When we last left the Numata family in Kazoku Game (家族ゲーム), they were in a pretty desperate state.

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And since there’s one episode after this one, it seems unlikely that they’ll get out of their funk in this episode – not if the writers want to keep up their excellent pacing and retain audience interest in the finale.

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So, what exactly are we going to get in this episode? The opening is just a montage of the depths the family has reached, and I guess the question that has to go through our minds while watching them go into complete dysfunction instead of, say, being defiant, is whether this family deserves to be saved.

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Gotta laugh when Shinichi (Kamiki Ryunosuke), unable to find anything in the fridge, buys some groceries for himself, but labels them all with his name.

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Seeing that, Kazushige (Itao Itsuji) has to eat out . . .

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. . . and get groceries of his own.

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But is this depravity all we’re going to get for the rest of the episode? Surely not!

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I have to give the writers credit for yet another well-executed scene with plenty of tension but no dialogue. If you remember, they started the series like this, but the six-and-a-half minute stretch at the beginning of this episode – right up to the opening title sequence – has to break all records.

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After the credits, we get an intro from Shinichi’s point of view. We’ve heard one from his point of view before, but this one was updated and a bit more self-reflecting, though he still blames Tago Yudai (Sakurai Sho) for everything that went wrong.

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But then he gets an unexpected visitor – his old girlfriend Asuka (Kitahara Rie).

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Shigeyuki (Uragami Seishuu) returns to school after an absence brought about by the turmoil at home . . .

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. . . to find that his new friends are now bullying someone else in much the same way they once bullied him.

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Back at the house, Asuka says she thinks Yudai gave her the photos of Shinichi to test whether she would still like Shinichi after seeing them. She says she does (and we already knew that because she didn’t give the photos to a teacher).

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Is she right? Shinichi is sure firm in his belief that she isn’t.

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And in the process of denying what she says about Yudai . . .

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. . . he goes too far – an attempted rape that seemed designed precisely to alienate the only person who cared about him and to prove that he is the monster Yudai claimed that he was.

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Shinichi runs from home totally confused. Meanwhile, Kayoko (Suzuki Honami) is on a train with her things, looking eager to start a new life. She, at least, seems to have a very definite way to proceed in mind.

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Shinichi is really looking like a wild monster now, and he finds a little clue left behind concerning his intended prey’s whereabouts. He’s after Tachibana Maki (Kutsuna Shiori) and he finds out not only where she might be, but also that her real name is Mizukawa Sara.

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This could get interesting . . .

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. . . as Shinichi demands in a growl to know what’s going on . . .

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. . . and she asks him to treat her to lunch.

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She really has no fear, does she? Is there a protection clause in the contract she has with Yudai or something?

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Anyway, she decides to tell him the truth – that everything she had told him before, including about Tago Yudai’s past, was a lie.

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Tago Yudai was Mizukawa’s teacher, and she was a childhood friend of the boy who committed suicide – Sanada Souta. She goes into the story of what happened eight years ago.

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Is what she tells Shinichi now the truth? Should he believe her just because his family is already in ruins and Yudai has already won?

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Better question – will Shinichi believe anything she says, regardless of whether he should believe it.

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I’m not going to recount the (true?) story of Tago Yudai and Yoshimoto Kouya, though we already know many of the key points.

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I can say, though, that there’s every reason to believe it’s the true story, and all the details fit. Even better, the motivations of the real Yoshimoto Kouya are profoundly evil, as are his methods – much like the character that Yudai plays. We can also understand how Yudai got personally scarred by what happened.

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It’s also absolutely clear what kind of monster Yudai was trying to keep Shinichi from becoming – he was trying to keep Shinichi from becoming Yoshimoto Kouya.

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Mizukawa’s account takes up about half of the episode, but it’s the entire purpose of the hour. The rest is all reaction . . .

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. . . a final family meeting . . .

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. . . and the return of Yudai!

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This was a necessary storytelling episode. It was unquestionably the slowest episode of the series, but there’s no way the writers could have avoided that – it had to be slow to draw out the horrors of the past.

It served its purpose perfectly. Early on in these reviews, I’m pretty sure I said that the writers would have to make sure that whatever happened to Yudai/Yoshimoto to lead him to treat the Numata family as he has, it had to be much, much worse than what he was doing to the family. And it was. Mission accomplished.

Even better, Yudai’s consistent interest in Shinichi – even more so than Shigeyuki – now makes total sense.

Well, on to the last episode!