I’ve been watching 1 Litre of Tears over the last few days. This Japanese TV drama is based on the best-selling diaries and notes written by a young girl, who suffered from an incurable disease called Spinocerebellar Degeneration, and her mother; the 11-episode TV series was broadcast from October till December 2005. You can find a synopsis here.

Through the series the viewer accompanies Aya, the girl with the terrible illness that will inevitably lead to her death, from her mid-teens until her early twenties. Aya is a typical teenager, she has loving parents and three younger siblings who each admire their older sister for her intelligence in school and her talent on the basketball court. We see her enjoy her daily life until small incidents occur during which Aya seems to lose control over her body. And after Aya has to be sent to the hospital, first her mother and then she herself is told she’s suffering from SCD. Due to her sickness, Aya will lose her first love (but gain a much stronger one), her friendships will be put to the test and much sooner than later, Aya’s life will change completely as she will be no longer able to walk, talk and eat properly. Through all of this, her family will become Aya’s greatest source of support and will enable her to keep her strong will to live.

The producers should have given a warning somewhere that the title, 1 Litre of Tears, refers to the approximate volume of tears cried by the viewer during each episode. I haven’t seen something so painful in quite some time. Its portrayal of the Ikeuchi family, that gave Aya strength even though not only Aya herself but each member of her family suffered because of her illness, and of the relationship between Asou and Aya that was characterised by the fear of an impending loss, shame and helplessness but also by an understanding beyong words, are extraordinarily touching and beautiful. The series manages to keep a good balance between pure, human drama and a (healthy) dose of kitsch.

Everything about that series is perfect to me. The music, the atmosphere. The actors’ performances are all convincing and really the backbone of the difficult story. The plot develops evenly at a good pace and throughout the course of the series there isn’t a single episode that seems weaker than the others, each leaves a strong impression on you that’ll stay with you for a long long time.