A tag-team production by Junko Arai and director Ayuko Tsukahara
This is “Saiai,” the most popular work of the current cool drama series. The protagonist, who has become an important witness in a murder case, is Rio Sanada (Yuriko Yoshitaka), the president of Sanada Wellness, a company that provides nursing care and drug discovery. The suspense love story revolves around Rio’s childhood friend and detective, Daiki Miyazaki (Kohei Matsushita), and her lawyer, Kenichiro Kase (Arata Iura), who continues to protect her in various situations.
This work is also a collaboration between producer Junko Arai and director Ayuko Tsukahara, who have produced many hit works such as “Night Ferris Wheel”, “For N”, “Rebirth”, “Unnatural”, and “MIU 404”.
Of the many works that have been produced by this team, one of the things that makes Ayuko Tsukahara’s direction as good as ever is the unsettling atmosphere that drifts through her casual depictions, such as scenes that only show nature. What kind of unsettledness does she make us feel through images without dialogue? Looking back over the past works, I found that “unsettling effects” were common to “Beloved,” “For N,” and “Night Watching Cars.
A “metronome” like a heartbeat that gets louder and louder
In “Beloved, ” when Shinsuke Goto (Mitsuhiro Oikawa), the managing director of Sanada Wellness, discovers the money he has been misusing, the metronome that hits the door starts to move. The constant rhythm of the metronome creates an anxiety-inducing effect that is truly “disturbing.
In fact, this characteristic metronome is also used in ” For the sake of N “. This is the scene in the early part of the first episode where the main character Kimi Sugishita’s (Nana Eikura) family’s previously happy and wealthy life begins to fall apart when her father’s (Ken Mitsuishi) mistress (Yuki Shibamoto) arrives.
The uncomfortable feeling of the metronome in the room, and the rhythm of the main character’s heartbeat. All of this emphasizes the unsettling nature of the scene.
The “red dress” is so vivid that it stands out from its surroundings.
Another distinctive feature of Ayuko Tsukahara’s direction is the characters wearing such vivid red clothes that they seem to stand out from their surroundings. In “For N”, the aforementioned mistress of the father wears a bright red dress in her scene. She clearly stands out from the scenery and inhabitants of the idyllic Seto Inland Sea island where the film is set. It is this strangeness that accentuates the unsettling atmosphere.
In ” Night Train”, the key person in each scene is often dressed in red. In the scene where Ayaka (Hana Sugisaki), the daughter of the main character Mayumi Endo (Kyoka Suzuki), fails her junior high school entrance exam, the scene where Mayumi is the only one who brings something common to the bazaar in a high-class residential area, the scene where a murder occurs in the Takahashi family who lives across the street from Mayumi and her family. In many scenes, such as the scene where Mayumi and her family are murdered by the Takahashi family who lives across the street from them, the bright red dress effectively expresses a kind of uncomfortable feeling.
In “Beloved, ” Rio’s mother, Azusa (Hiroko Yakushimaru), often wears a bright red cardigan or skirt. In Ayuko Tsukahara’s direction, “red clothes” seem to be a symbol of a kind of disquiet.
Dimly lit rooms and “lamps
One of the most frequent scenes in Ayuko Tsukahara’s works is the “lamp that lights up a dimly lit room. In ” Beloved, ” just before Rio is involved in an incident in her dormitory, she is studying for an exam in a dimly lit dining room with a single lamp.
In ” For N”, Sanae (Mirai Yamamoto), Kimi’s mother, is often seen sitting in front of a dresser in the corner of a dimly lit room with no sunlight shining through. The scene of her sitting in front of a dresser in a dimly lit corner of the room with no sunlight is very impressive. The orange lamp on the dresser illuminates the large amount of expensive cosmetics she has bought because she cannot accept the fact that she can no longer live a wealthy life as before. In “Night Train”, the residents of Hibarigaoka gather in a handicraft classroom, where several suspicious lamps are placed in a dark room and the residents gossip about them every day.
Although not directly expressed, it fully creates that eerie atmosphere.
The “flame” next to the incident
Suspense dramas directed by Ayuko Tsukahara are always accompanied by incidents. And in those cases, there is a high probability that “flames” will appear.
In ” For the Love of N,” Kimi and Shinji (Masataka Kubota) set themselves on fire, and in “Night Train,” Junko Takahashi (Yuriko Ishida) is in a state of delirium after the murder of her husband, and the fire in the fireplace is flickering behind her.
The flickering flames seem to reflect the unstable minds of the characters. In “Beloved”, the flames of the hearth are shown in the scene where Rio’s father (Ken Mitsuishi) dies. The flame, which is extinguished when blown out, is like a fragile life.
The turning point of “Sunset
Ayuko Tsukahara’s direction is famous for its beautiful reflections of nature, from the glittering surface of the water to the lush green of the rice paddies swaying in the wind. Among them, the sunset cut is a beautiful yet disturbing element. Sunsets with clouds are often the turning point of the storyline.
In the scene of Rio’s father’s death in “Beloved,” the mountains are illuminated by the setting sun. The series of incidents, including her father’s death, is the watershed that separates her happy days up to that point from the rest of her life, when she becomes an important witness in a murder case. The setting sun, going from day to night, from “light” to “dark,” symbolizes this turning point.
In ” For the sake of N”, the sunset is shown before the scene where Kimi tries to burn the house she was evicted from, and in “Night Ferris Wheel”, the sunset is shown before the scene where Ayaka fails the entrance exam for junior high school.
In addition to the above, Ayuko Tsukahara’s direction is filled with “disquieting” scenes, such as the “color change” between the present and past parts, and the “night scene” where the story takes a major turn. The last part of “Beloved” is about to start, and it will get more and more exciting. It will be interesting to see what kind of “unsettling effects” will be presented.
Text： Aika Ohta