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Being a Dedicated Fangirl, part two

And now... "Suna no Utsuwa": What Really Happened (in the book, which unhelpfully, is different from the TV adaptation in several important respects, but which kind of made some things clearer nonetheless).



The first thing you notice about the book is, there's a higher body-count. Which surprised me, really, as you might have thought that the TV version would go with the high body-count too, as that's always more dramatic. In the book, three people besides the first victim die in the course of the murderer trying to cover up his crime.

So... in the book, which remember takes place in 1961 (when it was written), Eiryo the Concert Pianist is, rather, an avant-garde composer who is doing a lot of experimental electronic music; and he is only one of a group of young avant-garde artists who call themselves the Nouveau group (I presume that even in Japanese, they were using this "borrowed" French word for their group, from the way it's presented). His circle is very famous, they are all very much celebrities, particularly with young people. Others in his circle include a prominent young critic, Sekigawa, and actors, sculptors, an architect, etc.

(Let me just say that it was a *tiny* bit disorienting to start the book, where everybody actually had, like, NAMES, instead of epithets like "Artsy Girl". While watching the series, the only reason I knew the Inspector's name was because I knew the English translation of the book was "Inspector Imanishi Investigates", and the only reason I knew Waga Eiryo's name was because in an early scene it was printed in English on, like, a poster for one of his concerts. Otherwise I was completely hopeless at picking out when people were being addressed by name.)

Now that I know about this Nouveau group, I can look back at some of the scenes in the series and see the remnants or the adaptation of that. My sense is that as a *group* they were not as prominent in the series, although perhaps they would have been had I understood some of the exchanges they were a part of. Like, I can guess which guy was the equivalent of Sekigawa, now, but he didn't stand out at me as much at the time (I think he was Stupid Boyfriend). I also just kind of think that this modern adaptation backed away from the idea of Eiryo being just one of a group like that, because a group of avant-garde free-thinking radical artists who become social celebrities is more of a 50s/60s thing than a 90s or 00s thing. So, just as they changed Eiryo from a cutting-edge modern musician to a very, VERY traditional classical musician, I think they changed that sense of the Nouveau group as well. There are some things that make me think now that Eiryo was instead kind of portrayed as having been *part* of this social group of young artists, but that Eiryo is the one who really "made it big" and outgrew them.

Another factor was -- in the book, it opens with the finding of the body. The reader doesn't know who committed the murder, for sure, until near the end. And, from about halfway, although Eiryo is in the picture, it almost seems like the author is trying to fake you out into thinking that Sekigawa is the murderer -- or at least, the Inspector is leaning in that direction for a while. So, the series, by showing the audience the murder as the first thing, so that we *SEE* that it's Eiryo... it shoves Eiryo to the forefront of the narrative in a way that he wasn't, in the book.

Other differences -- in the book, the Vapid Daughter of the Important Politician (I was right about that one! He's a beloved former cabinet minister) is a little less vapid, and is a sculptor, so she's associated with this radical artistic group. And she and Eiryo are already essentially engaged when the book opens. (This may have been true in the series as well; they certainly do *encounter* one another early on at a big social event, prior to the public announcement of their engagement.) So it is clear from the start in the book that Eiryo is connected to Important Politician's family. (This is a source of some friction with the rest of the Nouveau group, whose radicalness includes their political views -- it is considered weird that Eiryo is on such terms with the Cabinet Minister, who's all, like, the Establishment.)

Also, when the book opens, Eiryo and Artsy Girl (Rieko) have already been lovers for a while. In the series, I am pretty sure that it's quite clear that they've never seen each other before, when they literally bump into each other right after the murder, and they only become lovers later -- possibly with intent for damage-control on his part. Rieko in the book *steals* an overcoat from her avant-garde theatre troupe's costume dept. and gives it to Eiryo to hide his blood-stained clothes after the murder; in the series, he donates the coat later, to "hide" it, and she remembers seeing it, and thereafter hides it for him.

So, in the book, the people who overheard Eiryo and the Constable talking in the restaurant before the murder pass on more information than the overheard "Kameda" -- they also pass on that the victim spoke with a distinctive accent from northern Japan. So early on, the Inspector and the rest of the police spend a lot of time chasing some red-herrings. First they try to identify all the people named Kameda (which *is* a personal name) in that district. When that doesn't pan out, the Inspector does in fact notice that there's a town up there by that name, so they go there. (I was apparently not following this in the series well enough to realize that the initial trips to the sticks were going to northern Japan. Probably to the Japanese audience, both the place-names and the scenery made this as blindingly obvious as it would be to an American audience whether a detective was visiting the California coast as opposed to, say, the Maine coast.)

In the town of Udo Kameda in the Tohoku region near Akita, they discover that, days after the murder, a young man in the clothing of a factory worker, a stranger, was seen hanging around the town, wandering aimlessly. He checked into an inn, then went out at 10pm and came back in at 1am. He left the next morning. Very mysterious! Plus he's about the age of the victim's companion in the restaurant, about whom nothing else in particular was noted.

It becomes clear to the Inspector later that this was all a dead end. He later gets the idea to try to find out if there's anyplace else in Japan that has a regional accent that *resembles* the Tohoku accent -- and he finally discovers that there is! And it's in that region north of Kyoto. Yay! And *then* he discovers that there's a place-name there that's "Kamedake" (and the local accent tends to drop the last syllable of words).

They don't really find out the victim's identity until, basically, his son comes forward. Now, I grant you -- this is something I skipped over in my earlier summary of the series (hey, there was a lot to remember!), and part of the reason I skipped it was that they *seemed* to have determined the victim's identity before this younger guy showed up and identified the body for them as confirmation, and of course I couldn't understand any of the ensuing conversations with the younger guy. Well, the younger guy was the victim's adopted son, who finally gets in touch with the police to say, hey, my dad went on a trip 3 months ago, and we were really only expecting him to be gone a month, and he's never returned, so....? (This lapse in time is somewhat explained by the fact that the trip he took was to the famous Ise Shrine, in the Nagoya/Osaka region, and his decision to go to Tokyo was a last-minute impulse that the family didn't know about, so of course they weren't thinking of reporting it to the Tokyo police.)

Visiting the region in which the Constable (who had long ago retired from the police and opened up a grocery store) lived, including Kamedake, the Inspector finds that everybody, but *everybody*, describes the late Constable as the nicest man anyone ever met. "As saintly as the Buddha", seriously. This is a bit of a blow to the theory that perhaps some incident from back in his police days led to his murder. He was *SO SAINTLY*, in fact, that he even helped this wandering leper guy, once...

Meanwhile...

In the book, it is Rieko (Artsy Girl), not Emiko (Stupid Girl), who throws the cut-up bloodstained shirt out the train window. And then, she commits suicide.

As it happens (never let it be said that the book does not partake liberally of the plot device of sheer coincidence), like in the series, Rieko is sort of a neighbor of the Inspector's. When her body is found in her apartment, the Inspector is intrigued by her suicide, although he has no idea that it really pertains to this other case. But he does know that she worked for that avant-garde theatre troupe. She leaves no note, but her journal alludes to a love over which she was despairing ("we've been lovers for 3 years and nothing is ever going to come of it, I realize, and I've made sacrifices for you, and you don't appreciate it", etc. -- which is so totally true, given that Eiryo is *totally* going to marry the daughter of Important Politician).

Now... in the series, obviously, Artsy Girl doesn't commit suicide, even after her love affair with Eiryo is over Possibly the adapters felt they needed a main female character for the entire series, and possibly they felt that the story would be a stronger film if she just broke up with him and then angsted and helped him anyway before the Inspector's appeals to her conscience or whatever made her talk. So that's one reason right there to give the "getting rid of the cloth scraps" bit to the other girl.

Anyway, the Inspector then finds out about her throwing the bits of cloth out of the train purely by coincidence (and maybe they do in the series as well, as remember, I was never sure about that). A man on the train noticed the pretty girl and her odd behavior. He tells the story to his friend, who happens to be a professor who writes essays for the newspaper. The professor adapts the story for an essay. The story catches the Inspector's eye, and it strikes him as odd enough that he goes to speak to the professor about it, who points him to the actual witness. It's the Inspector who walks along the train tracks looking for what they think are bits of paper, only to find a few scraps of what turns out to be bloodstained cloth. Huh. This immediately puts him in mind of his murder case. Plus, the man's description of the girl strongly reminds him of Rieko. These are fairly loose connections, but they're all puzzle pieces that he's storing inside his head.

Also meanwhile... in the book, Emiko (Stupid Girl) is Sekigawa's secret girlfriend. That's her only connection to the case, really. (Therefore, please note -- it makes a *LOT* more sense in the book that Eiryo would give *his lover* Rieko the cloth scraps to get rid of, than give them to Emiko, whom in the book he doesn't even know. Possibly the series explained this by, I dunno, saying that Emiko *used* to be Eiryo's lover before she became Sekigawa's. Ehn.) Sekigawa is so hinky about anyone finding out about him and Emiko, that after someone in her old apt. building sees his face, he forces Emiko to move immediately to a new place. Oh... the new place just happens to be an apt. building that's owned by the Inspector's sister. Heh.

Then there's Miyata. He is an actor on the fringes of the Nouveau group, who is part of the avant-garde theatre for which Rieko worked. He was sweet on Rieko, who had eyes only for Eiryo. The Inspector remembers seeing a young, artsy-looking guy hanging around outside Rieko's apartment building. He determines that the young artsy guy was Miyata, so he breaks the news of Rieko's death to Miyata. The Inspector is totally fishing, but Miyata is apparently nervous about something. He asks for a day to get his thoughts straight, and then he wants to tell the Inspector something important. They arrange to meet the next day.

The next day, the Inspector waits and waits and Miyata doesn't show up. It turns out he's been found... dead. Of a heart attack, by the side of the road. Hmmm.

The Inspector is naturally rather suspicious of the timing of this, but even further investigation makes it look like death by natural causes -- and there's *some* evidence that the young man had a weak heart. But still, the Inspector doesn't like it. Later, he will figure out that Miyata was the young stranger who was seen acting mysteriously in the far-northern town of Udo Kameda -- and the Inspector realizes that someone else from within the group, possibly through Rieko's influence, sent Miyata there specifically to be a red-herring, after the murder. And it was this, probably, that resulted in his death.

Emiko, meanwhile, reveals to Sekigawa that she is pregnant. Apparently this happened once before, and Sekigawa made her get an abortion. This time, she digs in her heels -- even if he won't marry her, she's keeping the baby. So he appears to give in. But then she goes on to tell him that the funniest thing happened... her landlady at the new apartment building invited her in to tea, and her landlady's nice brother was visiting! And they chatted, and they wound up chatting about the latest critical review that Sekigawa wrote in the paper. Isn't that interesting? Sekigawa becomes alarmed (he is almost pathologically afraid of anyone connecting him with her), and forces her to move out of that apt. building *immediately*.

The next night, in her new place, Emiko dies, of blood loss after a miscarriage. Hmm. The Inspector finds out about this because he of course realizes that she moved out of his sister's building precipitously probably because she found out that her landlady's nice brother is in fact a homicide detective -- so he goes to some trouble to track down where she moved to, even though Sekigawa tried to cover those tracks. The man who called the doctor from her house (who was nowhere to be found when the doctor arrived) said she hurt herself in a fall. The coroner confirms that she appears to have hit her abdomen... or, been hit.

The Inspector, meanwhile, is trying to trace the Constable's itinerary, because it is a mystery why he suddenly changed his plans and came to Tokyo. At the last inn where he stayed, the Inspector discovers that the victim went out to the local movie theatre the night before he was to leave. When he came back, he revealed to the maid in the inn that his plans had changed -- that he wouldn't be leaving on the early train tomorrow for home, but on the later train for Tokyo. The next day, he goes to the movie theatre *again*. The Inspector is struck by this. Clearly, it was something that the victim saw in the movie theatre that made him change his plans suddenly and go to Tokyo. But what was it?

The Inspector goes to some trouble to determine not only what 2 movies were showing at the time, but also what previews and other shorts were shown. He goes through all of those meticulously (this is something that the series glossed right the heck over), trying to spot amongst the faces who might have caught the Constable's attention and made him go to Tokyo, to meet the man who is presumed to have killed him that very night. But none of it really looks very likely to the Inspector. That seems to be a dead-end, as well. He investigates all of the staff of the movie theatre, looking for some connection, but that's a blank too.

Now, here's where it starts to get wacky...

The police hear an odd story about some door-to-door peddlers (who are apparently also sort of gangsters), two of whom tried to go to the home of Waga Eiryo, and both of whom were chased away because within a short time, they "felt weird" -- nauseated and ill and headachy and... weird. But when a policeman goes to inquire about it, he notices nothing odd about the house.

The Inspector is tracing two backgrounds that are giving him trouble. One is that of the very-young son of the leper guy whom the Constable helped so many years ago. After the Constable got the leper into a sanitorium, the young son vanished completely. Of course... given the timing of the book, the war is smack dab in the middle of this time period. An awful lot of people disappeared or were killed, not to mention, records were destroyed. Funnily enough, that is also the case when it comes to investigating Eiryo's background (who is becoming *one* of the suspects, although Sekigawa is too). His background records are brand-new, and they fail to say where either of his parents were from, exactly. The clerk explains to the Inspector that this is not that unusual -- all of their records were lost in an air-raid and the law allowed people to create new copies of the records merely by declaration, and it wasn't unusual for the declarer not to know all of the details (like, a young, traumatized boy of 16 not remembering exactly where his parents were born). Hmm.

The Inspector happens to be reading an article about the Important Former Cabinet Minister, on the occasion of the guy getting a job in the new cabinet as well. The article mentions that the Cabinet Minister is from the Fushiwara prefecture. This rings a bell with the Inspector, who remembers that the owner of the movie theatre (on whom they just did a background check, looking for ties to the victim or to someone in Tokyo) is not only also from Fushiwara, but also shares the family name of the Cabinet Minister. They are slightly acquainted. The Inspector finds out that the movie theatre owner tends to do stuff like... put up pictures of the Cabinet Minister in his theatre (of the "this is me shaking hands with the Cabinet Minister" variety). He further finds out that back at the time when the victim visited the movie theatre twice, the owner was displaying a poster-size blow-up of several such pictures, including a picture of the Cabinet Minister and his family.

(In the film, the first time the Inspector visits the movie theatre, there's a sequence in which I'm assuming he and the owner chat about this, because the owner points at his collection of photos of the Famous Cabinet Minister on the wall; and at the time, the Inspector sort of nods but he doesn't really think much of it. Obviously, though, it stuck in his head, such that when he must overhear the Cabinet Minister later mention that town/district, he has that *ping* moment, and he goes rushing back to take a closer look at those pictures.)

The Inspector gets a copy of this photo, and... yup. There is Eiryo, as a part of the group. *This* must be the thing that caught the Constable's eye in the movie theatre -- not what was playing, but this picture coincidentally displayed in the lobby. How the Constable made the leap to recognizing in an adult man a boy whom he last saw more than 20 years ago at the age of 7... well, let's just accept that he did.

Finally... hold onto your hats... the other deaths? Well... still intrigued by the weirdness of the peddlers at Eiryo's home who fled because they felt suddenly ill, the Inspector overhears some colleagues talking about it and one of them says that he's heard elsewhere about someone trying to patent what is basically "peddler repellent". What is it? A device that emits high-frequency sound-waves that make people feel uncomfortable and ill. Okaaaaay. This *pings* in the Inspector's head, because... Eiryo. Avant-garde musician, remember? Experimenting with weird electronic music. So the Inspector goes to talk to someone who knows more about sound-waves and stuff. Is this "peddler repellent" thing possible? Well, yes. Under or over a certain decibel range, sounds that humans can't hear still affect them physically, making them feel ill.

So... what if a person has a bad heart? Could it kill them? Well... sure.

Well... what if a person was pregnant? Could it induce a miscarriage? Hard to say... but it could make her feel ill enough that she falls down and hurts herself.

But to do these things, somebody would have to have the kind of equipment necessary to produce such sounds. And that equipment isn't common.

... Right.

Conclusions: adult Eiryo is little Hideo, the small boy who was the son of the wandering leper whom the Constable helped. After the war, slightly-older-Hideo used the chaos of all the deaths and lost records to create a new identity for himself, Waga Eiryo. The Constable really wanted nothing more than to see what had become of the little boy who disappeared all those years ago. But Eiryo, now a famous man, engaged to the daughter of a Cabinet Minister, could not afford for people to find out that [a] his father was a *leper*, and [b] he had falsified his identity records to hide fact "a". So he killed the Constable.

Rieko? Committed suicide because her lover Eiryo used her and made her an accessory to his crime, plus of course he was never going to marry her, as he was marrying the daughter of the Cabinet Minister.

Miyata had to go, because he knew about being sent off on that red-herring mission, plus it turned out that he kind of knew about Rieko stealing the coat for Eiryo on the night of the murder, too.

Emiko? Her death was a mistake. Sekigawa took her to Eiryo, hoping to use his weird sound-wave stuff to induce an abortion in her that she didn't want to have.

Obviously, the series did away with a number of the subplots, and radically changed the sense of several others. The subplot with the red-herring mysterious stranger in the northeastern village, I'm *pretty* sure, was completely axed -- and obviously, therefore, so was the murder of the young actor, later. (The red-herring of first thinking that "Kameda" related to the northern town of Udo Kameda *was* kept in, though -- that *is* where they first visit, before they realize it's a complete dead-end, and the Inspector has to stare at maps some more, in order to discover Kamedake in the west. Which even when first watching the series brought up the question -- don't they have, like, gazeteers of place-names in Japan, or something? Couldn't they look up, someplace, all the place-names with "Kameda" as an element of the name? Granted, even in the book it became clear that it was an element in at least two widely-separated places, and perhaps more.)

They kept in Emiko dying from a miscarriage (knowing this now, some of the things I saw make more sense, including her fights with Stupid Boyfriend, and her staggering and collapsing in the street). It seems more like, in the series, her pregnancy and death is coincidental to the rest of the plot, except in that it catches the attention of the police, who interview the boyfriend, and he *IS* kind of connected to Eiryo's social circle (or... former social circle?).

And of course, there's the whole change of it being Emiko who disposes of the scraps of cloth out the train window, not Rieko. Which I guess makes sense, if you aren't going to have Rieko commit suicide (as discussed above), and you need the girl's death to be what catches the police's attention regarding the weird behavior on the train.

Obviously, the series did away with some of the coincidences -- like the entire subplot involving the Inspector's sister. I think that I said before, of the series, that it's clear that some of it is about the Inspector doggedly making connections, and through those figuring out whodunit -- I think that idea is a lot more prominent in the book, which I think kind of *wants* to make the point about even modern Japan being a small world of interconnections, which are what define people (which is why you get things like Rieko having been a neighbor of the Inspector's, and so on).

In the series, a devastating flood replaces the WWII air-raid of the book, for obvious reasons. As I reported, I interpreted little-Eiryo's return and finding the person dead in the mudslide as connected to the flood, and further, interpreted the dead person as the Constable's wife, and the incident as a reason for little-Eiryo (who's, like, 7 at the time) to believe the Constable dead. Maybe that's all true in the series, maybe it's not. Maybe the mudslide is unconnected to the flood, and the flood's only purpose is explaining the destroyed records that older-Eiryo uses to fashion his new identity.

Also, prominently, there is the decision to change the "terrible secret" of Eiryo's past from "his father had leprosy" to "his father killed a bunch of men in a fit of grief/rage and then burned down a village". I'm assuming that the series felt that the latter would make Eiryo's desire to keep that past a secret more comprehensible to the modern audience, or something. (The point of Eiryo having falsified records to give himself a new identity to keep that secret still stands, and presumably, having become engaged to the daughter of a Cabinet Minister, this is still a secret that he needed to protect.) In the book, Eiryo's leper father died a long time ago.

And finally -- let's forget *all* about the wacky "using sound-waves to commit murder in a weird, new, modern way" subplot. If you think about it, such an idea makes sense for a book written in 1961 -- I mean, it's very James Bond-like, isn't it? Matsumoto's hero, the Inspector, is an older man who is really not au fait with all this wacky modern stuff, and Matsumoto clearly wanted to play with the tensions of science-fiction-like advances in technology alongside the impact of radical new ideas in art on culture. Fine, but I think the makers of the series thought, "too weird", and decided to quietly do away with all that.

I think that, overall, the series made the decision to make Eiryo more of a tragic figure, resulting in him being more sympathetic. In the book -- even though at the end, the Inspector says "we must have some sympathy" for him -- he comes across as a much more selfish and cold-blooded killer. Although maybe some of that is a failure on my part to appreciate the degree to which he would be honestly scared of such a past being found out. I can accept that as the motive for his murder of the Constable, either way, and since we *saw* the murder in the series, it was also put across that when he committed the murder, he was very panicked and freaked out (even though bludgeoning an already-unconscious man to death is *kind* of cold-blooded, it didn't *look* cold-blooded). In the series, obviously, his lover Rieko doesn't commit suicide, so that's not laid at his doorstep; he doesn't additionally kill the young actor (who I think had a minor role as someone in Rieko's orbit); and he didn't seem to have been responsible directly for Emiko's miscarriage/death (unless some of her arguments with her Stupid Boyfriend consisted of him raging at her on the subject of her doing a favor for her ex-lover Eiryo; which is possible).

Even the decision to make his father be still alive, though dying, kind of contributes to Eiryo being more sympathetic in the end. The book merely ends with Eiryo's apprehension. The film ends with his being taken for a reunion with his dying father.

Thus, too, you wind up with the situation that Eiryo and Rieko are very clearly the main characters in the series, while the role of the Inspector is prominent, but supporting. (Watanabe won a "Best Supporting Actor" award for it.) In the book, Eiryo is more of a peripheral figure, and the focus is always on the Inspector.

I'd still really, really like to see the series with English subtitles, or see a really good English synopsis that went into detail episode-by-episode. But I think I feel pretty good about knowing what it was I saw.

If you have actually read this far... you deserve a gold star, or something. :)



ETA: if by this point you are hugely curious about this series, go here:

http://www.tbs.co.jp/utsuwa/main.html

Up at the top, there is a scrolling menu -- let it scroll until you see the choice "Gallery". Click on that, and it will allow you to click on each episode number, whereupon it will play for you a little montage of screen-shots from each episode. Not complete by any means, but takes way less time to watch than, say, the series itself.

Odd choices, though -- there is no shot of Adult Eiryo, at *ALL*. There is only a shot of the victim in Gallery 11, from the flashback sequences. Weird. Gallery 03 has a shot that shows Artsy Girl/Rieko talking to a little boy and his mother -- that's the Inspector's wife and son, and the next shot is the Inspector at home with his son. It's freakishly weird to me that the entire Gallery was assembled to show highlights of the story... with not one shot of the main character. I mean, sure, next to Eiryo, Rieko and the Inspector are the most prominent characters, and they are both *amply* represented.

Even odder... next to Gallery there is a choice for "Photo", which features many production stills. Eiryo is severely unrepresented there, either. I wonder if it's something odd to do with the actor who plays Eiryo? Yeah, gotta be -- because when you go to the "Cast" section, next to his name, Masahiro Nakai, there is a photo only of the young-boy-Eiryo, not the adult actor. How utterly odd! So, just for the sake of completeness, here's Adult Eiryo:

http://www.machiuke-jsh.net/image/12/z_famouse_m/nakai_masahiro_05.jpg

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
maxineofarc
Mar. 2nd, 2005 11:22 am (UTC)
Clearly I need to see this.

Never heard of the heartthrob actor, I'm afraid...
eregyrn
Mar. 2nd, 2005 01:10 pm (UTC)
This can be arranged. As can strategic fast-forwarding...

And on the actor: oh well.
telepresence
Mar. 2nd, 2005 11:24 am (UTC)
I am of course deeply mourning the jettisoning of the whole artsy sonic murder weapon plot element.

Son of a leper hunh? I guess I can't quite mentally translate how big a deal that would have been even back in the 60's. But the whole fragile engagement to establishment daughter threatened by scandalous falsified past, that still works, clearly.
eregyrn
Mar. 2nd, 2005 01:12 pm (UTC)
If they had kept the whole sonic-murder-weapon plot, it would sure have been *different*, I'll give it that. It is indeed kind of a pity.

I dunno, about the social difficulties of having been the son of a leper. I mean, you know, people are ignorant. At the very least, would they wonder if *you* were, I don't know, carrying it, like Typhoid Mary? People aren't often rational about disease.

But I think it's much more remote, to the modern audience. So I can understand their getting rid of it. And no matter what the reason/scandal, the whole "falsifying identity to escape past" thing is never good.
nangi_akki
Mar. 2nd, 2005 10:57 pm (UTC)
wow - you're a fast reader.
i think i like the leper more than the axe murderer but the soundwave-O-doom thing was extremely sketchy.
thanks for filling us in.
eregyrn
Mar. 4th, 2005 08:17 am (UTC)
I am grateful for the axe-murderer storyline if only because that came across *extremely* clearly in the flashbacks. It's quite possible that, had it been the leper storyline, I wouldn't really have understood it from the film. (Like, I might have got that the guy was sick, but I'm not sure I would have understood "leper", and how him having been sick led to adult Eiryo having to kill to keep that secret.) Not that I wouldn't have found out from the book, eventually, but still.

Hmm. Even in terms of the film... trying to film "he's a leper" and making it dramatic enough... I think it would have been harder, and they might have decided to go with a more dramatic-*looking* thing that would have more impact on the audience. You could have shown people treating the leper really badly, of course, and you could have had people reacting to him, but mostly, it strikes me, that filming "he's a leper" is kind of low-key and hinges on you being *told* "he's a leper". Whereas, with the axe-murderer thing... once you *see* that and see the village in flames, you immediately understand why this guy became a fugitive, and why adult Eiryo would want to keep it secret.

Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Another thought: as I said, both the book and the film put a lot of emphasis on the interconnections of Japanese society. Now, in the leper storyline, the disease creates a disconnect between the Father and his society -- he becomes an outcast. And in that storyline, the saintliness of the Constable is underscored because, he reaches out to make a connection with the leper. But, if you think about it, the axe-murderer storyline plays with the idea of "betrayal of the normal connections in society". In the first place, it is the village's betrayal of the Father that leads to the death of the mother. And in the second place, the Father's murder of the men and the burning down of the entire village really resonates to the audience, I think, as a massive betrayal of the social norms (though, since it's due to revenge, one that's understandable to the culture, perhaps).

I don't know. It's interesting.
keiko_kirin
Mar. 3rd, 2005 07:55 am (UTC)
*You* need a gold star, for reading so quickly and summarizing so thoroughly! Wow. Verrrry interesting changes they made, but I can see why. Sonic murder weapon! May not have been entirely believable to a current audience.

don't they have, like, gazeteers of place-names in Japan, or something? Couldn't they look up, someplace, all the place-names with "Kameda" as an
element of the name?


Yeah, I've seen geographical dictionaries arranged by names spelled out in syllabic kana. I've been trying to think of a good reason why they didn't look it up or (off-screen) find a list to work from, and... I've got nothing.

There's a 1970s movie version of the book listed in IMDB. I wonder if that one kept the sonic weapon and the leper father.
eregyrn
Mar. 4th, 2005 08:25 am (UTC)
I do read quickly, I guess. :) The thorough summary was, in part, my trying to get a handle on what I read and what I thought and how it compared. I'm really good at the "thinking out loud, at length" thing.

I've been trying to think of a good reason why they didn't look it up or (off-screen) find a list to work from, and... I've got nothing.

Bearing in mind, of course, that maybe they *DID*, and I didn't get that as I couldn't understand what they were saying, or read what they were looking at since it was all in Japanese characters. They looked at a *lot* of different stuff. And maybe what they found was that place-names beginning with "Kame-" are depressingly common, or at least, common enough that they really needed to find some other kind of connection to narrow it down.

It isn't mentioned at *all* in the book, but then, the book is from 1961 and maybe they didn't have the same resources? (Because in the 2004 series, I'm like, dudes, Google it.)

There's a 1970s movie version of the book listed in IMDB. I wonder if that one kept the sonic weapon and the leper father.

Yeah, I noticed that. I'm wondering if it's at all possible to find it. I didn't really come across any good summaries of it when I was looking for info on line. (I know have this feeling that, from here on, anybody who's doing websearches to find more info on "Suna no Utsuwa" is going to find their way to these two LJ posts...) Also, it sounds like a standard film, so one wonders how they trimmed/rushed the plot. Though, as I said, the series could have been trimmed a good bit, but probably not to fewer than 6 or 8 eps. But then, also, the series substantially changes the focus, from the Inspector to Eiryo, so maybe a straight-up adaptation of the book's detective-procedural could be done much shorter.

I'm also kind of curious what the critical reaction to the series was. Not that I will ever be lucky enough to find English translations of critics' articles. It's a very pretty series (as you can see from that website's galleries). But obviously, it takes many, *many* liberties with the book's story. I wonder how that went over with audiences and critics for whom the book is, perhaps, a classic.
keiko_kirin
Mar. 3rd, 2005 10:00 am (UTC)
Mystery of no Eiryo photos explained (sort of)
I found this on a chat site while googling:
"I agree with u, those of us not staying in japan wonders why they are so strict with copy right issues but they seriously are~ the best proof will be the offical websites of the boy's drama-
In Nakai's drama SUNA NO UTSUWA's offical website, his photo was replaced by a grand piano [...]" (examples of other actors omitted)


Makes me even more appreciative of all the lovely Ken Watanabe photos on the official site.
eregyrn
Mar. 3rd, 2005 10:29 am (UTC)
Re: Mystery of no Eiryo photos explained (sort of)
*nods* That's what I had to figure, of course -- that it was some weird issue between Nakai Masahiro and the display of images of him. (Yeah, sometimes the character of Eiryo is represented on the official site by pictures of the young boy, and sometimes it's the grand piano.)

Yet even that, I find an odd concept, and it says interesting things about where copyright rests with Japanese companies. Because normally, wouldn't you think that TBS, the maker of the series, would hold all rights to *all* images from within the series, at least? And that any actor who contracted to work in a film or series would understand that images of him from that series are under the control of the series' maker?

But it kind of seems like that's *not* the case here. Masahiro must retain rights to the use of any images of him.

It *does* make me grateful that apparently KW doesn't have Masahiro's qualms about letting images of him be used all over the place! :)
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