Having written about why I find Oto to be an appealing character, it’s only right that I also explain why I have a strong affinity for Kafuku. His state of mourning makes him sympathetic, of course. Even though we are a couple years removed from Oto’s death, I don’t believe he ever stops wearing black in the film, unless he’s in costume for a part.

But there’s something else about his personality that hits a positive note for me — he’s someone who measures his life by accomplishment. I have never been a person who finds joy in a static state of being, my greatest happiness comes from doing something I care about. Kafuku takes this approach to amazing extremes. It’s not enough for him to stage a play as complicated as “Uncle Vanya,” he has to do so in numerous languages simultaneously. That’s a crazy level of difficulty, and I admire him for that.

So as we begin casting the play, the first thing we notice are the audition sheets he’s leafing through. His first potential actress is from the Philippines and speaks Tagalog and English. The next is a man from Taiwan who speaks Chinese (I assume Mandarin) and English. The third, an older woman, has an audition sheet in what I assume are Japanese characters.

And then Kafuku is stunned to discover an audition sheet from someone familiar — Takatsuki is trying out for the play. That’s an awfully ballsy thing for him to do, of course, but let’s keep the focus on Kafuku. The easy way out right now would be for him to just throw the sheet in the trash and not give it a second thought. But that would be very un-Kafuku.

After all, it’s highly unlikely that Oto just became a complicated woman late in life. While neither the short story nor film go into this detail, I’m guessing that there was a layer of mystery to her right from the beginning and it was this complexity of character than drew Kafuku to her. He’s not someone who wants to take an easy path, and he’s also still deeply engaged in the project of figuring Oto out. No matter what he thinks of Takatsuki, Kafuku knows that he needs his insights to help unravel her mystery.

The next shot is of Watari removing a protective cover from the Saab as Kafuku observers her, walking on the sea wall. There seems to be admiration in his gaze, not about Watari or her features, but the professional way she is taking on this assignment.

We’re now back in the Saab and again listening to Oto/Chekhov. The conversation this time is far more tender between them. Kafuku/Vanya notes that the look in her eyes is exactly like that of her dead mother’s (perhaps another intermittence being noticed.) This leads Kafuku/Vanya to express sorrow for her mother’s passing.

I’ll leave the initial casting scenes for the next essay and will end with this — I both admire and see myself in much of Kafuku’s behavior and his tastes. I completely understand why he loved Oto and continued to do so long after her passing. And I think he probably loved her for her faults just as much as her virtues, despite the torment those faults sometimes created for him.