Woman: Episodes 8-11 – Forgiveness, Atonement & Acceptance – How a Single Mother Survives & How her Family Endures

This is the final part of our Woman review, we look back at the last four episodes, a list of favorite scenes, reactions from the viewers, excellent reviews from fellow bloggers and final thoughts on the whole drama.

My friend and fellow blogger Heisui @My Drama Tea remarked that she has no favorite episodes anymore because all the episodes since the 6th were incredible and just so awesome. I agree with her, but there is simply one episode that I love the most – Ep 9, and I’ll get into the details later… After delaying for a few weeks, I think that watching the remaining episodes in a marathon was both an exhilarating, inspiring and intense experience for me. Family, is after all, what matters and this show presents us with a family filled with characters who are vulnerable, imperfect, biased but definitely human.

The two kids, especially Nozomi, are not entirely clueless to what’s going on. They have some idea about their Mom being at odds with their grandma, and that there is something “unsaid” about their relationship. Koharu’s half-sister circles like a dark character in a comics book, about to spread something sinister and malicious – which she did in the previous episode – revealing her role in the death of Koharu’s husband. Episode 8 has an atmosphere of expectations and painful separation.

Koharu decided to confront Sachi about her sister’s behavior and admission. Their mom apparently has a secret she’s trying desperately to hide, and Koharu’s confusion turned into deep suspicion about her and Shiori’s hidden agenda. As Sachi and Kentaro return, Koharu goes on the offensive. Sachi is, of course, aware of the previous confrontation between her daughters and it shows – she became very receptive to Koharu – to the point of being super nice to her.

I heard her clearly. “I was the one,” she said. It was because of my lie that it turned out like that. Koharu recalls her conversation with Shiori and tells her Mom.

Still, Sachi defended Shiori which further infuriates Koharu. Owning to the tragedy by a flimsy excuse of giving her daughter’s husband pears.

The heated argument became physical and Koharu has already stopped refraining herself, and all the bitterness and hurt were released at Sachi’s expense.

Shiori left the house after the festival, which may be considered, the last time both mother and daughter would enjoy each other’s company. Things between the three women will never be the same again.

Yuko Tanaka shines as the mother torn between her loyalty to the mentally unstable Shiori and her growing guilt toward’s Koharu’s apparent loss. Hikari and Fumi also acted quite well, giving this episode the right amount of dramatic hues and tones.

I don’t want to use the word catfight, but then again, it was a catfight between the half-sisters, although Shiori hardly defended herself…

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

What’s so special about Woman? Why do I bother to stress myself, do screenshots, watch the show multiple times and do research on the characters? Because it’s all worth it and this episode proves that while many viewers have switched to other Asian drama for their addiction, the Japanese can still come up with something amazing.

Yuji Sakamoto turned this drama around, and all the confusions, false characterization, and questionable behaviors were gone (well, most of it anyway). No wonder he won four Scriptwriter trophies at the Japanese TV Drama Academy Awards, and I will not be surprised if he gets another for Woman.

Episode 9, which I referred to as my favorite episode, showcase two scenes that could very well be two of the best in the whole show.

Kentaro went out of his way to discover the hidden truth behind his daughter’s involvement in the death of Koharu’s husband. He was also the one parent who accompanied Shiori when she left their home and as much as it pained him to talk to Shiori, he has to – otherwise, there will be no closure to this family tragedy.

Do you understand what is it to atone? Things will be different if you can do that… says a father to his daughter.

The turning point between bitterness and understanding happened to mother and daughter when Sachi finally realized she has to save Koharu from her illness. While she still resented Koharu for Shiori’s departure from their home, learning her life-threatening condition forced her to look at their relationship from another perspective.

Going to the hospital for a blood test (resulting in transplant compatibility) allowed Sachi to come face to face with Koharu’s problem and learned from her doctor what exactly can happen if there is no donor. The scene when Sachi finally left the doctor’s consultation room is the exact duplicate when Koharu first learned of her illness and left the same room while forcing herself to smile in front of the kids.

Episode 9 finally means there are no more secrets for the family. Everything is spread on the table for all to see, and that means the family can either disintegrate or unite as one.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As I mentioned in previous episodes, Koharu’s kids are intelligent, sensitive and responsive children who are aware of what’s going on with the adult members of the family. There are flashbacks to previous scenes which revealed how Nozomi’s curiosity allowed her to be “in the loop.” With Koharu’s condition forcing her to stay at the hospital, there is simply no way for Nozomi to just accept an excuse as flimsy as having to “wash the dishes” and spending days away from home.

After school, Nozomi went straight to the hospital and asked to be taken to her mom. The story of the Ugikuku was, once again, put in the spotlight. This story about a particular monster called Ugikuku who eats young kids is the reason why Koharu was afraid of going to hospitals when she was a young kid. It was one of the cause of misunderstanding between her and Sachi.

Nozomi also realized that the story of the Ugikuku and her mother’s visiting the hospital is somewhat connected…

If Nozomi is trying to find out what is the problem behind her mom’s hospital appointments, Shiori is struggling to get a grip on herself. But Sachi instinctively knows, and she takes it upon herself to make sure Shiori can move on.

But moving on means Shiori has to find a way to at least make up for what she did. There is only one thing left – to meet with Koharu’s doctor and get a blood test, and in doing so, serve as Koharu’s lifeline.

If Shi-chan matches with Koharu-chan… and then she forgives her… Well, even if she doesn’t forgive her, this might become an opportunity for it right? Reflect Kentaro on the possibility of Shiori being a blood match and become Koharu’s donor for the bone marrow transplant.

The penultimate episode is filled with hope and expectations. It is at this time that I also realized the drama would be over soon…

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

There is no perfect ending, just as life is not perfect and we have to deal with problems and challenges all the time. Koharu remains adamant in her decision that she cannot forgive her sister, but being her donor would come a long way.

The final episode is almost like an anti-climax after we already know Shiori is a match and would be Koharu’s donor. But being a fan of the drama, I’m happy to watch another episode and see Koharu and the kids celebrate.

Is a happy ending the best way to end the drama? So. A different ending would completely ruin it. Killing the main character is not the best way to end a drama that is arguably the best of the season.

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Viewers and Drama blogger reactions: Some selected remarks/reviews from viewers of the drama show are mostly positive. So read on…

DramaMochi remarked after watching the first episode:

I’ve never watched Mitsushima Hikari in action before so it’s really fresh for me. And Suzuki Rio is such a gem. I’m just glad Japan can present new children actors, instead of staging Ashida Mana all the time. I like Ashida Mana, though, no offense here. Episode 1 shows how Koharu deals with her situation in 3 years before meeting her mother. You can see her slowing breaking apart. Initially, she is patience towards Nozomi’s and Riku’s antics. But as time pass, she can no longer hold in her frustration. The part where Riku’s stroller was pushed down was every mother’s epic nightmare. Riku wasn’t in the stroller, however, and she just breaks down in public. Things like that occur, and it pains me as an audience because these do happen. It’s not aiming to be a sob story, but it does show very tragic scenes, so it’s somewhat a life drama. [ read more ]

A fan from AsianWiki remarked:

BEST.SHOW.FOR.2013. – Stellar cast, great plot and twist. Hikari Mitsushima and Rio Suzuki really gave something to this drama. Such an underrated actress Hikari Mitsushima is. She deserves more recognition.

The pair, director Nobuo Mizuta, and screenwriter Yuji Sakamoto, really bring back the greatness they delivered in Mother to this drama. Everyone should watch this. You won’t be disappointed.

Another said something I totally agree with:

This show and Hanzawa Naoki are such stellar shows! They are the best Asian dramas this season and deserve so much more attention than the brainless Kdramas everyone is so obsessed with.

On Episode 10, Heisui @My Drama Tea remarked:

It’s taken me a while to put my thoughts together about episode 10 because it was just that amazing. Episode 10 made me forget all of the other drama crap I was watching. It jolts me out of my complacent watching of other mediocre dramas and makes me think “Why am I watching those dramas when I could be watching this?”. This episode is freaking perfection. What are you waiting for, go watch it! [ read more ]

Akiramike @Hamsapsukebe has a different take on the same episode:

The biggest WTF this episode was how did Shiori’s mom even knew where she was? From trying to run away from the problem, Shiro’s mom has moved to ‘you’ll never be forgiven’ and ‘you need to think your life is over.’ The big pendulum swings for me. Namakemono’s answer is to face it head on while the mother’s response went from denial to total surrender. Maybe it was her way of saying Shiori’s life is no longer her own and she should go for the test to ensure that Koharu and kids have a chance to be happy.

The second half is a long and great family scene with Koharu coming clean to her kids about her illness. It’s when Woman has simple scenes with great dialogue that I forget I’m watching a dorama. The end teaser looks like Shiori’s bone marrow is not going to match. Maybe they want us to think that, but I don’t really care either way. Still not a fan of the leukemia angle and Oguri Shun having such a big role. [ read more ]

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Final Thoughts: I said in one of my reviews of the Korean drama Who Are you! (@DramaFevwer) that three of the most common plot twists used in Asian dramas are comas, leukemia, and amnesia.

As a drama viewer, you can go either way – get turned off that another drama will once again play people along with tragic scenes of suffering courtesy of a blood disease or not knowing who they are or falling into a deep sleep and then miraculously waking up after so many years. It has happened this season and in the previous ones…

Or you can enjoy the awesome acting and put aside the logic of it all.

But there is another option – Woman.

What got to me about the drama is the unshakeable resolve of Koharu to face her illness head-on and never allow herself to get swallowed by self-pity and rejection. She took it upon herself that she has to survive and at least allow her kids to grow old enough for them to become independent.

Her family rises to the challenge, instead of disintegrating and falling apart, they choose to unite and set aside feelings of bitterness and hatred. Although atonement needs the corresponding forgiveness for closure, it is the initial step that would someday heal all wounds.

Hope is a great thing, and that’s essentially the message of the show.

Over-rating Drama Rating: 4 out of 5 stars