Karamazov no Kyoudai Episode 1 Recap
This drama is based on the Russian novel The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. If you expect me to draw any parallels between the original novel and the drama, you’ll be disappointed. This is mainly because I have never forayed much into the realm of Russian literature (besides borrowing Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy from my school library and then not reading it beyond the first few chapters—its rather heavy you know). Heck, I don’t think my college even offered any Russian literature classes (but I could be wrong about that).
Just for basic knowledge, The Brothers Karamzov was Dostoyevsky’s last work before he died (1880) and is a very philosophical novel exploring the struggles of people in a modernizing Russia. I am only saying this much because I think the drama (while maybe not playing on the philosophical part too much yet) is rife with some symbolism and noirish settings and cinematography due to the background and context of the original novel.
We open the episode with muted tones and a narrator talking about how great a restaurant the local police station has. It’s run by a little old couple and once you eat their food, you become addicted and come back again and again. This is while we watch three men stuff their faces. I don’t like such food shots. Not sure why, but I don’t. Plus…it’s rude to focus on people while they are eating. An officer then asks how the three can eat so much when their father is dead. This brings the screen to full color (though the setting itself is a dimly lit interrogation room) and all three men look up. The oldest boy Kurosawa Mitsuru (Saito Takumi) responds by saying he can’t help it as he’s hungry. The middle son Kurosawa Isao (Ichihara Hayato) says humans must eat to survive no matter what happens to them.
The officer then wonders if Kurosawa Bunzo (Yoshida Kotaro) was also hated by his sons as much as he was hated by the townspeople. Every body wanted him to die. We then cut to random flashes of images—crows, a clown’s face, a cut wrist dripping blood, a woman’s laughing face—mixed with various words (i.e. explosion). The officer then asks if the sons killed their father. Mitsuru stops eating and looks up as does the youngest son Kurosawa Ryo (Hayashi Kento). Isao only toasts with his spaghetti and continues eating. Such interesting behavior for sons whose father did just die. We then cut to a scene and see their father covered in blood with a sheet covering his private area, arms outstretched—almost mimicking a crucifix. A lot of black and white play, plus getting to that murder scene is like someone is shooting a video with the image cutting in and out and an unsteady camera. It’s interesting. Really. Part of the cool thing about this drama is how they choose to do the cinematography of the scenes.
We then flashback to two weeks earlier. Isao is busily working at a law firm in Tokyo. He’s asked to work overtime as the firm is very busy. Isao quickly agrees to this as he won’t be going back home for the end of the year like most people do. Meanwhile, the youngest son Ryo is attending his final class of the semester. The professor invites him to help him do research over the break. Just like his older brother, Ryo is quick to accept the offer as he has no plans to return home for the holidays. Meanwhile, the eldest Mitsuru is at a bar drinking and gambling on a dart game while hitting on women. He’s called outside where he’s beaten for owing money. The thugs take his winnings saying it only covers the interest for that period.
Kurosawa Bunzo comes home and gets a message that his eldest son wishes to see him as soon as possible. This angers Bunzo. He slams back a drink and puts in a call to his middle son Isao who looks reluctant, but does answer it. His father asks him if he’s making money as a lawyer. Isao doesn’t reply to this and only says he hasn’t talked to his father in awhile. Bunzo fondles a nude female statuette as his praises his middle son for inheriting his blood and becoming a lawyer who can earn the big bucks. Bunzo then asks for Isao to return home for a family meeting. Isao refuses as he has a trial to prepare for, but his father quickly refuses to let Isao get out of it and hangs up. Isao lowers his cell and his hand immediately goes to his left shoulder as his expression becomes pained.
Throughout the entire drama, we get interjections back to the present and the interrogation. The policeman then asks if the family meeting was the cause of everything. Mitsuru looks up—what is he talking about? Ryo says they never expected such an event to happen and Isao’s reply is that the origin of the incident is the mere existence of their family.
We then cut to the boys all arriving at the family home separately. And I will pause here just to ask WHY so many Japanese dramas are using English insert songs? Iki mo Dekinai Natsu used two of Adele’s songs, Piece used a song by Matchbox Twenty, and now this drama is using The Rolling Stones’s “Paint It Black” (which, do you know, is about the Vietnam war? I learned that by watching KBS’s Top Band season 1). Anywho, Mitsuru arrives last and finds Isao and Ryo. He seems happy yet surprised to see his brothers. Isao responds that their father called a family meeting. Does Mitsuru know why? Sure, Mitsuru asked their dad to meet with him as he wishes to ask for a “gift before death” since their father refused to loan him any money. This is basically getting your inheritance before your parent passes on.
Isao asks Mitsuru why he needs the money and the asks after his elder brother’s investment scheme. Mitsuru says it’s complicated and his brothers give him uneasy looks. An uncomfortable silence falls until Mitsuru asks if Isao still writes his creepy novels. Isao says he has no time now. That’s right. Younger brother number 1 is a lawyer while younger brother number 2 is currently in med school. Mitsuru says he envies his younger brothers. They have different mothers and that makes all the difference (Mitsuru comes from the first wife while Ryo and Isao are from the second wife). Isao then asks Ryo how things are going. The younger boy says he wishes to choose psychiatry as his area of specialty. His older brothers exchange glances which show they aren’t too thrilled by this decision. Isao even voices that it’s still early to decide on his focus. However, Mitsuru jumps in and says that since Ryo is a good listener, then him becoming a psychiatrist isn’t bad.
More awkward silence broken by Mitsuru who asks the servant where their father is. The servant says Bunzo went out early on important business. He then leaves to check on Bunzo’s return time. Ryo brings up that last week was death anniversary and all three boys’ eyes are drawn to a piano in the living room. We then cut to probably 20 years or so in the past. The boys are around a piano which the second wife is playing. They are all happy until the arrival of their drunken father. When Mitsuru shoots him a look that would kill a normal human being, Bunzo starts beating his eldest son. His wife jumps in to protect the boys and shields all three with her own body. This doesn’t make Bunzo pause at all and he kicks his wife mercilessly.
The flashback ends as the servants return to let them know that Bunzo won’t be coming home any time soon thanks to urgent business. Mitsuru complains about this since Bunzo was the one who set the time. Ryo then asks if they should go visit their mother’s grave. Mitsuru says he won’t because he’s too irritated and leaves and Isao likewise refuses. The middle son pauses and stares unhappily at a portrait of their father. We then cut to Ryo putting flowers on Kurosawa Shiori’s (Ando Sakura) tombstone and apologizing for not coming more often. He tells his mother about his current life and then thanks the two servants for taking care of the grave so well. The younger of the servants, Suematsu (Matsushita Kouhei) asks how the mistress died. The elder servant, Oguri Kouichi (Watanabe Kenkichi), scolds him for that question. Ryo says that it is okay and he honestly doesn’t know since he was only two when it happened and his older brothers won’t talk about it.
Mitsuru is sitting at home doing nothing when his girlfriend(?) Endo Kanako (Takanashi Rin) comes home. Misturu says he’s been job hunting, but hasn’t found anything yet. Kanako does her best to encourage him and Mitsuru reveals that little brother Isao is in town. What complicated relationship have we here? He then leaves after receiving some money from Kanako. Looks like she’s supporting him. Meanwhile, Ryo sees a little boy being bullied and steps in. When Ryo asks him what happened, the tyke replies that the other boys bully him because he’s poor. Ryo introduces himself and the little boy quickly bites him and calls him a “Kurosawa dog” before running away. Awwww, poor Ryo didn’t deserve that. Of course, the family has a horribly reputation because of their father who uses unethical business practices and who is known for his love of alcohol, women, and money.
We then cut back to the present day where the policeman comments about how viciously Bunzo practiced business. Ryo fidgets and rubs the hand that got bit, Mitsuru responds by saying that’s probably why his father was killed, and Isao just darkly asserts that while there’s varying degrees, all business is vicious.
Bunzo finally arrives home and visits his middle son’s room. He asks how the meeting went and Isao bows and welcomes him home. Bunzo asks if Isao handled Misturu. Isao replies that he can’t act without his father this time. Bunzo comments on Isao becoming a lawyer for him. He then makes a mention of money and Isao says there is no one who hates money. Bunzo then claims that Isao is his favorite son. Isao (unconvincingly to me) asserts that he respects his father. Bunzo leaves and smirks while Isao’s face darkens and his hand goes to his shoulder once more.
Mitsuru is at a bar (surprise, surprise). Even though he lives with Kanako, he hits on other women all the time. He finds a certain woman who intrigues him and strikes up a conversation. I’d like to know why he seemed so awkward at first. The woman’s name is Kurumi and the two talk about what they do. Kurumi says she’s a lover and Mitsuru says he’s currently jobless. He wishes to open his own bar and have good music and good liquor. Kurumi says that he’s a dreamer and Mitsuru says that he wants to, but just can’t settle down. Kurumi responds that all people are contradictory by nature. Mitsuru asks her to be his girlfriend, but she refuses since he has no money. Enter Isao who urgently asks to talk to him. Mitsuru tells her to stay put and goes off to talk to his brother.
Mitsuru asks why Isao is there and Isao asks about Mitsuru’s plans. Mitsuru is determined to ask for the “Gift before Death.” Isao tells him it won’t be easy and Mitsuru asks for his younger brother’s help. Isao tells his brother to be realistic and asks after Mitsuru’s job hunt. Of course, Mitsuru doesn’t wish to talk about this—especially since he hasn’t seen his brother in a long time, but Isao is doing his best to talk sense into Mitsuru. Isao doesn’t want Mitsuru to be dependent on their father’s money. Mitsuru asks what his problem is and then changes the subject to Kanako—has Isao seen her? Mitsuru has no idea why that woman is with him. He then switches back to the original topic and tells his little brother not to worry as he also believes it’s time he gets out of that life. The music and Isao’s (and Kurumi’s expression) really makes that declaration sound ominous.
Suematsu takes care of Ryo’s hand as Isao returns. He asks his little brother what happened, but Ryo won’t tell him. Ryo does bring up about how they were hated when they were children. Isao wonders what’s wrong, but Ryo, again, won’t tell him. Ryo then gets up and awkwardly asks if Isao knows the reason why Shiori died. Isao wonders why his baby brother is asking now. Ryo says he’s missed many chances and really wants to know why their mother killed herself. Isao pauses and says he forgot. They should concentrate on the future and not the past. He then goes upstairs.
Bunzo is sitting alone in his bedroom drinking when he gets a call from Kurumi who says that she has become friends with Mitsuru. Bunzo calls her a bad girl. Didn’t he tell her she couldn’t have a relationship with anyone but him? Ew. Meanwhile, Ryo sits at the piano fingering the keys, Mitsuru lays his head on the bar, fist clenched, and Isao is writing some pretty creepy things. We get the image flashes (some with more detail) that we did at the beginning. How ominous that Isao writes “It was a murder that was waiting to happen.”
The next morning Isao goes down to breakfast where he finds Ryo and Bunzo eating. Isao says he will go back to Tokyo that very day, but Bunzo says he needs to stay to help him on business matters. That’s impossible as Isao is very business. Bunzo then says that he’s already called Isao’s office asking for the time off. Bunzo then gets up and kneels and jokingly asks for his son’s help. Bunzo then switches to Ryo and tells him to stay longer as Suematsu will be making his favorite beef stew. Bunzo then kisses his younger son’s forehead which really makes Ryo squirm as he tries to keep a smile on his face. Enter in the eldest Misturu who plows ahead and asks his father for his inheritance early. Bunzo’s joking mood is gone and he screams that he will not give a single penny to any of his kids since they are born of worthless mothers. The man even flings food at them. Bunzo calls Shiori the worst. Mitsuru’s mother just cheated on Bunzo and ran away while Shiori had the audacity to get blood all over his house.
We then flashback to the Kurosawa boys’ childhood. Mitsuru and Isao were playing hide and seek. Isao runs into his mother’s room and his sock becomes soaked. He looks down and sees it’s blood. He then looks up and sees his mother’s cut wrist and the knife on the floor and falls back. Mitsuru rushes in and sees the situation. He quickly grabs Ryo and yells at Isao to come. The boys rush out and find their father playing with women in the living room. They try to get his attention, but Bunzo doesn’t want to pay them any attention. I have to say I do find it horrible that Shiori commits suicide with her TWO-YEAR-OLD SON in bed with her. How sick and twisted is that? And I must also say that Ichihara Hayato’s portrayal of Kurosawa Isao thoroughly creeps me out as much as Yoshida Kotaro’s portrayal of Kurosawa Bunzo disgusts the hell out of me–now that’s good acting.
The flashback ends and Mitsuru lunges at his father as it was Bunzo’s fault Shiori killed herself. Bunzo leaves and Mitsuru angrily breaks a glass as he shivers in rage. Isao shakes and rubs his shoulder while Ryo sits silently, eyes welling with tears.
The policeman then asks if that’s when the “murderous intent” was born. Ryo parrots those two words back and Mitsuru says that feeling was born from a lot farther back. Isao’s final reply is that while he may have had the murderous intent, he’d never act on it as Bunzo is his father. We then cut to the murder scene once more before the episode ends.
Yep. Ripe with imagery and symbolism. Some cool cinematography and excellent acting. It’s like a murder mystery, but I really won’t be surprised if one (or all three) of the boys killed the father—the man deserved it.