it as some form of punishment. A punishment she, of course, doesn’t deserve, but that’s not how she feels, and that’s what makes it so hard for her to grab Hiroki’s hand when he extends it to her. Which he does.
Hiroki is a broken man. He’s alive, but there’s no point to his existence, or at least that’s what he thinks (our opinions diverge a tad). Hiroki’s state is actually best described by his lines in episode 6, I think. Here’s what he says:
“I’ve never worked particularly hard, nor have I done anything for anyone’s sake. My father had to feed me because I’m out of work even at this age. I find it glaring to walk outside. While wanting to die, I read manga. While wanting to die, I choose the clothes I wear at the convenience store. While wanting to die, I piss and shit. I’ve clung to that house in the mountains all this time. I’m a person who’s like a slug. [….] I cannot do anything even though I say I’m going to avenge my sister. I say revenge, but I still read gravure magazines as usual. I say revenge until night and sleep comes. Then I piss and shit again… Like a slug, I cling to the earth and crawl about the ground.”
Did I mention this wasn’t a very funny drama ? Yeah.
But those lines are both very depressing and a little comforting to me. It encapsulates what Hiroki is about at the beginning of the drama, but also what this drama is about, which is resilience and hope. Hiroki has no hope, at this point. He is stuck in his trauma, and he can’t move on at all. He speaks of revenge, but can’t do a thing, can’t take any step. His existence is still, he’s not really living, but he’s also not dying, he’s just going through the motions, responding only to basic human needs. He doesn’t really want to live another day, but he just kinda does, and that’s incredibly sad, because he doesn’t even feel human anymore, he feels dirty and a parasite. But what I find comforting is that Hiroki, still, is alive. There’s this movie scene that always stuck with me (and ironically, the movie did NOT… I can’t, for the life of me, remember what it was… I suck, yes, and this is becoming the running theme of every post I write): the lead character is talking about the tragic death of a family member to someone else. “Do you know how I felt afterwards?” he says. “Hungry. I felt hungry. And I hated myself for it”. I remember really liking this scene, because it really expressed the guilt one can feel for wanting to live after someone’s death. Hiroki’s not so much hungry as he’s just eating and existing, but as long as he’s eating, and existing, then one day maybe he’ll be hungry, maybe he’ll want to live. And that will come with some guilt too, but even that guilt might fade. I love those lines of Hiroki’s, and they’re echoed by a scene in the last episode of the drama, a toilet scene (yes), that, to me, really brings home the whole “comforting” part. Of course, I won’t spoil that scene, but I do find a little comfort in the fact that instinctively, Hiroki’s still living on, which means there’s a chance for the light to come back. And of course, Futaba is that bringer of light when she knocks at his door. She shakes him up, he extends his hand to her.
Of course, there’s some anger, Hiroki hates Futaba’s brother for what he did to his family. But although he sometimes gets out of control and angry, he can still see that Futaba’s just another victim, and again and again, he treats her with kindess, my favorite scene maybe being the one in episode 5 where he wants to hold her hand so bad, but can’t because he’s afraid it might be inappropriate, given their relationship. So he just tells her it’ll be alright, it’ll all be fine in the end, because she’s worked so hard, and so long. Futaba’s been self-punishing for so long, she can’t even handle the kindness and just starts tearing up. And so did I. A lot. I actually didn’t so much “tear up” as I bawled my eyes out. So I’ll take this occasion to say that Eita was, obviously (let’s face it, he almost always is), great in that drama. I still think Mitsushima Hikari was the MVP, but I’d give them both all of the awards, I’d bury them in trophies for bringing these characters to life on my screen, and making them so believable not as characters, but as people. They also really bring out the connection between Hiroki and Futaba, and I just loved watching them share all the pain, but also the little smiles. They’re often awkward with each other, they stumble, but because they understand each other so well, they’re able to share with the other what they could never tell anyone, and they just feel right together. Well…. It may be more complex than that.
First of all, there’s society to factor in, and the drama touches on that subject. There’s that scene in particular where some woman starts screaming at Futaba’s father “MURDERER ! Give us back Aki”, and Hiroki is trying to calm her down. And that says a lot: Hiroki, the victim’s brother, is trying to calm down an unrelated woman that’s harassing Futaba’s father. The world has been coming down hard on Futaba’s family, blaming them for Aki’s murder, and that’s a weight on any relationship Futaba and Hiroki might have, because other people will always remind them that they are “the victim’s brother” and “the murderer’s sister”. Plus, how do you move on from a tragedy, if you live your life with someone whose existence reminds you of that tragedy everyday? So when I say Futaba and Hiroki just feel right together, I don’t necessarily mean they (always) feel right as a couple, though I really wanted them to just run away and find a place of their own, far away. Now, did the drama agree, disagree with me and/or grant me my wish or not…? You’ll have to find out for yourselves.
Now, I need to confess something: I lied. Yeah. I did tell you I would not lie that one time, but I made no promises for the other times, and so soon, my true nature just came out, and I lied to you: I said I would give all the awards to Eita and Mitsushima Hikari. Well, that’s not true. I would give them most of the awards, and probably make up some new ones just to hand them to both of them, but all the actors in that drama did a good job (I miiiiight maybe have thought that the actor playing Futaba’s brother could have been better, but he did okay, and is not too much on the screen anyway), and as the drama delves into Futaba’s and Hiroki’s relationship with each other, the world and their families, I was very, very impressed by Otake Shinobu, who plays Hiroki’s mother. She’s not always a likeable character, because she very much lives in the past, and that makes her selfish. Of course, it’s easy to understand how she came to be that way, how the death of her little girl broke her, and how it kept eating at her all these years, as she kept thinking “if I hadn’t told her to take that way”, “if I hadn’t bought her that skirt”. But while we understand, it doesn’t mean we always like her. That said, I loved seeing how Hiroki slowly reaches out to her, and forces her to face the world and what happened. Otake Shinobu was all kinds of great. And see, one thing I LOVED about Soredemo, Ikite Yuku (another one, yay), is the (well-deserved) trust it has in its cast. It won’t try to tell you how to feel with music. It’s not afraid of going silent, and just filming a character’s face, letting you sink into this character’s soul. And there’s this one monologue, where Otake Shinobu just strips her character’s soul naked: it last several minutes, there’s no music, the camera is kept on her 90% of the time (sometimes the drama shows us the people she’s speaking to) and it’s, oh, so powerful, because we’re allowed to just take in the performance and the lines. And the performance is great. And the lines are great too, going into how that character dealt with grief, not trying to hide the ugly (but very human) part of her thoughts. There’s no one way of dealing with grief, we will (almost) all have to grieve at some point, we will all do it in a different way, and none of us will be wrong (unless we go and kill random people, but you know what I mean) so Soredemo, Ikite Yuku can’t tackle GRIEF in its “entirety”, there’s no such thing, but I like to think that there’s a piece for everyone in that drama, because of moments like this that are so relatable-y (making up words is COOL damn it) human.
And since I have some awards left, yes (I might have a clandestine awards-workshop in my basement), let’s give some to the people that made the drama sound (that opening ♥) and look the way it does (AWARDS ON EVERYONE!). Because it takes courage to trust your actors that much (so many dramas sadly don’t), because I appreciate a drama that takes its time, and because I just love everything about Soredemo, Ikite Yuku. For all the sadness going on, there’s a lot of hope in that show, and it also feels very warm. Yes, there’s a real sense of warmth in Soredemo, Ikite Yuku, and I give credit for that in part to the director who filled his show with warm colors, especially orange, in the lighting but also the clothes –Futaba wears sadder colors, but Hiroki has a warmer palette to him-, and that sunrise that seems to say “it’s time to live again now”.
Finally, my last award goes to you, who read through all that. Thank you very much, and please watch Soredemo, Ikite Yuku. Because it’s beautiful. And because I know where you live. Please don’t force me to kill a puppy and send it to you with your trophy, I hate killing puppies.
Until next time, this is Mila, signing off~