I write because writing is evidence that I am still alive!

 I cannot accept what has happened to me or why the disease has chosen me. Even for the simple word called fate

Aya Kitō

Title
1 Liter no Namida (2005)
Also known as
  1 Liter of Tears    or    A Diary With Tears    or   Diary Of Tears
Genre
Drama, Romance, Tragedy
Written by
 Michiru Egashira (screenplay) Aya Kitô  (diary)
Directed by
Country of Origin
 Japan
Episodes
12 + special

oh! … background

Ichi Rittoru no Namida is the dramatic true-life story (diary) written by Aya Kitō (July 19, 1962 – May 23, 1988) which was published shortly before her death. It is about a girl coping with her teenage life along with a degenerative disease.

Initially, the diary’s purpose was for Aya to capture how her disease affected her daily life. As the disease progressed, however, the diary became Aya’s outlet for describing the intense personal struggles she underwent in coping with, adapting to, and ultimately trying to survive her disease.

 

 

oh! … brief

A young teenaged girl, Ikeuchi Aya, is about to enter high school when she starts to experience strange behaviours – constant falling, walking strangely, being unbalanced. Her mother takes her to the doctor and Aya is diagnosed with spinocerebellar degeneration, a rare disease affecting the cerebellum of the brain. The cerebellum gradually deteriorates to the point where the person cannot walk, speak, write, or eat.

The drama follows the trials and tribulations of Aya’s short life.

oh! … talks drama

This jdrama is a tearjerker! Based on the true reality of very young teenage girl, you will find yourself heart sore the minute her disease is diagnosed and the way her mother struggles with the decision to withhold that diagnosis from not only her daughter but also her husband. As a mother I get it, I completely understand, but it angered me so much that so much time was wasted initially following the diagnosis.

I think Michiru Egashira, the script writer, did a phenomenal job of interpreting Aya’s diary-slash-journal and developing the scenes and story of her life. My attention was captured almost immediately and held to the very last scenes. I really liked how the characters all developed in their own way along the journey with Aya. For example, the happy-go-lucky father with his jovial attitude managed to maintain his humour in the very tragic circumstances and while he ‘matured’, he still never truly lost his own personal identity in the midst of the multiple crises. Also, Ako Ikeuchi who is Aya’s younger sister begins as a rather selfish, self-centered and spiteful individual and by the end of the production has made radical changes, becoming a softer, kinder, more thoughtful person having been inspired by her sister’s illness to do more for her family and her community. It’s very inspirational in the midst of the sadness to see this type of character development play out so strongly. I don’t know if it’s the truth of the situation, but I’m guessing if it isn’t, then the writer came pretty close with his own take.

I think the most important core aspect that I ‘got’ from watching this series is the fact that we, our species – humans, take so much for granted in life. We don’t notice the real effort of everyday tasks like walking, running, talking, speaking, or eating because they are habitual and second nature to us. We also worry and chase after things that will make us better or happier or even busier, forgetting to appreciate the simplicity of life in our pursuit of fulfilment. It’s not that the pursuit of happiness is wrong in any way it’s our preoccupation with that pursuit that limits our enjoyment of simple everyday life.

Michiru Egashira’s script captured I think, the very essence of Aya Kitō and the tale he narrated is embodied with her spirit. Consequently, the production of far more powerful, emotional and intense – a power and intensity which is carried far beyond the lines the actors and actresses deliver, more powerful than the visual imagery captured in the camera work.

The same power and intensity of Aya’s story are mirrored in the romantic relationship that develops between Aya and Haruto Asō. In the real-life story, there was no Haruto Asō, the addition of the love story was added at Ayas’s mothers request because her daughter never had the opportunity to experience love. I find that particularly touching that the writer followed through with a beautiful and natural relationship.

The ‘relationship’ starts with camaraderie which becomes a friendship and eventually blossoms into love. There is no other word to describe how things played out between the two than to say it was immersive – a young man takes on the personal aspects of supporting and coping with the terminal illness of a girl he has only just realized he loves and how he tries his hardest to love her make her time better and at the same time bearing witness to how his relationship changes the hurt in his own heart and spirit and how she inspires and brings about healing to his life and the relationship with his father. It’s very deep and insightful! And I believe Michiru Egashira perfectly accomplished a balance between factual representation and fictional aspects without demeaning the truth of Aya’s life.

And under the auspice of Shôsuke Murakami’s directing, the script was brought to life with almost every episode a treasure and testimony to Aya’s short-lived life. This drama is a small reminder to anyone who watches it that life can deal deadly blows, but, the human spirit can rise above and learn important things about themselves and about our society as a whole. In each episode, there are important lessons we can learn, from the simple things like how we look at people, physically look at them and then outwardly show our response etc. I love how the camera’s captured facial expressions of everyone involved from Aya through her family members, classmates and healthcare providers to complete strangers on the streets. To me, that was very important. Knowing her story and then seeing the reactions people not in the know had. We’re (members of society) very judgmental and critical of other people, from the way that they look to how they behave, often times without context or understanding of each individual situation. This way the camera captured this aspect was moving for me.

The story was beautifully captured while remaining as simplistic and organic as possible. This was also reflected in wardrobe choices, props, accessories etc. Murukami’s expertise is obvious with the added humour and the sweetness of the romance – well-balanced and reflecting small moments of happiness among the true tragedy, which is hopefully how Aya’s parents saw their time with her, as she descended further into her illness.

I was very impressed with the cast for this production. It’s a difficult story to tell, filled with heightened emotions, but, they all dealt with their roles exceptionally well.

Erika Sawajiri took on the complex role of Aya Ikeuchi and was astounding in her interpretation and portrayal. She became Aya! I watched her performance and could see, feel and hear the real Aya through her. I was very impressed with her ability to exhibit and depict the movements of someone with spinocerebellar degeneration, she did her homework! Her performance of her character was raw, filled with emotions and intensity that spilt over and affected the audience. Can’t get any better than that!

Haruto Asō was played by talented Ryō Nishikido and he delivered an amazing performance. I loved his dirty-angry attitude and look in the beginning and how that changes to a kindness and tenderness visible in the eyes and a softening of the features – great facial expressions and awesome visual delivery of character development. A talented young man with a great future ahead of him!

I think my favourite character of the production was Dr Hiroshi Mizuno played by Naohito Fujiki. I can’t quite place why but it’s likely more sentiments felt from his performance than the actual performance. He gave a strong portrayal of a doctor caught between a rock and a hard place with a young patient who ultimately is going to die but treatment between diagnosis and death is of utmost importance, so removing emotion and getting on with dealing with the situation comes across almost as cold-hearted, but, it’s far more accurate than we want to believe. Can you imagine if every doctor became personally involved with every patient that crossed their path how hard that would be to live with long-term? I liked that the writer paid attention to these aspects and kept him as authentic to his profession as possible. I also like that they showed a character that could be inspired to further himself in research and career given interaction with a patient that upsets the balance on the scales of what becomes personal versus only always reacting professionally. Nice touch! Naohito Fujiki did such a fine job and I was very impressed.

Award winning Hiroko Yakushimaru played the difficult role of Aya’s mother, Ikeuchi Shioka. At times this character frustrated me, but, I believe that is because I don’t entirely understand Japanese culture and some of the stigma faced that western cultures don’t even contemplate. I think Hiroko Yakushimaru delivered a stellar performance and I wonder if she had the opportunity to meet and get to know Aya’s family? Either way, the performance was strong and believable and heartbreaking.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the director, writer and actor Takanori Jinnai in this production. I love, love, love this guy! And I loved him in his role as Aya’s father, Ikeuchi Mizuo. I particularly enjoyed watching Takanori Jinnai’s interpretation and portrayal of his character’s love for his daughter. It was tangible and very realistically depicted.

Riko Narumi perfectly and seamlessly delivered the selfish and somewhat brattish Ikeuchi Ako, Aya’s younger sister. I loved how the character Ako rubs up against almost every single family member but seemingly gets away with her bad behaviour with little to no consequences. Of all the supporting characters, this one grows up and matures the most and it’s entertaining to watch her develop beyond her own ego (the character of course and not the actress!). I think Riko Narumi was perfectly suited for this role – she has the most amazing sulk and sullen expression which was a good mirror-image of her sister’s happy smiling face and positive attitude. It worked well and she gave a strong performance.

oh! … sidekicks

Supporting cast members from actors and actresses cast in roles as Aya’s classmates to people she encountered on a daily basis, the performances were all strong and genuine. I don’t want to highlight any one of them in particular, but I do want to praise their performance collectively. The power behind this jdrama is in part the strength of the story, but, also in part due to the amazing acting and the elevated level of performance. I suspect that this is largely due to the fact that when it’s a personal story or based on someone’s life and the type of situation Aya found herself in, people want to give it their very best.

The cast and crew certainly gave this production their all when it came to their acting!

oh! … that’s a wrap

This was a great jdrama, mostly because the story stemmed from the real-life experience of Aya Kitō who journaled and kept track of her thoughts, emotions, ideas and struggles as she daily faced the onslaught of symptoms from her disease.

I highly recommend giving this production a watch. It’s not long but the ride is pretty intense so be sure to have kleenex available – you’ll be mopping up a few tears with each episode.

As well as recommending this jdrama, I’ll add it to my collection and I’m sure, given time, I rewatch it again whenever I need reminding that life could be so much tougher!

oh! … tidbits

At the end of each episode of 1 Litre of Tears, jdrama are photographs of Aya Kitō with her family and excerpts from her diary.

Asae Onishi starred as Aya in the 2004 movie version of the same title.

A three-hour special was aired on April 5, 2007, as a follow-up to the jdrama and film. The special was set five years after Aya’s death and focused on Haruto Asō, who became a doctor at the same hospital Aya was treated in, and Ako Ikeuchi, Aya’s younger sister who is training as a nurse.

Haruto is caring for a 14-year-old female patient, Mizuki, who was bullied in school because of her with spinocerebellar degeneration. Because of the bullying, she faces at school, Mizuki-chan decides not to receive therapy of any sort that would make her better, because she has lost her will to live.

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailer

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