Vessel Of Sand

Reviewed by: Yanie

July 01, 2004

Rating: five

VESSEL OF SAND ~A Tragic Tale of A Little Boy~

Title: ~Suna no Utsuwa~
Other titles: Vessel of Sand, Sand Bowl, Castle of Sand, The Story of The Last Symphony
Broadcasts: TBS, January-March 2004
Duration: 11 episodes
Casts: Masahiro Nakai, Ken Watanabe, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Kyono Kotomi, Shinji Takeda.

Dark, tragic yet artistically beautiful. Suna no Utsuwa translates as vessel of sand or sand bowl.....a bowl which is made of sand....
Sand will always be sand, no matter how perfect and beautiful it is formed as a bowl, it will return to its original form.......blows by the wind....return as grains of sand.....

This sand bowl is constantly use throughout the drama to symbolize Eiryo Waga[Masahiro Nakai]'s identity, a very talented, successful and professional pianist and composer, who hides his dark and tragic past. For 24 years, he has worked hard to live and build a new identity, achieve big success as a famous and talented pianist....also has engaged with a former cabinet minister's daughter, whom he never loved. He's willing to marry her only to achieve higher status. His life is almost perfect and he's about to bury his dark past totally. But an old man from his past, suddenly comes back to his life......and he kills him...

Adapted from a novel by Seicho Matsumoto, published in 1961, and have also been adapted to a big-hit and successful movie in 1974, starring Tanba Tetsuro[as Inspector Imanishi] and Go Kato[as Eiryo Waga], this 11-episodes drama has won Best Themesong & Best Music awards. Masahiro Nakai, who acted as Eiryo Waga, won Best Actor, acting in the drama. While, the Oscar nominee, Ken Watanabe of The Last Samurai fame, who acted as inspector Imanishi, won Best Supporting Actor award from this drama. And also nominated as Best Dorama last season, together with "Shiroi Kyoto", "Boku to Kanojo...", "PRIDE" & NHK's "TeruTeru Kazoku". It also never fails to be on Top 5 Average Rating last season.

This drama has many things that other common Japan dramas doesn't have. Some of them as I mention below.
First, its originality....while many JDrama inspired by Hollywood movies, Suna have such an original story, uneasy-to-guess plot...the pattern is not like any other dark mystery dramas(e.g Sleeping Forest, Ice World, Billion Stars From The Sky).
Second, the use of breathtaking sceneries and great cinematography!! Many scenes are made as beautiful and as artistic it can and the sceneries blends beautifully with the scenes, dialogues and music!!
Third, the producer's boldness to cast an idol to act the leading role which is quite difficult to be act....a dark character with closed personality, a character with full emotion and so sensitive inside....yet, always look calm, plain expressions, and cold as an ice outside. Plus, this idol who has never learned how to play a piano before, have to act a talented, professional and successful pianist & composer!

Background musics use classic orchestra musics, with the tinkling of a piano and the bowing of a violin heard prominently. Very beautiful and well-composed musics by Akira Senju! The music Shukumei(translates as Destiny) which is composed by Eiryo Waga(originally composed by Akira Senju) is such a beautiful, beautiful piece...really depicts the tragic and hard life Eiryo has gone through...the music sounds also depicts Eiryo's sad and hurt feelings too....

Suna no Utsuwa tells the story of Eiryo Waga(whose name used to be Hideo Motoura), 31 years old, who kills a man from his past. The police detective, inspector Imanishi[Ken Watanabe] and his young partner, Yoshimura[Masaru Nagai], starts to investigate the case. Which slowly, bit by bit, the mystery starts to revealed, and also returns the dark past to Eiryo. His childhood past, to be exact....

One day, the engaged-Eiryo, meets Asami Naruse[Yasuko Matsuyuki], a stage actress, whom he intends to kill, at first, coz she was on the crime scene that night. But Eiryo gradually grow feelings for Asami, who also has her own dark past. This two lost souls meet, support and understand each other....and then....falls in love....

In the last 2 episodes, the audience is showed the tragic story of little Eiryo completely. How he loose his mother.....then his live as a beggar, and face such a hard only 5-7 years of age....

Last words I would like to dedicate to Masahiro Nakai, who is well-known as the leader of the most popular group in Japan, SMAP....for giving such an excellent performance in this drama! Superb! Such a difficult character to be acted in my opinion....coz it involves a lot of emotion and sensitivity.
I love Eiryo's character's matter how he tried to form a new character in front of people...the cool, plain expression Eiryo Waga.....he is still the little boy Hideo fragile, full of emotions and such a sensitive person. Love how he sometimes, suddenly cries like a little child when he's alone in his mansion at one time, then being all-cool again at another time!
And its not easy for someone who just learned how to play a piano for few months, acting as a talented and professional pianist like Eiryo Waga. Nakai did it wonderfully! Its as if, he can really play as great as Eiryo!
Plus, he plays it with kanashii expressions and hurt feelings, that's why, I love every scene where Eiryo starts to play the the expressions in his face when he plays...full of feelings. Hats off to Nakai!
Overall, Nakai did a terrific job! The expression acting, the characterize acting, -playing the piano- acting.....all perfectly well-done and deserve a Best Actor award more than anyone else! I really respect Nakai now.

Suna no Utsuwa is a wonderful production! Such a work of art... its really a must-see for every JDrama fans...!!

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