「TV Series of the Week」 Ashita, Mama ga Inai #03.

明日、ママがいない 第3話 「ウサギの赤い涙。親のいる子も寂しい?」

Ashita, Mama ga Inai #03. 「A Rabbit’s Red Tears. A Child with Parents Is Still Lonely?」

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

For the episode with the viewership highest rating thus far, the writing sure took a pretty noticeable slump, I thought. That’s what I wanted to assuredly say, that is, until the last ten minutes or so of the episode, which wrapped things up quite beautifully.

You know, for a bunch of orphans with not so much as a cell phone for emergency situations, these kids sure do go out in the middle of the night a whole damn lot. This week’s happenings take the cake when one child ends up at a hostess bar (though I guess that’s out of her own volition) and the other takes a handicap girl in a wheelchair to an abandoned park so that she can become even more vulnerable by falling face first into a sandbox over and over again. It seems that a standard structure has been established in terms of an episode-by-episode basis, in which Maou introduces the files on couples looking to adopt and whatever details the children notice is what indicates just what is going to ensue for the rest of the episode’s duration. And for this week, Otsubone finally gets her long, sought-after chance for adoption when one such couple is not explicitly interested in age nor gender, but rather, astrological sign, Sagittarius in particular, which lands Otsubone and Posuto as the leads for this episode of unadulterated misadventures.

Synopsis:

Surprisingly enough, the aforementioned couple actually already have a daughter, and it was the superstitious mother’s plan to arrange an astrologically compatible child for that daughter, Azusa, so that she could have some form of familial interaction while her parents were far-off working on their careers. The handicapped Azusa however isn’t so willing to accept a substitution for her parents and takes out unbridled resentment, that should rightfully be aimed towards her parents, onto Posuto and Otsubone. Otsubone acts accordingly and gives up on this trial, especially after discovering that she will be inheriting no money she could use to surgically repair her scarred eye. But she jumps from the frying pan into the fire after she is kicked out of Kogamo no Ie because of her decision and subsequently retreats to her mother (revealing that she actually has a mother at the same time), who works as a bar hostess. Meanwhile, Posuto also acts in accordance to her character by taking on the challenge of mending Azusa’s heart, in her classic spark-plug manner. Azusa soon warms up to Posuto (who wouldn’t?) after almost being killed by her and is finally able to stand again through a therapeutic procedure designed by an adolescent child involving face-planting into a sandbox. Concurrently, Piami and Bonbi bond through their corresponding rejections from dream boy and dream parents respectively, while Donki braves up to confront Maou about his attraction towards the bentou lady and his treatment towards Otsubone (and essentially everyone else at the home).

Posuto’s growing friendship with Azusa converges with Otsubone’s existential crisis when the two share a meaningful conversation on the phone. Posuto convinces Otsubone to stop lying to herself and uses the same speech and sentiments of sisterhood that Azusa had professed to her, but emotionally cripples (no pun intended) an over-hearing Azusa. Locker interrupts the phone call and retrieves Otsubone from the hotel her mother sent her to as well as from a pretty damn dangerous scenario, bringing her back in time for dinner and also in time for Locker to get a peck on the cheek from Kana standing-by in front of the Kogamo no Ie household.

Review:

I was nearly all but convinced that Posuto had stolen the limelight of the show, not just from the main cast but also from Donki as the apparent lead. But after this episode, I’ve begun to view the two girls of the Kogamo no Ie household as a dynamic duo of sorts. Wherein Posuto’s toughened and indomitable demeanor is compelling enough to stir the hearts of others, Donki’s innate compassion and altruism allows her to add a new light of understanding amongst everyone. Together, the pair are mending the brutality of the Kogamo no Ie household one episode at a time. And there’s nothing like the classic family dinner trope, wherein one family member awaits the return of the rest in order to have a fully satisfying meal, to define this new atmosphere. Someone crying at the deliciousness of the love behind the food more so than the actual food will never not be an endearing thing. And of course, bonus points go to the subsequent pillow talk between the two “sisters” Donki and Posuto. The manner in which they now talk to each other is a complete evolution from the first episode, and it’s additionally meaningful because these two haven’t quite interacted with each other in the past two episodes yet can still sense each others’ growth.

I would have to say that the weakest point in this show’s writing is the continued usage of very one-dimensionally corrupt side-characters who seem to only serve the purpose of being defeated by the good intentions of the main cast. This week was certainly different with Azusa (being instead a victim of bad parents) to which the writer(s) devoted an arguably excessive amount of screen-time. She was explicitly used as a comparative older sister figure to Otsubone, so one may question why not just script the same themes and motifs of the episode without the need of a newly introduced character that would only be there for one episode? If there is any justification, the answer might just be in the final moments of the episode, in which, for the first time, the placing of the ending theme just didn’t seem right mood-wise, at all. After showing her parents that she can stand on her own two feet, Azusa inadvertently convinces them that she is ready to hear news of their divorce. This announcement of course couldn’t come at any worse a time. The poor girl loses all hope thereafter and regresses her therapeutic progress by stabbing her own legs with a broken vase. This also marks the first time that Posuto has unsuccessfully played the role of the savior, leaving her defeated self with nothing to do but chasing the departing ambulance down the street until she runs out of breath. There, the episode cuts, leaving a pretty bleak impression. In retrospect, perhaps it was too early to say that a standard episode structure has been established as this occurrence suggests a definite change in the tone of the series, if nothing else. It’s still hard to determine exactly how the series will end. The children have definitely gotten many chances to leave the Kogamo no Ie household, but none other than side-characters have fully taken that path. As of now, the most likely ending seems to be the unification of this unconventional family, including Maou, into an official family; but at the same time, it seems like too obvious of an outcome. I for one am hoping it maintains this up-in-the-air effect as to not make us too comfortable with any formulaic and or predictable proceedings. What made me fall in love with this series in its premiere was the creative premise and the engaging writing that has yet to be out-shined by any succeeding episodes. I want to maintain that image as long as possible and, of course, all the way to the end if possible.

 

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「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.