Monday, March 23, 2009

JDrama; Pride

i was born to love you - queen

I have watched a little Cantonese Drama, and I’ve taken a peek at Mandarin Drama. I’ve even watched a few Bollywood movies. Recently, I took my first walk down the Japanese Drama path and I’ll tell you, it was lovely.

pridePride debuted in Japan in 2004. Five years ago, I still lived in upstate NY, I was still in my 30s and if you told me then that today I’d be watching a television series about Japanese hockey, I’d have nodded my head and backed up slightly, silently vowing to avoid you for the rest of your life.

Time brings change.

So yeah, anyway, Pride is about the Blue Scorpions and the boys who comprise the team. Our proud hero is Halu Satonaka played wonderfully by Takuya Kimura. His romantic interest is the gentle Aki Murase, also well played by Yuko Takeuchi.

Halu is the Captain of the Blue Scorpions. Deeply affected after having been abandoned by his mother when he was in kindergarten, Halu has walled up his heart. Romantic relationships are “ a game” to him, and the game of hockey is his love – a mistress to whom he is devoted. Driven and gifted, he barely tolerates those who do not push themselves to exhaustion for her.

Aki is a gentle young woman who works for the same corporation that owns the Blue Scorpions. Years ago, she fell in love with an architect who left for New York to study. He promised to return and asked her to wait, which she does devotedly, pushing through her suspicion that Architect may never come back. Every Sunday for two years, she returns to the bridge Architecht designed and waits for him to return.

As our show begins, our protagonists meet in a local hang out. Halu and his friends make bets on which women they will bed. Guys will be guys will be guys. Girls are slightly more complex. Girl 1 just wants to live life now and get herself a hot athlete. Girl 2 grew up poor and wants to hook up with a guy so rich he spits nickels and Girl 3…is Aki.

Girl 1 winds up with the rich playboy hockey boy, Girl 2 winds up with the desperately poor goalie (his name is Yamato Hotta, and baby, he’s Hotta) and Aki winds up with the Captain of the Team -Ice in His Veins - Wunderkind of the Puck - Halu Satonaka.

Halu doesn’t really want a girlfriend – he’s devoted to hockey and Aki is still telling herself (and anyone who will listen) that she’s in love with her absent Architect. Our main characters enter into a “contract relationship”. (Parenthetically, I’d like one of my Asian readers to explain this concept to me. I’ve seen this in countless Korean Dramas and then Halu tells Aki, “That’s how they do it in New York.” No. No Halu, they don’t. I lived in New York for 40 years and I’ve never had a contract relationship and none of my friends ever had a contract relationship and no television show I watched growing up outlined the details of the New York contract relationship. So I need a little help.)

pride2 Anyway, this arrangement seems to work for the two of them; after a frank discussion, Halu tells Aki that love is a game for the “iceman”, and Aki admits that she is devotedly waiting for Architect. Of course, that’s precisely the sort of stoic compulsive behavior that touches Halu – he thinks a good woman is one who loves single-mindedly – unlike all the other women in his life.

But the title and what I think is supposed to be the overarching theme of the play is PRIDE. In case you weren’t sure, we are reminded constantly:

"He's got too much pride. It’s as high as Mount Everest.”

“You need to get revenge, its a matter of pride.”

“Halu, you are faster and stronger. Don't lose to anyone, don't bow to anyone. That's what hockey is. The pride of an iceman.”

“The only difference between humans and animals is that humans have pride.”

“I wont' be defeated by loneliness, that is my pride.”

These quotes were all from the first episode. I stopped noting after that.

See, I didn’t think the series was about Pride at all, so maybe I missed something. I thought it was more about forgiveness, enduring love, and time bringing change. Halu gets an opportunity to forgive his yeastly slattern of a mother and others in his life so that he heals enough to put his ice trawling gift into perspective and enter into a healthy relationship with Aki. Aki over time recognizes her strength and her character and understands what love really means.

Overall, this eleven episode series was lovely. I haven’t watched enough j-drama to make a truly informed opinion, but Takuya Kimura reminded me of Jang Hyuk. I was never taken out of Halu’s character for a moment – his acting seemed effortless and casual – to me, a mark of a gifted artist. Indeed, most of the performances were nicely done.

A delightful side car to the whole series was the sound track, which was positively immersed by one of my favorite groups of all time, Queen. “I Was Born to Love You” opened every episode and some of my favorite songs were infused into the program; “We Are the Champions”, “Fat Bottomed Girls”, “Too Much Love Will Kill You”, “Take a Little Piece of My Heart”, “Find Me Somebody to Love” – simply simply wonderful, and for me, a nice backdrop to a very good show.


A said...

No contracts in NY ? ...but that 's what I always read in all the romance novels by American authors :) Ok as an Asian, I think this refers to the sad reality that some Asians actually pay for a contract marriage just to get the much coveted ( yup The American Dream) US visa.

E said...

It's a good point, A. I've read enough Harlequin romances to realize the wisdom of your words. And of course, there is "Pretty Woman" with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts.

I stand corrected! Thank God for my "twin". :))

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