We’re starting to wind down and with only two episodes left, I find that I’m not that willing to let go of these characters just yet. It’s not just Kotoko and Naoki who I’ll miss, who I love individually and together and have been wonderfully portrayed by Honoka Miki and Furukawa Yuki, but also the ever dependable Kin-chan, who I adore, and even Yuko, who wasn’t being as annoying and manipulative as she usually is in this episode. These two pretty much saved the episode for me as Kotoko and Naoki don’t do a lot and though she changes the game, Sahoko must be the most boring love rival yet.
Episode 14: A Fork in the Path of Love
Naoki’s parents are upset that he’s agreed to an omiai. Irie-papa realizes that Naoki is only doing this for the company and says that Naoki shouldn’t have to marry a girl he doesn’t love. Well, that’s not what you were saying two episodes ago. Naoki insists that he’s doing this because he wants to and that he really likes this girl.
Kotoko, her dad, and Yuki have come to the hospital to visit Irie-papa and come in on the tail-end of the conversation. Yuki asks his brother if he’s really going to go through it. Naoki stands by his decision and brushes past Kotoko without a second look, leaving everyone distraught.
Kotoko tells her friends about the omiai and they sympathize with her, even Kin-chan. Satomi asks why it seems that he wants Naoki and Kotoko to be together, but he says that he just wants to see Kotoko smiling.
Kotoko’s so distracted by Naoki’s upcoming omiai that she injures herself while washing dishes. Irie-mama patches her up and says she doesn’t think that Naoki actually wants to go through with the omiai and that the only reason he’s working at the company is because he feels responsible for his father’s collapse. Kotoko asks if Naoki would really go so far as to change his life because of his guilt and Irie-mama says that once Naoki gets an idea he becomes obsessed with it. However, in true Irie-mama fashion, she assures Kotoko that she has a plan to make sure this marriage doesn’t happen.
Kotoko runs into Yuko who’s learned about Naoki’s omiai. She’s upset that Naoki’s getting matched up with a nice rich girl and Kotoko lets slip that Irie-mama is going to sabotage the meeting. Yuko says that they never change, before adding that she’ll help them.
The day of the omiai, Yuko and Kotoko sneak around outside in gardening outfits. Yuko’s totally out of her element and struggles to keep up with Kotoko. They get close enough so that they can see and spot love rival number three, Sahoko. Both are in awe of her beauty, but Yuko says that she probably doesn’t have any brains, cheering Kotoko up.
Irie-mama makes it painfully obvious that she doesn’t want this marriage to happen, ignoring Naoki’s death glares and calling Sahoko’s hobbies (sewing, cooking) too boring. She doesn’t make Naoki sound good either, saying he has little patience and is generally mean to girls, sharing how he harshly rejected Kotoko’s letter back in high school. Yuko connects the dots based on Kotoko’s reaction and says she didn’t realize that Naoki hated Kotoko so much.
Too bad Sahoko’s already smitten and she says that a cold man is more attractive. Irie-mama finally brings up how Kotoko’s lived in their house for three years and that she can’t guarantee that nothing happened between her and Naoki. That raises Chairman Oizumi’s eyebrows and Naoki takes Sahoko outside for a walk to escape his mother.
Naoki really lays on the charm for Sahoko, it’s almost scary watching him be so nice. Not that he needs to be since Sahoko’s so taken with him already, but he says that he doesn’t feel anything for Kotoko and that he’s liked Sahoko ever since they met at the elevators.
Yuko and Kotoko watch from afar, brimming with jealousy and ready to spring into action. Strategy Number 1: Turn on the sprinkler and ruin Sahoko’s kimono so she’ll have to go home. It fails as the sprinkler doesn’t go off when Sahoko passes. The two go to see what went wrong only for the sprinkler to go off in their faces. Sahoko sees it and wonders what’s going on, but Naoki just tells her to ignore it.
Strategy Number 2: Throw bugs on Sahoko, scaring her so that she’ll fall into the pond. I love that Yuko calls all of Kotoko’s ideas childish (because they are), but Kotoko defends herself saying they’re the best ones. The big caterpillar lands on Sahoko, but it only seems to bring her closer to Naoki as he takes it off of her and throws it…on Kotoko’s face. Hahaha, I’m sure he did that on purpose. Kotoko and Yuko start shrieking and fall into the pond. Sahoko wonders about the noise, but Naoki just says that they’re the cleaning ladies and walks on.
Despite Kotoko’s failure, Irie-mama assures her that she did enough so that Chairman Oizumi will be against the marriage. However, Sahoko calls saying she had a great time and wants to meet Naoki again. Naoki isn’t oblvious to what Kotoko and Yuko were up to and tells his mother and Kotoko to stop interfering.
Naoki and Sahoko begin dating and Yuko wonders if they should give up. She says that the only person she’d want to lose Naoki to would be Kotoko, but only because Naoki would regret it later on. Once a mean girl, always a mean girl, I guess. It’s frustrating that a perfect rich girl like Sahoko won Naoki in the end without even trying. She acknowledges how much effor Kotoko’s put in to being with Naoki and says that if anyone can win it’s Kotoko. He did kiss her after all, that has to count for something. Yuko gives her a little “Ganbare!” before leaving. Aw, that’s cute. Though I doubt these two could ever be friends, this team up totally should’ve happened sooner.
Naoki’s talking to Sahoko when Kotoko comes home and she can’t help but ask if he has another date. He tells her where his date is, being oddly specific about the time and place, teasing her and asking if she’ll follow him in disguise like she always does. Hmm, is someone sad that his little stalker is following him around like she always does?
Kotoko can hardly be cheerful with Naoki running around with another girl and her friends encourage her to move on. Kotoko admits that she knows she should, but it had felt like she and Naoki had become a lot closer lately. “That’s why I can’t accept reality yet,” she says bitterly. Jinko says she thought Naoki and Kotoko would end up together as well, but Satomi says there’s no point in thinking that way now. Omiais are between families; Naoki can’t just break it off if he stops liking Sahoko.
Kin-chan’s been brooding since Kotoko admitted that she felt closer to Naoki, thinking about Christmas Eve again. He confronts Naoki on his way home from seeing Sahoko and asks point-blank how he feels about Kotoko. Naoki avoids the question as always and Kin-chan says he’s always leading Kotoko on. Kotoko, who went out to look for Naoki, passes by and hides to listen. Kotoko’s an important person to him, so how can he just watch as she’s played with by Naoki.
Naoki asks what he’s going to do then. Kin-chan: “I’ll take Kotoko away from you. No…I will protect her.” He tells Naoki not to get involved; he doesn’t want to see Kotoko get hurt anymore because of him.
Waiting for Naoki’s reply, Kotoko desperately wishes that Naoki will say “Kotoko loves me” like he always does, but he only tells Kin-chan to do what he wants before walking away. Completely crushed, Kotoko remains in the park long after Naoki and Kin-chan have left, crying.
Kotoko: “This time…is it really the end? To give up on Irie-kun? It’s impossible.”
Yuki asks his brother if he’s really planning to marry Sahoko. He knows he’s really in love with Kotoko and brings up the hospital kiss, but Naoki acts like he didn’t hear anything Yuki said, saying he’ll introduce him to Sahoko soon. He keeps praising Sahoko, but it sounds more like he’s trying to convince himself than Yuki as he says that everything will work out.
True to his word, Kin-chan tries to ask Kotoko out on a date. Poor guy, he’s so nervous and awkward, but surprisingly Kotoko easily agrees, saying that she wants to thank Kin-chan for supporting her. That sounds like a pity date, but Kin-chan’s happy, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.
Naoki’s busy at work, making plans to have an official meeting with Sahoko’s family as Kotoko chooses between two paths in front of her. In voiceover she says, “Irie-kun and I are about to start walking our own paths. And further down these paths, I wonder what future awaits us?”
I was starting to wonder if Kotoko was going to be oblivious forever to the fact that Naoki has been opening up to her, especially since she starts every episode with the usual “Irie-kun and I haven’t made any progress” line. Dear Kotoko, he kissed you, he calls you by first name, shared his life dream with you, and spent Christmas Eve with you. If that’s not making progress, than I have no idea what is. But count on Naoki to shoot her down when it finally dawns on her that maybe Naoki likes her more than he lets on.
Naoki always says that he doesn’t want to run away, yet here again we have him running away. His parents, his brother, and even Kin-chan and Yuko to an extent all know that this is not what he wants to do, despite what he says, and call him out on it. I know he’s guilt tripping because his teenage rebel side landed his dad in the hospital (or so he thinks), and in real life, things don’t always work out the way you want, but that doesn’t mean he should totally just give up and accept that he has no say in what he wants in life.
Count on Kin-chan to swoop in and save an episode. He’s been Kotoko’s steady rock through all her ups and downs and even knocking sense into Naoki when he needed it for her sake, and while I don’t think Kotoko’s ever taken it for granted, I think this is the first time she realizes that Kin-chan really cherishes her. When he called out Naoki for always stringing along Kotoko, I was cheering, because no matter how true it is to real life, as a viewer, it’s frustrating to watch the back and forth between Kotoko and Naoki. Just giving her a little ray of hope is far crueler than completely shutting her out.
Lastly, sorry for the delay, a combination of holidays, weird weather, and a complete lack of raws (I still can’t find raws for this episode), kept me from updating on my usual day. Usually when I get near the end of a drama, something always happens, but hopefully I’ll have smooth sailing so I can see this show to the end.