Yannick here. Writing from the airport in my spare time. Today’s article will be a much lighter topic – Japanese dramas. While I keep speaking about all of my new struggles and experiences adapting to life in Japan, today I would like to discuss classic Japanese Dramas which helped inspire me to come to the land of Japan in the first place. Two of the dramas will be daytime dramas which were very popular in their time. The third will be my recommendation of the best Japanese movie that I have watched. It is currently a book I am trying to read in Japanese, with very little success due to the extensive amounts of Kanji on the pages. Though I will do it!
How to watch JDramas
Firstly, you need to know where you can access the resources to watch these dramas.
So, the most common one everyone will most likely know is Netflix. First of all as it is a service you are actually paying for. It has access to many dramas such as Terrace House, Mischievous Kiss (It Started with a Kiss is the Taiwanese Version) and Erased. My second recommendation is a website called KissAsian – this website possesses multiple different subbed dramas old and new. Now these websites generally only have English subtitles, sometimes Chinese ones, but they do take a few days after the original episode has aired to provide subtitles for the episodes.
Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers – 花より団子)
This drama is about a poor high school student (Makino Tsukushi) who struggles to survive a rich preppy high school. Especially when her biggest challenge the F4 (Flower Four) decide to target her due to an accidental incident. As she fearlessly battles the difficulties of wealth insecurity, bullying from other students and just plain tests – we can see the character growth in Makino’s character and cannot help but fall in love with her character and resolute attitude. After following more of her adventures this tale develops into a somewhat reverse-harem involving Makino and other individuals. As a young adult, I enjoyed relating to Makino’s character and being envious of being an independent strong woman with the ability to fall in love effortlessly. To this day, I still wish I could fall in love effortlessly; however, that’s a story for another day.
Furthermore, this drama also had the support of star power at the time of it’s release. In 2005, Arashi was one of the most popular bands around. Having theme songs being created as the opening theme of a drama does a lot to help it’s popularity in Japan, particularly when it is sung by one of the most prominent male groups at the time. Also, Jun Matsumoto was the main actor in the drama accompanied by some very strong male supporting actors. I apologize as I do not follow Mao Inoue’s (Makino’s actress) career as closely as Arashi’s. Nevertheless, I’m sure she is a great actress as I’ve seen her in other movies….. that I just cannot remember. In my opinion, the actors’ acting in this drama is pretty good. There are some cringey moments, in particular, Miss. Tsukasa’s black maid by the poolside scene – the English in that scene is very cringy. However, it may be a foreign language in Japan for a reason. The love scenes are also questionable at times. Primarily looking at the one character who obsesses over one of the members of F4 so much that she kidnaps his love interest (Trying to avoid spoilers here). Only in a Japanese Drama will you see things like this.
Overall, I think this is a very strong representation of a popular Japanese drama that a young audience will enjoy watching. Now there are other versions in different languages such as Korean or Taiwanese, but for some reason the Japanese version has stuck with me the best. I like the dynamics and attire of the characters the most. So, if you have time please check this drama out. I’m sure you will not regret it.
2. Liar Game
This drama was also based upon an original Japanese manga. Starting to see a trend? Where Hana Yori Dango is about a girl trying to grow up in adversity, this story starts with a girl who is also poor. However, she has an extremely pure and sincere nature which leads her to get swindled into owing a group an immensely large sum of money. Nao Kanzaki is our brave heroine in this series who begins by being tricked, but eventually hopes to save others who have willingly or unwillingly fallen into the unfortunately predicament of the Liar Game. The Liar Game is a set of challenges designed to allow one team to succeed through lies and deceit, while the other team loses their portion of money to the winning team. Ideally, it’s a game where one team takes the other’s half of the treasure, while the other is left in bankruptcy.
So how does this foolish college student (Nao) survive even the first level of this corrupt game? She receives the help of an unsuspected bystander – Shinichi Akiyama, a graduate student and con-man who has taken down previous multi-level marketing corporations through swindling those who swindle others. Now, I don’t wish to spoil as much for this anime as I have just done with Hana Yori Dango. The thrill of this anime is whether you can figure out who is lying or not. You know that feeling you get when you’re trying to pinpoint the killer in the game Mafia, it’s a thrill similar to that. Liar Game is another of my top recommendations for JDramas because even to this day I can remember the thrill from when I was watching it. They’ve even more recently made a Korean version of this drama, so you know it has a good original story in the manga.
3. Densha Otoko 電車男
Y’all thought Tinder and all those dating apps came out of nowhere, well guess again! This is an old movie about a love story which uses one of the oldest forms of global communication – 4chan message boards! This movie was so good it almost makes you want to become an Otaku and find love in a way just like in this story. Otaku (おたく/オタク) is a Japanese term for people with obsessive interests, particularly in anime and manga. This is the definition which was taken off of Wikipedia, however more recently I believe Otaku has a bit of a lighter connotation. From what I have observed in Japan, people use it when someone is extremely passionate towards a hobby or sport – though not to a detriment. Furthermore, there was an article written by a man named Michael Jakusoso which states that 62% of teens in this generation identify as Otaku’s. However, I digress.
This story involves two main characters Miss Hermes and Densha Otoko (Train Man). One day, Densha Otoko assists Miss Hermes when she encounters an undesirable situation with another train passenger. Densha Otoko intervenes and thus begins the epic love tale between the two. The movie depicts Miss Hermes as a mature and refined woman, while Densha Otoko is a man very obsessed with anime who requires the aid of his friends to properly socialize with Miss Hermes. Throughout the movie, Densha Otoko asks for dating advice from his online message board on 4 chan which will hopefully allow Miss Hermes to fall in love with him. Not only do we watch the love story of the main protagonists, but we also see part of the stories of the characters who also use the 4chan message boards. At the end, the movie takes a very surprising turn which even to this day I believe would surprise Japanese individuals.
Now, JDramas are not for everyone. There is a reason I enjoy JDramas over KDramas, CDramas or Taiwanese Dramas; just as some of you may enjoy vice-versa. They are still worth giving a look at. Japanese dramas generally have an enlightening ending which provides a nice feeling after watching the movie. It’s difficult to explain, it sort of a feeling of satisfaction mixed with resolution at the end of the series or movies. It’s one of the quirks of these Japanese Dramas for me. So I hope I have provided you with some basic Japanese Dramas for your delight and if you have any suggestions, feel free to comment.
That’s it for today. お大事に！