Romance takes a backseat in this episode as Kotoko and Naoki begin to look towards the future.
Spring means a new school year, and unfortunately, another love rival. Yuko’s little sister Ayako has also joined the tennis team and declares in front of the entire tennis team that she’s after Naoki. She’s not a hair-flipping hussy like her sister, but she sends a flirtatious wink Naoki’s way, infuriating Yuko and Kotoko.
Satomi and Jinko have started thinking about what to do after college; Satomi is working as an assistant at a magazine editorial office and Jinko is scoping out the music scene. Kotoko wonders what career she should go into, but predictably…
Irie-mama is throwing a party to celebrate the start of the new school year, which means Naoki will be coming home. It’s only been a day since the new school year started, but Irie-mama, never one to be underestimated, has already analyzed Ayako and tells Kotoko she needs to step up her game in order to catch Naoki.
Irie-papa gets some unpleasant news at the doctor and goes to Aihara to de-stress. He asks Dad what he plans to do with the restaurant once he retires; will he give it to one of his apprentices or hand it over to Kotoko’s husband? Odawara and Kin-chan overhear and Odawara prods Kin-chan to interrupt like he always does, declaring that he’ll marry Kotoko and take over the restaurant, but Kin-chan only shuffles away to the kitchen.
Dad says he wants to help Odawara and Kin-chan open their own restaurants. Giving the restaurant to Kotoko would only end in disaster, so he plans to close it once he retires. Irie-papa can’t understand how he could just give up something he’s worked so hard to build and make successful. He suggests making Kotoko marry Kin-chan to keep Aihara open, since it’s no secret that he loves her. Because you know, it’s not like Kotoko’s feelings matter or anything.
Dad admits that Kin-chan’s good and he would pass Aihara to him if he could, but he maintains that Kotoko should be free to marry whoever she wants. He can’t force Kotoko to marry someone just so he can keep his restaurant; he wants Kotoko to marry who she loves.
Irie-papa asks if that makes him selfish since he wants Naoki to take over his company, though he doesn’t want to. Well, let’s just say Kotoko’s dad is more likely to win Best Dad of the Year than you are. Dad points out that even if Naoki chooses a different path, he still has Yuki. Irie-papa mutters that it will be too late if he waits for Yuki, but he doesn’t clarify when Dad asks what he means.
Kin-chan’s been down since Christmas and he sulks outside the restaurant, unable to get the image of Naoki and Kotoko together out of his head.
That doesn’t keep him from working though; he approaches Kotoko at lunchtime asking her try a new dish. If Dad approves, it will be added to the menu, which will be a big step up for Kin-chan. Kotoko declares it’s good, like always, but her face says otherwise. Kin-chan prods her and she admits that with Satomi and Jinko working and Kin-chan advancing in his career, she feels left out because she still doesn’t know what to do. Haven’t we all been there?
Kin-chan assures her that everyone has their own pace and that Kotoko will find what she wants to do eventually. Kotoko asks Kin-chan how he knew he wanted to become a chef. He tells her it’s like falling in love with someone; you don’t think about why, you just know. Well if anyone knows about being in love with someone, it’s Kotoko. You get excited and enjoy being with that person and you always want to be around him. “It’s like that. You just realize you’ve been doing it all along.”
Kotoko says that the job you love and the job that allows you to be with the one you love are two different things. Cue Kotoko fantasy sequence.
If Naoki was a pilot, she would be a flight attendant.
She would be his manager if he was a tennis player.
If he was a university professor, she would be his assistant.
Luckily, I don’t have to strangle Kotoko as she says though that’s what she fantasizes about, she can’t really call following someone for the rest of her life her dream. Kin-chan asks hopefully that if the person she loved was a chef, perhaps, wouldn’t she become the restaurant owner? Aww, Kin-chan, you know she wasn’t talking about you. He says there’s nothing wrong with living to support someone else’s dream and says she would make a great restaurant owner. But Kotoko doesn’t dare to raise Kin-chan’s hopes and tells him to stop joking around.
Kotoko picks up some books at the library to help her figure out her career path when she spots Naoki. She starts to go over, but sees that he’s studying seriously and just observes for a while before leaving. She wonders what type of book he was looking at and remembering how Naoki said he wanted to move out to find his own path, says that she feels like the only person left behind.
Yuko’s in the library as well, and being way more nosy that Kotoko, asks Naoki why he’s studying medical books, though he doesn’t answer.
Party time! Irie-mama’s happy to have Naoki home, loading his plate and drinking a little too much wine. She gets a little tipsy as the night goes on and starts nagging Naoki to come home already so he can marry Kotoko. Naoki’s not up for his mother’s antics and is about to leave, but Irie-papa asks to speak with him and his mother before he goes.
The three relocate and Irie-papa asks Naoki what his future plans are. He wants him to reconsider becoming his successor and to start working at the company. Naoki says that he needs more time to think about it, but Irie-mama says that he’s had enough time to think about that. And Kotoko of course.
Kotoko, who was bringing them tea, listens at the door as Irie-mama goes on and on about how Kotoko and Naoki make the perfect couple. Not that I don’t agree with you, but this is not the time Irie-mama. Surprisingly, Irie-papa’s also on the Kotoko train, but for all the wrong reasons. If Naoki takes over the company, he can’t necessarily marry someone he loves; he’ll need a wife who will be supportive and well liked by others and Kotoko fits that criteria.
This makes Kotoko happy of course, but you can practically see Naoki shutting them out as he rolls his eyes and crosses his arms. Irie-papa says that of course they’ll take into account Naoki’s feelings since that’s what’s really important and wait to hear him out.
Naoki calls his parents hypocrites, pretending he has a choice, but they’ve already decided everything. He accuses them of playing dirty, but Irie-mama says they’re only doing it in his best interests. Naoki huffs, his voice rising, and says that neither of them really care about him; his dad is only worried about his company and his mom keeps forcing Kotoko on him regardless of his feelings. He can’t control anything, not his job or even who he loves. “That is why I don’t want to stay in this house! This house where I’m tied down!”
That’s the final straw for Irie-mama and she slaps Naoki in anger. As Irie-papa tries to restrain her, Naoki leaves and sees Kotoko, who heard the whole thing. He brushes past her without a word and Kotoko follows him out of the house.
The two walk in silence for a while before Naoki finally breaks the ice, apologizing that she had to witness his family spat. She thinks Irie-mama acted out of character because Naoki never says anything so it’s hard to know what he’s thinking. It makes people uneasy because they don’t know what he wants. Wait, didn’t we already have this conversation? She assures him that despite the way his parents acted, they really care about him.
Naoki’s unresponsive, probably because he thinks otherwise, so Kotoko keeps talking. She understands his feelings of course; you only have one life so he should do what he wants. Naoki remembers how Kotoko told him before that you go to college to find out what you want to do. He asks if she’s found it yet. She admits she hasn’t, though all her friends have and she thinks to herself that Naoki is all that fills her thoughts. She says it makes her feel miserable, but Naoki…just keeps walking. I know you’re not exactly in a good mood right now, but you could say something to make her feel better.
Kotoko catches up and shares Kin-chan’s words about finding a career path. She says one will always be nervous until one finds it though and Naoki agrees. She commends Naoki for standing up to his father; if her dad had told her to take over his restaurant than she would’ve done it without a word. She wants Naoki to do what’s best for him, not only concerning his career, but also who he loves. Even if people tell him otherwise, he shouldn’t be with someone he doesn’t love.
Naoki says he wants to become a doctor. I’m sorry, are we having the same conversation? Kotoko just told you that it’s okay if you don’t love her and you’re talking about being a doctor. This would be a good time to tell her you love her. *Sigh* Another opportunity wasted.
Anyway, he plans to take the exam so he can transfer to the medical department. There’s a flashback of Yuki’s near-death experience and he says becoming a doctor is the first thing he was ever interested in. Kotoko asks why he didn’t tell his father earlier and he says he wasn’t sure till a while ago. She asks when exactly he decided and he says nonchalantly, “‘When we were walking.” So we weren’t having the same conversation. Nice to know you were listening Naoki.
He asks Kotoko not to tell his parents yet; he wants to be able to prepare for the exam and make plans first. I’m sure that’s going to bite you in the ass later, but Kotoko promises. Kotoko asks why he’s only told her and he says he’s not sure himself. C’mon Kotoko, don’t you remember you’re the one who planted the idea in the first place?
They reach the station, much to Kotoko’s surprise since they didn’t take the normal route to get here. Naoki says he thinks it means that there are many ways to get to one destination. “It seemed like you were making a detour, but you might find something important.” I’m sure Kotoko has no idea what you mean, but that sort of makes up for not offering Kotoko any advice earlier.
Kotoko wonders as Naoki leaves why he shared his decision with her and Naoki flashbacks to how Kotoko said he would be a good doctor.
Back at home, Irie-mama’s regretting slapping Naoki while Irie-papa comforts her. He clutches his chest and says that there’s something else he wanted to tell her and Naoki, but he collapses in pain before he’s able to get it out, setting everyone into a panic.
Thoughts: I felt sort of disengaged from this episode. It wasn’t really bad, I liked that it was a bit more serious than usual and it wasn’t total filler like episode nine, but at least fifty percent was flashbacks (and flashbacks, and flashbacks, most of the time to things that happened in this episode. I don’t have the attention span of a goldfish, I can remember something that happened five minutes ago), but I don’t know, it didn’t click for me.
Thank God Kotoko realized by herself that following Naoki around for the rest of her life is not a dream she should aspire to. I distinctly remember this from the Korean version because it drove me nuts and while Ha-ni eventually realized her error in that version, it was only because Seung-jo pointed it out to her. Yeah, Naoki’s still all she’s thinking about 24/7, but the fact that she wants to find a path for herself, independent of Naoki’s plans, makes me have a little respect for her.
I think I’ve reached the point where I’m tired of riding the train and just want to see Kotoko and Naoki get their happily ever after. Kotoko likes Naoki, Naoki likes Kotoko, the only thing standing in their way is…um, well, really nothing at this point besides the fact that Kotoko’s oblivious and Naoki just can’t admit it because he wants to go against his parents. That’s not exactly gripping conflict. The stakes should be upped a little if the end of this episode and the preview are any indication.