Piece left us with a real cliffhanger last time. In her quest to find answers, Mizuho (Honda Tsubasa) had hit a dead-end, unable to find Narumi’s brother Hiro, nor able to reach Narumi (Nakayama Yuma) himself. So, she finally decided to visit the person possibly most responsible for this whole mess – Narumi’s mother (Narumi Risako, played by Toda Naho)- wondering if she might know where Hiro is.

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Now, what do we know about Narumi Risako? She used her own children as test subjects in her research to see what the effects of raising children without a mother would be, as long as there was a very definite method to the raising of the child. Her idea was that mothers might actually do harm to their children. Not only is this unethical, but it’s scientifically dubious, because there isn’t a sufficient sample nor a control group. However, just to come up with the idea in the first place means that she must have had some trauma. Was it her parents?

Anyway, meeting her for the first time, we expect a nasty piece of work, and she’s definitely that.

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She quickly puts Mizuho on the defensive, clearly because she’s defensive about anything to do with Hikaru and Hiro and the best defense is a good offense.

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Mizuho decides to mention Origuchi’s pregnancy, which Yanai (Matsumura Hokuto) didn’t even know about. Boy is he shocked to find this out.

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Risako is totally full of herself and smug, but while she gives no hint of it, experience suggests that that overconfident exterior masks profound insecurities.

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She claims that Hiro has “heterophobia” – fear of the opposite sex – so he couldn’t have possibly been Origuchi’s boyfriend. Can we really trust her diagnosis where her children – her test subjects – are concerned?

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And there’s that smug look that had my blood boiling:

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Risako tries to pin Origuchi on Hikaru instead of Hiro. I guess that would fit her theories better. She suggests that Mizuho’s feelings about Hikaru are clouding her reasoning, which might be somewhat true . . .

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. . . but when Risako compares Mizuho to her patients, you get the feeling that she’s the one who should get the psychiatric help.

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Despite being bullied in this way, Mizuho manages to stick to her guns and, at the last-minute asks about Hiro’s whereabouts again:

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Risako says she hasn’t had any contact with him since he left on his twentieth birthday. Somehow, that at least is entirely believable. However different Hiro might be from Hikaru, I doubt he would have much desire to talk to a mother like this.

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The thing is, we already know that Origuchi had contact with Hiro – from Hikaru’s memories that we got a glimpse of in the last episode. So, as we leave Risako, my hope is that some serious retribution and revelations befall her in the next three episodes. The one thing I don’t want is for the series to end with her getting to keep that smug façade.

Afterward, Mizuho has to apologize to a dispirited Yanai:

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Yanai recovers, though, and worries about Mizuho’s feelings to the dangerous Narumi Hikaru.

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Mizuho tries to get Yanai to understand why Hikaru turned out the way he is – that he’s a victim more than anything else.

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Yanai decides not to press the issue – for now. Instead, they talk about how to proceed. All they have left is to ask the neighbors to see if anyone knows anything about Hiro and where he went.

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With Mizuho once again trying to call him without success, we see Narumi visit his brother:

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And from the same door, out pops a girl:

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Since Hikaru expresses no surprise about this, he doesn’t seem to be aware that Hiro was supposed to have a fear of the opposite sex. Was their mother lying or just mislead? Or perhaps he can’t have physical contact with this girl, but she doesn’t mind that?

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Mizuho’s friend Remi (Arai Moe) joins her in place of Yanai, who has college work to take care of, even though she’s expressed misgivings about this whole investigation.

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And around here, things start to get excessively spoilerish, so I’ll leave out the rest of what happened for your enjoyment. There’s actually quite a lot going on at the tail end of this episode.

I was quite happy with this half-hour. First of all, we got to meet a real antagonist in Risako – somebody the viewer, at least, is clearly meant to dislike. We also got to meet Hiro, and more importantly saw Hikaru meeting Hiro, which gave us some insight into how their relationship stands right now. We know that, despite the experimenter’s objections, Hiro really might have been Origuchi’s boyfriend – but perhaps he’s not the one who got her pregnant. Is it possible that Hikaru, after all, was the one who did that?

And we found out even more in the latter part of the show, both about Narumi Hikaru and about Remi. So, yeah, this one was just chock full of stuff. No complaints about the pace this time. All I want now is for the series to provide some satisfaction with regard to the “mother” of the two troubled boys at the heart of this plot. And, of course, an answer to the question of what really went on between Origuchi, Hikaru, and Hiro. Can they manage that in three episodes? For the first time, I’m actually excited to find out.

Edit (Major Correction): It looks like I misinterpreted who Hikaru was visiting – it wasn’t Hiro, after all, but another character related to their past. So, Risako’s contention that Hiro is afraid of women still holds as a possibility, though I still consider her the villain of the story. We did not get any insight into the Hikaru-Hiro relationship, which is a bit irritating. Honestly, throwing in extra characters this late in what is supposed to be a mystery is rarely done, and a bit confusing to me. I mean, could this new guy be Origuchi’s boyfriend, since we know nothing about him except that Origuchi wanted Hikaru to deliver a letter to him, and Hikaru doesn’t get along with him? Honestly, I thought we were supposed to have met all the principle players at the funeral, but now, when things should be heading into a climax, we’re getting new introductions.

Well, anyway, my mistake on who this new fellow was. I have to say that this takes my estimation of the episode down a notch, but it still moved at a good pace and made me interested to see what happens next.