Itsuka no Ataru Basho de : episode two

After this first episode, I’d decided to leave it as just a “first” episode recap but after I saw the special aired on April 1st I decided to pick it back up. These ladies’ journey is one that I don’t mind experiencing and perhaps we can learn a few things about growth, strength and new beginnings.

Episode Two : I want to be stronger

At the zoo, Ayaka peruses the map, while Hako timidly scans the grounds, feeling exposed. But Ayaka boldly reminds that no one knows they’re ex-convicts and chuckles when Hako shushes her. They gaze at the giraffes feeding and Hako muses that it’d been better to be born as one, living carefree —without worries, however, Ayaka finds this idea naiive.  For, in the wild there’s survival of the fittest, therefore, no matter how carefree an animal appears, they’re always in “survival mode.” Hako sighs in the realization, that no living thing has it easy. Suddenly, Ayaka feels uneasy but can’t pinpoint the source. When Hako confirms the same they both peer at the bars in front of them and erupt into laughter.

Watching as the adult monkeys, the coo over the younger ones playing gingerly, Ayaka comments that children in every world are adorable. But when Hako asks, about her son, she shuts down and walks away. From behind a young woman with a little boy in tow, calls out to Hako. She’s delighted to see her and Hako introduces her as an old college friend Nogawa Mayumi. Ayaka tries to strike up a conversation with  Yuuta,  who shies away but demands to see the dinosaurs from his mother. When Mayumi reaches for her a pen to exchange information,Ayaka notices a bruise on her forearm, then glances back to Yuuta as she invites them to the bakery some time.

Hako prepares some donuts as a “Thank you” for Umbrella Man, then heads out for delivery, when she’s stopped by her neighborhood cop with good news about the temple thief. He’s been caught but he sold the icon online. Grumpy neighbor balks about how the anonymity of the internet creates irresponsibility, and Cop agrees, therefore, for his job is constantly evolving. Hako nods to herself that “nashiwari” must keep up with the times, but while the term confuses her neighbors,  Cop is impressed with Hako’s knowledge of criminology, to which she blames her obsession with mystery novels.

Mayumi stops by the bakery with Yuuta, but when Ayaka notices a bruise on her forehead, Mayumi makes an excuse, while Yuuta glances unimpressed. After they leave, Ayaka thinks back to the bruise at the park and runs out to catch them, inviting them to Hako’s for a baking date.

Umbrella Man (aka Iwase-san) isn’t at work, so Hako hands over the umbrella and donuts, to another employee and scurries out embarrassed, then answers a  the phone to a thankful Mayumi for the “bread baking” invite. At the park, Hako confronts Ayaka, who relays her suspicions about Yuuta, thinking it’d be easier to talk with Hako since they were friends. But Hako admits she wasn’t close with anyone in school, for she never tried to develop close relationships, her flaws would be revealed. Instead, she just wants to live quietly, to which Ayaka understands— “But no matter what, I can’t leave her alone. I don’t want to see others like me.”

Mom’s hairdresser is astonished to hear she’s blotted Hako from the family registry, wondering if it’s really that easy to sever ties being as a mother. But Mom says it wasn’t easy, that they suffered for seven years and in that time she’d determined to forget she ever had a daughter.

Returning from picking up groceries, Hako complains they’ve bought enough to feed sumo wrestlers and wonders what she’ll say if Mayumi wants details about her time “abroad.” As usual, Ayaka reminds her not to worry and suggests they stop over to the convenience store so she can pay her electric bill. Hako inconspicuously glances around for Umbrella Man, who approaches her first admonishing for the delicious doughnuts.

And as they continue in awkward niceties, Hako spots Ayaka gawking giddily at them over a bundle of leeks and drags her out. Ayaka teases she knew something had been different about Hako and romanticizes their fateful meeting in the rain, musing it might be love. But Hako determines she will absolutely never fall in love again, for love is no longer in her dictionary. Then Ayaka leans in and quips— “But Iwase is.”

Just when the girls begin to believe Mayumi may have blown them off, the bell rings. And Hako gasps at Mayumi’s bruised face and wrapped wrist, claiming to have had a bike accident.  After dinner, Hako and Yuuta make paper airplanes in the next room and Ayaka cuts to the chance, wondering if Mayumi is experiencing domestic violence. At her denial, Ayakareveals she’s been through the same thing and offers to listen any time. Mayumi admits he has hit her — “But he regretted it. He promised that he won’t do it again.”

Ayaka: No. That’s the cycle of domestic violence. He’ll always say he regrets it, but when he gets irritated he’ll explode again. It goes on and on, doesn’t it?

Mayumi believes it’ll get better, plus he’s not violent with Yuuta. But Ayaka insists, though things are fine now, she never knows when he may do it again. And though Yuuta may not be on the receiving end, it’s equally as stressful to observe. However, Mayumi draws the line, claiming their situations are different and grabs Yuuta to leave, while Ayaka yells behind her —- “Only you can protect Yuuta.”

Hako wonders if Mayumi trusts her husband will change and Ayaka knows it’s all she has, for she had hope as well. She confesses she’s suffered several small fractures and miscarriages, then spent sleepless nights terrified her husband would hurt Tomoki all his life. At one point, she’d tried to run away but when she was found her husband threatened to kill then both if she attempted again. — “Hako, have you ever seen a sunset that made you cry?”

After a beating from her husband over soup, she contemplated dying, feeling useless but Tomoki drew her attention to the sky marveled at its beauty. That day, she cried and vowed to protect him with her life. It was that night she killed her husband.

Ayaka: And I know Mayumi is suffering too. I just want to try and help her. Even just a little.

The next day, Hako is stopped by her neighbor to watch a street magician and is surprised to see it’s her very own Umbrella Man, who’s equally surprised to see her happily clapping at his finish. Turns out he wanted to invited her previously but she walked away before he got the chance. Every since he was a child, he’s wanted to become a professional performer. And they introduce themselves formerly.

On the way to work, Ayaka sees Yuuta with Country Cop, who found him wandering alone crying. He was trying to get to the bakery, so she takes him along and asks for the day off. Hako finds them in the park and gives Mayumi a call, relaying that Yuuta is fine but doesn’t want to go home. Mayumi can’t come to pick him up anyway, for she’s due for dinner with her husband and doesn’t want to upset him.

With it starts to drizzle, they retreat to Hako’s for dinner. Yuuta finds Hako’s stuff bear Riri and she explains it was a gift from her mother, when she was a kid. She’d share everything with Riri; whether she was sad, got bad scores, everything she wanted to tell her mother.

Yuuta: Why?

Hako: Maybe because I wanted to pretend to be a good child for her. But I regret it now. When you’re sad, or something hurts or is painful, you should say it. I should have been clearer about my feelings. Now, even if I wanted to share my true feelings, I can’t. That’s why when you want to say something, you don’t to pretend to be a good boy.

Yuuta: My mother… she never smiles. She’s sad, all the time. I want my mother to smile.

The three happily eat omurice and make oragami, until Hako opens the door to a drenched Mayumi who barges in and drags a reluctant Yuuta outside. But he snatches loose with an “I hate you.” And point she never smiles and assumes she was hit her again. Aya advises  Mayumi that Yuuta may understand more than she thinks and encourages her to find a way out for she and Yuuta. Hako tells her that Yuuta only wants to smile with her but if she doesn’t, he also will forget how to smile.

Takayuki is busy planning the wedding seating chart, looking to Mom for pointer when his fiancée remembers she’s never seen his childhood photos and suggests she take a look next time. Mom jokes for her not to cancel the wedding once she’s taken a peek and the happy couple move on the meal selection.

Later, Mom and Takayuki sift their photo album of any Hako traces and he chuckles over Hako and her stuff animal remember she was never without it. And he asserts it’s because of the toy she never smiled. Mom gazes at a photo of the three of them and admits she has no memory of Hako’s smiling face.

Ayaka is still making oragami, when Hako suggests she move in with her and in exchange for rent, she can teach her to cook. Ayaka is stunned but concerned— “Are you ok with that? I’m a murderer. Can you live under the same roof with me?”

Hako has never viewed her that way, believing  she did what she had to to protect her son. But Ayaka makes no excuses for herself. She crossed a line that has forever separated her from her son. For Hako, they’re in the same boat but Ayaka asserts there’s no comparison between them. What she has done is far worse.

The next day Hako wants to have lunch but Ayaka has no time. When Hako hears she volunteering, she thinks perhaps she stretching herself too thin but Ayaka smiles that she can’t be— “I have nothing to lose.”

They part ways at the intersection but Hako hangs back and watches Ayaka, admiring how bravely she smiles and determines to enjoy life, praying —“I want to be stronger.”

Reactions, Ramblings and Remarks

I’d like to believe it’s too early to say exactly what this drama will shape up to be; whether, each week we’ll have instances of reminiscence or opportunities for the ladies to draw from themselves to help others. But it’s clear to me, that this drama is most certainly female centric. I won’t say it’s empowering, for I find the connotation too staunch for this story but there is a sense that women and their lives, how they view it and choose to manuever within it, is the engine in this vehicle. And that isn’t just because two women are the main characters.

Domestic violence is a serious topic and I’m glad drama didn’t choose to gloss over it, but also steered from sermonizing. Ayaka was a bit pushy but she said her peace and let it go. She didn’t harp on things she’d addressed earlier but made her opinion and stance lucent. She understood Mayumi’s predicament but also knew that not matter how much she may think Yuuta is getting away unscathed, she was wrong.

What keeps me loving Ayaka, is her acceptance of her crime. She doesn’t believe she made the right or the best choice, for herself or her son; she just made a choice. I don’t think it was overly emotional or completely premeditated, but it happened, it is a fact. She killed her husband. She killed him because she didn’t want her son living in a world where he existed. It’s that simple and also, that complicated. And for her acknowledgement of this reality, I continue to respect her.

Hako was a woman I found hard to relate to in the first episode and though she is still decidedly a coward, I resonated with her desire as a child to be burdenless to her parents. However, the actions she took at a young age to do that, caused her to withdraw to the point that she never made true connection, whether with her family or others. She was always “playing” a role, which of course, made it easier for her to be duped and willing to commit crimes for comfort and acceptance. I’m glad that now she’s willing to admit her shortcomings but use them as tool for growth, instead of an avenue for self-deprecation.


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