Hagetaka: Road to Rebirth review aka my first business J-drama


Hagetaka: Road to Rebirth (Japan, 2007)

Finished Watching: Thursday, 25th June 2009
Runtime: 6 episodes (60min. each)
Director: Kentaro Horikirizono, Tsuyoshi Inoue, Keishi Ohtomo
Cast: Nao Omori, Kyohei Shibata, Ryuhei Matsuda, Chiaki Kuriyama
TV Network: NHK
Plot: A story about the mid-90s recession in Japan when Japanese companies were going bankrupt and were being bought out dirt cheap by foreign companies.

Scene From the Film
I really loved this scene - it sets up everything so beautifully (and with almost no dialogue too *grin*). It’s set in a ryokan - the ryokan is a family business. It used to be run (very cleverly) by the grandfather, but after he fell ill it was taken over by the father. The father is a bad manager and so when the recession came the business fell to pieces. The son knows the father is no good at business and has tried to make the father aware of it, which just leads to tensions in the family rather than anything getting resolved.
The scene below takes place right after the father has had a meeting in town and has finally lost the property and business. The son is in the ryokan taking care of the grandfather (who doesn’t really understand what’s happening around him). The father leaves voice mail (there are no subs, so the line is “Should I have left it to you?”).

I thought this scene was very special *grin* (I somehow anticipate very few people will feel the same way, but oh well ;-P)
If you want the trailer (which I hated ;-P) then it’s here.

Impressions In Short
Not amazing, but sort of intriguing…

More About the Series
It’s the first time I’ve seen this kind of J-drama. It was much more quiet and restrained than the Japanese TV stuff I’ve seen until now. In fact even the format is different - 6 episodes rather than 10-12 and each episode has a duration of 60min. rather than 45min.
It was interesting to see something so centred on the world of business - parts were a little difficult to follow for me because my understanding of funds, stocks etc. is very poor (I should rectify that really). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film which took an approach like this to tell a corporate world sort of story and that in itself was rather intriguing.
The two main characters are businessmen - one works for an American company and is trying to buy out Japanese companies dirt cheap, the other is trying to somehow save Japanese companies from this sort of fate by restructuring them and changing management policies. Then there are two supporting characters that don’t have all that much screen time, but have a significant impact on the plot. One is a female journalist who reports on Japanese economy and has a painful past connected with those two men. And then there’s the already mentioned son from the ryokan.
One thing that bothered me was that the two supporting characters had somewhat unresolved stories. Most of the companies in the story had a family aspect and so family relations were rather important to the plot. Yet after quickly introducing those two characters’ families, the families are practically forgotten thereafter. This is particularly true for the riyokan family - after the son leaves we never even learn whether his mother sees him again or not (I assume yes, but in the last scene in which she’s in she says she hasn’t heard from him).
On the whole, the series is a bit uneven. It does get corny, but on the other hand it has something pretty serious to say too. It was very interesting how traditional Japanese values kept being pitched against aggressive capitalist values from the West. That was sort of what threw all those company managers - the way they used to operate just suddenly became obsolete. It was portrayed really well.
And as for my reason to see it (has anyone noticed who has dominated my film watching lately? ;-P), Ryuhei was terrific… most of the time that is ;) He averaged about two scenes per episode, but there were some very striking and intense ones. I felt it got worse whenever he was dressed up in a suit ;) Whenever he was in a suit he automatically seemed to go into playing the emotionless corporate kind of stereotype, which I didn’t like. Though one could argue that was correct as that would probably be what the character wanted to project to others at that point in time. As long as he was out of the suit I thought he was absolutely top notch, however *grin* The part really played into his strengths. Even the style of cinematography they chose for the series (it was quite stylish) enhanced the kind of acting he’s best at. It was beautifully understated and he got all the tension and sarcasm out very effectively. There were quite a few scenes I could write about, but I’ll restrain myself and stick to his final scene. The way it’s written it would have normally have come off as very soppy and corny. But the way he did it he managed to do it really raw, it was fab *grin*

Er… maybe ;) For Ryuhei definitely - as long as you don’t mind that he has little screen time that is. Perhaps it’s worth seeing for the novelty factor (if, like me, you’ve never seen a business drama).
Otherwise maybe not…

Leave a comment