Following the pattern of recent episode, this Kazoku Game (家族ゲーム) episode began with narration from the point-of-view of Kayoko (Suzuki Honami), the mother of the Numata household. Next to Shigeyuki (Uragami Seishuu), she’s been a sympathetic character for the audience while pretty much everyone else seems reprehensible in one way or another. This intro doesn’t change that at all.
We find out a number of interesting facts. For instance, her marriage to Kazushige (Itao Itsuji) was arranged by her father because of business ties to Kazushige’s company.
But because business with Kazushige’s company went sour, Kayoko’s father ended up disliking Kazushige. So, Kayoko basically felt abandoned by the father who had led her into this marriage. On top of that, she was abandoned by Kazushige – first, because he didn’t take part in raising their kids, and then more critically, through the affair with Tachibana Maki/Asami Maika (Kutsuna Shiori). Finally, once her kids became teenagers, they abandoned her, too.
Into this lonely existence stepped Yoshimoto-sensei (Sakurai Sho), who helped Shigeyuki, showed her Kazushige’s infidelity, and helped her to cover up her stock losses.
But despite being told by Yoshimoto to quit with the stocks, she overheard the neighbors talking about a company with prospects and is prepared to gamble again. This can only turn out badly.
Out in the yard, Yoshimoto is playing around with Shigeyuki.
At school, Shinichi (Kamiki Ryunosuke)’s girlfriend Asuka (Kitahara Rie) knows about some of his more nefarious activities after being shown the photographs by Yoshimoto. But what’s she going to do with that information? What does she think about her relationship with him – a person who used to have such a persona of perfection, but now she realizes that she barely knows?
The fact that he’s spending more time with Tachibana Maki (Kutsuna Shiori) is probably not going to help – especially with them going to karaoke and shopping together and Maki buying Shinichi clothes as a present. One photo of these two together like this would probably make Asuka go nuts (at least, I hope it would).
I was sort of surprised we didn’t get a shutter snap indicating Yoshimoto taking the picture when Shinichi took Maki’s hand and they started walking hand-in-hand. Shinichi is surprisingly naive when it comes to Maki, isn’t he?
At least Shinichi accurately assesses the lesson to be learned from his foiled attempt to get the family to fire Yoshimoto in the previous episode – that his lack of communication with the rest of the family meant that he had not fostered bonds of trust with them. Yoshimoto is impressed, and promises to continue teaching Shinichi frustration.
The bedroom scene between Kazushige and Kayoko . . . well, let’s just say things are not getting any better between them, and Kazushige always manages to take the wrong approach.
Leaving the bedroom, Kayoko heads downstairs and asks Yoshimoto if a person can change, saying that she would like to. He offers her something to read, but doesn’t really answer the question. Perhaps he’s unsure of his own ability to change?
We continue to follow Kayoko as she checks out how Shigeyuki is doing with his new friends.
Ultimately, the bully approaches them, angry at the two defectors, but Shigeyuki stands up to him. Kayoko sees the entire confrontation and is pleased by how her son now seems to have more self-esteem. That’s certainly something they can’t fault Yoshimoto on – they asked him to help Shigeyuki and he did. The contract didn’t include a clause that said he couldn’t mess with the rest of the family in the process (though if you plan to hire a tutor for your kids, maybe you should add a clause like that in).
Left alone at home, Kayoko turns to the laptop on which she trades stock. Uh oh.
With Shinichi on a date with Maki, Yoshimoto finally shows up to give Maki a message that Kazushige wants to meet with her. The tutor also delivers a warning to Shinichi about women scorned – about the way Shinichi is treating Asuka.
So, what does Shinichi think about Maki meeting his father again?
Yoshimoto delivers the news that Maki will contact Kazushige, but makes sure in a stern tone that this is only about seeking closure on that misstep. Of course, Yoshimoto certainly knows that Kazushige’s assurances are worthless.
Shinichi wonders if this is all a test for him.
Gotta love these family dinners – they’re such a good distillation of the tension that’s in the air. And Yoshimoto always makes a point of ‘saying the wrong thing’ (which is to say, the unpleasant truth).
But just in case we think Yoshimoto is more of a good guy than a bad guy . . .
. . . he balances the scale again with some nastiness (perhaps even tilting it a bit to the other side).
But in the process, we get a hint that the real Yoshimoto Kouya – the one in the coma – wasn’t a saint. And his mother probably tolerates the fake Yoshimoto because he knows the truth about her son.
As (fake) Yoshimoto returns to the Numata house, he sees Kayoko watching a new report about the bankruptcy of Harbor Bridge anxiously. He understands immediately, but she’s a nervous wreck. And since she said she traded with the full credit of the account – 5 million yen or roughly $50,000 – she should be. Never put all your money in one stock, folks.
Yoshimoto seems genuinely disappointed in her, pointing out that if people could change just by buying a stock, everyone would be stock trading. Since she probably used margin, he estimates the actual loss at 10 million yen, or around $100,000. Ouch.
He suggests that her husband could borrow money from the company, but she says that’s impossible because of a past scandal (perhaps related to her father’s company). He suggests she ask her family, but we already know why that would be difficult.
Yoshimoto seems truly distraught about this. Could it be that he shares the audience’s sympathy toward Kayoko and Shigeyuki, and prefers to give them encouragement while causing trouble for the two monsters of the family – Kazushige and Shinichi?
We finally get a flashback where the scandal is revealed – Kayoko’s father telling her that Kazushige embezzled money from the company. He asks Kayoko to divorce Kazushige, offering to support Shinichi and Shigeyuki as well as herself.
Wow, I guess all this time with the revelation about Maki coming out, Kayoko must have been thinking how she should have followed her fathers advice at that time.
It’s tough to read Yoshimoto’s expression as he sits in the dark. Is this all going according to his plan?
Kayoko works up the courage to ask her father for the money the next day. As you might expect, she doesn’t get a positive answer on this try.
And Yoshimoto is watching, but again he has a grimly sympathetic look on his face, worried that this blow to her confidence might lead her astray.
The walk home sure seems filled with messages.
Shinichi continues to treat Asuka like dirt, but that’s only because he doesn’t realize that she had photographs that could deal a deathblow to his cultivated reputation.
Kayoko finds out that her neighbors who were talking up Harbor Bridge didn’t actually buy it. When they asked if she did, she admits to the full extent of her losses.
At this point, as things seem quite dark for Kayoko, I’ll cut off the summary to preserve the most critical spoilers. Will she succumb to her despair? Will Yoshimoto find a way to solidify her trust in him?
It doesn’t look like Kazushige is any bit less of a monster at work . . .
. . . but how will his meeting with Maki go? Why the heck does he need to see her again, anyway, if not to restore the relationship with her?
Will Asuka act in this episode, or will we have to wait some time before she builds up enough anger to burst?
And if the bully tries again to get revenge, will Shigeyuki really be all right?
Oh, and what are Shinichi and Shigeyuki peeking in on, those sneaky little devils?
As usual, there are a ton of questions in the air, but one thing’s for certain: Yoshimoto is start the following morning with a smile on his face.
This episode was once again full of surprises, especially with regard to Yoshimoto’s reaction to what was going on with Kayoko, but also other things late in the show. It was very poignant on the topic about the capacity of a person to change their course in life. Acting was consistent with what we’ve seen so far.
As we get closer to the end of the series, any assessment of it will really depend on how it ends, but I’m really impressed with it so far. It has the tightest writing of any drama I’ve reviewed to date, featuring both uniqueness (compared to a dozen dramas about delinquents every year, for instance) and intensity. The sheer outlandishness combined with its pointed remarks about the way people often behave to their own detriment make it one of the dramas I would recommend to people who do not otherwise watch Japanese shows. That is, as long as the ending doesn’t fall flat.