Ok so I watched Kamisama no Karute 2 (KnK 2) a few nights ago and ever since, I've been writing this post in my head. So, I'm just going to get it out of the way and just say it. Part 2 did not live up to Part 1. There. I said it. I was so unsure about whether I had made the right judgment that I went back and watched the first part again. And then parts of the second part again. Just in case I'd changed and didn't like the first part anymore either or that I just hadn't given the second part the right kind of attention. But, no as soon as Kurihara-sensei's face filled up the screen in the first movie, I knew. The first movie was magic...and the second movie was just a movie.
That's right. It's not that the second movie is actually bad. It's actually pretty good as far as movies go, but it wasn't the masterpiece that KnK 1. This is not because the movie is inherently flawed but because it lacks the personality of the first one. If there is a fatal flaw, it is that the makers of the movie focused too much on "What Happened" and "The Point". Each and every scene is an action point for the next of three different stories. And maybe that's the problem. There were three different doctors with different stories that were entwined and therefore they were unable to focus on any one of them. Actually the focus ended up on the doctor that I believe should have had the minor story because he was a new character...but because of that they had to spend more time telling us who he was and that just took away from the characters we knew before and had come to love. Throw in a ton of back stories that had to be told about the three different characters and there was simply no time left for anything but "The Story". What happened next was all they could manage to fit into the allotted screen time. As a result, "The Point" of the story was highly belabored. "The Point" being that doctors have a hard time balancing between family and patients and that the decision can often be highly crucial to a patient's life and that doctors need supportive families but should occasionally remember that they have a family as well and give them time too. Got it. Simple. You didn't need to make all three doctors go through the same exact process to make the same exact point!
See, the thing is, it's realistic that every doctor, in fact all people passionate about their work will have to probably make this sort of decision at every step of the way. But because, they almost made these characters into models of a virtue or a characteristic rather than a human being, it lost the personality of the first movie. And that's it really. In and of itself, the movie was rather nice with a good lesson and a good story. However, it wasn't anything special.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!!
Let's compare it to KnK 1. As I said, KnK 1 had personality. And it had personality because the characters had personality. Kurihara-sensei (Sakurai Sho's character) was the most endearing character I've come across in a while. From his habit of quoting archaic literature with a twinkle in his eye, to talking to himself in his sleepy gravelly voice, to his eyes lighting up when something medically interesting came up, he was one of the most alive people, I've seen on TV. The makers of the movie spent time making him into a real person. He had this wonderful relationship with his patients that consisted mostly of confusion on his part at how to deal with people but real stubbornness as well about making them better again. He had an excellent relationship with the nurses as well, in which he cared for them and valued them a lot but in which if they ever showed any concern for him, he'd very seriously thank them for their concern but didn't they know he was married? And can you believe they took this out of the second movie! I don't think he addressed any nurses in the second movie except for the two main ones and only then for a medical reason or because they talked to him first. He had this habit in the first one, of reading a book as he walked the halls between patients. His love for books was important, so important that they'd sometimes show the book without him even in the scene. They had this scene in which the landlord describes Kurihara-sensei as a crybaby in the past who used to cry as a student when a nurse yelled at him or a patient died or they had to kill animals for experiments. And Haru is wife says: He still cries. He just does it on the inside now. These little scenes made the character. The worst part of the second movie was that they'd throw in these little scenes like one random scene where Kurihara-sensei says the "I'm married" line or one scene where he's walking with the book. But you felt the oddness of that because it was clearly thrown in for the entertainment value that the makers obviously knew it gave but that they couldn't bother to give more attention to.
One of the terrible parts of the second movie was that they totally sidelined Haru!!! It's like they told her: you're role is to be pregnant and pretty. No, literally the two best scenes in the whole movie were like this: Haru's been gifted a yukata which she she looks gorgeous in much to the admiration of the landlord and second tenant of the inn where they live. Kurihara comes home after receiving some harrowing news and seeing her says: "What happened?" much to the disapproval of the landlord and the tenant who don't hesitate to express their disapproval. He changes it to "It suits you." but by now Haru knows something is wrong and the scene changes to him holding her tightly. The second scene is when Kurihara-sensei finds out that his baby was born upon which he immediately dissolves into a bumbling mess. When the nurses immediately pack him off to the maternity ward, he walks off dazedly and then grin slowly spreading across his face, he begins to run. That last scene didn't even HAVE Haru in it.
But in the first movie Haru wasn't just the pretty wife. Oh no. She was a photographer with a real job that involved her scaling mountains to take wildlife scenery photos. She'd go to the temple every day, rain or shine, to pray. She had a beautiful wardrobe which the couldn't show as much in the second movie because she just wasn't in it as much! She had ideas and philosophies and goals which she shared with Kurihara and he with her. He'd send her the longest texts about what he thought about work. Sometimes he'd come back and she wouldn't be home because she was off on a shoot. They actually talked to each other and they had this habit of sharing the same humor and biting back grins over the same thing. Once, Kurihara called her from work just to ask her to identify a song that one of his patients was singing in her delirium. That scene was not necessary to the story but the makers put it in there and it was good. They also, made sure the movie was not just Kurihara and the hospital but depicted his home life too with the inn and the tenants all cooking together, even scenes of just Kurihara and the landlord or the just landlord and the second tenant. But the first movie just didn't have much Kurihara-Haru interaction at all, maybe to hammer in the "busy doctor who can't give his family time" model. Sakurai Sho and Miyazaki Aoi did a good job though and you could feel the chemistry but they can only do so much without dialogue and little screen time together.
There were other little tricks that were used to make the first movie better. For example camera angles. There were three separate scenes (yes, I counted) showing Kurihara-sensei's face upside down, including one in which is head was dangling off of a chair as he slept. As I said, he and his perpetual sleepiness were endearing and these little ways of showing him from different angles made it more so. (Can you believe by the way, that in the second movie, his trademark perm was flat? WHAT?? How could they do that??) They had a ton of breathtaking scenery too in the movie, just lovely shots of beautiful nature and shots of the quiet streets of the town, panoramas of the rooftops of the town, the way they love to do in Japanese film. They made the most effective use of soundtracks of birds chirping, making you almost able to feel the coolness of the early, early morning that it must be. The movie was slowly paced, and they focused less on plot, letting Kurihara's voice narrate what they didn't feel like was necessary to show. (They should have done that in the second movie. They got rid of the narration device completely and that might have helped them remove so many of the "what happened" scenes.)
The soundtrack in the first movie was great too with warm, quite music and sometimes even just silences or the sound of nature or the wind. The perfect soundtrack for the movie. I was horrified when the second movie ended with a high tenor, opera sounding song in English! I still don't understand why they did that.
The second movie did have two more scenes that I enjoyed greatly. One was when Kurihara and Haru were walking up the winding pathway back to their inn holding hands while their tenant friend, who I suspect was enamored of Haru and felt that Kurihara didn't value her enough, stumbled on behind them loaded down with baggage. He was silently glaring at their hands in resentment for being alone, struggling with all the baggage,and the injustice of the wacko doctor holding hands with pretty Haru. Another funny scene was when Kurihara-sensei's patient's blood sugar has gone out the roof but he insists that he only ate the hospital food that he was given. They go back and forth going: I didn't eat anything. Yes you did. No I didn't. Yes you did. And then Kurihara gets the most gently stubborn look I've ever seen on anyone's face as he stares probingly at the patient and he says: "Well there's a recent blood test that's come out that I'm going to do on you that immediately tells me what you ate." The patient immediately blurts the truth. Hilarity is added to the story when we find out later that the patient is actually a doctor himself and must have obviously known that no such blood test exists. Those were two scenes well done and the second one wasn't even necessary to the overall plot. See? Depth and breadth makes any story good.
I looked up the makers of both movies afterwards and there is no difference except in producers. The author who wrote the two parts of the novels is the same and the scriptwriter and director were also the same. The actors were all the same except for the new ones. Only the producers were different but as far as I can tell, the producer role is very dynamic and prone to being different for every movie so I'm not sure how much of an effect the change of producer had on the movie.
There are rumors that the novel author is coming out with a third part to his story and that a third movie will be made. If that happens, I would not be averse to it. As I said the second movie wasn't horrible. It just wasn't as special as the first one and what makes good movies special IS that they are rare. And who knows, maybe with another chance, the makers will be able to make the third movie just as special. If they need someone to advise them, I volunteer as tribute. Otherwise, go for it. I know now that no sequels can ruin the first movie for me and that I'll always love it and that's good enough for me.