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 examinations as its main theme, the 2013 version will also feature some modern problems like bullying and school refusal.
Cast & Credits
A difficult yet riveting watch, Kazoku Game turns the family genre on its head. As it adopts an uncanny, dangerous atmosphere, one is often left with the feeling something is not quite right. Even when things appear to be going beautifully, the viewer can never truly settle into a sense of well-being. This unshakable near-paranoia bolsters the mystery presented by the story, begging one to question why the Numata family is in such a state, and what the home tutor hopes to gain from his actions toward them. Because this is clearly a fantasy, issues are relatively negligible with the plot. Despite this, I could not help thinking that if anyone did a quarter of what is seen in this drama, they would be shackled in seconds. Potential viewers beware: triggers abound. Violence toward and between children (including intense bullying), sexual assault, and suicide, are concepts of varying visual importance displayed on screen.
Powerful performances from the ensemble must be applauded. Of the actors and actresses which comprise it, none are weak. Few seem to rant about Sakurai Sho as an actor, but his portrayal of the tutor was especially memorable. Whether through his manic cheer or vibrant cruelty, the character springs to (somewhat nightmarish) life with ease. One may never forget the way Sensei swings his arms childishly while walking, or the frozen doll-like smile he offers to others. And his catch-phrase, "Ii, ne!" ("That's good!") is simultaneously menacing and catchy.
Young actors Kamiki Ryunosuke and Uragami Seishu are also notable, capably carrying out their roles as the troubled Numata sons. Uragami-san as Shigeyuki has an honesty about his depiction, true awkwardness and immaturity (good and bad) many will see themselves in. Something of a screen veteran despite his young age, Kamiki-san has a meatier, more complex role. His character has less relatability, but remains fascinating and nuanced because of his fine performance.
Most tunes heard in Kazoku Game are used to boost its eeriness. Brass instruments and a lone, creepy saxophone lead almost all instrumentals. One particular track stood out, partially because it was played so often and also because it was somewhat sinister. Whenever it marked a scene, something cruel was realized or a strange event had taken place; but the tone was cheerful -- aside from the purposely off-tune lead instrument. I also rather enjoyed the theme "Endless Game," provided by Arashi, and the very suitable introductory piece. My only problem with the soundtrack was that it ultimately felt repetitive, but perhaps that was also intentional.
Then a recommendation came from a friend and the intense need to watch it, and... the rest is history.
Now, for my review:
Story: No one could contest that this was a beautifully written drama. I appreciate that they modified the themes to suit that of the modern generation, having bullying as the universal issue these days. I'm sure that at some point of the story we were able to relate to the characters' plights and mirror ourselves to them. I personally did.
Acting/Cast: This department was almost perfect, except for some side characters that felt stiff at some scenes, but the main characters, especially Shinichi and Yoshimoto-sensei, were practically having an acting talent showdown. Everyone in the family were superbly cast.
Music: I'm not a fan of somewhat cheerful music, but I like the satire in every note of the music to the scenes in this drama, thus still the high score. Endless Game's catchy tune got into me after a few episodes, and it was basically Yoshimoto-sensei's character song.
Rewatch Value: Since this is mystery, the enjoyment value goes down since you already know what happens after you've finished watching it for the first time. But watching it with friends, it was very fun observing how they react at the scenes in the drama (and being blown away with it).
Overall: This is a drama that will be etched to my memory for a very long time, and unless I encounter another drama as intense as this (or more than that), this will stay at my favorite drama list's top 1 spot for a while.