Reflecting On J-Drama: Why Didn’t I Tell You a Million Times

If you’re at all familiar with my interests then you may know I am a big fan of mystery, romance and crime dramas. This is a collection of things that often go underserved in the mediums I like, so I’m always happy to discover something that manages to incorporate all three of these things and prove interesting. While I often watch romance dramas or adaptations of manga I already like, I picked up Why Didn’t I Tell You a Million Times on a whim and I’m really glad I did.

This series aired in Japan in 2023 and follows the story of childhood friends Yui and Naoki. The two lost touch at one point but reunited as adults and began dating seriously in a bid to make up for their lost time. When we begin the story it’s Yui’s birthday and she’s excitedly waiting at home for Naoki, only her beloved boyfriend never comes home and never gets in contact with her either. In the end, Yui ends up going to the police to file a missing person’s case which set in motion a set of events that change her life.

As it turns out, Naoki never came home that day because he was dead and is now wandering the city as a ghost. No matter what he does, Yui can’t see or hear him nor can anyone else it seems. Except for police detective Yuzuru whose family runs a temple. When Yuzuru first meets Naoki he wants nothing to do with him, but once he recognises him as the man Yui submitted a missing persons report for he reluctantly agrees to him out.

Naturally, Yui doesn’t believe Yuzuru when he first comes calling and says he’s with Naoki, but eventually thanks to Yuzuru sharing some knowledge only Naoki would know she comes to believe that he truly is present as a ghost. Of course, she’s upset that she can’t talk to Naoki directly, but at least through the detective she still has a way to communicate with him.

Naoki doesn’t remember how he died, but Yuzuru believes it’s connected to a murder case he’s investigating. Ultimately the story ends up being about Yuzuru investigating this case so Naoki can figure out the truth and Yui can get some closure for that day. It’s a crime drama/mystery on the surface, but there’s also a passionate love story here that’s filled with regret and a reluctance to say goodbye to the person you love.

Naoki wants to learn the truth so he can pass on peacefully rather than remain as a ghost and prevent Yui from moving on with her life. Yui wants to remain by his side, even if they can’t communicate properly (though they do find a few ways around that later, but mostly still rely on Yuzuru). Both of them are plagued by the regret of not saying what was most important while Naoki was still alive.

And then we have Yuzuru, who can see how much these two characters care for one another and wants to do everything in his power to help them communicate now while they have this chance. He gets easily frustrated with Naoki’s inability to speak his mind and tell Yui how he feels about her, but Yuzuru also cares deeply for Naoki so ends up in the middle trying desperately to encourage Naoki to better convey the things that matter.

For lack of better phrasing, I loved this drama. I thought it would be overly depressing given the fact the main leads can’t talk to each other, but thanks to Yuzuru it finds ways to work around that and show some more heartfelt and cheerful moments to balance out the sadder parts. It’s still heartwrenching to watch but in a good way rather than feeling like it dragged on or weighed you down in a depressive cloud.

I was impressed with the acting of Inoue Mao and Matsuyama Kenichi who played Yui and Yuzuru. There are quite a few scenes where Naoki’s actor Satoh Takeru isn’t present to convey the fact Yui can’t see him or simply scenes where Naoki isn’t there but Mao has to pretend she can’t see him and these are really well directed. Particularly scenes where Takeru was on set but Mao had to act like he was invisible. Kenichi I felt was just excellent all around as Yuzuru’s character is a bit dorky and far more emotional than the stoic Naoki or brave-faced Yui. He was fun to watch and worked as an important source of comic relief.

Perhaps most importantly I was taken with the central theme of not leaving things left unsaid. I’ve been lucky enough not to experience a great deal of loss in my life nor do I have many (perhaps any) regrets of leaving things unsaid, but despite that, I believe strongly in telling my friends and loved ones how important they are. Communication is so important, not just to share your own feelings but to strengthen the bonds we share and I don’t want to ever leave something unsaid that mattered. Life is fleeting, it’s fragile and we should cherish it. When we got to the end of this drama I cried, in fact, I teared up several times toward the end because the writing was just that good (combined with some emotionally heavy music from composer Shin Kono).

This isn’t for everyone as some will find it too much and that’s okay, it can be heavy at points even while doing its best to combat that. But if this sounds like something you’d be interested in then I’d highly recommend giving it a shot. It’s available to watch on Netflix.

And if you’ve made it to the bottom of this admittedly rather long post then I thank you greatly for giving me your time. I don’t use this blog for much these days outside of my reading log (I don’t even have a category for this!), but this was important for me to get out of my system. If you have any J-Drama recommendations for me to check out then do let me know, I am always grateful to receive them!

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