Jdrama Review: Koi

Iura Arata, Ishihara Satomi, Kanata RenkaThis drama special aired at the end of 2013. The drama’s subject matter, at heart, is definitely a more risqué one. Actually, in a very limited amount of time it does explore some deep social mores. Unfortunately, since it is so short, they can’t delve as far into the issues as they could have.

This drama revolves around Yano Fumiko [older version played by Harada Mieko]. She is dying of ovarian cancer when she contacts Torikai Mitsuhiko [Watabe Atsuro]. Three years earlier, Torikai had tried to interview Fumiko about a murder that happened during the United Red Army’s Asama Sanso inciden in Karuizawa. Fumiko refused to comply saying she had already paid her debt to society. With death encroaching upon her, Fumiko decides that she wishes to tell her story to Torikai. It turns out that after they had met three years prior, she had read all of the books he had written. All those years ago she had someone she had wanted to protect. Now, she has decided to tell the truth about the entire incident.

koi-00001So we flashback to the year 1971. Yano Fumiko [the younger version played by Ishihara Satomi] was a literature student who was introduced to work helping a professor in Tokyo translate a novel from English to Japanese. Fumiko starts this drama as very awkward and proper. Her life changes completely when she starts working for professor Katase Shintaro [played by Iura Arata]. She develops a very strong bond with him and his wife, Katase Hinako [Tanaka Rena]. It’s actually rather difficult to say if they had a really positive impact on her life due to the tragedy that occurs by the end of the story.

koi-00002You see, Hinako and Shintaro have an open marriage. At least, Hinako dates and sleeps with other men and Shintaro lets her do this as long as they don’t restrict his wife or hurt her. It doesn’t seem like he himself does any extramarital actives all that much. I really don’t understand open marriages which should be a union between two people, not more. If you’re going to keep doing that, why bother getting married? It’s something that never made much sense to me at all. Anywho, this relationship is very puzzling to Fumiko since Shintaro doesn’t seem to go against what his wife is doing. She does, however, come to accept Hinako’s superficial relationships with other men.

That summer Fumiko accompanies the Katases to their home in Karuizawa. The summer is spent ideally until two things happen. Hinako spends the night with her long-time lover Soejima [Kazama Toru] (who is also a friend of Shintaro’s and Hinako’s first lover ever) which puts Fumiko and Shintaro home alone. The two end up sleeping together (you actually get a few real good kisses and not the horribly fake drama kisses) and Fumiko hates herself for having betrayed Hinako. She runs from the vacation home and wanders around aimlessly as she tries to get back to Tokyo (no money, no can travel). An old man ends up giving her a Japanese Quince tree which takes about 15 years to bear fruit. On her way back to the vacation home tree in hand, Fumiko is approached by Okubo Katsuya [Saito Takumi], who passed by and saw the poor girl waiting for a bus that won’t come.

Once home she storms and cries about betrayal and Hinako and Shintaro are both fine with what happened. This doesn’t strain their relationship or destroy it and in fact only deepens it, which is problematic. The three plant the quince tree and talk about Fumiko marrying eventually and bringing her children to stay with them in Karuizawa when they are older. They decide to call Okubo to take care of an electrical problem in their house. Fumiko and Shintaro go for a shooting lesson and Hinako is home alone when Okubo shows up. Right from the beginning there is something between these two and it’s something that neither Fumiko and Shintaro like. And thus summer ends in ruin and unhappiness.

Winter comes and Hinako leaves Shintaro for Okubo. The first thing Fumiko does is run to Shintaro who has destroyed his house. He then takes her to the place where he and his wife eloped to. He then explains their sad tale. His mother was raped by a noble and cast aside. He was raised by his mother’s other lover who took care of him until he died. When he meet Hinako, he thought she was just a different young woman. It turns out she was a runaway rich girl. Not just any runaway rich girl. She’s the daughter of the man who raped his mother! Thus…they are siblings!!!!!!! When Shintaro learned the truth, he brought his wife back to that stop to tell her. The conclusion the two came to was to get married despite being siblings so they can always be together. From that day on, though, they never slept together. This also explains just why they had such an open marriage and attitude. Shintaro then confesses he really felt like killing Okubo for coming in between himself and Hinako.

koi-00008So…I guess you can say that Fumiko’s dealings with the Katases unhinged her. She formed such an unhealthy attachment and wanted their special relationship to continue forever. Thus, she leaves Shintaro in the middle of the night to go to Karuizawa where Hinako ran off to be with Okubo. Fumiko pleads with Hinako who will not leave Okubo. It turns out that Hinako has even confessed her true relationship to Shintaro to Okubo who is all for Hinako’s ultimate decision to leave a relationship that can never be. Shintaro shows up to find Fumiko with his gun. She ends up calmly shooting Okubo in the stomach and when she goes for a second shot, Hinako rushes in to protect Okubo and Shintaro rushes in to protect Hinako. Thus he gets shot. That’s where Fumiko’s story to Torikai ends.

Torikai did originally start writing a book about Fumiko’s story, but decides he cannot finish it and try to publish it. Fumiko is fine with this since she wanted her story hear by someone at long last. During her storytelling, Torikai points out that Fumiko should have just left Shintaro and Hinako divorce, thus she could be with the man she loved with all of her heart. Fumiko yells that such a thing was not possible as Okubo’s existence changed everything for the worse and that was the only way out. Right. No, Torikai is right. You get that Fumiko wanted the relationship with both husband and wife to continue as always, but that can never truly happen. So it was very irrational and wrong for her to seek out Okubo to kill.

Torikai finally reveals that after all these years, both Shintaro and Hinako are still very much alive. Shintaro is in a wheelchair thanks to getting shot accidentally by Fumiko. The two still live as husband and wife since Fumiko protected their secret all of these years. Torikai also tells Fumiko that Shintaro did finish translating the novel. He takes a copy of it plus Fumiko with him to the Katases house. There in their yard is a Japanese Quince tree. Hinako and Shintaro dug it up and spent years taking care of it and nursing it back to health and it is producing fruit now. Torikai gets a bag of the fruit from Hinako and a signature from Shintaro who does look over at the car and see Fumiko staring out the window. He smiles a bit and nods. When Fumiko gets the book to see his signature, she finds that she is mentioned in the forward.

We end with Fumiko’s death. And I feel unsatisfied somehow in all of this. In certain respects, it was almost like Fumiko was a daughter even though I don’t think she was young enough to be considered the Katase’ daughter. In another respect she was a friend and a lover. I think that things could have been different if Shintaro and Hinako were open about their relationship from the beginning, but you definitely know why they would not be so forthcoming with the truth behind their marriage. I also don’t understand why they decided marriage was the only way to be together. Hinako could have divorced herself from the main family and lived with her half brother instead. They did not have to be husband and wife. It seemed pointless for them to marry…then again, since they started as lovers who did not know the truth of their origins, I guess it would be hard to disentangle themselves from the passion they once shared. But still…they married each other knowing they were siblings and that is just a whole lot of wrong even if they did stop sleeping with each other.

It is amazing that they didn’t really notice how far gone Fumiko was in her attachment to them either. They should have seen all the warning signs from her actions, especially after Hinako started dating Okubo before they left Karuizawa at the end of summer. It’s a very tragic ending not just in Fumiko going crazy and killing Okubo who really hadn’t done anything wrong. After she did what she did, even if Shintaro and Hinako didn’t hate her, they did essentially abandon her. The only knowledge Fumiko had of husband and wife after the incident was that Shintaro had survived being shot and that was the last moment she was happy. After spending 15 years in jail and then living a very quiet life away from everyone else, she just dies…alone. Even with Torikai coming in at the end to mourn her loss, it just seems wrong somehow that is all their relationship amounted to—especially when you see the dedication in the translated novel.

While the drama fell flat in the ending and how they wrapped up the trio’s relationship, it did explore some very interesting things about love, friendship, family, and obsession. Fumiko lived a very different life from having met the siblings. If Okubo never entered the picture, could the trio have lived happily ever after? Would Fumiko have been able to marry a man and have a normal life after her close connection with Shintaro and Hinako? Who knows? This drama does a great job at showcasing very unhealthy attachments and obsessions. Shintaro couldn’t let his sister go to another man when Hinako could have been free and lived a more normal life with a man she could safely love. Since they started a very twisted relationship, it’s not surprising that things got so twisted and crazy at the end. I do admit to surprise, though, that Hinako ends up staying with Shintaro as his wife after the shooting. You would think that incident could have driven the two siblings farther apart and not closer together.

I didn’t mind the first part of the drama so much. It’s the ending part that gets me and keeps it from being a drama I truly like, and yes, it is partly because of the siblings knowingly marrying each other instead of severing that part of their relationship once they knew the truth. One another hand, if you wanted to see Arata and Ishihara together if you liked them as a couple that could never be in Rich Man, Poor Woman you’d enjoy certain parts of this drama until he ultimately chooses Hinako over Fumiko. Ishihara did do a good job with the initial awkwardness of Fumiko when she was completely new to the Katases’ world. And the ending where she shoots Okubo so calmly and coldly after he crazily goads her into it, was amazingly well done. In that moment you knew there was no guilt or anything, she didn’t think twice. Boom. Bye bye sanity. So the drama relatively was well acted.

This is definitely not a feel-good relationship drama. It’s dark, twisted, and just plain sad. A good drama to start even with all the weird threesome hints (which never physically came to be and we know why by the end of the drama), but that totally blows your mind with the unforeseen plot twist that Shintaro and Hinako always hinted at. They were constantly telling the naive Fumiko that she will some day understand their love for one another and their relationship. Just every time was not the right time to tell her I guess. Why she makes that decision at the end especially knowing the entire truth is still surprising to me even if she didn’t want her perfect life with them ruined.

One comment

  • Ah the dreaded siblings twist!!! T_T Those kinds of dramas are not my thing..

    And on the topic of Arata, this reminds me of his other drama Mitsu no Aji, which was also very uncomfortable to watch. O_O”

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