“Deaf people and hearing people aren’t that different, are they?” -Mizuno Hiroko
Starring: Toyokawa Etsushi, Tokiwa Takako, Okada Kohki, Aso Yumi
Hands off, Toyoetsu is MINNNNE. Oh, and there’s skinny-dipping. Betcha you’re interested now, huh?
Readers, I don’t even know how to start this review. It is the first thing I’ve seen that made me cry and fall in love simultaneously, and I just don’t know how to get that down in words. So let’s just skip straight to the plot summary.
Mizuno Hiroko (Tokiwa) is a college student and came to Tokyo with her best friend, Yabe Kennichi (Okada Kohki) to become an actress. She is innocent and pure, always wearing her heart on her sleeve. Fate brings her to the enigmatic artist Sakaki Koji (Toyokawa), and her life changes forever. Eager to discover more about the silent man, she discovers that he is deaf. She learns sign language in order to talk to him more and romance develops. Can their love survive in a world of spoken words and the return of Koji’s former fiancee, Hikaru (Aso)?
Stalkers of this blog know that I’ve always had a soft spot for “the other guy” (i.e. the one that doesn’t get the girl). But this time, I wanted to push everyone else off a cliff and create a bubble around Hikono and Koji. Toyoetsu (as fans refer to the male lead) is a fantastic actor and always snags those hard-to-play roles. How do I describe his acting to someone who’s never seen it? Well, let’s just say that love will do the trick.
Love? Yes. While watching the fabulous script of this drama unfold, watching Toyoetsu’s character Koji’s romance with Hikono became very real for me. It reminded me a lot of my first tumultuous relationship. Raw emotions – things that we actually feel were in his acting and that of Tokiwa’s. So, Toyoetsu’s acting was so good that it felt as though I had fallen in love with his character for real. Which is probably why I cried. He can act out pain so well. When he cried onscreen, you could see all the hurt and betrayal in his eyes and my heart just broke for him. I sat there and almost sobbed aloud for most of that episode.
Koji narrates the story a lot, and he says that being deaf made him more sensitive to people’s emotions. It became easy for him to detect them in the faces of others. The reason that his romance with Hikono was so moving to me was because of two things: one, it was free of the glitz and glam that other dramas put on their lead couple, and two, it was pure. They were honest with each other, even telling the things that hurt the most. Koji can read lips, but he can also tell when bad things are being said about him behind his back. Hikono says things that are hurtful to him out of the passion of the moment.
But she is not completely self-serving like the others who surround our couple. Koji’s step-sister Shiori (played by Yada Akiko) is jealous and controlling. “Ken-chan” as Hikono calls her childhood friend also embraces deceit in order to keep Koji and Hikono apart. But with each other, the star couple is always honest. Their feelings cannot be hidden. The drama stresses the spoken word, but shows that once you incorporate signing into your life, it’s hard to get rid of. Ken-chan sort of becomes a “love guru” for Hikono during much of the show, and he says this when the couple is fighting: “You can’t blame this on words.”
The spoken word is not precious to those of us who are hearing, because we are so used to it. Koji and Hikono spend a lot of their time apart faxing each other letters (this was filmed in 1995. Texting was still in the works!). Koji isn’t good at letters, because he lives in the moment. He can express himself more easily with signing, when the response is instant. Hikono however, is a very feeling person. She often can’t get the right words out – spoken or signed. So it’s easier for her to figure out her feelings through letters. In fact, she’s the one who takes the first step and sends him a letter. This couple just has 500 million things I love to see in romances! There’s a 10-year age gap, a language barrier, and social stigma.
Fearless Hikono is still very human, though. She does and says things that are completely idiotic. Because that’s what we do! I wanted it to be longer, but I guess I’ll just have to watch it again. My life will not make sense until I own this series in DVD form. I just can’t rave enough about this drama! Plus, you learn a lot of Japanese Sign Language!
“I love you today, and I’ll love you tomorrow. Isn’t that enough?” – Sakaki Koji