One of my favorite Japanese actress, the uber-talented and pretty Ueno Juri is back in drama land after a long absence since NHK’s “Gou”. In “Alice no Toge” (Arisu no Toge/Alice’s Thorn), Juripe plays a dark heroine who is out on revenge. A far-cry from her bubbly persona in Nodame Cantabile and closer to troubled Ruka from Last Friends. As you can see from the drama’s poster, Alice of Alice in Wonderland is depicted and it’s intriguing how the characters and scenes from the book will be used in this drama.
“Alice no Toge” starts strong with 14% in ratings when it premiered.
Here is a quick recap of Alice no Toge: Episode 1
Mizuno Asumi-sensei(Ueno Juri) is a newbie doctor at Seirin University Hospital. She has only one goal why she entered the hospital and that is to avenge her father’s death and make sure that everyone involve will no longer practice their profession.
In order to hide her real identity, she adopts a different surname, making her Mizuno Asumi from Osanai Asumi.
Asumi looks-on her father’s tampered hospital records as she prepares for her 1st day of work. Bitter memories from her past starts creeping-in as she walks on the very hall where she saw her dead father being wheeled out of the Operating Room.
In the hospital’s auditorium, Date Risa-sensei (Fujiwara Norika) is making a presentation about using 3D nano surgery robots also known as NOA for their operations. As one of the surgeons from the Gastroenterology Department, she’s overly ambitious who competes with associate-professor Chihara Junichi-sensei (Tanaka Naoki) for the holy grail of University Doctors—becoming a Professor. Unlike Date, Chihara is a doctor who devotes more of his time on research than performing surgeries.
Also present in the presentation are Seirin’s two noted Professors, starting with Bandai (Gendai) Shuichi-sensei (Iwaki Koichi) who is also the head of Gastroenterology Department and his rival Arima Tsuyoshi-sensei (Kunimura Jun). Aside from university doctors, some nurses were also present including Ebisu Masahito (Iwaki Koichi), a head nurse, who becomes easily irritated as he overhears another nurse, Hoshino Miwa (Kuriyama Chiaki) doing nonsense chatter during the presentation.
After the presentation was done, newly-hired doctors were introduced, one of which is Asumi. Hoshino introduces herself to Asumi and the two bonded as they exit from the room until Ebisu caught-up with Hoshino and gives her an earful.
Among newly hires, Asumi is the only one who went to Gastroenterology Department where she gets a tepid welcome from Bandai, the Professor who has the reputation of treating his patients nothing but tools for his research.
Nurse Ebisu is a two-faced nurse who can utter a lie while smiling. He is not particularly happy that a junior nurse questions him on his charting and chides her.
Asumi returns home in her sparse apartment room though she has a mini-office upstairs with thousands worth of pictures that could put a stalker to shame. She looks on her father’s- Osanai Takao – record during his operation 15 years ago that claimed his life.
Aside from obviously tampered records, she also notes three other names aside from the patient. The chart also has info on the [Main] Surgeon- Date, Assistant- Chihara, and the nurse- Ebisu.
Asumi walks to her nearby bookshelf and pull on a thick record of Ebisu. The said folder is full of stolen photographs of Ebisu as well as photos and sketches of Asumi’s plans to bring him down or rather use him to her advantage. Asumi opens her book -Alice in Wonderland- she picks “Humpty Dumpty” for Ebisu, the first one to “fall” from the “wall”.
Back at Seirin, Ebisu is on night shift when he saw a gray envelop on his table. Upon opening, he saw a card with a Humpty Dumpty sketch along with the words, “Liar of Humpthy Dumpthy“. The card was obviously met with confusion until he opens the accompanying letter and his eyes grew wide as he saw the patient chart of Osanai Takao.
Clearly rattled, he jolts upon hearing a noise in the corridor, and when he check, he saw the same charts scattered down the hallway. Ebisu followed the trail until he ends-up in Seirin’s rooftop. Some of the copies were also placed in hard-to-reach areas that Ebisu has to use the hanging ladder to grab them until Asumi arrives.
Asumi cuts back on nicety and cuts one of the ladder ropes causing Ebisu to stagger. Asumi releases some of her pent-up anger on Ebisu, and when she attempted to cut the other rope, Ebisu starts confessing what he did and what he knew. He confessed tampering the patient’s record down to Date’s incompetency during that time where she can be seen doing a surgery while still looking at the book for guide. (what?!) Furthermore, Date chose to perform laparoscopic surgery, something she’s not yet well-trained yet, when she could have opted to the conventional abdominal surgery.
Instead of letting Humpthy Dumpthy fall, Asumi decided to use him.
The next day, Date is being heavily congratulated for getting engaged to a prominent man. It seems like everything is going great for her and Chihara is not particularly happy about it.
Coincidentally, Date chose Asumi to assist her in an operation as Date teaches a bunch of interns inside the Operating Theater. When one intern almost made a mistake, Date utters some big words, how one can’t be called a true doctor unless he/she kills at least three patients. Really, how did she get her license?
Aside from the operating room, Asumi also accompanied Date as she checks-on an elderly patient with an esophageal tumor. Upon seeing the results of MRI scan, Date instantly wants the patient to undergo an operation since the patient’s case is ideal to show-off her latest toy, the NOA.
Asumi openly disagrees that it would be unwise to use NOA for this type of case, but Date won’t hear any of it and even compared patients to lab rats.
It’s spring and the sakura at Seirin has bloomed. Asumi looks-up as sakura petals dance their way to her palm; she recalls the time when her dad was still alive and working at Seirin, they would spend days like this under the Sakura.
Her reminiscing was cut short when a nosy journalist/photographer interrupted her thoughts and takes a stolen picture of her.He starts telling Asumi that also he used to spend time at the same place and Asumi instantly recognizes him as Nishikado Yusuke (Odagiri Joe), the guy who played with her back then with his sister.
Asumi chose to ignore that deep inside she feels happy to see a familiar face but she also chose to walk-away after he gives her his calling card.
As Nishikado continously takes pictures of Sakura, Asumi looks-on sadly as she recalls her last birthday with her father. Her father gave her the book- Alice in Wonderland- as they have a picnic under the sakura tree with a teenage Nishikado and his sister.
Meanwhile, at a posh Japanese restaurant, Bandai together with Date and Seirin’s lawyer, Hinata Makoto (Omi Toshionori) had a dinner to talk about Date’s project NOA. Unbeknown to them, Asumi is busily plotting how she will bring down Date and Bandai. For Bandai, she decided that she needs a pawn, and that will be Bandai’s own son, Bandai Yuma (Nakamura Aoi), an internist at Seirin.
The wheels of fate must have worked in Asumi’s favor as she crosses the path with Yuma who is instantly smitten by her and she can’t help not to smile.
That night, Asumi is having a cozy diner; the place is owned by Mizuno Kazufumi (Nakamura Baijaku) who also happens to Asumi’s adoptive father. Nonetheless, the Osanai’s father and daughter picture under the sakura tree is up in the wall along with other pictures of visitors.
Nishikado appears and Asumi makes an effort to ignore him. But he is obviously up for a chat much to her discomfort. When Asumi is about to leave, Nishikado was surprised to learn that Asumi and the chef are father and daughter, he jokes that they don’t look like at all.
When the owner tries to point at the picture on the wall, and before Nishikado can take a look, Asumi subtly pushes the wine glass to create a diversion.
As she went-up to her apartment, Nishikado conspicuously watches her from the other side of the street.
The next day, Asumi sets her plans in motion to bring Date down as a box of flowers arrives in Date’s condo unit. She waters the plants as she leaves, and a similar looking gray envelope is on her table as she arrives a work.
The envelope has a similar card like Ebisu received, only with a different sketch and words. Date gets the “A fool on the death” card along with a copy of Osanai’s tampered record. She immediately throws it as she gets a call from the fire department that the smoke alarm at her unit was triggered.
She immediately rushes-out and ignores a harried Hoshino, who is calling her to meet her NOA patient, so Asumi went on her behalf. Asumi, without Date’s approval, informs the patient on signing for a normal surgical operation than with NOA, which the patient was not informed. A gobsmacked Hoshino looks-on but did nothing about it.
When Date arrives, she chides Asumi for talking to her patient without her permission. Date gets called-on by Bandai and she assures him that the NOA surgery will go on as plan.
That night, Date spends her time looking at other patient’s records with similar case and when she found the perfect image, she switched images to make her patient more NOA eligible.
The next day, Date briefs her patient about using NOA for her surgery, and when she saw her patient hesitating, she just became extra sweeter and makes an assurance that everything will be alright. Never-ever trust a doctor who tells you it’s going to be alright.
Asumi was aghast on Date’s move, so she’s more eager to extract her revenge. She recalls the events during her dad’s funeral when a teenage Nishikado arrives informing Asumi that her father was said to have embezzled hospital funds; Bandai, Chihara, and Date even made a half-hearted visit during her father’s wake with Bandai even giving a trash-talk. So much for condolences.
Knowing that the NOA surgery will continue, Asumi needs to work faster and she also needs to know where did Date hides the original data. After she spent thinking about it, she saw the article on Date’s engagement and instantly, she knew where she to start looking and calls on her accomplice.
Asumi heads-off to Date’s engagement party at her condo unit, Asumi even exchanged pleasantries with Date’s fiance until the cake arrives. As they marvel over the dome-shaped cake, Date pulled the rose from it and blood colored liquid starts to ooze out along with a noxious smell that had the guests scrambling out of the door.
Asumi heads to Date’s office once everyone is gone.Or so she thought. As Asumi ponders on Date’s password, Date’s fiance arrives and gives her a questioning look. Afterwards, Date goes back to her unit where her fiance welcomes her with an open arms like nothing happened.
The next day, Date is set to make her NOA presentation, which is attended by university professors, her colleagues, and some members of the media that includes Nishikado.
Date starts her presentation and when she’s on the slide that features records of her NOA patient, it was met with indifference as the professors and her colleagues are seeing a different slide from the hand-outs given to them.
Date’s fiance entered the hall and testifies how Date switched the results of the patient; furthermore, Date also lied about having the surgery done in 3 hours using NOA when records show that it would take up to 10 hrs. Flashback, Asumi shows Date’s fiance a stolen video of Ebisu asking Date about the patient and Date just carelessly spilled the beans.
To everyone’s surprise, Asumi also stands-up and attest that Date did switch the patient’s data and truth about NOA. In mere minutes, Date lost her fiance, the trust of her colleagues, and even Bandai chose to ignore her plea. All of which made Chihara happy.
Afterwards, an irate Date confronts Asumi and when they met face-to-face, Asumi gave her a “shock” using a stun gun. Date woke-up and finds herself in an operating table with Asumi waving her father’s tampered records on her face. Date confesses and passes the blame this time to Chihara.
As Asumi is hell bent on revenge, she puts Date to sleep, and once she awoken, she found herself scarred for life.
It’s another typical day at Seirin, where everyone tries to kiss each other’s ass and roll their eyes afterwards. Some characters are yet to be crossed-out from Asumi’s list that includes Chihara, Bandai, and the lawyer- Hinata.
As Asumi walks along the hallway, she hears her real name – Osanai Asumi – gets called by none other than Nishikado.
That was really sad. Sad not because the drama sucks but I’m really saddened over Juri’s character. She [Alice] looks so sad and alone that even though avenging her father is within her reach, the expression on Alice’s eyes is just disheartening. I want to give her a hug or I’ll leave that job to Nishikado.XD.
Juri as Alice is just flawless, the type of character that you’ll cheer on for her to win. I just hope that her revenge won’t destroy her. Though it’s nice that she’s not putting someone else’s life (ie. patient) in jeopardy so she can further incriminate those involve at her father’s death; what’s funny is that the doctors themselves ended-up incriminating themselves because 15 years after Alice’s father death, they haven’t changed a bit.
The supporting characters are drama veterans and they delivered well, I was expecting Date to put-up quite a fight but bringing her down has been easy. Though I’m disappointed that Chiaki (Hoshino) ended with a disappointing supporting role, but who knows, there might be more than meets the eye.
One thing I’m accustomed to Jdoramas is that if this drama is labeled suspense, psychological, and drama; then expect just that. I know that I should not be expecting ANY ROMANCE between Asumi and Nishikado but for once I’m really hoping that the writer would break rules and insert even an itsy-bitsy romance moment.
Though I think that the writer did just that, taking note of the “Sakura scene”, the music they used, the blowing hair, the sakura-petals filled air,the stolen glimpses, and slow motion; its all part of any romance drama. Odagiri looks so good, you know, the dirty lazy yet manly type.
The revenge plot is trite but adding elements from Alice in Wonderland is unique. Let’s take Humpty Dumpty for example; Humpty Dumpty usually signifies crooks and liars, as quoted in Alice in Wonderland, ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ And that just sums-up Ebisu’s lies. With Date, “the Fools on Death” card signifies her display of gross incompetence during Osanai Takao’s operation that claimed his life.
Alice and Asumi is also similar in being curious; Asumi’s curiousity on the lives of those that killed her father made her stalker-ish to the point of craziness. Asumi is even willing to use someone (Bandai’s son) for revenge sake. But as curiosity may lead to terrible things, its interesting to know what terrible things will Asumi discover.
For first episode, Alice no Toge did well in making me sympathize with Asumi, makes me hate the never-ending hospital politics, gives me hope for a possible romance, and hopes that it stays dark without making Asumi looks blood-thirsty, and as she already “took-out” two characters in just the first episode, I don’t know the succeeding episode will pan out.
Now that Nishikado knows Asumi real identity, what will happen now?
Screencaps are taken by my VLC player and if you want to used any of the images found here for whatever purpose, pls. don’t credit and hotlink those images to me. After all, all images are property of the network where this drama is airing.