A dysfunctional family despite their perfect outer appearances meets a tutor with a crazy personality and a troubled past. Kazoku Game isn’t like it’s predecessors (1 movie and 2 drama SPs), it’s darker and bolder with Sakurai Sho version of Yoshimoto Koya…
Here is a short recap of Kazoku Game episode 1…
In the middle of the forest at dawn, a man cries his hearts out as he holds a voodoo doll phone strap on his bloody hands. Who is he? We’ll find out soon enough…
Next is set in one of the upscale neighborhood in Japan, Yoshimoto Koya (Sakurai Sho) maintains his grace and finesse as he do a staring match with the Numata’s, Kazushige (Itao Itsugi) and Kayoko (Suzuki Honami). Kazushige got frustrated because Yoshimoto refuse to talk even if he calls him for the 8th time. Then, the elder son arrives, Numata Shinichi (Kamiki Ryunosuke) enters the house panting and was aghast when the teacher told him that his mother got squashed by drawers. That’s when Yoshimoto started to speak and tells Kazushige that he won’t do the interview until all the family members are complete.
Dad orders mom to call on Shigeyuki (Uragami Seishuu), the one whom Yoshimoto will be tutoring. While waiting for their shut-in son, Kazushige introduces his “prodigious” eldest son, Shinichi, who is so smart that he’s in the top school in their prefecture and belongs to the top 10 of their class. Yoshimoto says he was surprised since he was expecting the eldest to be more problematic.
Mother manages to bring Shinichi down, but Shinichi decided to go down while wearing a computer monitor box on his head. Not only wearing a box is embarrassing, Shinichi also speaks and moves with a robotic language.
Kazushige begins telling a bit of Shinichi’s history, how he was “normal” up until the 3rd grade when he starts being a shut-in and refuses to go to school. His brother says something about bullying that’s why he just stopped going to school.
Father hopes that Shinichi will be able to attend school, raise his grades, and attend the same school where his brother goes.Though he thinks that it’ll be impossible for Shinichi because he is a hopeless case (he used the word, stupid) with six tutors quitting before Yoshimoto.
Yoshimoto then turned to Shinichi and asks him about his intentions. Shinichi refuse to answer and even goes on with the use of his robotic voice. Yoshimoto got pissed, removed the cardboard monitor on his head, and asks him again. When Shinichi still refuse to answer properly, Shinichi gives him a surprising slap in the cheek.
That got Shigeyuki’s attention. When Yoshimoto asks him again if he wants to raise his grades, Shigeyuki gives a reluctant nod.
After the family interview, Kazushige made a deal with Yoshimoto, since Yoshimoto is very expensive, he wants a guarantee that they’ll be paying him his worth. Kazushige tells Yoshimoto that if he could manage to make Shigeyuki attend school within a week, he’ll give him a 100,000 Yen bonus. Yoshimoto says that he can do it within 5 days, but the family must not interfere with his teaching methods. Father agrees.
The next day, Yoshimoto arrives at Numata’s residence finding Kayoko outside trying to be friendly with the neighbors. Coming from a sort-of like model family, it’s quite embarrassing that the family’s youngest has to rely on a tutor, so Kayoko says that Shigeyuki is having a cold and not because he stopped going to school.
As Yoshimoto enters his room, Shigeyuki was being his obedient self and Yoshimoto starts taking pictures of Shigeyuki’s room that he finds interesting. He also found-out the price photo of Shige (let’s just call him Shige, ok?) with the gravure idol, Maejima Ami.Shige told Yoshimoto that the picture was taken when he had his photobook signed. Yoshimoto looks in for the photobook, but Shige just shrugged it off, telling that it was gone and he don’t know where it went.
Afterwards, Yoshimoto and Shige just went on playing games up until it was time for Yoshimoto to leave. He then meet with Kazushige and have him signed a contract regarding his tutoring tenure for his son. The father immediately signs without reading the entire contract.
Before his tutoring work the next day, Yoshimoto decides to investigate a bit more about the Numata family by taking stolen shots of the family’s daily life. His last shot was when Shinichi’s girlfriend gave him a peck in the cheek. Yoshimoto and Shinichi went-on running toward the Numata residence and Yoshimoto reveals that he doesn’t believe that Shinichi went running home from school when Yoshimoto called in to say that his mother got injured. It’s all about the time difference and that riding a taxi or bus is faster than running. Yoshimoto thinks that its funny that Shinichi can still walk leisurely knowing that his mother has been injured. Shinichi don’t have any response to that. Yoshimoto looks at the Numata’s residence with pity, Numata family might be a model family on the outside, a father who works in a company listed under Tokyo Stock Exchange, a doting mother, and the eldest son is smart. Nevertheless, the family is full of flaws.
As they went-in, Shigeyuki is back to his shut-in self by refusing entry to Yoshimoto. Yoshimoto takes in all in stride and even tells Shige that they play a game. In that game, if Shige manages not to go out after Friday, Yoshimoto will do one thing Shige asks from him. Shige challenges him if Yoshimoto could kill his classmates, Yoshimoto agrees with a confidence so frightening, you know that he will do it. However, if Shige goes-out on or before Friday, Yoshimoto wins and Shige has to attend school.
The game might be easy, but Yoshimoto won’t allow Shige to go sneaking-out when he’s not in the residence and ordered a vault-type door at his room aside from putting a soundproof wall in his window. In that way, there are no chances that Shige can go out even for a pee.
Shige’s parents find his method incredulous until Yoshimoto reminded Kazushige of the signed contract. The contract states that if they ever terminate the contract, that will 10 million Yen in penalty. A fine print that Kazushige didn’t even bother reading when he signed the contract.
Back home, Shige’s dad has little energy left to lecture his son since he is contract-bound and the construction cost for the vault-like door will surely put strain on their finances. Shige doesn’t mind the confinement at first, he was already a shut-in anyway, add the fact that he has his own electrical stove, a supply of water, and instant ramen in his room. There are some disadvantages however, like having to pee in the trash can that reminded him of a painful past that caused the bullying.
Still locked in his room, Yoshimoto decided to visit Shige’s one and only friend listed in his blog. It’s Sonoda Mitsuru, the guy who rescued Shige from bullying but with hidden intentions. Yoshimoto deduced that since Sonoda is also Maejima Ami’s fan, he is likely the one who stole Shige’s signed photobook. Sonoda didn’t admit nor deny anything, but even though he stole the photobook, Shige still believed in their friendship. Sonoda was quick to defend himself, telling Yoshimoto that he stayed by Shige’s side, then he’ll be bullied as well for sure.
Yoshimoto decided to tease Shige more by telling him that he talked to 25 of his classmates. He read all their comments, much to Shige’s frustration, all of them were bad except for Sonoda who wished that Shige returns to school.
That night, Yoshimoto goes to an abandoned school (well, I think it’s abandoned), a quick flashback reveals that he is the guy in the forest holding that voodoo-type doll on a bloodied hand. Sitting alone in one corner of the classroom as if he is being bullied, Yoshimoto shows how troubled he is inside, having moments of melancholia and sometimes he would just vent-out his frustrations with a scream.
The next day, Yoshimoto is back to teasing Shige, he refuses to open the door even though Shige is begging that he has to go to toilet (to poop). Kayoko is worried for her son, she is bent on calling the police but Yoshimoto tells her, “is that okay? What would the neighbors think if police come to your house?”. Shige’s mother just stood there and listens as Shigeyuki begged to be release.
“Caring more about appearances that his own son, bad mother…” Yoshimoto said (out of Kayoko’s earshot)
Shigeyuki, tired from asking to be let-out because it reminded him about something, just pooped without care.
While Shigeyuki was contemplating his sorry life, he receives a message from Sonoda, telling him he’s sorry, and he wants to be friends again. There it was revealed how not only Sonoda stole his photobook, but how he has betrayed him. Sonoda commited the very act of bullying to Shige but he still believes in him, still forgives him. Geez, you might think that he is in love with Sonoda or something.
While Shige is chatting with Sonoda, Yoshimoto tells him that he is unlocking the door. It’s up to Shige if he wants to stay still or go out.
At breakfast the next day, everyone was surprised when Shige went down and announce that he will go to school. Yoshimoto walk him to school and tells Shige that whatever happens, Yoshimoto is on his side.
Shige enters the classroom, full of enthusiasm, and ended up being disappointed after Sonoda revealed that it was all his tutor’s doings. Yoshimoto was the one who was chatting with Shige, not Sonoda. Yoshimoto made a bet with Sonoda for 100,000 Yen and he lost, which just added to Sonoda’s annoyance with Shige.
Angry and frustrated, Shige went home and tries to land a punch on Yoshimoto. Shige was hurt for what Yoshimoto did and Yoshimoto just shrugged it off and even thinks that it’s Shige’s fault for believing someone, for relying on someone. A fight ensued and Kayoko rushed inside to stop Yoshimoto from pushing and punching Shige. Kayoko got pushed as well and when Shinichi tries to stop the two, Yoshimoto tells him that he doesn’t really care about Shige and that he should say it aloud to release all the tension inside of him.
Yoshimoto laughs like a crazy old man afterwards, and mimic a newscaster delivering news. Using a mike, he gives his own “prediction” with each of the character present in the house. Yoshimoto announced that Shige will commit suicide because of bullying; Shinichi will commit murder because of depression; and the parents will blamed themselves because they are too busy with their own lives that they can’t even sit and listen to the woes of their children.
Kayoko tries to call his husband, but Yoshimoto cornered her and tells her that there is no way for them to pay 10 million yen when they breached the contract.
Despite all this, Yoshimoto made another bargaining deal with Kayoko, if Shige can go to school for an entire week, he will quit. Afterwards, as if nothing sort-of mania happened, Yoshimoto tells Shige that it’s time for their lesson, went upstairs, and Shige follows him.
Shige was back to his obedient self with hopes that Yoshimoto will keep his promise that he would quit if Shige manages to go to school for a week. Yoshimoto promised him he would really quit. Afterwards, Shige asks him about the doll that fell when they were having a commotion earlier. Yoshimoto finds it funny that Shige would be curious about something so trivial; Yoshimoto then made a confession, “I killed someone.”
That was a lot Sakurai Sho awesomeness in 1st episode. Seriously. This might be one of the spring dramas that I want to watch until the end (aside from 35-sai no Koukousei and Galileo). I even think that there are some similarities between 35-sai and Kazoku since they both deal with school issues like bullying and so.
Plot-wise, it’s expected to be good since this drama comes from an award-winning novel, which has been adapted to an award-winning movie as well. However, the writers decided to do some changes with the drama. The drama decides not only to focus with the gruelling task of high school entrance examinations but also tackles never-ending issues like bullying, depression, and school refusal. Sometimes, it makes me think how huge bullying is in Japan if every HS drama would have an episode dedicated solely to this problem. Moreover, the one being bullied is usually one taking the blame, like it’s his/her fault for being bullied. Just like what happened in the 1st episode, Shigeyuki pissed on his seat and that’s the start of bullying. While it’s expected that he’ll be teased for the rest of his school life; receiving punches, being stripped down to his undies, and getting hit with water balloons is just plain wrong. It’s not like he pissed on one of his classmates to received such treatment. Nevertheless, if there’s one thing I blame Shigeyuki for, it’s for being a weasel and Yoshimoto is right for delivering those punches and tirade of words at the last minutes of the 1st episode. Shigeyuki needs to wake-up and face things head-on; though Yoshimoto’s methods are cruel to the core, it speaks volumes from someone who suffered a great deal in the past. Shigeyuki indeed needs drastic measures to be strong.
The actors did justice to their role and delivered an exceptional performance for the 1st episode. Sakurai convinces me that he must have Yoshimoto as an alter-ego because they just fit to one another. It’s scary but totally addicting at the same time. There is something about strong and sadistic characters that impresses me however weird it may sound. It was mentioned that Yoshimoto has the qualifications from Todai, which is weird because the novel states that Yoshimoto only comes from a 3rd-rate University and is still in his 7th year as a student. Anyway, Yoshimoto remains a mystery and there’s lots of things to watch-out for and that’s something that makes me want to watch this drama until the end.
The supporting casts were just as good. The father looks like an impenetrable wall of household, but he has his cracks and would die than admit it. The mother, the pretty mother, looks all prim-and-proper but deep inside she’s screaming because she can’t let-out all her stress. The elder brother looks like the perfect student but deeply troubled inside because everyone has huge expectations of him that he can’t enjoy his life. Then there’s Shigeyuki, who despite his hikikomori and cowardice ways, is more normal than the rest of his family. The Numata family is a classic example of Stepford Wives, which is all about appearances but rotten to the core.
For 1st impressions, Kazoku Game deserves a follow-up. It’s a family drama where you’ll find something that could mirror your own family, if not yourself. The drama shows us that what happens within our family is a huge factor with our values-formation down to how will we function in the society. Though there are people who managed to rise above despite coming from dysfunctional families, some people aren’t that strong and might need guidance from someone like Yoshimoto-sensei.
Watch this drama on Drama Crazy.
Image credits at tumblr/tagged: Kazoku Game