Wakamonotachi 2014 (All About My Siblings)
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I just finished Fuji TV’s Wakamonotachi 2014, which aired from July 2014 to September 2014. The drama seems to be a remake of a 1990’s drama. The remake stars the current hot actors in Japan: Tsumabuki Satoshi (character: Sato Asahi), Eita (ch: Sato Satoru), Mitsushima Hikari (ch: Sato Hikari), Emoto Tasuku (ch: Sato Haru), Nomura Shuhei (ch: Sato Tadashi), Aoi Yu (ch: Sawabe Asuza), Nagasawa Masami (ch: Yashiro Takako), Hashimoto Ai (ch: Nagahara Kasumi), and Yoshioka Hidetaka (ch: Shinjo Masaomi). The drama also had Hirosue Ryoko as a guest star, playing Satoru’s deceased girlfriend.
The story is about five siblings, their trials and tribulations, and how they strike out in the end on their own paths. The story itself had a sad, melancholic feel, but with the feeling of hope at the end as to what may come. The theme song of the drama, which one of the main characters sang throughout the drama, reflected that theme of a long hard road of travel leading to a hopeful future at the end.
The road that you are taking is endlessly long
But why do you clench your teeth and keep going?
The story begins with four siblings living in one home. Sato Asahi is the eldest brother, the one who dropped out of high school to raise his siblings when their father died. Sato Hikari is a nurse in NICU and is the only daughter of the family. Sato Haru is a fifth year college student, only interested in his theater group and does not want to get a job. And finally, we have Sato Tadashi, the youngest and the high school dropout. In episode 2 we are introduced to the second oldest sibling, Sato Satoru, who has just been released from jail.
The Shotgun Marriage
When we are introduced to the eldest brother, Sato Asahi, he is a man who harps on how he had to drop out of high school to take care of his siblings. He talks about how important his job is in building the infrastructure of Japan. And he is very loud. I actually just believed that he was a total blowhard, who couldn’t quit harping about all the good deeds he has done. But very quickly we come to see that this man is the tie that bound his family together. He has supported them since the age of 15, and he is the only reason they are still together, and good, functioning, moral human beings. He has spent years putting his family first. His only dreams are about his siblings’ happiness. He beats them up when necessary, and he supports them always. He defends them from others, and begs/apologizes for them when required. To add on to that, when their father died, Asahi went to work for the company responsible for his father’s death. He spent years pretending that it didn’t matter just to support his siblings.
Asahi has been dating Sawabe Asuza for a year, and one day he finds out that she is pregnant with his child. Asahi asks Asuza to marry him, but quickly retracts the proposal in anger when he finds out that she is a bar hostess, paying off her family’s debt. He finds out that Asuza’s father is disabled and her mother takes care of him. He also finds out that Asuza deliberately got pregnant so that she could marry Asahi. Despite all of that, Asahi realizes that he does love Asuza and wants their child to be born. The two marry.
Their child is born prematurely, and they then learn that their child will be deaf. Despite this new setback, Asahi quickly quits his job to be there for his child when he realizes that this may be too much for his wife. When his siblings demand that he depend on them, as well, he realizes that he can work while his family will help him take care of his child. They all begin to learn sign language, so that they can communicate with their youngest family member.
Finally, Asahi realizes that it is time for everyone to stop holding on to their home/past and to move on. He makes the decision to let go, knowing that everyone has been partly staying because it was comfortable and partly because he wanted them to stay.
In the end, when the siblings split, Asahi plans on living in an apartment with his new family.
Our first glimpse of Sato Satoru is when he is released from jail. He encounters Yashiro Takako, who accuses him of being the reason that her mother died. We find out that Satoru swindled an old woman (Takako’s mother) out of 300 million yen and was given two years in jail for that. Sato Satoru is a layabout, who drinks and gambles and nothing more.
His motivations are then revealed. Sato Satoru had a girlfriend who needed an operation. Satoru swindled the woman for money for that operation. His girlfriend ended up dying regardless. And we later find out that Takako’s mother actually knew what Satoru was doing, but because she was so grateful to him for being like a son to her (when her own children had forgotten her), that she willingly gave him money. But her sons reported him to the police and he was put in jail. Of course, when his girlfriend died, Satoru frittered the money away. Asahi has spent the last two years trying to pay off the debt, and in a fit of anger, he hands over the land certificate for their home to the family in atonement when they go to pay their respects on the 49th day after the woman’s death. Satoru, we see, did love the old woman and sincerely regrets his actions.
Satoru begins working at Yashiro Takako’s farm, and he falls in love with her. While he initially tries to run away from those emotions, he eventually gives in. He is willing to sacrifice himself to save her from the disgusting man who has spent the past decade blackmailing her with a sex tape. He is able to save the girl, stay out of jail, and also become a strong pillar of support for his family. He truly becomes the second eldest brother, who takes care of Asahi and delivers some harsh truths to his siblings when necessary.
In the end, when the siblings split, he goes to live with Takako, having asked her to marry him.
The NICU Nurse Having An Affair
Sato Hikari is the only daughter of the family and the middle child. She falls in love with Shinjo Masaomi (a doctor), a man who has been a close family friend and support since their father died. She became a nurse in NICU because she was in love with Shinjo. Hikari has spent the years since becoming a nurse supporting her family, since Asahi’s salary goes to paying off Satoru’s debt. Due to the fact that she works in NICU, where she sees babies die on an almost daily basis, and the general unhappiness in her life, she enters into an affair with the man she loves, who is a married man.
When Asahi discovers this, he is appalled but reluctantly comes to understand her emotions when he witnesses the death of a baby and their pain on watching that little life go. He even goes as far as to beg Shinjo’s wife for more time for Hikari to let go. It is here that Satoru steps in and gives her the wake up call (in the form of a slap) she needs to realize that her path is not the correct path.
She breaks up with Shinjo and says goodbye to her first love, promising herself that she will never look back if she sees him in the future.
In the end, when the siblings split up, she plans on living in a nurse’s dorm.
The third youngest brother, Sato Haru, is a fifth year college student. Or at least they keep on mentioning that he is repeating a year in college. He does not want to get a job in a company. His goal is to have his own theater group who puts on plays for the masses. His single-minded pursuit of his art, to the exclusion of all else, is exhausting for others and has caused him to lose friends and a girlfriend. Despite that, he continues to pursue his goal.
Haru is successfully able to put on a play, but manages to lose the new actress in his theater group (Kasumi) and then all the other actors due to the actions of his youngest brother. Even so, he plans on creating another theater group. He is aided by Kasumi and Tadashi in this quest.
In the end, when the siblings split up, Haru plans on renting a room in his friend’s apartment building and he decides to take Tadashi along.
Finally, we have Sato Tadashi, the youngest brother. Tadashi’s birth was the cause of his mother’s death. While initially mildly resented by his siblings, his first smile captured Asahi’s heart. Tadashi grew up to be a quiet, depressed youth. When Satoru was arrested, Tadashi was bullied in school. When Asahi wouldn’t let him drop out, Tadashi tried to commit suicide.
After dropping out of school, Tadashi began to take classes to get his GED (I’m guessing) and meets Kasumi there. Kasumi pretends to sleep with him on their first outing and then blackmails him, but is quickly found out by Haru. Haru then invites her to act for his theater group.
Tadashi asks Kasumi to be his girlfriend. While she agrees, she then begins to cheat on him with his brother, Haru. When Tadashi discovers them together, he initially stalks and then spreads revenge porn of Kasumi to get back at her. Her naked picture is spread across the internet and her fellow students also find out. Kasumi becomes a shut in, unable to face the world. Tadashi offers to kill himself to atone for his error. Knowing his history, we know that he is quiet capable of hurting himself.
His siblings all go looking for him when he disappears, and all congregate on the one place they know he would be and find him quickly enough. While they are extolling his virtues and his importance to them, Tadashi realizes that he shouldn’t think about dying just to get away from the world. He decides he wants to live and goes back to sincerely apologize to Kasumi.
In the end, he has joined Haru’s theater group. When the siblings split up, Tadashi goes to live with Haru.
I ended up giving the drama an 8.5/10 because while it was really good. I couldn’t give it more because I had the same problem with it that I have with all Japanese dramas. No matter how good it was and how much it touched me at moments, I couldn’t really connect with it. I find that most good Japanese dramas, are so quiet and flat in terms of passion, that I end up feeling generally detached. Romance and passion are admittedly very important to me, and when a drama does not have that, I am not fully satisfied.
While this drama touched me more than others, and I really liked almost all of the characters, it was also a bit too melancholic, and I ended up feeling vaguely depressed after watching it. Yes, there is a hint of hope at the end, and the message that we need to keep on going, but the other message is that the bad will keep on happening and people just need to deal.
The scenes with the siblings all together were some of the best. When they practiced their sign language skills for the new baby…. when they had their candlelight vigil on the last night and each sibling recited part of the speech that Asahi always does regarding his sacrifice for his family, showing that they had heard these words … when the siblings go to look for Tadashi and end up at the exact same place…it was heartwarming. When they all say goodbye to each other, before going their separate ways, we know that while they may be going to separate homes, they would always be close and in each others lives.
All of the actors in this drama did a really great job in portraying their roles. I especially liked Mitsushima Hikari’s acting and how she portrayed Sato Hikari. I find affairs morally repugnant, but even so I was able to connect with Hikari’s character and hope that she would stay on the right path. I also really liked Sato Asahi’s character and how he could be loud and boisterous, but Tsumabuki Satoshi could also pair that loudness with Asahi’s innate goodness and desperate grasp on his concept of good, regardless of what others thought of him. Eita’s Satoru grew on me, and I liked the character and the actor playing that character.
It was a great drama, and I would definitely say watch it.