Episode 3: Age of resistance of father and son
“A gay who loves children …” Yumi says to herself, having overheard other colleagues gossip about Akira. When she gets home, Kensuke cheerfully greets her. Akira is also there. He says he has made dinner because he thought she would be late given the amount of corrections she had to make. As Akira is about to leave, Kensuke grabs his arm and declares that he wants to take a bath with him. However, Yumi tells him no. So he decides he will not go to bed if he cannot sleep with Akira. Akira ends up putting Kensuke to sleep while Yumi recalls one rainy day a year ago when Akira volunteered to pick her son up from playschool as she desperately made calls to find a babysitter. She is mystified why Akira has been so kind to her. “I wish to be Kensuke-kun’s cotyledon,” Akira responds and she looks at him quizzically.
It is the spring of 1984. Akira is now 11 years old. A sixth-grade elementary school student, he is the school baseball team’s fourth pitcher and ace. Yasu, who is drinking at Yunagi like always, boasts that this is because Akira is his son. He gets ribbed by Taeko and Shoun. Both wonder how an idiot like him could have a son like Akira. Taeko urges him to go home early. Smilingly widely, Yasu tells them how Akira has said that he can have a drink first before returning home because work is tough for him. Not to be deterred, Taeko advises Yasu to do something fatherly like play a game of catch. However, a self-conscious Yasu blusters about how catch-ball will make him embarrassed because they have to be face to face. In truth, Yasu is bad at baseball. As he says this, Shoun’s mood seems to grow pensive. “I envy you,” he says, but in the next instant he goes back to his usual smiling self. Yasu stares at Shoun and later asks Taeko about him. She comments that Shoun has been behaving like this lately.
Akira is practicing throwing pitches at the foot of the apartment block when Yasu gets home. Offering to help Akira, he hollers Enatsu, the name of one of the country’s top pitchers, as he pitches the ball but it goes wide. Akira, who knows that his father is not good at baseball, tells him not to push himself. Yasu awkwardly apologises.
At school the next day, Akira and his schoolmates watch a transfer student throw fast balls and curve balls that put the other students in awe of him. Akira’s mood grows gloomy. Meanwhile, Yasu hears from Kuzuhara that Akira’s elementary school is selecting players to put together a team for the inter-school baseball competition. It is crunch time for Akira with the emergence of a rival likely to snatch the position of pitcher from him. Yasu dashes off. After borrowing a baseball glove from Bito, Yasu hurriedly returns home to practice with Akira, but the boy is nowhere to be found. He is not even at the public bath which he usually visits at this time. Recalling what happened when Akira was 3, Yasu panics and wants to call the police. Moments later, Akira and Shoun enter the public bath, and Yasu sinks onto a bench in relief. Shoun has already taken it upon himself to be Akira’s coach.
In the bath, Yasu wonders whether it is too late for Akira to catch up and points out that he can also be an outfielder to make the team. He might end up losing a place if he is too obsessed with being a pitcher. On the other side of Akira, Shoun encourages the boy to follow through with his desire to be a pitcher. With practice, he will be able to get the feel of throwing curve balls. Shoun does not want Akira to develop the habit of fleeing from difficulties when he encounters them. Yasu deliberately gets up and squeezes between them. He tells Akira that Shoun was in the baseball club in high school days, but was so obsessed with being a pitcher that he did not even make the substitutes bench. So when the school made it to the Koshien, he could only cheer them on from the spectator stand. Yasu warns Akira that if his extra effort is misdirected, he will have nothing to show for it. But when Akira asks him what he was doing back then, he has nothing to say and has to keep quiet. Akira moves over to ask Shoun how he should position his arm. Yasu gets irritated watching the two of them talk happily and even sulks at home that night.
One day, Akira returns home and cheerfully announces to Yasu that he is able to throw curve balls. Although Yasu is happy for him, he quickly hides this and cracks a crude joke about the curve balls. “Because that’s what you get from learning from a degenerate monk.” Akira’s face falls at his father’s remarks but he continues training hard with Shoun.
Some days later, Yasu happens to see Akira and Shoun practicing together when he stops for a smoke break. He hears Shoun tell Akira to swing his arm with all the strength he has. Each time Shoun catches Akira’s ball he shouts words of encouragement to the boy. Yasu’s expression darkens at the sight of the two of them who look like father and son. Then he turns his back on them, gets into the van and drives off.
That night, Yasu’s mood gets worse when he tries to help Akira to ease the pain in his elbow after seeing him wince as he gingerly touched it, only to be told that Shoun says a cold compress would worsen things. Akira works up the courage to ask Yasu to come and watch him practice tomorrow after he gets off work in the afternoon. Yasu brightens at the invitation, but snaps that he will not come once he learns that it was Shoun’s idea to ask him. Akira cannot hide his disappointment.
While doing deliveries the day before the selection test, Yasu overhears a mother buy pork at the butcher where Kuzuhara’s wife works to make tonkatsu for her son in the hope that it will enable him to beat Akira to the place of pitcher. Yasu enters the shop and demands to know how much pork the woman bought. He wants double the thickness even though he is told that it will not cook through. Kuzuhara’s wife whips out a slab of pork and taunts him if he has the money for this. Yasu returns to work in good spirits. However, it is quickly dashed when he learns that Akira may have fractured a bone. An anxious Yasu rushes to the hospital.
Shoun’s wife informs Yasu that Akira has muscle inflammation and not a bone fracture. At that moment, Shoun emerges from a consultation room with his arm around Akira’s shoulder. Yasu stares with pain at his son whose arm is in a sling. Shoun apologises to Yasu. In his eagerness to get Akira to throw faster curve balls, he did not realise that he had pushed the boy too hard. It was his fault. Yasu roars that it is not Shoun’s fault. The fault is his as Akira’s father. He punches Shoun so hard that he lands on the floor. Grabbing him by his collar, Yasu’s angrily yells at Shoun for pretending to play the part of a father. Yasu is about to hit Shoun again when Akira steps in and speaks up for Shoun. He was the one who wanted to practice more even though Shoun told him to stop. Yasu stares at Akira for a tense moment as he fights with his emotions. He calmly tells Akira that he can go and be Shoun’s son and storms off.
Yasu seeks refuge at Yunagi. However, Taeko bluntly tells him that Shoun is more fatherly so it is no surprise that Akira has taken to him. Yasu confesses that he feels distant from Akira and wonders if this is what it is being a parent or if he is in the wrong. Not too long ago his son was still following him about calling him “Father, father”. He does not know what a regular father and child is like, having never experienced it himself. Taeko shows him the cotyledon of the Japanese morning glory that she is trying to grow. These are the very first leaves to emerge, but they will wither within a few days and will not see the flowers bloom. It is the unappreciated fate of the cotyledon. Taeko thinks that is what it is between parent and child. There are parents who want to be with their child yet cannot. Misako was with Akira for less than four years. Just as Taeko urges Yasu to go and get Akira, Shoun’s wife Yukie appears at Yunagi to invite them for a sukiyaki dinner.
On the way to the temple, Yukie reveals that she had a miscarriage recently. In fact, she miscarried several times. That explains why Shoun has been drinking a lot. Yasu wonders why he never mentioned it which earns him a reprimand from Taeko. Yukie apologises on her husband’s behalf, explaining that he got too carried away coaching Akira because it has always been his dream to play a game of catch with his son. Yasu and Taeko are welcomed by Shoun and Akira when they arrive. Yasu quickly hides the pork he brought behind his back but it is useless since Taeko blurts out to Akira that they will have tonkatsu today. “Your father said everything’s his fault.” The ladies head inside with Akira, leaving Yasu and Shoun alone. Yasu moves over to where Shoun has knelt down but before they can say anything to each other, Kaiun emerges and smacks both of them on the backs of their heads for pushing Akira too far. “Are you adults?”, he growls. As punishment, the two of them are made to kneel in the garden just like old times.
Shoun holds out the baseball glove to Yasu, saying that he is not fit to be a coach. In response, Yasu gruffly tells him that he is an honest labourer who does not have spare time like he does. Therefore he wants Shoun to continue coaching Akira. Shoun smiles and takes the glove back. Yasu asks why Shoun did not mention Yukie’s miscarriages. It would not have done any good for him to say it but only darken everyone’s mood, Shoun thinks. Yasu points out that it is more unsettling to see him grinning away and getting drunk. Shoun has decided that since he cannot sternly say good things like his father and temple work tends to be gloomy, the least he can do is to smile and be a little cheerful. Then he reveals to Yasu that Akira is obsessed with becoming a pitcher because that is all Yasu talks about in baseball. Moreover, the school competition falls on Father’s day. That is why Akira wants to stand on the mound no matter what it takes. However, he is too embarassed to tell his father about it, fearing that he would be praised a good boy. Even tonight’s sukiyaki was Akira’s idea because Yasu likes it.
As Yasu and Akira walk home together that night, Akira looks at the bag he is carrying and asks if that is meat for tonkatsu. He announces that they will have it when they get back though Yasu says they can wait till tomorrow. “You don’t understand. It’s better today. Katsu after sukiyaki. I’ll win next time, dad,” Akira tells him with a smile.
Akira explains to Yumi that he was brought up by many people because his mother died young. They were people like the cotyledon. So this time, he wants to do the same for someone else to repay the kindess he received. Even though it is tough for him to come up with good ideas for his magazine’s free gift, Akira feels he can learn lessons by playing with Kensuke. He also wants to get closer … … to the boy. At that moment, Yumi decides to ask Akira about the gossip she heard, stressing that it does not bother her at all but she wants to know what kind of person is interacting with her child. “You’re not a gay, right?” Akira blinks in surprise and stares at her. In a mental conversation with his father, Akira guesses that it would be better if he tells Yumi the truth but he does not think anything good will come out of it.
All text copyright © jdramas.wordpress.com.