Here it is, the final episode of 49. Among the dramas I’ve reviewed, I don’t think there’s any that I’ve been more reluctant to see end. For most series, it’s pretty clear they need to wrap things up. Shinryochu was the last one that I thought should have had more episodes to it because too many of its storylines were wrapped up too hastily, but it was so intense and disconcerting that I was nowhere as eager to see that one continue as this one.

Right up front (because I’ll be focusing on the review at the close of the article), I’d like to thank arisu-subs for the wonderful translation effort throughout the series. I don’t acknowledge the subbers often enough – mainly because I’m not sure whether they want me to.

So, the writers have only an hour left to do right by the story of Kagami Dan (Sato Shori) and his father. Can they manage it?

It begins with Dan recording a message to his father – a longer one than his father left him, but just as meaningful in its own way. We find out something quite surprising – that Dan’s father wasn’t the one who died. Dan distinctly remembers his spirit floating away from his body. He realizes that his father left his own body and pulled Dan’s soul back in by force, and that’s how they got merged in Dan’s body.

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The writers have had a lot of tricks up their sleeves along the way, but this one really takes the cake. I’m properly impressed by this twist to things.

I also like how they have the two of them facing each other like this when Dan says he’s afraid that he’s going to be the one who’ll disappear after the forty-nine days are up rather than his father. Very artsy.

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Dan’s father doesn’t know what will happen at the end of the 49 days, either, it turns out, and this is a state of affairs that we should be able to get some serious resolution out of. I noted in the previous episode that we didn’t really know whether Dan was now enjoying life enough so that he wouldn’t contemplate suicide. Well, I think we’re at least going to find that out, and if he still wants to live, that’s a start.

On the less serious side of life, Possessed Dan, Kenta (Yasui Kentaro), and Satoshi (Jinguji Yuta) find Kiryu Tetsuya (Kyan Yutaka) sleeping in his money. He’s really got the whole decadent thing down!

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He barely knows what day of the week it is, and he said that he wanted to try sleeping covered in money just once.

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Possessed Dan tells him sharply that his child was born. He didn’t go to the hospital to see it, but on the flip side Yuko (Nomura Masumi) didn’t contact him. Sleeping in money, he doesn’t seem like a particularly concerned father, though.

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Needless to say, Possessed Dan, as Yuko’s father, is not happy with this picture at all and insists that since the debt for the club must be paid off already, Tetsuya should focus on his family obligations.

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He reflects on how he was an absentee father himself, and how that has affected Yuko. Looks like he’s learned a few things in during the seven weeks.

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The Bhutan thing, though . . . I wish people didn’t swallow the Bhutanese PR wholesale. If an entire national identity is built on people saying that they’re happy, you’re going to get them saying they’re happy even when they’re not, just because that’s essential to their identity as citizens of the country. During the 1990s, a fifth of the Bhutanese population was forced to leave because they didn’t suit the Bhutanese identity – people seem to forget that part. If not saying you’re happy might lead to ostracism and harassment . . . .

But I digress.

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Mana (Nishino Nanase) finally lets Sachi (Yamamoto Maika) tell her about Dan. Nice to see the two of them not trying to pull Dan apart.

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Sachi . . . really doesn’t know how to ask for favors. She wants some time with Dan’s father before he disappears, and wants Mana to consent to that, but in the process insults Mana by calling her a ‘plastic surgery beauty’.

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And Mana suddenly seems much more intelligent than Sachi (and to think, that was practically the only positive trait Sachi had going for her . . .) because she quickly realizes that it might not be the father’s soul that leaves the body after 49 days, but the son’s. She seems to have very little trust for adults – wish we had gotten more backstory on her, as she’s suddenly become a much more interesting character. Perhaps a spin-off series?

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Tetsuya finally visits his child at the hospital . . .

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. . . and I don’t think Mana is going to let go of Dan. She actually turns up at his house and ambushes him. It’s the wrong Dan – Possessed Dan, but she takes care of that in a hurry. Clever.

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Mana brings up her concern that Dan might be the one who will disappear, and he admits that he thinks it’s likely.

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He admits that he still doesn’t mind dying, so we’ve gotten that answer. Can the writers really make him want to live within the course of this episode? It really seems like something that should have developed over a chunk of the drama – at least three or four episodes.

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I like Mana here, though. I knew she’s have a part to play in supporting him, and she’s fierce in his defense even though he doesn’t have the will to defend himself.

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He says it only makes him feel worse, though, because he doesn’t like the idea that he attracts her pity. She’s amazingly perceptive, though, and realizes that this is all about Sachi and how much that callous girl has hurt him – especially because Sachi likes his father more than him.

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The fact that everyone likes his father is definitely bugging Dan – even the fact that his mother still likes him.

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Dan decides to switch places, letting his father take over right when Aiko (Konno Mahiru) slaps him. Can Dan’s father do something to help this grim situation?

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At the host club, Tetsuya decides that he wants to disband Chicken Basket and close the club. Apparently, they’ve held the top of the Oricon charts two weeks in a row (please tell me it was a really slow two weeks!), so the four members who were ready to throw away their schooling in order to focus on their entertainment work are understandably upset. Tetsuya has to give the reverse of the talk he gave them last time.

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Tetsuya then makes hilarious mincemeat of the speech Possessed Dan gave him about Bhutan, to my great delight. He breaks down in tears thinking about Yuko and his child, and Possessed Dan supports him by saying that he’s going to quit. Kenta announces that he’ll quit as well, and gives a much more compelling speech.

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Shogo (Teranishi Takuto) has been trying to get evidence to get them expelled, but Possessed Dan gets him out of hiding and asks whether he wants to join in.

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And he does! So, those of you who wanted to see Teranishi-kun doing the Chicken Basket thing, the drama will not leave you disappointed!

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The next day, it’s time for a full Dan committee:

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Dan’s father seems to be toying with the idea of staying, though I think he just wants the other three to help his son out – to make sure they don’t rely on him to just step aside, because he’s not even sure he can do that.

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He eventually explains the situation to them honestly, and shows that he’s actually very angry at the prospect that the son he tried to save will nevertheless die, and he can’t even imagine living life pretending to be the son he lost.

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What happens next is obviously him trying to put on a show – a bit of dramatics. Really, what he wants is to arrange a situation with the linchpin in this whole equation – Sachi. If Dan is going to be saved, Sachi is going to have to help.

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We find out something about Sachi that we didn’t know before. I’m not sure I follow how it could have led her to contemplate suicide, but it’s not as if the thought processes necessarily have to be rational. Actually, quite the opposite.

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So, Possessed Dan and Sachi have their moment on the edge, and this is quite the high-stakes strategy to get Dan to want to live. Will it work?

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Well, you’ll have to watch to find out! Everything else in this episode has to be left out as spoilers!

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Well, almost everything – while we didn’t get much background on Mana, we surprisingly do get some on Shogo as we see him trying to support a huge cadre of siblings.

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For the most part, the resolution was perfectly complete for Dan’s father, but rushed for Dan. It seems like Dan’s father was the real main character of the drama, which is fair enough. Looking back at my comments on the first two episodes, I’m glad that we got as much of Real Dan as we did.

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In summing up the series, I’ll go through the downsides first so that I can end on the positives (as this drama deserves). Were there problems with this series? Absolutely. First and foremost is the cavalier way they dealt with the issue of suicide. That was really disconcerting to me, and probably for a lot of other viewers, too.

The other major issue was that I wasn’t satisfied with how they handled Dan. The ending was acceptable, but I really wish we had gotten a much more gradual development of Dan’s character. There was a thread available with his Go playing, but they never capitalized on it. Except for the briefest mention by Sachi in the following episode, it was as if it had never happened, because it didn’t help Dan to see a more positive side of himself (partly thanks to Sachi’s coarse attitude).

Sachi’s characterization was a bit inconsistent, but I sort of understand why the writers did that, so I won’t call it a flaw. She had to become irritating in the way that she did to set up the ending.

Are there other problems that I haven’t mentioned? Nothing serious.

At the top of my list for the positives is this guy:

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Maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I thought Sato Shori-kun’s was the best performance I’ve seen from any actor in the 2013 dramas with the exception of Sakai Masato-san in Hanzawa Naoki. Granted, maybe I just watched the wrong dramas, but let me make my case.

This is a fairly unusual story because in plots involving a parent taking over their child’s body, the whole thing is usually played for humor. To do it seriously requires a lot from the young actor, and we saw that most potently in the scenes between Dan and Aiko, where there was a delicate line and subtle differences between Real Dan and Possessed Dan. In fact, everything about the way the dual roles were played out proved potent to convey two very different characters – the tone of voice, the eye contact, the tilt of the head, and the way they carried themselves.

But not only that, we got it in the middle of the Chicken Basket scenes, too, with Possessed Dan being confident, but Real Dan awkward at first yet getting better. That was a totally different level of complexity.

Perhaps the ultimate word on it is this: I can’t imagine anyone else in the role, and the role carried the series. Seeing him in this totally changed my opinion about Shori-kun.

That’s not to say that Shori-kun didn’t have an excellent supporting cast, because he did. While I had trouble with their characters from time to time, both Yamamoto Maika-san and Nishino Nanase-san did a fabulous job as the possible love interests in the series. They ensured that the relationships and sentiments expressed were credible, even when they seemed a bit strange (especially Mana’s attraction to pitiful people).

Jinguji-kun had some great moments as Dan’s main sidekick and this is certainly his most memorable part in a drama to date. He was overshadowed during the course of the series by Yasui-kun playing Kenta, though, but Yasui-kun has more experience and showed it.

Konno-san handled the very difficult part of Aiko with grace – and she kept her acting carefully crafted even when she was supposed to be acting somewhat drunk. Actually, it was quite refreshing to see the subtle effects of drinking alcohol in a drama.

I don’t have much to say about Nomura-san as Yuko, but how about Kyan Yutaka-san as her boyfriend Tetsuya? No one did as solid a job of comic relief as he did, and he carved out a little parallel drama for himself. Lovable rascals are lovable, and I hope to see more of him in the future.

Teranishi-kun played the only character who broke the fourth wall – insisting to the audience that he’d win in the end. Even though he played the most significant antagonist in the drama, he always had the audience rooting for his character. Part of that was writing, but part of it was the expression on his face, which contrasted the smug look from Shori-kun playing Dan’s father.

As for the remainder of the basketball team – Morita-kun, Shimekake-kun, Takahashi-kun, and Abe-kun – they were already amusing through the early episodes, and then took on the gutsy Chicken Basket stuff with admirable confidence. Shame this is one drama-based unit that won’t make it on to Shounen Club . . . .

At the end of the day, all the acting would have been for naught if the writing had been any less brilliant than it was. Here’s a clear testimony of how good it was: remember how in the first episode they had Possessed Dan say “You’re Welcome” twice as if it was supposed to be some kind of catchphrase? And it was really awkward? Well, we didn’t hear it ever again, did we? That’s one solid sign that the writing was good – they immediately dumped what didn’t word and instead picked up a catchphrase that did – “Seishun Saikou!”

The trick, though, was the way the writing walked a fine line. A lot of this drama was pretty risqué – especially those Dan-Aiko moments – but the writers and the director handled those scenes with care so that, while they were uncomfortable, you knew that they were trying their best to convey the intended story without violating propriety.

The one scene where they went unnecessarily overboard was when Possessed Dan visited the art school and got roped into posing nude. Why was that scene there when all it seemed to do was provide some off-color humor? Well, it mimicked a similar scene in the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, and the writers took pains to make that connection explicit later in the episode. The homage wasn’t something they did flippantly. Consider that Evangelion is an anime centered on a conflict between a shy son and his absentee father. I think it might have been the source of some vague inspiration for this drama.

The director is ultimately in charge of the editing, and the pacing of this drama was almost always fast. We got a lot done in every episode and, though I would have liked to have seen more, it took hard work on the director’s part to get everything together so tightly.

So yeah, great series. They took a very difficult premise and turned it into a neat little piece of art. It’s one of the few dramas I will definitely watch again and recommend wholeheartedly to those who watch dramas with school-age characters.