Reviews: Gokusen (special) and One Litre of Tears

On to the dramas/live-action before I try tackling the film or anime reviews…

The first of these was the Gokusen special, which covers the graduation tribulations of the first Gokusen class. Many of the students are struggling to decide what to do after graduation, or to get into various universities. Noda intends to go to art school; Uchi finds work in a construction company; Kuma had already decided to take over his father’s shop and provide for his younger siblings; Minami disappears (ostensibly to Australia) for a short while; Sawada, as expected, passes all the entrance examinations he sits (I can’t remember the schools), but wants to take a gap year instead. The trouble begins when some of the class (including Noda) are not accepted into any courses…

The Gokusen special carries on in the vein of the tv series, with perhaps even more emphasis on the ‘no more fighting’ attitude that was particularly prevalent during the second season. The repetiveness is rather irritating – and was why I decided not to keep the series (except for a few episodes…heh…) The major difference this time was that I’d already read as much of the manga as I could get my hands on…including a particular chapter in a later volume that someone kindly shared on LJ. But well, barring that, it was entertaining to revisit the series and find out what happened to each of the students at the end of their high school life.

It was a tough decision to decide not to keep Gokusen, but it really was a bit too cliched to be something I could watch again. This trend continues in the special (and in season 2, which I won’t be watching with English subs – too much on my plate), where we have, as usual, several students refusing to fight and getting beaten up for it, followed by Yankumi stepping in to save the day again.

However, something that did interest me was the glimpse into the world faced by Japanese youths as they approach the end of the secondary education. I was already aware that Japanese students have to apply individually to each university they wish to enter (it’s the same with high school) and their waiting time in limbo can be painful, especially since there aren’t all that many places to be filled. As evidenced by Shouji in NANA, even those with the desire sometimes have to study an extra year before applying again, and that’s what happens here as well with a number of 3D students. Sawada’s indecision as to his future could have damaged a lot of friendships, but his eventual decision to go to Africa is something I respect. From what I’ve observed in Australia, many Japanese young adults appreciate the value of working holidays, but how does that apply to those who really are bright/successful in some way or another? Just something else to think about.

On the other hand, I still stand by my immediate reaction – that was the last thing I wanted Sawada to say!!

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As a measure of how much I’ve been watching recently, next on the list is One Litre of Tears (1リットルの涙), which I saw about 6 weeks ago. Ikeuchi Aya is a normal 15-year-old girl whose life is turned upside-down by the onset of an incurable disorder (Spinocerebellar ataxia) whereby her cerebellum degenerates, affecting her movement and coordination. Her family, friends and Aya herself all struggle to come to terms with the implications of her illness, which involves giving up on many things people take for granted.

The characters are fictional, but the drama is based on the true story of Kitou Aya, who suffered from a form of Spinocerebellar ataxia. The diary she kept from the time of her diagnosis until she couldn’t write anymore was published shortly before her death in 1988, and still continues to encourage many people today. Each episode ends with quotes from this diary which corresponded with what happened in the ep, and they deepen the impact of the series. I think I’ll try and get hold of it when I go to Japan, whenever that turns out to be. 

In terms of technicalities, the actors all did a pretty good job, though I admit I wasn’t sure what to think of Asou-kun (Nishikido Ryo) until about half-way through the series. I mean, he’s the typical supporting male character in series like this. Nevertheless, he grew on me – so much so that I wish guys like him really exist. One thing that never stopped annoying me was that Aya always looked made-up. I know it’s a tv-drama…but given that Aya was meant to be losing weight, it didn’t look or feel right. As for the music…I haven’t stopped listening to Remioromen since – and the BGM isn’t too bad either.

If you’d like to have a good cry, this is the perfect series for you. I don’t think ep 1 affected me that much, but from ep 2 on…Aya’s experiences were pretty heartrending. It really makes one consider exactly what we take for granted – things like health, love, friendship, life…although we usually treat tv and other media as means of ‘escape’, I think it also has the role of exposing us to experiences and stories we would otherwise never encounter, especially now that so many of us are at least middle-class.

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For those who enjoy spotting actors across various shows/movies, try and find L (from Deathnote) in both of the above. ^^

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Oh, and this just cracked me up – the NEWS members going shopping ^^. In relation to that, here’s what Nishikido-san (i.e. Ryo-chan) has to say about shopping… (source)

  • Q : When you go shopping, who do you go with?
  • A : By myself. It’s too bothersome to go with other people. I hate waiting, and I hate making people wait.

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On another note, the DVD with the final Honey & Clover 2 episode is out, and Kamiya Hiroshi did return as Takemoto for that episode. I haven’t seen it yet (even the original tv broadcast), and I’m sure NojiKen was fine, but I’m not really sure I want to see a H&C without Kamiyan as Takemoto’s voice!

About karice
MAG fan, amateur translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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