Kazoku Game – Episode 1

Promo Poster photo Kazoku_Game_zps3229b722.jpg

  • Title: 家族ゲーム
  • Title (romaji): Kazoku Game
  • Format: Renzoku
  • Genre: Family, school
  • Broadcast network: Fuji TV
  • Broadcast period: 2013-Apr-17 start
  • Air time: Wednesday 22:00
  • Theme song: Endless Game by Arashi

Episode 01 Review

Okay, this drama has me lured in like freakin fangirl tuna latched onto Ohno’s fishing line. I find it enduring and, hopefully, you will too. And so it begins ..

We start off in the creepy random woods with heavy-ass breathing, it’s Yoshimoto and he falls to his knees. After a few seconds of silence, he screams and he’s shown holding a bloody cellphone strap:

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The scene immediately switches to a Yoshimoto smiling kindly and staring at an older man and older woman, the Numata’s: father = Kazushige, mother = Kayoko, eldest son = Shinichi, youngest son = Shigeyuki.

Ep 1 photo KazokuGameep01848x480x264mp4_000061461_zps9b070069.jpg
Silence, staring, even more silence.

This goes on for about a minute until Kazushige can’t take the deafening silence and asks if Yoshimoto intends on saying anything at all. Shinichi comes through the front door, seemingly breathless. The parents are surprised because Shinichi is supposed to be at juku (cram school). He explains that someone called the school to inform him that his mother was injured. Naturally, both parties are confused. That’s when Yoshimoto finally speaks his first words. Yoshimoto asks Shinichi if he just came running from juku, to which he replied a ‘yes.’ Yoshimoto gives him a look over, studying him. No, he was NOT checking him out xD  Then he says  「いいねぇ。」  “That’s good.” Get used to this one phrase because you will be hearing it A LOT throughout this drama. If you don’t know any Japanese at all, once you watch this drama, you will know this phrase by heart. Turns out it was Yoshimoto who called the school and informed them of her “injury.” He explains it is because it’s a family interview, so everyone needs to be there; even knowing that the son he’s hired to tutor is Shigeyuki. So, where is this Shigeyuki?

Ep 1 photo KazokuGameep01848x480x264mp4_000249415_zps671e8916.jpg
Holed up in his room.

The mama, Kayoko, goes to get him. She knocks on his door and asks him to come out. The results = ignored. Meanwhile, downstairs .. Yoshimoto asks if it’s okay if Shinichi doesn’t get tutored as well. Unleash the proud papa bragging about his perfect eldest son. Shinichi is attending to top school in their prefecture, he’s in the top 10 in his year, went to the national athletics competition .. overall a genius /side eyes >.>  After hearing that, Yoshimoto stated that it was surprising since he thought that Shinichi would be more problematic. I love the look on Shinichi’s face once Yoshimoto says that:

Ep 1 photo KazokuGameep01848x480x264mp4_000312712_zps44e34d90.jpg
It just screams, “bitch.”

Shigeyuki finally comes out of his room .. with a computer monitor on his head:

Ep 1 photo KazokuGameep01848x480x264mp4_000344744_zps3df9ae7e.jpg
Look it’s Lord Canti.

Everyone has this “the heck” look on their face. As did I. And now .. the family interview begins! They explain how and why they decided to hire Yoshimoto. During the interview, the father calls Shigeyuki a waste and the he’s a far cry from Shinichi. Ahh yes. That’s having faith in your kid! I applaud the “great” parenting. Kazushige wants Shigeyuki to attend the same school as Shinichi; but, it’s “impossible” because his grades are 5th from the bottom and he refuses to go to school. Yoshimoto asks why Shigeyuki stopped going to school and all is silent. Why? Because neither parent freakin knows >.>;  Shinichi suggests it was bullying and Shigeyuki only says “no comment.” Yoshimoto, then, lays down the goals: (1) make Shigeyuki go to school and (2) have him pass the entrance exam into Seihoukan. He turns to Shigeyuki and asks him how he feels: “Do you want to improve your grades?” Shigeyuki’s reply, “Computer out of control.” Yoshimoto asks him again and just as he’s about to reply with the same answer ..

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My initial thoughts were: “DAYUMMM.” Everyone is shocked and stares as Yoshimoto moves next to him to ask him again, this time more threatening. Shigeyuki merely stares in fear and gives a small nod. Yoshimoto stands and says he will take the job~. First of all, I was damn shocked. Then I got angry when none of the other family members said anything about him slapping Shigeyuki. Then again, this family isn’t exactly as perfect as they try to be. The scene cuts to Kazushige at the office talking with a friend/co-worker about what happened. His friend asks if it is okay to have a guy like that tutor his son. Kazushige counters with a “but he does have a 100% success rate into Todai.” He then explains the conditions of hiring Yoshimoto: if he gets Shigeyuki to go to school voluntarily within a week, he’ll get 100,00¥ as a bonus. Yoshimoto states he doesn’t need a week, just 5 days will be enough; however, no one can interfere with his methods. Kayoko softly raises a concern about using any type of violence and Yoshimoto assures her that Shigeyuki will go willingly.

Kazushige informs his friend/co-worker that he’s being fired due to the company restructuring. He tells his friend that he’s sorry. Yeah, because you really look it -.-;  Next, we see Kayoko’s neighborhood “friends” asking her to join them at a seminar for net stocks. At first, she kindly refuses and one of them tells her that the meeting will be cheaper if she goes with them. Then, another one makes her feel guilty by stating that she doesn’t have any financial problems due to her large house, etc. They’re grateful/excited and bring up that Shigeyuki hasn’t been to school for a while. Kayoko makes the excuse that he’s been sick and ..

Ep 1 photo KazokuGameep01848x480x264mp4_000775741_zps71342457.jpg
Yoshimoto-sensei shows up!
Yeah, that’s not a creepy look >.>

He introduces himself as the Numata family’s home tutor. Initially, they think he is Shinichi’s tutor and Kayoko goes with it. They make their leave, into the house, and her friends look on. Like the nosy punks they are. Once inside the house, he brings up the “sick” excuse Kayoko used earlier and she stumbles on her words. He brushes it off and asks her what Shigeyuki’s hobbies and interests were. Again, she cannot answer and it is evident that she is trying hard to even think about it. He brushes off her fluster by going upstairs to ask the kid. Upon entering the room, Shigeyuki pops a party popper and welcomes him, kindly. To this, Yoshimoto says 「いいねぇ。」  Yoshimoto starts the lesson by taking pictures of the room and notices the idol that Shigeyuki likes in a picture. He looks into the kid’s computer and confirms Shigeyuki’s fondness for the idol. Yoshimoto notices that there’s no photo album and Shigeyuki claims he lost it. Yoshimoto becomes silent and then asks if he has a diary/niki anywhere. He looks on the computer to find his social network page and points out that he only has one friend, Sono-chan/Sonoda Mitsuru. Shigeyuki tries to avoid the subject by wanting to start the lesson. However, Yoshimoto states that it’s okay since it is just the first day/lesson. Shigeyuki suggests they play games. And again, another 「いいねぇ。」comes out.

Time passes by quickly and night time is upon us. Kayoko puts dinner on the table as Shinichi arrives home. Kazushige is working overtime apparently. Shinichi informs her that he’s not hungry because he ate out. Obvious disappointment is shown on her face and Shinichi tells her that he’ll eat dinner with her tomorrow. She tells him it is okay and not to worry about it. As he heads to his room, he sees Yoshimoto and Shigeyuki playing games. When Yoshimoto leaves, we see Kayoko biting her nails at the dinner table. She’s looking pretty insane/unstable and it does not help with the screwy music as the BGM. I was waiting for her to crack, but we all know it is too early for her to break. Yoshimoto catches Kazushige leaving the office and has him sign a ridiculously long contract, that he does not even read. How is this possible? (1) It is late and (2) Yoshimoto begins to read, very loudly in public, the terms and conditions of said contract. Kazushige invites him out for a drink and Yoshimoto kindly declines. Supposedly, he has something to do. As Kazushige walks away, Yoshimoto takes out his handy cellphone and takes several pictures.

The next day, we get to see the daily habits and routines the Numata family goes through. Kazushige and Shinichi are seen leaving for work and school. Kayoko is seen taking out the trash and socializing with her neighborhood buddies. Once they are gone, she comes outside to spray the garbage dumping area. OCD much? Kazushige can be seen acting superior at the office and eating out with his co-workers. Shinichi is at school being Mr. Perfect and all the girls are practically swooning/drooling all over him. After school, he’s walking with his girlfriend, Mogami Asuka. She asks him about the tutor and he predicts that Yoshimoto will be fired soon enough. She invites him to go to karaoke and he politely declines, telling her to invite him another time. She bids him goodbye, with a kiss, and he walks away, holding onto his right ear with an extremely pleased look on his face. Eh? While all this is happening, the sound of a camera going off can be heard. Shinichi notices Yoshimoto standing in front of him, taking pictures:

Ep 1 photo KazokuGameep01848x480x264mp4_001290022_zps7fe4ad06.jpg
Totally not stalkerish at all.

The two start running home (to the Numata’s) together and Shinichi asks why they are running. Yoshimoto says that it is a rare chance to run with a national competition athlete. Shinichi brings up what Yoshimoto said at their first meeting, “I thought you’d be more problematic” and asks him what he meant. They reach the house and Yoshimoto states that Shinichi didn’t run home the first day they met. He explains to him that it is 1km from juku to home and it would have been faster if he took a taxi or the bus. But, he didn’t. Yoshimoto called the school at 2:55 and Shinichi arrived home that day at 3:34. He points out that Shinichi didn’t have a drop of sweat that day. It was then that Yoshimoto’s decided opinion of Shinichi was ..

Ep 1 photo KazokuGameep01848x480x264mp4_001374773_zps5380b570.jpg
“Even after hearing that his mother was gravely injured, this guy walked home.”
“Even a national competition athlete sweats after running 1km.”

Ep 1 photo KazokuGameep01848x480x264mp4_001382180_zps97c92d39.jpg

However, Shinichi isn’t one to back down easily and asks if that was the reason Yoshimoto made him run. Yoshimoto deduces their family image in one shot: (1) a father with a job in a company listed on the Tokyo Stock Market, (2) an attentive and beautiful mother/housewife, (3) the perfect eldest son, who is an honor student and athletic, and then (4) the problematic 2nd son, who is the only problem in the family. This is how others view the Numata family and Yoshimoto states that this family has flaws everywhere and he finds it exciting.

They go into the house and Yoshimoto notices that Kayoko isn’t in the kitchen, like she usually is. They make their way upstairs and Yoshimoto goes to Shigeyuki’s room, only to find it locked. He asks Shigeyuki if he’s in there and Shinichi smugly tells him “of course he is, but he won’t open the door” and enters his own room. Yoshimoto knows exactly what’s going on: Shigeyuki makes nice the first day and gives him the silent treatment the next day. And again, an 「いいねぇ。」  Yoshimoto suggests they play a game: If Shigeyuki comes out of his room by Friday, Yoshimoto wins and he has to go to school. If Shigeyuki still remains in his room, he wins and Yoshimoto will do one thing he asks, it can be anything .. even if he asks to kill a classmate. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. Yoshimoto follows Shinichi into his room and asks him if he has Yellow Pages. Wow, I don’t know anyone who really still uses the Yellow Pages/Local Listings. It’s all about googling everything now haha. Shigeyuki is seen playing games until it is “dark.” Or so he thinks. He opens the window and realizes that he’s being bolted in, with a nice vault-like door to match the cemented window. I’ve always wanted one of those vaults in my house/basement. I always thought they looked cool and movie-like. Kayoko arrives home and asks Yoshimoto what he’s doing. He replies, “It’s reform.”

Shigeyuki bangs on his new door, asking what the heck Yoshimoto is doing. He simply blocked the exits of his room. Oh you know, like it’s no big deal and pretty damn obvious xD  He asks Yoshimoto why he is doing such a thing and is answered with “you won’t get out of the room so it’s fine, right?” And he further explains that if Shigeyuki can go in and out of his room freely when he isn’t there, then it is not a fair game. Oddly enough, I see his reasoning and logic in that. Kayoko asks Yoshimoto to explain himself to Kazushige through her cellphone. He explains to him that he cannot interfere at all or else he will have to pay 10 million ¥ fee for breaking the contract. Yoshimoto reminds him that this is so Shigeyuki goes back to school. Kazushige relents, hangs up, and continues the conversation he was having with his friend/co-worker, who is being restructured. He tells him that he can do better elsewhere and to make the company regret firing him.

In the living room, Yoshimoto informs Kayoko that she needs to make him meals while he is there. Why? Because he is the only one that can open Shigeyuki’s prison. He then hands her the construction/installation bill for the door and window. Meanwhile, Shigeyuki is pissed off in his room. Not like he can be anywhere else at this point. Kazushige arrives home and says it is okay for Yoshimoto’s method. Kayoko hands him the construction bill and Kazushige takes Yoshimoto to their sauna. Yes, two men in a small ass sauna is not weird at all. Kazushige tells Yoshimoto about his friend/co-worker’s situation and sounds regretful, while handing him back the construction bill. Yoshimoto only hands it back to him. They go back and forth with the bill.

Kayoko knocks on Shigeyuki’s door and asks him if he is okay. No response. She continues to talk and is stopped when Shigeyuki bangs on the door, yelling “Shut up! Disappear! Die!” She bites her nails and he drinks water. The screwy/creepy BGM is playing again. Shinichi comes home, notices the door, and merely chuckles. Shigeyuki desperately has to pee and Kazushige is chiding him on the other side about the bill, telling him to win since it has gotten this far. My gawd! He backtracks and tells him to come out soon. Shigeyuki is reaching his limit as he wiggles about in his room. He goes to his closet to knock on the wall with Shinichi’s room on the other side. Shinichi is busy talking on the phone. Shigeyuki bangs on his door, yelling for his mother. She’s busy reading/listening to an audio book downstairs. Kazushige is fast asleep. We can see that Kazushige and Kayoko sleep in separate beds. At his limit, Shigeyuki uses his plastic trashcan to relieve himself.

We get to see how Shigeyuki started getting bullied. In school, he peed himself in the middle of class and once one kid noticed, everyone did. We see his desk being vandalized and students dragging him, pulling his pants down. A student brings along a teacher to save him. It’s Sonoda. He befriended Shigeyuki and it seems like they were good friends. Flashback over. Shigeyuki attempts to write on Sonoda’s page, asking “why did you betray me?”

Meanwhile, Kazushige is leaving about to pay for his bill when the girl in front of him cannot pay for hers. It seems she lost her wallet. Kazushige pays for her so he can quickly pay his. She thanks him on the way out and vows to pay him back. At the house, Yoshimoto inquires about Sonoda to Shinichi .. while stuffing his face with food with Shigeyuki’s food. Dayum Sho. I bet no real acting was required for that scene haha. Turns out Sonoda used to come by the house often, until the photo album disappeared. Once Yoshimoto is full, he pulls out a tupperware to pack the leftovers. He also points out that their mother is seemingly different. Usually, one would make sure the food was delivered to its destination. And normally, a mother wouldn’t allow this kind of thing to happen. Shinichi states that their parents have no interest in them. Yoshimoto questions if they would be angry if Shigeyuki died. Shinichi turns around, surprised. Yoshimoto merely laughs and walks out of his room.

We see Yoshimoto walking down the road ..

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With his unique way of walking.

He is next seen on a bus, then walking again. He’s found his destination, thanks to his handy smart phone. It’s Sonoda’s house. He takes him somewhere secluded to chat and describes the bullying events. Yoshimoto asks if that’s when Sonoda switched to the bullies’ side. He knew that rescuing Shigeyuki in the first place would mean he would be bullied. So his real intention for approaching Shigeyuki was for the photo album. Looks like he’s pretty much guilty when he asks if Yoshimoto has any proof. Yoshimoto reassures him that he’s not the police, but that Shigeyuki knows Sonoda stole the photo album. Even so, Shigeyuki believed in their friendship and Sonoda looks down with guilt. Yoshimoto is outside of Shigeyuki’s room and tells him that he’s met his classmates. He reads, aloud, what his classmates say about him and it’s nothing but mean/insulting words. Shigeyuki yells and bangs on his door, with a chair, for him to stop. As he keeps on reading, Shigeyuki causes a ruckus in his room, tearing it apart. Shigeyuki stops his rampage when Yoshimoto reads what Sonoda has to say about him. “I want him to come to school again.” Yoshimoto says “it must be nice having a friend like that” and leaves. Shigeyuki says to no one in particular that he is not his friend.

At the school, Yoshimoto is walking around aimlessly.

Ep 1 photo KazokuGameep01848x480x264mp4_002780010_zps0c3a801b.jpg
Like a horror movie.

He’s sitting in a classroom. I’m guessing it’s Shigeyuki’s classroom? And then he goes nuts, kicking the desks, sits against the wall/window, standing on a table .. He’s basically mentally unstable and I am fearing for my own life. He’s remembering that time in the unknown forest. It’s the next day and Shigeyuki is yelling for Yoshimoto to open the door. Kayoko tries to give Shigeyuki a meal and Yoshimoto refuses to open the door. She says that she will call the police, BUT Yoshimoto knows exactly how to control her. He asks what the neighbors will think if the police were to come. Shigeyuki is still pounding on his door and says he does not want to remember what happened. He falls silent when he craps himself, looks mortified and cries. Kayoko is upset as well and walks away, to which Yoshimoto makes a haiku “More worried about appearance than about her son … bad mother.” And he’s impressed with himself.

Shigeyuki sits in his room, after he cleans himself, when Sonoda comments on his page. Yoshimoto is hanging out in Shinichi’s room, on his cell phone. In the mean time, Sonoda is writing various messages to Shigeyuki. He responds to them by saying that Sonoda betrayed him and Sonoda apologizes, stating “I thought I had made a friend for the first time. Won’t you be my friend again?” Shigeyuki is at a loss for words and Yoshimoto tells him that it’s his choice whether he goes to school tomorrow or not. And to remember one thing: Even in this world, there is hope. So, become stronger.

It’s Friday and Yoshimoto is eating breakfast with Kazushige and Shinichi. While Yoshimoto and Kazushige are arguing about the construction bill, Shigeyuki walks down in his school uniform. Everyone is surprised to see him and Yoshimoto is looking ..

Ep 1 photo KazokuGameep01848x480x264mp4_003271201_zps58780c8f.jpg
Creepy as hell!

Kazushige and Kayoko are looking relieved and happy. And Shinichi .. well he continues to eat his breakfast. Shigeyuki stops outside his school and Yoshimoto tells him, “No matter what happens, I’m on your side.” Those words convince him to go to class. His classmates are surprised to see him as he walks into the class and sits at his desk. Sonoda strolls into the classroom and ignores Shigeyuki. It turns out that Sonoda and Yoshimoto had a bet on whether he would come to school or not. All the messages/comments that were sent the night before were Yoshimoto’s doing. Sonoda further taunts him by showing the messages that convinced Shigeyuki to come to class.

Kayoko is approached by her buddies and they ask what is going on with the window. She makes the excuse that they soundproofed it due to the loud music. Shigeyuki marches angrily into the house and confronts Yoshimoto about what he did. Yoshimoto pretty much predicted the results of their game and tells him that he “plays too much games.” Shigeyuki tries to take a swing at him and Yoshimoto easily shoves him away. He tries again only to be thrown into a glass stand, breaking it. The crashing sounds are heard outside and ..

Ep 1 photo KazokuGameep01848x480x264mp4_003568831_zps93ee5a78.jpg
Kayoko rushes inside to see what is going on.

Yoshimoto dares Shigeyuki to stand up and hit back. He does, only for the same result to happen. Kayoko runs to Shigeyuki, but Yoshimoto merely shoves her away. Yoshimoto taunts him again and when Shigeyuku tries to rush him, he pushes him to the ground. He holds Shigeyuki by the face and pounds his fist into the ground next to his head. Shinichi walks downstairs, stands there in shock, and pulls Yoshimoto off of Shigeyuki. Yoshimoto tells the honor student to let go and that Shinichi doesn’t care whether his little brother gets disgraced. Next, he laughs like a mad man and grabs the random megaphone in the room. He yells/announces/reports a suicide that happened that morning due to bullying at Kayoko and Shigeyuki. He then turns his attention to Shinichi, reporting that a high school honor student was arrested for pushing another student off a train platform, leading to his death. He informs them that the honor student was depressed and asks why the parents had no idea. The parents claiming that they were busy sounds like bullshit to him and he further asks, “For who in the hell are you making excuses for!?!?”

Kayoko is desperately calling Kazushige and Yoshimoto takes the phone from her, reminding about the no interference agreement and the breach-of-contract fee. He grabs Shigeyuki when he tries to run. Shigeyuki is terrified and asks “What exactly do you want?”

Ep 1 photo KazokuGameep01848x480x264mp4_003755618_zps8488ca34.jpg
Ep 1 photo KazokuGameep01848x480x264mp4_003756018_zpsb9af3f55.jpg
“I want to break you.”

.. is his answer and everyone looks horrified. Hell I be would too. He shoves Shigeyuki, which knocks over Yoshimoto’s bag in the process. Shigeyuki notices the bloody cellphone strap, from the beginning of this episode. Yoshimoto reminds Shigeyuki, “Even in this world, there is hope” and “there are worst cruelties than you could imagine,” as the scene flashes back to the opening in the forest or whatever. Shigeyuki can only stare and let the words sink in, as does Kayoko and Shinichi. Yoshimoto stands up and announces, “if Shigeyuki goes to school for a week, he will quit.” If Shigeyuki can do it, then he’s not needed. He pulls Shigeyuki up, announces that it’s time to start the lesson, and heads upstairs with Shigeyuki following suit. What I love about this scene is how no one is sooooo terrified of this guy. His words hold the cold, hard truth and it seems that they cannot accept it in the least. Deny it all you want Numatas. You guys are just as bad as the rest of us, hell even worse I think.

At the office, Kazushige’s friend is bidding him farewell and tells him that he will make the company regret restructuring him. He watches him leave, turns around and says “who will hire such a piece of junk?” You f*ckin a-hole! As he leaves the office, Asami Maika, the girl he helped pay for her meal, appears in front of him. During this meeting, Kayoko is trying to call him. She receives a message from Yoshimoto asking if she is okay and what not. She whispers to herself ..

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Meanwhile, Shinichi is at a bookstore and steals an item. Shigeyuki is in his room with Yoshimoto and asks him if he will quit if he goes to school. Yoshimoto basically says “of course,” to which Shigeyuki proclaims that he will show him he can go to school. Shigeyuki asks him about the bloody item in his bag. Yoshimoto tells him not to tell anyone and says ..

Ep 1 photo KazokuGameep01848x480x264mp4_004110272_zps08e15a39.jpg
“You know, I .. killed a person.”

And that’s where our .. err .. action packed episode ends. So far, my thoughts about Yoshimoto are pretty much: This bitch is CRAYCRAY but, I like him. I think I need help. However, Yoshimoto does bring up spot on observations and opinions about the mentality of negligent parents/relatives when it comes to a family member’s problems, be it bullying, depression, etc. I have the same opinion and find it deplorable that this kind of mentality even exists. Of course, that’s how society is and it can’t change overnight.

The Numata family is dysfunctional, like most families, and they refuse to admit head-on that there is anything wrong. Kazushige is prideful and egotistic; he clearly cares for no one but himself. Kayoko is so worried about what others think that she simply let’s things get out of hand. Shinichi is just like his father and pretends to care. Shigeyuki is unfortunately the result and is blamed for all the flaws within the household. What I love about Yoshimoto is that he’s observant and manipulative. No, I am not sadistic in any way. So .. a new game is in place. When you think about it, about 3 different bets happened in this episode. Will Shigeyuki go to school for a whole week to prove to Yoshimoto that his services are not needed, especially wanted.

On a side note, I feel like keeping a tally of how many times Yoshimoto says 「いいねぇ。」

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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