Suspicions are dispelled and confirmed, as Kyoko stands face to face with her deepest fear and Hiroki searches for the best path to his mother’s happiness, all with Futaba’s wisdom and encouragement. For some reason, this episode is always hard for me to get through. But like the previous episodes, it zooms in on one character’s fears, thoughts and guilt, culminating in a whirlwind of peace.
Episode 3 Because she’s her mother
Mother and son meet eyes and Yuka recognizes Hiroki immediately, excited to see him there. Hurriedly, he introduces Kyoko as his mother and Futaba stiffens but quickly tilts forward a “Hello.” Kyoko notices they were caught in the rain and drapes a shawl across Futaba shoulders, scolding Hiroki to take better care of her (assuming Futaba’s his girlfriend). They separate and Futaba sighs that her true identity must remain secret, cooing at Kyoko’s kindness, as she rubs the shawl between her fingers.
Hiroki stares ahead, a slight curl to his lips and remarks that Mom still hasn’t forgiven him for leaving Aki alone that day. He’s apologized but never felt she’s truly forgiven him. Each time he’s broached the subject she’d say “I’m okay.” Futaba is confused but he clarifies, “It’s never, ‘That’s enough’ or ‘I understand.’ But ‘I’m okay.’ ” Though when someone is in fact fine, you don’t make a point to insist nothing is wrong.
Hiroki stops to drop her off, assuming she moves often due to harassment from the media and neighbors. It’s true but she admits it’s mostly due to anonymous calls tipping off employers or schools. Then, Futaba apologizes and admits they met because she believed he was the culprit. Hiroki’s surprised but settles into deep thought once she concludes it must be someone else.
The phone calls start early for the Misakis and Shunsuke picks up; no one answers. The phone rings again as he and Futaba gather to leave but when Shunsuke decides to ignore it. Instead, Tamaki picks it up and slams the phone down.
Doing housework, Kyoko gets a call and heads out for a meeting. At a cafe, an investigator thumbs his money and reports his progress, handing her the Misakis’ new address and list of previously made phone calls. He also slips her a flyer announcing the Misakis’ connection to a murderer to be distributed around the neighborhood.
Afterward, Kyoko stumbles dazed through the street. She notices Futaba leaving her interview and calls out to her, glad for the distraction. Kyoko remembers she never got her name and Futaba fumbles but births the alias “Bandou Saki” with the help of a nearby poster.
Kyoko suggests bowling, confiding it helps her de-stress and the women laugh and compete for hours. Prompted by Futaba’s shirt. she muses her daughter once told her a random fact about gorillas. Futaba encourages Kyoko to share these memories with Hiroki, knowing he’d like to share these things with you, then backs off at her silence. But Kyoko nods, taking in the advice.
Meanwhile, Kouhei stops by the shop, free of wife and kid, bearing ears of corn. He tosses the bag Hiroki’s way as he peels back his own and chops down. Hiroki eyes him, skeptical, but Kouhei assures they can be eaten raw. With ear in hand Hiroki segues, “Is Mom alright? I mean has she been acting weird to you?”
Kouhei answers nonchalantly, referring to the private investigator and explains Mom’s been investigating and initiating the harassing calls for at least four years now. At Hiroki’s disgust, Kouhei defends that it gives Kyoko purpose. Apparently, the Misakis weren’t the only ones harassed after the accident by strangers and neighbors, Kyoko was constantly attacked and accused for leaving her daughter alone, as though the accident was caused by her parents’ negligence. Kouhei can’t understand the audacity of people and believes no one has the right to judge a grieving parent.
Kouhei: Living on is as much a mystery to her as anyone else. No one knows and no one can tell a parent how to live on without their child. That’s why right now, harassing that family, that makes her life worth living.
Unfortunately, this spiel isn’t good enough for Hiroki, for his concern lay with her happiness and this doesn’t seem like the proper way to obtain it. Then, Kouhei spots the information on the juvenile detention center Dad had dug up and comments that Mom isn’t alone, for Hiroki seems to be doing some fact hunting on his own as well.
Later, Hiroki burns himself and returns inside for some aid and hears voices in the kitchen. It’s Kyoko and “Saki” grilling Kouhei’s corn like old friends. Kyoko guides “Saki” around the place informing her of how Fukamis manage household goods. Hiroki stands in the doorway aghast until Kyoko asks what’s up. He comments that the corn is better raw and the women break into giggles at their wasted time and energy.
But Hiroki has seen enough and jerks Futaba away, confused more than angry by her “Saki” alias. Futaba is surprised herself how carried away she’d gotten and apologizes. Hiroki retrieves her bag and informs her his mother is behind the phone calls and promises to get her to end it. — “Not for you. I just want her to be happy.”
Back inside, Hiroki finds the Misaki file and Kyoko snatches it away, accusing him of going through her things. He rattles off what her actions have done to the Misakis; lost jobs, run out of neighborhoods, the girls shunned in school. He insists that it’s just wrong, for the crime was committed by Fumiya not his family. But she sees no difference and wonders where his loyalties lay. Of course, Hiroki is on her side, he only wants her to be happy, however, Kyoko finds happiness unattainable now.
Kyoko: Sorry. A parent who can’t protect their child doesn’t deserve to live. The day Aki died, I died. I’m dead.
Futaba stops on the bridge on her way home and stares out over the lake, then sees Kyoko quickly approaching. She scrambles to hide and falls down a hill but drawing Kyoko’s attention anyway, chuckling as she glimpses her mid-fall. Futaba escorts her to the bus stop and continues towards her house, then decides to turn back and come clean but Kyoko notices her skinned knee first. Kyoko patches up her knee and shares more about Aki.
Short skirts were always Aki’s favorite but Kyoko had always been hesitant to buy her any. Aki had been born with a slight leg deformity, so to deter her Kyoko told Aki she wanted to protect her beautiful kneecaps. As a result, Aki’s knees were smooth and unbruised, and Kyoko would rub and tickle them sending Aki into ripples of giggles and laughter at the attention. Kyoko and Futaba chuckle over her fibs and Aki’s cuteness, as she continues that she did finally give in and bought Aki a few short skirts, which elated the little girl. On the day she died, Aki was wearing one of those skirts; her favorite. Kyoko admits at the time she thought it may have been too short, but let it pass, packed her lunch and left the house.
Kyoko: When I lifted up the white sheet , there lay my little Aki. And if I touched her kneecap, she didn’t giggle anymore. I was scared. So scared, I couldn’t ask the police.
Futaba wonders what she wanted to know but Kyoko eyes the oncoming bus and fiddles through her change purse and drops it, sending her coins flying. Kyoko mumbles aloud, questioning, why she dismissed the skirt? Why she allowed her to wear it? Futaba stoops to retrieve the money, then suddenly, the bus sputters off, Kyoko inside.
Futaba rushes to the shop trembling, yelling for Hiroki. Once downstairs, she pants pleading for him to– “Please save his mother.” She continues that Kyoko is frightened, tortured by the idea that Aki may have been raped before she died. Futaba barely gets the words out, not wanting to verbalize such horrible ideas, as Hiroki stands in disbelief. However, she isn’t surprised, for this fear wouldn’t be prevalent for men, nor would they understand, but a mother would, a woman. Hiroki isn’t convinced, for Aki was only a child. But Futaba knows there’s a possibility, “Those sort people do exist.”
Hiroki shifts uncomfortably, the reality sinking in but looks to Futaba for answers. She would surely know if her brother is capable of such an act but she stands firm that she wouldn’t, clearly having lost all hope in her brother’s innocence on any level.
They try to figure out how to obtain information to dispel the notion and Futaba deduces the best place is with those that originally investigated the case. The police should have examined and found out whether Aki was sexually molested; there should be records.
Hiroki is still hesitant, concerned founding out the truth could cause more harm than good, for what if Kyoko’s fears come true? Futaba hopes for the best but realizes most of all that it’s better to know what really happened. — “It’s better to know than live with the pain of wonder. ”
Upstairs, Hiroki locates some old business cards upstairs and they travel to meet the investigators in the city.
At the farm, Maki confronts Kenji, who plays oblivious to her hurt feelings. Goro shows up with a new boarder and pulls Kenji aside to give instructions on how to train her and other matters. Maki gives the girl the once over suspiciously, not keen to have another woman about the place.
Unfortunately, the man Futaba and Hiroki seek, has retired. They ask of it’s possible to get written testimonies but are informed the statue for testimonies is only five years(it’s been fifteen). They ask for options to acquire them anyway but the lawyer informs them that it’s a delicate situation. Being the time period was so long ago and dealt with a minor, it’s more difficult, for juvenile cases have to take into consideration the assailant and their rehabilitation, as well.
Luckily, Fujima Satsuki overhears their story and their pleas, then follows them on their way out. She was also there to obtain written testimonies for her mother’s murder case. Satsuki just recently filed a civil suit against the 19 year old who killed her mother and made it right under the five year limit. She offers to get in touch with a reporter she’s become acquainted with, for he has access to those sort of things. She wonders if they are staying the night but Hiroki hesitates knowing that wasn’t their initial plan, but Futaba interjects that they are. Satsuki promises to contact them in the morning.
Before they go, Satsuki seeks Hiroki’s advice, wondering if the pain of losing someone dissipates with time. She knows the question is abrupt but hopes for some type of understanding for the future, knowing he’s been dealing with his loss for over a decade. Futaba hangs her head and Hiroki mulls the question, then answers.
Hiroki: I ran away from it. I don’t really know why but you are facing it head on. If you do that, even though the sadness may not disappear, somehow you might be able to lock everything away into a safe and move on. That’s what I think.
Satsuki thanks him and smiles slowly that he might be right.
For the night, Hiroki and Futaba try to get separate booths at a reading cafe but only couple booths are available. Futaba isn’t adverse to the idea, so Hiroki takes the booth but clarifies first, “We aren’t a couple.” Inside, Futaba wonders what he meant earlier, how it feels to face things head on. Hiroki takes it as her poking fun but Futaba is serious, for the concept eludes her. She can’t even bring herself to glance at her old house as she passes by on the bus, “I’m scared.”
Hiroki sits up to listen, identifying with her fear. He asks if her story about her brother strangling her was true, “What did it feel like?” Futaba is taken aback by the question but confesses, originally, she’d thought it was all a dream.
Futaba: He used a scarf. I thought it was a dream but it wasn’t. If at that time I hadn’t opened my eyes, Aki may still be alive.
She turns to face him to apologize but Hiroki interrupts that he’s not sorry at all she’s alive. And with a smile he offers to accompany her to her old house. A little embarrassed by his boldness, he spurts out a “goodnight” and lays down, throwing a blanket over his head.
Futaba sits stunned, tears brimming to her eyes, then silently bows to his back. The next morning as promised, Satsuki calls with information. She was able to get Aki’s autopsy reports.
Kyoko is at home, counting money and sorting the information for the investigator concerning the Misakis, when there’s a ring at the door. Kyoko lets Hiroki in and scurries to hide what she was doing but Hiroki notices anyway, upset for he told her to stop and they struggle over the documents. He then proceeds to explain the envelope in his hands; the autopsy report from Aki’s case. Kyoko stumbles into the kitchen and grabs clean silverware from the rack and begins to put it away, “I’m busy.”
Hiroki follows knowing she’s wanted to know, explaining that it’s better to know the truth. He begins to read the file starting at page one but Kyoko yells again that she’s busy. This doesn’t stop him. Kyoko pushes passed him, toting more dishes to the cupboard in the dining room and holds her breath as he continues. He reads aloud the circumstances behind the killing: Aki was blugeoned to death with a hammer, then thrown into the lake after death. There were no signs of sexual assault.
Hiroki: What you feared didn’t happen, Mom. It wasn’t your fault. Aki died instantly. Mom, it wasn’t your fault.
Kyoko sits stiff, allowing the information to course through her. Then finally takes a shallow breath and asks if he did this all for her.– “Thank you. Thank you, Hiroki.”
Hiroki stares at his mother and apologizes. It was because he left her alone that day,” I’m so sorry Aki died.” He jumps up to the sink and turns on the faucet to douse his face, trying to stop the well of tears threatening his composure. He cries over the sink as the water runs, repeating, “I’m sorry,” over and over again.
But Kyoko isn’t upset with him. She knows it wasn’t his fault. And comforts by saying the Aki does too, You’re the big brother right? If you cry, Aki will laugh at you.”
Later that day, Kyoko water’s plants and smiles, a weight lifted as she remembers the moment Aki told her all gorillas have type B blood. Aki chats on and on about the random things she’s learned from fairytales and nature, then the conversation shifts.
Aki: Why did Aki get killed? It’s not Mom’s fault, right? Or Onii-chan’s? Or Dad’s? Then why did Aki get killed?
Kyoko’s smile fades and she stands letting the hose run, overcome with grief. The realization that she has no answers, that she’s known all along where the real guilt lay. She folds to the ground, rocking back and forth crying, as the hose runs behind her.
Hiroki pulls home and gets a call from Futaba, checking in, making sure things went well with his mother. He assures he they did, and it was all thanks to her, then asks if she’s free now to visit her old house. Her sister walks in from her shower and Futaba gets up, as not to be overheard and they decide to meet. Hiroki picks her up and Futaba apologizes for the inconvenience but he proffers he’s returning the favor.
As they make their way toward her house, Hiroki checks with her to make sure she’s calm and breathing normally. He walks ahead gingerly but she drags behind head hanging, eyes planted on the ground. He stops abruptly across from her house and confirms with Futaba it’s the right one.
The yard has grown up and it seems no one has lived there since they moved out, much like the Fukami family home. Hiroki notices something through the weeds and takes a closer look, Futaba following close behind. When he peels back the weeds he sees a a piece of fruit perched on the wall, exact to the one Fumiya left on the bridge in Tokyo.
Kyoko calls her investigator to clear up their business together and asks for the Misakis’ address. She arrives and walks into the yard but hears someone coming and runs back to her cab, afraid of being discovered. Akari steps out of her driveway into the street wearing Futaba’s panda shirt and Kyoko eyes it making the connection. Once out of sight, Kyoko gathers her courage again and makes her way up the drive, this time followed by a van. She turns her back as Shunsuke hops out but turns again to face him.
Work has ended for the day, at the farm and Kenji rounds up the picked fruit of the day. He informs new girl their packing up and instructs her to finish her quickly. New girl seems to ignore him steady working, she calls to him with a pruning question, referring to him as Fumiya Misaki.
Ramblings, Reactions and Remarks
This last screen shot comes across as gladness and pleasantry but in the scene itself, her wide-toothed smile is creepy at best. I think it’s safe to say that Maki is probably right about her initially uneasiness towards the new girl. Her elation at unearthing Fumiya’s true identity is beyond chilling to me. For if you meet someone who you know is using an alias, there must be a reason, good or bad and throwing their past in their face should never bring this type of joy.
The first three episodes have focused on the emotional growth of the central characters and this episode belonged solely to Kyoko. There’s no doubt that each and every speck of emotion shed this episode was felt by the viewer. Otake Shinobu did an excellent job unveiling Kyoko’s vulnerabilities and inner turmoil. The title of the episode is “Because she’s her mother,” and this is supposed to relate to the thought that Aki may have experienced sexual trauma. It’s specific and horrifying for women and especially, for a mother of a young girl, killed by a young boy. It’s only natural to wonder, to fear that such liberties were taken and perhaps were the cause of her death. Thinking now, it would have been a slight relief if Aki had been raped, because perhaps, that would clarify Fumiya’s motives but with that theory completely debunked, it leaves his motive hard to pinpoint. And therefore, harder to rationalize.
Up till now, I’ve found myself extremely irritated with Kyoko because she is a mother; a mother of three children, not one. Aki wasn’t her only child and like her husband, nor does she have the monopoly on pain because this happened to her. She’s spent 15 years angry and bitter, with 10 of those years separated from her eldest son. Her aloof attitude at the beginning of the series, still makes it hard for me to have any sympathy or respect for her in that regard. Grief is devastating and threatens to take control of your life and Kyoko allowed just that to happen and in my opinion, willingly. She shutdown and shut out her family, going through the motions, leaving behind a child to fend for himself. Obviously, she blamed herself for Aki’s murder, which again is understandable, however, no matter how many times I hear it, I can’t get passed her statement that after losing Aki, she died, as if Aki was the only reason she existed. Like she teases Hiroki with Aki’s reaction to his guilt, it seems that Aki would be as disappointed in her mother for shirking her motherly duties towards her children that survived. It’s possible to mourn and do penance and yet not forget that as a mother, you have other children that depend on you as well. Selfishness is hard to stomach but this brand always seems to befuddle my brain.
With that said, my thoughts towards Kyoko aren’t as bitter as my first viewing. I don’t understand her completely in the area of her Aki pedestal, but I did appreciate her realization that she nor her family were to blame. The largest realization, however, was that she had harbored ill feelings against them all and confronting that was an extreme breakthrough, accepting her wrong but also acknowledging that as a parent, one is only human and doesn’t hold all the answers, nor swings the strong arm of justice. Taking the step to stop the harassment on the Misakis was also huge and humanizes her more for me. I’ve never agreed with her actions towards the Misakis, though, I think I understand her motivation to keep her daughter’s murder forever in the forefront of their minds. It’s a relatable desire to want company in your pain and punishment for those you deem equally responsible. At first glance, it may seem that she’s blaming them only because they are Fumiya’s parents, like an extension of him but I proffer that it’s more in the way she’s viewed her own hand in Aki’s death. Being she finds fault with herself for ignoring her gut feeling, for taking things for granted, she also blames the Misakis for doing the same. If it’s the parents’ fault, that Aki was alone, on that mountain, flying a kite without parental guidance or adult supervision, then, likewise, it’s also the Misakis’ wrongdoing for leaving their son unsupervised as well. The rationale is there, that’s why when she lets go of her guilt, she’s also able to view the Misakis differently as well.
I think that it’s wonderful that we can thank Hiroki as the catalyst for all these steps in the right direction, especially since, in my opinion, he was the most wronged by her (in many ways). Despite that, he loves his mother and seeks to bring a peace back into her life, so that she can let go of the burden of guilt she carries. He becomes the only person that determines to spark change and do what is best for his family, the people he loves. He repeats several times that he desires happiness for her but I see it as him wanting her to experience true joy and peace again. For happiness, is only based on what’s “happening,” pitted on circumstance or happenstance and Hiroki’s goal is much deeper, greater than that. In contrast, Kouhei accepts Kyoko’s decisions and allows her live the way she wants, instead of digging deeper or desiring more for her. Though I’m not a fan of this approach, it’s within his character to do so, given, his relationship with his mother is different and would never want to give her reason to leave him or isolate herself from him (physically). I also believe it’s because as a parent himself, he identifies with that pressure and responsibility. Overall, in a situation like this, no one is wrong, there are just better ways to go about things, that is healthier and more healing.
Futaba and Hiroki compliment one another so well, it’s sad to think they’ve spent so many years without one another’s friendship. And I just can’t bring myself to believe that without Aki, their connection would’ve never occurred. Hiroki is always great but my heart goes out to Futaba in a way that surprises me. She’s so fragile emotionally(where his issue is social), yet she’s strong enough to battle the mores of her world and strike up a friendship with people she should steer clear from at all costs. She challenges Hiroki to act and think, while he gives her the support and courage to face her fears. They create such a functional relationship within a tragically abnormal situation, that at times, I forget that the line between them is so well defined that it’s delusional to hope for more. The progression of their story endears me each moment they are together, for though they may not understand each and everything about the other, they are willing to listen, ask questions and pursue the truth together. However, just as they get closer with every interaction, both of them try to deny this closeness, which I definitely see as being an issue in the near future because it’s undeniable.