Kazoku Game (家族ゲーム) features Sakurai Sho-san playing Yoshimoto Koya, an unhinged tutor who is hired to work with the youngest child of the Numata family, Shigeyuki (Uragami Seishuu). Even though the series is still young, it’s safe to say that, thanks to Yoshimoto, the Numata family will never be the same.
We rejoin the action with Yoshimoto and eldest son of the family Shinichi (Kamiki Ryunosuke) in a car together at night. But why are they in a car together at night?
The last time we saw the two of them together, Shinichi had discovered from a yearbook that the tutor was not Yoshimoto Koya at all – the tutor had just assumed the identity. But then, who is he? Is it really safe for Shinichi to be in a car with him at night?
Shinichi is sure on edge and says he doesn’t want to get killed, but if he’s so suspicious of the tutor why did he get into the car in the first place? So many questions . . . .
They arrive at the Inoue Hospital, where they visit a young man on life support.
The young man is the real Yoshimoto Koya, and the tutor claims that Koya is his younger brother . . . but do we believe him?
Yoshimoto says he became a teacher to fulfill his younger brother’s dream, though he can only tutor because he doesn’t have a teaching license. He gives his name as Yudai, so for now I’ll refer to him as Yoshimoto Yudai until he decides to tell us a different name. He still wants to go by Yoshimoto Koya.
Fortunately for Yoshimoto, Shinichi doesn’t really trust his parents to make any decisions, and doesn’t plan on telling them . . . yet.
Awkwardly, their father Kazushige (Itao Itsuji) sits down at the breakfast table and starts talking about AKB even though it’s not a topic anyone else is likely to converse with him on. Why is he talking about AKB?
Even though he’s supposedly talking about a girl from AKB, he seems to be thinking about a different girl – Mizukawa Sara (Kutsuna Shiori).
It’s amazing his wife Kayoko (Suzuki Honami) doesn’t give him a nasty look, but you can already see that she’s perilously close to her breaking point. Is it really as bad as it seems, though? After all, the writers have been very careful about the hints they give us about the Kazushige-Mizukawa relationship. There is that shirt with the lipstick, though . . .
But Kayoko seems to want to keep it all pent-up, which is a recipe for a massive explosion.
Back to Shigeyuki, we recall that Yoshimoto stopped the other students from bullying him by telling them he would ruin all their lives if the bullying continued.
This could have left things very awkward, but it turns out not quite as bad as it could have been.
In fact, a girl gave him the notes she copied while he was away, and that gesture leaves him delighted – giddy even.
There’s five days until his birthday and Yoshimoto tells him to throw a birthday party to build relationships with his classmates. Why do I get a bad feeling about this? Did Yoshimoto put that girl up to handing over her notes? It just seems way to easy a jump from Yoshimoto threatening the class to the threatened classmates becoming Shigeyuki’s friends. Shigeyuki doesn’t entirely think it a reasonable idea, either, but he has no choice but to go with what Yoshimoto says.
Shinichi pops out of his room and points out that everything Yoshimoto said the previous night was baseless, and he wanted verification. Good for him!
But Yoshimoto has this covered – he hands Shinichi photos of Shinichi shoplifting. But will this really dissuade Shinichi from investigating Yoshimoto’s past, or will it drive him to do more of it because he want to counter the dirt Yoshimoto has on him. Perhaps Yoshimoto wants someone to figure him out.
Yoshimoto announces the Shigeyuki birthday party to everyone – the rest of his family and even the neighbors. He actually suggests that the neighborhood women do a hula dance because they all joined a hula dance club.
He also asks Kazushige to sing folk songs because he has some background in that.
He gets Shinichi’s help making a slideshow of Shigeyuki’s photos, starting with his baby photos. How . . . embarrassing.
With everyone else contributing, Shigeyuki himself creates the flyer:
But . . . will his classmates really come? What is Yoshimoto up to? Dammit, they keep building up the tension and suspense!
Kayoko discovers some books under Shinichi’s bed, but I’m not sure about their significance (except that he probably stole them).
But Shinichi has something else on his mind. While creating the slideshow, he saw an odd picture and wondered if his mother took it. She hadn’t, so . . . how did Yoshimoto get it? Creepy.
After that, Kayoko walks in on Kazushige practicing his singing and guitar for the party.
He blames her for telling Yoshimoto that he sang and played the guitar, but she insists that she said nothing about it. Creepier.
Thanks to the fact that Mizukawa drops by to give Kazushige his badge and Yoshimoto suddenly shouts that she should stay (to which Kayoko agrees), we get a profoundly awkward dinner scene:
I’ll have to carefully dodge the details about what happens. Suzuki-san’s acting here was priceless.
Shinichi decides to stake out the hospital with his girlfriend Mogami Asuka (Kitahara Rie) as his partner.
Isn’t Kazushige being a bit brazen walking Mizukawa down the street with hand-in-hand? I guess he hasn’t caught onto Yoshimoto’s photo-taking hobby yet, but doesn’t he worry that his wife will notice?
Interestingly, Shigeyuki asks how many of his classmates are coming to the party (I guess he had the same suspicion I did), and everyone except for the five where were really focused on bullying him raised their hands. That sort of undermined my suspicion, then the five bullies raised their hands and I was back to full paranoid mode.
Kayoko has Shigeyuki do a taste-test of the food she’s preparing for the party. She plans to make enough for twenty people, but he says there might be more. I am preparing my gut to be wrenched.
And from here on, it’s all spoilers. We start to get the answers to the questions I’ve been peppering this review with.
Yes, there really is going to be hula dancing at the party. I guess I can answer that question without it being too much of a spoiler.
It’s really a shame that I have to stop giving details, though, because I’ve got tons of good screenshots which just get more and more intense.
This was a truly brilliant episode, and the core of its genius was Suzuki-san’s acting. At every turn, the audience certainly had to feel for her and the effect was deeply moving. Kamiki-kun had his best performance so far in support. Itao-san did good work as well, though the role didn’t really allow him to be as compelling as the other two. Kayoko and Shinichi were the ‘good guys’, if you will.
While in previous episodes I really felt for Shigeyuki, he surely should have been more suspicious in this one. He’s been through two episodes with Yoshimoto already, after all. I guess wishful thinking is natural. An unhealthy relationship seems to be forming between Yoshimoto and Shigeyuki, though.
The character of Shinichi is really growing and helping us to digest Yoshimoto’s antics. The writers really did a great job in crafting Shinichi the way they did.
Pacing was great, the tone of the episode was excellent, and there wasn’t a dull moment. It was easily the smoothest episode so far, though not the most surprising. I guess they have to strike a delicate balance between filling an episode with shocking stuff and making it all digestible. Though still hard on this stomach, this episode went down easier than the previous two.