Things started to pick up in the last episode of Piece, as it looked like Mizuho (Honda Tsubasa) was finally on the right trail, and might soon see the truth about Origuchi’s boyfriend. Is Narumi (Nakayama Yuma)’s brother Hiro really the one Mizuho has been looking for?

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The house Hiro lives in looks eerily familiar. It’s exactly like Narumi’s place.

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What kind of twisted situation did these two brothers live in?

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Mizuho has high hopes for the revelations her visit to Hiro might bring – though more about Narumi than Origuchi. The intent of her investigation has shifted, and she’s now more focused on unveiling the mystery that has had a real impact on her life (though not completely ignoring the issue of Origuchi’s boyfriend, of course).

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But then she sees the nameplate at the gate to the house and remembers what Narumi had said about having to leave his house at 20.

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Well, Hiro was older, so he’s already turned 20 and left.

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So much for her hopes about what she might find here. She does get to talk to the current resident about Hiro, though.

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One of the rooms still has the heavy scent of oil paint, so there’s no doubt that Hiro would have smelled of it, too, just as Origuchi described her boyfriend. Unfortunately, the current occupant of the house has no idea where Hiro moved to.

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Considering the hopes she had at the start, and how she basically came away with nothing, I was surprised how little reaction we got from Mizuho. She looked disappointed, sure, but her narration just didn’t carry the kind of frustration that any normal human would feel in this situation.

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This was a rare case in which the characterization in this drama was outright flawed. Mizuho was portrayed too woodenly – even for a person who tends to hide their emotions, this was too bland a reaction.

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She keeps trying to call Narumi, but he doesn’t pick up.

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And still, that painting plagues him. Certainly, we now have a good idea why, if it was really painted by his brother.

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But we’re quickly given even more insight into Narumi. In fact, unless I’ve forgotten something, this is the first time we really get into Narumi’s thoughts, as he remembers speaking to Origuchi.

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In this memory, she asks him to not have anything to do with Hiro:

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That must have been an unpleasant conversation.

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While Narumi is sorting out his feelings about his brother and Origuchi, Mizuho meets with co-investigator Yanai (Matsumura Hokuto) and the art club member he found who also pointed the way to Hiro.

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While Yanai was quick to warn that Narumi might be Origuchi’s boyfriend, he’s now extremely cautious about “jumping to conclusions” that Hiro is, even though there’s serious evidence in favor of the Hiro theory, and there was only a set of initials in the case of Narumi Hikaru. What gives? Is this just a casual inconsistency or is there something between Yanai and the Narumis?

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Mizuho is adamant about figuring out where Hiro lives now, and plans to canvas the neighborhood.

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But, as Yanai points out, why doesn’t she just ask Narumi? She seems to be afraid to approach him about the subject, intent on going behind his back to figure him out.

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Of course, Narumi hasn’t exactly been the most forthcoming of souls. His answers to questions about himself have been so vague he might as well have been claiming the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination.

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Finally, we get a bit of emotion from Mizuho. She seems to be more open and honest to Yanai than she is to herself.

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Yanai tries to take this opportunity to talk to her, encouraging her to open up to Narumi, as well.

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But Narumi doesn’t have Yanai’s temperament, does he?

Yanai, Mizuho, and the art club member have a little talk about the willingness of people to express themselves . . .

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. . . including some philosophical points about the reason why art exists . . .

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. . . and more pertinent observations about why Origuchi pursued art:

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Back to Narumi, he has another memory of Origuchi.

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This time, it’s of an occasion when he visited her in the hospital shortly before her death.

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She asks him to do her a favor.

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He clearly doesn’t want to, and it doesn’t look like he came through on that favor, but it’s left a somewhat open question since we don’t really hear what the favor is.

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Mizuho decides that she will meet with Narumi and talk to him about her feelings. Hopefully she’ll remember to ask about Hiro and Origuchi as well . . . .

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As he turns to walk away, Mizuho has one of her better moments, calling out to him and thanking him, saying that he’s kind and a good guy.

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So, how will this visit to Narumi turn out? Will she really be able to express herself when she’s shown no ability to open up to him before? Will he react with his usual off-hand comments that don’t really say anything?

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Or, like Hiro’s place, will this turn out to be a complete non-event, with all of Mizuho’s expectations dashed?

For the most part, this was a very slow episode. We learn some things about Narumi’s relationship to Origuchi, but not much because he doesn’t do much talking in either scene. Certainly, what we find out in this episode is very underwhelming, and it had the feel of treading water.

Character-wise, it almost seemed like they took Mizuho back a notch in her development. Maybe they sensed, as I noted in an earlier review, that her newfound openness had come too quickly and easily, and they decided to highlight the fact that there was still one person she still kept at arm’s length – Narumi. A lot of this episode was simply about that.

Luckily, it ends on a dramatic note and with a suitable cliff-hanger for the next episode. And this time, the person visited will be there, so expect some fireworks in episode 10!