This article contains major spoilers for Fishbowl Wives season 1, episode 8, “The Fishbowl Wives”, as well as the Fishbowl Wives ending.
Fishbowl Wives has an unusual structure, since it has a focal story but also several other characters and subplots that are united metaphorically – through the idea of a goldfish in a bowl, or sometimes literally by a goldfish in a bowl – or outright interwoven. Despite the consistency of the content – almost all of the stories are about the breakdown of marriages, often due to infidelity – the tone lurches wildly between these different tales, which can make keeping everything together a bit challenging. There’s also the fact that the Season 1 finale, titled “The Fishbowl Wives”, doesn’t strictly bring everything to a proper conclusion. As we’ve already discussed, the chances are high for a continuation here, and given the multiple volumes of Ryô Kurosawa’s popular manga Kingyo Tsuma, which this show burns for fuel, we can reasonably expect to see more of Fishbowl Wives in the coming months.
But still, there’s a lot to unpack in the first season, so let’s attempt to do that.
Despite concerning several characters and relationships, the show’s essential triangular dynamic is between Sakura, a woman made meek by an accident who has settled as an abused housewife, her abusive husband Takuya, and the kindly pet shop owner Haruto, who introduces Sakura to a humble goldfish. Quickly, that fish, trapped as it is in a tiny body of water within a bowl it can’t escape from, becomes a metaphor for all the women in the series.
Sometimes the stories of those women intersect with the main narrative, such as Saya seeking sexual solace in Takuya. But her issues with her husband, Sota, aren’t particularly related to that dalliance – her infidelity is rather a symptom of a deeper malaise.
The theme of a wife “trapped” by a controlling or perhaps socioeconomically powerful husband continues in Yuriha, who feels neglected in favor of her husband’s mother – yikes! – and finds solace in the humble Momoki, the carpenter who is renovating her home (and whose elaborate tattoo is a point of consternation for his own wife). Yuka is trapped, in some sense, by her desire to have a family, which doesn’t match her husband’s wants, and Hisako is driven to distraction by a faulty memory and a precocious young son. And finally, there’s Noriko, whose husband tries to force her into sleeping with his co-worker Tsuta for his own sexual gratification.
Fishbowl Wives Season 1 ending
There are lots of ideas – some more worthwhile than others – bundled up in all this. For instance, Sakura and Takuya agree to a divorce, yet even after their separation she helps him with his financial difficulties – Stockholm syndrome, perhaps, or a lingering member of a man once much kinder and gentler than the one he became? There’s little permanence in Sakura and Haruto’s ending, wistfully missing one another while they thrive alone, and since I haven’t read the manga I have to question if their relationship particularly would be resumed in subsequent volumes.
Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener, of course, and there’s a theme of whether even women who commit to taking as big a step as an affair are truly bold enough to commit to a significant change, even if it’s in their own best interest. We see this with Yuriha and Momoki and the secrecy they maintain; their individual lives continuing as normal as though their shared one doesn’t exist. Plus, you have to be careful what you wish for, an idea we see reflected in Yuka, who becomes pregnant but isn’t sure who to, and Noriko’s husband, who drives her to leave him for the much more understanding Tsuta. What began as a self-serving idea for his own pleasure, discounting the feelings of his wife, became instead his own undoing.
Amongst all this, there’s the potential for happiness and reconciliation, as seen with Sota and Saya, and even Hisako. So, the ending of Fishbowl Wives isn’t as dour as it could have been, even if it’s far from a neat conclusion for all involved. If – or perhaps when – a second season is confirmed, we’ll see how much of these stories are still left to be told.