Kuruma Isu de Boku wa Sora wo Tobu (車イスで僕は空を飛ぶ – which the EarthBuri Team that provided the subtitles translated as “I Will Soar to the Skies in My Wheelchair”) was the special drama for the 2012 24-hr TV telethon hosted by NTV. It was the second part of the telethon, and you can read more about the event starting with part 1 here.

Kuruma Isu de Title

Telethon dramas are not usually my thing, since they’re always slow-moving melodramas and I prefer stuff with a lot of energy. Since I’m reviewing the rest of the telethon, though, I sort of felt obligated, and hoped the fact that the star was Ninomiya-kun would help me through it. No matter what, though, this is not going to be lighthearted. Expect to tear-up if you’re at all susceptible.

Ninomiya plays Hasebe Yasuyuki, who is a down-and-out young fellow with a smoking habit and a kickboxing fascination. After a brief opening where we get a feel for his aimless despondency, we see that he’s looking for a job – even a job as a waiter that he lacks the qualifications for:

Opening 1Opening 2

His mother Haruko (Yakushimaru Hiroko) calls him from a payphone to ask him for money.

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He hangs up on her, by the way. We later see him out drinking and talking about kickboxing when, a bit too enthusiastic with his semi-drunken moves, his leg catches a member of a gang.

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Running from the gang, he ends up cornered on a roof, and attempt to jump to an adjacent roof, but . . .

Run and Fall 1Run and Fall 2Run and Fall 3Run and Fall 4

. . . well, that’s where the wheelchair comes in. And the sad thing is, even on a hospital bed, his first thought is that interview for the waiter job.

Waking Up 1Waking Up 2

The doctor tells him what we already know:

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Mom rushes to the hospital to see her son and meets Ueto Aya . . . I mean, Kato Kumi working in the hospital store.

Haruko Meets Ueto Aya 1

She tries to put on a smile for him, and awkwardly makes light of it by telling him he’s not Spiderman.

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He tries to talk to her about the fact that he can’t walk, but she doesn’t want to hear it, and instead goes off (with some money from him) to buy him a bite to eat.

RealityBuying a Snack

A flashback gives us a hint about the rough times Haruko and her son have faced together, when she contemplated suicide after being beaten (not for the first time) by her husband and Yasuyuki gave her a reason to live.

Flashback 1Flashback 2Flashback 3

Unfortunately, we see that memory because Yasuyuki reflects that he would have preferred to have died then.

Needless to say, he has trouble coming to terms with his new life (or, as he tends to think of it, the end of his life as he knew it).

Not a Happy Camper

We get some sense of his early struggles, as he can’t even sit in a wheelchair without help.

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While on his first spin on his wheelchair, he bumps into a kid – Ishii Daisuke (Suzuki Fuku) and simultaneously meets Ueto . . . I mean, Kato Kumi.

Suzuki Fuku versus Reckless Wheelchair Guy 1Suzuki Fuku versus Reckless Wheelchair Guy 2

Daisuke ends up apologizing to Yasuyuki even though they were both at fault. Yasuyuki refuses to take any responsibility and doesn’t even take Daisuke’s apology graciously.

So far, Yasuyuki hasn’t really endeared himself to the audience. In his former life, he wasn’t really an inspiring figure, and he’s just as unpleasant now. We can expect that this will change during the course of the drama – that he’ll become a better person – so the goal going forward is how realistically they can pull off that transition.

Just to reinforce Yasuyuki’s bad attitude, we get a flashback of him meeting his mother’s boyfriend, Ihara Takuo (Mitsuishi Ken). That meeting . . . well, it didn’t go too well:

Meeting Ihara 1Meeting Ihara 2

That was what precipitated their parting of ways, but it turned out Haruko was the one that had trouble living without her son, and not the other way around. Now, with him being obviously dependent, he rejects her help.

Family Issues 1Family Issues 2

This is a pretty normal pattern – depressed people pushing those close to them away. On the brighter side of things, Japan does have a social safety net, so he gets disability benefits:

Disability Benefits

Unfortunately, it turns out Haruko’s boyfriend Ihara is not doing as well as he once was, and tries to take the benefit promissory note to use as collateral for loans (which is really stepping out-of-bounds, isn’t it?).

Ihara Turns Out Rotten 1Ihara Turns Out Rotten 2

That discussion doesn’t turn out well. Meanwhile, Yasuyuki enters the physical rehabilitation ward, where he meets fellow spine injury patient Sayama (Ikematsu Sosuke).

RehabSayama 1Sayama 2

Yasuyuki decides that rehab is not for him, so he takes a roll out to the grounds, where a counselor with nothing to do named Minami Hideaki (Iseya Yusuke) invites him for a chat since he looked bored, too.

Minami 1Minami 2

Minami is really clever. You see, he has all sorts of reading material in his office, and appears to have wide-ranging interests (always a good thing). So, when Yasuyuki picks up the kickboxing mags, Minami knows what to talk to him about.

Minami 3Minami 4

Yasuyuki isn’t taken in, though, and rolls away when Minami offers him a handshake.

Minami 5

Somehow, Yasuyuki bumps into Daisuke again. This time, though, he learns a bit more about Daisuke when the kid collapses.

About Daisuke 1About Daisuke 2About Daisuke 3

Yasuyuki finally shows an emotion other than self-pity and anger, deciding to hang out with Daisuke. He also says stuff to encourage Daisuke that he, himself, needs to hear.

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The music also changes perceptibly at this point. Daisuke understands Yasuyuki better than Yasuyuki understands himself, and escorts him back to the rehab ward.

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He gets discouraged easily, but Daisuke and Kato continue to make him their project:

Special Project 1

They can’t do that for long, though, since Kato’s contract’s up and Daisuke will likely not survive the year.

Hard Truth Time

Finding out other people might have it worse than him seems to have a positive affect on Yasuyuki. Maybe he’s also the type who benefits from being around kids.

Better With Kids?

Next, the counselor gets Yasuyuki to give love advice to Sayama. As it turns out, Sayama is interested in Kato:

About Sayama 1About Sayama 2

At this point, I think we have enough points of interest, and we’re about halfway through the drama. Will Sayama confess his love to Kato? Since it already seems like Yasuyuki’s on the right path, how will he pick himself up after he leaves the hospital? Or will he laps back into depression when people like Kato and Daisuke are no longer around to give him hope? Will his relationship with his mother improve?

The acting was fine. Most of the burden was on Ninomiya-kun, and he did an excellent job. Nino-kun played himself for chunks of the show, but there were tricky scenes at the beginning, during the transition away from being an asshole, and then later in what might be called the climactic sequence and the resolution sequence. There’s no question that he and Yakushimaru-san (who played his mother) deserve praise for their handling of these characters.

I can’t say that there was anything particularly special about the plot, but there wasn’t supposed to be. This drama needed to reflect the experiences and struggles that a huge number of people face (which is what the telethon is all about). In that, I think it did so with grace and poignancy, and at a suitable pace.

Ultimately, there were two scenes in particular that made the drama worth watching, and I don’t want to spoil them for you. The first one starts around an hour and nine minutes in (program time). The ending was very strong for a story of this type.