Review: CHANGE

CHANGE. A Kimura Takuya drama about politics, recommended to me by a friend around the time we were watching Last Friends, CHANGE brings a glimpse of what Japanese politics is like, fast-tracked somewhat unbelievably and spiced up by a hint of romance of course. (Summary) Elementary school teacher Asakura Keita – better known to his fifth-graders as Mojakura for his…er…cauliflower hair style – is forced into politics when his father and brother are killed in a plane crash. His surprising win against veterans brings him into the scheming world of Japanese politics, where his naivete make him the perfect pawn in the manuveurings of the party’s senior politician and mentor figure, Kanbayashi. However, Keita’s ideals and earnestness gradually win him allies both in his team and in the parliament, whilst also endearing him to a public that has for too long felt separated from and deceived by their government.

Like many tv shows, CHANGE presents an incredibly idealised scenario. I have no idea whether Japanese politics has the level of corruption seen in the drama (many of the senior members were implicated in a political scandal as part of Kanbayashi’s manuveurings), but it is highly unbelievable that some of those situations could have been resolved so quickly. Take the mini-crisis Keita faced when it was revealed that his father had accepted money in the past: it is difficult to believe that one apology from the son, no matter how sincere, would lead to forgiveness from a society such as Japan, forgiveness to the extent that the son won the by-election by a large majority. Unless we want to lay it on charisma, which Kimura Takuya definitely has in spades.

The seeming lack of realism is often highlighted by the trivial political issues that this drama is constructed around. CHANGE did not address most of the issues that one often hears about with regards to Japan, such as her relations with Korea (re: the (alledged) kidnappings) and the status of her military (defense only since the Second World War), opting instead for national emergencies such as the inconvenience of a power outage, and natural and man-made problems that threaten the livelihoods of various groups of people. However, two of the issues caught my attention as a foreigner living and working in Japan. Firstly, whilst the situation regarding the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement was played mainly for laughs, I appreciated Asakura 総理’s observation that the importance of interactions and discussions is not to understand each other, but rather to realise that people and parties are different. One man’s meat is another man’s poison and all that, but it really struck a chord in me, because that’s what I have to try to accept. Secondly, the final issue that he chose to tackle, halting the service of tea at parliamentary gatherings because nobody drinks it, was interesting because it highlighted how the traditions and institutions that Japan clings to can and have been detrimental to the economy and efficiency of many institutions. A lot of people (my father included) marvel at how efficient Japan is, but I would agree with the drama that the reality is incredibly far from that ideal.

All up, I don’t regret watching this. The acting was great all around, but two scenes that stand out were the breakdowns in episodes 7 and 8. Oh, and not to mention the 20-minute tv broadcast in the final episode: the word is that it was an actual live broadcast. Admittedly, I didn’t even try catching this on TV (i.e. without subs) because (i) it had started a fair while before a friend convinced me to watch it, and (ii) political jargon hadn’t even started to enter my Japanese vocabulary at that stage. But with regards to (ii), Kimura Takuya’s prime minister to be, Asakura Keita, was to a certain extent in the same boat and he asked for many things to be explained to him as if to an 11-year old. Hence, if you want to learn about Japanese politics but are only around elementary level in Japanese, this drama is a pretty good way to go.

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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