Slow Dance – Episode 2

Slowly, one step at a time. This is how the story teaches you its dance, with our 4 leads getting to interact with each other. Be kind and watch you feet, Show, I’m wearing new shoes tonight.

Song of the Post: Slow Dance OST ~ Ono Misaki, Mayu, and ECO -「Good Time」

[audio http://dl.dropbox.com/u/31675795/04.%20%E5%AE%87%E9%87%8E%E5%AE%9F%E5%BD%A9%E5%AD%90%2C%20Mayu%2C%20and%20ECO%20-%20Good%20Time.mp3]

Episode 2: Inadvertent Date!

Impressions:

Downing glasses of Shibata on the rocks and eating to her heart’s content, Isaki chatters on about how breakups can’t stop her hunger anymore, while Riichi patiently listens. He tries to participate in her monologue but just can’t get on her same wavelength. Don’t, boy, you know you can’t.

Finally bored to speak by herself, Isaki affirms that someone as trusting as he is, so easy to lie to, must be happy. He takes everything at face value, right? After all, he stuck with her when she was crying, and even now it’s like they’re on a date. Riichi raises an eyebrow at that, pointing out that he prefers being like that rather than suspicious, complicated and hard to deal, like a certain someone *wink wink* Izaki doesn’t get it and says she knows people like that too. Ha.

They head home together, Isaki wondering what she should do with her dinner cruise ticket. Riichi fumbles to say that she’ll surely find someone else to enjoy it, and she asks him to go with her. He awkwardly refuses, making her mad since she was just joking. Or so she says.

On their way, she stops to stare at a promotional poster for tourism in Germany. But by the time they arrive in front of Riichi’s place, Isaki’s priorities have shifted: girl is on a mission, and boldly asks where is his room. Raaawr…NOT. She hurriedly pushes him to enter while trying to sound as enigmatic as possible but Riichi knows better: how dare she barge into his room to take a dump? HAHAHAHA

Being the chivalrous knight that he is, he lets her answer nature’s call, but she flees out as soon as she’s over. She comes back right after, though, to hand him the tickets: why not inviting his stewardess girlfriend? She leaves for real this time, not realizing that she forgot her ring, which Riichi finds later in the bathroom.

He meets with Kohei and Kida the next day, as they’re both checking out the girls on the streets to pick their next heroine. The real reason? Kohei is just waiting to see Mino, who has applied to Riichi’s driving school. Kida and him liken it to what Riichi did back when he fell for Ayumi and Kohei wonders why Riichi said that he was the one who got dumped when everyone always thought he initiated the break-up.

Riichi doesn’t dwell on it, simply stating that he rejected her because he was afraid she would move first. He ran away after hearing that she might like someone else, without trying to find out the truth. That’s…..lame. Kohei gulps. Was he the other guy? *Snort*

In the Lulu shop she’s still managing, Isaki explains to Mino that it would be no use going to Frankfurt: by giving her dinner cruise tickets, it’s as if her ex told her to hurry and find someone. Thinking practically, Mino cheerfully offers to enjoy the dinner but Isaki bursts her bubble since she gave them away. And why would she want to go with an other girl? Well, because you can’t pig out when there are boys around, replies Miss Two-Faced. The thought of food has Isaki salivating and she regrets her generous move.

Yajima weakly complains about doing menial tasks but Junko quickly shuts him up, though her ears (and Mino’s) open wide when he asks Isaki about her transfer. But there’s nothing to hear, as she simply laughs it off.

At the driving school, Riichi oversees Ichisaka, a meek middle-aged man who failed the test when he was younger, during their driving session. He encourages him, which is enough for Ichisaka to eagerly ask for his help in getting the licence. Meanwhile, Isaki and Mino are stuck waiting for a session to become available, and Isaki compares it to life. Mino sees the bright side, leaving it up to Fate and indeed, her number is called, to Isaki’s surprise.

She heads to the terrace where she finds Riichi, pondering over whether he should call Ayumi or not. He tells her about her ring, but she’d rather speak about the tickets, and fishes for information. She’s relieved to hear he still didn’t invite Ayumi, and muses that it must be hard for him to contact her since they’ve been separated for so long. He counters that he can handle that by himself, thankyouverymuch, but she asks back: “So, what are you waiting for? Though you might be rejected…” How nice of you to worry.

He clearly points that he doesn’t need her help and she teases him, wondering if he’s stepping on the brake again. That spurs him to finally hit the call button but he gives up soon after. Startled, Isaki enjoins him to at least leave a message, which would be best for a boring person like him. Keh. He can’t, he says, because the number is no longer in service! Isaki, here is Awkwardness. I believe he’s a good friend of yours.

Bringing Mino along, the girls crash Riichi’s room, under the pretense of retrieving Isaki’s ring. You just can’t beat a girl’s curiosity. They play love counselors, Isaki sympathizing with Riichi’s situation as they’re both unable to reach their exes, though he observes that his is still in Japan. Hee, that’s petty.

But he’s still afraid of calling her, and Mino remarking that he would look like a stalker doesn’t really help. Both girls excitedly try to search for Ayumi’s number, but Riichi indicates that he prefers doing that alone. Isaki attempts to smoothly ask if he still has the tickets and Mino backs her, noting that it would be a waste if Ayumi were to turn him down. Riichi sneers.

Isaki mentions that she doesn’t want him to think that she wants him to give back the tickets she just gave him (then, what it is, honey?) and adds that he’s already nice enougj, treating her like an old teacher. But Riichi isn’t fooled, and is more than glad giving back the tickets if that get them out of his place. The door rings, Eisuke entering the room right after. Turning faces on a dime, the girls are charmed.

The foursome decides to go out, heading to a bar. While Mino gets to chat with Eisuke, Riichi plays darts with Isaki. He asks if she’s okay not making a move on his bro and muses that it may be a good strategy to get his attention. She declares he’s not her type, which is a first for Riichi to hear since all the girls he knows end up falling for Eisuke. She assures him that she doesn’t pick a man based on his good looks (of course not) and celebrates her victory with beer, listening to Mino stating that the brothers don’t look alike, contrary to her expectations.

She has heard about Eisuke’s influence on Riichi but Eisuke brushes it off as simply an act he played when he was a student, talking big but only drinking until sunrise. His salaryman job turned out to be tedious and his company, suffocating. He smiles at Isaki’s frankness when she comments: “Sounds boring.” Mino finds similarities between their jobs but Isaki objects that to her, it’s not tedious nor suffocating.

As both girls walk back, Mino repeats her words and says that she wants to become this kind of manager. They decide to go for an other round, just between girls, while the boys have reached home. Riichi is curious as to why Eisuke stays and looks quite puzzled once he hears about his resignation.

All pumped up, Isaki informs her boss that she accepts the position at Miss Panther but gets told that the place is already taken. Instead, the boss offers her to be the store manager of a new brand: Bonbon Les Enfants (Candy Kids in French). She thinks he’s just trying to push her away but he smoothly dodges it by praising her experience: they don’t have that many veteran employees. She can’t retort though she later complains to Yajima that she hates children. Well, good luck?

Taking a little break, Riichi listens to Ayumi’s message, where she gave him her phone number, and calls back right away, but has to leave a message on her voicemail. A bit flustered, he invites her to the dinner cruise. Heee!

Hanging around in a bar again, Eisuke is subjected to Yukie’s incessant chatter.  This girl sure is beautiful but damn if she’s not annying as hell the minute she opens her mouth.

Isaki pays a visit to her mother on her day off only to see her bustle about before going out. She stops and chuckles to announce that she has found a man. Way to go, Mom! She finds it strange to marry before her daughter and does this mother thing of grilling her about what kind of guys work with her or if she’s still in touch with a high school crush. There’s nothing to make you feel more like a kid than a prying mom.

Isaki finally goes for a Gyūdon, sneering at the lovey-dovey information poster displaying a service for betrothed couples when she’s called out by Eisuke. She quickly pretends she wasn’t entering the restaurant though Eisuke purposedly asks whether or not she’s eating there. She’s like “What? Me?” since Gyūdon isn’t really the type of food you want to share with a classy young man: the breath, it stinks.

Meanwhile, Riichi feels all alone, waiting for Ayumi, and helplessly sees the boat leaving the dock. She finally comes, looking apologetic, and they both defuse the awkwardness with a smile.

Mino sure doesn’t find it awkward to ask Kohei to propose to her. He stammers but takes his chance, earnestly confessing his love and promising that in 50 years he’ll love her 50 times more than he does today. Awww, you sweet boy. She muses that in that case, after 6 years “this man” must love her 6 times more. Yajima joins them, and Mino asks the same thing of him, which doesn’t surprise him in the least: “Again?” Poor, poor puppy Kohei. You should have chosen your master better.

Drinking beers on the grass, Isaki enjoys her time with Eisuke, as they bet on horse racing. She excitedly cheers on her horse, like a child, and says that it’s much better than karaoke to release her stress. In the flow of conversation, Eisuke guesses her age, picking 32, and she tries not to sound too petty as she corrects him that she’s one year younger. Keh, gotta cherish whatever makes you feel less old. He calls her “Isaki-chan” since he’s one year older, and you can tell she’s pleased to hear this suffix again.

Eating at everyone’s favorite bar, Ayumi jokes that Riichi must think she’s turned snob but that she likes this kind of place. She asks about him and he says he’s the same average Joe. That makes her smile, feeling he’s grown up when he used not to be interested in job hunting before. He counters that it’s already been 3 years and that he’s given up on being a director.

More than an adult, he sounds like an old man, she laughs, though she stops when she notices Riichi’s gaze. He says that he didn’t think he would see her smile again. She points out that she’s trying her best for them not to feel awkward, after being dumped by him. Not looking at her, Riichi painfully broaches the topic of his brother and her, but she naively asks what’s wrong with Eisuke.

With a nervous laugh, he tells her about his resignation, though it’s obviously not what he wanted to say. He ends up blurting out things about Eisuke’s love life that totally are off-topic. Ayumi looks disappointed but doesn’t press the point.

Having brought Isaki in his apartment, Eisuke tells her to make herself at home and she wonders if he’ll leave the place soon. He says he needs to rest his wings instead of flapping around aimlessly and try to be like a hawk, dancing in the sky. She repeats his words: “Slowly and comfortably…like a dance.” Hey, that would actually be the perfect tagline for this show!

He leaves her to go buy some snacks and she turns on the TV, stumbling upon Riichi’s graduation movie. Cue gleaming eyes. Just like in a play, right when Eisuke walks out the building, Riichi appears from the other street, with Ayumi. He proposes her to come see his brother inside. Who else thinks this won’t end well?

Hearing Riichi’s voice, Isaki hurriedly switches off the TV, even hiding the videotape. She nonchalantly greets him but jumps when she sees Ayumi, who’s rather shocked. Isaki stops her as she’s about to leave, and says that Eisuke left when Riichi asks what she’s doing here. She specifies that she’s not Riichi’s girlfriend and enjoins him to introduce her to Ayumi. Because, how is she going to talk with her otherwise? Haha, meet the Japanese etiquette.

Since Riichi doesn’t see the need to, Isaki hijacks his role and proceeds to chat with Ayumi. Thing is, it’s more like she’s speaking alone, as usual, and says that stewardesses usually date doctors or lawyers but not a dull driving instructor. She doesn’t even realize her blunder, adding that Ayumi knows how to judge men and that Riichi may become the next Spielberg in the future. Riichi gapes but she goes on.

Dumbfounded, Ayumi tentatively asks if she’s Eisuke’s girlfriend, to what Isaki cuts Riichi off to confirm that she is. That’s enough for Ayumi, who leaves the room and Riichi follows her, after throwing the “There you did it. Happy?” glare at Isaki.

He catches up with Ayumi outside, telling her not to mind Isaki’s nonsense: Eisuke’s girlfriend doesn’t live here and Eisuke may even have broken up with her. But that doesn’t really matter to Ayumi, who cares more about why Isaki told her all those things.

The atmosphere is tensed when he returns and Isaki’s efforts to appease his mood are greeted with a “Please go home.” She wonders if Ayumi is one of those girls Riichi talked about, who fall for Eisuke right away. He curtly replies that it’s not her business and she explains that she’s just concerned about leaving him alone with Eisuke. At such a moment, the presence of an outsider would make things less awkward.

Exasperated, Riichi shouts at her to leave since she’s an outsider. He has seen enough to know that she just makes things worse. She says that she lied for him so that Ayumi wouldn’t worry, but Riichi sneers that it would only make her seize her chance if Eisuke’s girlfriend was someone like Isaki. Ooooof. At this point, he’s really just sptiting his venom at her.

She asks what he means and with a scoff he says that it would only be natural for a man to pick a 25 y/o stewardess over a 31 y/o Miss Brand manager. Trying to hide her hurt, Isaki’s voice hardens as she fires back that compared to a half-dreaming, half-giving up little brother, everyone would choose the brilliant older brother who lives his life as he pleases. Why does he care so much about who Ayumi loves?

Calming down, she admits she can understand that he cares if it’s his brother Ayumi loves but that’s not what he’s thinking about. For 3 years, he did his best to lock all this story deep in his heart and now a complete stranger comes and plays with it. Why does Isaki always sees him at his worst?

Not sympathetic in the least, she brags that she doesn’t whine when she gets rejected and is instead happy to turn it into a friendship. Riichi doesn’t even bother talking back, leading her to realize how silly she looks. Feeling uncomfortable, she leaves in a huff, though she lingers a bit outside the door.

An oblivious Eisuke heads back home, running across Ayumi on his way. Her tears don’t go unnoticed by him.

The next day, both Riichi and Isaki can’t help but brood over the bitter after-taste their argument left. Riichi’s boss comes to discuss the coming certification examination that would make Riichi a full-fledged driving instructor. Truth is, Riichi isn’t thrilled about it and as he goes to have a smoke, a flashback takes us to a sunny day, 3 years ago, where he suddenly said to Ayumi that they should break up.

Turns out that Isaki stole the videotape, to watch it at home. Her phone rings and next thing we know she’s at a local『祭』-Matsuri (Festival) that screams SUMMER to me. Aaaah, Yukatas, Yo-yo balloons, Kakigōri~

She joins Mino, who’s there with Kohei (or should I say, Errand Boy Kohei). Isaki doesn’t want to get in their way but Mino doesn’t want to go on a date with Kohei. Hence, the call. Pffft. Actually, there’s an other person who Isaki sees as she turns to the goldfish scooping stall.

Isaki sits next to Riichi and makes fun of his skills. She buys two pois (a special scooper) and hands one to Riichi, who was about to leave, as a peace-pipe. All equipped, they proceed to catch the goldfishes. She confesses that she has seen his movie, much to his surprise, and adds that she went until the end. He jokingly asks if it was boring and she apologizes. Gah, there are times where you gotta lie!

But it’s not that. She apologizes because now she understands how he truly loved Ayumi. With a little smile, he says that it’s in the past. His poi breaks and he stands up to leave when she challenges him:

Isaki: Are you going to give up?

Riichi: But look, it’s impossible.

Isaki: The moment you give up, it’s over.

Hoho, I love this kind of double meaning. They’re not only speaking of the game, but also Riichi’s mindset and his consecutive choices.

He points at her own poi, which just broke, but she looks at it and says that she isn’t going to give up. He wonders on what and she clarifies: “On life!” Smiling, she contemplates giving the Kids brand a try, since it wouldn’t lead her anywhere to just stand at a crossroad. Riichi feels targeted though she didn’t mean to. Her personality makes her go first and think later, and she muses that she envies those who can stop and think slowly to their problems. He wants more explanation but she ignores him and asks for new pois, both having a good time until night comes.

Impressions:

I better get used to this kind of cuts, since pretty much each episode ends this way. Cliffhangers addicts will be disappointed. But this is one of the several points that make this drama special, and which are better seen than read. I wouldn’t be able to convey this unique atmosphere with words only, though I put the music to help a bit.

It was quite confusing to whirl back to the Slow Dance stage after my foray into the RMPW world. Both shows stand quite on the opposite side of the trendy drama spectrum, and I had to reaccustom myself with the pace. Fortunately, the music helped me. A lot.

In this episode, we get to see more of our characters, to confirm what was hinted in the first episode. Riichi obviously developed a massive inferiority complex towards his brother, who influenced his life since childhood as we’ve seen in Episode 1. His date with Ayumi revealed how much he’s obessed with Eisuke’s successes while he lives his own life as if he had pretty much given up on it.

Suddenly barging in his life, Isaki shakes his beliefs and it’ll be interesting to see how he’ll deal with it in the long run. Personality-wise, you’d say at first that they’re like chalk and cheese, but we can say that they both have something to learn/take from the other. It helps that they have a great chemistry going on, even when they’re pushing each other’s buttons.

Eisuke hasn’t shown enough yet, besides the fact that he’s carefree and follows his heart. His conversation with Isaki was telling: his work (and apparently love) experiences has proved itself unfulfilling, and he decided to put a stop to it, without shilly-shallying. Trait that he definkitely doesn’t share with little bro.

To round up the foursome, Mino keeps her playful and mischievious attitude, hiding her inner self under a veneer of ingenuousness at the risk of looking fake and superficial. Time will tell if she is more than what she lets on.

Man, I wouldn’t want to be Riichi’s lungs, that’s for sure. Don’t be a fool, smoking is NOT cool.

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3 thoughts on “Slow Dance – Episode 2

  1. They always smoke so much in Japanese dramas and movies… Sadly, smoking seems to be socially very accepted in Japan. I feel bad for Tsumabuki’s lungs, but he probably smokes not just in the drama but in real life.

    I’ll only comment on Mino here: I think this episode is when I started intensely disliking her. She is so selfish and self-focused. Everything has to be about her, not even the tiniest thought for the poor guy that comes up with that sweet proposal. Of course, he’s weak and needs to just grow a backbone, but that doesn’t give Mino any right to exploit those around her so she feels better. I have zero respect for girls like her.

    • Took me forever to reply…
      Though Mino did grate on my nerves as well, it wasn’t because of that. I’ve seen girls doing far worse, when Mino openly showed Kohei that she isn’t serious with him (at least, in this episode). Of course, it’s frustrating, and she played with his feelings, but at least it’s clear, she’s not pretending (unlike what I’ve witnessed one day, in real life, which can REALLY hurt when the other one believes the feelings are shared).

      • No worries, I was offline anyway.

        I’ve seen girls do far worse of course (on screen & in real life), although I’m not too sure Kohei realised before Mino asked that other guy that she was just toying with him. It still annoys me, even if it is clear (from that point on), because it’s just wrong wrong wrong and Mino is so self-centred.

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