The first and most incriminating thing we are told about Makiko Mitarai in Burn The House Down is that she does not deserve anything she has. She has not earned her husband or her current lifestyle, and she is also lying about her skills as a homemaker to get the following she needs on social media. In other words, some might call her a social climber, but we call her a hustler. Don’t misunderstand us; we acknowledge that she is a selfish person who stole from others and let someone else take the fall for her family’s crimes. Yet we understand her in a certain way. We learned from the rumors spread about Makiko on social media in the first few episodes of Burn The House Down that her ex was probably her teacher.
Considering that Makiko’s sons are a few years apart in age, she must have lived with him for a while before he either abandoned her or passed away. Our bets are on the former, based on the rumors. Many years later, the password of her social media account was still the date of their anniversary, which means that she never got over him or fell in love again. But it is evident that life or love had not been good to her. We don’t know what her equation with her parents was or is, but let us assume that they left her alone when they discovered her pregnancy, likely when she was in school or college, meaning at a time when she did not have a source of income and probably depended on her ex, at least for a while. After he left, she really had to scrape by and fight every day, tooth and nail, to survive. But the struggle did not mean that she stopped craving the occasional happiness that comes with the good things in life. It was probably at a time like this that she met Satsuki, and her life instantly attracted Makiko.
Had Satsuki been someone who was proud of her wealth or had the habit of looking down on others, Makiko might not have tolerated her, despite whatever ulterior motives she had. Yet, the very kindness of Satsuki that kept Makiko in her orbit is what caused her to hate her so much. It simply cannot be argued that a major part of Satsuki’s easy-going attitude came from her privileged background. That does not mean that she was happy in her life, but she was not struggling to survive, unlike Makiko. When Satsuki and Makiko were close, they certainly discussed very intimate details of their lives. Had they not, Satsuki could have never guessed that the password was Makiko’s anniversary date with her ex. This implies just how much the women knew each other. Yet that did not stop Makiko from feeling envious of her friend.
But an ambitious woman like Makiko wouldn’t wallow in her envy; she would do something so that others felt the same about her. We believe it was quite a need for her, considering her history of abandonment, which meant that being the object of envy and desire was the healing validation she needed. When she stole the diamond earrings, incidentally the first item to be stolen from Satsuki’s house, she did not do that for money. She wanted others to see that she could own something like this, not considering that it had neither been gifted nor earned by her. Everything she stole from then on was for this very purpose: to show off and not to solve any financial crisis. In fact, when she pawned off those earrings, it was to pay the lunch bill at one of the fan gatherings and not to collect money for her future. It was never about the money for Makiko; it was the power and love that came with privilege. This is also why she never stopped pursuing the career of an influencer. If money was all she was chasing, she had found that in her marriage to Osamu, but Makiko was far more complicated. It was a surprise that, despite her unsavory feelings for Satsuki, she did not design her downfall. Makiko was trying to return Satsuki’s items because she realized that she had taken things dangerously far and that it was time to step out of her fantasies. But when she saw the house burning down and was smiling at it, we don’t believe that it was out of happiness but out of fear for what her son had done. When she saw Satsuki take the blame for it, she felt relieved that her son wouldn’t be held accountable for it, and that is why she was happy. She did not care what happened to Satsuki or the house.
It felt a little frivolous that Osamu and Satsuki simply divorced because of a perceived mistake on Satsuki’s part. Maybe Osamu’s family bullied him into it, or maybe Osamu himself couldn’t take a stand. But Makiko had nothing to do with it. However, that didn’t stop her from taking advantage of the situation, and she swooped in to be Osamu’s support. He was nothing if not pathetic, and if he did not need anything except for his ego to be stroked, he deserved Makiko. She got the life she wanted, and the first thing she did was further safeguard her son by separating him from his friends.
It is important to remember that she believed Kiichi’s friends were arsonist delinquents. She was not separating them because of some perceived social status but so that he would not run into more trouble in the future. When he became a hikikomori, she spent her entire time taking care of him and Shinji. She knew her husband was a weak man, and if she acted like Satsuki, leaving everything to his decision-making skills, she would never be able to protect her children. Of course, she wanted to be something by herself, but this time, the reason was not just self-respect or vanity. If she did not make herself invaluable to the Mitarai family, they would exclude Shinji and Kiichi from their inheritance, and Makiko could not allow that. Makiko’s love for her sons was her one redeeming quality and what stopped her from turning completely evil. It can be argued that she could have still turned in Kiichi and stopped Satsuki from suffering for years due to her guilt. But Kiichi would have been tried as an adult since he was clearly over 14 years old at that time, which would have destroyed his future. However, we are sure that she would have said nothing even if she knew Shinji was the real culprit. Regardless, she was protecting her children and making the most of her situation. In many ways, it was for the best because she was better suited to deal with the insufferable Mitarai family than the gentle Satsuki. Her character really made Burn The House Down great and is worth watching.