Sunday, July 11, 2010

Rinne no Ame

Kuwamura Sayaka's Rinne no Ame, which won the 21st Fuji Television Young Scenario [Taisho] Award, is one surprisingly powerful television piece. It belongs to that rare species of melodrama that genuinely tugs at your heart as it explores the value of family and how the ties that bind people together can also tear them apart.

In its opening sequence, brothers Mikami Kohei (Yamamoto Yusuke) and Shuhei (Seto Koji) drive into the woods in a beat-up truck one stormy night in order to dispose of a body. The truck stops beyond a clearing and as the two alight, older brother Kohei immediately begins to dig a shallow grave while younger brother Shuhei stands on the side staring listlessly into space. With the crash of lightning and the roar of thunder, mentally-handicapped Shu briefly recalls events that passed and wonders out loud to his brother why the person they were about to bury had to die... 

Rinne no Ame presents a scenario which puts the bond between these two brothers to the ultimate test, as one brother unwittingly commits a crime in defense of the other. Clocking at less than 48 minutes, this drama special manages to not only show how close these two people were but also offers us an insight into how one incident changed the way they looked at each other. The crime was unpremeditated but gradually the cracks in their relationship begin to grow. With their mother long dead and an absentee father, the Mikami brothers had no choice but to rely on one another. For ten years, they tried to keep it all together, with Kohei juggling school and a part-time job, and Shu being his family and only friend. Shu on the other hand, always tried to keep up, thinking the world of his brother, until their carefully constructed life started to crumble down-- as the lead detective (Nagai Masaru) in the homicide case starts to suspect them and their good for nothing dad (Ogi Shigemitsu) resurfaces long enough to demand money from them.

This is a certified tearjerker, a story carefully crafted to break your heart. Writer Kuwamura Sayaka delicately weaves this tragic tale using simple dialogue in conveying the relationship between the Mikami brothers. By allowing the viewers to take a good, hard look at what was at stake, Rinne no Ame delivers a solid punch from start to finish, producing quiet, memorable moments that eventually lead up to dramatically charged scenes. The music, the lighting, the flashbacks and the individual performances were rendered so beautifully that one cannot help but dread its abrupt end. This is one drama special that moved at a slow and measured pace, with its writer fully in control of drawing out the emotional conflict within her characters to maximum effect.

What makes Rinne no Ame all the more captivating is that its direction and execution were likewise handled with a subdued and studied grace, such that the melodrama was never pushed to its absolute limit. It can be emotionally manipulative, but Director Namiki Michiro obviously did everything in her power to make it not blatantly so. She rehearsed her actors to elicit and capture each facial expression at an angle that looked just right and camera shots did not linger on unnecessarily as the story unfolded with a calm, understated quality that served to drive in its harrowing conclusion.

Moreover, actors Yamamoto Yusuke and Seto Koji delivered moving performances, attacking their roles with astounding polish and circumspection, a marked contrast to the zany and irreverent roles they played in last year's Atashinchi no Danshi. Surprisingly enough, these two young actors retained a natural rapport that made them totally convincing as brothers. Yamamoto Yusuke (Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, Puzzle, Rescue) displayed immense restraint playing the protective older brother, his Kohei had the firm resolve to keep the family together with just the right touches of self-doubt and resentment brewing underneath; there was no doubt that he loved and treasured his autistic brother but the responsibility of taking care of him was starting to weigh on him heavily. Seto Koji (Kamen Rider Kiva, Koizora, Otomen) equally turned in a decent performance portraying Shuhei as a simple-minded child who had nothing but complete trust in his brother. He imbued Shu with a wide-eyed innocence and devotion that was clearly displayed every time he said, "onii-chan" and struggled to make sense of what he's told. Together, they were the Mikami brothers. Seldom will you see two actors so in tune and complementary to each other to the extent that it was no longer about who was better, but rather how they could effectively portray the story and its characters together. They just worked so well.

Another thing that Rinne no Ame has going for it is its reliable cast of supporting characters, from Kanjiya Shiori who played the kind-hearted Minami, standing in as the audience's proxy, to the short yet stirring appearance of Ogi Shigemitsu as the boys' father who shamelessly didn't give a damn about what would happen to his closest kin.

Setting aside all its positive aspects, Rinne no Ame does come with a certain disability. It is by no means perfect, for instance, much of its emotional pull and impact is derived from the fact that it's on for a very short and limited engagement. On second viewing, the acting and execution thereof can even look too staged and scripted but Young Taisho award winners have always had this tendency. It benefits greatly from having a short format, thus sidestepping the problem of sustaining a cohesive and heartfelt storyline; something which continues to plague past winners who usually exhaust their material in four to five episodes when tasked to write a full length series.

Like previous winners who've gone on to pen Bara no nai Hanaya, Last Friends, Life and Ninkyo Helper for Fuji TV, screenwriter Kuwamura Sayaka excels in creating a scenario with characters to which its target audience draws a strong connection. And as expected, the writing for Rinne no Ame has enough detail and flourish-- with a number of memorable scenes between the two brothers, uncanny attention to the speech patterns of an autistic person and the rain serving as thematic bookends to the piece. In this respect, this drama SP is something worth seeing. It's the perfect venue by which a writer gets to demonstrate how well he/she can capture hearts in a given moment by creating a story that will stay with you for an indefinite amount of time.


  1. I really loved this drama as well. Seto and Yamamoto both did and amazing job proving their acting ability can go behind their more typical lighthearted comedic roles and I was happy to see that they would be acting together yet again in the dorama Tumbling.

  2. I love these two boys, I mean, Ghost boy and Kiva in one drama SP?!? What was I thinking? Can't believe I almost missed out on this. They're just about my two favorite Kamen Rider alumni that I enjoy seeing on tv. I like how they play off each other, like how one does not overshadow the other. Needless to say, I also enjoyed Tumbling. :)

  3. I completey missed out on this one.
    Thanks for the extensive review!! Gotta go watch Rinne no Ame soon. Tbh not really into Seto Koji but I like Yamamoto's appearance and they both have potential. Ninkyo Helper and Tumbling were nice. Looking forward to see those two grow as actors.

  4. Thanks for dropping by, arakira. :) Hope you get to see this SP soon because both actors did a remarkable job in it.

    You know, I didn't like Seto Koji before either. I watched Kamen Rider Kiva and thought he was cute but weird looking (he always reminded me of a Kewpie doll)... but Koji really is one diligent artist. He worked on the drama Koizora while he was doing Kiva, then followed it up with Otomen and Atashinchi no Danshi, after which, he did Rinne no Ame and Tumbling. Now he's slated to appear in the upcoming NHK taiga drama, Gou. All I can say is that the kid's building himself a career alright and what I find most impressive is that he can also sing in tune with a rock band and not have his voice drowned out like some idols out there...

    Yamamoto Yusuke also happens to be one of my faves, too, at least from the latest crop of actors out there. Like Seto Koji, I like how he's slowly working his way up from supporting roles to playing lead characters. I'm still hoping that someone would be crazy enough to sub the Shaken Baby: Shakespeare Syndrome SP. It looked like a whole lot of fun-silly.

    Ach, this comment is turning into one long gushfest. Glad I got that out of my system, I can resume being normal now. Lol xD