What’s this – an actual cliffhanger in Shouwa Monogatari?
No matter how you slice it, Shouwa Monogatari always seems to come down to the same thing – Yuuzou-san terrorizing the family and his wife making excuses for him. It just so happens that this time Yuuko-chan does something legitimately stupid this time that he has every right to feel pissed off about it, but in some ways I think her actions are a symptom and not the disease – the head of the Yamazaki household has a chilling effect on everyone around him and living on pins and needles waiting for him to explode is driving them all a little bit crazy.
That’s the paradox of Shouwa Monogatari, I suppose, a show that tries to and mostly succeeds in showing the challenges faced by ordinary Edoites in the 60’s. I find the drama of this series quite effective, and the way it steps back and refuses to judge its characters is quite a change from the norm in anime – but I’d really like someone to judge Yuuzou-san, to be honest. In this instance the crisis is caused by Yuuko shoplifting a Beatles record in imitation of her no-goodnik boyfriend, and true chaos is averted when Taichi manages to convince Yuuzou not to go down to the record store himself when he’s in a rage (when is he not in a rage?).
But here’s the problem I have: Yuuzou punches a wall instead of punching Yuuko – great. But Youhei himself says that if he’d been the one caught shoplifting (and that could easily have happened) Yuuzou would have “beaten the crap out of him”. We’ve already seen instances of Yuuzou hitting Youhei, closed-fist – not a slap, but a punch. I know we need to be aware of social norms and changing times – but while I certainly support the notion that a father shouldn’t be punching his daughter, I also think he shouldn’t be punching or generally abusing his 11 year-old son. So there’s a disconnect for me when the show seems to be asking me to deny a moral equivalency between those two acts, and to feel sympathetic towards the woman who’s a constant apologist for a man making his family’s life miserable. In any context, what Yuuzou does is wrong – and that places a certain restraint on just how much I can accept the rest of what happens in the series.
How ironic, really, that much of the episode is spent with Youhei fruitlessly trying to paint a picture of his father smiling for his summer homework project. It’s a good notion in principle, but really not worth the effort. It’s heartbreaking to see a child try so hard to find a reason to love a parent who shows no love towards him – but maybe that’s a part of the reality of working-class Tokyo in 1964 that the series is trying to portray. As usual, the focus on the daily challenges faced by the Yamazaki kids works beautifully – both Youhei and Yuuko are tempted by their friends to do something they know is wrong (he resists, she doesn’t) and Yuuko’s boyfriend continues to reveal his true nature (and it’s not pretty). And there’s lots of good stuff surrounding the obsession with The Beatles, color TV and the impending Olympic Games. I just wish the show would keep its focus there a bit more, and give us a rest from Yuuzou.
Casual Stroll: “Hibiya Park”