Credits

I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Morita Douji - Boku Tachi No Shippai - Theme to 高校教師/Kou Kou Kyoushi (1993/2003)

Image courtesy of http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/otarunosusi/64385141.html
As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm a huge fan of prolific screenwriter 野島伸司/Nojima Shinji and can't say enough how great and influential a writer he has been for Japanese TV in the 90s. While his initial claim to fame came in the way of writing somewhat conventional love stories and human-life "Trendy Dramas" such as 101回目のプロポーズ/"101 Kai Me No Propose" (1991), ひとつ屋根の下/"Hitotsu Yane No Shita" (1993),  and 愛という名のもとに/"Ai To Iu Nano Moto Ni" (1992), it was his later "darker" and more sublime dramas which really showcased how talented and brilliant a writer he was.  高校教師"Kou Kou Kyoushi" (1993) is one such drama and is in fact considered a cult classic in the annals of Japanese TV Dramas. The story was unconventional to say the least, not only in the scope of its plot but also in the way that it was presented (complements of veteran director Kamoshita Shinichi who also directed the equally quirky drama series "Fuzori No Ringo Tachi"-1983).

The prolific screenwriter, producer and sometime actor Nojima Shinji (2012) - Image courtesy of http://www.officiallyjd.com/archives/126051/20120412_nozawa_04/
The drama revolved around the taboo romantic relationship between the meek and shy academic 羽村隆夫/Hamaura Takao (played very much against type by Japan Action Club/JAC action star 真田広之/Sanada Hiroyuki) and his hopelessly optimistic and cheery 17 year-old homeroom student 二宮繭/Ninomiya Mayu (the incredibly cute 桜井幸子/Sakurai Sachiko). As the series progressed and Takao and Mayu's romance intensified and grew more deeper, the audience soon discovers that Mayu's carefree disposition is but a mask to hide a truely depressing family history and an even darker personal secret -- Mayu's controlling and abusive father, the reknowned sculpter/artisian 二宮耕介/Ninomiya Kosuke (portrayed by the great character actor 峰岸徹/Menegishi Touru) had forced Mayu into an incestuous relationship with him from the age of 14. The revelation of this affair was too much to bear for Mayu's sickly mother and she eventually died from the stress brought on by it, all the while hating and resenting Mayu.

Forbidden Love - High School Teacher Takao (Sanada Hiroyuki) and student Mayu (Sakurai Sachiko) - Image courtesy of http://tulip21.blog95.fc2.com/category8-1.html
As with his later dramas like 人間・失格/"Ningen Shikaku" (1994) "Kou Kou Kyoushi" is filled with a wildly ecclectic cast of interesting characters who all seem to be emotionally damaged in some way -- 

Mayu's best friend, the spunky and high spirited 相沢直子/Aizawa Naoko (持田真樹/Mochida Maki) is in love with popular and handsome English teacher 藤村知樹/Fujimura Tomoki (the always flamboyant 京本政樹/Kyomoto Masaki). Yet, when Naoko naively accepts Fujimura's invitation to meet with him privately in his classroom after school, Naoko soon discovers that Fujimura is not the kindly and caring teacher he appears to be. Fujimura savagely rapes Naoko and tapes the incident so that he can use it as collateral for future sexual favors (Fujimura is still emotionally scarred by the past breakup with his true love and has since been looking for someone who could replace her. After assaulting a number of other girls at the school in his search, he finally believes he has found his soulmate in Naoko and even makes her become pregnant with his child). 

The lanky and emotionally distant Girls' Basketball Captain, 佐伯麻美/Saeki Masami (中村栄美子/Nakamura Emiko) longs for Mayu and attempts to win her affections even trying to steal a kiss from her in the locker room. When she sees how Mayu pines for Takao, she becomes so insanely jealous that she does everything to try and break up the relationship and punish Takao (she convinces her teammates to torment and bully Takao and when that doesn't work she even freigns that she was raped by Takao when the two were alone). When Mayu refuses to give up on Takao, an enraged Masami tries to throw acid on Takao but instead permanently scars Mayu's arm as she attempts to protect Takao. 

Fatal Attraction - Mayu (Sakurai Sachiko) and Masami (Nakamura Emiko) - Image courtesy of http://tod.tbs.co.jp/item/1320/episode-11527.html
Takao's fiancee, the vane and materialistic 三沢千秋/Misawa Chiaki (渡辺典子/Watanabe Noriko) is secretly cheating on Takao with Takao's University colleague. Even though she and Takao had agreed to an arranged marriage (Chiaki's father, a famed research professor was Takao's mentor) that had guaranteed Takao a research position at the Univerisity after his teaching assignment and a promise to have his paper published, Chiaki's desire for the high life and excitement clashed with Takao's mild mannered personality and desire to lead a quiet life. When Mayu discovers Chiaki's cheating ways and that she has been manipulating Takao's emotions, she confronts Chiaki and has her hospitalized after pushing her down an escalator. When the marriage is called off, Takao is stripped of his research position and even has his paper publication plans cancelled by Chiaki's vengeful father. 

Idealistic athletics coach 新庄徹/Shinjou Tetsu (the always intense actor 赤井英和/Akai Hidekazu) who coaches the school's Kendo and Track Teams, is in a bitter custody battle with his wife and is trying to gain parental custody of his young son Takahiro. Having an explosive temper and prone to violence at times, he is often disgusted with the lax and indifferent attitude of his fellow teachers at Hyuga Joshi Kou Kou. Befriending Takao (who is also originally from the countryside) they form a fast friendship until he learns of Takao's secret relationship with Mayu. Tetsu's self-righteous attitude however gets the best of him when he nearly beats Fujimura to death when he finds out that his favorite student Naoko was raped by Fujimura. The incident ostracizes Tetsu from the student body (who still believe Fujimura to be a kind and sympathetic teacher) and he is forced to quit his position at the school.

Sanada seemed quite the unconventional and odd choice to play Takao but as it quickly became apparent through the course of the series his stunt action experience proved to be very much an asset as he seemed to continually get beaten and violently shoved around alot in the series. Sakurai Sachiko who had impressed audiences in NHK's 1992 morning Family Drama series おんなは度胸/"Onna Wa Dokyo" (1992) is absolutely mesmerizing in "Kou Kou Kyoushi" and she has become a favorite muse of Nojima as she would appear in many of his later dramas including the unforgettable この世の果て/"Kono Yo No Hate" (1993), 人間・失格/"Ningen Shikkaku" (1994) and the anthology series 世紀末の詩"Seikimatsu No Uta" (1998).

The forever beautiful Sakurai Sachiko - Image courtesy of http://ameblo.jp/megomegoco/entry-11071162160.html
It is said that Nojima structured "Kou Kou Kyoshi" almost like a classic Greek Tragedy. With its lurid themes of incest and teacher-student romance as well as "hot button" subplots involving suicide, rape and bullying, "Kou Kou Kyoushi" was heralded as a bold and controversial drama and generated huge viewership ratings at the time of its debut. In subsequent years it has become quite a cult drama series and it's "WTF" shock ending is truly the most memorable in Japanese drama history.

Together Forever - Image courtesy of http://www.minp-matome.jp/pub/6D19A40E-D0D1-42F0-B432-75CF0C8AE543
 
Kou Kou Kyoushi 2003 - Image courtesy of http://person1204.pixnet.net/album/photo/95544965
The success of "Kou Kou Kyoshi" inspired Nojima to write a sequel to the drama set at the same school nearly a decade after the events of the first series. The story revolves around another doomed relationship between a teacher and student this time involving handsome Mathematics instructor 湖賀郁巳/Koga Ikumi (藤木直人/Fujiki Naohito in one of his first major TV roles) and perky 町田雛/Machida Hina (the absolutely stunning 上戸彩/Ueto Aya, another rising star who had impressed audiences with her role as the gender-bending student Tsurumoto Nao in Season 6 of TBS' long running school drama series 3年B組金八先生/"3 Nen B-Gumi Kinpachi Sensei" - 2001). 

Bad Romance - Student Hina (Ueto Aya) and teacher Koga (Fujiki Naohito) - Image courtesy of http://www.tbs.co.jp/tbs-ch/item/d1045/
Koga has been diagnosed with a debilitating brain tumor disorder which was is slowly affecting his motor skills. It has also shortened his lifespan and his personal physicial, 橘百合子/Dr. Tachibana Yuriko (眞野あずさ/Mano Azusa), whom he is currently in a sexual relationship with, has been trying to find a cure for him. Only having months to live, Koga in a desperate attempt to find someone to "share his pain", decides to conduct a cruel "experiement" on Hina, who has grown very much attracted to him (he is a teacher at Hyuga Joshi Kou Kou). When Hina is knocked unconscious during gym class and taken to the hospital, she overhears Dr. Tachibana and Koga discussing his tumor while recouperating. Mistakenly believing that they are talking about her condition, she is shocked and devasted.  Fearful of her impending death, she grows to rely and depend emotionally on Koga as he seems to understand what she is going through. Rather than tell her the truth, Koga lies to Hina and confirms that she is dying (even having Dr. Tachibana corroborate the lie). With a shared need for companionship and sense of urgency at living life to the fullest despite having only a limited life to live, Koga and Hina enter into a taboo romance.  Yet when Hina's jealous classmate, the malicious 江沢真美/Ezawa Mami (the amazingly talented 蒼井優/Aoi Yu in one of her early TV appearances and one of the few instances in which she portrayed a villain) who is also in love with Koga, discovers Koga's lie, she uses it to blackmail Koga. Ultimately Koga is forced to reveal the truth to Hina which devastates her so much she ends her romance with Koga. As Koga's condition worsens to the point where he can no longer teach, he soon decides to live with Dr. Tachibana in her remote cabin in the country. Hina has a change of heart and tracks down Koga and Dr. Tachibana so that she can take back Koga so she can care for him. Yet their reunion is shortlived as Koga's condition turns for the worse. Koga agrees to a radical last ditch operation to have his tumor removed, knowing that the success rate for this operation is slim.

Weird Science - Koga attempts to find a mathematical theorem to calculate how much time it would theoretically take for Hina's dead ashes to traverse space in order to find Koga's dead ashes - http://i.mtime.com/smap/photo/1073846/
As with the first series, "Kou Kou Kyoushi 2003" is very much a dark and somber drama filled with heartache and tragedy. While "Kou Kou Kyoushi 2003" doesn't have the "kick-to-the-gut" shock ending that the first one had, it does end on a similarly sad note.

When villains clash - L-R - The unapologetically evil Kamiya (Narimiya Hiroki) is confronted by a repentant Fujimura (Kyomoto Masaki) who is seeking redemption from his past crimes - Image courtesy of http://qing.blog.sina.com.cn/tj/72340ff1330043gn.html

Hina (Ueto Aya) and Beniko (singer Sonim) - Image courtesy of http://asiaticamente.blogspot.com/2011/12/kou-kou-kyoushi-2003.html
 
Aoi Yu portrays the manipulative and vengeful bitch Mami - Image courtesy of http://www.kcat.zaq.ne.jp/fomula1/aoi/aoi_memo.html
 Keeping with the original series, "Kou Kou Kyoushi 2003" has no shortage of supporting characters with equally troubled and tragic lives  --  Hina's best friend, the rebellious 工藤紅子/Kudo Beniko (potrayed by Japanese-Korean singer/actress ソニン/Sonim - not to be confused with pop/R&B singer Sonomi) is desperate for friendship having been bullied previously in Intermediate School due to her father's business as a mortician. She is befriended and seduced by the cruel and manipulating former Medical Student turned Club Gigolo/Male Host, 上谷悠次/Kamiya Yuji (playing against type and with chilling effectiveness by popular actor 成宮寛貴/Narimiya Hiroki) who eventually tricks her into giving him all her father's money and even forcing her to sell her body inorder to fuel his desires to be the No. 1 Male Host at his Club "L". She finds a surprising and unlikely savior in Fujimura Tomoki (Kyomoto Masaki returning to his role 10 years later) who has since become the Head Teacher at Hyuga Joshi Kou Kou. Repentent and haunted by the crimes of his past, he sees Beniko's situation as an opportunity to vindicate himself. He tries to save Beniko from Yuji's influence (going so far as to buy blocks of Beniko's time at the Club so that she won't have to prostitute herself). In one of many memorable sequences in this sequel, Fujimura sacrifices himself to save Beniko by allowing Yuji (who has become unhinged and unstable) to kill him. It is to Kyomoto's credit that he was able to turn a character as despised and corrupt a villain as Fujimoto into a stoic heroic savior whom audiences genuinely mourned for in the end. 

Hina (Ueto Aya) risks hypothermia to show how much she loves Koga (Fujiki Naohito) - Image courtesy of http://www.videopass.jp
 Fujiki's performance as the anayltical and sometimes obsessive Koga is quite intense and a stark departure from some of the more heroic and jovial roles he has portrayed earlier in his career like in "GTO" (1998) and would go on to play in later series like "1 Liter No Namida" (2005) and the recent "Last Cinderella" (2013). He brings just the right amount of angst and tortured pain to his portrayal of Koga and he really makes him into a tragic and flawed hero. Ueto Aya is one of my all-time favorite actresses and it was nice to see her play a more sensitive and vulnerable role compared to some of the tough-girl roles she is known in movies like "Azumi" (2003) or later series like "Ace Wo Nerae" (2004), "Attack No. 1" (2005) and "Zettai Reido" (2010).

The lovely Ueto Aya - Image courtesy of http://matome.naver.jp/odai/2133232533568760701/2133232568968781103

Image courtesy of http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/baasan91/5076779.html

Image courtesy of http://kankazamafan.blog.fc2.com/blog-date-201111.html

森田童子/Morita Douji's melancholy and somber 1976 torch song  ぼくたちの失敗/"Bokutachi No Shippai" was resurrected from obscurity and used as the theme song for both versions of series. With its doleful and bittersweet lyrics and Morita's haunting singing style, the song seemed tailor made for this series and effectively captured the sorrowful tone of both series. Although some of the references in the song may be lost on younger listeners (such as the reference to Jazz Musician Charlie Parker), the song still seemed to resonate well among audiences especially in regards to expressing the spowerful emotions of heartbreak and sadness of lost love. 


Morita was a unique folk singer and somewhat of an enigma in the Japanese Music scene. She went to great lengths to maintain an aura of mystery - performing in disguise most of the time in a curly-haired wig and sunglasses to obscure her face. It was said that she found inspiration for most of her songs from personal tragedy particularly the death of a close friend when she was just 20 years old. She released her first album "Good Bye" (1975) and soon followed up with three additional albums in the years to follow including "Mother Sky" (1976), "A Boy" (1977) and the live performance album "Live in St. Mary's Cathedral - Tokyo". After a short hiatus she returned in the early 80s with two albums the "The Last Waltz" (1980) and "Nocturne" (1982). "Wolf Boy" (1983) marked her last release before she announced her retirement from music. 

Reclusive folk singer Morita Douji - Image courtesy of http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/morita-doji




When "Bokutachi No Shippai" was selected as the theme song for the series, it sparked renewed interest in Morita's songs and albums. "Bokutachi No Shippai" peaked again, even ranking in the Oricon charts for the first time almost 17 years after it was first released. It would again rank in the Oricon charts yet again when the sequel debuted in 2003 although it would only rank at No. 24. To tie in with the first drama series, Warner Music Japan released a compilation of her music in a CD entitled "Bokutachi No Shippai - Morita Douji Best Collection" (1993). The compilation was released again later in 2003 under label Toshiba-EMI.

While not as bleak as Nojima's "Kono Yo No Hate" which would air a year later in 1994, "Kou Kou Kyoushi" and its sequel are perhaps the most depressing dramas I've seen and yet the memorable performances as well as the melodramatic plots make these worth taking a look at. Thankfully both the 1993 and 2003 versions of the series are available in Japanese DVD Box sets which is great as both series definitely deserve attention by those drama fans that don't mind the often depressing tone of both series.

From J-Canuck's room/walk-in closet

3 comments:

  1. Hi, JTM.

    My old club at the University of Toronto, the Japanese-Canadian Students' Association as it was known back then, had a weekly thing called JTV in which dramas were shown on video. "Koko Kyoshi" was one of the big hits....brought in a lot of folks including the working-holiday visa students. I inserted in a poster that's still up in my room which one of the organizers was somehow able to obtain.

    That song by Morita is truly a terrifying one to hear. It sounds almost as if a ghost were singing it, and that cover with the disguised Morita on it was quite creepy. It matched the tone of the drama perfectly.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Could you help me understand the 93s ending?

    Spoiler alert...




    They'll live their lives on the run? So things end up badly for them? Sanada and his character were so amazing making me love him even more

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello there.

      I never watched the entire 1993 show but I remember the final scene on the train with the two of them. There have been a number of theories about it over the years with the most common being that Takao and Mayu were already dead. Other theories involved them dying with the train scene being a dream sequence in either Takao's or Mayu's mind.

      Screenwriter Nojima didn't clarify things when asked about the final scene. He merely replied that it is up to the viewer to interpret it although he also admitted that it was a "happy ending" for the two.

      Delete

Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.