A cast capable of twisty goodness! Left to Right: Kaname Jun, Kuriyama Chiaki, Matsuda Ryuhei, Kohinata Fumiyo, Konishi Manami, Namase Katsuhisa
Of the bazillion dramas I followed this winter (something like 11, which is quite a lot!) this was easily my favorite of that season. And there were a couple of truly good shows this winter. Sadly, it received the second lowest ratings of the season... though viewer satisfaction at D-addicts was pretty high and Matsuda Ryuhei won an award at the 56th Television Drama Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Yashiro Heita. (Kohinata Fumiyo deserved one as well, because he was amazing!)
Ashita no Kita Yoshio is a hard drama to peg... it's a twisty psychological drama, a mystery, a comedy, a human drama, a bit of a romance, and above all a soul satisfying story.
On Kita Yoshio's very first day, he actually finds the temerity to stand up to a young punk who is being rude on and after a train ride that they share. The play between his fantasies and the actual confrontation are wonderful. And instead of beating the crap out of Kita-san, Heita-san (played by the luscious Matsuda Ryuhei) instead develops an interest in him, and after finding out about the suicide plans takes Kita under his wing.
Heita's intentions aren't entirely honorable however, as we later learn his girlfriend is about to be forced into prostitution by a gang to settle her father's unpaid debt. Heita intends to take out an insurance policy on Kita, and have him killed on the intended suicide date in order to obtain the money to help Rika (played by Kuriyama Chiaki who rocked in Kill Bill).
Only problem with Heita's plan, is that he genuinely likes Kita-san, who reminds him of his father. All the show girls in Heita's club like Yoshio as well, and they constantly fawn over him in a way that was actually really cute. Like a pandora's box Heita brings both hope and danger into Yoshio's life, and the relationship between the two forms the most important bond in the series.
As the story continues we are introduced to Kita's ex-wife, Mizuho, who is under investigation for possibly killing her second husband to collect a massive insurance payout. Kita has never gotten over her, and like many things in his life he maintains a certain tunnel vision about her character. There's Kita's mother, who still can't accept the death of his father and lives a very lonely life. Shinobu-chan (Yoshitaka Yuriko who plays Konno-san) is a spoiled pop idol, who grows to love Yoshio for being a truly nice man--something she doesn't encounter much in the idol business. Sugimoto-san (played by the fabulous and funny Namase Katsuhisa) is an insurance investigator trying to keep his perfect record while investigating Mizuho. Moriwaki Daisuke (Kaname Jun, who exudes some massive sexy in this role) is Mizuho's VP at the clothing company she's inherited, and he's alternately trying to woo her and keeping tabs on the insurance investigation. Yoda Ryoichi, the insurance investigators assistant is always good for a belly laugh and, Maruyama Tomomi plays a great foil for Namase Katsuhisa in that role. And one of my favorites, Negative Yoshio. Kohinata Fumiyo gave the best performance of the season for me in his portrayals of both Yoshio, who refuses to see anything but good in those around him, and Negative Yoshio, his alter ego who sees nothing but the evil in everyone and everything. It's great to see a character actor given such a meaty role, and he really delivered.
All of the characters are a study in selfishness, Yoshio included. But therein lies their humanity, as we get to watch these 11 days transform many lives even beyond our hero's. Characters who could have been downright annoying in the hands of lesser actors are made interesting if not genuinely sympathetic. Viewers are presented with mysteries, hidden motivations, and moments that make you laugh and cry along with these people.
The plot twists and turns in some almost snake-like ways, leading to a satisfying ending which you rather expect from the first episode. The romantic pairings are left rather open as that's not the main thrust of the drama, but happiness is now available after the growth and closure that the characters have attained. I would have liked a bit more Shinobu (though her monologue about the power of pure love was a highlight for the final episode), but the ending is one of life fraught with possibilities. That's the mission Ashita no Kita Yoshio announces to us in the opening moments of the first episode... that this is a drama about finding the possibilities no matter how dark you might think the world is. And it succeeds.
The journey is enjoyable, compelling, and one that I was happy to take alongside such complex and interesting characters. Even the jazz soundtrack was a nice change from your average drama, and the ending theme Mayonaka no Boon Boon is a really fun song that's as quirky as the series. Ashita no Kita Yoshio stands as proof that television ratings don't necessarily reflect the quality of a series. Major kudos to Haruspex who not only gave us great subs, but also got them out incredibly fast. Thank you.
You can download the series here:
and the subs: