Woman: Ep 1

Drama ReviewsJapanese Dramas

How do I even say it?  After I finished watching the first episode of Woman, I was just speechless.  It was so brilliant, so beautiful, SO GOOD that I couldn’t even think of how to describe it.  And even after watching it for the second time a couple days later, I still feel like I’m processing it.  O_O  So……..my thoughts are all over the place so sorry for a lack of organization. 

First of all, if you’ve seen Soredemo Ikite Yuku or any other of Sakamoto Yuji’s dramas, you would probably enjoy Woman.  I already had high expectations for the drama because Sakamoto Yuji is a great writer.  And it really delivered.  Secondly if you enjoy Mitsushima Hikari’s acting, you are in for a treat.  And lastly, if you want a moving and realistic human drama, this is probably your cup of tea.  Trust me, I usually avoid dramas about little kids/single moms but I still love Woman because it is so beautifully written and has such great actors. 

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So, Mitsushima Hikari plays the role of Koharu, a widow and a single mother who is raising two young children on her own.  Her husband, Shin, (Oguri Shun) died in a subway train accident really early in their marriage.  I know what you might be thinking–omg another single-mom-survives-with-kids-story but it’s not all that.  I think this story is more about the bonds of family that remain even after death, alienation, and hardship.  Sounds corny when I say it, but the script really makes it work.  In the beginning of the episode, Koharu is happy despite her husband’s death, as she tells her daughter, Nozomi, that they must smile and remember Shin so that he will always be watching over them.  Then she puts on a determined face and talks to Shin at his altar, saying that she will definitely make her kids happy.  Then it shifts to a lot of scenes of Koharu determinedly balancing several part-time jobs while still taking care of her kids.  Seems like everything is happy, that Koharu is holding up well…..and then..

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Everything just breaks apart.  Koharu struggles financially as she tries to keep up with the raising prices of her rent, daycare, and preschool.  On top of that it is hard for her to hold steady jobs while still taking care of her kids.  She tries to get welfare aid to help out with the rent and schooling fees, but that too falls apart.  Koharu is not exactly always high-strung or agitated throughout these times, but all of the stress just piles up more and more until she has a sudden break-down.  I think there are about…four meltdowns in just this episode alone but none of them feel overdramatic or forced.  I think my favorite one is when Koharu chases her son’s stroller down the staircase (it fell accidentally) because she believes that her son is still in the stroller.  Eventually it drops, and she looks back up the staircase to see that her son is safe and sound.  She covers her face with her hands and just breaks down crying out of relief. 

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Towards the end of the episode there is an awesome scene when Koharu meets with her mom for the first time in 20 years.  The two of them separated over what seems to be an affair that her mom had (which then resulted in the split of her parents & Koharu’s resentment towards her mom).  I won’t spoil it for you but Koharu realizes why Shin really died and lashes out at her mom.  For me, I think the best moment of the scene is when Koharu’s mom tries to give her some money, but Koharu pulls away her bag and repeats twice “I don’t need it”.  Just the tone of her voice in that one sentence is so sad, so full of hurt and anger.  :'(  Uhm I know I’m making Woman sound like a a tear-jerker (as in, it aims to make you cry buckets of tears) but I don’t think I would classify it as a tear-jerker.  It is just so raw and emotional that you can’t help but cry and feel for the characters.

Overall
Ok I was totally rambling during this post.  =_= I have this weird belief that the more a jdrama leaves you speechless (in a good way) the better it is.  I mean..if it’s REALLY breathtakingly good that it leaves you dumbfounded, then it has to be good right?  I got this experience with dramas like Soredemo & Gaiji Keisatsu where they were so good that even though I attempted to write about them, I couldn’t really put my thoughts together so all I could say was things like “it’s really epic” and “it’s a must-watch”.  T_T  Well if I could describe Woman in one word, I guess the word would be “release” or “catharsis”. 

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Anyways this drama really made me realize how many crappy dramas I’ve been watching recently.  I debated over whether I should say this or not, but yes I will say it…….Last Cinderella (which was the most recent jdrama I finished) was utter crap ESPECIALLY in comparison to this drama.  I mean, eventually I figured out that Last Cinderella was going waaay downhill (and by the end I gave up on it) but somehow I still had enough motivation to write about it for each and every episode.  But then I guess Woman only put things into perspective even more and emphasized how crappy Last Cinderella really was.  While watching Woman it was like I had this great feeling of liberation, sadness, and happiness all mixed into one because of how great it was to watch a non-crappy jdrama.  Just the first 5 minutes made me absolutely elated, that’s how good it was. 

heisui

I'm heisui, an Asian drama blogger and the creator of My Drama Tea. I love stories and writing, so I watch dramas and blog. I especially have a penchant for Japanese and Chinese dramas, and those hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. Oh, and I'm Legend of Zhen Huan-obsessed!
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  • Oh, Woman! I’m glad you’re covering it. It has indeed been wonderful so far, I love intense, realistic dramas of this sort (although mellow and realistic is also fine by me).

    I do wonder where this story will go, because in some way it feels more like the kind of thing you would explore in a two hour movie (or a mini-TV series, like Penance) – it’s not the sort of material you can easily expand to 10-11 episodes without it feeling repetitive, unless you come up with additional conflicts that will widen the range of the story. They’ll have to do that, and I hope those conflicts will be good. (Nagareboshi comes to mind as something that had a sort vaguely related idea, e.g. poor girl needs to scrape by all on her own, but they managed to pull that one off with the organ transplant and sibling alienation storylines added in).

    I’m not really familiar with the lead actress, though she seems to be a perfect fit here. The child actors really impressed me as well. I’m curious about Nikaido Fumi’s character – she’s obviously hiding in the shadows at the moment, and seems a bit creepy, not only because she’s the second daughter of Koharu’s mom (I guessing Koharu has never met her), but also because she seems to have some sort of fixation on Koharu’s husband. It could be guilt, or it could be hatred. It could be very dark potentially.

    Well, we all sometimes need to watch crappy dramas, some of the good ones can weigh you down (of course, there are good comedy ones too). That said, I’m glad I gave up Last Cinderella as early as I did. Sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that Shinohara Ryoko isn’t an actress whose dramas I’m interested in. I’ve tried two of her dramas (actually, maybe three) and didn’t enjoy them.

    Are you watching Gekiryu? I thought that started well, lots of potential judging from the first episode.

    I stil have to watch Soredemo Ikite Yuku (shame on me).

    • It is intense and yet somehow it’s mellow too. O_O I feel like it is less intense than Soredemo though. Ah Mitsushima Hikari was great in Soredemo too. I think she is also in a lot of movies.

      I agree, I need crappy dramas to watch sometimes. Sometimes it’s the crappy dramas that I end up obsessing over. >_>”” I still love Shinohara Ryoko but I don’t love her acting in LC as much as in some of her previous dramas.

      No, I sorta skimmed through the first episode of Gekiryuu. But maybe I’ll wait to hear how the 2nd episode goes before trying it again.

      • I have quite a few DVDs of films that Mitsushima has been in, just haven’t gotten around to watching them. x_x

        I am not entirely giving up on Shinohara, I’m just not going to seek out her stuff specifically (like I do with some actors/actresses) because my conclusion at this point is that her project choices generally aren’t to my taste. Which doesn’t mean that there might not be an exception to that on some occasion.

  • Last Cinderella was a mess. I know the cast is popular and all but I was like what am I watching??! I didn’t even watch the last epi yet and just read your recap. Then, I was done with it. Oh god.

      • I noe. That’s why I think I wanna steer clear away from things like last cinderella, renai dekinai.., renai neet, and stuff like that. I think japan has like a specific genre to cater for just these kind of drama but I’m not so interested in them.

  • Love love love love love this. Just watched first ep and I feel just the way you do about it… *still wiping tears*

    • Ps. Since I’m having laptop issues meaning i can’t dl eps and then screencap from them… Can i um, “borrow” one of your lovely pics from above when i post something about this show on my blog at some point? With credit, too.

    • Sure, go ahead! I’m looking forward to your post, I need someone to talk to about Woman~~

      OMGG I can’t wait for episode 2. I just love the build-up in this episode, somehow it doesn’t feel slow at all but rather very well paced. I want to see Koharu meet her mom’s 2nd daughter!

  • Yes, this is exactly how I felt after watching it. Sakamoto Yuji is so good at writing scenes that you can feel, if that makes sense. When the stroller fell, my heart dropped, I had to stop the video. And that scene between Koharu and her mom was just…there are no words. It’s so good.

    I hope this won’t become a total weepfest, or else I don’t think I can continue.

    LOL, Last Cinderella, that drama was so bad. I’m counting on Woman to wipe it out of my memory.

    • I don’t think it’ll be a total weepfest, there must be some uplifting moments as well (after all, there are kids!). I think Koharu & her mom might eventually reconcile with the help of her kids’ bond with her step-dad.

  • hi heisui. yes, i’m one of those who lurk your blog :D… I have nothing much to say but just wanna thank you for introducing me to this drama. It’s really good that I’m officially hooked. I’m not familiar at all with the lead actress but boy, after ep1 i’ve become her fan already. On another note, tho’ i agree with you that LC is nothing compared to woman, I did enjoy watching the drama. With all the stresses and heartaches I have to contend with in life, sometimes i just need something light and to not think or feel too seriously about a drama. Anyway, i can’t wait for ep2 & will look forward to your recaps.

    • Hi lurker! 😉 I’m glad you enjoyed ep1 of Woman! Yup Mitsushima Hikari is a very good actress.

      I think we all need fluff-dramas like LC but we also need quality dramas like Woman. (lol I was very bitter over LC after it ended though >_<)

  • When I heard Sakamoto Yuji was the writer behind this drama,it was on my “must watch” list. I loved Saiko no rikon and Soredemo so my expectations were high. The acting & story is just superb, I couldn’t help crying for half of the episode…now patiently waiting for next episode!!

  • I spotted this drama as soon as i knew it was by Sakamoto Yuji and with Mitsushima Hikari, two names I would follow anywhere.

    I find the writing of the first one incredibly subtile and poetic (his dramas – like Soredemo Ikite Yuku or Saikou no Rikon – are never the happy-go-lucky type but never depressing either, and that’s what I like) and I find the acting of the second one full of warmth and depth (seriously, she’s mesmerizing!).

    I’m so happy (but not the least surprised) to read good/excellent reviews about Woman. I’m definitely going to watch it but I really, really have to do it later, my drama list is (way too) HUGE right now! ^^”

    Thanks for this post anyway! =)

  • I saw Soredemo Ikite Yuku!! Eita and Mitsushima Hikari played so well!!
    The drama was deep and touching!! It’s one of my favorite japanese drama 🙂

    It’s the same actress and your review is appealing…So I’ll watch it!
    Thank you for the post 😀

    • Hehe I hope you enjoy Woman as much as Soredemo. It is still too early to tell whether I like Woman or Soredemo better but they are both quite different dramas due to the subject matter.

  • Just watched the first episode (decided to check it out for Oguri Shun’s cameo as the husband) and I’m still in the process of sorting out my feelings. This episode was poignant and heart-wrenching in a realistic way, and I almost feel as if I’m intruding since it’s so raw. I don’t know if I have enough courage to sign up for more episodes of heart-wrenching stuff like this but I’m amazed by how well done this is. Sigh, why did Shin had to die? T.T

    • I know right!?!? It is so emotional it is hard to stomach at first. >_< I think a lot of people were curious about Oguri Shun's cameo but end up staying for the awesome acting of Mitsushima Hikari & the beautiful story!

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