Chapter 20: Moonlight Shower (Or the Melancholy of Nawada Shin)
A stream of people called on TV producers pretty much every single day—from editors to business admins, network PR people, or even visitors from other companies. There was no way for Shin to know all of the people who came through to the staff room; usually he never paid attention to them and just saw that someone had come for a visit. However, there was a young man who came by at the end of September, and he seemed to be strangely close to Shitara. Judging from his appearance, he had to be younger than Shin. Shin thought that it was unusual due to the large age gap between him and Shitara, and he ended up watching them out of curiosity.
“Shitara-san, good morning! I’m back safe and sound.”
“Hey, welcome back. Good work. You’ve gotten pretty tanned.”
“I really did. There was a staff member whose family home was flooded with water, and I got the tan when I went over on a weekend to help clean out the mud… Here, I brought a souvenir with me.”
“Thank you. Oh, Nawada, do you have a moment?”
“We received this as a gift. Please share them with everyone.”
“All right, I’ll put them out at the catering table for tonight’s broadcast.”
Shin accepted the box of maple-leaf-shaped buns. When he bowed his head at the man and said, “Thank you very much,” the man gave him a very pleasant smile in return. The smile didn’t have the power to disarm people in an instant like Tatsuki’s, but it had a perfect balance between friendliness and moderation. He was the very embodiment of a nice young man.
“I’m Mimasaka Motoi of the Contents Division.”
Shitara added, “He went with us to Hiroshima that time we ran into the heavy rainstorms.”
“Oh, that’s why ya brought over maple leaf buns… Were ya in Hiroshima until very recently?”
“Yes, I joined their news crew. Well, I’m still a newbie when it comes to TV production, but at least I was an extra pair of hands, I suppose? I helped out with errands and odd jobs wherever I could.”
He spoke nonchalantly, but covering disasters for the news had to be incredibly harsh. Not only did it require a lot of stamina, but it had to be tough to get close up and personal to report on the grief and suffering of normal people. Shin had worked on variety shows for most of his career, and he couldn’t even begin to imagine it. Nevertheless, Motoi remained upbeat and said, “I’m grateful to have learned a lot during my time there.” Shin had a pretty good impression of him—until Sakae showed up.
Motoi’s face lit up in an instant, and an alarm flashed through Shin’s head as he wondered, What’s up with this guy? Besides me, there ain’t many people who are happy to see Souma-san. He can’t be normal.
“It’s been a while, sir.”
“What? So you’re back already?”
“I was there for quite a while! I’ve brought over maple leaf buns as a gift, so please have some.”
“Don’t want any.”
“Oh, do you not like them? But I had sent a LINE asking if there was anything that you would like, but I never received a response.”
On top of that, he could have a normal conversation with him. Was he just yolo’ing it out?
“It’s fine if you didn’t want any souvenirs, but I had also sent you a draft of my proposal. Did you happen to read it?”
“Why should I? It’s got nothing to do with me.”
“Because I would like to get your opinion on it. Shitara-san has given me a lot of helpful advice.”
“That’s enough then, isn’t it? Anyway, get your daddy to look at it. You’ll get an immediate green light regardless.”
“Like I said, please quit imposing that character trope on me.”
They’re really chatterin’ away…
It was pretty suspicious to stick around as a spectator, so Shin took the box of sweets and stepped away, sneaking glances over his shoulder. That was when Tatsuki came up to him.
“Nacchan, what’s that in your hand? Oh, it’s mape-b’s!”
“Quit it with that abbreviation.”1
“I want the cream cheese ones! Save one for me~”
“Okay, okay… Oh, right.”
Tatsuki would probably know more about the person. Tatsuki pulled Shin over behind a pillar, sent a stealthy look over in Sakae’s direction, and asked, “Do you know that guy?”
“He said he’s Mimasaka-kun from the Contents Division.”
“Hmm…? Oh, is he that guy? The hotshot connections dude?”
“Uh, apparently people call him that behind his back. I’ve never talked to him before though.”
“That’s a horrible thin’ to call ’im.”
“They’re probably jealous of the guy. I heard that he’s the son of someone really high up at GRAPE. And he’s here on something like an exchange program for training.”
Now that Tatsuki mentioned it, Motoi wore a suit that looked impeccably tailored, but he wasn’t stuck up at all from their very brief conversion. If the guy had the type of personality that would bother Shin, he was confident that Sakae wouldn’t give him the time of day. It was even more implausible if he was someone who was useless at work.
“…Nacchaaan~” Tatsuki lowered his voice and narrowed his eyes. “What is it that’s bothering you so much~?
“It ain’t like that,” Shin protested. “I ain’t jealous, no way. I’m just, um…”
He pressed a hand just below his collarbone and explained, “It just feels kinda irritated here.”
“You’re jealous! You’re totally burning with jealousy!”
“No, it ain’t like that… It’s like, I’m kinda relieved at the same time? It’s good to see Souma-san talkin’ to someone normally.”
“Oh, that’s true, he does seem mellower now.”
After Sakae returned from his whirlwind trip to New York, Shin was a little worried and had called Kotarou, but he just said that there had been no issues at all.
“Really?” Shin had asked.
“He’s not exactly a friendly person, but he gave very clear instructions, which actually made it easier to work with him.”
“Um, I wanted to ask—did Souma-san happen to say anything about me?”
“Nope, not really. What? Were you rude to him or something?”
“No, I just kind of called him my father-in-law.”
Shin had been pretty furious at him for saying something so senseless. The next day, Tatsuki told Shin that Kota’s header and profile pic on Facebook had changed to all black, and Shin had felt a little bad about it.
“Oh, I know what you’re feeling,” Tatsuki said. “Nacchan, you survived the Ice Age of Souma-san while working for him, so from your perspective, you feel like you’ve put in all this hard work while this guy just walks up to him like it’s nothing.”
“I dunno, maybe.”
“But hey, don’t worry! He still sends blizzards roaring my way regardless!”
“Hmm, but now that I think ’bout it, that sorta makes ya special from everybody else…”
“Oh my god! I can’t with you!”
As they quarreled in hushed tones, Sakae himself called out to him.
“Oh! I’ll be right there, sir!”
Shin left the maple leaf buns with Tatsuki and trotted over. Sakae nodded at Motoi and said, “Teach this guy some camera basics.”
“He’s still a damn beginner, and he says he wants some pointers.”
“I would appreciate your help,” Motoi said politely with a bow.
Shin had no option to say no as long as it was Sakae’s request, so he replied with mixed feelings, “The pleasure’s mine.”
Motoi came over again late at night after the broadcast. He gave another bow and said, “I really appreciate you taking the time to help me.” When Shin saw the neat whorl of hair at the top of his head, he remembered Shitara’s words—that he was a nice guy, but he didn’t have anyone he could talk to at the network.
“He’s feeling a little out of place here. Nawada, I’m sure that he’d be happy to have someone close in age like you to get to know him,” Shitara had said.
It wasn’t fair of him to make a direct appeal to his conscience like that.
“Umm, so ya said that ya want somebody to look at the camera footage that ya took? Then how ’bout we head to an editin’ suite?”
“All right— Oh, please wait a moment.”
Motoi stopped in front of a vending machine and asked, “What would you like?”
“I’m fine. I dun really need anythin’.”
“There’s no need to be polite. It’s free after all.”
The thought crossed his mind that maybe Motoi had installed his own personal vending machine or something, but it turned out to be something very menial—a free drink coupon from collecting enough stamps through the manufacturer’s smartphone app.
“I saved it thinking that I would spend it on something worthwhile, but now it’s almost past the expiration date.”
“I know the feelin’.”
Shin wondered if the gossip about him being a hotshot with connections was people’s jealousy talking given the way that Motoi took the time to collect stamps for a coupon. He gratefully accepted some carbonated water, and then they headed for the editing suites where they watched the footage that Motoi had taken in Hiroshima.
“There’s something different about my videos when I compare it to a pro’s… It’s not that I want to become a professional camera operator, but I want to understand why they’re so different.”
Shin took a quick look through the footage and brought up the points that jumped out at him—whether it was the point of view or movement of the camera, what the focus of the shot was, or what sections to cut out and what sections to keep to put a clip together. There was almost a scent of water and dirt in the air, a rawness captured from the brutal conditions of the city and mountain regions engulfed under torrential rains, but Motoi made no mention of the stress or difficulty that he had faced to film such footage. He simply nodded and listened intently to what Shin had to say.
“Thank you very much. I’m not sure how well I can put your advice into practice, but you made it very easy to understand. Now I see why my shots look so different. You’re amazing, Nawada-san.”
“Naww, I ain’t that great.”
“But Souma-san had called out for you as the first name in his head.”
“I’m sure that he’s just used to callin’ me to do stuff since I’ve worked for ’im for so long.”
“I think that shows just how much he trusts you. Even Shitara-san said that I should be honored to have his best pupil review my work.”
“Nawww, ya just sayin’ that…”
Shin tried to remain humble despite his bashfulness when he heard the most inconceivable words in his life.
“Have you always worked in the news as well, Nawada-san?”
“Huh? Uh, no, I’ve worked for much longer on variety shows.”
“Oh, is that so? I never really watch variety shows. So where did you first work with Souma-san then?”
“What!? Are ya serious!?”
“What’s the matter?”
“Where’d we first work together? …Lemme ask ya this: Where’d ya think Souma-san’s been workin’ all this time?”
“Hasn’t it been The News? I only learned of him when I first saw the special feature on the staged footage.”
“Oi! Ain’t ya just a total bandwagoner!?” Shin unconsciously slammed his hand on the desk.
“Gimme a sec here, I’ll explain everythin’ from the top. And ya can watch my 50-minute DVD of highlights that I personally handpicked and edited.”
“Uh, that’s pretty long…”
“Heyyyy, Nacchan~ Are you ready to leave yet? I’m starving, let’s all go grab a bite to eat.”
Motoi showed his face in the staff room at around 1 am after he finished his lecture with Shin.
“Hey, how was it? Did you learn a lot?” Shitara asked.
Motoi nodded with a bit of a long face and said, “Yes, very.”
“But you don’t look exactly happy about it.”
“Oh, no. It’s just that the latter half of the lecture took a turn in an unexpected direction… For now, I’ve promised to borrow a DVD of his to watch. We’re about to go out to eat with Minagawa-san now.”
“Young people sure make friends quickly~ Have fun then.”
Motoi gave a smile but immediately dropped it and broached a new topic.
“I have something I would like to talk to you both about,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if I should say this or not, but I thought that I might as well… Miyoshi-san will be working for GRAPE starting next month.”
Sakae stole a side glance at Shitara, but he didn’t notice any obvious change in him.
“I suppose that it’s more like he’ll be affiliated with GRAPE than actually joining the company. Naturally, the decision was made with considerations for the very recent incident in mind, but apparently he was deemed to be a valuable enough asset. However, the exact scope and capacity of his role has yet to be decided…”
That was the only comment that Shitara made. His reaction was neither joyous nor dark; he just basically heard news that concerned someone whom he knew.
After Motoi left, Sakae commented, “He bounced back fast. He got the upper hand on you with just a single move. You sure you want to put off that job offer for 20 years?”
“Uh, there’s no competition between him and me here. But I’m glad for him. It’s hard to start a new job from scratch when you’re in your forties. I’m pretty relieved to hear the news, I suppose.”
“If he were to hear you say that, he’d probably start ranting again.”
Miyoshi probably would have felt better had Shitara badmouthed him and complained, He’s so shameless. He’s still clinging to this industry?
“Maybe.” Shitara gave a slight smile and asked, “How about we go for a quick drive? The weather forecast said that the moon is supposed to be beautiful tonight.”
The moon was still fairly high in the sky. While driving the car, Shitara uttered a mysterious word that sounded like a magic incantation.
“What the hell’s that?”
“It’s the name of the Twitter account from when we were in Hiroshima.”
“What about it?”
“I thought that the name had sounded familiar, and I recently remembered it. It’s the name of the president for a society of astronomers in the movie A Trip to the Moon.”
Sakae had never seen the movie, but it was the world’s first science fiction film that was made over a hundred years ago. A 14-minute, black-and-white, silent motion picture.
“Can you even fit a trip to the moon in that short of time frame?”
“It’s similar to the folk stories told on the street from the olden days. They go to the moon, have a brief squabble with the aliens who live there, and return back to Earth. It was written and directed by a Frenchman named Méliès. He also screened the coronation ceremony for one of the past kings of the U.K., but the footage wasn’t real. They prepared actors and props and simulated the ceremony.”
“So it was a re-enactment.”
Which made him a predecessor, huh?
“That’s right. He fabricated a real event for film. Méliès was a magician, so he probably had an interest in the secrets and tricks that make things like pictures move.”
“So basically he liked the deception.”
“Yup, take TV for starters.”
Tokyo Tower had long faded into the distance.
“Where the hell are you going?” Sakae asked.
To which Shitara replied, “Where should we go? It’s not like we can go to the moon.”
“It’s probably Atami anyway.”
They were on the Tomei Expressway after all.
“Got it. Thanks for the request.”
“I didn’t request it.”
So the quick drive that he had mentioned was a huge lie. Sakae searched for A Trip to the Moon on his phone to kill some time, and due to the expiration of its copyright, he found a bunch of hits for it. It seemed more like a comedy than a science fiction film to him. For example, when the society made the decision to build a rocket to the moon, after it launched, there was a scene where the rocket embedded itself into the moon with a human face on it. Sakae had no clue whether it was supposed to be serious or funny. They then found caverns and kingdoms on the moon, and in the end, their rocket fell off a cliff, back onto Earth, and into the ocean. It was a fairy tale of the moon landing from over 60 years ago (uh, was that supposed to be fake too?)
They arrived in Atami around when the late night started to fade to dawn, and they looked up at the full moon from the empty expanse of Sun Beach. There was less light here from the city than in Tokyo, and the moon seemed to shine larger than usual.
“I took about a 10-month trip when I was in college,” Shitara said, sitting on the stairs that led down to the beach. “First, I took a boat over to Shanghai, and then I travelled from there over Eurasia… The goal was to reach England, but the value of the pound was too expensive, so I settled for Egypt.”
Were you cast on the Signal Youth show or something?2
“When I got to around Central Asia, there weren’t many guidebooks for it, and if they existed, they weren’t very reliable. I figured that things would work out somehow, and unexpectedly, it did. Hostels that cater to backpackers tend to have notebooks and memos for visitors to write in and share information, and that’s where you can find a lot of tips and information—things like good places to eat and where to get a good exchange rate. You can use that information to get around until you head to the next place, where you can find more notebooks and get more tips. It was pretty crazy and incredible. I felt like I was in a real life Dragon Quest game.”
Under the moonlight, the outline of Shitara’s profile was slightly pale. There was no breeze, but under the influence of the moon, the patterns of the waves extended out into the sea.
“I was able to continue my trip thanks to these messages that weren’t even written to me in particular, and it made me feel like maybe I should leave something behind for someone who would come after me. It’s crazy, right? I mean, we didn’t know each other’s faces or names. It was something so uncertain and yet so clear—that it would continue and connect others together. …I don’t know what Miyoshi’s thinking, but I hope that one day he finds that he can breathe easier—not because of me—but thanks to someone he might not have a connection to, but is connected to them all the same.”
Sakae listened to Shitara’s story and had to laugh a little. This man was a pain in the ass who had to drive all the way out to Atami before he could spill his true feelings.
“What?” Shitara asked.
“Nothing. He’ll probably work on documentaries again. And the subject of his first project might as well be about himself.”
The media would have a field day with it. Everyone would be anticipating the story that only Miyoshi could tell. Especially in this industry that was greedy for material in its most authentic form, because everything else about it was covered in gimmicks and lies.
However, Shitara asserted with confidence, “I highly doubt that.”
“How would you know?”
“Because turning the camera behind the scenes would be a rehash of what you’ve already done.”
Nothing would ever get made if people worried about what was or wasn’t done before. Plus, the story would be completely different coming from the person in question himself, and it was something that Sakae wanted to watch. However, if Shitara was sure about it, then Miyoshi probably wouldn’t work on such a project.
“You seem to know how he ticks.”
“Because he’s a friend.”
Shitara went to lean his head on Sakae, but Sakae pushed him away with a hand.
“Huh? Isn’t this where you’re supposed to comfort me?”
“Don’t expect me to spoil you.”
However, Sakae didn’t try to move away from where he was. At least until the round moon sank under the edge of night and the sun rose from the horizon of the sea. A short trip in the middle of a much longer one—and it wouldn’t end for a little while more.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- Tatsuki shortens momiji manjuu to momiman, which sounds like ‘groper man,’ which is so much worse in Japanese.
- Susume! Denpa Shounen (Forward! Signal Youth) is a Japanese reality show from the 1990s that puts comedians into extreme challenges and situations. One of the challenges had the participants hitchhike across Asia and Europe.