Mitarai-ke, Enjou suru
The Mitarai’s House is on Fire
The Mitarai Family, In Flames
Josei – Drama, mystery, psychological, romance, tragedy
6 Volumes (ongoing)
A young woman is hired as the Mitarai family housekeeper, but the lady of the house requires her to keep that fact a secret. But the maid she hired has a specific reason for wanting to work for her…
EDIT 6/3/2022: Will be published digitally by Kodansha Comics under the title Burn the House Down!
Mitarai-ke, Enjou suru is a fine mystery less about who the villain is and more about how villainous she is.
The series opens with a house on fire, and a young girl looking on in horror as her mother begs for forgiveness. The protagonist snaps awake though, and heads off to her newest housekeeping job.
The lady of the Mitarai household, Makiko, is featured in magazines, but her sweet and hardworking personality is just a front. She throws away a homemade gift from the neighbors, and she never remembers the maid’s name even after hiring her. But while the housekeeper introduces herself as Shizuka, that’s just for disguise; her real name is Anzu. And while her family name is Murata, before her parents’ divorce, it was Mitarai — yes, as in that Mitarai. Unbeknownst to Makiko, her stepdaughter has now come seeking proof that it was Makiko, not her mother, Satsuki, that caused the fire.
As Anzu explains to readers, Satsuki, because of her weak constitution (and maybe because of some discrimination for being half German?), didn’t have too many friends. But she ended up connecting with Makiko because Anzu and Makiko’s son Shinji were in the same class. While her sister, Yuzu, enjoyed having guests, Anzu didn’t like having a classmate over so much, especially one that kept playing video games at her house and struggled with his schoolwork. But Anzu really didn’t like how Makiko attached herself to her mom so much — and also how Makiko started to copy Satsuki. After the fire, Satsuki took responsibility for the accident, but a few things (like Makiko’s expression during the fire and making a hasty escape) make Anzu suspect it was really Makiko. Satsuki took Anzu and Yuzu (or they left with her, whatever) when the parents divorced; a couple of years later, Makiko married the girls’ dad.
What happened to Satsuki? She’s in the hospital, although she’s asleep the first time readers see her. Anzu drops off a barrette she found at her job. She points out the “SM” initials on the back to Yuzu and explains Makiko must have stolen it, as young Anzu had noticed a lot of their mother’s belongings disappearing after Makiko stopped by. A short while later, it’s revealed Satsuki has developed a form of amnesia, with much of her memories muddled, but things like the barrette jar her memory. So Anzu (with Yuzu’s support) wants to both regain Satsuki’s memories and be able to prove their mother’s innocence once Satsuki remembers the fire.
While Makiko doesn’t recognize “Shizuka”, she still has her guard up, not allowing her to clean upstairs. Anzu does sneak up there, and she’s surprised to find one of her sons still living at home as a hikikomori. Makiko bragged that her oldest, Kiichi, is a businessman and Shinji is in medical school. But upstairs in one of the bedrooms is the whole NEET package: hoodie, messy room with garbage all over, dirty magazines, and, of course, tons of video games. He forcefully kicks her out of his room, and Anzu, as Shizuka, tries to get in his good graces in exchange for deeper access to the house. Although Yuzu was the one who really got along with the brothers, Anzu still knows enough about the slow and easily distracted Shinji to try to gain his trust. Of course, Anzu is going to avoid touchy subjects like medical school, as she knows from Makiko’s social media account that he was accepted.
… Except, Shinji is attending university. The anti-social man is his older brother, Kiichi — the one who used to be so polite, warm, and outgoing.
Mitarai-ke, Enjou suru‘s English title is “The Mitarai’s House is on Fire“. Of course, the title references the fire that burned down the Mitarai home. But it could also be considered a pun. 炎上 refers to fires and burning, so “The Mitarai Family is Burning”, could be a translation — and in this case, both current and former Mitarai family members are burning with anger or some other emotion. Not to mention that Anzu’s whole goal is to expose Makiko and destroy the whole image of the picture-perfect Mitarai family — burn her image to the ground, you could say. But I’m going to copy Jisho‘s second definition of 炎上, enjou in the title: “stirring up a storm of criticism online (of an article, tweet, statement, etc.); becoming the target of an Internet pitchfork mob”. So just as how we use flame/flaming in English in regards to online negative attacks and trolling, so do the Japanese. And social media plays a large role in the story. Much of Makiko’s fame comes from posting about her picture-perfect life, but even her son Shinji warns that if his mother keeps this up, the chance of the truth about her ideal housewife persona is more at risk. Which would, of course, put her at risk of losing everything and being verbally attacked — flamed, in other words.
And like a house in flames, the situation is very precarious. Because, of course, there’s no way Anzu’s identity as “Shizuka” stays hidden forever. Yuzu, meanwhile, appears to be the cheerful and supportive little sister, if not a little jealous of how well-off the Mitarai family is while the sisters live in a simple apartment. She is, but Yuzu is also a bit resentful that her older sister has taken on all the responsibilities over the years, even in regards to this whole “investigate the Mitarai household” plot. So, as it’s revealed in the second volume, she’s trying to dig up information to help her big sister (and mom) in her own way: through Shinji, whom she met by chance through a group date.
Yeah, we have two brothers and two sisters, technically stepsiblings, tending to hide things from their biological and non-biological siblings.
I could talk more about the story, but this is a suspense story. The more I talk about it, the less there is to enjoy the twists and turns. Makiko we know is hardly a wonderful person, but did she set the fire? We know from flashbacks she’s hiding something, but why would Satsuki apologize if the fire was arson? Why did Kiichi lock himself in his room? What does Osamu, their father, think about all this? Are certain other characters who stare off into the distance and/or smirk at the reader really who they seem to be? The answers are revealed slowly but not at an excruciating pace. The manga has enough chapters now for a seventh volume, and it seems like it’s going to continue into an eighth volume at least. I could see it finishing in Volume 8, but even if it goes a little further, I don’t see it going beyond a tenth volume. I could be wrong, of course, but the pieces are already falling together even with the latest developments. Either way, this isn’t a mystery where the manga keeps throwing new characters to keep making you think this new person could be the culprit. It’s very much focused on Anzu and Yuzu honing in on Makiko, and it’s not like her sons are big fans of her either. So it’s a matter if she’s a bad person or the bad person.
In fairness though, pretty much everyone is guilty of something. Yes, there are degrees of wrongness and levels of lies, and audiences are going to empathize with Anzu because she’s the heroine (and Yuzu too in her chapters). But Anzu can be judgmental, and even a comment about her friend’s weight comes across as more rude than concerned. Readers will also likely question whether some of the sisters’ moves were smart to do or not. Anzu finds the barrette on her first visit under a couch; would you take the chance of pocketing it knowing that your goal is to be invited back? I wouldn’t. If I were Anzu, I probably would give it to Makiko as a sign of my trustworthiness; after all, it could have been a trap. There’s a lot of psychological cornering, but this isn’t a series where characters are all playing 4D chess.
Speaking of psychology, those aspects are a strong part of the visuals. While Kiichi’s mental issues are the most prominent, everyone has their secrets and lies. Often, a dark shadow that represents their emotional burdens will appear behind a character, holding them back or taunting them. An image of Yuzu under pressure is warped to show her panic. Kiichi is often shown in a cube to show him shutting everyone and everything out. Characters turn almost all black when enraged. Mitarai-ke, Enjou suru isn’t the most psychological manga in terms of diving deep into childhoods or past traumas, but I love how it plays such a large role in the art. It adds to the stress of the situation, whether it’s Makiko afraid her life will be exposed as a fraud or “Shizuka” trying to avoid being exposed.
Otherwise, the art has a Flowers of Evil vibe to it, but that could also be because of the tone of the manga. The art looks good even with all the dark inking and shading. The moms both have the standard long women’s faces while the girls have (partially understandably because of the story) more life to them. They and the guys perhaps could look a little older, particularly Kiichi since he’s an almost-30-year-old man who spends his life in a dark room. The plump character also has a cartoonish look to her, which I guess is partly to contrast how the rather dull and studious young Anzu became pretty while her friend became less conventionally attractive. Backgrounds are usually rather simple to make room for the various representations of stress and anguish, but the style and the content will appeal to both genders.
Also, so far, there has been a minimal amount of graphic content. Some, which you can probably guess in a manga like this, but I think this would be fine with a teen rating. There’s no fanservice here. That may be disappointing to some, but it keeps the more general manga feel in this. I hesitated to even list this as a romance, as the jury’s still out on that one. The feelings may lead to a romantic resolution, or it may all just fall under the umbrella of drama. Overall, Mitarai-ke, Enjou suru could probably have been serialized in a seinen magazine and it wouldn’t be that much different.
Chance of Localization:
Pretty high, at least for a digital release. Kodansha Comics loves to do digital-first (or digital-only) releases, especially for shoujo/josei manga. This series is still ongoing, so perhaps they’d want to wait a little closer to it finishing. (It does seem like it’s approaching the climax though?) But for mystery series, it’s often better hold off to avoid translation issues as the truth is revealed. This way, the person(s) responsible for the adaptation can read the series and prepare how a line fits when only tidbits are shown and when the full scene/situation is revealed.
Series like Something’s Wrong With Us have been licensed, which is another “find proof of my mother’s innocence” story. Fujisawa, unlike Ando, is a relative unknown with Mitarai-ke, Enjou suru appearing to be only her second work. But Kodansha Comics have picked up a lot of lesser known authors, and they’ve taken quite a few risks in their lineup. Plus I think the covers, all featuring a single character with a flame coming out of their eye, will intrigue potential readers. They give off a similar vibe to the Until Your Bones Rot covers (minus the skulls, of course).
This manga may not be quite as good as the phrase usually suggests, but what the heck, I want to keep the pun going: Mitarai-ke, Enjou suru is on fire. Even with my lack of reading skills, it appears the story is coming together, but the manga is ready for the truth to explode. (Last one, I swear!)
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