There it is! The long awaited first live adaptation of one of Clamp’s hits. So what do we have here? A mysteriously mysterious owner? Check. A (way too much handsome for his own good) high schooler hiding a ghost magnet within his frail body? Check. The drama that every fan waited for? We’ll have to see.
Song of the Post: Indigo la End — 楽園 (Paradise)[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/u/31675795/01%20%E6%A5%BD%E5%9C%92.mp3]
Episode 1: 縁 (Fate)
Meet WATANUKI KIMIHIRO (Sometani Shota). Beneath his long, long pretty eyelashes (like, seriously, look at them!), his dark eyes can see things other can’t. As far as he can remember, he always had this unwanted ability and each day is plagued with spirits tormenting him. This day is no exception, as he runs away from them with a gloomy, jaded face, thinking that he’ll surely live such a life until he dies. A woman passes by him, and something about her catches his attention. A dark mist emanates from her pinkie, wrapping her without her knowing. They look at each other, but Watanuki brushes it off, since it’s not like he can do anything about it.
He walks away, heading to a shaded alley, and steps on a puddle when suddenly his surroundings change. What’s standing before him now is a tall, Western style house, and he is magnetically pulled towards it against his own will. What he doesn’t know is that there’s a woman inside who motions for him to enter. Once he’s in, two little girls welcome him with a loud “We have a customer!”
Using her Kiseru (Japanese smoking pipe) to guide them to her, the woman tells us that with all the wonders happening in this world, if humans can’t see them, then they’re just some mere phenomenons. Yet, she still thinks that humans are the most mysterious creatures living in this world. Well, well, I’d like to differ.
Thrown in the woman’s room, Watanuki rolls on the floor before regaining his composure and promptly stands up. He apologizes to her, explaining that he coincidentally passed by her house and was brought here forcibly. Exhaling smoke, she declares what will become this series’ motto:
There is no coincidence in this world. There is only Hitsuzen (inevitability).
She wants to know his name, down to the kanjis composing it, and he complies. Snapping out of this weird atmosphere, he tries to leave but the twin girls stop him because the woman is only getting started. Putting a silver disk engraved with magical symbols in a cauldron, she performs her wizardry and can tell Watanuki all about his life up till now, troubles with spirits included. She declares that his blood attracts them but he loses his temper, freaked out by her powers: “Who the hell are you?”
Standing up, she calmly introduces herself: ICHIHARA YUUKO (Anne). She also presents the twin girls, Maru and Moro and spells out the rules. Can only enter in her shop the ones with a wish, that she grants in exchange of an equivalent price. No more, no less. Teasingly, she whispers in his ear that even his soul could do. Maru and Moro pester him about what his wish would be but it’s like he can still not believe his eyes, and unsure of himself, he begins: “My…my wish is…” aaaaaaaaaaand wakes up at school. What the what? *still pauses to stare at his long, long pretty eyelashes*
It’s KUNOGI HIMAWARI (Miyazaki Karen) who called out to him and he grins like a fool at her sight: “Himawari-chaaaan ♪” They sit to eat together, and Watanuki can’t wait to taste her cooking. Proud of herself, she presents her lunchbox (though it clearly pales in comparison with Watanuki’s sumptuous bento) and he compliments her after a bite. She’s glad to hear that and cheerfully says that she bought it in a konbini to pack it in her bento box. Watanuki. Not. Pleased.
Trying hard to tame his temper, he hides under a forced smile and asks “Didn’t I give you my recipe?” HAHAHA. His face. I can’t even. She says that she definitely can’t do the same and he wants to convince her otherwise when DOUMEKI SHIZUKA (Higashide Masahiro) appears to take Himawari with him. Watanuki. REALLY. Not. Pleased.
We return to the moment Watanuki was about to voice his wish, but he’s cut off by the entrance of a woman, the very same one he noticed before discovering Yuuko’s shop. She recognizes him as well, though they don’t speak, and is bewildered by this new setting. But soon, she sits to speak with Yuuko, who tells her that she can make her wish come true. As soon as she hears that, the woman completely ignores the part about giving something equivalent in exchange. That won’t end well.
Watanuki sees the black brume again, and says “Pinkie” without thinking, prompting the woman to turn and stare at him. Yuuko wonders what’s wrong with her pinkie, and she describes the pain she feels there that even doctors can’t detect. To know her more, Yuuko asks her name and the woman answers with a smile: “I’m Shishido Miya. I work at an advertising agency.”
Yuuko accepts to grant her wish, and hands her a ring. Indeed, the minute Miya puts it on, the pain disappears. Watanuki feels that something is off, but the lady is ecstatic, asking how much it’ll cost. Yuuko wants no money, but warns her that she should instead think about why she has a pinkie. Her words awakens a memory for Watanuki, who recalls the promises his child self used to do with his mother. Cultural note: in Japan, it’s extremely common to pinky swear, usually accompanied by a (scary) song revealing that the one lying will have to swallow a thousand needles. The name itself of this “ritual” is pretty eloquent: Yubikiri (指切り) or Cutting Fingers.
What’s odd with his flashes is that Watanuki was ready to jump off the roof of a building after talking with a little girl (who rather looks like a ghost) and he ends up snapping out of it by yelling “Don’t come!!” as he remembers how his sick mother struggled to join him there. The irony is that he’s not in the shop anymore, but on yet an other roof, that seems to be a familiar place for him.
The next day, on his way to Yuuko’s place, he meets the Miya lady again who tells him that the pain got worse. Watanuki can see for himself, as the mist grows thicker, but she vents her frustration on him, having come to consult Yuuko but being asked if she still has that habit in return. The lady doesn’t get what she meant, and suspects Watanuki to be in cahoots with Yuuko in a fraud business.
After she storms off, he hesitates a bit before stepping on the puddle to see the shop. He reports to Yuuko what happened but she points out that without the ring, the lady would suffer more. Watanuki feels that she may take it off and is appalled that Yuuko didn’t tell her not to though there’s a little thing that he’s missing out:
Yuuko: What I can change is only the outside. For the rest, this girl has to realize her habit by herself.
Placing her hand on Watanuki’s chest and then his mouth, she specifies: “Her habit here and there.”
Drinking later in a cafe, he bitterly thinks to himself that even though he can see many things, he’s helpless but the sound of a voice brings him back to reality. It’s the Miya lady, laughing with a waiter about how life as a store owner is hard. That makes him pause: didn’t she say that she works at an ad agency? Seeing that the waiter loves her ring, she brags even more, saying that she bought it in Italy. But the more she lies, the more acute the pain is, and even Watanuki feels the effects.
Following her outside, he confirms that she’s a natural born liar, unabashed to reply that she’s a model when asked by a pollster. This habit Yuuko was talking about summons the ghosts that surround the lady, who frantically attempts to take off the ring. Watanuki resolves to signal it to the lady when Himawari pops up, unknowingly keeping him behind. She apologizes for the other day and wants to clarify his relationship with Doumeki, who’s simply a childhood friend.
Watanuki is eager to go after the lady, so Himawari makes clear that she also feels very comfortable around him. Huh, that’s sweet and all, but it’s obvious that he’s really busy now, can’t you save that for later? But when your crush tells you such words, you ought to pay a little attention, so Watanuki stays with her, until he sees that the lady decided to take off the ring ON THE FREAKING CROSSWALK! Urgh, how stupid can you get?
Watanuki dashes to her right when she finally releases her finger, and she realizes that she can’t move her body while a heavy, dark cloud grows bigger by the minute around her. It clears just enough for her to see a truck coming right at her and she can only turns to Watanuki to send a hopeless look before being ran over. I don’t want to be mean, but you pretty much called for it. Lesson learned?
Shocked, he falls on his knees to pick up the ring that rolled next to him, bloodstained. Feeling dizzy and nauseated, he breaks down and cries, turning to Himawari when she comes closer but she screams with disgust and flees. UH? Kicking a man when he’s down? You bitch. Poor Watanuki is left aghast, overwhelmed by the different emotions twirling within him. AUGH, crush my heart, why don’t ya! And yet, I thank ye Dramagods, for casting Sometani.
When he gathers enough strength to stand up, he goes to Yuuko who tells him that she knew he’d come again. “Because now, there’s fate between us.” Watanuki is confused, so the twins explain that no matter how small an even can be, it can affect a relationship. And once it’s made, it won’t disappear.
Giving back the ring, a bitter Watanuki wonders if the lady didn’t have enough “fate” with Yuuko but she counters that like she already told him, she could only change the outside and can’t touch what’s inside. Abruptly, he asks her what exactly she is, growing angrier when she states the obvious (owner of the shop) and once again, the twins come to the rescue. “Our mistress is the Witch of Dimensions. She’s been protecting this store for a long, long time.”
Watanuki is unimpressed by her title, but Yuuko doesn’t care. Coming next to him, she turns the ring into dust by a simple gesture and watches the butterfly born from the fragments. “Do you know the story about the butterfly dream? Your life may be an illusion in my dream. Or it may be the other way around. And this strong wish you have will really come true.”
For the last time, she asks: “What is your wish?” Troubled by her words, and also bothered by Himawari’s reaction, thinking that everything happened because of his ability, he turns and desperately clutches Yuuko’s shoulders: “Please make it so that my eyes don’t see ghosts anymore!” Gently cupping his face in her hand, she confidently answers: “Let’s grant it. Your wish.” At that, Watanuki looks clearly relieved but she adds that he should not forget that there’s something to give in return.
BOOBIES!! Where are thou?
Haha, no, I’m not a fetishist, but for those who know the manga, Yuuko is famous for being busty. But clearly, if I want to enjoy this drama, I have to let go of these quibbles…however big they are. Or not, in Anne’s case.
For instance, there are a lot of change in this first episode. The drama follows the “mini-arcs” pattern set by the manga that allows us to discover the characters and the rules of their world like how the shop works. But many diehard fans will oppose the fact that the live version of the characters are different. You were used to a Watanuki prone to throw hissy fits, being goofy and excited? You were used to a frivolous and naughty Yuuko? Well, I hope you’re broad-minded.
It seems like they’re opting for a darker, more mature feel, compared to the manga. Well, to be fair, the manga itself went down that road in the latter chapters, as the story turned more tragic. And the drama version only has 8 episodes to establish its world, with only 27 minutes to boot, so it may be a smart move to take the drama directly there. Not only will it attract a broader audience, but it also shows that director Toyoshima Keisuke wasn’t afraid to make a choice, which I hope will translate into a deft and assured touch.
Speaking about direction, I have to say that I was impressed. The trailers totally scared the hell out of me, wanting to show too much resulting in a meaningless mishmash, and I was rather apprehensive until I watched the preview. With just 5 minutes, I felt relieved. Now that I’ve seen the whole episode, I can say that I love this director’s artistic sense. He uses interesting shots to enhance the story with its visual appeal (though I fear the bad CG), and the lighting can really be eerily beautiful, so props to the cinematography.
This is a manga adaptation, so of course he was influenced. Who wouldn’t be, when it comes to Clamp’s art? It is extremely stylized and detailed, evolving (though still easily recognizable) with each of their releases. The richness of their universe never cease to amaze me, and I love that the drama adaptation put a lot of care in respecting that (so far). And yet, it manages to make the story its own, with a distinctive atmosphere.
It totally winks at the J-Horror genre, with its weird, creepy sequences and creatures. What the manga took from thousand of years of folklore, ghost stories or supernatural myths, the drama combines with the now famous Japanese horror movie style. Beware the cheap, is all I have to say.
About the acting, it could have been so much worse. Sometani Shouta is fabulous, I would gladly watch him doing nothing for hours. Fortunately, he’s able to do much, much more, and shows how wide his range can be. I can’t wait to see more of what he does of Watanuki. Anne, though not being the powerful BAMF I expected her to be, nailed the oh so wise, enigmatic witch she (also) is. And I think that she and Sometani have quite a good chemistry going on. But seriously, I really don’t dig Miyazaki Karen as Himawari-chan (who is a character I never warmed to in the first place) and I get the chills each time I see the little girl playing Maru. Is it allowed to be so scary at such a young age?
We didn’t get to see much of Doumeki this episode, so here comes the preeeetty. He’s just like a Japanese version of Jo Jung-seok. I hope to see more of him (with Shometani, hehehe *hides fanfics*)
All in all, I think that it’s pretty much natural that with such big expectations, this looks a bit like a letdown. Yes, I shouldn’t kill it with fire (yet) when there’s still 7 episodes to come. But frankly, though I confess I was a bit disappointed at the lack of kitten Watanuki , I prefer this alternative approach because it tries at least to add a new facet. Save for fan service, what would a carbon copy of the manga/anime bring? So, even though this first episode didn’t blow my socks off, I will tune in to see what’s happening next. Yuuko-sama, I believe in youuuuuu ♪