Kyou no Hi wa Sayonara (今日の日はさようなら) was the special drama shown as part of the 24-hr TV telethon (24時間テレビ) right after the first 2-hour segment. The telethon drama generally depicts the true story about a main character struggling through some physical issue, and is therefore not the sort of drama I typically gravitate to. Every now and then, though, it’s good to try something different (in my case, I guess it’s once a year in August now), but for those who haven’t seen one of these before, let me warn you that it is going to be serious and depressing, though possibly with an uplifting ending. Possibly. Hopefully. This isn’t Hollywood.

The stars are Ohno Satoshi-san as Fujioka Kota, Miura Tomokazu-san as his father Kenjiro, Kishimoto Kayoko-san as his mother Yasuko, Mimura-san as his sister Koharu, Kimura Fumino-san as his girlfriend Tanabe Etsuko, Fukada Kyoko-san as his counselor Okubo Yuriko, and last but not least, Yamada Ryosuke-kun as Harada.

During the opening credits, we see that Kota works as a chef, but he’s dissatisfied with his life because he doesn’t seem to be heading towards anything. On the bright side, he does have his family and his girlfriend, and since they’re the majority of the cast, I guess they play a large role in his life going forward. Oh, and the food at dinner definitely looked good, so he can’t complain about that (and if he could, then he can cook, so . . .).

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But if the intro made it seem like his only trouble in the world was a bit of ennui (which, let’s face it, a lot of us share), then that changed rather quickly after he took a nighttime stroll with his girlfriend . . .

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. . . and suddenly, after he parted with her, he started bleeding profusely from his nose and mouth.

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In the next scene, he was in the hospital (sort of a lucky thing, since he was out alone), reflecting that he had never thought about the possibility of dying before his parents.

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The doctor reveals that Kota has malignant lymphoma – a type of blood cancer specific to the lymphocytes and white blood cells that are part of the immune system. The doctor says 80% get better with treatment, which is a lot higher than I expected it to be. Treatment must have improved significantly in recent years.

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Most of what the doctor says seems to go over Kota’s head as he stares perplexed.

The writers offer some side-cuteness as we see two girls hiding in an attempt to avoid taking their medicine . . .

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. . . but we turn back to Kota as his family try to reassure him, considering there’s an 80% chance of success. But Kota is still struggling to believe he has cancer.

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He sure looks like he needs a counselor, so it’s a good thing they introduce him to Okubo Yuriko early. His disbelief, while realistic, is starting to get irritating.

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While his family is back home in low spirits and eating a meager meal, Kota seems to be a bit fresher when his girlfriend Etsuko stops by to visit. He makes his best attempt to reassure her, also deploying that 80% figure. This is pretty much guaranteeing that, for at least part of this drama, it’s going to look like he’s in the 20% category.

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Out of all things, he asks her to bring hair clippers (perhaps you can see where he’s going with that). After she leaves, he searches for malignant lymphoma on his smart phone, but decides against looking into the details pretty much immediately. In his narration, we hear him reflect on the 20% chance of death, and it seems to leave him sleepless. There’s a dispenser scene that was almost too cute, but I appreciated the attempt to complicate the grim mood.

Armed with hair clippers the next morning, he shaved his head preemptively (since he was going to lose hair in chemotherapy anyway). If you want to see Ohno-san hacking his hair off with an electric hair clipper, you’re just going to have to watch – I consider bald-headed Ohno a spoiler. His girlfriend is supportive as he does it, but his mother looks positively distressed.

The doctor informs him that they’ll start the chemotherapy immediately. Kota is apparently ready to fight this thing, but the narration from him tells us that he only felt confident of winning for the first three days. The effects of the battle within his body took their toll.

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And it’s not just him – his parents are also heart-broken to see their son in such pain from the treatment. His father does some late-night homework on the disease and treatment.

By the way, if you don’t like the sound of a person vomiting, you might want to be on your guard throughout this drama. Kota’s hacking is so loud that it leads Harada, who was just walking by his room, so stop in to see if he was all right. He offers Kota a lemon – the smell of which apparently helps ease the nausea – and says that he’ll be in the next room.

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The next morning Kota spots Harada again and thanks him. Sensing that Kota could use someone to talk to, they take a walk and visit some of the others in the hospital including the two little girls we met before.

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Harada also had (or has) a cancer of the blood, but the treatment led to a side-effect that I don’t think Kota expected. A really unpleasant surprise if he wasn’t informed of the possibility.

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Altogether, Harada has an unsettling but engaging sort of personality. He certainly makes Kota feel uneasy, though grateful.

Kota’s appetite is declining, and with it his mood.

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Harada reflects that he’s basically in the hospital for the long haul . . .

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. . . but thankfully they diffuse that unpleasant thought by mimicking the guy who does breathing exercises on the roof.

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After that, they visit the counselor.

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And honestly, around this point, 25 minutes into the drama, things were going a bit slow for me and my attention started to wander. The tension in the story was on a decline.

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It doesn’t get any less tense than this:

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And in fact, Kota even got to go back home from the hospital and did some cooking for himself (recalling that he’s a chef). So . . . is everything all right? Not with more than an hour of program time left. I won’t go into the ride in the swan boat.

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Kota had to go back to the hospital for tests to see if the chemotherapy worked, and the doctor reports that the treatment did not have sufficient effect. Well, we knew this was coming.

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Basically, his percentage has dropped from 80% to 40%. The moment when his girlfriend receives the message about is is particularly harsh.

For his treatment, Kota needs a transplant/transfusion from his sister, and the drugs that she’ll be given to facilitate that carry some risk of their own. The situation seems to be also be complicating her relationship with her fiancee. This is just getting worse and worse.

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I’m going to start leaving out key details to preserve some of the suspense. Obviously, the main issue is whether Kota will survive and if he does, in what state. Having seen dramas that conclude badly, I have no illusions that we’re guaranteed a Hollywood ending. But there’s also another issue – what state will his family and girlfriend be in? Certainly, they’re all getting more and more rattled. Even his father – so used to saying that everything is all right – is losing hope. And his girlfriend . . . .

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And people do die in hospitals . . .

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. . . and Harada continues to be an unsettling fellow – creepy, even.

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Six months since his cancer was discovered, it’s time for his sister’s part, but he unexpectedly collapses. The chemotherapy isn’t working and the doctor thinks the only course of action is to try the transplant/transfusion anyway. Kota insists on getting the percent chance of survival, and it’s down to 20%.

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The reflections on life and death that follow are . . . not really anything I care to comment on.

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At this point, we’re halfway into the drama, and it’s an excellent point to cut off the summary. I wouldn’t say things get less predictable, but the sequence – the timing – is important.

The acting was decent, though nothing to rave about. The most interesting and eccentric character was certainly Harada, and Yamada-kun did a good job of bringing that out. Ohno-san’s character was soft-spoken and not very dynamic, and was therefore very much in line with his own personality and other characters he played, but this was what was required to make the scenes poignant. I felt Miura-san and especially Kishimoto-san did great work as his parents.

The pace of the drama was so slow that it totally broke my patience through the middle of it. Of course, it’s based on a true story, so I can’t fault the writers, and if they sped things up certain moments might have lost their potency. But this drama was actually lacking in such pivotal moments. There’s a lot of dialogue and minimal action (even considering the nature of the story).

In the gut-wrenching department, it’s definitely a success despite the pace. If you don’t have the stomach for some stuff that’s seriously painful to watch, then I’d recommend you stay away from this drama. (Perhaps I should put this in bold)

Altogether, I very much prefer last year’s drama over this one. In that, Ninomiya-kun’s character experienced a definite development over the course of the drama, while I didn’t sense that Ohno-san’s character changed at all due to his illness in this one. And without a transformation, it just becomes a story of woe that may or may not be overcome – a more passive thing in which the character has no agency. Yes, in real life there are situations (particularly chemotherapy) in which a person has no agency, but . . . anyway, you get the point.

The message of the drama also seems way off-target given the charity, though there’s room for interpretation.

Okay, so make sure you’ve got some water ready if you decide to watch so you can stay properly hydrated as they try their best to get the tears out of you.