Drama Review: Nemureru Mori / A Sleeping Forest (Fuji TV, 1998)

Vivere disce, cogita mori – Learn to live; Remember death.
(sundial inscription)

by Ender’s Girl

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The Cast:
Nakayama Miho, Kimura Takuya, Nakamura Toru, Jinnai Takanori, Yusuke Santamaria, Natsuyagi Isao

In a Nutshell:
A 15-year-old crime casts a long shadow on a young woman whose lost memory of the incident returns with a vengeance. She meets a mysterious stranger, who vows to help her reclaim her forgotten past.

(SpoilLert: Major, major plot revelations!!! Proceed only if you’ve watched the ENTIRE drama!!!)

[Recommended companion track: “A Sorta Fairytale” by Tori Amos]

Once upon a Time, in a Faraway Land…

I enjoyed Nemureru Mori for the dark, modern-day fairy tale that it is: it takes the Sleeping Beauty archetype and gives it an urban-whodunit spin, setting it in 1998 Tokyo. But here the Sleeping in question is a psychological rather than a physical condition, as it is the Princess’ memories that remain submerged for a certain time period, to be Awakened by the Prince at the right Moment. (But who is the Prince, pray tell? Is there even one at all?)

When stripped of its more palatable, Victorian-era coating, the Fairy Tale is no children’s bedtime reading. I’m glad that Nemureru Mori feels less like Hans Christian Andersen and more like the earlier work of the Brothers Grimm, with the gore and the gloom and the, er, grimness not seen in their later (and heavily sanitized) versions. I welcome fairy tales in all their literary incarnations, in particular Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber,” a collection of retold fairy tales — dark, violent, sensuous and lushly romantic, but at times also bleak and terrifying.

The question, therefore, would be: If this is the story of Sleeping Beauty, who are the other characters? Who’s the Wicked Witch? The Fairy Godmother? The White Knight? But given the murder-mystery angle of Nemureru Mori you know that everything and everyone is immediately suspect — with the exception of Beauty, through whose eyes we watch the story unfold. So… could it be that certain characters in Nemureru Mori are actually composites of two or more of these fairy tale figures, who in turn may (or may not) be fundamentally disparate from each other (i.e. what if the Prince turns out to be the Big Bad Wolf?) — thus rendering them more ambiguous (but more interesting)? I’ve read enough crime capers and Agatha Christie mysteries to expect the unexpected and brace for twists in the plot. You try to second-guess people’s motives and anticipate the telltale signs that may (or may not) Mean Something Later On, those breadcrumbs in the woods that point the Way Out. And the woods of this Sleeping Forest have a beautiful, surreal quality to them, where time and space lose their real-world sway. It truly is an enchanted place, one both tranquil and threatening, a secret dream-garden where a long-forgotten evil lurks unseen.

The starting point of our story is a Christmas Eve massacre in a picturesque little town 15 years past. Beneath the snow-coated rooftops and steeples of churches, beneath the clear voices of carolers rising through the winter air, a gruesome crime has just been committed: the cold-blooded murder of three family members. The rain has washed away all traces of the killer, all evidence of his identity. Amid the flashing police sirens and crowds of onlookers, the body bags are carted into the ambulance one by one, the child Minako’s family — dead forever. That the carnage happened at Yuletide, of all times — is inconceivable, and yet the proof of this horrific deed is incontrovertible: the red stains against the snow, the bloodied corpses, the knife left behind when the murderer fled the scene. The 12-year-old girl Minako, the sole survivor of this nightmare, retreats deep into the darkness, her spirit broken and all memories locked away inside, in a place where even she dares not go. And through it all, the statue of the Virgin Mary at the nearby church remains the lone witness to this scene, her marmoreal countenance sphinx-like in dispensing either benediction — or judgment. And so our Fairy Tale begins.

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Into the Woods

Fast-forward to the present: Christmastime is fast approaching, and Oba Minako (Nakayama Miho) has put the past behind her and now lives a normal life: she loves her job at the Orchidarium, she has a responsible and devoted fiancé, and despite that gaping hole in her memory, she has moved on, and she is happy. She looks forward to settling down with her beau Hamazaki Kiichiro (Nakamura Toru), who at 35 holds a well-paying job as Cultural Director for a top holdings firm, and is himself the son of a celebrated painter. But as Minako prepares to move into their matrimonial home, she finds a bunch of old letters among her childhood things. They date back 15 years, from a nameless sender who was then also a child — but one who was never Minako’s friend. He reached out to her only through the letters, as he was either too diffident to approach her, or was unable to — for some reason. The final letter ends with an invitation to meet in person in the forest of their hometown after 15 years have passed. Minako realizes that the date in question is just a few days away, and she impulsively decides to meet this person at the appointed time and place. The anonymous letter-sender’s connection to her forgotten childhood is what compels her to board the train back to her hometown where she has not lived for 14 years, and to the woods behind it. There she sees him for the first time, a strange young man named Ito Naoki (Kimura Takuya), lying in a hammock in a forest glade, waiting for her, knowing she would come. It is not a pleasant encounter: though a total stranger, he seems to know every single detail of Minako’s life for the past 15 years. His familiarity both shocks and intrigues her, and she flees the forest — but not before Naoki gives her a cryptic warning about the “cruel things” that await Minako, though he offers no explanation — and no relief.

So goes their first real meeting, though it is not their last. Minako returns to Tokyo, but meets Naoki again… and again, and again, at first as a pesky (but seemingly harmless) admirer, but he continues to intrude in her life — from “chance” encounters on the street, to finally moving into her neighborhood, right across her building. His ubiquity is unsettling, his intimate knowledge of Minako’s life downright terrifying. Before Minako’s very eyes he changes from Stranger to Stalker to Saboteur, and the inscrutability of his motives is just as disconcerting as the tenacity with which he forces his way into her neat little world. “You are a part of me,” he tells her on several different occasions, his voice ringing with challenge, as if daring her to prove otherwise. And with these six words, he stakes his claim on Minako — and binds her to him for life. Ito Naoki is certainly no fairy-tale Prince, but more like… The Mad Hatter, it seems in the first few episodes, as he leads Minako down the proverbial rabbit hole towards her Past. And in doing so, he acts as her gypsy Guide through the Underworld, for he’s as much an enigma as he is a vital piece in the puzzle, and you wish more than ever to uncover Who He Really Is in Minako’s life, Who He Was from her past. Then, as the story unravels bit by bit, you realize who the Princess’ Fairy Godmother in the tale really is: it’s a 25-year-old male lighting designer who sports long hair and wears a funny, floppy hat and a white trench coat.

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Grimm Awakenings

As the heroine Oba Minako, Nakayama Miho (Love Letter) is mesmerizing in her beauty, and she’s everything you’d imagine a storybook princess to be. But some of her Pivotal Acting Moments sometimes left me cold, left me wanting more from her performance — particularly in those Big Revelation Scenes. It wasn’t that she did a bad job here, but I did expect more from her, especially since her character — Briar Rose, Sleeping Beauty — is such a potentially complex role. For it is the Princess’ Awakening (after all, that is what Nemureru Mori is truly about) that grips you, and so you watch spellbound as Minako slowly unravels her past and sifts through all the repressed memories — learning which ones are real, and which were merely programmed into her. And in so doing, as her True Self is roused from its dormant state, she Awakens to the horror that has been lurking ever so near all these years, and that now seeks to consume her. Minako is every bit the Tragic Heroine, but her tragedy lies not in finally recognizing the horror, but in LIVING with the knowledge of who the killer is, and of who SHE really is. Her Awakening may have unshackled her from the murderer who would own her, but it does not set her free from the truth, which will haunt her to the end of her days. She (once again) narrowly escapes with her life, but forfeits true happiness in the process. That as a child Minako survives a grisly death — only to later live out this sadness that awaits her, may in fact be the unkindest fate of all.

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Nakamura Toru as Hamazaki Kiichiro reminds me so much of Lee Jong-hyuk, who played the deliciously creepy Shin Hyun-tae in the 2005 Korean drama Green Rose (also a whodunit, though with a story less taut and more… ambitious). But I note the parallelism as a good thing, for both actors turn in performances so nuanced, and with this eeriness you can’t quite put a finger on. Both actors also utilize their greatest asset to the hilt (those eyes… those eyes!!!), those unfathomable black pools that glint with a strange light every now and then. Hamazaki Kiichiro cuts such an intriguing character, a silent-waters-run-deep kind of man who (ostensibly) represents the Princess’ Future as much as Ito Naoki is the link to her Past. He is rock-solid and dependable, and deeply in love with Minako. But as he is haunted by apparitions from a troubled childhood, and with his promising career besmirched by shady dealings, you wonder if Kiichiro is all that he seems to be.

[Interlude: On “With or Without You”]

At first, I must have let out a huuuge snort every time “With or Without You” started playing during the Naoki scenes. And it didn’t help, of course that Kimura’s getup — with that funny-looking fedora and shoulder-length hair — practically screamed BONO circa U2’s “The Joshua Tree” album days, hahaha. (Was he channeling Bono consciously? One wonders…) Admittedly, the whole atmosphere of the song (aside from the lyrics, obviously) is a perfect fit to Ito Naoki’s brooding obsession with Minako, “With or Without You” being the Ultimate Stalker Song after all, heh. But damn, I doubt I’ll ever listen to this track (one of my all-time faves) the same way again. That the drama played the instrumental version was a good move, because the U2 version would simply have been too distracting (not to mention the sky-high royalties that would’ve had to be paid). But after Nemureru Mori ended I played back the original song nonstop, and I doubt I’ll ever purge my head of those images of Ito Naoki every time Adam Clayton starts thrumming that iconic baseline against The Edge’s ultra-cool riffs and Larry Mullen Jr.’s solid pounding. And by the time Bono wails that all-too-familiar refrain with all the pent-up longing and anguish that only Bono can deliver, I think of bloody Kimura and that bloody fedora hat of his, and nothing else. (Okay, I have officially played this song on my iPod five times since I started writing this paragraph.) Damn, damn, damn. I also don’t have to say how those sexeh white tank tops fit KimuTaku 1.5’s body so. Darn. Well. (I see that someone’s been working out since Love Generation, eh? Heehee!) [/end interlude]

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You really do feel ambivalent towards Ito Naoki at first, as it is well established what a Gray Area he is, with that knotty personal life and his I-don’t-give-a-sh!t attitude towards the world in general. He treats Yuri, his girlfriend of four years like crap, and refuses to commit to her emotionally despite their (dysfunctional) relationship. Naoki takes her masochistic devotion for granted, and ditches her right before going off to meet Minako in the forest that first time. That Yuri (the ill-cast Honjo Manami) acts the willing martyr doesn’t really make you commiserate with her plight, either. The one million scenes in the drama where Yuri goes over to Naoki’s pad to cook and clean and mend his socks or whatnot for him (when he CLEARLY DOESN’T LOVE HER ANYMORE), and then weeps quietly into her apron to make him feel guilty… dammit, but I could just feel my blood turn into curds and whey and all that gunk. She wasn’t a real person at all, just this robot-maid-sex-doll with matte lipstick and a really bad haircut. Gaahhh.

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Naoki’s best friend from college, Keita (Yusuke Santamaria), has made it no secret of his love for Yuri, and yet must be content with perpetual second-fiddle status. A freelance writer by day, Keita is a compulsive gambler who’s had numerous run-ins with the loan sharks. He is treated by Naoki and Yuri with friendly affection, yet he knows that Ito Naoki will always cast a shadow over him — in looks, in confidence, in professional achievement, and in love. Keita tries to make light of the matter with his half-hearted jokes, but just comes across as this sad clown every time. Yusuke Santamaria is an adequate actor while Honjo Manami simply oozes… mediocrity, but the way both characters are written brooks no sympathy from the viewer, either. Second-rate second fiddles, indeed. Still, I took in the Naoki-Yuri-Keita scenes with more than just a passing interest mainly because it was a way of getting deeper into Naoki’s character. Little did I know how much these two people in Naoki’s life would later figure in some of the drama’s most crucial moments.

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The Lost Boys

It is only when Ito Naoki’s past is revisited through flashbacks that you start to come to terms with his difficult nature and understand his bizarre obsession with Minako. When you finally meet him as that grave, shaggy-haired boy hiding in the woods, you understand how lonely and emotionally disconnected Naoki truly is — and has been, practically all his life. Always an outsider, always an observer, always watching from a distance. Even Naoki’s relationship with his father, Ito Naomi (Natsuyagi Isao in a wonderfully understated performance as… The Woodcutter, lol), the psychotherapist who programs new childhood memories into Minako, is a strained one, built on wary formality and emotional repression. With Naoki’s mother dead before the story unfolds, the father finds refuge in his research, while the young Naoki retreats deep in the forest, a flitting shadow playing amid the foliage, almost indistinguishable in the gloom. Ito Naomi’s interest in his own son’s life seems to find validation only in the psychiatric experiments Naomi conducts on his patients, who include the young Minako. With a clinical interest devoid of all fatherly affection, Naomi probes into his son’s mind, stealing fragments of thought and memory and dream — an afternoon playing Tarzan with a friend, or throwing a curveball in a baseball field — and transfers them into Minako’s own ravaged mind, thus giving her an artificially grafted database of recollections and past experiences that were never really her own.

Both Ito Naoki and Hamazaki Kiichiro lose their mothers at such a young age, and are left to contend with emotionally distant fathers who gain renown in their respective fields (psychology and painting) but remain abject failures at parenthood. Both father-son pairings reflect the same alienation and emotional disconnect that fester unabated for the rest of the boys’ childhood and most of their adult life. The boy Naoki longs to be intimate with his own father, but is incapable of expressing this wish to Naomi. It is only during the transference of his own memories to Minako through Naomi as a conduit, that Naoki can obliquely insert his own childlike dreams of becoming part of a real family again. But his father misses these cues (until it is rather too late), too caught up in his scholarly pursuits to notice the coded messages his son has been sending him during their interviews. And yet despite their emotional ineptitude both father and son share a deep loyalty towards each other, a familial bond that is more resilient than they both may think.

The kid actor playing Young Naoki nailed the character’s emotional isolation and awkward pain so beautifully that I wanted to hug that boy every. single. time. I just love him!!! And I love how the editing would juxtapose the Young Naoki flashbacks with some of the Grown-up Naoki moments, making you realize that although the boy is now a man, the eyes are unchanged after fifteen years and still mirror the same loneliness and deep-seated longing, the hungry look of a boy starved for love and affection and human companionship.

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The Princess and The Mad Hatter

Naoki and Minako make an unusual twosome: they become more than strangers — but never lovers, involved as they are with other people. Their shared childhood memories make each person an irrevocable part of the other, and their mingled identities seem as surreal and inchoate as the strange bond that connects them. It’s a tenuous friendship at first, but Minako learns to overcome her distrust of Naoki and even develops a genuine fondness for him, although the romantic love remains one-sided on Naoki’s part (and oh, the pain it brings him!!!). Plainly you can see Minako’s attraction to Naoki intensified by the growing trust and dependence she places on him — as it becomes more and more clear that he is really out to protect her from all harm, whether far away or close at hand.

But when their relationship takes a shocking and irreversible turn, it is Naoki — and not Minako — who suffers more deeply from it. In the final act of the drama, you see a young man who truly has “nothing to win,” and “nothing left to lose” either, as the U2 song goes. For what do you do when the sole object of your 15-year obsession, whom you watched and followed and LOVED for more than half your life, turns out to be the Forbidden Fruit? — And your insatiable, all-consuming desire has become this shameful affliction overnight? When Naoki’s world comes crashing down, a small part of yours does, too. “Be happy,” he tells Minako on that Day of Days in the forest cottage — but you know that what he’s really trying to say is, “Goodbye.” So when Naoki chooses to start anew with Yuri, you HATE IT that he does so, but understand why. You know (and he knows) that what Yuri really is, is his Consolation Prize.

Portrait of a J-Idol as a Serious Actor

As much as I loved Kimura Takuya in those rom-com dramas (with his good-guy, Idol heroics and that ever-scintillating sheen of Ultra-Coolness), it was refreshing to see him play against type here in Nemureru Mori, as if all stops were pulled to make him as disturbing and disruptive a presence as possible in the life of Minako. As KimuTaku 1.5 (I call him this in his late ‘90s stuff, being some sort of transition state from J-Idol-Who-Can-Act to Real-Actor-Who-Happens-to-Be-a-J-Idol, they’re different you see), you can still see the rawness in his acting, marred occasionally by all that self-conscious hair-flipping, lol. But even without the polish and control so identifiable with his later work, his talent in Nemureru Mori is unmistakably there — particularly in the key moments of realization and revelation. There are glimmers of greatness in his performance, a foretaste of that Kimura Awesomeness I first came to love in Pride (my first Kimuradorama ever). As an actor, he’s got depth, he’s got intensity, he’s got that natural ability to play a character so effortlessly — AND make you believe in him. Aside from those awkward moments when he’d toss his soft, wavy tresses around as Ito Naoki (made me roll my eyes every single time: here we go again, I’d say… rinse, lather, repeat, lol), he delivered his lines and blocking with that spontaneity and easy command of his role that are trademark Kimura. There also is a dynamism to him, an irrepressible vitality in his persona that lends itself so well to his onscreen characters.

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Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

By the third (and final) act of this drama, you get the feeling this isn’t the Sleeping Beauty account anymore, but that of… Bluebeard. The fairy tale premise has metamorphosed into a Gothic tale, one of unspeakable terror and the looming specter of Death. And the storyline is more labyrinthine than your regular whodunit, with so many nail-biting twists and turns I soon lost count. Each cliffhanger left me breathless, each blind alley made me retrace my steps and re-assess the clues so cleverly dropped along the way. Crime-solving is perhaps more deductive than inductive, because you begin with a certain premise, a certain angle, and then try to match the clues and evidence to this theory. But this drama throws you enough red herrings to make you doubt your earlier assumptions about the killer — after all, the main appeal of a good murder mystery is the thrill of the hunt leading up to the villain’s climactic unveiling. And the killer’s identity does not leave you SHOCKED so much as emotionally DRAINED. Though my original assumption about the murderer later proved to be correct, it was only after all that messing with my head had made me doubt… well, everything. (Damn those mind-screws!)

You expect the worst with these types of stories, but nothing prepared me for how deeply rooted the mystery was, and how far-reaching the consequences of the crime. The events set in motion 15 years prior end up entangling more people than were involved originally — even those with no material connection to the Yuletide killings. There’s also a sick symmetry to how the original murders are reprised in a fresh crime that is committed — with a different killer, but one of the same depraved mind and treacherous bent. In the fairy tale that is Nemureru Mori, what awaits the characters is no Happy Ending, but a wasteland of ruined lives and broken dreams. Everyone loses something — whether it’s their freedom, or their sanity, or their innocence, or their own life, or their future happiness. It is how the main characters’ lives (and identities) are changed forever that truly, truly breaks your heart.

Never After

This final act of Nemureru Mori just bled me dry; the story had consumed me inside out, leaving me numb. And just when I thought I had cried myself empty, I couldn’t hold back my emotions in the dying minutes of the final episode — showing Minako in that hammock and Naoki on that train, and the invisible, unbridgeable chasm between them. I wept at the cruelty of Life, how it deals people that “sleight of hand and twist of Fate” spoken of so poetically in the U2 song. Then you realize with a heart-stopping clarity that beneath the Sleeping Beauty tale lies another story embedded in Nemureru Mori, and it is that of Hansel and Gretel… Two children hand in hand, lost deep in the woods, who must find their way out of this strange gloaming of shadows and stippled light — before the darkness devours them both. That Hansel and Gretel are brother and sister is an irony not lost on the viewer: for as they stumble out into the open, the forest now behind them, a far crueler fate awaits, one that wrenches them apart and robs them of all happiness. Then our Fairy Tale is finally over: it is THE END, and as the storybook closes shut one last time, you are thankful that it is so.

FIN

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*************

Read no further if you haven’t seen this drama!!! (As if the review didn’t have enough spoilers already…)

Requiem for a Dreamer

It could’ve ended perfectly, really it could. But it didn’t. Because he just had to go f***ing DIE, like some diseased animal by the roadside. He died as he had lived: disconnected and alone.

Maybe I’m just stupid. Maybe my tear-blurred eyes failed to take in the *supposedly* telling clues indicating Naoki’s… worsening condition. Maybe despite being in its agonized throes, my mind still automatically precluded the possibility of an ending so… pointless, and so gratuitously sob-inducing. Maybe the writer of Nemureru Mori wanted this drama to go down as having the most WTF! finish in J-history, so he wrote it in. Or maybe I really AM stupid, that I didn’t GET IT right away — not even when that orange rolled off the seat and the flowers fell from his hands, or when the Young Minako Doppelganger kept looking back to see if he had alighted — but he never did — as the train chugged away from the platform. I simply thought that Naoki had made a sudden, CONSCIOUS CHOICE to distance himself from Minako by not going back home. THAT’S why the ending affected me so much, because in doing so, Naoki would still end up with NOTHING. But at least, if there was any good that would come out of it, it was that FINALLY, Naoki was going to start living for HIMSELF — not for his father, or for Minako, but for himself. To choose NOT to deal with the torture that would inevitably come if he stayed and forced himself to act all… familial and brotherly around Minako. If Naoki let the orange and the orchids slip from his fingers, if he slumped back in his seat and closed his eyes — what of it? I didn’t see a dying young man on the train, but one with a broken heart… and I thought that’s all there was to it.

That’s why I didn’t think right away that Naoki died. Those “warning signs” about his condition (presumably a subdural hematoma following the head trauma he sustained at the hands [and lead pipe] of Santa Claus), like the numbness and the dizzy spells and the decreased motor function — fine, they were shown in the drama’s last few episodes. But I still felt they weren’t built up significantly enough to service good storytelling. True, you can be asymptomatic and even feel fine for days to weeks without knowing you’re slowly dying from a massive clot in your brain. Medical fact. But in the hours leading up to your death, your condition should begin to manifest itself more acutely — i.e. something a BIT more severe than the inability to peel an orange properly. And even if there had been more indicators that screamed, “Naoki is dying!!! Final countdown — Naoki is dying!!!”… The question of questions remains… WHY.

So they kill him off? Just like that???? Why???!?? What PURPOSE would Naoki’s death serve in the drama? It was such a complete and utter incongruity against the rest of the story, such an unnecessary plot development, and nothing but a pointless exercise in emotional over-manipulation. Didn’t the drama have enough bombshells and Big Revelations packed in? Were the numerous twists and turns still inadequate for the writers? Hadn’t Minako already suffered enough pain and loss and grief????? And was Naoki’s death his just deserts for falling in love with his sister (though unwittingly so), as decreed by the Dramaverse’s Laws of Comeuppance?

Postscript: To the Faithful Departed

Naoki’s death was as senseless as it was poorly built-up. This felt like the Evil Twin of the Deus ex Machina plot device: meet the DEUCE ex Machina (devil out of the machine, haha), that smites down drama characters at whim, so that all your emotional investment gets nuked to kingdom come whenever the drama makers arbitrarily infuse a *little* bit more gloom and doom to the drama — just in case all those callous little b*tches of Jdorama fangirls weren’t, like, CRYING HARD ENOUGH by Episode 10. Naoki’s death felt like a frickin’ afterthought, like a sick prank the makers just decided to pull out of their wazoos. What happened here was a case of getting GREEDY with the WEEPY, and nothing more. They should’ve changed this drama’s title to A Weeping Forest — how’d you like that? Capricious and self-serving little pricks. Naoki should have lived. Naoki should have lived. Too late for that now.

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Grade
Artistic & technical merit: B-
Entertainment value: B-
Overall: B-

****

Vivere disce, cogita mori – Learn to live; Remember death.

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27 Comments on “Drama Review: Nemureru Mori / A Sleeping Forest (Fuji TV, 1998)”


  1. Spoilers!/

    Yeah, the not-so-happy ending was frustrating, wasn’t it? I remember telling myself over and over again, “Oh, he’s just taking a nap. Yup, definitely a nap…” Denial much?😄

    There’s one interesting tidbit about Nemureru Mori that I find awesome. Did you know that if you pay attention to the credits that roll after each episode, they tell you the fate of each character as well as who the real murderer is from the get go?

    Apparently, the innocent characters are in clothes that are all or have a little white, while the real killer is the only one wearing all black. Also, there’s all those characters who are shown falling backwards… Yeah, you already know what happens to them.:/ And if I remember correctly, Minako is the only who is shown waking up.

    Forgive my lack of explanation skills…hope that made sense! I just thought it was pretty cool how they planned that out, even though I didn’t find out about it long after I first saw the drama.

    /Spoilers!

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Lol, denial mode is a happy, happy place. (And, um, I didn’t know you could actually cry while dying… T___T)

      *dashes off to re-watch the credits*

      Yeah, I also found it kewwwl that certain shots of the characters were echoed in the credits. But, um, only Minako and Naoki were in white; Kokubo was also in black, while Keita wore fatigues and Yuri had some red thingy on. But like you said, Kiichiro wearing black apparently has an extra layer of meaning that isn’t revealed until the very end. =)

      And yeah, it’s sad how Minako wakes up, but nobody’s there.😦


      • Oh, oops! It’s been such a long time since I’ve actually seen it…😄

        So, I guess it wasn’t whoever was wearing white, but more like “the real culprit is the only one all in black.” They talked about it on some special I saw earlier this year about memorable Fuji tv dramas, so it was definitely done on purpose and not just a neat coincidence.😀

  2. autumn1 Says:

    i remembered feeling the same way you did EG. I really didn’t see that ending coming and i was so shocked and upset – i sobbed uncontrollably. That last tear of his was heartbreaking. I often pondered what was that last tear for? Regret for not being able to see her? His grief for not wanting to die just when he thought he found happiness?? THat thought bothered me for a long time. I thought he really deserved some happiness – at least for once.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      (Don’t tell Peggy you thought that Naoki should have lived!!! Lol.) Well, at least you were quicker on the uptake. I think it took me a full month to realize what had really happened, lol. After watching Nemureru Mori I was a sodden wreck, and so I tried putting my jumbled thoughts and feelings on paper. Then I went on vacation but couldn’t stop thinking about Naoki on that blasted train. I’d look up at the sky and ocean and think of Naoki, I’d go dolphin-watching and island-hopping and think of Naoki, I’d lie on a semi-deserted beach doodling that heart you see in my avatar and think of Naoki…

      Then several weeks later I got to talk to my best friend about the drama and she went, “You DO know that Naoki died, right?” And I was like, “What. Do. You. Mean. He. DIED.” Lolllllll. So I don’t know if it’s obvious, but the main section of my review and the “Requiem for a Dreamer”/”Postscript” epilogue actually have a 2-month gap, lol. I think I need to eat more brain food…

  3. autumn1 Says:

    I know what you mean about being a sodden wreck. I was one too. I thought he was going to die on the ship but he survived, and i thought, phew! no sad ending. So i was really unprepared for the ending. I remember SOS’ing peg and vented my frustration. How can they end like that??? why? why??? i think i couldn’t sleep for days after watching it.

    btw, i’m surprised you haven’t reviewed PRIDE. I thought that would’ve been your first since PRIDE is really nearly every kimura’s fan’s pride and joy.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Pride = Review FAIL!!!!! I have a half-finished review somewhere on my hard drive, but… I’m finding it so bloody hard to organize my thoughts when my feelings get in the way, lol. I try writing something objective about Satonaka Halu, then three sentences later I have to run down to the kitchen and start shoving ice cubes in my mouth or something. (Halu = Iceman; ergo, E.G. crunching ice cubes till her gums get frostbite = the closest she’ll ever get to being with Halu.) I mean, Hero is the only one of my top 5 Kimura dramas that I’ve been able to review (semi-)coherently. I try going near the other four (LoveGen, Long Vacation, Beautiful Life, and of course, Pride) and I keep running into a blank wall. It’s traaaagikkkkk. *sobs quietly into Blue Scorpions jersey while clutching #9 patch*

      Re Karei naru Ichizoku… I’m actually watching it this week, yay! My best friend and I had to make sure our stars (and schedules) aligned for this momentous event, lol.

  4. autumn1 Says:

    Haha! you’re funny EG. Love your humour.
    Well, who can be objective with Halu san? Either you fall for him or you don’t and when you do fall, you fall hard. I’m absolutely with you on this. I did lots of gushing on PRIDE with peg, kat and another friend of ours (i’ll let her know about this site, if you don’t mind. (Wow… then we can really have a good time gushing on kimura – all the kimura freaks!)
    We even did a very detail ep by ep analysis on it. crazy eh?
    Yeah, you’re finally watching karei. I can’t wait to hear you gush about this. This is without a doubt, kimura’s best drama ever.

  5. km Says:

    I categorize Nemureru Mori the same as Sora Kara *excuse me for my short form, i tend to short form whatever possible*: inhumanly heart wrenching dorama. It just has the disturbingly disheartening and saddening power that once you are affected, it would take forever to recover from it.

    Despite that I got who is the real murderer from few early eps, it still amazed me with the emotions and the turn of events. And Naoki’s death. It was like the worst thing ever. Sigh. It took me whole week to finally recognize that it’s really death, happily never after kind of ending, or I was just lying to myself, thinking maybe he just overshoot the stop because its not very possible that he can be with Minako, so he moved on with his life. How silly is that? *haizz haizz*

    It would be exaggerating to say Kimura’s acting is superb, but it is really really good, the emotions were there,so raw, so precious, so lovely. And I do love this side of him, the Dark Prince, the irresistible darkness. Lolz.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      (Well, “Sora Kara” is better than just “Sora,” ne?🙂 )

      Naoki = The Dark Prince –> niiiice. Like… dark chocolate… mmmm…. garrghghghhg *Homer Simpson drool* While in Sora Kara he was The Prince of Darkness (‘coz they’re different ya see), hahaha. (No, that’s not right… now all I have are images of Ozzy Osbourne chomping off that poor bat’s head. Nuooooo!!!!!)

      I dare say that Nemureru Mori made me even sadder than Sora Kara. I think with Sora Kara it was all, DOOM!!!! DOOM!!! THE END IS NIGH!!!!!, whereas after watching Nemureru Mori I just kept going, “Huhuhu… huhuhu…” while my snot… er, tears kept dribbling onto my TV screen. Lol. (Erm, dunno if I’m making any sense here, though.) Sora Kara may have been the better-made drama, but I actually recovered faster from it than from Nemureru Mori (see above posts, heh heh). Weird.

  6. Andra Says:

    I was the exact same as you. I really didn’t get that he died even though it’s so fricking obvious. I really thought he was just sleeping or something. Until like half a year later when I read some people’s discussion about the drama online and they were talking about his death. Wait. He DIED?!!!

    TT.TT

    That aside, I was just as immersed into this drama as you. For some reason, the scene of Minako and Naoki meeting in the forest for the first time is one of the scariest moments I’ve ever seen on screen (I hate watching horror movies though so that can be the reason :D). Naoki’s psycho behaviour scared me so bad, he was creepier than I ever espected to see Kimutaku be.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Lol, I guess I feel much better knowing I wasn’t the only one with the… delayed reaction.🙂

      Re Creepy Stalker Naoki, yeah, I know what you mean. I think I’d get freaked out myself, even if the stalker did look like frickin’ KimuTaku… with long hair… wearing a white tank top and trench coat……… Hmmm… or would I? (Must…resist. Must… resist…. Lol.)

      Good thing you brought this up, because it seems that the main criticism of Naoki’s character is that in the final third of the drama, Psycho Naoki just… disappears. My best friend was like, “What happened to Crazy Naoki??? Where’d he go??? Now he’s just so utterly normal!!!” Lol. I didn’t include that observation in my review because to be honest, it didn’t really bother me that much. But apparently this character development (or lack thereof) didn’t sit well with a lot of viewers, and upon re-watching Nemureru Mori with a more… objective eye, I can now understand why.

  7. Peggy Says:

    It is a long time since I watched Sleeping Forest, and one day I will make myself watch it again.
    It was such an emotional ride all the way through. I have to say looking back from this distance, that I was not deeply moved by the leading lady. She was really pretty and altogether acceptable as the one who would be happy in her life once she got married. However, after the story began to emerge there was a need for the woman to be more fey at times. I kept thiking that even Audrey Hepburn would have done a more compelling idea of a person with a lost past. I didn’t like all of Audrey Hepburn, but this was a character she could have done so well. Imagine her with Kimura…She would have been overwhelmed and could have shown it so beautifully. Kimura would have looked even more invincible in the forest.
    I hated the ending, altho I can see that it made such a powerful remembrance. I really wanted to make my own ending that Naoki was just overcome and did not get off the train in time, but he lived and eventually reunited with the person he so loved.I honestly didn’t care about their apparent relationship. They were twin souls. After all if a few siblings did not get together in the beginning we would have no human family now at all?? Right??
    The brotherhood of man and all that.
    It’s just that I found it the necessary ending for the drama, but not as much as the ending for Million Stars. THAT could never have been and it was such a gorgeous Shakespearian tragedy that death became them so wonderfully.
    It’s so hard to let go of the character when Kimura plays it to the end. Heartache.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Lol, I think that in Old Testament times siblings procreated out of… necessity than anything else. And back then they didn’t have to worry about inbreeding and hemophilia and recessive genes and all those things.🙂

      “It’s so hard to let go of the character when Kimura plays it to the end. Heartache.” YESSSSSSSSSS!

      Wow, Audrey Hepburn, huh. I last saw her in the Richard Dreyfuss movie Always, and she was still sooooo beautiful. Oh, speaking of Nakayama Miho, I saw the trailer of her comeback movie (well, sorta–it’s the one based on her husband’s novel), and she looks better than she did a full decade ago.😉

  8. v Says:

    thanks for the review!! i totally felt nostalgic reading this.. i didnt remember much of this drama so it was nice feeling like i was back to years before… how time flies!

  9. lydia Says:

    yea i swear i just died at the ending! TOO SHOCKED to even cry! definitely a bad bad build up to his death and whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy did he have to die soooo tragic and yet i’m not crying! argh! i wanted the 3 to have warm soup together!!!! *CRIES*

    i actually had to readour review to confirm the fact that he died:/ and the tears that rolled down his face…omg…it’s as if he knew that from the moment he found out their bro-sis relationship, it was never meant to be…

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Argh, I know right? Q___Q

      “i wanted the 3 to have warm soup together!!!! *CRIES*” << ROFL!!! Sorry didn't meant to sound flippant, but this truly made me laugh/smile!😀

      Well, at least you were 90% sure he died in the end (and just needed a 2nd opinion for verification purposes), whereas the realization completely flew past my head, lol. So I basically ended up cryin' for all the wrong reasons @_@ *facepalm*

      • lydia Says:

        “So I basically ended up cryin’ for all the wrong reasons @_@ *facepalm*”

        THIS made me laugh! haha!

        Til now i’m still trying to rationalise WHY he had to die and WHAT he meant by living the fate that was given to them not alone, but together forever….gosh my insides just twist up in knots thinking about it! i felt that it was such a bittersweet moment…
        I choose to think he meant living their fate, their bro-sis relationship together and not some eros kinda love (NO INCEST TABOO like a million stars…i was mortified!)

        which makes me curious, why do you think him a villian in that drama? sure he was badass but i felt that he was a victim too…felt so bad for him…sucky (to say the least)childhood, then when he was about to turn over a new leaf, he finds out the love of his life is HIS SISTER! AHHHHH!

        oh and you’re right to say nemureru mori induces the most wtf feeling in drama-ending history ever :p

        • Ender's Girl Says:

          I think that for Naoki to live the rest of his days alone and forever separated from his sister was a far sadder fate — but one that would’ve felt more organic to the story than simply dying on that farking train. (Living with Minako as siblings with Daddy-O Woodcutter in their little cottage in the woods would have been an unbearable setup for Naoki, methinks.) Many fans of this drama agree that his death was a narrative “necessity” because his life had nowhere else to go now that it was revealed he was in love with his half-sister. So on this basis alone it was “imperative” to kill him off. But I have major issues with this view because his death felt rigged by the scriptwriter instead of being a convincing and plausible plot development.

          >> SPOILERS: SORA KARA FURU ICHIOKU NO HOSHI <<

          Re Sora Kara, I agree that Ryo was a victim first and foremost, but it’s how he responded to his adversity that ultimately decided his character as a person. The older he got and the more control he exerted over his life choices, the greater his accountability for his own actions and decisions. Deceiving and manipulating people for his own selfish ends — that was something he could no longer justify using the victim card. He wasn’t some fatherless boy with a burn mark anymore; he was an adult fully aware of and accountable for his own actions. I understood how his early tragedies — losing his dad and sister, his disfigurement — caused him to lose faith in God and his fellow man, but I just couldn’t condone his later misdeeds. So many people who have suffered so much manage to lead normal and fairly well-adjusted (read; crime-free, lol) lives despite the scars. They don’t necessarily turn into sociopaths. So yeah, I did feel bad and terribly sad for Ryo (and for what he could have been), but could not bring myself to let him off the hook for his sins — and even his desire to turn a new leaf came too late, because by then the consequences of his past actions had caught up with him to mete out his judgment.🙂

          • ridia :p Says:

            ok a seriously don’t know what to think of Naoki’s death anymore.ugh.Rigged by scriptwrite, yes, but I too feel that it was necessary and to me also, it’s a sadder fate than if he were to have made the choice to leave. If it is like you say, that he is unable to shed off that kind of love he had, and so he decided not to get off that train…then I would say there’s a sort of victory in it for him, that he could overcome the tragic mess that he was in. But for him to die, it’s like though he hoped for a happily-ever-after, and Minako too hoped for it, Fate wouldn’t allow it…

            As for Sora Kara, I agree with you that having a messed up childhood doesn’t justify a screwed up adulthood personality. And like you said, his turning a new leaf came too late…he became a victim of his own circumstance, ironic because no longer wanting to live the victim, he grew up manipulative and detached, thinking in that way he could be in control but the consequences from his actions consumed him, hence a victim of his own circumstance. That was the tragedy for me.

            But heck yea Sora Kara was one dark show…the darkest of Kimura.

            …even though Nemureru had a WTF ending…can you say you like it? haha…i choose to think i can :p

          • Ender's Girl Says:

            “but the consequences from his actions consumed him, hence a victim of his own circumstance. That was the tragedy for me.” << Yeah, I agree. I like how you put it🙂

            “…even though Nemureru had a WTF ending…can you say you like it? haha…i choose to think i can :p” << I think I liked the experience of watching it. I was so utterly involved in the story and the characters that I ripped through episode after episode on tenterhooks. And the whodunit vibe gave the drama a great atmosphere of urgency and suspense. (And the fact that Kimura was young and hot and mysterious the whole effin’ time sure helped, lol. ;-)) So yeah, looking back, despite the senseless ending I found Nemureru Mori to be a thrilling and darkly romantic ride through the woods. Not the best-crafted Kimura drama by far, but one of his dramas that I was most heavily invested in — despite my wee little misunderstanding at the end, hah hah.🙂

  10. ridia Says:

    “I think I liked the experience of watching it. “-yeap, you said it! that must be it for me too haha, couldn’t quite put the words to the feeling before.

    “And the fact that Kimura was young and hot and mysterious the whole effin’ time sure helped, lol.”-OHHHHH YEAAAA😀

    this drama had some serious suspense and twists so much so it had me watching ep after ep…in the thick of my exams too!haha :p

  11. Ellen Says:

    Hi Enders Girl,

    Just finished what I was going to call Creeping Forest (subtitle: when bad things happen to beautiful people) but Weeping Forest hits it! I absolutely agree with everything you said (and you say it so well, too). I don’t know when I am going to get over the ending of this one. WTF doesn’t come near the senselessness of it. I haven’t been this upset since a certain drama of Rain’s also ending badly.

    You know I get upset when people are mean to Kimura but when he gets beaten not once but twice with a lead pipe…?! After the first attack by Kukubu I thought for sure he would at the very least have a broken leg, but he was running and jumping (and somehow climbing out of that hole in the forest) in no time, so I thought, oh, it’s going to be like some old HK movie where Andy, or Jackie or Chow Yun Fat is hit upside the head multiple times and is immediately fine and set on revenge. So I was pretty shocked that the single blow by Nakamura caught up with him. I spent so much time watching this drama repeating over and over again – please don’t kill Kimura, please don’t kill Kimura and then, when you think it’s ok… I guess the final lesson is that when someone tells a dorama character to have his head examined, he should have his head examined!

    Was very ambivalent about Nakayama Miho. She was also very lackluster in Love Story. Always wish for Kimura to have a heroine worthy of him. Because, man, he rocks. He is just such a great actor and seemingly such a natural one, too. The hair tossing might have taken you back to idoru Kimutaku, but I felt like it was something Naoki would do, too. And could he look any more beautiful?? Oh, and I love the start when he is weird and creepy. And the fact that he manages to take Naoki on that amazing journey from jerk to lonely outsider, all the while displaying the inner strength of someone who has had to look after himself, as well, as “protecting” his loved one from a distance, is also a beautiful thing to watch.

    Just wish that Kimura would hurry up and make the merry widower drama so that he could smile. He really doesn’t get enough opportunities to smile in the dramas.

    This is 3 in a row for me where he meets a nasty end. I can only conclude that he is better off with the doggies in the Arctic, where he will not, at the very least, have any issues with paternity nor incest. Or, I should say, I hope he doesn’t.

    Really do love your reviews and your writing. I love that I can always go back and read them and remember what watching these dramas was like (because, unfortunately, my memory is not what it used to be – or at least that’s the way I remember it).

    Thanks so much & looking forward to more!

    E.
    PS Now if you really want to see some hair tossing you should watch Gift!

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Hey Ellen! Hahaha, loved reading your take on A Creeping Forest (great title and subtitle, too)!🙂 “I guess the final lesson is that when someone tells a dorama character to have his head examined, he should have his head examined!” << LOL this is too funny!!!😀 Ah, if only Naoki had heeded your advice, tsk tsk.

      “Oh, and I love the start when he is weird and creepy.” << Me too, me too!!! I miss Creepy Stalker Naoki too! In his floppy hat and white lab coat, giving Nakayama Miho the crazy eye while flippin' his gorgeous locks! Hehehe

      (Which drama of Rain's did you mean? Sangdoo? Fugitive?)

      p.s. Oooh, MOAR hair tossing in Gift, you say? Kimura must’ve been in a pretty strong hair tossing phase back in ’96-’99. ^^;;

  12. reviewbyme Says:

    I just watch this drama, it took me really long time to finally decide to watch it. and now my mind kind of dizzy a bit. Maybe it because the last 2 thing i watch, have Kimura died on it and this drama make it really worse….

    (Now i hope Nankyoku doesn’t have this kind of ending to! What’s wrong.With.The.Main.Character.End.Up.Alive?!😥 )

    Kimura really mind blowing in here and i wouldn’t mind having a cutie stalker like him. Maybe i just invite him in, rather than him being in a shadow watching me every move.😀

    This drama really remind me of Sora kara, despite Naoki being a M and Ryo being a S (and Kimura perfectly potrayed them differently), but Sora Kara have a better story and impact i guess..

    p.s. I wonder why there isn’t a review about Karei?? To heartache to remember the story again? at least the good thing about the drama is Kimura look way fineee

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment!😉 I’m glad you finally gave this drama a shot. Nemureru is clearly not Kimura’s best work but it’s entertaining in its own right. =P

      I really like what you said about Naoki being an M and Ryo an S — I never thought of it that way before, but it’s a pretty cool insight!

      Oh, Karei would be my dream review! When I feel confident enough to write about a drama of this scope and depth, then I’ll review Karei. So wish me luck!😀

  13. will work for soju Says:

    Thank you so much for all your thoughtful reviews of jdoramas, they are a great guide to some classic shows which I’ve enjoyed a lot.

    I really liked this drama except for the unnecessarily tragic ending. I do like the dark Kimura dramas.

    One thing I didn’t buy was that Naoki was really in love with Minako. I think that young Naoki did fall for the young Minako and the adult Naoki thought that he was in love, mostly because he didn’t have a better way of qualifying the strong feelings that he had for her. There is a moment when Minako asks Naoki why he is stalking her, and he says something like “It’s love, of course”, but somehow the way he says it makes me not believe him or believe that he really thinks it either. The way he acts toward Minako the first time he meets her in the forest is so antagonistic, that it seems like he resents her for complicating his life while she’s been living her carefree existence. It’s as if he locked away his childhood feelings for 15 years, dug them up and dusted them off when the date of their meeting approached, and assumed that he was still feeling the same way he did as a boy. He totally ignored the fact that in the meantime he had grown up, and had a girlfriend whom he was happy with for many years, however insufferably clingy she might have been. If he really was in love with Minako, why didn’t he try to meet and date her when they grew up? He might not have been an ideal mate like her fiance but he was hot and had a strong connection to her which would naturally make her drawn to him. When he found out that Minako was his half-sister, he was shocked at first, but then he later seemed rather relieved, like he finally had permission to lead a normal life. He reconciled with his girlfriend very quickly. Even though I didn’t like Yuri the character or the actress, I thought that the scene where she hugs him and he is moved by her love for him was very touching, and showed that Naoki was finally allowing himself to feel real love for a woman.

    I know that in J- and K-dramaverse any suspicion of incestuous feelings is a death sentence for the character, but this drama would have done better to acknowledge that Naoki mistook his brotherly protectiveness for romantic love when he didn’t know that Minako was his sister, and to allow them to move on and develop a proper relationship. This type of ending was much better for that other drama where Kimura’s character falls in love with his sister!

    I do hope you get to reviewing Long Vacation one of these days, it’s my favorite early Kimura drama.


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