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.

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Woman: Episodes 6 & 7- Forgiveness, Atonement & Acceptance – How a Single Mother Survives & How her Family Endures

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.

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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!).

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Woman: Episode 4 – Evil has a face and her name is Shiori

A harrowing, sentimental and explosive episode awaits viewers of Woman. I will no longer recommend or even ask you to watch this drama, because, by this time, you must be aware of how good it is. Just to recap the previous three episodes, Koharu (Mitsushima) is a young mother of two who lost her husband in a “supposed” accident. As a single mother, she is having difficulty raising her children and surviving; she hesitantly reconnected with her estranged mother. She also has a half-sister who appears to be a shy girl, but deep inside lives an insecure, evil creature capable of murder.

After the harrowing encounter where Koharu has to face two tormentors – her insensitive and selfish Mom and her equally insensitive-but-fully-grown-evil creature-of-a-person half-sister Shiori, she has to meet her doctor and find out how sick she is.

Before we go to the medical diagnosis, let me concentrate on Shiori. The angsty, shy pretender reveals her true self. It seems she has a history of violence and has been used and abused. But this seemingly tragic life is eclipsed by one particular deed.

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Woman: Episode 3 – A lot are revealed why Koharu’s family was broken; Hikari delivers a subtle yet heartfelt performance!

I came from a family where both my parents showered me with love and affection and gave me everything that I need, even those that I demanded on a whim. Watching Hikari Mitsushima portray a daughter who lost her Mom to another man and her Dad dying a broken man moved me in more ways than one. But discovering that all she knew is wrong can be anything less than traumatic.

The problem with reviewing a drama that is so realistic and acted so honestly is getting emotionally involved with the characters. Anyone rude and cruel to these characters becomes your enemy, and you begin to loath and hate them.

Such is the case in Episode 3 of Woman. Koharu (Mitsushima) and her two kids were visited by the man who was the reason why her Mom abandoned them. But this man, Kentaro (Kaoru Kobayashi), appears to be quite gentle, pleasant and kind. He even offered to take care of Koharu’s kids while she goes to work. The gesture was like a peace offering and in time Koharu finds herself sharing dinner with her Mom and the kids. 

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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!

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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.

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