I’ve always loved when two broken people find solace in one another. I’m not sure what that really reveals about me, but somehow I’ve always felt that people who know what it’s like to lose something or someone or have lived without true love in their lives, have a tendency to cherish and give love in ways that can leave you speechless. Nagareboshi proves to me once again, how beautiful and tender love can be, and since contract marriages are all the rage, they aren’t that bad either.
Standing in a rail crossing, resolved, a young woman waits, as a tear falls. Warnings flicker red and screech, as a man, slides beneath the caution bars and tugs her. They struggle, she breaks free.
One month earlier.
Beautiful seaside morning. Okada Kengo (Takenouchi Yukaka) bikes to work, a local aquarium, Shine no Shima and begins making the rounds preparing for the day. Kawamoto Junji(Sugimoto Netta) and his wife Chizura(Chisun), bicker about what seems to be a common occurrence, his outings with female friends. She threatens by asking about the health of the sharks he’s feeding, reminding him they leave no physical evidence. Kengo finds him to discuss the chryosara début tomorrow but Junji wonders if he’ll live to see it. He tells Kengo now is the time to rethink, because women change drastically after marriage, but Kengo smiles broadly answering, “Minako is not like that.”
At a dress shop, Kengo’s sister, Maria(Kitano Kii), tries on veils, as she and Kengo wait for Minako(Itaya Yuka) to model her wedding dress. When asked which one he likes, Kengo shyly answers either is fine. Annoyed Maria, pinches his cheeks and exclaims that “I like both” clearly means “I don’t care.” He really does seem at a loss but happy as Maria pushes him next to Minako for a picture to compare later.
Outside Makihara Risa(Ueto Aya) cuts her conversation short and smiles as Makoto(Daiko Shunsuke), her boyfriend, walks up. They chat, eat lunch, and discuss taking a trip in the near future. He’s decided on a location and hopes she can get the time off. She can and he reveals he’s chosen Kobe, to visit his parents. She’s silenced by surprise but relieves Makoto as she breaks into a shy smile that she’d love to meet them. A text from work interrupts them and Risa rushes off, citing new products being shipped in.
Risa walks into a Host Club, Imekura Saint Marin Academy, spouts a “Good Morning” and clocks in, moving a magnet next to her name indicating her presence. Her boss isn’t up for “Good Morning,” as it’s the evening, she’s late and has a client waiting. He pins her to the wall blasting her for acting superior and demands she quit if she refuses to come on time and take her job seriously. She glares back at him and retorts she will quit. “Then pay back what you owe,” he spits, as he throws her to the floor and resumes coddling his other girls.
Risa and her client, chat like friends, as she gives him the massage he requested, instead of his usual role play. His muscles are tense due to stress and suggests that “Milk” must have plenty of stress in her life as well, catering to bald, middle-aged men, like himself. She refutes this softly but he contends that she must, given she’s doing this job to repay her debts. Risa quickly changes the subject to more pleasant things and asks excitedly, “Have you ever been to Kobe?”
At the Okada home, its dinnertime. Mom(Harada Mieko) asks Minako did dress shopping go well but Maria makes it clear that they all selected the right dress together. Mom teases Maria for meddling in other people’s affairs, offering that Minako will resent that quickly. Minako speaks up, humbly saying Maria’s ideas are always welcome, as she has good taste and Maria jokes, “Minako’s acting like a good wife.” Minako says, she already is, “Right?,” looking to Kengo who tilts his head and chimes cutely, “Yes!” leading Maria into a gagging fit over their cheesiness, creating laughter all around. Mom reminds Maria to take her medicine and her upcoming doctor’s appointment, as everyone sits down to a family dinner.
In the morning, walking home, Risa smiles at a text from Makoto. Inside her apartment, she’s greeted by a man(Inagaki Goro), “You left your door unlocked.” Not at all pleased, Risa wonders why he’s here. He rummages around telling her it’s taken him time and trouble to finally track down his little sister. Risa blazes that he knows nothing of trouble, leaving her to shoulder all his debts. He apologizes quickly, bowing but she flails, pushing him, telling to him to “Get out!” He informs her, he’s come to report that he’s found a way to settle his money matters to set her mind at ease.
He apologizes again for the pain he’s caused. She asks for the money, he doesn’t have it yet but should, by the end of the week. He spies her wallet and snatches it, saying he’ll pay her back. As they struggle, her Host Club business cards fall out. He puts the pieces together and grabs her in an embrace, apologizing for being such a horrible brother. She pushes him off her and tells him to leave, picks up her wallet and runs out. She runs breathless throughout the city, until something captures her attention, a poster for an aquarium.
At the aquarium, Kengo overhears two siblings deducing the larger fish in the tank must be male and the smaller female or at least, mother and child. He interjects and corrects that the larger males change sexes to become female in what’s called protogyny. The children lose interest immediately and walk away. A younger co-worker teases Kengo and suggests he, “Let the children dream.” Stepping back to work, Kengo bumps into a female patron and apologizes.
The closing announcement begins and the aquarium empties. Kengo begins his final checks and sees a young lady near the jellyfish tank. He calls to get her attention but finally approaches, pointing out it’s oddly soothing watching the fish float by.
Risa: These guys spend their whole lives floating around in the sea, don’t they?
Kengo: It’s not exactly floating. They don’t have the strength to float on their own and being that the ocean currents and waves are stronger, they go wherever the current takes them. If not for the artificial current we have here, they wouldn’t float properly and fall to the bottom and die.
Risa: Poor things.
Kengo(chuckles): Perhaps but jellyfish can’t feel emotions like joy, sadness or hardship.
Risa: How can you be sure?
Kengo: They don’t have the brain to feel it?
Kengo: Brain tissue.
Risa: Oh. You don’t even need a brain.
Risa returns to her apartment and plops on her bed relieved to see no signs of her brother. On the table, next to her phone, he left a note conveying his gratitude seeing her and promises to visit again. She immediately balls it up and throws it away. Later, Risa’s boss pays her and she asks for an additional shift. He scoffs wondering why she’s pretending to be diligent. She reveals she just wants to pay her debt and quit as soon as possible.
Maria is at school working diligently on her next project as her friend rambles nonstop in the background. Mizuki’s(Kawaguchi Haruna) concerned about graduation, University and their future, but Maria feigns interest answering “Yes,” “No,” or “Mm.” Checking Maria’s attention, Mizuki asks, “Have you had sex?” Maria grunts, “Yes,” and wakens to the conversation. She apologizes and asks if Mizuki is going to Art School. She wants to but thinks her parents won’t approve and wonders if it’s the same for Maria. “I’m not sure but when I think about the cost, a private college seems implausible,” she answers and makes a common comment about feeling faint. Mizuki laments what may become of them and returns to her own project, saying it’s best to just concentrate on the present, their upcoming contest. Maria collapses behind her.
Dr. Kamiya Ryo (Matsuda Shota) is woken up by a nurse to an emergency. Maria lies unconscious as he checks her vitals and bilirubin level. Maria opens her eyes and he informs her she has light anemia and introduces himself. In the waiting room, Mrs. Okada and Kengo are greeted by Drs. Taninaka and Kamiya. They relay that Maria is stable and Kamiya will now be her doctor. In a separate room, Kamiya reminds that bilirubin levels never return to normal once spiked and with Maria’s level at 4, she will only survive another year. Kengo takes the intiuative and suggests a transplant and his liver, being he and Maria are both O blood type. He’s been thinking about it since her diagnosis and wants to do it, if surgery is the only option. Kamiya admits surgery is something that must be considered and agrees to test Kengo’s compatibility. Mom wants to be tested as well, but accounting she and Maria’s blood type difference Kamiya decides to test Kengo first and go from there. He assures Kengo that if he is compatible all should go well, the procedure has a high success rate.
Maria wakes up to a boy with a fan disappointed to see her in his friend’s bed. He asks about the lady that was there previously and grumbles that she should’ve told him if she was to be discharged. Before leaving, he asks if Maria will be here long and offers the book he’d come to return. It’s Rakugo(Japanese sit-down comedy) but Maria promptly hands it back stating disinterest. He tells her to try it anyway and lifts her sketch book. Flipping through he says, “You’re good. Next time, draw my self-portrait.” Maria shoots back he must be dumb, “It’s called a “self-portrait” because you draw it yourself.”A nurse calls him off for his IV and he waves promising to come again as Mizuki walks in to visit Maria. Mizuki asks after him but Maria doesn’t know him and tells Mizuki to worry about her friend not some guy.
Maria primps as Dr. Kamiya walks in for his daily rounds. She’s a little self-conscious as he asks her stick out her tongue, then lift her shirt. At her hesitation, he steps back and apologizes and she relents her permission. She asks about the boy from yesterday and Kamiya refers to him as Ryota. Maria asks him to get her sketchbook back from Ryota. Kamiya asks if she likes Rakugo, noticing the book on her tray and shares he’d like to go see it live one day. She eagerly invites herself along but quickly retracts, hinting his girlfriend wouldn’t like her tagging along. He says he doesn’t have girlfriend and to Maria’s disbelief, he answers, “It’s true.”
Kamiya meets Kengo and his mother to inform them they’re incompatible; Kengo due to his past Hepatitis A treatment and Mrs. Okada’s liver being too small. Kamiya hands them a chart and explains that a relative up to 6 degrees could be a viable match for Maria, even one with no blood relation due to marriage within 3 degrees. If a relative isn’t found, Maria would have to wait for a brain-dead donor, but the chances are slim. Kamiya requests Maria know nothing of her condition as to not depress her if no donor is found. They both agree.
Outside Maria muses to Minako that boys need to be attractive. “It makes you feel better, right? A cute boy is the best cure for sickness!” Minako tickles and teases her to reveal whom she’s referring to but Maria just giggles. Kengo joins them and Minako asks if he’s finished the guest list. He hasn’t, and Maria notes that left to her brother, the wedding would never happen. Mom sneaks behind Kengo and serves the table ice-cream. Everyone laughs and enjoys this visit with Maria.
At a café, Kengo meets an uncle about Maria, telling him he’s his only hope, and asks him to hear the doctor’s procedural explanation before saying “No.” Kengo spends his day at work fielding calls from relatives negatively responding to his request. He then drops by his uncle’s for a face to face. He explains that the transplant is a safe procedure, leaving a small scar, but his aunt cites her small children and needs a 100% guarantee of survival. She also comments that he shouldn’t feel any real obligation to Maria, but her husband stops her short. Kengo’s uncle says he sympathizes with his situation but wishes Kengo would consider his aunt’s position and opinion as well.
Kengo arrives home for dinner and walks in on his mother kneeling, begging Minako to be Maria’s donor. Minako asks Mom to stand, apologizes and runs out. Kengo follows her. Minako confused and disheartened, wonders why something so important was kept from her but Kengo insists he intended to share everything with her later. She apologizes again and asks for time to think.
Risa gets a text at work and rushes off to meet Makoto for dinner, who gleefully informs her that he may be able to open his restaurant sooner than expected. As Risa flips through a tourist magazine of Kobe, Makoto meets Risa’s brother in a café and hands him money. Risa gets her pay, she checks it and hands it back, “My debt is paid.” Her boss takes it and tells her to never come back.
Later, she meets Makoto for drinks elated, until her brother shows up. Risa is shocked but Makoto excited to share that her brother helped him with the capital for his restaurant, through a 30 million yen investment. Risa’s brother reveals he needs about six thousand more when Risa gets up and demands he return Makoto’s money. Risa’s brother assures Makoto that all is well and let’s slip this will also benefit Risa in paying her debts so she can quit her sex club job. Makoto leaves stunned. Risa runs after him grabbing him but he shakes her off and asks for time to sort out what he’s just learned.
Kengo gets called back to work to repair a water pump. Junji spies something amiss and asks if he and Minako fought. Kengo admits they didn’t. Junji tells him to feel free to tell him if he needs to talk, because he gives pretty good advice. Kengo laughs and promises if he ever needs to, he’ll definitely come to him. Instead of returning home, Kengo goes out to the shore for a walk, where a drunk Risa is drinking by herself. She offers him a can but he declines and turns to walk away. She begins to recite what she’d learned from him earlier about jellyfish having no brains or feelings. He turns and she recognizes him as the “jellyfish guy.” He asks why she’s there and she confesses she came to see the jellyfish but the aquarium was closed.
Then she pulls him down next to her, to be her drinking partner. She receives a call but ignores it, tossing it in the air annoyed. Kengo catches it and places it in her bag as she gripes about being stalked by a guy with a mountain of debt. She says she thought she’d paid it off. Kengo tries to follow along but Risa takes it as him finding her deceptive and pulls out her business card to prove her good work ethic. She tells him to come by some time, she’ll give him a discount. He’s intrigued by her name “Milk,” to which she says men love, then notices her blood type is O. He thinks aloud, “I guess you can find them anywhere.” She asks if its impossible to go inside and he lets her in.
Risa: What happens to jellyfish when they die?
Kengo: Moon jellyfish melt and disappear.
Risa: Seriously? That’s amazing. I wish I was a jellyfish.
Risa: Floating around in the water, then melting away when you die, that sounds amazing. What about you?
Risa: What if you were reincarnated?
Kengo: If I were reincarnated… maybe a jellyfish.
Sawamura Ryota(Kiriyama Akit0) drops a CD by for Maria but she doesn’t want it, for she has no idea who it is nor is she interested. He tells her its hilarious on CD but better live and they should see a show when they’re discharged. Maria asks if that’s a date proposal she can’t, she’s going with someone else. Ryota wonders whom but Maria keeps mum, which leads Ryota to tease she’s lying. Kengo listens to their banter outside Maria’s room.
He then meets Dr. Kamiya for a coffee on the roof patio. He admits it’s quite hard finding a donor, even Maria’s relatives have refused. He wonders why relatives are the sole option, if not for that stipulation, anyone could donate. Kamiya explains that there’s more to it than just medical logistics, there’s ethical issues as well. They have these restrictions because there are people who would purchase organs and it just isn’t right to put a price on someone’s body. Kengo asks, “And if someone important to you was in Maria’s situation?” Kamiya is left speechless but Kengo begs him, “Please, save Maria.”
Risa returns to the Host Club and begs her boss for the 30 million($47,000) to repay Makoto. He has no intention of doing so and tries to leave but Risa grabs his ankle pleading. At his restaurant job, Risa hands Makoto his money and apologizes for her brother and lying to him. He takes it and suggests they never meet again, implying he no longer trusts anything.
Kengo visits Minako’s hotel to apologize for the other night. She confides that she considers Maria a little sister and wants to save her. However, she realized, after asking her parents she was relieved at their objection, “And that scared me. I’m sorry. The only natural thing is to save Maria. But I can’t become apart of your family.” Kengo apologizes for laying this burden on her and sits patiently as she sobs.
Risa walks up to see her brother step out of a new car with shopping bags. Livid, she barges in and questions him about how he can afford new cars and clothes. He assures he didn’t use Makoto’s money and hopes they patched things up. Risa is furious but her brother nonchalantly suggests they try to get along like siblings should, “You may not remember but it was me who changed your diapers when you were small. And I carried you on my back to the doctor when you were sick.” He feels they should go back to the way things used to be and hands he a drink. In a daze, Risa stumbles to the kitchen and pulls out a knife, points and stumbles towards him, “Please, just die.” Stunned, he tosses her aside and tells her to calm down. “Fine I’ll do it,” she says and turns it on herself, in the tussle she cuts his hand. Jolted by the blood, horrified, Risa rushes into the night in tears.
That night everyone is alone, crying, drinking, laughing or thinking. Kengo leaves a bar to walk home and sees Risa standing in the rail crossing, train on its way. He runs and grabs her but she pulls away and breaks free. They stare at one another and end up face down on the ground as the train barrels by. Telling him to mind is own business, Risa gets up and stumbles away. Kengo follows behind her.
Kengo: Wait. Your debt… How much is it? I’ll pay it off for you. In exchange, become part of my family.
Kengo: I want you to marry me.
Reactions, Ramblings and Remarks
This was a wonderful set up episode. Like with every drama, we need to get to the heart of the matter and get there quickly, so we can spend the rest of our time dealing with the ramifications of decisions made. Episode 1 spent quite a bit of time showing the parallels and comparisons between Kengo and Risa’s lives. Kengo finds out his sister needs a transplant, Risa’s debt ridden brother returns; both invoked fear and anxiety into these characters. Kengo’s first instinct is to resolve and remedy, while Risa’s is to fight and run, giving us clear insights into their personalities and coping mechanisms. These two may be in different situations and come from different backgrounds but both of their lives are tossed to and fro by outside forces, like the moon jellyfish. Risa shoulders her brothers debts, Kengo his sister’s cure. We’re not quite sure as to why either has been placed in these situations outside family loyalty, though I guarantee there’s more to both stories.
Risa is sad and angry but most of all defeated. She’s made choices for money that shame her. Her brother returns and she’s fearful and violent, desperate to rid her life of him. Though it’s not completely clear, I think we can assume that Shuichi(whose name wasn’t mentioned this ep, at all) has squandered money countless times, leaving Risa to clean up his messes. Whether Risa and Shuichi have or had parents, it seems they were absent and Shuichi raised Risa alone, in his own way. This could have a bearing on why Shuichi feels little remorse for using Risa, and why Risa feels the obligation to continue to cover and bail him out.
Kengo, like Shuichi, is an elder brother but instead of using his sister, is determined, even desperate to save her. When Kengo receives the news of Maria’s condition he hits the ground running, ready to give of himself. When that doesn’t pan out, he takes the initiative to call and meet relatives to donate for Maria. Kengo feels the burden of responsibility being the older brother and only male in this family, trying to find an answer as quickly and smoothly as possible. He’s turned away countless times in this episode, by family member after family member, and we see him retreat further and further into a shell.
Risa and Kengo both lose their love relationships and seem to deal with it fairly similar; resolution. Minako and Makoto find out something about their partners that they can’t quite compute or forgive easily and decide to walk away. Both revelations have their own taboo being that they deal with the body; sexually and physically. I don’t believe either is unsympathetic, though I find Minako harder to accept. Makoto seemed to be rather young, innocent and naïve and figured Risa was as well as and rather than discuss her lifestyle and trust who he knows her to be, he buys into the stereotype and leaves her. Is this maddening and disappointing? Certainly. But not unrelatable. Minako in contrast, was about to build a family with the Okadas and her abandonment of them is understandable but borders unforgivable.
Understandable because everyone has a moment of doubt and fear and Minako is no different. Surgery is a big deal, no matter how routine. I’m not sure there is anyone who would hear a request like “give me your liver,” and say “Oh cool, that sounds fun!” Therefore, Minako needing time to think was apparent, necessary. Even discussing with her parents was appropriate. I think also she was hurt by the secrecy. Again, she and Kengo were to be married and the gravity of Maria’s sickness was something that a man should share with a woman he loves and intends to see as his wife. However, even with all that she committed the same crime as Maria’s relatives, ignorance. She, like Kengo’s uncle and aunt didn’t even take the time to meet a doctor, learn of the risks and procedure or get tested. These are all simple tasks to at least be armed with the knowledge to make an informed and rational decision. Instead, Minako backs out of her relationship with the Okadas in a shameful act of cowardice, based on a fleeting moment of humanity(which I have no doubt she will regret). I do believe she chooses to breakup with Kengo, not only because she doesn’t want to do the surgery but more that she can’t imagine doing it. Her thinking towards it isn’t positive and therefore she feels she’s betrayed them. Irregardless of her reasons, none outweigh the sense of betrayal and abandonment Kengo feels. I’m sure he had no intention of asking her to undergo surgery, however it’s definite that he’s crushed she not only refused to help Maria but also neglected to support him as he searched for a willing donor.
Also there was a lot of pleading and apologizing in this episode. Almost every character said a genuine “I’m sorry,” begged, pleaded or bowed in less than an hour. Shuichi bows and apologizes effortlessly, not out of true repentance but feigned penitence, Mrs. Okada is despondent while Kengo and Risa capitulate. What I liked is that each instance was necessary for character insight and/or plot development or movement. Each plea birthed a decision that justify and drive Kengo’s last words to Risa. Ultimately, this episode highlighted Kengo and Risa’s isolation, burden and loneliness. Neither one of them have confidantes and we can only hope that somehow, they find that in one another.