“Sora Kara Furu Ichioku no Hoshi” Revisited

Korean adaptations/remakes of Japanese dramas have a tendency to go somewhat awry as each country’s approach to making dramas differs in places. Japanese dramas are often more down to earth and mostly feel quite real. Of course they can also be quirky in that special jdrama way that is hard to reproduce. The characters are usually pretty average as well, in a sense that there are generally no uber rich chaebol types or “geniuses” of every field ever. There’s plenty of normal worker bees of differen fields, middle cass office workers and well paid professionals though. I’m talking about the “regular” jdramas here, the multitudes of manga adaptations and school themed dramas are different beasts all together. Kdramas on the other hand often notably put an emphasis on romance, even in stories where romance doesn’t really fit in, as that seems to be what the viewers mostly want. And kdramas on the whole are very, very serious about giving the viewers what they want, even if it proves dergatory to the plot. When you mix that particular quirk of kdramas with a Japanese melo you’ll more than likely get a “Hundred Million Stars Falling From the Sky/Smile Has Left Your Eyes”. A watered down version with a tragic romantic OTP and an ending that felt like a cop-out to many.

I knew from the outset that I would not be watching the Korean remake. I’d seen the original and had no real interest in the Korean version as I had a feeling it would’t be able to capture the feel of the jdrama. Korean’s don’t generally do controversial topics, so I was sure they’d not go with That Ending, which would mean that the characters wouldn’t be the same either. I wasn’t too far off. I was curious enough to read several recaps, reviews and comments though and I realised that I’d forgotten many of the details of the original. So, I decided to rewatch Sora Kara to refresh my memory and to see how I felt about the drama now.

The first thing that struck me was how gorgeous Takuya Kimura was as Ryo. KimuTaku was always a looker but he was never your avergage “pretty boy” as his features are a bit too strongly structured for that. He can look downright cruel but also sweet and goofy. His Ryo is myserious, alluring and captivating with dashes of deceptive sweetness. But lurking underneath are cold, hard edges, cruelty and throughly calculating mind, which you only see glimpses of when no-one is looking. He is hard to read and good at keeping up a plausable front, which makes it easy for him to deceive the unfortunate women he picks as his targets. KimuTaku may not be all that versatile as an actor, but he was near perfect as Ryo. I like Seo In Gook and he’s one of the better idol actors but I don’t think he truly matches Ryo. He did ok with Moo Young but then Moo Young is not Ryo but a woobified version with a tragic backstory. Moo Young is still a somewhat good person deep down but Ryo has long gone past that. They never really explaned why Ryo turned out that way. Maybe he already had a fractured psyche to begin with and watching his father get killed just pushed him over the edge. Loosing his memories did not change anything as can be seen in that essay he wrote as a kid. He decided to forsake God, to be God so he was free to do whatever he pleased and no regrets. Even being with Yuko did not fundamentally change him or make him want to be a better person. He was still quite willing to keep on dallying with Yuki or to hook up with Sayuri for personal gain. Yuko surprisingly did make him feel something at long last, made him love and want to protect that love. Which is why he shot Sayuri without a single thought the minute she proved to be a threat to Yuko’s wellbeing. He didn’t feel any guilt for that either.

Apart from himself and Yuko, Ryo didn’t care for anyone. He did have a sort of an achille’s heel though and that was his foggy past. He’d built up a happy family from just fragments of memories and a child’s drawing he got all wrong. (Oops, didn’t realise the following is a major spoiler, better hide it^^) Finding out Yuko is his sister didn’t really faze him but the reveal that his happy childhood was just something he’d made up in his mind, did have an effect on him. His love for Yuko was real enough to make him try to cut the connection, for her sake. She did not deserve to have a murderer as a father and a brother like him (on the other hand he was quite ok with Yuko having a boyfriend like him 😀 ). It also made him lie about his motives for approaching Yuko, which ultimatley proved fatal. That and the “I love you”. That was one of his fiew miscalculatons, but then he was never quite clearheaded with Yuko.

Let’s talk a little bit about Yuko then. I know a lot of people don’t much care for her. She is not the type of leading lady that’s more of the norm these days. There’s very little spunk in Yuko. She is guilless, sweet, very childlike and easily led. Almost too good and fragile for this world. This doesn’t mean Yuko is totally spineless though and she can be very stubborn when she sets her mind on something. It’s just that her view on the world is simple and she tends to give the benefit of doubt for everyone. She’s lead a carefree, happy and sheltered life with hardly any connecton to the shadier and more cruel side of existence. All that changes with Ryo. Ignoring all warnings Yuko decides to only believe what she sees in Ryo and what she sees is a different side that’s only visible to her. She put her total trust in him and this is why his percieved betrayal hurt so badly, enough for her to go confront him with a gun. She never ment to shoot him but she was emotionally on a very shaky ground, so in the heat of the moment she pulled the trigger. Only to be totally aghast at what she had done right after. What shatters her completely is reading the letter Ryo wrote to her brother and she doesn’t see any reason for living after that. There’s the tragedy.

Now, the drama would not be complete without the third leg of the ‘affair’. Kan-chan was my favourite character the first time around and he still is. He is just so average in many ways but has a warm, dependable center. He’s far from flawless, but who doesn’t have faults. He’s a competent detective, though he prefers to hide it under a seemingly lacklustre appearance, so his superiors don’t think much of him. He stays aloof at the precinct and is friendly only with the trusty female detective Kotoko, who’s clearly carrying a torch for him. Totally in vain as he’s just not even a little bit aware. Unlike in the kdrama, Kanzo wasn’t wracked with guilt after the unfortunate shooting of Ryo’s father. Yes, he was very sorry, enough to want to take on the two orphaned kids and put his whole carreer on back burner for good. He was young, new to the job and overly eager to make his name capturing a wanted criminal on his own. Killing the culprit was not the plan. One misguided moment, an error of judgement and his life was irreversibly changed. Perhaps not for the worse when all is said and done. By all accounts he is quite content with his lot and definitely loves the little sister he gained. The only regeret is probably not being able to keep hold on the little brother too. Kanzo didn’t make the disappearance of Ryo as big a thing as Jin Kook seems to have done. I’m sure he did search for a time but then gave it up as a hopeless cause. He was ever the realist. Better to concentrate on matters at hand rather that spend time in “what could have beens”. Kanzo may seem a bit clumsy and bumpling at first glance but he his pretty smart with instincts to match. He is the only one who can see through the facade Ryo has built up. Which makes him interesting in Ryo’s eyes. There’s palpable tension whenever the two meet, both trying to get the upper hand.

I’m sure Ryo did at first get interested in Yuko because of her connection to Miwa and then because he thought he could use her to get to Kanzo. Like that didn’t backfire or anything. 🙂 There is grudging respect on Ryo’s part too as there are not many people he doesn’t have to pretend with. Kenzo already sees him as he is, so why bother. Not that it stops Ryo from attempting to play a game or two. Then there’s the stabbing. Perfectly in line with the character of Kanzo. It wasn’t something he suddenly came up with but rather a calculated risk. Like he said, that was the only thing he could do to try to keep Ryo from Yuko, hoping Ryo would get the message. He immediately resigned too, ready for the consequeces. Of course Ryo never reported the stabbing, so there were not reprecursions or investigation on it. Kanzo still left the police as he didn’t think that a person who does a criminal act like that could continue being a policeman. I don’t think he feels much guilt about it though. If it keeps a dangerous person like Ryo from his beloved sister, it was worth it. Kanzo’s attitude towards Ryo only changes after he realises who Ryo really is. Not that it washes away Ryo’s past deeds but there is a certain measure of pity he starts feeling for the lost boy. But only up to a point. The Korean version seems to make people think that Jin Kook is selfishly keeping the facts from both Jin Kang and Moo Young, thus building the roots of the tragedy. There is none of that in Sora Kara. Both Ryo and Kanzo find out about Ryo’s true identity around the same time. At that point Ryo and Yuko were already an item and it’s ultimately Ryo’s own actions after the reveal that start the ball rolling towards the tragedy at the end.

Drama is very sparcely populated with characters that matter and there are only fiew supporting ones that have more than a passing presence. I never understood what was the point of Kotoko. She was kinda annoying the first time around and is even more so now. Maybe she was ment to be a ‘voice of reason’ for Kanzo… or something. Miwa doesn’t fare much better. She is your typical poor little rich girl. She is sweet and quite naive, a caged bird. Hooking up with Ryo was probably the only time she ever rebelled against her parents and the future they had planned for her. It all went horribly wrong of course. Ryo is no saviour and when Miwa’s presence in his life becames a threat, he eliminates that threat quite effectively.

Then there is Yuki. I like her. She may look like she belongs to a hostess bar but that’s just the exterior. It was funny how Kanzo initially thought that way too, only to discover that she works in a café (that pink uniform looks so out of character on her, ha) and in her own words wasn’t suited to working as a hostess, though she’d tried that too. Yuki’s life has not been easy since running away from home. She is young and world wary but she is not a bad person at heart. She may have done a fiew regrettable deeds but those were instigated by Ryo, either directly or indrectly, and they weigh quite heavily on her mind. I have a feeling she latched on to Ryo just because he was there, a somewhat safe heaven in the turbulent and lonely life. It wasn’t really love but rather dependence born out of desperation and craving for some kind of affection and human touch. Yuki never had any false ideas about Ryo, she knew she was being used but didn’t care. It was only after meeting Kanzo she started to think that she isn’t worthless, that there might be something more she could be if she gave it a chance. There was still time to turn her life around and that’s what she decides to do in the end. Yuki is the only glimmer of hope in an ending otherwise painted with black.

Despite of what one may feel about tragic endings, this one makes sense within the context. Sora Kara is NOT a romance. There is no OTP, just two individuals who had a shared past but should never have met again. Not under these circumstances anyway. I never rooted for Ryo and Yuko to be togheter and it was quite evident from the beginning that the whole affair would end in tears. Even before I realised what the Big Reveal would be. Ryo isn’t boyfriend material and I wouldn’t wish him on anyone decent. Sayuri was quite welcome to him, they are two peas in a pod imho. From what I’ve read the kdrama did follow the original storylines pretty faithfully, even if they cut some of it’s teeth, woobified “Ryo”, made “Kanzo” volatile and less likeable and “Yuko” more spunky and levelheaded. Then there’s that shoehorned romance and all that it entails. I often feel like I’m in a group of one when it comes to these ‘swoony romances’ of kdramas. It’s still at the end where the dramas diverge the most. Yes, the kdrama ending was still a tragedy but the execution was kinda… lame. TPTB didn’t dare to go all the way and conclude the drama with something akin to the original’s. Nor did they choose to go out with a properly hopefull note but rather just raised up hope only to have it crash and burn. To have that ending “Sayuri” aka Se Ran and her family were also given a lot more importance. Sayuri was hardly a presence in Sora Kara, she served a purpose and that was it. Her family had nothing what so ever to do with how Drama ended.

I don’t think Sora Kara’s aim was ever to please the viewers but rather tell a story about flawed people the best way that it could. I found Ryo fascinating to begin with and he is still quite an interesting chap the 2nd time around. Just as well, as he is the center of the story, no matter how one may feel about that.

2 thoughts on ““Sora Kara Furu Ichioku no Hoshi” Revisited

  1. I don’t think the remake ever understood what the point of Sora Kara was. They just saw what they thought was a tragic romance and turned it into the usual k-melodrama, complete with sad backstory and meddling chaebols. They also spent 16 episodes trying to twist themselves out of the incest angle, and clean forgot how to plot a proper story. The remake’s ending is hilarious and what is even more laughable is how fans of the remake insist it was such a heartwrenching story, loved and wanted the OTP together, and even went so far as to justify all the loopholes there. They completely whitewashed Moo-young and made him oh so sad with the squinty puppy eyes, because god forbid a k-drama has a murderous psychopath be the lead (think of what it does to the OTP!). Anyway, Seo In-guk couldn’t cut it, he and Jung So-min had no chemistry, but they did look like brother and sister.

    Sora Kara posed a lot of existential questions, especially with regard to Ryo. I found him a really fascinating character, and feel Kanzo met his match in Ryo. Perhaps Ryo was always destined and designed to have the edge over Kanzo – whether it is with regard to Yuko, their history, their battle of wits etc. The two clearest signs of Ryo having the upper hand were the stabbing and the eventual double deaths, not to mention how Kanzo was never able to nail him for anything. I liked their conversations, where Ryo would remain unruffled, but Kanzo always felt rather unsettled, like he knew there was something wrong but couldn’t quite pinpoint. Unlike you, I was never as interested in Kanzo, or his attempts to reform Yuki. I do think though that Kanzo was wracked with guilt over shooting Ryo’s father, and became the way he is instead of the ace cop he could have been. It was a horrible mistake to make at such an early stage of his career, and it was not surprising he dealt with it – or thought he did – in the way he did. But he’s not one to outwardly show it, except maybe to mention it to Kotoko once in a while. The biggest manifestation of his guilt is adopting and raising Yuko (and Ryo if he hadn’t run away). A single man taking on a stranger’s child is still a big deal and if Kanzo hadn’t felt so bad about it, he would not have taken Yuko in. As for Yuko, I liked her enough, but purely on the strength of Fukatsu Eri’s acting. Ryo is one of Kimura Takuya’s much better roles, so it’s a shame he never got to do something like this again. I loved their chemistry, it was fantastic.

    Anyway, sorry I rambled! But I’m glad you rewatched and wrote about it 🙂

    • Oh yes, Ryo always had the upper hand when it came to dealings with Kanzo. Still, Kanzo was just about the only one who could match him, up to a point. I’m not necessarily interested in Kanzo, I just like him as a character. I do tend to side with the nice guys. People generally think they are boring but it’s actually lot harder to be a genuinely good person than be ‘bad’. Evil come easily to most of us humans. Idkn but I never felt Kanzo was particularly wracked with guilt. Perhaps in the beginning but he was certainly not wallowing in it for years on end. I still think he’d more or less made peace with the past by now. Not that he’d forgotten about it though. It is a pity KimuTaku never got to do more than those piddling roles as he did have potential to do better.

      Rambling is quite ok, no worries. 🙂

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