Dear Friends is a Japanese movie adaptation of the manga with same title (Dear Friends) written by YOSHI and illustrated by Watanabe Ayu. I am a manga and anime enthusiast and am really fond of mangas with really nice art. Before reading a manga, I look at the drawing first. Therefore I am much more acquainted with the illustrators rather than the authors. And I can say that Watanabe Ayu is one of my favorite artists. I just love how she draws. I have read the manga a few years back and when I came across this movie which was only recently, I kept saying to myself “I think I know this. I think I know this,” (the-i-have-encountered-this-somewhere-before-but-i-just-can’t-remember-when moment). And sure enough, midway watching the movie I remembered that I have read the manga version years ago. And when I look back, I’m pretty sure I cried then as I did while watching the film.
Okay, so let’s start.
Dear Friends was released in 2007 with Kitagawa Keiko and Yuika Motokariya as its lead stars. I am a fan of Kitagawa as I love most of her dramas and movies. Buzzer Beat and Paradise Kiss to name a few. On the other hand, I am not that familiar with Yuika Motokariya as I have only seen her in the two-part Bokura Ga Ita movie (which , by the way, I will also write a review on some time) aside from this. However, I find her pretty and her acting okay. Therefore, just from the list of cast, I am pretty much satisfied already.
So let’s first look what the movie is about. The movie is about friendship (obviously) – a beautiful one if I may add. Rina (Kitagawa Keiko) is your above-the-average high school student – pretty, rich, outgoing – but with a twisted perspective on friendship. She doesn’t believe that friendship exists just because it exists. What she does believe in is that friends are just for convenience and are not really necessary. This may have stemmed from the sheer and kinda off relationship that she has with her family. She’s an only child. Her father ignores her while her mother just blindly follows her father. She’s pretty and all but does not have a good relationship with others.
Though a high school student, she frequents bar and has been going around having sex if she feels like it which sometimes infuriates her so-called friends because she doesn’t care even if she has sex with her friend’s boyfriend. Then came Yousuke (Masaya Kikawada) into the scene. He is dubbed as the hottest DJ on the club which Rina frequents as he just came back from Florida. He falls in love with Rina and Rina played along. They started kissing but was not able to have sex as Rina cooly brushes him off. However, this just made Yousuke fall for her even more.
However, her health condition started to get worse. She frequently vomits, lack energy, and always feeling dizziness. Later on, she was diagnosed having cancer on the lymph nodes. And because she has a tough character, she didn’t think about dying and just continued her usual routine and lifestyle – going to the club and having sex. However, she collapsed and was then admitted in the hospital.
During her hospitalization, she met Kanae, a young girl who admired her very much. And during her stay at the hospital, she was visited frequently and almost every day by Maki (Yuika Motokariya) who introduced herself as her classmate since primary school. However, she was cold as always and treats her as air. She holds her belief that friends are not necessary and Maki’s just pitying her.
As Rina undergoes chemotherapy, her hair started falling off and her face and skin started looking old and unfresh. She started panicking and worries about the change that might happen to her. She sneaked out of the hospital and went to the usual club with continuing the spoilt sex she had with Yousuke in mind. Looking weak, weary, and old, and not possessing her usual glow she started dancing in the club trying to seduce Yousuke. During her absence in the club, her rival took over the scene and started spouting hurtful words at her which she just ignored. She continued seducing Yousuke but Yousuke did not take on her advances and advices that she should go home already. Unintentionally, Yousuke pulled off the wig Rina was wearing that night and exposed the bald-ish Rina which left her devastated. Feeling the hellish of hell, she ran out of the club and run-walk through the pouring rain in which led to her collapsing. Maki, who was passing by saw Rina collapsing and brought her to the hospital.
During her continued hospitalization, she slowly opened up to Kanae as well as to Maki. But then again, lost all the hope she had when the doctor said that the cancer cells had already spread to her left breast and that her left breast must be removed. During this period of time, she had also learnt that Kanae had died already and it was also because of cancer.
Feeling utter hopelessness and devastated to the maximum level, Rina tried to commit suicide by jumping from the rooftop. But she was stopped by Maki’s, whom she had developed a spark of friendship with, act of stabbing her chest. The act was to let Rina know that she is ready to share all the pain that Rina is feeling. Maki also said that Rina had become the reason she continued living and not choosing death even though she had attempted several suicides already as indicated from the scars from her wrist. Because of this, Rina, started to change and accepted Maki’s genuine and sincere friendship. Rina decided to trust Maki and started hoping again.
After the incident, however, Rina was not able to see Maki as the head nurse kept telling her that Maki was still recovering from the wound she inflicted on her chest. Rina was also diligently attending her chemotherapy sessions and all other treatments. Because of the treatments and her obedience, she survived cancer and was released from the hospital but still no word from Maki.
She once again resumed her party lifestyle but was not able to enjoy it as much as she used to. Her misunderstanding with Yousuke was resolved and so she decided that she was now ready to have sex with Yousuke who have waited for her. They were about to have sex. They’re already in the room, Yousuke was already pulling his clothes off when Rina showed him her chest without one breast. She believed that Yousuke will be able to accept her as she believed in the sincere feelings that he had been showing all along but in the end, Yousuke was not able too. He ran out of the room with disgust on his face and left the once again broken-hearted, devastated Rina.
Rina, feeling devasted and trampled over and over again, attempted suicide on the hospital’s rooftop once again only to be stopped by the head nurse. And for the first time, she was able to see Maki once again with all the truth now revealed. Maki was suffering from a terminal illness which causes her to lose her motor skills until she’s in vegetative state. Seeing Maki trying to speak with all her might and fighting her disease, Rina find the meaning of life and started living it. She decided to become a nurse and take care of Maki who dies at the end.
Through her journey, Rina was able to find the true meaning of friendship and that it was not just a decoration and unnecessary but it means a whole lot more.
I am not the type to cry out loud or to cry at all. But this movie made my tear glands lose their strength as a stream flow of tears flowed down my face unnoticed. So if you want to watch this, be sure that you have tissues and napkins nearby.
What I love about Japanese movies is that they really can make you feel something – whether it’s irritation, laughter, etc. and the fact that most of them are unique in plot. Dear Friends may not be the most heartfelt dramatic film on friendship as there are many other films with the same genre. But it sure is enough to be listed as one of the top Japanese-movies-you-must-see-before-you-die.
The acting was brilliant! Kitagawa Keiko surely portrayed the character splendidly from the angst of the rebellious Rina to the Rina-slowly-learning-life and all the in-between. Keiko being naked is just a plus which made me admire her even more. She acted so realistically that the viewers can really feel her emotions. Yuika also portrayed Maki brilliantly. The innocence subtly clouded with a darkish past. She knew when to express and when to hold emotions. Applause for the characters! Even the side cast was so irritably good. I was really irritated by her rival and club friend.
The props and make-up was SUGOI! The baldness-ish of Rina and the wound on her left breast when she went naked was just so realistic. (Forgive me if I am reacting like this. I was just really impressed because the make-up and prosthetics in my country sucks) Although a minor detail, these things really added to the overall brilliance of the film.
The ambiance of the film due to the color, texture, and shots also made me feel the movie more. Compared to the orange-ish color of most of the Jdramas and movies I have watched with a genre like this, the color scheme of the movie somehow compliments the story. The shots also, even though these are just simple long-shot, wide-shot, close-up, was used properly. Although still, like other Jmovies and Jdoramas, there are shots that tend to be dragging like one whole scene of the two main characters only in a wide shot, for example. But the totality is greater than the sum of its parts.
The film is moving and that it is highly recommended for teenagers especially girls who are undergoing tough times who’s slowly losing hope. It will teach you the real meaning of friendship without having the film spell-it out for you in dialogues and lines because the actions and the visuals already tell you so much. It will make you realize the importance of friends and that even if there is only one all the more you need to treasure her. Friendship is not about quantity. It is about the quality and the time andemotion you put in.
Overall, I liked the film and it was praise-worthy for me. A heart-warming, heart-touching, inspirational film that is best watched when your with your girl friends!
FRIENDSHIP IS TREASURE. NEVER EVER LOSE IT. NEVER EVER DOUBT IT.