Just finished watching the 12 episode J-drama “Beautiful Life” (TBS,2000) starring Kimura Takuya as Okishima Shuji, a 27-year old talented and popular hairdresser and Tokiwa Takako as Machida Kyoko, a 27-year old physically handicapped wheelchair bound librarian with an incurable disease. Both met “on the road” under not so friendly circumstances in the beginning, but later the animosity gave way to a stormy love relationship. This was the focus of the “love story”–the development of the relationship between a supposedly “normal” person in the character of Shuji and a not normal (?) person in the character of Kyoko as they struggled with so many personal issues related to their “circumstances.” Kyoko fell in love with Shuji because of Shuji’s being a person with a “barrier free” heart, a pun on a “barrier free” environment where physically challenged people can move freely around. Shuji was a guy who have never said the cliche “I will protect you” to Kyoko; instead he said the unusual “We will face the challenge together” . Neither did Shuji display any pity but rather had a unique way of viewing Kyoko’s physically challenged circunstances by saying “I wonder how the world looks like from a 100 cm height.” Kyoko says she finds strength in Shuji; after all Shuji never gave up their relationship when he found out that Kyoko had a terminal illness; instead he even pursued her (I thought I would hear the following line from Shuji when he learned that the Kyoko he loves will soon die: “I would rather die having loved you even for a minute, than not having a chance to love you at all.”)
Takuya was very convincing as a hairstylist (it was said that Takuya became a licensed hairstylist after that drama) but I really was so amazed at the last episode when he was shown for the first time putting on make-up for the dead Tokiwa. Having seen Takuya play “macho” roles, I felt quite uneasy seeing Takuya weild his cutting scissors through a woman’s hair; but all the more when he put make up on a woman (in my country, the best hairstylists are mostly gays, you know….), but sasuga Takuya, he was able to get away with it.
The other actors were good as well. I liked Kyoko’s brother, Masao (Watabe Atsuro)’s acting the best–he was cute as the bumbling and clumsy brother of the smart Kyoko. Both Kimura and Tokiwa won Best Actor and Actress in the 24th Television Drama Awards, as well as Atsuro and Mizuno Miki (role as Sachi, Kyoko’s best friend) for best supporting actor and actress. In fact, according to drama-wiki, this drama holds the record for the most awards won from the television Drama Academy awards. Other awards went to: Best Newcomer: Nishikawa Takanori (satoru, the rival hairdresser); Screenwriter: Kitagawa Eriko; Best Director: Shono Jiro; Best Theme Song (Konya tsuki no mieru oka ni” by B’z) and Best Opening.
According to several drama database sites, as of March 2000, it was the second most watched drama ever in Japan with a 41.3 % rating with the no 1 drama being way back in 1983 with a 45.1% rating. I wouldn’t say this was my personal best drama starring Kimura Takuya (I like Long vacation better and loved Takuya’s acting in Pride and Miliion Stars Falling from the Sky). However, I liked my learnings from the relationship bet the two characters–consider the feelings of both parties in a relationship (Kyoko would always say that she didn’t want Shuji to be disadvanatged with the relationship so she would break their relationship without considering how Shuji feels ; that is Shuji on the other hand feels “disadvanatged” by not continuing the relationship with Kyoko).
Beautiful Life is the 12th J drama of Kimura Takuya that I have seen so far, and judging from the character that he played here and interviews I read about him, Shuji’s character seem to echo the real Takuya–straightforward, candid, rather than saying that he doesn’t really care about what people will say ; I may be wrong but he may be a person who doesn’t get affected or mind what people thinks of him or his actions (although being in showbiz and being looked upon as an “idol” I don’t know how he practices this because he has a great responsibility as a “role model’ ).
Just as aside. Kimura smoked a lot here and this reminded me of one side of Kimura that I do not appreciate–he IS a smoker in real life. I wish he would soon realize that smoking is not healthy not only for the smoker himself but to non-smokers as well.