1 August 2003 | ggiffen
One of the best Japanese TV series' of the 1990's
Writer Yoshikazu Okada's best work to date, he weaves a skillful mix of drama and humour around the homey but real characters who gather in a small beachside B&B. In the opening scenes, director Rieko Ishizaka reveals her artistic pretensions through her use of an unsteady handycam and weird saturated colours to set off the flashbacks of our two young heroes, Hiromi Sakurai (Takashi Sorimachi) and Kaito Suzuki (Yutaka Takenouchi). The freeloading Hiromi has been kicked out by his girlfriend Fujiko (Kaori Tsuji), and ends up in a police parking garage after sleeping in his illegally parked tiny white 1985 Renault. Meanwhile, the rich and successful Kaito stands on his rooftop patio, stinging from his loss of a major client for the huge multinational trading company where he works. The two head for the sea, and meet for the first time when Kaito spots Hiromi pushing the same Renault in search of a gas station. They end up crashing onto the beach next to the Diamondhead B&B run by aging ex-surfer Masaru Izumi (guitarist Mike Maki) and his granddaughter the cute but boyish Makoto (Ryoko Hirosue). Hiromi is hired as help, but Kaito having lost his wallet in the crash, is forced to share the servants' room. The straight-laced Kaito, having lived his whole life by the rules, is at first annoyed by the nonstop chatter of happy-go-lucky Hiromi, but their constant bickering slowly grows into an increasingly strong but unacknowledged friendship, that eventually pulls Kaito out of his work-centred life, and away from his almost too perfect co-worker/girlfriend, Sakura (Yuuki Akimoto).
Okada's expert pen captures well the excitement and hardships of travelling in the summer as a youth. B&B owner Masaru, his long gray hair in a ponytail, strums the hauntingly beautiful instrumental "Suiheisen (Surface of the water)" on his guitar while his guests and friends sit around an open fire barbecuing meat on the beach. Neighbour Haruko (Izumi Inamori) runs a beachside bar which is mostly empty. The pleasing echo of chimes, the crashing of the waves, and the near deafening chirp of Japan's everpresent cicadas mark the time and place as unmistakably summer on a country beach.
Each episode also touches on deeper themes. One of the main ones is the conflict between ambition, material success and the attractions of the city versus the slower pace of life but close-knit and comfortable community found in the country. People from the city make occasional forays to try to bring Kaito back to reality, but they often find themselves swayed by the same warm and gentle charm they find. Like Kaito, many of the other characters are searching for where they are meant to be as they are pushed and pulled by the ties of family, their own desires and the forces of circumstance.
With very strong performances from all the principals, tight writing, excellent direction, and the wonderfully varied soundtrack of Satoshi Takebe, it is hard to recommend this drama enough.