After seeing many anime bloggers give previews for seasons of anime, I decided that J-Drama fans might also appreciate a comprehensive preview of a season’s worth of shows. My only exclusions from this list are sequels to shows I’ve never watched and also Japan’s historic dramas. I feel sequels rely too much on knowledge about the previous shows, while historical dramas are best written about from someone with a grasp of the genre, which I do not have. Do not fret though because there are plenty of shows that I have covered, including a few more to be written on later whenever, if ever, there are English subs created for the dramas. In the meantime though feel free to check out my J-Drama preview for Spring 2010 and by all means check back to see if I’ve added anymore shows.
Dosokai is a story about friends reconnecting after meeting again at their Middle School’s 30th class reunion. Each of these classmates leads a seemingly happy life on the outside, but just under the surface tension lies. This is especially true for the focus of the show Miyazawa Tomomi, played by veteran actress Kuroki Hitomi. Tomomi in the first episode moves with her family into a significantly smaller house after her husband was laid off and the family could no longer pay the bills. While his lay off is attributed to the economy, the husband is portrayed as lazy, the kids initially seem quite ungrateful, thus leading Tomomi, herself not quite balanced, to find solace and comfort with old friends at the reunion. What begins as a night of happy memories ends as much more as one pair of classmates runs away from their lives together, another is on the verge of an extramarital affair, and Tomomi herself certainly seems to be, perhaps still unconsciously, finding the love she once had for her classmate Sugiyama. For me, this show is merely a positive reaffirmation of the [unique and sometimes spontaneous – Zippy edited] feelings that often blossom in a mid-life crisis; therefore, I will not be watching this show. I suppose though if that type of story interests you, much as perhaps a soup opera would, then you might want to check this show out.
Kaibitsu-kun may prove to be the strangest show this season, while somehow being the most cliché and familiar. The story centers around Kaibitsu-kun, who is son and the assumed successor of the Demon King. Kaibitsu is quite the stuck-up punk, so he’s quite shocked that on the day of his presumed coronation his father the Demon King instead sends him and his three attendants, Dracula, Werewolf, and Frankenstein, down to earth where Kaibitsu must learn to help others. The show is Jaime Kennedy meets Buffy meets every cliché brat to hero transformation story. Of course though, being a J-Drama, there has to be added zaniness specifically epitomized by the attendants, who each represent larger communities that dwell in the demon realm. Kaibitsu some of the time, and the attendants all the time, have crazy powers as well that add to the humor of the show and the fights. While I feel the show’s story isn’t original, nor meant for anyone older than late teens, I certainly can see that this would fill a nice niche for the kids market. To be honest the morals Kaibitsu-kun needs to learn are ones that kids should learn as well, and if kooky monsters help teach kids then so be it. For me though I don’t see myself finishing the show.
Mother seems to be the show that is going to be my number one cry machine this season. In the very first minute the show begins with a search for a little girl who appears to have drowned in the ocean, and then the show flashbacks to a month prior to what one expect to be a happier beginning. Wrong! First of all, you’re introduced to Suzuhara Nao, who is a young woman, anti-social, and a bit disillusioned. When she’s introduced she is having to put her dreams on hold to sub for a kindergarten class. She isn’t comfortable around the kids and even states at one point that she does not like kids. However, one kid in the class, strange and almost jaded, grabs her attention, especially when Nao notices the girl shows signs of abuse. After ignoring both the girl and her home troubles, which the audience is privy to in many scenes, Nao finally has to decide if she’s going to keep ignoring what’s going on or save this girl. It’s quite apparent that this show is dark, and for many I’d imagine will be very hard to handle. While I will definitely recommend this show just keep in mind that this show is, and will likely be even more, intense.
Shinzanmono is typical of my favorite shows. The lead is quirky yet very smart and is played by an awesome actor, in this case Hiroshi Abe. Secondly, the show mixes comedy and suspense effectively. Lastly the show is a crime drama, which is my favorite genre. These elements make up many of my favorite shows, so I’ll have to admit that my faith in this show to succeed is quite high. The story takes place in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district, where detective Kaga Kyoichiro (Abe), a shinzanmono aka newcomer, has recently been assigned for duty. Following an initially dramatic entrance the tone of the intro switches to Abe who gets to deliver the cheesy title line “I’m a shinzanmono”. After Kaga coincidentally meets all of the main characters that will be involved in this episode, he is assigned a case where a middle aged woman is strangled. While Kaga certainly shows that he’s an expert at reading people, the audience is left with more questions than answers, presumably to keep viewers watching. As I mentioned before, I knew early on this would be the show for me; however, even for folks new to the crime genre, or new to Hiroshi Abe, I predict this will be an entertaining watch.
Sunao ni Narenakute is easily the J-drama I’ve most been looking forward to seeing this season, solely based on the fact that the story revolves around Twitter. Early on though into the 1st episode I realize that Twitter is merely a catalyst for the plot, and very quickly the characters meet and develop real life interactions. Much in the same way that Akihabara@Deep begins as a story about otaku who take to the internet to find their own version of happening, Sunao ni Narenakute does the same, taking seemingly well-to-do people via Twitter and showing in real life both their faults and their complex, often unhappy, lives. While this story revolves around true love and great friendship, I think what one should expect from further episodes are the many hurdles, some quite tragic, that impede these characters pursuit of happiness. I definitely imagined that I would want to follow this show to its completion, and now having seen the first episode I know for sure I will. (Special note for K-Pop fans, this show features Jaejoong of TVXQ fame)
Troubleman is a story about a young man named Tokuda Kazuo who is a perfect good Samaritan always helping out people in trouble. One day though his tendency to help others gets him fired, which inadvertently sets off a series of strange incidents where Tokuda’s troubles continue to grow and grow. Immediately in the first episode Tokuda is harassed by Yakuza, gets held hostage by a Yakuza member fleeing the other Yakuza, awkwardly interrupts a would-be rape only to discover the rape victim is a murderer, and ends up being stuck with all of them and a gun-wielding man suffering from amnesia. Clearly a dark comedy I already know I’m going to have to continue watching Troubleman just to see how the absurdities mount up in poor Tokuda’s life.
Tsuki no Koibito, aka Moon Lovers, is truly an enigma of a show. Having both Kimura Takuya and Matsuda Shota playing the two leading male roles should make this show a slam dunk; however, I’m unclear on the plot of the story and in particular I’m unclear whether the audience is even supposed to like Kimura’s character. The story begins by introducing Hazuki Rensuke, played by Kimura, who is the president of a seemingly significant furniture company called Regolith. Hazuki seems to care little for his workers and focuses only on his business, what sells, and what folks want. After crushing a strike, and the very factory the workers lived in, Hazuki visits the site and meets Xiu Mei, former worker who’s face was used to represent the factory. Xiu Mei’s life is in dire straits now and Hazuki, having now closed her place of employment, essentially forces her to work for him as a model. While Hazuki’s character does show some sentimentality at time, one is led to assume he cares little for Xiu Mei or really anyone in his life, and that instead he lives life only by his own wants and needs. That aspect of the character is my greatest worry about the show. To be fair, I think Kimura is a fantastic actor; however, my favorite J-Drama’s feature him as a goofy, yet good-hearted character who has a strong sense of justice and fairness a la Mr. Brain, Change, & Pride. Hazuki is in the first episode about as different as one can be, and while this may be a chance for Kimura to avoid type casting, I for one have mixed enough feelings about the show that I cannot at this point in time say for sure that I will be continuing with the series.
Tumbling at its core is a story about a high school men’s rhythmic gymnastics team. Like most high school sports dramas though gymnastics, while unique, is really a façade for the challenges of youth. In the first episode we’re presented with an immediate collision of emotions as Azuma Wataru, high school gangster, is forced to join a club to make up for high school credits he is missing. After seeing that the cute new transfer student is a tumbler herself, he reluctantly joins the men’s tumbling team. Takanaka Yuta, team captain, begrudgingly lets Azuma on the team only to have his fears realized as Azuma disregards practice, disrespects the players and the sport, and even brings the tumbling team to the precipice of disbanding. Together, reluctantly or not, Azuma and Takanaka must learn from each other if they are to succeed as a tumbling team. Regardless of whether you like men’s gymnastics, or even sports in general, Tumbling may appeal to you as relatable issues such as teen struggles, unlikely friendship, and devotion to life dreams comes together on the mat.
Yankee-kun to Megumi-chan is a story about a yankee, aka juvenile delinquent, named Shinagawa Daichi whose life crosses paths with an eager, eccentric girl named Adachi Hana. Adachi is trying to do her best to make her high school life full of happy memories, and is all too happy to involve Shinagawa in her plans, usually against his will. Shinigawa does his best to stay out of Adachi’s plans; however, when Adachi goes to request an apology for Shinigawa from a local street gang Shinigawa goes to save her only to learn a secret of Adachi’s that reveals a history Adachi and Shinigawa both share. Even though this drama has Narimiya Hiroki as the male lead, who impressed me as J in Bloody Monday, I still initially was turned off from the show. This is because I assumed it would be a cliché story of two worlds colliding, thus pairing contrasting individuals together in an eventual romance. While I can certainly say that romance is hinted at, the reveal at the end of the first episode adds another dimension to the drama which is enough to peak my interest to watch future episodes. While Yankee-kun to Megumi-chan will focus on the characters own complex lives and tribulations, I certainly expect this show to be as much fun as it will be heartwarming.
Zettai Reido adds one more drama to the litany of crime dramas Japan has produced and will produce. The story follows a young woman named Sakuragi Izumi who has just joined the police’s Special Investigations Office. The SIO is was setup for the sole purpose of solving cold cases. Much like other shows in this genre there is certainly a balance between interdepartmental issues and crimes, with the cold cases most likely divided up with one case per episode. Since I’m such a fan of this genre, I’ll simply suggest that if you like other crime dramas you’ll probably like this show. To be more specific, I would have to say I like the high use of technology, similar to Bones in the US. Likewise I’m especially excited to see that Sakuragi seems so ordinary. Indeed we do expect to see Sakuragi solve more than her fair share of cases for her rank; however, she’s no super-scientist crime solver (Mr. Brain/Galileo), and she doesn’t appear to have an innate ability to solve crimes (Rinjo/Kiina), which is a refreshing change of pace. All in all, as a fan of the genre, and having been enticed by the first episode, I’ll have to continue watching Zettai Reido this season.