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Mother - TV - Review

Mother - Poster

Mother

Native and/or alternative titles: マザー; Mazā; Mazâ
Year: 2010
Countries: Japan
Languages: Japanese
Genre: Suspense, Drama, Family
Director: Nobuo Mizuta, Makoto Naganuma
Writer: Yuji Sakamoto
Cast: Ashida Mana, Matsuyuki Yasuko, Takahata Atsuko, Ichikawa Miwako, Sakai Wakana, Ono Machiko, Ayano Go, Yamamoto Koji, Tanaka Yuuko, Kurashina Kana

Synopsis: Suzuhara Nao, a specialist observer of migratory birds, becomes a substitute teacher in a primary school. She is responsible for first-year students and does not have much passion for her work. One of her young students, Rena, clung to her new teacher. One day, she finds bruises on Rena and realizes she is a victim of child abuse. The first time Noa does not say anything about it, but with more bruises with each passing day and Rena's absences at school become more frequent. Nao's maternal instincts begin to surface and she decides to take care of Rena. Nao & Rena then pick up a train from his hometown Hokkaido to Tokyo go to a new life...

Review: Suzuhara Nao was not particularly fond of kids. She was a quiet and calm person. Many would even label her cold but she was simply shy and quiet. Circumstances had her this way. And she wasn’t particularly fond of kids and neither was she looking forward to settling down in life despite many considering her almost beyond the ideal marriageable age for women in Japan. So, when Suzuhara Nao acts as a substitute teacher in a primary school she really did not go with the intention of kidnapping a child and fleeing to start a new life. But that is how things panned out.

While Suzuhara Nao was teaching, she noticed that a female 1st-year student, Rena, has bruises on her. She is particularly bright and chirpy but something felt off about her behavior leading Nao to the conclusion that she is a victim of child abuse. At first, Nao doesn’t say anything as she doesn’t wish to get involved in anything as she is simply a substitute teacher but with the passing days, she notices more bruises on Rena. So, one day her maternal instincts kick in and she goes and visits Rena’s house to try and find out more about her situation. But what Nao sees really shocks her. Rena was left outside in the cold with barely any clothes and stuffed in a garbage bag in the middle of winter. By the time Nao found her she was already passed out from the cold. So Nao hurriedly takes Rena back to her house and nurses her back to health. Once Rena wakes up she tells Nao how she wants to escape from her life and starts crying. So Nao propositions Rena to come away with her and start a new life together where Nao would be Rena’s mother. Rena agrees and they both hatch a plan to escape.

Ashida Mana - Rena - Mother

On the day of their escape, they create a scenario where it seems like Rena has gone missing in an accident and both Rena and Nao escape to Tokyo where due to circumstances they lose all their possessions and Nao is forced to visit her Mother to get some help. Somehow Nao’s family finds out about Rena and they both start living there thinking that the worst is behind them but they were quite wrong. Eventually, some bad and a lot of good things happen in their lives because of which Nao and Rena’s lives change forever!

The story of this drama is really beautiful. I think the best part of the story was that despite the fact that Rena was rescued from an abusive situation, it did not show Nao (played by Matsuyuki Yasuko) as an exception to the law. Despite her actions being done in good intentions she was eventually caught and convicted with the punishment also doled out her way. I definitely felt it was unfair and felt extreme remorse and grief from Nao and her family’s perspective but what she did was ultimately wrong and against the law despite carrying good intentions. If every tom, dick and harry starts claiming to have done something with good intentions then people would start misusing the law so I do appreciate the writers of the drama about how they righteously handled this situation instead of simply giving into fan service. Matsuyuki Yasuko somehow emoted her expressions so brilliantly all the while holding a sort of poker face. It was truly baffling!

Another thing which I would like to appreciate would be that Nao never believed her actions to be pardonable, she believed that she did whatever she could, given the situation, but never believed that her path was the correct one or rather the legal one. It made me acknowledge her and look up to her even more. She only thought from Rena’s welfare point of view even though I would mean dire consequences for her. Many people look the other way when someone is in need either because of the legal consequences or the social backlash that they might suffer. In such moments we forget to be human and rather prioritize our interests than those who are suffering right in front of our eyes. In this way I really loved Nao.

But, Nao was not the only powerful character in this drama. This drama was definitely centered around women but more than women around mothers. Needless to say that, these women dominated this drama. One of the male customers (of Nao’s biological mother’s barbershop) said a dialogue which spoke volumes about the entity that is of a ‘mother’.

There are three types of humans – Man, Woman and Mother

There is no doubt that in Japan and Japanese culture itself a mother is given a special regard which I don’t think I have seen to such a degree in other cultures, yet. A bond between a mother and her child seems to go much deeper in Japan because of how heavily they get involved in their child’s life, growth and development as well as the fact that fathers are largely absent in the upbringing of their child due to extremely long work hours and then after-hours work events. Not only so, a Japanese housewife despite being the perfect image of the domicile and obedient wife is secretly the master of the house and household affairs (Yes, I say master and not mistress because she surpasses the typical image of mistress and takes over the role of a master as well). In this drama, that subtle but obvious power and authority of a Japanese mother clearly show through.

The beautiful bitter-sweet depiction of relationships is the most amazing part of this drama. Especially how strong and empowering women can be. In most cultures, women are considered to be sensitive and weak creatures who let their emotions run them and so deeming them inferior and irrational than their male counterparts. But, in this drama, it shows that all these qualities which are deemed to be inferior and irrational can be wielded to be the strongest armour and the strongest weapon that any human can possess. I guess it is a good thing that most women do not get along with each other, imagine if all the women in the world came together then their combined power would be truly fearsome (Don’t you agree??)

The 7-year-old elementary child Rena (Played by Ashida Mana) is another beautiful character. Having suffered for most of her short life she still acts so maturely at times at it can make the viewer forget that she is actually just a kid. But, her positive and bright attitude in the midst of despondency is so impressive.  Her strong and vibrant personality wins the hearts of everyone around her and due to these strengths, she cruises through the tough times that life sends her way. Ashida Mana, like always, does a fabulous job in playing the character of Rena. She is really one of the most extraordinary child actors that I have seen till date.

Ashida Mana - Rena - Mother
The happy-go-lucky Rena-chan!
Nao’s biological mother Mochizuki Hana or Mrs Forgetful (played by Tanaka Yuuko) was another strong mother who has her own tale of grief but doesn’t let even an iota of her burdens show on her face or in her personality. Nao’s adoptive mother and sisters are also wonderful people who constantly supported Nao despite knowing about her illegal actions and the repercussions it would have on their family name. They were a pillar of solidarity and support for Nao through it all. On the other hand, Rena’s mother Michiko Hitomi (played by Ono Machiko) was the complete opposite. She used to be a loving and caring mother but somewhere along the way lost sight of wrong from right and started abusing Rena and neglecting her. Despite Rena giving her mother a second chance, she threw it away for petty revenge and pride showing that she had completely forgotten not only the meaning of being a mother but also a human being. Ono Machiko really played a brilliant villain. She is one of my favourite Japanese actors and despite my deep love for her I really loathed her throughout the duration of the drama (and a while after too).

Matsuyuki Yasuko - Mother

After raving plenty about the incredible acting let’s move on to other parts of the drama. The cinematography was nothing out of the ordinary. Japanese dramas tend to have their own unique style of filming that sets them apart but in the realm of Japanese drama, this drama helps nothing special and actually gave a feeling of being quite low-budget as well.

The music was quite good but that’s it. It was just good while watching the drama, it suited the scenes well but the music isn’t something one would carry with them beyond the drama.

The intrinsic attraction of this drama is basically Nao and Rena. Their life-long bond which develops in a span of a few weeks and how Rena brings so many wonderful new things into Nao’s life and vice-versa. This drama doesn’t have a happily-ever-after. But in my opinion, it doesn’t have a sad ending either. It is a bitter-sweet tale of a mother and daughter.

Good:

Bad:

Rating:
  • Story: 9
  • Acting/Cast: 9
  • Music/Sound: 6
  • Overall: 8
Have you seen this TV show? If yes, what do you think about this show? Comment below! If not, does it sound interesting to you?

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