So at long last we come to the final episode of Kazoku Game (家族ゲーム). In the last episode, Shinichi (Kamiki Ryunosuke) learned the substantial details of Tago Yudai (Sakurai Sho)’s past and why he took on the role of the hateful Yoshimoto Koya. In the process, we found out that the whole point was to keep Shigeyuki (Uragami Seishuu) from becoming a victim like Sanada Souta and to keep Shinichi from becoming a monster like Tago Yudai.

I’m not sure what this scene at the beginning was about . . .

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. . . but soon enough we got the scene at the end of the previous episode, with Yudai walking in on the Numata family as Kayoko (Suzuki Honami) was insisting on a divorce from Kazushige (Itao Itsuji).

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He claims that he came back to . . . to retrieve all the snooping devices he left behind since they were rented. He had placed around ten mini-cameras around the house!

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Getting the ones in Shigeyuki’s room, he also asks Shigeyuki whether bullying is fun. Shigeyuki objects that he’s just afraid of getting bullied again, but Yudai is quick to tell him off.

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Shinichi has a very different view of Yudai now, and he reveals that when the tutor visits his room.

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Yudai leaves with a final taunt (and challenge) about the bonds his family seems to be missing.

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On his way out, Shinichi has some unfinished business – since Shinichi dropped out of school, he has to do whatever Yudai asks him to. It seems like he was curious to find out what the order would be.

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Yudai orders Shinichi to save the family, then leaves. What’s amazing is how Kamiki-kun is making the character of Shinichi work. This is such a huge turnaround for the character, yet it is pretty much flawless thanks to Kamiki-kun’s acting.

But Shinichi wants more information about what happened – how Yudai turned into Yoshimoto – so he arranges a meeting with Yudai’s former student Mizukawa Sara (Kutsuna Shiori).

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There aren’t any real surprises in the story she tells, but I’ll leave any description of it out as spoilerish anyway.

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At this juncture, it’s just the writers wrapping up anything the viewers might perceive as loose ends – the real point of this episode is more about the Numata family than Yudai.

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Mizukawa does tell Shinichi straight out that Yudai was concerned that Shinichi would turn into another Yoshimoto. Oh, and also that Yudai has dealt with other families before the Numatas.

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We also see Yudai and Yoshimoto’s mother in another scene meant to tie up a somewhat loose end – why Yoshimoto’s mother cooperated with Yudai.

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Ultimately, the main key that Mizukawa gave Shinichi was Yudai’s notebook containing all his observations about the Numata family. Shinichi reads selections from this notebook, including ones which are critical of him.

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So, if there was any lingering question about why Yudai did what he did, they were answered here. One question I had was whether he meant for Kayoko to make her further bet on the stock market – losing that colossal amount. Turns out he really didn’t – he expected Kayoko to be better than she turned out to be.

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He also expected Shigeyuki to be better – there was no indication that he expected Shigeyuki to become a bully.

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The reading of the notebook seems to the family like Yudai is lecturing them directly.

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Well, here’s the big question of the episode: how will the family react to this new information? It’s not very different from the direct explanation they got from Yudai before, but while Yudai taunted them, Shinichi’s reading of the notebook puts a different spin on it – especially since Yudai wrote that Shinichi was the main problem for which all the rest happened.

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As usual, I’ll leave out the details that might ruin the episode for those who still haven’t watched it. Here are some screencaps as teasers, though:

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As you can see from those shots, the resolution is pretty wide-ranging and the pace doesn’t grind to a halt the way it often does in the final episode of dramas.

But is it a satisfying ending? I liked the way Shigeyuki was the one who kicked it off. Beyond that, it was heart-warming, not rushed but well-paced, and still contained some moments of tension. It’s a tricky thing to pull off – the turnaround of a family – but the total breakdown they had in the previous episode served as a transition that helped it to work out.

More important, though, was the way the episode depicted a very long period of time during which the healing took place instead of just making it seem like a 180-degree turn (of the kind I’ve criticized in other dramas). And it’s not the case that the family got out of the situation without paying a price, though you’ll have to watch the episode to know what I mean.

Best part of the resolution? The confrontation between Shinichi and Yudai, of course. Best scene I’ve ever seen from Kamiki-kun (though I’ve admittedly missed some of his dramas). Oh, and don’t miss the bit after the credits roll!

The acting in this series was brilliant overall. Sakurai-san did an excellent job with his role – he does do off-the-wall crazy very well, but the vital aspect of his role was treading the line between seeming to help the family and deliberately plotting to bring it down. Some of that line was managed by the writers, but Sakurai-san also had to have the right emotional reactions that would not tip off the true nature of his character too early.

Actually, the series might have been more dependent on Kamiki-kun than Sakurai-san, so it’s a good thing that Kamiki-kun is an absolute ace.

Uragami-kun, Suzuki-san, and Itao-san all had some great moments in the series and were, as far as I could tell, flawless in their acting.

The writing overall was very tight. There was never a dull moment – even when there were extended scenes with a total lack of dialogue. The whole plot was intricate and well thought-out. Every character was given his or her proper development (except that Kazushige somewhat got the short end of things there).

Would it be a series that I’d want to watch again? Probably not – it’s pretty intense, and once you know how it turns out, it’s not quite as captivating. Would I recommend it to someone else? Some people yes, others no. This drama requires a certain . . . delight in mischievousness, and it can easily offend the sensibilities of a viewer who is too . . . sensible. Even I had trouble stomaching the first episode, and it took me a while to get over that.

Among the dramas I’ve reviewed starring Arashi members, it is so far my favorite.

Please share your thoughts on the series! Did you like it or hate it? Have any reservations about the way things went, or was it smooth viewing?