Ghostwriter (ゴーストライター)

I chanced upon this drama one day while I was bored and looking for something new to watch. For some reason, the synopsis gave me an impression that this will be something light despite the genre being suspense. The poster was the thing that persuaded me to give this drama a go LOL. I like how clean and straight to the point it is. But of course, the intriguing aided me in making my final decision, and I was glad I did.

The main plot of the drama follows the life of Touno Risa (Nakatani Miki), renowned novelist and titled Queen of the Literary World who is experiencing a severe writer’s block and worries she may not be able to write again. She hires a new assistant, Kawahara Yuki, an aspiring writer whom possesses the talents that Risa needs. Yuki then becomes Risa’s ghostwriter and forms a complex bond.

Less than halfway through the first episode and I knew there would be nothing light about this drama. Yet my expectations grew as the drama moved along and I’m glad to say it did not disappoint. Ghostwriter delves into the the cutthroat world of the publishing industry where relationships are reduced to neither enemy or foe but give-and-take. The drama explores many themes such as family, integrity, self-worth and identity but at the heart of it, this is a drama about writers and their words.

The cinematography, the writing and the direction held me with every episode. The visuals are a beautifully-shot that not only provides aesthetically to the drama but sets the mood and gives an indication of what the characters were thinking. Scenes were shot at interesting angles that give a fresh perspective and adds another layer of emotion to the scene.

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The characters are complex yet relatable. Accompanied by a talented cast consisting of Miki Nakatani, Asami Mizukawa and Mahiro Takasugi, the characters are fleshed out and seem to jump out of the screen, dragging your heart with them. The most complex of them all would be Nakatani Miki’s Touno Risa. There is so much backstory and layers to her character that she almost seemed real. She is introduced as a fastidious novelist, highly respected by everyone in the literary world. I found myself feeling just as nervous for Yuki on her first day of work as she clumsily tries to figure out her new employer. But of course, Yuki’s nervousness is mixed with a sense of admiration for her longtime idol. I can’t imagine working for someone as renowned or as highly respected as Touno Risa. For me it would probably be Nakahara Aya or Jodi Picoult or even Kate Atkinson.

We soon see that Touno Risa has been struggling with a writer’s block for awhile now and even her latest novels had been receiving bad reviews. Already, we get a sense of what it means to be at the top your game. Out of desperation and manipulation from her lover/editor/manipulative jerk Chief Editor Kanzaki, she uses Yuki as her ghostwriter. What I find so compelling about Risa is that she is so relatably human. She is so complex in the sense that money and greed is not what drives her, or should be. She started off only using Yuki’s plots while she writes from those plots and throws advice at her after every draft. However, she soon realise that Yuki has an immense amount of talent that could potentially push her off her seat as the Queen of Literacy.

Kanzaki then, driven by his own ambition pushes both Yuki and Risa towards the path of ghostwriter and novelist. As the drama goes on, Risa is revealed to be more complex than we first thought. Her novels and fame was the foundation of her self-worth, of her ultimate goal which is to win her mother’s approval. But of course, near the end we realise how pathetic her efforts were to try and win the approval of a woman who has dementia and doesn’t even recognise her daughter.

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Meanwhile, we see the cost of her success, her broken relationship with her only son, Daiki. I really like what they did with Daiki’s character. Spoilt, neglected sons has become a cliche appearing in most dramas and they were all always the same. Rebellious, rude, bad grades at school and bad friends. Yet with Daiki, he’s a little different in his acts of rebellion. He mocks his mother every time he sees her, calling her by her full name (which in asian culture is unbelievably rude) instead of “mom”, as if refusing to acknowledge her as his mother. It doesn’t just stop there. He steals the test data from the school computer and gives it to his entire class, enabling everyone to score a 100% while he scored 0. LOL. That was actually funny.

The second time was when he sent an anonymous death threat to Risa’s publishing company with a fake hand grenade which caused the entire company to evacuate. Before the incident a hand grenade was reported stolen from the army so of course they would think it’s real. Thinking about it now I still think it’s funny LOL. His actions are sort of his revenge against his mother for neglecting him all those years and despite Risa trying her best to reconcile their relationship, his years of hatred prevents him to forgiving his mother. Initially I thought he had a bit of a psychological problem but he drama never confirmed it and he seemed pretty normal throughout the series, most of the time. But I guess this is what years of hatred does to you.

Moving on to Yuki, I was already on the Yuki-Oda ship from episode 1 but was briefly disappointed when I found out she was engaged. Not to worry for she ended up dumping her fiance, Hiroyasu, which turned out to be a misogynistic jerk (yay!). Although he kept coming back and she still had feelings for him. I wished they had more episodes to establish the relationship between Yuki and Hiroyasu. I couldn’t really empathise with Yuki when she rejected him despite having feelings for him. I had hoped that Yuki and Oda would somehow end up together but this isn’t a romance drama after all. Anyway their chemistry kind of faded off towards the later part as Yuki’s character developed. Oh well. Yuki’s character is pretty ordinary at the start, naive, aspiring writer still having dreams of becoming a renowned novelist one day.

However, she decided to sacrifice having her name published with settling for being a ghostwriter for Risa. Of course she didn’t accept it instantly. In fact she made all of them wait one week after the deadline before finally appearing with the manuscript (you go girl!). I think part of her motivation was that she didn’t want to let the name Touno Risa, whom she had always idolised to fall. Another would be she wasn’t confident that her books published in her own name would ever make it in the world, having her first published book being returned. As an aspiring writer, I could relate to Yuki’s reasoning. She wanted the world to read her works, to know that her work was getting praised by the world even if the praise wasn’t directed at her. This is why so many authors are contented to be published under a pseudonym.

Yuki’s character would probably be the more likable out of the two but I can’t seem to relate much to her. Her character was well-developed and she came out  stronger woman as well as a writer who knew her own worth and her own pride. But I was more drawn to the complexity of Risa’s character that when she overcame it all at the end, I was so happy for her.

The script was soooooooooooo good omg. There were so many lines that I wanted to quote, lines that held so much power and meaning to them. Damn. At the start I was thinking how they were going to pack so much into a mere 10 episodes. But the pacing was good, the flow of the drama was smooth and it didn’t feel jarring or made me question the logic of the scenes. It kind of slowed down near the last two episodes but picked up again. I felt like I took so much away not only as an audience, but as an aspiring writer. The drama moved me and brought out emotions that I had kept hidden for so long. Maybe it was because the obstacles the characters were facing seemed to reflect what I was going through in my own life. I learnt about relationships, mother and child, mentor and mentee, novelist and editor. I learnt about integrity, the pride of a writer and her work. That people can manipulate you, push you towards a certain direction but ultimately you need to be strong enough to make your own. To know what you must do.

Ghostwriter is a drama for everybody and not just writers. It is a drama packed with intensity, emotions and layers of storytelling.

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