Woman: Episode 1 – Hikari Mitsushima & Yuko Tanaka in an acting showdown!

Hikari Mitsushima is a formidable actress, and so is Yuko Tanaka. In the latest Japanese drama entitled Woman, from acclaimed writer Yuji Sakamoto, the two actresses play mother and daughter. 

The first episode introduces the viewers to the lives of a single mom and her two young children. The tragic death of the father was carefully revealed and the strained relationship between Mitsushima’s character (as the daughter, Koharu) and of Tanaka’s (as the Mom, Sachi). 

We soon learned that Sachi Uesugi (Tanaka) left her family for another man. Koharu Aoyagi (Mitsushima) is bitter from the supposed abandonment. There is also a connection between Sachi and Koharu’s husband which may be considered a major factor in his death. 

A mysterious young woman (Fumi Nikaido) appears to be fascinated with the dead Shin Aoyagi (Shun Oguri) who draws the young man from one of his photos in a studio. This mysterious girl may hold the key to Shin’s death.

First Impressions: Woman’s first episode focus on the lives of Koharu and her children and how she struggles to make both ends meet. Her daughter Nazomi is naughty while Riku is reserved. Taking care of the children prevents her from concentrating on her multiple jobs – reason enough to get her fired. 

With such a difficult situation, the children are always alone, prompting her neighbor to accuse her of being a bad mother:

“Children are not pets,” says one annoying neighbor. 

Scriptwriter Yuji Sakamoto is reported to be quite picky in selecting the actors who will play roles in his dramas. Mitsushima appears to be a favorite since she is also the lead in Soredemo, Ikite Yuku, the award-winning show of Sakamoto in 2011 which garnered six trophies at the 70th Television Drama Academy Awards.

The highlight of the episode is the confrontation between Mitsushima and Tanaka. The bitter and grieving daughter is relentless in her demand for her Mom to leave them alone. The mother appears happy at first, but the tension shows even before she uttered her greetings to a daughter she hasn’t seen for 20 years.

On the downside, the musical background is terrible, and Hikari’s daughter Nazomi (Rio Suzuki) can be annoying at times. Can they at least ask this young girl to stop over-acting?

If further episodes reveal more of the mother-daughter relationship, then I expect a lot of sparks to fly – given the quality of acting. 

I am also hoping Shun Oguri’s character will be explored further and not be relegated to a guest status.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars