Asa ga Kita: Weeks 4-6

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Here’s another round of Asa ga Kita to end off the year. Although I’ve been very slow with this asadora, it’s really quite enjoyable and easy to watch. The theme song is also fun to sing along to, since it’s so upbeat and very apt for Asa’s character. So far things are progressing well and both Asa and Hatsu are learning how to protect their respective families in their own ways. Dad’s words have a profound effect on them and it’s this principle that guides the sisters as they navigate the changing times and family fortunes.

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As the Edo period comes to an end and the people experience transition fears, Asa’s father-in-law Shokichi (Kondo Masaomi) recognises Asa’s desire to do something for the family. I think it’s great that he encourages and advises her, even gives her tasks such as collecting debts to prove herself. It’s this sort of nurturing and understanding spirit that allows Asa to be bold and venture into things beyond what would be usual for a woman of those times. She learns to adapt to situations and think on her feet, and her persistent nature proves useful in sticky times. And it’s sweet and hilarious how the whole family, including the Kanoya employees, are worried when Asa has to spend the night at a stubborn debtor’s house, but collectively cheer for her when she returns triumphant. More and more, the workers accept Asa as part of the business and it’s comical how they struggle to keep up with her enthusiasm, cringe when she shoots her mouth off or does something off the wall, but are proud of her devotion to the family and business.

These three weeks show Asa making a bit of a name for herself in the financial circles of Osaka. She gets to mix around with the traders and Godai Saisuke (now Tomoatsu) at their meetings – she’s the only woman there – where they discuss business and plans going forward for the city, now that it’s under a new regime and government. I like that the drama shows Asa slowly getting the hang of things instead of making her a girl genius, and she’s not shy about pestering other businessmen for answers and advice on how to go about doing business. Slowly, they too accept her as one of their own, even going so far as to joke that the Shirookas have gained a fourth son instead of a daughter-in-law. Asa also realises the money-lending business can’t survive in these changing times, so she seizes on the idea of venturing into coal mining – she’s so passionate about it that she wants to go to Kyushu to check out the coal mines there, and it is here that she and Shinjiro encounter the first real test of their marriage.

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Shinjiro opposes Asa’s decision to go to Kyushu and it baffles me throughout that he’s not once offered to go with her despite his misgivings (she ends up going with one of the Kanoya workers, Kisuke). He does eventually relent but not until he sees how determined Asa is, to the extent of asking him to take a concubine since she recognises she hasn’t been the kind of wife the family expected (having babies, being traditional etc) and will be in Kyushu for a long time. To his credit, Shinjiro does start doing more things for Asa in these weeks, but he could certainly do more. Fortunately, he does resist the temptation of Miwa (his shamisen teacher, who obviously has the hots for him even though he’s married) and refuses to get a second wife (as suggested by his mother, who doesn’t really mean any harm). I also like how Shinjiro goes after Asa in the rain, comforts her and assures her he won’t marry another woman. It’s clear he doesn’t quite know what to do with her, but he does realise she cares very much for him as he does her. He’s also well aware of the sacrifices she’s been making for the Kanoya business, so the least he could have done (seeing he doesn’t do anything much) is to go with her to Kyushu. But I suppose she’ll have to end up taking care of him instead of the other way round, lazy rich boy that he is!

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Hatsu also undergoes some growth in these weeks – rather, she’s forced to because her in-laws’ Sannojiya business goes kaput and they now have to live in the countryside surviving on farm work and selling vegetables. She doesn’t look it but Hatsu is the strongest of them all, taking on the burden and pulling almost everyone together – I say almost because her shitty mother-in-law is in “woe is me” mode and doesn’t so much as lift a finger to help. And it gets even worse for Hatsu because her husband Soubee (Emoto Tasuku), who looked to have grown a bit of backbone for a while and actually does care for Hatsu, abandons them one day and hasn’t been heard of since. Meanwhile, Hatsu gives birth to a baby boy and continues to work the fields with her father-in-law. So even though she’s leading a hard life, she draws strength from being able to live life simply and fruitfully. Originally Hatsu hadn’t wanted Asa to know she’s fallen on hard times, but Shinjiro finally does some work and searches around for Hatsu – he then arranges for the sisters to meet and Hatsu has since then been able to draw on Asa’s constant support. It’s telling that when their father visits Asa and learns of Hatsu’s plight, he doesn’t rush to offer help but simply watches Hatsu from afar, recognising and appreciating his daughter’s efforts for what they are.

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So far I’ve been quite satisfied with the sisters’ development, and both Haru and Miyazaki Aoi are doing very well in the drama. For obvious reasons, Hatsu’s growth is more obvious this time, but Asa is also beginning to realise certain things and it’s nice to see her coming into her own, especially where the business part is concerned. There’s also quite a bit of humour going on, like when Shokichi and the Kanoya workers joke about Asa driving people up the wall with her inquisitive nature, and how she still runs around like a hoyden even though she’s been married for four years. The drama is balancing quite nicely the light-hearted and serious moments, and I have liked all of the fathers represented so far – both Hatsu and Asa are lucky to have supportive fathers-in-law who help them out – and even Shinjiro’s mother is quite adorable. I’ve liked the two maids Ume and Fuyu, especially Ume who is there to calm Asa down and talk sense into her – she’s got a dry sense of humour that’s quite funny. And just to remind us that Asa is in fact still quite young – she’s 19 at the end of week 6 – dad arrives in Osaka and literally smacks her bottom when he realises just what she’s been up to all this while, hahaha.

All in all, still a good, enjoyable watch and I’m glad the ratings reflect it!

junny@12.40am

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