I kinda wish we can have just one drama with cute adorable kids that doesn’t involve the kid getting lost. It’s not all that common to lose a kid in real life, especially one as adorable as Piitaro. But the lost kid plot device always serves its purpose, and does so in this episode of Zenkai Girl, which was short on plot but high on repressed emotions. I love how Wakaba’s source of counseling comes from Hinata, a five year old who is part Dr. Phil and part Princess, as well as Piitaro, a kid who barely understands the literal birds and the bees.
I found Wakaba increasingly difficult to watch, but can safely say that the drama sets up her anti-heroine arc just so we can all watch her walls crumble and appreciate how much she’s suffered to get to where she is in life. Gakki is so luminous as Wakaba that I find myself completely understanding why Shota likes her even as she tramples on his heart and his pride.
Episode 4 recap:
Shindo propositions Wakaba with all the romantic finesse of a guy asking to buy take out. But that’s exactly Wakaba’s style, not that she’s turned on by it, but more like she’s not turned OFF by it like all normal human with sensibilities would. Shindo leans in for a kiss, which Wakaba needs to make sense of first, and settles on Shindo being her theoretical perfect triple A guy and this kiss can wash away the kiss by that annoying pill bug.
The kiss is unfortunately witnessed by that annoying pill bug himself. Shota, on his way to deliver a bento and his heart on a platter to Wakaba, instead finds his heart sporked through. His luck can only get worse, as his bike topples over, interrupting the kissing statues and upending his bento (and his dignity). What’s with all the overtuned bentos in this drama? People need be using more secure bento boxes
Wakaba turns to find Shota on the ground. He gets up in a still kneeling position and apologizes for interrupting, explaining that he brought a thank you bento over to her for the signatures she helped him get. He smiles ruefully and says it’s all destroyed now, isn’t he just an idiot. Wakaba watches Shota crouch down to pick up all the dropped food.
She tells him this is fine. She’s decided to date Shindo sensei, who is a man who has convictions and purpose, and a person she wants to journey through life with. She asks Shota not to do anything further that will cause Shindo to reach the wrong conclusion. Shota apologizes and gets up to leave, bowing his apology one more time. God, I really want to slap Wakaba at this very second. She really can be such a cold hearted bitch.
Wakaba sees a lone pea on the ground and picks it up. She goes back home and thinks back to her conversation with Shindo, but ends up looking at that little pea. She throws it in her little trash bin in the sink.
Shota walks his bike back to the restaurant, thinking back to what Wakaba said to him. Damn it, I swear Ryo does sad and heartbroken like no other J-actor. The daddies are waiting for him to return, worried something happened between Shota and Wakaba. They ask if anything happened, taking the bento and discovering it’s destroyed.
They think Wakaba tossed the bento on the ground but Shota keeps saying no such thing happened. They ask if he likes her, to which Shota screams that he doesn’t. This quick lost of temper is immediately followed by his megawatt smile and he changes the subject. Piitaro comes out to watch his daddy ruefully.
Wakaba is at home and preparing to transform herself into a woman worthy of a triple A man. She goes to the bank and takes out her first salary, then deducting all her expenses until she has what’s remaining for her to spend as disposable income. Wakaba researches online what the stars wear and pictures her face on Lady Gaga and Beyonce, which she wisely acknowledges isn’t the image she’s going for.
Wakaba drags poor Soyoko out shopping and learns Wakaba has ZERO fashion sense since all she wore were uniforms growing up and whatever was sheer necessity.
Newly dolled up Wakaba causes all the male eyes to be trained on her as she walks Hinata to school the next day. Hinata wonders if Wakaba got her first salary and went shopping? Wakaba says she’s merely transforming herself. Hinata wonders why men are looking because she’s just wearing a different outfit but inside she’s still the same Wakaba. To which Wakaba says she’s in a different world than that pill bug and is heading towards the up and up.
Shota and Piitaro see the girls. Piitaro wants to call out to Hinata but Shota stops him. He explains to his son that Wakaba is heading towards a different world than he is.
At school, Piitaro tells Hinata that he’s dad is weird lately, sighing all the time no matter what he’s doing. The principal overhears and suggests that Shota may be in love, to which Hinata explains that love is like a disease. Piitaro files this away in his cute little boy brain.
At work, Sakuragawa sensei sees new and improved Wakaba and immediately knows she’s got herself a man. Wakaba explains she merely got new outfits with her first paycheck. Sakuragawa sensei compliments Wakaba on improving with a new Spring look. Shindo suggests handing a swimsuit design legal project to Wakaba to test out her fashion sense and build her legal experience. Wakaba takes the assignment and promises to handle it. She thanks Shindo for recommending her for this assignment. Sakuragawa sensei peeks at Wakaba talking with Shindo, telling Soyoko to cancel her lunch and schedule lunch with Wakaba. Soyoko can come along if she wants.
Shota receives a call and agrees to help out at his old restaurant, a three star high class joint. When a daddy asks about Wakaba, Shota explains she’s dating a lawyer, a guy completely different than him.
At the firm, Wakaba and her colleague Kujo sensei lug boxes of discovery into a conference room to prepare to deliver to the other party. Kujo sensei warns Wakaba that she won’t be able to handle Shindo and they’ll break up soon enough. Wakaba says she never quits anything half way. She looks at the boxes and gets to work.
During lunch, Wakaba talks her case but Sakuragawa sensei asks to talk personal matters. She confirms that Wakaba is dating Shindo, but reminds Wakaba that love cannot interfere with her work or nanny job, and most importantly shouldn’t derail her dreams in life.
Wakaba says she treats love as a hormal inbalance and a step up for her life. Soyoko gets really upset hearing Wakaba and Sakuragawa sensei describe love so clinically. She thinks love is marrying the man she wants to spend her life with. Wakaba says she doesn’t believe in love forever and won’t let love distract her mind.
After lunch, Soyoko says she’s going to confess to Shota, to get her courage up to prove that love has no expiration date. Wakaba stops in her step for a moment, and then encourages Soyoko to go ahead.
At the preschool, the daddies demand to know if Wakaba is dating, and what the guy is like? She says he’s totally different than the daddies, he is her dream man. Someone with a Manhattan penthouse apartment, private jet, and will hold their wedding at a tropical island, etc. She thinks her man is someone who has these simple dreams like she does. The daddies yell that her dreams are not simple at all.
When the daddies start planning out the dreams they have for their children, Wakaba schools them to let their children decide on their own dreams. And if a parent doesn’t have dreams, then the children can’t learn to dream. Shota looks crestfallen to hear Wakaba’s lecture.
Shota goes back to the restaurant and goes through his extensive and detailed notes on cooking. He explains it’s just a refresher since he’s going to Bocuse restaurant to help out. When the discussion goes to playing golf or other sports, Shota asks Piitaro what he likes to do. Piitaro says he can play by himself, because playing any sport naturally costs money. Shota looks really sad.
That night after putting Piitaro to bed, Shota takes out his professional chef’s knife collection. He remembers Wakaba saying that a parent who doesn’t have dreams leads to children who can’t dream either.
Wakaba and Shindo are dining at Bocuse. She compliments the food and Shindo suggests asking the chef to come out and express her compliments. The chef comes out and brings Shota, explaining he made the dish she is enjoying. Both Shindo and Wakaba are shocked. The chef explains that Shota is very talented indeed. Wakaba says the food is good. Shindo explains that even being hired at this French restaurant is quite a feat, and being in charge of the appetizer is only given to the most promising young chefs. Wakaba wonders why Shota gave up. Shindo thinks that the training is so grueling that people give up half way.
Wakaba suddenly gets a text from Kujo sensei calling her back to the office because all the discovery documents have arrived early. As she’s heading out of the restaurant, Shota hands her a bag of food that he packed since she didn’t get to eat her dinner. She’s reluctant but Shota makes her take the bag of food. Back at the office, Wakaba works all night, but takes a break to eat the food when her stomach growls. She savors each bite, wondering if the guy is an idiot since it’s clear he can make such delicious food.
Soyoko sees Wakaba at work the next day in the same clothes and knows she’s pulled an all nighter. Soyoko sees the Bocuse take out bag and is excited. She’s heard that Shota works there temporarily again, and she believes he has a good reason for quitting the job in the past.
At the negotiation table for the swimsuit infringement case, the other party initially refuses to settle claiming his idea is invaluable, but when the offer is high enough, he quickly accepts. Wakaba watches Shindo settle the matter efficiently and Sakauragawa compliments Wakaba on being so well prepared. They discuss how this supposed fashion designer was willing to sell out his dream for money in the end. Wakaba isn’t that thrilled to see money trump over dreams.
Shota gets a call from Bocuse offering him another chance but he has to come to the store by noon the next day. Shota doesn’t know what to do. Later that night, he runs into Wakaba. She asks why he gave up his dream. Shota says the training was too rigorous and he couldn’t raise Piitaro at the same time. She doesn’t understand. Shota says he may have lost his dream, but he had the happiness of being with Piitaro. Wakaba thinks Shota is using the child as an excuse to run away, worried that he’s not cut out to succeed.
Shota asks what Wakaba knows about hard work and challenges, she who went to Todai and passed her exam. Wakaba says she’s someone who crawled out of hardship and made something of herself so she’s lived succeeding through adversity. She can’t stand watching someone like Shota give up, using Piitaro as an excuse so that he doesn’t make something of himself.
During this speech, Piitaro wakes up and walks out. Wakaba goes inside and sees Hinata in the hallway giving Wakaba a look. Shota piggybacks Piitaro home. The kid apologizes to his dad, but Shota says there is nothing to apologize for.
The next day the daddies arrive to take the kids to a golf outing at the driving range. Shota heads to Bocuse, calling Wakaba along the way, telling her that he’s going to challenge himself again. She doesn’t think him working hard again has anything to do with her. Shota smiles and thinks back to his discussion with the daddies, who support and encourage Shota to pursue his dream again.
Wakaba meets up with Shindo for a casual date. Shota walks into Bocuse and puts on his chef’s uniform. He heads out to the kitchen and arranges his knives. Suddenly he gets a call and it’s a daddy saying that Piitaro has disappeared. Shota looks determined and says he’ll be right there. He apologizes to the head chef and then runs out.
Wakaba arrives at Bocuse but turn to leave, wondering why she’s even here. Suddenly her phone rings and it’s a daddy asking if she’s seen Piitaro. Wakaba gets on her bike and rides around the city looking for the kid, wondering if it’s because of what she said yesterday. Shota and the rest of the daddies run around everywhere looking for the missing kid.
Wakaba is the first to locate Piitaro, who is sitting outside her apartment complex. He confirms that he’s here to look for her. She apologizes for what she said last night. Suddenly Piitaro holds out her hand and gives her a pill bug, because she keeps calling his dad a pill bug. Piitaro says that these bugs are not useless creatures and actually serve a purpose, as the principal explained to him. So his dad the pill bug is not a useless creature but is a very strong guy. Wakaba takes the bug and smiles at Piitaro, who smiles back.
Wakaba walks Piitaro home, conceding that Shota perhaps isn’t all that useless. But she reminds herself that she shouldn’t conceded his strengths so easily. Wakaba mutters that she can’t seem to get Shota out of her mind, he’s constantly popping up at random times. Piitaro says she’s in love, and what’s happening is a sign that she’s been hit by the love bug. Wakaba says it’s not possible, but Piitaro says both Hinata and the principal both think the same thing.
Wakaba insists its not true and there is no proof. Piitaro just laughs at her. Which is when Shota runs up and father and son run into each other’s arms. Everyone has gathered at the restaurant and happily celebrate finding Piitaro safe and sound. Shota offers to make some food for everyone to thank them for looking for Piitaro. Wakaba wonders about the French restaurant opportunity. Shota says he’s given it up.
Wakaba leaves and Shota runs after her. She thinks Shota is running away again. He says no. Though he did run away last time, but he wanted to try again because of what Wakaba said. But today he realized that power and money aren’t his goals in life, it’s the little happiness that he treasures. The time he spends with Piitaro is the most important thing to him.
Wakaba says she doesn’t understand, but she knows that her view in life is completely different than Shota’s. Before walking away, she turns back and says that Shota is a disaster for her. Shota wants to run after Wakaba, which is when Soyoko grabs his hand and asks if she can partake of the little happiness that Shota treasures. She confesses that she likes Shota. All the daddies watch in shock.
Thoughts of Mine:
I love the dynamics of this drama, where the characters are written with such color but without any ill intent. The characters are all so different from each other, and their differences create the chaos and the friction to cause them to move forward in their lives. There are no good guys or bad guys, and I can’t even say one outlook on life is inherently better than another. So Wakaba and Sakuragawa sensei are willing to eschew romance and affection for security and success. There is nothing wrong with that. Nor is there anything wrong with Shota seeking a less successful life in exchange for the little pleasures of raising Piitaro.
The problem is when the two diametrically different points of view collide, forcing Shota and Wakaba to consider possibly a middle ground. They are not at that point yet, but there is always a middle ground. Right now Wakaba is in the denial phase, one that isn’t really her fault since she’s got zero emotional detection skills. She takes life lessons for babies, for god’s sake. I cut her a lot of slack, even if I’m upset she really rakes Shota over the coals time and again. But Shota’s attitude does need a bit of a kick in the rear, because he can’t stagnate at the little restaurant forever.
ZG really uses very little dramatic plot to elicit quite a lot of feelings from the viewer. Kudos to Gakki and Ryo, and really all the actors, who deliver such effectively quirky and sincere performances, so that they feel like denizens of a world that is alive and meaningful to us when we watch them. I don’t think ZG will give us the OTP catharsis we need until the very last episode, as most J-doramas are wont to do, but here it’s really the journey of growing from two extremes into a comfortable median that makes the story so touching.