Zenkai Girl, it does a soul good. Episode 3 was yet another charming one, confirming for me that this drama has discovered the ease of storytelling. It’s so deft, so sure of itself, which results in it being genuinely enjoyable to watch. The emotions it elicits are very gentle, the laughter not forced or manic, the sweetness not manufactured or excessive. It shows us honesty can be rewarded, but it’s sincerity that touches our hearts.
It’d be so easy just to paint a brush stroke over Wakaba’s childhood of struggle amidst limited means, yet the drama spends more time showing us a happy young Wakaba, finding enjoyment in the life she has. It’s made her the strong and capable woman today, but she needs to find the balance that you can easily see Shota brings out in her. Plus the man enjoys a mud fight, what’s not to love about that.
Episode 3 recap:
Wakaba wakes up in bed with a cold. Likely brought on by the shock of discovering she drunkenly pawed a guy like Shota, and maybe a teensy weensy imaginary bit of remorse for clocking the guy afterwards. But what’s a measly cold against the unshakeable will power that is Wakaba, a girl who singlehandedly studied herself into Todai despite having Forrest Gump for a daddy. Wakaba rinses her mouth out with alcohol to disinfect it before heading out for the day.
Wakaba takes Hinata to school, but the little munchkin general isn’t going to let some issues remain undiscussed. Hinata notices Wakaba is extra cheery today, which must mean something happened. Wakaba demurs, though she mentions how Hinata appears to care about her more after the bento incident. Hinata discounts that possibility – she’s merely concerned because Wakaba seems so lacking in social skills and understanding that lil’ Hinata worries for Wakaba’s fate in this cruel world.
Wakaba isn’t about to take life lessons from a 5 year old (though really, Hinata is 5-going-on-35 if you ask me), wondering why Hinata thinks she ought to be telling Wakaba anything about life? Hinata is all like “I had my first kiss at 5 years old, what about you?” Touche, Hinata, touche. Wakaba pretends she doesn’t remember. Hinata says scientists have noted that a first kiss is even more memorable than a first night. Wakaba tries to explain kissing is all about spreading bacteria to develop immunity. Hinata just rolls her eyes at the oblivious Wakaba and goes into class.
Wakaba runs into the daddies at the preschool, who now not only think she’s the she-devil with her sharp tongue, they think she’s a she-demon with her penchant for physical violence. They discuss Shota’s bandaged nose, which he confesses is out of alignment. Wakaba pops up and says what happened was an accident and a court will not find her liable.
The other daddies get upset on Shota’s behalf, who tells them to let it go. Instead Shota asks Wakaba if she’s fine, since she seemed so distraught yesterday. Wakaba says kissing him is like getting stung by a mosquito and she won’t give another thought to it. She tells Shota that she doesn’t intend to interact with him any further. Poor Shota looks crestfallen.
Wakaba heads to work and immediately Soyoka wants to find out about the kiss. Wakaba explains it was nothing and just an accident. Soyoko is relieved and expresses her intention to confess her feelings to Shota, who she likes even more because he has a kid. Wakaba confirms she’s not interested in a commoner like Shota, she wants her guys triple A in standard. The triple A guy she has in mind walks up right at that moment.
Shindo asks Wakaba to go with him to Brighton Holdings for a legal meeting. Shindo heads to the meeting and asks Wakaba to hand a file to Sakuragawa sensei, who is currently with the CEO of the company. Wakaba listens to the discussion, which reveals just how rich the company is. Wakaba starts dreaming about her New York dream again. Sakuragawa sensei hands Wakaba more nanny assignments and she gamely promises to perform it all. Her dream, it’s so close, she can smell it.
All the parents at the preschool attend a parents meeting about the preschool’s mud day, where the kids play in the mud outside. All the persnickety moms are against having their precious kids touch dirt, even though the preschool has annual test on the dirt to make sure it’s clean. Wakaba hears the moms deriding playing with dirt as soooooo uncouth and barbaric, and she clenches her hands, remembering her butt poor childhood in the countryside where she played with dirt and planted vegetables. When asked if anyone objects to canceling the event, only Wakaba and Shota stand up simultaneously to object.
They turn to look at each other in surprise. Wakaba explains that playing with dirt is a classless activity that all kids can participate in. Shota says playing with dirt lets the kids get close to nature. When the parents complain about it making the clothes hard to clean, both Wakaba and Shota explain how it’s quite easy to clean dirt off clothes. Too bad their objections lose to the majority vote. Screw the majority! The principal announces the event has been canceled.
Wakaba wants to help Hinata put on her sneakers but she says that she can do it herself. Wakaba likes seeing kids be self-sufficient. Shota tries to get Wakaba to help him convince the majority of parents to change their votes so the event can go on, because the kids have so much fun. Wakaba says the majority vote needs to be accepted. Wakaba wonders why Shota keeps copying her – does he think after the kiss she likes him now? They both say they don’t like each other. Piitaro and Hinata watch and notice they are fighting again, with wise Hinata reassuring Piitaro that bickering is an expression of love.
Wakaba tells Shota to stop following her. He says he’s not following her. They huff away from the school while the poor kids get dragged along.
The daddies exclaim about the cancelled event, and hear Wakaba was the only other parent who wanted the event to continue. The daddies don’t care about the event being cancelled, until Shota says the pretty preschool teacher seemed quite sad about it. Which gets the dads upset on her behalf.
Shota puts Piitaro to bed and the kid tells his dad to go confess his feelings towards Wakaba. Shota tells Piitaro he won’t find a woman until Piitaro is grown, but the boy tells his dad to go ahead. Shota sits outside and reads a letter from a Ririka, sent from New York. It’s clearly his ex-wife, and Piitaro’s mom.
Soyoko tries to get Shota scoop from Wakaba, who can’t understand why Soyoko likes a pill bug like Shota – a simpleminded guy who just lives life. Someone like Shota will be destroyed if he was stepped on. It’s morning time and Shota is preparing breakfast. He looks at a picture of the previous mud play event where Piitaro looks so happy. Shota calls Wakaba and asks if she’ll help him get the parents to change their mind. Wakaba says that unless he has a game plan, it’s useless so he should give up.
Shindo approaches and Wakaba asks him for work so that she can become a good lawyer faster. Shindo says sure and hands her a case involving a child injured at a skating rink on Brighton Holdings property. On behalf of her client the skating rink, Wakaba is able to notice the kid was partially at fault and gets the mom to back down from her unreasonable demands. That Wakaba – so sharp is she. The other attorneys are impressed Wakaba deftly handled this meddlesome case.
Sakuragawa sensei walks by and tells Wakaba that if she wants more chances at work, she needs to seize it herself. Shindo remarks that Wakaba isn’t just a funny and curious girl, she’s a good lawyer as well. Shindo invites Wakaba to his house to sample some of his wine collection. She accepts, though Soyoko wonders if perhaps Wakaba is trying to forget someone.
Wakaba sits in her room and looks at the flyer created by Shota to convince the parents to change their vote. Wakaba sees Shota’s smiling face everywhere, which becomes a pill bug face, which she swats away. She calls Soyoko to borrow an outfit for her date with Shindo and reads up on relationship books. We see Shota doing research on how to convince the parents to change their minds. Both of them drink their milk to prepare for tomorrow’s long day. Wakaba shudders to think about herself doing the same things as Shota, except she is doing the same as him. So cute.
The daddies leave one behind the watch the kids while everyone else heads out to canvas the parent votes. Wakaba arrives at Shindo’s mansion, just as Soyoko arrives at the restaurant to help Shota convince the parents. The other daddies are totally cooing at her sweetness. Piitaro watches and murmurs that a love rival has appeared. The group goes to each parents residence or work to pass out flyers to convince them to change their vote.
Wakaba walks into Shindo’s swanky mansion. She outright announces that she’s here to gage Shindo’s worth. He’s a guy whose dad has raced horses at Ascot and his mom is a concert violinist. Even the wine he brings out is just for his family, from a private vineyard in France. He pours Wakaba a glass, which she declines because she doesn’t drink. He suggests she just smell the wine. She takes a whiff, and then starts drinking.
Drunk Wakaba compliments Shindo sensei for being more than just triple A, he’s like a triple A +. She mutters that she’s clearly drunk right now. Shindo just watches her and smiles. Shota finishes his rounds with Soyoko and says goodbye, not letting her confess her feelings for him. Shindo is driving a hung over Wakaba home. She can’t let him see her tiny place so tells him to just drop her off at the park, which is when Shota walks by.
Wakaba finds out that Soyoko helped Shota get the signatures. She gets testy again and congratulates Shota on having a great helper, and purposely thanks Shindo for inviting her to his beautiful home. Shindo politely excuses himself and leaves. Shota asks Wakaba for her help, because there are many parents still vehemently opposed. He thinks she’s better at convincing people than he is. She wonders why he’s so adament about this event happening. Shota explains that this event helped make Piitaro stronger. Before he was such a crybaby, hence his nickname Piitaro (cry boy) when his real name is Emitaro (smile boy).
Shota explains that Piitaro’s strength comes from the wrestling and tumbling in the mud. Wakaba remembers taking seeds and growing them in the dirt. She excitedly checks on her plants while the other kids destroy her patch and taunt her. But little Wakaba doggedly grows the plants until it grows into delicious tomatoes she can eat. She concedes that playing with dirt can make a person stronger, but this has nothing to do with her. She walks away leaving Shota disappointed.
Sakuragawa sensei calls Shindo and asks why he’s approaching her assistant. He says he doesn’t have any ulterior motives. She reminds him that she has to be careful because people are constantly wanting to pull her down. Wakaba goes home and sees a tomato plant outside. At the preschool, the kids are terribly upset the mud play has been cancelled. Shota sadly informs the principal he wasn’t able to get the necessary signatures, which is when Wakaba arrives with the rest of the signatures. She grumbles that she wasn’t helping. It was Sakuragawa sensei who also wanted to do this event, so Wakaba was merely helping her boss.
The kids happily go outside to play in the mud as Wakaba and Shota look on. She reminds Shota that she wasn’t helping him, which is when Piitaro suddenly sends a mud ball flying towards Wakaba. She picks up some dirt to retaliate but slips, causing Shota to grab her to break her fall. Both of them go tumbling in the mud and end up happily playing with the kids. Yes, and I recommend a hot shower afterwards for them both. Together.
Later that night, a sleepy Piitaro asks his dad if the guy has confessed his feelings to Wakaba yet. Shota smiles and says there is nothing to confess. He puts Piitaro to bed and looks contemplative. Wakaba gets a call from Shota, who thanks her again for getting the signature. She tells him there is nothing to thank. He apologizes for Piitaro dirtying Wakaba’s clothes. She asks if this is why he’s calling. Shota can’t get out what he wants to say so Wakaba ends the call.
Shota ends up making a delicious bento for Wakaba. The daddies are stunned that he’s bringing her food, they deride her for doing things only if it benefits her. He still insists on giving it to her despite the daddies objections. Shota gets on his bike and rides towards Wakaba. She gets a call and goes outside to meet Shindo. Shota knocks on her door but no one is in. Even his poor bento looks sad.
Shindo gives Wakaba a giant bouquet of roses and asks her to date him for real. His dream is to become a lawyer ranked on Forbes, have his own private jet, his own penthouse apartment, and she is the woman he wants to share this dream with. Wakaba thinks to herself that all of his dreams are her dreams. Shindo leans in to kiss Wakaba and she reminds herself that his guy is the triple A guy she’s been waiting for. She closes her eyes to wait for the kiss. Which is when Shota walks past her and sees the tableau. And that is his face when he sees this. Heart. Break.
Thoughts of Mine:
Gosh is this drama moving fast. Lightning speed if you consider most J-doramas crawl at snails pace towards any actual plot development, relying more on the slow simmer of emotions to take its time to build. Shota is already 9/10th in love with Wakaba, and Shindo already made her an offer she can’t refuse. And why should she refuse? Shindo is perfectly fine and appears to operate under the exact same modus operandi as Wakaba. Except he’s filthy rich already while she’s got only her education and achievements in her pocket. But I like how she’s totally honest even in front of him, and he likes it! Too bad they don’t appear to have any chemistry, or romantic entanglements I can foresee even in the future.
That I leave to Shota and Wakaba, who fill every scene with this annoyance wrapped around awareness. She’s annoyed by him because his very existence challenges her world view of law and order, all business and no feelings. Shota is all feelings and kindness, without coming across as a pushover. I like how Wakaba can get the normally unflappable Shota to lose his temper even the slightest around her, while she can’t even get his pillbug face out of her mind. While the OTP is given a lot of screen time, the drama doesn’t neglect a great collection of unique secondary characters, from the cool preschool principal to the daddy contingent. It’s cute that the kids Hinata and Piitaro are constantly schooling their caregivers on the mores of feelings and relationships.
Zenkai Girl just makes me care, about the characters and their story. I want Wakaba to achieve her dreams, but I also want her to do it and have her happily ever after with a great guy who loves her, i.e. Shota. I want Shota to achieve his dreams, and still care for Piitaro and find an awesome woman who loves him, i.e. potentially Wakaba. I want Hinata and her mom to spend more time together, I want the daddies to all find themselves spouses, in short, this drama makes me wish I were a wish granting fairy.