Facial expressions in dramas are supposed to convey to us a myriad of emotions. Good actors prove this but excellent actors embody it. Shedding the majority of yourself and becoming a character and being nuanced enough to always be aware that an audience is watching takes true skill. For in life, we experience things and we express ourselves but it’s rare that everything you are feeling at any given moment is written all over you face. However, for an actor, this has to be the case. Characters only come to life when we see them being human; happy, sad, elated, conflicted, furious and listless; but more so when these emotions are layered to the point one or two shine through and four or five are remain hidden. The audience picks up on that eventhough we can’t always pinpoint it.
I absolutely love Takenouchi Yutaka as an actor and for me, this role was one of his best. He plays Okada Kengo with such heart that you can’t help but fall in love with him. He’s unpretentious and generous, simple, honest and humble. And yes, he’s plainly just a nice guy but he’s not a pushover. But, the best thing is, he’s always just man; a man that thinks before he speaks, not only of himself but of you.
Nagareboshi like alot of dramas, whether purposeful or not, has episodic character highlights. Last episode was all about Ryota, while the previous was Maria and now we have Kengo. Ah. Kengo. If you aren’t in love with him already, this episode will topple you into the deep end.
We pick up with Kengo, Risa and Minako outside, Kengo shocked to say the least. [But more by Risa’s involvement than Minako’s announcement.] He and Minako take a stroll while she reminisces. She tells him Risa came to her convinced they should reunite and this sparks a small response from Kengo. As they walk he crosses his arms over his chest pondering Risa’s intentions. Minako chatters on about her decision and feels it’s for the best. She’s thought long and hard and now wishes she’d made this choice from the start. He tries to interject but she stops him. She truly wants to save Maria, however she also couldn’t forget him.– “I don’t want our three years together to end like this.” She’s going to visit Maria the next day, (most likely to reveal her plan) and tells Kengo she’ll meet him before so they can go together.
In the morning, Mom decides to spend the day with Maria, for she’s concerned about how she’s dealing with Ryota’s death. Kengo finishes eating and grabs his jacket to head out, as Risa comes in. She slides into her seat at the table, purposely facing opposite him. Kengo lingers willing Risa to look at him, wanting to discuss last night, but not knowing where to begin. She turns, noticing he hasn’t left and reminds him he’ll be late. He leaves saying nothing. Risa leans up and begins her breakfast, smiling wryly knowing this may be her last Mom cooked meal. She looks up and thanks Mom– “tastes great.”
At work, Kengo checks the water and chemical levels with the face of a man who’s been distracted all day. Yuya comes in wondering how to finish a task but Kengo is clueless confirming his head isn’t in the game. His mind’s been full of Minako’s offer and his discontent with Risa seeking her out. He receives a text from Minako informing him she’ll be waiting in their usual spot after work. He slaps his phone shut, further distressed.
Maria lies in bed as Mom peels apples for a snack. She asks how Mom felt when Maria’s dad died. Mom reveals she was a little disillusioned, for she never had an opportunity to clear the air with him so she has regrets. Maria perk up and smiles gently glad that she and Ryota were able to make up before he died.
When Mom broaches the subject of Risa, Maria immediately shuts down and turns toward the window. But Mom continues, telling Maria that even she felt Risa was donating solely for money initially. However as time has passed she has come to believe this isn’t the entire truth. She asks her to think about their confrontation in Yamanashi and how upset Risa was– “I don’t think you can get that angry with someone you don’t care for.”
Nurse Rumi intercepts a fax stating that Kengo committed donor fraud. Her face contorts and tries to hide it but Dr. Kamiya sees and slides it from her. He shaken by the contents but tells her to keep quiet about it until he checks with Kengo commenting it may be a prank of some sort. Suspicious, Rumi dials Shuichi and asks if he sent the fax. He confirms he did and thanks her for all the information she divulged to him. Rumi immediately tells Dr. Kamiya about her history with the sender.
Loading up supplies at a nearby wharf, Chizuru and Junji make plans to see Maria. Junji hates Kengo chooses against relying on him. Chizuru looks up and sees Risa walking across the bridge. Livid, she catches up to her and interrogates her, noticing she’s carrying all her bags. Chizuru believes she must be skipping out on Kengo now that she has the money. Risa isn’t in the mood to explain and tells them she has nothing to do with that family any longer. Chizuru reaches to stop her but Junji holds her back. Risa repeats that she and that family have no more business and walks away.
Risa meets Dr. Kamiya at a local cafe and he shows her the fax, telling her Shuichi sent it. He explains Nurse Rumi’s involvement and apologizes. Her eyes widen at the written accusations but reveals it’s now a non-issue for she’s no longer Maria’s donor. Kengo’s original fiance will take over. But adds, grimly, if Minako’s not a match, she’ll return the money and go ahead with the surgery. —“That way it won’t be considered organ trade, right?”
Mizuki pulls out Ryota’s old rakugo books, determined to study and learn a few passages. That prompts Maria to finish up his portrait. Mizuki comments that he was so good-looking but Maria isn’t sure she agrees. Mizuki glances over the drawing telling Maria to make his nose a little larger and not to forget to make is hair perfect. Maria chuckles that they must, since he was always so concerned about it.
Leaving work, Kengo is stopped by Junji who’s concerned he and Clione have parted ways, being she looked to be carrying all her bags. Kengo asks confusedly if they spoke and Junji is stunned believing he knew. — “She said she wasn’t a part of your family. It seemed she was putting up a front.” Kengo skids home and finds Mom in Risa’s empty room. She tells him she took all her belongings and left behind her key. Mom thinks she may have gone back with her brother and comes clean that she tried to pay him off.
Risa barrels into her apartment furious, demanding to know if Shuichi sent the infamous fax. He tries to feign ignorance but cops to it. She’s irritable and doesn’t understand why he’d do something that cruel. Placing his hands on her shoulders, he reminds her that he’s a brother that worries for his sister. She shrugs him off and bursts his bubble reporting she’s no longer the donor, elated he won’t have a chance to extort money from the Okadas. Unfortunately he’s already received an installment from Mom.
Frantic, Risa begs to know where the money is and how much. She starts tearing the house apart as he tries to calm her down saying he spent it. She finds the envelope in a jacket pocket. Shuichi chuckles and tells her not to return it, referring to the Okadas as “those people.” Risa stills, her voice raspy with emotion she explains that they are different. They aren’t like him or her– “They’re not the kind of family we can get involved in!” She asks him once more to please leave them alone and turns to leave. Shuichi is afraid if she leaves, she won’t return and hesitantly asks if she’s coming back. Reluctant she tilts her face to her shoulders and sighs she will.
Dr. Kamiya looks through Maria’s charts and she asks him about the surgery. Will the surgery leave a scar? Will it be big? Dr. Kamiya turns to her and wafts his hand over his stomach explaining where the scar will stretch. “And the donor? They’ll have one too?” Kamiya says it’ll be identical. Maria sighs and looks passed him through the window, pondering the weight of this new information.
Kengo bikes around town looking for Risa. Minako calls confirming their meeting but Kengo cancels. Kengo ends up at Risa’s apartment but hesitates before climbing to her to door, then again at the bell. Shuichi answers and Kengo asks if Risa’s there and tells him to please return her. Shuichi stalls but Kengo picks up he might know where she’s gone, so he bows and asks for help finding her. Shuichi feels Risa’s whereabouts are none if his concern, for she’s not an object or a tool to be used and has no intention of divulging anything. Instead, he walks outside and leans over the balcony, confiding he would act in the same way to save Risa– “But what would you do if you were me?”
Kengo pauses and stares at him but honestly answers he really has no idea what he’d do. But even so, he’s convinced he’d make sure not to make her suffer.– “I don’t think Risa can ever be happy if she’s with you.”
On his way home, Kengo notices Minako still waiting on the bridge. She’s happy he came and tries to hurriedly make it to see Maria before it’s too late. Kengo parks his bike but doesn’t follow Minako, maintaining the distance between them.
Kengo: Your feelings make me really happy. But…
Kengo: You said you’d be the donor, but you’re forcing yourself, aren’t you? I know you Minako. Don’t worry yourself about it anymore.
Minako: Just say it outright. Don’t try to be nice about it. I know you just as well, Kengo. You already know the answer don’t you?
Kengo: Sorry Minako. I can’t marry you.
Risa returns to give Mom her money back but hovers over the house bell. She thinks to drop the money in the box as Kengo locks his bike up for the night. He asks where she’s been all day and she slides the envelope in his pocket, saying she’ll mail the divorce papers and walks away. He calls after her and she stops momentarily out of reflex but continues on. He watches for a moment then sprints to her— “I want you to come back.” He places her key in her hand. “That was our agreement, right?”
The next morning Risa apologizes to Mom for her brother’s behavior but Mom says it’s fine. “I should be the one to apologize.” Near tears at her graciousness, Risa promises he won’t bother her again.
Kengo decides to be completely honest with Maria. In the beginning his motivation was solely to find a solution, therefore he wasn’t concerned about the means, so he and Risa made an arrangement, but now Risa genuinely wants to save her. — “If nothing else I want you to believe that. Please trust her.” Maria asks Kengo to call Risa over so she can speak with her alone. Risa walks in unsure but Maria simply wants to know why Risa would to go so far for someone she doesn’t even know.
Risa: I guess it’s because he saved me.
Maria: He saved you?
Risa: I tried to kill myself. Maybe it’s thanks to him that I’m even alive right now.
Maria: I see. Eventhough he’s pointlessly handsome, he can be useful every now and then.
They laugh and Maria wonders if Risa really is comfortable with the surgery. Risa replies, “Of course.” Risa comes out and tells Kengo it’s his turn to go in and Maria simply says she’ll try to believe in Risa.
That night, Shuichi calls saying he’s worried she never returned. Risa promises to come back after surgery and she says he will wait for her. Maria tells Dr. Kamiya that she made another promise to Ryota to draw the view from the Sky Tower. He offers to accompany when she goes. She looks at him with wet cheeks — “I want to live.”
Shuichi seems to have sent a few more faxes which sends Dr. Kamiya and in an emergency board meeting. In the meeting, the members toss around ideas, concerned this will affect the hospital negatively. They believe suspension of the surgery is the best course of action. When asked his opinion, Dr. Kamiya speaks up for the Okadas stating that they are honest people and finds it hard to fathom they would do something like this. — “The first condition to become a donor is a strong will to save the recipient’s life, Risa has that will.”
Kengo meets Dr. Kamiya to report that Maria has chosen to undergo surgery and asks for him to reconsider his position. Kamiya tells him he has now decided to believe he and Risa and begin proceedings for the surgery immediately. He commissions Kengo to give them both as much support as possible.
The night before surgery, Risa can’t sleep so she stops in Kengo’s room to visit the jellyfish. He warns she should get as much sleep as possible and offers to sleep in the other room so she can watch the fish as long as she desires.
Kengo: Do you still wish you were a jellyfish?
Risa: I wonder.
Kengo: Do you want to float around without thinking about anything?
Risa: It might actually be nice to think about troublesome things, as well.
She realizes she’s getting sleepy and Kengo decides to leave her alone to rest but she stops him and suddenly lifts up her shirt. Shyly she asks him to remember her stomach; the way it looks now. She looks up anxious and asks if he committed it to memory. He looks her in the eyes– “Firmly.” That night Mom watches over Maria and Kengo sleeps next to Risa.
Surgery day, Junji gifts Maria the traditional one thousand cranes to encourage wellness. It seems everyone pitched in to make it, while Chizuru made the most. He tells Kengo they are all rooting for her, especially Chizuru– “With her personality, she says a lot of harsh things but it’s just a reflection of how concerned and worried she is.” Kengo thanks him knowing Maria will love it.
Everyone gathers before surgery, girls in their gowns, Maria near sedation. She asks Dr. Kamiya if he’s nervous and he admits he is. Risa tells him he sounds unreliable and not to screw up. Mom tells Maria to put in her food request and she orders squash stew, Risa’s specialty but Kengo jokes her cooking isn’t as good as Mom’s. Risa flashes back that she’s good if she tries. Then Maria asks Risa to do her nails once their both out and Risa readily agrees.
Mom and Kengo accompany them until the nurses tell them they can go no further. Mom encourages Maria one last time, while Kengo and Risa study each other, silently saying their goodbyes. Then they are rolled out of sight.
In a cafe, Shuichi meets with a woman. Out of ear shot, he speaks with her making grave mannerisms. She takes notes.
Reactions, Ramblings and Remarks
I don’t know about you but this episode was so emotionally satisfying. There were so many wonderful moments with Kengo and Risa this episode, whether they were together or not, I kept humming “Good Vibrations.” That last moment with Risa and Kengo spoke volumes of how much they care for one another. I really could scream it’s so beautiful. It’s a wonderful beat because nothing is said, there are no attempts to touch one another but Risa actually slides her head closer to him to get a better look before she’s rolled away. The way they are just taking each other in, you know what’s going on between them is much more than a contract. There are deep feelings there. Then Kengo’s face as he watches her pass through the doors is heart bursting. He wants to be with her. He doesn’t want her out of his sight. He wants to protect her and that is a tell-tale sign of when a man loves a woman.
Also he finally said– “I can’t marry you.” That’s all I’ve wanted to hear and I’m sure it’s the same for Minako. In episode one, she made the choice to leave, therefore, in her mind the relationship was still open because the decision was forced by a circumstance, very similar to now, when she tries to step back into the relationship but oh so many things have changed now! Kengo didn’t put up a fight and let her walk away, though it crushed him but there’s no turning back time. Thinking of Minako, has me singing a few bars of Cher. (Seriously, I really don’t know what’s up with me and the song references. Goodness!)
Anywoo, if Kengo running around town all day didn’t do it for you, his conversation with Shuichi or his response to Minako, then his actions towards Risa, should show what is on his mind. I’m not saying that hearing his intentions wouldn’t be wonderful, but I’m not sure he feels comfortable with that. Not because he’s too prideful or anything but more that he’s thinking of Risa and of course because he doesn’t know what she’s thinking.This brings us to his conversation with Shuichi, in which he’s pretty clear that he wants Risa with him but ultimately he wants what is best for her. He knows that being with Shuichi just ain’t it!
One thing I’ve been saying since the onset of this drama is that Kengo and Shuichi are foils as men and older brothers. In a comic book they’d be nemeses. Kengo restores and waits, while Shuichi steals and disappears. They are both men with sisters but it’s interesting the way they’ve both responded to that role in live. They both were without fathers and therefore stood in that role for their sisters as well. However, neither act like fathers towards their sisters. Kengo is most definitely a brother to Maria, so when he meets Risa, he treats her like that as well. She’s much younger than him so I’m positive remaining married to her was never on his radar. But now, he doesn’t want to be without her– or at leasthave the consolatory knowledge that she’s safe.
When he asks her to come back, of course that was for him(emotionally), as much it was for her (physically) but when she shows him her belly, you can recognize the concern he has for her. Take the moment before that, when he asks her about she and the fish. He was curious but cautious. Her answer would reveal alot about how she feels about him and what she wants for her future. I also love that she let’s him know that she does think differently. That she wants a life, a family. That scene and the stomach scene were so rife with subtext that I kind of wish we saw lines of dialogue floating in the fish tank. When she lifts her shirt and asks him to log it in his memory, my heart dropped to my knees. It was such an intimate moment and she was so vulnerable that I could’ve cried. Risa isn’t perfect. She’s thought about the future. She knows that what she’s doing will change her body and her life, but she’s doing it, generously, with complete abandon. I also think Kengo realizes that what she asked is also special because she closed the emotional gap between them just a little more. He knows that this isn’t the easiest choice in the world for a woman. Risa revealed her heart in a way that she’s spent the majority of the drama trying to hide. She wanted him to remember her. She wanted him to know what she was like before surgery. That she was once beautiful. Also it shows him that she trusts him; she gives him permission to know her and he takes that responsibility without question.
Seriously, this episode was chock full of great conversations and Risa and Maria were definitely one. First, Maria reveals (in not so many words), that she thinks Kengo cares more for Risa than a contract marriage requires. She mentions the slap he gave her which came from an anger over Maria insulting Risa. I love that Maria has spent this entire episode thinking. She’s getting sicker, so she really has no choice but she’s thinking about everything everyone has said. And if you think about it, Mom’s statement about caring for someone can be seen through their anger over or for them, can definitely be applied to Kengo and the slapping incident. Also you get the feeling that it’s the first time he’d ever gotten that upset with her, especially over someone else.
Secondly, Risa explains she’s doing the surgery for Kengo. This isn’t something that we didn’t know but it’s far more than cause she loves him. It’s because she respects him. Throughout this drama, everyone has been questioning Risa, thinking that it’s odd to risk your life for a stranger, and perhaps it is but Risa is just returning the favor. When Kengo pulled her from the tracks that night, he wanted her to live, that’s all he thought about. It wasn’t until it was done that he thought of the donor issue. And Risa knows that. From that moment alone, Kengo showed what kind of person he was. He’s the person that’s willing to give of himself for a stranger. By displaying that type of basic concern for another human being, warranted Kengo the chance to get what he wanted as well, through Risa gratitude. I don’t want to sound like it’s a tit for tat kind of thing cause it’s not. It’s more the gratitude you feel when someone sacrifices for you. For that person, you would do anything because you know that person didn’t have to but they did and because they did, you live.