Chapter 10: Both For You (2)
Ugh, how was that “whatever”? We did it twice before I could go to sleep.
Kei fought to suppress the yawns that repeatedly threaten to break out of his throat as he rode in the news van on the way to conduct street interviews.
“Whoa, I’m so nervous! This is the first time I’m conducting a real street interview!”
Kei also fought to suppress his tongue from clicking at the noisy junior colleague sitting next to him.
“Kunieda-san, do you have any advice you can share?”
I want to shove a mic down his throat, Kei thought to himself, but he answered, “I’m not sure, let me think,” as he made a face like he was pondering the question.
“I suggest that you pay attention to the people who you are interviewing, so that you have a good mix of men and women of all ages. It’s a good idea to bypass the people who are obviously in a hurry. And if the interviewee is being too vague and it’s difficult to follow-up properly, still try to avoid asking questions that will steer them to a particular direction or answer. Most importantly would be to carry yourself in the interview so that you never bias someone by letting your own feelings show. But I think you should be able to handle it in no time, Minagawa-kun.”
“Oh, you think so?”
I’m being polite, dumbass. Why are you taking my words at face value? Be more suspicious, dammit.
Kei balled up his name-calling into a smile. “Good luck,” he encouraged kindly.
However, street interviews were certainly challenging. The topic this time was the management of the government’s public pension funds. They each had to ask 50 people whether they supported it, and they needed to obtain useful footage of the comments. It wasn’t a rare occurrence for people to turn around and walk the other way when they spotted the camera from afar. Even after approaching someone, often they would avert their gaze and rush off without saying anything. Sometimes rookie announcers would return to the news van dejected, unable to get anyone to stop for them. But that only applied to people who didn’t have the skills.
Kei completed his quota of 50 people in about 2 hours with breaks in between.
“You’re amazing, Kunieda! You got a lot of good footage as usual! I wish street interviews were always this easy.”
Kei suppressed the urge to tell the field director, I know, right? Instead, he said humbly, “I was lucky that there were many kind people in the area.”
“I’m pretty sure you could be a foreign import auto dealer1 or an apartment salesperson and make all the sales that you want— Oh, hold on, sorry, I’ve got a phone call.”
After a brief exchange consisting of “Really?” “Ok,” and such, the location direction turned to Kei and said, “Tatsuki and his team just finished up too.”
“He’s not bad either! He picks things up quickly, but in this case, I think it’s his charm that naturally draws people to him.”
“You’re right, that’s amazing.”
That damn brat really pisses me off.
Kei was clearly surprised, and he was unable to relieve the bubbling froth that was roiling violently inside of his stomach.
That night Kei cursed over Tatsuki again, and Ushio’s response was decidedly unsatisfactory.
“I’m trying to support you, but you don’t like it when I’m wishy-washy with you. Anyway, isn’t it much better than having him hold the team back?”
“That’s not the issue here! I don’t like how shameless he is about his inexperience, and yet he somehow fails upwards, all ‘whoops, it came naturally to me.’ It’s irritating.”
“So essentially it’s jealousy you’re feeling.”
“You’re jealous that this younger colleague can come along, and unlike you, he doesn’t have to pretend to be someone he’s not, and he can do a good job just by having people naturally like who he is.”
“I’m not jealous! Why the hell would I be jealous of him!?”
“You never know, he could be desperately putting in a lot of work behind the scenes when he’s not at work. There are sides to people that you don’t always see. But probably nowhere as melodramatic as you.”
“I’m not melodramatic!”
“But I like that side of you too, you know.”
Stop springing lines on me like that when I’m least expecting them, dammit.
While Kei fumed, unable to respond, Ushio suddenly said, “I need to make a phone call,” and headed downstairs. He was probably talking to an overseas client or friend in the industry based on the strings of English that Kei could hear.
Damn him, he didn’t even wait to hear my response.
But now that Ushio was no longer in the room, Kei was able to slowly settle down and process the words that he just heard. Jealousy.
Kei quickly came to an answer, No way. He didn’t have the slightest intention to get close to his co-workers like Tatsuki. People like that made him sick. While it was true that Tatsuki was quick on the uptake for his age and did a decent job at work, from an objective point of view, Kei was more than confident in his own skills as an announcer.
Tatsuki had a slightly higher-pitched voice, and when he wasn’t careful, he always spoke too quickly, and his pronunciation slurred at times. There was a level of polish to his presentation, but his inherent cheerfulness was hard to turn off. It wasn’t a problem for a sports anchor, but he would have trouble getting a position as a regular anchor for any kind of hard news program. Handling tragic news stories where there were casualties required a solemn gravity that he didn’t yet possess. In other words, he was a completely different type of announcer than Kei. He wasn’t competition, and that was why they could be on the same show together. While it pissed Kei off to hear Tatsuki being praised so highly, Kei didn’t particularly feel threatened when it came to their respective positions at work.
Kei didn’t get along with his loud personality, that was all. Kei was feeling satisfied with his conclusion when Ushio came back upstairs.
“Hey, I think I’d like to meet the guy. Think you can arrange something?”
“I’d like to meet the famous Minagawa-kun that you keep ranting about. You got me curious about him.”
“Don’t be stupid. Gimme a break.”
“But when you talk about him, I can’t tell if you’re exaggerating or not.”
Kei adamantly rejected the idea, saying, “No fucking way,” but Ushio didn’t appear bothered.
“Alright, I’ll just ask Shitara-san then.”
Ushio rolled onto the bed towards Kei and grinned. That was when Kei realized that Ushio was serious about this.
“Stop it! It’s really not funny!”
“Don’t worry, I won’t cause you any trouble. And I won’t mention ‘Kunieda-san’ at all in the conversation.”
“That’s not what I’m worried about!”
“Oh, I’m happy that you trust me so much.”
Kei was once again unable to respond, and so he took his frustrations out on the mattress, pounding his fist.
“I don’t want you to meet him.”
“Why not? It’s just a simple dinner together. And if I don’t like him, you’ll be satisfied.”
“…And if the two of you hit it off?”
“Then we become friends, I guess.”
“Are you trying to harass me?”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because I don’t like it, dumbass! He’s already stressing me out because of work, I don’t need him encroaching on my private life too! You’re an idiot, you know! You’re stupid enough to be fooled by me, and you’re quick to make a move—”
Outside of sex, Ushio rarely called Kei by his name (the same went for Kei too). Kei felt his heart skip a beat, and he kept his mouth shut. His usual way with words was at the moment a completely different skill of his.
Ushio spoke softly, like he was explaining something to a child. “If you’re going to get jealous, do it in a cuter way, okay?”
“What the hell!?”
“If you can say, ‘Ushio, I want you all to myself,’ I’ll reconsider it.”
“Ugh, why do you have to get on top of me to say that!? Fuck off and drop dead!!”
“Oh, sorry, I’ve got another phone call.”
Ushio left to go downstairs again. It must have been a complicated discussion this time, and he didn’t return upstairs for a long time.
Despite Kei’s objections, Ushio spoke with Shitara to set up a dinner discussion. He told Kei that he didn’t have to come, but there was no way that Kei wasn’t attending. He wasn’t worried about Ushio (Kei was far better-looking), it just bothered him that Ushio might get along with someone whom he hated.
That insensitive idiot. Why doesn’t he understand how I feel? Oh, I know—he’s always putting all this care and sensitivity into his work, so he has none left over in his head. He should learn from me, heh.
“Wow! I knew you had made our opening animation, but I didn’t expect you to be so young!” The cause of Kei’s headaches engaged Ushio in conversation, speaking whatever was on his mind. “To put it bluntly, I thought you would be a wimpy-looking, old man.”
“It’s surprisingly labor-intensive work. Sometimes I have to put together massive sets by myself.”
“Whoa, so like, how long does it take you to get one second’s worth of footage?”
“It depends on the scenario, but typically 8 hours or so.”
“You’re kidding! I could never do that!”
Shitara looked over at Kei. “Your glass is almost empty. Do you want another drink?”
“Oh, thank you. I’d like an oolong highball then.”
Kei wasn’t sure if they were hitting it off, but they seemed to be having a lively conversation. Tatsuki was the outgoing, social butterfly, and Ushio fell on the more extroverted-side of the spectrum in contrast to his job as a creator.
This is why I didn’t want them to meet, Kei grumbled to himself. Although Kei hid it well, he was sure that Ushio could tell that he was unhappy right now, and yet Ushio sat across from him, casually asking a question that didn’t need to be brought up.
“Minagawa-kun, in your eyes, how do you see Kunieda-san?”
“Kuneida-san? Well, he’s pretty much like a god, you know? A living legend. He’s way too amazing. It’s like he has everything in his head from weird place names, to train routes, and random highway information. I’ve never seen him get flustered.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” Kei said.
Hey, I guess he understands a few things after all. Kei’s mood was slightly improved, but there was a cheap ring to being called “a god” when it came out of Tatsuki’s mouth.
“But you know, Kunieda-san’s always studying something. When I’m snacking and chatting with people, he’ll be reading a newspaper or checking his accent dictionary. And then the impression of a genius that I first had of him started to change for me a little.”
“I think you’re the one who can do anything, Minagawa-kun.”
“Huh? Are you saying that I look like I’m always slacking off? Awww, but I’m really working hard, you know? When I got transferred to The News, I bought all of Ikegami Akira’s books so that I could study up on news reporting!”
“So did you read them all?” Shitara asked.
“About half of one.”
“How’s that working hard?”
“But Shitara-san, didn’t you say that I could take things easy? You said that Asou-san and Kunieda-san could step in and cover for any of my mistakes.”
I didn’t hear anything about that.
Shitara replied, “That’s because you were grumbling about taking the job so much.”
Ushio laughed, “Once you have your eye on someone, Shitara-san, it can be hard to say no to you when you’ve got your bait-and-hook out.”
Bait-and-hook? More like a harpoon, is what it is.
Kei found himself unable to laugh given his past experience with Shitara’s methods.
Ushio continued, “You really do pull out all the stops when you have your heart set on working with someone. You’re a producer through and through.”
“Well, I do try to make an effort to handle things as diplomatically as possible… Speaking of which, Kunieda, didn’t you handle part of Minagawa’s interview when he was hired?”
Dammit, don’t bring that story up here.
“That was the year that the network happened to put me in charge of the second round of interviews. Minagawa-kun really surprised me when he showed up in jeans. He was the only one to do so.”
Ushio asked, “Did you do it on purpose to try to stand out?”
“I didn’t!” Tatsuki vehemently denied. “The instructions said to come dressed casually! Anyway, I only applied because a friend asked me to go apply with him. I didn’t think much about it.”
What was this, an idol audition? And you got scouted just by tagging along?
Kei smiled and helped himself to the seafood hotpot while he lashed out at Tatsuki inside his head. But then the conversation became even more uncomfortable for him.
“I heard you tried hitting on Kunieda during the interview?”
“Oh, I guess that happened, yeah.”
You’re supposed to deny it, idiot!
Kei scrambled, although he didn’t show it, to correct the story. “It was for one of the interview questions,” he explained. “The applicants had to compliment the interviewer for a full minute. The interviews for announcer department positions will sometimes throw in odd questions like that.”
“That’s true. There are weird questions like asking people to come up with a way to sell a truckload of bananas in an hour.”
Kei wanted to make it clear to Ushio that he wasn’t openly seeking attention from people.
“So that’s why you tried hitting on him?” Ushio asked.
“Hahaha, well I was young and stupid at the time.”
Dammit, get a clue! You’re supposed to deny it!
“I got up close like this—”
Sitting next to each other, Tatsuki suddenly grabbed Kei’s left hand. Kei automatically tried to shake him off, but Tatsuki managed to hold on. They were in a private room, and with Kei sitting next to the wall, he didn’t have the space to pull himself away. Tatsuki brought himself up to Kei’s face, looking very serious.
“And I said, ‘I couldn’t take my eyes off of you the moment I entered the room. You’re different from everyone else, you have a sparkle that completely lights up the room.’ …Something like that.”
Tatsuki let go of Kei’s hand just as suddenly and returned to normal.
Is he an animal or something? I can’t read him at all.
Tatsuki was a bit of a wildcard for Kei, who always had to be on his guard. That was why he had recommended rejecting his application at the time; he had been surprised and annoyed by Tatsuki’s move.
On the other hand, regardless of how Kei evaluated him for the job, Kei had the feeling that Tatsuki could probably slip in by the skin of his teeth. Even without the help of his clothing choices, he clearly stood out from the rest of the group with his talent, and he tackled the challenging interview questions with a fearless attitude, ad-libbing the full 60 seconds exactly with a great sense of time.
Shitara said, “I wish I could have been there. Kunieda had to be flustered by it, right?”
“Not at all,” Tatsuki replied, shaking his head vigorously. “He just smiled, said thank you, and moved on to the next person like it was nothing! I was like wow, TV announcers are so cool! Oh! What should we do with the hotpot broth? Should we do rice, ramen, or udon? I vote for ramen!”
“You know…” Shitara smiled wryly. “You’re not supposed to take the lead here as the youngest in the group.”
However, no one particularly cared, and Tatsuki got his ramen. Having a disposition that got him anything he wanted was indeed a talent in itself. Kei had also preferred ramen out of the three options, but he was being forced to eat here under a pretense. It made even his favorite food seem unappetizing. Having cup ramen at home with Ushio would taste a million times better.
Tatsuki added fresh ramen noodles to the hotpot broth that had been boiled down with the seafood. He asked curiously, “Tsuzuki-san, are you good friends with Kunieda-san?”
Kei’s heart skipped a beat.
He turned his eyes up to watch Ushio’s reaction, and Ushio answered, “No, not at all,” not bothered in the least.
“He came over to interview me, but that’s about it. I was wondering how he was doing lately, so I asked Shitara-san to invite him too while he was at it. Oh, we also live in the same area, so we’ve probably passed each other on the street a couple of times.”
“Oh!! Kunieda-san’s private life is a complete mystery to me!! I’ve tried inviting him out so many times, but he always turns me down.”
“I don’t do well with singles meetups.”
“It’s not just singles meetups! For the past month and a half, I’ve asked you to karaoke, bowling, futsal, JBA2 baseball games…”
“Hmm, is that so?”
As Kei gave a tactful non-response, he realized that his ironclad, perfect smile was faintly starting to unravel.
They said their goodbyes in front of the restaurant. Kei addressed Ushio in his politest voice, “Since we are headed in the same direction, would you like to share a taxi together?” Ushio was a little bewildered by the invitation, but he nodded, slipped back into his acquaintance mode, and replied, “That’d be great.”
Together, they headed towards a street with higher car traffic. Kei turned to look behind him several times to check that the others were far enough away before lowering his voice to ask, “What was that earlier?”
“You talked like we had nothing to do with one another…”
“Well I couldn’t tell them that you come over almost every day to spend time at my house, could I?”
Kei didn’t expect to be confronted with such a surprising response, and the knot in his stomach grew tighter.
“That’s true, but… If you were going to say something like that, you should let me know beforehand. If I were to say something different, people would be suspicious…”
Ushio would usually take the opportunity to tease Kei, but he stayed awfully quiet this time.
“I’ll be more careful next time, if there is a next time, that is.”
Kei didn’t feel any better after hearing Ushio’s concession. It wasn’t like Kei wanted Ushio to say that he was right. Ushio’s decision was reasonable, but being treated like a complete stranger—Kei didn’t want to admit it, but it hurt his feelings. That was why he had wanted to fix things, but he didn’t know how say it so that he got his feelings across.
Kei latched on to a criticism instead. “You were the one who wanted to meet him.”
“…So what did you think?”
“I was impressed.” For some reason, Ushio lengthened his stride to walk one step ahead of Kei. “You know, I was a little nervous around ‘Kunieda-san,’ but he wasn’t intimidated in the least. He approaches people with an open and honest energy that makes people feel comfortable around him. It was impressive.”
“He makes me uncomfortable.”
Kei wanted to catch up to Ushio to see what kind of expression he was making. But he couldn’t catch up to him no matter how much he increased his pace. It was only 20 to 30 centimeters,3 so why couldn’t he catch up?
“Hey, there’s a taxi.”
They got into the vacant taxi that had approached them, but with a third party in the car, they couldn’t continue their conversation. Ushio told the driver their destination and leaned against the window with his eyes closed. Kei didn’t know if Ushio was really sleeping or not, but he couldn’t do anything to check.
The dinner was on Friday night. Kei had meetings and assignments all day on Saturday and Sunday, and so he couldn’t see Ushio over the weekend. When he entered the announcer department Monday afternoon, Tatsuki went up to him and said, “Thank you for Friday.”
“Thanks to you too.”
“By the way, Kunieda-san, can you come out with me the day after tomorrow in the afternoon?”
“Um, is it for work?”
None of Tatsuki’s invitations so far had been on a weekday. If he was going to ask Kei to see a movie with him, Kei was going to turn him in for skipping out on work.
“It’s kinda, sorta work-related? I haven’t used my clothing allowance yet.”
Every 6 months, announcers at the network were granted a special clothing allowance as part of their compensation package. The implication was that they were to spend the 100,000 yen4 to build a personal wardrobe so that they could have clothing to use for on-location assignments when they didn’t have access to the studio’s wardrobe department. In the end, the clothing was to be used for work, and unlike the women announcers, the men typically only bought additional dress shirts and suits with the allowance.
“The manager yelled at me to hurry up and spend it.”
They were required to submit pictures of their items with their receipts, so that they couldn’t pocket the money.
“Last time I bought a necktie and got warned that it was too loud and inappropriate. I don’t want to get in trouble again, so I was hoping that you could help me pick some things out, Kunieda-san.”
Why the hell should I? Kei thought to himself under a smile. He was going to make up an excuse to decline, but then Asou interrupted and said, “I’d like you to help him too. If the allowance gets taken away because of him, then it’d be really unfortunate for the other young announcers. I know it takes time out of your day, but just keep an eye on him for me. You can come in later that day if you need to.”
It was a request from the person with the most authority in the announcer department. Kei could only respond, “It’s no trouble at all.”
Ugh, what a pain in the ass! Why do I always have to get involved with him!?
Kei angrily opened the door to Ushio’s house with more force than usual.
Kei was ready to rant about what had happened to him at work today, but the energy drained out of him the moment he saw a large suitcase sitting at the front door.
“What’s with the racket?” Ushio came down from the second floor. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing…” Kei hesitated slightly. “Just that I got roped into helping Minagawa pick out clothes.”
Kei couldn’t find it in himself to complain like he had wanted to.
“Oh…” Ushio nodded his head with a yawn. “Well, have fun.”
“It’s not fun!” Some of Kei’s original irritation returned.
“If you don’t like it, then you should have turned him down.”
“I can’t turn him down. It’s for work! We have to shut up and do as we’re told.”
“Then stop complaining. You always do whatever it takes to do your job properly.”
Normally Kei would be pleased with this type of response from Ushio, but today the mood between them was awkward and thorny. Kei decided to back off and change the subject.
“Um, what’s with the suitcase?”
“Oh, I’m visiting an animator I know in the U.S. His daughter is getting married soon, and he’s working on a video that he wants to play at their reception. I’m going over to help.”
“So it’s for work?”
“Hmmm, I get to crash at his place, but he’s not paying me. But he’ll introduce me to some of his contacts, so eventually I’ll get some work from it, so it’s kinda half and half.”
Does he really have that much free time? Kei bristled to himself.
“How nice to be able to relax. Working Mondays to Fridays, I only get to take more than 3 days off about twice a year.” Kei lightly kicked the casters on the suitcase.
Ushio frowned. “Huh? You get your benefits package and health insurance covered by your company,5 and you want to complain still? If you don’t like it, try going independent and see how it goes. I’m sure Kunieda Kei would be able to get plenty of work.”
Of course Kei understood that he was able to live very comfortably, trading away some of his freedom for the security and benefits of working at a company. He also knew that sometimes Ushio had to pull several all-nighters in a row in order to meet client deadlines. But Ushio also knew that Kei understood all of these things. Kei didn’t know why Ushio was challenging him over every little thing today. He was annoyed that Ushio easily turned the argument back on him, but there was nowhere for the conversation to go even if he decided to fight it. And then Kei had a painful realization—the reason that their fights never escalated to the point that it drove them apart was that Ushio usually let things go before it got out of hand.
However, Kei wasn’t the type to let things be if they bothered him.
“…Anyway! When was this decided? Why didn’t you tell me earlier!?”
“I guess it was kinda finalized last week? I wanted to tell you, but you didn’t come over on the weekend.”
“You could have called me or texted me about it!”
“Well, that’s rich, you never once let me know whether you’re coming over or not.”
Kei knew that if he were to say, That’s because you never told me to, that Ushio would turn the argument back around at him. Kei couldn’t think of anything to say in return.
What the hell? I came over to vent about work today, and he doesn’t want to listen. Then he’s neglecting me and running away to work on something for someone’s daughter’s wedding? Is this my fault? No, it can’t be. Even if it was my fault, it’s not.
“I’m leaving,” Kei scowled. “Go to America. Go speak in your fancy American accent. Enjoy your beautiful reception at the Ritz, see if I care!”
“You too.” Ushio’s voice slipped through the crack of the door as it closed, striking Kei in the back. “Enjoy your shopping trip. Even though you’ve never once gone outside to spend time with me.”
- Foreign cars make up less than 10% of Japan’s automobile market. In other words, it’s a very difficult sales environment.
- JBA – Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association.
- 20 to 30 centimeters – Approx. 0.65 to 1 foot.
- 100,000 yen – Approx. $1,000 USD.
- Japan has a universal health insurance system, but it is divided into two major programs: employer-based insurance and National Health Insurance for those who aren’t covered by an employer.