So here we are – the last episode of Pin to Kona (ぴんとこな). I admit, this series has not gone the way I thought it would and has lacked the charm that it could have had. The talent was there – we’ve seen so many of these actors and actresses getting better results in other series – but it was simply not put to use. Let’s find out if this drama can at least end make a solid landing.

While it wasn’t at all surprising that they saved the issue of Kyonosuke (Tamamori Yuta)’s father’s failing health for last, it also makes good sense in terms of the overall plot about Kyonosuke’s developing maturity and kabuki professionalism. Too bad that plot hasn’t gotten proper treatment along the way, but they try to fix that with a recap at the start of this episode.

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Kyonosuke’s father wants his own senpai to train Kyonosuke for the next performance – a reprise of The Mirror Spirit which we saw Kyonosuke fail at in the first episode of the series. He’s adamant that this next play has to be a success.

Kyonosuke is exactly how you’d expect him to be after finding out about his father’s potentially fatal illness.

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Ayame (Kawashima Umika) makes the stupidest attempt to reassure him possible – shouting “you’re not alone” because that’s what he said to her in the previous episode. The problem with that is, in her case it made sense because her problem was that she felt like she had to deal with everything on her own. In Kyonosuke’s case it makes no sense at all – his problem is that he might lose somebody who is in most ways more important to him than Ayame is. Different situation, and Ayame doesn’t seem to understand that her own presence at his side can’t counteract the loss he will feel if his father dies.

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Ichiya (Nakayama Yuma) attempts to apologize to the Sawayamas after failing to show up for the engagement ritual, but surely by now Yuna (Yoshikura Aoi) and her father have to be totally fed up with him.

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And indeed, Yuna’s father decrees that he’ll never let Ichiya stand on a kabuki stage again. Frankly, Ichiya seemed to go out of his way to invite this fury, and it was obvious that he had never abandoned Ayame. Now his career and dreams are in ruins because of his attachment to her – will she prove worth the sacrifice?

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Naturally, Yuna has to deliver the news of what has happened to Ayame, along with a slap to the face. Ayame is, as usual, completely clueless about the situation and stunned by the news that Ichiya has been kicked out of kabuki because of his love for her.

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Kyonosuke gets a harsh lecture about his previous Mirror Spirit performance from his father’s senpai, who also says that if Kyonosuke can’t do it perfectly this time, he shouldn’t dare go on stage ever again.

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Even Kyonosuke is finally pissed at Ayame’s ill-conceived words, and he actually storms out in the midst of dinner because he’s fed up with her. I was totally proud of him at this point.

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Ichiya seeks help from the only guy who was consistently supportive of him – Kanjiro (Yamamoto Koji).

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And indeed, Kanjiro lets him stay at his rather beautiful place while he figures stuff out . . .

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. . . but also tells him about Kyonosuke’s father being in the hospital.

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Kyonosuke is in increasing turmoil as he finds out that the five-year prognosis is not good – even if the surgery is successful, his father only has a 30% chance of living five more years.

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Ichiya decides to visit the hospital to pay his respects to Kyonosuke’s father, but guess who he meets there?

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Well, I guess Ichiya and Ayame can finally get together, right?

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Good thing Kyonosuke was watching the scene – we don’t have any episodes left for him to slowly develop suspicions about them, so better that he does it right away.

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In a decent scene, Yuna’s father apologizes to her – after all, it was primarily to continue the family tradition that she was compelled to marry a kabuki actor and tied herself so fiercely to Ichiya.

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Good thing Jesse-kun had a more substantial role in Kamen Teacher, because he sure didn’t get much in this series.

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Ichiya makes his move – inviting Ayame to the aquarium. So, will she betray Kyonosuke who has extended her every kindness and consideration?

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Yes, yes she will, and she lies to him when he asks to hang out with her on the day she’s due to go to the aquarium with Ichiya.

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You know what? Maybe these Ichiya and Kyonosuke should get into a ring and just fight for her love once and for all. My sympathies to the one who actually gets her.

When they actually meet, Ichiya says some nonsense about not being able to match Kyonosuke – as if his lack of skill was the reason he couldn’t continue in kabuki! But the real reason he wanted to talk to Kyonosuke was the announce the fact that he was going after Ayame again – revealing Ayame’s lie in the process.

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At this rate, Ayame’s going to cause Kyonosuke to abandon kabuki, too, since he’s too distracted to perform this critical play properly. She’s like a plague on the kabuki world!

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Well, Kyonosuke’s father isn’t going to take this lying down:

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I know it’s not going to happen, but it’d be nice if Kyonosuke got kabuki and Ichiya got Ayame.

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But I’ll leave the rest for your curiosity – will Ichiya get Ayame thanks to the aquarium trip?

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Will Kyonosuke put on the great performance he’s capable of?

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Will Kanjiro find a way to help Ichiya back into kabuki?

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None of these questions really matter to me. This was supposed to be a series set in the world of kabuki, and I had expected that I’d learn something about the art from it. So the most important question that comes to mind at the close of this final episode is whether I learned much about kabuki?

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I think the answer has to be no. They tried to explain a performance once, I think – the time Kyonosuke and Ichiya were playing the two drunkards – but that was it. Otherwise, this drama made very little use of its premise.

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Why did it fail so miserably? That’s easy – they didn’t have Kyonosuke develop slowly. By the third episode, he had already totally defeated his kabuki rival Ichiya, proving that he had something intangible that Ichiya would always lack. After that, there was no effort at all on the kabuki side because all the conflict and tension there was gone – Kyonosuke had already won. If they had wanted to keep the kabuki side essential to the story, they would have had Kyonosuke losing to Ichiya for the first half of the series, and only gaining ground in the second half.

And perhaps besides Ichiya . . .

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. . . there could have been other competitors as well.

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But wouldn’t the increased attention to the kabuki side draw away from the love story at the core of the drama? On the contrary, I think it would have helped. If Ichiya had been fighting with Kyonosuke head-to-head right up until the end, only to be brought down because he couldn’t abandon Ayame for Yuna, the shock of him being thrown out of the Sawayama house would have been much greater. And if he couldn’t get Ayame’s love after that . . . well, thank goodness for Kanjiro. As it was, there was hardly any tension or surprise on the Ichiya side at all.

Would more kabuki have saved this series? Not entirely. Another crippling factor was that the characters were inconsistent and elicited little sympathy. For most of the series, Kyonosuke was the most consistent and sympathetic, but he certainly lost some ground there in this episode. Ichiya was all over the place, with the major disjuncture being where he lost confidence in himself so suddenly around episode three.

I guess special grief has to go to the character Ayame, as well as Kawashima Umika-chan’s weak portrayal of the character. This is a case where both the writers and the actress were clearly at fault – it took a lot of effort to make Ayame so painful to watch. She was unrealistic, inconsistent, and often inhuman in her emotions – trying to get through too much with a smile or a tear. I praised the character for being indignant and feisty in the first episode, but we saw neither of those traits afterward even though both emotions were often justified.

Even the ending scene of the drama was cringe-worthy, unimaginative, and ham-handed.

Let me put it all another way – I enjoyed Sprout more. Sprout was maddeningly slow and boring, but it was much more honest about its characters than this, and there was more viewer sympathy for the characters as a result.

I try to avoid romantic dramas, so I can’t say I’m a good judge of them, but I can’t imagine anyone being swept away by Pin to Kona. I dearly hope that Nakayama Yuma-kun in particular gets a proper leading role soon, as his recent parts have not done him justice.