Archive for the ‘Spring 2013’ Category
So at long last we come to the final episode of Kazoku Game (家族ゲーム). In the last episode, Shinichi (Kamiki Ryunosuke) learned the substantial details of Tago Yudai (Sakurai Sho)’s past and why he took on the role of the hateful Yoshimoto Koya. In the process, we found out that the whole point was to keep Shigeyuki (Uragami Seishuu) from becoming a victim like Sanada Souta and to keep Shinichi from becoming a monster like Tago Yudai.
I’m not sure what this scene at the beginning was about . . .
. . . but soon enough we got the scene at the end of the previous episode, with Yudai walking in on the Numata family as Kayoko (Suzuki Honami) was insisting on a divorce from Kazushige (Itao Itsuji).
He claims that he came back to . . . to retrieve all the snooping devices he left behind since they were rented. He had placed around ten mini-cameras around the house!
When we last left the Numata family in Kazoku Game (家族ゲーム), they were in a pretty desperate state.
And since there’s one episode after this one, it seems unlikely that they’ll get out of their funk in this episode – not if the writers want to keep up their excellent pacing and retain audience interest in the finale.
So, what exactly are we going to get in this episode? The opening is just a montage of the depths the family has reached, and I guess the question that has to go through our minds while watching them go into complete dysfunction instead of, say, being defiant, is whether this family deserves to be saved.
Gotta laugh when Shinichi (Kamiki Ryunosuke), unable to find anything in the fridge, buys some groceries for himself, but labels them all with his name.
Okay, let me just admit it right from the start – I was remiss in not reviewing Kasuka na Kanojo (幽かな彼女) during the Spring season. I was just too busy, and it really wasn’t until this past weekend that I really got a chance to sit down with it properly. As it turned out, I ended up marathoning the series in two days – it was that good. Since I’ve watched the whole thing, it doesn’t seem legit to do episode-by-episode reviews, so let me do something a bit different. Let me just go through and explain why I think it’s the best classroom drama I’ve reviewed (beating out Great Teacher Onizuka), and why you should watch it if you haven’t already.
As usual, though, I’m not going to include any spoilers (except for the fact that the characters survive . . . well, except for Akane, who’s already dead) and you’ll have to watch for yourself to see how the various conflicts get resolved. Oh, I guess I will be revealing that the conflicts do get resolved, but I’d hardly be enthusiastic about a drama otherwise.
We meet a lot of characters very quickly at the start of the series – really all of the main cast within the first four minutes – but the first one I think we get a proper sense of is Kawai-sensei, played by Maeda Atsuko-san. Kawai is totally uninterested in being a teacher, putting on a fake smile, and the students sense that and despise her. One of the highlights of the show is the smooth development of her character from this state into someone who actually cares about the students. It doesn’t happen in a sudden u-turn, but takes easy stages episode-by-episode.
It’s a tricky role for Maeda-san, because for much of the series her character is not likeable at all, but becomes likeable by the end. She manages to pull it off. By the way, the first thing you’ll note about the character is that she wears shorts – totally not what you’d expect a teacher to wear. Don’t worry – the writers have our back on this one, and they use her regular costume to set up one of the best sequences in the series. You’ll have to watch to the end to see it, though.
Our main character is a bit late to the start of school, but we meet another character properly in the meantime – Vice Principal Kirisawa Izumi (Maya Miki). She starts to give a speech, but interrupts herself to deal with a student who is texting – trying to confiscate the phone. Kirisawa is a stickler for the rules and isn’t afraid of the parents. It would have been easy for the writers to make this character extreme in one way or another, but she’s very subtle, and comes off as trying to do her best at her job. Along with Kawai, she’s an important counterbalance to our main character . . .
. . . Kamiyama Akira (Katori Shingo). Kamiyama used to be a passionate teacher, but after failing to help a student he had promised to help, he’s become disillusioned. He still teaches, but can’t really say why. Unlike Kawai, he doesn’t put on a false face when dealing with the students, and nor does he hate them, but he also doesn’t want to go out of his way to deal with their particular problems. This, of course, is going to change very quickly. Basically, Kamiyama is on the fast-track on character development, while Kawai is on a slower track.
At the same time, there are tons of students around, and they all have problems. For the most part, we go through all the major students one-by-one in the usual pattern. I would have been unenthusiastic about the series if this is all we got, but the development in the teachers is what really pulls everything together, creating a unified story.
I’d say that this episode of Kazoku Game (家族ゲーム) is where the shit hits the fan (please forgive my language, but I can’t stand self-censorship), but honestly, it’s been hitting pretty steadily throughout the series. After all, in the previous episode we saw Kayoko (Suzuki Honami) contemplate suicide after ending up with a hefty stock market debt (presumably because she traded on margin).
But this is bound to be an even more damaging episode to the Numata family, so it’s appropriate that Kazushige (Itao Itsuji) narrates at the beginning of it. While doing the recap, we get the sense that he’s far more concerned about who Tachibana Maki (Kutsuna Shiori) is than what Yoshimoto (Sakurai Sho) is doing, even though Yoshimoto declared the demise of the family in the previous episode.
I came to the conclusion that this was going to be a dire episode pretty early on. In fact, it was right around the time I saw Kazushige embezzling the needed 10 million yen ($100,000) from the severance pay list. That is not only desperate, but also probably the stupidest way to embezzle money I’ve ever seen.
Shinichi (Kamiki Ryunosuke) has begun to doubt Maki after seeing her talking amiably with Yoshimoto, even though they’re supposed to be mortal enemies. She gives him a lame excuse but seals it with a kiss. Is he really going to fall for that ploy? Well, honestly, I can’t blame him – in fiction and usually in fact, a kiss is a surefire remedy for the faults in any excuse.
Following the pattern of recent episode, this Kazoku Game (家族ゲーム) episode began with narration from the point-of-view of Kayoko (Suzuki Honami), the mother of the Numata household. Next to Shigeyuki (Uragami Seishuu), she’s been a sympathetic character for the audience while pretty much everyone else seems reprehensible in one way or another. This intro doesn’t change that at all.
We find out a number of interesting facts. For instance, her marriage to Kazushige (Itao Itsuji) was arranged by her father because of business ties to Kazushige’s company.
But because business with Kazushige’s company went sour, Kayoko’s father ended up disliking Kazushige. So, Kayoko basically felt abandoned by the father who had led her into this marriage. On top of that, she was abandoned by Kazushige – first, because he didn’t take part in raising their kids, and then more critically, through the affair with Tachibana Maki/Asami Maika (Kutsuna Shiori). Finally, once her kids became teenagers, they abandoned her, too.
Into this lonely existence stepped Yoshimoto-sensei (Sakurai Sho), who helped Shigeyuki, showed her Kazushige’s infidelity, and helped her to cover up her stock losses.
The brilliance of Kazoku Game (家族ゲーム) at this point lies in the fact that I really don’t know whether tutor Yoshimoto Kouya (Sakurai Sho) is trying to redeem himself by helping this family or just playing a sick game that will ultimately wreck an already weak household unless he can be stopped, as Shinichi (Kamiki Ryunosuke) believes. Either way, Yoshimoto is crazy, but the entire plot hinges on whether he’s crazy good or crazy bad.
The past couple of episodes, we’ve been getting introductions from the point of view of one of the characters, and this time Shigeyuki (Uragami Seishuu) is doing the narration. He explains the inferiority complex he developed because he was overshadowed by his brilliant older brother, and how that led him to be withdrawn in school and become a target for bullying.
Then he speaks glowingly about the change that occurred thanks to Yoshimoto’s influence, but still wonders whether Yoshimoto is simply manipulating him for amusement.
It looks like he has a friend now, though.
Breaking away from Shigeyuki’s narration, we see Shinichi objecting to having Yoshimoto as a tutor while behind Kazushige (Itao Itsuji)’s back, Yoshimoto holds up the incriminating photos of Shinichi to compel him to accept the situation. No one except for Shinichi sees the photos at this point. I loved this scene because of the expressions Sakurai-san and Kamiki-kun played the parts with.
Of all the dramas I’ve reviewed so far – over the past year or so – Kazoku Game (家族ゲーム) has easily been the one packed with the most surprises. The way this episode begins is no different, as we hear tutor Yoshimoto Kouya (Sakurai Sho) himself explaining what has happened in his personal ‘tutor record’. This is the first time we’ve heard Yoshimoto’s perspective on things.
The writes that he has been in charge of Numata Shigeyuki (Uragami Seishuu) for 52 days, during which Shigeyuki’s scores have improved . . .
. . . and the improvement is solely due to his relationship with Mano Sakura, who has provided the motivation he needed.
Turning to the rest of the family, Yoshimoto says (quoting directly from the subtitles here because this is a loaded line and I don’t dare try to give my own impression of what he said lest I put the wrong spin on it), “the scenario for the family’s disintegration has finally begun.” Obviously, the main focal point for this weakness in the family is the breakdown in the relationship between the parents – Kazushige (Itao Itsuji) and Kayoko (Suzuki Honami) – over Kazushige’s affair with Asami Maika (Kutsuna Shiori).