Original Title: ラスト·フレンズ
Japanese drama series Last Friends means a lot of things to me. It was my first Japanese (or Asian) drama, and it introduced me to the world of Asian stuff in a way that, now, I can’t get out of.
I heard about it through online forums, and it peaked my curiosity because they were talking about such “taboo” issues like homosexuality, domestic violence, and gender identity — which, let’s be honest, isn’t a popular topic on mainstream American shows either. It was also surprising that the show starred such known idols.
Last Friends starts with Michiru (Masami Nagasawa), knocked up and alone, writing a letter addressed to Ruka (Juri Ueno), whom we don’t know is a woman until we see a picture of Michiru and Ruka back in school.
Years have passed, both girls are young women now. Ruka is a chilled motocross biker living in a share-house next to her friend, flight attendant Eri (Asami Mizukawa) — who has her own issues — and later on with Takeru (Eita) — who has his own issues as well. Michiru is a beautician who has just moved in with her boyfriend Sousuke (Ryo Nishikido).
However, Michiru’s blossoming mature relationship turns for the worse when Sousuke shows his true colors. It is in such trouble these days that Ruka finds Michiru once again, and reestablishes her friendship with the girl she’s been pining for since high school.
You can watch the intro of the show, which is pretty awesome, set to Utada Hikaru’s Prisoner of Love.
There are a LOT of good things about Last Friends, one of them being the ease that Juri Ueno slipped into the role of Ruka. She plays her as cool, strong and practical, yet shows such vulnerability when the character requires it — especially in a scene that involves her and Eita with a confession in the park, it’s both really moving and heartbreaking.
Since Ueno, Mizukawa and Eita had previously worked together extensively in the Nodame Cantabile series, their chemistry in a show about “friends” is quite impeccable, creating a sense of “home” that other shows have tried to duplicate but couldn’t. [*cough Sunare cough*].
Though, the story about the domestic violence abuse is shocking and brings a required tension for the show, the production dragged the story for far too long and the development of other characters suffered. Michiru’s decision to stay, though understandable in the context of her character, became tiring by the middle of the show, considering there were no signs of a true redeeming characteristic in Sousuke.
Despite Last Friends having friendship as a hook, it is Juri Ueno’s portrayal of Ruka that makes the show memorable, and has probably made a number of Japanese girls — and Japanese drama lovers — question their sexuality. In only the first episode, she’s cheeky, caring, and tries to protect everyone. It is only with that one “I’ll call you later” that she knows where Michiru is, hurrying in the rain carrying an umbrella for her — terribly romantic Asian hero of her.
In the show, Ruka gets her “liberation” of sorts… if only we would’ve gotten Sousuke out of the way sooner.
Part of the 2011 LGBT Blogathon