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Burn the House Down
Shizuka Yamauchi, 25, housekeeper. Makiko Mitarai, 46, amateur model and perfect housewife. Though strangers on the outside, the two share a past—one Shizuka feels she needs to set right, to bring her mother justice. But Makiko has secrets of her own, and Shizuka will need to tread carefully if she's to get to the bottom of it all without getting burned.
Nov 25, 2022
39 of 39 chapters read
Overall Rating: 10
16 people found this review helpful
“The one living my life, is me. I’m the one who stands up when I fall, and the one who decides the path I’ll take. I am the only one who can change my life.” – Mitarai Anzu.
“Mitarai-ke, Enjou suru” or “The Mitarai’s House is on Fire” is a hidden gem, one of the most underrated Manga I’ve ever read. The premise is similar to some Korean old-school family drama but beyond that theme, it’s a touching and meaningful story about people struggling to overcome their life’s problems.
Like the title just suggests, the story starts with an impressive scene that appears in the recollection of Anzu - the main heroine, her house was engulfed in flames and her mother prostrated in the inferno in front of her dad. It then progresses to the scene of Makiko – the stepmom of Anzu, who’s currently in charge of the Mitarai’s house. By her conversation with other people, it seems like she’s a good housewife, very polite and well-educated, but only till the next moment when she returns home, she immediately throws their gift into the trash can and casts a disdainful glance at it saying “It’s so ghetto”. Truth be told, she only puts on that friendly façade in order to cover her unkind and nasty personality. When Anzu enters the house and meets Makiko, Makiko doesn’t realize who Anzu is but Anzu’s already known her. In the next scene of the fire recalled from Anzu’s memory, a large group of people gathered around to discuss the incident. Among that crowd, Anzu was wide-eyed in amazement as she noticed a familiar figure of Makiko standing there with an insidious smile. It’s that smile that obsessed her for 13 years as she kept searching the clue for this mystery, which later lead to her plan of entering the house again as a housekeeper.
Only one chapter is sufficient to provide readers with enough information to grasp the theme of this Manga, a story in which the main heroine tries to uncover the truth of the mystery and take revenge on the woman who’s supposed to harm her family. Looking at Anzu doing her housework and seeing the way she embraces her mother’s hair brooch which was left beneath the sofa, readers could feel the sense of both strange and familiar of someone who has long yet returned home. And by following her re-discovery by checking other rooms, readers also have the chance to understand more about Mitarai’s house, a place where many major events in the story happen.
When reading Manga, the most notable thing to be noticed first definitely is the art. Since this is the first work of the author, it isn’t hard to realize how flawed the artwork is in the early chapters, most of the drawings are unrefined and some characters’ facial shapes are even lopsided. This gets better in the later chapters and the improvement here is really commendable. However, what’s worth mentioning is how the author deftly manages to utilize Manga illustration methods (shading, coloring, framing) and facial expressions in the key moments to create a thrilling atmosphere that impresses readers.
Again, still in the first chapter, right after Anzu picked the hair brooch and was immersed in the thought about the past, the next panel shows the legs of someone standing there menacingly looking at her. The drawing of her whole body is painted with a mere white color except for the outlines, subtly indicating that she’s petrified. On the next page, one horizontally narrow panel depicts her panicked face, one large panel zooms out the whole scene from an opposite point of view, one vertically narrow panel depicts her anxious look, and finally, one large panel zooms out the whole scene again but from the side view. No sound, no inner thought, no dialogue, a quiet and heavy atmosphere than sends shivers down readers’ spines.
IV. PLOT AND STORYTELLING:
As the Manga revolves around the mystery of the fire 13 years ago, a big question that readers keep wondering is who caused the fire and how did that happen. However, as the story progresses, many details slowly unfold. The elder son of Makiko, who used to be kind and amiable, a person Anzu adored, now retreats from society and becomes a hiki-neet. What is the reason behind that 180-degree turn? Anzu’s father after watching the video recorded by the surveillance camera decided to never talk about it again. Not so long later, he and Anzu’s mother got divorced. What is the secret these people try to conceal? Questions and doubts gradually stack up, once we get the answer to a question, another one just pops up.
For each chapter, there will always be some new and unforeseen events. When the story seems to be settled down, something unexpected would likely happen out of the blue, and every prediction made before become meaningless. Everyone harbors their secrets, who’s good, who’s bad, who’s guilty, who’s innocent, we will never know until finishing the last chapter. This kind of writing is very enticing as it always put readers on the edge of their seat. There’s hardly any safe room or actual silent moment in this Manga. Anzu, our heroine constantly has to handle difficult situations. She puts a lot of effort to infiltrate the house but later gets laid off only due to some small mistakes she accidentally commits. Despite that, she tries other ways to gain trust of Makiko. Everything seems to be smooth sailing for her. But “Man proposes, God disposes”, the compliant son whom she thought to be in the palm of her hand is just as crafty as his mother. He takes advantage of the camera footage to force Anzu to become his slave. Worried, anxious, apprehensive, that’s how readers feel when reading and following the main character.
In Manga, Anime, or other fiction, tropes are frequently used as they are tools to express creators’ ideas to the audience. This Manga is no exception and the remarkable trope being used is “Red Herring”, a writing technique to distract and mislead readers that there’s a surprising twist they didn’t see it coming. The author deployed it in a brilliant way here to put a surprise on readers’ faces. And not only that, each detail, each event, and each plot point is really well-planned so that the whole story has got a certain level of complexity but isn’t too confusing or contrived. When the story reaches the climax and everything is exposed, we feel very satisfied as they match up fantastically like puzzles of a picture. I really love the storytelling and plot structure of this Manga. Not too short to be called deficient, not too long to be called rambling, it’s just concise and fulfilling, a story that gets straight to the point, not only holding readers’ interest and attention but also maintaining consistency.
The success of this Manga doesn’t only come from the excellent writing but also come from the great characterization. They aren’t the type of stereotypical one-dimensional character or generic two-dimensional character but rather very realistic, dynamic, and lifelike.
The main heroine Anzu is depicted as a strong, agile, versatile, and prudent girl. Appearing to be perfect like that but in the end, she’s still a normal human. To avoid troubling her family, she decides to do her revenge alone. But reality is harsh, after many failures, she has to resort to having her sister help her. Anzu may look adorable and delicate most of the time but when needed, she can become such an entirely different person. She literally kabe-don Kiichi and shouts at his face “Shut up, I said, you freaking NEET.” In another scene where she confronts her father, she doesn’t hesitate to lodge a kick on his phone.
In contrast to Anzu, Makiko is the main antagonist of this Manga and also is the person Anzu tries to take revenge on. She’s menacing, astute, cunning, cautious, and manipulative. She thinks she’s better than everyone and likes to control people. She also gets some sort of Histrionic Personality Disorder. The most notable thing that could be seen from her disorder is how she’s willing to do anything by any means to put airs on herself, she wants to become the embodiment of a perfect housewife in the public eye. Moreover, ever since her first meet with Anzu’s mother Satsuki, she started mimicking her in every aspect, hairstyle, interests, and even her mannerism, to the point she almost becomes a clone of Satsuki.
Another important character in the story is Kiichi, a person with a close connection to the two female characters above. Despite being a 28-year-old grown man, he doesn’t have an academic background, work history, or even sociability, a complete shut-in NEET. However, he isn’t useless or incompetent. Just like his mother Makiko, he’s very smart and sharp-witted as he’s the first person to discover the real identity of Anzu. He’s also good at computer programming and even builds a website himself to make money out of advertisements. What leads to his downfall is the trauma he has long endured caused by various reasons in the past. Kiichi isn’t a good person but definitely isn’t unlikable.
Besides the elder brother and elder sister are the younger ones, Yuzu and Shinji. Like her sister, Yuzu is vivacious, sociable, and loves her family at heart. Yuzu is the one to take care of her mother on Anzu’s behalf when Anzu is busy with her revenge. She also invariably goes out of her way to secretly help Anzu. She tries to make friends with Makiko’s second son to collect private information, she alone goes to confront her father to directly ask about the fire. Talking about Shinji, he is an average student with not much distinction in terms of personality. He’s kinda slow and isn’t too smart, it takes him 4 times to pass the entrance exam. While he appears to be frivolous, actually he actually is very thoughtful and deeply cares about his family.
There’re other side characters like Anzu’s mother and father, the head nurse, and Shinji’s university girlfriend. They aren’t prominent like the main characters but aren’t poorly-written, the author gives them background and personality that makes them part of the big picture instead of just being a mere plot device.
The relationship between characters is another aspect nicely done. Reading this Manga, readers don’t only focus on the main story but also engage in seeing the interactions between Kiichi and Anzu, Shinji and Yuzu. They are very realistic and endearing but also cheesy like other romance shows. Sometimes it’s a typical conversation, sometimes it’s a quarrel, sometimes it’s a confession. Their relationships serve as a romantic subplot here. It doesn’t overshadow the main story but rather blends well with it.
The legend Hayao Miyazaki used to talk about the Anime-Manga industry being full of Otaku and produced by people who can’t stand looking at other people. His phrase doesn’t apply to the case of this Manga. I’m not only impressed by how great the story and characterization are but also by how realistic and relatable people and society it tries to show here. First is money, it’s a thing which causes jealousy among people. Makiko is jealous of Satsuki because Satsuki is a daughter of a rich family and also a wife of a chief doctor. The young Kiichi is jealous of Anzu because she can easily get the book she wants while he could only afford the old one even with all his savings. Money also rules everything else. Makiko pays Anzu more than normal to have her not spill the beans about any unnecessary things, she hands Kiichi’s friends to have them never make interaction with Kiichi again, she paid the university so Kiichi can pass the exam. Next thing is media, especially social networks, and how it influences our life. Kiichi creates a website full of gossip and baseless rumors about celebrity topics, pandering to every type of person, especially housewives and office ladies. It’s also social networks that spread the information of Kiichi’s backdoor admission, later causing him to become a NEET. Makiko is obsessed with the number of likes and followers on Instagram and always spends time embellishing her account, she even hires journalists to promote her and her family’s reputation.
As I’ve mentioned in the prologue, “The Mitarai’s House is on Fire” is a story about people struggling to overcome their life’s problems. No matter which person you are or which advantage you have, there will always be challenges and adversities you have to deal with. Yuzu has to find out the truth of the mystery and take revenge on her stepmom. Makiko used to be a single mom and worked like a horse to take care of her two sons and after becoming the wife of Anzu’s father, she has to endure the pressure of being compared to Satsuki. Kiichi always struggles to cope with society. Shinji has to work hard to pass the exam and be worthy as a son. Satsuki in the past was a weak and shy person, she has to learn a lot to become a strong woman. Even the feeble father of Anzu also has to keep the image and reputation of his family. A powerful message is subtly conveyed to readers by the dialogues between characters throughout the story – “I am the only one who can change my life”, “This is my life”, “I’ll decide for myself”, “The one who made my life a mess, is me”. We all have our own problems and we have to overcome it ourself.
One more thing I really love is how the author deftly uses the imagery of fire, it appears frequently in this Manga by any means. In the literal sense, it’s the catastrophe that destroys the main character’s house in the beginning, directly leading to the series of dramatic events that happen after. It also reappears again later in both the middle and the end of the story. In the figurative sense, the fire represents the madness of humans. It will always keep smoldering and can not be fully extinguished, only waits for a proper catalyst to start burning. About the Internet again, whenever someone or something goes on trending, people will jump on it like Kiichi said “They’re basically ‘on fire’. As Yuzu wants to help her sister, she also wants to know about the man called father who left her when she’s just a child. After a certain incident, her mind is filled with doubt, worry, and disappointment, the fire resides deep in her heart, a flame of indignation, starts igniting uncontrollably. In the end, it’s the physical fire that engulfs and destroys the Mitarai’s house and the metaphorical fire, which is the human-human conflict that brings down the Mitarai’s family.
From my perspective, a masterpiece doesn’t need to be impeccable or flawless but rather harmonious, beautiful in all the way it presents and leaves a strong impression. That’s the reason why “Mitarai-ke, Enjou suru” is undoubtedly a masterpiece to me.
Within the length of only 39 chapters, this Manga did a great job of encompassing everything from drama, psychological to mystery, suspense, and even romance. If you’re a fan of such genres, this is the one that you need to read. It may not be your perfect Manga but definitely will be worth your time.
Apr 18, 2023
39 of 39 chapters read
2 people found this review helpful
What a ride!
I've been in and out of reading slumps lately but this series was so addictive, I finished it all in a couple of hours. I'm so glad I gave it a try. I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy it at first because I'm not into domestic drama, but this one exceeded my expectations. It's written in a suspenseful way which makes it very addictive.
I don't even know with what I should start. Just read it. If you like thrillers, this is for you.
⚠️ Trigger warning: sexual assault (volume 3).
I enjoyed the whole cast, even the negative ones. Everyone has a role in the story. It sure was interesting to see how one traumatic event impacted every character in a different way. Tho it may seem extreme in some cases, the portrayals felt believable.
I like the female lead, Anzu. She's a strong willed protagonist. She may have made a few mistakes, but she's clever and we even got to see her be cunning later on in the series. Circumstances forced her to be. Actually, circumstances forced most of these characters to act differently, out of character. She's probably my favorite character.
Makiko sure was interesting. She's the portrayal of what money can do to people. She's cunning, obsessive, possessive, manipulative, toxic. She's the primarily negative character. I disliked her so much, but I also enjoyed her character at the same time.
I may touch on *spoilers* from now on.
The story got so much going on. It makes you suspect more people after a while. Turns out it's none of them at the end. The reveal of the real culprit felt a bit underwhelming to me to be honest. Even so, the story wrapped up well. Everything made sense too. It didn't necessarily happen just for the plot twist to exist. Even tho, that's what I thought at first. But continuing it, we got to see the real culprit POV and everything fell into place.
I still can't believe one of my ships actually sailed too. (Lol). I had very low expectations considering what the situation everyone was thrown in and how the story kept progressing. Tho what I dislike is that, he never addressed and apologized for what he did (in volume 3). *sigh* And she never mentioned it either! It was like it never happened even tho she was clearly affected by it at first. It frustrated me ngl.
Anyway, I'll end this review by saying it once more. Such great series! If the live action will be available on Netflix, I'll definitely watch it. I'm just hoping it'll stay true to the original story because it's great the way it is! read more