Ai No Uta (aka Love Song) begins with a despondent woman telling us how she was an unwanted child. We are told that her mother did as much as she could to prove that theory again and again – including making her 7 year old daughter hide in a closet while she entertained male guests.
She is shunned by other children at school, is given stale bread to take to school for lunch, and her birthday or Christmas were ignored by her Mom. At one point, while still as a child, she had attempted to run away. She tried to live in a cardboard box nearby. When she was driven back home by severe rainstorms, and hunger, her mother greeted her with an indifferent, “Oh you’re back? Didn’t you run away?”
We learn just about all of this in voice-overs and flashbacks in the first 7 minutes or so of this TV series. This child, named Yoko Matsuda, and played as an adult by TV actress Miho Kanno, grew up to be a woman who lacked both friends and family. She was totally lacking in any kind of happiness at all. So we are not surprised when she, after giving up all hope, decides to take her life by jumping off a bridge in Tokyo. She climbs up on the railing and jumps off. All that remains are her shoes. Roll intro.
After the intro we find that Yoko has not perished, she’s actually a strong swimmer/diver. She’s soaked to the skin, but alive, so she crawls ashore and makes her way to a nearby pub restaurant. Still dripping water, she orders a beer, then passes out.
Well luckily for her character, and for we viewers, she went to the right place because it is here at the bar/restaurant that we meet the characters who will become instrumental factors in her future.
The first is Yuji Kataoka, a policeman just approaching his mid forties, who has just transferred from the detective division to an admin division so he could spend more time with his young children. His wife Kaori had passed away four years ago and he had not remarried. But his outlook on life is amazing. He’s always smiling and is ever helpful.
Detective Hideki Iitsuka is like the bachelor uncle that all of us have in our own families. He’s really a sweet guy but is often overlooked or forgotten. He would like to have a girl friend but he will get super nervous when meeting a woman. He is the main comedic character in the series.
Detective Yuusuke Yaginuma is a young detective, and former partner of Kataoka. He’s impetuous, driven, and kind of a thick-headed baka (idiot). This is true because as he pines away for Ai-chan who is really Yoko Matsuda while she works her way through her ‘amnesia’, he totally misses the avid signals tossed his way by a real beauty on the police force. More on her shortly.
There’s another key cast member and that would be Fusako Enomoto who was played by Emi Wakui. Fusako becomes great friends with Yoko/Ai-chan, and serves as a female chum and confidant. BTW Wakui was the star of the very first Japanese drama I ever watched. It was called Virgin Road, and I watched it broadcast on television in New York about 13 years ago.
The last essential member of the cast (appearing in at least one or two scenes in every episode) is Officer Momoka Hamanaka and she is played by none other than former gravure idol Hiroko Sato, who looks great despite the fact that we only see her in a police uniform.
Okay, that’s the who. The why should you watch this heartwarming and moving drama can be summed up quite easily. It is the story of a woman who grew up without any kind of love, who attempted to throw away her life, who now finds herself living under the same roof with a family of a man with three small children and no wife.
When Kataoka’s good natured middle aged man (played by the effervescent Koji Tamaki) meets up with Miho Kanna’s Ai-chan, a surly and disagreeable woman, you just know you’re going to watch a feel-good story and positive changes will occur.
And you do – only not quite iin the way you expected or hoped for; and not without some decidedly rough patches for all involved. I heartily recommend this 10 episode family drama which was first broadcast on Japan’s NTV Network from October 12, 2005 to December 14th, 2005, in the prime time slot at 10:00 PM. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
It is available on DVD from the California based Japanese Drama Store
with English, Chinese, and Malay subtitles.
The theme song of the series, Present, is sung by the series lead actor, singer-songwriter, Koji Tamaki, in what was his first acting role in eight years at the time of the broadcast. [EDIT 091713] I had the link to the video, here but Youtube took down the video. so I have deleted the link.