In SHARK Season Two, we already knew from episode one that Aruto (Abe Aran) was the member most focused on making the group popular – as opposed to maintaining some sense of musical authenticity. What we didn’t know was the lengths he was willing to go to, at least until the end of the previous episode when he announced that he was going to have a solo debut.

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Now, how much of this is really his drive for popularity and how much is it about the way that the group had already decided on a course of action without bothering to tell him? I guess that’s something we might find out. Anyway you look at it, Aruto and Saku (Shigeoka Daiki) are going to need to talk.

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For now, though, Samantha (IVAN) tries to convince Saku that Aruto’s solo debut will not diminish his part in Cloud 9, but only increase the group’s popularity. Sure.

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At least we finally get to see Saku properly angry, but as pissed as he might be, Aruto is just as annoyed. He says exactly what I would have guessed – that he doesn’t think Saku would listen to him. It’s a bit difficult to see how they ended up in the same band in the first place – we’ve seen flashbacks of Saku and Kota (Yasui Kentaro) together when they were young, but no indication of how Aruto entered the picture. It’s also sort of a shame Kota doesn’t at least participate in significant meetings, because I would have liked to hear what he would have to say about this (considering he’d the one who always threatens to leave the group).

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After the confrontation, we hear Saku’s internal monologue, where he reflects that once the balance breaks, things can’t go back to the way they were before. I suppose what I would like to know is: how was this ever balanced? What did that look like? Because where we stepped in, it looked like it was coming apart already. And what is Saku going to do about it, now that he thinks things can’t go back to the way they were? Or is he just going to brood about it?

Oh, and what’s with Haruya (Hagiya Keigo), who barely says a word when all sorts of crazy stuff is going on around him?

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He’d better do something, because Saku is blaming the whole situation on Aruto, saying that Aruto has changed because the agency is pampering him, and someone needs to talk some sense into Saku. Thankfully, it’s here that Haruya finally speaks up, telling Saku that since Saku and Kota always write the songs, Haruya and Aruto feel like they have no right to any opinion.

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Finally, there seems to be an opening in the horrible lines of communication within this group.

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Meanwhile, partly as a comic contrast on the SHARK side of things, Teppei (Kamiyama Tomohiro) tells Kai (Hamada Takahiro) that he’s written a song and, quite predictably, it’s horrible. Hopefully his goal was to cheer Kai (and the audience) up.

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And boy do we need some cheering up while watching this series. As if Cloud 5’s disarray wasn’t enough trouble, there’s also the Makoto situation. Here, Makoto (Kaede) is upset that she didn’t pass the dance audition, but her friend did. She explicitly says that she’s more upset because she’s jealous than because of simply failing.

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Well, since we’re clear about that . . . I don’t really have any sympathy for her.

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Saku does, though, but he’s at first reluctant to show it because of the whole love triangle thing between him, Makoto, and Kota. But it wouldn’t be much of a love triangle if he didn’t show his affection for her, and it so happens that Kota is completely out of the picture right now. Very convenient.

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Saku tells her about how he gets jealous all the time, and that all she has to do is settle down. Not exactly the most innovative advice ever, but what do you tell a person who is upset out of jealousy?

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Oh, and if you think there isn’t enough trouble already, they threw in the demise of the pet Kota asked Makoto to look after while he was gone. Really? Did it have to come to this?

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We need some more comic relief, and fortunately a scene between Aruto and Ichika (Hamada Takahiro) at the record company office provided that.

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Aruto has shown interest in Ichika from day one, and here he tries the whole horrible childhood routine with her. She doesn’t buy it at all, though.

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She knows he’s not here just to tell such stories, and he sure seems enthusiastic that she understands him.

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He then tells her that he came to consult her about writing lyrics, but she’s an odd person to talk to about that, isn’t she? Surely that’s not really what he came to talk about either.

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They ended the scene giving us the impression that he was just there to woo her somehow, but that didn’t seem right at all.

It was interrupted by a Saku-Makoto scene where they decided to buy Kota a new fish. Now, if they were going to tell Kota that the other fish died and that they bought him a new one, that would be one thing. Instead, they were trying to pass off the new fish as the old one, which is disgustingly deceitful. Once again, Saku is deciding not to tell a bandmate something important, and once again it’s going to blow up in his face.

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I continue not to have a very high opinion of Saku. And as he sort of has a date with Makoto, we know that he’s just finding new ways to cause problems for Cloud 5. On the bright side, Makoto tells him that Aruto probably had more of a reason to rebel than just not liking ballads – something Saku was apparently unable to figure out for himself even after the talk with Haruya.

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After that lamentable scene, we return to the Aruto-Ichika scene, already in progress. Why they interrupted this scene to stick in the other one, I have no idea.

This was probably the best scene in the episode, as Aruto explains that he’s not Saku’s voice, but his ears. Since Aruto can’t read music, he listens to Saku sing the song and then figures out what Saku intends for it.

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But it sounds like Saku has stopped paying attention to his ears.

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Ichika advises Aruto to write lyrics based on what he’s wanted to say, but has been unable to. That bit of advice, and Aruto’s reaction to it, made this a solid scene.

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Unfortunately we had to turn back to these two . . .

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. . . as they get closer together specifically to piss Kota off even more.

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Aruto writes his lyrics, but Matsuyuki (Toyohara Kosuke) wants something happier. You know, something that will be more popular. So, how will Aruto, Mr. Popular, react to this?

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Can Ichika help this group out?

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One thing’s for sure . . .

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. . . with Kota totally out of this episode, Aruto and Ichika were the only redeeming characters in my eyes, and it’s no coincidence that the whole thing revolved around their scene together.

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Save me from the impending love triangle!

At this point, it’s pretty clear that the first season of SHARK will be superior to this one in terms of characterization.

I find Aruto an engaging, if also sometimes annoying, character. And in this episode, he was the only one. If forced to give a reason to recommend this series, I could only say that it’s an interesting showcase for Abe Aran-kun, who has only had a bit part in one drama before – 49 – but seems to have won a role in the next drama in this time slot – Kinkyori Renai. I wonder if he can keep me interested in a romance – doubt it.

The best development in this episode was probably the way Haruya finally spoke up. It’s a shame that Saku didn’t get enough out of it and had to be convinced by Makoto that Aruto might actually have reasons for his actions.

The writers continue to tease us with appearances from Iwahashi Genki-kun, but there’s very little rope left in that tactic. I expect that the next episode will feature Kota getting upset about everything again, considering what happened in this episode. That means I’ll be looking for Cloud 5’s rival group to emerge in episode 6 at the latest.