Woman will probably remain one of the most enduring dramas I have the opportunity to watch. In this time where most viewers are addicted to light and most often mediocre Korean shows, this highly affecting and greatly acted Japanese drama started out very strong, faltered in the middle but moved viewers to tears during its finale.
You may have read my last Episode review of Woman (Ep 5) where I predicted one of its conclusions – Shiori’s atonement and the opportunity for her to help and save her half-sister. But let me take a closer look at Episodes 6-10 and the finale. Each of these episodes has presented vital clues to the tragedy that struck the family, and in turn, help us understand the actions and reactions of the various members of the Uesugi and Aoyagi families.
Woman’s Cast and Characters: A brief description and my thoughts on the major characters are also part of this review. I think, it would give new viewers a better perspective of who the main characters are and their relationships to each other.
Woman, is after all, about female characters and their pursuit of happiness, contentment, and the protection, safety and well-being of their family. Just as Koharu struggles to make enough for her children, her Mom Sachi also struggles to keep her other daughter, Shiori, to maintain her mental stability. At least, she knows something is wrong with her daughter – a mother’s instinct – and this connection between family members is the key to survival.
Both Sachi and Koharu are strong women who tried their best not to depend on somebody else, but they also have their individual limits, so in a way, they also need someone to love and protect them. Shiori, on the other hand, is still in an adjustment phase – finding out what she wants and who she aspires to be. She failed to pass some of the tests life has thrown at her, and in one of these trials, she brings the tragic ending to one of the members of her family.
The men in the lives of Koharu, Sachi, and Shiori are gentle, open-minded individuals who can be considered “traditional Japanese men,” yet there is something unique about their characters. Both are serious about their relationship with their women and have taken steps to ensure the stability of the family. Kentaro made an effort to unite Koharu and her kids with her estranged Mom, the same reconciliation that Shin pursued before he got killed.
Shin is the product of a broken family and is the son of ‘the other woman’, who eventually blamed him for her misery. Kentaro’s love and affection became Sachi’s refuge following the harsh treatment she received from Koharu’s dad.
Nozomi (Rio Suzuki) is a little Koharu in that she exhibits independence, curiosity and a certain rebelliousness just like her Mom. She will not accept everything at face value and will question the why and the how. She loves to draw and write her thoughts in a diary – something she shared with her Dad (writing) and her Mom and Shiori (drawing).
Riku (Rai Takahashi) is the youngest member of the family – precarious, gentle and still unsure of himself, but has a tricky side, he is also curious and loves physical intimacy. He can often be seen hugging his Mom and his grandparents.
Reviews and Afterthoughts – Episodes 6 and 7
Episode 6 saw Koharu and her kids returning to the Uesugi house despite the previous incident wherein Koharu, her Mom and Shiori exchanged sharp words. There is simply no other way for Koharu to continue supporting her kids due to her worsening health. Her doctor also encouraged Koharu to reveal her deteriorating situation to her parent and the urgent need to get a donor for the bone marrow transplant.
Moving into her mother’s house must have been difficult for Koharu, but she endured and tried her best to adjust to the situation for the kids’ sake. Sachi was unconvinced and suspicious that her bitter daughter would suddenly become amenable to them living together. There must be something she is hiding.
What is surprising is that Shiori supported her elder sister. Is there a hidden agenda to this?
A yellow hand-made scarf supposedly owned by Shin appeared when Kentaro was looking for something. He presented it to Koharu who was surprised at the item. Out of curiosity she called the contact number on the paper bag and was told her husband had spent his time there and that he has written a letter for her. Would she come and get it?
Episode 6 is the turning point in the drama after two disappointing episodes.
Favorite scene: After Koharu had collapsed from exhaustion, Sachi cooked her food. It was the tenderness by which Sachi treated her daughter that gets to me. After her recovery, the mother and daughter had a chance to talk seriously and maybe patch things up between them. But the conversation turned to Shin.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Episode 7 can be described as the revelation episode – Shin (This is Shun Oguri’s best episode) reveals his childhood and how being the son of an unwed Mom forced him to live with so many difficulties. Except for the postman, no one supported him when his Mom abandoned him after just a few months of financial aid.
He became quite philosophical because of the experience – promising to himself that he will do everything for his family and that he’ll never allow anyone to harm his wife and children.
Another flashback show Shin with Koharu’s Mom and Kentaro as he tried to bridge the gap between mother and daughter. His sincerity and politeness affected the way Sachi and Kentaro accepted him. It might have been a different scenario if Shiori was not on the same train.
Speaking of Shiori, the fun moment between the half-sisters (great chemistry between Hikari and Fumi when they pick up the fallen chocolate nuggets!) turned into a physical confrontation when Shiori admitted her role in Shin’s death at the train station. Confused and shocked, Koharu at first, stammered for her balance until finally, she confronts Shiori. Things turned ugly between the women and the physical confrontation only stopped when Nazomi witnessed the scene.
Episode 7 is highly-charged, sentimental and intense. The meeting between Shin and his Mom is both dramatic and poignant, with the son expressing his love for a mother who abandoned him. There is simply no mistake why Oguri remains on top of the acting scale; he was good here! Hikari and Fumi were quite physical in their confrontation and is a hard scene to take, but the two actors did excellent work.
If I was disappointed in Episodes 4-5, then this Episode works for me.
The scene featuring Koharu carefully composing herself better reading Shin’s letter is heartbreaking. How do you deal with the news that your husband whose background and family you know so little, took the chance to talk to your family and ask for reconciliation?
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Up Next: The remaining four episodes, drama hitlist, and conclusion.