Watashi wo Hanasanaide: Eps 1-4 (First Impressions)
Watashi wo Hanasanaide is a winter 2016 jdrama based off of the sci-fi/dystopian novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. It was my most anticipated winter jdrama because of its interesting premise and its casting of Ayase Haruka, Mizukawa Asami and Miura Haruma. So, has the drama lived up to my expectations so far?
At a first glance, our three main characters appear to be normal kids. Kyoko (Ayase Haruka/Suzuki Rio) is our heroine. She is a considerate and loyal friend and an analytical thinker. She prefers not to be in the spotlight, but she takes the initiative when needed. Tomo (Miura Haruma/Nakagawa Tsubasa) is a young boy who struggles with anxiety attacks and doesn’t fit in with his classmates. He’s good at thinking outside of the box like Kyoko. And Miwa (Mizukawa Asami/Mizuki Sakura) is the usual popular girl who thrives being in the center of attention. The children grow up together in a boarding school and seem to have a normal life.
However, their lives are anything but normal. The children are actually human clones, who were created for organ harvesting. When they reach adult age, they will donate their organs until they reach ‘completion’. (AKA die) The boarding school that they live at is actually totally isolated from the outside world. It strictly controls its students lives with modified curriculum, a healthy diet (so the kids won’t damage their organs), GPS trackers, horror stories about kids who ran away from the school, etc. The moral implications of the children’s education are startling. It essentially brainwashes them into being as compliant and unthinking as possible, thus making it easier to control them. Even when the students learn that they are to donate their organs in the future, they accept it with little resistance.
I enjoyed the first 2 episodes of the childhood scenes, even though usually I’m not that into long childhood flashbacks. The sad thing is that this part of the drama is the happiest period of the characters’ lives, but at the same time, it’s also the time in their lives in which they are being molded into being compliant donors. It’s also sad to see how the children gradually realize how they are different from the outside world, that so many things exist that they didn’t know about (Ex. the kids learn that soccer exists around ages 7-9ish), and that they will never be able to lead totally normal lives. From a young age, the children start implementing coping mechanisms such as anxiety attacks (Tomo), continuing to lead their lives like normal without thinking too hard about anything (almost all the students), secretly resisting (Kyoko’s friend, Manami), crushing on a teacher (Miwa), etc.
^Miwa (Mizukawa Asami)
Fast-forward to the characters’ young adult years in episodes 3-4. Kyoko, Tomo and Miwa graduate from boarding school and move out into the outside world to live independently with other clones. However, they remain under surveillance and must prepare to donate their organs.
There are not many likable characters in the drama, and unfortunately Miwa is not one of them. Her insecurity from her childhood days has festered over the years, thus resulting in her destructive and toxic behavior. Miwa realizes that even though she’s popular, she doesn’t have any close friends. Kyoko on the other hand, is not popular but has retained a handful of good friends. This results in Miwa manipulating Kyoko and Tomo in order to one-up Kyoko. She even goes so far as to make Tomo her boyfriend even though she knows Kyoko likes him. Erm. In Miwa’s mind, everyone will leave her and she will be worthless if no one is by her side and under her control.
This is the point of the drama where I started to feel like things were going off track because it focuses way too much on the love triangle. The drama starts to feel more like “the story of the woman who ruined Kyoko’s life”. I cannot stand Miwa’s character any longer. I don’t want to watch her dragging people down with her for the rest of the drama.
“It wasn’t a lie. It’s a hope.”
To make things worse, Kyoko rarely ever stands up to Miwa even though she is aware of her manipulative ways. She is such a loyal friend that she covers for Miwa’s lies and says things to make Miwa feel better or look good. Perhaps this is partly because she understands why Miwa behaves the way she does. But Kyoko is only hurting herself the more she allows Miwa manipulate her.
“But we can’t keep running away with those dreams. Nothing will change. We’re manipulated by our dreams. Don’t you think so?”
-Manami, the only side character who resists
This question looms over the story: Is it better to live in an illusion or to live in reality? So far the clones have been seeking out an illusion to distract themselves from the pain of their reality. They self-medicate through sex, mindless entertainment, withdrawing from life, etc. Kyoko, after being hurt by Miwa, self-medicates by shutting herself off from the rest of her housemates. The problem with this is that these coping mechanisms never help the clones actually resolve the root of their problems, and their circumstances won’t change when they are distracting themselves from reality.
Miura Haruma fans are probably happy to see him in another drama, but I’m sorry to say he’s also not a likable character at the moment. By episode 4, I wasn’t even rooting for Tomo to be with Kyoko. T_T He lets himself be forced into a relationship with Miwa out of pity. He even goes so far as to sleep with Miwa when she pressures him to, even though he doesn’t have any romantic feelings for her. Tomo needs to make up his mind about what he wants! Kyoko, please find someone else!
Watashi wo Hanasanaide has a lot of potential. There are so many big questions that the drama can explore. Questions about what it means to be human: Do clones have souls? What is humane treatment, and do clones deserve it? Questions about reality: Is it better to live in an illusion than to know the reality? And still, questions about fate: How much power does one have to control the course of one’s life? And on and on.
Despite all of the interesting concepts the drama has to work with, I feel that it’s only scratching the surface. The story ought to draw me in and give me more food for thought, but instead I feel turned off whenever I watch the love triangle. Furthermore, I feel pessimistic about how the drama will turn out in the end. I feel like things can only get worse and worse, considering that we’ve seen scenes from the present-day in which:
- Miwa & Kyoko are still enemies
- Kyoko and Tomo never got together
- Tomo is nearing the completion of his organ donations
- Kyoko is unhappy.
I’m not expecting a happy ending, because I have seen the play version of the novel. However, I should hope that the characters can resolve their conflicts by the time we get to their present-day lives. T_T I cannot help but wonder how WOWOW would handle this adaptation.
I have not read the novel or watched the movie adaptation. If anyone has, please let me know how the drama differs or stays true to the original!
Quote Translation Credit: SFC