Sunday, September 23, 2012

Review of Soumatou Kabushikigaisha Ep 2

Tsutsumi Tomoki (Kashiwabara Shuji), a salaryman, has a beautiful wife Riho (Matsumoto Rio) who's about to give birth to their first child and leads a happy life. However, a slip-up after a company dinner causes his life to begin its downward spiral...

After the dinner with his colleagues, Tomoki is approached by Sayaka (Tejima Yu), a new part-time worker at his department, who tries to seduce him and go drinking with her. Giving in to temptation while in his slightly tipsy state, he ends up sleeping with her and mistakenly thinks that this is a one-night stand where he can just walk away without having to bear any responsibility. However, Sayaka has a different agenda on her mind and immediately pesters Tomoki to divorce Riho. Tomoki thinks that she is just joking but starts to feel that she means business becaus Sayaka threatens to do something drastic if he doesn't do her bidding.

When Tomoki gets home, he finds Riho still waiting for him and tries to conceal his uneasiness and what he had done earlier especially when Sayaka sends messages to remind Tomoki of what he has to do. The next day, Tomoki is aghast to find that his work email is flooded with harrassment emails from Sayaka and is on tenterhooks all day as to how to get himself out of his mess. He tries to avoid Sayaka but she keeps looking at him intently with a thoughtful expression.

That evening, Tomoki decides to go for a drink at a pub because he had been under so much stress during the day. However, he sees that the signage of the pub is changed and wonders what's wrong before he suddenly finds himself at the entrance of Soumatou Kabushikigaisha. Just as he is wondering what happened, Kaminuma invites him in and explains how the whole system works. Tomoki watches his life videos from the beginning without paying too much attention but he suddenly sits up and takes notice at something which happened when he was in senior high school.

Back then, he was constantly pestered by a female schoolmate by the name of Hasegawa Masami who didn't look too attractive but put in a lot of effort to convince Tomoki that she had true feelings for him. However, Tomoki regarded Hasegawa as a nuisance and would openly ridicule and reject her in front of others. He even mocked her for not thinking properly and he would never accept someone who looked like the way she did. Nonetheless, Hasegawa kept trying to convey her feelings to Tomoki and even declared openly that Tomoki and her were meant to be together despite his strong insistence that nothing would ever materialise between them. As a result of Hasegawa's actions, this made Tomoki freak out and he couldn't wait to get away from Hasegawa whenever he saw her, much to her disappointment.

Remembering this episode back in school, Tomoki is surprised to see that a signature gesture of Hasegawa seems to be the same as Sayaka i.e. tucking her hair behind her ears and wonders if they are the same person. He wonders if Sayaka had deliberately gone through plastic surgery and approached him deliberately as a way to get back at him for what he did during their high school days. As he has no way of stopping Sayaka's stalker tactics nor confirm Sayaka's true identity, Tomoki sets out to prove whether his theory holds true but unfortunately, he is not making a lot of headway. Out of desperation, he returns to Soumatou Kabushikigaisha and asks Kaminuma if he can watch the videos of Hasegawa's life. Given that Hasegawa was a part of Tomoki's life, Kaminuma agrees to the request readily.

Tomoki starts watching Hasegawa's videos from the age of 16 and sees from her viewpoint how badly he had treated her in the past and how determined she was to make Tomoki hers. However, it further freaks Tomoki out that she had been stalking him during their schooling years and she even took photos of him on the sly and watched him kiss his girlfriend at that time. When Hasegawa was 24, she actually went through plastic surgery so that sort of confirms Tomoki's theory that Hasegawa had gone through a transformation so that he wouldn't recognise her when she approached him. Tomoki braces himself for the moment when Hasegawa would use a mirror to see her new looks and is expecting Sayaka's face to appear but is horrified to see Riho's face instead! This makes him realise that Riho is actually the old Hasegawa and she changed her looks and figure in order to attract Tomoki and even got married to him. A wave of disgust and disbelief overwhelms Tomoki and he isn't sure what he should do next.

Tomoki heads to the hospital to visit Riho who had given birth to their daughter and reacts with little enthusiasm to the arrival of their bundle of joy. Riho fails to notice that Tomoki has found out the truth and even repeats her signature gesture and line that they are meant to be together. Tomoki manages a weak smile while the camera pans to the baby who has rather distorted features. Later on, while out in the hospital's lobby, Tomoki receives a message from Sayaka that she's pregnant and she even proclaims that they are fated to be together. Ironically, that is exactly the same thing which Riho has said and fate seems to have played a joke on Tomoki as the double whammy sinks in...

There is no gore nor violence nor any deaths in this episode which is a good thing because it can't be that someone will die each time whenever the life videos are shown. Fate plays an integral role in this story where the main character Tomoki finds himself being the victim of a huge joke which Fate has played on him. However, he can't shirk his responsbility for what has happened because his own decisions were a key factor why things have turned out this way. Although it's always been said that fate is something uncontrollable, there is a certain degree of human autonomy that makes something fated or destined to be in a certain way. I believe this concept is what this story is trying to say.

Hasegawa aka Riho is one persistent lady to go under the knife just to achieve her goal of being with Tomoki. You may see her as a weirdo or a persistent freak but you have also got to hand it to her for being so much in love with Tomoki to do all these things.She knew that her existing appearance would never attract Tomoki and make him fall in love with her so she had to resort to a way to get his attention first before making him fall for her as a person. Nonetheless, this is still rather extreme which not many people would go to this extent just for someone they like. In the ending credits, the viewer can see that Tomoki was the one who approached her (obviously he liked how she looked) so even if Riho had kept on appearing in front of Tomoki, things between them wouldn't have started if he didn't approach her. He can't really blame her because he had a part to play as well.

Likewise, for his one-night stand with Sayaka, Tomoki is also to blame for his moment of weakness. If he had said no to Sayaka, he would not have gotten himself into this mess. No doubt Sayaka is another persistent lady, if Tomoki had not bitten the bait, she wouldn't have been able to trap him.

The open-ended conclusion or rather the lack of it, actually gives the viewer a lot of room for imagination. Now that Tomoki has realised the truth, can he continue to pretend that he doesn't know and live with Riho? And now that Sayaka is pregnant, how will he handle her as well? I like that the story doesn't have a fixed ending and viewers are free to decide what they would prefer it to be. Well, I think the issue with Riho is going to be much more difficult to handle. From his interaction with Riho, it feels like Tomoki is genuinely in love with her but I wonder how he can stomach the fact that Riho used to be a woman he had rejected for her looks and everything about her now is a lie. That will be one tough choice to make as to whether to continue the marriage. I do wonder about the baby's looks at the end of the episode though...was it Tomoki's imagination now that he knows Riho was not attractive in the past or did the baby really turn out like that?

As for the part about Kaminuma giving Tomoki permission to watch Hasegawa's videos, I think it was clear that she knew that Hasegawa =Riho and Tomoki could be allowed to watch the videos of his wife. If it had been that the real Hasegawa was Sayaka, I would wonder if Kaminuma will give the permission since they were merely schoolmates in the past and colleagues in the present.

In all, this episode was rather entertaining and it was a joy to see familiar faces like Kashiwabara Shuji and Matsumoto Rio. I hope the momentum can be maintained and this drama will continue to dish out more interesting stories.

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