Aoi Tori

Series synopses
Episode #1.....Episode #2.....Episode #3.....Episode #4.....Episode #5.....Episode #6
Episode #7.....Episode #8.....Episode #9.....Episode #10...Episode #11

Sunday nights, December 13, 1998 to February 21, 1999, 9-10 p.m. on Fuji TV in the S.F. Bay Area

Aoi Tori, otherwise known as kinyou dorama (Friday drama) "L'oiseau bleu," or "Bluebird," is a 12 part romance/suspense TBS series which was originally shown in Japan back in 1997. The beginning half of the story is pretty much centered around two main characters, Shibata Yoshimori and Kahori Machimura. The latter half is dominated by Yoshimori and Kahori's daughter, Shiori. This beautiful tale of forbidden love takes place in the fictional town of Kiyosumi. Perhaps the town's real name is Fujisawa? I'm not sure. Kiyosumi is a typically small countryside town, lying within a valley surrounded by mountains. The featured background of the show is Kiyosumi train station, where many important events occur besides the coming and going of trains.

The main characters
Yoshimori Shibata, played by Etsushi Toyokawa, is 30 years old. For two years, he has worked as an "ekiin," or train station worker, at Kiyosumi station. He's tall, dark, slim, and overall, he doesn't look like the happiest guy around. He's single, and lives with his father. He smokes, acts cool, and isn't very talkative.

Kahori Machimura, played by Yui Natsukawa, is the 30-something year old wife of Hiromu Watanuki. She's a housewife, removed from Tokyo and brought to the "inaka," or countryside, with her daughter, Shiori. She is a beautiful lady who zooms around town in a bright red Lexus Coupe. She doesn't fit into the mold of a small town woman, and it shows.

Shiori Machimura, played by An Suzuki, is a cute 9 year old in the third grade. She likes to read and star-gaze. She takes an instant liking to Yoshimori, whom she affectionately calls "ekichou san." The 15 year-old version of Shiori is played by Yamada Maiko, is quite unpleasant, and almost never smiles.

Hiromu Watanuki, played by Shiro Sano, is the husband of Kahori. He is the heir to the Watanuki Construction company, run by his father, Junichiro.

Tadashi Shibata, played by Gin Maeda, is Yoshimori's father. He is the true "ekijo san," or station master, for Kiyosumi. His wife left him over 21 years ago, leaving him to care for Yoshimori.

Miki (short for Mikiko) Akimoto, played by Hiromi Nagasaku, works at the neighborhood noodle shop. She looks like a younger, homely-looking Seiko Matsuda. She's in love with Yoshimori, and is always looking after him.

Junichiro Watanuki, played by Noboru Nakatani, is Hiromu's father. He runs the Watanuki Construction company. He loves Shiori, but has no respect for Kahori.

Other characters
Shimizu is Yoshimori's co-worker at the train station. He might be attracted to Miki.

Almost from the start, I knew that this was one drama that I couldn't help but watch from start to finish. I usually don't prefer to watch serious dramas. I'm more inclined to watch doramas with a slightly odd comedic side to them. But this one drew me in with its realism, taboo subject, and titillation.

One thing which I think is really neat is the bird sound played throughout the dorama. Maybe I'm looking too deeply into this, but the bird sound (it's two notes) reminds me of a musical theme employed in a symphony by Gustav Mahler (it was his symphony #1).

The biggest incident is, of course, when Kahori kills herself. It is truly shocking, and the impact of it was so great that the entire drama changed after the incident. Unfortunately, the drama suffered greatly with the loss of Yoshimori's forbidden love. Further hurting this otherwise awesome series is that the story jumped into the future, thus replacing the young, cute, spunky Shiori with a teenaged, plain, rather mean-spirited young woman with a chip on her shoulder.

The one emotional highlight for me was of course, when Yoshimori takes Shiori in his arms and whisks her away with him and Kahori on the train. Visually-wise, it might be when Yoshimori and Shiori look across to the island in Kagoshima, with a thin, windy path connecting it to the mainland. But there are many other visual highlights, as well. All in all, the drama proved to be a geographical treat for me. I learned alot about various locations throughout Japan. One day, I too would like to peer across the waters to that island in Kagoshima.

Theme song
"Wanderin' Destiny" sung by Globe

JN Productions, Inc. (Honolulu, Hawaii)
English translation by Christine A. Owens