Last Friends screenwriter Taeko Asano

By Yuki Keiser June 2008

Last Friends

1. Changing the present

Profile: Taeko Asano Profile
Born in 1961, Taeko Asano became a screenwriter after earning an undergraduate degree in French literature at the Keio University School of Letters and a Master's in literary study at the Keio University Graduate School. In 1994, she won honorable mention at the 7th Annual Fuji Television Young Scenario Awards for her piece Mugon Denwa (The Silent Call) and has worked on a number of hit television screenplays including Love Generation (1997), Kami-sama, Mou Sukoshi Dake (God, Just a Little Longer) (1998), and O-Oku (The Inner Palace) (1995). Her latest work, Last Friends is being received enthusiastically by audiences all across Japan.

Taeko Asano

●Fuji Television Every Thursday 10:00 - 10:54 pm (The series ended on June 26th)
●Screenwriter: Taeko Asano
●Producer: Toshiyuki Nakano
●Cast: Masami Nagasawa, Juri Ueno, Eita, others
●The official Last Friends site:

Last Friends

Last Friends (Fuji Television), a prime-time drama that explores unabashedly the impact of abuse and confused gender identity in its characters, has gained great attention in a surprisingly short period of time. The program has succeeded in grabbing a high share of viewer ratings owing to the entrancing, energetic flair of a highly talented cast - including Juri Ueno, Masami Nagasawa, and Eita - in addition to the attention-grabbing closing scenes to its episodes each week.

While all members of the cast have each been applauded for the energy with which they've thrown themselves into their roles, Ruka Kishimoto - Juri Ueno's character - has gained especially warm support and reception as she explores her place within the world as a sexual minority. Her bravado and pure heart have won fans over, and she's become something of an icon among queer women and girls in Japan and across Asia.

The woman behind the screenplay to this groundbreaking program is Taeko Asano, known for her work on other programs that have also swept the globe, such as Love Generation (1997), Kami-sama, Mou Sukoshi Dake (God, Just a Little Longer) (1998), and O-Oku (The Inner Palace) (2005). Tokyo Wrestling interviews Asano to learn more about the making of Last Friends, her relationship with its cast, character development, the introduction of themes relating to sexual minorities, and of course - the program's ending.

★For our interview with Taeko Asano about the conclusion to Last Friends, follow the link here.

-- The response to Last Friends has been incredibly good. What aspects of your own feelings have been invested in this work?

It had been my first project in a while--since I had worked on the script for O-Oku, a historical drama centering on youth. So I was a bit nervous, and really threw myself out there. O-Oku was popular in its own right, but at the time I didn't pay much attention to how it was being received - I figured that only producers and directors needed to be concerned over audience response.

But this time around, I started to think that I wanted to work on a script that was groundbreaking. I feel that the business of dramas in general tends to be conservative in Japan nowadays and, as a result, all the programs available are pretty much no-brainers. Also, there's the assumption that coming up with stories that are "too dark" or too "close to home" would be a ratings disaster.

So, in the midst of all that, I developed a strong desire to work with a radiant young cast and change the present by really provoking society to question what's going on around them. So, to do this really, I wanted to gain viewership and I also wanted the story to resonate.

--What do you think is the highlight of this program?

Well, first of all, one would be the fact that the program presents parts of society today that have not been addressed much before. I feel like I want to show a world that hadn't been made visible yet, so that people could open their eyes to it. Also, while many issues do come up in the story, as a whole I put a lot of effort into presenting that story in a way so that people feel like they HAVE TO know what's next.

--Yes, it's very easy to get wrapped up in wanting to know how the story will continue each week! (laughs)

Exactly! And, the way things are in this industry, even if something is well written if its ratings are low then it is soon forgotten - so I've found that it's important to write a compelling script in order to impress your story on more people. For that reason, I would list the way in which I draw out the developments of the story as one of the program's highlights.

--What is your source of inspiration?

Well, the script was not put together until after the actors were decided - I then began working on developing an image of the story from there. In the beginning only Juri (Ueno) and Masami (Nagasawa) were confirmed for the lead roles. Then, I started writing and Asami Mizukawa was added in the role of Eri - but to be honest my initial proposal was for a program about three girls, so that should have been it. However, the producer brought male actors, and some actors were also contacting us, so eventually male characters were also woven into the story. Over the course of all this, the story itself began to change. The actors themselves have inspired the story - I've been able to take it in many directions just by accounting for them.

--When all you had was the two lead characters chosen, what kind of story were you imagining?

Initially, Masami would be trying to leave an abusive relationship and Juri would be grappling with gender identity disorder. To be honest, the producer had decided that much from the beginning. And then everything else began from there. Except, it wasn't until later that we decided on who should play the role of the abusive boyfriend.

[ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] [ 5 ] [ 6 ] [ 7 ] [ 8 ]
translated by ^Yuuki and rayna rusenko