This is coming a little late, since the (raw) last episode of Buzzer Beat has been out since last Tuesday, but I really loved the ending of this drama (and yes, apparently the scriptwriters here understand the meaning of closure!) and felt I needed to mull over it a little.
I thought there might be a special episode after this, that would run for 75 mins long, but according to honeydew, this is the last of it, which I must say, wouldn’t be a bad thing since everything’s been very nicely finished, and I’m not keen to open up anything else to continue the story. (Although I felt a little cheated since the actual episode length was about 60 minutes as opposed to the advertised 75 mins long, so I was like…does that mean 15 minutes went to advertisements??).
Back to the drama – the only flaw, I felt, marring the ending is that, somehow, in this particular episode, there seemed to be an overplay of symbology – it felt like the scriptwriters weren’t quite sure we were getting it at the end, and decided to throw in plenty of hints. Nonetheless, it’s a small price to pay, to see everything wrap up so nicely – and I was right about deciding that Natsuki, despite the fact that she seemed like a bitch from the start, was really only human. Her worst vice is her pride – ah, hubris, there is a saying that goes, “But a man’s pride cometh before the fall”.
Since dramas all work within the premise of coincidences, coincidentally, on Riko’s last day at the bookstore, she meets her boss’s wife (he’s a remarried man), who just happens to be – Naoki’s older sister. (I wanted to say that these things don’t happen in real life, but forget that – I know too many people who know other people who know people I know. It’s all very bizarre, so let’s just put it this way: I’m just not surprised things turned out this way!)
When Riko hears this, she immediately rushes out of the shop, only to remember that she’s abandoned her phone and doesn’t have Naoki’s number any longer. Just as Mai follows her out and is about to ask Shuji for Naoki’s number, Riko stops her and tells her that if the sunflower was really given to her by Naoki, then she has to work even harder to accomplish her dream for him, since he was the one who supported her even from then, and had given her the courage to pursue her dreams.
Later that night, we see Riko packing up to go to Karuizawa, and Mai and Shuji helping her. As they finish off the packing and prepare to spend their last night together, Mai fetches out a time-line that she’s drawn, detailing their history together – from university days, to moving in together, and most especially, falling in love over this summer. As they reminisce over the good old days, Mai figured out that everything that happened, happened after the two of them moved in together into the apartment they were renting now.
Despite the fact that it’s only been half a year (of summer??…well, I suppose that’s possible in some places, but I never realised summer was so long in Japan), the two girls have bonded and grown even closer, what with all they’ve had to go through. Riko muses that all that blank time they’ve had in the past 2 years seems to have exploded this summer – everything that could have possibly happened did happen. Mai, in turn, gives Riko a bear hug, half-joking (although I do think the sentiment she expressed was genuine) as she tells Riko not to go, while Riko admits that she almost can’t bear to. Shuji brings over a box of tissue, and I died when he was the first one to draw from it as he wiped tears away (he’s so adorable!!) – the three spend a few moments blowing their respective noses and wiping their eyes.
Naoki’s mother and sister don’t understand why they broke up (since the boy didn’t tell them Natsuki cheated on him), and Naoki’s mother even tells him that she hopes they’d get back together, whereupon Naoki lets out this sigh and goes all broody asking, “What’s love?” (I burst out at that; it’s very 问世间情为何物，直教人生死相许 if you understand Mandarin – or “What is this thing called love, that compels people to promise their lives to each other til death do them part?”…it’s very Romeo and Juliet, if you ask me.) He reflects that once upon a time, his mother must have loved his father, and yet, they still broke up. (His mother looked a little confused and amused at the same time while she tried her best to parry the conversational sword by telling him she never regretted a single moment in any of her relationships since she threw herself whole-heartedly into it – a point of view I have never quite managed to wholly comprehend either.)
After that, Naoki tells his mother, “…I’ve found it. The girl that Mother described long ago – someone who makes my heart feel at peace. (Both his mother and sister look delighted at this) But she has a dream. I want to be her pillar of strength, but I don’t want to be separated from her, and yet I can’t expect her to abandon her dreams to follow me.” Just as he sinks back into gloominess, his mother plonks a cup of water in front of him and answers, “She’s an important person isn’t she? …Well then, just trust your heart, and follow it. It’s easy to give up and say that love is tiring, but for those who manage to hold on to it in the face of adversity, I think only they (the persistent) will be able to see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (that’s my own translation. Literally she says something like they will see something sparkling and shining). Hasn’t Naoki always believed that you should never give up until after the very last second?” (I think it’s hilarious how the writers are trying to dish out important advice to the audiences via the mouthpiece of their characters)
The camera then pans to Naoki at South Park basketball court again, and he gazes longingly at Riko’s window (I thought it was funny that it was Mai’s silhouette that appeared first).
The drama then moves in, finally, on some proper basketball action scenes, when the basketball season officially begins. Commentators raise the heat by pondering on the kind of performance that JCArcs would give this season, considering that Naoki’s being put out of action, and they have a new member on the team.
More action scenes of Naoki and the rest of the JCArcs on court. After the game, we see Naoki and Natsuki walking alongside each other as they make their way to the traditional celebratory party after the hard fought win to get to the finals. As they are on their way, Natsuki comments that it feels like as though nothing has changed from last year (replay memories of Naoki proposing to her and all their happy moments together) and yet…Naoki smiles ruefully, since he’s actually thinking of Riko, and he halts when he hears the tune that Riko always used to play. Meantime, at the bar/eatery where the party’s being held, rumours are flying around that they will reconcile, since Natsuki has been faithfully following Naoki around everywhere. Shuji, who hears this, immediately thinks of reporting this to Mai (so cute!).
After this, Mai receives a call from Riko, who is calling from a train station, telling Mai that she’ll be back in Tokyo for a short while to help her senior with something, and wanted to stay with Mai for a few days. Mai immediately agrees, but adds that it’s unfortunate that Shuji (and therefore, by implication, Naoki?) would be away for a game. When Riko hangs up and is walking up the stairs with her senior (the guy eating her French toast in the picture above), she hears a familiar voice talking about basketball, and turns around. She catches a glimpse of Naoki and Shuji as they leave the train station (Shuji talking about Mai’s curry again! The boy either loves his curry, or Mai cooks nothing else LOL.) and immediately dashes out after them.
Obvious replay of the first episode where Naoki and Riko meet, really. (Like I said, lots of mirroring and symbolism going on in this episode) Back at the apartment with Mai, Riko finds out that Shuji finally gets to play in a game (for about 5 minutes; Mai manages a delicate balance between being proud of Shuji while knowing he still has far to go) and that the team has done very well this season, especially Naoki, after he recovered from his ankle injury. Riko seems comforted upon knowing that Naoki is working hard at achieving his dream as well, and Mai hands her the schedule for the team’s (final) game. Unfortunately, Riko’s orchestra has an upcoming concert they have to practise for, and she can’t take the time off to go for the game, but wishes aloud that she could cheer alongside Mai.
After the short talk with Mai, Riko visits the South Park basketball court, with the “Love Makes Me Strong” sign that still has Naoki’s message on it. As she stares at the message, good memories of happy times with Naoki wash over her (again with the replay thing! It feels like about 10 minutes in this drama is being taken up by replays, in my opinion).
As Riko leaves the park, she brushes past a familiar shoulder – Coach Kanzaki. The two halt abruptly and turn back to look at each other in belated recognition, and off they go for another chat, where Riko admits to Coach Kanzaki that Naoki’s support has meant a lot to her, because she originally thought she could give up the violin for him (that was how much she liked him) but after she’s been to Karuizawa, she realised all over again exactly how much she loves the violin. The fact that Naoki was able to let her go to pursue her own dreams was something she really appreciated, and Coach Kanzaki confesses as well that he would never have been able to do that; instead he would have asked her to give up her violin and stay by his side.
In response to Riko’s bewilderment, he explains that a buzzer beat is a shot that is made just as the bell buzzes (thus the coined term). HAHA. So cheesy to stick this at the end of the drama, as if audiences would never have figured this out by now. Anyway, I thought Naoki explained what a buzzer beat was to Riko before, but it could just be my memory failing me, which is entirely possible. At the end of their conversation, just as Coach Kanzaki turns away after thanking her for a most delightful catching up session, he comes to a sudden stop (as if an afterthought) and turns back to add, “Since we promised not to lie, I’ll tell you one last thing. Naoki still remembers you.” Riko is left with a mix of emotions – yearning, gladness, sadness? (Keiko does this really well, I have to say. She’s going up on my list of Class A actors/actresses.)
Of course, since the story needs to tie up the plot between Naoki and Natsuki, we see them next, with Natsuki watching Naoki practising his hoops. It’s here that I would like to applaud Saki for doing such a fabulous job, and let me explain why:
Naoki: “Natsuki, you’ll be happy. But the person who will make you happy isn’t me.” Ouch. He goes on to tell her she’s a good girl (double whammy), and that he hopes his image in her heart will always be that of a cool guy, and that it was basically his fault because he was so insistent on acting cool all the time that he lost touch with what she was really looking for – when Natsuki cuts in with a “tsk”-ing sound (it’s meant to show your annoyance, and it does, here).
Natsuki then seemingly reverts back to her “bad girl” side where she tells him, “You’re being overly kind again. It’s because you’re always like that, that you’re always being cheated on. Oh well. She (referring to Riko) won’t do that to you. I was told off by her. She told me that your dream was definitely achievable. So go. Go to her.” When Naoki nods his head, Natsuki adds with a throwaway smile, “Next time, please teach me how to make French toast.”
She turns her back here, and you can see the sorrow in her eyes. “That’s the one thing that, no matter how hard I try, I can never get right.” (What, so now the French toast is becoming a symbol too?) I thought it was really touching because you could tell she really does love him, from this particular scene. When she hears Naoki say, “Okay, if it’s Natsuki, you can definitely do it (referring to the French toast).” a bittersweet smile appears on her face and she replies, “That goes without saying. Ah yes, I was lying just now, when I said I liked you. I don’t think about you anymore.” (This line is killer! Her eyes! Her eyes are totally denying everything she’s telling Naoki! She’s letting him go…at last. About time, girl.)
You can tell where Natsuki’s thoughts deviate from Naoki’s and Riko’s. The latter two think of love as their strength, while Natsuki holds on for pride. Like I said, ah…hubris…she’s holding on right now to it too, denying her last feelings for her ex-boyfriend. As Naoki nods and walks out of the room (I thought it was hilarious how he leaves so abruptly while she stays in the room, but it has to be directed that way), Natsuki finally lets her tears flow.
The tears overwhelms her and she slumps to the floor in distress. As she is crying her heart out, a shadow falls over her, and a familiar voice calls out, “Natsuki. What’s wrong?” LOL and this would be our dearest Toru, of course, since he’s been watching over Natsuki for…oh…I don’t know…3 years now?
I laughed like a hyena at Natsuki’s taken aback expression as she went, “Eh??” At her shocked look, Toru quickly tacks on at the end, “To eat cake together.” ARGH! Great opportunity lost here, Toru! No! I do think they make a sweet couple though, mostly because I think Natsuki is at her most real when she’s together with Toru – she doesn’t feel like she needs to put on a mask, either to be overtly good/bad like she did with Naoki/Yoyogi respectively. In a sense, Toru’s her fulcrum. Since he knows the ‘real’ her, and is still in love with her, I really wish she’d give him a chance. I think she’d find herself surprisingly blissful if she did, since Toru’s a great catch (team captain and star shooter and all that).
There’s a really cute moment after this whole emotionally draining scene for Natsuki, with Shuji and Mai. Mai’s cooking her Katsu-don (fried pork with rice) for Shuji, so that their team will win the game (since “Katsu” sounds very similar to win in Japanese). Shuji watches her and at the same time is practising his speech – he wants to propose to Mai that if they win the game, she’d marry him (similar to Naoki and Natsuki in Ep1) but at the same time, he’s afraid to jinx it since Naoki did so badly with Natsuki last year! This moment was soooo cute. As they eat, Mai tells him, “If you win…I’ll marry you.” Shuji almost chokes on his food, and his wide-eyed look was supremely mirth-inducing. I probably almost fell off my bed laughing at this point.
I have to fast-forward things a little, since I’m running out of space and time. Coach Kanzaki and Naoki are on their daily run, and Kanzaki tells Naoki not to push it too much since the final match was approaching. Naoki tells Kanzaki, in turn, that he was going to Karuizawa to fetch Riko, which Kanzaki approves of. Naoki leaves the train station holding a sunflower, and makes his way to Riko’s dorm, only to be told that she wasn’t in since she was in practice for the upcoming concert. The landlady praises Riko for being so capable, at such a young age, to participate in such a large-scale concert, thus making Naoki feel guilty for coming all the way out here to bring her to watch him play when she needed to be focused on her concert practices. He leaves the sunflower with her landlady, instructing her to give it to Riko, only telling her that it was from “a fan”.
There’s a man to man bonding session at South Park basketball court where Naoki and Shuji start shooting hoops and exchanging words of worry and encouragement (Naoki will continue to strive to achieve his dream), and then the scene cuts to and fro between the JCArcs’ match and Riko’s violin practice. There’s a really funny bit before the match starts, where a row of school girls, along with Naoki’s sister, file in behind Mai, and recognise her as that older woman who was ragging Shuji out for his date with the school girls the other time. Then Naoki’s older sister, and her husband (the bookstore owner) arrives, and he immediately picks out Mai as well. The poor girl’s just like, “…All the people you don’t want to meet…”, which was a super laugh out loud moment. Then the match starts, and Riko’s still in practice so audiences agonise over that…for about 10 seconds. Until Riko blanks out, thinking about Naoki’s upcoming game, during rehearsal.
Mr Conductor asks, “Do you love him?” and Riko replies, “Yes. I do.” and Mr Conductor states firmly. “It’s alright. Love makes one strong.” (HOW DO THEY COME UP WITH CHEESY LINES LIKE THIS?! On the other hand, it’s actually strangely comforting…even if it’s a line they throw at you about 10,000 times in this last episode.) Riko thanks Mr Conductor and immediately sets off for Tokyo at a run.
Naoki manages to throw in a shot while a player from the opposing team fouls him – which means he has an extra chance to gain points by throwing in a foul shot.
Her nod of support gives Naoki strength, and he mutters to himself, “I’m strong, I’m strong.” (which, frankly, looks a little psychotic to me, but I talk to myself all the time so I shouldn’t complain really) before he throws the ball – and makes a perfect shot. Everyone, including Mai and Naoki’s entire family, squeal, jump up and down delightedly and hug each other fervently. With seconds left on the clock, Yoyogi intercepts an opponent’s pass, and throws it towards Naoki, who…
The whole team goes insane, cheering, and the crowd goes wild. As they exchange sweaty hugs, and manly grunts of victory, throwing Coach Kanzaki and Naoki in the air, Naoki looks over to Riko, and leaves the team as soon as he can, to run up to her.
At the end, as they pull apart, they lean their foreheads against each other and smile blissfully. Finito.
I thought the ending was sweet, if a tad overly so. I’m a little bereft now that it’s finally all over, even though I pretty much expected the ending. There are some people who may find this drama a little boring, since…well…nothing terribly antagonistic ever happens, but for a Japanese drama, this is actually pretty unusual. Japanese people are big on open endings. I’m not sure if they’ll ever do a special, but if they do, I don’t know what avenue they’ll explore, since they’ve pretty much tied everything up – Toru with Natsuki (I hope!), Shuji and Mai, and Naoki and Riko.
…I have a big problem. Now what am I going to watch?!
I’ve been terribly busy this week catching up on YEH’s new drama, Take Care of the Young Lady (10 episodes! In a week!) so I haven’t exactly had time to pen down any thoughts, but thought I’d better make some time for the latest episode of Buzzer Beat. Since my internet is fail, which equates to downloading at the pace of a snail, I only just finished watching the subbed version of it on Friday, although I know raws have been out since Tuesday morning (it’s like, if my internet worked any faster it would curl up and die…). Thanks to spoilers from various sources, I’ve also managed to figure out most of what happened even before watching it, but this did not stop my heart from breaking right at the end, when they both do the right thing and walk away from each other in tears!
So recapping from the end of the last episode, with Riko being hugged by Coach Kanzaki, and Naoki on his way to Riko’s apartment with a sunflower…
Naoki follows him and what follows is both the cutest and sweetest confrontation between two love rivals that I’ve ever seen:
The symbolism of the transferring ball from Coach Kanzaki to Naoki here is strangely paternal and at the same time, an acknowledgment of Naoki’s “win” over Kanzaki in gaining the fair lady’s heart (although to be honest, since Riko had been, metaphorically speaking, in Naoki’s court the whole time, it wasn’t exactly a gargantuan task).
See, I always knew I liked the scriptwriters of Buzzer Beat for a good reason (okay, so some people will say this script is boring since everything’s progressing so smoothly…which is rare in a drama! It’s about time people started writing things that don’t frustrate me at every corner, which I will angst about in my review of MFL, as much as I love YEH) and the best thing here is that, so far, I like and/or understand/empathise with most of the characters (even the crazy bitch-ex-girlfriend, since I can tell she loves him in her own way, and is rather human with the way she expresses it). I especially love Coach Kanzaki for being able to tell that Riko and Naoki really, truly love each other, and thus, even as he lets go, he issues Naoki a (sort of embedded) warning not to break Riko’s heart. (Although, as much as I love Coach Kanzaki, I love the fact that Naoki and Riko are finally free from that particular burden!)
As Naoki stands in the basketball court at South Park, he looks towards Riko’s window, only to see her staring down back at him. There’s a rather beatific smile on her face (she’s never looked so at peace with herself before in the show, which, I guess, goes to show that the cry she had on Coach Kanzaki’s shoulder was cathartic).
Riko starts off with, “I felt lonely. I knew nothing about the injury on your leg, and the fact that it was so serious you might need surgery.” Puzzled, Naoki asks, “How did you know?” to which Riko replies, “You don’t have to know. I won’t tell you.” There’s a momentary pause, and then she looks up and asks in concern, “Are you okay?” Naoki nods, answering, “Mm. Actually, I just didn’t want you to worry.” To which, Riko nods and gives an understanding sort of smile. Naoki: “Men…don’t like to expose their vulnerable (actually here he says lame, but I thought vulnerable would sound better in the context) sides in front of the woman they like.” (HAH. Excuses. Men.) To which Riko gives an (understandingly) feminine snort (I like to think, of disbelief) as she smiles and says, “Ah, is that so? How strange.”
And since this is turning out to be some major fessing-up session, Naoki in turn tells Riko, “Actually, I also felt lonely, since Riko, you didn’t tell me about how you lost your violin job.” There’s a LOL moment here as Riko widens her eyes and immediately says, “Ah, I just didn’t want you to worry…” and Naoki perches on the couch comfortably as he goes, “You see?” (Man, I hate it when people say that, but since I am guilty of throwing it out myself rather smugly on occasion, I can completely understand where they’re coming from.) It is Riko’s turn then to apologise, and after she does, Naoki reaches behind him and pulls out…
Naoki then tells Riko, “The only person in my heart is Riko, so, please, have faith in me. Okay?” And Riko nods firmly and gives him her trademark smile. So, this particular scene played out really well and had a happy ending as I’d hoped it would, which made me delirious with joy. For about 7 minutes, anyway, since this is how long the entire thing lasted.
The next scene, unfortunately, stars our favourite bad girl, Natsuki. What happens is that during practice, as Naoki is running to grab the basketball, his ankle gives out and he crashes to the floor grunting and sweating in pain, clutching his ankle. The camera then pans to the hospital and we see Natsuki and Naoki in the doctor’s office. The doctor advises Naoki to go for surgery in order to cure his ankle once and for all, telling him he should recover in time for the later half of the season and wouldn’t miss the season entirely.
As Natsuki walks out of the doctor’s office, Naoki scrambling behind to follow her on crutches, Naoki asks her, “Why did you make the decision for me?” Natsuki snaps back, “If this happens again in a match, can you imagine the trouble it would bring to the team? I know this season is important to you, but because it is, you can’t go out fighting in your current condition.” She adds, “Sorry. If I were by your side, I would have stepped in to help you make the decision earlier.” And Naoki watches her back as she walks away again. I have to say, no matter how much of a bitch Natsuki is, she’s terribly responsible and capable, and I can see why she rose so fast in the ranks of the company. However, the woman also does emotional blackmail really well, and I can almost see the guilt welling in Naoki as he realises he should have taken the surgery earlier, if only for his team-mates. Still, here you can see genuine concern for Naoki in Natsuki’s eyes, once again making the point that in her own selfish way, she does love the boy (not that we really care, but oh well, good try anyway scriptwriters).
In the meantime, good news descends for Riko, who finally picked up that unknown number that she keeps receiving on her phone. Turns out, of course, that the guest who reprimanded her in the lounge in the previous episode is actually the Director of a company that drafts and operates concerts (as far as I can tell, it seems akin to some concert-specific event management company).
Ryusuke then tells her, “Can you give me your next week?” To which Riko is flabbergasted, until Ryusuke explains, “In a week’s time, we have an opening for a violinist in one of our concerts. We can consider you for the position, depending on the amount of effort you invest in the next week.” As Riko picks up the brochure they give her, he ends off with, “Give it some thought, and then call us.” Riko can’t believe her luck in this turn of events, and as she leaves, she dials Naoki, who is lounging in the boys’ locker room, and tells him everything that has happened. Naoki is delighted for Riko, and Riko tells him, “This is all thanks to Naoki. You were the one who told me, ‘Someone will always listen to you.'” and Naoki replies, “Work hard, okay?” And as he sets down the phone, Naoki lifts his injured ankle, grimacing.
Upon seeing his despondence at home, Naoki’s mother decides that she will go watch his basketball matches when he recovers from the surgery, which she previously hadn’t due to a superstition that if she goes she would cause him to lose his match (which he had in the high school matches that she goes to watch. It’s a kind of silly superstition, but I can see where she’s coming from, because I’ve felt like that before, which is why I adamantly refuse to take sides in a match). Naoki is cheered by this, and the camera snaps to Naoki and Riko sitting by the river at night. (What I don’t quite understand is how Naoki and Riko managed to get there without Naoki giving away the fact that he was on crutches and would definitely be going for surgery – where the hell did he hide them and how did he get there if it wasn’t on crutches since he can’t walk by himself?! …okay, okay, yes, I get it, it’s called suspension of disbelief.)
Riko tells him that practice is hard, and that she gets very depressed thinking that she’s not very good since her bad habits are picked on every day. She has the additional stress of knowing that she hasn’t been officially selected to fill in the role yet either, and then she decides to confess to Naoki that she originally planned on going back home and giving up violin since she hasn’t had a real job in the two years since she’s graduated (this just gets worse and worse, woman you are not looking at your boy and his eyes properly because he’s becoming more and more worried for you and thus refusing to tell you about his ankle injury!) but decided she would press on a little more. Naoki suppresses his own worries and tells her, “Even if there is only a single ray of hope, please work hard.” Riko nods and adds, “And you are by my side.”
What I find important is that all the underlying things that aren’t being said by Naoki here…things that I think undermine Riko’s trust and faith in him. Not very smart of the boy, since her faith and all that has already been eroded from all the little manipulations Natsuki has pulled. Still, it’s very consistent with his character, so I can’t fault the scriptwriters, director OR actor. Can only gnaw on my fist, shake it at the screen and go, “Naoki, you FOOL!”
He then starts telling Yoyogi about his team-mates’ idiosyncrasies during the games, and tells Yoyogi to trust them more. In return, Yoyogi asks, “Why are you telling me all this?” Naoki replies, “Because to win, the Arcs need you. So please, trust your team-mates more.” You can tell this actually moves Yoyogi, perhaps because he’s always been slated as an outsider of the team, and now to have a pillar of the team tell him that he is needed for the team to go all the way to success…not to mention all the emotional baggage and rivalry between them; it probably really hits home for Yoyogi because the man actually says, as Naoki is leaving, “Your ankle injury isn’t a big deal right? So stop nagging here. Just get better sooner and come back.” (Kaneko is really improving in his acting, because he’s starting to look less stiff in his later scenes, and it comes out really well here because there’s a careful balance of rivalry and yet camaraderie in his words and in his facial expression. You can tell he’s started to convert to being a real part of the team, and is starting to trust in Naoki, treating him like a comrade)
Naoki is in turn touched by this, as he retorts, “You’d better play well before I return.” and smiles. As he is really about to leave (I almost wish he would leave already, there’s way too much “about to leave” bits here), the whole manly-bond-touching-scene is taken in by the rest of his crazy team-mates, who cheer and whoop at the sight.
With the support of his whole team behind him, Naoki leaves in peace for the surgery. This whole scene was really quite heartwarming (oh, manly love!) and I’m quite glad Naoki and Yoyogi seem to be over Natsuki now (since the woman is really not worth fighting over, in my opinion). At the end, Yoyogi smiles and and sighs, “He’s really a good guy.” after which he casually throws a ball that goes into the hoop (the first one he’s thrown recently that’s gone in!…symbolism here, anyone?).
Riko reaches home and shares her good news with Mai, and both of them squeal in delight. Mai is genuinely delighted for Riko, as good friends are wont to be, but realises that Riko doesn’t know that Naoki is in surgery, so of course, Mai spills the beans about everything.
Natsuki asks Naoki if there’s anything he wants so she can buy it for him (taking on responsibilities Riko should have been taking!) and when he replies in the negative, she tells him, “Then I’ll go home. Oh, but before I do…” and she pulls out a bag with (as far as I can tell) a couple of computer games (I gather they’re the latest editions from what Naoki says). As Natsuki makes to leave, Naoki calls out, “Thank you. If not for Natsuki, I would not have had the determination to go through with the surgery. I’m feeling a little sleepy now.” When Riko hears this, she’s even more dismayed than when she first saw Natsuki in the room. Our dear boy is always honest with the wrong person at the wrong moments. So, anyway, Natsuki rushes over to Naoki’s side to pull the blankets over him.
Unfortunately, as they come fully into the room and Natsuki looks up, she spots Riko peering into the room, which immediately spurs her (again!) into action (I don’t quite know why she doesn’t take no for an answer, but I suppose it’s the same reason why she’s so successful at work). She apologises to Naoki’s mother, bowing, “It’s all because I broke up with Naoki so rashly. I didn’t take good care of him…so…I shouldn’t have broken up with him.” At this point Riko, who had been about to leave, immediately comes back and leans in to eavesdrop (and I would scold her for this, except I would probably do the same in her shoes).
Of course, Naoki’s mother being the soft-hearted creature she is (the whole family faults on the side of being too nice and gentle) immediately steps up to comfort Natsuki and rubs her back in concern. Meanwhile, Riko’s face grows increasingly despondent. Natsuki seemingly rallies and smiles through her tears saying, “I will stay by his side and protect him. One day, he will need me.” and Naoki’s mother replies, “Indeed. I’m on your side.” (Which is possibly the worst comment one’s mother can make in front of one’s new and ex-girlfriends! Meanwhile Naoki is happily SNOOZING through all this unfolding drama?! I want to knock the boy out myself – through traditional means.) Riko leaves in grief as Naoki’s mother embraces Natsuki, and Natsuki’s eyes reveal a hint of insecurity – she’s not quite sure if she’s done the right thing, but she’s done it. (Man I can anticipate that this is going to lead to some awkwardness, to say the least, when Naoki finally gets around to introducing Riko to his family.) As Riko is on her way home, she passes by the empty basketball court, looks up and sees the sign “Love Makes Me Strong” (which has been a running motto throughout the show) and scrunches her brows further. (Lots of dramatic irony and symbolism in this episode, which I am more or less loving.)
“Dear Riko,” says Naoki’s text message, “Congratulations on passing the audition! I’m as happy for you as I would have felt if it was something I was doing. Perhaps you’re still in practice now, but I just wanted to tell you…Actually, I had surgery on my ankle today. I didn’t want you to worry about me at this important point in time, so I could only tell you after the fact, but everything went smoothly and the operation was a success. From now on, all that is left is recovery. I won’t be able to participate in matches for now, I would really like you to see me in a match soon, but due to this period that I’ve been given to rest and recuperate, I’m able to view the team’s strengths and weaknesses through new eyes. I think this is also a kind of reward. So, don’t worry about me. I’m looking forward to your concert, please work hard.” (In the meantime they have flashes of Riko’s practice, Naoki sitting on the bench cheering his team-mates during practice, Natsuki looking at Naoki fondly, and Toru looking, in turn, at Natsuki…ARG! The love triangle!…that, well, doesn’t technically exist anymore since Naoki’s made it very clear to Natsuki that he’s moved on, the good boy.)
When Riko sees the text message, she smiles, and replies, “Naoki. Thank you. Is your ankle alright? Don’t force yourself too much. I will work doubly hard from tomorrow onwards, I love you.”
As Riko is tuning her violin, she pauses to look up into the audience. At first, she’s a little disappointed she can’t see Naoki at all. Then, the heavy double doors swing open, and…
Riko tells Naoki, “Just now, I had an offer from the Director to join the leading orchestra for his company; it’s an orchestra that gathers youthful talents from Karuizawa.” Naoki, “Isn’t that great?” Riko, “Yeah, but if I go, it’ll be really hard. I’ll have to practise 10 hours a day, and there will be slated concerts to perform at, and… (at this point she glances over at Naoki before looking away) if I accept the offer, I’ll have to go to Karuizawa for a year, next week.”
Naoki, “…Next week?”
Riko turns back to Naoki and offers him a brilliant smile, “That’s why I’m not going. If I go, I won’t be able to see you, and I won’t be able to support you at your matches.” Naoki tries to protest with a, “But…” Riko cuts in, “I want to remain by Naoki’s side. I want to stay in the place closest to you. I don’t want to be apart from you.” It’s Naoki’s turn to be worried, as he watches Riko go on about how wonderful it is to play in the orchestra, even if only for one day, under a famous conductor, while letting Naoki hear her playing. Riko finishes with, “I’m happy enough, like this. From now on, I will remain by Naoki’s side, and continue working hard, and auditioning for more violin positions, and working hard at my violin.”
Naoki can only nod at this point and smile encouragingly back at her, but of course, everyone can sense here that he’s feeling very uneasy about her decision to (sort of) give up her dream to follow him (in a way). As Riko gets called back in by the Director’s assistant, Naoki watches her go and you can almost follow his thought processes here as he thinks about all the things that Riko hasn’t said. (The boy’s quite perceptive when he wants to be!) Back at the basketball court, he stands there with a ball under his arm, gazing into air (I think at the same signboard that says, Love Makes Me Strong)…so we all know what’s going to happen next, don’t we?
Naoki admits that it was Riko who had changed him, when he met her at his lowest point in life, and she supported him and his dreams. “Which is why…(he takes a deep breath)…I wish for you to go to Karuizawa. I hope that Riko will also be able to pursue her own dreams.” When Riko stands up in protest and says, “I don’t want to split up with Naoki – ” He steps forth and pulls her into his arms, telling her, “It will be fine. Even if we are apart, I will always be your strongest armour, because I am your number one fan. Let’s work hard together. Although we are at the age where we can’t live on dreams alone, and it’s about time to face reality, but the two of us, let’s never give up even at the very last second, and work hard together.” (This all sounds very awkward in English but is very heartmelting in Japanese!) Poor Riko is about to weep buckets of tears now, and Naoki pats her gently on the head. “Go to Karuizawa.”
Turns out the girl collected enough stickers to redeem a cup for him and wanted to give it to him tonight to celebrate her concert. Riko adds wryly, “If I’d known you were going to say all that, I would’ve prepared a cooler present for you tonight.” Naoki smiles, “I’m glad.” Riko nods and replies, “You’re right. Until the very last second of the very last second, we shouldn’t give up. It’s a promise I made with you.” Naoki: “Even if we’re not together, just thinking of you makes me braver.” With tear trail marks showing clearly against her cheek, Riko tells Naoki, “Me too. Thinking of you makes me stronger.”
Naoki nods and Riko finishes off with a smile saying, “Let’s not meet any more. If we meet again, it will only make the parting harder to bear. Goodbye.” Naoki, “Goodbye.” (Argh! This is the part from the teaser! The reason why the sadness is compounded here is because they use the formal version of “Goodbye” in Japanese i.e. sayonara which most people don’t use unless it’s a very formal or significant occasion…in other words, an official goodbye. It feels like they’re biding each other farewell forever!…well, but since it’s a drama, they still have one episode left to ties things up properly.)
And the episode ends off Riko crying as she walks away from Naoki (a scene which Keiko does really well you almost can see her heart breaking) and Naoki follows her out the court and looks at her retreating back (here you can see he almost regrets saying what he said, and he opens his mouth to call out to her, but he doesn’t. VERY WELL DONE YAMAPI! I knew there was a reason I liked you so much) and he recollects moments of them being together in happier times (their first meeting, the sparklers, their first kiss, her confession, her waiting in the rain for him, her smile as she learns how to play basketball for the first time) and tears well up in his eyes before he drops his head and turns away.
Next is the last episode and the special’s going to be 75 minutes long apparently. (I think the last episode and the special will be 2 different episodes because that’s how it’s usually done, but I could be wrong.) There are quite a few loose threads to wrap up i.e. the whole Natsuki thing, and of course, if Riko will be able to come support Naoki in his most important match (which I think she will) and whether he will introduce her to his family (please do!) and what happens to poor Toru who still appears to be pining over Natsuki. Sadly, there are no cute Mai and Shuji moments in this episode, but there are enough tension-filled moments to make you forget that. While I’m looking forward to the last episode, I’m also a bit reluctant for the drama to end, since it’s been a great 11 weeks. I’m probably going to have to look for something new to stoop the gap. If you have any dramas you’d like to recommend, now’s the time!
The cliffhanger ending in Episode 8 left me seriously unhappy, mostly because I didn’t like Naoki’s wishy-washiness (please, none of that namby-pamby “I can’t make up my mind between my first love and this one” nonsense for me) and how it looked like he was actually going to tell Natsuki something like, “I can’t forget you too…” but fortunately the scriptwriters for Buzzer Beat must think along the same lines as me, because Episode 9 was rescued by Naoki’s steadfastness!
The beginning of the episode replays the end of 8 (of course) and continues with Naoki pulling out of Natsuki’s grip (yes! there is a scriptwriter who knows what they’re doing!) and then asking her, “What’s wrong? I still have an appointment with a friend tonight, so I have to go. What’s wrong?” so of course Natsuki does her whole pseudo-innocent-pained face and shakes her head and tells him, “Nothing’s wrong. Just go.” and she leaves with his umbrella.
So Naoki then makes his way to Riko in the rain (and the poor girl is still waiting! …talk about dedication.) and it turns out Riko’s not leaving for her old home that night after all, since she wanted so desperately to see Naoki. (Cute moments here where he’s drying off in her home and realises she was holding on to the plastic bag with the terribly made French toast, and he teases her by picking it up and refusing to return it to her. Very Cute Naoki!)
…Up until this moment, I thought to myself, Oh good, Naoki’s being steadfast, and Riko managed to hold on and wait for him, so it wasn’t going to be one of those dramatic “Oh I missed you by half a second” moments – although I admit to snorting at the dramatic irony of Riko telling Naoki, “I was afraid you weren’t going to show up, because you would meet someone else you liked on the way and realise you don’t like me that much, after all.” and all Naoki says is, “Sorry I made you worry.” But, since this is a shoujo drama, and the bad person must, after all, be bad, Natsuki ends up calling Riko and telling her, “Is Naoki meeting up with you? He said he was meeting a friend. [Okay, first arrow here already. Like, friend. Huh. Right.] I’m really sorry he was late. I was caught in the rain and didn’t have an umbrella so he ran up to me and insisted on giving me his umbrella. If he was late, it’s all my fault and I apologise so please don’t blame him.” Oooooh the bitch! Second arrow, and she draws blood! Although technically, she isn’t lying, so it’s also partially Naoki’s fault for not telling Riko anything. Instead he told her practice ended late and now she finds out it’s not true! Riko walks out and tells Naoki it’s better if he heads home for a hot shower so that his health isn’t compromised since he was running in the rain, and Naoki leaves reluctantly.
So, my predictions (they’re going to break up! ..or at least have a fight) looked like they were, more or less, about to come true, but to a certain extent, it was less heartrending than I thought it was going to be, since Naoki’s moments of “wavering” were short-lived, and he was very honest about who and what he was thinking about – one of my favourite things in any person.
Back to what happened: On one hand, Riko heads home and enjoys being with her family (and eating apparently, since she put on 1.5kg – a girl after my own heart!); on the other, Mai and Shuji (yay!) finally tell Utsunomiya Toru (who is played by Nagai Masaru) that they are dating (originally Mai was interested in Toru, and it seemed Toru was about to return her interest but nooo he tells her he’s actually been in love for a long time with another girl, but she has a boyfriend and it’s about time that he gives up – NOW, I GIVE YOU THREE GUESSES AS TO WHO THE GIRL IS!!!!! ….GIVE UP!? It’s Natsuki! Definitely Natsuki!!! Ahem. Watch and finnnnddd outttt).
At Riko’s old home, her mother tells her, “Your father and I think it’s about time that you give up your violin. It’s been two years since you’ve graduated but you haven’t been able to find a proper job. Please. Your father’s retiring next year. Will you move back home here before it’s too late? You’ll be able to get a job here easily. Please.” and Riko looks at her parents, nods dutifully and replies, “I’ll think about it.” before taking a gulp of water (or whatever liquid it is she has in her cup, for all I know it could just be alcohol which, I think, is what she needs). Riko heads back to (I assume it is) Tokyo and heads for the bookstore where she looks for Mai so that the two can go off and have an awesome buddy dinner together (oh, I love friends). At the bookstore however, she meets Natsuki, who, while casually browsing some books on a shelf, asks, “How’s Coach? Oh. Don’t tell me. You’re cheating on him, aren’t you?” At Riko’s gasp, Natsuki swings around and says, “With Naoki, right?” She then goes on to belittle their relationship by telling Riko, “Did you know he has an ankle injury and refuses to go for surgery? You don’t, right? It’s the important things he doesn’t tell you. You’re not important to him. All you have going for you is the fact that the both of you lick each other’s wounds, and make each other feel better. He doesn’t have to feel inferior when he’s in your company.” (OOOooohhhh, I have no words to describe this woman, but man, I have to give the scriptwriter a prize. Great speech.) Riko is taken aback and at first tries to defend herself, and asks Natsuki, “What is the purpose of you telling me this?” Natsuki: “I don’t like people like you, who only talk about your dreams and don’t live up to reality.”
Mai then arrives at the scene, and becomes all outraged on Riko’s behalf, “Why don’t you tell Naoki this yourself? Why did you come here to look for Riko and tell her all these?” Natsuki: “I will.” Mai becomes even more furious, but then Riko interrupts: “I think you may be right, but I can’t forgive you for not believing in Naoki’s dream.” and all Natsuki does is smile at her and go, “You’re…so gentle. So kind. Isn’t that great?” … OHHHhhhhhhh.
(I discover in this episode that Mai is the epitome of what a good girl friend is meant to be, and salute Shihori for being able to pull it all off so naturally)
That night, Shuji comes back home and tells Mai (and unintentionally, Riko) that Naoki and Yoyogi fought in the dressing room over Natsuki, which of course, just makes Riko feel worse. Mai, being Mai, immediately shoves Shuji into the cupboard and tells him not to come out until she finishes dinner (oh, Mai!…excuse the pun) and becomes all awkward as Riko stares at her phone morosely when Naoki sends her a text message telling her he can’t come see her tonight.
In the morning, Riko hears the sounds of a dribbling basketball, pulls open her window and peers out to find Naoki standing, waiting for her in their usual basketball court.
She goes down to see him, and when they meet, he said, “Sorry I couldn’t see you last night. I was talking to Toru.” …which is, I think, the last straw for Riko. She turns around and tells him, “Why do you gloss it over like that?” Naoki: “What do you mean?” Riko: “Why do you gloss it over like that?” Naoki: “Eh?” Riko: “That night when it was raining…it was Natsuki you were with. Yesterday, you got into a fight, because of Natsuki. I know it all. All your lies. Why did you lie?” Naoki: “I didn’t mean to lie. I just didn’t want you to get the wrong idea.” (Yeah, dude, that’s what they all say)
While Riko waits for a phone call from Naoki (that never happens), she lets Mai know that she’s thinking of going home for good and giving up the violin. Mai’s woebegone expression was terribly heartwarming. (Meanwhile poor Riko doesn’t realise that the customer who critiqued her so seriously at her last performance in the lounge and caused her to lose her job is now searching for her because he actually didn’t mean to make her lose her job; rather he wanted her to improve i.e. so I get the vibe that it means he thinks she’s a talent and wants to make her perform to her full potential)
Teaser for Episode 10 (which is, by the way, the last episode, if you are able to read Chinese or Japanese) shows: both Riko and Naoki in formal suits saying “Goodbye” in Japanese, Riko doing lots of running, Naoki going into surgery while Natsuki looks on…
and I wonder how they will end it off, seeing as how they only have about 45 mins to wrap up the love …quadrangle! I had mixed feelings about this episode, and unfortunately, not enough Mai & Shuji moments to sustain me, although I squeal whenever they appear simply because they’re so funny. The loyalty here is good and at least Naoki, surprisingly, didn’t really waver when Natsuki re-confessed to him (and I thought they would make him but fortunately Bacchus appears to be on my side at least). Like I said, I can’t stand being wishy-washy and namby-pamby, so Naoki was resurrected in my good graces (which he had fallen from at the end of Ep 8 and in the beginning of 9). I’m rather skeptical at what will happen with the Kanzaki and Riko hugging scene (will Naoki see it and think Riko’s cheating on him??? Replay of Natsuki?? Will Kanzaki try forcing a kiss??? Is the goodbye scene they show them saying goodbye to each other forever???) …and so the questions go…but so far, I’ve really enjoyed it, and the scriptwriters I think have done a really good job in making me not hate the drama (I usually tend to drop dramas when I hit a particular scene or episode I don’t like i.e. Kami no Shizuku even though I absolutely adore Kame) so I’m looking forward to how they will wrap it all up.
What do you think?
[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?
Before I watched Otomen, I was actually pining every week over the next episode of Buzzer Beat, a Japanese drama starring Yamapi (or Tomohisa Yamashita, as his full name is) and Keiko Kitagawa (the violinist in the show), so I thought I’d share a few thoughts about it, especially about what happened in the last episode. (Okay, yes, I know, yet another shoujo drama when I professed to not particularly like shoujo dramas and the such! But, really, it was Yamapi. How could I have resisted?!)
I admit I started watching it only for Yamapi, but by the end of the first episode, the whole cast had managed to grow on me. The production team managed to pull together quite a tight cast, with solid acting chops except…well…except Yamapi and the bad guy, Kaneko Nobuaki (金子ノブアキ) as Yoyogi Ren. I admit wishing that Kame or Ikuta Toma, both of whom I really like and think can act really well, could be just as lucky. They don’t let Ikuta debut, and Kame always gets stuck with some annoying actress in his dramas that somehow prevent me from reaching the end! Even though I thought he acted really well in Kami no Shizuku…pity…I think I only got to the 4th episode before the lead actress really just made me want to tear my hair out…
Back to Buzzer Beat. As much as I love Yamapi, I honestly wish they could take him out of the brooding stereotype (he’s done that for the past… what, 3 or 4 dramas?) since I think he could do so much better if he wasn’t trying to be frowning all the time (even though he looks really hot when he’s frowning but STILL). Kaneko looks kind of stiff when he’s acting as well, but other than the two of them, I have no complaints about the acting for the rest of the cast (a rare thing when it comes to me; I’m very particular about acting, must come from my theatre background). In fact, I love Keiko and Kanjiya Shihori, who acts as Ebina Mai (the flutist), because they have such good onscreen chemistry. (Actually most of the cast have really good online chemistry, except Kaneko…and Yamapi at moments. Lucky Yamapi’s moments don’t last!)
There are quite a few sites with detailed episode guides for Eps 1 – 7 so I don’t think I’ll go too much into detail, but so far the storyline has been quite believable and quite sweet. The cinematographic style is reminiscent of Jdoramas like Engine, Hero, and Pride (okay, I believe you note a similarity = Takuya Kimura dramas…) rather than the recent spate of crack idol dramas like HanaKimi, Yukan Club, and Otomen, so it follows a more realistic line of filming (which I am all for). Great lighting, and I have no arguments with the dialogue (especially whoever wrote Mai…she is hilarious, one of my favourite characters. Followed closely by Shuji). All in all, I highly recommend this drama if you’re looking for some great romance to follow (plus that hot kiss in Episode 7 is purely mind-blowing).
I’m still waiting for Episode 8 to finish downloading…Yes, I’m odd like that. I know the English subs for Ep 8 are out, but insist on waiting for my Chinese subbed version to finish downloading before I watch it, simply because. Anyway it promises to be good (since they ended on the kiss), but I really hope (again) that this drama doesn’t go the way of other shoujo dramas where they decide to end things on an open note (what is it with Japanese and open-ended endings??? Do they not understand the word “closure”?? I always end up stewing over their damn dramas for weeks trying to write my own ending!)
Recommended: Watch for the great acting, and good chemistry between the onscreen characters. There’s plenty of comic relief, and Shuji and Mai are addictive. The love story between Riko and Naoki is also layered (and I like my stories layered) so it makes it so much more meaningful, and they’re both very likeable protagonists, so well-worth supporting in my opinion.
The drama airs every Monday 21:00 on Fuji TV and the drama theme song is called Ichibutozenbu by B’z. Unfortunately, my Chinese subs only come out Tuesday night (if I’m lucky) or Wednesday night (which is more usually the case; the subtitlers have been unusually fast this week, which I can only attribute to the power of the kiss; must have made them want to find out what happened faster and then made them want to disseminate the information for fans to agonise over and analyse). Well, when I finish my Ep 8 downloads, I’ll be sure to share whatever insights I might have. (Speaking of which, I do actually intend to support these dramas I write about, and buy their original DVDs; downloading is just a way for me get the episodes right away…after which I promise to delete them and buy the originals, so please everyone support these dramas by doing the same okay? I don’t want them to run out of money and stop producing Jodramas. I hear some of the entertainment industries in Asia are in the red.)
P.S. Episode 8 aired with a rating of 17.5 percent in Kanto, so it must mean something…………….