Beginners! (ビギナーズ! ) is a comedy drama series about a team of misfit police trainees starring Kis-My-Ft2‘s Fujigaya Taisuke-kun as Shimura Teppei and Kitayama Hiromitsu-kun as Tachibana Danji. Gouriki Ayame-san plays classmate Momoe Hiro.

Beginners Title

I’ll say up front that this was the best episode so far. It begins with the only real attempt at humor in the hour, when Teppei joins the regular class after being promoted from S-class:

Teppei in Regular Class 1Teppei in Regular Class 2Teppei in Regular Class 3

He takes a bit too long to read the atmosphere, but discovers quickly, after having a workbook thrown at the back of his head, that the class is not without its bad eggs.

Teppei's Intro 1Teppei's Intro 2Teppei's Intro 3

After this, the episode gets serious quite quickly and more or less stays that way throughout. That’s great, because Teppei’s antics are starting to get tiresome and predictable. Heck, back in the S-class, we see that his old classmates accurately predict exactly how he would introduce himself and how he would get along with Tachibana, who was also moved to the regular class.

S Class Predicts Teppei's Intro 1S Class Predicts Teppei's Intro 2S Class Predicts Teppei's Intro 3

Yamane (Emoto Tokio) isn’t sad to see Tachibana go:

Glad He's Gone 1Glad He's Gone 2Glad He's Gone 3

Turns out that the regular class, or more particularly the instructor, is brutal. Is it really normal for police academy instructors in Japan to physically attack trainees for not having their shirts tucked in? Even if it is, I think this guy’s got anger management problems.

Tough Instructor 1Tough Instructor 2Tough Instructor 3

The instructor isn’t happy with having Tachibana in the class. You see, he knows all about Tachibana’s criminal past, and is quite sure that Tachibana isn’t fit to be a police officer.

Tachibana's Past 1Tachibana's Past 3Tachibana's Past 4Tachibana's Past 5Tachibana's Past 6

What’s this about people who want to hurt or kill Tachibana, though? Might there be more to his story than simply mugging people like Yamane?

Tachibana's Past 2

And when Tachibana embarrasses the class leader (and head class bully) during training, he makes another enemy:

Tachibana Gets Another Enemy 1Tachibana Gets Another Enemy 2Tachibana Gets Another Enemy 3Tachibana Gets Another Enemy 4

Tachibana is assigned to night patrol duty at the academy alongside the main target of the bullying, Suzuki.

Tachibana and Suzuki

Meanwhile, Teppei has his usual nighttime rooftop meeting with Hiro.

Teppei and Hiro 1Teppei and Hiro 2

Teppei senses that something is up with the way Hiro is behaving towards him, and misses the mark on the first try . . .

Teppei and Hiro 3Teppei and Hiro 4Teppei and Hiro 5

. . . but right on the second.

Second Try 1Second Try 2

Hiro, of course, denies liking him. The series is too young for them to hook up, after all.

There’s actually a lot of love in the air in this episode, but I’ll leave the other possibly pairings a surprise (assuming you can’t guess them already based on recent episodes).

Back in the night patrol station, Tachibana checks in with Suzuki over the radio, but gets no response.

No Response from Suzuki 1No Response from Suzuki 2

He finds Suzuki badly beaten up:

Suzuki Beaten Up 1Suzuki Beaten Up 2

In the classroom, Suzuki points the finger at Tachibana, setting up the conflict for the episode.

Who Did It?Suzuki Blames Tachibana 1Suzuki Blames Tachibana 2Suzuki Blames Tachibana 3Suzuki Blames Tachibana 4

The question is, how high up does this go? Is it just the class leader trying to remove a potential rival or is it the instructor who has a bad history with Tachibana?

Instructor With An Axe To Grind 1Instructor With An Axe To Grind 2Instructor With An Axe To Grind 3

What about the head of the academy (Kaga Takeshi), who denies S-class instructor Sakuraba’s request for an investigation and calls Tachibana a criminal?

The Hostile Academy Chief 1The Hostile Academy Chief 2The Hostile Academy Chief 3

He also still has an axe to grind with Shimura Teppei, and we get a clearer picture of why this time. It turns out that Sakuraba is intimately involved with that situation. It looks like Teppei’s father will be increasingly involved in later episodes, as well.

Sakuraba IndignantSakuraba Indignant 2

Teppei thinks Tachibana is innocent for the solid reason that he doesn’t think that one person alone could have done so much damage to Suzuki, but also thinks that Tachibana is stubborn enough to defend himself.

Teppei Bummed OutCounting On Tachibana's Stubbornness

The S-class is worried about Tachibana . . .

S Class Concerned 1S Class Concerned 2

. . . except for Yamane, who still has his grudge.

Yamane Hates Tachibana 1Yamane Hates Tachibana 2

So, what made this such a good episode? First, it’s about time we got a Tachibana-centric episode and dealt with the subplot introduced by Yamane in the second episode. That had more than one episode’s worth of potential on it, and I hope they plan to continue to delve into Tachibana’s past, because they didn’t exhaust the potential here.

The fact that this was a mostly serious episode worked well. In the first episode, it looked like they couldn’t really pull off serious scenes, but as we went along, the comedy was getting annoying. They dumped the comedy and gave straight drama a try this time, and managed to get it done right.

The plot was very focused, and the tension kept the interest of the viewer throughout the episode. I think the fact that I was curious about Tachibana’s history helped. While we resolved a couple of things, a lot of plotlines progressed – including romantic subplots and the issue with Teppei’s father. The character of S-class instructor Sakuraba was also developed further. All of that contributed to make this feel like a very productive episode.

So, things are looking up for the series as long as they stay on this trajectory and don’t lapse back into meaningless antics.

Thanks to Jounetsu_8 at livejournal for the subtitles.

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