Camouflage – First Chapter

Lies. What would we do without them? Our lives are unmistakably entwined with lies, be it the ones we innocently say to  please others, the ones that will get us out of a sticky situation or the ones that will get us what we want. Wanna explore the refinement of this art? Welcome to the wonderful world of lies.

Song of the Post: Camouflage Theme Song ~ Aoi Yū -「camouflage」

Concept:  As its name indicates,「蒼井優×4つの嘘 カムフラージュ」- Aoi Yū x 4 lies / Camouflage centers around the actress Aoi Yū, who guides us through the 4 stories, each filmed by a different director. Thus, each chapter (consisting of 3 episodes) deals with a particular idea of lies, in line with the interpretation defined by the director.

First Chapter (Episodes 1 ~ 3): Life is like a lie

EPISODE 1:

Searching for his phone while driving his car, TAKANO (Kase Ryo!!) crashes into a pole and dies on the spot. This is what his girlfriend, CHIKA (Aoi Yū) tells us, not without biting irony. And maybe because of such a stupid death, she couldn’t even shed a tear.

A man (Nishijima Hidetoshi) also shares his story: he recently divorced, and came home to see that his ex-wife took her things with her. Spiritlessly trudging around the rooms, he notices the small details showing that he’s now alone. But a inspection of her dresser reveals a lost bra. Wait, will he…?

Walking back from the hospital, Chika takes out her ringing phone but freezes when she reads the caller’s name: Takano. She expectantly answers, only to hear the voice of Takano’s father. Visibly bummed out, she utters trite words before hanging up and tells us that she was actually angry at him. Did he really need to purposedly use Takano’s phone to call her? Aw, poor girl, as if the day hasn’t been hard enough.

Unable to sleep that night, she still is somewhat excited when the morning light shines in her room. Feeling cold, she realizes that her old oil stove is in dire need of fuel but decides to put that on the back-burner and focus on the clothes she’ll wear to attend Takano’s wake. Owning nothing formal, she decides on a black blouse, knowing that it won’t be appropriate but convincing herself that it will do.

Heading towards Takano’s home, Chika is called out by a friend on the street. He teases her about her pitch-black outfit, wondering if she’s going to a funeral, and when she says it’s for Takano, the friend lightly jokes that he left the earthly worries for a bright hereafter. Eeep. Chika doesn’t reply and walks away, thinking that he will certainly regret these words when he’ll find out that she wasn’t kidding. Truth is, she didn’t want to explain in detail, since it would only result in sympathetic words from the friend. And after all, it wasn’t like she lied, right?

After putting his ex-wife’s bra at different places to accompany him in the house, the man begins the next day by looking at it with new eyes. Yes, he tries it on. Long live Bra Man! He then goes to work, as a real estate agent, and experiences the downside of bras during a home visit. No, you just can’t move as freely with it, sowwy! His client gone, he readjusts the brassiere, enjoying the fact that nobody knows that he’s wearing it when making deals.

On her way, Chika spots a batting center sign. Next thing we know, she’s tiring herself out by swinging a baseball bat in a cage until being unable to stand. Resting a bit, she receives a call from her friend Mana who reminds her of the ceremony. But Chika won’t go and when Mana points out that it’s horrible not to say goodbye, she mutters that even if she says the words, it’s not like Takano will hear them. Ack, what to answer to that. I’m not even sure she’s serious. Suddenly determined, she enters a shop and picks out the most flashy and mismatched clothes.

I decided to stop trying to pretend.

Driving back, Bra Man stops after seeing a TV crew filming people praying for a road victim. Getting off the car, he joins them to offer a prayer too, but his real intention are much more narcissistic. He just wanna appears on TV, to feel the thrill of being the only one knowing that a man wearing a bra is praying for a dead. That’s…sick. Chika is heading in the same direction, and happens to witness Bra Man as he smirks to himself after his grand act. They lock eyes for a moment, but Bra Man ignores her and drives away.

At home, Chika feels irritated by all the things related to Takano’s death. The sight of her empty jerrycan reminds her of a more pressing issue, and she walks back out, sending a text to Mana saying that no, she really won’t come. Dragging her feet to the gas station, she recognizes Bra Man’s car. Feeling curious without even knowing why, she  looks around for him and opens the toilet door. There stands Bra Man, hands frozen on his brassiere: “What? I’ve been discovered!” You bet you were. Can I say it? Can I say it? BUSTED! Sorry, it just begged to be said.

He chuckles at the absurdity of this situation,and they both share a good laugh until we get that Chika shifted to silent tears. Overwhelmed, she finally lets herself break down, her inner self telling us that she realizes now that Takano isn’t there anymore. Both inner Chika and inner Bra Man declare: “He / My wife won’t come back.” Clinging on the door, Chika sobs uncontrollably while Bra Man looks at her with sympathetic eyes.

EPISODE 2:

Lying on her bed, Chika muses on the passing of time since Takano’s death. Except for him not being here, nothing has changed. Isn’t God cruel? The world still goes on, even though Takano disappeared. At this point of her thoughts, the doorbell rings, and who should be there but Takano himself? She immediately turns to her bed and sees herself sleeping soundly. Relieved and disappointed at the same time, she understands that she’s in a dream.

She opens the door, and asks “A dream?” to Takano, who confirms. “Don’t worry, I’m not a ghost. It’s just a dream.” he adds. No biggie, I’m sure we all would love having you come in our fantasies. Taking off his shoes (how polite, even in a dream), he explains that they can meet this way.

Chika can’t help but stare at him while he notices her black blouse. He wonders how his funeral went, but she quickly looks away, avoiding his every question about the ceremony. She manages to divert the conversation to a more superficial topic and they banter about the girls who came to the wake, till Takano teasingly remarks that Chika is getting jealous.

He mimics a drama character that Chika doesn’t know, and that makes him think that the show will be broadcast the next day. He sighs that he can’t see it anymore, but Chika assures him he will, because she’ll dream about him again. Nothing could please our dramaddict more, and he indicates the hour, though he doesn’t mind if she’s a bit late. Haha, how precious. He doubts she’ll really dream about him, so Chika gently comforts him, as they both look at the Sleeping Chika. Still, he’s a bit worried, since she usually dreams about the strange things she saw in real life.

And POOF, Bra Man takes his place, casually saying: “Like the brassiere guy.”, and comments, in case we were wondering: “It’s a dream, right? Anything can happen.” Though she was startled at first, curiosity takes the better of Chika and she asks if he’s still wearing the bra. He is, and he adds that she’s the only one who knows. Once again, they heartily laugh until Takano reappears, miffed at her for bringing an other man in her dream. Haha, be happy she doesn’t conjure a harem.

Now Chika is the one poking at him but she stops when Takano requests her not to dream about living men. You mean, fangirling is prohibited too? She suggest he better do something that would make her dream about him  so he mentions going to their first date location but she reminds him that they’re in a dream. Still, he wants them to visit all their favorite spots. Aw, that’s so sweet.

The doorbell rings again, but this time it’s for real. Chika takes off the blanket to see that her sleeping self isn’t there anymore. Anxious, she looks around and pounces on her drug stock to gobble down a handful of pills. Oy, are you serious? She goes back to her bed, and sleeps.

Cautiously, Takano emerges from his hideout. They joke that it was close, and Takano praises her ability to easily return in her dream but they both look silently at the Sleeping Chika, hinting that they’re no fool. They go for a stroll outside, and Chika says in voiceover that she started believing that this is the real world. The truth isn’t in this world without Takano, wherein she was just killing time, but in her dreams. AUGH, this date. Painfully sweet.

By thinking that, I can somewhat continue enjoying myself here.

In a small shop, Takano orders food but Chika complains that even in a dream they still eat the same things. He then asks for more sophisticated dishes, and the chief instantly serves them a posh lunch accompanied by french wine. Takano smiles: “Aren’t dreams great?” Aye captain! There’s a catch, though. Chika can’t taste any of it. Aaah, I experienced that as well. Visibly, you can’t have your cake and eat it too in DreamLand.

To make a strong impression on Chika, Takano made sure to sport a bra, and affirms it isn’t one of her stash. Pfft. She’s moved when he says that he wants to appear in her dreams everyday, and softly promises that she’ll always be there. Waking up, she goes straight to take more pills, thinking that she’ll always dream. “I don’t need to wake up anymore.” In a daze, she wobbles to her bed: “A world with Takano is much better.”

Continuing from before, Takano suddenly stands up. Driving her somewhere, he says that they can meet anytime, just like that.

But, Chika, you have to wake up. Eat real food, get on a real train, take a real bath and sleep in a real bed. I may be dead, but you’re still alive.

Chika isn’t pleased to hear what she tried to ignore and stays silent, as the car passes by the scene of the crash. At home, Takano watches over Sleeping Chika, while Dreaming Chika mutters that she doesn’t get why he’s saying such things. In fact, she does, but doesn’t want to. Matter-of-factly, Takano explains that he’s dead, and can’t be with her all the time. Still, he’d like to meet her from time to time. Sensing that she won’t change his mind, she wonders if she’s bothering him but they both know that isn’t the point.

Takano encourages her to fall in love with an other guy, but smiling weakly she utters: “Impossible.” With an impish grin, he confesses that he’s a bit happy to hear that. Eh. They hear a siren sound, to which she turns deaf ear, choking back tears to ask him why he died. He apologizes and she calls him a big idiot. He thanks her for that, and asks her if it doesn’t hurt to wear a bra all the time. It does, she answers, which is why she isn’t wearing one.

That sure rouses his interest but she keeps calling him a fool. He notices her trembling smile and apologizes again, before finally taking his leave. Giggling at his antics, Chika has an other mood swing and hides her face to cry. The camera pans to show us Sleeping Chika, and we see a tear slipping from her eye, while the siren sounds louder and louder.

EPISODE 3:

One year later. Chika works in a little shop, where there isn’t much activity. Coming home one day, she finds a package in her mailbox: it’s a book, sent by Takano’s father who decided to publish the text written by his son. A cat is waiting for her at home, while she’s still climbing the stairs, and surprise surprise, the title of the book is “The evening of the cat”. Takano’s voice recites the story as Chika enters her room, now transformed into a stage play.

The girl decided to have a cat. Not because she felt lonely at night. Not because she was afraid of every morning. Not because she wanted someone to talk to. Without a reason, she decided to have a cat.

What a lovely intro. It’s a faithful (and sweetly dishonest) portrait of Chika.

Not wanting to buy one, the girl resorts to tricks, and baits a stray cat into her room with some dried fish. Chika takes over and reads how the girl felt happy with her new companion. She named it『よる』- Yoru, meaning Night. And one night, a strange thing happened: Yoru became human.

In a new setting, the girl (played by Chika) turns to us, the audience, enjoining us not to worry because of Yoru’s new form. He’s now a middle-aged man (played by Nukumizu Youichi) and apologizes sheepishly to the girl, who’s quite disturbed by his appearance. He insists that he’s a cat, and remembers her of what she used to do with him: petting him, kissing him…Immediate reply from Chika: “Ugh, I really regret that.” Haha.

He attempts to jumps at her, though it’d be difficult with this form, and doesn’t realize that he’s looking creepier. The girl hides in a corner, pointedly saying that he must be thinking about weird stuff. He’s not, and feels hurt when she explains that he has the face of a typical groper, the type to sexually harass females. Aw, I feel bad for him. It’s just that cat years are different!

He laments that he has a pure heart and the girl relents. She sits next to him, admitting that it’s not like he could change back, and even offers to sleep together like before, but the sight of an old man eagerly leaping at her side gives her goosebumps. Yoru comments that he now knows what it feels for a father to have a daughter going through the rebellious stage. PFFFT.

As expected, she just can’t picture him as a cute cat, with all his wrinkles, baldness and unfashionable glasses. He tries to win her over with an other display of affection but that only freaks her out even more. She threatens to call the health department and he sighs dejectedly. Chuckling, she points out that now he does look hurt, but when he brightly looks at her she slays him: “That’s a lie.” Keh. Who’s the fox one, really?

Wondering if Yoru is hungry, the girl hands him some dried fish, much to his chagrin. Now that he’s human, he’s better eat human food but the girl points out that she never meant to raise a human. No pizza slice for you, kitty. After a quick verbal fencing, the girl muses that he may stay like this and Yoru says that he’ll always be there but backs off when he meets the girl’s cold stare. She shoots him some more when he suggests that she introduces him as a lover to her friends, and discovers that the mere mention of the health department has him cowering in fear, so she sadistically plays with it.

Growing more serious (or so she tries), she asks him what cats usually think about. Shh, you’d be better off without knowing. Cats should stay mysterious. And indeed, he totally breaks the myth by revealing that when morning comes, he thinks “Ah, it’s morning”, or when it rains he’s like: “Ah, it rains.” See, I told you. The girl enjoys throwing barbs at Yoru, and doesn’t take seriously the option that he could wake up under his human form the next day. But as Chika reads, it has more to do with the fact that she may feel differently the next day so why tie herself down with her self of yesterday? That’s so beautifully said.

Morning rises, and the girl still can’t sleep. Yoru notes that she’s crying, but she insists that she’s really not, thankyouverymuch. He softly comments that it’s okay to cry, and that he himself feels so lonely before dawn that he gets scared. She admits that she knows that feeling and asks him if he has a special someone. He did have one, but doesn’t seem to care much so she’s intrigued:

The Girl: Aren’t you feeling lonely, being on your own?

Yoru: Can I say something good? Being alone and being lonely are two different things.

He’s alone, sure, but that doesn’t mean that he’s feeling lonely. Cleverly, he turns the question on her: “Are you feeling lonely?” and that seems to be just what she needed to hear since she clearly never thought about it this way. Offering his two cents, Yoru tells her that she should cry when she wants to, or say that she wants to meet her special someone when she feels like it. If she falls in love, she should simply say “I love you.”

Yoru: Originally, we are alone. That’s why we want to be with somebody.

The girl is annoyed that such a face speaks such words, but has no comeback when he smiles that he told to truth.

Reading the last page, Chika meditates about Yoru’s concluding thoughts. “Isn’t it okay? To think that what you’re eating is delicious. To laugh loudly while watching a late night variety show. You spend a day without recalling him.” And after that, Yoru never became a human again.

Sitting on a swing, in the park she used to date Takano, Chika thinks about the same expression that wrapped up each episode: “Life is like a lie.” But this time, she adds something. “And I’m going to live such a life.”

Impressions: 

Before going further, I HAVE to post the song that gave such a bittersweet feel to this chapter.

菅野 よう子 x キセル (Kanno Youko x Kicell) -「share」

WonderQueen Youko is wonderful.

I came to this drama because of (who else) my girl crush, named Aoi Yū. Broadcasted in 2008, it can be put in the “old drama” crop, but I only decided to watch it recently. And boy if that wasn’t a good choice. What I’ve seen is a unique and  unclassified show, and the first three episodes slowly grew on me as each episode clicked together to complement each other. To be honest, I wasn’t completely won over and I’ve found episode 3 to be particularly odd, but as I recapped it, I came to see how original and clever the whole thing was. This is one of those occasions when my recap process (though long and laborious) allow me to look at a show with new eyes.

The approach taken by WOWOW was rather bold: to entrust a whole series to four different directors, even with a common theme, requires some guts. Take the first chapter, for example. Its director decided to use 3 concepts in each episode to illustrate the one theme of lies:

First concept: That sounds like a lie / Second concept: Conversational drama / Third concept: Stage play

Though original, it can also disturb viewers used to more “classic” dramas. But I loved the fact that you get to discover something new each time. I often felt like I was watching an indie film rather than a television production, and the way they constructed each episode only heightened this impression. It observes the same pattern:

First, we have Aoi Yū performing a little magic trick in her dressing room. We switch to a stage decorated with a disco feel where a different Aoi Yū (accompanied by a pianist ♪) entertains us with a lie before introducing the director in charge of the chapter. We’re given a brief biography of his works, and he explains what today’s concept will be. The episode is then unveiled, and is followed by Disco Aoi Yū who this time introduces the photographer chosen for the chapter. After the presentation of the pictures taken, interpreting the episode’s concept, Disco Aoi Yū offers a quote and leaves.

And within this cycle, you assist to the construction of a lie. From the get-go, Aoi Yū prepares us to a world full of lies and yet we still gobble up everything. I’m willing to eat it all when it’s that sweet and clever. As a viewer, I like it when the director doesn’t insult my intelligence and actually believe I’m smart enough to pick the thoughtful little details left here and there. There wasn’t a big sign pointed at the pole where Takano crashed into when his ghost passed by it with Chika in her dream, and I appreciated that, especially given what he told her then. Ditto for the pianist leaving his seat while the piano is still playing. That was a nice way to remind us that we were still under the spell of lies.

The acting played a huge part as well, and I have one more reason to love  Aoi Yū. In every episode, she managed to unveil different sides of her character, and made her feel real. The crying scenes were perfect, and punched me in the gut each time. The delicate transition from laughter to tears undeniably striked home. And I’m not even talking about Kase Ryo. SEBUMIIIIIII (yep, he’ll always. ALWAYS be that, no matter how many bird nests he can put on his head. Period.) Episode 2 aside, we didn’t get to see as much as we fans would have loved to, but he still made a strong impression, and delivered a subtle interpretation.

With its whimsical trait, this first chapter reminded me a lot of Banana Yoshimoto’s most famous book: “Kitchen”. Both the titular novella and the following short story “Moonlight Shadow” may have served as models. They share the same melancholic atmosphere, in the way their heroes cope with death, loss and bereavement. Bra Man, like the hero of “Moonlight Shadow” and like the Eriko of “Kitchen” keeps his feelings hidden and uses cross-dressing to replace the woman he loves. Some may think that it’s a strange fashion to bring back your loved one, but I loved that his motive wasn’t discussed or judged.

Chika, in a more poignant way than Mikage, the heroine of “Kitchen”, lets herself sink into her dreams, shutting her eyes to the noxious consequences it will bring. We don’t know if it’s really Takano she’s speaking to, or her own inconscient, but either way the decision made to stop this “dreamy” (*snort*) relationship leads to the third and final act, in which she begins to open up to the idea of moving on.

To conclude, it’s a very good piece, one that makes you meditate about Life. Yes, with a capital letter. Funny for a show based on lies, don’t you think? Being quite fond of quotes, I came up with one fitting each episode, so enjoy the nerd love~

“People do not believe lies because they have to, but because they want to” – Malcolm Muggeridge

“We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves.” – Eric Hoffer

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.” – Sigmund Freud

5 thoughts on “Camouflage – First Chapter

  1. The first chapter is my favorite in the series 🙂 It’s the one I’ve rewatched the most too. I love the stage play setting too, it used to be my favorite of the three, but on repeat viewings, I’ve grown even fonder of the second one.

    • Hello Amy and thanks for your comment ^^
      I remember visiting your personal blog, months ago, so it’s a pleasure to have you here !
      I didn’t watch the following episodes yet, but this first piece made it right into my heart…

      • I’m always spying on what other people have to say about Aoi Yu ^^ Your recap is just too much not to comment. I love your inclusion of your own “lying” quotes.

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