Buzzer Beat 8
[Edit: By the way, I think Otomen is on hiatus or at least the Chinese subbers working on the drama are on hiatus for this week…maybe they invested so much effort subbing Buzzer Beat to get it out ASAP that they need a break…? Check back with me next week if you’re looking for updates.]
Watched Buzzer Beat 8 night before last, even though I was half-dead from work, but ohhhhh….the drama….
I have to admit, I have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with this particular episode. Like all other drama-addicts, I like closure in my drama, I love the good guys (although I have fallen, on occasion, for the bad ones instead) and I hate the scheming manipulative people who try to break the “chosen” couple apart (in this case Riko & Naoki). However, I have to say that I’ve always liked Aibu Saki, and she does an excellent portrayal as Nanami Natsuki by layering her character with more depth than the usual, “Yeah I’m a bitch sue me” antagonist you see in shoujo dramas.
But perhaps I’m jumping the gun a little by talking about Saki/Natsuki. To be honest, I actually loved and then hated this episode respectively in halves, and here are the reasons why…
I Loved It
…because the cliffhanger ending in Episode 7 meant that the beginning of Episode 8 sizzled with drama and tension, with Naoki grabbing Riko desperately and kissing her to no end and finally, FINALLY, admitting that he likes her (c’mon what took you so long to figure that out!?) and where her feelings are being, at last!, reciprocated.
Okay, enough with the kissing shots already (yes I know I am obsessed but hey, at least I admit it!) but the action doesn’t stop there. Deep in their kiss, Riko suddenly pulls away and is all like, “Mai’s footsteps! I hear her.” (Man, that girl has got some ears. Wish I could have something like that, except switch it to my eyes.)
And she quickly shoves Naoki (poor Yamapi!) into her room and is immediately all happy-happy when Mai and Shuji traipse in (the girl thinks quick!). They continue the birthday party and drink into the night (which also means poor Naoki is stuck in her room until morning…and his bag and basketball and bicycle that hasn’t been locked down is just waiting in the cold lonely basketball court…man, doesn’t this drama have any thieves?) and by morning, Riko is the only one who is still awake.
She looks in on Mai (who is uber cute when sleeping) and Shuji (who is just as cute and earnest to boot as he mumbles Mai’s name) and then finally she enters her own room where the love of her life is sleeping in her bed (guess he got tired of leaning against her table) and she sits there and reaches out and strokes him. He catches her hand in his, and yanks her onto the bed, and without opening his eyes he said, “Were you secretly stroking me, Riko?” and she beams in joy as she retorts, “Are you calling me directly by my name…Naoki?” and they both exchange delighted smiles (oh so sweet) as they stare into each other’s eyes (as the next capture shot is called).
Naoki muses on this morning spent with her in his arms and feels a sense of homecoming, a sense of warmth and a sense of rightness. (I tell you, the scriptwriter is female. Has to be.)
So all seems happy with the golden couple, except Naoki tells Riko they’ve got to keep their feelings for each other under wraps until Coach comes back and he can tell him properly he would like Riko to be his girlfriend (at long long last!) and Riko agrees to this (I think because she empathises). Shuji and Mai aren’t in the house anymore since they went out to buy breakfast and as they are walking back to the house (hand-in-hand!) they see Naoki’s ball and bag and bicycle (seriously, which part of Japan is so safe they can do this?) and they are all like, gee wonder what’s up with that when they see him coming out of the block of apartments and going to the court to retrieve his stuff. Mai, being Mai, immediately grabs Shuji and they hide behind an umbrella I love the way drama scriptwriters imagine that characters hiding behind things like umbrellas, books, newspapers, menus etc actually means they won’t ever be seen! How lovely would that be, really… and they watch in curiosity as Naoki waves goodbye to Riko. (So they know something is up!)
The other reason why I liked this episode so much is because Mai and Shuji are finally “officially” together (technically Mai hadn’t said yes and hadn’t said she liked Shuji in the last episode, but she did in this one).
They had a really sweet couple moment in the basketball court (I like Mai alot, I think she’s sharp and that she’s loyal to her friends, and that, even though she pretends to be rational and logical, in reality, she’s very emotional) where Mai nudges Shuji on by saying, “I”m not the kind of girl who will say I like you first. Even if you are younger, it should be the guy who does these things first.” and Shuji immediately lights up and says, “Mai-san, I like you.” and she smiles back at him and says, “I like you too.” (and Naoki who is embarrassingly enough listening to all this just smiles and leaves.)
Why I Hate This Episode
I like Aibu Saki, but…man…I hate Natsuki with a passion (which goes to show how successful Saki is in her acting). First, she finds out that one of her colleagues is dating Yoyogi behind her back (probably sleeping with the dude too) and she’s just all, smile and walk away and then drop smile. Very well done that scene.
And then, seeing Riko and Naoki so happy together at the basketball court (she trailed Naoki in a cab…this woman is insane I tell you. Very stalkerish) she decides to befriend Riko and even dates her out but ends up spending the whole time talking about Naoki and how she can’t get over him the manipulative bitch if you will excuse my language (poor Riko! She could only sit and smile) thus making Riko unable to concentrate on her playing.
And then to top it off, she has all these tense scenes with Yoyogi where she makes it obvious to him that she never really liked him, he was just a distraction from Naoki, and she couldn’t care less what he does. (And then he gets angry. Yoyogi is the only character who really doesn’t make sense to me. But maybe it’s also partially due to Kaneko’s acting because…the man is…stiff.)
So we come to the magic of Aibu Saki who makes Natsuki complex by revealing her vulnerable sides in flashes of solitude like below, where, in her own way, I think she really does love Naoki (even though it’s a selfish kind of love). It hurts her and she struggles with it, but I don’t agree with the way she’s dealing with it (but then again I’m not supposed to, she IS the antagonist after all). Two thumbs up to Saki who did a great job of portraying Natsuki. I think Saki’s versatility as an actress is an absolute asset. I was quite surprised when I initially saw her in this role, but turns out she’s actually darn good in it. I mean, the woman is scheming and manipulative but gotta say, these one-off moments of anguish make you go, “Okay…so…she feels bad about it?” …I think there are elements of Natsuki’s character here that resonate strongly with human follies, for e.g. when she asks herself, “What am I doing?” (Yeah, I know, brilliant right, ask yourself, ask us too. How would we know?!) – makes you wonder sometimes if all her actions are on impulse (I think they are, rather. She strikes me as the calculative sort but in the end her rashness wins out over patience case in point: Yoyogi vs. Naoki)
And now we come to the part where I completely LOATHE: Where Natsuki successfully manages to sway Naoki (what is wrong with you dude?! I thought you LOVED Riko now! GEEZZZ!)
Context being: Riko is called home and decides to make a trip back to spend some time with family, since she lost her job as a violinist at the restaurant (although no one knows about this, not even Mai). She tells Naoki this, and he told her he would come over after practice to see her one last time before she goes back home since she’s going to be away for a while. Riko is delighted and decides to make French toast for him using the recipe he gave her when he said he was going to be busy for a while and might not have the time to make it for her. So she’s out there buying all the ingredients, goes home and tries to make it (but she cannot break an egg. That woman got shell in her broken egg. Like. What. The. Heck have you been eating this whole time?!) and ends up with some really sad excuse for French toast (no offense, but I make better French toast than that, and I can’t cook). So then practice ends…and…it…RAINS….
What I hate about this part is that Naoki is actually prevaricating between Natsuki and Riko. WHY?! WHYYY?! And the best thing is, of course, since it is raining, and Naoki and Riko arranged to meet in the park, poor Riko is doing this:
And so while we watch the poor girl clutch her bag of French toast, look at her watch and then smile to herself and decide to continue waiting for her stupid guy, the same retard she’s wasting energies over is BEING HUGGED BY HIS EX. (Yes I have issues with people who can’t keep their relationships straight.)
Trailer for the next episode makes me think they’re going to break up (when they barely just got together in this episode UGH) and that many exciting things are going to happen (Naoki’s ankle injury? Riko and Natsuki having a confrontation? Naoki fighting Yoyogi and wanting him to apologise to Natsuki? Riko telling Natsuki, “Why didn’t I know anything about you?” …yeah I can sense this is the breaking point).
So now I understand the reason for the 17% rating…but I wonder how well the next episode will turn out. Critical point because if the next episode isn’t done well, I think people will give up following the drama to its natural death, er, I mean end.
What do you think?