Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Aishiteru Kizuna: the Bond of Love

Update 26 Sept 2017: click here to read my update of Okada Masaki's performance since 2012. 

Have you ever thought why you had to be born in this weird world? Have you ever thought of why you have to experience those horrible things? Have you ever wondered how it would feel to be born in a different family than your current one? If so, then perhaps ‘Aishiteru: Kizuna’ is just the movie for you.

I originally watched ‘Aishiteru: Kizuna’ because of Okada Masaki (duh!). However, when I realised how deep the meaning of the movie is, I have to recommend it to you for its deep lessons and beauty. The fact that Mukai Osamu plays as Masaki’s big brother is a big plus for me, for I love both actors, and seeing them together in a movie like this is such a treat for me!

Fans of Mukai Osamu and Ikuta Toma will understand what I meant, particularly because Osamu and Toma were at the same movie – Hanamizuki  – but they only shared one very short scene together. In fact, in Aishiteru:Kizuna, Masaki and Osamu also only shared one scene. But it’s a long and very important – if not the pinnacle – scene of the movie. Hence, I guarantee that Aishiteru: Kizuna will please the fans of both shining stars.

Little Naoto and Tomoya (Mukai Osamu)

Aishiteru: Kizuna is the sequel of a TV series called ‘Aishiteru: Kaiyo’. I never saw this series, and I don’t think I will (can’t bear it), but this is what I’ve learned: The series talked about a 12th grader student (Tomoya, played by Kakazu Issei) who accidentally murdered his playmate, 5th grader Kiyotaka (played by Sato Shion). Throughout the series, we learn about the ramifications of Tomoya’s actions for himself, his family and the family of the victim. We also eventually learn the reason behind Tomoya repeatedly hitting his friend’s head to the ground (and hence murdered him): the friend was badmouthing Tomoya’s mother. 

Tomoya was eventually released from the jail punishment, and was allowed to live his life. However, the incident had marred his life. It seems that he promised himself that he should be punished one way or another. When his mother delivered another child into the family, Tomoya vowed to protect this little brother of his, unlike the way he treated his dead friend. The little brother is Naoto (the grown up version played by Masaki). Aishiteru: Kizuna tells the story of Morita Naoto, and how he tries to live his life as the little brother of a murderer. 

Click here to watch it online. My heartfelt gratitute to the fan-subbers who worked for this excellent project. Below is the plot summary of Aishiteru Kizuna. Heavy SPOILERS, so be forewarned.




Naoto (Okada Masaki) and his brother's gift

The movie opened with Naoto carrying a bunch of white calla lily flowers going to see his long estranged brother Tomoya. It wasn’t a cordial visit, for Naoto’s countenance was shimmering with anger. However, just when Naoto was about to knock the door of Tomoya’s apartment, his mobile phone rang. Naoto’s pregnant wife Kana (Mizukawa Asami) was having a problem with the baby she was carrying. Naoto hesitated for a second before rushing to the hospital. 

Learning that Kana and the baby were okay, he reiterated that he did not want the baby to be born. No child should live the life Naoto had been living until now. Kana stubbornly refused to give up their baby. The story then flashbacked to Naoto’s life before he met Kana.
When they were little, Naoto and his big brother Tomoya were best friends. Particularly after their father died, Tomoya (portrayed by Mukai Osamu as already growing up) always accompanied and supported Naoto. Until one day when Naoto, Tomoya and their mother (Inamori Izumi) decided to move house. Tomoya said he had an errand to do, so he would show up at the new house later in the evening. However, he never showed up. From Mrs Morita, Naoto learned that Tomoya would be living on his own from then on. 

Although angry at Tomoya’s sudden departure, Naoto still loved his brother. That is until one day when he was already in high school and he learned of his brother’s past. That his beloved brother Tomoya was a murderer and his story was available on the net. Angrily, Naoto confronted his mother about it. About why they kept such big a secret from him. About why his mother gave birth to him, knowing that such fate as a murderer’s little brother awaits him. Despite his mother’s plea, saying how grateful she was to have Naoto in their life, Naoto couldn’t forgive his mother and brother. He moved out of the house and lived on his own ever since.

Apparently, society wasn’t treating the brother of a murderer kindly. After high school, Naoto enrolled in an art college. His professor often praised his paintings, although they ‘are too dark’ he said. One of his brighter painting was so beautiful that Kid’s Po Po, a children garment company, offered to buy his painting for their posters. Excited, Naoto relayed the news to his friend (to whom he also told the story of his brother beforehand). Apparently, the innocent Naoto trusted the wrong person. This ‘friend’ told the company of Naoto’s secret murderer brother, resulting in Kid’s Po Po withdrawing their offer for Naoto’s painting. Enraged, Naoto punched his so-called friend’s face. However, the damage was already done. Naoto eventually quit the art college and tried other jobs, including pizza delivery.

One day when he was delivering a pizza, Naoto went into a house asking for direction. There, he saw a sketch of a mother and her baby. He was so moved by the painting that he shed his tears. He was caught crying in front of the painting by the house owners, a feisty girl and her grandfather. The feisty girl was Suma Kana, who became so excited that her painting was so good; it made someone cried. Suma Tetsuto (‘Suma-san’) the grandfather was impressed with Naoto’s depth, such that he would later offer the boy to work on his leather workshop.
Being an arty person, Naoto was apparently an excellent choice for a protégé. He mastered the art of making leather goods in a short time, which gained more approval from the old Suma. Naoto’s first leather wallet was also sold, which led to other purchases as well. Kana was also getting more attached to Naoto. Such was her attachment to Naoto that she did not care about the gossips about Naoto’s past. After some customers complained about Naoto’s presence in the workshop, Naoto eventually revealed his past to Suma and Kana. 

Unexpectedly, the grandfather-granddaughter dismissed Naoto’s request to leave the job.
‘Don’t underestimate us. Do you think my grandpa and I are wimps?’ Kana demanded. Her past was also full of sadness; her mother used to abuse her until Suma rescued her and took her under his wing. Kana knew shadows of the past, and she knew how to overcome them, although sadness still remained.

Suma added, ‘We don’t pretend to entirely understand your suffering. But at least we can stand by your side.’

Naoto, Suma-san and Kana

Hence, Naoto kept his job. He even moved in with Kana and Suma. In them, Naoto found the family he had lost. He found Suma an easy person to share his thoughts with. When later Naoto wondered why he had to be born in this world, Suma said, ‘It is not wrong that you were born. Because of that, Kana was happy. And I was, too. You don’t need an answer. The fact that you are alive is enough.’

Kana and Naoto got closer and closer until one day they kissed and made love (wheeee!!!). Anyone who wants to see Masaki’s lean upper body, better watch this section! Masaki is very tall, and rather skinny too. But somehow in this movie, he looked lean and rather well-built. I am such a pervert for this Kana-Naoto scene, I paused and repeated it several times!

Naoto and Kana (Mizukawa Asami) kissing

Naoto eventually married Kana. He loved her and wanted to make her happy. However, there was one condition that Kana must accept: they cannot have children. Naoto couldn’t let another soul experience such a torture; being born into the family of a murderer. Kana disagreed, of course. For her, despite her difficult childhood, she was still grateful for being alive. Had her mother not brought her into this world, Kana would have not met Naoto and fallen in love with him. However, Kana understood where Naoto came from. She reluctantly agreed not to have a baby.

Naoto delivering his prenuptial condition

Suma granted Naoto the family leather workshop as the wedding gift. Naoto eventually held a one-man exhibition to display his products. The week-or-so exhibition attracted a lot of attention and seemed to secure his career. However, Kana – now Morita Kana – was a bit disturbed because Naoto still did not want to make peace with his mother, who did not come to their wedding but still sent a beautiful flower bouquet for the exhibition. 

Another person also sent flowers to Naoto during the exhibition. This unnamed person left a single stem of white calla lily at the front door every night. Naoto wouldn’t find the identity of this person had he not caught him in action on the last night of the exhibition. Naoto was walking home with Kana when Kana tentatively mentioned that she still wanted a child from Naoto (she actually mentioned it because she had found out that she was pregnant). Unable to have such a sensitive discussion, Naoto went back to the exhibition hall on the pretext of searching for his mobile phone (which was actually inside his pocket all along). There, he saw a person solemnly placing a stem of calla lily in front of the hall door. The person did not see him, but he saw who the person was. It was his long-lost brother Tomoya!

Naoto caught Tomoya in action

Naoto was furious. He couldn’t accept such a gift from a person who: 1) abandoned him during his childhood, and 2) was a murderer on top of that. He followed Tomoya home to locate where he lived. At the earliest opportunity after the exhibition was done, Naoto went to Tomoya’s apartment to return the flowers (and to punch his brother, perhaps). However, Kana’s call stopped him. It also returns us to the beginning of the movie.

The story then moved forward. After studying the ultrasound picture of her baby, Kana realised that she really and truly wanted the baby. Her own personal history of being abandoned by her mother made her wanted a baby of her own. Kana left the hospital and went to see Naoto’s mother, Mrs Morita Satsuki. In a café, the two women who never met before bonded for the first time and shared their stories. 

Naoto's mother - Morita Satsuki - and Kana

Naoto returned to the hospital later to find Kana gone. He found the USG photograph tho, which stirred some longing and hatred inside his heart. He longed for his brother’s company, but he also hated him for what his brother did to his life. Unexpectedly, Naoto also found a growing fondness to the baby. However, his mind was still stubbornly unmoved. He couldn’t have the baby. What would he tell the baby? That his/her uncle was a murderer?!

After learning that Kana was okay, Naoto returned to Tomoya’s apartment to finish his mission. He knocked the door and was face to face for the first time in years with his brother. With anger shimmering inside him, Naoto entered Tomoya’s minimalist one-room apartment. Despite his anger, Naoto noticed that the only prominent feature of Tomoya’s apartment was a shrine containing incense and a photograph of smiling, alive Kiyotaka. Tomoya apparently always prayed faithfully for Kiyotaka’s peace. 

The shrine dedicated to Kiyotaka

Tomoya didn’t seem to be surprised to see Naoto. He didn’t say a lot when Naoto vented up and accusingly asked questions. During their one-sided arguments, Naoto noticed a wallet that looked very much like his first sale. Naoto was shocked to learn that his first buyer was actually his own brother. He attempted to grab the wallet, but Tomoya stopped him. Naoto pushed back Tomoya who hit a cabinet which later collapsed. One item fell into the floor: a photograph of young Naoto and Tomoya.

Then and only then, Naoto realised how much his brother loved him and that he never left his side. ‘You have been watching me! Why did you disappear back then? If you were going to abandon me in the middle, you shouldn’t have treated me nice!’

However, Tomoya never abandoned his brother. This was his explanation: Because of what he had done to Kiyotaka-chan, he had punished himself not to be happy. Tomoya must not die, for he had to live his life for Kiyotaka as well. But because Kiyotaka couldn’t laugh and smile anymore, Tomoya couldn’t be happy either. Not only that, Tomoya didn’t even allow himself to cry (I’m surprised he hadn’t died of cancer or other illness!). However, seeing his little brother Naoto laughing, Tomoya also wanted to laugh. Seeing Naoto having dreams, he found himself also wanting to have dreams. He could not allow that to happen. That was why he left. However, he always kept a watchful eye on Naoto. When he learned that Naoto was to hold a one-man exhibition, Tomoya couldn’t stop himself from showing his support (in the form of the flowers).

Naoto listened in silence. His brother’s story brought him back to a moment in their past when they were playing baseball together. Kiyotaka was killed during a baseball practice between Kiyotaka and Tomoya. Thus, for Tomoya, baseball was a painful reminder of his sins. Nonetheless, when little Naoto asked to play baseball with him, Tomoya couldn’t refuse. He overcame his fears and played with Naoto. After the game, Tomoya advised his little brother to expand his hobby, not just doing baseball. ‘You can do anything if you work hard. You have a future, Naoto,’ said Tomoya, which prompted Naoto to ask whether his brother had dreams of his own. Being asked as such, Tomoya was stunned. 

‘My dream...’ It took him a while before answering, ‘My dream is to be your supporter.’

Naoto remembered the majority of that episode, except for Tomoya’s answer. Until now. Now, as the memory returns and as he watched his brother finally shed the long-kept tears, Naoto cried as well. He now realised how much he meant to his brother. How much his brother loved him and vice versa. 

Tomoya promised Naoto that he would never show himself in front of Naoto’s new family. Naoto didn’t object to that statement. However, he reached for his brother’s hand and said this,

‘Even if we never see each other again, we are family. Nobody can change that.’ Naoto looked at his brother in tears and added, ‘I am not going to run away again, Brother.’

Naoto has forgiven Tomoya. He finally called Tomoya ‘oni-san/brother’ again and told him that he was going to be a father (this is when Naoto decided to keep his and Kana’s baby, I guess). Tomoya burst more tears as he learned he was to be an uncle.

Naoto finally returned to Kana and together they waited for the arrival of their baby. When the baby boy Yuuta was finally born, Naoto held him in his embrace. He thanked Kana for bringing him Yuuta. The way Mrs Morita used to thank him when he was a baby, Naoto thanked Yuuta for coming into this world. He told his newborn son how he always dreamed of the same dream, regardless of whether he was happy or sad. He felt his body swaying back and forth, enveloped in warmth that made him felt safe.

Naoto also eventually made peace with his mother. He invited his mother Morita Satsuki to see Yuuta. On the playground, Naoto apologised to his mother and finally thanked her for bringing him into this world. He then realised one thing: the warm swaying feeling he sometimes felt was the warm feeling he had when he was a child, being swayed here and there by his father, mother and brother. It was the memory of being loved by his family.


I love Aishiteru: Kizuna (would I write a long post if I don’t love it?!). As per many J-doramas I’ve seen, I was impressed with all main and supporting characters. Suma-san (played excellently by Ito Shiro who portrayed Emperor Shirakawa in ‘Taira no Kiyomori’) was a charming grandfather I wish I had. Inamori Izumi as Morita Satsuki left a deep impression in me. Her screen time was short here, much shorter than in the series (which left her emotionally exhausted after four months’ of filming). However, she portrayed the innocent mother of a (regretful and self-punishing) murderer very well. 

Mukai Osamu of course deserved a mention of his own. He first captured my attention when he was paired up with Ayase Haruka in ‘Hotaru no Hikari 2’. However, his role in ‘Paradise Kiss’ was so-so. But here, Osamu blew me up. Tomoya’s pain and guilt was etched clearly on his face in every scene. Osamu’s only scene with Masaki was deep, very deep. I cried many times during this scene.

Masaki of course still captured my heart here. He expressed his anger and frustration, sadness and sorrow beautifully. He and Mizukawa Asami (Kana) paired up beautifully here. In fact, I think she is my favourite pair for Masaki at his current age. There’s something about their chemistry that just fits.  By the way, Asami played as O-Hatsu, the middle sister of O-Gou in Gou, Himetachi no Sengoku, NHK’s 2011 Taiga drama. A totally recommended series! (Mukai played as Tokugawa Hidetada at the same series)

Aishiteru: Kizuna does leave me pondering. I don’t argue that what little Tomoya did was wrong. However, he didn’t do that out of bullying. Instead, he hit Kiyotaka because the latter was badmouthing Tomoya’s mother. I’m not advocating violence here. I’m just saying that I understand why Tomoya was angry. Unfortunately he crossed the line that day and made a little boy lost his life. For that, he was sorry. He was so sorry in fact that he never allowed himself to be happy ever since. 

It must have been a very difficult situation for both families; Tomoya’s and Kiyotaka’s. A common argument between little boys turned into such an accident. And who to say that this situation wasn’t familiar? How many times in our lives as children we argued with our friends, such that it actually developed into dangerous situations? A friend of mine accidentally hurt me when we were playing hide and seek. On another occasion, I hurt another friend of mine with my carelessness. We were lucky that none of us carried the physical wound into our adulthood. However, who to say that I never looked back in time and felt ashamed with myself?

Tomoya playing catch with little Naoto

Kiyotaka’s family had every right to be angry at Tomoya and his family. However, I also don’t have the heart to see how Tomoya continued to bear this cross forever in his life. Not allowing himself to be happy, to have dreams, to live his life. Not forgiving himself, no matter how hard it is. Eternal punishment like that is just too sad to witness, and unfair as well.
I am glad that Naoto and Tomoya were eventually united; also Naoto and his mother. However, I am sad that Tomoya couldn’t leave his past and occasionally visit his brother and the family. I understand that it would be impractical. But it’s just too sad. Might as well just go to Nara, shave his head and become a monk! It would be much better, I guess.

Speaking of monks, I’m not surprised if Naoto was actually Kiyotaka-reincarnated. Eastern traditions (particularly Hinduism and Buddhism) believe that we would generally be born again to interact with the ones we haven’t finished our karma with. It is logical for Kiyotaka to be reborn as Tomoya’s own brother so that Tomoya could take care of him and basically ‘paid off his sins’, if you’d like. I wish Tomoya would see it that way. At least it would alleviate his guilt a bit. And even if Kiyotaka wasn’t reborn as Naoto, I’m sure he wouldn’t approve of Tomoya’s years of punishment. 

Naoto and Baby Yuuta

Coming back to Naoto’s concern that he should have not been born: I understand him. I have my family problem of my own. Just two months ago, the problem reached its pinnacle, such that I wondered why I had to be born in this world into my family. But somehow, through ups and downs, I was shown how beautiful life actually is. Now, I am grateful I am alive. I am grateful I walk this beautiful Earth. Watching Aishiteru: Kizuna reminds me of those difficult days, and how we all can actually move on and live our lives the fullest.

I hope this movie helps you as well, if needed.

1 comment:

Pepper Uy said...

Wow... This is very detailed and I loved your insights... I'll read through uou other posts...