This episode synopsis may contain errors and mistranslations. Plot spoilers are also present. Please consider yourself warned.
The pilot episode for TBS Friday Drama SMILE aired on the 17th of April 2009. It stars Matsumoto Jun and Aragaki Yui in the lead roles. SMILE revolves around the stories of Hayakawa Vito — a half-Filipino, half-Japanese boy living in Japan and wrongly accused of committing a series of crimes, and Mishima Hana — a high school student unable to speak after a traumatic incident.
The series opens in the year 2015, but the setting soon flashes back to present-day Tokyo. Hayakawa Vito dreams of opening an international food bistro to reflect his own dual-ethnicity. So, he works two jobs for this: by day he works at a Nakamura Foods, a company that made and sold traditional Japanese sweets (where the owners and his workmates treated him as part of the family), and by night he buses tables and washes dishes at a somewhat seedy cafe-bar.
On the way to his second job, he drops by a bookstore where he meets Mishima Hana, who is being accused of shoplifting. He then helps Hana — who cannot speak, and explains that she she fully intended to pay for the merchandise she took but was unable to find her wallet, which Vito picked up from the floor. Hana then thanks Vito for his kindness by giving him a Band-Aid for a cut on his knuckle.
At the cafe-bar, Vito is often bullied by an elder workmate, who knocks him around and calls him a “Filipino bastard” (this part got me so effin’ pissed I saw red >:( ). As it turns out, this sempai of his was the leader of his old street gang, and Vito has a debt of honor (in Filipino, “utang na loob”) to him that compels him to obey his sempai’s every command. Vito gets mixed up in his workmate’s drug-dealing troubles when he uses Vito’s locker to store his merchandise.
Vito is then busted by the cops for this, and the drugs supposedly in his possession were linked to the arrest of an AV idol caught using the merchandise his sempai supplied. On top of this, a murder committed by their former gang leader a few years back gets traced back to Vito.
Desperate, he flees into the rainy streets of Shibuya. Vito is caught hours later in a gut wrenching scene as Shibuya cops swarm him, with his friends from Nakamura Foods watching tearfully on. The episode closes with Nakamura Shiori (eldest daughter of the owners of Nakamura Foods) asking her boss from the Itou Law Firm to come to Vito’s defense.
One thing that I distinctly remember from this episode — and it could be nothing but a simple vignette, was the scene where Vito was stopped by a police officer asking for his Alien Registration Card (yes, they do have those in Japan — I really should’ve photocopied mine so I have proof) and his passport.
When Vito drops his bag in fear, the cop pounces, grabbing his wallet to look at his ID cards. When the police officer realizes he was Japanese from his Social Security card, he even had the gall to lecture him for “looking foreign”. I had to grit my teeth to stop myself from screaming at my computer screen in rage.
Despite all that, I am genuinely looking forward to the next episode. SMILE airs weekly Friday nights on the Japanese network TBS, at 10PM starting 17th April, 2009. For more information, please visit the official website (Japanese only).
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