Here’s another round of Asa ga Kita. These weeks see quite a few important changes in our characters’ lives and in the history of Japan. We also bid farewell to one key character, which is pretty sad. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate to start off with a screencap of the two most handsome men in the asadora, just to brighten your day.
Asa gets to go to Tokyo and takes in for herself the changes in the big city, which is now the new capital of Japan. She, unknowingly, makes the acquaintance of Fukuzawa Yukichi, whose works she had read and admired. In a rather enlightening and somewhat humorous conversation at an eatery, Asa and Fukuzawa discuss about the role of women, among other things, and he declares she should aim to be a woman president someday. Asa also gets to meet Godai and his important friend, Okubo Toshimichi, who was one of the three nobles who led the Meiji Restoration. Sadly, Okubo is killed soon after and Asa witnesses Godai in one of his rare breakdowns as he grieves for his friend.
These four weeks also chart the growth of Chiyo, who becomes very different from her mother. Both Asa and Shinjiro start feeling they are very unlike the “normal” parents that Chiyo’s friends speak of, and have to take great pains to make her understand that while Mom is always out working and Dad is not working, they love her all the same. Asa finds that motherhood is a learning and balancing act, as she tries to make time for Chiyo but still has to handle the coal mine and her desire to turn Kanoya into a bank. And it’s hilarious how Shinjiro says Chiyo questioning why he’s not like other fathers makes him almost want to go get a job, but not quite. I do love Yono’s little speech to Asa when Asa sought permission to go to Tokyo – that Asa should not be greedy and think she can be both a good mother and a trailblazing businesswoman, because sacrifices will have to be made in the process. It’s the dilemma all working mothers face, and it’s great that Yono assures Asa the family will take care of Chiyo while she’s out working. Asa does feel guilty that she can’t always be there for Chiyo, but it’s a fact of life that she can’t have the best of both worlds.
The thing I love most about about these four weeks is the unlikely friendship that has blossomed between Shinjiro and Godai. It’s entirely in keeping with Shinjiro’s character that he’s very much behind the scenes, and it doesn’t surprise me that he had a hand in helping to draw more people to join the Osaka Chamber of Commerce. I love how Godai’s opinion of Shinjiro changed from thinking he’s a useless man who only depends on his wife, to realising Shinjiro’s innate qualities and how his personable nature and popularity can be an asset as well. It’s hilarious how Shinjiro and Godai end up calling each other Tomo-chan and Shin-chan once in a while. I also love how Shinjiro (with the help of Asa and Eizaburo) steps up to help Godai in his hour of need during the Hokkaido scandal, and how Godai played a part in getting Shinjiro to accept one of the biggest responsibilities of his laidback life. I just adore how firm their friendship has become in such a short time. It’s amazing, when you think about it, that two men who love the same woman can become such good friends and be understanding of where he stands in that woman’s life and heart. It’s just so lovely seeing Tamaki Hiroshi and Dean Fujioka together laughing and enjoying sake over a good chat. There needs to be a drama starring the two of them as forever best friends.
Sadly, Godai passes away at the end of week 16. Osaka loses a visionary leader, and Asa and Shinjiro lose a dear friend. As Asa once said, it is Godai, and not herself, who is the trailblazing penguin and she was merely following in his footsteps. It’d be interesting to see how Asa proceeds from now on, as she had been mainly turning to Godai for advice on work matters and counting on him to occasionally check her impulsiveness. A small consolation for Asa is that she has finally found a female friend outside of her family and Hatsu, and the surprising candidate is Miwa, Shinjiro’s shamisen teacher who has opened a restaurant.
Other side characters got a boost in these four weeks. Shinjiro’s younger brother Eizaburo has slowly come into his own, managing the Kanoya business and getting married. It’s lovely to see how he has grown to respect and admire Asa for her generosity and warm, helpful nature, and she recognises his intelligence and management skills. He’s a steadying hand at Kanoya so that she can concentrate on the coal mine business. Kisuke, one of the more senior employees at Kanoya, finally gets his heart’s desire and marries Fuyu, one of Asa’s maids. The love story is a bit awkward because Kisuke is much older than Fuyu and she had been carrying a torch for Shinjiro for the longest time until he finally put a stop to it gently. She then marries Kisuke after he stood up for her against her abusive father. I didn’t get the feeling that Fuyu married Kisuke because she felt something for him, merely grateful that he would want a “lowly” maid like her. But then again, women of olden days didn’t really marry for love. Even Asa had to go through a period of reflection to realise she’s loved Shinjiro all this while. There’s also another more sedate love story, that of Gansuke, the head clerk, and Asa’s maid Ume, which may look to reach a head in the coming weeks.
Pacing continues to be good and the story is developing nicely on all fronts. I’m sad I won’t be able to see much of Dean Fujioka in the coming weeks of Asa ga Kita, but hopefully there will be the occasional flashback. We all need a Godai-sama in our lives once in a while.