It turns out I gave Yamauchi a bit too much credit, even though she did call the Fukumoto Gang to deal with Tsubouchi and the Five Lemons. They didn’t arrive until Mario and Kyabetsu had already mopped the floor with their faces, but I suppose it’s the thought of calling in real yakuza that counts. It’s just too bad she didn’t show the same sympathy towards Joe’s situation when he was unable to make it to the Western Festival on time like she did when he was about to be killed right before her very eyes. Her stark change in character was a bit surprising to say the least, especially in light of how young head of the Fukumoto Gang, Aritou (Terasoma Masaki), even gave Mario the keys to one of his cars so that they can try to make it to the venue. Up until now, Naoko didn’t really give me any indication that she was out to make Joe’s life difficult, so I perceive her sudden change of heart as frustration towards her plaything being spoiled and an unwillingness to stick around to try and fix things. The moment Joe’s stardom hit a bump in the road like it did here, she was planning to get rid of him in a heartbeat. Seeing as their relationship was basically for sexual favors to begin with, I guess it’s not too horrible of an outcome. Joe was able to improve his singing a bit under her guidance and still has his head on his shoulders to sing another day, plus achieved what he was after in the first place — to be reunited with Meg.
If this were a happy-go-lucky series, then yes, it totally sucks how Joe’s dream was cruelly snatched from him right when it was within reach. However, the dark portrayal of everything these guys have been through make the loss of something that doesn’t involve death or bodily harm seem like a fortunate happenstance. While it’s a depressing outlook on life to lower one’s definition of happiness to such levels, their lives in face of all these hardships do look like they’re improving. It sure beats the days at Shonan where they would get tortured by corrupt jailers and screwed by doctors anyway. As long as they have their strong bonds and lean on one another in times of need, it’s been shown that they can overcome any type of obstacle together. It’s kind of weird how that’s been my crutch of sorts for getting through some of the more difficult scenes to watch, but it’s pretty much what’s made the latter half of series a lot more bearable.
In a way, it serves as a double-edged sword though. By holding onto the belief that the six of them will pull through somehow, I’m not nearly as caught up in the roller coaster of emotions that I was in earlier episodes. At the same time, I’m not entirely convinced that I miss that bone-chilling, goose bump-inducing type of depiction, as it usually entailed a very dire situation that didn’t have a glimmer of hope whatsoever. After witnessing the boys go through hell and back, the story has reached the stage where I’d like to see things moving towards some happier moments. The only problem with that is it doesn’t allow the story to unfold in a semi-twisted manner like it’s been known for, so I’m more or less torn between how things have gotten easier to digest at the loss of suspense, and the loss of that suspense because things have gotten easier to digest. Lately, it feels like things are drifting somewhere between the two, but nowhere near either extreme.
For now, it looks like Joe’s mini arc is done, while the one involving the Fukumoto Gang isn’t quite over yet since Kyabetsu is going to cross paths with them again. He’s always been one to drift between jobs, but ending up with the yakuza even trounces Suppon’s dealings with the black market. Organized crime might just be the thing to get my blood boiling again though, as our ex-reformatory boys would be up against one hell of a battle if it’s real gangsters we’re talking about. The thought of getting in the bad books with the yakuza is worse than anything Ishihara and Sasaki put them through, given how they probably wouldn’t hesitate to just kill someone on a whim.