Byakuyako (2006) is based on the seminal novel by Keigo Higashino, Journey Under the Midnight Sun.
Both of us had devoured the tome of a beguiling mystery procedural in no time and it gave us so many absorbing discussions. The TV series offered another look-in into the twisty world of Ryo Kirihara and Yukiho Karasawa, and over the course of a week my wifey and I eat-sleep-think-dream-talk-watch Byakuyako.
Firstly, I must say right from the first episode we were amazed by the interesting track the narrative had undertaken. The TV series retains the spine of the story but unlike the book the series completely fills in the gaps and paints the characters’ motivations as clear as day. If you have read any of Keigo Higashino’s books you will realise he doesn’t do a whodunit. Instead he does a masterful whydunit and howdunit. The TV series decided to even dispense with this trajectory and in so doing it becomes a superb character study that the book only hinted at tangentially.
The mystery element may not be strong but it is still suspenseful to watch. I love how it establishes the main characters so well and their tragedy really hits the spot. This is a story of children who started off killing their parents but their motivation comes from a core of purity. Does it make them wrong if they rid the world of the vilest human beings who happened to be their parents? How does murder, even if it is committed with the purest of intentions, not change them? The writer of the TV series deconstructed and dissected both the pitiful kids till they live and breathe in front of us. In all logical sense we should despise them to the core, especially when they keep engaging in crimes and murders as the dragnet closes in, but their symbiotic relationship and unearthly ‘love’ for each other made them so sympathetic. Ayase Haruka and Yamada Takayuki totally embodied their roles and brought the saddest couple to life. Takayuki as Ryo is just amazing to behold – his inner turmoil, his fiery anguish and simple love for Yukiho are so powerful that I was lost in his next endeavour to rid yet another unsuspecting person who comes too close to uncovering the terrible early crime. Haruka, I last saw in the splendid Our Little Sister, is also in ravishing form. There are times I felt like wringing her little beautiful neck and other times I feel her pain so much I want to cry. Her character is drawn a little vague but the last episode in which she pours lies upon lies till the point she loses her soul, I pity her so much. Other than the two stars, the series is also buoyed by a slew of supporting performances. We love the two child actors in the first episode. Truly amazing stuff. If it wasn’t for their solid performances, Haruka and Takayuki wouldn’t have had an easy job of pulling off their difficult roles. When I see these two leads I see the two suffering children.
For book lovers like us, this TV adaptation is a marvellous example of how to adapt a phenomenal bestseller for the small screen, high-fiving the book lovers but yet giving them something new. For example, Detective Sasagaki works as a tireless character in the background in the book. He essentially appears in the front and the back of the book, but in the TV series he is the perennial force of nature, a superbly drawn character.
Not everything works in the series – it loves to drown us in the maudlin sea of mawkish proportion. It reaches a point it was practically jack-hammering their sad plight with the umpteenth childhood flashback. Get with it already, I understand where they come from, don’t tell me anymore! Then the repeated and ostentatious use of the sun and snowflake symbolisms. The director just doesn’t understand “less is more”. His motto is “more is more”. However the sublime departures taken with the series definitely offset the bad spots, especially the ending which is different from the book. It left us in an indescribable sad state. We punctuate our daily conversations with the three-word phrase “I love you” so easily sometimes without the emotional thrust. Let Ryo and Yukiho show you another type of love without even the use of the three little words.
Our final advice to anyone interested is reading the book before watching the series is a better way to enjoy Keigo Higashino’s world of riddles wrapped up in enigmas. We finished the series last night. I don’t know how my wifey is feeling right now, but I can already feel a part of me is missing. The good ones always give me that feeling.