The previous candidate was a kdrama, A Love to Kill, but candidate n2 is a jdrama - one that is in the running for one of my favorite jdramas of all time. It is 1995's Aishiteiru to Itte Kure, starring Toyokawa Etsushi and Takiwa Takako.
Aishiteiru was a big hit when it came out - both ratings and awards-wise. But seeing that it's a very old drama by fandom standards, it is little known today. I don't know too many people who have seen it. And that is a pity, a huge pity, because it is hard to find a more natural, emotional, realistic, romantic, well-acted jdrama. Especially in the first half I felt as if I was intruding - as if the camera was following real people out there somewhere, that is how natural and real it felt. I giggled, I swooned, I cried so hard snot was coming out of my nose. Few dramas owned me as hard, before or since.
Aishiteiru's set-up is simple - it is a love story between a pushy, upbeat, young aspiring actress Hiroko (Takiwa Takako) and a somewhat older, quiet, mute/deaf painter Kohji (Toyokawa Etsushi). The story centers on barriers and flaws and love. Nothing is melodramatically over the top - when bad things happen, they are realistic. When the relationship fractures - there is no made-up drama but realistic differences between people who are in different places in their lives, have different temperaments, and may not be able to make it work despite all their love for each other. When they show their love, it is all the more moving for feeling real.
Before Aishiteiru, I never knew how much the lives of two rather ordinary people, with some baggage (but a baggage a person can have quite often), and with no hyperdramatic events could enthrall me. Because the things that happen are so everyday, so real, so normal, however earth-shattering to the participants they might be: a fight out of frustration, making love first thing in the morning, holding an umbrella in together in the rain, being tormented by insecurity, making rash decisions you can not undo however you regret. The relationship at the center of the drama, with its giddiness, its hurts, its complexities, and yes, its sexual charge, too (Aishiteiru allows its protagonists to be adults in their physical attraction to each other and small, everyday physical tenderness is very much present) is irresistible to watch. There are few dramas, from anywhere, that got me this emotionally engrossed.
Favorite quote: "I love you. I will love you today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. Isn't it enough?"
Favorite scene: When he screams for her on the train platform. I sort of died.
So, go watch! And discover a forgotten gem.
Now, excuse me, I am off to watch Aoi Tori with Toyokawa Etsushi...