Sunday, 13 January 2013

Life (2007)

Life is different from all the Jdramas I have watched, but that may not mean anything since I have watched only a few. Then I guess I should just say it's different from many Asian dramas I have watched, and I watched quite a lot.

Essentially, Life tackles the story of Shiiba Ayumu (Kitano Kii) and how she deals with finding new friends, adjusting in high school, and most importantly, bullying. She goes through a lot of difficulties even before high school, but she faces one of the harshest challenges when she experienced being pushed over and played with by the entire class, lead by her supposed friend, Manami Anzai (Saki Fukuda).

This dramas, first and foremost, is about school bullying, and I must say that it deals with the issue in a straight-forward manner, something that mainstream television usually just brushes over. Here, we see how friends turn their backs on you and become the monsters that make your school life a living hell. Here, we see how bullying could not only hurt you physically, but can also damage your emotionally. Bullying affects many aspects of a student's life, which we all see in this drama. It tarnishes friendships, it imbibes doubts and insecurities in the heart of the victim, it discourages the victim to perform well in school, and completely gives the victim many reasons to stop attending. What's worst about bullying is sometimes, the victim are made to feel as if it's their fault that they're being bullied. It's commendable how this drama tackles the many layers of this issue.

Kitano Kii is amazing as Shiiba Ayumu. It can be the acting or or maybe she has that aura perfect for an underdog. Because besides bullying, this is a story of an underdog who triumphs over her detractors. And I love the transition of her story. It doesn't simply happen over night. It wasn't a miracle story. People don't simply have a 360% makeover and sides with her. It was a step-by-step process for her. She needs help and courage to overcome the antagonists of her story. But when she got fed up, she shows how it should be done. But what's amazing is that she fights without being evil herself. She fights without having to take vengeance. She isn't a complete goody-two shoes, though, since she perfectly states that she doesn't forgive the one who bullied her. After all, the bully doesn't show any sign of regret.

Kitano Kii as Shiiba Ayumu
It's also important to note that the plight of the bullying victims isn't the only own shown light in Life. In no way does it justify why bullies become bullies. In no way is it justifiable, anyway. But it's good to take a look at how people become bullies. Some are just really manipulative. They are people who dominate others who try to take the spotlight away from them. Some just want to please others and to do that, they end up putting down people they feel are beneath them. Then there's the other kind of bullies who just watches and do not do anything. They are passive when it comes to bullying the victims, but the fact that they don't do anything and merely let the bullying happen is an act of bullying itself. But they don't say anything because they're scared. They don't say anything because they're afraid that if they step up to the bullies, they'd end up being bullied, too. It's a sad reality for many. Another thing I like about this is that it addresses the glaring irresponsibility of some teachers. They'd rather cover up the mistakes of their students and side with the powerful just to save their assess. Toda-sensei, I am looking at you and your disturbingly messy hair!

But what I really like about Life is how it sheds light to how other people try to lay justice on the bullies. Some may argue that bullies need to be punished, and I believe that, too. But some people do it the wrong way: by being bullies themselves. In this drama, they punish Manami Anzai by doing to her what she did to the people she bullied. The students seem to think that it's just right that she goes through the same ordeal. They hurt her, ruin her possessions, publicly shame her, and pretty much did to her what she did to her victims. And I thank the people behind Life for giving emphasis on this issue.

(A/N: This is coming from someone who lives in a country who seems to think online bullying is justifiable if the victim is someone despicable. See: Amalayer case. Spoiler: IT'S NOT OKAY. Bullying, online or not, is not okay.) 

However, Life is not a series without flaws. This series lacks suspense. In fact, it doesn't hide anything and shows everything. I am not a fan of how it suddenly zooms in on the faces of the antagonists and shows their hidden smirks.  Sometimes, I feel like it dumbs down the audience since it claims we can't discern who's evil and who's not. It really doesn't need to do it at every freakin' scene! Everything is revealed way too early, leaving no room for anticipation. I really think this drama could be tons better if they employed suspense to keep the audience at edge.

Saki Fukuda as Anzai Manami is pretty good. She's a good antagonist in that she knows how to be cunning. She knows when to be pretty for the camera to gain the affection of her classmates and when to perfectly show her evil smile. But still, I sometimes feel like the camera technique is way too in-your-face. If you know what I mean. Yoshihiki Hosoda who plays Katsumi Saki is another actor who seemed to have given his everything in his role. In all of his scenes, he made my blood curl. He's disturbingly good in looking freakishly psychotic. But there are times when I feel like it's overdone. But still, these two are one of the most hateful villains in the history of Japanese dramas. (And again, I haven't watched that many!)

Overall, it's an enjoyable series that actually has depth! It's been a while since I last marathoned a drama and I can say that it's a good drama to start my 2013. Would I recommend Life? Definitely.

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