It is not easy to like a movie or a series these days. Everything is just about passable, and it is only very occasionally that we come across something like Burn The House Down that has us hooked to our screens. We completely expected to like this series, though we were skeptical of its quality when we noticed that there would be 8 episodes, each an hour long. Considering that the manga itself was a short 39 chapters, we weren’t convinced that it would need 8 long episodes to tell the story, but we were wrong, and the writers really pulled through.
In the past, we have professed our love for well-named shows and movies, and Burn The House Down joins that list. The entire story starts due to a house burning down, but that is not it’s only meaning. In the beginning, we had considered it a loophole that Satsuki Mitarai had been so quick to take the blame for the fire, but when we eventually realized the kind of mental state she came from when this happened, we understood why she had done that, and in many ways, the loss of the house is what had set her free from an oppressive life. On the other hand, stepping into the new house and its accompanying wealth and privilege was what set Makiko free from her troubles. It had given her the push she needed to be what she wanted in life. Yet, that very house burning down had created a prison of sorts for her sons. Finally, it was a fire that ended up releasing them from each other and moving on in their lives. There is also a metaphorical meaning to it, where Anzu Mitaria sets out to burn the house and the life built by Makiko as revenge for what had happened to her mother. Not to sound nitpicky, but this is why it is justified to name the story Burn The House Down instead of “The House That Burned,” and we love the choice of words.
Coming to the cast of the series, they are all exceptionally good-looking, and their performances are near flawless, but Kyoka Suzuki as Makiko Mitarai is the show-stealer. There isn’t a single expression or a moment that she hasn’t nailed with perfection, and the feelings of abhorrence that the audience feels for her are proof of how well she has acted her part. Michiko Kichise, as Satsuki Mitarai, is as graceful as she needed to be, and for the few moments that we saw her coming into her own as a strong woman during her confrontation with Makiko, she had us floored. There is a moment of annoyance with Mitsuhiro Oikawa, who plays Osamu Mitarai, but that has more to do with how terrible a character that man was. Everybody else does exactly what they are supposed to do, with Yuri Tsunematsu (Yuzu) being sufficiently chirpy, Taishi Nakagawa (Shinji) putting on a good nervous act, and Mei Nagano (Anzu, aka Shizuka) being the right amount of serious. At times, the characters do come across as a tad bit one-dimensional, but that can be excused considering the limited role they play.
There are a fair number of characters making complete U-turns with their motivations, and the real villains emerge from the most unexpected places, but it is all done in a well-written spirit. However, the love story is simply blah, and we will never agree that Kabedon is romantic. This actually makes us question why the sisters fell in love with the brothers, to begin with, and then we remember that they took on the role of their caretakers. We don’t understand what Anzu found attractive about Kiichi. Weren’t they all stepsisters and stepbrothers? It can be excused that one couple ended up that way, but both of them going down that route was taking it too far.
Additionally, we found it a little odd that the villains and victims of the series were decided based on how the women received the attention of a man for the attached social privileges that came with him, yet nobody held the men responsible for anything. We know at the end of the series that Makiko was simply taking advantage of the situation, which was ironically led in a particular direction by the thankless Osamu. His accountability is next to none, and we also did not miss how Nanami was made into a villain while neglecting that there is a patriarchal system in place that creates these prisons of identities for women. The only way to break out of them is to burn the house down in more ways than one. Also, did anyone find it annoying that Anzu suddenly respected Makiko at the end of the series when she saw her as a potential mother-in-law? And the only reason Kiichi was with Anzu was that she promised to take care of him in a way different from his mother’s and one that he preferred more. What was the need for this love story at all? The writers should have simply left it at some romantic tension instead of taking it all the way, which is clearly more annoying.
However, these remain inconsequential criticisms that do not hinder the thrill of the story itself. We saw the first twist coming from a mile away, especially since it felt too obvious that Makiko was blamed for everything. We believe the second twist happened for the sake of the love story, and the third one because it was forgivable. Frankly, the only person you are happy for at the end of it all is Satsuki Mitaria because she was able to get out of that cursed house and is probably going to be the happiest of them all because having no man is better than the kind of men her daughters have chosen. There is also an admiration for Makiko for her relentlessness, and something about the way she picks up the pieces has us believing that she is a good person after all. This is a good week for shows, with Burn The House Down and Season 2 of The Summer I Turned Pretty coming out on consecutive days with the promise of being equally good. We don’t want to jinx this further, but we hope that this streak continues well into the future.