Drama Review: Asunaro Hakusho (Fuji TV, 1993)
Sex, Lies, and Shoulder Pads
by Ender’s Girl
Kimura Takuya, Ishida Hikari, Tsutsui Michitaka, Anju Suzuki, Nishijima Hidetoshi
In a Nutshell:
Five college students play musical chairs with each other’s hearts amid the sexual revolution and sociopolitical tumult (mwahahahahaha yeah right) of the… early 1990s.
(SpoilLert: Major plot revelations!!! Not that you should care!!!)
Good friggin’ grief. Am I the only one who thought this drama SUCKED more than a giant monster lamprey? No? Good.
You take a sordid soap opera like… Melrose Place, situate it on a Japanese college campus, and contort the main cast into this SLEAZY LOVE PRETZEL where they do nothing but sleep with each other, then cheat on each other, then sleep with OTHER people, then cheat on other people, then break up, then hook up, then KNOCK another person up, then get outed as gays and DIE. Oh, and not to mention they engage in a few token “let us study because we are college students” scenes thrown in for good luck.
Never mind the atrocious fashion and even worse hairdos — this was the early ’90s, after all, so all that’s forgivable. It was how the main characters and situations were written (why, Kitagawa Eriko? why why WHY????) that made me want to wring their necks. Okay, maybe not ALL of them (well… helloooo, KimuTaku Prototype, lol). Come to think of it, all I really detested were the Female Lead, Narumi, and the Male Lead, Tamotsu the Little Sh*t-boy. But because the other three friends are, like, IN LOVE with either of the two, they inevitably get sucked into this web of codependent relationships, a black-hole-cesspool of doom and masochism. So, Tamotsu is supposed to come across as a sympathetic hero character because he’s poor and hardworking and has to put himself through college and has a money-grubbing hoe for a mother? And as a corollary, we’re supposed to adore Narumi because she’s this “winsome ingénue” who secretly pines after Tamotsu? Well, let’s add “World’s No. 1 Virginal Little Skank” to her epithets, because that’s exactly what she is!!! She BREAKS UP Tamotsu and his girlfriend but keeps acting like the aggrieved party, strings along Geekboy Osamu (well… hello again, KimuTaku Prototype, hehe) when Tamotsu cheats on her (and later breaks up with her), but doesn’t even have the frikkin’ DECENCY to ACT REMOTELY HAPPY around Osamu whenever they’re together. Argh!!!!! Countless times I prayed that Narumi would get hypothermia and DIE during the 1,876 times she waited for Tamotsu to meet her under the starlit winter sky or whatnot, and of COURSE he never showed up because the Laws of the Dramaverse decree that intensifying the heroine’s misery will make her a more sympathetic character (well, it DOESN’T; it just makes her a STUPID one).
And Tamotsu… it defies basic logic and believability that 3/5 of their little college clique are head-over-heels in love with him, overtly or otherwise. He’s a horrible, horrible scumbucket, and half the men that Sensitive Geekboy Osamu and Rich Gayboy Junichiro are. Again, he does nothing but cheat (on his psycho girlfriend and on Narumi) and sleep around and he has the GALL to act SAD and GLUM about the mess he’s just created, which makes Virginal Skank Narumi and Studious Best Friend Saeki AND Rich Gayboy Junichiro FALL for him even more, which creates an even BIGGER mess than before. Aieeeee!!!!!! *tears out hair*
Ishida Hikari (as Narumi) and Tsutsui Michitaka (as Tamotsu) cannot act for their lives, nor do they elicit an iota of sympathy from the viewer; no wonder I couldn’t bring myself to feel anything for their characters except hysterical, eye-rolling contempt. Anju Suzuki who plays Studious Best Friend Saeki is much better in the acting department, and she’s way prettier than that cretin Narumi, who uncannily resembles… SMAP’s Inagaki Goro wearing a mop, hahaha. Saeki appears to be the most sensible one of the lot (and it isn’t just because she has the most study!study!let’s!study! moments), and you really do feel her pain, her unrequited love for Tamotsu. But somewhere along the way (and it isn’t very clear just when), her character develops feelings for Gayboy Junichiro, and one fateful night, while wallowing in their Tamotsu-centric love woes, the two share an Extremely Weird Moment… that magically spawns New! Life! Oh wow. (Parthenogenesis? Immaculate conception? Self-pollination? Mwahahaha) Now you’re REALLY watching a soap opera.
Nishijima Hidetoshi as Junichiro is unremarkable; a better actor would’ve done more justice to such a relatively small but interesting role. But killing him off was such a disservice to the character and to the story (AND to the viewer), because it was just so frigging SENSELESS. So, homosexual men who are secretly in love with their best friend don’t deserve to LIVE in this world? Because that’s the point the drama seems to make, and it’s a supremely idiotic one at that. Oh, let the sad little f@g boy DIE, because there’s no other way for him to be happy in the story. Gaaaah.
But oh, Osamu. You loved and you lost, and you went to Kenya to “find yourself” (lol), and in so doing you grew up and became a man. You’re too good for Narumi, you always were. That being said, I’d recommend Asunaro Hakusho only if you’re a Kimura fan (which I am, obviously) and/or wish to complete his body of work (again… guilty as charged!). Because he really does shine here, with a role better fleshed than any other character in this pretentious, drippy farce, and he does have the best lines (i.e. the iconic “Won’t I do?” spoken at that playground early on in the drama). And instead of letting his character become this geeky, lovesick caricature of a second-fiddle-best-friend-sidekick, the one left holding the bag as the Hero and the Heroine ride off into the sunset, Kimura keeps it REAL. So that you feel for Osamu, but you don’t feel SORRY for him. There’s a difference, you see. Kimura’s a natural, and that’s more than I can say for the two lead actors, ugh.
It was a bit strange at first to watch Kimura as this scrawny, prepubescent (lol, ok not really), deglamorized dweeb… a mere 3 years before he exploded with that SexLoveMojo in the sublimely romantic Long Vacation. But then I look at how much he’s aged (and I mean really, REALLY aged) in the past 4 or 5 years, and I’m thankful that with Asunaro Hakusho, I’m just one DVD away from revisiting KimuTaku in his early years in the business, before the ravages of celebrity and chain-smoking and cosmetic “enhancements” and sustained exposure to Old Man Johnny Kitagawa slowly siphoned off all the youth from his face.
Watch this if you’re:
1) A Kimura completist
2) In a dysfunctional relationship (hahaha)
3) A fan of daytime soaps — from every clime and country
4) You were a hairspray-and-shoulder-pad-wearing teen in the late ‘80s to early ‘90s… T______T
Artistic & technical merit: C-
Entertainment value: D