Woman: Episode 5 – Is Hikari Mitsushima’s amazing performance enough to make this an extraordinary drama show?

Top Japanese movie sites have begun speculating on the success (or failure) of this season’s shows, in particular, Woman and Starman, due to its focus on the single mom theme. Woman is, of course, the more serious of the two and with such an impressive cast of acclaimed actors. 

Hikari Mitsushima alone is enough to carry the show to greater heights, and as many have mentioned – even a cheesy over-the-top scene can look authentic and believable thanks to her acting. But Ryoko Hirosue is no inferior actress, no Sir! The acclaimed former singer walked the Academy Awards premiere for Departures, which was later selected to win the Oscar Best Foreign Film. But the comparison does not end there.


Yoshikazu Okada, Starman’s scriptwriter, is one of Japan’s most acclaimed – winning 6 Best Scriptwriter awards at Japan’s television academy. He also wrote such notable dramas as Antique, Beach Boys, Churasan and Saigo kara Nibanme no Koi. Woman’s Yuji Sakamoto is not far behind – winning 4 Best Scriptwriter trophies himself. So we are watching the latest work of two awesome writers. Okada might be in his early 50s but his imagination and style in scriptwriting rocks! Sakamoto as many of you know is the one behind such dramas as Mother, Soredemo, Ikite Yuku and Saikou no Rikon (The Great Divorce!).

Excuse the long introduction! Back to the fifth episode of Woman, we are probably half way through the series, and after getting to know Koharu and her family, we already have a sense of who they are and what they are capable of.

Things are not fine with Koharu. While she wanted to spend her time with the kids, working to earn enough for their sustenance and rent forced her to leave them alone. Her medical diagnosis is not helping either. It was considered life threatening, which added more pressure to the already overworked young mom. During her meeting with the doctors, she is apparently trying to avoid discussing the problem head on, and in one incident, she was forced to throw her medications away when her daughter accidentally discovered them.

Her daughter Nozomi is not stupid and can sense that something is wrong. She is obviously worried about her mother, and she is trying to find out what is happening.

Koharu’s only friend, Yuki (Asami Usuda), who tries to help her with the kids, is the only one she can talk to about her condition, but it turns out, she is also having personal problems of her own. With no one to turn to, Koharu has no choice but to talk to Dr. Sawamura, her attending physician.

I cannot die. I have two kids. My husband died four years ago, and I am the only one who takes care of them if I die no one will help them. They are too young. I need to be with them until they are ready to live on their own…

This is high drama at its most intense. Japanese shows dealing with disease and tragedy can be cheesy, resulting in over-the-top acting and incredibly corny dialogues, but Mitsushima puts so much authenticity in her scenes that you can’t help but sympathize with her.

They say actors who use their eyes are the best kind, and Mitsushima belongs to this category. You don’t need one liter of tears to convey emotions.

Where do we go from here? The drama is presumed to have 9-10 episodes which mean we are halfway through. What are the possible scenarios for the remaining episodes? What would make this drama indeed a memorable show? Is it destined to grab trophies come award season? Will it avoid the pitfalls of conventional Japanese dramas by focusing on too much tragedy for its main character?

Let’s speculate, shall we?

(1) The atonement of Shiori – As Koharu’s half-sister, she has admitted her role in the death of Shin, Koharu’s husband for the simple reason that she can’t take it: that her half-sister is happily married. 

Where does that leave her? She needs to do something right? How about making Shin like the men she victimized to get money? But was her original intention to kill Shin or just to make him suffer?

I cannot fathom the mind of their mom. She already knows the truth, but instead of reaching out for Koharu she is siding with the daughter who is about to get away with murder. Or is she too fucked up to care? Remember that Koharu’s dad is the source of all her sufferings. Why would you take care of the child whose father is someone you hate the most?

But will they take it the other way?

Leukemia is a treatable disease. Most treatments involve chemotherapy, medical radiation therapy, hormone treatments, or bone marrow transplant.

If the half-sisters are a match, will Shiori do the right thing?

(2) Romantic overtures with Ryosuke – Sunagawa Ryosuke’s marriage is on the rocks, and there is this feeling that he likes Koharu a lot. They also meet at unexpected places. Both their kids are friends already, and with an ambitious wife who is willing to look the other way and focus on her career, a romantic liaison maybe a possibility. But will Koharu accept Rosuke’s advances as we know fully well how much she loves Shin? But if Ryosuke is going to become her white knight and takes care of her kids, will that be an option worth considering?

(3) Doctor saves Koharu and lives happily ever after – Funny, right? But then again, Koharu is an attractive woman and the doctor looks lonely, and there seems to be no one he loves, maybe only his job. But this is quite a far-fetched scenario. Doctors are, after all, immune to the sufferings of their patients and to get involved emotionally can have devastating effects.

(4) Kentaro amends for his role in the break-up of Koharu’s family – While Sachi took it upon herself to leave her family and settle with the one she loves, Kentaro seems like a gentleman and have been honest about his feelings towards Koharu and the kids. He loves Nazomi and Riku that’s a given and who is the head of the family after all, right? Is he just like Sawako’s husband in the other drama, Starman, just a mouse and not a real man?

(5) Is Koharu going to die? Now, I don’t like this idea at all. Too dramatic even for my taste, but then again Yuji Sakamoto has the tendency to make sad endings.

What do you think? Is the drama going for the high road or will it succumb to the pressures of the ratings and become just another cry fest.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars