Quartet ep3 [review]


You can get subtitles here.

I’m compelled to dedicate a post just to discuss this episode because Mitsushima Hikari is a force to be reckoned with and one of the best actresses out there. If by any rare chance you don’t know her, then you’re missing a lot and probably have no idea of the standard she has set in Japan. I suggest watching Love Exposure and all of her collaboration with Sakamoto Yuji – Soredemo, Ikite Yuku, Woman, Wakamonotachi (my bad, this wasn’t by him ^^;;) and the currently airing Quartet. She has many works under her belt which I can’t possibly mention here but do check them out. Personally, I believe Sakamoto Yuji always brings the best out of her and she shines without fail in his works. I’m secretly wishing for a reunion with Eita.

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More after the break!

This episode is my favorite so far and it’s easy to understand why. The Queen of Subtlety works her charms like no other in this very episode, which is meant to focus on her background and the reason of the sadness behind her smiles. She literally blew her co-stars out of the water, except maybe for Takahashi Issei’s proud Ultra Soul ‘lingerie’ moments.

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Sakamoto Yuji’s work as we know it, is almost always dialogue-fueled and while the other characters get to spew their lines – for ex: Issei’s constant food-related nitpicking and reminding everyone he’s not wearing any underwear, Maki’s philosophical moments and Beppu’s love miseries, we get Suzume who remains quiet and observant.

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Doughnut by Beppu is so friggin precious she only ate it the next day

Still her quirks entertain us as much as the rest, maybe even more. Even something as simple as her staring into space is magnetic. She may not have as much lines in an episode focused on her character but her body language and subtlety packed more than enough for us to fathom her actions or feelings.

So many moments worth mentioning. Starting from her ‘not feeling guilty’ laugh when she wakes up late and the clothes are already soaked by snow despite Beppu’s little warning.

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Tried to dry them but Issei’s underwear becomes victim followed by her erasing the evidence. Gets an advice from former idol Arisu that a girl must never kiss the guy but maintain a distance of a bottle.

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Since ep2, we slowly see hints of Suzume’s interest in Beppu and I have to bring back this scene at the convenient store because it’s just so well-done! Just a simple scene of eating ice-cream at a konbini can pack so much meaning!

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Despite Suzume’s sloppiness (girl can sleep anywhere which serves a good tactic to spy on others) and somewhat bubbly character, there is a distant faraway gaze when you look at her eyes. I remember thinking she’s the most mysterious character out of the 4, not just because we know so little of her, but there’s something inexplicable about her facial expressions. The fragility behind those smiles and so guarded.

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I especially like how she takes the bus to the hospital but never quite muster enough courage to see the one person she probably ‘hates’ the most for making her life miserable. Also the part where she buys a 500 yen bouquet for her mother whose ashes she keep in a locker (meant for that purpose I suppose), waving her hands and smiling to her mother.

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Her past and present actions are interconnected such that when she was a kid, her father used her for scam purposes and in the present as a grownup, she’s conflicted again because she’s pretending to be Maki’s friend, spying on them behind their backs. Hence, when she wonders if she should stop doing that at the cafe, it’s palpable and perfectly understandable. Not so much because it’s wrong but it reminds her of the awful childhood she goes through. It’s as if she’s forever trapped in that circle and nothing is changing.

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But the best scene is when she talks about her father to Maki at the shop. It’s probably the one time when she feels comfortable enough to reveal even as much to someone else. Matsu Takako is able to complement her very well and thanks to that, I almost teared up when she tells her it’s alright not to go to the hospital, they can just go back to Karuizawa where everybody is, who’s not going to judge her. You can immediately see all the emotional baggage within Suzume starts to lighten. What’s even better is you don’t see her breaking into crying mode but holding that tears in her eyes with a broken smile, but undoubtedly relieved.

Solid episode and acting. I couldn’t ask for more but when you realize this is only 3rd episode, I can’t help but wonder what wonderful things Sakamoto has in store for us. It’s also obvious that Hikari remains his favorite actress when you see how many times they’ve collaborated. When it comes to subtlety, I can’t think of anyone else who can carry it with such finesse. Be it slice-of-life and seemingly mundane daily life activities, I can’t take my eyes of Hikari even when she’s lying on the floor sleeping. So effortless yet a scene stealer.

BTW, anyone recognize the narrator? She sounds very much like Sakura Ando.

Onto the next episode!

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13 thoughts on “Quartet ep3 [review]

  1. Hi Ritsu! Does Wakamonotachi get better after the first ep? Amazing cast but I remember it not really grabbing me at all in the first episode. Thank you!

  2. Wakamonotachi’s cast is excellent, some of the episodes are good but overall, I’d say it’s one of the weaker Sakamoto Yuji works. If we’re just talking about Sakamoto Yuji works and not necessarily limited to Hikari’s dramas, personally, my favorites are Soredemo Ikite Yuku, Woman (both very depressing but touched me a lot), Mondai no Aru Restaurant and Saikou no Rikon.

  3. Hi Ritsu. Wakamonotachi 2014 wasn’t written by Sakamoto Yuji. It was written by Muto Shogo, who also did Kazoku Game. Just wanted to point that out 🙂

  4. omg thank you for pointing that out, I keep thinking it was written by him. >.<;; Maybe coz it reminds me of his work so much. My mistake!

  5. Saw your reply below also. That explains it! I was really surprised when you said he’d written it because I have spent a lot of time on his d-addicts page sifting through his dramas, haha. 🙂
    Anyway, thank you for the info and the recommendations.
    I still want to watch Soredemo.
    Woman I thought was very good, with an excellent performance by Mitsuhima-san — her work there makes me want to watch Soredemo and Quartet.
    Mondai I remember from your 2015 awards you were really keen on. We liked it a lot throughout but felt like the ending fell flat with the spoon incident (don’t want to spoil it for those reading who haven’t seen it). The show was very good throughout but a bit slow paced for the subject matter I thought and also mostly didn’t plumb the emotional depths for me personally, to the degree I was hoping for. However, as a feminist work it’s excellent and the scene with Mitsuki and Maki was really memorable to me.
    Saikou, like Woman, took a couple tries to get into for me. But, I think it was brilliantly written and showed remarkable insight into its characters. I was displeased with the events of the SP, though. Maybe one more SP is in order?

    Other works of Yuji that I’m wondering what you thought of:
    Itoshi Kimi e, Top Caster – these were recommended to me, haven’t seen them but am very interested.
    Last Christmas – my wife and I found this to be very compelling throughout, it doesn’t stick as distinctly in our minds as some other favorite doramas but it was great and emotionally drew us in really well.
    Mother – one of my all-time faves. Very difficult to watch but amazingly affecting if it resonates for you. Even harder to watch than Woman, I thought. Somehow.
    Itsuka – aired last year and we’re nearly done watching it now. It’s very much going to hinge on the ending. So, so far I would say it’s Sakamoto-san’s Orange Days, and is just remarkably well done (but IIRC you don’t tend to be as into romance shows so it wouldn’t surprise me if this and Last Christmas weren’t up your alley as much). Just one episode to go and I have high hopes. Very touching show and as always Sakamoto writes his stories about the kind of people you usually don’t see stories about. 🙂

  6. You’re right about his work. I’m mostly drawn to his slice-of-work genre with compelling characters, either quirky or subdued ones. The themes he explores is unique and even if cliched, he manages to give it an interesting spin. Some of the issues truly resonate with me, which is why I’m drawn to his work.

    hehe I’m usually not that into romance but if done right to my liking, I’ll take it. I’m just not really into the recycled, generic romance you usually see (recent getsu9 type if you know what I mean).

    I’ve heard of Orange Days and Last Christmas, I’ll look them up. That period of time, I wasn’t as active as I am now. This feels somewhat nostalgic ^^

  7. I didn’t finish it actually ^^;; The first few episodes were enjoyable and funny but I can’t recall the exact reason why I dropped it halfway. I guess I wasn’t that into the plot in the end. Well, to each his own so my taste may differ from yours. I’d still recommend you giving it a go and see whether it lasts for you. The same thing happened to me with Date too. Everyone else was raving about it but I lost interest during the final few eps.

  8. I first saw her in Love Exposure opposite Nishijima Takahiro. I really think her experiences with that particular director – bordering on emotional abuse, to my eyes – really shaped her approach to acting. He extracted real feelings from her, blending the line between reality and fiction, which I’ve seen her apply in other roles. I haven’t seen many young Asian actresses who would be considered comparable. I’ve probably seen her in just about everything she’s been in since. But I haven’t seen a jdrama since 2013 and almost missed this one! I’m really glad I found your site. But I spoiled myself a bit since I clicked on this recap first – D’oh!

  9. Yes, I remember reading about that too somewhere. It sounded pretty extreme but ‘thanks’ to that harrowing experience, she’s now a really talented actress. You should totally check this one out! haha I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

  10. I was shocked to see the rating dropped in ep3, like, why are they not appreciating great acting and story? sigh Or maybe it’s an acquired taste? I don’t really care about ratings anymore though ^^;; It’s come to a point where some ratings just seem so bizarre to me.

  11. I am on to episode 9 now but I just need to drop a line here to say how amazing Mitsushima Hikari is. I started off the show not knowing who she is but her portrayal of Suzume’s has really wowed me. Can’t believe I have been missing out on her until now!

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