It’s been a while since I watched any new J-dramas. But a large part of my entertainment from 2005 to about mid-2009 came from J-dramas. I prefer J-dramas to those from Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong mainly because they’re shorter. hahah The average Korean drama lasts about 22-24 episodes, whereas the average Japanese drama only takes 9-12 episodes. Taiwanese and Hong Kong dramas also take rather more than 12 episodes, if I remember correctly.
I’m not even sure how I got started on them – some vague memory tells me that someone induced me to watch Hana Yori Dango in 2005, and I was hooked. Maybe it was Nadia or Jan. No, can’t be Nadia. Nadia persuaded me to watch Gokusen . Oooh. Or maybe it was Eileen! Hmm, yes. Very likely Eileen. hah
Comedic J-dramas require quite a bit of suspension of the imagination, though. If you’re accustomed to the American comedy sitcoms, I daresay funny J-dramas would come off as just plain weird at first, or totally illogical. But maybe that was the thing. That illogical aspect pushed it into fantasy and if you could manage to adjust to the humour and – more importantly – if you liked it, it was easy to enjoy. For instance, Hana Yori Dango – the first one I ever watched and still one of my favourites. Here’s the synopsis:
Makino Tsukushi is the only poor student at Eitoku Gakuen, the school of the ridiculously rich and privileged that is ruled by Flower 4 or F4, a group of four boys who come from extremely powerful families: Domyoji Tsukasa, the leader and heir of the Domyoji World Finance Group; Hanazawa Rui, the introverted son of a large company; Nishikado Sojiro, a player who is the heir of a tea ceremony school; and Mimasaka Akira, a “madam killer” with ties to the underground. If a student gets on the F4’s bad side, he/she gets a red notice and is bullied and driven out of school..
Makino hopes to pass her days quietly– without drawing any attention to herself– but one day, she stands up to Domyoji in defense of her friend. The next day, Makino gets the dreaded red notice. Even though she is harassed, Makino decides to keep going to school because she is a “tough weed”. She declares war right back on the F4. Her resolve gets the attention of her crush Hanazawa Rui and oddly enough, rouses romantic feelings in her worst enemy, Domyoji Tsukasa.
– From the DramaWiki page
It had serious moments but for the most part, it was just really funny. And maybe the ridiculous over-the-top-ness of it was what appealed to me. The characters were likeable, which helped a lot.
Okay, rather than writing long paragraphs, I’ll just pick out some of the nearly 40 dramas I’ve watched and summarise them. Those with the asterisk in front are counted amongst my favourites.
* Densha Otoko (Trainman) – Is based on the true story of a geeky guy who saves a lady from a drunkard on a train and how, since he has no experience with women, asks for relationship help from members of the Internet forum he frequents. Hilarious, hilarious, hilarious.
* Gokusen – A new teacher gets assigned to a class of delinquent students. The twist? She’s the next-in-line for the leadership of a yakuza gang and can fight better than any of her gangster-ish students.
* SP – SPs are special agents and the sort of bodyguards you’d expect heads of state to have. Inoue Kaoru is the newest member and he has a strange sixth sense-like ability that his colleagues regard skeptically at first. I especially loved episodes 2-4. SO good, that story arc.
Voice – Basically a detective story, with a group of forensic pathology students standing in for the likes of Sherlock Holmes. Fairly solemn, but the quirky characters take away some of the solemnity. The students solve the mysteries not necessarily to bring criminals to justice but to find out why/how a person died and to convey that information, the last moments of the dead person to his/her loved ones. (Hm, now that I think about it there’s a rather “Asian” tinge in the philosophy behind this one.)
* Mukodono – It’s about a popular singer who projects a cool and calm image but behind the scenes he’s actually a softie, happy-go-lucky and pretty much always cheerful. He falls in love with a girl and after agreeing to marry into her dysfunctional family, finds all sorts of trouble popping up in addition to the difficulty of having to keep his relationship secret from the public.
Nodame Cantabile – Talented but eccentric piano student Noda Megumi falls for fellow student Chiaki, the super-talented pianist and violinist who aspires to be a conductor. (Along with Disney’s Fantasia films, I credit this series for making classical music palatable to me. haha)
* H2 and ROOKIES – Both are about high school students on baseball teams, though ROOKIES is more focussed on the relationship between the teacher and the students, whereas H2 is more about two friends on opposing baseball teams.
Kisarazu Cat’s Eye – Twenty-one-year-old Tabuchi Kouhei learns that he has cancer and has only six months left to live. Deciding to do something crazy, he gets five of his friends from his high school baseball club together and they form a ring of cat burglars that steal from criminals – a sort of madcap Robin Hood, in a sense.
* Utahime (Songstress) – The story of a young amnesiac soldier found on a beach in a village in the 1950s. He stays with the family who runs the small local cinema and becomes friends with the villagers, eventually falling in love with a young girl there. Has an unexpectedly sad ending, which perhaps really makes the series.
Unubore Deka (Conceited Detective) – Hilarious series about a detective who labours under the delusion that he’s popular with women and after his fiancee leaves him, he suddenly starts falling in love with female criminals at first sight. (Naturally, he ‘coincidentally’ ends up with cases involving women. ha.
Orthros no Inu (Dog of Orthros) -Two men with special and opposing abilities – Ryuzaki has the “God Hand”, the ability to heal any wound or illness by touching the person; and Aoi has the “Demon’s Hand”, the power to kill with one touch. Ryuzaki, however, is the dark character whereas Aoi is the good guy.
… Did you finish reading all that? Well, I applaud you! (And you have my appreciation for your amazing patience in reading it through. haha)