One thing Zenkai Girl has in spades, which is both a strength and a crutch, is how its issues are dealt with using such broad strokes. This is not a nuanced drama by any measure, and episode 6 cranks it up a notch with Hinata and the school play mirroring Wakaba and her confused heart. This episode was all about Feelings, with a capital F.
Clearly I like ZG, and one of the reasons why the drama is so winning is precisely confidence in itself. While there are no good or bad characters, right or wrong actions, it does emphasize family and sincerity about all else. In some ways ZG is like a kid’s book. I read a lot of those, and even to an adult a well-written children’s book may be simple but can still deliver a meaningful message. ZG is the opposite of those existential dramas, and instead really reminds me of the warmth in savoring the relationships in life.
Episode 6 recap:
Wakaba wakes up from passing out from exhaustion only to find herself staring right at a scene from a drama – Soyoko kissing a sleeping Shota. Wakaba quickly crouches down, which is when Shota opens his eyes and literally shoves Soyoko off him in shock. Wakaba knocks something off the shelf, catching Soyoko and Wakaba’s attention.
Wakaba grabs her stuff and runs off, apologizing for interrupting. Shota runs after her, but not before apologizing to Soyoko that he likes someone else. Wakaba returns hom, wondering why she’s so upset. She considers whether she’s jealous but keeps denying it. When she sits down to type, she finds herself unconsciously crying. She realizes then that there is no denying it, she’s been liking that pill bug this entire time. Oh Wakaba, you can do a lot worse, so don’t be having that end-of-the-world expression on your face.
Wakaba arrives at work with a poker face. She’s called on it, but before she needs to explain, Sakuragawa sensei comes out and is in an even pissier mood. Turns out Shindo didn’t do the work she handed to him and instead went to dine with the CEO of their biggest client Brighton. Kujo sensei notes that Shindo is quite ambitious and things would be dire if he left the firm and took it’s biggest client with him.
Soyoko arrives and grabs Wakaba into a conference room. She demands to know if the person Shota likes is Wakaba? Or conversely, does Wakaba like Shota? Wakaba takes a second before saying that she has zero feelings for Shota. Soyoko smiles in relief and thanks Wakaba. Right then Wakaba sees Shindo returning to the office and reminds herself not to waver.
Wakaba asks Shindo if he’s going to open his own law firm soon? If so, she asks if he can make her a partner? Shindo asks if she’s proposing to him right now? Wakaba thinks he can look at it that way. Shindo is honored and will consider it, but tells her not to discuss it any further as to not upset Sakuragawa sensei.
Wakaba arrives at the preschool and finds the daddies chatting about lovelorn daddy flirting with Kujo sensei the other day. The conversation then turns to the upcoming school performance. Urara sensei, the cute preschool teacher, confirms that this year they have decided to put on Sleeping Beauty. Piitaro will be the prince, but Wakaba hears that Hinata was offered the role of the princess but asked instead to play the witch. Because the princess has to kiss the prince, they wonder if Hinata doesn’t want to kiss Piitaro?
Shota arrives and the daddies discuss how the first kiss is akin to someone being a person’s fated partner of sorts based on fairy tales. Wakaba continues with the avoidance tactic, telling Shota that she thinks he and Soyoko are very well matched. Wakaba grabs Hinata and they head out. Along the way, Wakaba gets a call from Sakuragawa sensei to come join them for dinner.
Shota walks Piitaro home, discussing the upcoming play. He’s sad Hinata doesn’t want to play the princess because she is the only girl he wants to kiss. Shota tells Piitaro to kiss the girl playing the princess properly so she doesn’t feel rejected. Shota sees a call from Ririka that he purposely ignores, even telling Piitaro that it’s a solicitation call.
During dinner, Sakuragawa sensei tells Hinata that this year she probably won’t be able to attend the performance again. Hinata smiles and says it’s no problem, she knows her mom is busy. Sakuragawa sensei says she’ll try to go. She asks Hinata what the play is and is told that it’s Sleeping Beauty. When mom asks if she’s playing the princess, Hinata says of course she’s playing the princess. Wakaba is shocked Hinata would lie like that.
Sakuragawa sensei gets a call about a legal problem and needs to head to Osaka for a few days. Hinata’s face freezes momentarily, but then she smiles and says Wakaba can watch her for a few days. Sakuragawa sensei is relieved to have Wakaba offer to watch Hinata, and also asks Wakaba to prepare Hinata’s performance costume.
During the walk home, Wakaba asks why Hinata lied to her mom. Hinata thinks her mom’s not coming anyways, she’ll just lie to make her mom happy. Hinata then turns and walks towards Wakaba’s house instead of having Wakaba come stay at her posh apartment. Hinata says she doesn’t mind that Wakaba’s apartment is cramped, she wants to stay there.
They two girls walks in and Hinata immediately starts complaining about how hot it is, having to brush their teeth in the kitchen sink, and the blankets being musty. Hinata says she will consider this a learning experience, enduring living in such a small room.
Sleeping on the same bed, the two girls complain about how small the bed is and how each is crowding the other. Hinata says she’s never slept with anyone else on the same bed. Wakaba says she slept alongside people on the floor growing up because her family was so poor.
It’s morning time and Hinata has crowded her way into finally pushing Wakaba off the bed. Wakaba wonders why she needs to endure this so early in the morning. Hinata calls her mom and says all is well and tells her mom not to worry. After hanging up, Wakaba says Hinata is so considerate of her mom. Hinata says she knows her mom works very hard..
Wakaba wants to order breakfast and Hinata runs out of the house headed straight for Ru Sato. They enter to find Shota and Piitao sitting at the table making Piitaro’s princely outfit. Piitaro asks Hinata about her costume and she takes out the costume that Wakaba expertly made. The kids go practice for their play.
Wakaba notices Shota is woeful at sewing so she tells him to move it and takes over. Shota asks why Wakaba is so skilled at sewing? She says that she repaired a lot of her clothes when she was growing up. Shota thinks it’s great but Wakaba takes it as he’s ribbing her for being so frugal and cheap.
Wakaba mentions how some families are so poor they eat soy sauce and rice sometimes. Shota says that must be delicious, too. He didn’t have parents so his grandmother raised him. She was one who taught him how to cook. Wakaba says she’s not interested in Shota’s background. Shota confesses he’s talking about it because he wants to know more about Wakaba. She suddenly flashes back to a murky person saying the same thing to her. Wakaba asks Shota if he knows whether someone said that to her recently. Shota stammers and says it must be the preschool principal. Sakuragawa sensei returns to the office and tells Kujo sensei that she’s planning to handle this entire matter by herself to clean up the mess. Kujo sensei keeps getting texts from lovelorn daddy.
HInata gets a call from her mom who says she needs to work all night at the office. Hinata says she can stay with Wakaba for another night, and tells her mom to work hard. Shota and Piitaro overhear because everyone is still at the restaurant. Wakaba tells Hinata it’s time to go home. Hinata says tonight she wants to sleep over at Piitaro’s place. When Wakaba worries about a single girl sleeping over at a boy’s place, Piitaro and Hinata gang up on her and says Wakaba can sleep over as a chaperone. Plus Sakuragawa sensei says to do whatever Wakaba wants.
The foursome end up sleeping side-by-side on the floor. Hinata is happy, saying this is just like Wakaba described to her. It’s feels so warm. Shota says she should just the feeling of warmth and happiness seep into her. He reaches over Piitaro and grabs Hinata closer. She closes her eyes and falls sleep.
Shota thinks Hinata must be so lonely, which is why she’s always so bratty. Wakaba thinks Hinata has it all. When she was small, she lived in one room with just a table that she used with her dad to eat rice mixed with soy sauce. Shota says Wakaba’s story means she always had her dad beside her. So who was the happy one is hard to say. Wakaba thinks back to eating with her dad around the table.
It’s morning time and Wakaba has a dream that someone confessed to liking her, and she imagines it’s the principal. But when she opens her eyes, she sees Shota looming over her. Shota reassures her that nothing happened. Wakaba keeps thinking back to her dream confession and wonders why it sounds like Shota’s voice.
Wakaba goes to find Hinata and asks about what happened after the watermelon smashing contest. Hinata says she knows, but she won’t tell Wakaba. It’s her way to go into character as the role of the witch. LOL.
Wakaba gets a text from Sakuragawa sensei says she won’t be coming to the performance and asking Wakaba to make sure Hinata is happy. Hinata hears this and runs to start cutting up her witch costume. She cries that a witch doesn’t need to wear such a pretty costume, it should be all ripped up. Shota takes her into his arms and lets her cry.
The kids are at the playground and Hinata is still very despondent. Shindo offers to take assist Sakuragawa sensei so she doesn’t have to do it all by herself. She declines his offer and asks about him dining with the Brighton CEO. Shindo confirms he did, but the CEO is a friend of his father’s so the meal was purely a private getogether. But Shindo honestly says he is considering setting up his own shop.
Shota arrives at the office and asks to meet with Sakuragawa sensei. She asks if this is important enough to take up her expensive time. Shota says she should attend the performance, Hinata is lonely and just wants to spend time with her family. He asks if she’s purposely avoiding going to the conference. He knows she provides well for Hinata, but what she wants is not that. Hinata wants the warmth of sleeping alongside her family, rubbing shoulders because the living space is too small, hearing the sounds of another person in the house. He politely leaves. Sakuragawa sensei goes back to work.
The school performance starts with the kids singing a song about rock-paper-scissors. Hinata is clearly not very enthusiastic. The kids leave the stage to prepare for the upcoming performance of Sleeping Beauty. Wakaba arrives and Hinata sees her. But she notices that her mother is not here. Shota asks Wakaba if Hinata’s mom is not coming. Wakaba says she’s not coming, which is when she walks into the auditorium. Shota tells Wakaba to hurry up and tell Hinata her mom is here. We see Shindo sensei doing the presentation in Sakaragawa sensei’s stead at work. Wakaba tells Hinata that her mom is here. Hinata refuses to go onstage because she lied to her mom that she was playing the princess. Hinata runs off, leaving Wakaba and Shota running around the school looking for her.
They find her hiding behind curtains in the classroom. Hinata says she doesn’t want to play the witch anymore. Shota asks Hinata if she’s such a weak-willed person. If she told a lied, all she needs to do is tell the truth and apologize. She shouldn’t hide away in fear. Hinata worries that her witch’s costume is all cut up now, which is when Wakaba takes out the costume that she repaired after cutting up a corner of her own gym shorts to use as a patch. Hinata smiles and heads off to put on her costume.
Hinata shows up on stage, making her grand entrance as the witch. Sakuragawa sensei finds out from Wakaba that Hinata volunteered to take on the role that no one else wanted. The parents happily watch the performance. Hinata witch puts everyone to sleep. Piitaro prince comes out and strikes down Hinata witch. Hinata lays on the ground and opens her eyes to peek at her mom, who smiles and records the performance.
The performance successfully concludes with rounds of applause as the kids take her bow. Shota turns to give Wakaba a smile. She claps and smiles as well. We see a woman hiding outside watching, which is clearly Ririka. Sakuragawa sensei rushes out of the performance to get back to work, but she looks through her camera at the pictures she snapped of Hinata witch and smiles.
Hinata agrees to tells Wakaba who watched over her when she slept that day. Hinata says the person wasn’t the principal, it was Piitaro’s dad. She returns to Wakaba the same words Wakaba said to her earlier – a person shouldn’t be afraid and should be courageous. Wakaba walks into the classroom and looks at the floor mat area where she rested that day. She closes her eyes and finally sees Shota confessing that he likes her and wants to know more about her.
She realizes that this is how she really feels. She decides that even if it’s embarrassing, she’ll tell him how she feels because she doesn’t want to be a coward. Wakaba walks, and then starts running towards Ru Sato. She thinks back to her kiss with Shota, making bento, him picking up the fallen bento, watching him cook, their argument in the elevator, mud wrestling. She decides to tell him the truth, because this is the first declaration of love in her entire life.
She arrives at Ru Sato and catches her breath before entering. She walks in to see a woman sitting at the bar eating Shota’s food. Wakaba hides and listens to the conversation. Lovelorn daddy walks in and freaks out at seeing Ririka. He asks why she’s here? Ririka turns and grabs Shota’s hand – she’s here to get back together with him. She wants him and Piitaro to come to New York with her.
Wakaba wonders why she almost made a mistake and confessed to a divorce guy who is getting back together with his ex wife. She suddenly gets a call from Shindo. He asks if her proposal earlier was real? She says it is. Shindo asks what if he proposes to her right now? Wakaba looks right at Shota and loudly says “yes, I will marry Shindo sensei.” Shota looks at her in shock as Wakaba has a steely expression on her face.
Thoughts of Mine:
I think one of the J-dorama tropes is clearly the ex – anytime a drama mentions an ex or far-off-lover of some sorts, you bet your Yen that person will show up at a later part of the drama. I’m not annoyed about it, because it’s how the returning ex is integrated into the storyline that makes the plot device succeed or fail. I think Shota clearly has unresolved issues with his ex, less an emotional hang up, but more the pint-sized cutie he’s raising that isn’t related to him by blood. Of course he’s not getting back together with Ririka, but he does need to deal with her return in ways that are separate from how he feels about Wakaba.
I’m glad the drama FINALLY made Wakaba accept her feelings for Shota, because it’s so damn obvious I was starting to get annoyed. I know Wakaba lacks the proper emotional awareness button, but she’s not that clueless. I think this episode made it clear Wakaba was confused and purposely repressing her feelings for Shota, which finally became something she can’t ignore. I’m glad her first reaction was to go confess, because that completely aligns with her personality. So when she saw Ririka and heard about a potential reconciliation with Shota, I’m not sure if her decision to promptly accept Shindo’s proposal was all that in character. She is headstrong and unwavering, but I’m not 100% buying that she’d immediately run the opposite direction just to rub it in Shota’s face. It’s not like she heard Shota accept Ririka’s offer to get back together. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how this unfolds.
I’m actually starting to enjoy the family interactions in this drama more than the OTP dance of confusion, denial, and missed opportunities. I love how Hinata tries to be mature, but her loneliness is so obvious. Her life clearly doesn’t suck, and you can’t say it’s better or worse than what her polar opposite Wakaba had growing up, which was stark poverty paired with familiar warmth. I don’t think the drama is making the point on one being better than the other, but on finding more balance between all work or all family. I think Hinata and Wakaba have already taught each other many things about life through spending time together, and sometimes they do impart nuggets of wisdom to each other. More than anything, I want everyone in the drama living a less than ideal life, whether work or home, manage to find a better way about it by the end of the drama. That’ll make me feel like this drama really meant something at the end of the day.