「TV Series of the Week」 Ashita, Mama ga Inai #02.

明日、ママがいない』 第2話 9歳の母性本能。いたいけな少年を救え

Ashita, Mama ga Inai #02. 「Maternal Instinct of a 9-year-old. Save the innocent boy」

Screenwriter(s): Matsuda Saya (松田沙也)
Chief Producer: Ito Hibiki (伊藤響)
Producer(s): Fukui Yuta (福井雄太), Namba Toshiaki (難波利昭)
Director(s): Inomata Ryuichi, Naganuma Makoto, Suzuki Yuma (鈴木勇馬)
Music: Haketa Takefumi

I’m starting to accept Ashita, Mama ga Inai as a drama in the full sense of the word. Just by paying a modicum of attention to how the background music is timed or how the child actors are seemingly instructed to act out certain scenes, it becomes pretty clear that the sinister bastards behind this show are utilizing every chance they get to breach the viewers’ emotional exteriors and have us tear-bound. And I have to say, it works wonders for someone as sensitive and imaginative as myself. At the very least, I definitely prefer shedding a tear or a dozen for the cruel harshness of life that these kids experience than for the typical romantic-comedy. Yes, that’s my defense. A sad excuse of one, but I’m sticking to it. Though this second episode doesn’t quite live up to the impact of the premiere, it does satisfactorily delve into all the right components of the show. In my opinion,  there are three really special things about this series so far: fairly exceptional screenwriting from Matsuda Saya, phenomenal acting from Mana Ashida, and the aforementioned premise about orphaned children that sort of just attracts universal empathy. This episode’s broadcast delivered a great fifty minutes of all three.

Summary:

Continuing from last episode’s events, the children of Kogamo no Ie receive a new batch of prospective parents (definitely an ironic way to word it). Maki, now known as Donki, and Pachi take the lead with their trials while the other three of our main cast attend the birthday party of the previously introduced Sasazuka Ren, whom Piami has a flat-out crush on. Both Donki and Pachi struggle as they realize kind and cruel treatment alike awaken past memories of their real parent(s). Pachi’s trial mother tries to force him to move on from his traumatic childhood by ridding him of his treasured shampoo bottle that bears the nostalgic scent of his birth mother. In response to his subsequent misbehavior, she forces him to take a hot bath, inadvertently emulating the conditions of when Pachi was found by staff of the Child Consultation Center abandoned and in a bout of dehydration. After she wrecks the birthday party in true spark-plug fashion, Posuto’s motherly instinct kicks in and she realizes something must definitely be wrong with Pachi. She breaks into the home of the trial parents by traversing balconies and breaking-in a glass-door with a brick and her fist, then proceeds to show a desperate wannabe mother how true care-taking is done. A hospital scene later, as the wistful ending theme plays, Pachi makes his homecoming into the open arms of an unconventional yet ever-so-loving family in an orphanage he can rightfully call home.

Review:

There are some excellent character interactions and developments going on all though-out here, the first of course being the dynamic between Posuto and Pachi. The previous episode had established their mother-son relationship quite candidly, but the transgressions of this week demonstrated that that alone does not stop them from simply being two children who are only a few years apart in age. Posuto spies on Pachi’s first meeting with his trial parents because of her genuine concern; but after seeing him legitimately happy with them, she can’t help but feel unneeded. (This in turn allows her to attend Ren’s birthday party with Piami and Bonbi and to re-confirm her motherly authority with another group.) As a result, later on at the orphanage, Posuto and Pachi have a minor falling out that naturally distances their relationship, wherein Posuto thinks Pachi is better off without her and Pachi feels much too abandoned to confide in Posuto with as much ease as he did before. But of course, when things get serious, this makeshift family does not fail each other, and the two are soon reconciled, now closer than ever.

Meanwhile, the show’s supposed protagonist, Donki, is all off on her own, that is if you don’t count the two adults who could possibly become her new parents. The couple may have tried too hard to make a first impression on Donki when they decided to take her to an amusement park, where she is ambushed by the euphoria of the occasion and is rendered helpless to a stream of tears. Donki sees the reflection of her walking with a loving (loving used loosely, since a lot of couples in this show have proved to be quite dysfunctional) husband and wife and just completely breaks down. The two are completely baffled at her reaction to receiving a balloon; but for the viewers, it should be fairly understandable that the girl is just not ready to move onto a life of being lovingly doted upon after the incident from episode one.

In the adult world, overlord of Kogami no Ie, who the children simply call Maou, continues to develop a true affection for the children. Also noteworthy are his with-lasting interactions with Locker, whom he seems to be most amiable with, at least to the point where he can talk about women and romances in his presence.

Piami also gets a considerable amount of development, especially  during Ren’s birthday party. It is revealed that she used to be a “princess” overindulged by her father before whatever incident that caused her abandonment. Forthrightly, she really is her best when Posuto is there to snap her out of that princess mode of swooning over boys and being self-conscious around flocks of contemptuous girls. Piami is someone who has essentially fallen from grace and her personality has reflected that since episode one when Donki first met her. It’s hard to tell how much she’s accepted that herself because she only seems to think about finding rich parents and re-obtaining the luxury of a piano to play, a goal that is actually quite admirable in and of itself. At the very least, she doesn’t seem to be as obsessed with the holy grail of parents, “Joripi,” as Bonbi is. And in speaking of Bonbi, it’s a shame that as one of the four main characters, she is still being side-lined and portrayed as nothing more than a comic relief and running gag. While I admit that she’s my least favorite of the main cast, it’s past due time for her to have some kind of insightful experience.

Last and probably also least, there is some minor showtime for Mizusawa Kana, the female agent from the Yokohama Child Consultation Center, who reveals her past as an orphan, and Otsubone, who continues to be the butt of the jokes from even the children nearly a decade younger than her. Her scenario is something that I find truly unfortunate and it’s a bit sad that it’s taken so lightly by even the other children who share her misfortune. Though if the preview is anything to go by, her back-story will be elaborated upon next time.

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