Piece tells the story of Suga Mizuho (Honda Tsubasa) and Narumi Hikaru (Nakayama Yuma). They were a couple in high school (though Narumi was apparently believed in diversification in his relationships), and meet again three years later upon the death of a classmate. The story is a mystery centered on that deceased classmate, Origuchi Haruka (Mizuno Erina).

This episode warrants a disclaimer up-front, because right at the start of the episode, Narumi forces himself on Mizuho despite the fact that she says she’s unwilling. While he stops short of raping her, the scene is disturbing. For those few who watch it and don’t understand why it is, there’s an open letter Melissa Harris-Perry wrote to Richard Murdock, which you can read here. That was written in the context of the 2012 U.S. elections, where a number of political figures were making ill-informed and insensitive comments about rape, and broaches the subject of consent as eloquently as I’ve seen it handled – it certainly improved my understanding of the perspective of a rape survivor.

The episode begins in the three-years-ago timeframe. The inciting event for Narumi’s transgression was presumably Mizuho stumbling across the secret of how he was raised and his relationship with his mother, which visibly angers him. However, we can’t help but feel that Narumi has been threatening to cross the line for a while now.

Narumi approaches her, asks what she’s doing and whether she came to sleep with him (she says no), notices that she’s frightened of him, and gets lashes out at her.

Then her fears about him become manifest.

After he lets her go and she leaves, Narumi accuses the housekeeper, Nanao-san, of going too far in leaving the door to the secret room open.

Meanwhile, Mizuho is in serious emotional pain.

Three days later, they’re back to school, and Narumi act as if nothing is different, though he finally accepts the request from the girl who has been bugging to come over to his house.

Mizuho’s reaction to her trauma is reasonably well-handled. When we jump ahead three years to the present day, it’s pretty clear that she’s still living with the effects of the horrible moment. She also recognizes that Narumi hasn’t changed at all – still prone to impulsiveness and dangerous. Unfortunately, her reflections seem to indicate that she is, at some level, still drawn to him, and I find that a bit hard to take. Of course, so does she.

 

Then she gets a message:

It’s from her boyfriend Sumiyoshi Daiki (Hasegawa Jun), who wants to break up with her.

 

Mizuho’s lack of emotion leads him to believe that she never really loved him. I wonder if, instead, she’s just still scarred from her high school relationship with Narumi, and unwilling to invest similar emotion in another person at the risk of getting hurt again.

I have to say, Hasegawa-kun does a great job of selling the scene – he does distraught remarkably well.

And it looks like Mizuho is piling regret on top of regret.

She latches onto one moment in her past where she made the right choice, and gave a girl in despair hope – when she gave Haruka the handkerchief. But there, too, she regrets not talking to Haruka – not actually being a friend to her. She visits Haruka’s mother to tell the story of the handkerchief and to offer it on the altar dedicated to Haruka.

Haruka’s mother again requests her help in finding the person Haruka dated in high school – the person who got her pregnant, apparently leading to an abortion.

At this point, I dreaded the likelihood that it was Narumi – it sure sounds like his M.O., doesn’t it? So that’s my condition for this show going forward from this point – it cannot be Narumi. If it is, that’s just way too obvious, and we already know he’s a creep, so what’s the point?

Anyway, seeing Haruka’s mother and remembering how she, too, wanted to know the truth, Mizuho decides to help Haruka’s mother. Finally, the mystery begins, and perhaps through it, Mizuho will clear herself of some of those regrets.

Looking through her high school yearbook, she tries to think, and quickly stumbles on the obvious suspect.

She calls Narumi in spite of understandable hesitation, and meets him to discuss Haruka. He claims he didn’t do it with her . . . perhaps. So we can’t quite rule him out, yet, but this was a hopeful sign.

Narumi also didn’t have any ideas about anyone Haruka might have liked – she apparently didn’t mention any guys to him. On the other hand, there was someone who liked Haruka . . .

. . . which is how we finally get Yanai Takashi (Matsumura Hokuto) involved in this story. It’s about time!

To conclude, let me first complement Honda-san and Nakayama-kun for dealing with some difficult scenes and keeping their characters consistent. There remains nothing to criticize in the acting department.

In terms of the initial unpleasantness in this episode, I’m of two minds about it. First, the writers chose to deal with a difficult reality, and handled it with some delicacy by making it clear that Mizuho was hurt and traumatized by it, but at the same time I feel as if Mizuho should be far more resentful toward Narumi. The writers are trying to play it both ways – suggesting she still partly loves him, which I find repugnant. On the other hand, I don’t really watch programs to deal with difficult realities – that’s what life is for. I watch to be entertained. While this episode was compelling (mainly because of the acting), I wouldn’t necessarily call it entertaining.

At this point, I’m just glad that we’re getting to the mystery, and involving some of the other characters we’ve seen. No matter what happens, it’s pretty clear that the acting will be able to keep me watching.

Thanks to aozorasubs, in conjunction with Hello!Fansubs, for bringing us the English subtitles for this series.

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