Japan may be a man’s man’s world, but we’re reminded that women also have their say. You better not let your gullibility show, girls. Instead, put on your boxing gloves and enter the ring. The fight begins.
The lyrics of Angela Aki’s song I’m putting here (Fighter) fit perfectly with Chihiro’s current situation.
Song of the Post: Angela Aki –「ファイター」(Fighter)
Episode 2: Destiny starts to move, Lies are the beginning of love
Greeting his robot vacuum first thing in the morning, Hyuga ticks a new box in the “I’m a rich man” category. Because a dressing room the size of my house just isn’t enough, he also has an insanely huge garage, shrine of his beloved toys. Show, you’re playing dirty.
The sight of Chihiro’s shoes leads to two flashbacks of the garden party: when she helped him and when he chewed her out. Mulling over it for two seconds, he decides to throw the pair: “She won’t need it anyway.” Huh? This guy obviously never lived with a woman.
And indeed, Chihiro freaks out at home when she realizes her shoes are gone. Left with no choice, she slips her feet into the old pair. Answering a call from Haruka, asking how her meeting with Hyuga went, she’s forced to remember his words but also how Kosuke uncovered her real identity. She told him that she blurted out this name unintentionally, and that she’s relieved he found out. Usurp a name is definitely something impossible for her to do.
Heading out, she reassures Haruka that she’s positive about finding a job. But after hanging up, she still needs to motivate herself with a loud:『がんばろう!』– Gambaro (Let’s do my best!) ᕦ(ò_ó)ᕤ <– Totally irrelevant, but I just find it too cute.
Taking delivery of the food, Yoko voices her displeasure but is stopped by her sous-chef (sub-chief) Nogi Yuta. Signing in her stead, he states that she ordered too little and that he already talked with the owner to arrange the situation. Sarcastically, he tells her to focus on her “innovative cuisine” while he takes care of the real stuff. After all, it’s her restaurant, riiiiight? I can’t wait to see the cooking scene! I already smell blood.
Watching him leave, Yoko takes a dig at men’s jealousy when a car honks behind her. It’s Hyuga, and she grins, thanking him for the last time, but he has no idea what she means. Actually, he has no idea who she is, though he doesn’t say it. Seeing her confused, he pretends to get it, but when she comes to him, he speeds away. With a chuckle, Yoko confirms that he indeed forgot about her.
And when Hyuga meets with Kosuke, the latter doesn’t miss the chance to stress the point. “I wonder how many times you’ll need to see her to remember”. That brings him to mention that he invited Chihiro to the next meeting with Fujikawa. Hyuga plays it cool, scoffing that she’d come waving her tail in joy. If he thinks that of her, then why did he chose her, asks Kosuke. Why did it have to be “Sawaki Chihiro”?
Taking a second to reply, Hyuga pulls out the “because she’s a bookworm” card but Kosuke doesn’t seem convinced. Once they’re out, Yamagami gapes at Hyuga’s clothes, since they’re meeting the shareholders. To what Hyuga retorts that they’re in summer, so sandals are the best, yo.
Outside the building, Chihiro speculates that they called her over because of her lie, and seeing her reflection on the glass doors makes her think that she’s looking so miserable that only a monster would dare torture her further. Pffft, honey. She’s hit by a plant (lol) and Yoko runs to her, apologizing. Noticing Chihiro’s gloomy attitude, she cheerfully pretends to see a four-leaf clover in Chihiro’s hair, and explains that faith makes you go forward. She invites her to come see her restaurant later and goes, waving goodbye., which totally moves Chihiro’s heart: “They’re all so nice to me!” Oy, she’s technically your love rival, so save your judgement for later.
After being squeezed in the elevator with the shareholders, she’s greeted by the reception lady and Yasuoka, now sporting a hand-made personalized T-shirt, since he’s already been asked his name 17 times today. Talk about devotion to your boss. As Hyuga enters, the whole office goes silent, the girls fawning over their handsome and classy president. Darn, he really rocks the suit.
He can now make fun of Yamagami, who hasn’t changed and looks pretty shabby. Spotting Chihiro, he quickly glances at Kosuke and goes to her, complaining about how the meeting is a pain and that he’d rather spend the time speaking with her. Swept along, she giddily smiles, following him in a meeting room, full of NEXT INNOVATION’s executives, where he says: “Here’s a sample of a typical idiot.” HAHA! What kills me here is that she doesn’t get it right away, and still smiles stupidly.
To the executives, Hyuga presents her as a loser who failed all her interviews and orders them not to leak the info to the other employees. He can’t help but snicker at her sweltering suit: “It’s summer, you know? Doesn’t you skin react?” Mortified, she loses her temper and asks what’s his problem with a job hunter wearing a job hunting suit. Good girl. Next step would be to look more intimidating, ok?
Taken aside by Kosuke, he tells her that he decided to simply observe her, but is still curious as to why she chose this particular name. He doesn’t know why Hyuga is so agitated by it but has noticed that Chihiro piqued his curiosity. She’s relieved that Kosuke doesn’t intend to sue her, and though keeping up with the lie will surely be painful, she assures that she’ll do it, adding that being treated as an incompetent idiot was vexing.
The whole office suddenly sees her as a “Cloud Goddess” (pffft), having being told that she came specially for a confidential project. Just then, the group of shareholders furiously walks out of the meeting room, Yamagami bending over backwards to change their mind, when Hyuga appears, ruining in one sentence all his hard work. Desperate, Yamagami shoos him away, inviting the group to a luxurious restaurant.
Popping out from nowhere, the reception lady hands clothes to Chihiro, saying that her face is plain so she worried about it. How nice of you, Fairy Godmother! Laughing, Chihiro comments that she’s quite direct. You can add rude too. But she complies and transforms into the chic and stylish career-woman. Coming in, Hyuga gives her a contract offering a ¥1.500.000 reward if the mission is a success. All she’ll have to do is sit and nod during the meetings, and wear pretty clothes. Where do I sign?
But Chihiro asks if she can tell the employees the truth, embarrassed at being called the Cloud Goddess. Cue to Hyuga bursting into an uncontrollable laughter, followed suit by the naive Chihiro. He cuts her short, though: “No way!” Keh, I thought so.
This is the age of the Internet, and if one were to inadvertently expose her job hunting position, it would ruin their project. She understands, but still wants to be helpful: riding the gravy train, she can’t. He mocks her need for homework, and puts down her badge. Surely, she can find something to do in the company. Pausing, he muses: “But…what can you exactly do?” Lemme see….is kicking your butt okay?
They both meet with Fujikawa, Hyuga gagging at the girls’ excitement. Psh, you’re just jealous. Driving her home, he throws some homework for our Little Miss Question-all to do, though she complains she’s already busy with university and job hunting. Chuckling, Hyuga replies that it should motivate her more to get the reward, so that she can live on it for a year. That’s NOT what she wanted to hear.
As she’s about to get off, she remembers about her shoes and eagerly asks about it but he hands her a few ¥10.000 banknotes instead, telling her that he threw them. He advices her to buy better shoes if she wants to give a good impression at interviews, since the other ones looked cheap. Sir, I’ve diagnosed you with a severe foot in mouth syndrome. A tear falls on the banknotes, as Chihiro recalls the moment she bought the shoes with her allowance.
She bitterly notes that one really can buy others with money, and that those shoes had a sentimental value, though she supposes it wouldn’t matter to him. Hurt, she leaves in a huff, telling him that she doesn’t need his money. Completely taken aback, Hyuga can only watch her run.
In a bar, Kosuke tries to comfort a drunk Yamagami who slurs that he should be the one representing the company. Kosuke disagrees: Hyuga is the real drive behind NEXT INNOVATION. Joining them, Yoko takes the opportunity to promote her restaurant opening party, inviting Yamagami and searching for Hyuga. That makes Kosuke lament about women’s taste in men but Yoko clarifies that Hyuga is a picky eater and she prefers asking him what he likes beforehand. Nothing keeping her there, she gives a visit card to her brother for him to deliver to Hyuga.
Who is currently in the Zen temple, busy pondering on Chihiro’s tears. The Head monk comments that it’s quite the sight to see him this late, and Hyuga takes a deep breath, revealing that this place is where he can relax. Knowing better, the monk asks if something happened, prompting Hyuga to say that a woman with the same name as his mother came up.
The monk is surprised at this coincidence but Hyuga confesses that even though he knows she’s a stranger, he can’t help but finding excuses to keep her close. The funny thing is that when she’s around, he totally loses his composure and grows restless. It could be that Chihiro looks a bit like Hyuga’s mother, suggests the monk but Hyuga laughs, before agreeing that his mother was indeed fussy and bothersome.
Bothered is what would best define Chihiro’s mood the next day, at the campus, as she fulminates against Hyuga’s rich boy manners. Haruka teases her, pointing out that she’s still working hard for him in the end, but she argues that it’s for the sake of her pride….and money. Ha. Coming to give a lecture at their university, Fujikawa briefly sees Chihiro from afar, before being taken to the hall. Uh Oh.
In job hunting mode, Chihiro reveals during an interview that it’s already her 32nd shot. Amused by her unreservedness, the recruiter guesses that what she went through may have built up her confidence, to which she smiles. Feeling secure, she tells him about her recent experience, where she didn’t give up even when her boss bullied her. Thinking it over, she adds that because of his constraints, she did the best she could and surprised herself.
Smiling, the recruiter announces that they surely have opportunities for someone like her, if she’s willing to consider. I can’t help but grin along. Once out, she’s on cloud nine and gives an ecstatic cheer until she spots the line of the unlucky ones. Welcome to the other side, girl.
It’s a bit stressed that she speaks at the meeting with Fujikawa, as she remembers the recruiter saying that the boss she talked about surely helped her personnality to grow. To her, he’s not that benevolent though she looks at him with fond eyes now, unaware of Fujikawa’s eagle eyes.
The whole company gathers later at Yoko’s restaurant, where Chihiro notices her Chef attire. Kosuke introduces her as his little sister and both girls wave at each other cheerfully. I want you two to stay this cute.
Scanning the room in search of Hyuga, Yoko’s vision is literally impeded by a tray of food. It’s Nogi, who casually brags about his dishes having more success than hers. She fires back and the bickering begins, until Yoko finally catches sight of Hyuga. Her facial expression changes on a dime, though she gives a good punch to Nogi, making it pass as a friendly pat. Why waste your chance, eh?
In the kitchen, he makes it clear to the staff: “Whichever way you put it, I’m still the chef!” A staff member complains that he should have been the boss instead of that poster girl, and Nogi goes along, jeering at her “new cuisine”. When did that turn into a shonen manga?
Instead of elaborated food, Yoko serves Hyuga a plain『オムライス』– Omurice. Having learned her lesson, she directly introduces herself as Kosuke’s sister, which embarrasses Hyuga, who promises to remember “next time”. Pfft.
Sitting at his table, she laughs, now sure that he doesn’t remember their first meeting, nine years ago. Even Kosuke is surprised, and notes that she met Hyuga before him. Yoko mentions that it was when Hyuga was still a part-timer, and precises that they spoke two hours. He can’t remember faces but conversations are an other matter, right?
She especially made the Omurice because he said that it was his favorite dish back then, and that he could eat it every day. Not wanting to pressure him, she jokes that the memory only came back recently to her but he still looks puzzled. As she leaves, he stops her: “It’s delicious. I could eat that every day.” She softly smiles, thanking him, but once in the kitchen, she berates herself for thinking he could remember and takes her frustration out on a petty Nogi.
Everyone is back at the office and I wonder why since they’re all sleeping. All? Well, Chihiro fights her somnolence, looking at the office wall. The old dorkish Hyuga was her age when he founded the company, and she turns to see how he changed, now busy working in the middle of the night. She brings him a cup of coffee, making him notice her presence though she tries not to disturb him and leaves awkwardly. Following her with his eyes, he finally decides to take a little break and drinks.
In the morning, the poor girl walks home dead tired (huh, so you stayed just to play the waitress?) but still checks her mailbox. Inside lies the letter she wanted so badly to receive: a final interview notification. Virtual high-five. ♪
She immediately informs Kosuke, explaining that as she thought, she’s not fit to work with them. Returning her badge, she adds that she wants to take this new chance to be herself and blossom in her work. Taking it in, Kosuke wonders if she told Hyuga but she nervously laughs, confessing that he’s hard to deal with. He agrees. Ha, of course you would. With a sigh, he muses that the Sawaki Chihiro mystery won’t be solved after all. “Chihiro” avoids his eyes. Hmmmmm.
At home, she symbolically pins the notification letter on all her failed job offers and prepares for the real deal. Today is a bright day, though she puts her old shoes on. Err, ominous move, lady. She heads out, grinning from ear to ear at her positive prospect until a phone call stops her in her track. It’s Kosuke, who anxiously asks when her interview begins. It’s at 10, but that’s not good for him: “So you can’t make it here.”
She understands that something is up but he just lets slip Fujikawa’s name before wishing her good luck and hangs up. Come on, you so wanna lay a guilt trip on her, dude. And it works, as she’s unable to think about anything else. Riding the subway train, she checks her watch, telling herself that it’s not 9 yet and chooses not to get off at her stop.
Meanwhile, Fujikawa confronts Kosuke and Hyuga about Chihiro. Kosuke tries to smooth things over but she can’t overlook their lies. She knows they tried to deceive her by using someone from the same university and with the same personality as her. The door opens, Chihiro suddenly coming in, all disheveled, unknowingly proving Fujikawa right. You can tell she’s job hunting just by her outfit, as Fujikawa indicates, recognizing that she’s also to blame for letting her personal inclination influence her.
But everything stops here, and they better not underestimate her. Chihiro apologetically says “Sorry” while Kosuke tries to put her out of the mess but that won’t do for Fujikawa. Just like the guys, Chihiro hurt her feelings. As if awakening from a long sleep, Hyuga stretches out, suggesting to drop the pretense since it’s over. He scoffs that he’s glad at this turn of events since it was unbearable to watch Fujikawa and Chihiro click like that. I like it.
He’s all “Okay, now let’s talk business”, not getting that it only infuriates Fujikawa further. One of her subordinates dismisses them as an insignificant company, and she strikes the final blow: NEXT INNOVATION is to be prohibited to deal with any government official. Well, that pretty much signs their death warrant, as Yamagami comments on later, in their office. Kosuke concedes that they’re seen as unreliable and talks about cancelling the project.
No way, reacts Hyuga, who regrets having used such a method and orders Kosuke to revoke Chihiro’s contract. No need to, replies Kosuke, since she scored a final interview. He purposely adds that she may have missed it considering what happened. Hyuga freezes, though he quickly regain his composure, coldly saying that it’s her bad for coming to them blindly. Exactly how far can you go in your obnoxiousness?
Kosuke snickers. Of course Hyuga wouldn’t understand the importance of a final interview. After all, he never looked for a job, right? Oooow. Annoyed, Hyuga icily stares at him, though he admits it’s true, but Kosuke carries on, pitying the poor girl who came with all her heart. Mr Ice Cube considers it a good lesson for her. Hm, your obvious irritability says the contrary…
Standing in front of the Ministry, Chihiro spends the next days chasing after Fujikawa, not giving up despite the guards or the rain. Fujikawa relents when a clumsy Chihiro stumbles over her feet, but she’s not willing to listen to her excuses.
In earnest, Chihiro fervently begs her to at least believe in Hyuga’s project, which will improve people’s lives. At that, Fujikawa finally faces her, and lets her know that the dissimulation isn’t the only reason she’s mad at them. She acknowledges that like her, Hyuga wants to enhance people’s lives, but he’s also working along persons who don’t care about that in the least.
She walks away, spurring Chihiro to let her real feelings out:
I want to be like you! You’re such a a wonderful and cool woman…Searching for a job for 8 months, I thought I’d never make it. It’s because I wanted to see you [that I did that]!
Dejected, she hangs her head while Kosuke, who came to meet a contact, curiously looks at her from behind, having witnessed the whole scene. Thank God he doesn’t keep what he has seen secret and directly tells Hyuga about it, stressing Chihiro’s commitment to get them a second chance. That makes Hyuga laugh: “So typical of her.”. He switches to a harsher tone as he mocks her foolish conception of sparing no effort to achieve her goal. Kosuke eyes him with compassion, and teaches our man-child something:
People who only have efforts and guts have no other option.
On Todai’s campus, Hyuga’s apparition causes a big commotion among the students, excitedly gathering around him. But he makes a beeline for Chihiro, who misunderstands his angry face, thinking he’s come to attack her. Hahaha. She bows to apologize right away, and it’s even more hilarious when he responds with a loud: “You’re stupid!”
He fumes with anger, not believing that she could ditch her precious interview (and future) to save someone’s else company. She stammers that she wanted to help them but he points out that it’s his project and that she’s quite full of herself if she believes a pawn like her could have a responsibility. She ventures to say that she understands he’s angry because she went to see Fujikawa and he retorts:
DO I LOOK ANGRY?!
Simmering down, he admits he hates to think he ruined her interview, which leads her to hazard a guess: did he come here to *gasp* apologize? He hems and haws before turning to businessman mode. She was the one who chose to come to the Ministry, so she’s to blame! Embarrassed, he flees but she shouts at him: “That’s what you came here to say?” Oh, you’re so much better when you let your gut speak!
That makes him stop, and after pondering a bit he walks back to gruffly shove a paper bag in her arms. It’s the shoes she thought he threw away and when she asks about it, he blows a fuse, barking that if they were so important she should have come. Kekeke, you’re so like a kid. Is she going to swallow everything people say? And without any logic, he flips the topic to her plea with Fujikawa, calling her out on her arrogance to negotiate.
Touched, Chihiro thanks him for wrapping her shoes so cautiously, only to hear that he hates odors. Snort. When she promises she’ll keep job hunting, a flustered Hyuga tells her they’ll also consider her application seriously since they’ve resumed talks with the Ministry.There’s a condition, though: they’ll have to keep her as an employee. Order from her beloved Fujikawa. Throwing her badge at her, he orders her to come the next day before stalking off, followed by the whole campus.
Chihiro pays a visit to Fujikawa, to show her gratitude and is welcomed with a smile this time. Fujikawa confesses she’s been moved by her enthusiasm, but it’s with a glint in her eye that she declares herself the one who owned Hyuga. Ha, I love that woman. She made him come to her and gave him the virtual data of 13.000.000 people, corresponding to the population of Tokyo. In only an hour, he transferred all the pension records right before her eyes.
He said that the public servants advance at a snail’s pace, and that what the companies they work with achieve in a year, NEXT INNOVATION could do in a day. With accuracy, to boot. Though he talks big, he doesn’t sound arrogant and sincerely tries to convince her of his project’s pertinence. Isn’t his system worthy of smart people?
Confidently walking for her real first day at work (without that horrible suit, YAY), Chihiro beams at the sight of Hyuga’s car. He honks at Yoko, properly greeting her now, and though she pretends being detached, she exultantly clenches her fists as soon as he disappears. She’s adorable. That is seen by Chihiro, who lets a shadow pass on her face but quickly pulls herself together.
Talking to a mysterious agent, Kosuke wants him to investigate further on Chihiro’s case. If he ever finds something compromising, they’ll use it as a trump card later. Ruh Roh. This won’t end well.
Blissfully unaware, Chihiro enjoys the moment, taking the elevator with Hyuga. He only glanced one second at her but casually comments that she seems to be more “skin-conscious” given her new clothes, to which she replies that it’s summer and they both smile. She can’t repress a goofy grin when he affirms: “Today, you’re better.”
Three women, three different styles. One fight: chauvinism.
To me, this episode was really about women, in corporate Japan. You have Fujikawa, the seasoned professional, Yoko, the cool and laid-back chef, and Chihiro, the hardworking graduate. In a way, you can see them struggle in Japan’s chauvinistic world. Fujikawa, even with her experience, has to maintain a cold appearance, and regretted having been drived by her sensitivity. Because feelings=feminity=weakness.
All along, she was the only woman representing the Ministry, among the male group accompanying her. You can tell she has to prove herself everyday, prove her worth time and time over. I didn’t mention it but in the first episode, at the garden party, one of the men present at her table commented on the 1985 Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL), trying a veiled barb that Fujikawa quickly nipped in the bud.
Japan may have changed, but it is still not common to give a managerial post to a woman. Stuck in dead-end “office-lady” roles, or faced with the glass ceiling in the course of their careers, many Japanese women with college degrees chose to quit their jobs voluntarily. Fujikawa didn’t, but has to pay the price. I was already interested in her character, but I really loved it when she backed Chihiro. She discerned her talent, and tried to help her shine in the limits of her influence.
Unlike the “masculine working woman” stereotype, she doesn’t need to be manlier than men to convince people of her abilities, though she shows flashes of the Ice Queen stereotypes. I invite you to read this highly instructive article summarizing the 10 worst stereotypes about powerful women, published by Forbes Magazine.
Yoko is a different example, rather unusual. Like Hyuga, she dropped out of high school and studied culinary arts in a vocational school, before moving to California for training. She’s a tough cookie (har har), and quite outspoken. I won’t surprise anyone if I say that Haute cuisine really is a man’s world. It makes me (bitterly) laugh to realize that Haute cuisine is ruled by men while daily cooking falls on women.
Nogi’s character, introduced in this episode, stands for this antiquated unspoken rule. He’s furious at that “girl” coming on his turf and snatching the place HE was supposed to take. This is the universe Yoko had to strive in: being the only female in an all-male kitchen. And now, she’s the Chef. She makes me think of Anne-Sophie Pic, 2011 World’s Best Female Chef winner, who said:
In the very beginning — I’m talking about 20 years ago — the profession was not open-minded enough to accept a woman in this job, and I felt that very strongly. That can awaken something very strong, though. Little by little, I realized that being a woman could be a strength. It’s another way of thinking about cuisine. It’s another way of managing people, also.
She’s supposed to be Chihiro’s love rival, but (just like Fujikawa) she doesn’t seem to be the kind who would sadistically enjoy crushing her opponent. Instead, she’s bright and endearing, and also gives a mature and naturel feel that I particularly appreciate in the narrative.
And then we have Chihiro (for lack of a proper name), the diligent and enigmatic student. Indeed, she does fall in Dramaland’s category of the poor, clumsy and plucky girl, but I believe she has more depth. You can see bits of the Cinderella trope, but Show has added twists to the tale in an interesting way. She’s introvert and shy, but can suddenly turn cranky and headstrong. One adjective would best define her: persistent.
She needs that trait to butt heads with Hyuga, the Jerkass Façade type. In his company, you can find girls but they mainly play the part of the office flowers, as they seem to only do menial tasks and support the male staff. Chihiro’s character doubly intrigues me because she may have pulled her ace card (the mysterious name) to grab Hyuga’s interest but it’s thanks to her own faculties that she managed to make her way in NEXT INNOVATION’s prejudiced territory.
In that, she differs from the passive Cinderella waiting for her prince to save her. She’s competent and Hyuga knows it. Well, Kosuke and Fujikawa did push him to realize that, but I’ll take it where I can.
Speaking of Kosuke, I’m more and more attracted by his character. Of course, I’m not insensible to Hyuga’s appeal, but as a second lead (and a potential future love rival) he’s quite the catch. Not only he’s smart and classy, he also holds the keys to the future conflicts. Love- and mystery-wise.
It’s rare for me to like a second lead in a drama, but I feel like I’m on my way to a severe Second Lead Syndrome. Good brother, good friend, good manager. I don’t think he was wily when he defended Hyuga’s position as a CEO, and he sincerely looks like he trusts and cheers on Hyuga. He’s a shadowy figure, prefering to work behind the scene while putting Hyuga in the limeligh, but there is surely more to it, and I can’t wait to see how it’ll evolve in case of a rivalry arising.