2018.04 Potato - NEWS Solo Series: Letters - Shige

To all the fans,

I’m truly thankful to you for supporting someone like me. There was a time soon after debut when I wondered why the fans supported me. At that time, I wasn’t very Johnny’s-like. I was an impertinent and troublesome kind of guy who said a lot of nasty and contrary things in magazine interviews and other places. Despite that, I think that the people who have supported me since then haven’t given up on me and really have continued to follow me.  Of course including those who have become fans more recently too, I’m glad and thankful that you all find me interesting. As a person, I’m very normal and don’t have many things about me that are noteworthy, but now I’ve come around to being able to say, “I’m interesting". I want to do my best so that you’re glad that you came to like me and don’t regret it. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I hope that you’ll keep supporting me.

To Koyama-san,

I’ve experienced a lot of things together with you, I think I’ve been together with you longer than anyone else. That’s why I understand what you're thinking, when you’re worried, when you're down, when you're tired, and I also know when you’re pushing yourself too hard. I can’t really lie to myself, or rather I can’t push myself beyond my limits, but you always understand that and will do things like liven up the atmosphere. Also, I’m really grateful that you never deny what other people say right away. Rather than saying, “No, but…” you first take it in with a “Yeah, but…” and I really admire that about you. By the way, the other day Tegoshi said, “That’s obstruction of labor” to which Koyama retorted, “No, it's obstruction of work” and then I retorted again “No no it’s obstruction of business.” Please do something about messing up a retort to a mistake like that. (laughs) Well, but I think that’s also another one of Koyama’s good points.

To Masuda-san,

Masuda-san is someone who doesn’t waver. To a certain extent, the things you want to do and the things you like haven’t changed for a long time. It’s true for the type of music you like and your passion towards clothes, I think it’s amazing to always continue to like the same things. Of course while I say that you don’t change, you’re also doing your best on ‘Netapare’ and ‘Soredame!’ and putting in a lot of hard work into various things. Among those, I think that sometimes you also become conflicted, but you should stay just the way you are. Though if I had to say, for instance if someone were to say, “You’re methodical” I’d like it if you just accepted it rather than deny it by saying, “No, I’m not…” (laughs) I understand how you feel because people often say things to me like, “Since you’re a writer, X right?” But sometimes you have to try and understand someone by labeling them. That might just be part of your awkwardness, but I think it’d be good if you handled it better. (laughs)

To Tegoshi-san,

The first time we met, you were like a younger brother. But now it feels like you're a fellow comrade fighting on the front-line. Especially recently when the two of us were practicing singing together, you might be the one with who it feels the most like we’re working hard together.  We’re the same age and we’re both single children, so there are things about us that are similar, and I can understand well how you feel. You actually can be a bit awkward. You’re not someone who talks about the hard work you do, so when I hear about it later I often think, “So that’s what he was thinking.” On that front, I think you say what you really feel quite a bit when you talk on TV, so I do my best to watch your work to know what you're thinking. Speaking of Tegoshi’s comments, the one I couldn’t believe the most was when you were late coming to work and said, “What are we waiting for?” (laughs) I thought, “We’re waiting for you!” Maybe you didn’t realize that you were late? (laughs)

To the me from 15 years ago,

I think that right now you have a dream, but soon after debut there will be a lot of times that the wind will be taken out of your sails, so all I can say is “Do your best”. (laughs) The happiness from your junior time will disappear, so please be thankful for all the things you've been blessed with. Here on out is all slipping and falling downhill. If I look back on it now, I think it was a really big thing for me to be able to properly experience failure, but while I was in the middle of the maelstrom it felt like a really long winter. After that it will continue to be difficult for a few years so, seriously I can only say, “Do your best.” Anyway, you won’t just experience fair wind in life, so I think it might be best to enjoy the unfavorable wind and do your best. Though I wasn’t able to enjoy that time, so I don’t want to return to it. (laughs)

To the me 15 years from now,

45 year old me, how are things going? For a start, I’ll be happy if you’re in good health. Also, I think that as you get older your position is going to rise, but I hope that you won’t get carried away and stay humble. I also hope that you’re the type of 45 year old that when taking younger people out for food can listen attentively to them. I wonder what’s going on with NEWS. It’s crazy that Tegoshi and I, the youngest members, would be 45. Masuda-san would be 46 and Koyama-san 48… (laughs). But it’d be especially amazing if men that age were to do a concert like ‘NEVERLAND’. We wouldn’t be princes anymore but kings though. (laughs)

Chapter 11 - 鬼王 The Demon King

Since visiting Inarikio shrine, Kouta has been fascinated by the notion of the demon king. He envisions a ferociously roaring red demon (赤鬼) whose image sometimes overlaps with the image of Mizutani in his mind, and he feels empowered by him.

Kouta’s sales in December come in at ¥470,000, far surpassing the ¥120,000 from November, most of that being due to Mitsuko but Kouta’s also gotten requests from quite a few other clients as well. This brings him up to 12th place, the same ranking that Amu once had. Since there are a lot of days off in January and the thing with Mitsuko happened he hadn’t been expecting much. But, as soon as the club opened Mitsuko came and bought lots of champaign despite the awkward atmosphere.

She asks Kouta again to apply for the internship, urging him to hurry since it starts the next month and there isn’t much time. Seeing her fret over it makes it feel like it was someone else's problem, not something that had a great effect on his future. When she asks him if he plans on applying elsewhere he says he hasn’t decided anything. The feeling of unsettledness still clings to him. He tells Mitsuko that he’ll do it.

The red demon that he pictured the night he visited Inarikio Shrine has also appeared in his dreams. In his dream he clings to the demon’s leg that is as wide as a tree thousands of years old, and cries asking him for advice about the future. The demon king picks him up and brings him closer to his face staring him in the eyes and Kouta is paralyzed with fear. The demon tells him to rethink things from the start.

With that Kouta woke up and found that he had wet the bed which made him think that he can’t ignore what the demon said to him. He also didn’t want to make it out to be his family and Meme’s fault that he’s afraid of job searching. He wanted to stop thinking that he can’t quit because he has to work as a host for his family. He’s not certain of what the demon meant by the start, but he decides to take it as the decision to work as a host until finding a job.

Mitsuko tells him that she’s glad that he’ll do it. Kouta adds that there are conditions, she has to keep coming to Tuberose and requesting him. He thinks back to Misaki’s advice that he can only think of the clients as clients-money not people. Showing half hearted kindness will only hurt him. He will wring as much money out of Mitsuko that he can and use it for job searching, without thinking of her as a person.

Mitsuko tells him that that’s what she had always intended to do. After work they go to a private karaoke room and Mitsuko explains the process to him. By that weekend Kouta must gather the necessary paperwork and apply for the internship. Starting on February 25th, there is a two day work experience workshop where participants are broken up into groups based on division of work, programming, marketing, etc, and they will simulate actually making a game. However only 30 people will be picked for the internship, and when Kouta says that it’s impossible for him to get in, Mitsuko tells him he’ll definitely be picked so it’s fine.

Two weeks later, just as Mitsuko said, Kouta is one of the 30 people picked. Whether the application he wrote using her advice was good or whether she pulled some strings, he’s not sure. He continues to prepare for the internship in February while also increasing his sales at Tuberose.

His sales in January have continued to grow reaching ¥730,000 and he’s now in 5th place. On the day that the sales figures are announced, he has a missed call from Misaki and he knows that she wants to know how Shizuku did. Though Shizuku becoming independent of the club was put on hold after the Amu incident, Misaki still believes both in Shizuku and Mizutani. Kouta however does not.

After work, Kouta heads to Inarikio Shrine and calls Misaki, telling her that Shizuku was number 6. Kouta had surpassed Shizuku. Or rather, Shizuku had decreased his own sales. Since the beginning of the year, Shizuku has been late and skipping out on work, or showing up still drunk and unable to talk coherently, breaking glasses and vases. However no one is able to say anything to him about it, not even Mizutani. They just pretend not to see the once top performer self destruct.

Misaki doesn’t know about any of that as she is currently back at home with her family since her morning sickness has gotten bad. This leaves Shizuku at home alone. Kouta can tell that Misaki is at a loss, and offers to go check on him the next day. She thanks him and says that she’ll send him the address. She’s planning on coming back to Tokyo sometime this month, so she just needs him to do something until then.

The next day Kouta goes to Shizuku’s apartment in Shinjuku, and has to ring the bell 19 times before Shizuku answers the door. From his appearance it’s clear that Shizuku has just woken up and his t-shirt is covered in red wine that he either spilled or threw up on himself. His face is swollen and he looks displeased with Kouta. When he asks Kouta what he wants Kouta asks him if he’s ok and tells him that Misaki is worried too.

Shizuku tells him to go away but when he tries to close the door Kouta sticks his foot out to block it. Shizuku pushes him away so hard that he falls out into the hallway and shuts the door. Kouta calls Misaki and tells her what happened and she thanks him. She says that it can’t be helped and she’ll figure something out when she gets back.

That night Shizuku doesn’t show up at Tuberose again. Mitsuko shows up as usual, and they don’t talk about finding a job at all. When they have things to say they talk, but when they don’t they simply spend the time silently, though Kouta doesn’t find it uncomfortable. Once work is over however, they do something like a job searching seminar where she talks and he takes notes though there have been quite a few times he’s fallen asleep due to the alcohol. Two weeks before the start of the internship, Mitsuko invites Kouta to her house.

It takes Kouta close to 30 minutes by taxi to get to her place and it’s not as he envisioned it. It’s not in a high-end area or what you would call the suburbs, and the nearest station isn’t an express stop. Mitsuko is dressed differently than how she does when she comes to the club, in casual clothes and when he arrives she pays for his taxi.

Her apartment isn’t luxurious, it’s just like any other regular building. She lives on the 3rd floor across from a park. She seems embarrassed as she lets him in, but in the living room all there is are a table and chairs, a tv, and a bookcase. From all the big spending she did at Tuberose Kouta had expected her to live much more extravagantly.

Most of the books on her bookcase are business related, but one sticks out to Kouta, ‘The Prince’ (君主論) by Machiavelli. It catches his eye because the words in the title 君主 makes him think of the word for demon king 鬼王. He picks it up off the bookshelf and flips through it but since it’ll take time for him to understand it he asks if he can borrow it. Mitsuko thinks for a moment before agreeing, and as Kouta slips it into his pocket he feels as if he’s somehow gotten a bit stronger.


Chapter 10 - 割れた豆腐の白 The White of Broken Tofu

Mitsuko tells Kouta to come to a high-end hotel in west Shinjuku, and when Kouta gets there she greets him wearing a bathrobe. He comments that it’s pretty amazing that she was able to get such a nice hotel room on Christmas Eve and when she replies that it’s by chance he tells her to say that she got it for him and so she does shyly. Even seeing her like that does nothing for Kouta.

He asks her why she called him there, and thinks that this is the point where she takes off her bathrobe. When she invited him there to the hotel, he half expected that to happen. Shizuku told him that they shouldn’t sleep with clients because it could cause fights or the client might grow sick of the host. The best thing is keep them in the zone of more than friends but less than lovers.

While Kouta had agreed at the time, this night he is unable to suppress his curiosity. He has never been with an older woman, let alone one twice his age, nor seen them as a romantic possibility. Though he didn’t come to the hotel with this in mind, whether it be because he wanted to try and see a difference side of himself, or have the experience to laugh about later, he’s decided that he’ll sleep with Mitsuko tonight.

Mitsuko asks him if he plans on applying to DDL again next year, and says that she’ll make sure he gets an offer. Kouta asks if she wants money or something and she says that that's not it. Kouta comes up with reasons why it wouldn’t be a good idea and notes that when she’s talking about work, Mitsuko is very different- talking like a someone who has succeeded in the work world. Mitsuko tries to persuade him saying that next year DDL will start offering internships and she can give him advice.

Kouta doesn’t reply and instead takes off her glasses and kisses her. Mitsuko is surprised and resists Kouta’s advances but he persists. He pulls off her bathrobe to reveal her underwear and she returns to looking as she usually does- not the confident business woman and Kouta prefers it that way. Mitsuko quickly stops resisting and starts to pet his head.

Part of him doesn’t want to think anymore, but part of him wonders if he’s just running away from his failure in job seeking. He knows that it’s not so far in the distant future that he’ll have to start thinking of this again as he decided to take a year off and try again next year. He’s afraid of repeating the same mistake again, of the feeling that it’s proof that he’s unnecessary to society.

Mitsuko and Kouta have sex. All the while Kouta finds it miserable and disappointing, but continues to have sex as if he’s venting his anger and Mitsuko accepts it all without saying a word. He cums inside her and then passes out.


Kouta spends the new year eating new year’s day food and going to Hachiman Shrine with his family. Meme writes an Ema wishing for school success and after Meme tells him to, Kouta writes one for success in job seeking. The whole time he’s at the shrine he keeps thinking about Mitsuko and wonders if he really does still wish to find a job. He’s been unable to escape the feeling of being unsettled since he had sex with Mitsuko.

He leaves before the rest of his family and heads to Inarikio Shrine next to Tuberose. He’s never gone before despite it being close because he found the kanji in the name disquieting. The last two kanji in Inarikio (鬼王)  means ‘Demon King’. But that day he feels like maybe the demon king will clear away his gloomy mood.

There, he runs into Mizutani who he doesn’t recognize at first due to his sleazy appearance since his hair isn’t set and he’s wearing cheaper looking clothes than usual. They greet each other and Mizutani says that he comes to this shrine every day which surprises Kouta because he didn’t expect him to be a particularly religious guy. Mizutani invites him out to eat and they pray, Kouta wishing for his sales to increase, and then they head to Korea Town.

They eat at a hole in the ground type of restaurant and Mizutani greets the staff and orders in Korean. They drink and when Kouta comments on how Mizutani can speak Korean, Mizutani tells him that he’s a second generation Zainichi Korean. When Kouta doesn’t reply, Mizutani asks him if he’s the first one that he’s ever met and that there are a lot of them in Osaka. He asks Kouta if he’s afraid of him now, and then laughs asking if he was always afraid of him. Mizutani tells him that though he’s Zainichi, he’s the same as a Japanese person, even though people tend to treat him as a foreigner once they hear that he’s Zainichi.

Kouta apologizes and Mizutani tells him there’s no need and asks him if he didn’t feel like he wasn’t being recognized as a human when he failed at job searching. Mizutani tells him that he’s felt like that since he was kid. They were so poor that there were some days that they couldn’t eat, he’s gotten in countless fights and there’s been times when he thought he was going to die, and times when he wanted to die. But despite that he keeps living. He tells Kouta that he’ll make it through some how too, and that the important part is to not become discouraged. [He says ‘Kusaru na / 腐るな’ which literally means don’t rot]

This reminds Kouta of his father who passed away when he was in junior high school who often told him the same thing. Then their Chige Nabe comes and Mizutani tells Kouta to eat all the tofu because he doesn’t eat tofu. Kouta asks him why and he explains that it’s because tofu (豆腐) is fermented (rotted). When Kouta tries to transfer the tofu to a plate, the tofu breaks apart- the white insides contrasting from the outside that's been dyed red by the nabe broth.


Chapter 9 - M

Megumi and Kouta are eating at an upscale restaurant, usually it’s hard to get a reservation there but because there were canceled reservations due to snow Kouta was able to get a spot. Megumi is impressed with the restaurant but also worried about Kouta spending this much money. He assures her that it’s ok because he’s been making a decent amount at work, since he can’t spend time with her Christmas Eve night or Christmas night with her due to work he wants to make it up to her.

He had the same dish that Megumi orders 4 nights before when he came with Mitsuko. When Megumi asks Kouta how he found the restaurant he tells her that the president at his part time job took him. When she asks about his job he tells her that it’s a members only restaurant that he was scouted for.

Megumi tells him that she can’t really believe that the same person who got angry at her for ordering an expensive steak at the family restaurant is now eating a sirloin steak at a nice french restaurant. Kouta apologizes and tells her that she was right, he was being to pessimistic at the time. Kouta wonders at how much a little bit of economic flexibility can change a person, though he’s not making enough to rid of all his problems. ¥1,000,000 from Mizutani and his salary at work have helped.

Megumi tells him he doesn’t have to apologize and continues to enjoy her meal. Kouta thinks back to when he came with Mitsuko. Just as she promised, in the past two weeks she’s been to Tuberose 9 times, asking for Kouta and ordering several bottles of champagne each time.

At those times rather than talking about herself she would ask about Kouta, but since it’s an unwritten rule at the club to not give out too much information about yourself, Kouta evaded revealing any true thing about himself. When Mitsuko asks him how she can get him to tell the truth he tells her to spend more money.

The next day she had invited him to escort her. When a host is invited out to escort someone, they immediately get ¥5,000 from the club and since it happens earlier in the night once they come back to the club they can still get requests from other clients. It’s a very fortunate situation for a host.

The place he had escorted Mitsuko to was this restaurant. She had been especially nicely dressed that day, and wore a gold necklace that had the initial ‘M’ on it. However, no matter how nicely she dressed Kouta didn’t find her beautiful and focused himself on customer service.

He decides to try the same charms on Megumi and though it’s awkward at first he gets better and Megumi comments on how he’s like a different person. After dinner he takes her to a nice hotel that he reserved and while she showers he goes out to buy drinks and snacks for the room. Drinking the beer he always drinks in their hotel room brings him back to reality a bit and Megumi comments that while champagne is nice the beer is also good, saying exactly what Kouta had been thinking.

Kouta gives her a Christmas gift, the same necklace that he saw Mitsuko wearing when they went to the French restaurant. Though he had thought that the company did initial necklaces, the ‘M’ was really from the brand name, it was just luck that both Mitsuko and Megumi’s names start with M. Megumi is happy with the present and says how she thought Kouta wouldn’t ever do something like this.

Kouta thinks about how in the past he’d be too shy to do something like this, but working as a host has removed any of his embarrassment in pleasing women. His desire to please Megumi wasn’t just due to thankfulness and love, but also due to guilt that he’s hiding the fact that he’s a host.

They have sex and afterwards Megumi confesses that she needs to tell him something about Meme. She asks him not to get mad and tells him that it was her that put the idea of studying harder into Meme’s head. Meme had asked her what she can do to become rich and she told her she needs to study hard because she felt that Meme spent too much time playing video games.

Meme had said that with video games she has a clear goal she can aim to achieve, but since she doesn’t at school it’s hard for her. Megumi had suggested that she aim to get into a really good middle school and make that her goal. She apologized if what she said has been causing Kouta trouble. Kouta is too tired to process that and tells her not to worry about it.

The next day they go out and buy Christmas gifts for Kouta’s mother and Meme. Kouta buys Meme a popular video game nicknamed ‘Jera Jera’ by AIDA, and Megumi buys her stickers and toys of a popular side character from the game, a white armadillo named Majirou.

When they get home they give them the gifts and Kouta’s mother is really happy with the gifts but Meme seems unsatisfied. She says that she quit video games to focus on her studies and just takes the Majiro gifts from Megumi, but an hour later comes back for the game saying that she’ll just play it for today because it’s a waste not to.

Megumi starts to make Christmas dinner with their mother and Kouta heads to Tuberose. While the other shops in the area have had Christmas decorations up for about a week, Tuberose only does it for two nights in order to increase customer turn out for those days.

As expected the club is busy and even Shizuku who has been down lately is enjoying himself. After Mitsuko became a regular client of his, other clients began requesting him too. Mitsuko comes that night too, but several other clients request him as well so he can’t spend much time with her and before he can return to where Mitsuko was sitting she had already left. After closing, he goes to a show pub with a client who had requested him and a kohai until 4am.

As he’s heading to the station he receives a text from Mitsuko asking if he’ll meet her now. In the aftermath of all the revelry he feels an emptiness.


Chapter 8 - シェパード誕生 The Birth of a Shepherd

It’s the middle of December and already the city is overflowing with Christmas spirit. This period is also especially busy for the hosts at Tuberose. With the high volume of clients, popular hosts are so busy that many customers choose to try a new host and so even the less popular hosts are happy that they’ll be making more money. While Kouta has had many clients ask for him, none of them have asked for him again a second time, so he’s especially invested in making a regular client out of the woman that Misaki told him about.

On the DDL business card that Misaki gave him she had written ’40 years old, born April 12th, Aries (The Ram), Blood type A, from Mishima, Shizuoka, Hobby is reading and bowling, likes men that are faithful, kind and perseverant’

While Kouta knows that it’s not her fault that he didn’t get hired at DDL just because she works there, he can’t help but feel resentment and hatred for all DDL employees. He tries to put his feelings aside so that they don’t interfere with his ability to do his job well, thinking that if he does well can get her to spend a lot of money it would be a sort of revenge on DDL.

Finally Mitsuko and Misaki arrive at Tuberose and seeing her Kouta realizes that she was one of the interviewers from his final interview with DDL.  He tries to make pleasant conversation with her, but she seems to be in a bad mood and doesn’t engage with him much. He asks her name, and then how to write it and she tells him, 美津子.

He tries to emulate Amu’s way of speaking and tells her about the origin of the kanji 羊. It means sheep and he tells her that it’s a hierograph that’s supposed to resemble a sheep when you look at it head on. He asks her if she knows what kanji is supposed to resemble a sheep when you look at it from above. She doesn’t answer and he tells her it’s the kanji 美 which means beauty and reads as ‘Mi’ in the first part of her name. He tells her that of course she’s more of a beauty than a sheep.

She doesn’t react much to this, and Misaki who had been talking to a different host next to them, asks her if she’d like to change hosts. Kouta notes that while it’s important for him to keep her talking with him, for Misaki it doesn’t matter as long as Mitsuko spends her money at the club. However, Mitsuko declines saying she’s fine with Kouta.

For the remaining time she doesn’t open up any further, and when Kouta asks if she’d like to extend the time she declines. The rest of his work day doesn’t go much better, and once he’s finished with work Misaki calls him blaming him and when he asks why Mitsuko picked him Misaki tells him it’s because she saw his picture on Tuberose’s website and she liked his face.

The picture on the website has been highly edited so it no longer looks much like him, which he thought was a good thing since he doesn’t want people he knows to find out he’s working here, but he hadn’t considered the drawbacks. Misaki tells Kouta that when she asked Mitsuko what was wrong that she claimed she wasn’t feeling well, but that she knows that he must have messed up. in his anger Kouta accuses her of being emotionally unstable due to her pregnancy, and Misaki hangs up on him.

Kouta goes to the batting center to try and relieve some stress and sees Shizuku there. However, Shizuku ignores him as he has been doing since the Amu incident. Kouta attributes everything that went wrong that night as Mitsuko’s fault and his hatred of her increases.

Unexpectedly, the next day Mitsuko comes back to Tuberose and asks for Kouta again. While he’s mixing her a drink she suddenly apologizes. Kouta who has had time to calm down since the night before tells her not to worry about yesterday. She tells him that that’s not it and reveals that she also remembers him from their interview.

She asks if the reason he’s working at a host club is because he didn’t get any job offers and he confirms that to be the case. Kouta pours himself a drink too, sipping on it in an attempt to stay calm. She apologizes again and says that it was her that decided not to hire him. The other interviewers had wanted to hire him, but she had insisted that they not. She didn’t have any particular reason except that she couldn’t picture working with him. Since he answered their questions well during the interview she thought that he’d definitely get job offers else where.

She says that she came across his picture by chance while looking through host related materials for a friend in publishing. She was surprised because he didn’t seem like the type to work at a host club, and wondered if he ended up here because of her. Kouta has trouble reining in his emotions and tells her that it’s true, it’s her fault that he’s here and that he has to work to support his sick mother and younger sister.

She apologizes again and Kouta asks her if she wants to be forgiven and she says that she does. He tells her that she has to listen to what he says no matter what. She says that she’ll do whatever she can.

He tells her that she has to come to the club whenever possible and she agrees. He then tells her to bahh like a sheep. Her face turns red, but she does so quietly. He makes her do it again, each time she does helps him calm down. He’ll become a shepherd, which makes him feel like he can some how do this job.


Chapter 7 - 胎動 Fetal Movement

The next day when Kouta arrives at Tuberose he immediately hears angry yelling, Mizutani, the owner of Tuberose, is screaming at Shizuku about a large sum of money and that he’ll make Shizuku take responsibility. When he’s finished yelling at Shizuku, Shizuku yells at the employees who have gathered and are wondering what happened to call everyone to the shop.

Within an hour all the employees are there, the only ones missing are those who had taken time off for prior appointments or are sick, and Amu. Shizuku tells them that the night before the money in the safe at Tuberose was stolen, and that Amu was recorded on the security cameras. Nobody comments on the fact that Shizuku isn’t speaking with a Kansai accent.

Shizuku tells them that Amu has disappeared, his cellphone contract ended and that Tuberose is closed for the day so that they can go and search for him. One of the men who had been a part of the group that attacked Kouta says that he saw him together with Amu the night before, which Kouta admits to.

Shizuku asks him if he knows anything and he tells him that he seemed to be the same as usual. There are mutterings amongst the other hosts that Kouta must also have been in on the plot. Shizuku dismisses everyone to go look for Amu but tells Kouta to stay behind. He also warns them that they are not to speak of this to anyone, including the police, and if they do they will be fired and worse.

Shizuku, Kouta, and Mizutani go into the staff room, and as soon as Mizutani locks the door Shizuku has Kouta by the collar of his shirt, holding him so tightly he can barely breathe. He asks him if he really doesn’t know anything. Kouta says that he doesn’t, that things were so normal the night before that he still can’t believe that Amu did it.

Shizuku shows Kouta the security camera footage showing Amu stealing the money, and it’s time stamped at 1:20 am, 2 hours after he and Kouta said goodbye. Shizuku tells Kouta to share anything even the tiniest thing that was odd about the other night, and Kouta tells them about the phone call Amu got and how he said he had to go somewhere.

Mizutani notes that it sounds like Amu had an accomplice, and Shizuku becomes worried that Mizutani suspects him. Mizutani questions Shizuku as to how Amu had gotten the key. Shizuku tells him that the other day after closing Amu had said that he’d forgotten something at the club and so Shizuku gave him the key telling him just to bring it back next time. This angers Mizutani and Shizuku bows down on the floor to apologize.

Kouta looks away, but out of the corner of his eye he can see Mizutani place his foot on Shizuku's shoulder pressing down. He tells Shizuku that he’ll be making up for the missing money, and that the thing they discussed will have to wait til after that. Kouta guesses that he’s referring to what Misaki told him about.

Mizutani dismisses Shizuku, and Kouta is left alone with him in the staff room. Kouta isn’t sure what he should do, but then Mizutani asks him his name and when he tells him Mitsuya he says he wants to know his real name. Kouta tells him and Mizutani tells him to call him papa. He asks him if he helped Amu, and Kouta panics knowing that if he talks too much it’ll look suspicious, but before he can say anything Mizutani tells him that he’s joking. He knows that both Kouta and Shizuku weren’t in on it.

Mizutani asks Kouta if he thinks that they’ll find Amu, and he says that he doesn’t. Mizutani tells him that he agrees, but that they must find him. He makes a very brief call to someone, telling them to search for the money. He then pulls out a wad of cash and hands it to Kouta, telling him that it’s hush money, he’s not to tell anyone what is about to happen. As he’s making Kouta take it, he whispers in his ear to do his best, speaking a kind but crazy sounding voice.

Mizutani then tells Kouta to go call Shizuku back. He tells them that what he’s about to say is a secret between the 3 of them, the next day they’re going to make it seem like they found Amu, retrieved the money, and that Amu is dead. He tells Shizuku that he’s going to have to work even harder than before, and make those under him work harder too. He tells Kouta that he has to work hard to make money for his family.

Kouta realizes that Mizutani knows things about him, things he only told Shizuku and Amu. Since he only told Amu right before he went missing, he guesses that Shizuku told him. At the end, with a slight smile Mizutani whispers that it’s possible that Amu actually is dead.

The next day Mizutani tells the rest of the employees, which puts a fear in them to work harder than usual. After work is over for the day, Kouta is called to the same bar as before by Misaki and she presses him to tell her why Tuberose was closed the day before. He warns her not to tell anyone, because it could get him killed, and tells her.

Kouta tells her that it’ll probably be hard for Shizuku to quit anytime soon and Misaki says that she’ll have to figure something out. She tells him she went to the hospital earlier that day and shows him a picture on her phone of her ultrasound. Hearing Misaki talk about coming up with a plan makes Kouta believe that Shizuku’s leadership skills must have been influenced by Misaki.

She tells him that when she passed by Tuberose the other day, there was a woman who had tried to go to the club and ask for Mitsuya and who had clearly never been to there before. Before the woman could leave, Misaki called out to her and they ended up going drinking together. Misaki hands Kouta the woman’s business card on which she had written various notes for Kouta to use in conversation with her.

When he looks at the card, he notices that on there is the company name ‘DDL’. He gets the feeling that he saw the fetus in the ultrasound photo on Misaki’s phone twitch.


Chapter 6 - レモンの甘さ The sweetness of lemons

Kouta and Amu go out to eat together at a yakiniku restaurant. They drink and talk and Amu tells Kouta a fun fact about how a single lemon has the same amount of vitamin C as four lemons. When Kouta asks him to elaborate he explains that when various products try to illustrate the amount of vitamin C they have compared to lemons it’s only taking into consideration the flesh of the lemon, not the fruit as a whole. So if you were to use that same standard to describe a whole lemon it would have the same amount of vitamin C as four lemons.

Kouta wishes he could just relax and enjoy the conversation but he knows there’s something that he has to ask him about.


The next section picks up when Kouta met with Misaki at the bar in Yoyogi. He learns that she and Shizuku have been together for a long time. They met back in high school in their hometown in Gunma, got together right away and once they graduated came to Tokyo together. However neither of them were able to hold a job for long and after turning 20 both of them began jobs in the nightlife entertainment district.

Kouta expresses surprise at hearing this because Shizuku speaks with a Kansai accent but Gunma isn’t in Kansai. Misaki explains that he picked the accent up from the owner of Tuberose who he and all the other host refer to as papa out of respect. She explains that they started working in this industry thinking that it would only be for a short time, but they were both better at it than expected and it’s been three years now. She likes the work but says that she can’t continue and Kouta notices that she’s touching her stomach. He then recalls that she ordered a nonalcoholic drink and surmises that she’s pregnant.

She confirms this and says that while she likes this life she can’t do it while raising a child and she doesn’t know how long Shizuku will be able to continue on like this either. She explains that she wants Shizuku to become independent from the club, however since Shizuku has became so good at being a host and is now the top seller at the club, the owner said he won’t let him quit until there are three others that are able to sell as much is he does. She had told him that they should just leave anyway but since the owner took care of Shizuku, he doesn’t want to do that. That’s why he was so desperately searching for new hosts to join Tuberose and trying to train them.

Kouta realizes that that is the reason behind why Shizuku seemed desperate the other night and why he hangs out with Amu, because he sees promise in him. Kouta asks Misaki why she’s keeping this a secret from Shizuku and she explains that men don’t like it when women intervene, she just went to the club yesterday to add a little bit of pressure.

Kouta tells her that he'll never be able to surpass Shizuku who has the natural talent that takes to be a host. Misaki asks him why he's being so pessimistic and tells him to just be quiet and do as he's told. She gives some several pointers on how to do better, all simple things such as to try to actively participate in conversation when he's helping other hosts, to make eye and physical contact. She warns him that he should view them not as people but as clients- money. Kindness or affection will only hurt him.


The next section picks back up with Kouta and Amu at the yakiniku restaurant. Kouta asks Amu what he and Shizuku did the other night and when he tells him that they went to the batting center until first train, Kouta conveys that information to Misaki via text.

Amu tells Kouta that lemons are actually just as sweet as strawberries, but the sweetness gets overpowered by the sourness. He notes that the same thing happens with people too, and Kouta scolds him saying that he’s making lemons out to be the bad guys.

Kouta asks him why he decided to be a host and since he seems like someone who could find a better job. And Amu says maybe it’s because he wanted proof. When Kouta asks him to clarify it’s clear that he himself doesn’t really know he talks about how recently there have been more earthquakes and he’s always been the type who can’t tell when they’re over, if it’s the earth that’s shaking or if it’s him. Amu asks Kouta the same question and he finds himself trusting him and honestly explaining that he needs money to support his family but failed to find a real job.

When they go to pay Amu says that he doesn’t have any money so Kouta offers to treat him since he had fun, but Amu insists that he’ll pay him back later. Afterwards they go to karaoke and Kouta pays for both of them there too. By the end of the night they’re so drunk that they’re hanging off of each other to keep walking, though they drank more and cheaper alcohol than they do at work neither of them gets sick.

Amu’s phone goes off and he tells Kouta that he has somewhere to be. As they go their separate ways, Amu tells Kouta that they should hang out again sometime, which makes Kouta happy. That night, Amu disappears with Tuberose’s money.


Chapter 5 - 共食い Dog-Eat-Dog

The next chapter starts with the beginning of December and while Kouta has gotten used to working as a host, the pay is much lower than he expected. He’s making ¥8,000 in a day, or about ¥120,000 a month, just the base pay he’s gets from working at the club. He thinks, at this rate he'll never be able to make enough to pay for Meme's cram school fees. He has had the painful realization of this reality and also of his lack of skill as he's only been helping others rather than having been requested by a client of his own.

But then the next month he’s asked for by a client for the first time. He expects the client to be someone he helped Shizuku with previously, but instead it’s Misaki, the woman that had waited for him outside of the batting center.

When he sits down he asks her if it’s really OK that she meet with him rather than Shizuku. She tells him that she can see him anytime so it’s fine and Kouta gathers that their relationship must be personal rather than that of client and host. Shizuku tries to pretend that he doesn’t care but can’t help glancing in her direction every now and then.

She tells him that she’s heard a lot about him and how Shizuku talks about how he’s interesting and shows promise. Kouta protests saying that this is the first time he’s been asked for by a client, and Misaki acts surprised saying that she thought that Shizuku said he had. Kouta starts to say that she must be thinking of Amu, can’t bring himself to say the name.

When she says that anyone would have been fine, Kouta becomes disappointed but once she orders champagne he becomes excited again at the fact that this his first sale and in his excitement he misses what Misaki says and has ask her to repeat herself. She tells him that she has a favor to ask.

She asks him to track Shizuku’s every move and to tell her about the ranking in the club. Kouta asks her what he’ll get out of this deal and she tells him that she will make him the 2nd ranked host in the club. However Kouta has so little confidence in his ability that he believes it to be a bluff. Since the night at the batting center he and Shizuku have barely talked. He’s busy with clients and with helping other new people so he hasn’t invited Kouta anywhere, but he has invited Amu out which only contributes to his feeling that he’s not cut out for being a host.

When he hesitates she tells him that within three months she’ll make him within the top five. There currently are 40 hosts employed at Tuberose and Kouta is at the bottom of the pack. Even Amu who is able to quickly drum up shit sales, is only in 12th place. The people in the top five doesn’t change much and being able to enter into that ranking within three months is unthinkable, but he recognizes that if things continue on as they are now nothing will change so he tells her that if she's not successful he won't listen to her request.

Misaki gives him her card and tells him to call her once he’s finished for the night and if Shizuku asks what they talked about to tell him that she just came to check out the shop and that they didn’t talk about anything important.

After closing Shizuku does ask and Kouta follows Misaki's instructions. He asks Shizuku what he’s doing after and he tells him that he’s hanging out with Amu and asked him if he would like to join but Kouta declined saying he has errands at home.

Shizuku is annoyed and tells him that if he doesn’t keep up he’ll be weeded out, he doesn’t have much time. After three months the lowest performing hosts, those who don’t drum up any sales are fired. From Shizukis annoyed appearance Kouta guesses that Shizuku is desperate about something.

When Kouta heads back to the staff room to get ready to leave he passes by Amu who looks like he just threw up and he tells Kouta that it's the third time that day. He ask him if he’ll be ok to still go out after and Amu just replies that he has to go. One of the biggest strengths for a host is the ability to be able to go back and drink more after having thrown up. Ami is fairly small and unable to recover quickly after throwing up from alcohol.

Kouta offers him a drink to help prevent a hangover and Amu asks him to hang out the next day since the club will be closed for cleaning. Kouta hesitates because he hasn’t been able to see Megumi while he’s working but if he's to make good on his promise to Misaki he needs to get in Amu's good graces so he agrees.

After leaving the club and before calling Misaki he calls Megumi and tells her that he wanted to meet tomorrow but somethings come up and he can’t. Megumi tells him not to worry because she also has plans and they agree to meet up sometime next week or the week after. As he’s talking on the phone a rat is runs out around by his feet on the street.

Next he calls Misaki who tells him the name of the bar of where they should meet after he hangs up and while he is looking up the bar he sees that the rat has returned with another rat slightly smaller than itself in it’s mouth. Seeing the rat eat the innards of the other so enthusiastically makes him feel nauseous and he throws up on the wall of Inarikio Shrine.


Chapter 4 - パーソナリティクライシス Personality Crisis

Shizuku and Kouta stay out at the batting center until the first train of the day. Shizuku had asked that Kouta give him advice on his batting, but is unable to improve at all, which give Kouta a momentary feeling of superiority over Shizuku when he’d been feeling down over how much better Shizuku is at dealing with the clients at the club.

When they leave the batting center, a woman named Misaki, who looks like she also works at a club, is waiting for Shizuku. Shizuku tells Kouta to come again tomorrow before going to meet her, apologizing to her saying that Kouta had insisted that they hang out.

The two leave and Kouta looks up at the sky thinking that if he was asked to come again tomorrow it must mean he passed. As he’s looking up at the sky, he’s suddenly hit in the back of the head and falls to the ground. Three men pull him into a van and continue to beat him up, Kouta sees that one of the men is the man he punched at the soba restaurant and the others also were at Tuberose earlier.

The soba restaurant man tells him that this isn’t revenge but a warning. No matter how much of a liking Shizuku has taken to him, he doesn’t belong here. Shizuku isn’t a guy that Kouta can talk to so casually. They take his license out of his wallet and snap a picture of it with their phones, warning that they know where he lives now so if he says anything about this to Shizuku they’ll send a picture they took of him working at the club to his family. With that they leave him in a deserted alley and drive away. Kouta stays in the alley for a while, noting that his new sneakers are dirty and scuffed.

He finally arrives home around 8 am, when Meme is heading out to school. She asks him if he’s been playing this whole time and he tells her he’s been working. She leaves and Kouta sees that his mother is eating breakfast at the dining room table. His mother asks him where he’s been and he tells her that he’s decided to give up on job searching for now and has a part time job at a restaurant. She then tells him that Meme told her that she wants to go to cram school to study for middle school entrance exams, however both are worried about the cost. If she started next year, for roughly 4 years of cram school it would cost around 2.5 million yen.

They could never afford that, but Kouta does the calculation and if he works as a host he could earn that in a month. Part of him thinks that quitting would be best but part of him thinks he should stay. Kouta notices that his mother is eating Meme’s leftovers for breakfast and how tired she looks. He tells her that they’ll work something out because his new part time job pays pretty well. At first she looks relieved, but is quickly worried again first protesting that restaurant jobs don’t pay that well, then asking if he’s working a dangerous job, but Kouta reassures her and asks her to believe in him.

Kouta falls asleep as soon as he gets in bed, wakes up around 5pm, showers and gets ready to head back to work. As he’s getting ready to leave he sees Meme coming home from school, playing her 3DS while walking and he scolds her not to play while walking. He asks her why she wants to go to cram school all of a sudden, and she answers that when she asked her teacher how to become rich they told her to study and become smart. So she wants to study a lot so she can go to a good middle school with lots of other smart kids and become even smarter. Kouta goes to leave for work and tells Meme that if she needs anything she should call him, or if he doesn’t answer to call Megumi.

As Inarikio Shrine comes into view, the song Personality Crisis by New York Dolls gets stuck in his head. Once he gets to Tuberose, they’re in the middle of a staff meeting and he sees the three men from the previous night though none of the hosts there look particular inviting. When Shizuku sees him he calls him up to the front and introduces him, as well as another new guy, Amu.

After the meeting, Kouta goes to put his things away in the staff locker room, but one of the guys from the night before, the driver, trips him. Kouta brushes it off with a smile which pisses the guy off. Amu and Kouta are summoned by Shizuku right before opening to warn them that they’re not training any more, they have to do this on their own and can’t rely on him.

Amu and Kouta and the other hosts wait in the waiting room to be picked by clients, where there are monitors to see whats going on out front and the other hosts comment on the women who come in. Kouta, feeling overwhelmed, watches the monitors in silence until Amu who is sitting next to him strikes up a conversation. Kouta finds out that Amu was also scouted by Shizuku and feels embarrassed that he assumed that he was the only one Shizuku took a liking too.

Amu is friendly and polite and says they should help each other out. On the monitor Kouta notices that that the psychiatrist client from the night before is back, but Shizuku is busy with a different client. He looks down at his feet, he’d cleaned up his white sneaker before coming to work. Amu is called on to talk with the psychiatrist, and Kouta watches him appear on the monitor.


Chapter 3 - エントリーシートと白いスニーカー Résumés and White Sneakers

This chapter begins with Kouta sitting in with Shizuku as he talks with a client who works as a psychiatrist. While Shizuku is talking with the client, Kouta refills her glass with champagne whenever Shizuku signals him to. Shizuku is able to skillfully make conversation with the client, comparing a conversation he had with a different client to one she had with one of her own clients.

Mid-conversation, Shizuku stops to remove an eyelash from the client’s cheek which increases the intimacy between the two, but Kouta notes that he couldn’t see the eyelash. The client then asks Kouta, calling him by his pseudonym Mitsuya, if he’s ever had a similar conversation. Kouta manages to say something, though he is unable to follow up on it, but Shizuku saves the conversation from becoming awkward. Kouta looks down at the ground and feels like the light reflecting off of his newly bought white sneakers is making fun of him.


The next section traces back to when Kouta first arrived at the host club. Behind Inarikio Shrine by Higashi-Shinjuku Station is a pink neon sign that reads ‘Tuberose’, the name of the club where Shizuku works. Shizuku had ordered Kouta to come in clothes ‘that aren’t embarrassing’ so Kouta arrives in a suit.

Kouta notes that the club doesn’t look like he expected it to, it looks modern and put together, with white flowers that he identifies at tuberoses adorning the tables. The men working there are all wearing casual clothes like jeans, sweaters, or hoodies and he notes that the man he punched in the soba shop is among them. When he tells them that Shizuku told him to come he is lead further into the club. Shizuku introduces him to an older man, Mizutani, who is the owner of Tuberose.

Shizuku then tells Kouta he’s glad he’s come and that he just has to relax, make fun conversation, and fill Shizuku’s glass when it starts to get empty, and only fill the guests' glasses when they request it. He also tells him that he’ll need a pseudonym as all hosts use them to protect their privacy, he comes up with his for him, Mitsuya (光也) which uses the same first kanji as his real name (光太).

Shizuku tells Kouta that tonight he’ll get to experience what the job is like and it’ll also serve as his first employment exam. If after tonight Shizuku doesn’t think he’ll make a good host then Kouta will never work at Tuberose again. He also tells him that a suit is the ‘most embarrassing’ clothes he could have come in and gives Kouta 100,000 yen and an hour to buy a new outfit for the night. He tells him that this will serve as his résumé, and if he he buys a lame outfit he won’t even get to try out the job for the night and he’ll never see him again.

Kouta runs to buy an outfit and buys white sneakers for 70,000 yen and a sweater a little over 20,000 yen. He changes into them in the bathroom, keeping his suit pants on. Shizuku tells him that he didn’t expect that he’d keep the suit pants, and that he has the same sneakers and that it takes guts to spend so much on shoes with the budget he had, but that he’s passed the first step.

He tells him when they’re at the club he has to use polite language with him because next the owner, he’s the most important person there. Then at 8, the customers arrive.


That night he talks with 10 groups of clients ending work around 3am, though he’s tired and wants to go home Shizuku asks him to stay with him for awhile longer and takes him to baseball batting range despite Kouta’s protests.

Shizuku is really bad and barely hits any balls, but while he’s batting he asks Kouta what he thought of the trial run and Kouta admits that he feels like he isn’t cut out for it.

After the first round of balls is up, Shizuku pays for a second round and Kouta takes his turn. He’s much better than Shizuku and hits one on the first try, explaining that he played for a bit in junior high. Shizuku hands him 100,000 yen telling him it’s his pay for the night, and Kouta only having handled so much money once before in his life- while buying clothes  earlier- tries to protest but is overruled.

While Kouta is trying to calculate how much that would end up being monthly, Shizuku sticks his hand out towards him. Kouta goes to shake it but is rebuffed, and Shizuku tells him that he owes him for the money he leant him to buy clothes earlier, so Kouta hands the money back to him.