Jdrama Review: Kazoku Game (2013)

Kazokugame

Title: Kazoku Game
Episodes: 10
Duration: 46 min.
Aired: Apr 17, 2013 to Jun 19, 2013
Cast: Sakurai Sho, Kamiki Ryunosuke, Uragami Seishu, Itao Itsuji, Suzuki Honami, Kutsuna Shiori
Genre: Family, Life, Psychological, School

The Synopsis: The story revolves around an eccentric home tutor named Yoshimoto, who is hired to teach the second son of the Numata family. While being tossed around by the weird and unconventional home tutor, the remedial student and his family gradually start changing. Though the previous movie/dramas featured a fiercely competitive high school entrance examination as its main theme, the 2013 version will also feature some modern problems like bullying and school refusal.

The Review: Kazoku Game translates into what this show is all about, “Family Game.” Sakurai Sho, as Yoshimoto, agrees to be Shigeyuki’s tutor, but he is teaching the whole family. Each of the family members has different problems in the ways they act, think, and communicate. There is the mother, who cares more about how her family is perceived by the neighbors and has lost touch with her own children; the father, who pays no attention to his own family. The children consist of the older brother, Shinichi, who does not show any feeling for his family or guilt about hurting others, and the younger brother, Shigeyuki, who hides himself away at home and refuses to face the harsh realities of the world.

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From the first episode, it’s obvious that Yoshimoto is not your typical tutor. He literally locks Shigeyuki in his room, slaps him across the face, throws him around, and pounds the ground next to his face. Yet, despite all of this, and much more, I couldn’t help but like him. For every terrible thing he does, there is another good deed, and ultimately he ends up helping the entire family.

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Overall, though, it’s hard to know what to think of this show. It almost glorifies child abuse and encourages the use of force and manipulation to teach lessons. In order to fix the family, Yoshimoto disintegrates it first. I don’t care how good his intentions were, he almost drove people to suicide and one of them could have succeeded. The entire show has a dangerous, uncomfortable atmosphere, as we’re never sure what Yoshimoto has planned or whether what’s happening is real or being manipulated by him. Just when things seem to be looking up, he throws another curveball their way, forcing them to confront all of their problems.

True to its name, this drama deals with the entire family, with each family member getting their own episodes. The father and mother both learn to see the faults in themselves. Shigeyuki goes through quite the journey in the first few episodes, and all because of Yoshimoto. His storyline was the one I found the most disturbing when it came to Yoshimoto’s methods of teaching.

However, I found Shinchi to be the most interesting character. In a lot of dramas, you see the grown up version of him. Someone who hasn’t had a taste of the bad things in life, someone who has never had to deal with any hardship. Consequently, it turns him into a person who thinks he can do anything he wants and has no compunction about hurting others. I liked seeing his gradual learning as he finally started experiencing life’s difficulties. It was great that the drama focused on both weak and strong people needing to learn their own lessons.

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Sakurai Sho once again proves that he can take creepy to whole new levels. My expectations of idols that try to act are low, but Arashi continues to impress me by any standard. Sho is perfect for this type of role; the tortured, crazy, violent character that is also smart and compassionate. I don’t know if anyone could have pulled off the role as well as he did.

The only member of the family I’d seen before was Kamiki Ryunosuke from Keizoku 2: SPEC. His larger role in this drama showed he could successfully take on a more complex character. The other family members pulled their weight and put in fantastic performances. The other notable actor was Kutsuna Shiori, who played three different roles over the course of the drama and managed to make each one distinct.

Just like Yoshimoto, the music is a strange mix of upbeat and creepy.  In other words, it fit perfectly and added to the uneasy atmosphere. The lack of music at points was just as effective; after the big blowout between the family members, the silence was deafening. Arashi’s theme, “Endless Game,” was a great tune to end each episode.

Final Verdict: Kazoku Game is an engaging, fascinating watch that will keep you thinking long after the show has finished. Watch to the very end, because it will completely throw you. You’re going to go watch this drama now right? ii nee.

Rating: 9/10

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