Chapter 12: Open It Up (12)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
“We just played a video that addressed the allegations of staged footage by a documentary show on Yamato TV—it also incorporated some thoughts and commentary from the staff of our own show. The reason that we included this insiders’ conversation, so to speak, is because everyone who works in broadcast television—including myself—is deeply connected to this particular issue, and we cannot address the matters adequately if we fail to mention this point and only focus on the facts of the case itself. Of course, the staging of footage is never acceptable under any circumstance. It is inexcusable to intentionally air information that is wrong or misrepresented. It is with that premise in mind that we put together this clip—with the hope that you see the hesitation and weaknesses of the people making the shows that you watch—that they certainly do exist, even if they don’t appear on camera. There are limits to the things that humans create—there are accidents, mistakes, and even failures. And I believe that it is not something that we should fight against, but we should always move forward as we keep these issues on our mind and strive to confront them.”
After the video, the show returned to Asou in the studio for a comment. He would close, and they would go to commercial—at least, that was how it was supposed to go. However, Asou looked over at the sub-anchor Kunieda who sat next to him.
“Kunieda-san, what did you think about the video piece just now?”
“Oh my god, he threw it to him…”
The broadcast director pressed a hand to his forehead. A tension ran through the control room that said, Ad libs are fine, but maybe not for such a delicate subject matter. There were cases where the reception of the video could change depending on how the studio handled the topic. That was why the production staff arranged to have Asou, the face of the show, finish the segment out; however, he passed the ball to Kunieda.
Sakae didn’t have to think to know what kind of face that Shitara was making in the studio. He was most likely smiling and enjoying the scene.
Kunieda accepted Asou’s question without any sign of discernible surprise.
“We use the words ‘truth’ and ‘lie’ very naturally as we go about our daily lives, but I believe that they originally possessed a much heavier meaning. …Perhaps the person speaking to you right now, the announcer Kunieda Kei, only exists in front of the camera. And maybe you would call that a lie.”
“Camera 3, slowly zoom in on Kuneida.”
Sakae probably would have given the same instruction. Not because it was good or bad, but because the face that spoke ‘the truth’ attracted the viewers who saw him irrespective of physical appearance. Because it was just that difficult to convey words spoken from the heart over the camera to the masses. Maybe it was an inevitability that Asou had noticed the staged footage—because it hadn’t felt like the man’s own words. Lies versus true feelings—true feelings versus public stances—it was an announcer’s job to instantly discern which stance that they had to deploy.
“A long time ago, the producer of this show once asked me a question. That is—‘what is the worst thing that a show can do on TV?’ I am embarrassed to say that I wasn’t able to answer it at the time. He told me that it’s when you make your show without looking at your viewers. It’s easier said than done though, isn’t it? But when I think back on it and ask myself if I’ve actually done so, the answer always comes with a question mark. Maybe I will always have these question marks. But I believe that if I ever hesitate, if I ever come to a standstill and lose sight of the viewers—that someone here will let me know. They will correct me and tell me that I’m wrong. And I hope that I can do the same for everyone here as well.”
“Don’t toss it back. We’ll go straight to commercial like this.”
For the five seconds before the screen switched to commercial, Kunieda relaxed his expression slightly in what appeared to be relief before returning to the face of a proper and polite announcer and bowed to the camera. It was the correct decision to go straight to commercial without plastering the screen with text for the next segment or even the show’s logo. The sub-anchor Kunieda had displayed a presence that almost consumed Asou, the main host of the show. Any extraneous information would just become white noise.
“Good, good, good. That was great, Kunieda.”
“The comment was so good, it upstaged the video…”
While people exchanged expressions of relief around the room, Sakae watched the shift in viewership ratings in real time on the computer. There were times when the initial numbers differed considerably from the final results, but at the present, the graph seemed to show an increasing upwards trend compared to the start of the segment despite the momentarily dips and rises over the long 15-minute video. Well then, what would happen now from here on out?
After their review meeting was over for the day, Sakae called out to Kunieda.
“Hey, did you know that he was going to toss it to you?”
“I had a slight hunch, I suppose,” Kunieda answered with a courteous smile. “I felt like Asou-san might toss it to me without warning, so I tried my best to not think about it beforehand.”
“Don’t you have it backwards?”
“Well, words that have been prepared beforehand will sound like they have been prepared.”
Play-by-plays were one thing, but it was a very normal feeling to want to prepare for all possibilities beforehand when it came to material of such a serious nature. There were even some announcers who would say with a straight face that they refused to deviate a single word from the script even though they were professionals.
“…Perhaps it is due to my own inexperience, but with the flow of the broadcast, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to measure up to the video piece unless I was to take the challenge and respond to Asou-san’s words as he gave them.”
“Weren’t you nervous?”
“I am always nervous,” Kunieda replied, breaking into a smile. “In all sorts of ways, this isn’t your typical show, and I can never let my guard down.”
Yeah, that’s for sure. You’ve got my full agreement there.
“You know, you should have been a comedian.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Kunieda widened his eyes at Sakae’s words.
“Um, I’m not quite sure what you mean.”
“Nothing really. Just my personal opinion.”
In terms of improvisational skills and composure under the spotlight.
“But I’m not particularly funny?”
“That part is less important. It’s our job to make you funny.”
For some reason, Minagawa was off to the side, folded over in laughter while Shin looked panicked as he desperately tried to pull him away by the arm.
“Sakae, do you have a moment?”
Shitara beckoned him over, so Sakae left Kunieda behind who had a doubtful look on his face like the explanation wasn’t enough. They exited the studio, and Shitara led Sakae over to an editing suite.
“Great job tonight,” he said. “I have three things I want to talk to you about— Hey, don’t make a face. It won’t take that long. First things first. That was a great video piece. You just barely scraped by—it was a brand new Souma Sakae work that was still at its heart very you.”
“But when the News Director previewed the piece, his face basically said it was just barely out of bounds.”
“Well, yeah, because it was structured in a way that cut out the flesh to show the bones. But we were the only ones to get Miyoshi’s comments on tape. In the end, as a TV man, he couldn’t overcome the temptation to broadcast a great story that we had.”
Yamato TV’s official statement on the staging of footage was that the interviewee had suddenly died during a very tight production schedule which caused a proxy to be used in his place. As for the personal and emotional reason that Miyoshi had given, the only response that they received when they asked about it was a curt one that referred them back to the official statement. Sakae didn’t know if they had decided to omit it or if Miyoshi hadn’t disclosed that information to them. Apparently Miyoshi had been absent from work since the news broke, and instead of being fired, he was allowed to resign from the network. Sakae hadn’t asked if Shitara had tried to contact Miyoshi or not. My Document and its entire existence would be buried as one of the multitudes of scandals that plagued the industry. It could even be turned into an example, used for compliance training for new employees.
“The second thing I want to say—make sure to submit the travel expenses for your New York trip so you’re reimbursed for it. But I won’t approve it again the next time you pull another stunt like this on your own. You can do whatever you like, but I won’t approve of any violation of the rules. I don’t want you making a move unless you get an okay from me.”
His tone of voice was nonchalant, but looking into his eyes, Shitara was actually pretty angry. Sakae nearly said, It was your cohort who put me up to this, but he was the one who decided to do the story, so he accepted it without a fight and said, “Got it.”
“What’s the third thing?”
“Show me the raw footage from Miyoshi’s tape.”
Sakae didn’t think that Shitara would ask him that after all this time. He thought that maybe he had gotten away with it because Shitara hadn’t said anything about it until now.
“When you first showed me the footage, it looked like you rushed to stop the tape. So I thought that maybe there was still more after that, but there was nothing in the finished piece. …I wasn’t just imagining it, was I?”
“It was a conversation that had nothing to do with the scandal.”
It had been weighing on his mind the entire time whether he should keep quiet about it. Sakae had been prepared to either show or hide the conversation from Shitara, but he didn’t think that either option was something that he should do. It was none of Sakae’s business what happened between Shitara and Miyoshi. That was why in all honesty, Sakae was half relieved that Shitara had been able to pick up on it so sharply.
“You just have to go poking your nose in.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll understand when you see it. But let’s do this somewhere else first.”
“Your place? Or mine?”
Sakae had been pressed for time doing the edits for the video, and his apartment was a bit of a mess, so he opted for the latter option for his own convenience.
“Why the hell do you drive to work when you live a stone’s throw away?”
“Sometimes I feel like going for a drive after work, and it’s convenient for the times like now when I suddenly have takeout to bring home.”
“You’re not bringing me home, I’m granting you my presence,” but the distance wasn’t long enough for them to even argue about it. Sakae checked his cell phone in the passenger seat and saw a LINE message from Asou that said, “Great job as usual.”
It also said, “I’ll treat you to another massage.”
“Who the hell’s gonna go?”
“Hmm? What’s that?”
“Nothing. Just talking to myself.”
He wanted to relieve his heart of his burden right away and promptly opened up his laptop in the living room. He started the replay from when Miyoshi had said “Wait.” Shitara watched the short video with a disinterested gaze like he was in front of the TV while it played commercials.
That was his first reaction.
“I’m not sure how else I’m supposed to act though~”
The tone of his complaint was exceedingly light.
“So you seriously didn’t know that he hated you?”
“Don’t flat out say that he hated me. I didn’t know at all. I just thought of him as a normal friend. If he hated it, he didn’t have to force himself to hang out with me.”
“Say it to him yourself.”
“Hnnn~ There’s no one who thinks that I’m more talented than Miyoshi. He called me an idiot with a foolish grin on my face, but getting all grim and serious doesn’t really solve any problems. And of course, it’s impossible for things to always be smooth sailing, you know? I’m sure we both understand that work isn’t always going to be easy, and that things can get pretty hectic—I mean we work in the same industry after all.”
“I can understand why you irritate him.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“In the end, you didn’t have much interest in Miyoshi Shunji, did you? That’s why you never noticed it.”
“Whose side are you on anyway?”
“Who knows? But you said this before—that the truth is nothing more than the honest trust. If he pretended to be your friend for over 20 years and you enjoyed that time with him, then in a way, isn’t there a sincerity in that lie?”
“It sounds like you’re telling me not to get angry at Miyoshi.”
“Do you want to get angry?”
“Angry…? I’m not sure, it’s not quite anger…” Shitara murmured, quietly closing the laptop and staring at the hand that he left on top of it. “…I guess I wonder what I should have done differently? Would he have felt better if I had cried or complained?”
Shitara seemed to be at a loss. Like he didn’t know where he had gone wrong. Or if he should have never tried to get to know him. Sakae had never seen this face of his before—a face free of all artifice, mixed with bitterness and sadness.
This was probably the first time that Sakae had ever felt feelings of jealousy. Jealousy for Miyoshi who had put this look on Shitara’s face. But it wasn’t like Sakae wanted to put this look on him. There was a sort of pleasure in this particular contradiction.
“…What are you smiling for?”
Apparently the corners of his mouth had lifted without him knowing.
“You’re so mean,” Shitara said, half of his usual demeanor returning. “Who smiles when someone’s depressed here?”
“It’s funny though.”
“You’re a monster.”
That was for sure. But how should he share this time with Shitara now? What face should he make? What lies should he give? Sakae didn’t know, so he tried asking instead.
“Then tell me what you want me to do.”
“I want you to comfort me with your body.”
What? Is that all?
“That’s pretty cheap.”
“Because you’re the one who’s selling it cheap. Are you sure you want to agree to it so easily?”
“It’s easier than using words or my heart to comfort you.”
“That’s very much like you, Sakae.”
“Aren’t you happy about it?”
“Yeah— Well, I do want your heart and words too though.”
Shitara used a finger to gently raise Sakae’s chin. He used a gaze that seemed to inspect him like porcelain, caressing him upwards.
“But right now, I don’t need anything I can’t see or touch, I guess.”
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.