Burn the House Down is a new Japanese drama series on Netflix with doses of mystery added, as it essentially deals with the solving of a thirteen-year-old crime. However, this crime did not really kill or hurt anyone but instead involved the loss of reputation and respect. The plot deals with a woman who took the blame for burning down her family house, but at present, her daughters strongly suspect that she was innocent. Although Burn the House Down and J-dramas like it might have their own appeal to many viewers, its plot and character dynamics feel too stretched and unconvincing for me personally.
Plot Summary: What Is The Series About?
Burn the House Down begins with a young woman named Shizuka Yamauchi arriving at the house of a renowned social media celebrity, Makiko Mitarai. Shizuka works as a housekeeper and claims to have been sent by her company to Makiko’s house. The celebrity woman is known to change domestic help quite frequently, and she seems rather particular about those who would work at her home. Makiko initially gives Shizuka a cleaning job for the day, and once impressed, she hires the woman as her permanent housekeeper. Very soon, Shizuka starts to realize that Makiko Mitarai’s life is filled with lies and secrets—the woman maintains a public image of maintaining her household and cooking for her family all by herself. But in reality, she hires Shizuka to do all the household work and just puts photographs of the clean house on her profile. Makiko also lies about her elder son staying abroad for work, while Shizuka learns that the man stays in the house as a recluse, barely stepping out of his room.
However, Shizuka Yamauchi also has secrets of her own, for she has been faking her identity only to infiltrate the Mitarai house. Her real name happens to be Anzu Murata, and thirteen years ago, the Mitarai house used to be her very own. When Anzu was just a young girl, her family house got burned down and destroyed, and her mother, Satsuki, took the blame for it. Soon after, Satsuki was divorced from her husband, Osamu Mitarai, and the woman has had to live by herself with her daughters, Anzu and Yuzu, since then. Ever since then, Anzu has been doubtful about whether her mother was actually to blame for the fire, as she had seen Satsuki’s close friend, Makiko, smile and express pleasure right when the Mitarai house was burning. To make matters more suspicious, Makiko married Osamu soon after and went on to replace Satsuki. At present, Satsuki suffers from generalized amnesia, and Anzu is more determined than ever to prove her mother’s innocence and ease her life. In order to do so, she wants to find proof that Makiko has committed the crime, and it is for this that she starts working at the Mitarai house.
How Does Anzu Find Allies Among Unexpected People?
The primary piece of information that Anzu tries to present against Makiko is a particular knit cardigan that Satsuki used to own. Anzu remembers that Makiko used to often take away some of Satsuki’s clothes whenever she would come to their house, but the generous mother did not seem to mind much. Makiko was in a financially struggling position at the time, especially as she was the single mother to two young sons, Kiichi and Shinji. However, on the day of the fire, the security cameras at the Mitarai house caught a small glimpse of someone wearing the particular knit cardigan and running away from the house. Although the cardigan was very clearly seen, the person’s face or even body could not be caught by the camera. While the cardigan used to belong to Satsuki, it is now seen in Makiko’s closet, meaning that she had stolen the expensive and rare piece of clothing. Anzu and her younger sister Yuzu convince themselves that if they can find the cardigan at Makiko’s house at present, they can prove that she was the one wearing it on the day of the fire, and therefore, that it was she who had set the house on fire.
Anzu’s initial efforts to get hold of the cardigan go pretty well until Yuzu starts to bond with their estranged father, Osamu, and opens up to him about her suspicions. This ultimately leads to Makiko finding out about her step-daughter’s search, and she immediately destroys the cardigan and removes the evidence. So far, Anzu manages to keep her false identity convincing to Makiko, as she even starts to work as the celebrity’s personal manager under the identity of Shizuka. Makiko is told that Anzu has moved to a different city and keeps no contact with her family, but she still remains wary of Yuzu and appoints a woman named Ichihara to spy on both Yuzu and Osamu. But Ichihara had been a long-serving worker at Osamu’s hospital, and she was even very close to Satsuki. Because of these personal reasons, Ichihara changes her allegiance very quickly to support Anzu, and she keeps Anzu’s identity hidden from Makiko.
Continuing with her personal and secretive investigation, Anzu gets close to Makiko’s elder son, Kiichi, and the man even recognizes her as Anzu. Despite initially acting rather strange, Kiichi decides to help Anzu, and he takes her to the house where his family used to live before his mother’s marriage to Osamu. Here, he brings out an old laptop and hands it over to Anzu, saying that she will find important evidence on it. Indeed, Makiko used to keep a personal journal on this laptop, in which she would write about her deepest secrets and desires. Going through these records is what makes the entire matter clear.
How Does Anzu Manage To Make Makiko Confess?
Thirteen years before the current events, Makiko and Satsuki had first become friends with each other because of their children, as Anzu and Kiichi used to be classmates at school. Although the kids were not very close, their respective mothers met during a meeting and had become friends since then. But there was a massive difference between the economic and social statures of Makiko and Satsuki. While the former was a struggling single mother, the latter was the wife of an established doctor and hospital owner. Despite the abundance of wealth in her life, Satsuki was not content, and she used to share her feelings with Makiko. However, Makiko only posed to be her friend for all this time, even making fun of her feelings in her personal journal, and she only wanted to somehow be part of Satsuki’s wealth.
It was during this time that Makiko gradually started stealing jewelry and clothes from the Mitarai house, and she started to really enjoy this secret crime. But stealing was not enough for the woman, for she also wanted to show it off, and because of this reason, she started a social media account in which she put up pictures of all these expensive items. Makiko soon gained a number of followers who admired her lifestyle and wealth, which was all just a fake show in reality. In a few instances, Makiko’s followers asked her for a meet-up, and the woman finally agreed after initially being nervous about being found out as an impostor. Incidentally, the last meeting session held by Makiko was on the very day of the fire at Mitarai House, and Anzu deduces that this was worth investigating.
The fan group that Makiko had on social media at the time was handled by a woman named Mujina, who was just the admin of the group and had no idea who Makiko really was. In order to find Mujina at present, Anzu creates an intricate web of lies on the internet with the help of Kiichi. Posing to be the same Mujina, Anzu puts up texts on social media claiming that she knew about how a certain social media celebrity was just a fake impostor with dark secrets from her past. This immediately makes Makiko wary, and she sends Anzu (who is still undercover as Shizuka and working as Makiko’s secretary) to bribe Mujina and shut her up. Anzu then cleverly takes this chance to speak with Mujina and gather crucial evidence that supports her belief. On that final day of the fan meet, Mujina had followed Makiko after the event ended, and she saw her get off at the station closest to Mitarai house, which was far away from where she claimed to stay. The admin had also secretly taken photos of Makiko, which was not allowed in her group, and these photos clearly showed Makiko wearing Satsuki’s cardigan at the fan meet.
Makiko initially keeps denying the allegations but ultimately confesses to having started the fire since there is so much evidence against her now. Despite doing so, she then calls for a press conference the next day and claims that all internet posts against her were fake. Makiko also manages to convince Osamu to support her, for the husband, who is really a spineless man, fears that his hospital and business would not continue well without Makiko. However, the final two episodes of Burn the House Down throw one twist after another, as it is revealed that Makiko had a different reason for confessing her crime, for she was not the actual perpetrator of the house fire.
Who Had Actually Started The Fire?
During all this time, Anzu had been stealing back some of her mother’s old items from Makiko’s house and returning them to Satsuki at the hospital. While this was indeed gradually helping against her ailment, Satsuki finally got all her memories back after reading about Makiko in an online article and receiving a real shock because of it. When the woman did not confess to her crime in public, Satsuki hacked into Makiko’s social media account and started uploading about how she was just a lazy impostor who got all her household work done by domestic helpers. This really brings down the fury of the internet on Makiko, and she is finally called out for who she is. Two weeks after this incident, the Mitarai house is in an utter mess, as Osamu and Makiko remain drunk all day, the former blaming his current wife for his downfall, while the latter blames her stepdaughters. Osamu ultimately breaks, and he reports Makiko to the police, asking for an investigation against her for the fire thirteen years ago.
As Makiko is picked up by the authorities, Kiichi turns himself in at the police station, in a real turn of events. The elder son then confesses to the crime, and then, during Burn the House Down‘s ending, it is revealed that it was the younger son, Shinji, who had actually started the fire. During his childhood days, Shinji was quite close to Satsuki, as the woman had helped the young boy out, and he would, therefore, often visit her house. A day or two before the incident, Kiichi had confronted Makiko about her stealing clothes from Satsuki and had convinced her to return them. Makiko also suddenly felt guilty at her actions, and on the day of the fire, right after her fan meet, she had indeed gone to Mitarai house, but only to secretly return Satsuki’s clothes. While she was at it, young Yuzu came across her, and this really spooked Makiko. The woman hurried out of the house and returned to her own home, still having a few of Satsuki’s clothes in her bag. Later that day, young Shinji found this bag and immediately recognized Satsuki’s cardigan, and he immediately decided to return it. Going over to Mitarai house, he was distracted by the delicious smell of meat curry, and the boy wanted to have a taste of it. As the curry was still on the gas oven, Shinji lit the flame to warm it up, but in a careless moment, he unintentionally set fire to the place. Panicking and fearing getting caught, Shinji wrapped Satsuki’s cardigan around himself and ran out of the house. Therefore, the camera actually caught Shinji wearing the cardigan and running. The boy could never come out and admit his mistake out of fear until now, and instead, Satsuki had to take the blame for leaving the gas oven on and leading to the devastating fire.
While news of the fire broke on TV that night, both Makiko and Kiichi believed the other to have caused the fire. This was because, only a few days earlier, Kiichi had told his mother about a certain friend of his. This friend, who used to work at the local gaming arcade, had stolen money from the business and had been caught doing so. As the authorities wanted to inform the police, the friend set the arcade on fire, and this immediately drove the place out of business, therefore protecting the friend from any consequence of his petty theft. After Mitarai’s house burns down, Kiichi suspects that his mother had drawn inspiration from the story of his friend and had set the house ablaze in order to hide her crime of stealing Satsuki’s clothes. On the other hand, Makiko felt that it must have been Kiichi who had committed arson only in order to hide her theft, and the two continued to believe so even to the present. This is the reason why Makiko and Kiichi both confessed to the crime to the police in order to protect each other, while it was Shinji who had committed the act.
How Does ‘Burn the House Down’ End?
After the real truth comes out, Anzu and Yuzu take Shinji to meet and apologize to Satsuki, who is still at the hospital. As she learns the real truth, Satsuki is not only relieved to know that she is not at fault, but she also completely recovers after this and spends the rest of her life happily with her two daughters. Knowing that the fire was caused by a childish mistake, Satsuki forgives Shinji and tells him that she has no ill feelings toward him at all. Shinji is also not punished by the law, as he was only fourteen at the time of the incident and could, therefore, not be held responsible for it. The young man continues to work hard to become a doctor, and he is supported by Yuzu, who seems to remain romantically interested in him. Shinji also continues to work at Mitarai Hospital, especially because of the kind and forgiving Ichihara.
After Makiko’s lies had been called out, Osamu Mitarai announced that he wanted to divorce the woman. At the end of Burn the House Down, Makiko does live separately, but she continues her social media image and retains her brand. Having learned a series of important lessons, she focuses on living her life truthfully. Despite all that had transpired between Kiichi and Anzu, the young woman professed her love for Kiichi, and Anzu even directly asked Makiko to let Kiichi be her lover. Although Makiko initially hesitates, she probably finally realizes that her adult son can make his own decisions, and in the end, Kiichi and Anzu live together as a loving couple.