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Everything the first reviewer said and more. I'm only a third of the
way thru Ohisama, but already I've lost about half my body weight in
tears. Sad tears, happy tears. Hell, I'll cry if Yuki Yagi stubs her
toe. Is it me? Am I at a time in my life when I'm more prone to these
type of tearjerkers? I'm a heterosexual man in my sixties, who has
gotten hooked on Japanese film and television and who, without
subtitles, would be desperately searching the vast American wasteland
of television, for anything that even remotely comes close to being as
good as Ohisama.
So...how did I get here? Indirectly, because of one of Japan's finest character actors, Mikako Tabe, who from Kimi Ni Todoke led me to Deka Wanko and a guest appearance by Yuki Yagi, which led me to Flowershop Without Roses and finally to Ohisama. Are we clear on that? Mostly random chance and a little help from Google, has changed my viewing habits. Happily so.
Now, I'm not going to waste your time trying to give a detailed review. The first reviewer did an eloquent and spot on job reviewing Ohisama. Let me just say that this character driven drama's trip through a period of time in the life of Yoko and her friends and family, who are engulfed in a mesmerizing and chaotic period of Japan's history, is well worth the time watching. And as usual, I'm again impressed with the quality of acting that comes from Japan. In fact, the acting is so good, that you tend to overlook any flaws that may occur while creating serialized television, because you care about the characters. You want them to flourish, to succeed, to realize their dreams. You want them to overcome those obstacles in their way and find the happiness that all people deserve, but few ever really find.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I may be a bit biased because this is the first Japanese asadora I have
ever watched, but I will say that although there is no such thing as a
completely perfect show, Ohisama comes pretty darn close.
The first episode starts out with a rather frazzled modern day housewife, who, in trying to take a break from it all, comes upon the beautiful town of Azumino, where she meets an elderly woman who runs a soba restaurant. (My only real complaint about the series is that the housewife can be quite irritating at times, but oh well.) Intrigued by photographs around the restaurant, the housewife gleefully accepts when the woman, named Yoko, asks if she would like to hear her story...
And so we are introduced to Sudo Yoko as a ten year old in 1932, and the series concludes with Yoko being in her thirties somewhere in the 1950s. The three actresses playing her through her life (Yagi Yuki as a child, Inoue Mao as a teenager and adult, and Wakao Ayako as an elderly lady) are all superb in their portrayal.
Throughout the years, we see Yoko living with her father and two brothers, making new friends, experiencing her first love, pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher and what happens when she does, to getting married and starting a family. Everything is so well done, that you just can't help but smile and laugh with her when she's goofing around with her friends and family, cry with her when she is heartbroken, wait anxiously with her for her husband to return from the war, and huddle in the shelter with her as air raid sirens scream and bombs start to fall...
The historical aspect of the show is also excellent. You can feel the effects of the Pacific War looming overhead of Yoko and those around her until it starts to directly effect their lives. Food becomes scarce, and one has to be careful of what can be said out loud. Yoko's husband, her childhood friend, and both of her brothers are sent to fight, and the ones that return grieve over having survived when others have not. A friend and a relative of Yoko's are caught in the Tokyo air raids, and one of her students is orphaned. A coworker causally mentions a fiancé living in Hiroshima, leading to a tragic scene a few episodes later. But despite all these hardships, Yoko follows the advice her mother gave her when she was young: "Whatever painful things may happen... never forget to smile."
The characters of this series is certainly the greatest aspect of the series. There is Yoko's mother, whose influence guides Yoko her entire life. Yoko's father is caring and understanding, unlike most fathers at the time. Her oldest brother Haruki is gentle and protective, and her second oldest brother Shigeki steals every scene he's in with his goofy antics. Every one of Yoko's friends are always fun to watch, and so are her eventual in-laws. Yoko's husband can be a little dense at times, but is always well-meaning, and Yoko herself is a joy to watch in both the good and bad times. What I love in particular about this show is that you don't just want to find out what happens to our main character, you want to know how everyone else is doing as well.
All of this, plus the beautiful music and scenery throughout, makes Ohisama a wonderful experience, a show that I have watched twice in its entirety, and will most definitely come back to again!
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