Gakeppuchi no Eri Episode 1 Recap
Romanized title: Gakeppuchi no Eri
English title: Eri on the Brink (literal translationk
Broadcast station: TV Asahi
Broadcast dates: 9 July – 3 September 2010
Cast: Yamada Yu, Koizumi Kotaro, Tsukaji Muga, Osugi Ren, Watanabe Eri, Jinnai Takanori, Tanaka Yoji
Based on autobiographical essay Kono Yo de Ichiban Daiji na ‘Kane’ no Hanashi by Saibara Rieko
Theme song: “Makennai Kokoro” by AAA
Synopsis: Aihara Eriko is a poor girl who dreams of going to art school and becoming a wealthy artist. She always loved drawing as a child and when she realized you could earn money by it, she made becoming an artist her life’s ambition. Things aren’t all that easy for her though. Eriko’s stepfather died and debtors came knocking and taking all of their possessions and money. Eriko’s mother had some money secreted away and gave it to her daughter to start a new life at university in Tokyo. Eriko moves there where she encounters exacting professors, con artists, and rich students who just don’t understand what it means to be poor. Can Eriko survive this new environment or will she give up on her dream?
The episode opens with Aihara Eriko (Yamada Yu), her mother Mitsuyo (Watanabe Eri), and her stepfather Shozo (Jinnai Takanori) careening on a country road that winds through the woods. Her father has decided to sell their land to make some money. Her mother says that it is useless as they won’t be able to be wealthy from the sale of the land. Her father then decides that they can all die together as a family which both Eriko and her mother pass on. This upsets him and his crazy driving gets even more erratic until they hit a fence and flip the car. Eriko and her mother both manage to get out of the car, surprisingly unharmed. They begin walking away from the accident when they realize father is nowhere to be seen. They call out to him and he is sitting in the driver’s seat complaining about them leaving him and how about when he dies, he’ll haunt them for sure. The two don’t think this is very serious and tell him to hurry and come out as gasoline is leaking. This sobers him up and while the two continue to walk away, he struggles to get out of the car, but is caught by the seat belt wound around his leg. The car explodes, surprising Eriko and her mother. And like that, the father is gone.
Eriko is at home mourning her father when a slew of people come in saying that now he is dead, they will take whatever they can to pay off his debt. One man even takes consolation money given to Eriko and her mother. This stuns them both and Eriko holds her acceptance letter to art school believing that her dream has gone down the drain as they now have no money to send her. She says that poor people shouldn’t have dreams because they will always be poor. Eriko’s mom comes in with a knife, terrifying Eriko, but she doesn’t go after her daughter but attacks the floor. She pulls up a section of flooring and brings out a jar. She opens it and digs out a bag of roughly 1 million yen. She gives it to Eriko, telling her to go to Tokyo and not give up on her dream. This touches Eriko who regains her cheerful personality and promises her mom that she will go and become somebody and repay her mom double what she gave her.
In Tokyo Eriko attends art classes. In one class they are supposed to be painting a model dressed in Roman garb. The professor Sakamaki sensei comes out and is really taken by Eriko’s work as the man’s skin has been painted green. He asks what deep meaning is in this and Eriko says it’s because it is the only paint she has. Sakamaki looks down at her supplies and there are only three tubes of paint. From that point on, Eriko is on his bad list. The other students warn her that it is not a good thing to get on Sakamaki’s bad side. Oh well, what can Eriko do when she has little money? She goes out to buy art supplies. She buys the bare minimum and ends up spending 20,000 yen. She then walks home depressed as she doesn’t have a whole lot of money remaining. She passes by a bento store and sees a nori lunchbox that she would love to have, but even that 250 yen box is too much for the girl with the tight budget. The owner asks if she will buy and Eriko says she wants to but just can’t afford it and walks away with the bento store owner watching her with pity.
Eriko gets home to her apartment which is a bit ramshackle and completely covered with plants. The landlady says that she feels bad because Eriko is a young woman living there and there are a lot of problems like horrible humidity, no working bathroom. It’s pretty good that the owner admits it. Now only Eriko and one other tenant still remain. Eriko goes upstairs to her room, wonders just what her neighbor is like before going in and taking inventory of her finances. At this rate, her money will soon be gone. She decides to find a part-time job to help with her living expenses. She then eats her meal of beansprouts.
The next day she is walking and looking at a job guide when a man stops and asks if she’s a model. He would like to take her pictures. Eriko wants to know how much it pays. This surprises the man, but he pulls a 1000 yen note out of his pocket and hands it to her. She happily takes the money and gives him a victory pose. While taking her pictures, the man asks her questions about herself. She said that she moved to Tokyo to go to art school. He asks if she want to be an artists and Eriko replies that she doesn’t want to be poor anymore. She was always teased by the other kids in school about being poor and then one day her artwork won a contest that came with a monetary reward. Her stepfather blew the money, but she will never forget the feeling of being able to get money for her art. This completely shocks the cameraman. Most people don’t think art and money are synonymous as most artists can’t really make a good living off making and selling art.
In class, Sakamaki goes around giving compliments and advice, but completely ignores Eriko. She gets up and asks for his honest opinion of her art. He takes her newly bought paints (which she had been using sparingly) and squirts giant gobs of them on her palette, telling her that her work will never be good if she can’t use more vibrant color and walks away. Eriko sinks down into her seat and mourns the loss of her precious paints which cost a lot of money (at least for a poor person like her). On her way home she complains about the loss of paint and the fact that she quickly needs to find a part-time job quickly. She hears the sounds of bullying and sees a little boy (the cute kid from Kaibutsu-kun) getting picked on by other kids. She remembers her school days of being bullied and goes over to put and end to it. The other kids run off and Eriko unwraps the tape from the little boy who tries to run away. She captures him and the two get to talking and laughing. Eriko shows him her drawing of him and he asks if she really is an artist. She talks about needing money and the boy says he knows of a place that will pay well. This makes Eriko happy, but she is shocked when the kids leads her to a cabaret. He warns her about the boss looking for a certain bust size and leaves her there wondering how he would know such things.
Eriko goes into the club and asks if the money they advertised outside was really true. The boss replies that it is and that if customers nominate her, then she will be able to make 100,000 yen easily. This makes Eriko happy and she agrees to the job. This shocks the number one hostess who wonders if such a girl like Eriko will be able to make a good fit in the club. The boss says they are in desperate need of help, so Eriko will do for now. She starts right away and makes mistake after mistake. She almost lights a client on fire, she tells depressing stories about how she found her real dad dead in a gutter and about how her stepfather recently died in an explosion. This horrifies the other hostesses. Eriko asks what the customer does and learns that he makes a killing off the housing market by taking homes from those who can no longer afford them for practically nothing. Not a good thing to say to the poor Eriko. This job will definitely be tough for her.
At school, Sakamaki catches Eriko going through the trash looking for paint that she can use. Instead of scolding her for this, he calls her into his office and asks about a scandalous article in a magazine. Eriko takes it and looks at it. She remembers the man who took her picture and is horrified to learn that he put it with such a risque article. She tries to bluff her way out of it, but Sakamaki warns her if the continues to tarnish the school’s reputation, then she will be forced to leave. Eriko goes home cursing the photographer only to run into him at the apartment. It turns out that the sleazy photographer is none other than her neighbor Kamoda Juichi (Tsukaji Muga). She complains about the article and he says that he looks forward to her help in the future. This makes her even more mad, but the fight is interrupted by the arrival of a young man who says that he is an editor for a magazine who is interested in Kamoda’s work. Eriko goes to bawl out this young man, but Kamoda interrupts and drags him outside to talk before Eriko can launch into her tirade about his unethical work. The young man, Hirabayashi Masamune (Koizumi Kotaro), is an editor who greatly admires Kamoda who apparently used to be a real photojournalist. There is a story there, but we don’t learn what it is yet.
Eriko’s painting is the only one rejected by Sakamaki who tells her the redo it in three days or consider herself failed. Eriko asks why and he says her paint is cheap and her canvas crappy. The painting is that of a poor person. If she cannot afford anything, then she should not be in that art school. What a blow to Eriko. She goes home and meets Kamoda. He asks her what’s wrong and she tells him. She then asks to borrow money and he tells her that he is broke. She goes to work and overhears a client say that he will give anyone 50,000 yen if they can drink this spicy tomato drink down. Eriko agrees to do it, but fails and spits the drink out on the customer’s lap. The other hostesses and the customers poke fun of Eriko. The number one hostess pulls Eriko aside and berates her for the attitude, saying that dreams are sometimes just impossible and Eriko shouldn’t make others suffer while trying to obtain hers. Ouch.
Eriko goes begging for more time, but Sakamaki sticks to his three day limit. She gives him her hostess card and asks him to come to the cabaret where she works, which shocks Sakamaki. At this point Eriko is depressed, thinking that she will have to give up on her dream as she just doesn’t have the money for the art supplies. She recalls how happy and proud her father was of her drawings and she remembers her mother giving up her hard-earned money and telling Eriko to make a better life for herself. While she is out, Kamoda takes a call from Eriko’s mother. He goes to find her and tells her to go home for her father’s anniversary. Eriko says she has no money and Kamoda gives her an envelope of money from her mother. Eriko smells it and says it smells of fish. She starts crying because that is the smell of her mother.
Eriko goes home and her mother knows that something is going on. She goes and brings back a box which is filled with Eriko’s drawings. Apparently Shozo kept them all. This touches Eriko and she turns over to find that Shozo had written inspirational sayings on the back of her drawings. Her mother tells her not to give up on her dream as Eriko’s excuse about a poor person always being a poor person is a rich man’s saying. Seeing Shozo’s words on her drawings and receiving her mother’s encouragment helps Eriko to gain the courage to go back to Tokyo (even though the 3 days have already passed) and try once more to obtain her dream.
Sakamaki goes to the cabaret to find Eriko. Not quite sure why. Maybe he felt guilty for the way he treated her. The employee says that Eriko had not been there in days. She comes running in and asks to take the drink challenge again. The people cannot believe her audacity, but the customer agrees but he will double the spiciness and thus the prize money. Eriko says she will do it. She starts chugging and comes up for air. The customer tells her she can’t do it and that he hates poor people. He slanders her pride and ridicules her from trying to climb up the ladder to a higher position. Eriko gets angry and stands up. She lifts the glass high and says she will start on the bottom and climb her way out. she then finishes chugging the entire drink. She takes the money and rushes out. This impresses the other hostess who told Eriko to give up on her dreams and it impresses Sakamaki who witnessed the whole thing. Eriko rushes to the art store and manages to spend 50,000 yen of the prize money to get the needed paints and canvas.
She takes her painting to Sakamaki who scolds her for being late. She keeps her head down and begs him to please look at it. He takes the painting, making Eriko happy. He says that if this happens again, she will be done for. She runs out and goes and buys a nori bento and wonders what to do with the rest of her money. When she gets home, a man is waiting for her. It’s the cousin who swindled her stepfather, causing the family to fall into poverty. He steals the money out of Eriko’s hands and takes off running with Eriko hot on his heels.
My thoughts: It’s weird to see a tough, tomboyish Yamada Yu. I last saw her in Mei-chan no Shitsuji as the delicate, dainty epitome of a lady who was also a closet psychopath. She does a good job as Eriko, yet at times seems a little too burlish and forced. The show’s message is a good one. It always annoys me when people look down on the poor and say they shouldn’t try to dream or better themselves, so it is good to have this drama based on a true story. However, it does seem a little forced and silly. Like the customer who flaunts his wealth and talks about a measly 50,000 yen as being pocket change. Over the top. I know there are probably people who do it, but it just doesn’t seem to realistic and put on, like Sakamaki ridiculing Eriko for being unable to afford paints. But it is still a good show despite is over-acting.