I watched the second episode of Oyaji no Senaka a while back for the golden combo that is writer Sakamoto Yuji and Mitsushima Hikari before deciding that I might as well watch the whole series. There have been some great ensemble casts this year like MOZU and Wakamonotachi 2014, but the writing just isn’t up to par. Thankfully Oyaji no Senaka realized that a drama is only as good as its story and brought in solid screenwriters to back up its cast. TBS, you’re doing it right.
Oyaji no Senaka (Father’s Back) is a ten-part omnibus drama that tells the various stories of fathers and their relationship with their children. It sounds like it could easily veer into oversentimental drivel, but so far, Oyaji no Senaka has a nice, heartwarming vibe without ever getting too sappy.
Episode 1 (simply titled Hitomiko and Kei) is penned by Okada Yoshikazu (Saigo Kara Nibanme no Koi) and follows 35-year-old Hitomiko (Matsu Takako) who lives with her father Higuchi Keitaro (Tamura Masazaku). Hitomiko has suitors, but isn’t interested in getting married and is content to live forever with her father. Hitomiko definitely has a rather strange attachment to Keitaro as she addresses by “Kei-san” instead of “Otou-san” or “Oyaji,” but it’s cute instead of weird. A small scene I liked is when Keitaro leaves during lunch to wave at Hitomiko while she’s at work. He could do something simple like text or call her, but he knows she’d feel better seeing his face. I love little things like that.
Kei is just as attached; when Hitomiko gets jealous of his close relationship with a nurse, he pretends that they’re dating. That prompts Hitomiko to pretend she’s dating someone too, though after they both start poking around they end up figuring each other out.
It is eventually revealed that part of the reason the two stick so close together is because Hitomiko suffers from panic attacks due to an accident that killed her mother. She can’t be left alone at night and the only person that can calm her is Kei.
Can Matsu Takako do more dramas? Her fear was so palpable when she started having the attack and even after her father arrived to soothe her, it was like she still felt helpless and maybe even self-loathing that Kei always has to come to her rescue. It’s good to know that he’ll be there, but obviously her dad won’t always be around.
Hitomiko starts dating for real, it seems like she has someone new to lean on when she decides to take an overnight trip to visit her boyfriend’s parents. Of course, Kei can’t help but be worried and stays up all night waiting for her phone call if she needs him.
I really like how this scene plays out, with Kei silently crying as he remembers the loss of his wife and the onset of Hitomiko’s attacks, Hitomiko stepping in to take up the household duties, now addressing him as “Kei-san”, and how he was always ready to come to her aid. I really felt how sad he is to have lost that special connection, that he needed her as much as she needed him. But then, when the sun rises and Hitomiko hasn’t called, I realized how proud he is of the fact that she didn’t need him and that both of them are ready to move past that grief.
Episode 1 was a tough act to follow, but episode 2 (Wedding Match) does a pretty good job, taking things in the opposite direction by pitting a father and daughter against each other.
Mitsushima Hikari plays aspiring Olympic boxer Makoto (Mako for short) and is trained by her father, former boxer Aoki (Yakusho Koji). Compared to the first episode, this one made me laugh a lot and wish that Mitsushima would do more comedies because she’s hilarious. Sakamoto nails it with the witty dialogue that shows the antagonistic relationship between the two as they fight inside and outside the ring. Aoki sabotages all of Mako’s social relationships, driving away her boyfriends and tagging along on her dates. He’s pretty much the dad no girl ever wants to have. Aoki always wanted a boy, naming his daughter Makoto, a common boy’s name, instead of Yuka, like her mother wanted. He just ignores the fact that she’s a girl, even throwing her first bra in the river. Mako isn’t content to suffer alone though; when she sees her father has a new girlfriend, she threatens to break her hand unless he breaks up with her.
Though Mako’s suffering is played for comedic effect, you do get a sense of how much she’s suffered to meet her dad’s demands and her frustration with the fact that she doesn’t have his recognition. So, in spite of all the grief Aoki gives her, Mako keeps at boxing, even though she doesn’t have a talent for it. It isn’t until she fails to qualify for the Olympics that she finally gives up, not of her own accord, but because of the agreement between Aoki and Mako’s mother. The look on Mako’s face speaks volumes about how hurt she is that her dad’s given up on her and reaffirms her belief that she’s not good enough for Aoki.
It all boils over when a year later, Mako visits Aoki the night before her wedding. It’s a raw exchange revealing how even though Aoki was aware that pushing Mako was putting a strain on their family, it wasn’t something he could give up on. He tries to convince Mako to go back to boxing and the two end up duking it out to see if it’s marriage or the Olympics. The fight is about more than though. It’s really Mako’s last chance to prove herself to Aoki and when she manages to knock him out like she did the day her mother left, it’s like he realizes her ability and accepts her.
Both episodes were solid from beginning to end, showing different perspectives of a father daughter relationship, so I look forward to what else Oyaji no Senaka holds.