There are days where I'm in the mood to watch something absolutely miserable, where I need to put the woes of my life into deep perspective and focus on other peoples' fictional problems - and sit in wonder that there are actually people in this world whose lives do mirror what I see onscreen. Then I cry and sob for a good while, stifle the urge to throw something, and reinforce my willingness to keep watching. Why? Because in adversity, people shine through. Or they are vanquished, and I wasn't certain what the result would be for these last of friends.
The CastIn a role that will absolutely terrify you, Nishikido Ryo is Sosuke, by day a child welfare social worker, by night an attentive boyfriend - and by attentive we mean the emotionally and physically abusive kind of boyfriend. Nagasawa Masami plays Michiru, a girl victimized not just by her boyfriend but also by a childhood worldview she believes in where life is cruel and you just have to get used to it. Enter a cluster of friends old and new to her rescue, including Ruka (Ueno Juri), a motor-cross racer devoted to Michuru's protection; and Takeru (Eita), a hair stylist and kind friend, with a deeply troubling past.
|Best of friends?|
Is it Watchable?
YES. Because unlike other misery-laden dramas I've had the misfortune to sit through (both Korean and Japanese), Last Friends deals with this horror in a fashion more situated to real life than dramaland-ish antics. Bad things don't just happen for the sake of it, to the point where you sit around imagining a writers' brainstorming session: "And what shocking plot device should we insert in this week's episode?" Instead, we see our characters reacting is familiar, humanly ways. It's that much more stressful because of this fact - but not every battered girlfriend makes one clean dramatic break, without ever falling and returning to the scene of abuse; deep revelations between friends don't always make everything right; and not every person can completely overcome childhood trauma. Which makes their compromises ever more understandable, and their friendship that much stronger for it.
Bonus points because after Ryo scarred me for life, I still understood his character. Try making that happen again, dramaland. I'm going to go now and pick out a nice bubbly drama of his to make me forget it ever happened.
More up on Last Friends, the strength and bonds of friendship, and a how a home sets the difference. No Spoilers
The Saddest VictimMichiru is the catalyst around whom the characters gather - not exactly innocent and not completely naive, Michiru is a hard heroine to route for. Showing progress and then backsliding, she wavers between the comfortable world her friends are trying to create for her, and the cold austerity of her boyfriend's. Want the proof in visual form? Note the not-so-subtle difference in sets:
|The Share House|
I don't know about you, but I know which loving home I'd prefer to live in. The problem here is that Michiru has had it so ingrained in her head about what her life ought to be like, and that is - not being a burden to others. She'd rather keep the burden of her deeply troubled boyfriend. It's up to her friends to persuade her otherwise, but it's no one-way deal. Michiru's choices don't affect just herself and Sosuke, but her friends old and new in the Share house, and particularly Ruka. In true real-life scenario, the offer of a house full of warm, supporting friends isn't always open to the end. You build your bridges, and you break them with every choice in life, and it's up to everyone - whether or not these friendships can be maintained.