Enraptured, it pulls her in, but the frigid sting of her dripping Popsicle brings her back to her cold reality. She turns her back on the sight: the dance of the flames and the plumes of smoke that mingle with the night’s sky. Moving forward to greet her husband, she harbors the desire to escape, to exist as passionately and freely as those flames. A wish that may solely be granted by burning between the sheets with a man that is not her husband. “Love affairs in the afternoon” follows the life of Sawa Sasamoto (Aya Ueto), a housewife trapped in a very “pleasant” and sex-less marriage. She meets with a fellow housewife, Rikako (Michiko Kichise) who decides to get rid of her own frustrations through affairs with other men. (By the amount of sex she is having, coupled with the frequency in which she switches partners, we are to assume she has a lot of frustrations that come in different flavors. LOL)
Sawa too wishes that she could have her apartment burned down, because then she could restart again, resetting things to the way she wishes they could be. Currently she is married to Shunsuke, who she married out of love. He desired her sexually in the past, but now-a-days the stuffed bunny on their bed gets more play. Even as she tries to initiate intimacy, he pulls back with excuses like “I think I have a cold.” Her life is further complicated by her mother-in-law who severely wants grandchildren. She visits often to not only check in on their “progress,” but attempts to speed it along, for example, she tried feeding her son aphrodisiacs, which he promptly spits out once he learns of the contents on his dinner plate. She’ll probably have to settle for their hamster children (Hamusuke and Hamumi), who gets the lion’s share of Shunsuke’s affection.
Although his sex life seems to mirror a monk’s, he is not without his temptations. No, I am not talking about his desires to be beautiful, his need for sunscreen, or his love for lotions with aromatic essentials. It is his female co-worker, who comes on to him at every opportunity. It would be hard to argue that he is not having an affair, because he has already taken her out to dinner and she planted him a wet one in the elevator. Although he never initiated anything, he never dissuaded her actions, but simply accepted her advances. (Yet he dares to get the sniffles when his wife wants attention. Am I to assume he is allergic to his wife?) His passive nature doesn’t bother his co-worker, nor does his marital status. She likes married men, there’s no worries about entanglements.
Too bad Rikako doesn’t share the same policy, but it is the need to cover the existence of a clingy ex-lover that has brought her and Sawa together. On the surface she is the perfect housewife, but that doesn’t mean she is a happy one, she too has the desire to disappear from it all at times. She has herself caught up in a potential love polygon. She is still being chased by the aforementioned clingy ex, Tomoya, a painter that was formerly employed by her husband, Osamu, random men she meets online, and of course her husband, who is becoming suspicious of his wife.
Initially, Sawa and Rikako, made an unlikely pair. Sawa tried to hold on to her morals for dear life, despite Rikako’s skillful arguments such as: “having an affair will make you a better housewife.” ROFL. Inspite her initial denials of friendship, Sawa unconsciously accepts it. With some help from Rikako, aka being tricked and drawn into ploys, Sawa is able to strike up a relationship with Yuichiro, albeit a platonic one (for now). Sawa has long passed the stage of sprung when it comes to this man, she thinks of him and imagines being intimate with him. Before, even her first attempt at kissing him in real life failed, she was already entangled in an emotional affair.
We can’t blame Sawa either, Yuichiro is an upstanding guy, who also has morals that he is losing a grip on once he meets Sawa. Granted he is a married man and serious about his job as a biology teacher, but Sawa has taken the express way to his heart, she has shown interest in his study of bugs. The situation between the two will surely get more complicated since his wife, Noriko (Ayumi Ito), has struck up a friendship with Sawa, but Sawa is unaware that Yuichiro is her husband. The more twisted these relationships get, the more interesting it will be to disentangle them.
Rikako’s nuggets of wisdom
To be honest I find a majority of Rikako’s arguments to be amusing, she is quite adamant about her beliefs, making the back and forth between her and Sawa quite entertaining. Although her thinking goes against the moral codes of a society that emphasizes monogamy, her philosophy on attaining a happier life via the companionship of different men can be quite telling of her situation and Sawa’s as well. Rikako’s philosophy is a more realistic approach for the reality both her and Sawa inhabit. Although Sawa initially tries to argue the point that monogamy is a good thing, Rikako questions why, because based on her experience it doesn’t bring her happiness and the same can be said for Sawa.
Sawa’s conclusion on the matter is revealed in her statement: “Women should be scorned for their selfishness [herself included].” At that moment, Sawa still viewed the situation through the eyes of society’s moral standards. Having an affair is wrong, therefore she should be punished. Also, what would cause a woman to break from the “norm” and risk it all? A woman’s greed. Monogamy is not always an easy situation, the couple must learn to compromise, appease, and just generally deal/put up with each other. Sometimes a person may find faults in their partner, but through societal teachings we learn that love makes up for all that. When you love someone, you acknowledge their faults, but decide to stay with them, because there is no one else that makes you feel that way even if another person looks better on paper. Yet, when that love is gone what is one to do? Okay, I am not advocating that we should all have affairs, lol, I can just understand why the option would come up.
Rikako’s argument for why she will never get caught speaks volumes about her relationship with her husband: “As long as you don’t bring your lover home, no husband would ever guess their wife’s affair.” It can be inferred from this statement that her husband is not sincerely attentive to her. Although they live together, it is like they are living in there own closed off bubble. They are aware of each others presence and their respective roles, but the border of their sphere does not intersect, but are merely adjacent to each other from time to time. As long as Rikako projects the image of a “perfect housewife,” her husband will be none the wiser, because it matches the idea of what he has in mind, she is fulfilling her role.
The one time her husband becomes suspicious, is when she sleeps with Osamu. Rikako has dipped into her husband’s world/bubble and this catches his attention. She has subsequently “brought her lover home” as her actions has left hints around him, in his sphere of attention. As her husband begins to take note of her, I am curious how she will get out unscathed, if that’s even possible.
Friendship: prelude to an affair
When we think of words like “player” or seductress, people like Yuichiro and Sawa do not come to mind, but it shows that there is no set “type” of person for an affair. Yuichiro is a man who lacks the charms of a player, and is awkward when it comes to social interactions. Sawa, although pretty, doesn’t have the mentality of a wanton woman, let alone the wardrobe. However, both have formed a connection that has built up to a growing affection. The ease to which they have developed a relationship is a testament to the fact that both are able to find an escape in each other.
Their marital lives resembles a test of endurance, as oppose to a happy relationship. Yuichiro is emotionally distant with his wife even when they are together physically. He even limits the amount of skinship with his wife, as exemplified by how he slid his foot away when her foot touched his. There are times when his wife feels more like a roommate, as oppose to a life partner. It is one thing to be unable to express yourself with a colleague, it is another when you can’t do so with your wife. For example, we could see his minor disappointment when she didn’t cook dinner but, he simply brushed it off. I would like to solely see it as his way of being understanding, but whenever she asks about his feelings on something, his answer is normally “whatever you think is best” or “that’s great.” He has kept himself bottled up with her and one possible reason is he is tip toeing around her and her success.
It is odd and interesting that Yuichiro flagged Sawa down just to show her an insect, no matter how rare. It shows how much he likes her and truly reveals their comfort level. However, we don’t see that kind of interaction between him and his wife. Both are scientists, and I know spouses don’t have to discuss their work, but scientists love to discuss whatever they are researching. At best, we have seen his wife talk about her promotion, however Yuichiro has nothing he can reciprocate. I am not saying Yuichiro has an inferiority complex or begrudges his wife’s success (not yet anyways), but he may feel that anything that he might present to her might appear lackluster in her eyes. Unlike Sawa, who has taken interest in Yuichiro’s work with bugs, although she found them disgusting (she can’t stop making faces at them lol), his wife has never asked anything about him, not about his day, or about whether he has made any interesting finds. Granted, she is aware that he left the world of research, but as his wife she should be aware that he still goes around looking for bug for fun, albeit he probably wouldn’t volunteer that information either. Yet, it is the interest that Sawa has given him, and the attention that Sawa receives in return that will allow this friendship that will blossom into an affair, which will hopefully be fun to watch.