After the first episode of Last Hope, I decided that I couldn’t review it fairly without subtitles. Fortunately, miyase-subs at livejournal decided to pick it up, so as the subs are released, I’ll do the reviews. So far, miyase-subs is up to episode 2, so here we go.

The episode begins with a flashback to Tachibana Ayumi (Tabe Mikako)’s school days, when some sort of tragedy forced her to change her name and residence. We got a hint of this in the first episode where half the show (and perhaps the more interesting half) was about the past of the doctors working at the IBRI.

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In the present, Hatano Takumi (Aiba Masaki) hands Tachibana a case file with some ominous implications for the patient (we don’t find out what those are yet – we just see the expression on Tachibana’s face).

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Meanwhile, the other doctors are . . . well, they seem to be waiting for something to do. The seemingly serious Komaki (Kohinata Fumiyo) is trying to figure out how best to add a walk-in closet to his house for his wife using a 3-D computer model.

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Nurse Tokita (Sakuraba Nanami) enters carrying a wooden mallet. Naturally, Hatano requested it for a consultation – he’s always asking her for odd things (it was a mouse in the last episode).

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When you think of a wooden mallet, you think of a doctor knocking a patient’s knee to test nerves/reflexes, and it sounds like that’s exactly what Hatano wanted it for. How quaint.

The problem is that, with the way he does things, Hatano only sees five patients a day. That leaves Ogiwara (Koike Eiko) complaining about having to take up the slack for him – she has to see twenty patients.

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In the wake of her complaints, Takagi (Tanabe Seiichi) is called to go help Hatano out – Hatano has a patient who isn’t responding to treatment.

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The case involves brain aneurysms, but I’m going to leave out the medical particulars that make the case unusual. Those are incidental to the plot, anyway.

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The key point is that there is a patient with a problem that no one else can solve, and while everyone else says it’s impossible, Tachibana and Hatano think differently.

The patient’s name is Sakurai Naho (played by Kojima Fujiko, who you may remember as Miyuki in Sprout).

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At first, Hatano gets a little sidetracked by a bauble that Naho is carrying, but assuming the writers know what they’re doing, this seemingly inconsequential conversation probably holds important information.

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After Takagi interrupts Hatano, we find out more about the situation. Turns out that Naho’s father made the mistake of suing the hospital that did a first operation on Naho, and other hospitals were unwilling to take up her case. After all, if the probability of success is low, that just means they now worry that the probability they’ll be sued is high if they make the attempt.

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With Naho having nowhere to turn, Tachibana decides to offer to help her. At first, even Hatano is surprised, but then he gives what will probably be his trademark “last hope” spiel.

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In a brief flashback just to 2012, we see him looking at newspaper articles in a scrap book related to an accident in a tunnel. He also takes some hair from a brush, but what does he intend to check?

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Back to the present, Hatano has a bizarre encounter with hospital chief Naruse (Takashima Masahiro), which included a reference to the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Man Who Knew Too Much”. Don’t ask me what it was all about – we’ll probably find out down the road.

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The conference about Naho has to usual mix of people who doubt that anything can be done for her and those who are adamant that she can be saved.

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Eventually, Komaki’s trigger gets hit, so he starts doing a history of genetics. Hatano pays eager attention while everyone else walks off – apparently there’s no hope once Komaki gets into lecture mode.

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Time for a flashback. This time, we see Tachibana despairing over whether she has any future now that she has to change her identity and all her past achievements are basically nullified.

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In the present, the reporter who discovered Tachibana’s old identity continues to hound her. There’s a current case against Tachibana, but perhaps she can survive that matter if her shady past isn’t brought up in court.

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Komaki continues to lecture Hatano on genetics . . .

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. . . and a possibility strikes Hatano.

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It’s not a real solution, though, and it’s time for Hatano’s afternoon snack. Will his snack bring him some critical revelation, or is he just dismayed that there aren’t any plums in it?

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We’re getting a lot of critical flashbacks, but the next one, focused on Soejima (Kitamura Yukiya) seems out-of-place since the focus is firmly on Tachibana in this episode. We really don’t need to hit every character’s past in every episode.

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Anyway, looks like Soejima had some marital issues, but this little snippet doesn’t seem to be enough to convey the full story. I suppose we’ll have to make sure to keep it in mind and stitch it together with all the other Soejima flashbacks to get a good view on things.

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At another office meeting, Naruse warns everybody that the reporter wrote an article on Tachibana’s pending case – an article that suggests that there’s more information on Tachibana’s secret past to come.

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We go back to Tachibana’s past. This time, we see her harassed by some thugs. What happens next just adds to the problems we already know she’s faced.

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Hatano has to inform Naho and her father about the article on Tachibana. How will they react?

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With tensions mounting and haunted by her past, can Tachibana pull off a surgery she has never done before?

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Why does Hatano want to examine Naho’s father?

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Will the results of the surgery give the reporter a reason to be a bit more respectful of Tachibana’s privacy, or will it lead her to push even harder?

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By the way, we’re not through with the flashbacks, and the pain just keeps piling up for everybody. You’ll have to watch to find out all the horrendous details.

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Holy mackerel, this was depressing. It would have been enough to focus on Tachibana in this episode – they sure piled horrible moments into her past – but the writers once again made a point of including a little flashback for everybody. And as far as I can see, it’s all bad. I was worried that it’d be hard to keep track of all of the backgrounds, but actually each lamentable situation is quite distinct.

Truth is, the flashbacks are a whole lot more interesting than the office scenes where they’re busy with the medical techno-babble. After all, their office personalities are all exceedingly superficial, and it’s only in the flashbacks that we get a sense of depth.

I suppose the point is that, despite all their traumas and troubles, these doctors manage to save lives. The storytelling has been rather heavy-handed so far, though, and the medical successes do not come with a sufficient sense of accomplishment to offset the dark clouds produced by the flashbacks. There’s an ever-present sense that the story is a dark tunnel with no light at the end of it. Will the characters somehow be able to come to terms with their shadows? I guess we’ll have to watch to find out. I think the extent to which each character gets a satisfactory resolution will determine whether this is a good drama.

Thanks to miyase-subs for the English subtitles – this review would have been impossible without them.