So, I finished watching Gomen, Aishiteru. It was one of the most emotionally invested Japanese dramas I’ve ever seen. It has a lot of heart and warmth in it without saying so much. The simplicity in its storytelling was what drawn me to it.
I know that Japanese dramas like to emphasize on their characters’ and stories’ quirks. Sometimes a bit too much to the point of making no sense at all. Currently I’m watching Quartet and after a few minutes in, I was already bombarded with the characters talking incessantly about lemon and karage.
One more thing I noticed is that love stories in Japanese dramas nowadays seem so dry and detached. And they also tend to be glorifying extramarital affairs lately. Gomen Aishiteru also has the extramarital affair bit but it has been handled well. And nothing good comes out of extramarital affairs.
In addition to that, Gomen Aishiteru has that 90’s - early 2000’s romance feel that I missed so much. Granted that it was a remake of Mianhada Saranghanda and they could have done it with Japanese drama’s quirkiness. But I’m glad that they actually remained faithful to the original version and interpreted it with Japanese drama’s sensibilities. Like Tomoya Nagase said, it was more of a tribute/homage to the original version of the drama.
In the first episode, it was revealed that Okazaki Ritsu (Tomoya Nagase) has already passed away. So, the story unfolded in a flashback which I think it’s good because Gomen Aishiteru has been remade several times in multi languages, it had no surprise elements anymore. Besides that, I liked how the Japanese version treated the story differently. And I realized that Gomen Aishiteru was more about Ritsu’s journey and how the people around him affected by it rather than his destination.
Several changes have been made to the story which I think for the better. While passionate, obsessive love and revenge were the main ingredients in the original, Gomen Aishiteru focused on love and being humane in general. Ritsu was depicted as someone who wanted to give protection to anyone he cared about and loved (even when he was treated badly) rather than an avenger. The way he said that he wanted to be useful, not a burden and always trying to seek for approval from the ones he loved the most made it all the more heartbreaking.
These traits somehow reflected on Mita Rinka (Riho Yoshioka), attendant and the childhood friend of Hyuga Satoru (Kentaro Sakaguchi) who happened to be in love with him.
By fate, Ritsu and Rinka met on the street of Korea when she was robbed and Ritsu just happened to be there at that time and helped her.
Ran is a gang leader who befriended Ritsu treated him like a brother. Ran offered him to be the adopted son of Ran’s family but Ritsu was still pining for his mother, whom he had never met before. He doesn’t know what she looked like, he doesn’t know how was she as a person and the only thing that was left behind when he was abandoned was a ring. And he was sure that there must be a reason why his mother abandoned him and he thought mainly was because of poverty.
“To be thinking of a woman (Hyuga Reiko who abandoned Ritsu when he was a baby) that doesn’t even think about you…It’s a waste of time.” said Ran to Ritsu. It drew parallel when Ritsu said “To be thinking of a man that doesn’t even think about you…It’s a waste of time.” to Rinka who waited for Satoru to realize her love for him for the last 24 years. That were a lot of scenes that emphasized this sense of connection between Ritsu and Rinka.
Unfortunately, on Ran’s birthday, Ritsu was shot in the head when he tried to protect Ran from the gang’s rival. He survived but had only 3 months to live. He decided to look for his mother before he died and he could at least be by her side when the time comes.
The first time he actually met his mother, he was completely overwhelmed, overcame with indescribable feelings to the point that he was speechless after seeing the figure of the person who he assumed was his mother right in front of him, he instinctively reached out to touch her face, forgot that his mother has never met her real son too, only to be rejected for the second time in his life by his own mother. And from that point onwards, all the suffering, sadness, disappointments, pain begun infected his already fleeting life.
Its ambiguous ending is what makes Japanese dramas special. They didn’t give you the answer right away, instead they left it all to us to make our own interpretation because life is like that. Ritsu most probably died because of brain-dead like he had been told by the doctors but they didn’t show where he died. He threw away the ring that had been with him since birth showed that he’s letting go of his life and left something even more precious behind…his heart to his brother. Just like the Happy Prince who’s willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of the people’s happiness in the fairytale read by Wakana.
Moving on to the performances, the cast did a great job at playing their roles effortlessly. Chizuru Ikewaki was flawless as Kawai Wakana, Baijaku Nakamura as Mita Tsuneo was good, though there were moments where he was over the top which I think it’s necessary for the character. Ayaka Onishi made an impact as commitment-free Furusawa Touko.
Kentaro Sakaguchi shines as Ritsu’s privileged and pampered but terminally ill step-brother, Hyuga Satoru who was sometimes selfish that he had hurt Rinka emotionally because he was so obsessed with Touko.
Otake Shinobu as Hyuga Reiko was interesting as the ‘hateful’ person which I kinda empathize for her later because yes, she made a huge mistake but at the same time she also suffered the consequences for what she had done and I think it’s unfair. As a matter of fact, she wanted the baby but she was told that Ritsu didn’t survived as he was a stillborn which was a lie made up by Rinka’s father, Mita Tsuneo.
Riho Yoshioka as naive and faithful Mita Rinka was excellent. She was the anchor in Ritsu’s and Satoru’s lives. The difference is that Satoru manipulated her for his own security while Ritsu saw her as an equal. It was unfortunate that her love for him could not be reciprocated at the time when she confessed to him due to his circumstances. I also liked that Rinka was someone who in someway a strong character and had the courage to move on with her life when she needs to because she knew that Ritsu wanted her to be happy no matter what.
Last but definitely not the least, Tomoya Nagase. He was spectacular as Okazaki Ritsu. He has proved time and again that he’s one of the best actors in Japan and extremely underrated. Okazaki Ritsu is the best character that he has ever played. He was passionate, melancholic, emotional, vulnerable and awkward at times when it comes to love because he’s never experienced it before Rinka came into his life. There was a lot of warmth and empathy for the people around him even though he himself was suffering and gone through a lot of pain in his life. Despite the fact that he was abandoned and unloved by his own mother, Ritsu was very protective about people and selfless to the point of sacrificing himself for the sake of others. He didn’t want to wallow in self-pity, he wanted to make himself useful to others. But at the same time, he always craved for his mother’s love. And Rinka managed to fill a bit of love into Ritsu’s short life. Apart from that, the way Tomoya portrayed Ritsu and emoted through his eyes and facial expressions without saying anything were incredible. His appearance in the drama was also different from that of Fragile. He was unkempt and rough in this drama which implied that he was not well taken care of with only a few clothes on his back when he arrived in Japan, looking for his mother. These subtle changes are what made Ritsu comes alive.
Another thing that I love about this drama was the characters development. It was subtle change in the characters’ behaviour that moved the plot seamlessly. The theme song “Forevermore” by Hikaru Utada could have been better and I wish it was more mellow. But good song nevertheless. The cinematography was top notch. It gave the drama a melancholic feel with its greyish and yellowish tones, and as the drama progressed, the colors became even more stark and gloomy as if they were depicting Ritsu’s pain and sadness.
The directors, Ishii Yasuharu, Mizuta Naruhide, Ueda Hisashi did fantastic jobs at making the story flowed so smoothly. And I love the background score of the drama.
Gomen Aishiteru has become one of my favourite Tomoya’s dramas of all time. I’d like to thank the people who casted Tomoya as Ritsu and tapping into his different range of emotions that are beyond his comedic ones. I can’t wait for Soratobu Tire to release this June 2018 and I’m sure he’s going to rock as Akamatsu Tokuro too.