Woman: Episode 2 – Hikari versus Fumi in “battle of the eyes”, drama losing some steam in the ratings war!

Japanese viewers’ perceptions and tastes are ever-changing, but the fact that they hate too much tragedy is very apparent. TV dramas are a means to escape from reality, and fantasy is the basic formula that sustains most of the highly-rated dramas from the past seasons. 

This season is no exception as the more intense Woman loses some steam from the ratings war – from 13. 9% viewership down to 11.2% (for Episode 2).

In Episode 2, the story of the Aoyagi and Uesugi families continue to unravel.

Koharu Aoyagi (Mitsushima) struggles to make both ends meet as she continues to work multiple jobs to sustain her family of three – Nazomi and Riku.  Without her husband to help her, she goes from one job to another to earn just barely enough to accommodate their daily needs. Her guidance and presence which are becoming an issue with the kids resulted in a visit from the welfare office. Is she a bad mother? Is she abusing her children? Apparently not, but that did not prevent the assuming and prejudicial welfare staff to berate her. Talk about barking at the wrong tree!

Luckily enough, she has a friend, who unlike Koharu remarried after her husband died. Yuki Kamata ( Asami Usuda) has a different perspective on life, and unlike Koharu, she is more practical and married a wealthy man. With a comfortable life and her two boys beside her, Yuki offered assistance to her friend and takes care of her kids while Koharu struggles to keep their household costs to a minimum.

Ryosuke Sunagawa (Takahiro Miura) the guy from the welfare office, seems to entertain some “fancy/romantic” thoughts on Koharu. But Koharu is too much pre-occupied. They met at a supermarket, and the young man offered to give her wine as a gift, but she refused.

Nazomi, her eldest kid, is also being difficult. She is restless and tries to challenge her mother’s patience. She is curious and loves to observe people and things and not follow her Mom’s orders. In one instance, she watched young girls practicing ballet, instead of going straight home. While watching, a young woman looks at her intently – she is Shiori Uesugi (Fumi Nikaido). Shiori has an air of “dark” mystery, almost spiteful and wicked but not yet menacing. She befriends the innocent yet rebellious young Nazomi. 

What is she up to? As Koharu’s half-sister, why is she keeping her identity a secret? What hidden agenda is she pursuing?

Things are not getting better for Koharu and her kids, and in another twist of fate, Koharu collapses from exhaustion. In the hospital, she paid for a physical check-up and had to come up with money reserved for their food and sustenance, but what can she do? Upon leaving the hospital, a doctor noticed her pale complexion and the black-blue bruises on her arms. Is she anemic? Is she sick and is suffering from something more severe?

Episode 3 appears to be more exciting, and will it reveal more? Stay tuned! I am just hoping they will not resort to a deadly disease like leukemia to add to an already suffering young Mom. That would seem like an overkill already.

Fumi Nikaido shines! Getting more screen time than in the initial episode, Fumi Nikaido, who plays Shiori, offers a serious challenge to Hikari Mitsushima’s acting. The role, which is presumed to be that of an anti-hero, suits her. Unlike in Himizu where she portrays a young school girl filled with hope amidst the devastation, in Woman, she is almost malevolent – her eyes speak, and they speak with an almost malicious intent. Her scene at art school while sketching a figure and suddenly erasing it almost violently is a highlight of the episode.

At the train station where the half-sisters met, it was an acting showdown – subtle yet explosive. There is little need for words or actions, as both actresses speak with their eyes. Hikari, not knowing who Shiori is, offered her thanks – looking at the other young woman with positive expectations. Fumi, with something to hide, appears tentative yet there is something “sinister” about how she looks at the other woman.

Rio Suzuki, who plays Nazomi, also performed very well in Episode 2. I maybe in the wrong for assuming she is over-acting, as she did quite an amazing job here.

There are some hints of what is to come next, and while the emotions the drama evoke can be unpleasant at times, there is no stopping this reviewer from relishing the outstanding performances of the actors.

This episode is a dramatic roller coaster ride!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars