Shinryochu (心療中 – in treatment) ~In the Room~ focuses on the conversations between counselor Tenma Ryo (Inagaki Goro) and various young people under his care. Among those are his own two children – a teen daughter and younger brother. But though they are in his care, it sure looks like he’s the troubled one when he speaks to them at the start of this episode.

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Not that there aren’t insecurities right below the surface. After all, their mother is missing in action.

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Tenma’s young perceptive son seems to enjoy dropping hints about things. He also manages to remember the ages of Romeo and Juliet and to compare her sister and her older boyfriend to them. That’s definitely above-average stuff for a kid his age.

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Tenma is not quite as supportive about his daughter’s relationship – saying that he can’t help but love her anyway. Clearly not the ringing endorsement she wanted to hear.

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But Tenma has other problems – his first patient of the day Katayama Hikaru (Tanaka Juri).

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I’ve been waiting to see Tanaka Juri-kun in this, because so far Tenma’s patients have been mostly scary or intense, but Tanaka-kun isn’t really suited to that sort of thing. Thankfully, he’s playing a role that does work well – a fellow named Katayama with some truly peculiar insecurities.

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If Tenma was confident going into this discussion (and why wouldn’t he be, given how much more affable Katayama is than his normal patients) . . .

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. . . Katayama’s problem proves to be far from easy to untangle. According to Katayama, his twenty year old brother has asked him to have sex with his girlfriend in his place. His older brother was paralyzed from the neck down by an accident.

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But as with everyone else in this series, we not only know that we’re not getting the whole story, but we also have to be suspicious that we’re not getting any part of reality at all.

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Katayama can’t even bear to hear the mention of sex and practically blushes at the idea, so Tenma naturally wonders about his family. Why does Katayama even consider such an odd request from his brother? Surely it is because Katayama has gotten used to doing everything for his brother since the accident, and there’s no other support around.

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But Katayama is quick to assure Tenma that he’s got a fantastic family with a wonderful mother and father. Sure doesn’t sound believable, though.

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How will this one turn out? Well, it’ll definitely take more than one episode – I don’t think we even got a clear sense of the truth here.

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What we do get a sense of by the end is precisely how distraught Katayama is beneath his cheerful facade:

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Next, Tenma got an unexpected visitor – probably the person in the world he least wanted to see right now.

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That’s right! It’s Aikawa Sakuya (Sanada Yuma) – the kid who promised to kill someone in a day. The one who has remarkable intelligence, but also wants to be considered insane and a danger to society even though there’s no evidence to that effect. It seems like he’s caught in Catch-22 (the original one, from the book by Joseph Heller) – if you want to be considered insane (in the book, it’s to get out of military service), you can’t be insane.

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So, Tenma has to deal with a kid who is trying to prove that he’s insane – a kid who has just arrived shouting “Happy birthday!” with a cake in hand even though it’s not Tenma’s birthday. Fun, fun, fun.

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Aikawa is the first patient we’ve seen make a repeat visit, so I was real happy to see him – we’ve started enough threads already, and it’s time to pursue some of them a bit further. And might I say that Sanada-kun plays unhinged very, very well. It was both scary and delightful to watch him at it.

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Whatever composure Tenma usually tries to have is definitely tested this time, especially when Aikawa looks for a knife to cut the cake with and then points out that Tenma would naturally not have one in the office because there’s always a chance that a patient might grab it and stab Tenma with it.

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You know, a patient like Aikawa who has promised to kill someone.

Aikawa knows that it’s not Tenma’s birthday, and he explains that, because Tenma kept his promise to call every hour to check up on him, he felt that this was the birth of their friendship.

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What’s this all about? How will Tenma deal with it? You’ll definitely have to watch for yourself – what Aikawa is up to is devilishly clever.

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And a troubled young man doesn’t look less troubled as he leaves Tenma’s office.

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After that, and with the problems with his wife and kids also plaguing him, Tenma decides to seek some counseling of his own with former mentor Miyama Mikiko (Asano Yuko). But Miyama is not without troubles of her own, though we don’t get too much of a glimpse into those before Tenma arrives.

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They haven’t seen each other for a long time, and at first have to catch up.

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But Tenma was hoping to speak to Mikako’s husband even though Mikako was his mentor, so the relationship between these two is not what you might call comfortable.

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It doesn’t take long for Tenma to show how troubled he is.

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Finally, the stress we knew had to be building for the past two and a half episodes comes rushing out.

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How desperately does Tenma himself need help? Will he be able to continue dealing with his teen patients in this condition? Will he even be able to keep his family together?

This was a remarkable episode. It is amazing how much this drama manages to pack into twenty-three minutes.

The acting from Tanaka-kun was difficult to evaluate because we don’t have a clear idea what’s going on with him, and his particular issue was the most outlandish we have heard so far. It’s just really difficult to pull that one off, even for a superb actor.

Sanada-kun was, of course, brilliant. If he doesn’t get a flood of acting roles from this, it will be a severe injustice.

Inagaki-san has a lot of work to do with his character, since he hasn’t been able to show much emotion until the end of this episode. What we saw here felt a bit rushed and uneven, but that’s because he had so much anxiety to give voice to in such a short time. Some of it was quite convincing, but some wasn’t.

I think it’s safe to say that this is my favorite drama of this season. That’s sort of a surprise, because it’s not an hour-long prime time series and has marginal ratings at best, but the tension is constantly in the atmosphere and it doesn’t feel like Shinryochu has wasted a minute so far.

Thanks to yanie02 at livejournal for the wonderful subtitles.