Quick reviews: dramas

I’ve been watching a bit too much – though it has slowed down a bit these last few weeks in the lead up to the JLPT. As I mentioned to my cousin…I’ve still got a whole host of series lined up to watch, including a 50-episode taiga drama. That’s just a small part of the reason I chose not to pick up any new dramas, although watching Galileo or Iryuu2 certainly would have been useful for the lesson my students have recently started.

So, lately (meaning, ‘since I got to Japan’), four dramas. Two of them were of great interest at the start of my stay here, because they dealt with particular aspects of the educational system here in Japan. Both are rather cynical about it, to be honest, though they certainly do not seem to offer anything that would be all that useful unless one has their own class (I would kill for my own class of students right now).

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 Dragonzakura chronicles the efforts of a third-rate lawyer to get students from the worst school in Tokyo into the heralded Todai – a seemingly impossible task. Normal methods will not suffice – a certain type of student is needed, and they need to be trained in a certain way. What was most interesting about this show is that the point it was trying to express about university entrance exams in Japan (and in many parts of the world) is true. To get into university, it doesn’t really matter how well you do at school. All that matters is that you know how to pass the exam in question. To be honest, the generalisations are a bit OTT, and the ending as cliched as was to be expected, but I took two messages from it. Firstly, from episode 6, the idea that many frequently used phrases in English appear in some of the songs we love best. The only problem is that it is a b**** to try and find a list of such phrases, from which it would be easy to pick the songs. The other concerns how we live, but there are many different threads to this. One of the most important ones, however, is that fact that, unlike a multiple choice test or exam, there is no one right answer.

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 Jyoou no Kyoushitsu is the other teaching one. It involves a demonic primary school teacher who makes hell for the students in her class in order to force them to take their lives into their own hands. Whilst I found it painfully irritating to watch sometimes (children often overact) and some of the side characters (namely the parents and the school admin) are just caricatures made for the benefit of the story, the point that the children of the middle to higher classes are extremely sheltered is well made. Whilst there are dangers that exist today that definitely didn’t in the time and place my parents were growing up, the protectiveness of many adults today ensures that millions of well-off children will flee or break when they reach an obstacle they cannot overcome. Akutsu Maya’s solution is interesting, but it does require huge dedication on the teacher’s part that most people probably cannot provide.

Notes: On second thoughts about the caricature comment, based on a story I’ve heard, parents like Eiji’s mother (the second special) do actually exist, frightening though it may be. What are their children going to grow up like? Oh, and the methods used by Akutsu-sensei in this drama probably wouldn’t be feasible in JHS and SHS in Japan simply because the homeroom teacher does not instruct the class in all subjects. On the other hand, my school is proof that strict teachers are respected more than their kinder counterparts by a large number of students…

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Next: final thoughts on Hanakimi ~Ikemen Paradise~. For me, this was the great disappointment of the season, largely because of two major changes. Firstly, the creation of a real rivalry between Sano and Nakatsu for Mizuki’s heart was stupid because it meant sacrificing much of Sano and Mizuki’s relationship in the manga to allow an equal (or thereabouts) development for Nakatsu. The modification to the dance (having Nakatsu and Mizuki win the best couple award instead of Sano and Mizuki) was probably the change that hurt the most because that was one of my favourite parts. To put it simply, even though he fell in love with her, Nakatsu was never really in the equation in the manga.

I also despised how they made Osaka Gakuen an "Ikemen Paradise" – i.e. a campus known for its beautiful students. The students (especially Nanba-sempai) were so much cooler when they had character instead of just being pretty boys who go to school for popularity contests. I’m not entirely sure I like Oguri Shun in his role either…he’s better as a delinquent, so maybe I should watch Crows Zero…

I did, however, enjoy the little references to popular phrases that one probably knows only if they live in Japan, or if someone explains it to them (they’re apparently in Lucky Star as well)…such as どんだっけ! and そんなの関係ねえ! Thanks go to my students for the former, and a fellow JET for the latter.

Finally, a note on actors…Tennouji was one of the original 5 waterboys, believe it or not…and he was also Minami in Gokusen. And did anyone else recognise Nakao from Nodame Cantabile?

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Lastly, Yamada Tarou Monogatari. Thankfully, they did get rid of most of the romance before the last couple of episodes (basically, Yamada is someone who doesn’t have romance on his mind just yet). The Okama joke (with Ohno, the leader of Arashi, if memory serves me) was also rather amusing. And I guess the ending was expected – after all, the manga isn’t finished yet…

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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