I love Japan’s TV dramas.
For one thing, most of the stories are simple, making them easy for me to follow in Japanese. For another thing, I get the chance to hear fairly natural Japanese dialogue (There is no: “Where is the pen?” “Oh, it is on the desk.”).
Also, Japan’s entertainment industry lacks the funds Hollywood has to go crazy on special effects. To me, I think that’s a good thing because it means Japan has to usually focus more on a good story to get people to watch. The fabulous Patton Oswalt once said to the effect in an interview: “They’re just shaking their keys at us with so many special effects. We don’t need any of that.” I agree. A solid story will always outweigh even the best special effects in my book.
That being said, there have been a few cringeworthy attempts of special effects for a drama I’m making an effort to watch called “100万回 言えばよかった” that is airing one episode per week on TV. You can also catch it on Netflix (though I’m not sure if it’s available outside of Japan). Episode 3 is out tonight.
There have been several times where the character of Naoki has to be shown as a ghost, meaning the classic trick of people walking through him. The special effects aren’t fantastic is the kindest thing I can say about them.
However, I am more than happy to push aside bad special effects because the first two episodes were interesting enough to keep my attention.
A man named Naoki wakes up in his bed at his apartment and wanders out to the living room to see his girlfriend furiuosly vacuuming late at night to annoy everyone living nearby because Naoki is late for her birthday dinner. He tries to apologize, but he thinks she’s just ignoring him out of fury. It takes him a while, but Naoki starts to realize he’s probably dead at the same time his girlfriend, Yui, files a missing person report at the police station. The police say there’s not much hope, though, because Naoki is way over 18, and there’s a highly likely chance Naoki was just doing a terrible job of trying to get out of the relationship.
A detective at the police station is working on a case involving the murder of a young woman in her apartment when he overhears Yui’s impassioned speech at the precinct that Naoki wasn’t the type of guy to just up and run away. She holds up a photo of the two of them, and the detective says they’ll file his case away with all the rest of the missing person cases.
On his way home, the detective spots Naoki wandering around in the city (this takes place in my favorite city here: Yokohama). He’s about to walk right up to Naoki and tell him off for making Yui worry like that, when bad special effects tell the detective that Naoki must be a ghost. The detective’s family, it turns out, runs a Buddhist temple, and all of his family members can see ghosts.
Naoki basically orders the detective to help him convince Yui he’s there, and most of episode 1 is given over to getting Yui to understand Naoki is probably dead and that the detective can see him while Yui can’t.
Episode 1 ends with the detective pulling up surveillance footage of the murdered woman’s apartment, and he spots Naoki in the footage entering the apartment.
As I mentioned in the previous entry, I think Naoki isn’t actually dead. I think the characters in the first episode tried way too hard to tell the audience “he’s dead” by repeating the phrase ad nauseum. There’s no need to hit the nail on the head that hard, I think. Something’s up.
Second, there’s a part in episode 1 where Yui, who is starting to come to grips with Naoki probably being dead, wanders into an intersection oblivious to the red light. A car almost hits her when a woman pulls her out of the way. The woman makes a point of mentioning that she’s a doctor and that she works at a hospital “Just over there” and points to a nearby hospital.
The writer could’ve chosen anyone under the sun to save Yui at that moment. They went for a doctor who works at a nearby hospital.
Episode 2 even goes so far as to have the doctor just happen to visit Yui’s hair salon, where she works as a hairdresser. Yui then visits the doctor’s hospital for a checkup after having a panic attack about Naoki’s possible death. The detective comes to pick her up, and the doctor sees the detective and quietly says, “Are you joking me?” suggesting she knows the detective.
I’m willing to bet that Naoki was actually found somewhere (I’m sure that’ll be parsed out later) and is currently unconscious at the doctor’s hospital. Yui has, thus far, not even brought up Naoki. The doctor even asked if Yui is under a sudden enormous amount of stress, and Yui lies and says she’s fine. This means the writer has the luxury of time before revealing where Naoki really is because Yui is making sure the doctor never sees a picture of Naoki before probably the second-to-last episode.
I love watching dramas and movies, but sometimes I wonder if I’m alone in feeling slightly stressed watching them because I feel like it’s on me to sort out the plot. Especially when the stories become complicated messes, I have my own slight panic attacks thinking: How am I going to make this work?
I don’t know why my gut instinct hasn’t yet come to the obvious conclusion that finishing these stories is not a task I need to worry about, but every single time I watch something, my brain is trying to work out how I’d end it. I wonder if any other writers feel that way.