Alice No Toge (Alice’s Thorn)

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ALICE NO TOGE

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I just finished watching TBS’s Alice no Toge (Alice’s Thorn). The drama starred Ueno Juri as Mizuno Asumi (Osanai). Asumi lost her father 15 years ago and spent the past 15 years working towards getting revenge on the individuals responsible for her father’s death. On the way, she is assisted Reporter Nishikado Yusuke (played by Odagiri Joe) and Nurse Hoshino Miwa (played by Chiaki Kuriyama). The show’s title comes from a book that Asumi was given by  her father before his death. Her obsession with her father’s death is evidenced in the mode her revenge takes, as she targets the perpetrators, making sure to label them as the villainous characters from Alice in Wonderland.

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Asumi returns to the hospital where her father worked and died 15 years ago. Initially, she believes that her father’s death was due to medical error, but she is quick to realize that it was so much more. Before she can begin her true revenge, Nishikado Yusuke, who she also knew 15 years ago, realizes who she is and attempts to join her. He wants to atone for the error he made 15 years ago in accusing Asumi’s father of embezzling funds from the hospital. While Asumi does not want anyone’s help, having spent all this time alone, she does allow him to join her once he proves that he is on her side.

Initially, Asumi goes after the medical staff that had been present during the operation. She takes away what is most important to those two doctors (Date and Chihara) … their careers. She also blackmails and terrorizes the nurse that had kept everything hidden. Asumi also attempts to bring down the attorney (Hyuga) that accused her father of embezzlement, but it is Yusuke who accomplishes that feat by using his journalistic ability.

Asumi then goes after the head surgeon, Bandai, who ordered all of this and the person who fed her father the medication that caused his condition to drastically worsen. She finds the nurse who was ordered to get that medication, but before she can get proof from her, the nurse disappears. Asumi romances Bandai Yuma (the surgeon’s son) hoping to get some clues and is successful. But realizing how deeply Yuma has fallen for her, Asumi breaks it off cruelly, hoping to keep him away from her, but it is too late. When Date comes after her for revenge, Yuma sacrifices himself to protect her. Asumi is unable to deal with the human collateral damage her revenge has caused and attempts suicide. Nishikado Yusuke is there to stop her, and he tells her their search isn’t over. Yusuke then tells her that Bandai contacted him to reveal something about the past, but he was killed. Asumi then begins her revenge once more, wanting to flush out all of the conspirators.

We discover Arima, the head of the transplant department, caused all of this fifteen years ago so that he could steal a kidney for his adopted daughter, Suzu. Which meant that he killed another child to get that kidney. Asumi and Yusuke discover that he is about to do this again. The two then discover that Arima killed Yusuke’s sister to get that kidney. Asumi is successful in revealing Arima’s true face to the public. He then flees, closely chased by Yusuke, who wants to get his revenge by killing him. Before Yusuke can do so, he discovers Arima has been killed by another.

Asumi and Yusuke now know there is one other player. They play a gambit to catch that final person, the anesthesiologist in that room so long ago.  Asumi is shocked to discover it is her adoptive father (Oi-Chan), who was also her father’s best friend. Oi-Chan cut that kidney out of Yusuke’s sister, he participated in the surgery that killed his best friend, he killed Hyuga, Bandai and then killed Arima. He does this because Suzu is his biological daughter, the one he was forced to give up so that Arima could save her. Before Asumi can stab him, Yusuke swoops in and takes him away. In the end, Asumi stops Yusuke from burning Oi-Chan alive, saying that she wants all of this to stop. Her mind is weighed down the people she has hurt. She doesn’t want to hurt anyone else anymore. Yusuke allows it, because he knew that killing another was not something his sister or Asumi’s father would have wanted. He points out that revenge only begets revenge. This was all a ploy for Asumi to realize that.

In the end, Oi-chan turns himself in to the police. Asumi and Yusuke share one final beer and talk about Asumi’s future plans. There is an immediate change in Asumi, who seems more hopeful for the future, wants to be a better doctor, and who plans on going on a trip. She even smiles more. This Asumi has let go of the past and is ready to truly believe that tomorrow will be a better day.

cats5I liked the drama and ended up giving it a 7/10. I would have given it more points if he had seen some romance between Yusuke and Asumi. That is the one thing I do not like about Japanese dramas. They are always too stingy with the romance.

These characters built a very strong relationship. Yusuke was there to support Asumi and to talk her down from many things, like committing suicide and murder. He helped her to stop her revenge, realizing that she could go no further without marring her father’s legacy. And Asumi attempted to stop Yusuke from murdering Arima. Not that she succeeded; he just arrived too late. Asumi comes to rely on Yusuke, and he is the first person she let in after 15 years of solitude. But despite all that, we get no hint of romance. And a drama without romance just lacks something for me.

But I did like the story. We start out the first few episodes with everything going way too easily for Asumi. While I get that she has been obsessed and focused on this for over a decade, but these were intelligent people that she was going against and she got around them too easily. There was a hiccup when she attempted to go after lawyer Hyuga, but Yusuke stepped in and saved the day. And things only get more interesting from there. When Asumi goes after Bandai, we see her struggling with what lines to cross. Can she endanger a patient to get her revenge? The answer turns out to be no. Although she does end up romancing Bandai’s son, she attempts to pull away later on to protect him, but her attempts come too late. We also see how human Asumi is when she struggles to deal with Yuma’s death and her decision to commit suicide. Asumi’s purpose has been to get revenge for 15 years, but only now does she realize the collateral damage she has caused, and it is that realization that helps her to back away from that final act. She softens and lets her revenge go. Because our heroine never crossed that final line (besides scratching up Date’s stomach), I feel free to hope that she will have a happier life from now on.

We also got to see how deep the conspiracy went and how evil people can be. Arima’s true face was abhorrent, and I am glad that he died at the end of this. Although at some point, you begin to wonder if every doctor is some sort of evil megalomaniac, who will endanger your life for their own gain.

The drama overall, was a pleasant watch and all the actors did a great job in portraying their characters. I had just finished rewatching Ueno Juri in Nodame Cantabile, so this was a huge shift for me. But as always, Ueno is a good actress, and does a great job.  While some of the slow-mo walking scenes of Asumi (we got a ton) and almost all of the other characters were a bit cheesy, I did like the directing of this drama overall.

It was a good drama and worth watching once. 😀

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