Episode 71: “Shinobu’s Cinderella Story”
Original airdate: June 8, 1983
Corresponding manga chapter: Original
Minor characters introduced: Makoto Kobayakawa, Detective Torii & partner
Summary: It’s lunchtime in classroom 2-4, and a weakened and starving Ataru begs a boon from Megane, who doesn’t see how Ataru eating his lunch before classes started constitutes a problem on his part. Ataru appeals to his sense of mercy, but to Megane mercy is for the weak. Mendou gets up to leave, and when Shinobu asks what’s going on, he explains that the head of the Kobayakawa Group, a business conglomerate allied with his family, died suddenly the night before, and there are rumors about unscrupulous sorts who want a part of the billions-of-yen estate. Lum offers Ataru some of her lunch, Megane clobbers her in Randian righteous fury, and a Mendou Group helicopter lowers a ladder to the window to take Megane away.
It’s a dark and rainy night, and a man with a gun chases a woman through the mean streets of whatever television program Shinobu is watching. She looks at the clock, which shows 11 PM, and muses that her parents must be arriving at the hot springs. A sound comes from outside, and she arms herself with a baseball bat to deal with it. Stepping outside, she sees a man crouching in the doorway, and hears two men looking for someone.
Inside, half an hour later, the man is bandaged and drying himself, and Shinobu brings in coffee. The man asks if she has any questions, and why she let him in, since he could be dangerous and all, but she replies that he seems trustworthy.
At 5:30 the next morning, Shinobu wakes up on the couch. She finds a note from the stranger, which says that he didn’t want to bother her, so he slipped out early. He adds that he hopes to see her soon. It’s signed with the initials “M.K.”.
Later that day, Shinobu is window shopping when she’s pulled aside by two detectives, who take her to a park to talk to her (or the senior one does while his partner plays with a puppy). He shows her a picture of the stranger from last night, but she denies knowing him.
He identifies the man as Makoto Kobayakawa, a name which catches her attention. He explains that there are four Kobayakawa siblings: two sons, a daughter, and Makoto, the adopted third son. His speculative scenario about the two sons discussing the possible misfortune that could befall Makoto startles Shinobu. The detective says that since he’s missing, the police can’t just ignore it, and did he say anything to her? but his “just one more question” doesn’t catch her out, and she takes her leave. He dispatches his partner to tail her, while mopping his brow in the heat. (Much like Columbo, the character he’s a parody of was rarely seen without his trademark coat.)
Shinobu resumes walking the street, casting a distrustful eye over her shoulder, when Makoto pulls up beside her, she gets in the car, and they drive off, to the detective’s chagrin. Sure enough, Torii chews him out and orders him to track them down, wherever they are. In the car, Shinobu explains that she didn’t turn him in because they didn’t look trustworthy, and that he must have a reason he’s not looking for help. He speculates that they were sent by his siblings. She asks where he got the clothes and car, and he shows her his secret weapon.
In a cafe (“Deen”), he explains that his father saved Mr. Kobayakawa’s father’s life, and in return he adopted Makoto when he was orphaned. He did his best to earn his new father’s respect, but he’s now all alone, although he may have a chance if he can survive until the reading of the will tomorrow. When they leave the cafe, he warns her that her life may be in danger, but from the sight of the thugs approaching it’ll be sooner rather than later.
They split up, and arrange to meet up at the coffee shop by the train station that evening at 7.
The eyecatch takes us to 7, where Lum is looking for Ataru. He’s not there, because he’s heading to Shinobu’s house to take advantage of her parents being gone. He takes the unlocked front door as an invitation and slips in, but rather than Shinobu is greeted by a pistol to his temple. Meanwhile, Shinobu is at the coffee “stund” (as the sign says) being told on the phone that someone isn’t home. At the Miyake home, the phone rings, and a tied-up Ataru is told to answer it by the thugs.
It’s Shinobu, who’s startled to hear Ataru, and even more startled when he shouts “SAVE ME!”. She hangs up, and someone puts a hand on her shoulder. She spins, but it turns out to be Makoto. We cut briefly back to Shinobu’s house, where the thugs discuss whether the boss would want them to stay and what an idiot the unconscious Ataru is. Back at the stund, Shinobu explains that she’d tried calling Mendou for help, but he’s out of the country until tomorrow, and the thugs are in her house. She whispers a suggestion to him, which he protests against, and while she goes to place another phone call, he asks for the check. When the cook comes over he shows him a photo and whispers something we don’t hear, and the man who’s been napping at the counter next to him raises his head and reveals himself to be Torii’s partner.
At the high school that night, Makoto and Shinobu are in the clock tower. She figures that they should be safe there overnight, and that the thugs won’t get too rough with students around. It’s getting chilly, and Makoto puts his coat over Shinobu’s shoulders; when she protests, he puts his arm around her shoulders and pulls her in, and suggests that she go to sleep.
She closes her eyes, but opens them when something about the jacket catches her attention. She’s interrupted by the door opening and a thug entering. He boasts that she underestimated them, and starts screwing a silencer onto his pistol. Makoto steps up to protect Shinobu, but the thug spins a tale of the forbidden love/murder-suicide of a famous heir. An unseen voice taunts him, and the trap door opens to reveal the Stormtroopers, who knock the thug away so Megane can grab the gun and hold it on him. They explain that Lum sent them there while she went to rescue Ataru (in the form of electrocuting him and crisping the thugs in the spillover).
(What an…odd thing to say, Megane.) The thug takes his hat off to Megane, literally, but then jerks as the hidden gun in it flies out of his hand. Inspector Torii stands in the doorway with a smoking gun, and they move to take in the thug (who’s licking his sore hand like a cat) while Makoto thanks and hugs Shinobu, prompting Megane to remark that they shouldn’t let Mendou see this.
The next day, around a large table in a huge room inside an enormous mansion, the reading of the will commences. Makoto’s siblings are being held for investigation of conspiracy to commit murder, so it’s just the lawyer, Makoto and Mendou, who’s there as a witness. The lawyer says that Makoto has inherited 25% of the family holdings, and has been appointed CEO in an emergency meeting. He asks if anyone objects, and is about to move on when someone declares an impediment. The door opens, and Shinobu enters like a femme fatale in a noir movie, dressed to the nines.
She explains that she’s been thinking about events, and something doesn’t add up. There were too many coincidences: him running into her the second day, the thugs finding them at the restaurant, and at her house, and the clock tower, where no one but the two of them and Lum knew where she was. It all adds up to one things: Makoto told them where he was. With luck his siblings would be arrested, but he didn’t want to be killed. Shinobu would be his insurance, since if she died Mendou would get to the bottom of it. But as she points out, that was his mistake, since she didn’t die to guarantee her silence.
Inspector Torii and his partner enter. The Inspector says that the man from the coffee shop said Makoto asked him to make a call, and that the handwriting on the note matches the letter he left Shinobu.
Makoto asks when she figured it out. She says it was when they were in the clock tower: he’d said he paid for his jacket with a credit card, but it was clearly custom-made, and there hadn’t been enough time. He hadn’t noticed because he was from a different world than her.
At school the next day, the students are eating lunch, and in the background Ataru is begging from Megane again. Shinobu is staring at her bento contemplatively. Ataru walks over and sees she isn’t eating, and takes that as a sign that he should take it. She leaps up and grabs her desk to throw at him, but the image freezes and shifts to show her inner melancholy.
Thoughts: As serious episodes go, this is a well-done one. It has an interesting plot and is thoughtful without trying too hard, leaving a lot of things implied but unsaid. It also gives Shinobu a chance to show sides of her personality that aren’t jealous, angry, clingy, or morose. She’s thoughtful, resourceful and bright, but those aren’t qualities that there’s generally much need for, especially when she’s rarely in the spotlight.
As a largely realistic episode, it has to walk an interesting line. Shinobu shouldn’t be in excessive mortal peril, or things become too serious. At the same time, allowing the characters’ superpowers loose would ruin the realism and suspense, so Shinobu can’t be put in a fight-or-die situation, and Lum has to be sidelined. It works, but it adds to a very different mood from usual.
It’s also interesting to see the undercurrents between Shinobu and Makoto. There’s no overt tension between them (which would be sleazy), but it’s clear that on some level Shinobu is aware that he’s an attractive man who’s paying attention to her and doesn’t have the baggage of her classmates. Likewise, he’s not making a move on her in the clock tower, since he knows the hitman is showing up soon, but her flushed cheeks speak volumes.
Next episode: School violence!