Last fall I watched a Japanese drama called Fight Song, which had a story line about a girl who was afraid she would lose her hearing. Shortly afterwards, Silent came out, with a synopsis about a character with hearing loss. I was curious about it, because here were two shows with that theme. Then this spring I was surprised when a third one aired, On a Starry Night. Come see if these dramas made sense all together!
Fight Song is the most cheerful and easy-to-watch show of the three. Hanae is a karate star and is generally energetic and optimistic. She listens to her favorite song, her “fight song,” before matches or when she needs courage to face something hard. The story is about a found family of friends who grew up in the same orphanage and run a cleaning company together. After an injury, Hanae learns she has tumors that could cause her to go deaf. She is very anxious, but keeps her worries to herself.
Haruki is a songwriter who has had one big hit, but can’t seem to come up with another one. His manager tells him he needs more experience with love and ought to get a girlfriend. One day, Hanae comes to clean his apartment, and is elated when she discovers he is the person who wrote her favorite song. He is impressed by her, and remembering his manager’s advice, asks her to be his girlfriend.
At another of her cleaning jobs, Hanae meets Yoko, who is deaf. Yoko is a high point in the story, since she is so lighthearted and encouraging. Hanae is impressed at how well she reads lips, and her ways of coping, such as having a light that flashes when the doorbell rings. The story involves four couples, and has a general theme of people falling for someone who is oblivious. It is rather slow moving, but the characters are likable and it ends well, tying up all the bows.
Silent is much more melancholy than Fight Song. It’s also more sensitive and thoughtful in the way it contrasts those who have always been deaf with those who become deaf later and those who can hear. Tsumugi and Sou were high school sweethearts, but Sou broke up with her unexpectedly when they graduated. He had become hard of hearing and didn’t want any of his friends to know. Years later, when they meet up again, Tsumugi is torn between him and her new fiancé.
The plot has to do with Sou’s friends finding out about his deafness, and about his emotional struggles. He has gotten to know Nana, who has always been deaf, and is happier when he is with her. She helps him learn sign language and how to cope with everyday life, but he is still generally miserable. He makes his family worry about him, especially his sister, who is friends with Tsumugi’s brother.
He eases up when his friend Masaki starts learning sign, but is angered again when he discovers Masaki teaching it to some other friends. Sou prefers to communicate by sign, and Tsumugi starts learning right away. Dramas being a small world, Masaki turns out to be her teacher. Despite feeling that the start of the drama was very well written, I felt like the angst was really dragged out, as Sou just couldn’t accept his situation. I paused watching but went back and finished, and was glad the story lightened up somewhat.
On A Starry Night
On a Starry Night is different from the other two dramas in that the deaf character is not sad about it at all but, on the contrary, is the most outgoing, cheerful person in the story. Issei was born deaf and lives with his grandmother, who is also deaf. Suzu is an obstetrician who was sued by the husband of a patient who died and forced out of a big city hospital. She moves to a clinic in a small town and goes camping by herself to get away from it all, and that’s when she meets Issei. He is very forward and hasn’t got the inhibitions you would expect in an adult, but he is so lively that Suzu is irresistibly drawn to him.
Issei works for a company that cleans out the homes of deceased persons, and most of the workers there have become close friends. Issei’s best friend from work, Haru, has learned sign – in fact, a lot of people in this story can sign at least somewhat. Haru has a lot of insecurities and has much to overcome when his wife becomes pregnant. The story looks at pregnancy from several different viewpoints: babies who live or die, and those who are wanted or unwanted. Of course the drama being a small world, Haru’s wife goes to Suzu’s clinic.
Shinya works at Suzu’s clinic, and since he hasn’t been an obstetrician very long, he asks her for advice a lot. He is very likable but has a sad background. I really preferred him over Issei as a sympathetic character. The man who had sued Suzu shows up and causes several very uncomfortable episodes. Shinya proves quite good at talking to him because of their similar experiences. I was surprised at the way things turned out, and it was Issei’s warmheartedness that made the most difference. It was so tense I felt like dropping the show, but it was the liveliest of the three dramas and had one of the best last episodes ever!
Since these three Japanese dramas came out in one year, I looked into Japanese interest in deaf culture. I found out that the crown princess, Princess Kiko, has been interested in sign language all her life, attends meetings and conventions every year, and is a skilled sign language interpreter. She has gotten her husband, daughter, and niece interested as well. With that kind of support, maybe we will see more stories like this.
These shows are all on Viki. Let us know if you watch any of them, and if you have favorites!
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi