Yuri Live-Action: Last Friends

June 18th, 2008

A great deal of anime and manga fanfiction is written with what we call around my house “Hand of God” writing – i.e., writing that uses a great big emotional trauma as a plot driver. Like taking an established couple from a series and killing one of them off in order to force the other to react. Its a very common tactic in fanfic, especially when people are first trying their hand at writing. A trauma that makes a character react or characters getting drunk to provide a lead-in to sexual encounters are “Hand of God” writing.

For original fiction, there’s no real difference. Soap operas thrive on ridiculous, overstated situations and melodrama to drive their plots. I’m immediately reminded of my youth, when *everyone* was watching Luke and Laura try to find to one-armed boy before the mysterious Australian Robert Scorpio did, on General Hospital. (And let me remind you all that Luke raped Laura earlier in their relationship, but then they became a couple, and after years, finally married with an amazing amount of fanfare and buzz.)

The live-action J-drama, Last Friends, is about 6 people whose lives intertwine deeply. Eri owns a house, which becomes a refuge for friends who find themselves in need of a support network. The friends’ lives are very complex and dramatic and frankly of no interest to me at all, except for the fact that two of them are named Ruka and Michiru and seem *awfully* similar to Haruka and Michiru from Sailor Moon…in a very “Hand of God” fanfic way. ^_^

**There will be spoilers in this post**

Do not read further if you do not want to be spoiled – perhaps emotionally damaged.

That is all.

** **

In this version, Ruka, still a motocross racer and still massively in love with Michiru since high school, is having serious issues about her gender. She simply feels wrong in this body – unable to compete equally in her chosen sport and unable to protect Michiru properly.

And boy does Michiru need protecting. Brought up in an abusive household, Michiru has entered into an extremely abusive relationship with Sousuke. Her inability to see and comprehend Ruka’s feelings for her and Ruka’s fear of verbalizing them sits like a wall between them. Everyone around them is, whether they know it or not, dancing to the tune of this non-relationship.

Adding to the complexity of the polygon is Takeru who is really gay, although he doesn’t know it (this is not in the story so much as in my watching of the story, because he is REALLY very gay) and who has fallen for boyish Ruka. (Well, duh.)

And then there’s Eri who owns the absolutely adorable house they all live in, whose own problems constantly take a back seat to the major drama, and the other guy, but no one cares about him at all.

The best thing about the series is Ruka’s actress. She does a fabulous job of being all but blatantly in love with Michiru in a way that only the deaf, dumb, blind and straight can’t see. ^_^

Now here’s the thing. This story is 99% sure to not have the happy ending that we want. (Really 100%, but I’m being kind and offering is a glimmer of hope.) In the first five minutes of the show, we saw a pregnant Michiru talking about how if things had gone differently, “that person” wouldn’t have had to die. Realistically, what we should expect is Ruka dead by Sousuke’s hands, Sousuke in jail and Takeru and Michiru together to raise her and Sousuke’s baby whom they will name Ruka.

Alternately, Sousuke, who I am far more inclined to call “that person” than Ruka, will die and Ruka will leave to get her surgery and build a new life. Takeru and Michiru together to raise her and Sousuke’s baby whom they will name Ruka.

Of course there’s the infinitesimal chance that Ruka and Michiru will get together at the end, but what’s the likelihood? .0001%?

Because this series is highly unlikely to end in a way I find satisfying, I’ve taken up the hobby of constructing possible alternate endings to the series for fun. The individual episodes are so miserable, that if I don’t do something else with my brain, I get all stabby. I invite you all to join in the in the comments. ^_^ Here’s a few of the alternatives I’ve come up with:

Ruka has her surgery and comes back as a boy, stabs Sousuke in self defense and marries Michiru. Takeru realizes that he is (duh!) gay and lives with them as a housemaid.

Michiru and Ruka realize that they are in love and run away “to America.”

Takeru kills Sousuke and goes to jail. Eri loses the other guy, changes her name to Setsuna and the three of them raise the child together. (This one makes me laugh everytime I think of it.)

Sousuke kills Takeru, we all feel bad for a microsecond, and Ruka, Michiru and Eri raise the baby together.

Sousuke dies and we all have a “ding dong the witch is dead” party at Eri’s adorable house and live happily every after.

Anyway, that’s a small selection of the endings that this series will not have. Feel free to add your own, because that’s about all the satisfaction we’ll get out of this particular fanfic. However, if you are one of those folks who likes WEtv, and enjoys the institutionalized sexism and violence against women of josei manga, this show is right up your alley.

Ratings:

Story – 4 (As we all know, I really loathe violence against women as entertainment for women)
Characters – 6 I’d like to like them more, but this is a J-drama….
Yuri – 4
Loser FanGirl – 8

Overall – 5

If I thought for a second that the ending would be Yuri-friendly, I *might* be able to tolerate the rest of the garbage heap, but I doubt it, really. ^_^

Update: It ended and it wasn’t as bad as expected. Ambiguously happy, which is about as good as we can expect from a J-Drama. “That person” did indeed turn out to be Sousuke. Yay.

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14 Responses

  1. bystrouska says:

    Aww, poor Takeru (who, indeed, is really, really, REALLY gay ;) ), you’re being hard on him, I’m sure he needs a hug now (that is, if he hasn’t been perforated through and through by Sousuke’s Great Beam Of Death™ – did you notice how intense Sousuke’s eyes are whenever he stares at his potential rivals? such impressive acting! lol)

    I picked this show up because it was mentioned both here and on the YML… but, yeah, it’s pretty frustrating by Yuri-loving standards (and other standards as well, too, actually). The only thing that keeps me watching is Ueda Junko, who plays Ruka (I always have a hard time realizing this is the girl who played the live action Nodame!), and also the stupid need to know why, exactly, Michiru ends up being alone.
    It looks like Ruka might be able to survive the show, though, considering what Sousuke did at the very end of ep 10. (Thank goodness! He finally did something not entirely wrong, after commiting every single horrible thing the writers could think of. Including insulting the viewer with his non-existant acting.)

    Regarding alternate endings… I kind of like all of your offerings, with a very special liking for the thrid one (where Eri changes her name to Setsuna XD). It had me LOL to no end. :)

    However, do you mind if I “remix” ending n.2? Here:
    Michiru and Ruka realize that they are in love and run away to California to get married.
    Because let’s not forget that a Japanese woman’s true goal in life is to get married. ;)

  2. Sousuke tries to kill Ruka, but Takeru gets in the way trying to protect her. He dies, not before giving a monologue about his feelings which is cut short just before he actually says the words ‘I love you’ to the concerned party. Sousuke is slammed into jail and Ruka (unable to live with the fact that Takeru is dead because of her) leaves for a journey of much self-reflection to get rid of the angst. Michiru is left to be a single mother who is probably waiting for Sousuke to come out of prison. Eri helps her out since that seems to be her main purpose throughout the series. Exeunt.

    (Eh, I’ve never seen this series. But this is what I gleaned from reading articles about it. But all soap operas look alike.)

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m guessing you haven’t seen episode 10.

  4. yeah, I just got a chance to watch it now. And honestly, most abusers are much too self-absorbed to do that – usually if they do, they make sure they take everyone with them first.

    But still, the wall metaphor remains intact. Until next episode when we start wrapping it all up.

  5. Fuyumi says:

    Ok, let’s see…

    Ruka gets the girl, a.k.a. Michiru, and Michiru gives birth to a girl that they name ‘Taruho’. Takeru goes “duh, I’m gay” and Sousuke nabs him to try to make Michiru jealous and come back to him. Sousuke hits Takeru, too, but then he trips down the stairs and dies. Eri tells her guy to get stuffed, and then she and Takeru turn the house into a harem love-temple full of guys, but Michiru and Ruka still live with them with their baby and everyone is happy. And then Sousuke’s body gets grave-robbed and cut up for medical purposes.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Godzilla appears and destroys the share house with all of them in it.

    I lost what little respect I had for that show when they tried to make us feel sad for Sousuke at the end of ep 10.

    And what kind of whimsical fight was that between Ruka and Sousuke?

  7. Rinu says:

    I’d vote for this:
    Sousuke’d kidnap his own baby from Michiru -> After years Michiru & Ruka would suddenly show up and take it from him because he isn’t capable of raising the child.
    …After all, you said it’s a fanfiction, so little more storyline correspondence would be okay. But the idea of child’s mental state after that is scary.

  8. BLonDDyKe says:

    wait!!! its tht [matsuura aya]?!!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Just wanna say…

    Ruka is awesome…

  10. Zeni says:

    There seems to be a lot of very mixed and confused pessimistic comments about this show I must say. It ended VERY well, to the point where if it had to have the best ending that it could have, then that would be it. The child not only has 2 loving parents but 3! Ruka in a away gets her girl( lets keep in mind now that she still is actually straigt) ad Ruka doesn’t get the OP, according to the special. I don’t feel sorry for what had happened to sousuke, but I can somehow bring myself to forgive him. There are a lot of things that can be learnt and taken from this drama in terms of how human emotions and behaviour can deeply run. It isn’t all just black and white. A big jump from the usual stereotypical outcome you suggested, times are changing. Don’t approach things with such a close mind. Life isn’t without it’s surprises. I suggest Mendol, for your next must see Yuri Jdrama. You’re probably too sure of yourself to watch till the end. Either way thanks for the heads up.

  11. @Zeni – I did watch the end and yes, I was completely wrong, which was perfectly fine. :-)

  12. ***SPOILERS

    I am surprised at how many people think Takeru is gay simply because he is suffering from PTSD caused by his (possibly sexually) abusive older sister. Seeing as how Ruka is not a woan but also does not identify as a man, then perhaps this series has some non-binary genderqueering mixed in. Certain genderqueer epistemologies leave the gay/bi/straight binary altogether. I’ll over myself as an example. As I am not male, female, intersex, man, or woman, then the identities of gay, bisexual, and straight do not apply to my sexual orientation. I see bodies as all being different, not as “same” and “opposite.” So, for me, I have not concluded that Takeru is gay, nor that he is necessarily straight or bisexual. Aside from several non-normative sexual orientations his character could have claimed, asexual is also an option.

    ending that note, damn, where is all of the last friends fanfiction hiding??

    PS I liked the setsuna comment lol!

  13. Kyouku says:

    Actually Sousuke was supposed to die. But the producers saw that a lot of people were talking about the physical abuse in the show and decided since it’s gaining a lot of attention they might as well keep it going. The actresses didn’t like it but the producers went along with it anyway.

    I don’t support transgenders because i see it as the same as environmental abuse. Things like “my body doesn’t cooperate” and “my body betrayed me” is the same as abusing the environment and then when we face the consequences we say the environment doesn’t cooperate. I think people are transgenders because of the way we see how men and women should be. If a man acts like a “pussy” then people say he isn’t a man. So if a man WANTS to act like a pussy then that means he is in the wrong body. But how we say a man and a woman should act is made up. Of course tv shows can make it real in their world. And our mind can make things real to us.

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