Deception’s Limits: Ikue Nagata on Women and Drama in “Swallows Don’t Come Back” | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Deception’s Limits: Ikue Nagata on Women and Drama in “Swallows Don’t Come Back”

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A series of interviews with women creators of outstanding socially relevant dramas.

In the first installment, we had the honor of interviewing Ikue Nagata, a scriptwriter known for NHK Drama 10’s “Swallows Don’t Come Back” and NHK’s morning drama series “Ranman.”

“Morning dramas and evening dramas feel completely different to me.” says Nagata (PHOTO: Ayumi Kakimi).

Actually, I had planned to take a little break after “Ranman” ended.

“Tsubame Won’t Come Back” is based on the novel of the same title by Natsuo Kirino, and depicts the lights and shadows of reproductive medicine. The main character Riki (Shizuka Ishibashi), who lives as a temporary worker, is invited by a colleague at work to work part-time as an egg donor. Despite her initial aversion to the idea, she decides to go for an interview with the reproductive medicine agent “Plante” because she wants money and peace of mind from the bottom of her stomach. However, what he was offered there was a surrogate birth. Motoi Kusoake (Goro Inagaki), a former ballet dancer, and his wife, Yuko (Yuki Uchida), are looking for a surrogate mother who will bear their child in exchange for a hefty reward.”

–“Swallows Don’t Come Back” started from a proposal by Maiiko Itagaki, the producer of the morning drama 

Nagata Ikue (hereinafter Nagata): Yes. Originally, I was planning to take a little break after “Ranman” ended. But because I love the work of the original author, Natsuo Kirino, and I was moved by Itagaki-san’s enthusiasm, I really wanted to write it.

Itagaki-san told me there was something to discuss during the broadcast of “Ranman” and said, “We can’t talk about this on the floor of this drama,” so we went to a different floor (laughs). There, I heard about Itagaki-san’s feelings and frustrations behind this project.

As a woman who had worked hard all her life, when approaching her late thirties, she felt the frustration of encountering things she couldn’t obtain and things she had to give up. I really empathized with that.

–What kind of frustration did you feel?

Nagata: There are few women directors and playwrights on big stages who have children, whereas many male directors and writers of the same generation do have children because their wives handle childbirth and childcare, allowing them to be good fathers at home.

For us female playwrights, it’s often said that since we wished to be at the forefront and our wish came true, it should be fine. But if it were a man, both building a career and having children would be possible.

I felt that injustice myself, resonating with Itagaki-san’s poignant feelings, and it made me realize again how much I’ve had to give up.

–In “Tora ni Tsubasa,” issues such as reproductive problems, infertility, and poverty depict the hardships women face. Conversely, in “Ranman,” there was a significant barrier depicted for Aya (Yui Sakuma) due to her being a woman and wanting to pursue sake brewing. Please share your thoughts on portraying the difficulties women face in life.

Nagata: I believe the greatest strength of fiction lies in its ability to depict the psychology of all humans, not just women.

In “Tsubame,” Riki represents the struggling underclass, while Chimiyo appears from the privileged position of the elite, the strong. Rather than viewing one side as a hypothetical enemy, I want to depict each person fairly because feelings like pain, cunning, kindness, and guilt are common to all humans.

Even in theater, with up to thirteen characters, I’ve always depicted how each person thinks about the same events, considering all classes, genders, and their respective traits. I don’t think I’ll ever create drama that simply throws stones continuously at a hypothetical enemy from one perspective to achieve catharsis.

■ You can read the full text where I discuss the differences between morning dramas and nighttime dramas, thoughts on episode 7 not depicted in the original of “Tsubame,” and what I felt from the viewers’ voices in the paid version of 【FRIDAY Subscription】.

Click here for [FRIDAY Subs].

  • Interview and text by Wakako Takou PHOTO Ayumi Kagami

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