My reason for watching this – Kase Ryo + Toda Erika (SPEC conbi!) and I have a weak spot for animals. One of my earlier ambitions was to be a veterinarian (along many others like working for National Geographic, archeologist etc lol one can always dream!)
In this 1 hour 40 min special by WOWOW, we get insight on how the animal protection center’s system works in year 2009 Japan, the people behind it and how the complicated job affects their daily life. I say complicated because of the irony their occupation presents. Think about this for a moment, they become veterinarians to cure animals, yet they have no choice but to do the opposite at this center. Not enough space to keep the animals and cost is also a problem.
The show wastes no time and opens by introducing us to the characters right away. First, we see a worker waking up from nightmares and pees in his sleep. His day begins with him washing his wet pants and bed sheet. While putting them out to dry, he sees a dog running across the street.
Next, veterinarian Aki (Toda Erika) prepares food for her aging mother who shows signs of Alzheimer’s. Before heading out to work, she reminds her mother not to feed the cats anymore and throws the cat food in the garbage. During the trip to work, she sees the very same dog, running off somewhere. She mutters to herself, “Don’t get caught.”
Finally, Makita (Kase Ryo) is riding the bus to work and sees the same dog. He begins narrating about his job. When he arrives at work, he doesn’t seem very enthusiastic, almost dreading it and doesn’t take long for us to understand why. Everyday, he goes to work and has to face animals he should be protecting and not slaughter. On the day they are supposed to carry out the euthanasia, Makita asks for a delay to monitor the animals’ condition, much to his colleagues’ surprise.
While putting down the animals doesn’t sit right with Makita, some of them take it as a job nobody else wants and holds on to the belief that they’re the only ones to carry it out. For them, it’s just a job needed to be done. Makita however is not the only one having trouble coming to terms with his job, Aki is also taking medicine to help calm herself. The worker who wets his bed has developed a habit of naming the animals and speaking with them. He tells the others that the animals just start talking to him one day.
Makita is due to get married but it doesn’t work out. Aki struggles with her mother feeding the stray cats and tries to make her understand this ‘kind action’ is one of the factors contributing to the increasing population. These stray cats will one day end up at the center and she’s the one to put them down.
The center receives pets from owners who can’t keep them anymore (for example moving to places that doesn’t allow pets etc). They try to make them understand that once the animals are put in the center, they will be euthanized at some point.
There was an instance one particular dog is still alive after the gas chamber, so they revive it instead. Miracle!
When a new director comes in, she decides to change the system, little by little. For starters, she wants them to start naming the animals. Soon, she begins reaching out to adoption centers.
They recruit volunteers to take the animals out for strolls and create awareness among the citizens. The adoption center collaborates with them and the abandoned animals start getting new owners. The effort starts to pay off and less get euthanized.
The show has a pretty simple structure, slow-paced and contemplative. At times, it almost feels like a slice-of-life drama with lingering shots, typical WOWOW cinematography. I think the cast did great and I appreciate the educational aspects of it. I’d have loved to see more interaction between Kase Ryo and Toda Erika though. While it has all the makings for a good show, the plot does reach a plateau towards the third act and lacks the impact to make it particularly memorable.
Watchable, especially for animal lovers.
**can’t find the raw anywhere so had to resort to the hardsubbed version
edit: see the comment on how to obtain raw